Last month, the average fuel economy of a new car purchased in the U.S. was 23.7 miles per gallon, compared to 23.5 miles per gallon the previous month, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).
That may not seem like much, but over the last four years, UMTRI reports that fuel economy has risen 16 percent.
The most obvious driver of the trend is economic, and such concerns are unlikely to go away. The average gallon of regular gas sold for $3.75 on March 1 - 20 cents more than at the start of the year, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Fears of $5-per-gallon gas no doubt fuel the interest in more fuel-efficient vehicles.
So it's no surprise that sales of hybrids as well as smaller, fuel-efficient cars are up. In January and February, Toyota's Prius sales were up 33 percent (compared to the same period last year), while GM's Chevrolet Cruze jumped 10 percent.
In 2010, American light-duty cars had an average fuel economy of 22.5 miles per gallon, 17 percent higher than the average fuel economy in 2004. Automakers are gradually increasing fuel efficiency to meet the 2025 fuel efficiency goals set out by the Obama Administration last year. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will require fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com