By on October 6, 2010

The recommendations are simple: Scrap the vertical label, lose the letter grade and emphasize the mpg and cost of owning the vehicle. If the EPA takes these steps, it may be successful in increasing the number of fuel-efficient vehicles on the road and communicating clearly with consumers.

Alan Siegel of brand consultants Siegel+Gale summarizes his firm’s independent research on proposed EPA fuel economy label designs in Automotive News [sub]. Siegel interviewed 456 prospective new car buyers, and found that 66 percent preferred the “horizontal” proposal, while 47 percent found the “vertical” style (which includes the letter grade) “confusing.” No word on what percentage found the letter grades to be “asinine.”

The use of the term “MPGe” (miles per gallon equivalent) was also found to be confusing for readers of both labels, but even more so for the vertical label (69 percent misidentified the term on vertical labels, compared to 62 percent on horizontal labels). Siegel’s results have been submitted to the EPA, which is soliciting public comment on the designs. Let us know what you think of the designs, then go vote for yourself at the EPA website. And be sure to use the word “asinine” at least once.

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19 Comments on “Survey Says: Proposed EPA Letter Grades Suck...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    You know I never had that much trouble with the old lables, but then I have more than two brain cells to rub together.  The only thing that pissed me off were the exemptions for vehicles over a certain GVWR.  1990s Suburban 3/4 ton with the 454 big block?  Not required to be EPA tested or labled.

    • 0 avatar
      caboaz

      Was there anybody out there actually looking for a 3/4 ton 454 that would have changed their mind based on an EPA label?  Why waste the time and money to test it…

  • avatar
    Crosley

    Dumb label

    That’s really what the whole environmental movement is about, feeling morally superior.

    Of course the new labels would have a letter grade. You’re a much better human being if you drive a Prius than a Suburban.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Actually the movement is about lead poisoning, flammable rivers, smog you could cut with a knife, and feeling morally superior.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      There’s no longer any real issues, so now it’s all about dubious science like how much carbon the car emits, even though over 96% of all carbon production on the planet is from non-human derived sources.
       
       

  • avatar
    Quentin

    They need to go to a gal/100 mi.  That way your cost moves linearly with the “efficiency” number.  MPG is like saying, “I have 500 gallons to use this year. How far can I drive?”  But, I doubt the manufacturers want to have it that way.  How else can you tout your 36mpg car as being vastly better than a 34mpg car? 2.78gal/100mi versus 2.94gal/100mi isn’t quite so impressive.  Even if you drive 20k miles/year, you save less than $100/year at $2.80/gal.  Does it make sense to pick a car you like less than another to save ~$8/month?

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I agree that mpg is an ignorant measure, but at least the “annual fuel cost” will give a better comparative number. This might actually be the best indicator, except for the inability of many to adapt that number to their own annual mileage.

  • avatar
    daga

    I still don’t see why an electric car and ICE car need to have a comparison judgement.  They will likely be driven differently just based on their inherent strengths and weakness.  Why not just respect the consumer and publish the amount of stuff consumed to build it, the amount of emissions (where is it in the EPA’s mandate that they should be saying that one product will cost more than another?) by gas, the range, the efficiency, and the end of life recycling impact?
    Otherwise, for the love of god, pick B.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Government regulation at its best (worst?)!

    How about:

    Excellent
    Very Good
    Good
    Fair
    Sucks (Literally)

    and just get over it.

    • 0 avatar
      caboaz

      Because MY definition of an excellent performing car from a fuel economy and environmental standpoint is probably 180 degrees from YOUR definition of an excellent performing car.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    “We’re here from the government and we’re here to help”

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    How many millions of tax dollars are being poured into this EPA label upheaval? Hello! It’s a freaking label. It gets torn off the day you buy the car. And unlike the dunces at the EPA, most of us in the public are smart enough to understand the current one. Now go back to your taxpayer funded pornography. You do the least damage there.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Look, I’m green and a pinko and even I don’t like the letter-grade label.  I get the intent, but it’s busy, hard to parse and doesn’t make absolute comparisons easy. It’s useless in the way that the EnergyStar logo is, not useful in the way EnerGuide labels are.
     
    Anyone who has done any amount of design-work should have caught this early
     
    Now, all that said, if this was about horsepower and torque ratings, I doubt there would be nearly the hue and cry from some folk.  We didn’t get nearly this kind of whinging when horsepower figures are re-stated when testing methods change, but, by God, to people get cranky if it’s emissions.
     
    ** people are not smart.  This is important: fifty percent of people, less one, are less intelligent and/or have poorer comprehension skills.  As much as this seems obnoxious, it’s important to convey information in a way that most people can understand.  The car seat industry went through this a while back when it discovered that people were using their car seats incorrectly because the manuals were authored at Grade Six reading levels, while, on average, people read at Grade 3.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Even M-16 instructions were in a comic book format if I recollect properly.
    That’s based on reading in the past.
     
    Lazy squids had M-14 rifles aboard ship.
    Beautiful weapons, hard-hitting in more ways than one but then we did not have to lug the heavy things and their heavy ammo over hill, dale and dusty trails.
     

  • avatar
    JGlanton

    At least it is not as bad as the California sticker, which officially perpetuates junk science by putting a “Global Warming Index” on the car, with a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being the worst. “Greenhouse Gas” is tolerable science, even though it is only there to imply “Global Warming”, an utterly unproven phenomenon based on 5X exaggerations of forcing effects in computer simulations. But even “Greenhouse Gas” is scientifically inaccurate because the spectral energy absorption of gas molecules has nothing to do with how a greenhouse works. It’s just a term that reporters can relate to. But it’s OK for the government to deceive you when it’s for your own good (as they say). Last time I was at the BMW dealer I asked the salesman to see a “Global Warming Index 5″ because it was a cold day, but the best that he had was a 4.5 and he didn’t have an X5M in stock.

  • avatar
    Corky Boyd

    Be prepared to see a Federal tax on autos, especially if cap and trade is watered down.  Having four grades (actually five if you count A+) makes it easier for the public comprehend the penalty they have to pay.  I have yet to see the methodology behind assigning grades and I suspect overseas manufacturers will find themselves in a more expensive category. 

    Call it a hidden tariff.

  • avatar
    carve

    Uhhh- I’m so tired of dumbed-down measurements.  This is especially bad because as soon as  a vehicle is rated “A”, there is no room to ever indicate any vehicle is better than that one.  If they’re going to do this, they could at least quantify, say, the amount of energy required to build, maintain, and operate the vehicle, and tell you what percentile that falls in for that model year.

    I’m also tired of superlative definitions that are meaningless, such as “Low Emissions Vehicle”, Super Low, Ultra Low, Partial Zero etc.  It’s impossible to tell which is better than the other, and why.  And WTF does “partial zero” mean.  Zero can’t be divided into parts!  (What it really means is that it is zero emissions while it’s turned off.  No kidding).  Even Zero Emissions Vehicles aren’t quite zero emissions, since electric motors emit a little ozone.

    For that matter, even mpg is a misleading term- especially when mpg numbers get high.  Peoples conception of mpg is often that an x-mpg improvement saves the same amount of gas, no matter where it is.  E.g. going from 15 mpg to 30 mpg saves the same amount of fuel as going from 30 to 45.  In fact, to save as much gas per year as going from 15 to 30 mpg, you’d have to go from 30 to infinity.  This means the people upgrading from their 36 mpg civic to their 48 mpg Prius are saving very little fuel, despite the 12 mpg improvement, while someone going from 20 to 32 mpg is going to save much MUCH more fuel.

    If mpg was replaced with gallons/100mi, similar to what they do in Europe and everywhere else, this would be apparant.  This is where it DOES make sense to have a maximum possible score- the limit approaching 0.

    The dollars per year comes close to this measure, but it depends on how much fuel costs when the label was printed, the difference in fuel price between where you live and the national average, and how much you drive.  If they just gave us gallons/100mi, it would be MUCH more useful.

    As an aside, using gallons per 100 miles is much more useful in illustraing how accessories, like AC or a bike rack, affects efficiency.  For instance, a big bike rack on your hummer may reduce mileage from 12 mpg (19.6 liter per 100km) to 11 mpg (21.4 l/100km).  The same rack on a gen-1 Honda insight may reduce mpg from 70 mpg (3.4 l/100km) to 45 mpg (5.2 l/100km).

    Using MPG, the hummer owner would say the rack makes almost no difference, while the Insight owner would say it totally destroyed his mileage.  Using l/100km, you can see that the rack requires EXACTLY the same amount of additional fuel on either vehicle- an extra 1.8 l/100km).  People do the same thing with AC for instance- barely noticing it on a big car, and noticing a big difference in mpg in a small car, when in reality the difference won’t be that big.


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