While we were working on this issue’s cover stories about fuel-efficient vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report on fuel economy trends, revealing troubling news: The average miles per gallon of America’s cars, SUVs and pickup trucks is going down! That’s right — the automotive industry is producing, and many consumers are buying, cars that get worse mileage than they did 20 years ago! The average for all light vehicles hit a high of 22.1 mpg in 1987; today it has slipped to 21 mpg.
These vehicles account for 40 percent of all U.S. oil consumption, and they produce about 20 percent of all U.S. climate-altering carbon dioxide emissions. How can it be that we are moving backward and driving cars that guzzle more gas and pollute more? Instead of greener vehicles, many of us are choosing to drive cars that are larger, heavier and faster than ever.
As the EPA report points out, the fuel economy of our vehicles is directly related to our nation’s energy security, to our air quality and to emissions of greenhouse gases. Surely we can make wiser choices in the coming decade.
To make it as easy as possible for you to find a greener car the next time you need a new vehicle, we’ve compiled information on price, fuel economy, annual fuel cost, air pollution, greenhouse gases and overall environmental impact. We’ve also identified the most eco-friendly choices in 12 categories of cars, vans, wagons, trucks and sport utility vehicles.
The best news of all comes in our report on The Hybrid Revolution. Gas-electric hybrids that get up to 66 mpg are proving to be extremely popular, saving their owners thousands of dollars as prices at the pump continue to climb. And down the road, extending the hybrid concept by adding more batteries promises a plug-in hybrid that gets more than 100 mpg!
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