Motor transport

Using motor vehicles to get to work or travel around is a very convenient option for many people and one we often take for granted.

Cars and motorcycles have a significant effect on our environment—they use fuel mainly from non-renewable resources and add to greenhouse gas emissions, air and noise pollution. In fact motor vehicles remain a major cause of air pollution in urban Australia. Even water quality is affected as oily run-off and particles from roads are washed into stormwater drains ending up in our waterways and oceans. A small amount of oil can contaminate waterways and smother plants and animals—one litre of oil is enough to pollute one million litres of water.

The manufacture and maintenance of motor vehicles also impacts the environment by using non-renewable resources like metals, plastics, petroleum and other fossil fuels.

If you're looking for ways to minimise your travel impact and costs here is some information which could help.

Fuel-efficient cars

Driving a fuel-efficient car saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. A fuel-efficient car can save you almost $1,000 a year in fuel costs and reduce your car's greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 tonnes a year. That's around half the cost and emissions than those of a less efficient car. Driving efficiently will result in further savings.

For example:

  • a less fuel-efficient car can:
    • use 10 litres per 100 kilometres
    • cost $1,914 for fuel per year
    • emit around 3 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year
  • a more fuel-efficient car can:
    • use 5 litres per 100 kilometres
    • cost $957 for fuel per year
    • emit around 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

The dollar savings and greenhouse gas emissions in these calculations are based on a petrol car using a sample petrol price of $1.45 a litre, over a travel distance of 13,200 kilometres per year with a mix of urban and rural driving. Other fuel types may result in different costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

You can compare the greenhouse and air pollution emissions and fuel economy of different cars (including four-wheel drives and light commercial vehicles) by using the Green Vehicle Guide. You can also use the Fuel Calculator to estimate your annual fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

All new light vehicles (cars, four-wheel drives and light commercial vehicles) sold in Australia must display a Fuel Consumption Label on the windscreen. The Label is designed to help motorists compare and make informed decisions about the fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions of different makes and models of cars.

Hybrid cars

A hybrid car uses two different power sources to move the vehicle, most commonly a petrol engine and one or more electric motors.

Hybrid vehicles are very fuel-efficient in cities and towns. They produce less greenhouse gas emissions and use less fuel than nearly all other cars. Hybrids are also fuel efficient for rural driving—however, some non-hybrid fuel-efficient cars can also achieve similar or better levels of fuel economy. Most hybrids don't need to be 'plugged in' to a power source as the batteries are recharged from the energy produced by the vehicle.

Hybrid cars can be very quiet when running only on the electric motor.

Electric cars

Electric cars offer great potential as a low-emission form of transport. Electric vehicles use a battery-powered electric motor to move the vehicle and are recharged from mains electricity.

A major benefit of electric cars is that they don't produce greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution when driven and have much lower noise pollution levels. If renewable energy such as solar power or GreenPower is used to recharge the batteries then greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Their running costs are also much lower.

Electric cars can deliver similar levels of performance to some conventional cars—however, they can only travel a relatively limited distance (compared to conventional cars) before their batteries need to be recharged. Recharging can take a long time.

As the technology for electric cars continues to develop and the market expands, they are expected to become more common.

Motorcycles and motor scooters

Motorcycles and motor scooters are growing in popularity for commuting as they usually have lower fuel and running costs than cars. They're generally easier and cheaper to park and can be an enjoyable way of travelling. Motorcycles and motor scooters also have lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre when compared with most cars.

The cleanest motor scooters available in Australia are electric and have no on-road greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution. However, they generally have a low top speed and a limited travel range before you need to recharge. Recharging can take a long time.

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Did you know?

  • At 110 kilometres per hour your car uses up to 25 per cent more fuel than it would at 90 kilometres per hour.