If you feel like your car today doesn't get any better gas mileage than cars you’ve owned previously, it probably isn’t in your imagination. A new MIT study shows that, while there have been major advances in fuel efficiency technology over the last few decades, there have been only minor improvements in actual fuel efficiency due to the increased weight and horsepower of today's cars.
The study, conducted by MIT economist Christopher Knittel and published in the American Economic Review, looked at the data between 1980 and 2006. During that span, the average fuel economy of autos sold in the U.S. increased by more than 15 percent, yet the average curb weight has increased 26 percent while horsepower went up 107 percent. As a result, if today's cars were the same weight and horsepower as they were in 1980, the fuel economy average would have jumped from the then average of 23 mpg to about 37 mpg, according to the report.
Today's cars average about 27 mpg, so Knittel points out that, "most of that technological progress has gone into compensating for weight and horsepower."
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.