The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation on Monday released two proposed window stickers designed to make it easier for consumers to compare vehicles.
The new system is designed to simplify comparisons in fuel economy and emissions for those shopping for fuel-efficient vehicles. Traditional MPG ratings don’t provide all of the information necessary to compare some hybrids and electric cars, which — depending on how much and where you drive them — might never revert to gas. As a result, car companies such as GM have been lobbying for new EPA standards that make the benefits of green(er) vehicles more transparent to consumers, reports USA Today.
In the wake of sweeping efficiency and emission guidelines that rolled out in April, the EPA is revising the information that appears on cars, starting with the 2012 model year. The new stickers mark the first major overhaul of fuel-economy ratings in 30 years.
The two labels have been produced and are now available for public review on EPA’s website.
The first label gives cars and trucks a grade from A+ to a D, and compares vehicles with three sliding scales. It also gives an estimated annual fuel cost. The rating considers fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, and directs consumers to a website that has not yet been created, where people can learn more about the ratings and how their personal driving habits could effect them. The amount of money a car owner will save (or spend) over five years would be prominently displayed.
The second label doesn’t use a letter grade. It provides traditional information like city vs. highway fuel economy and estimated annual fuel cost, but improves upon the old design with additional info like greenhouse gas emissions and comparative fuel economy within a vehicle’s class.
“From electric to plug-in hybrid vehicles, we think a new label is absolutely necessary to help consumers make the right decision for their wallet and for the environment,” Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s top air pollution official told USA Today. The changes are required under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which increases average fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2016, and calls for new labels spelling out fuel economy, greenhouse gas and other emissions information.
Under the letter grade proposal, an average vehicle on fuel efficiency and emissions would receive a B-. Electric vehicles would receive an A+, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles would earn an A and three gas-electric hybrids — the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius — would get an A-.
The best-selling passenger car in America, the Toyota Camry, would receive a B or a B-, depending on the vehicle’s engine. Hybrid versions of the Camry would earn a B+. The top-selling pickup truck, the Ford F-150, would receive a C+ or a C, based on the engine variant.
Automakers questioned the proposed letter grades,saying it might affect sales. Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told the Associated Press “the letter grade inadvertently suggests a value judgment, taking us back to school days where grades were powerful symbols of passing or failing.” She said a broad range of vehicle technologies were needed to improve fuel efficiency.