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Heavier drivers canceling out increased fuel efficiency

Heavier drivers canceling out increased fuel efficiency

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The only spare tire in the Chevrolet Cruze Eco is in the passenger compartment

The only spare tire in the Chevrolet Cruze Eco is in the passenger compartment

While engineers are removing one spare tire [from fuel efficient vehicles like the Chevy Cruze] their customers and passengers have each been adding one of their own.

Sure, that line is cheesy enough to make us want to cue the wha-wha sound as soon as we read it, but Larry Vellequette of Automotive News has a point. The average American male is 28.4 pounds heavier than he was in 1960, which is "nearly the same weight as one of the four BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires one might find on a new Ford Mustang."

Coincidentally, spare tires (or an equivalent amount of weight elsewhere in the car, such as the transmission) are precisely what automakers have been jettisoning in the name of fuel efficiency.

Those extra pounds translate to an additional 153 million gallons of gasoline burned every year, calculates Vellequette. At $3.29 a gallon, that much gasoline would retail for half a billion dollars.

Of course, the price of gasoline represented a record share of the average household budget in 2011, and 2012 is projected to be even worse. If that trend continues, we'll all be driving less and walking and biking more, which is likely solve both the fuel cost and obesity problems at once.

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Christopher Mims

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Christopher Mims has written for Scientific American, WIRED, Popular Science, Fast Company, Good, Discover, Slate, Technology Review, Nature and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Formerly, he was an editor at Scientific American, Grist and Seed. He is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure