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We are constantly bombarded with information about the nasty effects of climate change and there is no doubt that transport related carbon emissions are rapidly growing. You can find more about climate change and how 4x4s contribute on our climate change page.

This page however, is dedicated to the environmental effects of 4x4s other than climate change.

Poor air quality

Ground-level pollution from 4x4s is just as damaging as carbon dioxide emissions, and much more immediately dangerous.

4x4s can emit twice as much carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen dioxide as passenger cars. These chemicals cause ozone and other pollutants to build up around cities, leading to poor air quality and dangerous smog.

Despite the congestion charge, air quality in London is still way below minimum health standards on a regular basis. Professor Mike Pilling, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Leeds, said that London and other major cities would suffer most from the rise in dangerous emissions from car exhausts. "It's clear that we are not going to meet the objectives that the government has for air quality in 2005 and 2010."[1]

The table below is a comparison between the Land Rover Discovery (wholly owned by Ford) and the Ford Focus with figures from the government Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA). The Focus out-performs the Land Rover in every environmental category. Although diesels are more fuel efficient than petrol vehicles of the same size, the cost is vastly more nitrous oxide (NOx) and particulate (PM10) emissions.


Urban mpg






Landrover Discovery petrol 12.3 397 1.266 N/A 0.053 74.0
Landrover Discovery diesel 22.2 284 0.133 0.048 0.657 76.0
Ford Focus petrol 24.6 200 0.588 N/A 0.077 70.0
Ford Focus diesel 39.2 143 0.109 0.044 0.489 71.0

Polluted water

It is not just our air quality that suffers. Storm water runoff from our road network is polluted with oil and rubber from traffic and ends up polluting our waterways.

Effects of manufacturing and disposal

Also note that more than half the pollution caused in the lifetime of a vehicle occurs in construction and disposal[2] and obviously the bigger the vehicle the bigger the mess.


1.  Air targets 'will be missed' as car pollution rises Independent 8 September 2004

2. Dirty from cradle to the grave", Umweltund Prognose-Institut Heidelberg, (1993) and "Motor vehicles and the environment", P. Nieuwenhius, Ch. 10, John Wiley & Sons (1994)