The future of transport lies in the electrification of vehicles. Yet, this transition must be accessible to all, not just those who can afford larger, pricier models. The focus should shift towards the production of smaller, more affordable electric vehicles (EVs), instead of larger SUVs.
The Current State of EVs
EVs are at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change, with transport accounting for 27% of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions1. The decarbonisation of cars, which currently account for 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, is instrumental in the decarbonisation of transport2.
However, despite their environmental benefits, EVs are not yet accessible to the masses. Many potential buyers are deterred by the high upfront costs associated with electric cars3.
The Problem with SUVs
Currently, car manufacturers are prioritising the production of larger vehicles like SUVs and e-SUVs over smaller, more affordable EVs4. This is despite the fact that small EVs could help lower-income households benefit from the advantages of electric mobility and promote the more efficient use of critical raw materials5.
In 2022, SUVs made up 44% of all new EVs sold6. This trend towards larger, heavier vehicles needs to be reversed to lower the embedded emissions of vehicle production and reduce demands on the electricity grid7.
“Small, affordable electric vehicles are going to be vital to ensure that all drivers can leave behind their polluting petrol and diesel cars. And yet carmakers are still prioritising the production of vehicles that are just too big and bulky for British streets and are an increased strain on precious critical materials.” – Ralph Palmer, electric vehicle and fleets officer at T&E; UK8.
The Potential of Small EVs
However, there is potential for change. According to new research9, carmakers can sell small EVs made in Europe for £21,000 / €25,000 while still making a profit10. Falling production costs and battery prices would make mass market “B-segment” vehicles feasible to electrify by 202511.
The availability of smaller, more affordable EVs could be a game-changer for mass adoption of electric cars, making them more viable for those on lower incomes and having positive implications for the second-hand market12.
The Role of Government
The onus is on the government to create conditions for car companies to prioritise small EVs. This includes introducing a weight-based tax on the purchase of the heaviest new cars and encouraging local governments to introduce parking charges for these vehicles in urban areas13.
“There are plenty of options on the table for the government, they just need to be bold and implement them. It is not a complicated argument – we are not going to be able to supercharge the appetite for electric vehicles by offering people expensive e-SUVs, we are only going to be able to supercharge the appetite by offering people affordable small BEVs.” – Ralph Palmer, electric vehicle and fleets officer at T&E; UK14.
The shift towards EVs is inevitable, but it needs to be inclusive. Prioritising the production of small, affordable EVs over larger vehicles like SUVs will not only help to achieve net-zero emissions but also make green transport accessible to all.