The Facts: Alternatives to SUVs
Before you read this page... check out the best site for alternatives, from the pro's at Cartalk.com: eco-options from Cartalk
You have to evaluate which need your SUV is fulfilling. Below are some of the more common needs, and where you can better fulfill them:
Fuel Cells: Fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, making heat and electricity — and no pollution — in the process. They're similar to rechargeable batteries in that they can store electrical energy in a chemical form, to be converted back when needed. Although oxygen is readily available, it takes energy to make pure hydrogen fuel, and that could done with conventional or renewable energy sources.
Hybrid electric-gas: Hybrid cars have an electric motor and a small gasoline engine. An onboard computer analyzes when it's most efficient to use which motor, and the cars use up to 30 percent less fuel and generate fewer pollutants than conventional ones. When braking, a hybrid can actually produce electricity, which is stored in batteries.
Common misperceptions about Hybrids:
More information: How Hybrids Work
Diesel: Not only are diesel engines built differently than gasoline engines, diesel fuel is heavier than gasoline and it has what experts call a higher "energy density." On average, diesel cars get 25 to 35 percent better gas mileage than similar conventional cars and diesel cars emit less carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. But diesel burns dirtier than gasoline, emitting more soot and other pollutants, some of which are thought to cause cancer and to contribute to climate change.
First, join BetterSUV.org - SUV Owners calling for safer, more fuel efficient vehicles
Toyota Motor Corp. rolled out plans Tuesday to build a hybrid version of its popular Camry model at its Kentucky plant, marking the automaker's first venture to produce a hybrid vehicle in North America.
Production is expected to begin in the second half of 2006, and company officials pegged initial output at up to 48,000 vehicles each year.
"What's different about this than other types of vehicles is that hybrids are about what people want to give back and what they want to feel they're doing with their vehicles."
Scouting reports on six eco-friendly vehicles.
In a nation of gas-guzzlers, Toyota made hybrids cool. Now the world's number-two automaker wants to make the internal combustion engine obsolete.
The Vectrix VXe electric scooter combines all the benefits of a traditional gas-powered scooter but without the noise, pollution, expensive maintenance, frequent oil changes, and regular trips to the gas station.
The rise in oil prices over the past year has sparked hopes that consumers may be tempted by potential savings of a few hundred dollars a year on fuel.
According to the International Energy Association, the use of oil, including diesel, for road transport will double in the next 25 years and greenhouses gases will increase commensurably. In the EU, legislation is already in place to mitigate this by increasing the proportion of biodiesel in Europe's transport energy mix. The EU biofuels directive requires a minimum level of biofuels as a proportion of fuels sold in the EU of 2% by 2005, 5.75% by 2010 and 20% by 2020. The main green fuels will be ethanol and biodiesel, and demand for biodiesel is expected to be up to 10.5 billion litres by 2010.
A hybrid luxury SUV seems to quell, all at once, concerns over reliance on Middle East oil, rising gas prices, and air-damaging emissions. It also addresses the cultural clash between affluent drivers who choose to drive large SUVs and environmentalists who sometimes view the choice as a gesture of irresponsible, conspicuous consumption. What’s more, demand for all hybrids has been swelling.
Hybrid electric/gasoline cars may have even greener competition in a few years now that a tiny Mountain View company has figured out how to make a cheaper, more efficient fuel cell membrane.
I look left to watch for oncoming traffic. Seeing a clear lane, I punch the accelerator of Honda's new Accord gasoline-electric hybrid sedan. The front tires respond with an obtrusive squeal, and the car bursts out onto the main road. Yeah, this car -- an environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient hybrid -- really did burn a little rubber.
Most of the world's top automakers were showing off these cars and their potential to some day eliminate emissions — and drastically lessen the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
While there has not been a stampede of consumers out of S.U.V.'s - one of the auto industry's most popular and profitable segments - there are signs that their popularity is weakening. The market share of some popular S.U.V. models has declined even as that for some new station wagons, which have some S.U.V.-like features, has climbed.
Mileage "significantly better" than the 28 mpg that an average compact sedan gets. New pollution controls.
Pricing should run between $12,000 for the cheapest model, and just over $20,000 for a convertible with all the available extras, Heidemann says.
Yeah, it's expected soon, and should be the most exciting hybrid to hit the market yet, at least from a driving dynamics perspective. What makes it so enticing? The new model makes use of the Accord's already enthusiastic 3.0-liter, 240-horsepower V6, combined with Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. That means it'll produce even more power than the current V6, while delivering much better fuel economy.
One car aimed squarely at both hearts and purse strings is the smart, which has been a huge hit in Europe since being introduced in 1998. Engineered by Mercedes with design help from The Swatch Group Ltd., the stylish Swiss watch-making company, smarts look like something from the world of Teletubbies. Two feet shorter than a Mini Cooper, the smart is so tiny that four can fit in an ordinary parking space. Many motorcycles have bigger engines; the smart's radiator is about the size of a school lunchbox. More importantly, a smart gets about 60 miles per gallon on the highway.
The run up in gas prices has created an explosion of interest in the smart in the United States. "The response has been absolutely overwhelming -- e-mail from consumers, request lines set up by advocate groups, fanatic or fan Web sites -- we've really been overwhelmed by it," said Scott Keogh, general manager of Smart USA.
Improving the regular Escape's city fuel economy by 75% seems more impressive, and more relevant to the average American customer, than putting out a new, standalone hybrid commuter car that gets 55 mpg. Ford estimates that the Escape Hybrid will get 35/30 city/highway mpg (the city figure is higher than the highway figure, which is unusual, because the engine cuts out during deceleration and at a stop).
Prices for large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks fell in April while prices for smaller cars rose, when corrected for options and other factors, according to autos Website Edmunds.com. This suggests that car buyers are becoming more concerned with fuel economy in the face of rising gas prices.
Gas-guzzling muscle cars are being overtaken by unassuming little hybrids. And the Toyota Prius is leading the charge. For the first four months of the year, sales of the Prius are up 80 percent from last year, and April sales are more than 150 percent higher than a year ago.
The Silverado is considered a "mild" hybrid by industry standards. GM, the world's largest automaker, has said its advanced hybrids — those that can achieve a fuel-economy improvement of up to 35% — are not scheduled to be available until 2007. That means GM will be roughly three years behind its biggest rival, Ford Motor (F), in offering a full-hybrid vehicle in the United States.
We already have high-mileage hybrids, like the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius. And hybrid versions of the Ford Escape, Lexus RX 330 and GM pickup trucks are around the corner. So if you want to drive guilt-free, you can. No need for messy, expensive sychoanalysis either. Starting now, all you have to do is choose the right car.
Smart estimates that around 30,000 Americans will want to stand out and be distinct in the first year. Set against the 17 million or so cars sold annually in the US, that number may appear small.
But it's far from negligible for a newly-launched niche vehicle. Mr Keogh hopes it will give Smart the leverage to begin marketing its miniature models, including the two-seater city-coupe, which measures just 2.5 metres.
Thanks to increased demand, tightening supply and stricter environmental controls on the types of fuel we can use, gasoline prices have soared in recent years. According to AAA, drivers nationwide now pay an average of $1.80 for a gallon of unleaded. The average compact-car owner now spends roughly $800 a year on gasoline, while SUV owners can easily spend twice that amount.
Ford Motor Co. is increasing the number of hybrid vehicles it will offer in the next few years from two to three, adding another sport-utility vehicle to its hybrid lineup.
Ford will build a Mercury Mariner hybrid SUV for the 2007 model year. The Mariner will join the Ford Escape SUV and a future midsize sedan in the automaker's hybrid program.
The 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid is expected to be rated at between 35-40 mpg on the EPA city cycle -- an improvement of at least 75 percent over the EPA city fuel economy rating of 20 mpg for the conventional V-6-powered Ford Escape, the best-selling small SUV in America. Escape Hybrid's fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine combines with an electric drive system to deliver acceleration performance similar to that of the V-6 Escape.
"Amazingly, the 400h [and Highlander Hybrid] will also deliver combined-fuel-efficiency that will be significantly better than the current-EPA-average for a four-cylinder compact sedan (about 8.6 L/100 km or 27.4 mpg)," Clements said, adding that the SUV's driving range should exceed 966 km (600 miles) on a tank of gasoline."
Toyota is planning to introduce a hybrid version of its Camry model to the U.S. market in 2006, using a gas engine and an electric motor to reduce emissions.
The first advanced hydraulic hybrid sport utility vehicle will be publicly displayed by EPA, along with its partners, at the 2004 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress on March 8-11 in Detroit, Michigan. This vehicle demonstrates that hydraulic hybrid technology has the potential to dramatically and cost-effectively improve the fuel economy of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) while at the same time improving performance. This technology responds to President Bush's energy and climate goals by reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
January 19 - Hybrid hype: Automakers tout hybrids, other green innovations for new model year - Boulder Daily Camera
November 20 - Prius named ‘Car of the Year’ - MSNBC.com
October 23 - Ecological cars fill Tokyo auto show - The Globe and Mail
September 26 - Green cars start their engines, quietly - MSNBC.com
September 17 - The SUV Is Offered an Environmental Makeover - LA Times
Building a Better SUV - Union of Concerned Scientists
July 22 - Axles of evil?: SUVs make drivers' emotions run high - Miami Herald
July 18 - Residents turn to electric cars - San Diego
April 28 - Lighter, stronger, cleaner - Boulder Daily Camera
April 27 - What's Big and Roomy and Green All Over? - LA Times
April 14 - Dude, Where's My Hybrid? - Fortune 500
April 7 - Rewrite of Emissions Rule May Roll Out More Hybrids - LA Times
April 1 - Buyers Seeing Less Utility in Big SUVs - LA Times
March 26 - Chalk one up for hybrids - LA Times
Feb. 24 - Big Babies: SUV Killers Beg For Mercy
Feb. 6 - Gas-Electric Hybrids: The New Wave - MSN
Feb. 3 - On the Road to Smaller, Fuel-Efficient SUVs - LA Times
Jan. 28 - SUVs: Dangerous gas hogs, or safe for the family? (MSNBC - video)
Myths and Realities about SUVs
Jan. 9 - Grudging Nod to Hybrid SUVs - LA Times
ACEEE's GreenerCars.com - GreenBook, The Environmental Guide to Cars and Trucks
Dec. 31 Hybrids to the Rescue
Dec. 23 - Big-Tire Backlash - Time Magazine
Dec. 16 - Hybrid cars save owners at tax time - The Journal News
Nov. 8 - Going for a Sunday Drive: Evangelical Campaign Focuses on Environmental Awareness
July 31 - Gas-Electric Hybrids: The New Wave
Read about the technology of the Honda Insight Hybrid - pretty cool stuff.
June, 2000 - Firoz Rasul's Power Trip - read about our best hope for ending our dependence on foreign oil - hydrogen technology.
April 25 - Save GM - and win a new Honda hybrid!
April 4 - Why hybrid cars are here to stay
Mar. 13 - Drivers Need More Data on Hybrids
Green Cars Cruise the Strip in Vegas
EPA Auto Emissions site
Dec.13, 2001 - Toyota to Sell Zero Emission SUV in California starting Feb. 2000
Hyundai Santa Fe tops testing group's list of safe small SUVs
Why Buy Green?, GreenerCars.com
Advanced Vehicles, Union of Concerned Scientists
Buying a Greener Vehicle, Union of Concerned Scientists
Clean Car Campaign
Hybrid Electric Vehicle Program, US Department of Energy
Fuel Cell Program, US Department of Energy
It is a big misconception that SUVs provide more storage capacity than regular passenger cars. Compare:
ALSO, although SUVs boast greater storage capacity, much of that storage is VERTICLE (i.e., with thier higher roofs). The main problem with using all of that verticle capacity is that it further increases your risk of rollover! And please, don't put gear on the roof-rack of your SUV... again, you're looking for trouble. Wear a seatbelt, and make sure your kids are in seatbelts.
90% of SUV owners never take their cars off-road. Auto industry advertisements make it look like that's all SUV owners do - chew up the woods and countryside. And what better way to do it with an oversized SUV!
In reality, most people who take their cars off-road are on their way to a campsite or really are just thinking about driving through the snow on their way to a ski resort. Either of these realities are completely satisfied by other means of transportation: Volvo Cross Countries, Subaru Outbacks and Foresters, or any of the currently marketed "mini SUVs" or "CUVs", like the Jeep Liberty.