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“We’re Big on Small”; ZAP Books $100M+ in Smart Car Orders


ZAP (earlier post) has crossed the $100 million threshold for purchase orders for its Smart Car vehicles.

ZAP debuted its Smart Car at the annual convention of the National Automobile Dealers Association Dealers (NADA) in New Orleans, where it booked approximately $21 million in purchase orders.

ZAP “Americanizes” the European-made Smart Car at its facility in California to meet US safety and emissions standards.

The two-seater city car uses a 60 hp, 698-cc 3-cylinder, rear-mounted turbo engine that delivers, according to Steven Schneider, ZAP’s CEO, 50–60 mpg.

As the LA Times reported last week, however, the EPA disagrees.

... the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the Santa Rosa, Calif., auto importer to scale back its fuel-efficiency claims.

The federal agency’s fuel economy estimate for the Smart car isn’t 60 miles per gallon—it’s 37, sort of like a Honda Civic.

Steven Schneider, Zap’s chief executive, said that...he intended to ask the EPA for a retest.

At 37 mpg, the Smart would have the ninth-best rating in the EPA’s rankings for 2005.


Mikhail Capone

A 37 would be weird for such a lightweight car with such a small engine, no? (especially since it runs on diesel, IIRC).

Could it be a case of 'US automakers tune their cars so they perform well in the EPA fuel economy tests' and the smart, made in europe, wasn't tune that way?


This is a gasoline engine, not diesel.

I took a look at mileage figures from the UK for an un-Americanized smart for two:

  • City: 6.0 l/100km or 39.2 mpg US

  • Highway: 4.1 l/100km or 57.4 mpg US

  • Combined: 4.81 l/100km or 48.9 mpg US

Those results are from the European Driving Cycle, which is different than the US Federal Test Procedure...which is also different than the Japanese Mode Cycles, etc.

The differences in test cycles come down to duration of test, length of test, the amount of cycling (low speed to high speed and back down), warm up periods and so on. So mileage, as with all these tests, mileage can vary.

For the US, the doors must be reinforced with aluminum cross beams to met crash test standards. To meet the EPA emission standards, the engine requires some modification of the intake and reprogramming of the engine management computer. According to the LA Times, it takes two to three weeks to convert the Smart into a U.S. street-legal automobile.

So take that the mileage figures from the UK show somewhat less than Schneider’s 50–60 mpg to begin with and add to that a fuel consumption hit for the slightly additional weight and engine mods, and I could see fuel consumption increasing slightly. A drop down to 37 mpg does seem pretty sharp, though.


It wouldn't surprise me if Zap had just been quoting highway mileage, that's a typical (and IMO acceptable) marketing spin.

I think the key question is what the 37 mpg represents. The LA Times implies that it is a highway number when it compares it with the ECHO, but (skimming) I didn't see them say it explicitly.

Of course, it might be pretty easy to mess up mileage by "modification of the intake and reprogramming of the engine management computer."

It would be sad if our emission laws "broke" the high mpg.

Mike T

My overall average fuel consumption over 5000+ km in my Canadian market fortwo cdi cabriolet (Diesel) has me averaging exactly 56 US MPG in mixed local urban and suburban highway driving.

So yeah, the ZAP figures were overblown highway estimates for a petrol-engined car to begin with, marketing spin ahead of reality once again.

Were ZAP to ever sell a car (when??) and if it was a cdi Diesel, 60 MPG US is a highly realistic average fuel economy figure. But they'll reportedly be selling gas engines only, and about 40 MPG US overall sounds approximately correct.
-Mike T


somebody explain to me again why I'd switch out my commuter for this? I drive a miata now (30mpg combined) and if I wanted more efficiency, I could get a mini, at 36mpg.

With this much of a drop in size, you only get 37mpg? If I was making a the decision again, I'd go civic hybrid hands down at 48mpg. Heck, I can get an ACCORD hybrid that gets 47mpg. Parts availability anyone? Resale value?

Big Moron

... the sad thing... it is going to have a large price tag, not a mini one as it was propose when they started with the desing of the thing... I don't like the idea of paying over $15k for a car... not with my buyet... Hope it sell anyhow...


I think I'd much rather get a Scion XA or XB:
XA - $12,530 combined fuel economy of 34 mpg.
XB - $13,730 combined fuel economy of 32 mpg.

Defiantly more bang for your buck when you consider standard features like a/c, tilt, cruise, power locks, power windows, and a cd player… and the room in the XB is quite impressive.

Plus I prefer Toyota to Chrysler.


I have had my smart for a few weeks now and I got 39mpg before the first fill up and 48mpg before the second. Once I learn to drive it efficiently and the engine is broken in I expect to get the advertised 56mpg. Here in Canada they run on diesel so their US cousins may get different results on unleaded fuel.



1) Scion is a division of Toyota, the same company that's been crushing their electric line of cars, denying their leasers from purchasing them at the end of their lease. I've spoken with Toyota on the phone on more than one occasion and they're not providing electric or hydrogen-based cars or anything else remotely different from the status quo.

2) All mileage ratings are bloated, it is unlikely that you'll ever get in mileage what's marked on the sticker and posted all over the Internet. The best figures are those from users who have measured their own performance.

3) The Hummer gets 6mpg. Try finding this out from their website.

4) Honda is in fact committed to gas mileage and have done a wonderful job.

The little Smart car from Europe is fantastic. Our own government bureaucracy is actively trying to prevent consumers here from having this car, though.

Finally, I think we as consumers must "vote" in this whole pseudo-political auto competition. If you want more competition then it's important to stop buying Ford/GM/Nissan/Toyota for the next ten years and to reward other companies by buying their vehicles. This is the only way to enact change in this tightly-controlled market.

Stephen Fraser

My wife and I have had a Scion since they were first available in Maine in early 2004. We have been averaging around 34mpg on mixed driving. Car has been flawless with the exception of a few rattles, probably caused from the gravel road we travel. We have almost 35k with no maintenance except sythetic oil and gas.

Jack HIlton

How about we all just buy a '91 Honda CRX for $2000 like I did, and even with 220,000 miles on it, it gets a combined 44MPG (verified on my last tank).


How about we all just buy an '85 Mazda RX-7 for $2000 like I did, and even with 160,000 miles on it, it gets 13 MPG (verified on EVERY tank).



i want to buy the car
i am from pakistan
plz sen dme details

thanking you best regards


Your RX-7 only gets 13MPG? I have an 86 GXL ($4K) and an 85 GSL-SE ($350) "beater", and both regularly get 22 to 24MPG, after all these years. The 85 is lowered, has fat slicks on it, and I regularly do 80 to 100MPH with it -- the previous owner used it for a race car. Anyway, you might want to do some serious repair work on your RX-7. You're wasting a lot of power if you're only getting 13MPG. I'm pondering dropping the rotary out of the GSL-SE and replacing it with a 200HP AC induction motor. Not sure yet.


I drive 75 miles per day in rural areas on twisty roads in the UK, at an average speed of 60mph, and in commuter rush-hour stop-start traffic. Lots of hard accelerating, and traffic jams. My car stil averages 60 mpg ! It is capable of 107 mph, it has a full length glass roof, air conditioning, CD player, power roof, windows steering and mirrors. It has low-profile tyres, alloy wheels, seats 4 adults comfortably, along with space for luggage. It has anti-lock brakes, traction control, and a full electronic stability control, allowing you to drive it like a go-kart. It's also capable of almost 78 mpg on the highway!!! The car is a 3 cylinder turbo-diesel, and hit 60mph in under 10's an Audi A2 1.4 TDi SE.....go Google it....


Regarding Sam's posting about his Audi A2: keep in mind that UK gallons are bigger than US gallons. A UK gallon is 4.545 liters, whereas a US gallon is 3.785 liters. So 60 miles per UK gallon is a bit less than 50 miles per US gallon. Still a terrific average, none the less.


For what it's worth, right out of the showroom my non-hybrid 2006 Civic LX w/ manual transmission (rated 30/38mpg) has consistently delivered 33-34mpg in a mixed 10mi. one way commute and 41.8mpg on several 200-600mi. trips at ~ 65-70mph, and this is a 2700lb car with air conditioning. A properly designed Smart Car should be a lot better, the problem must be with the retuning.

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