According to the recent report by the EU commission part-funded Transport and Environment organisation, almost half of electric cars sold in the UK during 2022 were the type known as sports utility vehicles (SUVs). That figure of 44% is perhaps similar for liquid fuelled cars.
Compared to the average car sold in this country up to, say, the 1970s, these are truly monster machines. Often too large to fit in standard parking spaces, their drivers sometimes take over the much wider disabled spaces where room has been made for those with limited mobility, or none, to operate wheelchairs and walking frames.
To enable traffic flow on narrower town streets they have to be partially or completely parked on pavements, blocking the passage of pedestrians, pushchairs, prams and wheelchairs while damaging walkway surfaces to the detriment of all. Incredibly, new Range Rover wing mirrors cost £900 each. One might say that’s their problem not ours, but it could explain why they pass parked vehicles with so much space into the face of oncoming traffic – look out!
Damage to road surfaces
My local car repairer complains that these giants can barely enter his premises – there’s just 10mm width to spare through his three entry portals. Their near three-tonne unladen weight comes close to the maximum for his inspection hoist’s safe working load.
This relatively recent extra tonnage, of which the batteries are a large component, absolutely must be adding to road surface damage, increased maintenance costs and safety hazards, particularly for two-wheeled road users needing to dodge the inevitable potholes. That’s not all. There is now concern among the owners of some older multi-storey car parks about the stability of their concrete structures under this unforeseen weight burden.
Drivers remark to me that they feel safer and more protected in these large machines. I’ve heard a mother state on television, “my children’s safety is not negotiable” – seemingly without regard to anyone she might hit with her three tonnes of six-foot-wide metal in motion.
Given all this, how can anyone justify these hideous trucks?
Foolish fuel policy
As I observed in my earlier article on 3 March 2023 under ‘what can be done?’:
“Despite the recent brief peak, total road fuel costs are scarcely higher than in 2010, fuel costs and VAT is scarcely unaltered, as is the vehicle excise duty. Judging by road speeds, pollution, weight, number, the huge dimensions of modern cars and driver behaviour, the necessity for increased taxation on fuel, vehicle size and weight is beyond argument. Perhaps, as the first step reinstate the now foolishly abandoned fuel escalator which was fair and predictable in operation.”
This remains correct, except that our government has unnecessarily retained the 5p per litre fuel duty reduction to this day. Scared or wot?
The transport report referred to above also points out, “this trend towards larger, heavier vehicles needs to be halted to lower the embedded emissions of vehicle production and reduce demands on the electricity grid”. Furthermore, it calculated that “decarbonising cars across Europe by 2050 will require 200 times the quantity of battery metals used last year” (year 2022) … Smaller electric cars are perfect for batteries built with less resource-intensive chemistries”.
Tax the ‘Intimidators’
Some of the information quoted comes from the report noted in the very first paragraph above. I’ve also obtained a lot from The Times business page of 18 July 2023, by Emily Gosden. Her article contains much more that could have been included here, including a call to “impose a weight-based tax on the heaviest” as I too suggested earlier.
I have a near neighbour with an 8.5 litre engine, something called a Dodge Ram; other similar machines are christened ‘Intimidator’ or the like. Let’s tax them – a lot!
We’re suffering a cost-of-living crisis, a massive debt problem with desperately high interest payments in billions of pounds annually, while continuing to borrow, and with a government scared stiff to increase taxes to meet our frightening shortcomings in care, health and very much else. The recent by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where voters were swayed by the cost to car owners of rolling out London’s cleaner air policy (ULEZ, Ultra Low Emissions Zone), seems likely to frighten both Tory and Labour further towards the rejection of greener policies.
Time for our spineless politicians to stop hiding behind the sofa and impose utterly justifiable and badly needed taxes on such an obvious problem as these anti-social and unnecessary machines.