Are new vehicles such as trucks and SUVs have headlights that are too high, causing concern for pedestrians and other motor vehicle operators? Is the considerable weight of new electric vehicles something to be worried about for everyday motorists?
Mike Smyth, host of The Mike Smyth Show on 980 CKNW out of Vancouver, joins Cody Battershill, Founder and Chief Spokesperson of Canada Action, to discuss concerns over the height and weight of new motor vehicles and the reality of the energy and mining markets behind these products.
Or, keep reading for everything said between Cody and Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee below. Also see:
- DEBATE: Should Canada Develop its LNG Export Sector?
- DEBATE: On the ‘Just Transition’ Policy in Canada
- DEBATE: Should We Ban Natural Gas Stoves in Canada?
- DEBATE: Where Would You Choose to Buy Your Oil & Gas From?
Does Canada Need New Regulations on SUVs, Trucks and Electric Vehicles?
Mike: All right, here we go with our great debate now.
Supersized cars and trucks. These are the most popular vehicles on the road.
Take a look at new vehicle sales. Pickup trucks, SUVs. These are the best-selling vehicles in Canada.
Are they just too damn big? Are they dangerous because they're so big? Are they energy inefficient because they're so heavy, requiring more energy to move around?
Check out these stats. Here is from consumer reports. Since the year 2000, the average hood height so the average height of a vehicle, up 11%.
Some critics will argue that makes them dangerous to see someone in front of you. You're backing out of your driveway, for example. Look at the average weight here.
The average weight of a vehicle has gone up 24% among new vehicles sold in Canada and the United States.
Got a great panel just standing by to discuss this.
Have a listen to this here. Now, this is Alissa Walker, senior writer for curbed magazine, and she is complaining about this.
These cars are just too darn big. Even electric vehicles, even EVs are too big. Have a listen.
Alissa: We've seen this happen over the last decade or so where our cars are getting bigger and bigger. 80%, I think, of the cars sold last month were trucks and SUVs, which is a huge departure from what we saw on the roads even a decade ago.
So what we're calling this like SUV or truck bloat, is now bleeding over into these vehicles that were supposed to be built more responsibly and in a way that could pave the way for this great new future for getting around.
Mike: All right, let's discuss it now. Both sides of it for you.
Peter McCartney, Climate Change Campaigner at the Wilderness Committee. Pleased to welcome him back. Peter, thanks for doing this.
Peter: Hey, thanks for having me. You bet.
Mike: Cody Battershill is also on the line. Cody is the founder of Canada Action. It's an advocacy group for oil and gas in Canada. Hi, Cody.
Cody: Hey, Mike. And hey, Peter.
Mike: Okay, thanks, guys, for both of you for doing this.
Peter, let me go to you first. Are cars and trucks just too big?
Peter: Yeah, I mean, I think we've seen a bit of an arms race in terms of more vehicles on the roads are getting bigger and bigger. And so people are buying bigger and bigger vehicles to compete or to make sure that they feel safe out on the roads.
And so what we've seen is that, yeah, people are buying more trucks and SUVs. And unfortunately for the climate, that's erased a lot of the gains that we've made in fuel efficiency over the years.
And so as our vehicles have gotten more efficient, we've only been building bigger and bigger. And that's a problem.
When you think of the amount of pollution that these vehicles are putting into the air that is warming our planet.
Mike: do you think that it's also a problem even when it comes to electric vehicles because I've heard the argument that these EVs are too big, too, and they take more energy. Obviously, it's battery power energy, but it's still more energy, right?
Peter: Yeah. So an electric truck, the Ford Lightning, takes about three times as much battery capacity as a similar smaller electric vehicle.And so that means more mining for these materials, it means more environmental impacts, and it means less batteries available to go around for all the cars that we need.
Opting for an electric truck over an internal combustion engine truck is the right call for the environment. But we really do need to start looking at ways that we can use less and lighten our impact on the environment.
If you need a truck, go ahead and buy one. An electric truck is great, but my neighbour who lives in the west end of Vancouver does not need an electric pickup truck. He can do perfectly well with something smaller.
Mike: Cody Battershill, what do you think?
Cody: Well, I think families and people want to have their own personal choice. I think it's smart for the government to mandate the best possible safety features for all vehicles.
Continued efficiency gains... the reality of safety, when we talk about how heavy electric vehicles are, first of all, I like electric vehicles, but they're so heavy.
And so there's concern in the US with their safety regulator that a heavier electric vehicle could crush some smaller cars. Plus, you have to look at what that grid is using to power the electric vehicle.
So getting Canadian natural gas to Asia to replace coal so that their electric vehicles can be lower emission makes a lot of sense.
And first and foremost, if we maximize the value of our resources, we have more money to build better transit.
So there's a lot of things here we can talk about to protect the climate, to protect safety of pedestrians and of people in cars, and to still allow people their own free choice with the best safety features possible.
Mike: Okay. You mentioned those heavy EVs. Are you saying that an electric vehicle is heavier than an internal combustion vehicle of the same size?
Cody: Absolutely. A Mustang... electric, and the Volvo XC 40 are 33% heavier than their gasoline counterparts. You look at the weight of the engine.
And so in the US, the NTSB is concerned that some of those vehicles could literally crush smaller gasoline cars. Where's the mining coming from?
We need to massively expand Canadian mining if we want to sell more electric vehicles. Getting cobalt from child labour in other parts of the world, places where they don't respect freedom, transparency, the freedom to worship and love who you want to worship and love. This is mining.
Of course, it's also oil and gas. That's not okay.
We need to massively expand and promote Canadian mining, Canadian energy, if we want to have more electric vehicles.
Mike: Peter McCartney your thoughts?
Peter: Yeah, there was a lot there to respond to. I think in terms of safety, there's a lot of factors that go into what makes the vehicle safe. Weight is obviously one of them, but the size is one.
You are much more likely to be killed in an accident if you are hit by a vehicle with a five or even six foot hood than by a smaller car that you might fall onto the hood as opposed to underneath the vehicle.
I think we currently only consider safety for the people inside our vehicles. And we need to be running these tests and actually making standards so that it protects the people who are outside the vehicle in the event of a collision.
When it comes to energy and mining and Canadian energy and all these things, why would we continue to increase the amount of pollution we are putting in the atmosphere with fracking for gas and then use that money to attempt to reduce the amount of pollution elsewhere?
We need to do both. We need to cut our pollution from transportation by funding things like transit, but we shouldn't do it by working against our own objectives, by increasing the amount of pollution we're putting into the atmosphere with fracking for natural gas.
Mike: Okay, yeah. Quick response. Go ahead.
Cody: It makes no sense for climate change campaigners to not care about reducing global emissions. Canadian LNG can help other countries reduce their coal fired power.
Korea, Japan, Germany. Countries are coming to Canada. Their leaders are coming to Canada asking for our resources.
Global demand is increasing.
Previously, Peter said good for Aramco and Saudi Arabia to produce more oil. Well, I think we should have Canada in the game and I think we should be the last barrel produced because we're committed to continually reducing our emissions.
And this is Canadian families and Canadian jobs and livelihoods we're talking about. I support that all day, every day. Right.
Mike: We continue with our super size car and truck debate. My guests are Peter McCartney, Cody Battershill.
Lots of calls. Joey in Vancouver. Hi, Joey. Go ahead.
Joey: Hey, how's it going?
Joey: Yeah, no, I don't think cars are too big. I think people just don't know how to drive cars. You know what I'm saying?
The size is good, but people just aren't too good with the size of vehicle.
Mike: But you think sometimes people don't know how to drive a larger vehicle. They drive.
Joey: exactly. Yeah, they don't take too much care into driving. They don't walk, they don't check, bump into things.
Mike: Okay, Joey, thank you for that. Cody, what do you think of that argument?
Cody: Well, I mean, let's increase our enforcement of distracted driving regulations. Let's add more required safety features to all vehicles. Let's work on better educating everyone about being distracted when driving and also when walking.
Sometimes people might have headphones in, might miss a signal. There's a lot of things we can do here to make this as safe as possible for everyone, which is, and should be our goal.
And let's make sure that we're not letting people off the hook with driving infractions and let's make people learn better.
Mike: Peter, your thoughts?
Peter: Yeah, I think we would all do better with better drivers on the road. Complaining about drivers is the national pastime.
But I do think there's something fundamental about if that driver is in a giant vehicle versus a small sedan, and they are a bad driver, and they do end up hitting someone in a crosswalk or something like that, they have a much higher chance of survival if they are in a smaller vehicle.
And I have to point out that if the goal is to keep people safe, we should be keeping people safe from the climate disasters that we are seeing all over the world. And that means doing everything we can to cut our climate pollution.
And so it's funny to me that Cody thinks that that should be the agreed upon goal. And the sooner that we stop burning fossil fuels, the safer we will be.
Mike: Let's go to Richard on the phone line in Vancouver. Hi, Richard. Go ahead.
Richard: Hi there, guys. CKMW news flash. Ford has now shut down their F-150 lightning production plant down in the
United States because of problems with batteries. There's a lot of problems with Tesla getting on, blowing up and going on fire and everything like that.
The electric car thing is unproven technology. It costs a lot more, about $20,000, up to $20,000 more per vehicle.
The other thing I'm glad that you brought up the cobalt thing. Over 50% of the cobalt that's used in lithium batteries comes from the Congo slave and child labour. It's terrible what's happening in that country in terms of the production of cobalt.
The other thing I'd like to mention quickly is that the vast majority of the world gets its electricity from coal and oil-fired plants. So maybe natural gas and other technologies are a better way to go in the end.
But I think that one last point too, is licensing probably on heavier vehicles for pleasure use only might be a way of discouraging.
Mike: Peter McCartney, your thoughts?
Peter: Yeah, I think there are definitely impacts of electric vehicles. They're needed in some situations by some people, but we do have to make it more convenient, more affordable, and easier to take transit, to design walkable communities where you don't need to go more than 15 minutes from your home.
And then in terms of switching coal for gas, gas actually heats the climate faster than coal.
And so all of this talk about getting other nations off of coal onto gas, it's just swapping out one fossil fuel for another one.
We have the technology to do better with renewable energy and to power our lives without polluting the climate that we all rely on.
Cody: Peter's admitted in the past, we don't have storage technology we need for intermittent renewables, all of the above.
We need a pragmatic approach to support Canadian families, safety for human rights, safety for pedestrians at home, safety for children around the world working in these cobalt mines.
So we need to really be thinking about getting Canada in the game, mining, energy. And what Peter is saying, Canada is already a leader in reducing flaring and methane. That's why other countries come here to learn how we do it.
So Peter's wrong saying that it's better to have coal than gas or that the two are the same. Peter and his friends are also against hydro and nuclear. And he said there's not storage yet. So for wind and solar, plus the wind doesn't always blow, the sun doesn't always shine.
We need all of the above. We need to be pragmatic.
Mike: Okay. Peter, what do you say to that? Go ahead.
Peter: I'd like to respond to this because Cody's brought this up a couple of times that I have supposedly said that we can't do wind and solar.
What I said is that by the time a grid has issues with the intermittency of wind and solar, they have about half of their energy coming from wind and solar.
And so we are miles away in most of the world from being able from having needing the energy storage that we are talking about. And that technology is coming along and will be there by the time we ever were to experience any issues from wind and solar.
So I do want to make that point clear. That's just not true. And Cody's putting words in my mouth when he says that.
Mike: Okay, Vicky in Kelowna. Vicky, you got 30 seconds here. Okay, go ahead.
Vicky: Good morning. I would like to see some sort of regulations carried through.
I understand there is a regulation about how high your headlights can be from the road surface because those big trucks, they're up high, and actually their headlights are at my eye level when I'm driving. Okay.
Those big tires on as well, and it lifts their headlights up higher.
Mike: Okay. Peter, do you think there should be, we've got 1 minute left.
You get 30 seconds each here, guys. Peter, go ahead.
Peter: Yeah, I mean, I think we need to be designing for safety all over. At the moment, we only test for the people who are inside the vehicle.
We need to be designing for what about people who get hit by this vehicle? But also we should be designing for safety when it comes to the global climate and making sure that we are living our lives in a way that is not making life unsafe for people all over the world with the climate disasters that we are seeing.
Mike: Cody, 20 seconds. Go ahead.
Cody: We know what happens when we block Canadian resources. Other countries benefit, and we are seeing what's happening right now in Ukraine and all over the world.
So let's talk about making life better and safer for all our allies and our partners.
When we talk about giant vehicles, we also have to talk about weight. And I like electric vehicles, but they are heavy.
So there's much more here to be discussed about making it safe for pedestrians.
Mike: Thank you, gentlemen.
Thanks for listening to the Mike Smyth Show podcast.
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