DON’T blow a fuse over the news France wants to ban petrol and diesel cars and go electric by 2040.
Australians motorists won’t “grind to a halt” that year because French brands account for just 0.6 of new vehicles sold in Australia — and other brands will fill the void.
The most likely outcome — according to automotive industry and transport analysts — is a choice of petrol, diesel, electric and hybrid power, as is the case currently.
The latest figures show the take up of electric cars is minuscule in Australia — just 0.09 per cent of vehicles sold so far this year to the end of June (549 of 559,552) are electric or plug-in hybrid cars, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
The high cost of electric cars, their limited driving range, and Australia’s relatively cheap petrol prices (fourth cheapest petrol and sixth cheapest diesel in the world) have been roadblocks to EV sales locally.
Australia’s geography also works against electric cars, given the lack of recharging points in remote areas — and sprawling inner city suburbs with on-street parking making it difficult to recharge vehicles without the risk of the cables being tampered with.
The decision by the French government to outlaw petrol and diesel cars won’t preclude brands such as Renault, Peugeot and Citroen offering petrol and diesel cars in foreign markets such as Australia — plus global car brands will still offer petrol and diesel vehicles, say analysts.
“We’re not going to grind to a halt in 2040,” says David Brown, a transport industry analyst. “Australia is remarkably slow to adopt technology, plus the other car makers have a much bigger footprint here.”
Japanese company Toyota — Australia’s top selling car brand for the past 14 years — is the world leader in hybrid technology, with more than 10 million sold globally over the past 20 years.
German giant Volkswagen says it plans to make one in four of its future cars powered by electric or hybrid motors — but, unlike Swedish brand Volvo, it says it is not about to walk away from petrol and diesel power.
Rather than worrying about what will power our cars in 20 years from now, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries says Australia needs to decide what emissions reductions are planned in the interim.
Australia’s current vehicle emissions standards are at least six years behind Europe, which is mandating stricter targets — although our regulations are currently under review.
The petroleum companies claim cleaner fuel will lead to dearer cars — but the car industry says the opposite is true and that it costs more to modify engines to cope with Australia’s low quality fuel.
Most car companies already develop their engines to suit the most common fuel sold globally — the equivalent of our premium unleaded.
Australia’s regular unleaded petrol is ranked 66th in the world for quality, with up to 150 parts per million sulphur content — versus world’s best practice (and our premium unleaded) which is less than 10 parts per million sulphur content.
“It is vital that the fuel quality and emission standards issue currently under discussion is resolved as soon as practicable to ensure Australian consumers gain access to the full benefit of new technologies,” says FCAI spokesman Peter Brewer.
“Australia’s transport fuel quality must improve in line with other markets (such the US and Europe) to achieve the full environmental benefits sought by industry and government.”
The Australian Automobile Association, the peak body for motoring groups such as the NRMA, RACV, RACQ, RAA, RAC, RACT and the AANT, which represents more than 7 million motorists, says “reducing barriers” to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles “may be one option”.
“The AAA is focused on ensuring the Government identifies a package of emissions reduction measures which minimises costs to motorists and retains maximum choice of vehicle types in the Australian market,” says AAA chief executive Michael Bradley.