Saturday, December 01, 2007

Green Car of the Year?

How does a gigantic SUV become "Green Car of the Year"? I am not the only one wondering that. Read Dan Neil's Doing well, not good.
It seems to me the objections to the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid's being called "green" fall into three categories:

Symbolic: The Tahoe Hybrid is not merely a Prius that can tow a boat. It is a 5,716-pound supertanker of a vehicle that is still twice the mass necessary to do the job it's typically assigned to do, that is, move a person or persons in and out of the suburbs. The Green Car Journal award seems to enable the continuing American fixation on super-sized vehicles.

Practical: The charge is "greenwashing," which is to say, the Tahoe Hybrid program will be a painfully small-volume effort that will net more positive media than real economy.

Strategic: This is the strongest objection. In a time of surpassing urgency -- whether your pet issue is global warming, oil security or economic disruption -- we are accepting, even rewarding relatively modest and incremental changes in efficiency that require no sacrifice, no change in consumer behavior at all. This isn't going to get it done, people. The notion that American drivers can sally on as before, driving the miles and tonnage they do, and only the technology under the hood has to change, is complete bollocks. We will incrementalize ourselves to the crack of doom.

1 comment:

  1. In his L.A. Times column, Dan Neil says objections to the Chevy Tahoe could be symbolic for a variety of reasons, including the contention that the Green Car of the Year award enables the fixation on super-sized vehicles. He has this wrong. At Green Car we believe in “right size” vehicles for everyday use. Families in particular have differing vehicle requirements because of family size, recreational needs, and many other considerations. While smaller vehicles make sense for most, others may find they need greater seating and cargo area for carrying around more passengers and gear than a smaller car can handle. That’s why options like SUVs, crossover vehicles, five-passenger pickups, and minivans are important.

    He also says that objections could include the charge that GM is "greenwashing" because "the Tahoe Hybrid program will be a painfully small-volume effort.” Wrong. The two-mode hybrid will be applied in a range of GM vehicles using V-8 and V-6 engines. Development of the two-mode system was done jointly with BMW and Daimler(Chrysler) to fast track its way to market and reduce costs, so variations of the two-mode system will find their way into BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, and Mercedes-Benz models. This will save millions of barrels of oil and result in huge CO2 greenhouse gas emissions over time. Given this, how could this possibly be deemed "greenwashing?"

    Dan takes to task even the thought of awarding such a “green” distinction to an SUV, calling this a “strategic” issue. To him, SUVs are impractical and have no place on the highway. Yet, with millions of SUVs and their crossover vehicle cousins sold – and the likelihood that such vehicles will be sharing our highways for quite some time – shouldn’t the goal be to make these vehicles much more fuel efficient than in the past? With its 50 percent increase in city fuel economy and 30 percent overall fuel efficiency improvement, the Tahoe Hybrid represents a viable new option for those who need the functionality of a vehicle that can carry up to 8 passengers, stow 60 cubic feet of cargo, and tow 6200 pounds. Learn more about the 2008 Green Car of the Year and the GCOY program at GreenCar.com.

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