Good idea? Feds propose grading cars on fuel efficiency

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation have proposed new fuel economy labels with simple letter grades to rate gas mileage.

You may be able to kiss those miles per gallon stickers on new vehicles goodbye. In 2012, you may be seeing letter grades, A through D, if proposed rule changes go into effect.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation have proposed new fuel economy labels with simple letter grades to rate gas mileage. The proposed rule is now open for public comment.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said:

This is the beginning of the conversation, not the end. We are asking the American people to tell us what they need to make the best economic and environmental decisions when they are buying a new car.

According to the EPA, two labels are being considered:

  • One label design (top right) assigns a letter grade to reveal a car's overall fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. The label will also provide and estimate of fuel cost relative to an average gas vehicle.
  • The second label keeps the MPG and annual fuel cost information in the current label, but offers new comparison data (bottom right).

For electric vehicles and hybrids, the agencies are proposing to show energy use by translating electricity consumption into a MPG equivalent.

The proposed rules, EPA statement and labels are worth a read. The grades would only measure tailpipe emissions not so called upstream emissions, which cover refining fuel and electricity generation.

Automobile manufacturers may not like the proposed system because the letter grades may look like a government endorsement. Meanwhile, some small cars would get C's---not exactly the image automakers want to promote for a small car.

The big question is whether these government letter grades would influence your buying decision.

One thing is certain the there aren't many A rated cars in the current fleet. From an EPA PDF explaining the ratings distribution:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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