The Surprising Impact of SUVs on Air Pollution: Why Are Newer Cars Worse for the Environment?

Many of us assume that thanks to advanced technology and stricter emission laws, new vehicles are becoming cleaner. In theory, a car purchased today should emit fewer harmful emissions than one sold ten years ago. However, a recent study has uncovered an unexpected truth: new cars are proving to be worse for the environment, and the main culprit is the growing popularity of SUVs.

The Weighty Issue of New Vehicles

According to a study published by the Possible group, the average new combustion engine vehicle from 2023 is now a greater air polluter than the average car sold a decade ago. This unsettling trend can be attributed to the increasing consumer preference for SUVs over traditional cars available a decade ago.

New SUVs are significantly heavier and have higher fuel consumption rates compared to regular cars, leading to the emission of substantially more CO2. The report’s findings are not surprising; what’s alarming is the drastic shift in the market structure, causing a significant increase in emissions from combustion engine vehicles.

The Luxury of SUVs and Their Environmental Impact

The study also revealed that in the UK, the wealthiest 20% of consumers purchase SUVs. SUVs are becoming increasingly popular in affluent urban areas where the off-road capabilities of these vehicles are rarely utilized. Possible’s study suggests that these consumers could easily afford electrified cars and calls upon legislators to introduce a vehicle tax based on emissions produced.


Photo by Timo Trilk on Unsplash

Differing Regulations in the United States

In contrast to the UK, the United States has different regulations. SUVs and crossovers in the U.S. are classified as light trucks, subject to less stringent emissions standards compared to passenger cars. This is one reason why several car manufacturers have shifted away from producing sedans. Until this issue is addressed, automakers are likely to continue prioritizing larger vehicles over smaller, more eco-friendly options.

In addition to their environmental impact, SUVs pose a range of safety concerns. These include a heightened risk of injury to pedestrians, an increased rollover risk, reduced visibility for other drivers, and a greater release of particulate matter from tire wear. All of these factors raise questions about the sensibility of choosing SUVs over conventional automobiles.

The study’s somber conclusion is that the least polluting combustion engine vehicle available in the UK today is a seven-year-old used car. While the popularity of SUVs continues to grow, it’s crucial to consider the wider consequences for the environment and road safety as we navigate this shifting automotive landscape.

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