Fri. Feb 26th, 2021

There was an increase in the sale of electric cars, which is a step forward towards realizing the zero-emission energy goals. However, these ambitions were cut short by growing popularity and massive sales of SUVs seen in 2020. According to Laura Cozzi and Apostolus Petropoulos of France’s International Energy Agency, the fall in oil consumption due to electric car purchases was cut short by the increase in SUVs.

SUVs consume more fuel per kilometer than small and medium-sized vehicles. To win this climate battle, smaller and efficient cars are required. “Policymakers need to find ways to persuade consumers to choose smaller and more efficient cars,” said Petropoulos. Overall oil consumption in 2020 decreased by 10% 2020. This was a drop by about 1.8 million barrels per day. According to Cozzi and Petropoulos, reduced travel due to Covid-19 influenced this drop. Restrictions on movements reduced the traveling, hence the fall in oil consumption. This value is only temporary. When people resume normal schedules, oil consumption will go up.

In addition, people bought more electric cars in 2020. This also contributed to the fall in oil consumption. “We have seen a skyrocketing of global electric car sales in 2020,” added Petropoulos. Similarly, there was an increase in SUV sales, which outbalanced the oil consumption decrease due to electric car use. “The increase in SUVs in 2020 led to a rise in oil consumption that canceled out the effect of electric cars,” he added.

Sadly, this trend has remained from 2010 to 2020, where carbon emissions decreased after consumers switched from conventional to electric vehicles. Increased sale of SUVs increased the emissions and zeroed the impact realized from electric vehicles. This clearly indicates that overall emissions are not falling, even with the popularization of electric cars. “While the growth in EVs is encouraging, the boom in SUVs is heartbreaking,” says Glen Peters, a researcher at CICERO climate research center, based in Norway.

The skyrocketing sale of SUVs is due to increased prosperity in developing countries such as India and South Africa. People view owning an SUV as a symbol of wealth and status in society. Another reason for SUVs’ popularity is the constant marketing by carmakers that prefer SUV sales to small car sales due to the huge profits. Countries are making it harder for consumers to choose SUVs by applying more taxation for this kind of car. However, this may not discourage wealthy people determined to buy an SUV from doing so. “It is not necessarily a huge disincentive if people have the income,” explained Peters.

Carmakers are developing electric SUVs, but this may take some time. “Hopefully, in time, you will see electric vehicles penetrate the SUV market. But that is going to take some time, I think,” Peters added. Electric SUVs may not present the perfect solution to climate concerns. An electric SUV will need more resources to assemble. These include larger batteries. The larger the battery, the more energy required. On average, an electric SUV will consume about 15 percent more electricity than a small electric vehicle. This converts to a higher carbon emission if the electric power source is not entirely a renewable source.

By Adam