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New vehicle emissions fall – but not enough, says NTC

Top of the table: Of the 15 manufacturers that produced 93 per cent of the new light vehicles sold in Australia last year, Nissan had the highest average corporate emissions at 226g/km.

Transport Commission says Oz buyers need to make greener purchasing decisions

14 Mar 2012

AUSTRALIA’S new-vehicle consumers will need to make ‘greener purchasing decisions’ if the country is to meet its overall carbon emissions target, says the National Transport Commission (NTC).

The average CO2 emissions from all new passenger and light commercial vehicles sold in Australia last year fell from 212.6 grams per kilometre to 206.6g/km, according to the NTC’s Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Light Vehicles 2011 report.

Released at the Cars of Tomorrow conference in Melbourne today, the third annual NTC report found that the average emissions from new passenger cars sold in Australia last year were 198g/km – almost 50 per cent more than Europe’s equivalent figure of 136.1g/km.

Combined with light commercial vehicles (245g/km), the Australian fleet average fell by 2.8 per cent to 206.6g/km, while the average CO2 emissions of Australian-made light vehicles was 230g/km last year - 6.9 per cent down on 2010.

It also found that of the 15 manufacturers that produced 93 per cent of the new light vehicles sold in Australia last year, Suzuki had the lowest average corporate emissions (161g/km), Nissan emitted the most (226g/km) and that although there were more ‘green’ vehicles available in 2011, they were not among the best-sellers.

However, while Suzuki Australia recorded an average of 161g /km across its mostly small-car fleet, Fiat is Europe’s ‘greenest’ brand at 118.2g/km and even Audi – a performance-luxury brand that ranks as the 20th ‘cleanest’ car-maker in Europe - betters Suzuki Australia with 146g/km.

NTC commissioner Frank Muller said new cars will need a 10-fold improvement in carbon emissions if transport is to play its part in meeting the federal government’s target of reducing overall CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

 center imageFrom top: Toyota HiLux, Toyota Prius and Suzuki Alto.

“If Australians had made greener purchasing decisions in 2011, carbon emissions from new cars and light commercial vehicles could have been cut by over a third,” said Mr Muller.

“During 2011 there has been a 2.8 per cent improvement in carbon emitted from new vehicles, with a number of manufacturers working to make their vehicles greener.

“Industry, consumers and governments all have an important role to play in helping Australia reduce its emissions.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to build on this progress by continuing to look at ways to encourage Australians to make greener car choices.” The NTC report cited a number of reasons Australia trails Europe in reducing new vehicle emissions, including official CO2 targets for car-makers, higher taxes on petrol compared to diesel, excise duties that encourage the purchase of low-emissions vehicles, financial incentives to consumers for buying low-emissions cars and greater information on vehicle emissions and running costs.

The NTC report comes as the commonwealth government works to develop Australia’s first mandatory CO2 standards for all light (sub-3.5-tonne) vehicles, before their expected introduction by 2015.

Last September the federal government released a discussion paper outlining the issues involved in setting mandatory CO2 standards for new passenger cars, SUVs and light commercial vehicles from mid-decade, in which it cited the benefits of a 190g/km national average by 2015 and a further reduction to 155g/km by 2024.

The National Average Carbon Emissions (NACE) of Australia’s new light-vehicle fleet reduced annually by 2.1 per cent between 2003 and 2010, but to meet the 155g/km target by 2024 emissions would need to reduce by 2.25 per cent every year – more than the 1.8 per cent annual cuts that market forces alone are expected to bring.

By comparison, the EU – where 50 per cent of new passenger cars are powered by diesel engines - will phase in a 130g/km limit for passenger cars by 2015, on its way to a limit of 95g/km in 2020.

Australia’s NACE would need to fall by 7.5 per cent every year between now and 2020 to meet the same target, while Volkswagen this week said its European vehicle fleet would undercut mandated EU CO2 targets by emitting an average of 120g/km by 2015.

Nevertheless, Australia’s peak motor industry body today applauded the 2011 NACE figures, saying that significant improvements in vehicle technology and a continued trend towards more fuel-efficient new vehicles have resulted in the Australian industry’s lowest ever CO2 emissions.

“This is one of the most significant yearly improvements in the NACE figure and demonstrates the industry’s commitment to continue to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Ian Chalmers.

“The result is a combination of improvements in vehicle technology and a change in consumer buying preferences toward lower emission vehicles. There has been a strong uptake in new-generation diesel and hybrid powered vehicles by consumers.

“In addition, ongoing efficiency improvements in average emissions from petrol-powered vehicles by almost seven per cent indicates that consumers are continuing to purchase more efficient models across the new vehicle fleet.” However, Mr Chalmers conceded that fewer new vehicles were purchased in Australia last year (1,008,437 versus 1,035,574 in 2010) and that CO2 was just one factor buyers took into account when choosing a vehicle to match their lifestyle.

Last year, small car sales continue to increase in popularity (by 2.1 per cent) as large car sales slumped by another 20 per cent, but luxury SUV sales boomed by 22.4 per cent, compact SUV sales were up 5.8 per cent and 4x4 light commercials proved 6.3 per cent more popular – and similar trends are emerging this year.

“The average new car sold in Australia is now at least 20 per cent more efficient than it was in 2000,” Mr Chalmers said. “It is the preferences of Australian car buyers, however, that ultimately will determine the fleet’s CO2 profile.” According to the NTC, transport accounts for just 15 per cent of Australia’s total CO2 emissions (of which 64 per cent comes from light vehicles), but that proportion is expected to rise as other industries – especially the energy sector – reduce their output.

The FCAI welcomed the NTC report as a useful addition to discussion on the auto industry’s CO2 emissions, but stressed that the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles was just one part of the solution to reducing passenger transport emissions.

“A comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions from vehicles is needed – which includes vehicle maintenance, removing inefficient vehicles from the fleet, driver behaviour, road congestion and public transport,” Mr Chalmers said.

“It is also important to note, as the NTC report does, that there are a number of reasons for differences between individual brands and across sectors. Vehicle model ranges differ with different manufacturers and conditions in Europe are different from those in Australia due to a range of factors including fuel prices and consumer preferences.

“Carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles have reduced significantly without regulation and the industry now looks forward to working constructively with the federal government in developing an achievable mandatory emission standard for 2015.”

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