By Joe Benton

July 18, 2006
U.S. fuel economy has not changed significantly since 1994 and cars and trucks are burning as much fuel as ever despite the turmoil in energy markets and sky-high gasoline prices, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The average fuel economy for new vehicles works out to 21 miles per gallon, according to a new EPA report.

While there have been gains from popular hybrids and other fuel-saving technologies, they represent a fraction of vehicles on the road, according to the agency.

The EPA has proposed tougher government-wide requirements for calculating fuel economy. The Transportation Department is also reviewing its standard for passenger cars to reduce oil consumption.

Automakers argue that they are already moving as fast as possible to produce vehicles that will burn less fuel and they insist higher federal fuel economy standards are unnecessary as new car and truck buyers begin to select smaller and more efficient vehicles.

Cars and trucks consume 40 percent of the oil Americans use and generate 20 percent of the greenhouse gases.

Most cars and trucks are now more powerful and heavier. According to the EPA, the average vehicle has gained 400 pounds and 50 horsepower over the past nine years.

The report also states that 2006 model-year vehicles will achieve an average 21 miles for every gallon of fuel they burn. That's the same as last year, and 5 percent less than the fuel efficiency peak of 22.1 mpg recorded in 1987.

SUVs, pickups and other members of the light truck class average 6 miles per gallon less than cars on average and account for much of the drag on fleet-wide fuel efficiency, the EPA said.

For 2006, sedans, wagons and compacts are expected to average 24.6 mpg. SUVs are expected to get 18.5 mpg and pickups 17 mpg.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai-Kia Co. Ltd. and Volkswagen AG all make vehicles, mainly cars, that average between 23.5 mpg and 24.2 mpg, according to the EPA.

General Motors, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. all make vehicles, many of which are the most popular SUVs and pickups that average between 19.1 mpg and 20.5 mpg.