EPA Automotive Report: Fuel Economy Up, Emissions Down Despite Low Hybrid Numbers

Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of its annual Automotive Trends Report, showing that model year 2020 vehicles attained record high fuel economy and record low emission levels. The news comes after the Biden Administration set goals to drive the American auto economy toward a zero-emissions future. Looking forward, the report says, hybrid and electric vehicle sales are likely to more than double for 2021.

The report has been issued annually since 1975 and aims to offer the public information about light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, fuel economy, technology data, and auto manufacturers’ performance in meeting the agency’s GHG emissions standards, the EPA explains. This year’s report yielded a number of important data points, including large car makers’ full compliance with GHG emission standards.

The agency highlights other metrics, including that since 2014, carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 24% as fuel economy increased by 32%. Average fuel economy also increased to a record high of 25.4 miles per gallon.

However, the report says that Americans gravitated towards heavy-duty vehicles, like sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickups, counteracting some of the fleetwide fuel economy and emissions gains. Truck SUVs reached a new peak of 39% of the market in model year 2020, and car SUVs reached a summit of 13% of the market, the EPA notes.

In addition, while hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles are “poised to grow,” they currently represent a small subset of American cars. The 2020 report said that electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles comprised 2% of all production, and hybrids 5%. For 2021, the EPA expects to see an estimated growth of 4% and 9%, respectively.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan lauded the progress. “Today’s report is a great indicator that automakers are following through with their promise of achieving clean car standards while providing consumers with great vehicle options,” he said in a statement. “I am optimistic that the innovation and marketing power of the auto industry, coupled with President Biden’s unprecedented support for a zero emissions future, will accelerate cleaner technologies, sharply cutting pollution to meet the climate challenge.”