Of course, we are supposed to be a freedom loving country, and it might be ridiculous to some to suggest that anyone should have their freedom to drive whatever they want wherever they want whenever they want denied, but this is not a question about the freedom of movement, but it’s a question about whether or not it should ever be acceptable to drive such heavy and dangerous and large and polluting vehicles in city environments which clearly were never built for them to be there in the first place.
For some people, there is always a diehard right to do something, regardless of how stupid, but it’s been suggested that driving an SUV half a mile to drop kids at school is like running a load of washing just to clean one T-shirt. Of course, no law is ever going to stop you from doing that, but basic sense should already make it clear that it’s a ridiculous thing to do.
Yes, the “class” of SUV is now quite broad and it does include crossovers, and yes there are hybrid SUVs which can be driven in town in electric mode, just as there are a very small number of all electric SUVs. However, irrespective of transmission, the sheer size of these beasts means that they take up an absurd amount of road space, whilst their design inherently puts pedestrians and other vulnerable road users in more danger than they would have inflicted on them from any other type of car.
Whilst “off-road” vehicles have been around in some format for almost as long as cars themselves, the usage class of SUV was originally developed in the USA in order to pay reduced levels of taxation, because SUVs were classed as a kind of truck. There has always been a requirement for this capability on farms, and for other genuinely off-road pursuits, rather than for activities which merely take place in rural areas, but use conventional roads for access!
Apart from commercial uses such as estate maintenance and perhaps use on a construction site, the only logical reason for the usage of an SUV in cities, is that the increased clearance of some vehicles does make it easier for some people with walking difficulties to get in or out.
What a “ban” might really mean
In reality, a “ban” could take several forms, as there is no immediate prospect of vehicles which are still selling by the million being phased out in an instant.
- There are already higher charges for entering the ULEZ and congestion charging zones. These could be increased further, as could the geographical reach of these zones.
- VED could be increased further based on emmissions alone, but it could also consider vehicle size and weight.
- Any of the above could be factored in to the cost of street parking permits.
- Councils could also go further and simply refuse to issue any new permits for vehicles classed as SUVs, or which have dimensions above a certain size.
- Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) could be increased to 30% or even 40% on the most polluting vehicles.
- Governments could ban advertising of the most polluting car types, or they could simply require that around 20% of the advert space is given over to health warnings.
Could the class be withdrawn?
The car industry is inherently global, with many leading brands being part of larger conglomerates. Any suggestion that a government could simply stop makers from manufacturing a certain type of car would be extremely unlikely to come to fruition. The other option would be that certification could be withdrawn, perhaps, for example, within the EU. Even this is unlikely to happen any time soon. But hypothetically, social pressure could reduce demand to the point where the makers simply stopped making them. Remember when all those councils jumped on the “climate emergency” bandwagon a couple of years ago?
Well perhaps its time for consumers to start doing the same?