Eco Comment – Brum, brum!

31 May 2024

I’ve recently seen some of the advertising for this year’s new car registration numbers. It’s not something that has ever really interested me. Cars to me are something that conveniently takes me from A to B safely. My criteria is that the make or model is unimportant so long as I can get my double bass in it and it is reliable and is as inexpensive as possible. In all my years of driving I have only ever driven one new car and that was a lease car and came with the job which involved driving around the schools on my patch of North Norfolk. Since moving to Wakefield I am fortunate to have an excellent garage which has kept me safe and running as economically as possible. However, I realise that I am possibly in a minority. Many people are very choosy about their cars and, like phones they want the newest model with the most gadgets. They possibly consider the environment (or is it fashionable?) and now buy an EV (Electric Vehicle).

EVs are vehicles that are either partially or fully powered on electric power. These have low running costs as they have fewer moving parts to maintain and are also very environmentally friendly as they use little or no fossil fuels (petrol or diesel). Whilst researching this topic I came across a great article called ’25 EV charging abbreviations you need to know’ by Fascinating! Who knew there were so many topics to consider when buying an EV?

However, on reading a different article (The Dark Side of Electric Cars – Jeffry Sun I discovered that whilst electric cars tend to be ‘seen as the green and sustainable future of transport’ their dark side is that the batteries they rely on include ‘lithium, cobalt and other rare earth metals which are mined in often dirty and dangerous processes’, often ‘in countries with poor human rights records and environmental standards’. Additionally, ‘the production of electric car batteries requires a lot of energy and water’. The disposal of electric car batteries is also a challenge and currently there are no large-scale recycling plants for such batteries.

So as Jeffrey says, ‘It’s important to be aware of these concerns before making a decision about whether or not to purchase an electric car’.

Another acronym which is currently hitting the headlines is ‘SUV’ (Sports Utility Vehicle). These are generally regarded as ‘stylish, sleek looking vehicles that offer elegant city driving but also handle rugged terrain thanks to a typical 4X4 capability’. These are also sometimes categorised as an RV (Recreational Vehicle). According to ‘SUV is car industry jargon… it refers to a type of car that sits high off the ground and which often has four-wheel drive and rugged styling’. The term was first used in the USA and applied to cars with lots of passenger and boot space that were capable of driving off-road over rough terrain. They were aimed at the kind of people who spend their weekends doing outdoor sports like canoeing and mountain biking. The term is now applied to a much broader range of cars and these days is often seen as a status symbol. They are also getting bigger! So much so that they have recently come under government scrutiny with regards to ethical advertising and parking.

In a local referendum in Paris, 54.6% of voters opted to introduce triple parking fees for SUVs. An article for suggests that ‘this vote was more widely seen as a rejection of SUVs cross the city, intending to discourage them from being driven at all’. This might be seen as unfortunate as one of the biggest sponsor of the Olympics is Toyota, the car manufacturer.

This article written in February 2024 tells that if ‘SUVs were a country, they would be the sixth most polluting in the world, producing 20% more CO2 emissions than conventional cars on average. In 2022 alone SUVs were responsible for almost 1 billion tonnes of CO2, emitting the equivalent of the U.K. and Germany combined. In 2022 the global rise in SUVs was also responsible for a third of the increase in global oil demand.’

Back to parking, I often feel like the jam in a jam sandwich in car parks as I find myself cowering in between some of these monsters. Apparently in the UK alone in 2019, 150,000 cars were sold that were bigger than the standard parking space. They are apparently getting wider by 0.5 centimetres per year and should the trend continue a ‘typical car will be as wide as an average UK terrace house’!

The decision to write about this today came about after seeing an article in the Guardian ‘SUVs driving 20% of global rise in CO2 as sales hit record high. Half of all new cars are SUVs, making them a major pollutant’ (Damian Carrington Guardian 29.5.24) The following article also made sobering reading ‘Climate Crisis – wealthy white men are the UK’s biggest transport polluters, study finds’. You might think these headlines are just part of the current politicising by political parties? Possibly they are but maybe we should all do a bit more research into the making and running of our cars as they are obviously here to stay for the foreseeable future. I still use my car but more often think it’s preferable to walk and/or use public transport. Maybe we should all think twice before turning on that engine and jumping into or on the bandwagon.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

Want to know more about the Eco Group?

Wakefield Cathedral’s Eco Group brings together members of the congregation, volunteers and staff to work towards making the cathedral a greener place to work and worship.

The Eco Group achieves its goals through a variety of activities, including partnerships with local community groups.

We invite anyone and everyone to reach out if they are interested in joining the eco group, or simply finding out more about what we do.

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