The discussion around fuel efficiency standards (sometimes AKA CO2 emissions standards) in Australia is a very significant one. It’s critical not only to a discussion of our fleet of vehicles - of which it’s held there are 20 million registered domestically - going green, but also the wider nation as a whole. After all, light vehicles alone account for around 11% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. So, making the fleet greener isn’t just a big deal for the auto sector, but our quest to go green as a country overall.
That’s why the rueful history of Australia surrounding fuel efficiency standards is unfortunate indeed, as Australia is essentially alone in the OECD as the sole nation without them. The push for such standards isn’t just about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in the international community, nor even just about going green - important though that is - given there is much pain caused to many Australian households so long as these standards are missing.
Reducing Pressure on Everyday Australians
When good fuel efficiency standards exist vehicles sold in a country must conform to regulatory standards surrounding efficiency of operation, and emissions in their fleet. This last element is very important, as it’s not a single vehicle but the average efficiency of the fleet of a manufacturer’s vehicles that is assessed. Thus, countries with strong standards require car manufacturers to produce vehicles which meet a certain level of fuel efficiency, and are - even if not totally green - greener than they otherwise would be required to be in other nations, where there’s an absence of such standards. The problem for Oz is easy to spot: because we’re lacking these standards locally, cars can be shipped to sell here which burn through fuel and pollute substantially. Thus, this leads to a shortage of cutting-edge cars in Australia like EVs, and the nation ending up as an ‘offload zone’ for inefficient cars that manufacturers won’t send to other markets.
So, other nations essentially get prioritised for the delivery of EVs and vehicles where their fuel efficiency is really optimised, whereas Australia - placing no pressure on car makers - essentially ends up in the back of the queue. Now, not only does this hinder the range of vehicles available in Australia, but everyday Aussies end up with petrol-powered cars that burn through fuel faster, and thus they have to pay more at the pump for a full tank than someone overseas would with a more efficient vehicle. This again illustrates the problem with those dubious claims that ‘going green would be expensive’ for Australia - the reality is it’s becoming more painful for millions of Aussies every year that we don’t pursue a decisive shift to green tech!
What’s the Latest Action in this Area?
After it was first flagged in August 2022, it was announced in November last year the federal government had officially opened consultation on improved fuel quality standards. This is welcome, as since coming to office following the May election, the Albanese government has pushed harder for EV adoption and other improvements in this arena. It must be recalled that fuel efficiency standards are distinct from emissions standards and fuel quality standards - and governments supporting more public transport is also vital - but this round of consultation is a promising step in the right direction.
So What Can I Do to Assist?
We’re big fans at STC of illustrating the ways in which regular people can make a real and positive difference surrounding green issues. It’s certainly the case that the greatest responsibility for effecting positive change around green issues resides with government and big business, but it’s equally true we can all play a positive role. Yet in this particular area, it’s also the case that the capacity for someone to take direct steps - like how someone who is a renewable energy supporter could look to acquire a rooftop solar system for their home - is more limited. But even so, there are absolutely steps that everyday Australians can take to help drive some positive change.
The first way is to write to political leaders and express your desire to see fuel efficiency standards made better. Second, while the proverbial pen is in hand - yes, in 2023 it’s more likely to be the keyboard in front of you! - write to car manufacturers which sell both petrol-powered and EVs in Australia; make it known to them you’d like to see less of the former, and more of the latter Down Under. Third, the next time you’re looking for a car (if the rules around standards haven’t changed by then), make it politely known to any car dealerships you visit that you’re really keen to see more EVs on the lot. The more EVs for sale, the more which will end up on our roads, and this will help drive Australian transport to its greener future.
Fuelling a Fantastic Idea
When it comes to optimising the operation of a vehicle to maximise its clean and green credentials, making use of an EV charger at home with a rooftop solar system can be brilliant. This at-home set-up delights many EV owners around the country, and it’s important to remember that it may be possible to add an EV charger that uses solar power exclusively, without needing to share the solar energy with the household. This can be done by adding a second rooftop solar system that can be off-grid, and thus free to be utilised exclusively for EV charging (as well as perhaps related needs like lighting in the garage). If not yet an EV owner but indeed keen to go green via other ways, the first step on this ‘road to renewables’ journey can be taken by learning about quality rooftop solar systems.
Here at STC, we have many more resources you can explore if you’re keen to learn more.