Thursday, March 22, 2018

Prestige Trumps Efficiency, Environment

"It seems to be an American male thing to think: 'I may want to haul things'."
"If that caught on in other countries it really wouldn't help."
Lewis Fulton, co-director, sustainable transportation program, University of California, Davis, Institute of Transportation Studies

"This makes 2016 the first model year in which the industry generated a [greenhouse gas] emissions deficit, after generating credits in each of the first four years of EPA’s program."
"[All five vehicle types under the EPA program have] steadily increased fuel economy in recent years and are at or near their record high fuel economy levels." 
"However, the market shift towards SUVs has offset some of the fleetwide benefits that otherwise would have been achieved due to the increased fuel economy within each vehicle type." 
Environmental Protection Agency, United States
011118 SUVs up CO2 down js photo
The Environmental Protection Agency said in a report on model-year 2016 vehicles' fuel economy trends that "sport utility vehicles reached record-high market share. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In lock-step with the United States becoming close to self-sufficient in oil and gas extraction thanks largely to fracturing and other newer release mechanisms, the price of fuel has dropped and American motorists have dropped their interest in compact and sub-compact and other conventional types of passenger vehicles, turning overwhelmingly to the gas guzzlers they had previously shunned. Sport Utility Vehicles have been popularized like never before, taking over the market and leaving other personal vehicle models to sit forlorn on new car lots.

As for all the hyperventilating about electric vehicles, they have suddenly -- or not so suddenly -- lost lustre. No need to worry about that battery's limited mileage leaving you in the lurch, not with the low cost of gasoline, so drop the environmental issues barricades and storm the SUV sellers' to take advantage of big and powerful and increased gas usage. And the rise of greenhouse gas emissions results, of course. Transportation accounts for roughly 14 percent of global emissions, cars and trucks representing the largest share.

Rising incomes and lower gas prices has convinced drivers in China, Australia and other countries to abandon smaller sedans when bigger, more prestigious vehicles are so desirable, available and ready to go. A lot more fun to drive, too; more practical, plenty more carrying capacity and motor power; no contest! "Crossovers" and SUVs are the way to go, and in the last three years now carry more weight with over one in three making up the new car market. "Everyone is jumping on SUVs" proclaimed Matthew Weiss, a JATO Dynamics executive.

The world community's cars and trucks, the major emitters of greenhouse-gas-warming on the planet are taking over with SUVs, along with their crossover cousins. The average fuel economy of new cars worldwide saw a 1.8 percent improvement annually between 2005 and 2008 according to the United Nations' Global Fuel Economy Initiative. A pace that has slowed to 1.1 percent, considerably below the 3-percent expectation required to stabilize emissions from the world's fleet of vehicles.

Anup Bandivadekar, heading the passenger vehicle program at the International Council on Clean Transportation think tank pointed out: "It's making progress in fuel economy increasingly difficult". Advances in fuel-saving technology and hybrid or electric vehicles are being set aside in the wake of the global SUV sales boom. SUVs are 30 percent less efficient than smaller cars and less likely to turn electric any time soon given the technological hurdles in powering larger cars with appropriate batteries.

About 40,000 Model X fully electric SUVs manufactured by Tesla were sold since 2015. A number not quite geared to sustain ongoing production. Enticing automakers with government investments in electric vehicles and low-emitting vehicles seems to have had its day. Resources, in the interests of profiting through heightened consumer interests, are being poured into polluting SUVs' production inceasingly.

About 25,000 Chevy Bolt electric cars released in 2015 have been sold by General Motors in the United States. A slow uptake that hasn't warranted updating the model to spur non-existent sales. On the other end of the scale, General Motors is spending $265 million for its new Cadillac XT4 crossover SUV. While the automaker still invests in clean car technology its interest is clearly waning alongside that of consumers, in producing all-electric cars.

Volkswagen has plans for 20 new S.U.V. models by 2020 in contrast to the four models produced at the present time. Its SUVs filled with technology purportedly increasing efficiency, while its most popular model, the Tiguan, weighs about 1,800 kilos, giving 11 kilometers per liter on the highway even as its midsize sedan weighing 1,400 kilos gives 15 kilometers.

In China, SUVs are considered a status vehicle, its ride on highways offering a stability others don't match, with ample room for families planning to expand with the release of the one-child national policy. By 2022, predicts the global consulting firm McKinsey, one in every two cars sold in China will be an SUV and that will make it interesting for China to meet its professed air-pollution-fighting goals.The popularity in China of SUVs is being reflected in Western Europe as well.

The financial incentive for automakers to focus on building and selling SUVs is certainly there, with buyers selecting luxury trimmings at premium prices over basic vehicles. In contrast, electric vehicles generate not profit but money-losing prospects. With the larger embrace of SUVs there is no prospect of higher-polluting, lesser-mileage pickup trucks losing their allure. Ford last year sold more than a million F-series pickup trucks, a fifth of that number outside the U.S.

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