New fuel economy labels show environmental impact

  • 16-Sep-2010 08:27 EDT
epa label 1.bmp

The new letter grade is the most prominent item on one of the new proposed labels. The different letter grades would also have a specific color background that would make it even easier for consumers to compare.

The EPA and Department of Transportation are proposing new fuel economy labels that would include more information about a vehicle’s environmental impact. The agencies are seeking the public’s help to figure out what design would work best for the new labels.

EPA and DOT have designed two different labels for the public to review and comment on. New features of the labels include information about a vehicle’s fuel consumption, emissions, and a comparative rating.

One label design features a large letter grade rating a vehicle’s overall fuel economy and emissions performance. The grades would range from an A+ to a D. Fully electric vehicles would be the only ones to receive an A+, while other hybrids such as the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid would receive an A-. Very few vehicles would receive Ds. The majority of vehicles would fall in the B to C+ range.

This label also features expected fuel costs over five years compared to the average gas-powered vehicle of the same model year. If the costs are less than the average vehicle, than the amount of money saved would be shown, but if the costs are more, than the extra money spent would be displayed.

The other proposed label looks very similar to the current label and keeps the focus on miles per gallon. However, it features a combined city and highway miles per gallon figure with a de-emphasis on the separate figures. Annual fuel cost is the other prominently displayed figure.

Both labels feature emissions output, with one figure for CO2 output and a separate number for other emissions. The agencies are proposing that the emissions figure only include tailpipe emissions and not any upstream emissions.

Another new figure would be the number of gallons of gas used per 100 miles, putting the emphasis on fuel consumption instead of fuel economy. While some vehicle manufacturers suggest that fuel consumption is more important and a better way to gauge fuel costs, most consumers are more familiar with MPG. This is why the EPA has kept MPG a prominent feature on the label, but both EPA and DOT are asking the public to decide if fuel consumption figures should become the more primary figure over time.

Both labels would also feature a symbol that consumers can scan with their smartphones in order to find additional fuel economy information. In addition, the labels will have a website where there will be more detailed information.

With the expected increase in battery and hybrid vehicles, the agencies are also proposing fuel economy labels for those vehicles, as well as compressed natural gas and flexible fuel vehicles that look similar to convention vehicle labels. One idea is to include a miles per gallon equivalent figure. Other figures included would be a vehicle’s range and energy used in terms of kilowatt-hours per 100 miles.

The agencies emphasize that one label does not have to be chosen over the other and are willing to incorporate aspects from both into the final decision. Comments and suggestions will be accepted for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. For information on submitting comments, go to http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy/ and http://www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.

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