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How to Make Driving Less Energy Intensive than Flying

UMTRIjpgThe fuel economy of the entire fleet of light-duty vehicles would need to improve by more than 57 percent or average vehicle load would need to increase by 67 percent to make driving less energy intensive than flying, according to a study.

According to the report, Making Driving Less Energy Intensive than Flying, by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s Michael Sivak, the fuel economy of the entire fleet of light-duty vehicles would need to improve from the current 21.5 mpg to at least 33.8 mpg, or vehicle load would have to increase from the current 1.38 persons to at least 2.3 persons, to bring driving’s energy intensity down to that of flying.

However, it will not be easy to achieve either of the above improvements, the report says.

For example, despite the steady improvement in fuel economy in new cars, it takes a long time for those improvements to affect the average fuel economy of the nation’s fleet. The 14.5 million light-duty vehicles sold in 2012 accounted for only about 6 percent of the entire fleet of light-duty vehicles, the report says. Furthermore, from 1970 to 2010 — the 40-year period that the report studied — fuel economy improved just 65 percent, suggesting that a further 57 percent improvement could be a long way off.

The required 67 percent increase in passenger load could be even harder to achieve as that figure has been in steady decline, from 1.90 in 1970 to 1.38 in 2010, the report says.

The average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold in the US in December was 24.8 mpg, down 0.2 mpg from the revised value in November, according to the latest monthly figures from the UMTRI, released last week.

The December figure was up 4.7 mpg from the value in October 2007, the first month of UMTRI monitoring.

Additionally, the average fuel economy of all vehicles sold in 2013 was a record 24.8 mpg, up 1.0 mpg from 2012 and up 3.9 mpg from 2008, UMTRI says.

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