15 votes

SUV shaming: I care about climate change, so why am I driving an SUV?

24 comments

  1. [6]
    Diet_Coke
    Link
    It would be better to not drive a vehicle that is needlessly large, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't make much of a difference. Consider the difference in carbon footprint from a...

    It would be better to not drive a vehicle that is needlessly large, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't make much of a difference. Consider the difference in carbon footprint from a bicyclist to someone that drives an H2 everywhere. One test flight of an F-35 is the equivalent of two years of that difference. The seventeen largest cargo ships emit as much fossil fuels as all of the world's drivers. If you're conscientious about your carbon footprint and/or advocating more sensible policies than those we currently have, I'll give you a pass on your SUV.

    11 votes
    1. [5]
      stephen
      Link Parent
      But if you're conscientious about your carbon footprint and then give yourself a pass for one of your largest carbon emitters then what does your "conscientiousness" amount to? Jack shit! That's...

      But if you're conscientious about your carbon footprint and then give yourself a pass for one of your largest carbon emitters then what does your "conscientiousness" amount to? Jack shit! That's what! Obviously individuals are not going to make the big changes we need. But if the mindset is "oh well other people are worse so I get a free pass" how is change ever going to happen?

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        tesseractcat
        Link Parent
        Change regarding climate change and carbon footprints shouldn't really be expected at an individual level. The solution for these problems should originate from a national or policy level instead....

        Change regarding climate change and carbon footprints shouldn't really be expected at an individual level. The solution for these problems should originate from a national or policy level instead. If we make the solution to these problems "every individual human needs to do better," you're not going to get anywhere due to the tragedy of the commons. It could be argued that by advocating for climate change policy you are doing more to help in the long run than by using a more efficient car.

        If we disparage people for using vehicles that on the individual level make a tiny difference in carbon emissions, we discourage them from joining our cause, and perhaps one day being part of the advocates/voters that help institute a carbon tax or any kind of green policy that will vastly outweigh the amount of emissions their inefficient car generated.

        6 votes
        1. stephen
          Link Parent
          Passing the buck legislators is a pipedream. You as a voter have impact on the government once every few years and then you a subject to the political will of a massive corporate lobbyist...

          Passing the buck legislators is a pipedream. You as a voter have impact on the government once every few years and then you a subject to the political will of a massive corporate lobbyist influenced machine. The best you can do is hope the right person got elected. What about the other days of the year?

          Lobbying politicians is not a bad addition to personal choices. But saying it comprises an effective solution overlooks who politicians listen to. Calling your representative and getting a form letter 5 weeks later is demoralizing. Furthermore, this version of action assumes that the only people who can make meaningful change are politicians and that's not true.

          Not taking personal action deepens sense of learned helplessness and I don't think I said anyone should be disparaged. Part of the problem is cultural and lifestyles. We create the culture of our society every day based on the choices we make.

          We need a culture of urgency regarding ecological collapse due to climate change. Sure, the material impacts of ditching your SUV are negligible. But the CO2 accountancy aspect is only part of the effect of making the change. By making the change you demonstrate to yourself and others that climate change is worth making changes in response to. You begin to construct a culture of individuals who are empowered to take action.

          If there were more of a ecological collective conscious in the culture people would be more inclined to make changes at work. People would withhold their labor from polluters by choosing to work elsewhere. They would agitate at work to implement composting programs etc. etc.

          Sure individuals pale in comparison to organizations. But organizations make these massive impacts to serve the will of individuals. If we as individuals were committed to buy less from overseas we wouldn't need as many cargo boats. If we were committed to walking, biking, and transit we would need to build as many cars. etc. etc.

          7 votes
      2. [2]
        tlalexander
        Link Parent
        It’s tricky. I drive an SUV and I feel pretty shitty about it. I do in fact use the space regularly but that doesn’t give me a pass - emitting is emitting. I’m also vegan. And counter to many...

        It’s tricky. I drive an SUV and I feel pretty shitty about it. I do in fact use the space regularly but that doesn’t give me a pass - emitting is emitting.

        I’m also vegan. And counter to many stereotypes I don’t go around telling everyone about the carbon footprint of their meat consumption. I’m also conscientious about my consumption of unnecessary goods, and I go out of my way to repair things rather than throw them away. I told my family to give me hand made or used presents this Christmas because too often they buy me unnecessary things and I want to avoid the consumption of resources I don’t need.

        And I drive an SUV. And I’m not giving myself a pass. I’ve got no right to emit all this carbon. But I probably emit less than someone who flies in an airplane more than once per year. And compared to corporate emissions I’m nothing. I even write and publish essays and perhaps soon YouTube videos criticizing our endless consumption of Earths resources.

        And I drive an SUV. For now I’m going to keep doing that because it’s a really good vehicle at least sometimes. I hope some day I can get a cheap used Miata and drive that most of the time while keeping my SUV parked, but I don’t want to be stuck with a small car (again) all the time. I’m developing a robot that is too big for a Miata and I often take it with me outdoors. I could probably manage with a wagon, and I’ll consider it, but for now I’m not ready to get rid of my beloved camping and hauling vehicle.

        5 votes
        1. stephen
          Link Parent
          These are good points. As many others have pointed out, the carbon footprint of an individual is negligible. So the question becomes what is the role of the individual. Moreover, any effort you...

          These are good points. As many others have pointed out, the carbon footprint of an individual is negligible. So the question becomes what is the role of the individual. Moreover, any effort you can make is confounded by systemic lock-in of destructive technologies and flows and the limits of your purchasing power.

          I think the "carbon-accountancy" approach makes it unclear when individuals are entitled to leniency from other carbon counters. Your comment highlights good examples of when people should get breaks.

          Making efforts to change the culture, as long as they aren't exclusively made in already-environmentalist circles, are just about as important as anything a person can do. Acquiring and spreading knowledge are the sorts of consciousness-raising efforts we need.

          Having a need which can't be met with a superior alternative or which is limited by some other factor like budget and schedule is another good reason to cut yourself some slack. If a person literally can't avoid, say, a long commute or buying cheap consumer goods from China then so be it. We are only as free to choose as capitalism allows us to be. Thinking that everyone can and should be doing better in all ways at all times is counter-productive and pointless.

          My one small gripe is your jump from "I drive an SUV but x, y, and z." I take issue with this only because some people can't help the harm they do. It is better to evaluate your choices and make the best ones we can based on our options than is to say "i do x, y, and z" so I get a cheat. In your case your "cheat" is actually a need you can't otherwise meet. But it is conceivable that this logic could be misapplied. "I bought a reusable straw, I tweet about Great, and drive an E85 Chevy Suburban so I think I should be allowed to fly around the world because I'm #goingGreen."

  2. [16]
    skybrian
    Link
    For climate change, fuel efficiency is what matters. It's not that it's an SUV, it's that it gets 18 mpg.

    For climate change, fuel efficiency is what matters. It's not that it's an SUV, it's that it gets 18 mpg.

    10 votes
    1. [11]
      hungariantoast
      Link Parent
      Yes, but it gets eighteen miles to the gallon because it's an SUV. There are other negatively contributing factors like increased tire and brake wear that have to be considered as well. I think...

      Yes, but it gets eighteen miles to the gallon because it's an SUV.

      There are other negatively contributing factors like increased tire and brake wear that have to be considered as well.

      I think the conclusion one should draw from this article is that the SUV is not the class of vehicle that should be growing in popularity. It has far too many inherent drawbacks that are almost impossible to "engineer away" without entering into a different class of vehicle altogether.

      15 votes
      1. [9]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        From what I’ve heard electric drive trains benefit from the high ride heights and overall bulk I was of SUV designs. Which isn’t to say it’s necessary, but a lot of the first tries at electrics by...

        From what I’ve heard electric drive trains benefit from the high ride heights and overall bulk I was of SUV designs. Which isn’t to say it’s necessary, but a lot of the first tries at electrics by the big automakers certainly seems to be focused on SUV and CUV form factors. The high ride heights and general expectations of weightiness mean lots of room for battery.

        1. [3]
          Autoxidation
          Link Parent
          I don't believe this. Higher ride heights = more frontal surface area = more wind resistance = more drag = less efficient. Just compare the Tesla Model X and the Model S. Same drive trains,...

          I don't believe this. Higher ride heights = more frontal surface area = more wind resistance = more drag = less efficient. Just compare the Tesla Model X and the Model S. Same drive trains, motors, battery sizes, and base chassis. The Model X has less range despite having the same drag coefficient of 0.24. A Model X P100D is rated at 328 miles of range vs the Model S P100D of 370 miles with the same battery size of 100 kW in both vehicles.

          7 votes
          1. [2]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            I assume the Model X’s range difference comes from it being much bigger (3 row SUV) compared to the sedan. So it’s less about the wind resistance and more about the weight.

            I assume the Model X’s range difference comes from it being much bigger (3 row SUV) compared to the sedan. So it’s less about the wind resistance and more about the weight.

            1 vote
            1. Autoxidation
              Link Parent
              It is heavier, but probably not by as much as you are expecting. A Model S P100D is 4960 lbs while a Model X P100D is 5531 lbs. That's a comparable weight to a modern Tahoe (5550 lbs), while the...

              It is heavier, but probably not by as much as you are expecting. A Model S P100D is 4960 lbs while a Model X P100D is 5531 lbs. That's a comparable weight to a modern Tahoe (5550 lbs), while the Model S is significantly heavier than other sedans. The Model S weighs more than a 2019 Ford F150 XL 4 Door SuperCrew 4WD (4769 lbs).

              The Model X also isn't really bigger than the Model S. Both have the same wheelbase (116.7 inches) and are almost the same length (196 in vs 198.3 in). That's what I meant when I said they have the same drivetrain and base chassis. The Model X is literally designed from the Model S.

              3 votes
        2. [2]
          AugustusFerdinand
          Link Parent
          That is simply because the automakers are, as always, focused on one thing: profit And the profit margins on SUVs and CUVs are simply larger than other classes.

          seems to be focused on SUV and CUV form factors.

          That is simply because the automakers are, as always, focused on one thing: profit

          And the profit margins on SUVs and CUVs are simply larger than other classes.

          6 votes
          1. Akir
            Link Parent
            Exactly. Chasing these kinds of designs is a big part of why the American automakers were going bankrupt in the last recession. Let's just see if history really repeats itself.

            Exactly. Chasing these kinds of designs is a big part of why the American automakers were going bankrupt in the last recession. Let's just see if history really repeats itself.

        3. [2]
          hungariantoast
          Link Parent
          I honestly think the reason most electric vehicles seem to be SUVs is because of the current popularity of that class of vehicle, but who knows, the engineers might know something I don't. Aside...

          I honestly think the reason most electric vehicles seem to be SUVs is because of the current popularity of that class of vehicle, but who knows, the engineers might know something I don't.

          Aside from having more space to stuff batteries, how could an electric drivetrain benefit from the increased weight and lower aerodynamics brought on by SUVs? Does regenerative braking get better because of the weight? Doesn't the increased weight also increase power draw? Is that accounted for by range increasing faster with more batteries than increasing weight lowers it?

          There are also other issues with the growing popularity of SUVs outside of efficiency, such as pedestrian and motorist safety or infrastructure degradation.

          5 votes
          1. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            It’s more that the batteries are what add the weight. Since Tesla is a bit ahead in battery management from the rest, the others make up for it by just stuffing more battery in there. Since the...

            It’s more that the batteries are what add the weight. Since Tesla is a bit ahead in battery management from the rest, the others make up for it by just stuffing more battery in there. Since the battery is low to the ground, it ends up not having a very high center of mass relative to regular SUVs. But people loooove being able to sit up high, so that’s a bonus they get.

            For range/weight I think you definitely get diminishing returns at a point, but at the levels they’re at yeah, more battery still means more range even if you’re making big sacrifices in handling and driving dynamics.

            Also I think part of the deal with ride height is that it’s an arms race. When everyone else is in a regular car you wouldn’t care. But when you’re boxed in by large XUVs and trucks to where you can’t see in front or around anyone else on the road then you suddenly fell like you need to sit up high too.

            2 votes
        4. poopfeast6969
          Link Parent
          Those reasons centre more around marketing than performance. A less aerodynamic and heavier car will always perform worse than a lighter more aerodynamic car given equivalent engine efficiencies.

          Those reasons centre more around marketing than performance. A less aerodynamic and heavier car will always perform worse than a lighter more aerodynamic car given equivalent engine efficiencies.

          1 vote
      2. skybrian
        Link Parent
        Mileage varies within each class and there is overlap. Looks like a Hybrid RAV4 gets 40 mpg, higher than many cars. But it's not a "full-sized" SUV so perhaps that doesn't count?

        Mileage varies within each class and there is overlap. Looks like a Hybrid RAV4 gets 40 mpg, higher than many cars. But it's not a "full-sized" SUV so perhaps that doesn't count?

    2. [4]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      If that 18mpg is actually needed to accomplish some kind of useful work, like hauling trailers and stuff around, the sure that may be reasonable. But if it’s just an extravagance then sure you...

      If that 18mpg is actually needed to accomplish some kind of useful work, like hauling trailers and stuff around, the sure that may be reasonable. But if it’s just an extravagance then sure you should feel guilty.

      5 votes
      1. Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        To add to this, using that towing or hauling capacity a handful of times within the life of the vehicle does not count as "needing" it. You can rent a truck the few times you need to and buy a...

        To add to this, using that towing or hauling capacity a handful of times within the life of the vehicle does not count as "needing" it. You can rent a truck the few times you need to and buy a smaller car.

        4 votes
      2. [2]
        rogue_cricket
        Link Parent
        I'll also argue the increased height makes it safer if you live in an area where snow tends to pile up. Driving around in a sedan in an area where snowbanks are regularly taller than the average...

        I'll also argue the increased height makes it safer if you live in an area where snow tends to pile up. Driving around in a sedan in an area where snowbanks are regularly taller than the average man is like having blinders on.

        I'm big on the environment and right now I'm driving a little Honda, but I learned to drive using my dad's truck and there are times that I really miss that extra couple feet of height.

        2 votes
        1. tildez
          Link Parent
          It also makes it more dangerous for everyone else, especially pedestrians. Pedestrian fatalities are rising sharply and SUVs are significantly more dangerous than cars due to where they hit a...

          It also makes it more dangerous for everyone else, especially pedestrians. Pedestrian fatalities are rising sharply and SUVs are significantly more dangerous than cars due to where they hit a person (vital organs vs legs).

          2 votes
  3. DaveJarvis
    Link
    Of possible interest is a write-up of how to produce a document that provides a long-term cost-benefit analysis between combustion and electric vehicles:...

    Of possible interest is a write-up of how to produce a document that provides a long-term cost-benefit analysis between combustion and electric vehicles:

    https://dave.autonoma.ca/blog/2019/08/06/typesetting-markdown-part-7/

    The vehicles to compare, which is stored in a YAML file, include a two-door 1997 RAV4 ICE with a 2020 Hyundai Kona EV.

    2 votes
  4. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. tildez
      Link Parent
      Very low effort comment that adds nothing. Please don't post this here.

      Very low effort comment that adds nothing. Please don't post this here.

      1 vote