United States fuel economy labels to reflect green cars

The United States Environmental Protection Agency  and the Department of Transportation are overhauling the country’s vehicle fuel economy labels for the sake of future car buyers.

The two agencies illustrated two new label designs that add more information such as fuel consumption, tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions and smog-related emissions, to the current design. They hope that with them, consumers will be able to compare vehicles more wisely.

Importantly, the labels will contain information on electric, plug-in hybrid, compressed natural gas and flexible fuel vehicles, to help consumers become more informed about vehicles with different kinds of fuels and propulsion systems.

Rating the fuel efficiency of vehicles that do not use gasoline as a fuel source is not a simple process, the agencies said.

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“New technologies such as battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are entering the American market in greater numbers,” said Ray LaHood, transportation secretary.

One label design prominently features a letter grade from A-plus to a D which assesses the vehicle’s overall fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. There will be no F, or failing grades, since all vehicles need to comply with the Clean Air Act.

«The idea of the grade is to give a single metric that combines greenhouse gases and fuel economy into one metric,» said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator at the environment agency.

«We will have information underlying those grades available to consumers when the labels are in place.»

The second proposed label retains the current label’s focus on miles per gallon and annual fuel costs while updating the design and adding the new comparable information required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The agencies plan to represent electricity use through its miles-per-gallon equivalent in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. It also includes energy use expressed in terms of kilowatt-hours per 100 miles.

Common in both proposed designs is the inclusion of the estimated expected fuel cost savings of the vehicle over five years compared with an average gasoline-powered vehicle released in the same model year.

A Web-based tool could be accessed using smart phones to allow drivers to personalize information about a vehicle’s performance.

However, upstream emissions made by electricity generation or fuel refinement will not be displayed. The labels will post an internet address instead linking to Web sites with more information on them.

The proposed labels are available for public comment for 60 days. The new labels are supposed to appear on the windows of 2012 model year vehicles.

“New fuel economy labels will keep pace with the new generation of fuel efficient cars and trucks rolling off the line, and provide simple, straightforward updates to inform consumers about their choices in a rapidly changing market,” said Lisa Jackson, E.P.A. administrator.

“We want to help buyers find vehicles that meet their needs, keep the air clean and save them money at the pump.”

 

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