The US Environmental Protection Agency has released its new vehicle fuel economy labels which are proposed to replace the current vehicle labels starting with the 2012 model year. The new labels provide consumers with additional information and a comparative ranking for new cars, with a comparison bar (not unlike what is now provided on appliances like refrigerators and clothes dryers) showing where the particular vehicle falls along the line from best to worst in fuel efficiency, greenhouse gasses, and other pollutants. Two alternative forms of labels (plus a third option which is not proposed for use at this time) are now open for public comment.
The new labels will help provide more useful comparison information for the increasing variety of vehicle options that are available. In addition to labels for gas and diesel vehicles, there will also now be labels for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid vehicles, compressed natural gas vehicles, and flexible fuel vehicles. This will allow more direct comparisons between different vehicles with different kinds of fuels.
The proposed labels will still show the MPG, but will also include a fuel consumption value (which, instead of miles per gallon, is a better measure telling how many gallons of fuel per 100 miles are needed). Putting the extra information on the label is simple, and makes comparison of efficiency that much easier. But the familiar MPG number will still be there, too.
Information about greenhouse gas emissions and other exhaust pollutants would also be listed on these labels. Upstream emissions, such as the emissions from a power plant generating electricity to recharge a vehicle, would not be listed on the label, although a website with more information about these impacts would be included on the label.
The dual fuel label (for vehicles able to run on either gasoline or E85 ethanol) distills everything to a single number, rather than presenting alternatives for each fuel. Because a gallon of E85 ethanol has less energy than a gallon of gasoline, the miles per gallon number will be different.
But overall, we like the trend towards including more information on the labels. The new labels should address the gap in the current labels for dealing with 'advanced technology vehicles' and should help consumers evaluate the differences and the options that are now available.
written by Jay Banks, August 31, 2010
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