Automotive obesity is spiralling out of control.
Take the Genesis Electrified GV70 I drove recently, for instance. The petrol car on which it’s based hits the scales at an eyebrow-raising 1908kg (or 2038kg if you opt for the V6 model). The electric model? It’s a whopping 2.3 tonnes —about the same as one of Jeff Bezos’ super yachts. Surprisingly though, it’s not even the biggest fish in the corpulent sea of EVs.
Cars like the hideous BMW iX, Mercedes EQS, and Audi Q8 e-Tron all weigh over 2.5 tonnes. The worst offender? The GMC Hummer EV Pickup: over four tonnes of cobalt, lithium and gun-swinging patriotism.
It’s not just EVs that are the problem, though. Cars as a whole are heavier than they’ve ever been.
Why is weight the enemy?
Heavier cars are inherently less efficient as they require more energy to propel. They also require more powerful brakes to stop them from mowing down children at school crossings. They also tend to require beefier and more expensive suspension systems and devour tyres like no tomorrow. That’s wasteful.
Moreover, heavier cars, by definition, are heavy because they require more precious materials to produce. This means they’re typically more expensive and more likely to irk Al Gore. And while I can live with the latter consequence, I have no interest in paying more for cars, particularly in the current economic climate.
What’s the solution?
In 2022 France introduced a weight tax to combat the rising tide of lardy cars. Essentially, it rules that imported cars are subject to circa €10 tax for every kilogram they weigh beyond 1800kg. However, somewhat nonsensically, the tax doesn’t apply to hybrid or fully electric vehicles.
Aren’t EVs inherently greener?
This isn’t strictly true. Volvo famously reported that 16.1 tonnes of penguin-suffocating greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere for every XC40 they produce. That may sound like a lot but consider that production of the EV version of the XC40—the XC40 Recharge—releases a dizzying 25.4 tonnes worth of emissions into the air.
Admittedly, the daily use emissions of EVs are typically lower than those of internal combustion engine cars. Thus, if the energy used to charge the XC40 Recharge is sourced from renewable wind turbines then the EVs emissions will break even with the ICE car after just 47,000km.
However, because we in Australia are hellbent on driving Happy Feet into extinction, most of our electricity is produced by burning black and brown coal. That means that you have to travel somewhere north of 146,000km in your XC40 Recharge to break even with its ICE equivalent. Considering most Australians travel a little over 13,000km per year in their car, you’d have to drive the best part of a decade in your EV Volvo before you could justify driving around with a smug look on your face.
So where to from here?
France’s tax is a good start. Now it’s time to include all cars under its fat-shaming scrutiny.
I’m all for EVs, but let’s not pretend that they are inherently greener simply by virtue of their drivetrain. Unfortunately, it seems there is little room for nuance in the current EV debate. Beware simple solutions to complex phenomena.
You’ve heard of "tax the rich", now it’s time to tax the fat.