• Jul 2nd 2010 at 10:34AM
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What's the easiest way to get a kid to eat broccoli? Just tell them they can't have any. It's one of the tried and true tricks of parenting, because wanting what we can't have is one of those primal human instincts. But desiring something that's been forbidden to us is made all that much worse when it's something good, like cake and ice cream. In this case, feel free to decide for yourself whether the following list of cars are green veggies or dessert, but know that you can't buy any of them. These are real cars, ones that get amazing fuel economy, but for a variety of reasons none are available for purchase in the United States – at least not yet. Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion

VW's Polo was named World Car of The Year for 2010 and its BlueMotion diesel models were named this year's World Green Car. The accolades are unsurprising, given that the Polo BlueMotion is capable of over 73 miles per gallon and can go 846 miles on a single tank of diesel fuel.

This high-mileage version of the five-passenger subcompact is powered by a turbocharged, direct-injection, 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine making just 74 horsepower. To conserve fuel, the engine shuts off when the vehicle comes to a stop, like in a hybrid. Other fuel-saving features include low rolling resistance tires and a rear spoiler to improve aerodynamics. The Polo BlueMotion also has a limited type of regenerative braking system that uses the alternator to eke out further economies.

The Polo is available as a three-door or five-door hatchback in Europe, where it's a popular seller, and a new sedan version was recently introduced in Russia. So far VW has been coy about its plans to sell any model of Polo here in the U.S. We think that if the German brain trust is to be convinced that we'd like a nattily attired subcompact stateside, pressure may come in the form of the recently-reintroduced-to-America Ford Fiesta, one of the Polo's chief overseas rivals.

The chances of VW offering the BlueMotion diesel seem slim, however, as it's a costly model. In the U.K., for example, it sells for over eight percent more than the regular diesel Polo, and only the Polo GTI sits atop it in the model range. Americans are not usually too keen on buying expensive small cars, so if we get a Polo, it's much more likely that it will be one of the gasoline-engine versions, which would be a shame.

Mini E

BMW just wrapped up a yearlong trial that saw 450 of these electric Mini Coopers zipping around New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles. While many were leased to private individuals, and by all accounts the Mini E is ready for prime time, BMW does not plan to make it available anytime soon. It's a shame, really, as the 35 kWh lithium-ion battery pack gave the Mini E a reported range of 70-100 miles per charge, according to results of a survey of drivers conducted by the University of California Davis.

"What they shared with us is that, for the most part, the MINI E suits their daily driving needs and that they really enjoy driving it. This makes us optimistic that electric vehicles have a role in the future of mobility in America by being a part of the overall vehicle mix," said a statement by Rich Steinberg, Manager – EV Operations and Strategy for BMW of North America.

The Mini E uses the standard production vehicle as its basis, but its internal combustion engine is replaced by a 201-hp electric motor. BMW installed 220-volt charging systems in the garages of its trial participants, which allowed for a full charge in less than three hours. The downside to the Mini E is that the rear seat had to be jettisoned to make way for the battery pack.

BMW has said it will offer some Mini E drivers lease extensions, but the company's electric vehicle plans do not seem to include Mini, at least not in the near future. BMW will hold another, larger EV trial in 2011, but this new model will wear a BMW badge. The ActiveE is based on the 1-Series, and represents the next step in BMW's EV strategy, which is directed at producing a city vehicle. Set to launch in 2013, we bet it won't be nearly as charming as the Mini E.

Audi A1 e-tron

With the A1 going on sale this summer in Europe, it will no doubt attract plenty of attention from those fans of Minis and Fiestas who wish there were more subcompacts in the U.S. market. Based on VW's Polo, the A1 is a lot like the Audi A3 writ even smaller, which means it's a premium small car, the likes of which Americans have shown little appetite for. So Audi has no plans to bring it to the U.S. anytime soon, and while that's unfortunate, even more galling is that Audi seems just as unlikely to ever produce the A1 e-tron concept it showed this year's Geneva Motor Show.

Like the forthcoming Chevy Volt, the A1 e-tron is an electric vehicle that also carries a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine aboard, to recharge the batteries once their range is exhausted. The A1 e-tron is novel among this growing field of plug-in, series-hybrid vehicles in that it employs a Wankel engine as its "range extender." The Wankel is a rotary engine design popularized in the 1980's by Mazda in its RX-7 sports car. While the current Mazda RX-8 also uses a rotary engine, the technology has never really caught on in the mass market, despite packaging advantages including the engine assembly's low weight and compact size.

Those qualities would seem to make the Wankel a good fit for a subcompact hybrid like the A1 e-tron. In the concept, the 61-hp electric drive motor was fitted under the hood in place of the gasoline engine, while the Wankel engine was mounted in the rear, behind the under-seat battery pack. Audi says the battery pack's 12 kWh capacity would be good for a 30-mile range before the gas engine kicks in, extending the range another 100 miles.

Fiat Panda Natural Power

Earlier this year, when the German Automobilclub (ADAC) set out to determine the most economical car to own, it emerged with might seem an unlikely victor: The Fiat Panda Natural Power, a bi-fuel car that runs on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG). The test was about as simple as it gets: How far can you drive on 30 Euros of fuel (about $37)? The club tested 241 cars, including both high-mileage stalwarts like the Toyota Prius, and gas-guzzling performance machines like the Chevy Corvette. The Panda Natural Power managed 450 miles on its allotment of CNG, handily beating the Prius' 290 miles and going nearly four times as far as the Corvette, which managed just 112 miles.

If you're scratching your head trying to picture the Panda, understand that this is one of those European vehicles the likes of which we just don't see in the U.S. market, sort of a subcompact crossover like the Suzuki SX4. But the Panda is highly successful overseas, winning European Car Of The Year in 2004. Because of its high roof and considerable cargo capacity for its size, the Panda is often employed as a commercial vehicle, including use by police and postal services. Fiat sells a four-wheel-drive version of the Panda, and it's that chassis that's used for the Natural Power model, with the natural gas tanks taking up residence in the rear, where the extra drivetrain pieces would normally reside.

As to the Fiat Panda Natural Power's prospects for finding a path to the U.S., don't hold your breath. Fiat is highly unlikely to market this car here, regardless of plans to sell its European cars through the Chrysler dealer network. While there was a big push to deploy CNG fleet vehicles by the federal government in the 1990s, there's only one CNG car left for sale in the U.S. market today (the Honda Civic GX), meaning the technology is basically a nonstarter here. This can be partly explained by our gasoline prices, which are low when compared to Europe, where gasoline routinely sells for over $6 a gallon -- one of the factors that helped the Panda Natural Power achieve its victory in the ADAC test.

Porsche 918 Spyder

Let's start by saying that Porsche is claiming 78 miles per gallon from this 718-horsepower beast, a number that seems to defy the laws of physics. But the hybrid 918 Spyder is still a concept car, so perhaps we need to take the engineers in Stuttgart at their word. Given that the car would easily be the most expensive hybrid ever created, perhaps the 918 Spyder will answer the "What if money were no object?" question that many green car fans, no doubt, think about as they drift off to sleep each night.

Porsche showed the 918 Spyder at this year's Geneva show, teasing gearheads with some impressive claims: 3.2-seconds from 0-62 mph and a top speed of 198 mph. Even more tantalizing is that Porsche claims this hybrid racer can lap the Nurburgring racecourse faster than its Carrera GT supercar ever did. Motive power is provided by a mid-mounted V8 and two electric motors, one for each axle. Porsche claims when driven in electric mode the 918 Spyder will have a range of 16 miles, in addition to three distinct hybrid modes, including a race mode that uses the lithium-ion battery pack to provide an immediate power surge that's activated by a "push to pass" button on the steering wheel.

Porsche has said it will only build the 918 Spyder if it can get 1,000 takers, and recent reports say it's close. At the risk of sounding like a public radio station during its summer pledge drive, we would urge those who can afford it to please call now.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Marvin R. Autry
      • 5 Years Ago
      I can see the tombstone now. I may be dead but I was getting 74 miles to the gallon. Not to long ago a toyota ran a red light and I hit it in my 1997 F150 pickup. I had to buy a new bumper for my truck but I did $9300.00
      in damage to the toyota. The driver was a little shook up but if he had a passenger they would of been taken to the morgue. The person I hit was a family man. He now drives a Explorer. I guess to him some things are more important than fuel economy now also.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It is time that the American people who have in the past rose up to invent milestones in technology (think the space race of the late 50's and 60's)do so again and start producing (whether privately or publicly funded) the technology that is and has been available(for years), to advance our transportation systems out of early 20th century mindset that we have been seduced into believing is as far as our current technology can take us of which we have been lied to for the last thirty years. With or without government approval, we need a technological revolution that will show our elected officials that we will no longer cow-tow to them and or the oil industry. If cars are available that get 60 to 75 miles a gallon, then they should be here in the U.S. If technology exists to create economical and efficient mass transit systems such as those that are abundant in Europe (high speed mag-lev trains etc.) then they should be here in the U.S. also. Why has America fallen to second, or third or worst in the development and distribution of affordable technology? Read: Oil Companies/Oil company profits/Government controlled by oil. America it is time to take our country back, and do what is right for our job prospects, advancement of America in the world, the environment, and a new and brighter outlook for our future generations. Let's get'er done!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I recently watched a re broadcast of a "Top Gear" show where the 3 hosts had a road rally of 750 miles using one tank of gas. The VW polo
      blue motion reached the destination first. The rally was on highways, carriage roads & thru the cities, at times 75 MPH. He claimed the car was comfortable, if not plush.
      As for the Ford Fiesta, I spoke with the owner of the largest dealership
      in my state & he told me that a small number were made & even with his volume opf sales, his dealership recieved 2.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The U.S. Government's puppet masters AKA: Oil Companies and Oil
      Shareholders will not allow these FUEL EFFICIENT vehicles entering
      the U.S. soil because they intend to keep raping the U.S. nation by
      keep shoving primitive gas guzzling vehicles down into their sheepish
      corn holes to milk them with the excessively RIGGED fuel commodity.
      • 5 Years Ago
      we cant have any gas sippin diesel here in us because are goverment cant make any money like that, its all about big goverment power???
      • 5 Years Ago
      We sold GEO's at our Chevy store that got 50 miles per gallon in the 90's and people could have cared less.Some of them sat on the the lot for over two years waiting for a new home. When they became used cars they sold a little better,but they are the brunt of lots of jokes even now
      Carl A. Johnson
      • 5 Years Ago
      A typical AOL article. I keep thinking about the comment I saw posted on AOL last year that said: ""Anything that's made in America sucks donkey-@#*%"".
      • 5 Years Ago
      STOP COMPLAINING roll your own thats what im doing i want a diesel 4 door truck with a electric motor and a 4cyl turbo diesel build your own or hire someone to build it dont wait forever and not get what you want be a man
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why? Because as stupid Americans, We would rather get low gas mileage. Pay high gas prices, and allow hundreds of millions of crude oil to be dumped into our coast just for kicks. Until we break free from the oil barons who control our lives and achieve energy independence , We will continue to just be stupid Americans to them. We have always been able to achieve greatness in the face of disasters and threats to our way of life. Yet we are unable to accomplish something so easy and so important to preserving our world and civilization. It is so sad.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Does the author of this article know anything about cars? The Corvette is a performance car, but is far from being a gas guzzler The base 2010 Corvette with the 430 HP LS3 V8 and six speed manual transmission is rated at 26 mpg for highway mileage and 16 mpg in town. While not the gas sipping vehicle featured in this article, it is comaparable to a 2010 Honda Accord equipped with Honda's 240 HP V6 3 Liter engine and automatic transmission. It's rated at 18 mpg in town and 26 mpg on the highway.Oh and the greenhouse
      The Lamborghini Murcielago is rated at 8 mpg in the city and 13 mpg on the highway,that car is a gas guzzler !!
        • 8 Months Ago
        I own a 3 liter, 240 HP Honda Accord and travel many 1500 mi. trips each year.
        It has a navigator system which includes a mpg computer. At 80 mph. it
        gets 28 to 32 mpg, depends on wind direction. In town mpg is 24 to 26.
        A very good car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What about the Hybrid Minivans that have been available in Japan but have not been introduced into the US market? I have been waiting for one for years. The hybrid SUV's are not the same.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There are many, many cars available in the UK and Europe that Im sure americans would rave over. Check out the larger diesel sedans (As you call them) from Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes and BMW. They have power and torque and refinement altogether in a different league to your gas guzzlers and do about twice the "Gas" mileage. Its your own oil industry lobby a government that wants to protect home industry - even if it means the public being misled - and a rather misplaced sense of patriotism from some of your more paraochial citizens thats stopping you getting thees vehicles.
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