Average Fuel Efficiency Hasn’t Changed Since 1923

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Model T

When you compare the differences between the vehicle in your driveway and the Ford Model-T, it’s amazing how far modern cars have come. At least that’s how it would appear.

The truth of the matter is they haven’t really come that far. Two researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in Ann Arbor have discovered the average fuel efficiency of a car in 2009 is only 3 mpg better than the Model-T, which was released in 1923. Even though it has fluctuated a bit since then, mostly increasing between ’73 and ’91, the past 18 years have left the automotive industry at a complete stand-still. Although automakers have figured out how your car can parallel-park itself and set traffic-intuitive cruise control on the highways, they haven’t bothered to increase the overall fuel efficiency of their vehicles.

Despite what the increasing number of Priuses and other Hybrids on the road may have you thinking, the average fuel efficiency of vehicles on the road is only around 17 mpg. And it may be the pursuit of technological-breakthrough vehicles that have done the most harm.

While many automakers began chasing after electric vehicles, they never bothered to simply increase the fuel efficiency of the traditional engine. As we all know, electric vehicles are still a dream in the distance, and they were even moreso in 1991. So how exactly has the automotive industry been able to get away with no environmental improvements in their everyday vehicles?

The solution to the problem is pretty simple: provide incentives. Many European countries have already adopted a business model that allows people to trade in an old, fuel in-efficient vehicle for a newer and more efficient one and receive a more substantial sum for it. Although President Obama has set the standard for vehicles to run 35.5 mpg by 2016, there has yet to be any real financial incentive for people to ‘buy green’ (besides the obvious money saved on gas).

This study shows that, even though the electric car seems to be right around the corner, it’s still not good enough for the auto industry. There needs to be a real improvement made in the fuel efficiency of everyday vehicles, because it may be decades until we see the electric car future we’ve all been hoping for.