Energy efficiency versus gains in consumer amenities—An example from new cars sold in Sweden
Technological developments that increase energy efficiency result in net energy-saving benefits, provided the increased efficiency is not offset by enhanced consumer amenities. This paper analyzes the technology development/consumer amenities trade-off for new cars sold in Sweden between 1975 and 2010. We combine lessons learned from the policies in place and interviews with key actors in the car-purchasing process with statistical modeling of trends in vehicle attributes and technological development. Until 2007, consumer amenities were continuously enhanced, offsetting most of the efficiency gains of technological development; there was no strong policy push toward energy efficiency. In recent years, two major shifts have occurred. First, there has been a shift in the majority of new cars sold, from gasoline-powered engines to diesel engines. Flex-fuel vehicles have also contributed to a decline in the sales-share of pure gasoline engines. The observed shift of fuels, especially to flex-fuels, has been encouraged by policies. Second, after 2007 there have been major technological improvements, while attributes related to consumer amenities have remained flat, reversing the trends so that 77% of the technological development resulted in actual reduction of specific fuel consumption. EU targets, tax reforms, and consumer awareness have contributed to this trend change.
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