TALE OF THE TAILPIPE
Stricter emissions rules overseas will bring ever-cleaner tech to Australia
Fuel prices are at record highs. Motorists are threatening to boycott petrol stations. Is it time to update to a more fuel-efficient car? We will soon have a much bigger choice of what powers our vehicles. Car brands are building more environmentally friendly vehicles in response to stricter emissions regulations overseas and those cars eventually will come here.
New technology has given petrol and diesel an extra lease of life and more brands are adding hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars. Then there’s what many believe to be the end game: hydrogen.
Here’s what’s available now — and what’s around the corner.
Turbos have become popular because makers can fit smaller, more efficient engines without sacrificing performance. European brands led the way and Japan and the US followed suit. The VW Polo and Golf are prime examples, with small capacity turbo three and four-cylinder power in lieu of bigger non-turbo engines.
BMW shares a turbo three-cylinder with Mini for its entry level 3 Series sedan.
Toyota introduced a small turbo fourcylinder with its city SUV, the swoopy C-HR.
The Ford Escape and Holden Equinox midsize SUVs are available with 1.5-litre turbos and yet have as much oomph as larger, naturally aspirated predecessors.
The best example of doing a lot with a little are large seven-seat SUVs such as the Mazda CX-9, which uses a turbo four — rivals use V6s — and the new Volvo XC90, with turbo and supercharged four-cylinder.
More power from smaller engines, frugal when not driven hard.
Often require dearer, premium fuel. Better suited to small cars.
Most commonly, turbo diesels power large SUVs, 4WDs and double-cab utes. They make plenty of grunt at low revs, ideal for towing and carrying heavy loads.
However, they are not suited to frequent short trips in the city. Diesel particulate filters — necessary to clean tailpipe emissions — can clog if they don’t regularly stretch their legs and “burn off ” the residue.
Diesel is all but dead in passenger cars thanks to gains in petrol engine technology — and Dieselgate. Porsche recently dropped diesel power for its new Cayenne SUV in favour of petrol-electric plug-in hybrid tech. Most luxury SUV rivals still use diesel.
Strong torque at low revs, good highway fuel efficiency, ideal for heavy loads or towing.
Future technology required to reduce diesel emissions adds complexity and cost.
The Toyota Prius is the world’s best-known hybrid car but petrol-electric tech is on the verge of becoming mainstream as the cost comes down. In addition to three dedicated Prius versions, you can now buy hybrid versions of Toyota’s Corolla, Camry, and C-HR.