The presence of large vehicles such as Hummers and Ford Excursions on our highways shows that there is a demographic that prefers high horse-powered utility vehicles — vehicles notorious for being gas-guzzlers and less than environmentally friendly.
However, after the introduction of environmentally sound gas/electric hybrid cars, some automotive manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and designed sport-utility hybrids. These new SUVs are accredited with having the same gas mileage as current non-hybrid cars. Such vehicles will not only be more environmentally friendly but also lower the United States’ dependency on foreign oil sources.
Ford and Toyota plan to introduce the first two hybrid SUVs to the American market as early as this spring. According to The New York Times, these models will supplement the typical internal combustion system with an electric motor that generates electricity while the motor is running on “regular” gas mode, but kicks in at low speeds thereby saving gas.
Typically, SUVs are only able to average 19 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency, and some get a as low as 4 to 8 mpg. The new hybrids are expected to average 35 to 40 mpg with city driving and average about 20 percent more fuel efficiency on highways ,according to The New York Times.
Environmental advocates have been opposed to SUVs for their environment-damaging characteristics. For example, a study conducted by David Friedman, research director for the clean vehicle program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, quoted in The New York Times reports that in order to stop the global warming emissions of automobiles, 60 percent of cars would have to be hybrids by 2015.
Dan Becker, a specialist in global warming with the Sierra Club, told The New York Times that if large car companies start to embrace the technology that is available to them to make more fuel-efficient cars, then environmentalists will be more accepting of them.
Toyota initially reached commercial success with its hybrid Prius. Toyota also hopes to release the Lexus RX400h in early November or December of this year. Ford’s new version of its SUV, Escape, will be on the market in April. Dodge and General Motors are also looking into revamping some of their more popular truck models in order to keep up with the hybrid demand, according to CNN.
Hopefully these environmentally sound SUVs will catch on. For now, it is commendable that the automakers are finally tailoring their vehicles to be more fuel-efficient.