U.S. Consumers Buying “Greener” New Vehicles

According to a recent study by the University of Michigan, U.S. consumers are buying more fuel-efficient new vehicles, resulting in a 14 percent decrease in greenhouse emissions since 2007.

University of Michigan research associate Brandon Schoettle, who assisted in the creation of the Eco-Drive Index, said it demonstrates a significant shift in consumer behavior. It also underscores the fact that automakers are adjusting their product lines to include more fuel-efficient vehicles that produce lower levels of greenhouse gasses.

The study estimated the average volume of tailpipe emissions produced each month by new vehicles and takes into account estimates of the particular vehicle’s fuel economy and mileage driven during the month.  However, the study only monitored a small segment of the entire domestic vehicle population.

Researchers found that the index for April, which was the last month for which data is available, was 14 percent lower than the index for October 2007, the first month in which data was collected. Researchers chose to begin the study in October to coincide with the beginning of the 2008 model year. That was also when new standards from the Environmental Protection Agency went into effect.

In 1978, the federal government implemented the first fuel standards as a way of controlling tailpipe emissions.

Data from October 2007 was used as the baseline for the study and was assigned a value of 1.0.  For last April, the index was 0.86

Schoettle, who said a number of factors figured into the 14 percent decline in greenhouse gas emissions over the past three and a half years. Dramatic increases in fuel prices have caused motorists to drive less which, in turn, contributed to lower levels of tailpipe emissions.

He also pointed out that the three and a half year study is important in that it is the only study to measure tailpipe emissions in this particular way.  He also said he hopes it will serve as a benchmark for future research by the auto industry.

Schoettle said the index marks the first time exhaust emissions have been measured in this way, adding that he hopes it can be used as a benchmark for the auto industry.

According to Schoettle, automakers have been generally receptive to the study since it was released late last month. He said, “It has some positive messages for the automotive industry — people have bought, and will buy, fuel efficient vehicles.”

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