How to Read an EPA Fuel Economy Sticker for an EV

Learn the key differences from gasoline car fuel economy stickers

Many car buyers are concerned about mileage and operating costs when buying a car. Electric vehicle buyers also want to know the range of the battery pack and the cost to go where they want. To help would-be EV owners, every new vehicle comes with EPA Fuel Economy information that shows mileage, fuel economy and pollution ratings.

What Is an EPA EV Fuel Economy Sticker/Label and What Does It Look Like?

The EPA Fuel Economy information is shown on what’s officially known as the Monroney sticker, more commonly known as the ‘window sticker’. The sticker, which includes pricing and equipment information, must be displayed on all new autos sold in the United States. 

Part of that sticker includes the EPA Fuel Economy and Environmental section that help buyers compare new vehicle technology with conventional vehicle costs and energy use. That section can be located anywhere on the larger Monroney sticker.

A sample EV Monroney sticker.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Window Sticker Basics

There are a few things to know about the sticker before you start trying to decipher one. For instance: 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls mileage “Fuel Economy.” 
  • The EPA created separate labels for Gas Vehicle, Electric Vehicle and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. 
  • The first block of the label identifies the type of vehicle. 
  • The label is about the size of a small side window in a car with EPA and automaker graphics.
  • The EPA Fuel Economy label is displayed on most vehicles as part of the Monroney sticker/label which must be displayed on the side window of new vehicles for sale.
  • The MSRP or sticker price is shown on the full label (outside the Fuel Economy and Environment label).

The Fuel Economy and Environmental label must be at least 4.5 inches high and 7 inches wide. If it is not actually located on the Monroney label, it must be displayed close to the Monroney label on a side window.

The Monroney label is named after Oklahoma US Senator Almer Stillwell "Mike" Monroney, who sponsored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958. That act requires the disclosure of equipment and pricing information on all new cars.

The labels are important to check because sometimes automakers might overestimate how far a vehicle will go on charge or the vehicle’s efficiency. The EPA tests the vehicles at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and rates them. That rating is always found on the label on United States dealer lots; it is sometimes accompanied by others from European organizations.

What Are the Key Points to Look For on the EV Sticker/Label?

After the Title Bar, the EPA Fuel Economy label can be divided into three blocks. 

  1. Fuel Economy
  2. Annual Cost / Tailpipe Ratings
  3. Fine Print / QR Code

The sections are in order of importance with the largest font numbers revealing the most important information.

The Title Bar

Is the vehicle pure electric? The title bar will tell you. Look for the blue section and be sure it is labelled Electric Vehicle with a plug icon in front of it.

Car sticker with type of vehicle highlighted.

Some automakers make the same model in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric which may look the same on the lot; this is where you can confirm the type of electric vehicle you’re looking at.

The Fuel Economy Block: Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, Driving Range, Charge Time And Fuel Cost Savings

The Fuel Economy Block shows the most important points EV buyers should be aware of: MPGe and estimated fuel cost savings.

MPGe and Kilowatt Hours: How Does the EV Compare to Gas-Powered Cars?

The first number and largest number is the MPGe miles-per-gallon equivalent. It’s a way to compare fuel efficiency to an average gas-powered vehicle. One dealer put it this way, “It’s the same as MPG but for EVs.” The number, however, is actually based on the equivalent electricity that has the same energy as a gallon of gasoline.

A kilowatt-hour (kW-Hr)is 1,000 watts used for one hour and is how electric companies bill consumers.

The higher that first number, the more efficient the vehicle is. The first MPGe (the largest number) is an overall average of 55% City and 45% highway driving; separate MPGe ratings are shown next for City and Highway driving.

A car sticker showing the estimated combined gasoline equivalent.

The label also shows how many kilowatt-hours(kW-Hr) it takes to drive 100 miles. In a gas car, it may be 3.8 gallons to drive 100 miles; in the image here, it takes 34 kW-hrs to drive 100 miles.

Driving Range: How Far Can This EV Go?

The Driving Range shows approximately how far the EV can travel on a full charge. The longer the range, the farther a driver can go without stopping for a charge.

A car sticker showing the estimated driving range of an EV.

Charge Time: How Long Does It Take to Charge the EV?

The Time to Charge shows approximately how long it takes to fully charge the battery packs with level two charging  at 240V. (That’s the same voltage your clothes dryer uses.) 

A car sticker showing an estimated time for charging an EV at Level 2 charging capacity.

Fuel Cost Savings for Five Years

The large number in US dollars right after You Save shows your potential savings over five years compared to a similar, average gasoline-powered vehicle. The savings are calculated by factoring the vehicles driving 15,000 miles a year at 27 MPG versus paying 13 Cents per kW-Hr.

A car sticker with the estimate fuel savings over a 5-year period.

Remember, the amount of savings is only estimated based on average driving conditions and speeds. Prices can also vary with electric companies during different electric rates during peak periods of the day. The price of gasoline may also be higher or lower at any given time.

The Fuel Cost Savings Block: Annual Costs, Fuel Economy, Greenhouse Gas, And Smog Ratings

Annual Fuel Cost: How Much Does it Cost to Charge the EV For One Year?

The Annual Fuel Cost number shows the operating costs for a vehicle that gets 15,000 miles per year with a projected electricity rate of 13 cents per kW-Hr.

A car sticker with the fuel cost highlighted.

Smog Rating: Is the EV a 10?

Electric vehicles do not have tailpipes or exhaust systems so it might seem odd to see smog and tailpipe ratings on the sticker. However, some types of hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV and FCEVs, for example) do produce some emissions so this section exists to help you compare against both those and gasoline-powered cars.

A car sticker showing the smog rating of an EV.

In a pure electric vehicle, the Fuel Economy & Greenhouse Rating and Smog Rating should both be rated the best 10. The block will show lower numbers for plug-in hybrid and gas vehicles.

The Fine Print

The third block is the fine print explaining details about electric rates, average MPG for gas cars and miles driven per year. This is designed to help you understand where some of the numbers on the sticker come from.

The Fine Print section in an EV car sticker.

There is also a QR code that links you to the FuelEconomy.gov web page for the vehicle for more information.

Comparing and Remembering Details

When you’re shopping for an EV, it can be tough to remember the information of one make and model over another. These tips will help:

  1. Take a photograph of the label of the desired EV with your smartphone. That will help you keep track of exact specifications. It will also be easier to go to the fuel-economy website to compare vehicles later. You can also ask the dealer for a copy of the label.
  2. Use the QR code. Besides taking a photo of the label, using a scanner app on your smartphone to scan the QR code will help. These codes lead to a link that you can text or email to others (or yourself) for later viewing of the details.
  3. Check out Fueleconomy.gov. It is the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information, so you can check fuel economy numbers not just for the new car(s) you were looking at but for used gas, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, too.

Currently, EPA figures are based on an average price of gas for the entire US. There are online tools to personalize the price of gas and figure out the savings with higher fuel prices. The EPA website offers more tools for comparison with other vehicles. It also shows emissions for generating electricity in different zip codes.

Will Everyone Driving the Same EV Have the Same Numbers?

No. Fast driving, cold weather, heavy cargo, cargo racks mounted on top, towing, running electrical accessories and air conditioner on high, driving uphill, driving on unpaved roads, and using all-wheel drive can reduce energy efficiency. Great driving habits, too, can improve upon the numbers you see on the sticker. As the old saying goes, ‘your mileage may vary’ but at least the sticker will give you a good place to get started in understanding what that mileage could be.

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