It’s something many in the motoring industry have suspected for years, and now yet another report has confirmed that the recent surge in popularity of SUVs isn’t doing the environment any favours.
The world’s car-makers have been slowly making the internal combustion engine more and more fuel efficient and better for the environment, thanks in part to being pushed by legislation around the world. But, fresh numbers from the UK indicate that gains that have been made among traditional cars are being countered by SUV sales.
While SUVs score well for practicality, they are also generally heavier and less aerodynamically efficient than sedans, station wagons, people movers, and hatchbacks. While people movers and wagons have been particularly hurt by the SUV boom, each alternative silhouette is generally better for the environment.
The UK’s National Audit Office has released its Reducing Carbon Emissions from Cars report, which confirms that the region had made environmental gains in recent times, only for these to recently decline. It says that between 2011 and 2016, national emissions in the UK fell by 13 per cent. But, in the period between 2016 and 2019, they actually increased by 9 per cent.
The report gives a few reasons for this increase, including increased traffic on the roads and changes to how emissions are measured in the UK (a result of Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’ scandal). But, it also notes the role that increased SUV sales have played, too.
The industry watchdog noted that SUVs accounted for 25 per cent of all new-car sales in the UK in 2019 — up from making up just 6 per cent in 2008. It lists the change as “as a large contributor to the lack of progress in reducing CO2 emissions from new cars.”
It’s not the first time that a report has come to this conclusion about SUVs. In 2019 the International Energy Agency claimed that SUVs were the second largest contributor to the increase in CO2 emissions since the start of the last decade — behind the power sector and ahead of heavy industry, trucking, and aviation.
New Zealand is naturally not immune from the SUV craze. Four of them made it into the country’s top 10 best-seller list for 2020 — the Mazda CX-5, Kia Seltos, Kia Sportage, and Toyota RAV4. The balance of the list was made up of four utes (Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton, and Holden Colorado) and two hatchbacks (Toyota Corolla and Suzuki Swift).