The Eco-Friendly Car Americans Can't Buy

It isn't that they aren't buying it; it's that they don't have the opportunity to.

For eco-conscious drivers not ready to take a Tesla-style electric leap, the big news this August is Volkswagen's Golf TDI BlueMotion. At 106 mpg, it's an even more eco-friendly version of the Golf TDI—but it isn't sold in America. VW sees more potential in Europe, where gas prices are double those in America, because consumers are more willing to pay up front for efficiency. In the U.S., where eco-car manufacturing is still in its infancy, its draw is limited. So should VW make the effort to bring it over? Other carmakers' eco-sales aren't always encouraging.

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ECO-FEATURES EXPLAINED

AIR DAM

Reduced resistance makes the car more aerodynamic.

FRONT GRILLE

Redesigned vents help the car cut through the air.

ENGINE

Turbochargers and direct injection fuel systems add power so engines can get smaller.

TRANSMISSION

A CVT, or "continuously variable transmission," constantly adjusts for optimal fuel efficiency.

UNDERBODY

Panels under the car reduce drag, and therefore gas use.

WHEELS

Ultralight aluminum makes the car a little lighter, which means less work for the engine.

TIRES

Materials, shape, and grooves are designed to roll with less effort from the car.

REAR SPOILER

Creates down force over the car, to help with traction.

Can They Sell Better?

Maybe not—but car manufacturers may keep making them anyway. President Obama has mandated that their fleets meet a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard of 54.5 mpg by 2025, and that’s calculated by what the carmakers offer, not by what they sell.

*Sales figures as of December 2012 with the exception of Nissan, which began offering eco-trims for the Sentra in January 2013. Sales figures for Nissan as of April 2013.

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