Toyota may have been the cleanest carmaker (other than all-electric carmaker Tesla) on a list outlining carmakers’ emissions performance, but the hybrids that won it that title have been singled out by Volkswagen Australia boss Michael Bartsch who is calling for compulsory emissions targets to be introduced.
Booming sales of Toyota Camrys, Corollas and RAV4s hybrid vehicles elped propel Toyota to the title of cleanest legacy carmaker in the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) CO2 emissions leaderboard released last week: in 2020, around 80% of RAV4s sold in Australia were hybrids.
Hybrids are being pushed by the federal government as key to its “future fuels strategy” – based on erroneous calculations which bureaucrats have admitted to. But these “mild” hybrids cannot be plugged in and therefore must burn petrol when driven, and so will always be emitters of carbon, and other emissions such as sulphur, that contribute to climate change as well as numerous health outcomes of Australians.
And while hybrids are somewhat cleaner than their pure combustion equivalents, Bartsch has criticised the hybrid technology that is sold by the likes of Toyota in Australia because of a lack of vehicle emissions standards that mean dirtier, older vehicles are able to be sold locally.
In late March, Bartsch slammed Australia’s poor stance on electric vehicle adoption likening it to a “third world for EVs“, and said its new electric ID series may not be released locally until 2023 as a result.
Now, Bartsch is taking aim at the so-called “clean” hybrids that are giving lending some carmakers a reputation for being more environmentally conscious.
“Australia is becoming a dumping ground for older and less efficient vehicles,” Bartsch said in a statement. “Even some of the popular hybrids on sale in this country utilise old tech engines that run on Australia’s standard 91RON petrol with 150 parts per million of sulphur – 15 times worse than global best practice.”
“Australia’s backwardness in terms of both Co2 and sulphur standards means our country is becoming a tip for technology that is no longer acceptable elsewhere,” he said.
Vehicles in Australia must currently meet the equivalent of the Euro 5 standard which was first introduced locally in 2011 – a decade ago. Almost all Volkswagen vehicles sold in Australia (those made in Europe) are built to the Euro 6 standard. Volkswagen does not sell any hybrids in Australia.
The Euro 6 standard is expected to be legislated in Australia by 2027, but Bartsch says the lack of vehicle emissions reductions targets means, “manufacturers will continue to prioritise modern markets both for zero-emission vehicles and the most efficient conventional engines.”
“Markets, where there are targets to meet and punitive fines if they don’t, are naturally first in line for zero-emissions vehicles,” says Bartsch.
Bartsch said that Volkswagen Australia was among auto importers that pushed for the FCAI’s Co2 voluntary emissions standard although it knew it would not do well in the first set of annual results.
Out of 39 carmakers listed in the report (and not including Tesla), Volkswagen came 12th in the passenger vehicle section which includes SUVs. Sister brand Skoda came 7th, while Audi came 16th and Porsche came 32nd.
Volkswagen came 12th out of 25 sellers of heavy vehicles including larger SUVs, ahead of Toyota which came in at 18th. In 2020, Volkswagen began sourcing the Amarok from its Argentina factory, which is made to the Euro 5 standard.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.