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Environmental Costs of SUVs

Tuesday May 31, 2022. 03:15 AM , from Akihabara News
Akihabara News (Tokyo) — According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a Paris-based intergovernmental organization, emissions from SUVs have grown to become the second-largest source of carbon released into the atmosphere between 2010 and 2021.

Only the energy sector continues to produce more carbon emissions, with SUVs surpassing shipping, aviation, heavy industry, and even trucks.

In 2021, SUVs produced 900 million tons of carbon globally, meaning that if SUVs were a nation, they would rank just below Russia in terms of total emissions.

On average, SUVs produce 14-20% more carbon emissions than a medium-sized car.

“SUVs are typically around up to 250 kilograms heavier than a conventional hatchback and, being taller, have worse aerodynamics as a result of the bigger frontal area, leading to higher fuel consumption and, therefore, higher CO2 emissions,” wrote Florent Grelier in a recent report on carbon emissions released by the campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E).

T&E also noted that while the footprint of SUVs is nearly identical to most medium-sized cars, they are taller. This increased height makes them eleven times more likely to roll over during a collision. In accidents involving pedestrians, injuries are more likely to be fatal, because victims are struck in the torso as opposed to the legs.

On the other hand, most drivers perceive the higher cabin position and increased weight of SUVs as providing increased visibility and safety, despite the larger blind spot immediately in front of the vehicle.

The global fleet of SUVs has increased from about 50 million in 2010 to around 320 million in 2021. In the last year alone, the SUVs increased by over 35 million, according to the IEA, indicating that sales have remained robust throughout the pandemic.

With a powerful advertising apparatus at its disposal, automotive companies have leveraged people’s desire for safety, ruggedness, and dependability, creating a generational shift in purchasing preferences away from sedans and toward SUVs.

These automotive companies have also tapped into the market appeal of vehicles capable of operating in various terrains and weather conditions, even if the reality is that most buyers will never use their SUV outside of an urban setting.

Dynamic images of SUVs tackling off-road environments with ease in sunshine, rain, or snow has created an aura of freedom and independence that has become part of the allure of this vehicle class.

Such marketing campaigns have been successful, with four out of every ten vehicles sold globally in 2018 being a SUV, according to the IEA. In the United States, the average is even higher with SUVs being one out of every two vehicles sold, and in Europe the average is slightly lower, at one in three.

The increased popularity of SUVs, however, has come at the expense of the global climate. More fuel-efficient classes of vehicles have been replaced by an inefficient class with little regard to the impact on global warming.

While many automotive companies do promote greener vehicles, most sales are not of climate-friendly Electric Vehicles (EVs), but rather gasoline-powered.

In an interview last week with Nation of Change, a progressive news outlet based in the United States, Karen Sokol, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, stated, “The companies are making a lot of money from SUVs, so they continue to market those, but emphasize sales of EVs at the same time. The danger is that company ads risk allowing them to continue business as usual.”

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