SUV sales have soared in 2022, experts say, making meeting global climate targets much more difficult. While buyers are flocking to electric SUVs, these oversized electric vehicles are posing environmental challenges.
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SUVs, on average, burn about 20 percent more oil than midsize cars. Electric SUVs also require larger batteries than other electric vehicles, and experts are already warning that we won’t have enough raw materials to meet the skyrocketing demand for lithium-ion batteries.
However, SUVs have outperformed their smaller counterparts in 2022. Overall, car sales fell about 0.5 percent last year, but SUV sales rose 3 percent. They accounted for as much as 46 percent of global car sales.
This popularity means growing environmental pollution. According to a recent analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA), carbon dioxide emissions from SUVs around the world are close to 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. While oil demand for fueling passenger cars (not SUVs) has stagnated between 2021 and 2022, global SUV oil consumption has increased by 500,000 barrels per day.
To prevent a significant worsening of the climate change situation, these numbers must drop sharply. Achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement requires countries to halve climate pollution by the end of the decade and achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Transport is the main source of climate pollution. It accounts for about a quarter of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. To meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, about 60 percent of cars sold in 2030 must be electric, the IEA previously outlined.
Electric vehicle sales are up 60 percent in 2022. And for the first time, electric SUVs accounted for just over half of all electric vehicles sold last year. No wonder, given that automakers are adding many more electric SUVs to their lineups. Approximately 55 percent of the approximately 400 electric vehicle models available are SUVs.
The problem is that electric SUVs, in particular, make the transition to clean energy more difficult. Automakers are already scrambling to get enough raw materials for electric vehicles, which are typically built using about six times more minerals than a conventional car. Reserves of critical minerals needed to manufacture lithium-ion batteries are limited and concentrated in a few places, leaving the supply chain vulnerable in the face of political and economic instability. The larger the car, the greater the above risks and problems.
Keep in mind that electric vehicles are not the solution to traffic pollution. Electric vehicles are still polluting the environment with particles due to wear and tear on tires, brakes and roads, which is really bad for air quality. Heavier vehicles tend to create more of this kind of pollution. Conventional electric vehicles already tend to be heavier than gas-powered vehicles, and SUVs only exacerbate this problem.
If automakers reduce the size of their vehicles, there will be big environmental benefits. This is one easy way to reduce pressure on supply chains by minimizing vehicle pollution as much as possible.