People buying SUVs are cancelling out climate gains from electric cars



An SUV manufacturing unit in Germany

Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

The excellent news is that extra folks purchased electric cars in 2020. The unhealthy information is that SUVs continued to develop in recognition, too. The fall in oil consumption because of the first pattern was fully cancelled out by the second, say Laura Cozzi and Apostolos Petropoulos on the International Energy Agency in France.

The rising recognition of SUVs is making it even tougher to chop carbon dioxide emissions and meet climate targets. “Policy-makers need to find ways to persuade consumers to choose smaller and more efficient cars,” says Petropoulos.

Oil consumption by standard cars – excluding SUVs – is estimated to have dropped 10 per cent in 2020, or by greater than 1.8 million barrels a day, Cozzi and Petropoulos say in a commentary revealed on 15 January. Most of this fall was as a consequence of diminished journey due to the pandemic and is due to this fact more likely to be momentary.


However, a small a part of the discount – round 40,000 barrels a day – was as a consequence of the elevated share of electric automobiles.

“We have seen a skyrocketing of global electric car sales in 2020,” says Petropoulos.

Unfortunately, the variety of SUVs elevated as nicely. While total automobile gross sales fell in 2020, 42 per cent of patrons selected SUVs, up round three share factors from 2019.

Globally, there are now greater than 280 million SUVs on the roads, up from lower than 50 million in 2010. On common, SUVs devour 20 per cent extra power per kilometre than a medium-sized automobile.

The enhance in SUVs in 2020 led to an increase in oil consumption that cancelled out the impact of electric cars, says Petropoulos.

Much the identical is true over the previous decade. Between 2010 and 2020, international CO2 emissions from standard cars fell by practically 350 megatonnes, as a consequence of components equivalent to gas effectivity enhancements in addition to the change to electric. Emissions from SUVs rose by greater than 500 megatonnes.

This pattern implies that total emissions from all varieties of cars aren’t falling regardless of the expansion in electric automobiles (EVs). “While the growth in EVs is encouraging, the boom in SUVs is heart-breaking,” says Glen Peters on the CICERO climate analysis centre in Norway.

There are many causes for the rising recognition of SUVs, says Petropoulos. Rising prosperity in nations equivalent to India and South Africa means extra folks are capable of afford them, as an example. Some folks see them as standing symbols.

SUVs are additionally closely marketed by car-makers, he says, whose revenue margins are larger on these automobiles.

Some nations, together with France, have launched schemes underneath which extra tax must be paid on heavier cars. But Peters thinks folks wealthy sufficient to afford SUVs gained’t be deterred by barely larger taxes.

“It’s not necessarily a huge disincentive if people have the income,” he says.

There are now some electric SUVs accessible. “Hopefully, in time, you will see electric vehicles penetrating the SUV market,” says Peters. “But that’s going to take some time, I think.”

Even if it occurs, switching to electric SUVs isn’t a super resolution. It takes extra sources, together with larger batteries, to construct electric SUVs, says Petropoulos, and so they devour round 15 per cent extra electrical energy.

That means larger emissions except the electrical energy comes fully from renewable sources, and better electrical energy demand makes it tougher to inexperienced the electrical energy provide.

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