The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, has recently released estimates on U.S. hybrid vehicle fuel savings since their introduction in 1999. According to the recent analysis, hybrid electric vehicles have saved America close to 230 million gallons of fuel in the last eight years. That translates into an incredible 5.5 million barrels of fuel saved.

Total Hybrid Sales Graph

Sales of hybrids have increased over the years as consumers recognized the vehicles’ fuel-saving benefits. Credit: EDTA

“Sales of hybrid electric vehicles have increased an average of 72 percent a year for the past five years, and in 2006 the average fuel economy based on new EPA estimates was 35 miles per gallon for new hybrid models sold in the U.S.,” said Kevin Bennion, an NREL vehicle systems analysis research engineer.

Researchers at NREL estimated the fuel savings by combining hybrid electric vehicle sales and fuel economy data. VISION modeling software created by Argonne National Laboratory was utilized to determine the total number of hybrid electric vehicles in use in a given year. Vehicle stock estimates and sales data were then combined to calculate the fuel savings that occurred by replacing conventional vehicles with hybrids.

“Although the fuel savings from hybrid electric vehicles to date is relatively small compared to the total fuel use, as the technology matures and these numbers increase they can have a significant impact in reducing our overall transportation fuel use,” said NREL senior research engineer Matthew Thornton.

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