According to research conducted by the automotive advocacy group Transport & Environment (T&E), new cars in Europe are becoming 1 centimetre larger every two years on average.
The research revealed that the trend will continue because SUV sales are increasing throughout the continent, including in the UK.
In fact, in many nations, including the UK, the minimum on-street parking spot is already too wide for about half of newly acquired cars.
According to T&E’s study on new cars, the average width increased from 177.8 cm in 2018 to 180.3 cm in the first half of 2023.
Fifty-two percent of the top 100 new cars sold in the European Union in 2023 were too wide to fit in major cities like London, Paris, and Rome’s 180 cm minimum required on-street parking spots.
Furthermore, even the typical new car (180 cm wide) is having increasing difficulty finding off-street parking, and big, luxurious SUVs are no longer suitable in a lot of situations. Measuring around 200 cm wide, large luxury SUVs leave space for drivers and passengers to get in and out of vehicles in typical off-street spaces, as they measure an average of around 240 cm.
The results indicate that, over the two decades leading up to 2020, the same pattern has occurred consistently when compared to earlier statistics from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
T&E concluded that there may be safety concerns if width limits for cars are not implemented quickly and cities charge more for parking larger cars.
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.”
Large luxury SUVs are specifically singled out in the report as the main offenders for being too big for on-street parking.
In fact, T&E claims that despite crash data indicating that a 10 cm rise in vehicle front height carries a 30% higher risk of fatalities in collisions with pedestrians and bicycles, the broader designs have also made it possible for vehicles to be lifted even higher.
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.”