Good question. I’d rather lose an SUV than be rich and wrote a scathing comment about it four years ago. That’s right, I wrote a compliment about the SUV more than once. I always take my hat off to a well made product, suv or no suv. But the concept is not good if it can be smarter, more efficient and more compact in the energy critical moments. I wrote: “Normal and theatrical drunkards, they are an unacceptable waste of metal, space and fossil fuel.”
From that point of view, Smit and his sidekicks Daphné Dupont-Nivet and Jaap Tielbeke have now concluded after research that the SUV negates the CO2 reduction achieved by EVs. According to Smit, it emits an average of 10 to 15% more CO2 than the average petrol car. That’s more or less based on my results and maybe in painful practice it’s a worse degree. In my tests, SUVs typically use 20 to 25 percent more fuel than comparable passenger cars with the same powertrain. With BMW’s big two-liter diesel you get 1 in 14 in the X3, in the 3-series 1 in 18. With the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid I drove 1 in 16, and the Camry Hybrid with the same engine 1 in 20. Differences that is not acceptable. great, especially when the added value of an SUV turns out to be nil in practice. They often don’t even have four-wheel drive, so you can no longer call them off-road vehicles despite their tough looks. Their space advantage compared to conventional centers is minimal to negligible, and with their fat bodies they take up an absurd amount of space.
I make a somewhat hypocritical exception to the Range Rover that Smit drives with a wink. It’s called a gas guzzler and it’s not the only one in its kind. Nor is it a cowardly SUV, but a true all-terrain vehicle that can perform impossible feats in mud pits, mountains and deserts, and the enthusiast in me enjoys that pointless hobby to the fullest. In addition, the use is relatively low in Land Rover. I drove the hybrid down to 1 in 13.1, very impressive for such a giant, the plug-in version launched now has an electric range of 90 km/h as well as a fast charger. It is obvious that electrical components drive weight. But except during your vacation, you can run it fully electric with some precautions. And next year the electric difference will come. Problem solved.
Not at all, says Auke Hoekstra of Eindhoven University of Technology in the announcement. More raw materials are needed for larger plug-in vehicles, Hoekstra rightly says. He receives unexpected support from Renault CEO Luca de Meo, who, in a conversation with Smit in Paris, describes the EV car with a 100 kWh battery as an ‘ecological monster’. Perhaps also because he does not have in the showroom himself, because as the boss of his concern limps on two legs, he accepts with a pleasant weapon. On the one hand, he wants to be able to continue to offer affordable cars, and on the other hand, he wants to keep shareholders happy. And you get more for a big SUV than a small one.
You wish, says a researcher from TNO, that there should be more focus on fuel-efficient vehicles. That also saves weight, he knows, and the huge increase in car weight in recent years is offsetting the benefits of using more efficient engines.
De Meo also struggles with that. We grew up with cheap cars, says Smit. He wants to go back to the roots. “You don’t need two tons of plastic and metal to transport 80 or 150 kg of people. That’s not very productive.” It is necessary, he says, to restore balance. “But all the principles encourage us to improve our offering.” SUVs are more affordable.
So yes, let’s turn that tide as soon as possible. Smit should soon make another announcement with restrictions on the small, affordable car of the future. If it comes to that, I’ll be happy to cooperate (for this promotion I said no, that’s why). I already wrote for Autoweek about the wonderful BMW Vision Document. We have important questions. Why is it costing Tesla and VW so much precious time to bring their promised small midsize cars to market? What are the technological and equipment problems? And how do we keep production costs under control? Couldn’t we have realized the experimental design of Volkswagen’s all-electric minivan in consultation with a few brilliant young designers and engineers? Spacious, elegant, efficient, as simple as possible?
That is as it should be, and that remained the missing link in Smit’s story. For existing targets in Ae. Part B, no manufacturer currently makes a full EV. They are just too expensive. I have an early test drive of such a car, the BMW i3. Small, light, very hard and durable thanks to the use of expensive materials such as carbon and aluminum. That drove the price to ridiculous heights for such a flea. A catalog value of more than half a ton, for an electric city car with a range of 300 km. And I hear whispers that BMW has yet to make a loss.
Do you now understand why not only the undersigned are skeptical about VW’s promise to sell the Polo-like EV just unveiled in Hamburg in 2025 for less than 25?
Food for thought.
Bass van Putten
Bas van Putten is a writer and columnist for various newspapers and magazines. His roots are in music, but his heart has been in cars for years.