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NHTSA TO EXPAND REQUIREMENTS FOR LABELING OF ALT FUEL VEHICLES

On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposed rule that would require: (1) exterior alternative fuel badges, (2) fuel tank labels and (3) owner manual information for new passenger cars and light duty trucks rated at 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight or less. The information is intended to “increase consumer awareness regarding the use and benefits of alternative fuels.” The rules are required by provisions enacted in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) (49 USC 32908). Much of what NHTSA is proposing is already done today by U.S. automakers, but the new rules will bring some uniformity to the requirements and they will be mandatory. Also, the information provided will be permanent in contrast to information that is separately required to be included on window stickers (e.g., miles per gallon, emissions information, and driving range).

As proposed, the alternative fuel badges on new vehicles must include a description of the alternative fuel in natural language as opposed to by using symbols. For example, the badge on an NGV would include the words “natural gas.” Manufacturers could also add additional wording or symbols but at a minimum would have to provide the name of the alternative fuel. The rules also specify a minimum size for the lettering. Badges are to be placed on the rear of the vehicle in close proximity to the model name, or if there is no model name or designation, on the lower right corner of the “rear trunk-lid, closeout panel, rear hatch or rear fender depending on vehicle type body configuration.”

The owner’s manual information must provide information on the benefits of using alternative fuel. NHTSA has developed language that discusses in general terms the energy security and environmental benefits of alternative fuels. It is proposing that this language be included in the manuals offered by all manufacturers without alteration. Manufacturers, however, could provide additional details on the specific benefits of the particular type of alternative fuel involved.

For labels for fuel compartments, the manufacturers are given the option to provide the information on the fuel compartment door, or on the fuel cap. The labeling should clearly indicate the specific alternative fuel used and the “proper/safe capacities for replenishing the fuel supply.” NHTSA acknowledges that its fuel economy rules for bi- fuel or dual-fuel vehicles already require such labels in order for vehicles to qualify for fuel economy credits. NHTSA goes on to state that the rules will impose no new requirements except in the case of dedicated alternative vehicles, which currently do not have to comply with the fuel compartment labels to qualify for credits.

As proposed, the new rules could go into effect starting in September of 2016. Although the rules are intended to apply to new vehicles, NHTSA has requested comments on whether the requirements should be extended to companies that convert vehicles. Persons interested in commenting on the rules must do so by April 21st. If you want to provide input to NGVAmerica’s comments, contact us no later than April 1 with your comments.

To view the proposed rules, click here.