New Rules Proposed for Grading Fuel Economy

By Paul Riegler on 30 August 2010
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The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation jointly released new rules that would label passenger cars sold in the United States with a grade from A to D.  The grades would be dependent on two factors, fuel efficiency and emissions.

If approved, the new rules will be the most substantial change in over three decades to the labels that give car buyers price and fuel economy information on the windows of every new car at a dealership.   Currently, these labels indicate how many miles per gallon a car gets and an estimate of annual fuel costs.  The new rules would mean that the labels would carry a letter grade as well.

The justification for the new system is clear, according to Lisa P. Jackson, the EPA administrator.  “We need a new fuel economy label for a new generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks” she said in a statement.

The new rules would not go into effect until the 2012 model year and two new label designs are up for consideration.  A 60-day comment period is scheduled to begin shortly.

One label design features the letter grade, communicating fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions performance.  The label would also display an estimate of the anticipated fuel savings over five years compared to an average gasoline-powered vehicle of the same vintage.

The second label would build on the current label’s design, supplementing miles per gallon information and annual fuel costs with information comparing fuel economy and emissions.

Both plans call for an expansion of the information currently provided by adding new information on fuel consumption, tailpipe carbon dioxide (CO2), and smog-related emissions.

For electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, energy use would be shown by translating electricity consumption into a miles-per-gallon equivalent.  It would also show the number of kilowatt hours consumed in 100 miles.

The agencies are soliciting public comment online and via e-mail to