If the negative impact on the climate of passenger vehicles has declined significantly, more than 30% in the last decade, the world’s appetite for big cars, a New report Recommendations from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative.
Sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, now account for more than half of all new car sales worldwide, the group said, and it’s not alone. The International Energy Agency estimates that they are almost half, using the narrow definition of an SUV.
Over the years, these cars have gotten bigger, and so has their cost to the climate, as carbon dioxide emissions for gas-powered cars are “almost directly proportional to fuel consumption”. The carbon that goes into the pump comes out of the tail pipe.
But if people had continued to buy the same size cars, the negative environmental impact of SUVs would have been cut by more than a third between 2010 and 2022, according to the Global Partnership for Clean Vehicle Groups.
One solution to this could be electric vehicles.
West Sacramento, California resident George Parrott, a 79-year-old avid runner, decided to switch to cleaner vehicles in 2004 when he bought a Toyota Prius hybrid. Since then, he has owned several pure-electric cars, and currently owns both a Genesis GV60 electric SUV and a Tesla Model 3.
“It’s all a combination of broader environmental concerns,” he said.
Barot and his late partner knew they were high in their region American Lung Association’s Polluted Cities list. “We’re going to do everything we can to reduce our air quality impact in the Sacramento area,” he said.
Not all consumers think alike about energy consumption and environmental benefits, especially since EV sales in the U.S. accounted for 15% of the global car market last year, only 7.3% in the US
Meanwhile, compact vehicles, or sedans, have lost a lot of ground in the U.S. market over the past decade. In 2012, according to Edmonds, a car-buying resource, sedans accounted for 50% of the U.S. auto retail space, SUVs accounted for more than 30%, and trucks accounted for 13.5%. By 2022, the US sedan share will drop to 21%, while SUVs will grow to 54.5% and trucks to 20%.
“People don’t want to limit their space in their car,” said Eric Freesey, president of the Tamaroff Group of dealerships in southeast Michigan. “Everybody wants 7 passengers.”
Larger SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Sequoia, or Nissan Armada have highway gas mileages of 28, 24, and 19, respectively. But even the most efficient SUVs are less efficient than sedans because SUVs weigh more. Still, a sign of progress is that compact SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V (35 and 34 highway miles-per-gallon, respectively) now lead the US SUV market, accounting for about 18% of new vehicle sales last year.
Additional efforts by the US Department of Transportation, The Environmental Protection AgencyAnd this National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is also underway to improve gas-powered vehicle fuel economy and tailpipe emissions. Some of the initiatives include SUVs, which will keep the industry on its toes.
Until recently, consumers had few electric models to choose from if they wanted to reduce the impact of their own transportation. Most of the early electrified car options were sedans, especially in the luxury segment.
More automakers are introducing larger EV models, but that may require even heavier batteries. The environmental aspect should also be weighed when an SUV is replaced by an EV, said Loren McDonald, CEO of market analysis firm EVAdoption. “If we don’t focus on the weight and performance of these vehicles and the smaller battery packs, we won’t get very far with electrification,” MacDonald said.
The industry is racing to improve battery technology to reduce the size of batteries and the amount of critical minerals needed to make them.
Figures such as the Global Fuel Economy Initiative will be relevant at the upcoming COP28 UN climate change talks next week.
Alexa St. John is an Associated Press climate solutions reporter. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, @alexa_stjohn.
Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative Here. AP is solely responsible for all content.
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