Governing for a Clean Vehicle Future
As the year approaches an end, several contentious issues appear set to spill over into 2017. Notwithstanding the farewell to Ford and Holden’s contributions to the manufacturing scene, the ACCC played a central role this quarter in defining a future framework applicable for all industry stakeholders.
A sad juncture was reached in the local auto manufacturing scene, with Ford and Holden both drawing a line under production operations. The former closed its manufacturing facilities after 91 years of operation within Australia, while Holden closed the nation’s last remaining engine plant – it remains on track to conclude its production of vehicles in November 2017. A small consolation, Brisbane saw the opening of a manufacturing workshop intended to be a hub for producing solar electric vehicles.
Safety and Environment
In response to the ACCC’s issues paper released a few months ago, the AAA commenced testing local vehicles to gauge their performance against specified fuel and emissions numbers. Among the body’s early findings, real-world performance in these areas far under-performs the results achieved within lab conditions. While deceptive conduct has been ruled out, the extent of the discrepancies is leading to calls for vehicles to be tested within an on-road environment.
As a side issue, and one that will no doubt generate much interest in the coming months, the Federal Government is mulling whether to amend fuel efficiency standards to reduce emission levels. The risk to motorists however, is that regular unleaded fuel could be scrapped and they would be forced to pay more at the pump every time.
Lastly, Volkswagen Australia added another 35,000 vehicles to its recall and rectification program for local vehicles affected by the well-known Dieselgate saga.
Driverless vehicles took a step closer to their eventual roll-out within Australia, with a slew of initiatives and rumours from manufacturers like Audi, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Apple and Google. In Victoria, Bosch, VicRoads and TAC unveiled their own prototype for Australia’s first autonomous car. Across a wider scale, government ministers have agreed to facilitate testing of self driving vehicles within Australia over the next few years
The momentum behind alternative energy vehicles also continues to surge. The Adelaide government announced plans for 40 electric charging stations across the city in 2017. Meanwhile, the ACT intend to increase electric vehicle uptake within the public sector as part of a broader goal for zero emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, Toyota launched a local trial of the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel-cell car, the Mirai.
Abroad, and the future of diesel powered vehicles could be set for a review, with Volkswagen one of the auto-makers weighing up the lifespan of the technology within the US market – often a forerunner for other markets. Petrol and diesel vehicles could be banned within Germany by 2030, with a resolution passing the German upper house back in October – precipitating a move towards hydrogen powered vehicles.
Other technological highlights included:
- Vodafone’s plans to allow vehicles to communicate with one another and avoid accidents
- Supercapacitors could soon be used in place of batteries to charge electric vehicles in seconds
- The SA Government investing $10m towards R&D plus testing for connected and autonomous vehicles
The ACCC was heavily active this quarter, most emphatically with its issues paper for the new retail car market. The watchdog highlighted numerous issues it proposes to examine, including warranties, consumer rights, fuel and emissions practices, repair and service info, and much more.
Also within its sights, the ACCC focused on Tesla’s claims surrounding its vehicles’ self-driving capabilities – wary that the wording used by the auto-maker could frame consumers’ expectations. Rounding out the local scene, a pay per km scheme reared its head again, with the government now conducting an investigation into the proposal raised earlier this year.