EPA, DOT Unveil Revamped Fuel-Efficiency Labels for New Cars

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation announced an overhaul of the fuel-efficiency labels affixed to windows of new cars.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the move to the new labels, which will be required on all model year 2013 vehicles, was prompted by a desire to provide consumers with better data on a car’s cost and fuel-efficiency.

“Reducing consumption and demand for oil is best way to reduce pressure demand on fuel prices,” Jackson said.

The labels will feature an estimate of the car’s fuel savings compared with the average car over five years, with the idea that consumers will be more willing to buy fuel-efficient cars if they know they will cost less in the long term.

“We believe the rollout of this label will enable people to go out and look at cars and immediately know what kind of gas mileage they’re going to get on these fuel-efficient cars,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

An additional impetus for the new labels is the growing popularity of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, which are powered in part or in whole by electricity.  “A new generation of cars requires a new generation of fuel economy labels,” Jackson said.

She said that the old labels, which emphasized a car’s miles per gallon, are insufficient for these newer types of cars. “It wasn’t an accurate label for the kind of cars that are starting to roll off of our assembly lines – hybrids, electrics, hybrid electrics,” Jackson said. “When you talk about MPG for a vehicle that doesn’t use any liquid fuel, it’s very confusing for consumers.”

In addition to emphasizing gas mileage, the new version also includes information on the car's emissions. Each car receives a ranking on a scale of one to 10 for smog and fuel efficiency. The government had been considering using a letter-grade scale in which cars would receive an emissions/fuel economy grade of A to D, but critics said that system would be confusing. Only electric cars would score an A on the system, and automakers were not looking forward to the prospect of most of their vehicles receiving B's and C's.

The labels will also feature the more-precise fuel measurement of gallons per mile, in addition to the traditional miles per gallon. They will have a QR code smartphone users can scan to input more personalized information, such as how far they drive and the price of gas or electricity in their neighborhood.

“It’s a customized way for consumers to really put their own driving habits and estimations in so they can figure out what makes sense for them,” LaHood said.

About the Author

Laura Williams is a content editor for Environmental Protection. She can be reached at LauraWilliams@1105media.com.

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