Before you buy your next car, you'll be able to glance at a sticker in the window and know how much pollution that model spits out, relative to other cars in that model year.
At least, if you live in California, you will.
The California Air Resources Board, which sets policies for the state that have frequently led to national legislation, has required 2009 model year cars to include labels that include information about smog- and global warming-related pollutants.
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency has a national emissions-reporting program, but it's voluntary and typically only manufacturers that make clean cars participate. Several states Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington use California's Low Emission Vehicle program, so buyers there may be familiar with labels like LEV (low emission vehicle) and SULEV (super low emission vehicle).
The new system will be easier to comprehend, with the dirtiest vehicles receiving a score of 1 and the cleanest a score of 10. Vehicles will be rated on both carbon dioxide emissions and smog-forming emissions.
People living outside of California can consult this California site, DriveClean.ca.gov or this federal site, FuelEconomy.gov, both of which include emissions data about new and used vehicles on the market. Also check out the Union of Concerned Scientists' ranking of U.S. automakers.
The 1.5 million cars sold annually in California represents about 10% of all cars sold in the U.S.
The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote the legislation that led to the regulation. According to the nonprofit group, this is how some popular models would score:
"These labels will cut through industry greenwashing by making the automakers accountable," said Spencer Quong, an analyst with Union of Concerned Scientists. "Hopefully, the labels will help prod them to clean up their fleets."
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