EPA Changes System To Evaluate Fuel Economy Ratings

Think the miles per gallon (mpg) estimate on that car's window sticker is pretty good? You may change your mind when you see the sticker on the 2008 model.

On Dec. 11, EPA announced a new system for evaluating fuel economy that will lower mileage estimates for most vehicles. According to agency officials, EPA's new methods bring mpg estimates closer to consumers' actual fuel use, by including factors such as high speeds, aggressive accelerations, air conditioning use and driving in cold temperatures. Model year 2008 vehicles will be the first to receive the new MPG estimates. Currently, EPA relies on data from two laboratory tests to determine the city and highway fuel economy estimates. The test methods for calculating these estimates were last revised in 1984.

"EPA's new fuel economy sticker ensures American motorists won't be stuck with higher than anticipated charges at the pump," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Consumers can get more bang for their buck by considering fuel use while shopping for cars and trucks -- saving money on refueling costs while helping protect our environment."

According to Bluewater Network, a division of Friends of the Earth which had petitioned for the change, the new methods will reduce the city label estimates for most vehicles by approximately 10 percent to 20 percent from today's values, depending on the vehicle, but as much as 30 percent for some models. Estimates for highway mpg would generally drop 5 percent to 15 percent, and as much as 25 percent for some models. Hybrid vehicles would decrease by 20 percent to 30 percent for city driving, and 10 percent to 20 percent for highway driving. For example, the average city/highway fuel mileage of today's Prius design is expected to fall from 60/51 mpg to 44/44 by 2011, with other high-mileage hybrids such as the Honda Civic expected to drop dramatically as well, Bluewater officials said.

To more clearly convey fuel economy information to consumers, EPA is also enhancing the design and content of the window sticker. The new label will allow consumers to make more informed decisions when comparing the fuel economy of new vehicles. EPA will continue to work with the auto industry, dealers, and other stakeholders, such as the American Automobile Association (AAA), to further educate drivers about all the changes included in the final rule.

In addition to better fuel economy estimates, for the first time, EPA will be requiring fuel economy labeling of medium-duty vehicles, which are between 8,500 and 10,000 lbs., including large sport-utility vehicles and vans. Manufacturers will be required to post fuel economy labels on these vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year.

Russell Long, vice president of Bluewater Network, said: "Unfortunately, the new numbers will expose how far short American passenger vehicles are from the 27.5 mpg that Congress intended them to achieve over 30 years ago."

For more information about fuel economy, go to http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy. Learn more about the new label at http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy/label.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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