Explain to me why Honda has not done anything about getting the fuel tank elevated? If anyone has gone off road, i.e. gravel, dirt, the fuel tank is one of the first items you hear hitting the odd rock or verge.:x
It's a design compromise between ground clearance and tank capacity. Which are you willing to give up? The cage under the tank is there to warn you if you start to scrape things. If the tank were made smaller, something else in the undercarriage would hit first, and then you'd be back where you started. If you really want to take the Element off-road (not recommended, BTW; it ain't no Jeep), a lift kit would be in order.
the element is not designed to be an OHV (off highway vehicle). i knew that but i took my E (element) on a OHV trail because it was one of the few routes to get to a secluded lake in northern minnesota. after trying the first two OHV trails and having to turn back due to numerous scraping sounds and a big "thunk!!". i later realized that i had banged the front of my fuel tank protector bar on a rock and it was now resting against the tank. thankfully the tank didn't even have a scratch. i do think the bar got in the way because it was too low but without it – had the rock had been a couple inches taller, the tank would have been seriously damaged. i finally did make it to the lake and i've since amputated the fuel tank protector and now my E runs the 1/4 mile 5 seconds faster and i feel like i'm piloting the zeppelin;-)
I think you'd be surprised how tough the tank really is. I hit a large pintle hitch that fell off someone's truck in my lane at about 45mph. Lifted the E off the ground, smashed the front of the tank bar back into the tank about 6-8 inches. Turned it into a pretzel. Tank wasn't leaking, so I took the bar off when I got home. 45 minutes later, I looked under the E and the tank had popped back out. Ordered a new bar, installed it and everything has been fine. No leaks, no guage problems, nothing! That happened about 5 years ago.
Oh, I went back to the scene, found the pintle hitch, and still have it. About 50# and replacement value at Tractor Supply about $140 !