Car pollution cop to police automakers in Australia

A new regulator will check the emissions of vehicles sold in Australia from next year and ensure automakers are complying with Australia’s fuel-efficiency standard.

Details of the agency were revealed in the federal budget on Tuesday night, along with plans for a public education campaign about the laws and a commitment to install vehicle-charging stations at car dealerships. 

Budget papers also reveal how much the change to electric vehicles is forecast to save drivers over the coming decades and how much it will cost the government in lost fuel taxes. 

An electric vehicle charging station
The change to EVs will cost the government $470m over four years in lost fuel taxes.

Industry experts welcomed the announcements but said the vehicle regulator would need to ensure it could access independent assessments of vehicle emissions rather than relying on the manufacturers.

The budget revealed the government planned to spend $84.5 million over five years to establish a regulator for new vehicles sold in Australia as part of its New Vehicle Efficiency Standard. 

The new agency would be responsible for capturing vehicle emission information, monitoring the compliance of vehicle brands, and bringing “vehicle standards into line with those of our peers”. 

The regulator would also establish a credit-trading platform between automakers they could use to avoid financial penalties under the standard. 

A car undergoing the Real-World Testing of Vehicle Efficiency program
An agency will capture vehicle emission information, and monitor the compliance of vehicle brands.

The scheme, expected to take effect in January, will set emissions limits on vehicle fleets with a goal of reducing passenger vehicle pollution by 60 per cent in 2030 and emissions from commercial vehicles and some large SUVs by 50 per cent. 

The budget also included $10 million for a national awareness campaign about the changes, and $60 million over four years to fund charging stations at car dealerships to support their transition to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. 

The budget also noted that Australia’s transition to electric cars was expected to cut fuel excise revenue to the government by $470 million over four years, though it was forecast to save drivers $95 billion in fuel costs by 2050. 

Australian Electric Vehicle Association national president Chris Jones welcomed the government’s decision to establish a regulatory body outside the automotive industry, but said it would also be important for the group to establish a source of independent vehicle emissions data.

“We currently rely on manufacturers for the quoted emissions intensity of their vehicles,” he said on Wednesday. 

“It would be good to have those independently tested and maintained in a database.”

Dr Jones said the budget’s forecast reduction in fuel excise revenue also hinted that the government could introduce a road-user charge in future and said a tax should apply to all vehicles rather than targeting electric models alone. 

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