Car Industry

Average US fuel economy rises once again in July

Compared to June, our purchasing decisions are greener by a whopping 0.1 mpg! Huzzah!

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Despite gas prices staying somewhat low, our purchasing decisions are slightly greener than before.

Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, UMTRI

Low gas prices have kept Americans from going totally green. Instead of focusing on fuel efficiency, we've continued to buy thirsty utes and other truckish brutes at a record pace. But not all hope is lost. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), our purchasing habits edged in a slightly more efficient direction last month.

UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle issue monthly, sales-weighted average fuel-economy results based on light-duty vehicle sales (heavy-duty vehicles don't report fuel-economy numbers to the EPA). This past month, the average was 25.4 mpg, an increase over June's 25.3 mpg figure. This matches May 2016, as well as July 2015. The most efficient July was all the way back in 2014, with an average of 25.6 mpg.

We've been in a pretty steady growth pattern over the 2016 model year. The growth isn't much, but it signals that even with our predilection for Brobdingnagian gas-guzzlers, the vehicles themselves are growing more efficient, which brings the average up a bit. We're still a ways off from the most efficient month ever, though, which was 25.8 mpg.

While growth is present, the larger pattern shows a plateau since around the beginning of the 2015 model year. Prior to that, each year produced ridiculous gains in average fuel economy, going all the way back to the beginning of the 2008 model year. Once we hit that peak in June 2015, we've dropped a bit, but by and large, buyers are holding the course.