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Will Australia import more efficient technology?

Posted by Car Geek on September 1, 2007

While pressure mounts considerably for auto companies in the US to clean up their act, and an impressive range of new technologies make their way on to the market to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, there is still some question about whether or not these innovations will find their way into Australian cars.

General Motors, the US owner of Holden, has recently announced a wide range of fuel-saving innovations to their vehicles, ranging from hybrid powertrains to diesels, direct injection engines and cylinder deactivation. Some models released under the Holden badge in Australia even have hybrid counterparts in the United States, such as the Saturn Vue (known as the Captiva MaXX here). However, despite a recent shift in focus within Holden towards being part of the global GM group rather than considering itself a separate entity, the Melbourne-based car manufacturer has made no suggestions one way or another about importing some of GM’s technology for use in its Australian-made or imported vehicles. Spokesman John Lindsay admitted to the existence of “some (VE Commodore) mules running around with hybrid systems in them”, but said that there are no plans to bring a hybrid Commodore to production at this stage. Similarly there seems to be no move to use more conventional engine technology such as direct injection in their Australian-built engines, let alone much hope for radical projects such as the Chevy Volt to make their way to our shores. Paradoxically, Holden exports a version of the Commodore Omega that is capable of using a 24% ethanol blend to Brazil (under the Chevrolet brand), but will not endorse the use of ethanol concentrations above 10% for its Australian vehicles.

The situation seems paralleled at Ford, with the US branch currently looking into longer-term solutions such as hydrogen-hybrid Focus and HySeries experimental vehicles, as well as an existing range of ethanol-capable and hybrid vehicles and powertrain developments such as continuously variable transmission.  Ford Motor Company Australia recently made the tough decision to close its production of the “Barra” engine at Geelong in favour of importing the more efficient Duratec engine from Detroit, which is a significant move for the industry, however the company has made it clear that the likelihood of seeing a Ford-badged hybrid on Australian roads in the near future is remote.

With the Australian market too small to cost-effectively innovate on a large scale, the auto industry’s best hope is to exploit its global partnerships and import technology to help reduce fuel consumption and emissions from Australian vehicles, but it’s likely that the cultural shift required for the industry to embrace such globalisation may take some time.

(Source: Drive, Carsguide)

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Posted in alternative fuels, Ethanol, Ford, Holden, Hybrid, Hydrogen | 2 Comments »