The SMH presents an expert:
Cars are no more fuel-efficient today than they were in the 1960s, a transport expert says.
At which point our transport expert should put his transport expertise badge back in the cereal box. You’ll never guess what this wizard is working on:
In research for the Garnaut climate change review, Paul Mees, of Melbourne University, has used Bureau of Statistics figures to show fuel efficiency has remained practically unchanged since 1963.
The average Australian car then used 11.4 litres of petrol to travel 100 kilometres. In 2006, the bureau’s Survey of Motor Vehicle Use shows, it was unchanged.
Modern cars also use petrol to run airconditioning, power steering, various hydraulic and electrical systems and to haul around safety equipment unknown in 1963. They’re efficient that way. Mees must know this (and, in fact, the article briefly points it out). Also, market forces are in play; manufacturers could boost economy by building cars without power steering and aircon and stripped down to the bare legal minimum of safety gear – they might call ‘em “Mees models” – but nobody would buy them. For fun, let’s compare the 1963 EH Holden with a 2008 Toyota Corolla Ascent sedan:
The Holden used a 2.45 litre six-cylinder engine that produced 71kW, eventually lugging it to 100kmh in around 16 seconds. The Toyota’s 1.8 litre four produces 100kW and whips it to 100kmh in under 10 seconds. Given time and enough study, Mees may be able to tell us which vehicle gets better fuel economy, too.
Some might feel this comparison unfair, since the Holden is a large sedan and the Toyota a compact. But check the stats:
Something there to think about the next time you read an article claiming that Australians are turning to smaller cars. Not so; small cars have turned into big cars. Back to Mees:
Dr Mees said boasts from the motor industry of emission reductions painted an erroneous picture. “The improvements in emissions you hear cited are from the promotional material released by car companies, which put the best possible spin on things. But the Australian Bureau of Statistics doesn’t put the spin on it; the current rate of progress in making cars more fuel efficient is no progress at all.”
Does he seriously doubt that modern cars are much cleaner than previously? This guy’s a riot.
Freeways had also reduced fuel efficiency, Dr Mees said. “If you drive at 110kmh you use more fuel than if you drive at 70kmh.”
Mees assumes constant 70kmh speeds on non-freeway roads. I wonder how our expert earns a living:
Paul teaches in the areas of transport, strategic urban planning and planning law.
But of course.