For the fourth consecutive year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reporting an increase in the average fuel efficiency for cars and light-duty trucks, to a projected 20.8 mpg for 2008. This year’s projection is a 0.2 mpg up tick over last year’s value.

The actual 2008 fuel economy value will be available when the automakers submit their final annual sales data in early 2009. EPA expects the final mpg for 2008 to be higher than the automakers initial projections since gas prices have since increased.

“This report shows we’re driving in the right direction,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.  “Increased fuel efficiency is not only a smart consumer choice, but also a smart environmental choice.”

EPA’s annual report, “Light-Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2008,” which provides data on the fuel economy and technology characteristics of new light-duty vehicles including cars, minivans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks, confirms that average fuel economy has improved each year beginning in 2005, and is now the highest since 1993.

Most of the increase since 2004 is due to higher fuel economy for light trucks, following a long-term trend of slightly declining overall fuel economy that peaked in 1987. These vehicles also have a slightly lower market share, peaking at 52 percent in 2004 with projections at 48 percent in 2008.

The new fuel economy trends report is available at: