Gas-Guzzling SUVs Causing More Damage Than We Thought


The numbers don't lie and they're frightening.

It was only a decade ago when mainstream automakers figured the era of the SUV had come to an end. Subcompacts like the Ford Fiesta were rushed to production as consumers wanted to replace their gas-guzzling SUVs with something more economical. At the time, gas prices in the US and throughout the world had reached all-time highs. Today, things are exactly the opposite. Gas prices are down, the Ford Fiesta is dead (at least in America), and SUVs are more popular than ever. Old habits die hard. Unfortunately, this all comes at a price. According to a new study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), not only has the global SUV market doubled in the past decade, but the "global fleet of SUVs has seen its emissions grow by nearly 0.55 GT C02… to roughly 0.7 Gt C02." What does this mean?

SUVs alone have been the second-largest contributor to the increase in global C02 emissions since 2010. The number one contributor is the power sector, but SUVs were ahead of other heavy industries, specifically iron, steel, and cement, as well as trucks and aviation. SUVs also consume about a quarter more energy than medium size-cars.

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This increase in C02 emissions specifically from SUVs has basically offset efficiency improvements made in smaller cars and electric cars. Combined, they saved over 2.1 million barrels of oil a day. SUVs, however, were responsible for 3.3 million barrels a day growth in oil demand specifically for passenger cars from 2010 to 2018. Oil use from other passenger vehicle segments actually declined slightly.

If this SUV demand trend continues, the study claims SUVs will add 2 million barrels daily in global oil demand by the year 2040. This would essentially offset any C02 emissions savings from – wait for it – nearly 150 million electric cars.

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As mentioned, these findings account for global SUV demand, but the paper does break down which countries have the highest SUV sales. Take a wild guess which one has the highest. Yep, that'd be the United States, followed by China, Europe, India, and South Africa.

Both the United States and China are ahead of average global SUV sales. The IEA's entire paper will be published next month in the upcoming World Energy Outlook 2019, but we already know its biggest argument: buy a car (it doesn't even have to be an EV) instead of an SUV.

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