We learned last week that Chevrolet will cease production of its only compact electric model: the Bolt. With the demise of another small and affordable vehicle, the auto industry is again demonstrating that it prioritizes profits at the expense of household finances, energy limits, safety and land use planning.
In the 100% electric market, the Bolt was one of the last fairly affordable vehicles available. Demand for the model was high and wait lists for it were among the longest at dealerships. And yet, it’s not the first model of its kind to suffer such a fate...
On the verge of extinction
Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Spark and Volt, Mitsubishi I-miev, Smart electric, Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq - as the list of victims among smaller vehicles is getting longer, consumers are being forced to buy bigger and more expensive models.
The result? The "truckification" of the vehicle fleet that began years ago is accelerating with the introduction of new large electric models, along with a series of disastrous consequences that will continue to be amplified if nothing is done.
Road safety issues are multiplying as more and more large vehicles dominate public spaces. The pressure on our energy resources is increasing, as ever more gas-guzzling and electricity-dependent juggernauts proliferate.
The disappearance of small vehicles is incompatible with sustainable land use planning policies, which seek to reduce the pressure on our natural environments, our agricultural land and to reduce the unbridled extraction of resources to manufacture ever larger batteries.
To top it all off, the race for the largest vehicles is a complete reversal of the principles of equity and environmental justice: the energy transition is offered only to those who can afford it.
Unable to regulate themselves
With all that said, automakers still spend a tremendous amount of energy opposing any form of regulation because they like to pretend that they’re able to self-regulate to achieve the necessary transition of the industry. For decades, however, they have demonstrated that they are incapable of doing so.
The demise of the Bolt is yet another example of how lax they are. It’s another great example that regulation of the automotive sector must include issues about size and weight. It cannot focus solely on GHGs.
Our governments must stop adapting to industry. Instead, industry should adapt to the real needs of consumers and the imperatives of the 21st century.
Let's take the bull by the horns. The federal government must move quickly to adopt a zero emission vehicle standard and work with its U.S. counterpart to better regulate the sector. There is also an urgent need to develop regulations on the weight of vehicles, whether electric or gas-powered. We need to introduce a feebate system that facilitates environmentally responsible choices and penalizes the worst options. We need to encourage the widest range possible of electric models. We need to control the advertising that fuels the problem without further delay.
There is so much to do, but we need to chart a course. We’re at a crossroads and if we let the auto industry take the wheel, there’s no doubt that we’ll end up in the ditch.