Study: Gas Cars Improve MPG By 2.6 MPG, Diesels By 9.8, But Hybrids Go Down?

Before the housing bubble burst, and the banks almost collapsed, Americans had a preference for big vehicles that guzzled gas like it was going out of style. But then gas prices shot through the roof, the auto industry had to be bailed out, and suddenly fuel economy became one of the most important factors in determining a new car purchase. Automakers have responded by pushing the average fuel economy for new cars up by 14%, or 3 mpg, in the past 4 years.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, and includes vehicles made by all the major automakers who sell cars in the U.S. except for a few speciality car makers like Roush, Saleen, Spyker, and Bugatti, whose overall sales are so low as to be all but negligible.

The real story here though is in the details. Conventional gas-powered cars in the U.S., which make up a majority of new car sales, only improved their average fuel economy by 2.6 mpg since 2008. That’s OK, though hardly cause for celebration.

Diesel vehicles, however, have improved their average fuel economy by 9.8 mpg. That’s a huge improvement, especially considering that diesel vehicles already held a large fuel economy advantage over their gas-powered competitors.

Passenger cars as a whole have benefited from better fuel economy though, going from an average of 21.9 mpg in 2008 model year to 26 mpg in the 2012 model year.

One last bombshell; hybrid vehicles actually went down in average fuel economy, losing about 3 mpg since the 2008 model year. This can be attributed to greater market saturation of hybrids other than the Toyota Prius, which still reigns as king of MPG Hill.

While some automakers are offering more diesel models, hybrids appear to be the technology of choice for the time being. But I still think there is a big market for diesel vehicles, and if the next four years bring similar results…who knows, we might all be driving diesels sooner rather than later.

Source: University of Michigan | Full Study | Image: sint via Shutterstock

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.