US automakers are no closer to reaching Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) levels earmarked for 2025 than they were two years ago, according to figures published by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's (UMTRI) Michael Sivak. Last month, new US light-duty vehicles averaged 25.2 miles per gallon. That was unchanged from January and virtually unchanged from the 25.1 average new-vehicle fuel economy in February 2014.

Fuel-economy levels are plateauing after years of progress.

More disconcerting, fuel-economy levels are plateauing after years of progress. Between February 2012 and February 2014, average new-vehicle fuel economy advanced 1.2 MPG. And, for the two years leading up to February 2012, average new-vehicle MPG rose almost two full miles per gallon, or 8.1 percent, according to UMTRI.

Optimists may point out that things have improved substantially since UMTRI started tracking these MPG0 figures eight years ago. Indeed, model-year 2015 vehicles averaged 25.3 mpg, marking a 21-percent surge from the 20.8-mpg average for the 2008 model year. And UMTRI points out that average vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions dropped 15 percent between October 2007 and December 2015.

And there may be more hope on the horizon. By next year, Chevrolet is expected to start selling its all-electric Bolt. Tesla may do the same with its Model 3, while Nissan's sure to offer a next-generation Leaf at some point in the near future. The Bolt and Model 3 promise a single-charge range of about 200 miles and, likely, a mid-$30,000 sticker price, and may put a charge - no pun intended - into flagging plug-in vehicle sales.

Still, Americans can't seem to get enough of their Ford F-150 pickup trucks, and the recent lack of progress makes government-mandated greenhouse-gas emission reduction goals more of a pipe dream. In early 2011, the US government set a CAFE fuel-economy goal of 54.5 mpg for 2025. And while that translates to a "real world" fuel economy of about 40 mpg, it's still a long way from 25.2.

Share This Photo X