A new study revealing Australian cars are not as fuel-efficient as previously thought could have costly ramifications for motorists, as the Federal Government proposes changes to emissions standards.

The research, commissioned by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), shows new vehicles use an average of 20 per cent more fuel in real-world Australian conditions than in the laboratory tests used to define the tougher standards. That figure rises to 35 per cent for some cars.

The findings raise the possibility that consumers will be charged more for vehicles that meet the higher government standards, while missing out on lower fuel bills that were meant to compensate for the extra cost.

The Federal Government is believed to be close to releasing three proposals in a bid to reduce pollution. In some cases it will mean embracing European standards for emissions.

The first proposal will attempt to demonstrate the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s existing vehicle fleet. A second paper will look to do the same for particulate matter.
A third discussion paper will try to mandate cleaner fuel. This has potential implications for refineries regarding the cost of upgrading their facilities.

Australia has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030. The government’s plan works on the assumption that tougher standards will lead to lower emissions, reduced fuel bills and better air quality, but the AAA warned against what it described as “flawed assumptions” in the plan.

“Proponents of stricter regulation say higher vehicle and fuel costs passed on to motorists will over time be offset by fuel savings, but our results undermine such assurances,” AAA Chief Michael Bradley said.
“Savings accrued only in a laboratory are of little use to consumers in the real world.”

The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal is still fresh in the memory, undermining confidence in car maker tests. Hence, the AAA commissioned Victorian firm Abmarc to test 30 vehicles by driving in real-world conditions and fitting the exhausts to chemical scanners.

The results are based on the first 11 cars tested. AAA is not naming the makes or models involved, instead using the findings to push for tougher, local testing of manufacturer claims.
Motorists don’t want to pay more

The AAA also commissioned Crosby Textor to poll motorists, with some interesting results.
Fifty-eight per cent of those surveyed said they would not pay any extra for vehicles that meet tougher environmental standards. Twenty-four per cent said they would be willing to pay an additional five per cent.

More than half (52 per cent) of respondents said they would not pay more for fuel to reduce emissions.

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