When Biden arrived at General Motors, he jumped behind the wheel not of the Bolt, the company’s electric car, but of the new Hummer EV, a car that embodies everything wrong with the vehicle design trajectory in past few decades. After a test shoot, he declared, “That Hummer car is a hell of a car.” A few days later, GM announced that Biden’s publicity stunt boosted bookings for the huge cars, so we’ll likely see more of them on the road.
This is not the future we need. Transportation accounts for 27% of U.S. emissions, more than any other sector, and despite an increase in fuel efficiency and electric vehicle ownership in recent years, the The proliferation of SUVs has virtually negated their benefits. The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that between 2010 and 2018, growing global demand for SUVs was the second largest cause of increased emissions. It would be easy to say that all we need to do is electrify all those SUVs, but it’s not that simple.
Electric vehicles are often referred to as “zero-emissions” vehicles because they produce no emissions from the exhaust. But that doesn’t mean they’re clean. Their large batteries require extraction of resources from mines around the world, with significant human and environmental consequences including poisoning of water supplies, increased rates of cancer and lung disease, even using child labor. According to the IEA, if we accept the transition being sold to us – one that relies heavily on electric personal vehicles – demand for key minerals will soar by 2040, according to the IEA. IEA, with an estimated increase of 4,200% for lithium alone. Batteries in electric trucks and increasingly large SUVs must be much larger than the batteries needed to propel small cars or even electric bicycles, which is not a focus of American policymakers or businesses. industry in the industry. (They will be much less profitable.)
In 1984, the Jeep Cherokee was the first to be branded as an SUV, and sales of these vehicles really started to skyrocket in the 1990s as companies launched more models. They benefit from a loophole that allows “light trucks,” a category that includes “sport utility vehicles,” to meet less stringent fuel economy standards than conventional cars. Automakers have good reason for wanting the public to buy them: SUVs and trucks are more profitable than sedans. And the more common they become, the more motivated drivers are to get their own engines: with so many large vehicles around, they feel less safe unless they level up as well.
While there has been an increase in fuel efficiency and electric vehicle ownership rates in recent years, the rise of SUVs has largely negated their benefits.
SUV sales finally overtook sedan sales in 2015, prompting some North American automakers to scale back their car offerings. It is estimated that SUVs and trucks will account for 78% of new car sales by 2025. But filling the roads with such large volumes of vehicles has consequences.
The Hummer may stand out as the ultimate manifestation of automotive excess, but automakers have continually expanded the size and height of vehicles with each new redesign. For example, USA Today found that since 1999, the Chevrolet Tahoe has grown by 17.7 inches, while the midsize Toyota RAV4 – the best-selling SUV in the United States – has grown by 14 inches. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports calculates that the average passenger truck has weighed 24 percent more and the hood is 11 inches taller since 2000. Last year, 42,915 people died on US roads — an unprecedented number. seen since 2005 – and 7,342 of them are pedestrians. Evidence suggests that the rise in large displacement vehicles is partly to blame for that trend.
In 2018, the Detroit Free Press reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration knew that pedestrians were two to three times more likely to be “deathed” from being hit by an SUV or pickup truck ( as opposed to sedan) crashes because of their high, blunt front end. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has also determined that SUV and pickup truck drivers are more likely to hit pedestrians because their visibility on the road is more limited, and academics at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that being hit by a heavier vehicle is associated with a much higher chance of death. That’s a particular problem for electric vehicles, especially electric SUVs and trucks, because the large batteries they require tend to make them even heavier than a conventional vehicle.