In addition to the miles per gallon, the labels will show, on a scale of 1 to… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)
Federal regulators unveiled new fuel economy labels that could make it easier for new-car buyers to compare fuel-efficient vehicles and gas-guzzlers.
In the most extensive overhaul of the decals in 30 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation said Wednesday that 2013 model year cars and trucks will have more comprehensive labels detailing projected fuel costs and emissions.
In addition to the miles per gallon, the labels will show, on a scale of 1 to 10, how a vehicle stacks up against competitors for smog, tailpipe emissions and fuel economy. They will also display the amount of fuel needed to go 100 miles and the expected cost of fuel over the next five years compared with the average new vehicle.
The decals could appear in showrooms as soon as this year because automakers have the option to start using the labels for 2012 model year cars.
"Reducing our consumption and demand for oil is the best way to reduce upward pressure on fuel prices," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a conference call with reporters. "A new generation of cars requires a new generation of fuel economy labels."
The labels will vary depending on whether the vehicle runs on gasoline and diesel, electricity or a mix.
They will still have estimated annual fuel costs as well as mpg figures for city and highway driving. But it will now include the fuel economy range for vehicles in the same class, such as small SUVs, as well as among all vehicles. The lower right-hand corner of the label will feature an image that smartphone users can scan like a barcode to access more information about the vehicle online.
Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will have a mpg equivalent number as well as details about driving range and charging times.
The 1-to-10 ranking could affect car sales, said Jack Gillis, director of public affairs for the Consumer Federation of America.
More than 60% of consumers said their next car will probably be more fuel efficient than their current one, according to a study Wednesday from Consumer Reports. Nearly as many said they would be willing to pay more for the vehicle.
"It won't take long for the car companies who offer vehicles with 9 and 10 ratings to reap the rewards," Gillis said. "On the other hand, it's going to be pretty difficult to sell a vehicle with a 1 or 2 rating, when consumers can readily see the alternatives."
Authorities ditched an earlier proposal to use letter grades after intense opposition from automakers who said consumers might think letters rate the overall quality of the car.
The new government labels supplement the rules enacted last year requiring the average fuel economy for new cars and trucks to reach at least 34.1 mpg by 2016. Over the next few years, authorities said, the requirements could save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and each consumer $3,000 on average.
In September, the Obama administration is expected to propose new standards for vehicles from model years 2017 through 2025.