Monday, May 10

The environment would be better without an SUV

The vehicles sold in Quebec are getting bigger and bigger. In ten years, SUVs have taken the lion’s share of the automotive market and now account for 80% of annual sales of light vehicles. Their impact on the road network is such that it would be more beneficial for the environment to discourage their presence than to promote zero-emission vehicles.

This is what researchers from Polytechnique and HEC Montréal have concluded, who presented their discoveries on Tuesday jointly with the organization Équiterre. By using data from the Quebec vehicle fleet between 2010 and 2021, “there would be more advantages to changing the purchasing habits of consumers than simply trying to improve technology”, summarizes Catherine Morency, holder of the Chair. Mobility of Polytechnique Montreal.

To illustrate the impact of the largest light vehicles on the emissions of the entire transport sector, the Montreal professor specifies that if we could magically swap all the SUVs circulating in the greater Montreal area with sedans, it would be possible to reduce emissions from the metropolitan vehicle fleet by up to 40%.

16 La Fontaine parks

Household spending would also be better, since the costs associated with the use of SUVs are higher than those associated with a smaller car. The average price paid for a new vehicle has increased by approximately $ 8,000 in ten years and is in addition to refueling which costs Quebec consumers approximately $ 300 more each year.

They are also more likely to go into debt to buy a vehicle that takes up more space on the road. In the greater Montreal area, Polytechnique calculates that vehicles occupy the equivalent of 16 more La Fontaine parks today than they did at the start of the last decade. This increases traffic congestion, it is added. Travel times are doubled at times and traffic jams occur faster and more frequently.

“The growth in the number of vehicles and their average size are the main elements to target in order to improve the performance of the road network,” says Brigitte Milord, researcher at the Mobility Chair at Polytechnique.

Harmonize standards

With regard to these data, Équiterre is asking the government to review the credits it grants to automobile manufacturers so that they produce more small vehicles and to standardize the standards governing vehicle fuel consumption. These standards, called CAFE, were created in the 1970s and are less stringent for light trucks such as SUVs than for sedans of comparable size.

Given the current environmental context, this distinction between trucks and cars is no longer necessary, judges Équiterre. If we want to encourage the market to improve its energy balance, we should stop distinguishing between the two. A royalty program encouraging buyers to swap a larger vehicle for a more modest model would also help reduce the footprint of SUVs on Quebec roads, argues the organization.

The second benefit of this financial incentive would be to reduce theindebtedness households and act towards the purchase of smaller vehicles in the same way as the current purchase assistance for electric vehicles does.

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