'Auto-Besity' has become the latest buzzword in the parking industry. Whilst certainly an eye-catching headline, is the increasing sizes of private vehicles really a topic for parking professionals to be concerned about? Well, we're going to deep dive into that topic today.
Auto-Besity is a term coined to refer to the size of passenger vehicles, mainly, the recent surge in SUV ownership. According to a study conducted by Mathilde Carlier, SUV ownership has increased significantly worldwide since 2017. Although North America takes the lead with about 50% of vehicle sales, four out of ten passenger vehicles sold in China were SUVs, versus about a third in Europe.
Rivaling this is the increase in EV vehicle adoption. With sales exceeding over ten million in 2022, the electric car market is booming. Trends are pointing to SUVs and larger cars dominating available options in the upcoming years. Improvements in technology as well as government incentives for EV drivers, make it more possible to electrify heavier and larger vehicle segments.
The main question to ask is, are people buying larger cars for the perceived 'status symbol', or are they bought from necessity? Well, there are many reasons someone might choose an SUV over a smaller sedan or hatchback.
SUVs have the upper hand when it comes to adventuring. Superior when it comes to offroading, their four-wheel drive provides better traction when it comes to adverse weather conditions or difficult terrain. Spacious enough to carry your family on the school run, do the weekly shopping, and tough enough to bring them to the mountains on the weekend. Most can even be converted to accommodate camping facilities, making them very attractive to families and adventurers alike.
When picturing a certain status or lifestyle, we tend to associate SUVs with a higher standard of living, especially when it comes to rural or suburban areas. Due to this, these vehicles generally maintain their value more effectively than conventional sedans and can be seen as a smarter investment in the long term.
Load Bearing and Towing Capabilities
Ever tried moving house with a passenger car? Well, this author has and it was an experience one does not care to repeat. SUVs can offer more load-bearing and towing capabilities, making them a popular choice for individuals who need to transport larger items every so often, but not regularly enough to purchase a separate trailer or work van. Also popular for towing caravans, they can be a great option for people who travel a lot during the year.
As an example, your average sedan can tow approximately 1,750 lbs (793.7kg), whereas a standard SUV can tow up to 8000 lbs (3628.7kg). Something to consider for individuals who need more power every now and again.
These figures are an average based on a collection of manufacturer's specs, always check your own vehicle specifications before towing!
And the Negatives?
If you have been following the news (and our blog) you will see that there has been quite some noise in the press lately about SUVs in urban areas. The sheer size of these vehicles is causing significant pushback from residents, claiming they are dangerously big and unsightly in city centers. There have even been comparisons to the M4 tanks, used in WW2.
Other road users have reported being nervous around the larger vehicles, due to their intimidating size, larger turning circles, and rollover risks.
They have also faced environmental criticism, requiring more resources to make than smaller alternatives, it can be said the production of SUVs contributes to climate change and environmental degradation.
So then, what about parking?
It's no secret that cities are starting to charge higher fees for parking SUVs, arguing that public space should not be used up by vehicles and they need to remain pedestrian-friendly. Whilst this is a case to be argued for, increased fees for larger vehicles is not a long-term solution.
With electric SUVs becoming more affordable and widely available, it should not come as a surprise that eventually our infrastructure will need to change to accommodate this. An article recently published by The Guardian reported that ''more than 150 car models are too big for spaces'' in the UK.
Is the answer to increase parking spaces? Continue charging high fees for those with larger personal vehicles?
Circular construction is the practice of building structures in a way where consumption and recycling opportunities are crucial in the choice of materials and methods. The strategy aims to lessen waste and environmental impact by reusing, sharing, leasing, or recycling rather than demolishing and starting from scratch.
With the rapidly changing needs of drivers, taking this approach when constructing a new parking garage could help parking facilities adapt more easily to changing trends.
Examples of such facilities can be seen with operators such as Astron Buildings, who in June of this year completed the construction of a demountable parking facility. Q-Park also erected a temporary parking facility in Venlo, The Netherlands. The temporary parking facility will be fully dismantlable and suitable for rebuilding at another location in due course.
Vertical Parking Solutions
As urban space becomes more limited, vertical parking could be a way of maximizing space and adapting to the growing size of cars. Solutions like automated parking garages and car stackers can use vertical space to accommodate more cars, more efficiently and especially in the case of SUVs, a lot more easily for drivers. Simply drive in, get out, and let the system do the rest.
There are already solutions available for this type of parking solution, companies such as SolidParking and Stanley Robotics offer automated parking and vertical storage solutions, taking away searching time for drivers, risk of collisions, wasteful emissions, and most importantly, giving the driver back their time!
Some drivers will want/need a larger vehicle and there is no avoiding that. Some will choose to travel by alternative means, such as ride share or bike, electric scooter, or bus. For urban environments, it's worth considering catering to all. Integrating parking spaces with larger bays for larger vehicles, charging points and public transport access means people are encouraged to use a combination of personal vehicles and public transportation for their commutes, reducing the need for parking spaces near the destination. Reducing the need for so many spaces means spaces could be increased to accommodate larger SUVs and EVs. See where we're going with this?
It appears that there is no one right or wrong answer to the debate on whether SUVs and larger passenger cars are the pests certain populous claim them to be. Different drivers will always have different needs or simply wants. It is important, however, that we manage the consumption of our resources when producing and accommodating these and future vehicles.
If you have to choose an SUV, try an EV. If you have employees, residents, or customers needing larger parking bays, consider adapting parking facilities to accommodate various drivers needs.
It's inevitable that the driving and parking landscape will change and grow over time, and rather than 'punishing' drivers with larger vehicles with increased fees, a holistic approach could potentially help us manage parking demand while promoting sustainable transportation solutions.
Of course, this does require funding as nothing is free, but we can dream!