If Americans are buying more fuel-efficient cars, is it making any difference? The latest study by the University of Michigan cites benefits far greater than the fuel economy improvements would indicate.
According to the University's Eco Driving Index, the average fuel economy for the latest new cars bought by Americans has risen to 24.1 mpg as of October, compared with 22.3 mpg for all of model year 2011, and 23.5 mpg so far for the rest of 2012.
Compared with 2007, the average fuel quantity Americans use to drive a mile has decreased 15 percent through September. Not insignificantly a month after Hurricane Sandy, global warming emissions from the latest cars has dropped by 20 percent.
But perhaps the greatest effect cited by the study, however, is the 17-percent drop in overall fuel consumption that today's cars deliver compared with those from 2007. Expanded over time, that could make a significant dent in U.S. oil dependence.
The numbers don't correspond with that big a decrease yet, however. The EDI only compares the consumption of the latest model-year cars with those of specific earlier model years. It does not compare all the 260-million-some cars currently on U.S. roads. To make such a significant difference in total fleet fuel economy, it will take decades for older cars to be retired. When that eventually happens, today's cars and those that follow will certainly have driven dramatic change.
It all starts with individual car and driving choices.