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 on 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 have re­cently fol­lowed suit.

The VW Polo and Golf are prime ex­am­ples, us­ing 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 four-cylin­der with its city SUV, the swoopy C-HR.

The Ford Escape and Holden Equinox mid-size 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.

Pros: More power from smaller en­gines, fru­gal when not driven hard.

Cons: 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.

Pros: Strong torque at low revs, good high­way fuel ef­fi­ciency, ideal for heavy loads or tow­ing.

Cons: 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. From next year there’ll be a hy­brid RAV4.

Ev­ery Lexus — ex­cept the LX four-wheel drive — is avail­able as a hy­brid.

Hyundai is about to en­ter the fray with its i30-based Ioniq, giv­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally aware mo­torists a main­stream al­ter­na­tive.

Mercedes has adopted “mild hy­brid” tech, dubbed EQ Boost, for its en­try level C-Class sedan. Rather than move the car on elec­tric power alone (as a Toy­ota hy­brid does) it as­sists the 1.5-litre four-cylin­der turbo when ac­cel­er­at­ing.

Other luxury brands are poised to fol­low.

Pros: More ef­fi­cient in stop-start traf­fic be­cause the elec­tric mo­tor moves the car from rest. This can halve fuel con­sump­tion.

Cons: More ex­pen­sive than con­ven­tional en­gines and petrol-free driv­ing is lim­ited to short bursts.


Cars that plug into a power point or fill up at a ser­vice sta­tion are in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar but for now are largely ex­clu­sive to luxury brands.

Aus­tralia’s big­gest sell­ing plug-in hy­brid, the Mit­subishi Out­lander PHEV from $50,490, has rel­a­tively small over­all vol­ume.

The game-changer could be the plug-in ver­sion of Hyundai’s Ioniq, which is likely to be sharply priced and en­thu­si­as­ti­cally mar­keted when it launches in De­cem­ber.

Among early adopters, there are plug-in ver­sions of the Volvo XC90, Porsche Cayenne and Panam­era, the Mercedes C350e, GLE500e, and S500e limou­sine.

BMW has the broad­est spread among the Ger­man brands, with PHEV ver­sions of the 2 Se­ries com­pact peo­ple-mover, 3 Se­ries and 5 Se­ries sedans, and the X5 SUV.

Pros: No range anx­i­ety thanks to the petrol en­gine back-up. With up to 50km of elec­tric driv­ing be­tween charges, some own­ers may not need to use petrol on the daily com­mute.

Cons: Elec­tric driv­ing range is op­ti­mistic. Lim­ited ac­cess to recharge points be­yond the house­hold. The petrol en­gine is re­dun­dant most of the time.


Tesla is the world’s best known brand but there will be a flood of com­pe­ti­tion from Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW among oth­ers, some im­mi­nent or within two years.

Show­rooms await the Jaguar i-Pace, Porsche Tay­can, Mercedes EQ and BMW i3 (pure elec­tric or a plug-in hy­brid).

The main­stream won’t miss out. Hyundai launches an all-elec­tric ver­sion of the Ioniq in De­cem­ber, while Nis­san’s new Leaf is due mid-2019.

Kia is look­ing to launch an elec­tric SUV next year and fol­low up with two or three mod­els over the next cou­ple of years. Volk­swa­gen and Re­nault are poised to en­ter the mar­ket in a sim­i­lar time frame.

The driv­ing range on the above EVs varies. Ex­pe­ri­ence shows, as with fuel con­sump­tion la­bels, claims of be­tween 250km and 500km are op­ti­mistic.

Prices are yet to be an­nounced but ex­pect a start­ing price of at least $50,000: twice the price of a con­ven­tional hatch but half as much as the cheap­est Tesla.

Pros: Emis­sions are not from the tailpipe but from the en­ergy sup­plier, zippy per­for­mance, al­most silent mo­tor­ing.

Cons: Driv­ing range is op­ti­mistic. Lim­ited ac­cess to recharge points be­yond house­hold and pub­lic charg­ing points. Bat­tery dead? You’ll need a tow truck, not a jump start.


This could be the end game but it’s a case of chicken ver­sus egg. Hyundai is about to in­tro­duce its sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion hy­dro­gen car and Toy­ota is test­ing a fleet of fuel cell ve­hi­cles lo­cally.

But for now there is just one re­fu­elling point at Hyundai’s of­fice in Syd­ney. Toy­ota uses a mo­bile re­fu­eller on the back of a truck to fol­low its fleet. The ACT Govern­ment is about to in­stall a hy­dro­gen re­fu­elling point as part of a trial of 20 Hyundai Nexo SUVs.

Pros: You can re­fuel as quickly as a petrol car and get the same range.

Cons: The tech is pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive and there’s scant re­fu­elling in­fras­truc­ture.

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