Erika Z. Jones, Esq.
Mayer, Brown & Platt
2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006-1882
Dear Ms. Jones:
This responds to your letter asking about our regulation implementing the American Automobile Labeling Act (AALA), 49 CFR Part 583, as it pertains to an electric vehicle that has no gasoline or diesel-fueled engine. You ask several questions about the manner in which country of origin of engine parts and country of origin of transmission parts should be determined for electric vehicles.
In asking these questions, you note that many of the components used in electric vehicles are not the same as those used in a gasoline-powered vehicle. By way of example, you note that an electric vehicle does not have an "engine" in the traditional sense; rather it has an electric motor. Your questions are addressed below.
1. What is the "engine" in an electric car for AALA purposes? Is any component other than the electric motor to be included in the AALA determination of country of origin for engines with respect to an electric car?
The term "engine" is not defined by either the AALA (now codified as 49 U.S.C. 32304) or Part 583. We note that Ford, in a submission dated November 19, 1997, took the following approach in applying the provisions of Part 583 to electric vehicles:
In applying these provisions to electric vehicles, we sought to employ a common-sense approach. Since the motor is the component of an electric vehicle most analogous to the engine in a gasoline-powered vehicle, we are indicating the country of origin of the motor on labels affixed to electric vehicles. In order to make it clear to consumers that the label is referring to the motor rather than to an engine, the word "motor" will be inserted in parentheses after the country of origin. For example, the relevant portion of the label for a motor originating in Germany would look roughly as follows:
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
ENGINE: Germany (motor)
We concur with the basic approach adopted by Ford. However, we note that 583.5 specifies the use of the term "engine parts" on the label, rather than just "engine." Also, for purposes of clarity, we would suggest placing the word "motor" in parentheses directly after "engine," the term it is explaining, rather than after the country of origin. Thus, in the example provided by Ford, we would suggest the following:
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
ENGINE (MOTOR) PARTS: Germany
No component other than the motor would be included in the AALA determination of country of origin for engines with respect to an electric car.
2. How should a manufacturer determine whether electric car "engines" are "of the same displacement" for purposes of aggregating data for "engines of the same displacement produced at the same plant" as required by 583.8(a)?
Section 583.8(a) specifies in relevant part:
Each supplier of an engine or transmission shall determine the country of origin once a year for each engine and transmission. The origin of engines shall be calculated for engines of the same displacement produced at the same plant. . . .
The term "engines of the same displacement produced at the same plant" is taken directly from the AALA. The purpose of the provision is to provide a specification to ensure that all engines of the same type, produced at the same plant, are grouped together in making country of origin determinations for engines. However, just as the term "engine," in its traditional sense, does not apply to electric vehicles, the term "displacement" does not apply to motors. We believe that a common-sense way of ensuring that all motors of the same type, produced at the same plant, are grouped together is to make calculations for motors with the same power rating and same physical dimensions that are produced at the same plant.
3. What parts are considered components of the "transmission" in an electric car for AALA purposes?
The term "transmission" is not defined by the AALA or Part 583, and we realize that not all electric vehicles have transmissions. As to the meaning of the term, we note that the Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary defines "transmission," in definition 4, as follows:
Mach. a. transference of force between machines or mechanisms, often with changes of torque and speed. b. a compact, enclosed unit of gears or the like for this purpose, as in an automobile.
We would consider definition 4b to reasonably apply to transmissions for electric vehicles. We note that, assuming an electric vehicle has a transmission, it would generally include the components between the motor and the differential.
4. How should a manufacturer determine whether electric car "transmissions" are "of the same type" for purposes of aggregating data for "transmissions of the same type" as required by 583.8(a)?
The AALA specifies that "transmissions of the same type produced at the same plant" are grouped together for determining country of origin of transmissions. Section 583.8(a) defines the term "transmission of the same type" as follows:
. . . Transmissions are of the same type if they have the same attributes including: Drive line application, number of forward gears, controls, and layout. . . .
So far as we know, this definition can be applied directly to the transmissions of electric vehicles.
5. Is the electric battery part of the engine, transmission or neither for AALA purposes?
It is our opinion that the electric battery is neither part of the engine nor the transmission for AALA purposes.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call Edward Glancy of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel