Green car handout isn’t the answer

The government’s decision to give $35million of taxpayers’ money to Toyota to persuade them to build a hybrid Camry in Australia is not a bad thing, but is it really doing anything to fight climate change?

Toyota was going to build the car anyway, and the only question was whether to build it in Australia or Thailand. So the tax handout may have helped secure a few hundred Australian jobs (at the expense of Thai workers) but it isn’t R&D money to develop any new, low-emissions technology.

In fact it’s debatable whether Australia’s small car industry has the capacity to contribute much to development of clean car technology. It seems, after much hot air about hydrogen, that plug-in hybrids are now acknowledged as the obvious future for green cars.

A hybrid has an electric motor plus a petrol engine. The electric motor operates at lower speeds, in traffic, while the petrol engine kicks in at higher cruising speeds, where it is more efficient. The petrol engine also recharges the electric motor during driving. A plug-in hybrid has an electric motor that can also be recharged from grid electricity (by plugging it in to an electricity socket in your garage, for instance).

Within the next decade, we should be seeing plug-in hybrids that can drive from Sydney to Brisbane on one charge and one tank of petrol (or ethanol). Beyond that, development of all-electric cars that can drive all day on a single battery charge will make petrol engines redundant.

The technology is already here. What’s needed to speed up development is more subsidies and tax breaks for low-emissions cars. Although, of course, rising petrol prices may achieve this anyway.

But electric cars are only as “green” as the source of electricity that powers them. And this, I feel, is where Australia could better contribute to the global effort on climate change. We’ve got some of the world’s leading solar energy researchers (the ones who haven’t already moved to California) and vast amounts of sunlight.

And our money might also be better spent investing in improved public transport. By getting people out of their cars altogether, this can save far more energy and greenhouse emissions than hybrid cars.

If you’re interested in green cars, see this guide from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Drive website


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    I think it’s better if we develop more hybrid cars so that we prevent climate change, I also think that water-powered cars could also be a big help…but either way, since both were environment-friendly, I think we should produce more more care like those.

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