Reduced fuel use by US drivers a persistent trend

Apr 02, 2014 by Bernie Degroat

(Phys.org) —Despite U.S. population growth, fuel consumption by American drivers of light-duty vehicles is now lower than it was 15 years ago, says a University of Michigan researcher.

In a follow-up to a series of reports released last 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 2012.

His findings show that 123.6 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in 2012—down 11 percent from a peak of 138.8 billion gallons in 2004 and less than the 125.9 billion gallons used in 1999.

"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-18 percent lower in 2012 than in their peak years (2003 for registered vehicles, 2004 for the other three measures).

Annual fuel-consumption rates for 2012 were about 394 gallons per person, 584 gallons per licensed driver, 1,021 gallons per household and 529 gallons per registered vehicle.

In addition to examining changes in , the latest study also analyzed changes in the number of vehicles and distance driven. The corresponding rates per person, per driver, and per household each reached their maximum around 2004. Given that the reductions in these rates began to occur several years prior to the onset of the that started in 2008, Sivak believes that the maximum in the rates have a good chance to be long-term peaks.

Although economic factors have likely contributed to declining rates since the economic downturn, other societal changes have influenced the need for personal transportation, such as increased telecommuting, increased use of public transportation, increased urbanization of the population, and changes in the age composition of drivers, he said.

"The combined evidence from this and the previous 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. "There is no evidence in the 2012 data that the peaks in the rates that we experienced about 10 years ago were temporary."

Explore further: Saving gas: Less driving, better fuel economy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Has motorization in the US reached its peak?

Jun 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.

Fuel economy up, but consumption up even more

Mar 06, 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.

Better fuel economy: Billions and billions saved

Oct 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 ...

Recommended for you

Toyota, Grenoble set stage for test in ride-sharing

16 hours ago

Toyota is testing ride-sharing. As simple as that may sound, the experiment indicates an innovative model for the future of urban transportation. The Grenoble metro area could turn out to be the trial stage ...

Sparks fly as Di Grassi wins first electric race

17 hours ago

A spectacular crash at the last corner that ended leader Nicolas Prost's race and sent ex-F1 driver Nick Heidfeld flying into the fencing gave Brazil's Lucas di Grassi victory in the first ever Formula E ...

First electric car race to zoom off on Saturday

Sep 12, 2014

Formula E will be a laboratory for new technology, according to motor sport great Alain Prost, while Bruno Senna said drivers will face a "lottery" when electric car racing kicks off in Beijing Saturday.

User comments : 0