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As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, it’s concerning that the trend for larger, heavier cars is growing. According to a report from the International Energy Agency, S.U.V.s released almost a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, making them the world’s sixth-largest emitter, just behind Japan. Even more worrying is that S.U.V. sales continue to grow, even though total passenger-vehicle sales fell last year. And now, for the first time, the sale of electric S.U.V.s has overtaken the sale of other electric cars.

The move towards bigger, heavier vehicles is clearly incompatible with the goal of reducing global emissions. Heavier vehicles consume more energy, and until the world runs on zero-carbon electricity, the more an electric vehicle weighs, the more emissions it will produce. Heavier vehicles also require more materials to produce, resulting in more energy consumption during production. In fact, a recent report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy stated that the total environmental impact per mile of some hybrid and gasoline-powered vehicles is better than some E.V.s, because of powertrain efficiency and vehicle weight.

So why is the world moving towards heavier cars when it should be doing the opposite? The answer is complex, but a big reason is that car manufacturers profit from it. S.U.V.s and crossover vehicles have higher prices than sedans and hatchbacks, despite the fact that they cost roughly the same to produce. Car manufacturers are happy to make them bigger and bigger, calling them “rolling profit machines.”

Unfortunately, carmakers have long profited from what is known as the S.U.V. loophole in the United States. This loophole allows auto manufacturers to get around federal regulations on fuel efficiency by selling cars that can be classified as trucks. The more S.U.V.s an auto company sells, the lower the overall efficiency standards it has to meet. The recently approved electrical-vehicle tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act give S.U.V.s similarly favorable treatment, allowing more wealthy buyers to receive the tax credit.

Bigger, heavier vehicles not only emit more than smaller ones, but their tires can produce more particulate Pollution, and they cause more pedestrian fatalities. A recent study found that if all the drivers of S.U.V.s in the United States had been driving cars instead between 2000 and 2019, more than 3,000 pedestrian deaths would have been avoided.

So what can we do about it? One recommendation from a trio of researchers led by Blake Shaffer at the University of Calgary is to charge car owners by the pound. “Setting registration charges on the basis of vehicle weight can discourage heavy vehicles,” they wrote. “Collecting weight-based charges also addresses another looming problem for governments – lost revenue from forgone petrol and diesel taxes as more electric vehicles hit the roads.” France imposes a fee that applies at purchase to vehicles weighing more than 4,000 pounds, and Washington, D.C., decided to impose weight-based registration fees starting in 2024.

Better still would be to ditch cars altogether. France offers people who trade in a gas-powered car for an electric bicycle a subsidy of up to four thousand euros. Several states and municipalities in the U.S. offer incentives for people who purchase e-bikes, but it’s challenging to find any that are tied to a trade-in. Unfortunately, the Inflation Reduction Act included no credits or incentives for buying e-bikes, despite lobbying by groups such as the League of American Bicyclists. Transportation is now the U.S.’s largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions, and replacing today’s auto fleet with a similar but even heavier fleet of electric cars and electric S.U.V.s would reduce emissions but likely produce many other problems.

Tiny Rescue Climate Collection

Stop F*cking With The Planet Tee by Tiny Rescue: Climate Collection

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