The White House announced today what the new label will look like. The move is to fulfill the requirements of a 2007 law that requires labels to put new vehicles in fleetwide context for fuel economy, greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants.
But the EPA and the U.S. Transportation Department rules do not give vehicles a letter grade from A+ to D for fuel economy and greenhouse gases, as proposed last August. Carmakers and dealers argued, successfully, that such a system would make certain vehicles, such as pickup trucks and SUVs, look bad when, in fact, the vast majority of pickup purchases are necessary for work and commercial use, not vanity purchases.
The new labels will estimate how much consumers will save or spend on fuel over five years compared with the average new vehicle, among other information.
"These labels will provide consumers with upfront information about a vehicle's fuel costs and savings so that they can make informed decisions when purchasing a new car," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
"The President's been traveling the country, and it's been all hands on deck letting people know that we're not just sitting around waiting for gasoline prices to come down," he added in a press conference call. "And part of what we announced today is a part of the plan that the President has to let people know that gasoline prices are killing family budgets."
Current labels have estimated fuel economy without any pollution ratings. Comparisons also are limited to the class of vehicle rather than the entire U.S. fleet. An SUV, for example, is compared with other SUVs.
The new comparisons must also cover electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. As such, the new labels will provide mpg-equivalents when some element of electric power is involved.
Another change consumers will notice is a European-influenced reading of gallons per 100 miles in addition to the more standard American mpg figure (e.g. 3.8 gallons/100 miles in addition to 26 mpg). The EPA and DOT find this will more precisely convey to consumers the costs involved in traveling a particular distance.
The EPA and DOT are creating a new generation of fuel economy labels to meet the needs of a new generation of innovative cars," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "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."
The initiative is motivated by both environmental and financial concerns, and these labels are expected to have a long-term effect on gas prices.
"The one thing we can acknowledge right now is that consumers have more efficient vehicles to drive right now," Jackson said during the press conference call this morning. "We know that reducing our consumption and demand for oil is the best way to reduce upward price pressure on fuel prices."
The EPA and DOT also worked closely with administrators in California to move toward setting a national standard.
"California has been a leader in dealing and moving toward cleaner cars," Jackson said. "That's partly driven by major air pollution concerns. A lot of our hard work with California happens on the actual fuel efficiency standards themselves and the green house gas standards. It's harmonized EPA, DOT, and the state of California."
The new labels also include a QR Code that will allow users of smartphones to access online information about how various models compare on fuel economy and other environmental and energy factors. This tool will also allow consumers to enter information about their typical commutes and driving behavior in order to get a more precise estimate of fuel costs and savings.
Consumers can get more information about the new label at: www.fueleconomy.gov.