SUV: climate killers?
Sport utility vehicles or SUVs are a type of car classification that combines conventional road using passenger cars with off-road vehicle characteristics such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive. Due to their growing popularity, in the UK alone, emissions from SUVs have tripled over the last decade and have grown from 18% to 42% of the global new car market over the past four years. What are the reasons for these declining sales and could a way to save money while preserving the climate simply be not to drive an SUV?
The creation of SUVs began during World War II with Jeeps being used as military vehicles circulating throughout Europe and Asia before evolving over several decades. The change began in the 1960s when, to protect local farmers, West Germany blocked the import of American chickens, leading to a trade war. America responded with a 25% tax on foreign-made light trucks, so German trucks became more expensive. The tax prompted U.S. automakers to focus production on light trucks, as there was less competition from imports. This change affected the environment and climate for years to come as light trucks eventually evolved into SUVs which are at their peak today.
Could it be the car that kills the climate?
All vehicles emit carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. This happens when cars run on internal combustion engines that convert energy stored in fuel into mechanical energy to drive the wheels in which carbon dioxide, a gas that warms the planet, is produced. So, needless to say, all drivers are guilty of harming the environment. However, since SUVs are heavier with more powerful engines than other cars, they consume more fuel. These popular 4x4s emit around 134g of CO2 per kilometer, which is around 13g more than the average emissions of other new petrol cars from fuel combustion alone. There are even more emissions involved in making them due to their larger size. Since they have more materials involved in their manufacture and usually come with many advanced technological features, from screens in the headrests to rear-view camera monitors, more energy is required in production than in small cars. To put their detrimental effects into perspective, SUVs generated more carbon emissions than the aviation industry from 2010 to 2018. And because they consume more fuel, as well as environmental damage, they cost owners more than cars. mid-size cars.
Are emissions restrictions preventing SUV sales from growing?
SUVs are more profitable for manufacturers than the majority of other vehicles, although the cost of production is not much higher, but more is charged due to the perceived value of them. Therefore, additional funds are invested in marketing SUVs, making them even more desirable, further increasing profitability and making them more expensive for the consumer to purchase.
Manufacturers are regulated by being required to respect an average level of emissions across their entire fleet of cars sold. Therefore, they cannot just sell high-emission cars and must sell an increasing proportion of smaller, electric cars. Measuring the average emissions of all vehicles sold allows manufacturers to simply offset the sale of profitable, high-emission SUVs by selling cleaner car models, suggesting that this style of regulation is not effective because it essentially grants a continued increase in sales of high-carbon SUVs.
What is driving SUV demand?
Given that road transport accounts for 22% of total carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, one would expect that with society’s growing knowledge and caution about environmental issues, SUVs would be a lesser car. attractive to buy because of their known adverse environmental impacts. However, their growing popularity proves otherwise and buyers suggest they prefer SUVs for space, comfort and safety. Drivers often feel more confident in SUVs due to the higher seating position providing a better view of the road ahead. However, this perception of them as being a safer and more robust car is due to marketing when in reality they are no safer to drive than smaller passenger cars. The reality is that due to their high center of gravity they have an increased risk of tipping over and take longer to break due to their mass, so they are not the ‘safest’ choice.
Perhaps the popularity of SUVs is simply due to the comfort offered by large seats, the prestige and status of driving a large car, or people who simply follow the latest trend. But, with exorbitant purchase and running costs, no safety improvements and hugely damaging environmental impacts, it seems like a better idea to jump off the SUV bandwagon to save your money while saving the climate.