Motordom
October 17, 2019

Global Growth of SUVs Means the ICE Age is Not Over

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.”

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It’s hard to believe in this time of technology that we still require police officers to be vulnerable road users outside of their vehicles to flag over motorists for speed  transgressions on Canadian highways. Not only are they subject to being crashed into by the vehicle they are flagging down, they also may be hit by other  inattentive motorists.

I have written about how Switzerland has become the safest country in Europe on the roads by  regulating speed limits. In five years from 2001 to 2006 Swiss speed camera enforcement resulted in a fatality decrease of 15 percent per year, bringing road deaths from 71 annually down to 31. No need to have police flagging you down on the autoroute, a $330  ticket for driving 16 kilometres an hour over the speed limit  is in the mail.

The maximum travel speed is 120 km/h and it is rigidly enforced, making Swiss motorways the safest according to the European Transport Safety Council. Managing speed makes the roads easier to drive on, with consistent motorist behaviour and plenty of reaction time due to highway speed conformity.

A poll conducted by Mario Canseco  last year shows that 70 percent of  people in British Columbia are now supportive of the use of a camera system similar to the Swiss to enforce road speed limits in this province. While the Province has located 140 red light camera at intersections with high collision statistics, speed on highways does not have similar technology.

On the Thanksgiving weekend police forces across British Columbia announced a drive safely campaign, notifying that they would be out on highways  looking for anything that took away from safe highway driving. Anyone driving on highways from Abbotsford to Vancouver quickly saw the difference, with motorists staying to posted speed limits on highways.

But last month one  Delta Police Force member was nearly struck by a vehicle driver that was weaving in and out of traffic along a busy section of highway as the officer was outside of his vehicle attending to another stopped car.  That officer was nearly clipped and this was caught on a dash camera.

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… or at least Italy, from where John Graham reports:

In the south of Italy – here in Sorrento at the end of the Amalfi coast – the e-bike with fat tires is taking over. And not by the mountain-biker demographic, as you can see from the front basket and rear child seat.

This bike on the main pedestrian shopping street is their version of the mini SUV. The fat tires are for the rough and variable cobblestones.

The rider was a woman in her 40’s who got off and went into the cosmetic shop behind.

 

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Price Tag readers will know we’ve been writing and following up on the Massey Crossing saga, where the previous Liberal Provincial government decided a ten lane bridge would replace the Massey Tunnel. Trouble was this multi-billion dollar bridge became a boondoggle, unsupported by every mayor on Metro Vancouver’s Mayors’ Council. It was only the Mayor of Delta that thought the bridge was a brilliant idea, obviously putting the municipality’s proximity to industry and  Deltaport as factors over other smarter, more sustainable, and simply more thought out approaches.

The current provincial government thankfully took another look at the proposed crossing in a prepared report, and indicated that any option chosen would have to be agreed upon by the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council.

As Global News Sean Boynton reports five options for a crossing of the Fraser River near the Massey Tunnel were examined at a Metro Vancouver mayors task force and surprise! Not ONE of the options included the ten lane bridge being championed by the previous provincial Liberal government. Instead the consensus of the task force was to “replace the existing George Massey Tunnel with an eight-lane immersed-tube tunnel — two of which will be dedicated to transit.”

You can imagine how fun that hours long meeting was before consensus on an immersed tube tunnel construction was decided upon as the preferred option. This is built using prefabricated tunnel pieces that are put in place within the river bed. This option is estimated to be one-third the cost of a deep bore tunnel and will require one kilometre of tunnel and  moving 1.5 million cubic metres of soil that is salt sodden.

While cost estimates were not discussed, it is suggested that the cost of this option is similar to building a bridge. Environmental impacts would result from excavating both river banks, as well as mitigating  damage to existing fish habitats.

Next steps include having the recommendation of an eight lane tunnel reviwed by the finance committee of Metro Vancouver and board, followed up with a public process about the project and its impacts.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena  responded to the Mayors Council task force tunnel option by saying “It’s giving us a lot of direction. The previous government just went ahead with a very large bridge that was not what the Metro region wanted. So we wanted to consult with Metro [Vancouver].”

Thinking about the tunnel option, Richmond Councillor Harold Steeves observed that the two lanes that will be designated for public transit could in the future become a rail link. The previous ten lane bridge concept was too steep and had approaches in the wrong location to accommodate rail transit. Of course the other challenge that is already being discussed by transportation planner Eric Doherty  on twitter is that “Urban highway expansion is climate crime. Highway 99 expansion would not be on table if BC’s #cleanbc climate plan wasn’t a hollow shell.” 

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As a consequence of the West End Community Plan of 2013, there is a massive rebuilding of the blocks on Davie Street from Jervis to Denman.  But the West End is used to that.  The district has already seen such transformations throughout its history.

It began with the ‘New Liverpool’ subdivision prior to the incorporation of the city, bringing with it an explosion of development: mansions of the elite and professional class, along with the ‘Vancouver Specials’ of the 1890s you can still see on Mole Hill. Inserted were the first apartment blocks with the arrival of the streetcar on Denman and Davie in 1900.

Then the crash of 1913, a war, a Depression, another war.  It wasn’t until the late 1940s when redevelopment again transformed a decaying and overcrowded district with dozens of those three-storey walkups.

A rezoning in 1956 brought the most significant change of all: over 200 concrete highrises.  That concrete jungle – the postcard shot – is the West End today: the scale and character of one of Canada’s densest neighbourhoods.

It turned out okay.

Now, the current and expected changes are happening on the border blocks, from Thurlow to Burrard, Alberni to Georgia – and very obviously on West Davie.  Faster than planners anticipated.  The most significant phase of West End development in the last half century.

Here’s an example on one side of one block from Cardero to Bidwell – three towers at the stage where the raw concrete makes a more powerful architectural statement than when the glass and spandrel panels get attached:

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Has anyone at City Hall (hello, Transportation Advisory Committee) said anything about the wave of electric scooters that are starting to wash over Vancouver?

Here’s an example from yesterday on the Seaside at English Bay.  Notice the speed differential; the scooter on the bikeway is going faster than any vehicle on Beach Avenue.

Download video: Scooter at English Bay

We still have time to deal with the issues that have already emerged in other cities – notably San Diego, as reported here in the New York Times:

Since scooter rental companies like Bird, Lime, Razor, Lyft and Uber-owned Jump moved into San Diego last year, inflating the city’s scooter population to as many as 40,000 by some estimates, the vehicles have led to injuries, deaths, lawsuits and vandals. Regulators and local activists have pushed back against them. One company has even started collecting the vehicles to help keep the sidewalks clear. …

San Diego’s struggle to contain the havoc provides a glimpse of how reality has set in for scooter companies like Bird and Lime. Last year, the services were hailed as the next big thing in personal transportation. Investors poured money into the firms, valuing Bird at $2.3 billion and Lime at $2.4 billion and prompting an array of followers. …

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Another counter-intuitive study that offsets a reasonable expectation that more electric bikes and scooters will mean less fit users – kind of like the idea that ‘riding hailing will result in less SOV use and vehicle congestion’.  (Turns out Uber et al increase congestion and reduce transit use.)  But there are qualifications.

From treehugger:

E-bikers use their bikes more, go longer distances, and often substitute it for driving or transit. …

A new study, with a mouthful of a title, “Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities,” finds that in fact it is true: e-bikers take longer trips and get pretty much the same physical activity gains as analog cyclists. …

But perhaps even more significant is the dramatic increase in exercise among people who switch from cars to e-bikes, a much easier transition than from cars to a-bikes.

It should be noted that this study looks at European pedelec e-bikes like my Gazelle, where people have to pedal a bit to get the 250 watt motor to kick in. Results probably don’t apply to overpowered throttle-controlled American e-bikes or scooters. Because, as the study authors note, with a pedelec, “using an e-bike requires moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, depending on topography.”

There is so much to unpack from this study. It also looks at how e-bikes are easier for older riders, keeping them fitter longer. It also reinforces my opinion that the Europeans got it right by limiting speed and power on e-bikes and mandating that they are all pedelecs rather than throttle operated; you don’t get much exercise on a motorcycle.

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One of the world’s most iconic vans is making a comeback…

But this time, it’s electric. Slated for production by 2022, the “electric microbus” is one of five new electric models in Volkswagen’s ID. series — a family of 100% electric vehicles, which includes a crossover, a compact, a sedan, and of course, the van.

Just like the classic VW van, there will be room for up to seven people with an adjustable interior that includes a table and movable seats. Volkswagen also intends on enabling all ID. series models with a fully autonomous feature option.

Distance, a major concern of many when it comes to purchasing an electric vehicle, is no longer an issue. The van will have an electric range of 400 to 600 km, comparable to pretty much any gas-powered vehicle. Further, Volkswagen has partnered with Electrify Canada (partnership formed by Electrify America in cooperation with Volkswagen Canada) to build ultra-fast electric vehicle charging infrastructure to give Canadians the reliability they need to confidently make the switch to electric. Planning and deployment are well underway, including network routes — you can check out the Vancouver to Calgary route here.

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Image: FT.com

Even The Economist is weighing in  on the fact that Vancouver is the special child, the one big city in North America that still does not have the common ride-hailing  services like Uber and Lyft.  There is the Kater service which uses taxi licences and is part of the local taxi association, which take a share of profits. Prices are similar to taxis, but there are a few Kater cars that are Karaoke cars. (We can’t make this stuff up.)

As The Economist observes British Columbia’s requirement of Class Four commercial licences may be deterring licensing  part time drivers for ride hailing. But the Province’s cautious approach to ride-hailing is also being lauded:

The regulators have reason to proceed cautiously. In many cities where ride-hailing has taken off, congestion has worsened and use of public transport has dropped. In San Francisco, congestion, as measured by extra time required to complete a journey, increased by 60% from 2010 to 2016, according to Greg Erhardt, a professor at the University of Kentucky. More than half of the rise was caused by the growth of ride-hailing. Population and employment growth accounted for the rest. Ride-hailing led to a 12% drop in ridership on public transport in the city. San Francisco’s experience is a “cautionary tale for Vancouver”, says Joe Castiglione, who analyses data for its transport authority.

Without providing data, the Economist article calls Vancouver “one of  North America’s most traffic-jammed cities, in part because its downtown is small.” 

The article rightly notes that ride-hailing can worsen congestion, but also observes that Vancouver is one of the few places in North America with public transit use increasing.

TransLink’s head of policy Andrew Curran states that high gas price, population and employment growth has helped boost transit use as well as car sharing, where people book vehicles that they drive themselves. Andrew notes that deferring Uber and Lyft in the province has helped transit and car share. Vancouver has 3,000 vehicles in car share, which is double the number of similar vehicles in San Francisco.

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