Greenpeace analysis shows SUV boom destroys climate progress
Greenpeace cites data from the industry portal Marklines and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The SUV boom is undoing the climate progress that companies have made through the transition to electric cars. A third of the increase in global oil consumption last year can be attributed to the growing consumption of SUVs. In the analysis, Greenpeace also sees traffic as the main cause of the slow decline in oil consumption in Germany.
The study is being published in the run-up to the climate conference in Dubai. “Auto giants like Hyundai and Volkswagen like to portray themselves as ‘going green,’ but the trend actually points in the opposite direction. The world’s biggest automakers are charging full speed ahead with SUV manufacturing, pushing the planet further toward climate disaster. SUVs are extremely steel-intensive and require more energy to operate than smaller vehicles,” says Erin Choi, Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner. “One of the key issues at the COP28 climate meeting is how to phase out oil and other fossil fuels as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the world’s auto giants appear oblivious to their climate responsibility and continue to increase demand for oil by transitioning too slowly to electric vehicles and adding more combustion engine SUVs to the road.”
On average, the three companies mentioned have increased their SUV sales by more than 150 per cent in recent years. In the case of VW, sales have risen by 270.5 per cent since 2013, according to Greenpeace. In the case of the Wolfsburg-based company, however, it must be mentioned that it was rather hesitant to enter the SUV boom – so the starting point in 2013 was probably somewhat smaller. Since then, however, numerous traditional VW models have been joined by an SUV.
For the VW Group, Greenpeace calculates that the combustion SUVs already sold emit 102 million tons of CO2 per year – almost 30 per cent of the approximately 346 million tons of CO2 emitted by all VW combustion engines on the road in 2022. By comparison, the electric cars sold by VW up to and including 2022 only saved around 5.6 million tonnes of CO2. However, the total emissions of all VWs, which covered 346 million tons in 2022, have increased by 36.8 million tonnes in the past five years.
One thing is clear: due to their high weight and poor aerodynamics, SUVs consume more drive energy than comparable non-SUVs. Greenpeace is therefore also critical of electric SUVs. “Although electric SUVs are CO2-neutral in operation, they consume more renewable energy and require more raw materials and energy to manufacture than smaller electric cars with an aerodynamic shape,” the press release states.