MIT economist: 54.5 mpg? No sweat!
Think the 54.5-mpg federal corporate average fuel economy bogey for the 2025 model year is pretty tough? Think again, says MIT economist Christopher Knittel.
Knittel has studied a much-remarked-upon trend -- that most fuel efficiency advances of recent decades have been used to boost horsepower and vehicle weight while meeting the old 27.5-mpg CAFE standard.
When you account for the 26 percent increase in average curb weight and the 107 percent increase in horsepower from 1980 to 2006, fuel economy actually increased by 60 percent, Knittel says in a research paper, "Automobiles on Steroids," published in the American Economic Review.
According to Knittel's calculations, a shift back to the average weight and power seen in 1980, along with a continuation of the trend toward greater fuel efficiency, would lead to a fleet average of 52 mpg by 2020.