Two federal agencies say they know how far the new Nissan Leaf will go on a fully charged battery. They just don’t agree.
A few weeks before the Nissan Leaf is delivered to buyers, the Environmental Protection Agency, which approves the fuel economy stickers that go in the window of every new car, says it will go 73 miles. The Federal Trade Commission says the correct number is 96 to 110. (These range numbers, it’s worth pointing out, are distinct from the fuel economy numbers that Nick Bunkley recently wrote about in The New York Times.)
The Federal Trade Commission is no stranger to stickers; it approves the ones for refrigerators and dishwashers and is working on a new one for television sets, highlighting the difference between plasma and LED. Under the 1985 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, it is supposed to label all alternative-fuel vehicles, including the Car Hire all-electric Leaf.
But the E.P.A. does its own testing, in laboratories built primarily to measure tailpipe pollution. It uses both the pollution test cycle, called the Federal Test Procedure, and other tests that simulate different weather conditions and driving routes. (Using the heater or air-conditioner, for example, will reduce range.)
The Federal Trade Commission does not do its own tests; it relies on a standard set by the S.A.E., a technical group formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers. Automakers report their results to the commission. The commission is not terribly concerned over not being able to check for itself, according to the associate director for enforcement, James A. Kohm. Manufacturers like Nissan, for the Leaf, or General Motors, for the plug-in hybrid Volt, he said, “are big legitimate companies that are generally trying to do these right.” And besides, he added, “they have competitors looking over their shoulders.”
The perils of cheating on energy efficiency were demonstrated by LG, the South Korean conglomerate, which was caught in 2008 misstating the efficiency of some of its refrigerators. These were tested by competitors and by Consumer Reports magazine.
But Mr. Kohm said that the commission had “a long history of ensuring that the commission doesn’t engage in confusing and conflicting advice.”
Policy is set by the five commissioners, who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The commission recently proposed new rules under which it would defer to the Agriculture Department in another area, whether foods could be labeled as sustainable, natural or organic.
In the meantime, Nissan has taken refundable deposits on the first 20,000 Leafs, no matter what the sticker says.