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  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:

Transportation | Storage capacity | Off Road


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:

  • You have to plug them in to charge them. NO. The batteries are automatically recharged while you drive.
  • They have less power than regular gas cars. NO. In fact, the use of the electric engine is more efficient during some of the driving periods, like in slower traffic.
  • All hybrids are created equal. NO. In fact, there are at least two ways of building a hybrid engine into a car: "mild" or "full" hybrid. Dodge, for instance, is implementing only "mild" hybrid engines into it's Dodge Ram pickups slated for 2005. If you're going to buy a hybrid, make sure you're getting the most efficient!

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.


Alternatives for basic transportation

First, join BetterSUV.org - SUV Owners calling for safer, more fuel efficient vehicles

  • May 17 - Toyota To Build Hybrid Camry - CBS News
    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.

  • April 25 - U.S. hybrid sales rose 81 percent last year - MSNBC.com
    "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."

  • April 20 - Are you ready for a hybrid? - MSNBC.com
    Scouting reports on six eco-friendly vehicles.

  • April 6 - Rise of the Green Machine - Wired Magazine
    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.

  • March 1 - New link: Vectrix USA - New, Highly efficient Electric Scooters
    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.

  • January 12 - US prepares for hybrid onslaught - BBC News
    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.

  • December 21 - Europe Adopts Biodiesel - EcoWorld
    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.

  • November 12 - Toyota announces U.S. launch of Lexus RX 400h hybrid SUV - American Int'l Auto Dealers
    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.

  • October 12 - Cheaper, more efficient fuel cells on the way - MSNBC.com
    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.

  • October 11 - A Hybrid in Every Garage? - Business Week
    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.

  • October 1 - Gentlemen, start your fuel cells - MSNBC.com
    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.

  • September 30 - Climbing Down from the S.U.V., and Liking the View - New York Times
    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.

  • September 8 - Lexus hybrid SUV orders set record - MSNBC.com
    Mileage "significantly better" than the 28 mpg that an average compact sedan gets. New pollution controls.

  • August 31 - Europe's 'smart' cars coming to U.S. - MSNBC.com
    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.

  • June 16 - 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid Preview - Auto123.com
    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.

  • May 20 - Smaller cars gain ground - MSNBC.com
    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.

  • May 17 - Forbes First Drive: The First American Hybrid - Forbes
    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).

  • May 13 - Gas prices hitting SUV sales? - CNN.com
    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.

  • May 12 - Hybrid-car popularity shifts into overdrive - SanDiego.com
    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.

  • May 3 - GM delivers first full-size hybrid pickup - USA Today
    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.

  • May 3 - Drive without Guilt! - AutoWeek
    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.

  • April 27 - Can the Smart car move America? - BBC News
    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.

  • April 20 - Economy Cars Are Back - SmartMoney.com
    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.

  • April 12 - Ford expands lineup of hybrid SUVs - Chicago Sun-Times
    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.

  • April 5 - Manhattan on a Tank of Gas: Ford Escape Hybrid Takes on Nightmarish Traffic Jams With Clean Efficiency - Yahoo!
    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.

  • March 17 - 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Preview - Auto123.com
    "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."

  • March 12 - Toyota to sell cleaner cars in the U.S. - The Washington Times
    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.

  • March 8 - EPA Displays the First Advanced Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicle - US Newswire
    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
    The major auto manufacturers are ramping up the introduction of hybrids this year. At the North American International Auto Show, several touted those and other green innovations, such as efforts to tweak traditional engines to improve fuel economy and attempts to persuade Americans to give diesels another chance.

    November 20 - Prius named ‘Car of the Year’ - MSNBC.com
    THE NEWEST VERSION of the Toyota Prius, introduced in 1997, beat out 26 new or significantly reengineered models. "The Prius is a capable, comfortable, fun-to-drive car that just happens to get spectacular fuel economy,” Motor Trend editor-in-chief Kevin Smith said. “It also provides a promising look at a future where extreme fuel efficiency, ultra-low emissions and exceptional performance will happily coexist."

    October 23 - Ecological cars fill Tokyo auto show - The Globe and Mail
    The environment as a big theme, at least, has already arrived at this year's auto show, which gathers more than 260 exhibitors in this Tokyo suburb.

    September 26 - Green cars start their engines, quietly - MSNBC.com
    DRIVE-BY NOISE was actually one of the tests, along with fuel efficiency, exhaust emissions, acceleration, braking, slalom driving and fuel efficiency. The contest, an annual event sponsored by tiremaker Michelin, also brought into focus the fact that the industry is literally and figuratively oceans apart: Japanese carmakers are focusing on gas-electric hybrids, U.S. companies are talking up fuel cell vehicles, and Europeans, well, they’re pushing diesels as the way to go.

    September 17 - The SUV Is Offered an Environmental Makeover - LA Times
    The Union of Concerned Scientists said its design for an SUV called Guardian, which is based on a Ford Explorer, incorporated fuel efficiency and safety technologies that already are used in some vehicles.
    A lighter, lower, less-thirsty sport utility vehicle with rollover-sensing air bags, high-strength steel roof supports, electronic stability control and a high-output V-6 engine would cost $735 to $2,960 more than the price of a Ford Explorer, said Jason Mark, Berkeley-based director of the group's Clean Vehicles program.

    Building a Better SUV - Union of Concerned Scientists

    July 22 - Axles of evil?: SUVs make drivers' emotions run high - Miami Herald
    There's no doubt SUVs are gaining in popularity, soaring from 2 percent of new sales in 1985 to 25 percent today (or to 50 percent, if you count light trucks and minivans, which safety analysts lump in the same category as SUVs), according to federal experts. The biggest cause of anger is the car drivers' feeling that they're at the mercy of 6,000-pound tanks on the road.

    July 18 - Residents turn to electric cars - San Diego
    The Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) is intended for short commutes and is a fun alternative for many who are looking for an environmentally friendly mode of transportation. The NEV is a zero-emission vehicle that has been designed to replace an internal combustion engine car for short trips. They resemble a suped-up golf cart, but comply with all federal safety laws and are approved for use on roads with speeds of 35 mph or less.
    “I felt like I was being taken hostage at the gas pump earlier this year when it took $50 to fill up my car,” David Powers said. “I love this car. It seems like you’re on vacation when you’re driving around, and it feels good knowing it is not emitting gas and pollution.”

    April 28 - Lighter, stronger, cleaner - Boulder Daily Camera
    Automotive experts say the green-car movement is not a fleeting trend, though they disagree on when various innovations, such as pollution-free fuel cells, will become affordable. Even though big and powerful SUVs are far more popular than electric or hybrid vehicles, most analysts predict hybrids, including new hybrid SUVs, will make up asignificant share of the future car market.

    April 27 - What's Big and Roomy and Green All Over? - LA Times
    After several years of asking environmentally conscious motorists to sacrifice hip, head and elbow room to drive a car with high mileage and low emissions, automakers finally are moving into the mainstream with larger hybrid gasoline-electric models — including sport utility vehicles.

    April 14 - Dude, Where's My Hybrid? - Fortune 500
    But as the Detroit automakers labor to get their hybrid offerings into production, they may find themselves feeling--once again--that they are playing catch-up with the Japanese. Toyota's Prius was introduced in the U.S. in 2000, and in Japan in 1997. This month a second-generation version of the compact hybrid will be rolled out at the New York auto show. And in two years, Toyota's Lexus nameplate will introduce a high-performance hybrid version of its new RX330 luxury SUV as part of a hybrid sales push that Toyota president Fujio Cho hopes will reach 300,000 vehicles per year worldwide by mid-decade.

    April 7 - Rewrite of Emissions Rule May Roll Out More Hybrids - LA Times
    California motorists are likely to see hundreds of thousands of hybrid cars, powered by gas and electric motors, on the road by the end of this decade under new zero-emission vehicle rules expected to be imposed by the state Air Resources Board later this month.

    April 1 - Buyers Seeing Less Utility in Big SUVs - LA Times
    At Felix Chevrolet and Cadillac in Los Angeles, sales of the brawny Cadillac Escalade have shrunk by about 20% in the last three weeks, according to general manager John Antoun. He said gas prices, now averaging $2.130 for a gallon of regular in California, are the culprit.

    March 26 - Chalk one up for hybrids - LA Times
    Mixed feelings have come with the territory as the pendulum of public opinion finally swings back toward fuel efficiency. Alternative power finally seems to be getting some love from America's SUV-fixated public.

    There are only a few hybrid models on the market, with several more in development. Hybrid cars combine gasoline engines and electric motors to boost mileage and cut emissions. Sales of Honda's year-old Civic Hybrid were up 35% in February from the prior month. Prius sales rose 22.5% nationally between January and February.

    Feb. 24 - Big Babies: SUV Killers Beg For Mercy
    Short of opening a shooting range next door to a daycare center, buying an SUV is perhaps the single most antisocial act an ordinary American can commit. And as resentment against this egocentrism coalesces into anger, SUV owners are becoming defensive.

    Feb. 6 - Gas-Electric Hybrids: The New Wave - MSN
    Vehicles powered by gasoline engines linked to electric motors are the new wave, with latest efforts putting these hybrids into mainstream vehicles.

    Feb. 3 - On the Road to Smaller, Fuel-Efficient SUVs - LA Times
    A Harris Interactive poll released last week captures the mood of consumers. While 82% reject columnist Arianna Huffington's contention that SUV owners indirectly support terrorism by hogging fuel, 70% believe Congress should require SUVs to get better mileage. Smaller SUVs do that.

    Jan. 28 - SUVs: Dangerous gas hogs, or safe for the family? (MSNBC - video)

    Myths and Realities about SUVs
    Myth: SUVs are safer than cars.
    Myth: Only an SUV can provide the room that families with children need.

    Jan. 9 - Grudging Nod to Hybrid SUVs - LA Times
    The nation's auto makers have finally sputtered into first gear. Responding to the growing public outcry over its reckless gas-guzzling ways, the industry used the Detroit auto show this week to unveil a lineup of "coming soon to a showroom near you" hybrid vehicles -- including a number of hybrid sport utility vehicles.

    ACEEE's GreenerCars.com - GreenBook, The Environmental Guide to Cars and Trucks

    Dec. 31 Hybrids to the Rescue
    The world of hybrids became bigger and more interesting in August 2001, when Toyota introduced a so-called mild hybrid version of the Crown luxury sedan. Others, such as GM and DaimlerChrysler AG, are following suit, debuting mild-hybrid versions of pickups such as the GMC Sierra and Dodge Ram in 2004.

    Dec. 23 - Big-Tire Backlash - Time Magazine
    "What is your SUV doing to the world?"

    Dec. 16 - Hybrid cars save owners at tax time - The Journal News
    With the state and federal tax breaks the couple can get for purchasing a car that is more environmentally friendly, they could save thousands of dollars come April 15.

    Nov. 8 - Going for a Sunday Drive: Evangelical Campaign Focuses on Environmental Awareness
    The Rev. Jim Ball has come up with a question he hopes will make millions of church-going Americans think twice before buying another SUV. It's: "What would Jesus drive?"

    July 31 - Gas-Electric Hybrids: The New Wave
    Vehicles powered by gasoline engines linked to electric motors are the new wave, with latest efforts putting these hybrids into mainstream vehicles.

    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
    The original TV ad two years ago for the 70-m.p.g. hybrid Honda Insight shows it pulling up next to an old VW microbus with a dirty exhaust and a "Save the Earth" bumper sticker... The success of these hybrids demonstrates a clear market for green vehicles in the US.

    Mar. 13 - Drivers Need More Data on Hybrids

    A J.D. Power survey says many consumers would consider buying such a vehicle if auto makers would just provide enough information.

    Green Cars Cruise the Strip in Vegas
    The 2001 Michelin Challenge Bibendum highlighted the auto industry's commitment to and progress in development of environmentally innovative automobiles. The three-day event put 10 fuel cell powered cars and 15 hybrid cars through rigorous tests and then sent them on a grueling 226-mile drive from the California Speedway to Las Vegas.

    EPA Auto Emissions site
    Low emissions and good fuel economy are both important for the environment. This guide will help you choose the cleanest and most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs.

    Dec.13, 2001 - Toyota to Sell Zero Emission SUV in California starting Feb. 2000
    Beginning in February 2002, Toyota will sell a zero emission electric vehicle version of its popular RAV4 sport utility vehicle (SUV) to retail customers in California... with a top speed of 78 miles per hour and an 80 to 100 mile range. Pretty cool.

    Hyundai Santa Fe tops testing group's list of safe small SUVs
    Take a look at CUVs instead of SUVs - they're still light trucks, but get MUCH better fuel economy, etc. The Santa Fe gets 21/28 MPG... and they are safe!

    Why Buy Green?, GreenerCars.com
    "The costs of buying a car goes beyond what's on the sticker and what you'll spend on fuel and repairs. The toll that cars and trucks take on the environment is often hidden but always very real..."

    How to Buy Green, GreenerCars.com
    GreenerCars.com will help you select a vehicle that does the least harm to the planet and human health while meeting your transportation needs.

    Fuel-efficient cars primed to outrun gas prices, CNN.com
    Interesting article on the growing trend of fuel efficient and low emissions cars.

    Advanced Vehicles, Union of Concerned Scientists
    A rather complete guide, FAQ, analyses, etc. to alternative vehicles.

    Buying a Greener Vehicle, Union of Concerned Scientists
    "There are a number of choices for purchasing a green vehicle. Advanced vehicles offer the greatest environmental benefits. Cars and trucks powered by alternative fuels are an important stepping stone to clean cars and trucks. Even choosing a low-emission, fuel-efficient gasoline vehicle reduces the environmental impact of driving..."

    Clean Car Campaign
    Sign the Clean Car Pledge!
    Read about the Clean Car Standard.

    Hybrid Electric Vehicle Program, US Department of Energy

    Fuel Cell Program, US Department of Energy


    Need more storage capacity in your automobile?

    It is a big misconception that SUVs provide more storage capacity than regular passenger cars. Compare:

    Make/ModelStorage capacity with seats down (cu. ft.)
    Jeep - Grand Cherokee66
    Ford Explorer73.6
    Volvo - V70 station wagon71.5
    Subaru Outback81

    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.


    Do you swear that you actually drive off-road?

    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.