You’ve no doubt come across this before, but it’s worth repeating whenever someone does a story on the American auto fleet’s fuel economy:


The New York Times reports that “the average fuel economy in 2009 model cars, vans, pickups and S.U.V.’s was 22.4 miles per gallon — an increase of 7 percent, or 1.4 miles per gallon, over 2008 figures.” Environmentalists, we are told, hailed the news.

Which means the fleet average is now just 2.6 mpg shy of what the Ford Model T achieved 102 years ago. The good news is that embarrassing record is for lack of trying. If we’re lucky, the Volt and Leaf are just the beginning of a new era.

Comments

  1. #1 hat_eater
    November 18, 2010

    While I agree that the average fuel economy of American cars is appaling, 25 mpg in Ford T is a myth.
    http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=858
    http://www.modelt.ca/faq.html

  2. #2 george.w
    November 18, 2010

    The Model T mileage may be a myth, but the 35mpg my ’67 Fiat 4-door used to get was delightful economic fact. A roomy car, huge trunk, and would cruise all day at 75mph. Handled great, too.

    Since then, average engine power has just about doubled, while gas mileage has stayed flat.

  3. #3 Chrisj
    November 18, 2010

    I couldn’t help going looking for figures for other countries, just for comparison. Wow, that’s awful. Even more impressive, the goal that’s been set for new US vehicles from 2016 onwards (35mpg-US gallon) is about the same as the current average (ie including inefficient old vehicles) fuel consumption of vehicles in the UK (38mpg-UK gallon, which is larger, but the way they’re measured gives a >10% difference for the numbers for identical actual results, which counteracts a lot of the gallon-size distinction).

  4. #4 Art
    November 18, 2010

    The Model-T was a milestone but as transportation most people would find is wanting. At a maximum speed of around 30 mph you can’t legally get on the highway. Most main surface streets are 45 mph so people are going to be backed up behind you.

    The interior is going to be too hot or too cold. If you wish to have anything approaching reliable transportation you will need to spend several hours a week on maintenance and repairs. Or pay someone to do it for you. Road trips over one hundred miles will always be something of an adventure. Cross-country travel will almost always include one or more major repairs.

    Without crush-zones, seat belts or air bags if you hit a tree at thirty; you’re dead. If a truck hits you on a major road; you’re dead. Minor accidents might only leave you maimed.

    Environmentally it gets a pass because it spends most of its time in the shop, and/or gets decent gas mileage by staying below 30 mph. Otherwise it is a smoke and hydrocarbon spewing disaster that lacks even a PCV to mitigate its foul output.

    I do agree with the general thrust of the article that manufacturers and automotive engineers have generally slacked off and been lax in trying new ideas. The big three spent more money on advertising and styling than engineering from the mid-30s to the 80s.

  5. #5 Andy M-S
    November 20, 2010

    In 1991 my spouse and I purchased a Honda Civic station wagon (the FWD-only model). In winter–in upstate NY–it never got below 30 MPG. On the highway, it did 40. We kept it for 15 years, until it almost literally fell apart. We replaced it with a Hyundai Accent, which has considerably less interior space. It gets about 25 MPG, maybe a little more. The cars are comparable 5-speed manual transmission models.

    One of the things that makes a difference is weight–with antilock, airbags, power windows and doors, likely better crash barriers, the Accent may well be heavier than the Civic Wagon. But I think another factor is exterior design. The Honda had what was for the time a very low coefficient of drag–I believe it was .30–and that made a fairly big car with a fairly small engine fun to drive and safe-feeling in traffic anyone trying to get on Route 15 in CT will understand why acceleration can be important).

    The Accent, with all of its power doo-dads, cost not much more than the Honda 15 years its senior. But it doesn’t do as well. The Honda was a major improvement over the care we had that was about 15 years ITS senior, but the Accent backslides, as do most new cars. Is it that we can’t do better, or that we (most people) have stopped caring?

  6. #6 Hey James!
    November 21, 2010

    james james james.

    I sooooooooooooooooooooo feel sorry for your offspring. do you think they will be able to live in fantasy lala land their entire lives also? keep it FAKE bro!

    you rock! so not.

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