Total Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption and Travel in the United States

Total Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption and Travel in the United States, 1960-2020

Source: BTS, Table 4-9. Motor vehicles, fuel consumption and travel data include light duty vehicles, buses, trucks and motorcycles.

The Oil Shocks of the 1970s and early 1980s were accompanied by an increase in the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles. While in 1970, a motor vehicle was consuming on average 800 gallons a year (about 12.5 miles per gallon), in 2019, this figure dropped to 651 gallons a year (about 18.2 miles a gallon). The system-wide improvement in energy efficiency was consequently 40% above the 1970s. However, the 1990s saw an increase in the average amount of fuel consumed per vehicle as commuting distances and congestion increased, especially in urban areas. The situation for 2020 is unique as fuel consumption per vehicle dropped significantly because of lockdowns, but this had no impact on fuel efficiency.