Alternative Fuels Australia

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CSIRO to report on alternative fuels mid-2008

Posted by Car Geek on January 10, 2008

Australia’s leading scientific body, the CSIRO, is set to report on creating guidelines for sustainable alternative fuels in June. The Future Fuels Forum will consider not just alternatives to petrol, but also oil supplies and carbon emissions trading.

The forum will include key stakeholders including motorist groups, renewable fuel advocates and government officials and is expected to guide public policy for alternative fuel use well into the twenty-first century.

“We expect some healthy debate that will result in the development of a diverse set of scenarios for Australia’s fuel and transport future,” said John Wright, head of the Energy Transformed National Research Flagship.

“I believe the Future Fuels Forum will result in similar success [to the Energy Future Forum] and make a significant contribution towards planning a secure and sustainable transport fuel mix.”

(Source: The Age)

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Greens to major parties: let’s oil-proof Australia

Posted by Car Geek on October 16, 2007

Senator Milne, from the Australian Greens. Image from the Australian Greens. The Greens have announced today a comprehensive alternative fuels policy as part of their election campaign push. The Greens Climate and Energy spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, called on Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition leader Kevin Rudd to develop a comprehensive strategy for “oil-proofing” Australia.

The central tenet of the policy is a significant shift over the next four decades to replacing 90% of Australia’s petrol use with electrified vehicles (with the power generated from renewable sources) and second-generation biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, with an interim target of 10% biofuels use by 2020.

“The Australian Greens have been warning for years that the twin challenges of oil depletion and climate change mean we must wean ourselves off oil by moving to less polluting alternatives,” Senator Milne said today in a press release. “Through the campaign we will release more policies including: boosting public transport funding; increasing investment in clean, alternative fuels; helping shift freight from road to rail and sea; and replacing tax incentives to private car use with carbon-based taxes.”

“The Government and Opposition are promoting policies that will make the problem worse by locking us in to more roads, artificially cheaper fuel and even more polluting alternatives like coal-to-liquids.”

We’ll be covering every party’s alternative fuel policies as they’re announced in the lead-up to the November 24 federal election, so keep an eye out for more news on this front. With climate change headlining the election issues and the price of oil putting more pressure on the economy, alternative fuels may yet form a major part of any party’s election promises.

(Source: Australian Greens)

Posted in alternative fuels, Legislation | 1 Comment »

Australia may lose out in European car battle

Posted by Car Geek on September 14, 2007

Arguments between European car manufacturers and the European Union could result in further delaying imports of cleaner cars into Australia, including a variety of “clean diesel” vehicles.

The European Union has set a vehicle emissions target of 130 g of CO2 per km for its manufacturers by 2012, but auto makers says it’s “not feasible” and would add A$4100 to the cost of every car, potentially forcing them to move production outside of the Union. Adding to this potential delay is the reluctance of the European auto industry to import its clean diesel vehicles to Australia, where the quality of diesel is less of that in Europe. Australian diesel still has a relatively high level of sulfur, though this will drop from January 1, 2009 from 50 parts per million to 10 parts per million, in line with the upcoming Euro V regulations.

Speaking at the Frankfurt auto show, Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne said that car makers supported the EU legislation, but needed more time to achieve the targets. “Lead time is a common practice around the world. The Government of Japan agreed on new CO2 requirements with the car industry last year which will result in average emissions of 138 grams of CO2 per kilometre from 2015,” he said.

“The best solution to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and to safeguard jobs and investments in Europe is an integrated approach, combining further improvements in vehicle technology, an increased use of alternative fuels, improved infrastructure and traffic management, a more economic driving style and harmonised CO2-related taxation.

“This requires a partnership involving the automotive industry, the fuel industry, policy makers at all EU government levels and consumers.”

(Source: The Age)

Posted in Diesel, Legislation | 2 Comments »

Australia needs to improve its diesel fleet: expert

Posted by Car Geek on August 12, 2007

An old diesel pump, from Licenced under CC 2.0. With sales of passenger diesel vehicles increasing rapidly, some are raising concerns about the potential health hazards that diesel emissions can pose. Although Europe and the United States both have quite strict diesel particulate regulations, Australia has not yet caught up in both technology and regulations.

Associate Professor Vishy Karri, from the School of Engineering at University of Tasmania, says that Australia is in danger of falling behind global trends in reducing diesel emissions. “I would love to see Australia put strict regulations in place. In my opinion we are lagging behind and should be acting on these things sooner rather than later,” he said in an interview with the Mercury.

Although sulphur content in diesel fuel (the primary cause of particulate and smog emissions) has been greatly reduced from 500 parts per million to only 50 ppm in the past year, with a further reduction to the upcoming European standard of 10 ppm planned for 2009, the primary source of potentially dangerous emissions is not cleaner new passenger vehicles, but an ageing road transport fleet that is responsible for over 70% of diesel fuel consumption in Australia. A recent report by the National Environment Protection Council has stated that the individual states need to assist in improving the emissions of the diesel truck fleet through the use of particulate filters and oxidisation catalysts.

Alternatively, Dr Karri has supported the use of biodiesel to reduce emissions in any diesel vehicle. Biodiesel decreases almost all types of emissions, with the exception of NOx, and is produced from renewable sources in Australia such as canola. According to Dr Karri, “there are some staggering figures that show hydrocarbons and greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced, even with 2 per cent biodiesel mixture into diesel.” Despite a lack of warranty support from manufacturers, most diesel vehicles need no modification to run even pure biodiesel.

(Source: Mercury)

Posted in Biodiesel, Diesel, Legislation | 3 Comments »

WA minister supports E85

Posted by Car Geek on July 31, 2007

Photo by The West AustralianWestern Australia is setting itself up to rival Queensland as Australia’s ethanol state, if recent events are anything to go by. The submission by industry to WA’s biofuels taskforce has recommended the introduction of an E85 fuel standard, which would combine 85 per cent ethanol with 15 per cent unleaded fuel. Currently the ethanol content of fuel is capped at 10 per cent by federal regulation.

WA state minister for agriculture, Kim Chance (pictured), is supportive of the biofuels industry in Western Australia.

“There is a great potential in WA for alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol to provide significant benefits in both environmental and economic terms,” he said.

“I believe one of the most important benefits a biofuels industry in WA will provide is the boost to rural economies and an increase in employment opportunities.”

Mr Chance recently had the opportunity to drive a Saab 9-5 BioPower, currently the only flex-fuel vehicle available in Australia. He is also likely to support a mandate for minimum biofuel content in all WA fuel, likely a 5 per cent ethanol blend.

“That will be the key issue that Government will be considering, I can feel reasonably confident the Government will be supporting the other recommendations, but the issue of target and mandate around 2010 and 2011 will engender some lively discussion,” he said recently.

E5 is suitable for almost all vehicles, while E85 can only be used in vehicles that have properly modified fuel systems.

(Sources: Farm Weekly, ABC online, The West Australian)

Posted in alternative fuel, Biofuels, Ethanol, Legislation | 1 Comment »

Carbon trading – how it affects the alternative fuels market

Posted by Car Geek on July 25, 2007

Lonsdale St power station in Melbourne, photo by Earlier this month, Prime Minister John Howard announced his plan for a carbon trading market for Australia, to be introduced no later than 2012. The programme aims mainly at Australia’s worst polluters – such as electricity producers and select areas of industry – but also allows for low-emission businesses to benefit by selling their carbon allocation to heavier polluting businesses, ideally encouraging the growth of low-emission industries. But how does this affect the alternative fuels industry in Australia?

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Posted in alternative fuel, Legislation | 2 Comments »

Perth gets hybrid taxis

Posted by Car Geek on July 8, 2007

Toyota Prius taxi in NYC, from

Western Australia is set to be the third Australian state to trial hybrid taxis, with the state government offering a $15,000 grant and up to 20 per cent reduction in the vehicle lease rates for up to 10 hybrid taxis. Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that, combined, the vehicles would emit 410 tonnes less CO2 over an eight-year lifespan when compared to standard taxis such as the six-cylinder Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon.

Hybrids are well-suited to urban driving where idling and frequent start-stopping is common, making taxis an ideal candidate. New York City in the United States is planning to convert their entire fleet to hybrid vehicles, and the vehicles are also being trialled in Townsville and Sydney. Unfortunately the WA government is likely to be limited in the variety of vehicles to be offered as part of the grant application process, with only two hybrids being sold in Australia currently that would suit the role: the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid (there is also a third hybrid available, the Lexus RX400h, but at about $95,000 each it’s unlikely to be racking up the kilometres as a taxi). The programme may be extended if it is judged to be successful, but no time frame was given for a wider introduction of the hybrid vehicles.

(Source: PerthNow)

Posted in Hybrid, Legislation, Taxis | 13 Comments »

Analysis: Australia’s future fuel

Posted by Car Geek on July 5, 2007

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to take the opportunity to step back from each individual step that we’ve been focusing on here to take a look at the broader perspective.

In 2005, Australia consumed:

    – 18,712 million litres of petrol (15,856 ML of which was used in passenger vehicles)
    – 8690 million litres of diesel fuel (5,636 ML of which was used in rigid or articulated trucks)
    – 1564 million litres of LPG/CNG fuel

Current indicators are that fossil fuel use has increased in the 18 months since this data was recorded; alternative fuel use in transport was not significant enough to appear with these statistics at the time. In terms of fuel production:

    – Non-renewable fuel production has increased 446% in the last 30 years
    – Renewable fuel has increased 28% in the same period

Clearly these are not the markers of a country that has embraced alternative and renewable fuels, as much of the world is doing. This is both a weakness and an opportunity for us: although we have so far given up the chance to be a world leader in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, we have been able to observe a very rapidly maturing field of fossil fuel replacements and make a sensible decision about which is best for the Australian environment. If you’re interested in knowing who the primary contenders are, read on.

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Posted in alternative fuel, Biodiesel, Biofuels, Electric vehicles, Ethanol, fossil fuels, Hybrid, Hydrogen, Legislation, Nuclear power, renewable fuel | 5 Comments »

No love for hybrids in Australia

Posted by Car Geek on July 3, 2007

Toyota Prius, taken from

If the latest motor vehicle sales figures are anything to go by, Australia has a long way to go to clean up its act on the roads, both on the supply and demand sides. The year-to-date statistics show that just 0.5 per cent of all vehicles sold were hybrids, and 62 per cent of those vehicles were bought by governments. On a positive note, the trend for hybrids is upwards, with the past month seeing the most hybrid vehicles yet sold in Australia (380).

Why are hybrid sales so sluggish in Australia when compared to other parts of the world? There are a variety of factors that play into it, not the least of which is a lack of incentives from state and federal government to buy more efficient cars, making them a more expensive purchase than in other countries. Coupled with concerns about battery life and misconceptions about the “true” environmental cost of manufacturing, as well as a lack of variety on the supply side, it’s little wonder that most of Australia has yet to see the value in them. Given the limited market, are we likely to see an Australian hybrid on the roads any time soon or will our auto companies deem it too risky an investment?

(Sources: Courier Mail, Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Posted in Hybrid, Legislation | 1 Comment »

Have your say on a mandatory biofuels target

Posted by Car Geek on June 25, 2007

The Victorian government’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee is currently accepting submissions regarding their inquiry on mandatory ethanol and biofuels targets for the state. All members of the public are welcome to make a submission to the inquiry to give their thoughts on the possibility of mandating the use of biofuels in Victoria and its impact on the transport and fuels industry. Take a look at the EDIC website for details and suggestions on how to prepare a submission.

Posted in alternative fuels, Biofuels, Ethanol, Legislation | 1 Comment »