The Australian Government has just committed to introducing fuel efficiency standards as part of its National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

Fuel efficiency standards limit carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. Australia and Russia are the only developed countries without them.

As a result, the average emissions intensity of new passenger vehicles purchased in Australia is around 45% higher than in the European Union. Australia's vehicle emissions are in overdrive. We must put them in reverse.

Emissions from vehicle exhausts are dangerous. They increase climate pollution and other pollutants like fine particles and nitrogen oxides (NOx) which can lead to lung and heart disease and cancer.

Our government must act now to deliver strong standards so that we:

  • take unhealthy car pollution off our roads;
  • provide clarity to manufacturers and get en route to cleaner (and more accessible) transport solutions;
  • and cut climate pollution.

Take action now: Make a comment for strong fuel efficiency standards in Australia before the Friday 31 May deadline, and we'll include it as part of an ACF community submission to the Australian government. 

Make a comment

Climate impacts of vehicle emissions

Petrol and diesel vehicles emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and Australia's road vehicle fleet is one of the most emissions-intensive in the world.

Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in Australia have skyrocketed by nearly 60%.

Transport is now Australia's second-largest source of climate pollution, trailing only burning fossil fuels like coal and gas for energy. Australian cars, vans and utes make up 60% of Australia’s transport pollution and produce up to 40% more than their European counterparts.

Australia’s vehicle emissions vs the world

Over 80% of cars sold worldwide are subject to fuel efficiency standards which limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they can emit, including all vehicles sold in:

  • Brazil
  • China
  • The European Union
  • India
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States of America

Australia however, is stuck in the slow lane and is yet to introduce fuel efficiency standards. Manufacturers have no obligation to limit the carbon dioxide emissions of cars sold in Australia.

Introducing strong standards now would push manufacturers to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles in Australia, and for cheaper.


Strong fuel efficiency standards now would make Electric Vehicles much more affordable to more people in Australia. Photo: Julie Meehan

Fuel efficiency standards are critical for phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles, and replacing them with renewable-powered electric vehicles (EVs).

Countries with fuel efficiency standards are enjoying a much faster uptake of EVs than Australia.

Electric vehicle uptake by country

Country % of new vehicles sold in 2021 that were EVs Do they have fuel efficiency standards?
Norway 86% yes
Germany 26% yes
United Kingdom 19% yes
France 19% yes
China 16% yes
United States of America 5% yes
Australia 2.8% no

The rest of the world has zoomed ahead, but we can catch up and travel cleaner for a safe climate. Strong fuel efficiency standards now would lead to:

  • more electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia: manufacturers would be required to sell more electric vehicles, and make them more affordable to more people
  • more EV infrastructure: like fast-charging stations to meet the increase in EVs
  • fuel savings for more people: EVs are about 50% cheaper to run than petrol cars
  • phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles
  • getting closer to zero emissions transport

Fuel efficiency standards, however, are set across the fleet of vehicles sold by a manufacturer and will only impact new vehicles. Manufacturers will still be able to sell individual high-emission vehicles, so long as the average emissions of new vehicles sold do not exceed the target.

To achieve zero emissions transport in Australia, we must also:

  • Invest in renewable-powered electric buses and trains
  • Get more people taking public transport, cycling and walking

Make a comment now demanding strong fuel efficiency standards for Australia and help clean up our road transport!

Make a comment

Melbourne car traffic

Photo: James Coleman

Health impacts of vehicle emissions

Breathing in the emissions from vehicle exhausts can lead to serious health impacts, like asthma and heart and lung disease. New research from the University of Melbourne shows that Australian car pollution may cause ten times more premature deaths than road accidents.

The research found that vehicle pollution in Australia may cause:

  • 11,105 premature deaths in adults per year
  • 12,210 people hospitalised with cardiovascular issues
  • 6,840 people hospitalised with respiratory problems
  • 66,000 active asthma cases per year;
  • and by comparison, 1,187 people were killed in road accidents in 2022.

Australia has had vehicle emission standards since the 1970s that limit the amount of some of these air pollutants, including:

  • carbon monoxide
  • nitrogen oxide
  • and sulphur dioxide

But we can be doing much more to take unhealthy car pollution off our roads.

Strong fuel efficiency standards can put us on track to a zero emissions transport future, and significantly reduce air pollution on our roads.

Economic impacts of vehicle emissions

Maintaining our current approach to road transport could cost Australia $865 billion between 2022 and 2050.

This is made up of the following costs to the community:

  • Air pollution: $488 billion (56%)
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: $205 billion (24%)
  • Noise: $95 billion (11%)
  • Water pollution: $76 billion (9%)

Adopting more ambitious zero-emission road transport scenarios has the potential to result in a significant reduction in these costs. Multiple studies have found that vehicle fuel efficiency offers one of the lowest-cost emissions reduction opportunities in Australia.

A swift transition to net zero and an increased share of public transport could save us $492 billion in avoided costs.

Who decides Australia’s fuel efficiency standards?

The Australian Government is responsible for vehicle emission standards.

It can decide to introduce fuel efficiency standards for Australia, and how strong they are.

With action now, we can catch up to the rest of the world, and clean up our transport and air pollution for a healthier Australia with a safer climate.

At a minimum, the fuel efficiency standards should be as strong as the preferred standard in 2017 (105 gCO2/km) to be reached by 2025 with a phase-in period and a set timeframe for further increasing the standard to align with the EU standard. See ACF’s submission into the National Electric Vehicle Strategy for more in-depth analysis.

Header image: Ethan Hoosen


Luke Reade

Climate and Energy Policy Adviser