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The LowCVP has commissioned a study to inform future discussions about how the colour-coded fuel economy label may develop after 2013 to inform future changes to the EU Labelling Directive such as when the provision of information about electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles becomes a statutory European requirement. The LowCVP brokered the introduction of the original new car fuel economy label (and, latterly, the used car fuel economy label) following detailed discussions with industry partners.
The study involved the testing of a series of alternative designs of the label to explore private car buyers’ views and understanding of the information presented on the labels.
The key objectives of the study were to research possible improvements in the presentation of CO2, fuel economy and fuel cost information, inclusion of vehicle comparative information and incorporate new behavioural science research to emphasise the most fuel efficient models.
It was also intended to future-proof the label with information pertaining to electric and plug-in vehicles and incorporate a Quick Response (QR) code (A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode that can be read using smartphones and dedicated QR reading devices, which links directly to text, emails, websites, phone numbers and more.)
The key results and recommendations of the study were:
• Fuel economy expressed as ‘miles-per-gallon’ is of more importance to car buyers than CO2 emissions and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). The study recommend making the combined MPG more prominent.
• In addition to annual fuel costs, the fuel economy label should include an estimate of fuel costs expressed in terms of ‘pence per mile’ and ‘per month’. Presenting fuel costs over three years is not recommended.
• The presentation of CO2 emissions, VED band and VED cost on the existing label can be improved by providing more visual cues to link them.
• The label should include a comparison of total first-year fuel and VED tax costs with the best and worst vehicle in the same model range.
• The survey highlighted some consumer scepticism about the current label’s fuel cost estimate. One possible solution tested was to ‘hard-link’ the fuel economy label to a website on which more up-to-date and personalised estimates can be calculated, this could be achieved through the use of a QR Code.
• The vast majority of focus group participants were impressed by the ability of the QR Code reader to link the printed label to a fuel cost calculator and a vehicle comparative tool.
• Car buyers have a very poor understanding of the watt-hours (Wh) and kilowatt-hours (kWh) metrics which suggests that there are challenges ahead in terms of labelling electric vehicles. Car buyers requested that EV labels include additional information such as driving range, recharge time, and the location of public charging points
• The demonstration label created for plug-in hybrid vehicles was the most challenging in terms of design and for car buyers to understand.
The design aspects of the study were undertaken by John Alderson Ltd and the testing programme was led by EcoLane Consultancy in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Aberdeen University.
The report is currently available to LowCVP members (in the Members' Area - click here to log in) and will be released more widely in the autumn.
To find out about joining the LowCVP in order to get early access to reports such as this one, to contribute to the development of labelling initiatives and to find out about the other benefits of LowCVP membership, click here.