We learned last week that Chevrolet will cease production of its only compact electric model: the Bolt. With this umpteenth retirement of a small and affordable vehicle, the automotive industry shows that it prioritizes its profits at the expense of safety, land use planning, household finances and our energy capacities.
The Bolt was one of the last affordable vehicles offered on the all-electric market. Demand for this model was high and the waiting lists to get your hands on it were among the longest at dealerships. And yet, this is not the first model of its kind to suffer such a fate…
Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Spark and Volt, Mitsubishi I-MiEv, Smart Electric, Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq: As the list of victims grows among smaller vehicles, consumers are being forced into ever more expensive models and bigger.
Result ? The “trucking” of the vehicle fleet that began a few years ago is accelerating with the deployment of new electric models and is accompanied by a series of disastrous consequences that will only increase if nothing is done.
Road safety issues are on the rise, as more and more large vehicles dominate public spaces. The pressure on our renewable but limited energy resources is only increasing, while ever more fuel- and electricity-hungry behemoths proliferate.
This disappearance of small vehicles is also incompatible with smart planning policies that would reduce the pressure on our natural environments, our agricultural lands and the unbridled extraction of resources to manufacture ever larger batteries.
Automakers expend a tremendous amount of energy opposing any form of regulation, as they like to pretend they can self-manage to complete the necessary transition in their industry. However, they have demonstrated for decades that they are incapable of doing so.
The disappearance of the Bolt is yet another proof that laxity towards car manufacturers is a mistake. Regulation of the automotive sector must include size and weight issues. It cannot focus solely on greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Our governments need to stop adapting to industry. Rather, it is the industry that should adapt to the real needs of consumers and the imperatives of the 21st century.
Take the bull by the horns. The federal government must hurry to adopt a zero-emission vehicle standard and work with its American counterpart to better regulate the sector. There is also an urgent need to develop regulations on the weight of vehicles, whether electric or gasoline-powered. A fee-rebate system must be established that facilitates ecological choices to the detriment of the worst options. The widest possible supply of electric vehicles must be encouraged. We must quickly control the advertising that feeds the problem.
There is so much to do, but we must chart the way forward. We are at a crossroads and if we allow ourselves to be guided by the automotive industry, no doubt, we will collectively take the field.