Australia’s growing preference for large vehicles, and their choice of SUVs over smaller hatchbacks or sedans, is working to keep Australia’s transport emissions high – along with the lagging uptake of plug in electric vehicles.

New analysis published by the National Transport Commission shows that Australian drivers are bucking international trends towards smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles, cancelling out gains being made by manufacturers to improve the fuel efficiency of models being brought to market.

“Australians’ consumer preferences over the last decade have continued to shift towards heavier vehicles with larger and more powerful engines,” the NTC says. “This is occurring at the same time as European and Asian markets trend towards smaller vehicles with lower emissions.”

Spokesperson Mandi Mees says the NTSC analysis shows that if people who bought new vehicles in 2020 had chosen the best-in-class for emissions performance, Australia’s average carbon emissions intensity would have dropped by 93 per cent for new passenger cars and light SUVs, and by 50 per cent for new heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles.

But that’s not happening because, in contrast to European countries, Australia’s lack of fuel quality standards means there is less incentive for new car buyers to choose more fuel-efficient models.

Models purchased in the Australian market, across virtually all vehicle segments, had higher emissions intensities compared to the European market. And to top it off, there is no national strategy to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.

As reported previously by The Driven, the National Transport Commission’s report showed that Australia’s uptake of electric and hybrid models, while continuing to increase year-on-year, had not kept pace with European counterparts.

There has been a large shift of sales away from segments in ‘Passenger motor vehicles’, and a shift towards SUVs and light trucks. While sales of the five segments of SUVs represented 25 per cent of total sales in 2011, they had increased to over half (52 per cent) of total sales in 2020.”

“Between 2011 and 2020, the average emissions intensity decreased in all segments except ‘Sports’, and in most segments there was a decrease by at least 10 per cent.

However, the shift in the mix of the fleet may help explain why the national average emissions intensity figure has declined relatively slowly in recent years, despite the relative emissions intensity improving in most segments,” the report added.

Government data shows that Australia’s transport sector has recorded virtually uninterrupted increases in greenhouse gas emissions, going back for at least several decades.

Australia’s growing population and lack of improvements to vehicle fuel efficiency have led to overall increases in petrol and diesel use and higher greenhouse gas emissions as a result.

Covid-19 related lockdowns and related restrictions on travel have led to reductions in transport emissions over the last year – but these reductions are only expected to be temporary.

Transport emissions contribute around 20 per cent of Australia’s overall greenhouse gas emissions footprint, related to energy use across road and rail transport, as well as domestic air travel and shipping.

Extracted in full from: Australia’s taste for bigger cars and lack of electric options make a dirty mix (