Using data from 1970 to 2011, energy experts at the University of Sussex found a long-term ‘rebound effect’ among British car-drivers of around 20%.
Nearly all previous studies have focused on US motorists; they provide limited insights for British policy makers due to the differences in population densities and car use between the two countries.
‘Improvements in fuel efficiency should lead to reductions in fuel consumption. But since improved fuel efficiency makes driving cheaper, some of the potential fuel savings are ‘taken back’ through increased driving.
‘We call this the rebound effect and it is well-documented in other sectors. For instance, we know that insulation of housing encourages people to enjoy warmer homes, rather than taking all the benefits in the form of lower bills.
‘Until now, we didn’t know the size of this effect for British motoring. We found evidence of a significant, long-term rebound and expect our results to be of interest for public policy.’
Dr Lee Stapleton, research fellow in the University of Sussex’s Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand