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Experts Say Vehicles Will Use Less Fuel

electriccarThe Natural Resources Defense Council expects continued growth for both alternative fuel and fuel-efficent vehicles next year.

Electric vehicle sales will double in the coming year and hybrid sales are set to jump by a quarter. The Accord will soon be offered as both a plug-in hybrid and regular hybrid. The Fusion hybrid is now available and a plug-in version will be offered soon and we expect the Altima will appear as a hybrid next year. In addition, the volume of the Nissan LEAF will increase in the coming year as production is available from Tennessee. At least six new hybrid models will be launched next year and eight plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles will also appear. While many of these initially will be offered in modest volumes, the sales of plug-in hybrid/battery electric vehicles will more than double in the coming year. Hybrid vehicle sales are expected to increase by more than 25 percent.

Midsize vehicles and pickups are likely to be a big driver of MPG gains in 2013. A wave of higher MPG midsize vehicles, many launched this year, will be available for the entire year including the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Chevy Malibu. The market for higher MPG pickups also offers opportunity, with a new Dodge Ram available now and an improved Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra coming in the spring.

Rising demand and increased production will mean lower prices for consumers. The launch of domestic production of the LEAF is being accompanied by a new lower-cost model as well as new marketing programs in order to generate demand for the higher volume that will be available. This will no doubt generate responses from other manufacturers. Price clearly matters to consumers, as recent incentives offered on the Chevy Volt have resulted in higher sales volumes.

More emphasis on diesel and new tech will mean better fuel efficiency in 2013. Diesel engines are coming to the Chevy Cruze in the spring. Diesels deliver strong levels of fuel economy and Volkswagen, Mercedes, and BMW have had great success with these engines. Stop/start technology is growing across a range of automakers, with the Ford Fusion offering this system at low cost ($295) in order to improve fuel economy.

The industry is likely to remain on track to meet higher federal 2016 fuel economy standards. The process is gradual and long-term, but the continuing increase of more vehicles with a variety of technologies will enable the continuation of the process. In 2011, the average fuel economy level increased by 0.5 miles per gallon, with the increase over 1 mile per gallon in 2012. Things are likely to continue trending in that direction. The standards require somewhat less than 1 mile per gallon improvement for Model Year 2013 and 2014.