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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.

The Eco-Friendly Car Americans Can't Buy

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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Reduced resistance makes the car more aerodynamic.


Redesigned vents help the car cut through the air.


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


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


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


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


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


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.

A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.