Europe Is Drowning In SUV Emissions

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Regular CleanTechnica readers may be forgiven for believing the EV revolution is surging ahead, especially in Europe. We feature lots of stories about how the majority of new cars sold in Norway have plugs and how sales of EVs in France have doubled year over year, but the truth of the matter is, despite all that good news, vehicle emissions in Europe are rising rather than falling, and the mania for SUVs that has infected the brains of car buyers around the globe is largely to blame.

According to preliminary data released last week by the European Environmental Agency, average emissions from passenger cars has risen in each of the past three years. Between 2018 and 2019, carbon emissions from cars went up an average of 1.6 g/km, reaching a total of 122.4. Green Car Congress points out that is below the current maximum for Europe of 130 g/km but well above the  EU target of 95 g/km that phases in this year.

The EEA says much of the rise in emissions comes from an increase in the number of SUVs sold in Europe. Last year, 38% of new car sales in the EU were SUVS. Those vehicles tend to be heavier and less aerodynamic, with thirstier, more powerful engines that emit more carbon dioxide than traditional passenger cars. The average weight of new cars increased by 30 kilograms (66 pounds) between 2018 and 2019. Of the nearly 15.5 million new cars sold in Europe, Iceland, Norway, and the UK last year, 59% were powered by gasoline engines, while diesels accounted for 31%.

Only 3.5% were battery electrics or plug-in hybrids, with the balance being hybrids or vehicles powered by other fuel sources such as CNG or hydrogen. In a brilliant piece of understatement, the EEA said when it released the latest numbers, “Manufacturers will have to improve the fuel efficiency of their fleet and accelerate the deployment of zero- and low-emission vehicles.”

The figures for commercial vans showed a tiny increase of just 0.5 g/km more than in 2018. While that is well below the EU target of 175 g/km, it is still 11 g/km higher than the EU target of 147 g/km that will apply from this year on.

Many national and local governments in the UK and the EU support banning internal combustion engines in the next 10 to 15 years years. Germany and France have both instituted new plans to dramatically increase the rebates and tax incentives for buyers of electric cars. It is safe to assume those measures will motivate more people to buy electric, but let’s be honest.

As a species, we are moving much too slowly to reduce or eliminate the amount of carbon emissions  we dump into our environment. We need a massive increase in the number of battery-powered vehicles in the world and we need it yesterday. We can shine ourselves on about how well the EV revolution is progressing, but in reality it is not moving nearly fast enough.

If you drive a gasoline or diesel vehicle, you are signing your own death certificate as well as that of your children, friends, co-workers, and other family members. Yes, everybody else is doing it, but as our mothers used to ask us, “If Billy jumps off a bridge, does that mean you have to as well?”

Carbon dioxide emissions are making our planet uninhabitable. What part of “We are digging our own grave” do we not understand? The epitaph for the world after we ruin it for everyone will be short — “It was convenient.”

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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