Vehicle emissions table ahead of electric vehicle summit

August 8, 2022 10:20 am

Australia and Russia are the only developed nations without a standard for vehicles' carbon emissions. [Photo Credit: ABC News]

The automotive sector is hopeful Labor’s election win has revived the prospect of an emissions cap on vehicles being imposed.

A new report has found if an emissions cap on car-makers that was proposed by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had been implemented, it would have saved consumers $5.9 billion in fuel costs.

Australia is an outlier on fuel efficiency standards, with more than 80 per cent of the global car market being subject to one. It’s left car-makers in the unusual position of asking for their carbon dioxide emissions to be regulated.

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The nation also has some of the least efficient and most polluting cars of any developed country, emitting on average 169.8 grams of CO2 per kilometre, compared to 129.9 in the US and 120.4 in Europe, according to 2018 figures.

The Australia Institute’s climate and energy director, Richie Merzian, is hopeful the new government will soon move to implement a standard, as the group prepares to co-host an electric vehicle summit being attended by the federal Climate Change and Energy Minister, Chris Bowen, next month.

Mr Merzian said it was the sector’s “expectation” that Mr Bowen would put forward a plan to improve fuel efficiency standards.

“With record-high oil prices you can’t help but think it’s a bit crazy that we don’t have a mandate for more efficient vehicles to come here,” Mr Merzian said.

“Right now, the Albanese government is sticking closely to what they perceive as the mandate they have been given … [but] there have been some relatively positive signals from the Labor government that this is a policy they could pick up this term of government.”

In a report released ahead of the summit, The Australia Institute determined a year’s worth of domestic flight emissions would have been avoided if Australia had adopted a fuel efficiency standard when it ratified the UN Paris climate agreement.

The institute’s modelling found it also would have saved Australia $48.70 for every tonne of carbon dioxide emissions avoided.

“The car manufacturers are telling us that, ‘if you mandate robust fuel efficiency standards we will bring over better vehicles, we will have more models available,’ Australians will ultimately save at the bowser and it won’t really cost that much more on the sticker price,” he said.

Last week, motor industry groups released a joint statement calling on the new government to mandate carbon targets to replace a voluntary standard the sector has set for itself.

The sector says it is at a competitive disadvantage when trying to import electric vehicles because car-makers prefer to send their limited supply to nations that reward car fleets that fall below an emissions cap or penalise those that exceed it.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has also been encouraged by the government’s openness to a standard in meetings before and after the election.

Research commissioned by the chamber found with a business-as-usual approach, zero-emission vehicles would only make up about 18 per cent of new car sales by 2030, with other estimates putting the figure even lower.