Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com
January 4, 2012
It's not any news that cars are getting heavier by the moment due to new safety reguations and luxuries like power windows and sound proofing. A new report shows how both have been detrimental to fuel economy gains.
Christopher Knittel, a professor of applied economics at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management published a paper in the American Economic Review stating that if weight, horsepower, and torque were held to levels in the 1980s and fuel efficiency techologies were improved, fuel economy for cars and light trucks could see an increase of by almost 60 percent from 1980 to 2006.
In a interview with the New York Times, Knittel said the biggest contributor to the weight gain is due to consumers changing preferences.
“In 1980, just 18 percent of new cars sold in the United States were light trucks. By 2004, it was 60 percent. That led to a 30 percent increase in weight over that time, and a doubling of horsepower.”
Not surprisingly, the auto industry isn't taking too kindly to Knittel's report.
“This year, automakers are selling 270 models that achieve 30 m.p.g. or more. The M.I.T. report stops at 2006, just when automakers began meeting greater consumer demand for fuel economy with new technologies. In 2008, when gas reached $4 a gallon, we couldn’t keep the most fuel-efficient autos on dealers’ lots,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in a email.
Knittel acknowledged that gasoline costing $4 a gallon in 2008 led many buyers toward fuel-efficient vehicles and away from SUVs and pickups, but it wasn't indicative of an unstoppable trend.
"They certainly were losing weight then, but as gas prices fell that shift has slowed. I’m not faulting the automakers. It’s the role of policymakers to incentivize fuel economy shifts,”
So what does Knittel think should happen? Knittel favors a gas tax than the new CAFE standards.
“Performance standards like CAFE are highly inefficient, but they’re politically palatable,” he said.
Source: New York Times