Special Alternative Fuel Vehicle Badges, Labels Are Coming

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at requiring light-duty auto manufacturers to add badges, labels and owner-manual information specific to alternative fuels.

The NHTSA notes that the proposed rule – which has its genesis with Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) mandates for consumer info related to fuel economy and alternative fuels – would apply to both passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks rated not more than 8,500 lbs. GVW.

The idea is to increase consumer awareness of alternative fuels. In turn, the proposed rule would implement new mandates for OEMs, requiring manufacturers to:

  • identify vehicles that are capable of running on an alternative fuel, such as compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane autogas, through a ‘permanent and prominent display affixed to the exterior of the vehicle’;
  • add text to alt-fuel vehicles' manuals that describes the capabilities and benefits of using alternative fuels; and
  • identify vehicles that run on (or are capable of running on) an alternative fuel via labels in the vehicles' fuel-fill compartments.

The NHTSA seems aware that issues such as vehicle badges are complicated and often cross into vehicle marketing and other corporate matters. (Think of the green leaf on Ford electric vehicles or GM's ‘Flex Fuel’ badge.) And although the blue ‘CNG’ diamond is growing in prominence thanks largely to the National Fire Protection Association, there is no equivalent symbol or other visual representation for propane, hydrogen or other alt-fuel labeling.

In turn, the agency is soliciting OEMs' feedback, in particular, as it seeks some kind of loose standardization – if not in the specific look of badges or labels, then in the language manufacturers must use to designate or describe a vehicles' alt-fuel capabilities.

There are many moving parts to the notice of proposed rulemaking, which can be accessed in full here. The NHTSA will be accepting comments until April 21 – click here to submit comments. (Reference docket ID number ‘NHTSA-2010-0134’ when doing so.)

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