The Xebra looks good for the near-town commuter. Around here, you're lucky to get as high as 40 mph in rush hour traffic! And since I'm only 5.5 miles from work, all accessible on city streets (top speed limit is 35 mph), this type of vehicle makes good sense. My current two-wheeled ride gets about 36 mpg in city driving (my 1990 Toyota Corolla SW gets the same, but I have to pay to park it), but the vehicles don't really warm up properly in the short distance I have to go - it's hard on the engines. The Xebra is the first low-emmission vehicle I've seen that would make sense cost-wise for me.
One thing caught my eye in their website - the Xebra seats 4, up to 500 pounds. Basic math says that's 4 people at 125 lb each. I'm 5' 10", and I haven't weighed that little since I was 14! The normal weight for someone my size and bone structure is more like 150 to 160. So it's not necessarily 4 adults!
As for Americans not wanting alternative vehicles, that's not true any more - we've come a long way since the 80's; things have changed. Look at the waiting list for the Prius! The reality is the manufacturers would have to spend big bucks to change their assembly lines and manufacturing processes. And they'd have to shift their advertising focus from "big manly trucks" and "luxury whiz-bang bigger than the Jones' " cars to "do yourself a favor, and your community (say asthma, everyone), and the earth" ads.
Isn't it sad that all the innovation in autos is coming from foreign countries, and the Big Three are in danger of going bankrupt? Detroit takes the attitude of "buy what we build", while Toyota and Honda (to name a few) seem to be thinking "let's build what they'll buy". It's a different philosophy, and so far it seems to be working better tha Detroit's.
And safety features like airbags and anti-lock brakes are less important in most European countries, because they take driving more seriously than we do here in the States. It takes more training, and more time, to get a license. Oddly enough, they have lower accident rates. But the point about children's safety is taken - there's are reason they call them "accidents".
Here there be dragons...,