Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

It’s Time to Gazump Fuel Guzzlers

By Ian Lowe

Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in setting fuel efficiency targets for new cars.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A recent one-day meeting in Melbourne brought together international experts on vehicle fuel economy. The Global Fuel Economy Initiative aims to improve car efficiency. The argument is that the two pressures of climate change and “peak oil” demand reductions in fuel use.

Australia lags well behind Northern Hemisphere countries. The European Union has set demanding standards for future vehicles, and even the USA now has legislated targets that require their inefficient cars to be cleaned up. By local standards, they look serious goals: 30.4 miles per US gallon in 2011, rising to 37.8 by 2016. Those translate to 7.8 L/100 km this year, dropping to 6.3 L/100 km by 2016.

The current average of the Australian vehicle fleet is about 12 L/100 km, with gas-guzzling four-wheel-drives using up to 18 L/100 km. The EU has set a 2015 target of a 19% improvement on 2008 levels, which were already much better than the performance in Australia. The Commonwealth government has announced it will set better fuel standards for 2015, giving the industry a few years to clean up its act.

While one speaker lamented the widespread scepticism at the meeting about industry’s commitment to efficiency improvement, others argued that every attempt to set targets had been opposed by the industry. Because local car manufacturers mainly produce relatively large and inefficient cars...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University.