Jeep Wrangler: Is this the greenest car on sale?

Could a sports utility vehicle be greener than a hybrid car? By Sean O'Grady

Tuesday 07 November 2006 01:00
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Car magazine has been putting a few noses out of joint in the automotive trade. The latest edition features a report from an American outfit called CNW Marketing Research. It has put the Toyota Prius and other hybrid models in their place by declaring that the greenest car you can buy in Britain is - unbelievably - a Jeep Wrangler. Even a Range Rover Sport is greener than a Prius, according to CNW, as is the Toyota Yaris and, in the light of the recent Stern Report on climate change, it's probably worth taking a look at this startling piece of news.

The Jeep comes top of the green pile because CNW moves beyond the usual C02 emissions figures and uses a "dust-to-dust" calculation of a car's environmental impact, from its creation to its ultimate destruction. Thus CNW takes account of just about everything - research and development, manufacture, cost of scrapping and recycling, fuel used and so on. Thus hybrid cars with their unusual componentry (battery packs, electric motors) and the expense and resources the car companies expend in designing them, score badly. The Wrangler, presumably, is pretty simple, doesn't cost much to make and, like a number of supposedly evil SUVs, should have a very long life ahead of it because of its rugged construction.

Of course, Toyota, maker of the biggest selling hybrid, the Prius, doesn't see things that way. It disputes the proportion of energy used to make a car compared with how much the vehicle uses during its life, mainly from burning fuel. The Americans say 80 per cent of the energy a car uses is accounted for by manufacture and 20 per cent in use: Toyota claims the reverse.

So much is disputed. However, it's an interesting counterpoint to the welter of anti-SUV comment. I still don't think you need a Land Rover, or a Jeep Wrangler in town.

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