Fuel efficient parking spots highlight Australia's $14 billion mistake

More of these 'fuel efficient parking' signs are gradually emerging around the country, ruffling feathers among locals.

As more parking spots emerge around Australia designed to prioritise vehicles with low motor emissions, authorities are again being implored to introduce a formal fuel-efficiency standard to regulate manufacturers, ensuring they balance high-polluting vehicles with low-emission models.

Last week it surfaced that a government-owned Victorian sports centre installed a total of 10 parking spots designated for fuel-efficient cars only, which was met with a mixed reaction from locals.

The State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South, east of Melbourne's CBD, erected a sign warning patrons the spots were reserved for low emission vehicles, for guests attending one of the 18 courts in the precinct. The facility, which features a 3,200 seat show court for WNBL games, was recently upgraded in a $132 million renovation.

A sign erected at The State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South on the left, with similar poster at Mernda Town Centre on advising shoppers about fuel-efficient parking spots.
A sign erected at The State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South on the left, with a similar poster at Mernda Town Centre advising shoppers about fuel-efficient parking spots. Source: The Herald Sun / TikTok

'Fuel-efficient' parking spots divides Aussies

Last year, similar signs were erected at a Woolworths car park in Mernda, about 45 kilometres north of the Basketball Centre, advising shoppers that the only accepted vehicles in certain parks would be those that expend a maximum of five litres of fuel per 100km and "fuel efficient vehicles, hybrids and electric cars".

Woolworths later clarified the signage was a Mernda Town Centre initiative and requested their branding be removed. While many have been critical of the introduction of such parking spots, with some branding them "elitist", environment advocates say they're a big step in the right direction aimed at "future-proofing" Australia.

Earlier today, Solar Citizens chief executive Heidi Douglas said a fuel-efficiency standard was well overdue and its absence meant Aussie motorists were paying too much to fuel vehicles that were not as efficient as those sold overseas.

"We really, desperately need this new vehicle efficiency standard as soon as possible to secure cost-of-living benefits and climate benefits for everyday Australians," she said. "This is about bringing more affordable vehicles to Australia – not just electric vehicles but internal combustion and hybrid engine vehicles."

Environment advocates calls for formal fuel-efficiency standard

The issue should be treated as an apolitical manner, Douglas argued, after modelling showed a fuel standard could save consumers significant amounts on the cost of operating a motor vehicle.

An electric vehicle charging station in Newtown, Sydney.
There are spots emerging all around the country prioritising electric vehicles and those with low emissions. Source: Facebook

Government modelling for a fuel-efficiency standard proposed by the Coalition in 2016, for example, showed it could have saved consumers $27.5 billion in fuel costs between 2020 and 2025, with net benefits of $13.9 billion. "We've lost billions of dollars in savings since then," Douglas warned.

"We need the cost-of-living benefits and we can't afford to keep being locked out because of some sort of silly climate wars."

Australia lagging behind Europe and the US

A fuel-efficiency standard would work by setting an emissions limit across a manufacturer's fleet of cars, ensuring they balanced high-polluting vehicles with low-emission models. Most developed countries have a fuel-efficiency standard in place, with Australia and Russia among the only nations without one.

The United States has had such a policy since the 1970s and the European Union implemented mandatory standards in 2009.

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton called the standard a "new tax on cars and utes," and claimed the price of some vehicles would "go up dramatically" if automakers sold the same vehicles in Australia in future years, as they did in 2023.

Minister brands proposed standard as cost of living relief

But last week Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen argued the opposite, and pitched the new standards as a cost of living relief measure, given that new vehicles sold in Australia are about 40 per cent less efficient than those sold in the EU.

"Australians are paying more than they need to for petrol," Bowen said last week.

"We expect companies to comply with the law,” he said. "They don’t like the bad press that comes with not meeting fuel emissions standards and that’s why the system works in all comparable countries."

Car manufacturers that failed to meet the standards across their entire fleet would face a financial penalty from January 1, 2025. The proposed fine was $100 for every gram over the target.

The Parliamentary Friends of Electric Vehicles group will be hosted by independent MP Dr Monique Ryan and Labor MP Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, and will be joined by representatives from the Electric Vehicle Council, Origin, Good Car Company and Transurban. Public consultation on a fuel-efficiency standard is due to close on March 4.

with AAP

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