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.