An automotive research firm has conducted another study showing that large sport utility vehicles are falling out of favor with American consumers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jerome Vaughn has more:
An automotive research firm has conducted another study showing that
large sport utility vehicles are falling out of favor with American
consumers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jerome Vaughn has more:
A study conducted by the Power Information Network says near-record
high gas prices may be taking their toll on sales of large sport
utility vehicles. The research says most car and truck owners are less
likely to buy a large SUV now than they were in first two months of
Tom Libby is with the Power Information Network.
“Consumers who before did not have much of a choice if they wanted an
SUV had to purchase a truck-based traditional SUV, now have the option
of getting a car-based SUV, which has several advantages. One of which
is it drives more like a car. Second of all they tend to be smaller,
so they get better gas mileage.”
Libby says the trend could be troubling to the auto industry because
SUVs are among the vehicles generating the highest profit for
automakers. But he says it would take higher gas prices over an
extended period to make the trend away from larger SUVs a permanent
An environmental group has designed a safer, more fuel-efficient Sport Utility Vehicle. Now, it’s trying to get you to write the government to get the big automakers to make SUVs a lot like the one it designed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
An environmental group has designed a safer, more fuel efficient Sport Utility Vehicle. Now, it’s
trying to get you to write the government to get the big automakers to make SUVs a lot like the
one it designed. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The environmental group, the Union of Concerned Scientists started with a Ford Explorer and
then looked at ways to improve the SUV to solve what the group saw as some design
“The Union of Concerned Scientists has developed a blueprint for a safer and more fuel efficient
On its website, the group lists about a dozen improvements to the SUV ranging from better,
stronger materials to keep passengers safer during a rollover to engine and transmission designs
that would mean much better gas mileage.
David Friedman is the Research Director for the Clean Vehicle Program at the Union of
Concerned Scientists. He says consumers should have those choices.
“When you step into a showroom, sure, you can choose the cup holders, you can choose the color
of your SUV. But, you can’t choose the fuel economy. You’re stuck between 16, 17, 18 miles
per gallon. What we’re talking about is taking technologies that the automakers already have to
save thousands of lives every year and to save on the order of $2,500 on fuel.”
Friedman says all the options the Union of Concerned Scientists have suggested are off-the-shelf
The auto industry says those options are available in SUVs. But nobody’s asking for them. Eron
Shosteck is a spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association.
Shosteck says most people want more cargo space, more power, and more towing capacity from
their SUVs. They’re not clamoring for the added safety and efficiency features that the
environmentalists are pushing.
“For consumers who wish to have better fuel economy than other attributes, automakers offer
more than 30 different models of vehicles that get 30 miles per gallon or better. They are very
That statement sounds a lot like a video cartoon satire of the auto industry on the Union of
Concerned Scientists website, SUV-TV.org.
“Look, if you want fuel economy, go drive a compact.”
The auto industry is portrayed as a cigar puffing fat cat who offers lots of excuses for why SUVs
have to be made the way they’re made. The cartoon declares satirically it’s all because “Industry
The auto industry actually says the chief reason SUVs are made the way they’re made is: that’s
what consumers want.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Friedman says he doesn’t see it that way.
“They’re saying they’re responding to the marketplace, but when consumers say they want an
SUV that gets higher fuel economy, they literally do tell them to go drive a compact.”
So, the Union of Concerned Scientists is launching a campaign called the SUV-TV Challenge.
It’s trying to get 50-thousand people to visit the website and then write to the government and
automakers, demanding better fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and other vehicles.
“Well, what we’re trying to do is show consumers they have a choice and have consumers contact
the U.S. government, who’s responsible for taking care of consumers, and let them know they
want better SUVs. They want a real choice when they step into the showroom.”
The auto industry says those choices are there if you order them. But most people buy vehicles
on the showroom floor. The Auto Alliance’s Eron Shosteck says the demand for the SUVs there
“We respond to consumer demand, not to publicity stunts by special interest groups.”
The environmentalists hope demands for safety and fuel efficiency are felt through the SUV-TV
challenge. But the real demand for fuel efficiency is more likely to come from rising prices at the
pump, which are expected to reach record highs this summer.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The "Hydraulic Launch Assist" system - the system pressurizes a tank when the vehicle brakes. The pressurized tank then gives the motor a boost of power when the vehicle begins to accelerate. (Photo courtesy of Eaton Fluid Power Group)
Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency will unveil a Ford Expedition that sips, not guzzles, gas. It’ll have a new type of technology that should give a huge boost to the fuel economy of big commercial trucks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Halpert filed this report:
Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency will unveil a Ford Expedition that sips, not guzzles,
gas. It’ll have a new type of technology that should give a huge boost to the fuel economy of big
commercial trucks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Halpert filed this report:
(sound of garbage truck)
Every morning garbage trucks spew annoying smog and guzzle fuel. Commercial vehicles, like this
garbage truck, and delivery trucks, get only about 8 miles to the gallon. That compares to 20 miles per
gallon for an average car. But that’s about to change, if the EPA has its way.
The EPA worked with private industry to develop a new way to help launch the engine, called a hydraulic
hybrid. This new technology could double the fuel economy of big, commercial vehicles and cut
emissions in half. It could also make the trucks a lot quieter. Christopher Grundler runs the EPA division
that helped design the new hydraulic hybrid.
“We’re pretty bullish about this technology, because it’s cheap and it delivers other attributes that
American consumers want, meaning performance and the ability to tow vehicles and so on. It’s
particularly well suited for larger vehicles, so that’s why we’re excited about it.”
This hydraulic power source is expected to hike big truck costs by only a couple thousand dollars. That’s
not much, considering the cost of those trucks these days can run 40 to 45 thousand dollars.
(sound of hydraulic hybrid)
Hydraulic hybrids are different from the electric hybrids now on the road in Toyota and Honda vehicles.
Electric hybrids use a small gasoline engine along with an electric generator and use batteries to story
energy. But the hydraulic system is different. It uses a tank that stores energy as a compressed nitrogen
gas. When you want to accelerate, the high pressure gas runs a motor and the energy is used to drive the
wheels. The system uses the energy that’s generated by braking and helps keep the hydraulic system
pressurized. So for vehicles that stop and go a lot, this system is especially efficient. The holding tank can
store so much energy that there’s swift pick-up. EPA’s test vehicle starts effortlessly and lurches forward
like a race car.
Next month, at the Society of Automotive Engineers conference in Detroit, the EPA will be displaying this
technology in an Expedition, Ford’s second largest SUV.
The agency is working with Eaton Corporation. Eaton is a large worldwide industrial supplier that makes
hydraulic parts. Steve Nash is a manager with Eaton and he says hydraulic trucks could be a big market
for the company.
“We know that the greatest benefit of a regenerative braking product like a hybrid hydraulic or electric is
that you need to be doing a lot of start and stop type driving and with certain vocations, such as refuse
vehicles, such as city transit busses, such as shuttle busses and pick-up and delivery vehicles, it’s a perfect
application because they do a lot of start and stop-type driving.”
Eaton first worked with Ford Motor Company to develop the technology. Ford later dropped the project,
but Nash says Eaton forged ahead.
“We saw the opportunities as being so attractive that we decided to continue on our own and that’s where
we are today.”
Eaton’s now working with Workhouse Custom Chasses. That’s a truck manufacturer in Indiana. They
plan to bring out roughly 150 hydraulic delivery trucks within the next year. And that’s just a start.
Christopher Grundler says that commercial trucks burn a huge amount of fuel, so cutting fuel costs in half
makes them a perfect target market.
“Those customers care a lot more about fuel economy than the average American driver. It’s a significant
business cost to them so there is a market for fuel economy in these segments, much more so than in the
car and light truck segments.”
An industry observer says that might be true. Bill Viznik is an automotive journalist who covers
technology for Wards Communications. But he says the systems are really heavy. So they have limited
use and don’t make sense for smaller, personal vehicles.
“SUVs already are large, bulky and heavy and certainly don’t need a lot of extra weight added to them, so
I think at this point to look at adding a system like this to a conventional SUV, like a Ford Explorer,
something like that, you reach a point of quickly diminishing return. If you add a lot of weight to the
vehicle then it makes everything ratchet up from there.”
Viznik says hydraulics can actually make fuel economy worse for small vehicles. But the Environmental
Protection Agency is more optimistic. Christopher Grundler thinks hydraulic SUVs are possible.
“It depends on the SUV. I think for smaller SUVs, it does provide a packaging challenge for the hydraulic
technology, but I think for larger SUVs, the medium to large SUVs, this technology is well-suited as well
as the larger urban delivery trucks.”
EPA plans to announce partnerships with private companies later this year to begin testing the hydraulic
hybrid engines in delivery trucks like those Fed Ex uses. The final determination will depend on how well
they fare on the street.
For The Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Halpert.
Many feel that cars powered by fuel cells will save us from a future of pollution and rising oil prices. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says there’s more to think about… he says it’s time to reconsider not just WHAT we drive but HOW we live:
Many feel that cars powered by fuel cells will save us from a future of pollution and rising oil
prices. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says there’s
more to think about and that it’s time to reconsider not just what we drive but how we live:
For quite a while now it’s been fashionable among the environmentally-minded to decry the
ownership of SUVs. This says a lot about what’s wrong with the conventional thinking of the
progressive / green crowd.
Would the everyday environment in America be any better if it were full of compact cars instead
of giant gas-guzzling Chevy Denalis and Ford Expeditions? I don’t think it would make a bit of
difference, really. We’d still be a car-dependent society stuck in a national automobile slum. The
problem with America is not big cars, it’s the fact that cars of all sizes have such an
overwhelming presence in our lives, and that driving is virtually mandatory for the ordinary
business of daily life.
Many in the anti-SUV crowd assume that we will solve our car problem with new technology,
like hydrogen fuel cells. Or that low-emission, environmentally-friendly hybrid cars will help to
usher in a sustainable way of life in America.
In fact, cleaner-running, higher mileage cars would do nothing to mitigate the degraded public
realm of a nation that has become a strip mall from sea to shining sea. They would not lessen
commuting distances or times. They would not reduce the number of car trips per day per
household. If anything, they would only promote the idea that we should continue living this way
– that suburban sprawl is normal and desirable, instead of what it is: the most destructive
development pattern the world has ever seen, and a living arrangement with poor prospects for
Why do we believe that better-running cars will save us? Because environmentalists are stuck in
a culture of quantification, just like their corporate bean-counter adversaries. It’s easy to count up
the number of carbon dioxide molecules in a cubic foot of air, and reduce the whole car issue to
good air or bad air. But air pollution or miles-per-gallon are hardly the only problems with car
dependency. The degradation of the everyday environment in general and of public space in
particular is at least as important, and is not subject to statistical analysis. It’s a question of
quality, not numbers.
In the age of austerity and global strife that is coming down the pike at us, we are going to need
walkable neighborhoods, towns and villages and public transit systems that are a pleasure to use.
Many of us pay premium prices to vacation in European cities precisely because they offer this
way of living, with great railroad and streetcar systems. Europeans still have cars, but they’re not
sentenced to own one per family member or spend two or three hours every day in them. It
would be nice to have these options here in the USA.
In the meantime, I really don’t care whether Americans drive Humvees or Toyota Priuses. Both
big and small cars are cluttering up our everyday world and wasting our lives.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of ‘The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition’ and
other books. He comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.
A new survey is out that ranks which automakers make the least-polluting cars. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A new survey is out that ranks which auto-makers make the least-polluting cars. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Together Ford, General Motors, Daimler-Chrysler, Honda, Toyota and Nissan sell nine out of
every ten vehicles in the U.S. An environmental watchdog group, the Union of Concerned
Scientists, found, as in the past, that Honda is the least polluting auto-maker, followed by the
other two Japanese companies. But, Jason Mark, the author of the report, says there’s been a shift
among the U.S. companies.
“The big news is that Ford has now surpassed General Motors as the greenest of the Big Three
car companies on the strength of voluntary commitments that they have made to improve the
environmental performance of their products.”
Federal regulations allow trucks, such as SUVs, to pollute more than cars, but Ford has taken
steps to reduce truck smog-forming emissions on its own.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Recent reports that sales of SUVs, mini-vans, and light trucks have outstripped car sales has Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Don Ogden wondering if SUV is short for Super Unpatriotic Vehicle:
A recent Canadian Government study shows that sports utility vehicles
are responsible for a seven-percent increase in auto emissions. Great
Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston thinks it’s time
consumers took a second look at the cost of comfort:
Earlier this month, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration made headlines when it announced that the winter of
1999-2000 was the warmest one in 105 years. But Great Lakes Radio
Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston thinks that the real news is at
the gas pumps:
Surveys show that Sport Utility Vehicles remain a popular choice
among car buyers. But if you drive a small car, or if you are worried
about air pollution, you may not be happy with the increasing numbers of
S-U-V’s on the road. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Matthew
Lawrence agrees, but he thinks S-U-V’s are, on a deeper level, a spiritual
For the past several years, light trucks have been some of the biggest automotive success stories, with sales increasing steadily each year. Now, some dealers are starting to see signs that things might be tapering off. That’s music to environmentalists’ ears, who are starting to worry about the pollution those trucks cause. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Edelson Halpert has more: