New Fuel Economy Labels Unveiled

The design for new, more comprehensive fuel economy labels was unveiled last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Representing the most significant redesign of fuel economy labels in 35 years, these decals are intended to provide easy-to-read information that is more environmentally focused than stickers of the past, allowing prospective buyers to make more informed decisions when shopping for a new car.

The stickers reflect further initiative by the Obama administration to promote more fuel efficient vehicles, ultimately saving taxpayers money and stimulating the economy through savings in fuel costs. 

“Upon taking office, President Obama directed DOT and EPA to prioritize the development of new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards, resulting in the historic standards that will be represented by these new labels. This is the latest step in EPA’s and DOT’s joint efforts to improve the fuel economy and environmental performance of vehicles and to provide consumers with useful information to inform their purchasing decisions,” the EPA announced last Wednesday.

The stickers feature information on each vehicle’s environmental impact through a fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission rating on a scale from one to ten, with ten being the best possible score.  For example, a vehicle with a fuel economy of 38 MPG or higher and 0-236 grams/mile of CO2 emissions will receive a “ten” greenhouse gas rating on a scale of one to ten.

There is also a separate smog rating, which will be based on tailpipe emissions, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, non-methane organic gas, particulates and formaldehyde emissions.

Additionally, the stickers sport each vehicle’s estimated annual fuel costs to consumers and the savings they will see on gas over the next five years, as well as familiar information on city and highway mileage.  By explicitly displaying information on long-term costs and savings of each vehicle, economic and environmental comparisons will be made easier for consumers.  

The labels will debut in the windows of all new passenger cars and trucks beginning with 2013 models, including gasoline-powered, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles, allowing for easy comparison between the energy use and cost of new-generation cars versus their conventional, gas-powered counterparts.  Electric vehicle labels will also display a category for charge time and driving range, in addition to average gas mileage and the number of gallons required on average to drive 100 miles. 

“To match a new generation of vehicles rolling off the lines in American auto plants, we’re releasing a new generation of fuel economy labels to help consumers decide which vehicle is right for them and their families,” blogged White House correspondent Lisa Jackson.

All of the labels will also feature a Quick Response (QR) code for smart phones, allowing prospective buyers to scan the code for instant access to more information on the car’s fuel efficiency and environmental impact.  Users will also be able to incorporate their individual driving habits for more accurate estimates and information, using the QR labels in conjunction with the web site. 

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, “Today’s car buyers want the best possible information about which cars on the lot offer the greatest fuel economy and the best environmental performance. The new labels provide comprehensive information to American car buyers, helping them make a choice that will save money at the gas pump and prevent pollution in the air we breathe.”

Consumers are being encouraged to take advantage of the historic fuel efficiency rule adopted last year by the EPA and DOT.  Under its new fuel economy standards, all 2012 through 2016 car and light-duty truck models must average a minimum of 35.5 miles per gallon.  The 2010 fuel economy rule will save consumers an average of $3,000 in gas over the life of their vehicle, and approximately 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of all vehicles covered.

The fuel economy decals will be required in 2013 models by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, however, buyers may start seeing the new labels as early as this year, if manufacturers voluntarily affix them to 2012 models.

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