Here's my confession: after almost five years of low-car, almost no-car living, I'm pretty sick of the entitlement of many car drivers. In inner city Portland, there's a (mostly) kinder, gentler kind of driver that can seem almost Portlandia-like in his or her determination (with the waving hands and a little smile) to get me to go first at intersections.
But beyond the Portland bubble, it's (again, mostly) a car vs. bike world. While I wake up each day determined to be as nice to drivers as I can be, sometimes by the end of the day I just want to steal their keys and make them be a pedestrian... for just one day! Just to lose a little of the smugness, speed-seeking, and brazenly distracted screen-watching that tends to characterize them.
Since cars of course aren't going away anytime in the next few weeks, it is with good cheer that I read that Volvo says they are readying the 'cleanest' SUV for the market, the 2015 hybrid-electric XC-90. This is indeed good news, because the second most aggravating part of sharing the road with drivers is noxious exhaust smoke.Stinky sulphur dioxide, hazardous nitrogen oxides, and lung-choking particulates. None of them are good - all of them come out of most tailpipes, including the 2015 Volvo XC-90 (though it will be a ULEV II, an ultra-low emissions vehicle).
Normal driving of an XC-90 will be done in the default 'hybrid' mode, with a two-liter gas engine powering the front wheels and an 80 hp (60 kW) electric motor driving the rear wheels.
But the 2015 XC-90 will also have an option to push a dashboard button to switch to emission-free city driving on all-electric power, with a driving range of around 40 kilometers (25 miles). If only all drivers - trucks included - could do that in city driving!
According to Volvo ad figures from the European car industry association ACEA, Volvo Car Group managed to lower average fleet emissions by 8.4 per cent from 2012 to 2013. The new XC-90 will help - it averages around 60g of CO2 emissions per kilometer driven. Compare that to the Land Rover Defender XS station wagon, with 266 g/km, or the Porsche Cayenne, with 251 g/km.
Of course, if we're really worried about contributions of CO2 to global heating, we won't drive SUVs at all. Or have dogs. Or live in coal-heated houses. In the meantime, I'd love to see that "all-electric drive" button all over the place.