WASHINGTON - The Obama administration's new fuel-efficiency rules for automobiles released April 1 undercut the auto industry's marketing claim that electric cars are "zero emission" vehicles, and instead score against them carbon dioxide emitted by electric-power plants, according to an administration official, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The new rules will still provide "generous credits" for electric or plug-in hybrids that automakers will be able to use when calculating the average fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emissions of their fleets, a transportation official told WSJ. But electric vehicles will no longer be counted as zero emissions, as a draft of the rules released in September had indicated they would.

The change is to "recognize that there are indeed emissions associated with producing electricity," said a senior Transportation Department official who helped draft the rules, according to WSJ. "The electricity that's coming out is coming from sources that are fired by a whole bunch of things," including nuclear and coal-fired power plants, the official said.


The Obama administration's final rules are expected to call for car makers to target a fleet-wide average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Nissan Motor Co.'s electric Leaf car is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in December. General Motors Co. plans to begin selling its Chevrolet Volt electric sedan later this year.

Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing all major auto makers except Honda Motor Co., said the industry needs as large a government credit as possible for plug-ins to defray the costs of the technology.

"Part of the purpose of a credit is to encourage the introduction of these vehicles and to recognize the very large investments that are required by an industry that's still suffering greatly," Bergquist said, according to WSJ.