You can forget about reducing vehicular emissions, a major source of climate change, if we can’t change our habits. As the International Energy Agency has stated while there are 350 plus of different electric models of vehicles planned in the next five years, only 7 percent of all automobiles will be electric by 2030.  Around the world sales of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) have fallen 2 percent, the first reduction in ten years. Surprisingly China and India have had substantial declines in the purchase of ICE vehicles, by 14 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The real challenge~and you see it in marketing everywhere~is the ICE motor vehicle manufacturers peddling of their darling, the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle)  built on a truck frame that gets around car regulations due to its truck platform. These SUVs are killing machines, and along with trucks represent 60 percent of all vehicle purchases and directly responsible for a 46 percent increase of pedestrian deaths. As well, drivers of SUVs are 11 percent more likely to die in an accident.

Automakers advertise the SUV’s as safe rolling dens for drivers, and there are now globally 200 million SUVs, up from 35 million ten years ago. Sales of SUVs have also doubled in a decade.

The numbers are staggering~half of all vehicles sold in the United States are SUVs, and in gas conscious Europe, one-third of all purchases are for SUVs.

And they have an appeal. “In China, SUVs are considered symbols of wealth and status. In India, sales are currently lower, but consumer preferences are changing as more and more people can afford SUVs. Similarly, in Africa, the rapid pace of urbanisation and economic development means that demand for premium and luxury vehicles is relatively strong.”

Given that 25 percent of global oil goes to vehicular consumption, and the related CO2 emissions, “The global fleet of SUVs has seen its emissions growing by nearly 0.55 Gt CO2 during the last decade to roughly 0.7 Gt CO2. As a consequence, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron & steel, cement, aluminium), as well as trucks and aviation.”

SUV’s slurp up 25 percent more energy than a mid-sized vehicle, and even with more efficient smaller vehicles being purchased SUVs are “responsible” for the 3.3 million barrels a day growth in global oil in the last eight years. As the IEA states

“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.”

And that is crucial. SUVs because of their bulk and weight are challenging to convert to electricity, and automakers are cranking these out, to the detriment of more efficient vehicular options.  The ICE age is not over. The  role of the SUV in increasing oil demand and contributing to CO2 emissions must be  taken seriously. Driving an ICE operated SUV should  be understood to be  a crime to the environment and to clean air futures.

What will it take to educate automakers and prospective SUV customers that the ICE age needs to be over?

You can take a look at the YouTube video below that sells a Chevy Blazer SUV as a “piece of candy” and a  “sexy mom” car.



  1. It’s too early to say if a fall in ICE vehicle sales is a trend or a blip but it’s not “surprising” at all that China and India are leading that decline. They don’t have the same attachment to ICE vehicles as those who grew up in them and know nothing else. They don’t have oil supply economies with the constant barrage of propaganda that comes with it.

    What I find *surprising* is the IEA’s attachment to linear growth of EVs even though the last decade has seen consistent aggressive exponential growth of around 60%/a. And that’s with first generation EVs that every purchaser would have known as being essentially beta-testing. Maybe 60% growth is unsustainable. Maybe not. It’s tech and tech has seen sustained aggressive exponential growth in most of its products. At 60% growth, the global fleet of EV cars and light trucks would be 40% – not 7% – by 2030. It remains to be seen, but linear growth seems highly unlikely as supporting infrastructure rolls out globally, battery costs and performance improve and more people are exposed to, and get excited about, the new thing that outperforms ICE cars in almost every way. And old farts die. (I can’t stress that enough.)

    The IEA has consistently projected future fossil energy demand higher than what actually occurs but they remain convinced to always project high. Why? Is their primary motive to encourage fossil fuel investment rather than project a realistic outlook?

    I wish I could say that enough people would just do the right thing in our climate emergency but it’s pretty obvious that’s not going to get us where we need to be. Exponential growth in EVs is not the answer unless it comes with even greater exponential decline in ICE vehicles. But it might make one of the biggest singular dents in fossil fuel demand of anything else out there right now. And that could trigger major divestment in the fossil industries where doing the right thing has done far too little.

  2. In Canada 80% of our electricity is generated by hydro/nuclear/renewables with the rest being carbon emitting coal, oil and gas. So electric cars seem to make sense.

    However, in China 70% of electricity is generated by coal, oil or gas. In the US it’s 63%.

    According to the BBC;

    “Given that most electricity globally is still produced by burning fossil fuels, charging an electric car can indirectly generate similar amounts of greenhouse gases to a petrol-powered vehicle, particularly in countries that rely heavily on coal power.”


    In some nations, like China, there may be little benefit to switching to EVs.

    1. Joe — EVs, like hybrids, (and Skytrains for that matter) have regenerative braking, putting much of the energy of slowing down back into the battery for later use. On that basis an EV getting recharged by fossil fuel electricity may still be better than a gasoline equivalent due to the increase in efficiency. Surely it is more complicated because Coal fired electricity pollutes more than gas fired, so it would be different in each jurisdiction based on where the electricity comes from.

      The sad thing, however, is that the trend continues of building societies around cars, and no only that but as this article states, more of the cars are bigger. All of the steel and glass that goes into those civilian tanks is pretty energy intensive to make and deliver, so EV’s are not a total solution even in 98% renewable electric BC. We’re like a bunch of chain smoking doctors. We know better, but we keep doing it.

      I knew all of this was coming 20 years ago. I was one of the first in Vancouver to buy a Prius when nobody had ever heard of them. It still runs, but sits in my parking stall unused because I live in a dense area with 3 grocery stores within walking distance, a skytrain station nearby (and another coming soon), Car2go and Evo memberships, and great bike infrastructure.

    2. https://www.quora.com/How-energy-efficient-are-electric-motors-compared-to-combustion-engines

      There’s some reading to do but short answer is the best new IC engines range from 40% to 48% efficiency but older models can be as low as about 25%. Also the efficiency goes down at higher speeds.

      Electric motors are between 85% and 95% efficient.

      Both suffer from external inefficiencies in getting the “fuel” into the car. If the electricity supply is old coal plants there is no benefit to EVs. But tar sands or similar oil would also drop the net efficiencies of ICE – so the worst EV scenario still beats the worst ICE scenario.

      Increasingly, even in China, more electricity is generated by high efficiency coal plants at worst and renewables at best. China is a global leader in solar and wind by a long shot. It wouldn’t make sense to wait until the entire grid is clean before switching to EVs. It seems there is a benefit as soon as the supply is not exclusively old inefficient coal plants.

      As Anthony mentions, regenerative braking adds even further benefit. New technologies (in cars rather than grid-tied SkyTrain) using capacitors in conjunction with batteries are likely to make that part more efficient yet because currently the batteries can’t recharge as fast as the braking can provide the electricity. Capacitors can.

        1. This is also an unfair statement. The Earth’s climate systems don’t care where humans draw lines on maps. China produces the most emissions mostly because it has the largest population. Canada cannot take credit for having a small population – it is just happenstance. Meanwhile China did more to deliberately reduce their population growth than any country ever. A solution that Canadians would likely never accept no matter how big and crowded we might get.

          Furthermore, China is aggressively building out the solutions to the climate crisis leading the world in renewables, EVs, high-speed electric railways and urban mass transit systems. Canada is doing nearly nothing. We can’t even get a small carbon tax to stick if things go wrong on Monday. Our emissions continue to rise even though we are already a rich country with nearly complete national infrastructure.

          China is still trying to get themselves out of stifling poverty which we did using fossil fuels. They deserve to be able to do the same. We’ve been putting GHGs into the atmosphere for well over a century and much of that remains in the atmosphere doing damage that China didn’t for most of that time. Canadians emit almost 2X more GHGs than Chinese.

          Yes, China needs to up it’s game even more and especially get more aggressive with eliminating coal. But Canada has absolutely nothing to tell them. We are pathetic laggards. Spoiled brats.

          Greta is right to challenge Canada and especially Alberta. I caught her speech today. Articulate and inspiring as usual.

          1. “China is still trying to get themselves out of stifling poverty which we did using fossil fuels. They deserve to be able to do the same..”

            That’s an odd thing to say. In effect you’re saying humanity has learned nothing about industrialization and GHG emissions so we should just let China repeat our past mistakes. Looked at another way, why shoudl I care how many people are lifted out of poverty in China if the price is planetary runaway climate change?

          2. I’m not giving China a free pass as is pretty darned clear if you actually read my post. China’s swift economic rise unfortunately just predated viable alternatives to fossil fuels by a couple of decades.

            Nobody can blame them for that.

            Unfortunately governance and economies come with a certain inertia and they’re holding on to fossil fuels, and especially coal, longer than many of us would like. But they are changing fast and skipping right to massive exponential growth in renewables.

            Unlike Canada!

            If you want to lay blame you must lay blame with the richest and highest emitters and particularly the laggards that have done next to nothing. That’s us. It is the rich west that is responsible for that terrible price. We must learn from past mistakes and lead the way.

    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTJQPyTVtNA

      Back to Joe’s comments. I really like this guy’s you-tube channel because he backs up his every word with links to the legitimate scientific research he cites. He’s also got a very dry and sarcastic wit.

      His videos are all about challenging the misinformation being spread through the internet or other media and ripping it to shreds. He covers all sorts of interesting topics. Here he does an informative video about claims that there is little to no GHG benefit to EVs.

  3. I would posit that it’s easier to deal with carbon emissions at a single powerplant stack through scrubbing, than trying to eliminate ICE emissions from a million tailpipes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *