Fuel efficiency of world’s cars improves … but not fast enough

Automobile fuel economy around the world is improving … but not  fast enough to meet a goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions from new cars in half by 2030.

The Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) in 2009 launched a “50 by 50” campaign to cut global auto emissions by 50 percent by 2050. Reaching that goal means improving the fuel economy of light-duty vehicles by around 2.7 percent a year, the GFEI says. However, fuel economy since 2005 has been improving by just 1.6 percent a year, according to a new report released today in Durban, South Africa, where international climate talks are currently taking place.

Even in developed countries where most of the advances have taken place, fuel economy improved by just 2.1 percent annually.

“Overall our findings suggest that the GFEI objective is ambitious, and faster rates of improvement will be needed over the next 20 years in order to meet the 2030 target,” stated the report, which was prepared by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in cooperation with the GFEI.

However, François Cuenot, an energy analyst at the IEA, added, “yet this target is within reach, and the coming years will be crucial to deploy the necessary policies necessary to attain the GFEI target.”

The report goes on to identify three key ways in which countries can collectively help to meet the 50-percent target:

  • Promoting better and more efficient auto technologies, like turbocharged direct injection gasoline engines or start/stop starters;
  • Choosing diesel cars over gas-powered vehicles, because of the better efficiency of diesel engines; and
  • Promoting the purchase of small vehicles, which are more fuel efficient than large vehicles.

“We are working closely with countries to craft policies, as well as quantify achievement and progress made to improve their national average fuel economy,” said Lew Fulton, head of the IEA’s Energy Technology Policy Division.


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