Fuel Economy Down in U.S. Cars

By Cat Lazaroff

WASHINGTON, DC, October 10, 2001 (ENS) - More than 94 percent of the cars and trucks available in the new model year get less than 30 miles to a gallon of gas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed today. On average, fuel economy of the 2002 model cars is down slightly from last year's models, the agency said.

For the third year in a row, the Honda Insight is ranked as the most fuel efficient car, achieving 61 miles per gallon (mpg) for city driving and 68 mpg on the highway.


The EPA says the Honda Insight gets the best gas mileage of any passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. (Photo courtesy Honda Motor Co.)
"Choosing the most fuel efficient vehicles in a class of cars can save the owner more than $1,500 in fuel costs and prevent the release of about 15 tons of global warming pollution over the vehicle's lifetime," said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman. "Fuel efficient vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, consumers do not have to sacrifice to make a difference for the environment."

Hybrid-electric vehicles like the Honda Insight, which use a smaller gasoline engine and a self-charging electric motor/generator, were rated best in fuel efficiency. The Insight was rated as the top performing two seater car, while the hybrid gasoline-electric Toyota Prius was the top rated compact car, averaging 52 mpg in city driving and 45 mpg in highway driving.

Fuel economy estimates are determined by averaging numbers gathered through tests conducted by manufacturers and verified by the EPA. Vehicles in each class are tested in a controlled setting, and the results are adjusted to reflect actual driving conditions.

All vehicles are tested in the same way so consumers can compare the results when choosing a vehicle type or class. The miles per gallon ratings appear on window stickers on all new cars and light trucks. Consumers can use this information to identify the most fuel efficient vehicles to purchase.

The Volkswagen New Beetle Diesel was rated as the best diesel fueled compact car, achieving 42 mpg in city driving and 49 mpg in highway driving. However, diesel fueled cars have a down side - they produce more particulate pollution than comparable gasoline fueled cars. The diesel Beetle was also rated by the EPA as one of the most polluting compact cars.

Larger vehicles, which generally get far poorer gas mileage, continue to be very popular with American consumers. Their popularity is driving down the average fuel economy of U.S. vehicles, the EPA said.


The hybrid gasoline-electric Toyota Prius is the top rated compact car (Photo courtesy Toyota)
The top rated minivan is the Daimler/Chrysler Town & Country, which gets 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, the EPA said. Ford makes the top rated sport utility vehicle, the Ford Escape 2WD, which gets 23 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

The General Motors Chevy S10 2WD Pickup Truck was the top of its class, getting 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg in highway driving.

The 491 new 2002 cars tested by the EPA averaged 23.9 mpg, down slightly from the 24.2 mpg the EPA measured in 2001 models. Fuel economy of sport utility vehicles, light trucks and vans rose slightly, from 17.3 mpg last year to 17.9 mpg for the 374 models tested this year.

Overall, the 865 new vehicles tested by the EPA averaged 21 mpg, up from last year's record low of 20.4 mpg.

Because Americans buy far more large vehicles than small, fuel efficient compact cars, the overall fuel efficiency of cars of U.S. roads remains low the EPA said. Compact cars achieve an average of 25.8 mpg, while the largest passenger vehicles average just 16 mpg.

The Bush administration is considering raising federal standards for fuel efficiency, known as corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards, but says passenger safety will remain the paramount consideration.


The Ford Escape gets the highest gas mileage of any sport utility vehicle (Photo courtesy Ford Motor Co.)
"Reducing our nation's dependence on imported oil is crucial to our national energy security - now more than ever before," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "Conserving fuel by driving a more efficient vehicle is one way each of us can do our part. With the new Fuel Economy Guide, car buyers have the information they need to help select the safest, cleanest and most fuel-efficient vehicle to meet their needs."

A joint EPA and Department of Energy web site details information on vehicle fuel economy, including a complete version of the Fuel Economy Guide found at: http://www.fueleconomy.gov. This website compares fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions and estimated annual fuel costs.

Consumers can find information about vehicles in all classes, from small two seaters and compact cars to sport utility vehicles (SUVs), pickup trucks, and minivans. The web site allows side by side comparisons of up to three vehicles at a time and includes vehicle specific fuel economy data and an annual fuel cost calculator for new and used vehicles dating back to 1985.

Search mechanisms also allow users to find vehicles according to manufacturer, class, and miles per gallon. The printed version of the "2002 Fuel Economy Guide" will be available at car dealerships, public libraries and credit unions later this fall.

The EPA and the Department of Energy also released a list of steps drivers can take to improve their vehicle fuel economy and reduce air pollution, including:

The EPA is also releasing the 2002 model year emission data on its "Green Vehicle Guide" web site, another online tool that gives information about the environmental performance of cars and light trucks (http://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles). The "Green Vehicle Guide" rates vehicles according to their environmental performance and includes both emission and fuel economy information.

Consumers can see how vehicles rate with one another, as well as compare vehicles within a class. This information gives the consumer a complete picture of a vehicle's environmental performance.

"In addition to helping conserve energy, consumers who purchase these fuel efficient cars and trucks are helping to protect the environment as well," said Whitman.