France is supercharging vehicle efficiency—not by doling out big R & D subsidies for cars that never make it to market, but by instituting a system of efficiency feebates.

In a nutshell—the French ministry of ecology has announced a program that would require purchasers of new gas guzzlers (luxury Mercedes, for example) to pay an extra fee for the privilege. And that money is rebated to people who buy super-efficient cars. If it’s done right, the system doesn’t really involve taxpayers, since the rebates balance out the fees. And it gives huge incentives for sales of the most gas-miserly vehicles.

Voila—instant fuel efficiency!

(Hat tip to Green Car Congress.)