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The EPA's 2008 sticker design (click to enlarge).  (Source: EPA/DOT)

One of the new sticker designs.  (Source: EPA/DOT)

The other proposed new sticker design.  (Source: EPA/DOT)
Sticker is one of two proposed designs, each with new information to help consumers choose their next vehicle

Spiking oil prices in the 1970s inspired the U.S. Congress to pass the Energy Tax Act of 1978, a phased in tax that hits people who buy inefficient vehicles.  Around the same time Congress also mandated that the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation put fuel efficiency labels on all new cars sold at dealerships in the U.S.  Those stickers became a familiar, relatively unchanging sight over the next 30 years.

Starting in 2008, the stickers underwent their first big overhaul.  Today, with new types of automobiles like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles preparing to hit the market, the DOT and EPA are looking to roll out yet another shakeup to the dealership sticker design. 

The government organizations aired two alternative designs for labels today.  The first design more closely resembles the 2008 label and its contents.  It adds several additional statistics, as well -- offering metrics on CO2 emissions (in g/mile from the tailpipe), "other emissions" (on a 1 to 10 scale, 10 being the best possible), how many gallons are used every 100 miles, how the vehicle compares fuel economy-wise with other vehicles in its class, and how the vehicle compares to all other vehicles (including those outside its class) in fuel economy.

The second design is a more radical redesign offering a letter grade to the vehicle in terms of fuel economy.  According to the EPA/DOT proposal page shows a battery electric vehicles getting an "A+", a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle receiving an "A", a compressed natural gas vehicle getting an "A-", and a "flexible fuel" (ethanol-ready) vehicle receiving a "B".  The page insists, though:

Please note that these labels are examples and do not represent real automobiles. 

Thus, it is unclear whether these labels are indicative to what kind of letter grades the actual vehicles in these classes would succeed.  Interestingly, there's no room for failure under the new system.  The worst rating one can get is a "D".

The design bumps the average yearly cost of fuel to a text subnote and instead emphasizes the amount the vehicle "saves" per year, "compared to the average vehicle".  It also bumps the note on how the vehicle stacks up within its class to a text subnote.

Both labels feature special QR Codes that allow smartphones to pull up additional info on fuel efficiency and the model.  Both labels also include special "effective MPG" ratings, to encompass electric vehicle performance.  Electric vehicles have their costs tallied as an "Annual Electric Cost".

The first sticker also includes, for the first time, a short disclaimer on how the fuel costs are calculated (a gas price of $2.80 USD is assumed in the sticker shown).  The letter-grade sticker doesn't include the disclaimer, though both stickers remind customers to go to to learn more on the topic.

The EPA is seeking public comment on both designs, in order to decide which to adopt.  You can leave your thoughts, comments, criticism, and suggestions here.

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EPA=Gov't=they think they know better...
By Jardi on 8/30/2010 4:30:37 PM , Rating: 0
Honestly, we do not need Government ticking their foot in everything in out lives.

If you buy a vehicle with a powerful engine, chances are you already know pretty much what the fuel economy will be like.

Moreover, you should do some research on the vehicle you would like to buy before you commit to it.

We do NOT need the EPA to grade our vehicles. If I want to buy a 500 horse power engine it's because most likely that engine is bolted onto a luxury vehicle of some sort, and you can afford it and the fuel it consumes.

I doubt the majority of buyers will buy a vehicle with an A+ rating rather than one with a B rating just because of the EPA says A is better than B. Grade school stuff...

EPA, get off our cars and backs!

RE: EPA=Gov't=they think they know better...
By Murloc on 8/30/2010 4:40:51 PM , Rating: 1
stupid people needs that rating, because they can't be arsed/don't care/don't know how to judge a vehicle.

You don't have to look at the small rectangle of paper if you don't want to.

RE: EPA=Gov't=they think they know better...
By Flunk on 8/30/2010 4:45:18 PM , Rating: 4
They're not stopping you from buying inefficient cars, just labelling them so you know what their fuel usage actually is.

This helps people who might buy a car they can't afford to keep fueled up and doesn't detract at all from anyone else. How is this negative?

By Schrag4 on 8/31/2010 9:48:43 AM , Rating: 2
Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't we always known what the fuel usage actually is? Hasn't the EPA's estimated MPG been on the sticker since long, long ago?

If you have to pick one number or grade or whatever to put on the sticker, the MPG is the only one that gives you enough information to make an informed decision. The letter grade, at best, is a way to compare 2 vehicles side by side to see which uses less fuel. And how will they grade the Volt? Will they assume I'll never drive more than 40 miles? Will they assume my round-trips are always 100 miles? 200 miles? The amount of gas at the pump I'll need varies dramatically for each.

My point is that you say that this "dumbing down" is a good thing, but ultimately it doesn't make the decision clearer for the consumer. If anything, it muddies things.

By AssBall on 8/30/2010 4:45:16 PM , Rating: 2
They should have a rating for comfort level, acceleration, handling, towing and cargo, and reliability too. Oh wait, they already do, its called Edmunds, Consumer Reports, etc.

Why have a letter grade when the EPA fuel economy is already a required listing? I don't get it. More waste of government funds to dumb stuff down.

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