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Huge Hybrids: Hallelujah?

by Kate Trainor on June 2, 2008

TahoeHybrid Huge Hybrids: Hallelujah?
General Motors and Chrysler are taking the nation’s concerns over rising gas prices and the environment to heart by offering a hybrid option in their biggest SUVs. The companies’ 5,500-pound eight-seater SUVs can now come with big hybrid badges, a slightly less obnoxiously consumptive engine, and a significantly higher price tag.

G.M.’s four-wheel drive Tahoe hybrid model gets 20 mpg, up from 14 with the conventional engine. The price tag? $53,000! – a hike of $4,000.

SUV sales have been way down – by about 50% since 2007 according to the R.L. Polk research firm. Not surprisingly, the new gigantic hybrids aren’t the answer most people are looking for. G.M.’s hybrid SUV sales are way below their targets. The national trend is towards smaller, more efficient vehicles. Toyota’s Prius now ranks as the 9th best selling model in the nation. Even better – people are decreasing car use and walking, using mass transit, and biking more.

“Is this a green vehicle? I think it could be a lot greener,” David Friedman, research director of the vehicles program for the Union of Concerned Scientists told the NY Times. “The question is whether the improvement in fuel economy is worth the cost.”

In Norway car manufacturers are forbidden from even using words like “green” or “environmentally friendly” when advertising cars. Cars are deemed inherently bad for the environment – to claim otherwise would be false advertising.

In the U.S., we’re still trying to work within the confines of a broken, car-centric system. Hybrid SUVs may be the most glaring recent example, but Americans aren’t falling for this ploy and sales are flopping.

See also: HGTV “Green Home”: Complete with Gas Guzzling SUV!

Source: NY Times.

Photo via flickr by geognerd.

Related posts:

  1. UK Bus Line Explores Biofuels, Disses Hybrids
  2. SUV Trade-In Values Plummet
  3. Prices be Damned, Keep on Driving that Huge Car?
  4. U.S. Car Sales Crash in 2008
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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe July 9, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Could you please give me your source for the stop sign-running law in Iowa? If this is the law in Iowa, is it possible for cities to make harsher laws? The city code where I live theoretically requires full stops at all stop signs.


2 Foraker July 9, 2008 at 9:22 pm

In Ohio, bicycles are vehicles and are expected to follow all of the rules of the road applicable to cars. When space is available, they must move to the right to allow faster vehicles to pass, but otherwise they are entitled to take the lane. As courteous as I am to cyclists, and as much as I expect drivers to be courteous to me when I’m on my bike, it really annoys me when I see cyclists ride through a stop sign or stop light.

They are disrespecting the rules so why should I respect their space on the road? It’s an emotional response, and I’m sure it’s much stronger in non-cyclists.

Please don’t aggravate drivers by riding through stop lights — it could be me on my bike that gets ill treatment from the annoyed motorist that saw you blow through a light. Thank you


3 Zubin July 9, 2008 at 11:55 pm

The biggest problem is the prevalence of 4-way stops in California. Cars run them, cops run them, everyone runs them, so much so that the ‘rolling stop’ is often called the ‘California stop’.

A combination of an unimpeded direction and a yield crossing, or at busy non-signal intersections, an unimpeded direction and a stop crossing would probably be better as everyone would know what to expect.

As to the stoplight question, in most jurisdictions, anyone is allowed to run a red light after stopping if it remains unchanged for some period (differs in different areas). I think they are just talking about shortening that period for bikes.


4 Adrian July 10, 2008 at 8:27 am

Where I come from (Australia), bicycles are considered vehicles, not pedestrians. I’m fairly sure that’s the case in most of the USA too.

My understanding of the Iowa law is that cyclists don’t have to [i]stop[/i] at Stop signs, they just have to [i]yield[/i]. Seems like a good idea to me. Cyclists have much greater ability to see along cross-streets due to their extra height and more forward position compared to a motorist. Cyclists usually don’t need to stop to safely determine whether they need to yield or not.


5 Robert Anderson July 10, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Kate, in [b]no way[/b] are bicycles pedestrians. Not “technically” (however you get that) nor legally. In almost all states, bicycles are vehicles, and should obey the rules of the road. This proposed law will result in bicyclist fatalities and should be stopped. $4-$5 gas should be enough of an incentive to get people on bikes.

As a regularly commuting cyclist, I agree with Foraker’s “Don’t aggravate drivers” comment.

I don’t disagree with the slow-and-yield at stop signs. After all, that’s what virtually all vehicles do.


6 Martha July 10, 2008 at 4:44 pm


I think you are confusing your agricultural states. The SF Bicycle Coalition page says it is Idaho. And as a cyclist in Iowa I would kind of like a similar law, but I have to say that I think there is strength in the simple statement that bikes have the same rights and responsibilities as cars on the road.


7 abe July 11, 2008 at 2:34 pm

I don’t stop at every stop sign or red light, although I always yield and end up stopping more than most of my friends. The reason is that it takes a whole lot more energy to stop and get started again. I have lupus, so it is difficult enough for me to ride a bike, let alone stop and start and stop and start…

I say change laws to require bikes to ‘yield’


8 pantsophocles July 11, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Such a law can be useful, if done right. On a bike, you do have better visibility and better reaction times, and since your vehicle is much smaller, you can get out of the way much more easily. Plus, we’re usually not going as fast as cars, so it’s safer for cyclists to just yield at a stop. And after a stop, a cyclist has to push herself back up to speed, whereas a driver has to move his foot about an inch.


9 David July 11, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Yeah, you are wrong on that one point there. No, the “current law” does not permit cyclists to go through a stopLIGHT after merely stopping. They must then also wait for the green light, of course!

The proposed change would allow them go proceed before the light turned green.


10 AngelWolf July 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm

It’s funny how we spend so much time trying to convince the public that we’re vehicles and have the same rights to the road as they do, only to turn around and say that they’re “technically pedestrians,” after all, when it suits us to be.

Bicycles are vehicles according to the law, and have the same rights and responsibilities as other roadway users unless laws such as this one render them exempt.


11 Charles Siegel July 11, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Kate: Yes, this is the way that most bicyclists behave already, but there are problems because it is illegal.

Every once in a while, the police decide to crack down and ticket bicyclists for going through stop signs.

Some drivers (like Foraker) get angry when they see bicyclists breaking the law and stop treating bicyclists respectfully. Occasionally, a driver will even stop and yell at you because you are breaking the law (this always seems to be a contractor in a white pick-up truck who is ignoring the speed limit law himself).

It is not good for your ordinary behavior to be illegal, and I am glad that SF wants to change that.

PS: There is a difference on red lights:

“At a stop light they would still have to stop and look both ways, but then they could go through.” Umm, correct me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t that the same as the current law, if they still have to stop?

No, now you have to stop and wait for the light to turn green. Under the new law, you will have to stop and then you can proceed even before the light turns green.


12 brian goldner July 12, 2008 at 12:15 am

i hope this change is brought about, and that other cities follow suit. It just doesn’t make sense to make bikes and cars follow the same rules. I mean, bikes don’t have nearly anywhere the kind of accelerating power as a car, and in some instances (such as at the base of a hill) it’s almost brutal to ask a cyclist to stop and giver up his/her momentum.


13 Peter July 17, 2008 at 7:09 am

seems pretty straitforward to me — it’s a good law. let’s do it. you made the case for the law in the post – tickets, harassment, etc. :-\

p.s. i kept getting an ‘invalid email address’ message, so i couldn’t post. :’(


14 dhd July 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm

This is interesting to me, because I just got yelled at, apparently, for [i]not[/i] running a red light. Actually I get this a lot in my neighbourhood, like “uh-uh, you ain’t a car!!!”. I wonder whether it’s the inconsistency and unpredictability of cyclists that annoys motorists more than the actual breaking of the law. If so it might make sense to codify what seems to be the prevailing behaviour.

In general, I don’t stop completely at stop signs, but I do stop (and wait) for red lights. But most cyclists I see seem to consistently treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs – i.e. they stop, but then go if there is no traffic.


15 Glenn July 20, 2008 at 12:42 am

The key is to slow down enough at a stop sign so you’re able to stop if necessary. On a flat road, this isn’t generally an issue. Try driving a car at 10 mph all the way down the block and see if need to come to a complete stop. If you’re flying down a hill on your bike and there’s a stop sign at (or before) the bottom, you should be slowing down enough to stop if necessary. It’s all about how much time you have to assess the situation as you approach the intersection and whether you’re able to react to cross traffic. I wonder if that’s in the Iowa rules. It’s a judgement call to enforce something like that. Of course, knowing what to do requires some uncommon sense, hence, we have overly strict laws.


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