Thursday, November 18, 2010

EPA Fuel Economy Report

Yesterday, the US EPA released their 2010 report on fuel economy for new cars and light trucks.  This post has a few graphs I made from the Excel version of the tables.  First, though, a caveat from the report:
Final MY2009 data are based on formal end-of-year CAFE reports submitted by automakers to EPA and will not change. MY2009 was a year of considerable turmoil in the automotive market. Due primarily to the economic recession, light-duty vehicle production totalled 9.2 million units, the lowest of any year since this database began in 1975. This represented a 34% reduction in total vehicle production compared to MY2008, and a 40% drop since MY2007. The Car Allowance Rebate System (or “Cash for Clunkers”) likely impacted consumer demand. Fuel prices remained high relative to historic levels, though lower than in the previous three years. The turmoil introduced by these factors is demonstrated by the fact that the final MY2009 values for CO2 emissions and fuel economy in this report are 25 g/mi lower and 1.3 mpg higher, respectively, than the projected MY2009 values that were provided in last year’s report.

The preliminary MY2010 data in this report are based on confidential pre-model year production volume projections provided to EPA by automakers during the MY2009 market turmoil. Accordingly, there is uncertainty in the MY2010 data (for example, total projected vehicle production is significantly higher than actual sales as reported by trade sources). This report will often focus on the final MY2009 data, rather than on the preliminary MY2010 data.
I, however, will include the 2010 data in my graphs.  Thus, we need to bear in mind that the last data point in each graph was based on what car companies expected in 2009, rather than what actually happened, and it sounds like they expected a faster rebound from the recession than has actually occurred.

Anyway, first off is the graph of light truck fraction of the overall light vehicle market.

As you can see, this started to improve (ie go down) in 2005 with the oil shock, and continued down through the great recession, but car manufacturers were expecting it to increase a bit in 2010.

Similarly, here is vehicle weight which increased for years after the post-seventies low, but then started to moderate in 2005.  Car companies were expecting some retrenchment in 2010:

Average zero to sixty time continued for the most part to get faster, with a slight slowing on cars during the recession:

Here is overall fuel economy:

So, you can see that the combination of oil shock and then recession produced a modest improvement for the first time since the late seventies and early eighties.  However, car companies were expecting the improvement to moderate in 2010.

Overall, I think Americans are going to have to try a lot harder than this in coming years to economize on oil enough to cope with increasing developing country demand in the face of more-or-less stagnant supplies.  I guess the good thing is that the 2005-2008 shock has definitely primed the pumps in terms of the availability of much better model options.  You can't drive fuel efficient cars until they are available in the showroom, and before that can happen, the car companies have to design them and bring them to production - a process that takes several years.

For example, hybrid share has been continuing to increase (though beware again of the preliminary nature of the 2010 point):

And now we even have plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, and full-on electrics like the Tesla Roadster and Nissan Leaf becoming available.

These are good developments, but I expect it will take another oil shock to drive their adoption in large numbers.


Mike Aucott said...

The new CAFE standards require a new vehicle fleet-wide 34.1 mpg by 2016. By 2012 these requirements are expected to engender new vehicle economy of 33 mpg for cars and 25 mpg for trucks; up to 38 mpg cars and 29 mpg for trucks by 2016. So some further improvement will happen regardless. (This might be enough to finally get me to trade in my little 28 mpg 1985 truck.)

But indeed another push is needed for the really significant improvements that could happen even with current technology if Americans were willing to drive lighter vehicles that would go up hills and on-ramps at the vehicle's pace, not the driver's.

kjmclark said...

Of course, in yesterday's news was this piece:

"Bloomberg: Michigan Republicans well-positioned to fight fuel standards on behalf of Big Three"

Just when it looks like things are slowly getting better...

Greg said...

And there was also a news item saying that prices for used cars are at record highs.

More people are buying used instead of new, which will delay overall improvement.

If people start to hold on to their cars longer, as well, that will delay it further. Time will tell.

jdl75 said...

Bottom line : The US not increasing its fuel tax is making them appear like total clowns on the international scene, oh, and also scary as any over armed wounded animal can be