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So Much for Fuel Savings….

It’s no secret that a concerted effort has been made in many quarters of the automotive industry to push motorists towards more ‘sustainable’ cars that run leaner in terms of fuel consumption. Take a look at some of our favourite V8 models, which have slowly but surely been ‘downsized’ to a more efficient (turbo) four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine. Then, consider the prominence of hybrid or ‘eco-oriented’ vehicles, not necessarily here in Australia, but across the world.

However, what’s being overlooked from much of the discussion is the trend seeing more and more motorists step into SUVs all over the world. This is playing out in Australia as much as anywhere, with the segment now a clear frontrunner ahead of the once dependable passenger vehicle.



A closer look at the trend

On a global scale, it’s a trend the International Energy Agency (IEA) has taken aim at, citing the shift in buying preference as “the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010”. Surprisingly, that’s even more than ‘heavy’ industry, which is taken to include production of iron and steel, cement and aluminium.

The fact that SUVs, on average across all makes and models, consume more fuel than passenger cars will hardly surprise anyone. That’s long been a well-known consideration, even among many car buyers. But the broader picture, with such a shift towards ownership of SUVs, is not just offsetting ‘consumption reductions from increasingly efficient passenger cars and the growing eco fleet – it has wiped out those savings altogether.

In more specific terms, the IEA says “SUVs were responsible for all of the 3.3 million barrels a day growth in oil demand from passenger cars between 2010 and 2018, while oil use from other type of cars (excluding SUVs) declined slightly”. At their current rate of growth, SUVs could add another “2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars”.



Where to from here?

These points make for an interesting outlook. On the one hand, many manufacturers are promoting their future vision for an electric and ‘efficient’ future, yet on the other hand, buying trends point to a picture where motorists are moving in a different direction. The clear absence of options in the electric SUV market further complicates the matter, with the majority of efforts to create efficient cars being angled at the passenger vehicle segment.

If we’re serious about addressing vehicle emissions, what’s the actual plan going forward? Sure, we each have our own ‘needs’ and preferences as far as the cars we drive, but what will be required to drive a collective effort to cut fuel consumption across the board?


  1. Jeff Fein says:

    What about commenting on Diesel cars. Diesel’s are far more fuel efficient than petrol cars. Would like to hear how they stack up overall on emissions when properly tuned.

    March 18th, 2020 at 11:39 am

  2. Bill Nixon says:

    On a practical level the way to make SUV’s less attractive to buyers would be to limit their engine capacity to the point the performance becomes quite distressing. Say a maximum 1.0 L engine. This would have the desired effect, I’ quite sure motorists would go back to purchasing sedans and station wagons as previously. In case anyone asks, I dislike SUV’s and will never buy one of those four wheeled monsters.

    March 18th, 2020 at 11:44 am

  3. Peter Carden says:

    This sort of information needs to exposed far more widely than just this e-news.
    I could not agree more the SUV is an American idea and clearly needs to be exposed for what it is.
    Give me a station wagon any day – preferably powered by hydrogen!

    March 18th, 2020 at 12:48 pm

  4. Allan Oakes says:

    with our massive land mass, surely you don’t think the reduction of large SUV’s will subside when we Aussies love to travel and doing bog laps around our fantastic country and to do that with our back packs ( caravans and campers ) there is the need of a vehicle powerful enough to tow a 3 tonne back pack, I’ll stand corrected here, I don’t know of an alternative fuel vehicle capable of towing such a heavy load.
    What do we replace heavy oil burning prime movers to shift large / heavy cargoes with. It is said by the commercial transport movement ” trucks carry this nation “

    March 18th, 2020 at 2:38 pm