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Safety and environmental campaigners lining up against SUVs

(Irish Times, 23 Oct 2019) German experts are calling for city-centre bans for 4x4s, while an IEA report says that they’re undoing efficiency gains.

If you have become wedded to your SUV, it might be wise to prepare for a divorce, as both environmental and safety concerns are rapidly building against our current favourite vehicle types.

Even in a depressed and depressing year for Irish car sales, the official “Jeep/SUV H1” class of car (yes, it still rankles that Revenue uses the specific brand name of Jeep as a generic term) is still surging ahead. SUV sales have risen by 3.47 per cent so far this year in Ireland, against a backdrop of the overall market falling by 7.5 per cent. Out of 113,000 cars sold so far this year, 45,000 have been SUVs.

Given their ubiquity, many now consider an SUV to be a relatively blameless vehicle – after all, most of them are based around the same engines and chassis as more “conventional” vehicles, so why should they be any worse from an environmental or safety point of view?

The rapidly-emerging view is that they are worse – considerably worse – especially according to a new study from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a non-governmental body established in the wake of the 1970s oil crises to monitor energy use and wastage.

Frugal engines

According to the study, the rise of SUVs as a popular body shape has effectively undone the good that carmakers have achieved in creating more frugal engines, and if sales continue as they are, SUVs’ popularity could undo the rise of the electric vehicle too.

According to the IEA’s report, the dramatic shift towards bigger and heavier cars has led to a doubling of the market share of SUVs over the last decade. As a result, there are now over 200 million SUVs around the world, up from about 35 million in 2010, accounting for 60 per cent of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010. About 40 per cent of annual car sales today are SUVs, compared with less than 20 per cent a decade ago.

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Irish Times, 23 Oct 2019: Safety and environmental campaigners lining up against SUVs