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New cars won't get fuel efficiency grades

The Obama administration is abandoning a plan to cast "Scarlet Letter" type marks of fuel efficiency on new car window stickers that would have rated vehicles with grades from A to D for fuel efficiency.

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According to a Wall Street Journal report, the administration was considering the letter grades as part of a revamp of the familiar price-and-mileage labels affixed to new vehicles. Instead, the updated labels, expected to be unveiled by Obama officials this week, will include more information designed to help consumers judge a car's projected gasoline costs and its emissions.

The National Automobile Dealers Association was cautiously optimistic about the news. In an email to readers of its daily updates, the NADA said it "is awaiting the final fuel economy label rule and remains hopeful that it will not include a requirement that vehicles be labeled with letter grades based on their fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions. During the process, NADA submitted extensive written comments and worked with Congress to oppose the letter grade system because it would unnecessarily confuse consumers."

As the Wall Street Journal reported, under the administration's proposal, released last August, the only cars that would receive an A-plus, A or A-minus would be electrics and plug-in hybrids, and that prompted concerns among U.S. auto makers that specialize in bigger cars and sport-utility vehicles.

It's buried towards the end of the article, but the report does pick up on one key component of electric vehicles that often goes underreported. The electricity to power these vehicles can be a source of major pollution. The article says, "A person familiar with the administration's internal deliberations on the new labels said the agencies struggled with how to account for the upstream emissions of electric vehicles in states that rely heavily on coal-fired electricity. If the government were to give such vehicles A's, the person said, 'is everyone going to go out and buy electric vehicles that actually pollute the environment?'"

The proposal was especially ludicrous because some vehicles exceeding 40 mpg on the highway, like diesels and some compacts, would get grades of B when their fuel economy levels actually have much more impact because of their sales volume than the much less sold plug-in hybrids, which only provide 13 miles or so of range in electric mode, and the electrics that are just starting to be embraced by consumers but are nowhere near the levels of other fuel efficient vehicles.

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