California cars are most fuel-efficient in US. Where are the gas guzzlers? – Daily News

on Jul19
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Buzz: Californians own the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the nation.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet analyzed estimates of average miles-per-gallon by state compiled by Iseecars. The study looked at vehicles in the used market and the manufacturer’s listed mpg for various models.

Topline

California cars are getting an average 31 miles per gallon, easily the best in the nation.

The rest of the top 10 for fuel use are No. 2 Hawaii at 28.4 mpg, then Washington state at 28.2, Oregon at 27.9, Nevada at 27.5, Arizona and Colorado at 27.2, Virginia and Maryland at 27.1, and Utah at 26.8.

And the least efficient? North Dakota and Wyoming at 22.5 mpg, then Montana at 22.8, South Dakota at 23, Iowa at 23.7, West Virginia at 23.9, Nebraska at 24.1, and Michigan, Alaska, and Arkansas at 24.2.

What’s driving this?

I’ll use the extremes of these top and bottom states to suggest the forces behind these mpg gaps.

Note that the high mpg states average 27.9 miles per gallon vs. 23.5 in low-efficiency states. That’s a noteworthy 18% difference.

Gas price: You can link fuel efficiency to states with more pain at the pump.

Gas averaged $4.16 per gallon in high mpg states in mid-July, using AAA fuel data. California ranked No. 2 at $4.88.

Compare those expenses to an average of $3.53 in low-efficiency states. That’s an 18% gap in gas prices.

Driving range: It’s curious to see how fuel efficiency smooths out the hit to the wallet from high gas prices.

So let’s imagine the fuel cost of a 250-mile drive, assuming a state’s miles-per-gallon efficiency and its gas costs.

In the 10 high mpg states, this hypothetical driver spends an average $37.28 on gas. In the low mpg states it’s $37.57. Barely any difference.

Oh, and in California, that drive costs $39.32, the eighth-highest.

Alternative fuels: Look at ownership of vehicles powered by electricity, hybrids or hydrogen/natural gas.

The 10 high-efficiency states have 6.3% of all vehicles using alternative fuels, according to Iseecars stats. It’s only 2.4% in low-efficiency states. By the way, California ranked No. 1 at 10%.

Pickups: Consider how many of these relative gas-guzzlers are driven in a state, using Iseecars data.

Pickup trucks are 16% of all vehicles in the high mpg states vs. 28% in low-efficiency states. And California ranked No. 47 at 11.7%.

Safety: Some drivers shy from smaller cars – often more fuel efficient – due to the perceived dangers of being encased in less metal.

A federal driving risk measurement suggests it’s not an unfounded fear.

There are 1.26 deaths per million miles driven in high mpg states vs. 1.33 in low-efficiency states. By the way, California ranked No. 20 at 1.38 deaths per million miles driven.

Bottom line

The mpg gap can be tied to several car-buying preferences.

But a peek at paychecks suggests fuel “economy” isn’t a greater motivator.

In the 10 high mpg states, the average household median income was $79,377 a year. California ranked No. 5 at $84,907.

In low-efficiency states, however, the incomes averaged $63,865.

One might think that places with smaller salaries might be eyeing the miles-per-gallon more carefully.

Politically speaking

Fans of fuel efficiency are often painted with “progressive” political stripes.

Putting a state’s political leanings into numbers, thanks to the Cook Partisan Voter Index, that theory has some truth to it.

The 10 high mpg states had an average ranking equal to being the 15th most Democratic state. California was graded as the fifth-most Democratic.

Conversely, the 10 low-efficiency states ranked as the 11th-most Republican on average.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com



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