environmental alternatives

low key green

environmental alternatives

Doing your bit for the environment means riding around in a tiny city car powered by a sewing machine engine right? Wrong. Andy Enright applies some lateral thinking to environmental driving.

According to Oregon-based CNW Marketing Research, the world's greenest car is a Jeep Wrangler. Not a Toyota Prius or a Smart Fortwo but a hulking great Jeep. How does that logic work?

Study their workings and you have to say they have a point. Their research covered a 'dust to dust' lifetime cost and encompassed not just fuel consumption and CO2 figures but also the energy used in design and production in both car assembly and by suppliers of parts. The energy used in transporting the cars to dealers and in maintenance, servicing, scrapping and recycling was also taken into account. Hybrid cars did poorly in this regard because of the energy used in their manufacture and the replacement and disposal costs of high-energy items like batteries and electric motors. At the end of the number crunching, the simple, honest and eminently recyclable Wrangler won.

Still, you don't need to look like GI Joe to salve your green conscience. Customers of all new Land Rover vehicles sold in the UK pay to offset the CO2 emissions produced by their vehicle, calculated on the certified CO2 emissions level for each Land Rover model up to 45,000 miles, typically three years use. The cost is from £85 to £165 depending on model. The ultimate goal is CO2 neutrality with investments being made in renewable energy projects such as wind and solar, technology change and energy efficiency. The first projects will include providing hydro-electric power to a remote area of Tajikistan and funding a wind farm in China. Together, these projects will offset 150,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and bring social and environmental benefits to thousands of people. The greenest car I ever ran was a 3.9-litre V8 Land Rover Discovery. It was so ruinously thirsty that I cycled everywhere instead.

Biological fuel sources are nothing new, as many farmers will have realised down the years, running their vehicles on ethanol which can be derived from corn, wheat, potato wastes, sugar beet, forest residue, molasses, sugar cane and virtually any other form of cellulose.

Aside from being able to replenish the fuel stocks, the plants harvested to create the ethanol consume more carbon dioxide in their growth cycle than the resultant fuel will emit when burnt, meaning a net depletion of CO2. Now that is clever. Increasingly efficient diesels, petrol electric hybrids that are now busting out of the city car sector and even the introduction of fully electric sports cars like the Tesla Roadster all demonstrate that manufacturers right across the board have arrived at the same conclusion. Environmentalism sells. Naked capitalism may well be the driving force that saves the planet. Now there's an irony.