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EPA Introduces Two New Fuel Efficiency Labels For Public Comment

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On: Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 9:53AM | By: Chris Weiss

EPA Introduces Two New Fuel Efficiency Labels For Public Comment

The Environmental Protection Agency together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have proposed two new designs for fuel economy labels. The labels are required to appear on the windows of all new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. and provide comprehensive information about a given vehicle's fuel economy and emissions and how they compare with the greater market. The designs have been introduced for public comment.

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the EPA and NHTSA are charged with redesigning the fuel efficiency label that is required for new cars and light trucks. The current label includes information about miles per gallon, average annual fuel cost and comparative market fuel economy. 

The more radical of the two redesigns takes the emphasis off of numerical comparisons and uses a more distinguishable letter grade system. It shows a large letter grade at the top of the sticker, outlined in yellow. According to the Detroit News, the system ranges from A+ to D with the industry median at B-.

Electric vehicles would be in the A+ category; plug-in hybrids in the A category and other hybrids in the A- category. On the other end of the spectrum, most SUVs and all vans would be at a C+ or lower. An A+ would constitute 59 mpg or more and a D would constitute under 14 mpg. That label design also includes a figure on average fuel cost savings over five years versus an average vehicle.

The second label proposal is more of a simple update--consider it more like the minor model year update to the first proposal's complete model overhaul. It continues the tradition of emphasizing numerical statistics and adds greenhouse gas emissions information to the city, highway and combined mpg ratings, annual fuel cost average and market comparison that are currently outlined.

The first proposal is likely to stoke some controversy with automakers. While many vehicles receiving a "D" or "C-" rating will be performance vehicles like models from Ferrari and Lamborghini, some will be more traditional mass market vehicles. It's reasonable believe that a big, yellow "D" on the car will be more of a dissuasion than a simple numerical breakdown. Sales of vehicles at the low-end of the spectrum would likely suffer as a result of the letter grading system.

In fact, automakers have already begun expressing reservations. Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is quoted by Detroit News as saying: "A car is generally a consumer's second biggest expenditure, and automakers support providing our customers with meaningful information for decision-making on vehicles that meet their particular needs, but the proposed letter grade falls short because it is imbued with school-yard memories of passing and failing."

For the record, there is no "F" grade.

The new label will appear on vehicles beginning in the 2012 model year. For now, the EPA isn't publicly leaning one way or the other, and is encouraging public comment. The agency is eager to hear what members of the public think about the two designs and how each could be improved. You can weigh in at the EPA's website.

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