The SUV Drives Alone

In times of mass pollution, poor economy, high gas prices, and a general realization that our society is running out of resources we all need to take a look at our current lifestyles. With sustainability in mind and priding myself in making green decisions it has always bugged me to see an unloaded full size truck or SUV carrying a single passenger. This has never made sense to me. I’m not talking about the once a month trip to the store to fetch a gallon of milk. I’m referring to the people you see everyday on your commute to work while driving Bigfoot or the decked out H2 rolling on 44” mud tires with central tire inflation. A daily occurrence on the I-5 corridor while on your way into town from an adjoining state…i.e. Vancouver, WA.
Not only is this not an ecological intelligent decision, it also prevents the driver from taking advantage of the car pool lane so it may take them longer to get there. I decided to research some of the operating costs of a realistic comparison of two of the most popular vehicles on the road. I chose to avoid comparing purchase prices since it doesn’t factor in the year of the car or whether or not it was bought new. For example, one could buy a three year old SUV for the same price as a brand new, more efficient 4 door sedan since; excluding hybrid vehicles; automobiles have retained their efficiencies for the past 10 years.
With an average round trip commute to work of 25 miles while driving 15,000 miles annually I compared these two most popular vehicles on the road today. A 2009 Honda Accord featuring a 4 cylinder engine with an automatic transmission and a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 with automatic transmission and 4WD. Given these stipulations the Accord emitted 7.7 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and the Burb emitted over 70% more totaling 13.1 tons of CO2. That’s an additional 10,800 pounds of carbon dioxide in a single year. The owner of the Accord spent almost $1600 less to drive those same 15,000 miles than the owner of the Suburban. One trip to work and back will cost the Accord driver $3.58 compared to $6.14 with the Suburban.
Keep in mind; neither of these automobiles are extreme in one way or the other. They are just the two most popular. The Suburban is fairly efficient in comparison to other like vehicles and the Accord is not a small economy car so the comparison gap can spread to a much greater distance. For example, a Smart car, which still burns more fuel than a hybrid will drive about 3 times as far on the same amount of fuel as the Suburban. So, if you still insist on traveling in an eight passenger vehicle, try to have almost eight passengers with you.

Joe Curnes