The key to burning less fuel is making cars and trucks more efficient and putting that efficiency to work in improving fuel economy. The U.S. federal government sets a fuel-economy standard for all passenger vehicles. However, these standards have remained mostly constant for the past decade. In addition, sales of lower-fuel-economy light trucks, such as SUVs, pickups, and minivans, have increased dramatically. As a result, on average, the U.S. passenger-vehicle fleet actually travels less distance on a gallon of gas than it did twenty years ago. This has led to an increase in heat-trapping gas emissions from cars and trucks and to an increase in smog-forming and toxic emissions resulting from the production and transportation of gasoline to the fuel pump.
This trend can be reversed through the use of existing technologies that help cars and trucks go farther on a gallon of gasoline. These include more efficient engines and transmissions, improved aerodynamics, better tires, and high strength steel and aluminum. More advanced technologies, such as hybrid-electric vehicles that use a gasoline engine and an electric motor plus a battery, can cut fuel use even further. These technologies carry with them additional costs, but pay for themselves through savings at the gasoline pump.
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