Pick­ups guz­zling less

Gains made by pop­u­lar Ford F-150 pickup make big dif­fer­ence in us­age

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - BUSINESS - david.hunn@chron.com twit­ter.com/david­hunn By David Hunn

More ef­fi­cient Ford F-150s help drive a drop in gaso­line de­mand.

You can thank Ford F-150s for the soft­en­ing de­mand for U.S. gaso­line this year.

While it would be easy to as­sume that the pro­lif­er­a­tion of hy­brid gaso­li­ne­elec­tric cars, such as the Toy­ota Prius, could ac­count for slip­ping gaso­line con­sump­tion, a new pa­per from Rice Univer­sity says the an­swer lies in gas guz­zlers.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers keep im­prov­ing the fuel ef­fi­ciency of the most pop­u­lar Amer­i­can ve­hi­cle, the pickup. They’re small im­prove­ments, just a few miles per gal­lon per year. But they’ve had an out­size ef­fect on to­tal U.S. fuel con­sump­tion, said the pa­per’s au­thor, Gabriel Collins, an en­ergy fel­low at Rice’s Baker In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­icy.

Five years ago, the most pop­u­lar ve­hi­cle in Amer­ica, the Ford F-150, might have got­ten 16 or 17 mpg. The Prius, on the other hand, av­er­aged more like 46. The F-150 used about 6 gal­lons of gas to go 100 miles. The Prius — about 2.

Ford and Toy­ota both im­proved their ve­hi­cles. F-150s now get about 20 or 21 mpg; Priuses, bet­ter than 52.

And that means F-150s have shaved gaso­line us­age by a gal­lon over 100 miles, or about 17 per­cent, while the Prius still av­er­ages about 2 gal­lons used per 100 miles. It would take six new Priuses, Collins said, to equal the sav­ings from one new F-150.

In ad­di­tion, Amer­i­cans buy four times as many Ford F-se­ries trucks each year — about 800,000 — as they do Priuses, which typ­i­cally sell about 200,000 a year. In 2016, they sold fewer than 140,000.

“For bet­ter or for worse, a big chunk of Amer­i­can driv­ers like large, pow­er­ful ve­hi­cles,” Collins said. “So if you can find a way to make those ve­hi­cles more ef­fi­cient, that’s re­ally low-hang­ing fruit.”

It’s part of the rea­son why re­fin­ers and the oil in­dus­try are look­ing over­seas to emerg­ing economies such as In­dia and China for fu­ture

Fuel ef­fi­ciency Miles driven rose 8 per­cent since 2012 but gaso­line con­sump­tion rose 4 per­cent. Source: Rice Univer­sity

de­mand.

U.S. gaso­line con­sump­tion fell from an av­er­age of 9.3 mil­lion bar­rels per day to 8.7 mil­lion between 2007 and 2012, a pe­riod that in­cluded a re­ces­sion, steep job losses and $4-a-gal­lon gaso­line. With mil­lions of Amer­i­cans out of work and driv­ing less, to­tal mileage fell from 253 bil­lion miles in 2007 to 246 bil­lion in 2011.

Then mileage and con­sump­tion started to slowly rise again. Collins found, how­ever, that the gaso­line con­sump­tion didn’t keep up with driv­ing.

Amer­i­cans drove 8 per­cent more between Fe­bru­ary 2012 and Fe­bru­ary 2017, ac­cord­ing to Collins. Mean­while, gaso­line de­mand rose at half that rate, or about 4 per­cent.

More re­cently, gaso­line con­sump­tion has con­sis­tently slipped be­low last year’s level, ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy Depart­ment, even as gaso­line prices have fallen to their low­est in more than a decades.

Over the past four weeks, av­er­age gaso­line con­sump­tion fell by 0.3 per­cent com­pared to the same pe­riod a year ago, the En­ergy Depart­ment re­ported Wed­nes­day.

Associated Press photos

Fuel ef­fi­ciency in Ford’s F-15 pickup has im­proved about 17 per­cent in the past five years.

It takes about six new Priuses for the gains in fuel ef­fi­ciency made by Toy­ota on the hy­brid ve­hi­cle to equal the gains made by Ford for one new F-150 pickup dur­ing the past five years.

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