New Scientist reports a pretty amazing set of statistics in “US vehicle efficiency hardly changed since Model T “:
“The average fuel efficiency of the US vehicle fleet has risen by just 3 miles per gallon since the days of the Ford Model T, and has barely shifted at all since 1991.”
“Those are the conclusions reached by Michael Sivak and Omer Tsimhoni at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor. They analyzed the fuel efficiency of the entire US vehicle fleet of cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses from 1923 to 2006.”
“They found that from 1923 to 1935 fuel efficiency hovered around 14 mpg (5.95 km/l), but then fell gradually to a nadir of only 11.9 mpg (5.08 km/l) in 1973. By 1991, however, the efficiency of the total fleet had risen by 42 per cent on 1973 levels to 16.9 mpg (7.18 km/l), a compound annual rate of 2 per cent.”
“Progress has stalled since then, though, despite growing environmental concerns. From 1991 to 2006 the average efficiency improved by only 1.8 per cent to 17.2 mpg (7.31 km/l).”
After all the good intentions of politicians and environmentalists, all the legislation, all the regulation, for all those years – one has to wonder if a simpler solution might have made more of an impact on fuel economy. If instead of micromanaging the auto industry with mandates, congress had instead tried taxing petroleum to account for the “economic externalities” of our fossil fuel addiction, consumers might have placed some value on efficiency and we wouldn’t have squandered a precious resource while despoiling our environment. And we perhaps wouldn’t have lost the American auto industry to competitors who recognized the value of both efficiency and competitive enterprise.