(U.S. News and World Report)

A recent study conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) finds that more than half of all 2014 vehicles return at least 23 mpg combined and about 11.6 percent return at least 30 mpg. For comparison, in 2011, only about 34.5 percent of vehicles sold returned 23 mpg and only 4.2 percent hit the 30 mpg mark.

The CFA study finds that not only is vehicle fuel economy in general on the rise, but there are more fuel-efficient choices in each segment than there were five years ago. For example, in 2009, there were 21 new compact vehicles available that returned between 27 and 30 mpg. Today, there are 62 compact models in that fuel economy range, according to the study. In 2009, there were 32 SUV models that returned between 23 and 26 mpg, whereas today there are 78.

Automakers are engineering new vehicles that are more fuel-efficient to meet the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 54.5 mpg, which must be met by 2025. CFA Public Affairs Director Jack Gillis says that by automakers complying with the new standards and building more fuel-efficient vehicles, it "will protect consumers from volatile gas prices, prove profitable for automakers, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.”

There are a few methods that many automakers are using to increase fuel economy in new vehicles. The Detroit Bureau observes that "most makers have been migrating to smaller, turbocharged engines while also adopting newer high-gear transmissions. …" Additionally, many automakers are removing mass from their vehicles by using less steel and more lightweight materials. Still, according to The Detroit Bureau, meeting the 2025 CAFE standard is not an easy task. It reports that in order to have a shot at meeting the new standard, "manufacturers will rapidly have to expand the use of hybrid power and even more advanced technologies. …"

Drivers may like that new vehicles are more fuel-efficient than ever, as gas prices have been on the rise lately. AAA reports that since February, the price of fuel has gone up about 42 cents per gallon. AAA also reports that gas prices rose about 14 cents in April, as refinery maintenance has limited the supply of fuel and refineries have been switching to the summer blend of gasoline. The good news is that gas prices are likely near their peak price for the spring, according to AAA, and refineries should be soon finished with their maintenance, which will help boost supply and lower the price.

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