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Tyre Extinguishers – who and what are they?

Here in Australia we don’t really have a strong anti-4×4 sentiment, aside from a bit of a sneer at Toorak Tractors and the like. Personally, I’ve been told my ownership of a 4×4 “is okay” because I use it for camping and towing. Well, that’s a relief!

But over in Europe, and particuarly the UK, there is a strong anti-4×4, or anti-SUV sentiment. A few groups have popped up over the years, and the latest is the Tyre Extinguishers. Here’s what they say:

We are people from all walks of life with one aim: To make it impossible to own a huge polluting 4×4 in the world’s urban areasWe are defending ourselves against climate change, air pollution and unsafe drivers.

We do this with a simple tactic: Deflating the tyres of these massive, unnecessary vehicles, causing inconvenience and expense for their owners.


Here’s the note they leave:

Okay, so let’s agree climate change and air pollution is a problem. And now let’s examine their claims, starting with what they think an SUV actually is:

Some common (but not universal) characteristics of SUVs are:

High ground clearance (greater distance between the ground and the chassis of the car)

Taller than most other cars

Coarser or larger tires than normal


SUVs and 4x4s are easy to recognize because they are much larger than ordinary cars, towering above them and taking up huge amounts of space.

Well, these days a SUV is a car. People don’t want ‘normal’ roadcars any more, they want SUVs – Sport Utility Vehicles. Which are frankly misnamed, as very few are either sporty or utilitarian, let alone both. The vast majority of SUVs are not designed for offroading or heavy duty towing, and are basically roadcars with slightly raised ride height. Most of them aren’t even 4WD.

So why are SUVs replacing roadcars? Some may say that people want to project a rough, tough, outdoorsry image and have never-to-be-fufilled dreams of outback travel. Or they’re compensating for small body parts.

None of the above is true…not least as women love SUVs too and nobody ever accuses them of compensation. And nobody will look at the owner of say a Kluger, Kona, CX-5 or Puma and think “gosh wow there’s a big tough adventury hero”. It is these cars that are selling fast, more than the actual vehicles with offroad and towing capability such as Prado, Everest, LC200 and Defender.

Nobody would buy a SUV if it was indeed a gas guzzler. Let’s take a look at some specs from Hyundai – the i30 roadcar automatic weighs between 1276 and 1446kg, and fuel consumption is between 7.1 and 7.4L/100km. Their Kona SUV is 1280kg to 1395kg, and fuel consumption between 6.2 and 6.9. The Kona is a little shorter, around 100mm, but a fraction taller – 1550mm vs 1455mm for height.

So it’s kind of hard to make these argument against SUVs:

SUVs and 4x4s are a disaster for our health, our public safety and our climate. Bigger and bigger cars are dominating our towns and cities, and all so a privileged few can flaunt their wealth. 

In 2022 there’s no real difference between a roadcar and the equivalent SUV in terms of fuel consumption, safety or anything else. People buy them because they like the raised ride height for kids, aged parents, putting shopping away, and not worrying about gutters. The car IS the SUV these days. And whilst I don’t wish to encourage these people, if they looked at car specs they’d find sports cars have higher fuel consumption than SUVs as their more powerful, often larger engines are tuned more for power than economy. And what about peoplemovers?

Or maybe they’re talking about offroad-capable vehicles? But not all of them are larger (hello, Jimny, Renegade Trailhawk and others, very good offroad but smaller than many roadcars). Seems nonsensical to me they’d pass by say an Audi RS6 and target a CX-3.

OK so let’s narrow it down to large 4x4s then, forget small 4x4s and SUVs. We’re talking LC200, Patrol, Everest and the like. Now there could well be an argument that you shouldn’t drive more than you “need” to…but who, may I ask, is going to determine need? You cannot look at an unmodified 4×4 and say someone has no “need” for it; how do you know they don’t tow a caravan, horse trailer, boat or whatever else with it, and guess what – 4x4s can go offroad without lots of modifications.

Now here’s the crazy part. Well, the *really* crazy part. Check this out:

Hybrids and electric cars are fair game. We cannot electrify our way out of the climate crisis – there are not enough rare earth metals to replace everyone’s car and the mining of these metals causes suffering. Plus, the danger to other road users still stands, as does the air pollution (PM 2.5 pollution is still produced from tyres and brake pads).

So they don’t want EV SUVs either!!! Well, what then? I’m at a loss. Everyone walks everywhere? Public transport? Not really a solution unless its well-travelled routes at peak times. The website is rather silent on the alternatives and a roadmap. And pollution from tyre and brakepads? Really? Dear TEs, there’s way, way bigger problems than that, and anyway EVs barely wear their brakepads.

Source: Tyre Extinguishers Twitter feed

And then let’s think about dangers of deflating a tyre if the owner doesn’t notice the leaflet they print and attach to the car, and drives off. Safety is compromised, you’re putting the occupants of the car at risk along with everyone else in their path. I’m not sure how these people sleep at night knowing what they’ve done.

Look, I get it. I’m pro-environment too, I want to reduce pollution. But this action is stupid, plain and simple. Angry people do not come around to your cause, and you cannot reasonably expect people to stop doing something if you do not provide a reasonable alternative – and to be clear, “sell your car and walk everywhere or use public transport” is not, in 2022 in most places, a reasonable alternative. From a Daily Telegragh (UK) article:

William Lowe, 42, who runs gin business Cambridge Distillery, found a flat tyre on his electric Land Rover, making him half an hour late for a meeting about sustainability and waste reduction.

He and his wife use the four-wheel-drive for farm visits twice a week, and he said they “very carefully” chose it for its low emissions.

[ note: there are no EV Land Rovers, so what they meant was a hybrid petrol or diesel electric like this one ]

If you really care about transport-based pollution then get behind the EV movement.

If anyone from TE reads this, do contact me and explain your rationale. Might even have a webinar about it if you’re up for it.

Also, it’s possible to own a 4×4 and, overall, be ‘greener’ than a roadcar owner. Here’s an example:

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