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SUVs the worst culprits as cars found to be getting 1cm wider every two years

Ahead of the people of Paris voting on whether to triple parking fees for SUVs, new research from Transport & Environment has revealed that cars have been growing an average of 1cm wider every two years, with SUVs leading the way.

The average width of a new car in 2023 was 180.3 cm, up from 177.8 cm in 2018. The same trend was also identified throughout the previous twenty years. The worst culprit was the Land Rover Defender which expanded by 20.6cm between 2017 and 2023. 

The legal EU limit to the width of a car is a scarcely believable 255cm – the same limit placed on the width of busses and trucks.

While the minimum width for an on-street parking bay is 1.8m, the research found that over half (52%) of the 2023’s 100 best selling cars were wider than that.

At 2.4m, off-street bays are wider but SUVs now have an average width of 2m, meaning drivers (and passengers) will increasingly struggle to get in and out. 

Naturally, the physical growth of cars is proportionate, so as they get wider, they get higher. This is also of concern as it has been found that a 10 cm increase in the height of the front of a vehicle carries a 30% higher risk of fatalities in collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.

SUVs now represent 49% of new cars sales in the EU and on 4th February, the people of Paris will vote on a proposal to increase parking fees for petrol and diesel vehicles over 1.6t (and EVs over 2t) from €6 to €18 per hour in central districts.

Apart from increasingly reducing the  space available to other road users, particularly cyclists – SUVs consume around 20% more fuel than a medium-size non-SUV car and, because of their weight, they are also worse for non exhaust emissions from brakes and tyres.

James Nix, Vehicles Policy Manager at T&E, said: ‘Cars have been getting wider for decades and that trend will continue until we set a stricter limit. Currently the law allows new cars to be as wide as trucks. The result has been big SUVs and American style pick-up trucks parking on our footpaths and endangering pedestrians, cyclists and everyone else on the road.’

Barbara Stoll, Director of the Clean Cities Campaign, said: ‘Monster SUVs are a threat to the urban fabric of our cities. Unless we act now, more and more of our precious public space will be taken away from people by ever larger cars – this is not the cleaner, brighter and greener future that citizens want. On 4 February, Parisians have a unique opportunity to lead the way and say no to these polluting and dangerous giants taking over our streets.’



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