Consider Alternatives: By Pierre Schexneider M. Ed.
Alternative Fueled Vehicles and Alternative Vehicle Fuels
Driving a car fueled by something other than gasoline or diesel fuel is no longer stuff of science fiction. In addition to conventional gasoline and diesel fuel, reformulated - cleaner - gasoline and alternative fuels now are sold in many parts of country. Alternative fuels such as methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and electricity produce fewer tail pipe pollutants than conventional gasoline and diesel fuel. Using them could improve our air quality.
In 1992, Congress passed Energy Policy Act to promote use of alternative fuels. For example, law requires owners of fleet vehicles to purchase a certain number of alternative fueled vehicles. Congress also directed Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue labeling requirements for alternative fuels and alternative fueled vehicles. Two FTC Rules - Alternative Fuels and Vehicles (AFV) Rule and Fuel Rating Rule - require fuel dispensers and alternative fueled vehicles to be labeled with information to help consumers make knowledgeable decisions when it comes to filling up or buying a vehicle. The AFV Rule applies to new and used alternative fueled vehicles that are sold to consumers or leased to consumers for a minimum of 120 days. This Article explains labels you'll see on alternative fueled vehicles and alternative fuel dispensers, and suggests several important factors to consider as you investigate options.
Alternative Fueled Vehicles:
AFVs are vehicles that operate on alternative fuels, such as methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, electricity, and others designated by U.S. Department of Energy. Some AFVs can run on conventional fuels, such as gasoline, and alternative fuels. They are called dual-fueled vehicles.
The required labels must be placed in plain view on surface of all new and used AFVs. The labels on new AFVs must include vehicle's cruising range as estimated by manufacturer and its environmental impact, as well as general descriptive information. It's important to know how many miles your new AFV will travel on a supply of fuel because, gallon for gallon, some AFVs don't travel as far as gasoline-powered vehicles. The label's description of Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) emission standard for vehicle tells you to what extent vehicle produces emissions. If a vehicle meets an EPA emissions standard, a box on label will be marked and a caret (^) will be placed above particular vehicle's certification standard. The label shows levels of emissions standards in a series of boxes that range from a "Tier l" vehicle - one with more emissions - to a "ZEV" - a zero emissions vehicle. The labels on new and used AFVs also advise consumers to consider following items before buying or leasing an AFV.
Fuel type. Ask what kind of fuel powers vehicle.
Operating costs. Fuel and maintenance costs for AFVs may differ from gasoline or diesel-fueled vehicles.
Performance/convenience. Vehicles powered by different fuels vary in their ability to start when they are cold; their acceleration rates; time it takes to completely refill vehicle's tank; and how they are refueled.
Fuel availability. Find out whether refueling or recharging facilities are available in your area for fuel vehicle uses.
Energy security/renewability. Consider where and how fuel powering vehicle is produced so you can anticipate long-term fuel availability at a reasonable price.
These labels also must include additional sources of information from federal government: The Department of Energy maintains a toll-free National Alternative Fuels Hotline to answer questions about alternative fuels, give information about availability of alternative fuels in a particular area, and suggest more sources of information about alternative fuels and alternative fueled vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's toll-free hotline offers information about safety related automobile issues.