MENLO PARK, Calif. – Hewlett Foundation grantee Union of Concerned Scientists unveiled its design for a full-sized SUV (called the Guardian) that gets up to 36 miles per gallon and that is far safer than today’s standard SUV.

“The Union of Concerned Scientists has in effect issued a challenge to automakers to produce a safer, more efficient SUV,” said Hal Harvey, Environment Program Director at the Hewlett Foundation. “But this project is not just a challenge, it’s a blueprint. The UCS Guardian is the product of intelligent design, not just good intention.”

In 2002, 42,815 people lost their lives in U.S. highway fatalities-the highest level since 1990. SUVs and pickups accounted for more than 60 percent of the increase last year. At the same time, the fuel economy of light trucks (SUVs, pickups, and minivans) fell to its lowest level since 1981, forcing the average light-truck owner to pay more than $11,000 for gasoline over the life of the vehicle.

This poor fuel economy contributes to a growing dependence on oil, rising imports, and a transportation sector that emits more global warming emissions than most countries release from all sectors combined. A September 2003 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Building a Better SUV: A Blueprint for Saving Lives, Money, and Gasoline, shows how existing technologies can be used to offer consumers an SUV that is safer, cleaner, and more cost-effective, while retaining the size and performance SUV drivers have today.

According to UCS, the technology used in the Guardian would save 800,000 barrels of oil per day in 2015-the equivalent of about half the oil we import from Saudi Arabia-if it were applied to the light truck fleet (SUVs, pickups, and minivans) over the next five years, creating an average light truck fuel economy of 27.5 mpg. And just one Guardian would eliminate more than 27 tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions over its life, about the same as leaving a Ford Explorer in your garage for three years.