23 Years and Nothing's Changed: 1982 mpg = 2005 mpg

What is going on? Motor vehicles are built better, more luxuries, a/c is everywhere, computers are stuck in practically every corner of a new car or truck and the miles per gallon? It's the same now as it was 23 years ago. What is going on?

The EPA documented the "no change" numbers in a report called "Light Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends 1975 through 2006." The result? Practically everything about motor vehicles has been improved by technology except for one thing --- miles per gallon.

Mileage was dramatically improved from 1975 to 1980 (recall the Arab oil embargo?), slowed down in the 1980's, actually decreased in the 1990's, and has been pretty much the same ever since. In 1982 it was 21 mpg. Same thing in 2005. What's going on?

The high point on the scale was back in 1987, according to an article in the Washington Post.

Engine technology has improved dramatically, but it apparently had no effect on miles per gallon. The reason? Some say it's the increased weight of motor vehicles. After all, when mpg was going up between 1975 and 1980, average vehicle weight was going down. Others say the engine advances were aimed at juicing up speed so that the "0 to 60" accelleration time would dramatically drop (which it has).

Okay, so the thrill of that big engine roar is directly related to lousy gas mileage. Shock, shock. The simple fact is that if you want better gas mileage, the first step is don't buy a big vehicle with a huge engine. We buy cars that give poor mpg because that's what Detroit (and the imports) build and sell us. If they built a good looking car that got good looking mileage numbers, most people would probably buy it.

Still you have to wonder if there isn't some correlation between the CAFE mileage standards mandated by Congress and the oil companies political donations (nearly half a billion dollars in 6 years, with 73% going to Republican coffers while nearly 900 US fuel subsidiaries are located in foreign-based tax havens with Congress' blessings).

Robin Williams was right ... "politicians are like diapers ... they need to be changed regularly, and for the same reason."