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    As urban spaces grapple with the surge in the size of cars, Europe and the United Kingdom are in need of solutions. The increasing prevalence of larger and heavier vehicles brings significant challenges to city infrastructure, traffic management, and environmental sustainability. 

    This blog explores the trend of growing cars and the societal issues associated with larger vehicles, and proposes solutions to encourage the use of smaller, more eco-friendly alternatives.

    The Trend of Growing Cars

    In recent years, European and UK roads have witnessed a clear shift towards larger vehicles. Recent research by Transport and Environment (T&E) has highlighted several facts: 

    • Cars are getting 1 cm wider every two years. 
    • The average width of new cars in Europe has reached 180.3 cm.
    • Many new SUVs exceed 200 cm wide. 
    • The UK is among the top markets for large cars, exceeding the 180cm width threshold back in 2018. 

    “Around half of newly-registered passenger vehicles no longer fit in 180 cm-wide on-street spaces used in many European cities. This statistic should signal alarm, both given the increasing proportion of cars / SUVs that overshoot the width of a major cohort of parking spaces, and perhaps more importantly, the indications that the ever-wider trend looks set to continue without regulatory action.”  – T&E report

    Issues of Large Cars in Society

    The trend of ever-larger cars has far-reaching implications for society, contributing to multiple issues that demand strategic solutions. 

    Traffic congestion

    Larger cars take up more space on the road, increasing traffic congestion, especially in urban areas with limited road infrastructure. This can lead to slower traffic flow and longer commute times.

    Parking Challenges

    Bigger cars require more parking space, leading to difficulties in finding suitable parking spots in crowded cities. This can exacerbate parking shortages and contribute to illegal parking. Large cars impact on-street and well as off-street parking. 

    One of the main issues for off-street Parking is the difficulty of opening doors and manoeuvring in and out of the spaces. In the case of on-street parking, large cars often take up additional space on the road or the pedestrian sideways, endangering cyclists and pedestrians. 

    Safety Concerns

    In addition to the safety issues mentioned above, larger vehicles also present safety risks to pedestrians, cyclists, and occupants of smaller vehicles in the event of a collision. The increased mass and size can result in more severe accidents and injuries, and an increased risk of death. 

    Environmental Impact

    Larger cars tend to have bigger engines and higher fuel consumption, leading to increased carbon emissions. Additionally, larger cars have a negative environmental impact during production, due to the extra energy and raw materials required, compared to smaller vehicles. 

    Infrastructure Strain

    The infrastructure, including roads, bridges, as well as multi-storey car parks, may not be designed to accommodate an increasing number of larger and heavier vehicles. This can lead to accelerated wear and tear on the existing infrastructure, requiring costly upgrades.

    Urban Planning Challenges

    The trend toward larger cars may conflict with urban planning goals, which often aim for more sustainable and pedestrian-friendly urban environments.

    What about EVs? 

    EVs are also following the trend of ever-increasing size, and while they are associated with significantly lower levels of CO2 emissions than petrol or diesel vehicles, EV SUVs can still contribute to the other issues presented above. 


    To address the issues associated with growing cars, lawmakers can play a crucial role by enacting targeted legislation. This legislation might include stricter emissions standards, size-based road usage fees, and regulations promoting the development and adoption of eco-friendly technologies. By setting clear guidelines and incentives, governments can impact consumer behaviour and encourage a shift towards more sustainable transportation options.

    France is a good example of this; on the 4th of February, Paris will vote on whether to triple on-street parking charges for large vehicles, to incentivise the use of smaller cars. 

    Consumers also have a big part to play, being the drivers behind market trends. In this respect, more education campaigns are necessary to inform the public about the issues of large cars.

    Organisations, particularly those involved in urban planning and space management, can also complement legislative efforts by implementing strategic parking permit policies. These policies can serve as powerful tools to incentivise the use of smaller vehicles, contributing to a more balanced and sustainable urban transportation ecosystem.

    The role of parking policies 

    Many UK councils are already implementing emissions-based parking charges to incentivise the use of greener vehicles and reduce the number of trips made by higher-polluting cars. Aside from the public sector, private organisations are also increasingly adopting emissions-based charging models for off-street parking. (Read more about emissions-based parking.)

    Enforcing permit policies that account for the size and weight of vehicles can work in a similar way:

    Size-Based and Weight-Related Permit Policies:

    By categorising vehicles into size classes and adjusting permit fees accordingly, organisations can create a financial incentive for individuals to opt for smaller, more manoeuvrable cars. Additionally, incorporating weight-related permit charges addresses the impact of heavier vehicles on road infrastructure.

    When availability is especially limited, organisations can also reject parking permit applications for large cars or limit them to car sharing permits. This not only encourages a more efficient use of available parking spaces but also discourages the use of vehicles that contribute significantly to congestion. 

    In addition to discouraging the use of larger vehicles, organisations can promote the adoption of EVs and smaller cars by offering discounts on parking permits. As technology advances and EV infrastructure improves, such incentives can become increasingly influential in shaping consumer choices and steering urban transportation towards a more sustainable future.

    Permit Management

    A digital permit management system such as Octopass can help permit administrators filter applications based on various vehicle attributes, including size, weight, CO2 emissions, and engine size. This data, along with other configurable factors, enables organisations to establish vehicle categories and set different permit costs. 

    The system provides organisations with the flexibility to accommodate a permit policy based on the size, weight, and emissions of vehicles for a variety of permit types, such as long-term, short-term, and flexible permits. 

    For organisations with multiple parking locations, size categories can also help determine the best location (parking lot) for each vehicle, which Octopass can match automatically during the allocation process. 

    For staff parking, size, weight, and emissions criteria also serve as tools for organisations to incentivise sustainable commuting and achieve their net-zero goals.

    In summary

    As the trend of growing cars continues to reshape urban landscapes, it is crucial to address the associated challenges through a combination of legislative measures and organisational strategies.

    By implementing parking permit policies that consider the size and weight of vehicles, organisations can play an active role in promoting the use of smaller, more sustainable transportation options. This approach is essential for shaping cities that are not only efficient but also environmentally responsible and conducive to the well-being of their inhabitants.

    Octopass is a software product that helps you manage permits and passes in a simple, efficient, and transparent way. If youd like to learn more about how Octopass can help you meet your sustainability goals, please contact us and wed be happy to have a chat!