Convincing the Public to Buy the More Fuel-Efficient Cars. An Urgent National Need

CED-77-107: Published: Aug 10, 1977. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1977.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by legislation to determine the gas mileage of new cars and to publish the results, in conjunction with the Federal Energy Administration (FEA), in a simple, understandable guide containing comparative data on gas mileages of automobiles. In attempting to determine how the public can be convinced to accept automobiles which will achieve fuel economy, the following were studied: (1) the potential for reducing automobile fuel consumption; (2) whether there a need for a more effective public information program; (3) whether there need for more timely distribution of gas mileage guides; and (4) whether mileage estimates are reliable and credible.

Since fuel efficiency will affect petroleum consumption for the next 10 years, it is important that the federal gas mileage guide become as effective as possible. Although the mileage guide contains information comparing car types by different manufacturers, including engine size, fuel systems, miles per gallon estimates, and fuel costs, the new car buyer does not always have this information available, is often not aware of the guide, or does not understand the guide. Those aware of the guide experienced greater increases in gas mileage than those who were not aware of it. FEA promotion of gas mileage information was not as effective as it should have been, with reliance mainly on public service television and news releases. The mileage guide for 1977 model cars was not available until about 2 months after cars were available because of the timing of the EPA mileage testing. There are indications that federal gas mileage estimates are higher than what most consumers experience.

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