The increasing demand for sports utility vehicles is eliminating the emissions savings made by those who have switched to electric cars, the global energy watchdog has warned.
There has been a sixfold increase in SUVs since 2010, from 35 million to 200 million, and they now account for 40 per cent of new car sales, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
It said that nearly all manufacturers had increased advertising of the cars because they tended to provide higher profit margins.
The share of motor sales in Britain taken by SUVs rose from 21 per cent in 2014 to 39 per cent last year, according to separate analysis of industry data by the green group Transport & Environment. Four of Britain’s top ten best-selling cars last month were SUVs — the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and Range Rover Evoque.
SUVs consume 25 per cent more fuel per mile than a medium-sized car because of additional weight and poorer aerodynamics. They were responsible for all of the growth in oil demand, of 3.3 million barrels a day, from passenger cars between 2010 and 2018, with total fuel consumption from other types of car falling slightly, the agency said.
If the sales trend continued, SUVs would be responsible for an additional two million barrels of oil a day by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars. The IEA said the car industry planned to offer 350 electric models by 2025 but they would mainly be smaller cars as SUVs were “harder to electrify”. It forecast that global annual sales of electric cars would rise tenfold by 2030 from two million last year. Even so, electric cars would still account for less than 7 per cent of the world’s fleet.
The agency’s annual World Energy Outlook report said: “Unless there is a major change in consumer preferences, the recent boom in SUV sales could be a major obstacle towards developing cleaner car fleets.”
Boris Johnson pledged yesterday to invest an extra £500 million in rapid charging points for electric cars to ensure that drivers would never be more than 30 miles from one.
SUVs have become the second fastest rising source of greenhouse gas emissions globally after power generation, according to the IEA.
Almost half of all cars sold in the US are SUVs, although the agency noted that “this trend is universal”, making up 42 per cent of sales in China, 30 per cent in India and 27 per cent in South Africa.