With gas prices rising, a growing number of car shoppers have gas mileage on their minds – and the EPA is about to make it even easier to factor in fuel efficiency when buying a new car. On Wednesday, the government agency showed off a new window label design to help provide buyers with a clearer understanding of fuel economy, gas costs and other environmental factors that could make or break a car buyer's choice.
While the labels don't include the large-print "letter grades" that received so much media attention last year, they still provide a lot of information that is likely relevant to the typical car buyer. For instance, the largest and most obvious item on each sticker is the vehicle's gas mileage – and it's given as one real-world number, with the familiar – if unrealistic – "city/highway" figures also displayed in smaller print below.
Also included on the new stickers are some new cost figures. One tells buyers exactly how much they're likely to save or spend in five years versus the average new vehicle, while the other displays the car's average annual fuel costs – both in bold-faced, large print type. That could spell trouble for some automakers as consumers begin doing the math, adding their fuel costs to the car's out-the-door price.
The stickers also feature ratings for each car's greenhouse gas and exhaust emissions, using a sliding scale to represent the given car's placement. While the current EPA window sticker also features these figures, they're more prominently represented on the new labels.
Other information is displayed for alternative fuel vehicles, such as plug-in hybrids and electric or hydrogen cars. Labels for these cars will show estimated range, charge time, and "MPGe" – the EPA's equivalent to "miles per gallon" for an electric car.
The new labels will be added to the federally-mandated window stickers displayed on all new vehicles offered for sale by dealers, known within the auto industry as the "Monroney" sticker. The EPA is mandating that all new vehicles beginning with model year 2013 carry the new labels, meaning they'll likely start hitting dealer lots early next year.