In recent years, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has imposed increasingly stringent fuel efficiency standards on automakers in the United States. These efforts are bearing fruit, as the average new car or truck in the US requires only 10 liters per 100 kilometer of travel (or 23.6 miles per gallon)
The EPA ranked companies based of all new vehicles sold. Mazda had the most efficient fleet, averaging 8.7 liters per 100 kilometers (27.1mpg), with Honda and Volkswagen following close behind at 26.6mpg and 25.8mpg respectively. The worst performers were companies who rely on the sale of large trucks and SUVs. Chrysler-Fiat had a fleet average of 11.7 liters per 100 kilometers (20.1mpg), followed by Mercedes-Benz and General Motors with averages of 21.1mpg and 21.7mpg.
The improvements in fleet performance are due to smaller and more efficient engines, more aerodynamic designs, and lighter-weight materials used in the construction of vehicles. Deploying these technologies increases the cost of new vehicles, but the fuel savings mean the life-span cost of the vehicle is reduced for consumers.
By 2016, new cars and trucks sold in Canada will be governed by standards harmonized with the US, a move supported by industry and environmentalists alike. Industry appreciates the certainty provided by a common continental standard, while environmentalists applaud the aggressive targets of 6.6 liters per 100km by 2016 (35.5mpg) and 4.4 liters per 100km by 2025 (54.5 mpg).
These dramatic targets, and industry's success thus far in meeting them, has important implications. If vehicles continue to become more efficient, demand for oil and gas could wane. With North America already in the midst of an oil glut – from the oil sands projects of Alberta to the shale oil of North Dakota to the recent deregulation of Mexico's oil and gas markets – an increase in vehicle efficiency could have a considerable impact on traditional energy investment patterns.