Saving gas: Less driving, better fuel economy

November 19, 2013 by Bernie Degroat

Fuel consumption by American drivers of light-duty vehicles is down 11 percent since 2004, says a University of Michigan researcher.

In a follow-up to two reports released earlier this year, Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute examined recent trends in fuel consumption by cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and vans in the U.S. fleet from 1984 to 2011.

His findings show that 123.9 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in 2011, compared with a peak of 138.8 billion gallons in 2004. During the five-year period of 2002-06, U.S. drivers used an average of 135.5 billion gallons of gas annually, but from 2007 to 2011, the average dropped to 123 billion gallons.

"The decline of 11 percent since 2004 reflects the decline in distance driven and the improvement in vehicle fuel economy," said Sivak, a research professor at UMTRI and director of the Sustainable Worldwide Transportation research consortium.

In addition to total fuel consumption, Sivak examined fuel-consumption rates per person, per licensed driver, per household and per registered vehicle. He found that all four rates were 13-to-17 percent lower in 2011 than in the peak year of 2004.

Annual rates for 2011 were 398 gallons per person, 585 gallons per licensed driver, 1,033 gallons per household and 530 gallons per registered vehicle.

Given that the reductions in the rates started to occur several years prior to the onset of the current , Sivak thinks that the peaks in the rates have a good chance to be long-term peaks.

Sivak's two earlier studies found that the number of registered light-duty vehicles in the U.S. fleet reached a maximum in 2008, while the total distance driven peaked in 2006. Although economic factors have likely contributed to declining rates of light-duty vehicles per person, per licensed driver and per household since the economic downturn of 2008, other societal changes have influenced the need for vehicles—increased telecommuting and use of public transportation, and more people living in cities.

"The combined evidence from this and the previous two studies indicates that—per person, per driver and per household—we now have fewer light-duty vehicles, we drive each of them less and we consume less fuel than in the past," Sivak said. "Fuel-consumption rates are now lower than they were in 1984—the first year of my analysis."

Explore further: Better fuel economy: Billions and billions saved

More information: Read the full study: deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/100360/102974.pdf

Related Stories

Better fuel economy: Billions and billions saved

October 16, 2012

(Phys.org)—As fuel economy of new vehicles improved 18 percent over the past five years, billions of gallons of gas and billions of pounds of emissions have been saved, University of Michigan researchers say.

Fuel economy at all-time high, researchers find

November 6, 2012

(Phys.org)—Fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States is at its highest level ever, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Fuel economy up, but consumption up even more

March 6, 2013

(Phys.org) —Although vehicle fuel economy has improved 40 percent since 1970, the total amount of fuel used has increased by more than half, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Has motorization in the US reached its peak?

June 20, 2013

(Phys.org) —Fewer light vehicles are on America's roads today than five years ago, thanks possibly to increases in telecommuting and public transportation, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Vehicle fuel economy up in October

November 13, 2013

Gas mileage of new vehicles sold in the U.S. rose 0.2 mpg last month, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Recommended for you

Team develops targeted drug delivery to lung

September 2, 2015

Researchers from Columbia Engineering and Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have developed a new method that can target delivery of very small volumes of drugs into the lung. Their approach, in which micro-liters ...

Not another new phone! But Nextbit's Robin is smarter

September 2, 2015

San Francisco-based Nextbit wants you to meet Robin, which they consider as the smarter smartphone. Their premise is that no one is making a smart smartphone; when you get so big it's hard to see the forest through the trees. ...

Team creates functional ultrathin solar cells

August 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an ultrathin solar cell for use in lightweight and flexible applications. In their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, ...

Magnetic fields provide a new way to communicate wirelessly

September 1, 2015

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body. The new technology could offer a lower power ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.