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Greener cars could cut what you'll spend on gas

New federal standards will spur innovation—and greater fuel savings

Published: January 2013

Tesla Model X

Fuel economy and gas prices are clearly on the minds of a lot of car buyers. In a national survey we conducted last year, respondents told us that that their top consideration when buying a new car was fuel economy. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of them said they were considering an alternative-fuel vehicle, with hybrids and flex-fuel models leading the way.

The auto industry is also focusing on fuel economy and alternative-fuel cars. At the Detroit Auto Show, a number of energy-efficient vehicles caught our eye, including the new Cadillac ELR extended-range electric coupe and Tesla Model X electric SUV. And in 2012, average fuel economy of new vehicles reached a new high.

Right now, federal standards require new cars to reach average fuel-economy targets of 35.4 miles-per-gallon by the year 2016. That’s good, but the long-term goal is even better: Starting in 2017, new rules will be phased in to raise average fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

We think that’s a practical, achievable goal, especially when you consider innovations that will make cars go farther on less gas. Several new vehicles already meet the 2025 standard, including the Chevrolet Volt, Honda Civic hybrid, and Toyota Prius.

From a practical perspective, these rules mean that you’ll save thousands of dollar on fuel over the life of your vehicle, more than enough to offset the cost of new technology in the car. (Of course, those savings will be affected by the cost of gasoline.)

Some critics persist in knocking these rules, as reported this week by The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. But we firmly believe consumers will come out ahead with sizable fuel savings, not to mention a reduction in pollution and less need for foreign oil.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the public-policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

See also:

Food-safety legislation aims to stop deadly outbreaks

CALM Act turns down the volume of TV ads

Consumers Union and Consumer Protection: The Year in Review

Shedding Light on the Credit-Reporting Industry

Over the Holidays, You Better Watch Out . . . for Add-On Airline Fees

Gift Cards: Gifts That (Sometimes) Keep On Taking

Meat Without Drugs

No More Bill Shock

Rental-Car Roulette

Zombie Bank Accounts Rise From the Dead and Feed On Your Finances

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