Cars and trucks remain essential facets of life for most Americans. In recent years, SUVs and light trucks have surpassed sedans as the most popular vehicles in the country.
While those larger vehicles come with a number of advantages, many eco-conscious buyers might assume that they have to sacrifice fuel-efficiency and sustainability. Data shows, however, that assumption to be incorrect, as efficiencies in in the internal combustion engines along with lighter weight components have led to significant improvements in fuel economy for vehicles of all sizes including SUVs and trucks.
Lighter-weight materials, including plastics and carbon fiber parts made from petrochemicals, make cars more efficient without sacrificing safety. And, these parts are more durable and cost-effective, helping put more money in consumer’s pockets.
As a recent report published in Energy Policy stated, “Cars, vans and light trucks sold in the country today get about twice as many miles to the gallon as 1975 models due to standards that boost performance and cut greenhouse gases.”
According to reports, improvements in fuel economy “amount to savings of 2tn gallons (7.6tn litres) of gasoline – more than the total consumption of these vehicles over the past 15 years.”
Despite more miles driven, emissions improve
Before the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily cut down on individual vehicle activity, Americans were driving significantly more than in the past. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which measures the distances driven, are up 111 percent since 1980.
However, thanks to improved vehicle and fuel efficiency, emissions from those sources are only up 12 percent since 1980. And, since 2004, emissions from vehicles have declined year-over-year.
“Improvements in internal combustion engine vehicles — and the fuels and oil they run on — have already paid big dividends. From 2004 to 2017, vehicle CO₂ emissions decreased 23 percent and fuel economy increased 29 percent.”
In addition, between 1980 and 2018, the U.S. economy’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 175%, showing that efficiency and sustainability do not have to come at the cost of economic growth, when done smartly.