WASHINGTON – In a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last Wednesday, new vehicles sold in the U.S. achieved an all-time high fuel economy in the 2013 model year. The average – 24.1 miles per gallon – represented a .5 mile per gallon improvement over 2012, and reflects an almost 5 mile per gallon increase since 2004.
The EPA annual report, which the agency calls its “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2014” demonstrates, at the very least, that our new vehicle fleet is more economical in its use of gas and diesel than the EPA is in its use of English. Regardless, the report does serve to highlight the ongoing improvements in vehicular efficiency, along with a corresponding reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. As you might guess, as fuel efficiency achieved a record high, carbon dioxide emissions achieved a record low (369 grams per mile) in model year 2013.
The EPA attributed the fuel economy improvement to automakers’ rapid adoption of more efficient technologies, including – but we would think not limited to – gasoline direct injection, turbocharging and advanced transmissions. Notably, Mazda vehicles averaged the highest fuel economy and lowest greenhouse gas emissions, despite no hybrids, diesels or electric vehicles in its U.S. lineup. (Of course, neither does Mazda have light duty pickups, a fuel-swilling rotary or a competitive 3-row SUV in its U.S. lineup.) But figures rarely lie, and we’ll give a nod to Mazda for the obvious success of its SkyActiv initiative in raising fuel efficiency with a suite of engineering and design improvements across most of its model line.
In other news, Nissan was cited for achieving the greatest improvement in average fuel economy and greenhouse gas reductions, and among all classes of new personal vehicles SUVs achieved the greatest improvement in fuel efficiency, helped – we’ll again guess – by the rapid drop-off in sales of the body-on-frame SUV.
A casual scan of the EPA’s fuel economy website – www.fueleconomy.gov – revealed quite a contrast between the EPA’s most efficient offering and its most voracious. Smart’s fortwo electric achieves a combined estimate of 107 mpg, while the Bugatti Veyron (you’ll remember our long-term test…) is rated at 10 miles per gallon. Among more conventional offerings, Toyota’s Prius V enjoys a 42 combined estimate as a midsize station wagon.