Friday, May 25, 2007

SUV Bashing -- Enough Already!

We are all affected by rising gas prices and the current media feeding frenzy on this issue only confirms that. But could we be just a little more accurate? It has been fashionable to bash SUVs as gas-guzzling environmental fiends ever since they first became available to the public. The real issue is gas-guzzling vehicles, including trucks, vans, sedans, and SUVs. Why not refer to gas-guzzlers, instead of singling out only SUVs?

As an SUV driver, I am fed up with these ignorant tirades. Our 2002 Ford Escape actually manages 28 mpg for highway driving - hardly an "offensive" gas-guzzling performance. Since we do primarily highway and little city driving (the nearest Safeway store is 56 miles away), this vehicle serves our all-round transportation needs adequately. I use my 49 cc Honda Metropolitan scooter (105 mpg) for local errands.

Fuel efficiency statistics available from the April 2007 issue of Consumer Reports list a number of non-SUV gas-guzzlers not usually mentioned in the media (from family and luxury sedans to pick-up trucks and mini vans). Just some examples: Subaru Legacy (18 mpg), Buick Lacrosse (18 mpg), Chrysler 300 (16 mpg), Dodge Charger (17 mpg), Infinity G35 (18 mpg), Cadillac CTS (19 mpg), Audi A8 (17 mpg), BMW 745 (18 mpg), Chevrolet Montecarlo (17 mpg), Dodge Viper (15 mpg), Nissan Frontier (15 mpg), Honda Ridgeline (15 mpg), Dodge Ram (11 mpg), Kia Sedona (17 mpg, Dodge Grand Caravan (17 mpg), etc.

A thoughtful part of this debate should include holding vehicle manufacturers responsible for not applying existing fuel efficiency technologies to today's vehicles. While hybrids can serve many consumers, they are most beneficial for city drivers. More useful would be an industry-wide improvement of all vehicle fuel efficiencies. I owned a 1982 Honda 1300 FE ("fuel efficient") which achieved a respectable 50 mpg with highway driving. Clearly fuel efficiency technologies existed then and, if anything, should be even more advanced now.

Let's encourage manufacturers to apply these technologies to start producing more fuel-efficient vehicles for the good of all consumers and the country NOW!