Équiterre recently launched its new #NoSUVForMe ad campaign, with financial support from the Government of Canada, seeking to raise awareness about the ever increasing size of our cars.
There has been quite a reaction to the campaign! Between an attachment to our vehicles and the need to address the climate crisis, comments and questions from the public have been pouring in. To help clarify and shed light on the issues, here are our responses to the 5 most frequent comments.
The trend towards increasingly oversized vehicles has gradually become a significant public health issue. Eight out of ten vehicles sold are now light-duty trucks (including SUVs). Large vehicles have an impact on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (and therefore on the climate crisis) as well as on the quality of our air and water, our safety and our finances.
1. In the past, cars were much more polluting than they are today. With improvements in fuel efficiency, an SUV doesn’t pollute more than a small car.
It’s true that SUVs consume less fuel than they used to, but the same is also true for smaller cars. Light-duty trucks, including SUVs, consume an average of 20% more fuel than an equivalent car. The proliferation of SUVs is responsible for 55% of the increase in GHG emissions in Quebec, offsetting the benefits from zero emission vehicles. And even before they hit the road, the manufacturing of large vehicles also requires the use of more materials, which adds to their environmental footprint.
2. It's normal to opt for an SUV when you have a family, because it's safer and you need more space.
SUVs are in fact twice as often involved in collisions with pedestrians than cars. And accidents caused by SUVs are 28% more deadly for other drivers involved. SUVs are also much more likely to be involved in highway rollovers than cars.
If you need more room, there are alternatives to SUVs. Check out the comparisons on our campaign webpage to learn more about cars currently on the market that have plenty of room without the serious impacts of SUVs.
3. SUVs are necessary because of the condition of the roads in Quebec, especially in winter.
Winters have always existed in Quebec (since long before SUVs were invented!), and they’ve been getting milder. Road conditions don't require an SUV. You can travel any time of the year in pretty much any region of Quebec with a smaller car.
4. Everyone I know has an SUV - it has become the norm! Why shouldn’t I have one, when I'm already doing my part for the planet?
The appetite for large cars is a construct of the auto industry. It has invested billions of dollars in making the SUV desirable, to the point that it has become the new social norm. For years, we have been inundated with ads that show the SUV as a symbol of success, power and safety (79% of all automobile ads promote light-duty trucks). Why? Because sales of SUVs generate higher profit margins for the auto companies than traditional cars and electric vehicles.
It's the meteoric rise in the number of light-duty trucks (including SUVs) on the road that is responsible for the increase in Quebec’s GHG emissions. The time has come to deconstruct and change this dangerous social norm.
How? We can start by calling for stricter regulations on the auto industry to stop it from investing billions of dollars to encourage us to make bad decisions. Sign our petition.
5. What is Équiterre's position on electric SUVs?
Équiterre's perspective is that electric SUVs are not the solution. Although they produce zero emissions when driven, they still generate a significant amount of emissions during the manufacturing process, which requires many valuable resources and can generate other forms of pollution. Electric SUVs also have the same issues as gas-powered SUVs with regards to finances and to the safety of other road users.
Broadly speaking, it has become important to review the role that cars play in our lives. We must reflect on our actual needs and consider and opt for different modes of transportation. The best option is always active, shared and public transport. For Quebec households that cannot do without a car, a modest-sized electric car is the best option, and ideally, second-hand, if possible.
Équiterre is working to ensure that the responsibility for this transition rests not only on the shoulders of individuals, but also with the automobile industry.
Our governments also have a role to play to help move the public towards healthier and greener modes of transportation, by improving their availability and infrastructure. Équiterre has been working hard on this for many years and will not let up.