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Automakers to Sell 400 Million More Vehicles Than Climate Change Estimates Can Handle: Greenpeace

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Traffic on the Hollywood freeway in downtown Los Angeles.

Image: Damian Dovarganes (AP)

It looks like all those gas vehicle bans that states and countries are planning on in the 2030s might come a little too late. A new report out of Greenpeace Germany, as compiled by The Verge, says that automakers are on track to sell 400 million more vehicles than current efforts to reduce climate change can handle. Simply put, we’re going to drive ourselves right into the worst of climate change, unable to meet the global temperature reduction of 1.5° Celsius.

With millions of vehicles made, bought, sold, and owned around the world, both legislators and automakers have made a huge push to get gas-powered vehicles off the road. Most automakers plan to have partial or full electric vehicle lineups by 2030; some states and countries plan to ban the sale of new gas vehicles by 2035. But if the Greenpeace report is any indication, those phaseouts should have started sooner. There are essentially too many vehicles being sold and driven to meet current climate goals:

The group determined that in order to prevent global temperatures from rising above the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold, no more than 315 million new diesel and petrol vehicles can be sold worldwide. But current planning by the auto industry is misaligned with those goals, according to the report. If auto sales continue at the present rate, the industry is on track to sell 712 million diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040 — or an “overshoot” of 396 million cars.

Automakers bear the brunt of the blame. A statement by Greenpeace Germany’s Benjamin Stephan basically said that their EV transitions didn’t happen quickly enough.

“Leading auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Volkswagen, and Hyundai, are transitioning far too slowly to zero-emission vehicles, which has dangerous consequences for our planet. Toyota, Volkswagen and other leading automakers are on a collision course with the climate,” he said in a statement.

According to The Verge, the results of the report were taken from multiple points using data from automakers. First, the group predicted future auto sales based on EV sale projections and ICE engine phase-out dates that automakers have announced. Then the group modeled three different scenarios based on this data: “an S-curve transition scenario to battery electric vehicles, a linear transition scenario, and a combined scenario that serves as the base case.” This lead them to estimate how each company will cross their vehicle threshold, screwing us all.

From The Verge:

  • Toyota is projected to sell 2.6 times the maximum number of diesel and petrol vehicles necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, or 63 million extra vehicles.
  • Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia are expected to sell 2.4 times the maximum number, or 39 million vehicles in excess.
  • Volkswagen is predicted to sell 2.1 times the max number, or 39 million more vehicles.
  • General Motors is projected to sell 1.6 times the number of petrol and diesel vehicles, or 13 million extra cars.

The Verge reached out for comment from each of the automakers mentioned in the report. VW was the only one to respond, pointing out its investment in EVs. But the German automaker called bullshit on the report with a spokesperson saying “…Moreover, it is inaccurate to make forecasts regarding manufacturer-related strategies based on overall market estimates.”

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