Hyundai has reinforced the need for new emissions regulations in Australia, suggesting the industry is eagerly waiting for a 'line in the sand' from the Federal Government on the issue.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the launch of the Hyundai Ioniq in Brisbane, Scott Nargar, manager of future mobility and government relations at Hyundai Australia, highlighted the importance of certainty surrounding emissions Down Under.
"We really need to come to an agreement, give everyone some clarity about what's happening so we can start planning for the future," he said.
"At the moment everyone's on pause of what they're doing, when they're bringing in their eco vehicles, what their eco vehicles need to be for our market."
"The industry needs clarity. We need to get a decision made to move forward," he added.
Above: Hyundai Ioniq
Nargar is part of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the peak motoring industry body, and says Hyundai isn't alone in wanting the Federal Government to move forward and set our regulations in stone. That doesn't mean things can change overnight, though.
"We've got to make sure consumers have choice in Australia, we don't want to have manufacturers pulling out because they can't meet [emissions regulations] or it comes in too early," Nargar said.
"We've got to make sure it's timed in a way that everyone has the opportunity to get the product in, and you've got to give those companies time to engineer the vehicles, remembering we're a right-hand drive market in Australia and the rest of the world is left-hand drive."
As some of the world's largest car markets enact tight emissions regulations and push to new testing standards – think Europe and WLTP – our local emissions rules have stood still.
Dubbed ADR 79/04, our standards are based on Euro 5 rules or their North American/Japanese equivalent. They were brought into force in 2011.
Although that doesn't seem like a long time ago, the world has moved quickly to tighten its rules surrounding vehicle emissions, to the point where internal combustion sales bans are now on the horizon in parts of Europe.
Nargar says conversations between the FCAI, manufacturers, and the Federal Government have recently come to a "bit of a standstill".
The back-and-forth between industry and government has been going on since 2015, as part of a "very long process" designed to balance the needs of consumers, manufacturers, and major players like fuel suppliers.
Nargar and Hyundai aren't alone in calling for greater clarity about emissions and, by extension, fuel standards. Australia has a higher sulphur content in its fuel – even premium unleaded – than much of the developed world, which causes problems in cars designed to meet European emissions standards.
At the moment, local regulations allow for 50 parts per million of sulphur in premium unleaded, and 150ppm in regular unleaded. European rules allow for a maximum of 10ppm. This disparity means Australia is ranked 70th in the world for fuel quality.
Above: Proposed fuel standards, mentioned below.
With new WLTP and Euro 6.2 emissions rules coming into play, petrol particulate filters are becoming widespread, and our fuel simply doesn't support them.
"If we don’t move with the time [on fuel], then ultimately it will become dearer here – it will become dearer from a couple of points of view," Michael Bartsch, Volkswagen Australia managing director, told journalists earlier this year.
"There’s always an opportunity cost when you don’t get real choice, so we’re going to lose choice here in Australia, and diversity in range."
"What that will do, it will give a competitive advantage to people who aren’t moving. On top of that... we’re going to be working in a smaller pool, cars being homologated specifically for the market, that will come at an additional cost," he went on.
A proposal by the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions suggested three courses of action to tackle fuel quality, having ruled out adopting global best practice by 2020.
Volkswagen is pushing for better fuel standards in Australia.
One option would see 91RON gradually removed from sale and replaced with 95RON featuring 10ppm sulphur as our base option, while another would impose the same sulphur cap, but maintain 91RON on the forecourt.
A third option suggested a blanket 10ppm cap on all fuel, with no further changes. The proposal offers timelines ranging from 2022 to 2027 for the rollout.
The FCAI favours the most aggressive course of action, while the AAA says aggressive targets will have a big impact on the average household budget.
Bartsch pulled no punches while addressing this point of view, arguing the AAA and fuel companies are "pulling the wool over people's eyes" on the issue. He even suggested we're at risk of becoming a "dumping ground" for dirty old technology.