Growth of Gas Guzzling SUVs Adding Massive Amount of CO2 Globally

Second only to electric power globally since 2010, sport utility vehicle (SUV) sales have spiked and they are now contributing hugely to the growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to an analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA).  In addition, global fuel economy worsened caused in part by the rising SUV demand even as efficiency improvements in smaller cars saved over 2 million barrels a day and electric cars displaced less than 100,000 barrels a day.

Why This Matters:  This is a big double whammy on efforts to curb CO2 emissions and decrease the demand for fossil fuels for cars.  The IEA called the SUV emissions “nothing short of surprising” and the global trend a “dramatic shift towards bigger and heavier cars.”   In order to get vehicle emissions under control, and increase the use of electric vehicles, car manufacturers and governments will need to confront this inconvenient truth about the “universal” preference for SUVs.  As the authors note “[b]igger and heavier cars, like SUVs, are harder to electrify and growth in their rising demand may slow down the development of clean and efficient car fleets.”

SUVs by the Numbers

The percentage of SUVs on the road all over the world has doubled in the last 10 years.  By the numbers:

  • there are now over 200 million SUVs around the world, up from about 35 million in 2010;
  • SUVs account for 60% of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010; and
  • around 40% of annual car sales today are SUVs, compared with less than 20% a decade ago.

CO2 emissions are growing as a result:

  • globally the fleet of SUVs’ emissions have grown by nearly 0.55 Gt CO2 during the last decade to roughly 0.7 Gt CO2
  • SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global COemissions since 2010 after the power sector

Gas Demand Rising Due to SUV Growth

Global fuel economy declined due to the rising SUV demand since the beginning of the decade despite the fact that efficiency improvements in smaller cars saved over 2 million barrels a day and increased the use of electric cars displaced oil as well.  SUVs use significantly more gas than medium-size cars.

If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow similarly, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040.

  • It would take more than 150 million electric cars to offset the gas increase from SUVs.

Graphic: Axios

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