Nov 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

U.S. fuel economy hits record high but falls short of policymakers' hopes

Data: EPA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: EPA; Chart: Axios Visuals

New EPA data on U.S. vehicle fuel economy paints a mixed picture, showing record average efficiency in model year 2020 that's nonetheless far short of what policymakers hope to see ahead.

Driving the news: The annual report shows that average overall fuel economy for cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in the U.S. reached 25.4 miles per gallon (mpg) in model year 2020 in real-world conditions, a 0.5 mpg increase over 2019.

  • Preliminary data shows that it's basically stagnant this year.

The big picture: It's nowhere near the 52 mpg by 2026 in standards the Biden administration has floated, which Bloomberg notes "equates to roughly 41 mpg in real-world driving conditions that typically account for about a 20% drop in fuel economy from EPA’s ratings."

Why it matters: Transportation overall — including heavy trucks and other vehicles — is the largest source of U.S. carbon emissions.

Zoom in: For model year 2020, Tesla’s all-electric fleet had by far the lowest tailpipe CO2 emissions, EPA notes. The next best performers on average CO2 emissions and mileage were Honda, Subaru and Hyundai.

  • Conversely, "Stellantis had the highest new vehicle average CO2 emissions and lowest fuel economy of the large manufacturers in model year 2020, followed by Ford and GM," EPA notes.

Go deeper: The slowing global gains in fuel economy

Go deeper