About one-third more of the energy used in the United States goes to moving people and goods from place to place. For more than two decades, governments have made serious efforts to convince people that they should use more energy-efficient means of transportation, such as bicycles or some form of mass transit (buses, trolleys, subways, light-rail systems, etc.). These efforts have had only limited success.
Another approach that has been more successful has been to encourage car manufacturers to increase the efficiency of automobile engines. In the 1970s, the average fuel efficiency of cars in the United States was 13 mpg (5.5 km/l). Over the next decade, efficiency improved nearly twice over to 25 mpg (10.6 km/l). In other nations, similar improvements were made. Cars in Japan, for example, increased from an average efficiency of 23 mpg (9.8 km/l) in 1973 to 30 mpg (12.8 km/l) in 1985.
Yet, even more efficient automotive engines appear to be possible. Many authorities believe that efficiencies approaching 50 mpg (21 km/l) should be possible by the year 2001. As of 1987, at least three cars with fuel efficiencies of more than 50 mpg (21 km/l) were already in production (the Ford Escort, Honda City, and Suzuki Sprint). Experimental cars with efficiencies close to 100 mpg (42.5 km/l) were also being tested; the Toyota AXV has achieved 98 mpg (41.7 km/l) on test tracks, and the Renault VESTA has logged 124 mpg (52.7 km/l).
To a large extent, automobile manufacturers have been slow to produce cars that have the maximum possible efficiencies because they question whether consumers will pay higher purchase prices for these cars. Improvements continue to be made, however, at least partly because of the legislative pressure for progress in this direction.
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