New Fuel Economy Report Card Shows Mixed Results


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    2013 Nissan Leaf Picture

    A new EPA report says consumers have a growing set of alt-fuel vehicles like the 2013 Nissan Leaf. | March 18, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • A new fuel economy report card issued on Friday by the EPA shows mixed results.
  • The report shows a minor drop in fleetwide fuel economy in the 2011 model year to 22.4 mpg, but projects significant gains to 23.8 mpg for 2012.
  • If achieved, the 23.8 number would be an all-time record and among the largest single year improvements since 1975, the report noted.

WASHINGTON — A new fuel economy report card issued on Friday by the EPA shows mixed results.

The report shows a minor drop in fleetwide fuel economy in the 2011 model year to 22.4 mpg, but projects significant gains to 23.8 mpg for 2012.

If achieved, the 23.8 number would be an all-time record and among the largest single-year improvements since 1975, the report noted.

"The report indicates that the projected gains for 2012 more than make up for a slight dip in fuel economy in 2011," said the EPA in a statement. "Compared to five years ago, consumers have twice as many hybrid and diesel vehicle choices, a growing set of plug-in electric vehicle options, and a six-fold increase in the number of car models with combined city/highway fuel economy of 30 mpg or higher."

The EPA pointed to the 2011 Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster as one factor that contributed to the faltering fuel economy in 2011.

"While it is impossible to project the precise impact, EPA estimates that the fleetwide average CO2 emissions and fuel economy values would likely have been similar to or slightly better than (model year) 2010 levels if car production from major Japan-based manufacturers had not been constrained by the tragedies," the report said.

It noted that 2011 Toyota and Honda production dropped by more than 500,000 vehicles due to the disaster.

Widespread adoption of new technologies is boosting fuel economy, according to the report. These include variable valve timing, gasoline direct injection, the use of turbochargers and superchargers, and cylinder deactivation.

The report found the use of turbochargers/superchargers has tripled from about 3 percent in model year 2007 to a projected 9 percent increase in model year 2012, while the use of cylinder deactivation has remained in the 8-9 percent range.

Through 2005, the four-speed transmission was the dominant automatic transmission. Transmissions with six or more speeds and continuously variable transmissions cumulatively accounted for about 25 percent of vehicle production in model year 2007, but are projected to reach 75 percent market share in model year 2012.

Edmunds says: Fleetwide fuel economy numbers went into reverse in model year 2011, but increases are projected for 2012.

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