Fed Fleet Goes Alternative; EPA Drops Vehicle Letter Grades

by | May 25, 2011

The federal government has rolled out two major green fleet announcements, launching enhanced fuel economy labels just a day after announcing that it will buy only alternative fuel vehicles by the end of 2015.

The new labels for all passenger cars and trucks reveal that the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation have dropped a proposal to assign A+ through D letter grades for vehicle efficiency, in what the Detroit News calls “a win for automakers”.

At a hearing in October, automakers and auto dealers agreed that a new car window label was necessary but said assigning a letter grade across vehicle categories is like comparing apples and oranges.

Today, the administration called the revamped labels “the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago”. In addition to existing metrics on miles per gallon and annual fuel costs, the labels will add information to help customers compare fuel economy and emissions.

The labels will be mandatory starting with model year 2013, which will begin arriving in showrooms early next year. Automakers may also voluntarily adopt the labels for model year 2012 vehicles, the EPA said. The labels’ introduction was required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Today’s launch include different labels for plug-in hybrids (pictured), electrics and vehicles running on diesel, compressed natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells, as well gasoline-ethanol vehicle labels with and without driving ranges. All the labels launched today can be viewed here.

Label enhancements, according to the two agencies, include:

  • New ways to compare energy use and cost between new-technology cars that use electricity and conventional cars that are gasoline-powered.
  • Useful estimates on how much consumers will save or spend on fuel over the next five years compared to the average new vehicle.
  • Easy-to-read ratings of how a model compares to all others for smog emissions and emissions of pollution that contribute to climate change.
  • An estimate of how much fuel or electricity it takes to drive 100 miles.
  • Information on the driving range and charging time of an electric vehicle.
  • A QR Code that will allow users of smartphones to access online information about how various models compare on fuel economy and other environmental and energy factors. This tool will also allow consumers to enter information about their typical commutes and driving behavior in order to get a more precise estimate of fuel costs and savings.

In related news, President Obama yesterday issued a Presidential Memorandum that will require the federal government to buy only alternative fuel vehicles starting in 2015, starting immediately with the purchase of 100 electric vehicles.

The General Services Administration, the federal government’s fleet and building management agency, announced that it will buy 100 Chevrolet, Nissan and Think City vehicles as part of an Electric Vehicle Pilot program. The GSA will place the 100 vehicles into service with 20 agencies located in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

As the pilot expands, other companies may bid to become eligible for future purchases.

Last year, GSA doubled the federal hybrid fleet without increasing the total number of vehicles. The resulting improvement in fleet fuel efficiency will reduce petroleum consumption by the equivalent of an estimated 7.7 million gallons of gasoline, or 385,000 barrels of oil, the GSA said.

The latest initiative is part of the administration’s plan to put a million “advanced vehicles” on U.S. roads by 2015, and cut oil imports by one third by 2025.

“The federal fleet provides a good proving ground for these advanced vehicles and can help spur greater market interest,” said Greg Martin, director of policy and Washington communications for General Motors. “In this regard, the GSA Pilot program is leading the way.”

Last month the White House launched the National Clean Fleets Partnership, an initiative to help large companies incorporate electric vehicles, alternative fuels and fuel-saving measures, in an effort to help large fleets across the country cut petroleum use by 2.5 billion gallons by 2020.

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