All vehicles have an impact on the environment — including electric vehicles. All vehicles are responsible for enormous use of resources, adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and the cause of many societal woes — traffic jams being just one obvious example. But some vehicles are worse than others. Some have far more of an impact on all these things than others. Our choices do matter and we can make a difference by choosing transportation that meets our basic needs.
Do you drive by yourself most of the time? Do you drive in snow or mud more than a dozen times per year? Do you carry large loads all the time? These are just some of the questions to ask yourself.
People are starting to realize that it’s not “in style” anymore to be driving these behemoth vehicles around – in fact soon it may be embarrassing to be seen driving an SUV at all!
SUV owners across the country are finding “traffic tickets” on their windshields charging them with driving a gas-guzzling vehicle. And Friends of the Earth’s bumper stickers, with slogans like, “Support OPEC, Drive an SUV” are making appearances across the country.
However, the trends of late include mini SUVs (like the Honda CR-V or the Toyota RAV4) and the “crossover” vehicles (like the Volvo XC90 and the Subaru Crosstrek). These vehicles do much better than the old-style truck-based SUVs, such as the Cadillac Escalade or the Lincoln Navigator, but they still wallow in the mid 20’s in mpg. These new vehicles are very popular now, seemingly accounting for half the non-commercial vehicles on the road!
Some of the most noted reasons people buy large SUV’s (and some of the small SUVs as well) and why they are not true or: the lies, misinformation and insanity the auto industry pushes on people to get them to buy the worst vehicles a person can buy.
Why do people buy SUV’s and what lies are the SUV makers pushing?
1. They are rugged vehicles
2. They have great off road capabilities
3. They can pull a heavy trailer
4. They can carry lot’s of people/cargo
5. They excel in snowy weather
6. They are safer in crash
7. They are luxurious
8. They increase status/ego
9. Large/oversized drivers can easily fit in them (don’t fit in anything else)
10. They have a much higher profile for increased visibility and command of the road
- Rugged? Not as rugged as you’d think. Consumer Reports consistently rates SUV’s as no better (and in many cases, much worse) than any other type of mass produced vehicles. In other words, they break down, fall apart, and rust away just like every other vehicle. They are no more rugged, no less vulnerable to mechanical failure than any other vehicle. They are not known to go more miles during their lifetime than cars.
- Off-road? They may be capable, to a lesser extent than most people think, but an overwhelming majority of these vehicles are not used for offroading. Since most people NEVER take their SUV off road, this reason only benefits the 5% or so that do (and that’s a high estimate). Fact is, SUV’s are neither good for off roading (since that would make them unbearable road vehicles) or for the highway (since that would take away from their rugged appearance).
- Powerful? It’s true, that if you have a huge trailer such as a 20′ boat or a motor home, you need power to get up hills. SUV’s would seem to fit this bill, but it still doesn’t explain/justify the need to drive 6000 extra pounds of steel SUV material around – even without a trailer – just to get milk at the store! Why not just sell the motor home and get a tent?
- Capacity? SUV’s do not have more people/cargo space than vans or mini-vans. On average, mini-vans get about 5 – 10 mpg better than SUV’s, and can carry just as much stuff, if not more. The only exception may be the absolute largest of all SUV’s, which only get 8 mpg anyway. If you really have 8 kids and you’re off to the beach every week, then you may be a candidate for a small bus. By the way, this item does not advocate mini-vans!
- Snow? In snow, driving skill makes the difference. Not the type of 4WD that SUV’s come with. Although recently, more SUV’s are coming with “sophisticated” full-time AWD instead of part-time 4WD. The AWD is better, since it doesn’t need to be engaged, and it is more flexible on all types of pavement. Nonetheless, if you do not live in an area where it’s snowy all winter long (for instance, parts of the Northeast, the upper plains and Michigan’s UP, or the midst of the Rocky mountains), then chances are you have little need to be tugging along an AWD/4WD system everywhere you go. Repair and maintenance costs on such systems can be outrageous anyway, and since they are more complicated systems, there is more that can go wrong with them. Two wheel drive vehicles are appropriate 99% of the time in typical snow prone areas, and even more in the south. Less (90 – 95%) in high snow areas.
- Safer? When you take a 6000lb SUV and smash it head on into a 2500lb car, the SUV will win. Much to the dismay of a person trying not to have such an outrageous impact on the environment. But if you take an SUV and smash it against a tree, wall, barricade or any other immovable object, the immovable object will win. It’s simple physics, the heavier something is, the more momentum there is while it’s in motion. That means it will take more energy (longer time) to stop it in a crash, meaning more damage to the vehicle and possibly the occupants. Not to mention roll-over, which is a very serious problem, especially in older SUV’s, and new SUV behemoths. If everyone gets an SUV so they´re safer, no one will be safe.
- Luxurious? They come with leather and wood grain interiors, but as far as luxury, they are no match for luxury automobiles which inherently provide a far better ride, feel of the road, handling, and overall driving experience. Granted, top of the line luxury automobiles like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and the rest have low mpg ratings, but none are as bad as the worst SUV’s. If you want luxury, SUV’s aren’t the place to look.
- Status? SUV’s put you up higher, thus making you feel like you are on a pedestal. To some males, it helps them feel like they are the “alpha” male, able to mount any female of their choosing. SUV’s give people (especially men) inflated senses of ego, virility and prowess that are out of touch with reality and only persist in playing out a pattern of fantasy and grandiosity. Note: Females are not immune to this desire for false grandiosity and sexual-like dominance on the highway.
- Roomy? If you’re a large person — like “sumo wrestler” large — it might be better to go on a diet and begin an exercise program than buy a vehicle that fits your girth. When one person is the size of two or three average sized people, that person consumes two to three times more resources just to maintain his/her size. However, if you´re large — like “linebacker” large (tall, big boned, etc) — there are still options in the car world with large interiors that don´t consume as many resources as a typical SUV.
- Profile? Visibility is great, and since you are so high up, you can see eye to eye with the other SUV drivers. This means car companies will have to make higher SUV’s that can give people the ability to see over other SUV’s, etc, until the height of an SUV reaches the height of an 18 wheeler. Also, the visibility in a behemoth vehicle is not as good as you’d think because of the extra large size of the pillars (the steel that holds the roof up) and the depth of the vehicle keeping you from seeing a safe view of what’s behind you.
Because they are so big and heavy, they take more resources to build (steel, plastic, fabric, glass, huge rubber tires), more resources to transport to dealer, more resources to keep them running (gas, oil, tyranny oil), more financial responsibility (higher insurance, registration, auto fuel, maintenance of complicated 4WD/AWD systems costs), more parking space, more land resources when they go to the dump, more emissions, more wear on public roads, more, more, more…
Oh, and one more thing, they have some of the highest mark-ups in the auto industry. They consistently provide a significant portion of the profits for automakers. So, if you like getting bilked, an SUV fits the bill. Like paying more in taxes? An SUV fits the bill in both fees, upfront purchase taxes, and overall gas taxes. There are very few car manufacturers that do not produce at least one of these gas guzzling, profit making, resource hogging vehicles (e tu, Porche?). And to be sure, those few companies that are not currently making an SUV will be making them soon.
How does your vehicle do on fuel efficiency and emissions?