The rise of the SUV threatens climate and road safety goals | climate

The rise of the SUV threatens climate and road safety goals |  climate

About half of all new cars sold in the Netherlands are SUVs. On average, the Dutch drive increasingly larger cars. This leads to an increased use of energy and raw materials, making it more difficult to achieve climate goals. Larger cars are also detrimental to road safety.

Car ownership has been the trend for decades

Passenger cars have been getting bigger for decades, a phenomenon jokingly referred to as “car ownership.” It is caused by consumers who demand more and more luxury, but also by car manufacturers who themselves focus on larger models. This is because more profit can be made than in cheaper compact cars.

“We haven’t sufficiently stimulated car manufacturers to focus on energy efficiency,” says Eric Verhoeff, a traffic economist (VU Amsterdam). According to him, governments should do more to encourage the production and purchase of energy-efficient small cars. Right now, prices don’t adequately account for the “external effects” of larger cars, Verhoeff says.

It’s not just about the greater climatic and environmental impact of SUVs. While longer vehicles are comfortable and safe for people inside, they pose a greater danger to people outside, such as pedestrians or cyclists.

They are two to three times more likely to die in a collision with an SUV, He writes Knowledge Institute of Mobility Policy based on literature research. For young children, the risk of death is four times greater than the risk of being hit by a smaller car.

Time for SUV-free zones?

For Flemish mobility expert Eva Van Eenoo (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), this was reason to call for “4×4-free zones”. Van Eino told the Belgian news magazine talent That it should be possible to keep large vehicles away from city centers and residential areas. It has led to angry reactions, but also support for people concerned about road safety and the climate.

Van Eenoo also believes that governments should do more to curb the rise of SUVs. She is pleased that there is a growing awareness of the impact of SUVs, but worries that governments will fear the reactions of the ever-growing number of SUV owners if they are restricted. “The longer they wait, the more difficult it becomes to intervene,” she tells “So I’m not very optimistic about this.”

Verhoef understands Van Eenoo’s advocacy, but calls for a broader approach. “If we want to become climate-neutral, we are going to have to modify our behavior in many ways. It also means we have to use more bikes and use public transportation more.” So discouraging SUVs is only a small part of the solution.

You can take a step by entering pricing methods. The government wants motorists to pay per kilometer from 2030. Verhoeff thinks it makes sense to charge owners of large cars more than people who drive smaller cars.

“If an SUV takes up more space, poses more danger to other road users and generates more emissions, even if it’s electric, it makes sense to reflect that in the pricing. That should be pretty obvious when someone buys such a car.”

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