Fuel economy gains, now at risk, reduce cost of summer road trips

(ACEEE blog, 23 May 2019) As nearly 43 million Americans hit the road over Memorial Day weekend, they will see firsthand how improved fuel economy saves them money. Put simply, they won’t have to stop as often or spend as much for gas, leaving more time and money for summer fun.

Despite the soaring popularity of crossovers and sport utility vehicles, cars and trucks on average have improved fuel economy over the past 10 years. In fact, the average model year 2018 vehicle is expected to hit 25.4 miles per gallon (up from 21 mpg in 2008), with more efficient options available for every vehicle type.

The resulting fuel savings can be quite substantial. Take the Honda CR-V, the highest-selling SUV last year. Its all-wheel drive model had a maximum fuel economy rating of 22 mpg in 2008 but now gets 29 mpg — a 32% improvement. So for every 1,000 miles, a 2019 AWD CR-V uses 11 fewer gallons of gas.

As a result, a roundtrip cross-country road trip in a new CR-V — from Washington, D.C., to the waters of Malibu Beach, California, for example — would save $178 at current gas prices. Consumers opting for a hybrid option, like the 40 mpg hybrid Toyota RAV4, could save a lot more.

This comparison demonstrates the real-world benefits of increased fuel economy: guaranteed savings at the pump, a smaller impact on families’ budgets when gas prices rise, and less harmful pollution from vehicle exhausts. We use the SUV and crossover examples because of their sheer popularity, but nearly all new mainstream cars, trucks, and SUVs offer substantial savings over the older models they replace.

Owners of used cars can also benefit from fuel economy standards. Because fuel economy has been steadily improving for almost a decade, more efficient vehicles have become widely available in the used car market. You can easily explore vehicle options at greenercars.org and calculate your own potential fuel savings with the vehicles of your choice using the fueleconomy.gov trip calculator.

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ACEEE blog, 23 May 2019: Fuel economy gains, now at risk, reduce cost of summer road trips