Average fuel economy of new U.S. vehicles rises to 25.4 mpg

The average fuel economy of new U.S. light vehicles sold in March rose to 25.4 mpg, according to University of Michigan researchers, the highest since the researchers began collecting data in October 2007.

The fuel economy of new U.S. light trucks, cars, SUVs and vans sold last month rose 0.3 mpg from the revised figure for February and is 5.3 mpg higher than the October 2007 average, according to a monthly report from the university’s Transportation Research Institute.

Average sales-weighted fuel economy was calculated using the monthly sales of individual models and the combined city-highway fuel economy ratings from the EPA Fuel Economy Guide for each model.

Meanwhile, the institute's national Eco-Driving Index, which calculates the monthly greenhouse gas emissions from a U.S. driver who bought a new vehicle during the month, held at 0.80 in January. A lower index score is better, and the scores are compared with a base score of 1 in October 2007, when researchers began collecting data.

"This value indicates an improvement of 20 percent since October 2007," researcher Michael Sivak said in a statement. "The EDI takes into account both the fuel used per distance driven and the amount of driving."

In a separate study, fuel consumption by American drivers was found to be 11 percent lower in 2012 than in 2004.

The reduction “reflects the decline in distance driven and the improvement in vehicle fuel economy," Sivak said.

According to the study, U.S. fuel consumption in 2012 averaged 394 gallons per person, 584 gallons per licensed driver, 1,021 gallons per household and 529 gallons per registered vehicle. The rates were found to be 13 to 18 percent lower than the peak year of 2003 for registered vehicles and 2004 for the other measures, the study said without offering more specifics.

Sivak said: "The combined evidence from this and the previous studies indicates that -- per person, per driver and per household -- we now have fewer light-duty vehicles, we drive each of them less and we consume less fuel than in the past."

You can reach Sean Gagnier at sgagnier@crain.com

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