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ZAP’s Americanized Smart Car EPA-Rated at 40 MPG

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy testing of the Smart Car Americanized for ZAP yielded results of combined fuel economy of 40 mpg. That’s well below the ZAP’s initial claim of 60 mpg, but above the EPA’s original estimate of 37 mpg. (Earlier post.)

The 40 mpg combined results are equivalent to the VW diesel New Beetle, but makes the Smart the most fuel-efficient all-gasoline (non-hybrid) car in the US. The Smart car uses a 698cc, three-cylinder gasoline engine.

The European gasoline-powered version direct from smart (which is owned by DaimlerChrysler) is rated at 4.7 liters/100 km (50 mpg US) on the combined European Drive Cycle. (The diesel smart delivers 3.8l/100km, or about 62 mpg US.) ZAP’s model is imported and adapted to US requirements by G&K Automotive Conversions.

ZAP has delivered Smart Cars to dealers in Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Washington, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania and with the recent release of 2005 model cars, other states will follow.

ZAP also expects to introduce an all-electric city car called the XEBRA this year (earlier post) and has contracted to distribute a Brazilian trybrid car under development that uses ethanol, gas and electricity.

Through its subsidiary, licensed automotive distributor Voltage Vehicles, ZAP is establishing a dealer network that specializes in smaller, more fuel-efficient gas systems, hydrogen, electric, fuel cell, alcohol, hybrid, trybrid and other power systems.


Rafael Seidl

These little two-seater runabouts are not exactly cheap but they are cute, fuel-efficient and very well engineered - a combination of Swiss ingenuity (by Swatch) and German execution (by Mercedes). People have had head-on crashes into trees at 100kph (60mph) and walked away unscathed!

Despite being two-seaters, they are very popular in crowded city centers in Europe and Asia because it's much easier to find parking spots for them. I suspect they might become especially popular second cars in Boston or San Francisco for this reason. Especially if Zap starts importing the convertible!


Given the fact that the EPA ratings are much higher than real world, I wonder how bogus the European ratings are. What's the difference? 40 mpg seems pretty disappointing to me. But then, I drive a Prius.


Even Corolla with 1.8L engine get 40 mpg on highway.

Hampden Wireless

Wow. Zap gets Zapped. The Honda Fit is gonna kill this thing.

Why would anyone pay close to 20k for a car smaller then a Prius with WORSE mpg?

I wish zap success but they have been toying with stockholders for years and not putting out anything really worthwhile.



Don't drive with a lead foot and you should be able to hit EPA numbers or better. My 99 Mitsu mirage 2 door 1.8L 5 speed was EPA rated at 28city/35hwy and I average 37mpg with ~70% highway driving.


The Corolla may get 40mpg highway but that is not the combined rating like the 40mpg listed above for the smart car.

Personally, I will not buy another car that cannot seat 4 people comfortably and achieves better bas mileage than my car (based on EPA numbers vs my real world numbers). That means I'd have the option of a Prius, hybrid civic, TDI VW or hybrid Camry. Given VW's track record for reliability compared to Toyota and Honda...

I couldn't see owning a second vehicle in the city. I live in a big city myself and I have to park my motorcycle and car in the same parking spot... There are not even enough spots for visitors to park at these condos.


Thanks for mentioning the VW Beetle. My biodiesel beetle consistently gets 45-54mpg, has far fewer parts to break the a hyrid, and has better exhaust emissions than a petrol hybrid.


Greetings from Canada, they are everywhere here now. They cost $16,700 base price for the diesel. I get real world 62 mpg (Imperial) city and 83-90 mpg hwy.
Given the Prius costs $32K base price here you can do better at half the price.

Joseph Willemssen

"and has better exhaust emissions than a petrol hybrid."

I doubt that.


40 mpg is pretty shit to be honest. A decent turbo diesel would be a much better option for a small car. Better mpg, better performance, more seasts and won't fall over on corners.


40mpg combined...BEST mileage non hybrid gasoline powered vehicle, in the country... That's just pathetic. Honda was easily besting these numbers back in 1980's. What happened? Why aren't there any vehicles with better mileage? It's not because of a lack of technology or know-how, that's for sure. I just put a set of shocks on my CRX HF, after 206K miles, and I'll probably still be driving it after another 15 years because there aren't any vehicles with significantly better mileage out there... That is without dropping $20K on something hybrid.

Rafael Seidl

James -

all Smarts have turbocharged 3-cylinder inline engines. The model Zap! is importing is the 61hp gasoline variant, capable of 85mph. In Europe, there is also a diesel. Lateral stabilty for either is no worse than for heavier, regular cars.

MPG estimates are generally lower in the US due to additional equipment for emissions, lower fuel octane rating and different driving cycles in the fuel economy test.

Smart recently presented a hybrid concept called the Crosstown featuring a 23kW electric motor paired with the smaller of the gasoline engines. Unfortunately, there are no plans for series production - there is little demand for hybrids in Europe and until now, the vehicle was not available on the US market.


I don't see how this Smart will compete with the new msub sub compacts; or even the Insight and Prius.
You can get an Insight for the same price, and significantly better milage and a better 0-60, and higher top speed (more cargo room in the Insight too if I'm not mistaken).

As for why MPG figures haven't gotten significantly better since the 80s it's largly due to more strict emissions which lower MPG; chassis getting heavier for saftey concerns (only car as light as the CRX now is the Insight... and it's all aluminum) And "feature creep" companies keep adding standard features which add weight.

As for "significantly better" milage than the CRX HF, yes the Insight does get significantly better MPG, but then, the Insight does look suspcisiously like a more aerodynamic CRX :)



Don't forget the main reason for worse mpg. Much higher horsepower. It seems like every time there is a technological improvement, it's applied to horsepower, not mpg. And don't forget. The Civic is now as big as an Accord used to be.

Patrick. When I said real world, I mainly was referring to how most people drive. I've gotten as much as 56 mpg on the highway and that's over steep mountain passes here in Colorado. Pretty good considering the EPA mileage figure for Prius is 50 mpg.


One of the reasons for more horsepower is that cars need it to counteract the affect of added weight.

The Anonymous Poster


Biodiesel or not, there is no way that a current US spec TDI beats Bin 2 Tier 2 emissions (what a Honda Civic Hybrid meets).

BTW, did you change the ignition timing on your engine? If you're running B100 and don't change the timing, your car is pumping out more NOx than a TDI running on dino-diesel.


Ignition timing on a diesel?

Rafael Seidl

Make that injection timing.


Biodiesel or not, there is no way that a current US spec TDI beats Bin 2 Tier 2 emissions (what a Honda Civic Hybrid meets)

Correct, gasoline engines are much cleaner by EPA metrics since EPA moved much earlier and more aggressively with gas than with diesel. It's high time they moved on to diesel. But as useful as the EPA ratings are, it helps to think a little more broadly.

EPA consumption numbers are generated on a test bed with simulated driving patterns. They are precise, repeatable, and as a measure of real-world mileage notably inaccurate, with the level of inaccuracy depending somewhat on drivetrain (gasoline, gasoline-electric, diesel).

For a given car, EPA only looks at direct emissions, and does not include other consequences of using that fuel, such as fugitive emissions at refining, distribution, fill-time, etc. This is as it should be, but we as consumers should use their ratings as one piece of the story -- it's an important one, but not the whole thing.

EPA comes down hard on NOx, as they should, but here's something interesting: diesels contribute less to ozone than gasoline engines in urban centers (where hybrids are more efficient); outside of urban regions (where diesels are more efficient), gasoline engines contribute less to ozone.

There are notable omissions in the EPA ratings. One of them (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) is on the table for regulation. Catalytic converters are quite good (once they've reached operating temperature, anyway), so the big problem here for new cars is fugitive emissions. Neither gasoline nor diesel is good in this respect, but gasoline has much higher vapor pressure.

Another omission is secondary organic aerosol. Not enough is known about precursors, formation pathways, etc for EPA to move on it yet. For new cars, gas or diesel, the big problem will be fugitive emissions. And again, gasoline has much higher vapor pressure than diesel, which in turn has higher vapor pressure than biodiesel.

Finally, the elephant in the room that EPA makes a point of avoiding: CO2. It doesn't show up on EPA's ratings because EPA is not allowed to regulate it (not that they don't want to). Here Randy's biodiesel beetle has it all over Anonymous' HCH.

I don't mean to imply that EPA ratings are not useful, far from it. But they are just one part of the picture. Both gasoline-electric hybrids and biodiesel are good starts, with the tradeoff being air quality vs climate. Makes you wish PNGV hadn't gotten axed ....

Back on topic: I suppose it's a good thing that ZAP is providing another option in the high-mileage sector, and I hope they succeed. But personally I'd go for an Insight, a Prius, or a TDI.

The Anonymous Poster

>>Finally, the elephant in the room that EPA makes a point of avoiding: CO2. It doesn't show up on EPA's ratings because EPA is not allowed to regulate it (not that they don't want to). Here Randy's biodiesel beetle has it all over Anonymous' HCH.

In city driving, my HCH2 gets 55+ mpg. From my experience TDI's get mid to high 30's. CO2 is directly tied to MPG.

>>Ignition timing on a diesel?

My goof. I meant fuel injection timing.


Someone mentioned a CRX earlier...the last time I rode in one of those I had to move the seat all the way back and lay it down far below what I would have set the seat at for driving. Otherwise my head was being crushed by the roof...and I didn't see any places for my kids to sit so an old CRX, regardless of gas mileage (ever compare your emissions data on that old thing??? Go get a test and post up the results), is definitely NOT an option.

This Smart vehicle would not be an option for me either given that I drive my kids to daycare every other day. Sad thing is I work 1 mile from my home but drive 20 miles one way to the daycare...otherwise daycare would be twice as expensive as my mortgage!!! This is why people drive so much...I work with people who brave an hour commute (20-25 miles) every day because it is too expensive to live near your place of work in this country.


Patrick, I'm 6'0" and I don't have any trouble with seating position in my CRX. The japanese market actually had CRX's with back seats instead of storage compartments. You can pick one up on ebay if you really wanted to, though your children would have to be pretty young I would guess.

My CRX passed the vehicle certification emission test several times in CA and also in MD. 18 years after the introduction of the '88 2nd generation CRX HF with multiport fuel injection, I doubt that technological advances in fuel delivery and catalysts could not make the engine perform just as clean as others out there.


CO2 is directly tied to MPG.

Not if you're comparing fossil to renewable.


my 1993 geo metro xfi gets 50 to 56 mpg

d.j. kung-fu

----In city driving, my HCH2 gets 55+ mpg. From my experience TDI's get mid to high 30's. CO2 is directly tied to MPG.----

I am about to buy a VW TDI (TDI means diesel) and from everything I have read, they can get 50-55 mpg, especially the 2003 with manual transmission. With tons of power and a sunroof!!! I love my 2003 prius, but I gotta move on. I need some power and most of all, I need a sunroof. A TDI driver recently told me that he finds himself going 90 or 100 mph in his 1999 TDI jetta without realizing it. I would realize it in my prius, bigtime, if it could even go that fast.

As far as polution, as I understand it diesels excel in low greenhouse gasses but do not do so good on smog.


I've had early CRXes for over a decade, and found them wonderful for long trips (any driving really) and downright cavernous in their interior space to footprint ratio. I sort of know someone whose Integra engine -powered CRX regularly gets 42 mpg, and he's an SCCA-certified pro leadfoot. Vehicles these days all have to be SUV-proof though, which CRXes without roll cages are not, hence the much higher headlights and bumpers of current vehicles. This is unfortunate in how it raises weight, fuel consumption and the center of gravity, which messes up emergency handling prowess (makes cars less stable, more like an SUV). Most folks insist on the incorrect "heavier=safer", which not only is cruel to those driving efficient vehicles (which are also, if done right, a lot more rewarding to drive) but also leads to an upwards spiral in weight leading to everyone driving a milspec Humvee or maybe a tow truck. That's the wrong and irresponsible direction, but also the direction we've been in since about 1986.

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