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New fuel-economy standards are driving savings and innovation

You don't have to sacrifice affordability, comfort, or wow factor by buying a gas-sipping car

Published: June 2013

When consumers shop for a new car, most are looking for ways to save money on gas: Two-thirds of car buyers expect their next vehicle to provide better fuel economy than their current one, according to a recent Consumer Reports national survey.

Today, the average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. is at an all-time high, a figure that will increase under new federal standards that will steadily improve gas mileage in new cars and trucks between the 2017 and 2025 model years.

At Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, we think it’s clear that you don’t have to sacrifice affordability, comfort, or even the wow factor when you get a gas-sipping car.

This point was driven home at the Fuel Economy: Now and in the Future forum held June 13 at the Consumer Reports headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y. Two dozen fuel-efficient vehicles from nearly every major automaker were put on display, ranging from subcompacts to SUVs, family sedans to luxury vehicles.

During a panel discussion, experts talked about the progress in fuel economy and what tomorrow will bring. Ann Schlenker, director of Argonne National Lab’s center for transportation research, described promising developments in delivering affordable electric vehicles that go hundreds of miles on a single, quick charge, while future technology could combine the efficiency of diesel engines with the lower emissions of gasoline, which would be a real game changer for the internal-combustion engine.

Get more information in our guides to fuel economy and alternative-fuel vehicles.

Jake Fisher, director of auto testing for Consumer Reports, noted that diesels get phenomenal fuel economy on the highway, especially at higher speeds, while hybrids get great fuel economy in the city, so combining them would make sense if the price is right.

These kinds of innovations will be accelerated under the new fuel standards, but those standards aren’t the only reform that’s sparking change. California has set its own goal of increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles sold in the state, and nine other states have adopted similar goals.

We strongly support these efforts, because, as a consumer organization, we want car buyers to get more value out of their vehicles and have more options for lower fuel costs.

A Consumer Reports paper (PDF) released at the forum looked at how much you’ll pay for fuel-efficient technology at the car dealership, and compared it to the money you’ll save from fewer trips to the gas pump, once the federal standards are fully implemented. We found consumers will save an average of $4,600 over the lifetime of their vehicles. In other words, we will pay a little more up front to save a whole lot more overall.

Learn more about Consumers Union’s work on fuel economy and read our latest reports at consumersunion.org/fuel.

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.


Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.



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