Thanks, Bob from Maine. Good points. As you point out, there are other practical reasons for owning a truck, beyond living on a farm or ranch. Especially this past winter, those of us in the north were thankful there were pickups out there, plowing our snow.
Interesting that with no evidence you presume I am a left-leaning member of some environmental organization, even a Communist? (ad hominem argument?) Note that I never advocated any governmental restrictions. I merely pointed out that easily accesswible petroleum has been depleted and we now have to extract it by more costly and risky methods, or import it from unfriendly countries that use the revenue against our national interests. Am I to understand that harming others is wrong only if it's one-on-one? Is it OK to pollute the air when you cannot identify each individual whose injury is directly tracable to your personal emissions? Is it right (patriotic?) for example, to waste water during a drought emergency just because you can afford to pay for it? If not, wouldn't the same principle apply to other limited resources? A sense of membership and responsibillity to one's country hardly makes one a Communist. You invoke religion. May I ask what sect says it's OK to damage Creation, even diffusely?
Gimme a break! If and until you free yourself of your likes, biases, vices and desires, leave the rest of us alone. The "green" movement is precisely what formetr Czech president Vaclav Klaus said it was...a watetmelon. Green on the outside and red on the inside. You're not going to assign me any "repsonsibilities" that i feel are counter productive or liberty-threatening. I'm here on this Earth for a very short amount of time, and I'm going to drink from life's cup as I please, so long as I don't directly hurt anyone else. I said directly, not presumptively or speculatively. So0, you might want to squeeze into a "Smart car" (now there's a liberal, green oxymoron for you!!), but I prefer my spacious, comfortable gas guzzler, thank you. See, freedom and liberty aren't what you tell me they are...and dole out to me with caprice and self-righteousness. They're given to me by GOD, to do with what I please and what I see as being useful or helpful to me and mine. If I'm wrong, I'll have to account to Him some day...not to you and the green mafia!
That attitude may have been defensible 60 years ago before the general public appreciated the limits on readily extractible petroleum, along with the social, international, and environmental costs. Some of us recognize that we are part of a community and that wasting resources hurts others, regardless of whether some "evil intrusive government" mandates conservation policies. Even some religious conservatives now conserve because they believe in an a moral duty of stewardship. But there will always be people who put their personal ammusement first.
Charles I think your subject here is right on - "The Market". I have an old (qualifies as an antique) Dodge W250 pickup that I plow snow with, tow a trailer with and carry stuff in. The performance is lacking: 0-60 will happen, eventually and you need to get an appointment to pass anyone, it gets 12-17 mpg whether towing a trailer or not and over it's 130K miles, at least half have been unloaded. But, I can see over everyone! I am that annoying billboard that pulls-up on your left when you're trying to turn right at a stop sign. As government mandates have required crash-worthiness, lighter weight, 5mph bumpers, emission controls etc. people have flocked to bigger more stable feeling, longer wheelbase vehicles that give a decent ride, good all around vision, good performanc,e and support the hair-shirt image of a rugged, versatile American who COULD go anywhere, anytime. Further it is a small slap in the face of the Washington bureaucrat who continually tries to tell us what's in our best interest. The market has driven the manufacturers to supply this class of vehicle and I doubt most who drive them regret the lack of mileage.
Somebody raised an interesting point regarding the logic behind driving a full-size truck as a daily driver when you really only need it occasionally to tow something large... I've been doing exactly that for the past 5 years or so, and decided to try a little experiment about 6 months ago. I was looking for a new truck anyway (new to me that is - I buy all my vehicles used), and decided instead to buy a small commuter car for daily driving, and an older, cheaper, "beater" truck to park 95% of the time and use for the heavy lifting on weekends. "Your mileage may vary" depending on how far your commute is, etc., but what I found is that I was paying as much in additional insurance for the 3rd vehicle (just liability and comprehensive mind you - forget collision coverage) as I was saving in fuel costs. For me, the headache of dealing with a 3rd vehicle simply wasn't worth it. I'm in the process of selling both, and am looking for another "daily driver truck" now.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't *need* a truck for my job, or for my hobbies 95% of the time. But boy, they are AWFULLY nice to have for that other 5% of the time. I'm sure I've spent more on gas over the years than I've saved on various delivery charges for mulch, firewood, furniture, etc. But I've lost track of how many times I've said to myself (or had neighbors or family members say to me) "boy, I'm glad we had the truck today - that made _____ a LOT easier!!!"
And for the people touting the hauling capabilities of mini-vans... We have one of those too. There's no better way (that I know of) to move kids and their accessories around. And they can hold a LOT of stuff when the seats are removed/folded down as well. But they DON'T work well for firewood, mulch, topsoil, stone, etc, and I'm not sure I'd try pulling out a stump with one.
Nobody's mentioned it yet, but I looked into utility/landscape trailers before getting into trucks as well. Some may disagree, but the conclusion I arrived at was that the vehicle I'd need to properly and safely tow a trailer load of firewood, mulch, etc. wasn't going to be much (if any) better on gas than the truck anyway.
It should also be mentioned that this is all based on US gas prices (still under $4 for most of us). While I don't have any numbers, I understand fuel is quite a bit more expensive in Europe and other places. If gas were to, say, double in price, I'm sure I may be re-evaluating exactly HOW nice it is to keep a truck around for those times I "need" it.
You wrote "don't really need their utility" when you meant "really don't need their utility"
Where I live, the vehicle of choice for people who live in rural areas and regularly cross dirt tracks or fields is a diesel engined Toyota Hi-lux - similar to one of the vehicles that appeared in your list of "most efficient trucks".
Drivers over here value fuel economy for a very simple reason - fuel is highly taxed, so is expensive. If you are virtually giving the stuff away at the pumps, no-one is going to take the notion of economy seriously - it just doesn't translate to dollars and cents. I get 35mpg in my 1.6L 105HP hatchback. Knock that down to 33mgp and I'm paying an extra $300+ annually for fuel.
As Charles points out, the original intent of most of these vehicles required far more ruggedness than needed for a trip to the mall. And building in that kind of ruggedness means that the vehicle is going to be heavy. OK, so crappy aerodynamics and big knobby tires are no help for fuel efficiency, but the big enemy is mass. The manufacturers spend an awful lot of money shaving pounds to get better fuel mileage ratings - it keeps the government off their backs (some) and gives them bragging rights in their advertising.
I am surprised that an engineering newsletter does not once mention the curb weight of any of these "offenders". A good illustration would be to compare the curb weights of the two Toyota Tacomas mentioned in the caption of the first photo.
Oh, but they get to feel big and powerful when they drive, even though all day they fly a big and powerful desk! I think somebody once described that as a life of quiet desperation.
There is a legitimate need for the tons of horsepower that comes with these guzzlers, tho, if you've ever tugged an RV trailer for any distance - if you have a family, buying more gas is a lot cheaper than hotels or airfare. I'm not sure of the logic that says that you should drive that behemoth every day because you pull an RV once a month, but there are real uses for these vehicles apart from farms and ranches and construction.
It really doesn't bother me how much or little fuel economy my vehicle gets. Driving is MY vice...I like to hear the vroom-vroom of a powerful engine under the hood, and frankly I don't care much for command-and-control socialist bureaucrats telling me how big my footprint is for ANYTHING. I own a truck because I'm a big guy, physically, and a cramped sedan just doesn't do for me. And so long as I have free will and free choice, I'll alway pick something with a little more oomph and giddyup because that's what *I* like to drive. In fact if Kenworth/Peterbuilt cooperated, I'd buy one of these bad boys in a nanosecond:
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