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Sep 072010
 

From Green Right Now Reports

New government labels are coming for cars and they could clearly send some vehicles straight to the head of the class, while others wind up just a grade away from detention.

These new labels, developed by the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection, are designed to make it clearer for consumers where a car stands on the spectrums of fuel economy, carbon emissions and energy use. The idea is to help people compare vehicles across types, which can be tricky under the current system, which displays a car’s EPA-figured gas mileage on the retail sticker sheet plastered to the side window.

One new label under consideration grades the vehicle for energy use and emissions.

One new label under consideration grades the vehicle for energy use and emissions.

Once that label was sufficient because a person was comparing various models that were all gasoline-powered. The new auto landscape, though, pits traditional combustion engine cars against hybrids and electrics, with various permutations. In fact, it’s difficult to envision how the new labels will even account for all the energy sources driving personal transportation, some of which are unknowable. Take a new electric cars that’s charged via wind power in a home where the occupants buy green power vs. one that’s recharged by electricity generated from electricity made by burning coal, there’s no way to factor those variables in ahead of time. (By the way, an electric car charged on coal is still a greener proposition than burning gasoline in a car, for those who are wondering). No label can sort that all out. But no matter. The idea behind the labels is that each type of vehicle would get it’s own label — so there would be a version for gasoline burning cars; another for hybrids etc. But you could compare across types easier.

A second label under consideration leaves the basic label design intact, but adds details.

The EPA reports that two proposed stickers are under “primary” consideration. (Inexplicably a third sticker, which we like very much, inasmuch as we can like a label, has already slipped to third place.) Possible label No. 1 would slap a big letter grade, an “A” or a “B” or a “C” on a vehicle based on its eco-sense and gas mileage and projected annual energy costs.

Yes, a vehicle can get a “D” but it has to get about 10 mpg to earn that distinction. (Presumably no car making it to market would rate a failing grade, that would be just, well, stupid.).

Label contender No. 2 doesn’t change so much from the existing label, developed 30 some years ago, but does add scales that help you compare the car to other types of vehicles in that class on gas mileage and greenhouse gas emissions.

Label possibility No. 3, is a sort of hybrid (truly) of the other two labels.

You can see details and send comments about your favorite or least favorite label at the EPA website.