Australia’s peak automotive industry body has released its first “scorecard” of CO2 emissions from cars imported into the country in 2020.
The report from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) breaks down average CO2 emissions by carmaker and the number of sales in order to show the difference between average CO2 emissions and the target set under the industry’s voluntary standard.
Among the best-performing brands on CO2 emissions were Toyota, Lexus and Jaguar while the worst-performing were luxury brands Lamborghini and Ferrari which massively overshot their voluntary emissions reductions target.
FCAI chief Tony Weber said the release formed the “baseline” for a long-term plan by carmakers to compensate for a lack of government action in Australia by voluntarily working to reduce vehicle emissions by 4% a year until 2030.
“It’s an ambitious target,” Weber said. “This puts a line in the sand. We put that out for transparency. What we’re doing is saying here is a target in 2030 that we’re going to aim for.”
“We have two issues in Australia. We don’t have a [CO2 emissions] target and we have the lowest quality fuel in the OECD. Marry those together and it’s really hard to get the best quality drive-train technology into the market.”
Weber said the 10-year timeframe was chosen to give manufacturers a chance to make adjustments over the model cycle of different vehicles. While most car models are built on a five-year cycle, some are produced on a 10-year cycle.
The problem was exacerbated as other major economies have set ambitious mandatory targets, which is seeing global carmakers direct cars with newer technologies everywhere else first.
“You can’t just change your CO2 output overnight. You can’t just put a new engine in,” he said. “We’re about 1m cars in a 100m market. It’s about directing limited supply of these technologies around the world to markets with targets. Supply will meet demand.”
Adjunct Associate Prof Robin Smit from the University of Technology Sydney and director transport energy/emission research said he it was good to see the industry “taking the lead”.
“Previous research has shown that new Australian passenger vehicles have not reduced CO2 emission rates as fast as the other major jurisdictions,” Smit said. “It is good to see action from the FCAI with the aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
“There is nothing new about this test though.”
Smit said the initiative could be further improved with the adoption of the newer Worldwide Harmonized Light-duty Test Procedure (WLTP) standard that has been used overseas since 2017 to more accurately measure real-world CO2 emissions.
The FCAI’s current methodology relies on a legislated test[*] called the New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) that was developed in the early 1970s and does not accurately capture real-world emissions. In 2015, the difference between the result obtained in the lab using the NEDC(*) and real-world on-road emissions was as high as 40%.
“The NEDC test doesn’t capture real-world emissions, basically,” Smit said. “Purely from a climate change perspective where we want to reduce emissions quickly, it is really important to know the real-world emissions levels. The NEDC test previously used in the EU and that is still used in Australia is increasingly underestimating on-road emissions.”
“It is important that we get a handle on real-world emissions reductions.”
Another concern was the use of different weight standards for cars, light SUVs and heavy SUVs. Smit said where this occurs it creates a risk that sales of large SUVs will continue to grow and some manufacturers will attempt to reclassify smaller cars as heavy SUVs in order to continue selling underperforming vehicles.
In one example from the early 2000s, Chrysler sought to evade fuel efficiency standards that were limiting sales of the popular Dodge Ram pickup by building the PT Cruiser. The vehicle looked like a car but was built on a “truck” platform which had worse fuel economy but was also subject to more lenient regulations that applied to heavy vehicles in the US.
Similar problems have also emerged in Europe where weight-dependent standards boosted sales of larger and heavier vehicles – which have increased real-world CO2 emissions. Many of these were then exported to vehicle fleets around the world.
“It is clear that other policy measures are needed to complement the voluntary standards and achieve real on-the-road reductions in CO2 emissions from the on-road fleet,” Smit said.