Growing SUV and pickup sales are cancelling out emission savings from electric cars

Dodge Ram truick
CC BY 2.0 Ram pickup truck/ Lloyd Alter

Even if more cars go electric, it's almost pointless unless we get rid of light trucks.

The great benefit of electric cars is that there are no tailpipe emissions because there is no tailpipe. And even with our usual complaints, it has been wonderful to see them taking off. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA):

Plans from the top 20 car manufacturers suggest a tenfold increase in annual electric car sales, to 20 million vehicles a year by 2030, from 2 million in 2018. Starting from a low base, less than 0.5% of the total car stock, this growth in electric vehicles means that nearly 7% of the car fleet will be electric by 2030.

Teslas in the treesTeslas in the trees/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The IEA notes talk about "the beginning of the end for the ICE age.” As passenger cars consume nearly one-quarter of global oil demand today, does this signal the approaching erosion of a pillar of global oil consumption?"

Nope. In fact, emissions from transportation keep climbing, even as fewer cars are sold and more are electric because so many more people are buying SUVs and pickup trucks.

On average, SUVs consume about a quarter more energy than medium-size cars. As a result, global fuel economy worsened caused in part by the rising SUV demand since the beginning of the decade, even though efficiency improvements in smaller cars saved over 2 million barrels a day, and electric cars displaced less than 100,000 barrels a day.

It's just going to get worse.

EscaladeEscalade at Toronto Auto Show/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

In fact, SUVs were responsible for all of the 3.3 million barrels a day growth in oil demand from passenger cars between 2010 and 2018, while oil use from other types of cars (excluding SUVs) declined slightly. If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars.

We do go on about how SUVs and pickups are killing and maiming people by the thousands, and all of the other problems that they cause, but surely this should raise some eyebrows. Many countries offer incentives and tax credits to encourage people to buy electric cars, which all seems kind of silly if they don't have disincentives for buying light trucks like SUVs and pickups.

The government actually subsidizes big SUVs.

Land rover tax creditLand rover tax credit/Screen capture

It gets still worse; if you buy a truck or SUV in the U.S. that is heavier than 6,000 pounds, the IRS gives you a massive tax write-off for depreciation. Range Rover is even using this in their marketing to people who use their cars for business. Another site conveniently lists all the cars over 6,000 pounds (copied below) that are eligible for this.

The government is giving these tax deductions because they consider these to be work vehicles. Given how dangerous they are, it's time to license their drivers to a higher standard as they do for trucks over 10,000 pounds. That would get a lot of them off the road fast.

Here's the list of 2018 cars and trucks that are over 6,000 pounds, via Financial Samurai.

Audi Q7
BMW X5
BMW X6
Buick ENCLAVE
Cadillac ESCALADE AWD
Chevrolet Truck AVALANCHE 4WD
Chevrolet Truck SILVERADO
Chevrolet Truck SUBURBAN
Chevrolet Truck TAHOE 4WD
Chevrolet Truck TRAVERSE 4WD
Dodge Truck DURANGO 4WD
Ford Truck EXPEDITION 4WD
Ford Truck EXPLORER 4WD
Ford Truck F-150 4WD
Ford Truck FLEX AWD
GMC ACADIA 4WD
GMC SIERRA
GMC YUKON 4WD
GMC YUKON XL
Infiniti QX56 4WD
Jeep GRAND CHEROKEE
Land Rover RANGE ROVER
Land Rover RANGE ROVER SPT
Land Rover Discovery
Lexus GX460
Lexus LX570
Lincoln MKT AWD
Mercedes Benz G550
Mercedes Benz GL500
Nissan ARMADA 4WD
Nissan NV 1500 S V6
Nissan NVP 3500 S V6
Nissan TITAN 2WD S
Porsche CAYENNE
Toyota 4RUNNER 4WD
Toyota LANDCRUISER
Toyota SEQUOIA 4WD LTD
Toyota TUNDRA 4WD
Volkswagen TOUAREG HYBRID

Growing SUV and pickup sales are cancelling out emission savings from electric cars
Even if more cars go electric, it's almost pointless unless we get rid of light trucks.

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