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The big picture: Eco-friendly off-roaders

What’s the biggest threat to the environment? Listen to the green lobbyists, and it’s clearly the growth in popularity of 4x4s, so-called off-road gas guzzlers that clog the streets and emit clouds of ozone throttling CO2 emissions.

These lobbyists have become urban terrorists, invading car retailers and motor shows with banners and leaflets, and chaining themselves to the cars. In London they have a powerful ally in the shape of Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, who is considering higher congestion charges for 4x4/SUV drivers.

He’s been joined by Liberal Democrats in Richmond, the affluent south-west London suburb, who want to introduce a sliding scale of charges for residents’ parking based on emissions. SUVs would pay £300 per year, double that of executive car drivers.

A new report from America challenges these entrenched views, however. It concludes that many 4x4s are more eco-friendly than hybrids.

The study, by CNW Marketing Research, assesses total environmental impact from ‘dust to dust’.

That means fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, but also the manufacturing process, the energy used in R&D, the car’s recyclability and durability, and even the energy used by workers commuting to the plant.

Of the cars on sale in the UK, the greenest is the Jeep Wrangler (0.3p per mile), followed by Toyota’s Yaris and Corolla. The energy cost of Prius (1.7p) is five times higher than the Yaris. The worst? Mercedes’ Maybach (6p per mile).

And here’s a stat for the environmentalists: the much maligned Range Rover Sport (1.27p) is 25% greener than the Prius.

Hybrids suffer because of the low durability of their components and the high cost of parts replacement. SUVs, in contrast, are easier to make and recycle, and are more durable.

The report concludes that drivers concerned about fuel consumption should consider a hybrid. If, however, they are concerned about the environment, they should look elsewhere.

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