By Joe Benton

June 21, 2007
Hybrid cars and trucks have saved 230 million gallons of gasoline or about 5.5 million barrels since their introduction in the U.S. in 1999, according to the Department of Energys National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

At the same time, the U.S. was importing 8.5 million barrels of oil a day to fuel cars and light trucks.

While the savings attributed to hybrids did not greatly impact U.S. oil consumption, those savings continue to increase.

"Sales of hybrid electric vehicles have increased an average of 72 percent a year for the past five years and in 2006 the average fuel economy based on new EPA estimates was 35 miles per gallon for new hybrid models sold in the U.S.," said Kevin Bennion, an NREL vehicle systems analysis research engineer.

Government researchers combined hybrid electric vehicle sales and fuel economy data to determine fuel savings. The fuel economy data included the new EPA mpg ratings as well as old EPA mpg ratings and user-reported values were also reviewed.

Computer software developed by the Argonne National Laboratory was used to determine the total number of hybrid electric vehicles in use in a given year.

The study reported that hybrid electric vehicles would have to replace a significant portion of the total light duty vehicle fleet to have an impact on petroleum imports. For example, net imports of oil in 2003 were 11.24 million barrels per day, and 8.55 million barrels per day went to light duty vehicle use.