Sign of the times: hits soar

This article appears in the a recent ORNL Reporter newsletter. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our Media Contacts.

Consumers worried about high gasoline prices have an ally in an ORNL-run Website focused on fuel economy.

The Environmental Sciences Division's Bo Saulsbury says that over the past eight years the site,, has gone from 4,000 users on a good day to a current average of 80,000 users a day. The Fuel Economy Information Program outstripped its initial goal of 10 million visits in a year about two years ago and has since almost tripled that number.

The Website, created and maintained by ORNL for the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, was started in 1999 to provide accurate vehicle miles per gallon information to consumers. The site still provides the Fuel Economy Guide, a yearly publication that is required by law to be made available at every car dealership. But the Website has gone far beyond the guide and is now giving consumers all kinds of fuel and energy-related information. has fuel economy tips for just about any driver: from car owners interested in eking maximum efficiency out of their current cars to consumers shopping for a new fuel-efficient car or truck.

At first, says Bo, it was difficult to get people to visit. Gas prices were low and there wasn't a huge incentive to compare fuel economies before purchasing a car. Now the website's tool that helps consumers find and compare cars based on gas mileage, greenhouse gas emissions and safety information is one of the most popular resources on the site.

Consumers can search for cars based on model, year, fuel consumption or class. Once the search is narrowed, cars can be compared side by side, displaying differences in mpg, cost of a fill-up, miles per tank and annual fuel cost. The differences can be substantial; the extra gas guzzled by a Subaru station wagon compared with a Toyota Corolla can amount to almost $700 per year, and switching to a Nissan minivan could cost an additional $600 a year in fuel.

But the site really isn't about telling people what they should drive, says Bo. "We're giving them the information to make the best choices within the type of car or truck that they need."

The "Your MPG" tool can help you keep track of your vehicle's gas consumption. Perfect for those who have always been suspicious of miles per gallon estimates, or just like to keep their own records, the tool lets drivers enter and share gas mileage data. While the fuel economy will vary based on car upkeep and driving habits (there's advice on those behaviors, too), one can be assured that the info is coming from a real person driving on real roads, not from an artificial test. And once you sign up, you can track your own and share your data.

Bo says that a number of things have coincided to bring huge numbers of people to the site: "Sure, the price of gas has not hurt. But continuing efforts over the years to inform media outlets of our presence and willingness to supply information is really paying off as well. And we are not complacent; we are constantly looking for ways to make the Website better."

They recently formatted a version for the mobile market; aimed at consumers out shopping for a new or used car, the fuel economy data for cars from 1985 to 2008 can be viewed using a cell phone or other mobile device with a connection to the Internet.

Says Bo, "The goal of the program is to get the information out there; that is our sole purpose – to get the information to the consumer."