Survey Says: Proposed EPA Letter Grades Suck

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
survey says proposed epa letter grades suck

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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  • Corky Boyd Corky Boyd on Oct 06, 2010

    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.

  • Carve Carve on Oct 06, 2010

    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.

    • See 1 previous
    • JeremyR JeremyR on Oct 08, 2010

      Don't forget Improbably Low Emissions Vehicle (ILEV) and maybe even Infinitely Improbably Low Emissions Vehicle (IILEV)...

  • ToolGuy This truck is the perfect size, and the fuel economy is very impressive.-This post sponsored by ExxonMobil
  • ToolGuy If I were Jeep, I would offer a version with better NVH and charge more for it.And then I would offer a version with worse NVH, and charge more for it. (There is an audience for both.)
  • Szi65724742 Not saying dude's not a douche, but Google Maps doesn't show a stop sign at any of the three Walmarts dumping onto 60 - there's a stop-line at best. And while you nerd-rage at a random dude in a truck, a similar thing happens ALL. THE. TIME here - get Prius'd and Tesla'd every single day. I got hit while stopped at a stoplight. 7:30am, sunny morning, clear, straight sightlines for a couple miles. Was a loaded down work van. I don't rage and yell to get those off the streets. Blame the drivers, not the vehicles.
  • AMcA This, from the same regulatory agency that mandates the two adjacent outboard and center rear seat buckles be incompatible, so that the impatient passenger who hits the wrong buckle the first time simply gives up. You oughta watch my husband in the back of a cab. Every time he tries to put the outboard belt into the center buckle. The belt and buckle are incompatible and won't latch. He says "godamn [insert vehicle brand]" and stays unbelted.
  • VoGhost Twenty comments, but none acknowledging that the 'Elon promised me a $35K car!' propaganda can end now. But then, accountability was never a strong suit of the anti-America crowd.