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Sports Cars Are Environmentally Friendly

posted Nov 15, 2010, 8:12 PM by L.D. McLaughlin Jr.
Tony McLaughlin, December 28, 2008
Sports cars rank among the most environmentally friendly under a new system that tries to provide a comprehensive measurement of a vehicle’s environmental impact.

The Clifford-Thames/Cardiff University Environmental Rating for Vehicles, or ERV, takes into account not only the obvious environmental impacts, such as emissions, but broader demand on resources from the manufacturing and ongoing use of the car. A key element is a vehicle’s physical “footprint,” obtained by multiplying the length by the width by the weight. Although it seems simple, the ERV’s creators say it’s a good indicator of resource consumption. A car’s physical footprint, they say, “is a very important consideration, because even a near-zero emissions car has an environmental and indeed sustainability burden. This burden includes the resource consumption required from raw materials; transport and processing of raw materials (with associated environmental and social costs); paint emissions and other manufacturing impacts; contribution to congestion and other road space requirements (parking, for example); the degree of damage caused to people and property in an accident, etc.”

Because of their smaller size, sports cars tend to do pretty well in the index. “One reason is that in order to optimize their performance, many sports cars are designed and built on the principle of weight reduction. This is not normally the case for saloons, however sporting they may be. Indeed, sports cars in general are far more built to purpose than typical hatchbacks or saloons that, as a result, are generalist vehicles that are competent in many areas but excel in none. It is even possible nowadays to engineer a large 4x4 car that performs like a sporty car, at least in some respects, but such performance comes with excessive environmental cost,” the authors say. In fact, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo comes in next-to-last in the rankings.

Morgan, for one, is promoting the greenness of its current products. Under the ERV index, its 4/4 1800 roadster was neck-and-neck with the Toyota Prius hybrid, in spite of the fact that the Prius gets greatly superior fuel economy and puts out far fewer emissions. Highest ranked among new cars is the Smart ForTwo, which pegged the scale at 60 points. The Smart is also the only vehicle available in the U.S. that made the top 10. The worst? You’ll be shocked, shocked, to learn that the Bentley Arnage RL, Range Rover 4.2 Super Charged, Cadillac Escalade and Bentley Continental Flying Spur tied at a measly 2 points.

You can read the thinking behind the rankings on the Clifford Thames Web site. Be sure to check out the interactive tool, which allows you to compare two late-model cars. - By David LaChance