These Cars Are Giving the Prius a Run for its Money

The average fuel economy of new cars sold in February was up 18 percent from October 2007 levels, according to University of Michigan estimates.

The average sales-weighted fuel economy of cars sold in the U.S. last month was 23.7 miles per gallon, up from just over 20 mpg five years ago.

Vehicles’ Eco-Driving Index (EDI) has also improved, standing at 0.87 in December 2011, a 13 percent improvement from October 2007. The EDI takes into account fuel economy and distance driven to estimate the average monthly emissions generated by an individual driver.

The good news means possible future gains in electrics and hybrids, though it appears that sales of more fuel-efficient conventional cars have a lot to do with recent advances.

Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) Prius is no longer the only car that can get upwards of 30 mpg. In fact, though gas prices are climbing higher, U.S. demand for hybrid cars is declining, as more consumers opt for traditional cars that promise similar gas mileage at a lower price.

In 2011, hybrids accounted for just 2.2 percent of U.S. auto sales, down from 2.8 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, demand for more fuel-efficient traditional cars like GM’s (NYSE:GM) Chevy Cruze and Ford’s (NYSE:F) Fiesta and Focus has been surging.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Lee at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com