Last April (2009), at the local Earth Day event here, there was a "Smart Car" stand, amongst the usual clutch of electrics and hybrids. As this vehicle is really small and lightweight, I assumed the mpg would be unbeatable, having seen publicized mpg statistics in Europe and the UK of between 60 and 70 miles per gallon. However, the people on the Smart Car display I spoke with quoted me no better than 36mpg for typical city driving... which strikes me as utterly lousy for 'new technology'.... I have a little 18 year old Dodge Colt I use for a runabout and that gets similar gas mileage... around 32 mpg for city driving! (The 1.2 : 1 difference between a US and an "Imperial" gallon doesn't account for these "discrepancies").
It turns out that many high mpg European cars, both hybrids and diesels, are illegal in the US.... (!!!). Different emission standards are often bandied around as a "justification", but it seems 'inconsistent" that, for example, a gas swilling Hummer is OK on US roads, whereas the diesel version of the Mini Cooper, which can get up to 75mpg, is verboten. Anyway, what is the mission behind these "different emission standards", and what is the reasoning cited by lawmakers as to what's permissable and what is not?
20 years ago i had a 1980-ish Honda CRX... It got nearly 50 mpg on the freeway (nearly = high 40's). Even around town it got 35-40 mpg.
So now, 30 years after that car was built, no one even makes one that does as well any more.
Emissions and safety requirements have made cars LESS fuel efficient. They're not allowedtoburn fuel completely, and are so heavy (with airbags, intrusion beams, massive bumpers, ABS systems, etc) that it takes too much energy just to move them.