Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Screws Are on the Auto Industry to Shape Up

A federal judge in California today rebuked the auto industry's attempt to block California and 16 other states from setting tough new limits on global warming pollution from automobiles, calling these efforts "the very definition of folly."

Meanwhile, the head of ACEA, the car group in Europe wrote this in Financial Times: "Sir, As the chief executives of 13 auto companies producing and marketing our products around the world, and board members of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), we write to give support and encouragement to the UN-sponsored ministerial talks on climate change opening in Bali, Indonesia, this week. We think it vital that they work towards the kind of comprehensive agreement that our planet needs."

Even an idiot can spot the disconnect. On one hand the automakers claim that they really do care about climate change. On the other hand they want to change on their own terms, and in their own time, and don't want to be told what to do.

Meanwhile, other countries are exerting their own pressure. Ireland has decided to tax owners of gas guzzlers a massive 2000 euros annually. Similarly in Israel. Same in France. Why? Same reason - shift the market away from large 4x4s and luxury cars.

If the car industry won't change then they are asking for regulations and tax measures to artificially shift the market.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Porsche, VW and Daimer win the worst Lobbying Awards

Serves them right! If you want to know what cynacism looks like, follow Volkswagen, Porsche and Daimer as they fight against any meaningful CO2 emissions regulations by the EU. They were named winners of a public poll for the 'Worst EU Lobbying' Award 2007 at a ceremony in Brussels hosted by the award organizers Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, LobbyControl and SpinWatch.

Their joint lobbying offensive, designed to water-down and delay the mandatory CO2 emission reduction targets proposed by the Commission after voluntary targets were not met, was deemed to be the worst and most deceptive by voters across Europe.

"BMW, Daimler and Porsche are the worst among the car industry lobbyists," explains Erik Wesselius from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). "When the Commission proposed compulsory CO2 targets, the car companies reacted immediately with a lobby campaign full of misinformation and scaremongering. Decision-makers were manipulated with grossly exaggerated threats of factory closures and job losses. The outcome of this year's 'Worst EU Lobbying Awards' shows that European citizens strongly object to this type of manipulative and dishonest lobbying." More than 6600 people across Europe participated in the online poll to decide the winners of the awards.

Well, well. You can watch a YouTube clip as they are presented with flowers as the executives learn they have won an award.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Brussels Gives 4x4 Drivers the Red Card

Our friend Jeroen from the group 4x4Info Action in Belgium wrote us recently about an awareness raising activity they did recently, which has received a lot of press attention.

"11 people were dressed as football referee and handed out red cards to SUV drivers. We had a team of 6 cheerleaders which created a party-like atmosphere."

What did the anti-4x4 activists want to express? Here's their list:

* Despite the fact that heavy cars emit more CO2, car manufacturers continue to flood cities with them.

* Car manufacturers break the rules by not informing consumers on the CO2 emissions of the cars they sell, and advert mainly heavy and powerful cars instead of fuel-efficient vehicles.

* Consequently, car manufacturers fail to meet the CO2 reduction emission targets, but paradoxically blame consumers for it.

* Governments should show strong leadership and force car manufacturers to make CO2 reduction a top priority.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How do 4x4 Drivers Park?

We received this photo this week, from one of our MySpace supporters. He wrote: 'I see what you mean! spotted this specimen in my town, owner was a young mum with no visible disability or sticker on car, she gave me a mouthful for taking this pic!'

Well, this isn't the first time we've heard of lousy or fraudulent parking. We regularly see 4x4s hogging two parking bays (to protect their baby) or the wheel base sticking farther out into the street.

Hoodies to Fight 4x4s

As the winter cold takes over activists need warmer gear for ticketing those arrogant and obsessive luxury 4x4s. So we have designed a few hooded sweatshirts. Here, Olivia sports one of the best selling designs, available from our shop.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Are Diesel and LPG 4x4s Better or Worse for our Cities?

We get a lot of complaints from disgruntled owners of large urban luxury 4x4s who drive diesel models or who have converted their old Landie to LPG.

Diesel cars in general burn 'hotter' and so are more 'fuel efficient'. They also emit less CO2. So, should we be congratulating drivers for 'going green' by buying diesel and using LPG?

Well, our friend Simon Birkett over at the Campaign for Clean Air has informed us that diesel engines should be replaced in general by petrol or LPG in cities and that diesel vehicles should be priced out of London. The reason? Diesel vehicles produce up to 3 times as much air pollution.

And while LPG generally produces less CO2 and other air pollutants than petrol models, the benefits aren't that clear cut. This week the Department for Transport released a report that compares petrol engines and LPG. The study shows that some car models produce twice as much NOx on LPG as they do with petrol. So, some vehicles are better and some are worse in this regard.

Also, the lack of refuelling stations for LPG means driving further may offset the inherent CO2 benefit.

Thinking about converting your vehicle to CNG (compressed natural gas)? It appears that it's not an alternative vehicle fuel to consider because it tends to leak and blow-up!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Carbon Health Warnings for all New Cars

According to the Times (20 Oct 2007), 'all advertising for new cars will have to carry cigarette-style “health warnings” about their environmental impact, under a European plan to force manufacturers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.'

'Advertisements in newspapers and magazines, will have to devote at least 20 per cent of the space to details about fuel economy and CO2 emissions. At the moment manufacturers have to include only basic mpg and CO2 figures in the small print. They do not have to explain what the numbers mean or provide any comparison.'

Repeatedly the car representatives say their advertising does not create demand for larger heavier and more polluting 4x4s, and they blame the consumers for not demanding more fuel efficient cars. The industry will now be forced to accept that their aggressive advertising does create demand, and their ads need to spell out clearly the environmental impacts their products have on society.

This is welcome news, particularly as the car manufacturers fight against any meaninful EU regulations on the CO2 emission levels of the cars they build.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Green Car for Mobility Week

Our friends at the Belgian anti 4x4 Alliance planted this very 'green car' for mobility week in Brussels.
According to Jeroen Verhoeven, "We transformed a car into a kitchen garden, a symbolic image. The message we gave to the people during the action we did around the kitchen garden car on the car free day, was basically "feed people not cars", referring to agrofuels and the need to reduce the fuel consumption of cars."
You can see more pictures on the Autonomie website.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Are 4x4s Really Needed for Towing a Caravan?

A supporter recently wrote us questioning why people insisted they 'needed' a 4x4 to tow a caravan. She writes:

"My husband and I recently joined the Camping & Carvanning Club. Their newsletter carries a letters page, and in the one we received with our joining pack was a response page to a previous post - the jist of it appeared to be that a gentleman driving a Mondeo was complaining that many campers were driving huge 4x4s and justifying this as being necessary to pull their caravans, while his argument was that his Mondeo was well up to the job and the 4x4 was for reasons of fashion only.

Needless to say there was a whole host of angry replies, although interestingly a majority were accusing him of hypocrisy over the fashion charge (apparently he was using a fancy five berth caravan although only he and his wife were using it).Some you could agree with, and in fact a very good friend of mine owns an elderly Land Rover which is used for caravanning but she and her husband like very remote campsites where they usually need to cross muddy fields and the 4x4 is not used for town driving.

My favourite reply came from a camping family who "needed" their 4x4 as they had to pack children, tents etc in it. I liked this one particuarly as that is the same scenario my family faces and which is dealt with in exemplary fashion by our Ford Focus and a trailer!

I thought that this correspondence was interesting beacause while there are plenty of comments now about the use of 4x4s in towns, one area where their owners could "justify" their use was in the towing of caravans and apparently even this is now being brought into question. Personally, I have no problem with a 4x4 towing a large caravan (although in my area only a tiny proportion of 4x4s have towbars fitted), its when that vehicle doubles up its use as the family town car that offends me.

The C&C club recently recommended the following towcars (from lightest to heaviest caravan):

VW Golf TDI 1.9 (Caravan up to 1425 kg - 2/3 berth I think.)
Volvo V70 (1426-1525)
VW Passat 2.0 TDI (1526-1725 - getting quite big now and we're still not using a 4x4...) This one won the overall award so I imagine they think this is the average weight caravan.
Audi A6 Allroad (1726-1990)
Land Rover Discovery TDV6 (1900+)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Car Sticker that Warns Motorists to Ban the Phone

If you travel around London, it's not uncommon to see motorists chatting away on the mobile phones whilst driving. Our friend Arvind has been busy starting a new campaign to try and help reduce the trend. His new bright yellow car sticker warns drivers to Zap their phone not people.

“I got so frustrated at seeing so many motorists continuing to use mobile phones whilst driving that I thought I just had to do something about it. One day I was driving along in a slow moving London traffic queue near a school and there were 3 motorists around me using their phone even though it is now illegal and highly dangerous to do so.

The stickers have a simple message "Zap your phone, not our children" and have been designed in a glowing yellow color for maximum visibility and impact.

It is even worse when you see 4x4 drivers using their mobile phones whilst driving – their action could kill a child just like that.

I believe that my simple sticker idea will save many lives and injuries. Every car in the country should have one in its back window.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

Congestion Charge Zones Go International

It seems to be a sign of the times, and a sensible way to reduce pollution in our crowded cities.

For all of the harrumph we hear from the Conservatives in the UK over the Congestion Charge, the idea is spreading like wildfire across the planet. Maybe the Tories are just a bit behind the times?

Already there is a charging zone set up in Singapore, Toronto, and the state of Oregon, and recently in Stockholm, Sweden. Proposals are also under way in Manhattan, New York, San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington, Milan, Italy, and Budapest, Turkey by 2010.

In Spain they are planning to charge SUVs that emit more than 200gm/km CO2.

And of course, in London, the new proposal under consultation is to change the C Charge so that it's better reflective of the amount a car pollutes. Vehicles falling in VED bands A & B would be exempt from the charge, bands C-F would be charged the normal daily rate of £8, and band G luxury vehicles would be charged £25 a day.

Readers can enter their responses online before 19 October.

What's the general feeling? The cars that pollute most will bear the greatest cost. So if anyone is thinking of buying a huge fat gas-guzzler for their European holidays, you might want to think again.

It’s the kids in the 4x4’s that really miss out

A view from a child's bicycle seat.

Cycling my son to and from school is brilliant.

On the way, we wave at people who wave and smile at us. On the way home, children often invite my son to stop and play with them on the swing-park or in their dens made of old tyres and bits of broken fence. At the school gates, almost every child seems to know us and the bike is seen as an engine of wonder. We’re often asked if they can ride on it and they’re always amazed when I say we’ve cycled over two miles from home. It seems we live further away from the school than anyone. We’re very lucky to be able to have such fun, to and from, school.

Outside the school, many children walk home with their mums or dads. These are the ones that get to play in the playground with my son after home-time, and often like to remind me to ‘do his seat belt up’ before waving us off. These are happy kids. They don’t get to have picnics on the way home but they can feel the change in seasons each time they walk to, and from, home with their mates.

There are other kids of course. The ones in cars. They don’t chat to their mates on the way in or out but they can, at least, shout to them when the doors are open and are visible through the windows. Their only knowledge of the seasons is through the windows and the brief sniff of the wind when they leave the air conditioned car to rush into the school.

It’s the kids in the 4x4’s that really miss out. The ones perched behind reflective glass, high above the sight their mates and able only, to sit in commanding isolation on top of the vast threatening pile of metal that glower so threateningly at the other kids. These aren’t cars that other children wave at, nor are they ones that kids happily pile into to shout “Hello Mrs Davies!”. These are the cars that no-one can see around – not even the adults - and all children are told to give them a wide berth. “The driver can’t see you, dear”.

Inside, the kids look out like bemused toads, trapped in a sterile box.

We avoid the road, but at each end of the journey, we have to brave these machines. Some of the cars are driven by courteous and helpful people who give you space, smile and even wave you on. The cold faced trophy wives, or men with something to prove, will not do these things. They snarl at all other vehicles and drive, surrounded by ‘idiots’, knowing that the machine they are driving comes with a guarantee they own the road.

They are in a 4x4.

The car industry concentrates on the dangers to those inside the car... but it’s being hit by a massive tonnage of metal that tends to kill kids. Still, there’s little sales revenue in mentioning that the machine you’re driving is an efficient killer of children, or pets.

On the way to the canal, we pass hoardings. More often than not, there’ll be an advert up for a 4x4. 4x4s are not advertised for the joy of motoring in a cheerful, co-operative environment. They’re sold as a defense against a hostile world of treacherous terrain and dangerous traffic. With names like ‘Warrior’, ‘Defender’ and ‘Patrol’ they’re chosen as a weapon by people scared or insecure enough to feel they need ‘Respect’.

From a God-like height above the road, and the knowledge that everything on the road must defer to them, these machines are driven arrogantly, aggressively ... and invariably blindly. Not to edge quietly and give way, but to assert their RIGHT to get through.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Please send Us More Anti-SUV songs!

You know, we are always on the lookout for more songs about SUVs. We've posted a few on our myspace page, sent by friends who find the large gas-guzzlers equally insane.

The latest is sent by Russ Buchanan and is titled 'Me and My SUV'. We like his style - he writes about his encounter over dinner with a couple who were proud of buying a Hummer:

" I'm eating dinner at a friend's house when another guest starts talking about how much he loves his new Hummer -- the feeling of safety he gets behind the wheel, how surprisingly well it handles, how "babes dig it," and so on. The other guests continued to eat and nod politely, seemingly uninterested in Mr. Hummer's glowing SUV report. But I was getting agitated, not only by his choice of vehicle, but by his assumption that we would all think driving a gas-swilling Devil-mobile was a swell thing to do. In fact, it was almost like he thought his testimonial might even prompt some of us to rush out and buy one after dessert. I was a guest, though, and it wouldn't have been fair to my host if I had confronted the guy about his idiotic choice in automobiles before the main course had even been served. As it turned out, however, I was powerless over my rage. I guess I had just seen one too many of these beasts careening through L.A.'s yellow haze, burning oceans of $3.00-per gallon gasoline, while listening to the radio in my Corolla tell me about freak tornadoes, melting ice shelves and U.S. military invasions of oil-rich countries.

I waited until he finished his ode, then I washed down a mouthful of pasta, looked at him and his wife across the table and said, "What in God's name makes you think it's OK to drive something so selfish and destructive?" His jaw dropped. "Y'know," I continued, "I really believe that people who drive Hummers or Escalades or any of those monstrosities can be divided into two main groups, people who are dumb as asphalt and people who don't give a shit and are just plain selfish." (There is actually a third group -- people who really need a giant, powerful four-wheeler for work or to haul around large, very fat families who live on mountain tops, but their percentage is so small they don't really qualify as a group) Somebody mumbled, "C'mon, Russ, we're trying to have dinner, for God's sake," but I think most of the group actually wanted to hear how Polution-boy would respond. So did i. He still looked dumbfounded but his wife was starting to look a little homicidal around the eyes. I continued my assault. "It's not like global warming, rising gas prices and smog are big secrets these days, huh? And when you throw in other little tidbits like nobody being able to see around your giant butt, and the fact that your behemoth-on-wheels will make pudding out of anybody unlucky enough to be hit by it -- well, you tell me, is that the automobile of a caring, smart person?" "Hey, it's none of your business what we drive," growled the wife. She was ready to rumble. But her husband's expression, which had gone from surprise to one of hurt and self doubt, is what finally made me shut up. The awful realization hit me. This guy, apparently bright, professional -- this new commander of eight thousand pounds of testosterone-replacement therapy -- was now, for the very first time, entertaining the thought that purchasing and driving a Hummer might not have been the best choice. And the weird thing was, he really seemed to care..."

Maybe if more of us had the courage to confront others instead of being polite we could make a real difference?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New C-Charge Consultation in London - Charge Gas Guzzlers More

You may have seen / read an article over the weekend, or in yesterday's Evening Standard about the new Emissions-influenced Congestion Charge Proposal for London.

At the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s, we wholeheartedly support this proposal. We submitted a report to the GLA last summer recommending this move to CO2 emissions, rather than try to pick out 4x4s alone. We also believe there is strong support for the new measure. When we conducted a poll in 2005 with Greenpeace, we asked over 5,400 people, 'Should large Gas Guzzlers be charged more (£20)?', and over 85% responded yes!

The new C Charge proposal is thus:

* To switch the C Charge from a system based on engine size to one of CO2 emissions. This would follow the established VED tax bands. It would also follow the lead from several London councils switching their annual parking rates to a system based on carbon emissions.

* Vehicles in the lowest bands A-B would be allowed in to the zone for free. Currently only electric and 'alternatively powered vehicles' are allowed in free.

* Vehicles in Bands C-F would continue to be charged a daily rate of £8. Pre-2001 vehicles under 3000cc would be charged similarly at £8

* The most polluting Band G vehicles (which includes the majority of new 4x4s) would be charged £25 per day.

* Significantly, large hybrid 4x4s that still emit over 200 gm/km CO2 would be charged as a Band F vehicle, rather than being allowed in free, as they are currently.

You can read more about the proposal on the TfL website.

If you would like to submit your views on the proposal, you can do so online.

In case you happened to read the negative comments in yesterday's Evening Standard from the Green GLA member Jenny Jones, the criticisms can easily be dismissed. Her views are not reflective generally of other Greens and environmental groups, by the way.

Jenny reportedly suggested that allowing band B vehicles in for free would encourage more travel and make Central London more congested. But I've checked. Sales of the small band A and B vehicles account for only 3-4% of the market sales in the UK. Admittedly this was nearer to zero % a few years ago, and both the concern for alternative vehicles with low CO2 emissions and better fuel efficiency, as well as discounts for traveling into the C-Charge zone, has increased sales. The other point is that in the real world, people will not simply give up their cars. We need to understand how people change. What is needed now is a real carrot and stick approach that provides incentives for would-be buyers to purchase smaller, lighter and less damaging vehicles. At the same time we need more clear measures to discourage the manufacture sales and purchasing of larger, heavier, thirstier and more polluting vehicles. The new C Charge proposal offers both - simultaneously continuing to address congestion whilst also addressing a real need to reward people for making smarter choices.

Next we need to see better and cheaper public transport. And possibly a rebate for cycling in to London regularly?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

4x4s Are Depreciating Faster Due to High Volumes

4x4 Volumes lead to reduced demand and faster depreciation.

30th July 2007 (Source: CAP )

Retail demand for used 4x4s is flagging, while new figures show that depreciation has been significantly steeper than in other vehicle sectors over the past two years, according to new research by CAP.

It means that the typical 'heavy' off-roader registered three years ago has lost an average 33 per cent of its value over the last two years, compared with less than 25 per cent for an average medium-sized family car.

Smaller 'lifestyle' 4x4s - the so-called 'soft-roaders' - have fared even worse, with average depreciation of 35 per cent over the period, according to CAP Black Book, the benchmark used car values guide used by Britain's top dealer groups, 48 out of the 50 biggest fleets and the major financial institutions.

Contributing to the tougher market conditions for 4x4s are increased fuel costs and taxation changes but dealers also identify the decline in demand for off-roaders this year as due to a growing image problem brought about by negative media publicity.

Every used car dealer questioned in research during July reported reduced demand for secondhand 4x4s this year, compared with 2006 and universally attributed the reduction to 'negative publicity'. But CAP believes this is just one of a range of factors, led by high volumes which have reduced the image of exclusivity enjoyed by many off-roaders.

CAP's figures show how large and smaller 4x4s have performed in comparison with other vehicle sectors over the past two years(Sector, Avg. July 05, Avg. July 07, %Movement):

Lower Medium 6,291 4,750 -24.49%
Mini MPV 6,714 4,769 -28.97%
MPV (All) 8,589 6,428 -25.16%
Small Exec 13,722 10,283 -25.06%
Super Mini 4,405 3,509 -20.34%
Upper Medium 7,265 5,356 -26.27%
Small 4x4 10,651 6,876 -35.44%
Large 4x4 18,511 12,396 -33.04%

Taking a one year old car in July 2005 and tracking its depreciation over the following two years, CAP analysts demonstrated that 4x4s have lost their value more quickly during the period than any other sector.

Many used car dealers are currently reluctant to acquire 4x4s speculatively for stock and prefer to have a retail customer already lined up before buying one in the trade.

Although it is tempting to attribute the under-performance of 4x4s in the current marketplace to changes in taxation announced earlier this year, CAP believes that the chief reason is supply outstripping demand.

Black Book Valuation Relationship Manager, Robert Hester, said: "The taxation issue is something of a red herring. These vehicles enjoyed huge popularity in recent years and now that many are returning to the used market there is insufficient demand to keep prices strong. There is also something of an image problem for off-roaders in our cities but in general the issue is volume. They have gradually lost their image of exclusivity and have therefore become victims of their own success."

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Vancouver Parking Ticket Available

A supporter in Canada wrote to us today. He's been inspired by our campaign , and designed his own ticket for Vancouver. He writes: "I loved the parking ticked idea so much that I made fake parking tickets for the city. I live in (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). I based the tickets on yours, but updated the language and statistics to reflect a Canadian world view." We think they look great.

In his words: 'You'd be amazed how hard it is to actually get a parking ticket in the downtown west side of Vancouver. Well, to get one without getting your vehicle towed. However today I hit pay dirt and as a result have completed this fine fake Vancouver anti-urban 4x4 parking ticket which you can print out and distribute to your hearts content.'

We've already seen one request for the link to these tickets. Let's hope this starts a trend!

New Citroen 4x4 - Crosser or tosser?

A supporter sent us this email today: 'I just wrote to you to register my protest against 4x4s sparked off by the new Citroen C Crosser. To find you, I googled anti 4x4s. The first result was for the new Citroen, just beyond the pale!'

Well, we thought the French were only producing economical vehicles. It seems that they too feel the urge for some short term profits. It's a pity - sort of like New Zealand deciding to grow genetically mutated crops when it had the chance to be the one 'gm free and organically certified country'.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Should we ticket the Lexus RX-400 Hybrid? Yes!

An angry owner of a Lexus RX400 hybrid 4x4 wrote to us today: "dear bunch off offensive, chippy, clearly nothing better to do tossers.

i have just returned to my lexus rx400h to find a rather bitter note on my car suggesting that i am an offender,' conned or just overexcited when i saw an advert for a shiny 4 x 4'. if you lot weren't so thick you would realise that 'h' stands for hybrid. a hybrid car is an alternative fuel source car and therefore one of the greenest cars on the road. i won't go into further details, but suggest that if any of your 'campaigners' can read, they might want to look up some information about this car before leaving these polluting waste of time leaflets on our vehicles."

Our response: "As I understand it the RX400 hybrid is NOT one of the cleanest cars on the road, and Lexus was recently told off by the ASA for pretending to be green. It may indeed be one of the cleanest 4x4s on the road, emitting at around 190 grams CO2/km, but that still makes it an average polluter.

See the specs from the Lexus website for yourself.

The Toyota Prius gets about 120 gm CO2 / km, whereas an electric car is 0 rated and a large Range Rover emits about 370gm CO2 / km. The average we need to get ALL cars to by 2008 is 140 gms CO2/km, to put this in perspective.

Then there is the pedestrian safety issue. The RX400 doesn't have an official EuroNCAP rating, but it still is a heavy vehicle (heavier in fact with the extra battery weight) so your vehicle is dangerous by it's height, weight and design for children, pedestrians and cyclists.

That should explain why one of your neighbors dared to ticket you. It should also show how consumers are being conned by the advertising hype. RX400's are good for Americans getting off their addiction to monstrosities like Hummers. Think of it as a nicotine patch. But in the UK, where 4x4s aren't so big and stupid, a Lexus RX400H isn't really going to do anything other than make someone feel warm and fuzzy about their big hybrid car with an 'h'.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Stereotypical 4x4 drivers?

We received the following letter from a supporter in Wilmslow, just to illuminate us on the mentality of some 4x4 owners:

"Where exactly in Wilmslow does a driver of a 4x4 need 4-wheel-drive? Whilst negotiating the speed bumps at Sainsbury's? Or mounting the kerb near the primary school so that I have to walk in the road to get past with my little boy walking home from school..Hmmmmm

This kind of arrogant vehicle owner should be shamed into re-thinking their choice of car. No Need!!!

Incidentally, a friend of the family has a BMW X5; they are a couple with no kids, and paid a lot for it, they live in Wilmslow, which fit's the stereotype. Anyway, they actually bragged to everyone that when they park up, they straddle the white lines in the parking bay, thus using up 2 spaces, because "We don't want anyone to "door" us when they park next to us...

I was just dumbstruck and to my eternal shame, did not come back with a damming comment, I had no frame of reference to begin to understand their thinking behind that kinda policy. They actually said it in the same way and with the same internation that you might say something like "Whenever we open a bottle of wine, we always finish it, no point in keeping half a bottle..."

They then went on to say that they had to park like this, because the spaces weren't big enough for a 4x4, obviously it's a conspiricy then!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Crash Test Dummies Stop the School Run

Today, members of the Alliance dressed as crash test dummies and vehicle safety test engineers to educate parents driving their children in large 4x4s to their Highgate schools.

The 'engineers' passed out 'test results' to 4x4 drivers to highlight the dangerous reality of their car choice. Each test result showed the EuroNCAP pedestrian safety test scores of their model.

A member of Roadpeace joined us for the morning's event, and informed us that it was important what we were doing, as a significant number of fatalities occur on the school run.

You can see more of the morning's action online. We were filmed by, a new online news channel trying to bring in debate about current issues. What could be more appropriate than the inappropriateness of large luxury 4x4s on a school run?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What is a 'Guzzle of 4x4 Drivers'?

The Independent today posted the results of a competition for new collective nouns.

One of them is: A guzzle of 4x4 drivers. As in: "The narrow road beside the school was entirely blocked by a guzzle of 4x4 drivers picking up their children." (Winner: Matthew Balmforth)

Explaining further about 4x4 drivers, the Independent states,'These are today's latest villains, and many people are keen to pigeonhole them as self-satisfied, inconsiderate, and environmental polluters in the extreme.'

'The winning word, which was suggested by a considerable number of people,manages to combine punchy impact with a sense of profligate consumption. An arrogance of 4x4 drivers was the second most-popular term. Others included: a pollution; an emission; a carbonation; a choke; an annoyance; an infuriation; a belligerence; an indifference; a menace; a smog; a smugness; a self-justification; an aloof; an insolence; a bombast; an inconsideration; a burberry; a Chelsea (as in the tractor); a Clarkson (as in Jeremy); a school run (popular but a bit obvious).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Old Landies Not Up To The Challenge in War Zones

Well, it seems that the old Land Rovers aren't up to the challenge in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now they are stopping soldiers using Land Rovers in combat after reports that the 4x4 vehicles have overturned 100 times - without being in a collision.

A Real 4x4 Driver Complains About Posers

We have been receiving complaints from legitimate 4x4 owners for a while now. In fact, a lot of farmers actually support our campaign. This letter arrived this morning:

"Dear 4x4,
The majority of these vehicles are driven by agressive females aged 30-50, of which the tractor forms part of the bling lifestyle along with food shopping at M&S & Waitrose.

The one thing I do notice however is that well over 95% of these don't sport a towbar!,so what the hell are they used for? I am shortly to own a 4x4, but it is a second vehicle with the sole function of towing a caravan & boat off road. If these vehicles were purchased for their primary use then we would not see so many of these tractors on the school run and the need for you to campaign so vigorously."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nurse Thinks 4x4s are Pointless Vehicles

We received this letter from a student nurse in Manchester today:
'I am writing in support of your website which I have just been informed of. I write this as I watch John Sergeants "Driving me Crazy" which highlights the monstrosity that is the 4x4.

As a mini driver I find these vehicles extremely intimidating and fear for my own safety when being followed by a 4x4.

As a student nurse I have also been exposed to the tragic consequences of accidents involving 4x4s have created and although the new tax raise has been implemented this is clearly not enough to dissuade drivers.

These vehicles are ridiculous, dangerous and completely pointless. I would like to suggest that individuals who wish to own a 4x4 should have a legitimate reason to do so, for example, if they work on a farm or have to regularly travel on terrain requiring a hardy vehicle."

Monday, May 14, 2007

You Don't Really Need a 4x4 in York

We received this letter from a supporter in York:
"Morning! I've just found your website. I have a 17 year old Land Rover that I use to travel the Sahara and the African bush, and as a founder of two environmental charities with an MSc in Environmental Science I consider myself an environmentalist as I practice minimal car use (I walk to work and the shops, for example, and cycle longer distances).

Please be assured that not all 4x4 drivers are thoughtless twits! However, I do agree wholeheartedly that 90% of 4x4s in the UK are owned by folk who don't need them. I also agree that they clog up town centres and drive with arrogance and aggression.

I would agree with your stated aims but would add a plea that, as with any group, 4x4 ownership is a broad movement - there are some of us who do think carefully about whether we need to use our cars, and how we use them, when such is the case. I teach at a school in the hills of North Yorkshire where many parents and staff own 4x4s, and use bad weather conditions as an (often spurious) justification for that ownership (the weather is never that bad!).

I regularly tell the kids that car use is a bad thing! And yet, as you know, car ownership, and especially big glossy 4x4 ownership are symbols of status and other rather daft ideas in our slightly skewed society. I do get disheartened sometimes, with parents of kids who troop in and announce smugly how much they recycle, etc., and then drive their huge wagon down the road to the post office.

Good luck. I think it's important that your voice is heard, and that you are seen as moderate and sensible (that will make your voice more readily listened-to). Our society is one that (I hope) encourages debate as a way to move forward."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

We're Not Encouraging Anti-4x4ism - We're Just in the Flow

You know, we get a lot of love mail, and we also get a lot of hate mail. 4x4 owners who have been ticketed write to tell us how misguided we are. They also accuse us of being fascists, against freedom of choice. They also respond as if we are corrupting people with our campaign, as if we are the leaders of some movement.

What they don't realise is we're merely helping to bring out the sentiments that a growing majority of people feel around the country. Think of us as a 'service provider'.

We received this letter from W. Sussex:
"I am always amazed at people who buy 4x4s and then NEVER take them off road! Why on earth you would need such a big vehicle just to take your kids to school is beyond me. It's as big a status symbol as a Ferrari these days, at the cost of the environment.

Please will you send me a free batch of "spoof parking tickets" so I can raise awareness to this in my area and hopefully make some people think harder about their car choice."

I think that's what we're doing. Motivating people to think more about the choices they are making, by enriching the information available about the vehicles out there, and pointing out the dangers that the large 4x4s present to our communities.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The School Run

Monday, May 07, 2007

Do You Really Need a 4x4?

I supporter sent us a link to this handy item on ebay.

The Autralian seller writes: "Tired of 4x4’s clogging our inner city roads? Ever wondered why that middle age woman needs a luxury BMW 4 Wheel Drive just to go to the shops? Why doesn’t she just buy a hatch back and use the change to save a staving African country? How many of these vehicles have actually seen dirt?"

"In this modern time of excess the suburban Four Wheel Drive has become the poster boy of unnecessary greed. Frankly I don’t see why my Accountant needs to drive an eight-seater vehicle every morning to work. Unless you own racehorses or you dress like the Crocodile Hunter there is no need for these vehicles in our cities."

We couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Do People with Bad Backs Really Need a large 4x4?

Did you ever wonder why so many 4x4s seems to be parked with blue badges displayed? We've heard from some people that they have a bad back, and a large 4x4 allows them to get in and out quite easily. But is that really a good enough excuse to drive a gas-guzzler?

Well, one of our supporters wrote to challenge this view. He writes:

"Having had the [Toyota] Prius for nearly 3 years, it is ideal. I have a serious back problem and it is the best car I have found to drive. Those that say that "I have to drive a 4X4 because I have a bad back" are talking rubbish. I have had 2 bouts of spinal surgery and so choosing the right seat and driving position is essential. I have tried almost every make of car including Mercedes, Saab, and Volvo. Cost has not been a restriction. The Toyota Prius is the best I have found because it has quite a bit extra head room when the seat is fully adjusted to its highest setting. I am 6 foot tall and adjust it up to get the hip/knee alignment right. Before I had the Prius I would drive for 3 hours and be unable to walk at the end of it. Recently I had to drive for 5 hours, do a job of work and then drive for 5 hours home with no problems.

I have tried 4x4's and I have to confess that they are better (for me) than a saloon or estate car - however, the Prius is better than all of them especially when you also take into account the drawbacks of a 4x4, such as lack of manoeuvrability. If you suffer from a bad back I would recommend the Prius above everything else I have tried. Claims that you must have a 4x4 if you have a bad back are just rubbish - another way of defending the indefensible.

I also live in a semi rural area, with muddy country roads. There are loads of people around here (South West) who move down and claim that they simply must have a 4x4 "for the country roads" - rubbish! The Prius is fine. We have had metalled roads down here for the last 70 odd years!

Growing up in a farming area in 70's no-one had 4x4s. OK, the farmers had a tractor but would otherwise drive around in an Austin Maxi or old Ford Cortina. I overheard an elderly farmer the other day saying that they could not see the need for all of these Chelsea tractors. "What if a field is wet then?" someone asked and the farmer just rolled his eyes and said "If the field's that bloody wet don't go into it" - which just about sums it up.

In the city the Prius is quiet, clean and, especially in rush hour, a joy to drive. I regularly get 60 miles to the gallon. I can certainly recommend the Prius to anyone. It is comfortable, quite, safe, a joy to drive and surprisingly quick if needs be. I regularly have to drive 20 odd miles between offices and I am always being held up on country roads by wallowing 4x4s.

Finally, a neighbour recently suggested that I traded the Prius in for a 50 grand Range Rover Sport - just like his. My retort was "Thanks...nice idea but I couldn't take the drop in status".

Monday, April 30, 2007

The German Car Industry Needs to Grow Up

According to a recent article in the Financial Times, 'Renate Künast, Germany’s former environment minister and a current Green MP, knows how to provoke.

She recently managed to infuriate the entire German car industry by urging consumers to buy Japanese. “I expect the German industry finally to produce modern cars,” she told a German newspaper."

“And if they can’t do that, people must buy a Toyota Prius ... Whoever falls asleep over the trend today will have to close factories tomorrow, just like you can see in the US.”'

Top Gear Presenter Questions 4x4s in London

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond admitted in a recent interview for GQ magazine that driving a Range Rover [4x4] in London was 'pretty unnecessary'.

It's so refreshing to hear that there is some evolution happening within the motoring ranks. Unlike his neanderthal co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson, Hammond understands the phrase 'Global Warming' and openly admits that "when I am in town I get around either on a scooter, a motorbike or on a [shiny Specialized] bicycle."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Large 4x4s aren't Required in the Mountains Either!

We received the following letter from Jon, a supporter who doesn't really think large 4x4s are required in the mountains.

"I live at nearly 1,000 metres on a mountain that measures nearly 3,000m in the French Pyrenees. I drive a regular domestic car that I fit with snow tyres each winter and I have to carry chains at all times but for most people here 4x4s are not essential - the roads are either clear and safe for all vehicles or un-passable for any (enforced). There is rarely any road scenario that demands a special vehicle.

The only people here who do actually drive 4x4s are people who need to go off road: local farmers, ski station workers, engineers and similar. Most locals do not see any kudos in a large vehicle and they are difficult to manage on narrow mountain roads so only people who really need them want them.

Of course, as soon as winter comes then the number of 4x4s on local roads increases dramatically, not because of the arrival of snow but because of the arrival of tourists who seem to think they need their big 4x4s to accommodate their one or two week annual vacation in the mountains. The fact that they don't see the irony in being skiers and drivers of gas guzzlers bewilders me.

It must feel wonderful to them [4x4 drivers] when they can finally use their huge cars in scenery that actually looks like the scenery in the television adverts - perhaps they then feel they have justified their choice of car. The locals just giggle when they bash them on the walls of the narrow village roads (which need extra care when you are driving a normal car) or get stuck and need help reversing back out of a road that is too narrow.

When you live in an environment like this and see how most people manage without anything more than chains and specialist tyres then the type of London Range Rover owner who boasts that his wonderful 4x4 helps him through the difficult terrain of the M25 during December makes you want to laugh (or perhaps cry?)

The thing that really worries me is the fuel consumption on mountain roads; the fuel figures you see advertised are for flat roads. Ever considered how much energy it takes to haul 3 tonnes of 4x4 up a 10 to 15 percent gradient? Perhaps it is a good thing that the tourists only drive their 4x4s in the mountains one week in each year."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bio Fuels - Climate Solution or 'Deforestation Diesel'?

There has been a lot in the news recently about biofuels. The UK government, as part of their Climate Change Action plan, want to see up to 5% biofuel mixes as mandatory by 2010. This will, they say, reduce our CO2 emissions from the transport sector.

Quite rightly, the Secretary of State for Transport, Douglas Alexander, in a speech to an IPPR audience, cautioned that the biofuels must come from a sustainable source. But is there a sustainable source? And can we, let alone the world, provide a 5-10% biofuel crop in a way that is sustainable?

Already the price of corn has shot up in the US, due to the new push for ethanol. This has led to food riots in Mexico where people can not afford the higher price for their maize. George Monbiot called last week for an immediate moratorium on biofuels until more research is carried out. He warns that biofuels are a recipe for a humanitarian and environmental disaster.

And even the oil companies are saying that we can not meet targets to bring 5% biofuel to the UK forecourts without endangering wildlife.

So are biofuels a magic bullet to reduce our carbon footprint? Consider this:

* The grain required to fill the petrol tank of a Range Rover with ethanol is sufficient to feed one person per year. Assuming the petrol tank is refilled every two weeks, the amount of grain required would feed a hungry African village for a year

* Much of the fuel that Europeans use will be imported from Brazil, where the Amazon is being burned to plant more sugar and soybeans, and Southeast Asia, where oil palm plantations are destroying the rainforest habitat of orangutans and many other species. Species are dying for our driving

*The expansion of biofuels would increase monoculture farming

*If ethanol is imported from the US, it will likely come from maize, which uses fossil fuels at every stage in the production process, from cultivation using fertilisers and tractors to processing and transportation. Growing maize appears to use 30% more energy than the finished fuel produces, and leaves eroded soils and polluted waters behind

* Meeting the 5.75% target would require, according to one authoritative study, a quarter of the EU's arable land

* Using ethanol rather than petrol reduces total emissions of carbon dioxide by only about 13% because of the pollution caused by the production process, and because ethanol gets only about 70% of the mileage of petrol

* Food prices are already increasing. With just 10% of the world's sugar harvest being converted to ethanol, the price of sugar has doubled; the price of palm oil has increased 15% over the past year, with a further 25% gain expected next year.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Even Hummers aren't Safe

The Auto Industry Primarily Advertises Gas Guzzlers

I was at a meeting last week with car industry and advertising representatives, looking at ways to make advertisements for vehicles more informative about CO2 emissions. What shocked me was the firm belief by the industry that car adverts do not create demand. This is like saying smoking ads don't inspire people to smoke.

The auto industry is under attack for not doing it's part to reduce CO2 emissions from the cars they sell. A report last year proved that the majority of the industry is failing to reach their 'agreed' target to reduce CO2 emission levels by 2012. What they inevitably come back with is that they are only producing what the consumers want - namely larger, thirstier and more powerful vehicles. This unfortunately increases sales for more expensive 4x4s, which provides greater profits. They say that they have huge lots of smaller, cheaper and more fuel efficient cars but no one wants to buy them (when's the last time you saw an ad for a sexy lightweight efficient car?) And they insist they are doing their part for the environment by investing in new R&D on new cleaner biofuels. So they aren't part of the problem - they're doing their part. Right?
Well, a startling new survey by the environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth reveals that, again, most car ads in national newspapers are for gas-guzzling vehicles. They discovered that during a two-week period about 55 per cent of adverts in national newspapers were for cars in the most polluting bands E to G, which emit more than 165 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. One has to ask - does the auto industry really want to do anything about climate change? Or are they just in the business for a quick buck.

OK - they are businesses, so they are legally obliged to provide a return to their investors. So they agreesively advertise what will make them the most profit. And selling little Micra's isn't where they will make a profit. But wouldn't you rather the 'dirty car industry' just say this outright, instead of all the greenwash stuff?

As a snub to the auto industry, the Eden Project in Cornwall is now hosting a sexy green car show. On display at the show are new cars that won't be appearing in Top Gear anytime soon.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Budget hits Band G drivers harder

In case you somehow missed the news reports, the Chancellor has raised VED for the top Band G vehicles to £400 - £90 increase this year and a further £100 increase next year. There is also a decease in the Band G rates to £35.
Fuel duty will also increase by 2p a liter.
The RAC Foundation showed their support for the move. Edmund King, executive director, said "a tax increase on fuel-hungry cars will encourage motorists to seek out more fuel-efficient and carbon-friendly models."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why Only an Increase in VED is not Enough

Today the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s is calling on the Chancellor to show real leadership and moral responsibility.

If the Chancellor has the moral character to show real leadership in tackling climate change, then he needs to begin to use the VED system significantly so that it does more than raise taxes for the treasury. VED is the logical lever available to the government to put pressure on private car choices in the UK. Creating a higher rate for the top band G would reduce the number of those vehicles being purchased. Creating a new fee-bate for energy efficient cars below an agreed CO2 emissions level would stimulate the market for lower carbon vehicles.

In 2001, as a response to the Kyoto Protocol, Gordon Brown overhauled the VED system from engine size to a differential system based on carbon dioxide emissions. The new system of VED was established as an instrument to alter consumer behaviour in order to decrease CO2 emissions from the transport sector, which accounts for over 20% of the UK total CO2 emissions.

Unfortunately, 6 years later the VED system as it currently stands has had little or no such affect. In fact, since 2004 consumer and manufacturer behaviour has driven the sales increasingly for larger, thirstier and more powerful vehicles. According to VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, consumers ‘want cars with more powerful engines, air-conditioning and all kinds of electronic gadgets to enhance comfort and safety. They are buying high-roof cars with higher air resistance values and SUVs [4x4s]. These segments have experienced the biggest boom in recent years.” Significantly, due to their popularity, almost every manufacturer now provides at least one 4x4 model. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are one of the fastest growing sectors of the car market. (1) Sales in the UK have doubled in the past decade and, in 2004 alone, the rise was 13%. (2)

In 2005, the European Federation for Transport and Environment stated that the weak point of the UK VED system is that the differences in VED levels are too small to have a significant impact on consumer choice. (3) The £20 difference between the existing bands F and G provides no financial incentive for consumers to choose a less polluting vehicle.

The report ‘Assessing the Impact of Graduated Vehicle Excise Duty – Quantitative Research’, prepared by MORI for the Department for Transport in June 2003, concluded that the current graduated scheme of vehicle tax does not offer a large enough incentive to encourage behavioural change. (4) Surveying private car buyers, the MORI report found that a differential between bands of £150 would be needed to persuade even 55% of buyers to choose a lower emission car. A difference of £300 was needed to persuade 72% of drivers to do the same. Despite commissioning this research, the Chancellor’s government has failed to implement evidence-based differentials in the VED scheme in every budget since 2003.

Meanwhile, the auto manufacturers have a huge over capacity of efficient vehicles, because there is no consumer demand. Since 1995 they have called on the European governments to provide clear and consistent leadership in order to drive demand. According to ACEA, “It is of crucial importance that future CO2-related policy focuses on influencing consumer demand, through CO2-based taxation of cars and alternative fuels, to provide a consumer base for the many existing CO2-efficient solutions developed by the industry.” (5) Again the market instrument at Gordon Brown's disposal is VED. He can't wait for some future agreement on the EU level.

The Chancellor was reported to say last week that consumers need incentives not punishments. We feel that consumers need real leadership. The VED system as it currently stands doesn’t include any significant incentive to attract would be buyers to a fuel-efficient vehicle. We are calling for a fee-bate up to £300 for purchases of vehicles under 120 gmCO2 / km.

At the same time there needs to be a substantial economic driver against the current lifestyle trend to buy bigger and heavier vehicles. We are calling for a significant increase to the top Band G (currently only £210). This needs to be over £1300. This is backed up by a survey by the RAC Foundation in 2005. They reported that, although car buyers say cost is paramount in their decision-making, in reality, they are prepared to endure large increases in costs before changing their behaviour. On average, the report notes that annual costs have to increase by at least £1,100 before private car drivers will consider switching to an alternative fuel or smaller engine (both of which are preferred to a smaller car). (6)

While consumers continue to demand heavier cars and more powerful engines, the Chancellor continues to relegate any leadership decisions to Europe, and continually does nothing to take real responsibility for changing the UK market, regardless of the impact on our fragile ecosystem.

Car efficiency needs to be financially rewarded instead of being dismissed. Our VED system needs a radical overhaul in order to shift consumer demand towards energy efficient cars and away from damaging gas-guzzlers.

It is vital that the Treasury send a clear message this week to the marketplace to provide marked encouragement to purchase lighter and more fuel efficient cars, and provide substantial dis-incentives to change the current purchasing trend for heavier and more powerful vehicles.


1.) "People Act as though the Hybrid Could Solve all our Problems". Spiegel Online, March 06, 2007

2.) “Little and Large: a Lethal Combination”. The Times, 21 March 2005

3.) “Making Car Taxes Work for the Environment”. European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), December 2005

4.) “Assessing the Impact of Graduated Vehicle Excise Duty – Quantitative Research”. MORI for the Department for Transport, June 2003

5.) “Car Firms made Progress in CO2 Fight”. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association, extracted from the Economist Newspaper, 2007

6.) RAC Foundation quoted in Lane, “Consumer Attitudes to Low Carbon and Fuel-Efficient Passenger Cars”. Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, March 2005

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Least Popular Vehicle is the 4x4

Well, yet another national poll on 4x4s show that we're on the winning track.

BBC Radio 2 radio host Jeremy Vine asked listeners last week which vehicle they would most like to vote off the UK roads. Choices ranged from 9 categories including cyclists, lorries, caravans and 4x4s. To be fair, one of our members even voted for lorries.

After receiving over 25,000 votes, by last Friday the 4x4 was voted the least popular vehicle.

Why aren't we surprised?

Landrover Subvertisement

A supporter sent this to us over the weekend. The truth is more real than the fiction-filled fantasy.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The spread of CO2-based parking rates

The decision earlier this year by Richmond Council to introduce differential parking rates based on vehicle fuel emissions has encouraged a string of other councils around Britain to follow suit.

A third of the British capital's 32 boroughs are now looking into similar schemes.Before the end of May, the local authority in Camden, north-west London will adopt the new parking measures. Camden is also encouraging owners of electric vehicles to charge their batteries with power generated from renewable energy sources by setting up free charging points around the borough. In addition, the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Haringey, Southwark, Brent and Hackney are set to vary parking permit prices on the basis of emissions.

The schemes will offer free parking for electric cars but would see up to a 200 percent increase on current rates for the most polluting vehicles such as gas-guzzling four-wheel drives.

Mayor Ken Livingstone, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and environmental minister David Milliband have all welcomed the initiatives as a local solution to help fight climate change.

The trend has also caught on outside the capital -- the seaside towns of Brighton and Hove agreed a 50 percent increase in the price of permits for the most polluting vehicles within a few months, taking it to £120. Importantly, the proceeds will be used to fund environmental projects, including green modes of transport, according to the council.

The city of Manchester has developed a green badge parking scheme, which allows drivers of eco-friendly vehicles to park in town at a significantly reduced rate.

York is also offering motorists an eco-friendly carrot in the shape of a 50 percent reduction in the cost of residential parking permits for small and less polluting cars.

Monday, February 26, 2007

2 Panzerwagens - Can you spot the difference?

Can you spot the difference between these two 'Panzerwagens'? Actually the similarities are more striking. Both are designed by german manufacturer Porsche. The King Tiger Tank and the new Cayenne Turbo both symbolise the german fascination with engineering big heavy powerful vehicles. Reportedly, the Tiger tank was the most powerful tank during World War II. And at 500bhp, the new 4.8 liter Cayenne turbo may be one of the most powerful 4x4s today.

The Porsche slogan says it all: 'Once momentum is created, nothing can halt its progress'. Too bad. It seems that the german engineers haven't cottoned on that the world has changed.
Here at the Alliance, we're throwing down the gauntlet. We're challenging the german car makers. Instead of fighting the EU against binding emissions regulations and protecting their economy, can they instead use their engineering prowess to design and produce a new vehicle that is fitting for the 21st century instead of old fashioned, fat and heavy tanks?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Is it OK to recycle old Land Rovers?

We get a lot of emails from drivers who are proud of the fact that they have kept their old Land Rover running for 30 years. They feel that it's better for the environment than purchasing a new one. They also say it's easy to find old parts. Some also convert their old engines to use veggie oil and LPG.

As an example, Jonathan Holmes writes: "75% of all land rovers ever built are still on the road today - is this not an achivement? I bet in 50 years time half the crap that is built now won't still be running!"

In the past I would have agreed with these comments. On the surface it's seems good practice to keep something going for as long as possible. Like a good pair of leather shoes. But in thinking it through I realise there are some arguments against doing this, primarily on safety grounds.

If drivers are keeping their old Defenders alive to work on the farm, then it might make sense. However, if they are being used on the major highways then I would have to disagree becasue new models have state of the art safety equipment built in, as well as more structural support in case of collisions.

Also, newer models should* have better fuel efficiency and air quality standards.

(*It seems that many new large LR models get worse mileage than old models)

So, while it may make sense to keep the old Land Rover alive and kicking on the farm, or to use in far away places where you can easily rebuild the vehicle when it breaks down, in the new urban jungle, they just don't make sense, really.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Are rural 4x4 owners just Posers?

We received this message today from a supporter in Lydney

"Are you focusing on urban 4x4s because you are nervous about rural 4x4 users all being bona fide sheep farmers? Well don't be! They're not! They're manicured soccer Moms just the same as in the cities, and just as much of a menace. (I had one bearing down on me with her glaring headlights last night).

In my village there is a particular issue with 4x4s parking or driving up on the grass verges as they squeeze down our narrow lanes, and turning the verge and road to a sea of mud -- just where the children who aren't being ferried need to walk to school.

Believe me, most people here lead just as "urban" a lifestyle as anyone in Fulham -- And indeed anyone who genuinely works on the land (tree cutting, sheep farming etc) would never earn enough to buy one of these glorified handbags (I know this sounds sexist but to me somehow women do look particularly ludicrous driving these things, and it does seem to be women really often -- perhaps because of the child-ferrying aspect.)

People who actually need four wheel drive vehicles round here drive battered old pickups or old "real" landrovers."

Why do 4x4s now look so old-fashioned?

I was out the door and on my mountain bike early this morning, in the rain, looking for hybrid cars, Smart cars, and electric vehicles. I was looking for these cars to put our new valentine card on their windscreen. It was fun - really a case of hunting around, riding up and down streets. In a half hour I managed to discover 5 Toyota Prius and 3 electric cars.
It seemed strange not to be putting our parking tickets on the myriad of large 4x4s around at the same time.

It occurred to me how old fashioned and out of date the 4x4s are quickly becoming. While the Prius seems to reflect change, new possibilities and a positive trajectory for the automotive industry, the 4x4s looked gloomy, out of step and unfashionable.

What we really need is more innovation. Not just technological adaptations to old ideas, but whole new designs from a standpoint of performance, design and environmental responsibility.

Maybe some of them are small and look like golf carts, but the new alternative cars are a beacon, really, of hope and movement towards a more conscious future.

Listen to Al Gore speak about the future of cars in his interview with Fifth Gear.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Environmentalists vs. the Industrialists

These are interesting times. We've known for sometime that the EU was considering the future of the voluntary agreement with the automotive industry in order to reduce carbon emissions. Last week we had a flurry of emails from our networks across Europe about all of the intense lobbying going on behind the scenes. Verheugen and Merkel were throwing their weight around to protect the European car industry, while Dimas pushed for binding emissions targets, especially after the recent UN report on climate change. Meanwhile the President of the EU, Jose Manuel Barroso, has been siding with Dimas and calling for tougher CO2 cuts, whilst hypocritically driving around in a huge gas guzzling VW Touareg 4x4.
The outcome is a communique on Wednesday recommending a binding average emissions target of 130gm CO2 / km by 2012.
It's interesting to see the different views taken by the press. The German paper Spiegel reports that it is up to the consumers to change things around. According to the car industry, they have been doing their bit, to the extent that they have a large over-capacity of small and efficient cars which they can't sell, because the demand is for larger and more powerful cars. I heard a spokesperson for the auto industry on Radio 4 calling for higher taxation by the member states to drive the demand away from gas guzzlers.

The Telegraph took a different stance. They reported that the EU had failed it's first big test on tackling Climate Change, and instead bent to accommodate economic interests. According to Jos Dings, of the European Federation for Transport and Environment, "the Commission has proposed to weaken an 11-year-old climate target for new cars just five days after the global scientific community warned policymakers to take serious and urgent action on climate change."
In what may be the best advice, José Manuel Barroso said "the new rules could help rather than hinder Europe’s ailing car industry."
“The E.U. car industries are at the core of our economies,” he said. “By positively taking up the climate change challenge, they will preserve and enhance their competitiveness in the long term.”
So, rather than fighting, if our auto executives embraced change, maybe they would actually help their businesses to compete and help save the planet at the same time.

4x4s are branded Unsafe by Government Experts

A new report confirms what we've been saying all along - 4x4s are decidedly more dangerous - to their occupants. The report by Government road safety experts states that 4x4s are unsafe due to their larger weight and higher center of gravity.

Apparently, 4x4s are twice as likely as other cars to roll in collisions with motorway and roadside safety barriers.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, said 4x4 drivers are lulled into a false sense of security: "4x4 drivers are not always better off, especially if they hit an object which causes them to overturn."

Hitting the nail even more on the head, The Times reports that 4x4s tended “to be bought for image value and for a perceived sense of safety on the road”. The study said many modern 4x4s had “questionable off-road abilities” and added: “The closest many of them get to an off-road environment is the super-market car park.” The authors concluded that many people bought them to transport children to school because they believed they were more likely to survive unscathed in collisions.

Watch this 5th Gear video showing what happens when a large 4x4 rams a smaller car.

It's no wonder that sales of 4x4s are declining. People are starting to see the reality beyond the hype.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why the Dust to Dust Report belongs in the Dustbin

We have received a lot of emails lately from disgruntled 4x4 owners and piston heads who have been claiming that their 4x4 is better for the environment than a new hybrid car. Their information, we assume, comes from an article printed last year in a car magazine. We wish to inform them that the “Dust to Dust” report by the Seattle-based marketing company, CNW Marketing Research, is fundamentally flawed. We have consulted friends in the field and they have suggested the following points to support this assertion.

On the face of it, the report appears to be an extensively researched study, all 450+ pages; however it quickly becomes apparent that it provides no evidence whatsoever to back up its assertions. They claim to have nearly 4,000 data points on each of more than 300 models of vehicle. However, none of this data is actually included in the report, and there are no referenced sources, making it impossible to judge the quality of the data used.

Another big problem with the report is its lack of logic. Its main argument is that a fuel-efficient hybrid car (say 45mpg) uses more energy in its lifetime than an inefficient 4x4 (say 22mpg), because, the energy required to manufacture the hybrid outweighs the fuel saved when it is being used. It is valid to say that it takes more energy to manufacture hybrid cars. This is because of the advanced motor and battery technologies used, and the higher energy requirement of materials such as aluminium and lightweight steel.

However, the higher energy use at the manufacturing stage is more than compensated for by the energy saved when the car is being used. Reputable, peer-reviewed studies have concluded that between 10% and 30% of the total CO2 emitted by a car during its life-cycle come from the manufacturing and disposal phase, and at least 70% of CO2 comes through the use phase (i.e. when the car is actually being driven). A list of legitimate life-cycle studies is included below.

Simply put, there is no possible way that a 45mpg car could use more energy than a 22 mpg car provided they both have reasonably similar amounts of use. The only way that CNW could possibly argue that the hybrid uses more energy in its lifetime would be to assume that hybrids drive a lot more miles than less efficient cars. However, bizarrely, in their report CNW actually claim that gas-guzzlers drive more miles than hybrids! (For example, CNW claim that the gas-guzzling Hummer H3 drives 207,000 miles in its lifetime, while the Toyota Prius drives 109,000 miles.)

No reason is given for this assumption over mileage, but there is no technical reason why it should be the case: In California, the Prius hybrid system components are warranted for 150,000 miles. The point however is that if a Hummer H3 were to be driven twice as far as a Prius, then it would use vastly more fuel; far more than enough to overtake any additional energy used in the manufacture of the Prius. Yet CNW still claim that the Prius costs more in energy terms per mile than the Hummer.

The report also makes a fatal mistake by attributing all of the design and development energy costs to the existing range of hybrids. Art Spinella, the author of the report has admitted in an interview that if the study were repeated in 3 years time, the results would be “totally different”.

A quick example illustrates the flawed reasoning used in this report: the energy cost per mile of the Volkswagen Golf is given as $2.70 while that of the Hummer H3 is $1,95. How a car, with no special hardware, greater than twice the fuel economy and less than half the weight of the H3 can consume nearly 40% more energy every mile is not explained.

These are but a few illustrations of where this so-called 'study' is flawed, but the points outlined above are the most notable. The CNW report can be considered in the same category as 'modern research' published to throw doubt into the debate on the science of climate change, and should be treated with extreme scepticism by any well-meaning person.

Here’s a list of credible Automotive Life Cycle Studies:

• A report produced by Transport Research Ltd “Sustainable resource use in the motor industry: a mass balance approach”, 2004, concluded that about 80% of the total CO2 emissions from a car are as a result of its use, and 20% as a result of its manufacture and disposal. The report was produced by Transport Research Ltd under part of a contract by Viridis and is available from TRL publications

• Data provided from Toyota’s Environmental and Social Report, 2004, states that 15% of CO2 comes from material manufacturing, 5% from vehicle manufacturing, 75% from use and the final 5% from maintenance and disposal. In 2002 EUCAR ran a project called LIRECAR to study lifecycle emissions of lightweight vehicles with the inclusion of a regular vehicle as a baseline. The average figure was 90% of the emissions produced in the use phase and 10% during production.

• The UK Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, who undertook a literature review and consultation on this issue in 2005, concluded that around 80% of a vehicle’s CO2 emissions come from the usage phase (plus-minus 10%)

• Volkswagen life cycle analysis of a Golf mark 3 suggests that some 70 to 73 per cent of energy is consumed during the use phase, Schweimer and Levin Life cycle inventory for the Golf (2000). This study includes reference to energy to produce the fuel, emphasising the use phase.

• CO2 analysis work by Dr. Ben Lane for Camden Council (2006) on fuels and production emissions suggests higher emissions in fuel production, but similar emissions from vehicle production and use to that outlined by Schweimer and Levin

• A breakdown of the three life cycle phases, based on Lirecar (2004) (5) suggests that five percent of energy is consumed in disposal Life Cycle Assessment of Lightweight and End-of-Life Scenarios for Generic Compact Class Passenger Vehicles Wulf-Peter Schmidt, Elisabeth Dahlqvist, Matthias Finkbeiner, Stephan Krinke, Silvia Lazzari, Dirk Oschmann, Sophie Pichon and Christian Thiel (2004)

• Taking all these studies into account, the SMMT (the UK auto industry trade body) estimated in their most recent sustainability report that for a mid range car, used in the United Kingdom they suggest life cycle and CO2 can be allocated in the following way: Manufacturing 10 per cent; Use 85 per cent; and Disposal 5 per cent.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's the Economy, Stupid

Late last year we organised an international network of anti-4x4 groups across Europe and the US. Our french colleagues at Agir pour l'Environnement recently pulled off a media stunt to reveal the inconsistency of Fiat, who have decided to launch a new 4x4 that will emit 250 gm CO2 / km in urban areas. This is a tragedy, because Fiat have so far been one of the rare few manufacturers to keep to their EU emissions targets, according to the T&E report last year; the Italian maker's average emissions levels were currently on target at 140 gm.
Fiat isn't alone. Renault joined the 4x4 bandwagon late last year. The reason? Well, according to the industry, consumers simply aren't buying enough small and efficient cars; consumers want larger and more powerful cars. As a consequence, the manufacturers' hands are tied to advertise and sell large 4x4s. Cynical, isn't it?
Meanwhile the Earth is heating up and government ministers and industry executives act as if the Stern report was never published. While the EU environmental commisioner Stavros Dimas wants to set binding emissions regulations for the industry,
the chiefs at BMW, DaimerChrysler, Ford, Opel and Volswagen have strogngly urged the commision to withdraw plans to make manufacturers reduce CO2 emissions of new cars sold in the EU to an average of 120 gm/km in 2012. Why? According to the Wall Street Journal, 'One out of seven jobs in Europe's largest economy depends on the auto industry. German manufacturers -- including DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes unit, BMW AG, Porsche AG, and Volkswagen AG's Audi brand -- are particularly vulnerable because their lines are thick with vehicles that have heavy engines and churn out relatively high CO2 levels.' In other words, it's the economy, stupid.
So, while we need to do everything we can to prevent climate change, we mustn't do anything that upsets the economy. Or really, we mustn't do anything to upset the status quo.
We look forward to seeing if the EU has any conscience to withstand the industry's resistance to change.

Clementine Florence Cope, 10 lbs 9 oz

Sarah, one of the founders of the Alliance, gave birth last week to Clementine Florence Cope. Clementine has sent us an exclusive story.

"Born last Wednesday in London’s Hampstead, I was fascinated when I first looked out of the window and espied the world. There was white stuff everywhere. “That’s snow,” explained my Mummy. I could also see lots of boxes on wheels going past. Mummy explained that these were called 4x4s. I wondered why so many people were driving these big ugly tanks whilst others could seemingly manage fine with smaller cars, bicycles, buses – and pushchairs!

Mummy told me how dirty and dangerous 4x4s are. I wondered what positive step I could take. A quick internet search took me to the website for the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s. I swiftly bought an organic t-shirt, and stickers with which to decorate my pushchair. (NB. zero emissions! carbon neutral!).

My advice to babies everywhere is that it is us who will suffer in the future because of selfish people driving 4x4s today. Take action now! And if your parents drive a 4x4, create a stink. Literally. Poo yourself dramatically, puke all over the luxury upholstery, and scream until you make their ears bleed. We babies must stand – well, sprawl – against horrible 4x4s!"

We look forward to continuing reports from Clementine Florence Cope.

Kids Against 4x4s

Well, this must be 'Kids against 4x4s' week.

Our friend Ben has sent us a photo of Edward sporting one of our 100% natural organic T-shirts. The shirts are totally ethically made for us by Sandbag, who produce clothing for the band Radiohead.

It's fitting that kids should wear our T shirts. After all, it's them who stand to suffer the most from 4x4s. The CO2 emissions that are directly contributing to climate change are on a whole twice as high from luxury 4x4s compared with most average cars and the NOx emissions from the large diesel engines are directly linked to inducing asthma. And we know that the unique height, shape and weight of 4x4s make them more dangerous to children in a collision.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Another Alliance group launches in Bristol!

We're very happy to announce yet another Alliance group. Bristol officially launched on Saturday 27th January on the College Green. Over 20 supporters attended the event.
David Rose, the group's organiser, commented: "The question is this - are we as a society doing anything meaningful to slow down climate change when you can still legally park and drive a huge, fuel-inefficient Range Rover in Clifton, just for shopping trips and the school run?"
Well, we certainly don't think so. We find it ironic how many 4x4 drivers write to tell us all the good things they are doing for the planet. Hmmm...they just don't get it, do they!

Friday, January 26, 2007

What is wrong with 4x4s?

We got this passionate email from Michael C., who lives on the Isle of Man.

"We are all quite rightly told to our bit to help the environment, yet car manufacturers still produce these apalling vehicles and everyday they are advertised on TV and there are more and more turning up on our roads everyday.

I live on the Isle of man which is 37 miles long and 12 miles wide and we have something like 6 to 7 cars out of 10 with extremely large engine capacities and people come here from all over the world for tax reasons, bringing these dreadful vehicles with them. Our population has increased drastically and our roads are getting worse!

I have always been close to nature from walking in parks to the countryside and i see changes, not just in our climate but in the plants and animals, particularly the birds and none of what i see is good. I see trees becoming increasingly mossy where birds used to nest and now there is no nests.

I honestly believe we are destroying our world and we need to do something about it before it's too late.I believe reducing engine sizes would be a great step forward and would be very easy to do. But for reasons unknown to me, no one will take the iniative to do it. The only thing i can think of is possibly protecting the revenue gained from selling more petrol or diesel. As far as i can see they will keep on producing these dreadful vehicles for generations to come, assuming the generations survive what is clearly coming with regard to climate change.

The only people i can think of that may need a 4 wheel drive are the emergency services like mountain rescue or the coast guards, not people picking there kids up from school or going shopping, or going to work. What is wrong with people? Big Vehicles have the disadvantage of:

1. A person in a smaller car, stuck behind one of these can't see to the left or right because of their width, or in front of them because of their height thus they cause blind spots and jeopardise road safety.
2. The volumes of pollution have been linked to childhood asthma.
3. The volumes of pollution are bound to affect climate.
4. If you park 3 of these big vehicles in a street they take up the same space as about 5 smaller cars, and many places have a car parking crisis as it is.
5. If these large vehicles hit a child or a pedestrian, they don't stand much chance of surviving.
6. If these large vehicles are in collision with a smaller car, the driver of the smaller car usually sustains the most injuries.
7. Due to their lower milage ratings, the have a bigger drain on the earths oil resources.
8. They cost a lot more to run, insure and tax.
9. The tyres are so big they use more rubber to make them ( This again is a waste of earth resources)
10. Their weight damages road surfaces, causing more expense to people paying taxes.
There are more, but the point is these cars are unnecessary and thats a high price to pay.

Basically the main reason people buy these large vehicles is to make themselves look better than anyone else. it is used as a fashion accessory at the expense of the children's health, the climate and the earths resources and the air we breathe! Can anyone tell me if i'm wrong about this?"