Skip to main content

Climate change and electric vehicles: New report says our obsession with SUVs cancels out benefits of EVs

Make that SUV electric next time

Toyota SUV on the road
Malei Maeder/Pexels / Pexels

The switch to EVs could have had an even greater impact on the environment if people weren’t obsessed with massive vehicles, a new report claims. The wide range of SUVs available and people’s love for them has reduced electric vehicles’ impact on climate change and prevented carbon emissions from dropping by up to 30% over the past decade.

It’s easy to see why people are opting for an SUV. They’re immensely practical; you can cram a lot of stuff, or a few large objects, into an SUV. While moving furniture may be a rare occurrence, and strapping a kayak to the roof is more of a thing you threaten to do each summer than an actual hobby, it’s always nice to know you can. Then, there are other practical elements, such as the ability to tackle difficult weather situations or challenging terrains. This may outweigh an individual’s commitment to lowering emissions.

SUVs make up a large part of the new vehicle market, with the platform accounting for over half of all new auto sales. Vehicles also seem to be getting bigger as companies focus a lot on the utility segment. Given the lucrative nature of the platform, it’s unlikely manufacturers will acknowledge the report and push to get their customers into something more compact any time soon. Still, it could be worse.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line parked next to a pool
Kia / Kia

You can have the best of both worlds

There is a wide range of electric and PHEV SUVs on the market, which arguably offer the best of both worlds when it comes to vehicle selection. You get great range, as manufacturers can fit a lot of battery cells onto the platform, along with all of the other benefits that come with an SUV. While a smaller vehicle would have a greater environmental impact, hopping into an electric SUV is a far greener option than getting into something that will be hauling itself and other things around with a six-plus liter diesel engine or an even less efficient gas-powered ICE. So, while things could be better, overall, EV adoption is still a step in the right direction.

Environmental benefits are a significant reason governments, businesses, and environmental groups are pushing for EV adoption. Many companies and nations are aiming to become carbon-neutral within the next couple of decades, and mass EV adoption is a major part of that plan. Even if the electricity used in an EV is generated in something like a coal power plant or diesel generator, the energy an electric vehicle uses is still notably more efficient than burning gasoline in an internal combustion engine.

A large section of the public also seems to be on board, with EV sales accounting for 15% of the global market share over the past year. The push has been particularly hard in countries like the U.S. and China, which account for a large chunk of global emissions between them.

Opting for an electric SUV should alleviate a bit of environmental guilt, but it still has knock-on effects and long-term benefits. A greater number of EV purchases boosters both pressure and funding for the infrastructure projects that will make general EV use more practical. Those large battery banks may also come in handy if the electricity grid is under pressure.

Dave McQuilling
Dave has spent pretty much his entire career as a journalist; this has included jobs at newspapers, TV stations, on the…
Toyota chairman boldly claims electric cars will never dominate, says hybrids are the better option
Hybrids are better than EVs says Toyota Chairman
ChargePoint Home Flex EV charging station charging a white Tesla in a garage.


It's not breaking news that EVs have been all the rage over the last decade. Elon Musk and Tesla dominate news wires, while companies like Kia and Hyundai are tripping over themselves trying to get newer and better electric options to showroom floors. Beyond that, we've seen plenty of reports that the electric revolution is better for our health, as well as the planet, and is an inevitable change we simply have to learn to embrace... or is it? But, with EV sales beginning to stagnate at the end of 2023, suddenly, we are seeing something many didn't expect, and according to Akio Toyoda, chairman of Toyota, consumers are "finally seeing reality."

Read more
Chicago, Tesla show how climate change is beating EVs
Charging EVS at home may be the best cold weather practice.

Tesla Cybertruck snow performance isn't the only climate-related EV problem. Frigid Arctic temperatures caused havoc among Chicago-area EV owners in mid-January. During extended hours of sub-zero temperatures, EV batteries couldn't hold their charge, and charging took much longer than usual. Charging times grew, and waiting times multiplied at charger locations overwhelmed by the weather.

TV news pieces showed Tesla supercharger stations with long lines of cars waiting to charge and people pushing Teslas with depleted batteries to parking spaces. Tesla is an easy target, but the very low temperatures affect all EVs with Lithium-ion batteries.

Read more
New government subsidy makes buying an electric car much more attractive
Government programs encourage EV buyers and boost charging infrastructure
ChargePoint Home Flex EV charging station charging a white Tesla in a garage.

The U.S. government is trying to make it easier to buy electric vehicles. On January 19, 2024, The White House issued a fact sheet that listed new programs to lower the cost of buying EVs and to build the EV charging infrastructure nationwide.

Why government subsidies for electric cars matter
The three most frequent buyer concerns about electric cars are:

Read more