Greenhouse Gas Emissions Due to Shift to Light Trucks in the United States, 2000-2047

Published: 06-02-2020| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/gfhs2sxjdk.1
Timothy Kovach


There has been a dramatic market shift away from passenger cars and towards light trucks, particularly sport utility vehicles (SUVs), in the United States (U.S.). Beginning with model year (MY) 2012, light trucks now make up the majority of new light duty vehicles (LDVs). This study quantifies the total impact of the rise of light trucks from MY2000-2017. Using data on vehicle production and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (in grams per mile) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2018 Automotive Trends Report, I estimated total emissions from passenger vehicles in the U.S. from 2000-2017. I then constructed alternate vehicle fleets based upon the shares of passenger cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks during MY1980 and MY1996. Furthermore, I broke the MY1980 and MY1996 scenarios into two: a Fixed scenario, in which the MY1980 and MY1996 fleet breakdowns remain constant from 2000-2017, and a Tech Change scenario, in which the total share of passenger cars and light trucks remained constant, but the relatives shares of Car SUVs, Truck SUVs, vans, and pickups was allowed to float to reflect real world dynamics. I also constructed a third alternate vehicle fleet, using data on the shares of these vehicle types in the European Union during that period; those data came from the International Council on Clean Transportation "European Vehicle Market Statistics" for 2018-2019. I then completed this same analysis through the end of these vehicles' projected functional lives, which will span from 2030-2047. Based upon my analysis, these additional light trucks will produce anywhere from 867-3,519 million short tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) across their lifetimes, offsetting 19-75% of the projected emissions savings from the MY2011-2025 CAFE standards. Combined, the social cost of these additional emissions and the increased risk of traffic fatalities may reach $94.3-350.7 billion. The "GHG Emissions by Scenario" folder contains the individual emissions calculations for each of the five separate scenarios (MY1980 Fixed, MY1980 Tech Change, MY1996 Fixed, MY1996 Tech Change, and EU). The "SUV Scenarios Combined" spreadsheet collects all of these results and includes an analysis of the social cost of these additional GHG emissions. The "Fuel Economy by Vehicle Type Scenarios" spreadsheet incorporates the U.S. EPA data I utilized and includes various calculations and analyses of it that formed the basis for this research.