New fuel efficiency standards bring Australia in line with rest of the world

Cars will have a yearly cap on total emissions under new fuel efficiency standards.

Cars will have a yearly cap on total emissions under new fuel efficiency standards. Photo: AAP

Experts say the Albanese government’s new fuel efficiency standards will stop the country from being a dumping ground for high-emitting vehicles, while political critics claim – without basis – that it will be the death of the ute.

What is a fuel efficiency standard?

On Sunday, the Albanese government announced a proposed model that will place a yearly cap on emissions for new cars sold in Australia, in an effort to encourage the sale of low- and zero-emission vehicles.

Australia, alongside Russia, is the only OECD nation without standards.

The government’s analysis, released on Sunday, claimed a new car owner will save more than $5000 over five years.

Manufacturers that don’t meet the standards will face financial penalties from the start of 2025.

Industry response

“Because previous federal governments failed to introduce new vehicle efficiency standards, some car manufacturers have treated Australia as a dumping ground for their most inefficient models,” said Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council.

“Australia has always been at the back of the queue when it comes to the best and cheapest electric vehicles because car makers have been incentivised to offer them elsewhere first.”

Politics at play

Minister for Climate Change Chris Bowen warned of a Coalition scare campaign when he announced the standards on Sunday.

David Littleproud, leader of the Nationals, claimed the new standards will take away the ute and discriminate against people in regional areas.

“If you take away particularly utes, they’re tools of trade, particularly for people, not just tradies in the cities, but also people in the bush,” he said on the Nine Network.

“If you put a tonne on the back of an electric ute at the moment, you don’t get far.”

Cars like the electric Ford F1-50 Lightning are hugely popular in the US, but have yet to hit Australian shores. Photo: Getty

The attacks on tax breaks, incentives and policies to encourage an uptick in electric vehicles aren’t new, with former prime minister Scott Morrison claiming in 2019 that an electric vehicle couldn’t tow a boat or “get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family”.

Climate action

Climate action advocates have called for the standards to be introduced to help reduce carbon emissions and Greg Bourne, climate councillor and energy expert, said a fuel efficiency standard will benefit all Australians.

“Aussie drivers who have long commutes from our suburbs and regions are hurt the most by high and rising petrol bills,” he said.

“This means they’ll also see the biggest benefits from getting access to a wider range of affordable lower and zero emissions vehicles that are cheaper to run.”

Around the world

More than 70 per cent of passenger vehicles sold worldwide are subject to emissions standards, with countries like the United States, Japan and China having introduced them – in some cases – decades ago.

According to Australia’s Climate Change Authority, the US introduced light vehicle standards in the 1970s in response to oil price shocks.

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