According to The Washington Post, U.S. fuel economy is stuck in neutral: despite high gas prices, vehicle fuel economy hasn’t improved a whit compared with the previous year.
But wait, it gets worse.
Honda’s new car fleet was the most efficient, with an average rated fuel economy of … wait for it … a whopping 24.2 mpg. Toyota, the manufacturer of the Prius, came in second, at 23.8 mpg. Daimler-Chrysler trailed the pack, with new vehicles averaging just over 19 mpg.
Overall, the new car fleet got about 21 mpg, based on EPA fuel economy ratings. Real-world mpg is likely lower, since most vehicles get worse mileage than their EPA ratings.
How does that stack up with previous years? Not only is new-car fuel efficiency virtually identical to the previous year’s, it’s the same as it was all the way back in 1982, right after the last oil crunch, and lower than the recent peak, in the late 1980s.
Looking farther back, the Ford Model T, produced between 1908 and 1927, got around 25 to 30 mpg — and presumably that represents mpg in real-world driving, rather than the idealized driving conditions used for EPA tests.
OK, new cars are cleaner and safer than the Model T, and they accelerate faster and tow more. But you’d think that a century of technological improvement could have jacked up efficiency just a wee bit, no?
Don’t worry, though, the automakers are on the case:
Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents many of the automakers, said the industry is building more vehicles with fuel-saving technology, but consumers are still buying heavier, faster vehicles in large numbers.
“The fuel-efficient models are out there, we just need to sell more,” she said. “We are trying very hard.”
Ah, yes, the automakers are trying. Very trying.