Automobile Ground Clearance: A Most Critical Design Attribute For Handling Climate Change

ground-clearance vs mileage

Image credit: J. Laumer, pulled from various sources.

My 2004 Scion Xa is almost worthless after 4 inches of snow has fallen. The low ground clearance means belly dragging at least and likely getting stuck at the end of the driveway. If I do get out on time, it's hazardous to cross the linear piles left aside the tracks of other vehicles. I would not buy a relatively low slung vehicle again, no matter how nice it looks, assuming mileage is acceptable. Note: the problem I'm discussing is 'low rider' styling, not my driving skills (I grew up in Northern Wisconsin).

Were I to shop for an in-kind replacement today, mileage being similar, ground clearance would break the tie. Ford Fiesta does the job and the Fit would be a close second (see chart above).This consumer choice issue results from what is known to engineers as a 'wide open feedback loop.' The more we drive, the more CO2 we emit. The more we emit, the wilder the weather gets. (As a practical matter, the more extreme or intense the precipitation events become, the more I want a Fiesta .)

If you doubt this loop, go get a degree in atmospheric physics or such. That entitles you to make snide comments.