In recent weeks, the main car industry lobby group ACEA and the chief executive of Audi have publicly called for new EU CO2 emissions standards from 2012 to be easier to meet for heavier cars such as SUVs. (1)
Making cars lighter is one of the most important and most straightforward ways of cutting CO2 emissions. But linking CO2 standards to weight removes the main incentive to make a car lighter because doing so would result in that model receiving a tougher CO2 standard.
T&E cites compelling evidence from a range of studies that show boosting the existing trend towards heavier cars by introducing weight-based CO2 targets would lead to more fatalities.
Research shows that up to four times higher levels of severe injury and death for pedestrians occur in collisions with SUVs. SUVs distinguish themselves from normal cars primarily through their additional weight and height.
Jos Dings, director of T&E said: "Giving heavier cars easier CO2 standards is like telling obese people they should eat more food. If you take away the main incentive for losing weight, you're going to get more fat cars, which will kill more people, guzzle more fuel and pump out more emissions."
T&E says there should be a single standard for CO2 emissions in Europe that should apply to the average of the fleet of all cars sold in a given year.
If a range of standards for different classes are used as a temporary measure, T&E says the vehicle's 'footprint', the area between the four wheels, should be used to define them, instead of weight.
Citing research conducted in the run up to new US legislation, T&E argues that 'footprint'-based standards would be, literally, a much safer option than a weight-based system.
Safety concerns were an important reason why the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), argued extensively for 'footprint' over weight in its final decision on new fuel efficiency standards for light trucks.
The European Parliament will vote on a so-called 'opinion' on new car CO2 laws in early September in advance of a legal proposal from the European Commission towards the end of the year or early next.
'Danger ahead: why weight-based CO2 standards will make cars dirtier and less safe' can be downloaded from the T&E website.