Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A moral dilemma: 4x4s - climate change culprit or saviour?

Yesterday a month’s rainfall fell in 24 hours. Yorkshire was one of the most badly hit areas, with places such as Sheffield and Leeds experiencing the worst of the consequent flooding. Weather forecasters say it was the wettest day ever, and it’s been the wettest June since records began.

Every month we seem to break a new weather record. Usually it’s the warmest month or the hottest year, but increased rainfall is also a characteristic of climate change, as increased energy in the weather system produces more extreme results.

With the prospect of having to drive home through three feet of water, would you want a G-Wiz or a Land Rover? Yes, you know the answer. So people can’t be blamed for wanting the added security and capability of a 4x4 when faced with increasingly erratic weather conditions. And remember that it’s mid-summer now. What’s going to happen when October and November arrive?

Our photo shows a Ford Ka that has died in the middle of the road after failing to negotiate a flooded part of its route out of a children’s nursery, and being rescued by a Land Rover; while a BMW X5 with its extra ground clearance and four wheel drive easily negotiates its way through the floodwaters.

4x4s are generally seen as the culprits that cause climate change. However what do the Police drive when they have to rescue people from rising waters – yes, probably a Land Rover. As I write this a police officer is on TV, having rescued a man from the floods - and he’s standing next to his trusty Range Rover.

So perhaps it’s time to accept that people who want to get themselves and their families home from work or school safely may want a vehicle that they believe is capable for the job.

This results in a real dilemma. Climate change is upon us. 4x4s are the culprits. But we also need 4x4s to survive in our rapidly changing climate. What do we do?

The answer is that all types of vehicles need to be more green – and quickly. If there’s the will, it can be done. The Mini Cooper was held up in Honda’s advertising for its recently launched CR-V as a car with higher emissions than the new Japanese 4x4. Now the Mini Cooper D is shortly to become the UK’s most economical car; after a swift dose of BMW’s ‘EfficientDynamics’ treatment, it’s now vying for joint honours with the 72.4mpg VW Polo BlueMotion.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Land Rover production line was closed down by Greenpeace activists. Now, Land Rover is implementing a carbon offset programme for all new vehicles sold, and working hard to bring more energy-efficient hybrids to market as soon as possible, as well as introducing more weight-saving materials in its vehicles.

So the moral of our rant? Here at Green-Car-Guide we want ALL cars to be green. We’re all different, and a G-Wiz, as highly commendable as its green credentials potentially are, is just not a practical proposition for everyone. We have more choice everywhere we turn, from digital TV to the internet to the food in our shops. And we all want progress – so rather than a ‘hate 4x4s campaign’, why not a ‘love all green cars campaign’, to encourage manufacturers to give us greener city cars AND greener all-weather go-anywhere cars, along with greener everything in between – including taxis, buses, vans, trucks and tractors – oh and of course those other essentials for the emergency services in times of climate change – helicopters and boats.


TenBees said...

Getting stuck in water depends a great deal on the driver - it's not a straight fight between cars.

Most cars that get stuck in water do so because water gets into the exhaust - this happens when you take your foot off the gas or when you get washed out by other cars.

Suburban 4x4 drivers tend to go racing through water, because they're big and it won't affect them. They create waves in their wake causing damage to properties and inconveniencing smaller cars more than they already need.

Perhaps we will need to include water-surfing in the driving test.

Fredrik said...

You don't have to have a G-Wiz to go green. The Toyota RAV4 EV, the Jeep EV and some home conversions all shows that a EV can be a big SUV and still be a capable EV. /Fredrik (http://www.goelectric.eu/)