July 2005

Would a U.S. "Prius Lifestyle" Make an Impact on our Oil Imports?

Would driving energy-efficient hybrid automobiles make a big difference in the amount of oil imported by the U.S.? Danny Parker looked at the numbers to see just what the impact would be. Links to the sources of his information are also listed.

Toyota Prius in front of FSEC>
FSEC Director Jim Fenton and the center's Prius in front of our building.
(Photo: Nick Waters)

1. The U.S. currently uses 20 million barrels of petroleum products daily (this is 43 percent of the world supply). Of this, some 15 million barrels are for oil.


2. We import a net 11.2 millions barrels of petroleum products (we produce 5.7 million barrels of oil and about 9 million barrels of petroleum products per day). Net oil imports are about 9.7 million barrels of oil per day. We import about 56 percent of the oil we need. Oil is used for many processes including heat and power, jet fuel and raw material for fabricated goods. However, the use for transportation in the U.S. dominates.

3. The strategic petroleum reserve in the salt domes of Louisiana currently hold 687 million barrels - a 34 day emergency supply.

4. Overall fleet average automobile efficiency is currently about 22.1 mpg. It is 17.6 mpg for SUVs and light trucks (LTs).


5. U.S. motor gasoline is about 9 million barrels per day, and it is used almost exclusively for automobiles, SUVs and LTs.


6. This does not include jet fuel, diesel and other types. About half of the 20 million barrels of oil used each day (47 percent) is used to produce gasoline for cars and SUVs and LTs.


7. The automobile average fleet efficiency for both cars and light trucks is about 20 mpg.


8. Average mileage that users of the Prius report they are getting is around 50 mpg.


However, several drivers have indicated that the mid-50s are possible by appropriate driving habits and using the displays. http://www.hybridcarblog.com/2005/06/prius-hype-57-mpg-in-real-world.html

9. It looks like if we could magically transform the entire U.S. fleet of automobiles and light trucks to get Prius mileage, our motor gasoline needs would fall by 60 percent (to 20 mpg from 50 mpg). This would drop our national consumption of oil for motor gasoline from 9 million barrels per day to about 3.6 million barrels per day. Since imports of oil are currently running about 9.7 million barrels per day, our consumption would drop by about 5.4 million barrels per day, leaving us still importing about 4 million.

In sum, changing all of our vehicles to Prius technology would not totally eliminate our need to import any oil, but it would make a dramatic change in the world oil demand of about 82 million barrels per day.


A change such as this would reduce U.S. oil consumption by about 27 percent and would reduce world oil consumption by about 7 percent. This wouldn't eliminate all of today's oil import needs, but would clearly help make a big dent in them. The transportation sector can help make a difference in the world's oil economy by using more efficient technologies.

A related note: some states (such as Virginia) are allowing single occupancy hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) into the carpool lanes that normally require two or more occupants. Other states such as California, Connecticut and Georgia are contemplating such moves. Finally, the U.S. goverment has tax credits of $2,000 or more to those purchasing hybrid vehicles to help offset their higher initial cost.

Comments on this article are welcome. Send your thoughts to energychronicle@fsec.ucf.edu .