A report released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals that the vehicles produced during the first half of 2008 have set the record for the most fuel efficient to date. Including both cars and light trucks (meaning both pickups and SUVs), the national average of all cars reached 26.8mpg as of the middle of the 2008 model year, which occurred in March.

Passenger cars averaged significantly above that figure, at 31.2mpg, while light trucks fell somewhat below at 23.4mpg. In terms of improvement, however, the real winner was the light truck segment. While passenger car ratings stayed at levels identical to the 2007 model year, light trucks improved by 1.2mpg, or 5.4% to 23.4mpg.

The 2007 model year on the whole saw an average of 26.6mpg, meaning the first half of 2008 has brought an increase of 0.2mpg. The figure nevertheless handily beats the government target for the year, and the actual numbers achieved by the manufacturers show how much work must still be done - in some cases, very little - to meet the looming 2015 standards.

For instance, Toyota managed an average of 34.7mpg for its U.S.-built cars and 37.9mpg for its imported cars, putting it very close to the proposed 35.7mpg standard for 2015. The company's light trucks scored 24.0mpg, falling somewhat short of the 28.6mpg proposed by the same regulations. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all returned very similar figures, averaging within 0.2mpg of 29.5mpg for domestic cars, and about 23mpg for light trucks. Both figures fall well shy of the proposed 2015 CAFE standards, but are nevertheless within 15% of the eventual goal.

Congress is still being lobbied by the carmakers to lower the goal, however, arguing the proposed figures would simply be too costly to reach over the next seven years.