From Green Right Now Reports

Consumers looking for relief from high gasoline prices are finding solutions in the US car market, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

US car buyers can choose from among 57 models of energy-efficient cars and trucks in showrooms today. That’s more than double the 27 efficient models that were available in the spring of 2009.

Federal standards adopted in 2009 require that the US car and truck fleet attain an average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. That change and consumer demands have spurred production of more efficient vehicles in every model category, doubling or nearly doubling the number of fuel efficient subcompact/compact, midsize and crossover models, according to the report, Relieving Pain at the Pump.

The changes from 2009 to 2012:

  • Subcompacts/compacts getting more than 30 mpg grew from 5 to 15 models.
  • Midsize vehicles getting more than 25 mpg increased from 6 to 10 models.
  • Crossovers, which get more than 20 mpg, grew from 16 in the marketplace to 32; largely replacing heavy, lower-mileage SUVs.

Models like Ford’s Fiesta, Focus and Fusion; GM’s Sonic and Malibu; Honda’s Fit, Civic and CR-V; Nissan’s Versa, Sentra and Altima; Toyota’s Yaris and Prius; Volkswagen’s Golf and Jetta have all raised the bar on fuel efficiency.

Car shoppers can now select fuel efficient cars “across the board,” said Alan Baum of Baum Associates, which helped with analysis for the report. “The consumer doesn’t have to make a compromise. They can pick the vehicle they want and then find the one that has the best fuel economy.”

Graphic shows auto technology that has improved gas mileage. (Graphic: NRDC)

Automakers have transformed the market by building cars and trucks that are lighter, more aerodynamic, use more efficient injection systems and transmissions and include new technology like variable valve lifts.

More improvements are in the pipeline, according to the report, because a second set of fuel efficiency standards that aims to boost the US car fleet average to 54.5 mpg by 2025 could be approved this summer.

Vehicles meeting the new, proposed 2025 standards would use about half as much gasoline as the average car on the road today.

The NRDC report, authored by Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst, broke down the economics for individuals this way:

“Consumers will make fewer trips to the pump and save money. Technologies to improve fuel efficiency will cost drivers about $2,000, but ultimately they will save more than $6,400 in fuel bills, resulting in a net savings of up to $4,400 over the life of the vehicle.”

The report also cited EPA and National Transportation Safety Administration calculations that the standards would cut US oil consumption by 1.7 million barrels per day by 2030, or about the amount that the US imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq in 2011.