Surge in SUV Sales Raises Concerns Over UK Carbon Budgets and Road Safety

New data released by Transport & Environment UK has revealed a startling surge in SUV sales in the UK, raising concerns over carbon emissions, road safety, and urban congestion. According to the analysis, SUV sales have escalated by over a fifth in just one year, reaching over 1 million in 2023, marking a 23% increase from the previous year.

In 2022, the number of new SUV registrations stood at 910,000, but by 2023, this figure had soared by a third, reaching 1.12 million. The rising popularity of SUVs is evident in the shifting landscape of car sales, with SUVs accounting for an increasing share of new registrations. In 2021, SUVs comprised 50% of all new car registrations, which escalated to 57% in 2022 and further rose to 60% in 2023. If this trend persists, projections suggest that SUV registrations could constitute a staggering 75% of new registrations by 2027.

However, the proliferation of SUVs poses significant challenges to the UK’s environmental and urban landscape. Alarmingly, 83% of these SUVs are powered by petrol, diesel, hybrids, or plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), contributing substantially to carbon emissions. This trend threatens to derail the country’s efforts to meet carbon reduction targets, as highlighted by the UK Climate Change Committee’s recent report indicating a concerning increase in CO2 intensity from internal combustion engine cars.

Moreover, the influx of SUVs exacerbates issues related to urban congestion and road safety. The larger size of SUVs not only consumes more road space but also raises safety concerns for other road users. Concerns are also mounting over the environmental impact of SUVs, particularly the considerable air pollution generated by their tyres.

In response to these challenges, Transport & Environment UK is urging car manufacturers to prioritise smaller, more affordable electric vehicles. The organisation advocates for government intervention, calling for weight-based taxes on the purchase of heavy vehicles and the implementation of strict vehicle width limits by 2030. Ralph Palmer, UK Electric Vehicle and Fleets Officer at Transport & Environment, emphasised the urgency of transitioning to greener transportation options, stating, “The stubbornly high levels of polluting SUV sales are not only negating emissions savings from the move to battery electric vehicles but embedding a culture of large, luxury cars, which is simply unsustainable.”

Sarah Rowe, representing the Clean Cities Campaign in Manchester, echoed these concerns, emphasising the need for action to address urban congestion and air pollution. She expressed apprehension that the trend toward larger cars would further exacerbate these challenges and emphasised the importance of prioritising public health and environmental sustainability.

As the UK grapples with the implications of surging SUV sales, stakeholders are called upon to collaborate in steering the country towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious transportation future.