New Fuel-Economy Labels for U.S. Vehicles

Car buyers in the United States will soon see a change on vehicles when they shop: All will carry a new window sticker unveiled Wednesday by the EPA and the Department of Transportation.

The black label, which will be required starting with 2013 models of all passenger cars and trucks, will include details on the vehicle’s fuel economy, estimates on how much consumers would save or spend for that model compared to other vehicles in the category, and how the model rates in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and smog.

For electric vehicles, the label will include information on driving range and charging time. All labels will also have a QR code that smartphone users can scan to pull up details on their phones.

The label overhaul follows new federal rules announced last year that established greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and light trucks from model years 2012 through 2016. The Obama administration says those new standards will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and an average of $3,000 in fuel costs for consumers. The administration also plans to roll out new fuel economy standards for commercial vehicles this summer.

Increased fuel economy can certainly help consumers save money — ironically, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will travel more. Recent research shows that road travel has leveled out among the wealthiest nations, a phenomenon that researchers are calling “peak travel.” Though gasoline prices have played a major role, experts say other factors, such as road congestion and taxes on vehicle ownership, also come into play.

You can get more details on the new vehicle labels, including shots of the versions for EVs and plug-in hybrids, here and here.

What do you think of the labels? Are they easy enough to read? Will they help change consumer behavior?