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Changing motor vehicle and fuel standards

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Changing motor vehicle and fuel standards

Posted 10/10/2014 by Matthew L James

Motor vehicle specifications in Australia are being reviewed, and a private senator’s bill

about improving fuel emissions has been tabled. These developments raise the question of

the vehicle standards used in Australia. Can we do better? Can we also make our fuel go


Motor Vehicle Standards Reform

On 4 September 2014, the Australian Government released an options

discussion paper for a review of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989,

the legislation which provides national specifications for new motor

vehicles and regulates the supply of used imported vehicles to

Australia. The discussion paper covers an extensive range of issues,

such as achieving a balance between appropriate safety standards in

line with international best practice, consumer access to vehicles at the

lowest possible cost, and options considered by the recent Productivity

Commission Report on Australia’s Automotive Manufacturing Industry,

as the ending looms here of local vehicle production.

A key aspect of changing motor vehicle standards is harmonization of

the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) with international regulations,

given that, in the near future, almost all vehicles will be imported to

Australia, based on models built to overseas specifications. The report

points out that there are currently 62 active ADRs with 51 providing for

safety measures, eight covering energy emission standards, and three

dwelling on anti-theft measures. Of these, some 12 (one fifth) do not

align to international regulations; another six are only partially aligned,

in part due to more stringent local rules in which Australia uses unique

requirements compared to Europe. The local requirements mainly refer

to matters involving commercial and uncommon vehicle types.

Meanwhile, the ADR 79 on Emission Control for Light Vehicles

prescribes exhaust and evaporative emission requirements for light

vehicles in order to reduce air pollution.

Vehicle Emissions Standards

Regarding the performance of the standards relating to

vehicle fuel economy and emissions, the Australian

Government’s Climate Change Authority (CCA) Research

Report of June 2014 titled Vehicle Emissions Standards

for Australia states that:

Australia lags many other countries in light vehicle

efficiency. While the efficiency of Australia’s light vehicles

is improving over time, more can be done…A standard

that is achievable and would deliver significant benefits

to Australia and Australian motorists could…set a target

to reduce the emissions intensity of the Australian light

vehicle fleet from its current level of 192 grams of carbon

dioxide per kilometre (g CO2/km) to 105g CO2/km in 2025.

The Australian Government’s National Transport

Commission (NTC) 2013 information paper on Carbon

Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles notes


In 2013 the national average carbon emissions from new

passenger and light commercial vehicles was 192 g/km.

This is a 3.4 per cent reduction from 2012 and is the

third largest annual reduction since records started in

2002…There are many reasons why Australian light

vehicle emissions are higher than in Europe and the

United Kingdom. Some of the reasons include Australian

consumer preferences for: heavier vehicles with larger

and more powerful engines; a lower proportion of diesel

powered engines; and automatic transmission.

Cheaper Transport Bill 2014

Responding to such calls to improve emissions, on 10

July 2014, in introducing the private senator’s Motor

Vehicle Standards (Cheaper Transport) Bill 2014,

Australian Greens Senator Milne said that:

This Bill would align Australia's fleet with the existing EU

2020 standards to achieve 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre for passenger vehicles by 2023—a three year delay. To

put that into perspective our cars average 192 grams per

kilometre, far higher than the global average….It will

require the Climate Change Authority to review the

effectiveness of the scheme and recommend to

Parliament further targets beyond 2023.

So the CCA report proposes a standard of 105g CO2/km in 2025 whereas the Milne Bill opts for 130g CO2/km for

2020 and then a stricter 95g CO2/km for 2023. These would be significant goals for the car industry here.

Fuel Quality Standards

In response to the CCA report, the Australian

Federal Chamber of Automobile Industries

(FCAI) commented that it was ‘disappointed

with the research report on light vehicle

emissions standards’:

the report fails to take into account the need

for complementary market fuel quality

standards (i.e. 95RON 10ppm sulphur which

is not currently available in Australia) to

deliver CO2 targets similar to the EU.

As vehicle emissions control technology

becomes more sophisticated, the quality of

the fuels is a critical issue. The Fuel Quality

Standards Act 2000, managed by the

Department of the Environment, provides the

capacity for the Australian Government to set

limits on vehicle technology, vehicle

operations, and those fuel parameters which

affect environmental or health objectives.

Clearly, if more fuel-efficient imported

models require better fuel quality, then local

fuel needs will change.


• transport

• standards