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What Fuel Economy Grade Will Your Next Car Get?

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author photo by Autotrader September 2010

Under a joint proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation, a new vehicle's fuel economy label could sport a letter grade, ranging from A+ to D, reflecting how well the vehicle performs on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions.

The new fuel economy label - one of two possible labeling options proposed on Monday – is the government's attempt to anticipate the country's increasing adoption of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and other alternative technologies. Many such vehicles, such as the much touted Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, will debut in the 2011 - 2013 model year.

The labels are being proposed by the government to simplify an increasingly complicated set of standards by which new vehicles are judged and to help consumers make informed choices that impact both their wallets and the environment.

Beyond the measure of miles per gallon and estimated annual fuel cost, which is already featured on the current fuel economy label, the new labels would indicate a fuel consumption rating (the cost to drive 100 miles, based on $2.80 per gallon) and expected fuel cost savings over five years compared to the average vehicle. The new labels would be fully compliant with the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

The labels would also rank a vehicle's fuel economy, greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions against all vehicles for the same model year – not just against vehicles in the same class. That means a Porsche would compete with a Prius on the same grading curve.

Under the new letter grade sticker scheme, a fully electric vehicle would be awarded an "A+," a plug-in hybrid would earn an "A," and a many gas/electric hybrids would receive an "A-." The median grade would be a "B-." Any vehicle with 14 mpg would receive a "D" grade. No vehicle would receive a failing grade, but performance vehicles and large trucks and SUVs would fall toward the bottom of the scale.

The second proposed label features much of the same information, arranged differently, but it lacks the letter grade and the five-year cost savings.

Both labels will feature a smart phone scan code that shoppers can use to get more information about the particular vehicle or to compare it with others on the spot, which should be helpful at an auto dealer showroom.

For electric vehicles, a slightly different label would show energy use, translating electricity consumption into a miles-per-gallon equivalent.

It's not guaranteed that either of these labels will be implemented – the government may yet choose an alternative. But some form of new labeling would go effect for the 2012 model year. It's the first major revision of the fuel economy label in over 30 years; a smaller revision was made in 2008.

The EPA is asking the public to weigh in on design features that would best help compare fuel economy, fuel costs, and environmental impacts of different vehicles. See label details and email comments to newlabels@epa.gov within the next 60 days at epa.gov/fueleconomy.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
What Fuel Economy Grade Will Your Next Car Get? - Autotrader