EPA, DOE release 2012 fuel economy guide

By Holly Jessen | November 17, 2011

Want to know what the best vehicles are for fuel economy, including flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs)? Consult the 2012 Fuel Economy Guide, released by the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE on Nov. 16.

The annual guide provides consumers with information about fuel efficient vehicles in an effort to help them save money and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the agencies. It includes information on conventional gasoline vehicles, FFVs, electric vehicles, hybrids, natural gas vehicles, fuel cell vehicles and more.

Each vehicle has an estimated annual fuel cost provided in the guide. It is based on the miles per gallon (mpg) rating as well as national estimates for fuel prices and annual mileage. For more information, or to input local gasoline prices and typical driving habits and receive a personalized fuel cost estimate, consumers can go to http://www.fueleconomy.gov or fueleconomy.gov/m for mobile devices.

The fuel economy guide’s specific information about FFVs includes links to E85 station locations as well as a cost calculator to compare operating a FFV on E85 versus gasoline.

Beginning in 2012, some vehicle models will start displaying a new fuel economy and environment label that was finalized this summer by the EPA and the National Traffic Safety Administration. The labels are required for model year 2013 for seven types of vehicle technologies, including FFVs. However, some automakers may voluntarily adopt them earlier. The labels retain many of the same features of the existing fuel economy labels, such as annual fuel cost and city, highway and combined mpg. Some of the new information on the labels includes five-year fuel costs or savings compared to the average vehicle, plus GHG and smog ratings.

The new label for FFVs states, “Values are based on gasoline and do not reflect performance and ratings on E85.” The agency had proposed a variety of options for FFVs, including requiring the addition of E85-based mpg or E85-based mpg equivalents. In the end, the decision was made to maintain the current policy, meaning only gasoline-based mpg is required on the label. “Only a few commenters addressed ethanol flexible fuel vehicles, and most who commented on this option supported the current policy,” the final rule said. “… Data show that, on average, FFVs operate on gasoline nearly 99 percent of the time, and on E85 fuel about 1 percent of the time. In light of this, the agencies believe it is appropriate to require only gasoline values on the label, and to provide E85 information on the [fuel economy guide] website.”

Establishing a nationwide program for fuel economy and GHG emission reductions is in the right overall direction, said Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the Auto Alliance. The administration must keep in mind, however, that technology advances will be required. In addition, automakers need consumers to purchase energy-efficient technologies in large numbers if they are to meet the required goals. “Automakers have already invested billions of dollars in new technologies, so consumers now have many choices when shopping for fuel-efficient vehicles,” he said. “Today, on dealers’ lots, there are more than 160 models that achieve 30+ mpg, with more coming.  Sales of these and even more fuel-efficient vehicles will be critical to achieve these policy goals.” Bainwol added that sales of autos are linked to jobs. “So as we set national policy,” he said. “We need to remember that fuel economy is also an economic issue.”