The average Australian car needs more petrol to travel the same distance as more efficient models common overseas, with climate advocates saying inaction from the government on fuel-efficiency standards is adding hundreds of dollars to the cost of road trips.
Analysis from the Climate Council has found that while drivers of battery electric vehicles charging their cars pay only a fifth of the cost of fuelling an internal combustion engine car, there is still a large discrepancy between how much it costs to run petrol-reliant vehicles of varying efficiency.
Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics averages for fuel consumption and petrol prices in the week ending on 10 December, the analysis highlights the growing cost of Australian road trips during peak holiday seasons, the council said.
Its analysis has found that it costs $196 to buy petrol for an average Australian passenger car for the trip between Brisbane and Sydney, while for a more efficient petrol car model, it would cost $79. For an electric car on the same route, it would cost just $40 to charge.
For a road trip between Melbourne and Sydney, an average Australian passenger car would need fuel worth $178, while a more efficient petrol model would only need $72. For an electric vehicle, it would cost just $38 to charge.
Driving from Canberra to Melbourne would require $136 to fuel the average car, but just $55 for a more fuel-efficient model and just $23 for an electric car.
Meanwhile, the trip from Brisbane to Cairns needs $368 in petrol for the average Australian car, $149 for a more fuel-efficient model and $75 for an electric car.
“The great Aussie road trip is a summer tradition for many families, but these days, hitting the open road comes at a huge cost to the hip pocket,” said Dr Jennifer Rayner, the Climate Council’s head of advocacy.
“We need cars that use far less fuel to help save Aussies money and cut pollution. They’re out there, but there aren’t enough of them available to buyers.”
The council is urging the Albanese government to honour its promise to introduce fuel-efficiency standards as a matter of urgency. Rayner said such a standard would help more Australians access cleaner vehicles and help to cut petrol bills.
“Every day we delay putting national standards in place, Australians are missing out and paying too much,” Rayner said.
The call for a fuel-efficiency standard from the council comes after advocates expecting details of the government’s scheme were left disappointed by the end of 2023.
While the government has promised but not yet introduced a fuel-efficiency standard, Australia stands alongside Russia as one of the few developed nations without one.
Fuel-efficiency standards set by governments create a cap for emissions across a manufacturer’s overall sales. This provides an incentive for carmakers to supply low- and zero-emissions vehicles and penalises companies that send more polluting cars to the market.
Australia’s lack of a fuel-efficiency standard has led to local EV supply issues, as manufacturers are financially incentivised to direct their stock to foreign markets. The industry reports new electric cars often selling out within hours of coming on the market.
This has led the Electric Vehicle Council CEO, Behyad Jafari, to claim Australia has become a “dumping ground” for expensive-to-run cars.
A fuel-efficiency standard would probably alter the type of vehicles that enter the Australian market.
Last week, annual car sales data showed 2023 set a record for new car sales, as demand for fuel-thirsty SUVs and utes reached new heights. Not a single sedan or hatchback ranked in the top 10 most-bought cars in Australia in 2023.
Despite the soaring popularity of SUVs – which Australia Institute analysis found has led to drivers needlessly spending an extra $13bn annually to fuel their larger cars – 16.2% of 2023’s sales were of either electric, plug-in hybrid or standard hybrid vehicles.