While overall emissions from passenger cars fell by 75 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) between 2010 and 2018, emissions from SUVs grew by 544 metric tonnes – more than the increase from heavy industry, aviation, trucks or shipping.
Part of the problem, says Aronczyk, is that once supersized cars start to take off in a country, consumers and manufacturers rapidly get into an SUV arms race. “When you drive on a regular old sedan on the highway, everyone else's headlights are right in your face,” she says. “It actually is hard to drive when you are the only one left on the road in a normal car.”
With their hulking weight and high driving position, SUVs exude a feeling of safety for those behind the wheel, but it can sometimes be an illusion. In 2003, traffic data from the US government found that people driving or riding in an SUV were 11 per cent more likely to die in an accident than people in cars – thanks to their high centre of gravity and tendency to roll over in crashes.
I did not realise that in the US SUVs were categorised as trucks and not cars, and therefore escaped the emissions targets set for cars. Good news though is that some SUVs are starting to go electric, and also that the EU will be setting emissions targets across a company's entire fleet of cars (inc any SUVs). And of course there is now the Tesla Cybertruck...
#transport SUVs are way worse for the planet than anyone previously thought
Sales of hefty and heavily-polluting SUVs have doubled in the last decade – outweighing the progress made from electric vehicles. Can cleaner SUVs offer a way out?