Fuel Economy Delivers Dramatic Savings: NRDC Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New vehicles are saving U.S. households on average about $630 to $840 a year at the pump thanks to better fuel economy over the past 15 years, according to a new analysis by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). 

With drivers once again facing a spike in gasoline prices because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the report demonstrates the tangible benefits of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. While the oil industry proffers false solutions to the current energy crisis, these standards will lock in real savings year-after-year, for decades to come.

“Clean car and fuel economy standards are one of the most significant actions the U.S. has taken to cut its reliance on oil and save drivers money at the pump,” said Britt Carmon, federal clean vehicles senior advocate at NRDC and an author of the report. “Better fuel economy means fewer trips to the gas station, more cash in drivers’ pockets – and less money handed over to petro-dictators.”

The NRDC report examined EPA data showing that the average fuel economy for a new vehicle increased to 25.3 miles per gallon in 2021 from 20.1 mpg in 2006. For a vehicle driven the average amount, that translates into a savings of $344 a year at pump prices of $3 a gallon or $458 a year at $4 a gallon.

With the average household owning more than one vehicle and traveling 20,600 miles a year, the annual household savings are $630 to $840 depending on the price of gasoline. The higher the prices, the greater the savings.

On the national level, these individual savings add up to a major impact: Fuel economy improvements have saved more than 2 trillion gallons of gasoline since 1975, enough to run every car and light truck in the U.S. for more than 15 years. 

The future: It’s electric

The primary means of fuel savings and pollution reductions have been improvements in gasoline engines. Now, with automakers moving to electrify their fleets, dramatic improvements and savings are on the horizon. Future clean car standards must accelerate this transition to zero-emitting vehicles.

Charging automobiles at home is roughly the equivalent of fueling up on a dollar-a-gallon gasoline. What’s more, the average price of residential electricity, adjusted for inflation, has stayed close to the dollar-a-gallon equivalent mark for at least the last 20 years, while gasoline prices have shot up periodically.

“Electric vehicles provide dramatic savings for drivers and insulate them from costly spikes in prices at the pump,” said Max Baumhefner, a senior attorney at NRDC.

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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