Americans are burning nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in the 60’s due to ever increasing passenger weight.
Everyone knows the world’s automakers have long been on a quest for improved fuel mileage. The rising costs of fuel in an overall weak economy obviously make fuel efficient vehicles far more attractive to consumers than gas guzzlers. Current average fleet fuel economy standards in the U.S. dictate car and truck fuel economy must at least be 32.8 and 25.2 mpg. Then there are the new EPA fuel efficiency standards which mandate that cars sold in the U.S. must average 54.5 mpg by the year 2025, a mileage number that is attainable only with hybrid vehicles today.
While the automakers struggle to meet those higher fuel mileage standards they all work from the basis that more weight in the car means lower gas mileage, and they try to make their vehicles as lightweight as possible. If 100 pounds can be trimmed from a vehicle’s weight it can translate to as much as a 2 percent gain in mpg, which equals one extra mile per gallon. In order to lose more overall vehicle weight automakers are now using more lightweight aluminum to build cars instead of using heavier traditional steels. However, one factor that they cannot control is the weight of the person behind the wheel.
It seems the American obesity epidemic equals increased passenger weight in automobiles today, and that results in lower fuel efficiency. New research studies that have looked at the increased fuel consumption due to overweight American drivers have found that more than 39 million gallons of additional fuel are used each year for every additional pound of passenger weight. The obesity rate in the U.S. has exponentially increased in recent years to the point that more than one-third of Americans are now considered obese. Studies on obesity have also shown that no state has an obesity rate of less than 20 percent and many have rates over 30 percent. The nation has grown much heavier since 1960 and some estimates say that Americans burn nearly 1 billion more gallons of gasoline each year than they did in the 60’s due to ever increasing passenger weight.
In response to these observations, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, former Centers for Disease Control director and chairman of an Institute of Medicine report on obesity, says "The wrong fuel is being focused on, if you're heavier, the most important fuel you use more of is food." Koplan suggests eating less, driving less and choosing more active means of transportation to simultaneously reduce both gasoline consumption and obesity rates.