New emissions standards cause problems for our liking for SUVs and Utes
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has promised an ‘orderly and sensible discussion’ on the matter, so it’s worth a quick reflection on how we got here and where we are headed. could take.
Australia’s lax emissions standards were originally designed to protect local automakers. Their obsolete engines could match imports by substituting capability for technology.
Decades of publicity helped imprint on the national consciousness the importance of having a six-cylinder or a V8, and “a big car for a big country”.
This was boosted by fuel which (despite occasional price shocks) has always been cheap by international standards.
When we left car manufacturing in 2017, we could have gradually adopted the latest European standards. Strangely, we went the other way. We kept the “Euro 5” (from 2009) until 2020, when we completely abandoned the mandates.
To institute the latest Euro standards now would cause huge disruption for car importers.
Clear market leader Toyota, which builds few electric vehicles, is expected to focus more on its small gasoline cars and hybrids to meet the mandatory average.
Yet, as anyone in the automotive industry will tell you, small cars mean small profits.
VW is expected to ship a lot of the affordable EVs it has kept from this market to balance out the SUVs and performance cars it sells here. But the margins on EVs, at this stage of development, are much lower.
The status quo is more profitable for automakers
Therefore, it is highly likely that automakers, through their industry body FCAI, will say all the right things, but will continue to work hard behind the scenes to preserve the status quo.
It’s not just the so-called big utility vehicles that are so profitable in this Wild West market; we buy a higher proportion of expensive high-performance cars than other countries.
The Mercedes-AMG G63 emits 299 g/km, despite the latest European technology. The European standard does not prevent the sale of these vehicles but imposes a cost on them, ensuring a trend towards cleaner vehicles.
In Australia, it’s open slather; even worse, because FBT exemptions on “utility vehicles” give bigger, higher-emitting machines a free kick.
And there’s a new cash cow: a boom in massive American pick-ups, aimed at the recreational market. Ford will import its F-series from next year, joining the Chevrolet Silverado, RAM and possibly others.
There is no legal obligation to disclose the emission figures of these “trucks”, but their CO2 emissions would be extreme.
The high cost and limited choice of electric vehicles here is undoubtedly hampering the reduction of carbon emissions, but it’s not just gasoline versus battery.
There are many low-emission gas-powered vehicles that are affordable and capable, even if they don’t follow today’s fashion of being big and chunky.
Policies that steer people towards these while waiting for EV prices to drop could bring an immediate benefit.