Changes in Efficiency Calculations Can Help Lower Fuel Use

January 28, 2009

Changes in Efficiency Calculations Can Help Lower Fuel Use

Sensenbrenner: Hybrid Truck Technology ‘Low Hanging Fruit’

Washington, D.C.,  - U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, this week told new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson that changing vehicle fuel efficiency reporting can help lead to reductions in fuel use by encouraging better decisions by consumers, researchers and policymakers.

In a letter welcoming Jackson, Sensenbrenner said a recent study shows that calculating fuel efficiency by gallons-per-mile, as opposed to miles-per-gallon, helps foster better understanding of the true fuel efficiency of a car or truck.

“This is a virtual zero cost way to improve fuel savings,” Sensenbrenner said.  “If people have a better understanding of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency, they are more likely to make better decisions about which vehicles they use.”

Sensenbrenner recently introduced the Hybrid Truck Research, Development and Demonstration Act, which will establish a Department of Energy grant program to promote research into hybrid technology for commercial trucks.  A recent Duke University study shows that the EPA’s current MPG standard leads researchers and policymakers to undervalue improvements to less efficient vehicles.

The Duke study found that 75 percent of people misjudged relative fuel savings when relying on a MPG standard.  When the standard was instead expressed as gallons-per-100-miles, 64 percent of respondents judged the relative fuel savings correctly.  For example, an improvement in one vehicle from 10 MPG to 20 MPG saves substantially more fuel than an improvement in another vehicle from 20 MPG to 40 MPG.  An improvement from 10 MPG to 11 MPG saves nearly as much fuel as an improvement from 33 MPG to 50 MPG.  This reality is not intuitive under the traditional MPG standard, the study found.

“In reducing fuel consumption, our focus should start with the least efficient vehicles. Because trucks consume much greater quantities of fuel than cars, even seemingly modest efficiency gains result in substantial fuel savings,” Sensenbrenner said. “Trucks consume 48 percent of our fuel and each individual truck consumes substantially more fuel than a passenger car. Trucks, not cars, are the low-hanging fruit, and trucks should be a primary focus of hybrid technology research.”

The Oshkosh Corporation reports that there are 90,000 garbage trucks in the U.S.  The fuel consumption of these trucks is roughly equivalent to 2.5 million passenger cars.  Eaton Corporation estimates that the introduction of as few as 10,000 hybrid trucks could save 7.2 million gallons of diesel each year and reduce emissions by 83,000 tons. 

“That’s the equivalent of removing every passenger car from New York City for 25 days,” Sensenbrenner said.

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Click here for Sensenbrenner’s letter to Jackson.


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