The Green Car Innovation Fund summarised

On Friday the 6th of February 2009 I attended a one of the Green Car Innovation Fund (GCIF) consultation sessions being held around Australia. My motivation for attending was primarily to find out how the Fund was going to work and to try to get an idea of the impact of the fund on the Australian car industry.

First, a little background. The Green Car Innovation Fund Framework Paper was released in December 2008 for public comment. The Government is inviting written submissions from interested parties in the Framework Paper. The closing date for written submissions is 5:00pm (Canberra Time) on Thursday, 12 February 2009. Submissions can be sent to:

The Manager
Green Car Innovation Fund
GCIF@innovation.gov.au

The stated objective of the GCIF is to reduce vehicle fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing research and development (R&D) and commercialisation of Australian technologies. It is only applicable to the car industry. Technologies for trucks, buses and motorcycles are not within scope. Nor is anything to do with alternative fuel infrastructure. The GCIF provides $1.3 billion in grants over 10 years beginning in July 2009. That said, Holden and Toyota have already been drinking at the well with their small car and hybrid Camry initiatives to the tune of $149 million and $35 million respectively. The funding is planned to be provided on a $1 for $3 basis.  This ratio may change as a result of the consultation sessions. Most agreed that 1 for 3  was useful for large companies but it was not practical for smaller companies and start-ups.

Grants will be allocated on a competitive basis and are open to all Australian companies or individuals willing for form a company. The funding is available via two steams.

  • Stream A is for the Motor Vehicle Producers (MVP) (Ford, Holden and Toyota). Each MVP will have access to a maximum of $300 million.
  • Stream B is open to all Australian companies, consortia or individuals not included in Stream A. A MVP can be part of a consortium in Stream B but it can’t be the lead applicant.

Importantly, despite the Stream A cap per MVP, there is no defined split in the funds available to Stream A and Stream B. The goal is to provide funding to those technologies that will provide the best results. More on that later.

Funded projects must be undertaken in Australia and directly relate to the creation, acquisition, application or commercialisation of knowledge, technology, processes, materials or products which:

  • are new or additional to the applicant
  • significantly improve the fuel-efficiency or greenhouse gas emissions of passenger motor vehicles

Technology can be acquired Internationally and adapted to use in Australia.

The GCIF will support:

  • R&D
  • Proof-of-concept
  • Early stage commercialisation
  • Pre-production development

The criteria against which applications will be judged are:

  • reduction in fuel consuption or greenhouse gas emissions
  • technical merit, extent and calibre of the innovation
  • capacity and capability of the applicant to undertake the project
  • commercial potential
  • contribution to a competitive Australian automotive industry and benefits to the economy

All the criteria seem logical but the most interesting thing I got from the presentation was the emphasis on that last point. While the fund is looking to reduce the fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions by 10 – 15  percent against the status quo baseline it is also heavily biased towards creating jobs, improving workforce skill sets, providing benefits to suppliers and growing the automotive industry in Australia. In hindsight that is obvious but I guess I went in thinking the Federal Government might actually be focussed on improving the products from our car industry to give local consumers better products and make the vehicles more competitive in export markets. It seems they are as long as that improvement comes with the creation of more jobs. Further information can be found on the GCIF web site.

An interesting aspect to the presentation that I wasn’t expecting was a politician and an inventor using the opportunity to address those assembled to seek support for their individual projects.

Source: Department of Innovation & AusIndustry presentation

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Reading: Fuel for thought

While digging around the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) web site I discovered Fuel for thought, a publication by the Future Fuels Forum 2007. This June 2008 publication informs us how the Future Fuels Forum thinks transport fuels will pan out in our future with modelling from now to 2050.  It is an interesting document and I suggest you read it if you are at all interested in the future of transport fuels in Australia. Click the cover page below to download the PDF (1.5Mb).

challenges and opportunities (PDF)

CSIRO 2008: Fuel for thought - The future of transport fuels: challenges and opportunities (PDF)

Apart from being relatively easy to read and informative for those of us without a scientific or economic background it provides great insight into the conservative information upon which our governments are making decisions that impact your future and mine. It isn’t all conservative mind you. The modelling for a continuing rise in demand for oil and a sharp decline in supply shows we could pay as much as $8 per litre for petrol in the not too distant future and the authors do stress the urgency with which alternatives for oil must be found.

While the document was written before the global financial crisis really started to bite the bulk of it remains relevant. If you do read it I’d like to know what you think so please leave a comment.

Australians rank eighth in world car ownership levels

Information from Pocket World In Figures 2009 shows that Australians rank eighth in the world of car ownership.  From the chart below it appears Aussies own approximately 540 cars per 1000 people in our population.

Cars per 1000 people

Pocket World In Figures 2009: Cars per 1000 people

I can’t say I’m surprised. A quick look around the ‘burbs highlights the number of double garages and the occasional house with five or six cars parked on the front lawn.

What is surprising is that the Unites States of America ranks lower than Australia. Due to the massive number of cars sold in the USA we Aussies tend to think Americans are the kings of car ownership. Instead they rank eight places behind us with about 470 cars per 1000 people. Even more surprising to me is the fact that countries with excellent public transport systems such as Germany (6th) and Japan (21st) have such high car ownership levels.

Source: Economist.com via Car Advice

Keep your old car or buy a new more efficient model?

On the Scientific American web site a reader asked a question that has been in the back of my mind for quite a while:

Is it better to drive an older, well-maintained car that gets about 25 miles per gallon or to buy a new car that gets about 35 miles per gallon?

The response was that it is more environmentally friendly to keep your old car running as long as you can. The proviso is that your old car has to be well maintained and continues to run efficiently. The reason is that there are environmental impacts, and quite large impacts at that, associated with the manufacture of new cars. This makes sense but was are the impacts?

Scientific American quote a Toyota analysis from 2004 that concluded that up to 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by a car during its life are the result of manufacturing and transport to the dealer. That’s a lot of emissions that can be avoided by keeping your existing car in good working order.

The article makes mention of the extra impact of manufacturing a hybrid vehicle. With a petrol engine and an electric motor under the bonnet the manufacturing of the drive train is more emissions intensive. Add the manufacture of the battery pack and hybrids definitely have some catching up to do once they get on the road.

Source: Scientific American via AutoblogGreen

KTM gets conceptual

KTM in partnership with the FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft have developed a number of concept vehicles ranging from a four wheel off-roader to a hydrofoil boat. My favourite is the oddly named sr 85 deuce, a light weight electric car that makes an Ariel Atom look positively obese.

KTM sr 85 deuce concept

FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft: KTM sr 85 deuce concept

You can view all six concepts here.

City Living versus The Great Australian Dream

For a few years now I’ve harboured a dream to be able to live life without a car. I have this imaginary lifestyle in my mind where I live in the centre of a city. Everything I need is within walking or cycling distance. On the rare occasion that I need to do a long road trip I’ll just hire a car.

A series of articles that appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Lithgow Mercury (here, here and here) got me thinking about it again. You see, Sydney planners are wanting to build an underground rail line from Central Station to Parramatta. Along that line they want to build high rise (up to 15 storeys) apartment blocks with the aim of encouraging their increasing population to live withing walking distance of the new mass transit system. From a sustainable mobility perspective the Sydney plan sounds great. The problem is the planners are fighting The Great Australian Dream. The big house with the big backyard.

Aussies want at least four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a double garage and room for the kids to run around out the back. The Great Australian Dream is the main driver behind urban sprawl in all our capital cities. To get the big block you have to live in the outer suburbs. Living in the outer suburbs means you will most likely need to drive a car to work, if not all the way then at least to the nearest decent public transport. As a result The Great Australian Dream clogs our roads in peak hour and causes us to curse everyone else following the same dream we are.

The sad news is that the Great Australian Dream is a lifestyle that is unsustainable in a peak oil world. The Sydney planners know it and so do a lot of other people, particularly Europeans who are practiced at living the width of a wall away from their neighbours. The rising cost of oil as supplies diminish will increase demand for public transport but Governments will be unable to build and maintain the infrastructure required to service the urban sprawl. We are going to have to adjust our definition of living and part of that adjustment will be living closer together, closer to public transport and closer to work.

Right now I’m almost living The Dream. I’ve got a big yard in a very quiet neighbourhood. The house is small but I’ve got a big shed. The problem is that I’m 35km from work and about 15km from the city where my better half works. There is no nearby public transport so getting to work would involve a drive followed by multiple bus and train journeys. Cycling and working from home are my best options for reducing car use but neither can be achieved every day due to distance and the need to see clients or work at clients’ sites.

So, what would it take to get me living closer to my neighbours, closer to public transport and closer to work? I’ve been mulling this over for the last few days and it all comes down to two words – lifestyle and happiness. To achieve the lifestyle and happiness I desire when living in a city centre I’d need the living environment to meet five criteria.

1. I am not prepared to live in a shoe box. I’m a country boy and I like my space. That doesn’t mean I need a big house, it just means I need room to move and an uncluttered environment in which to live. Good views would help.

2. If I’m going to move from being surrounded by not much to living shoulder to shoulder then I want to do so in a truly environmentally friendly building. It will need to be well insulated, take advantage of winter sun and summer breeze and have lots of natural light and ventilation. The building or development will have its own power supply, preferably cogeneration or trigeneration powered by natural gas.

3. Silence. I don’t want to hear the neighbours and I don’t want them to hear me. I don’t want to hear traffic even with the windows open.

4. There will be secure storage for bicycles and general living stuff underneath the building. There should be no need to clutter the place up by bringing bicycles upstairs or locking them to anything you can find. Each tenant should have their own private storage space.

5. The building or development will need to have shared facilities that provide safe and secure space for kids and adults to be active and get outdoors. Ideally it would be in a precinct that restricts the entry of cars thereby freeing up as much space as possible for parks, barbecues, swimming pool, gyms, etc. To my mind the design has failed if it encourages or necessitates car use.

That’s it. If I could find a place like that I’d seriously consider moving to the city centre or a public transport hub. I’m not sure about you but I haven”t seen or heard of any developments that meet, or even come close to, the above criteria in my city or others.

This brings us back to Sydney. If the designers and developers of the urban living environments along the Central to Parramatta mass transit system are going to tempt those chasing The Dream to live in their developments they are going to have to focus on lifestyle, not just stylish buildings. They are going to have to provide outdoor living space while building high quality, high density housing. And they are going to have to make the developments environmentally friendly otherwise they’ve lost before they’ve begun.

Victorian Transport Plan released

The Victorian Department of Transport released the Victorian Transport Plan (VTP) earlier this month. Not having a great understanding of Melbourne and Victoria make it hard to assess the VTP but at least Victoria has a plan. The proof will be in the execution.

Highlights include:

  • Up to 70 new trains and 100km of new track for Melbourne’s suburban rail systems
  • Up to 50 new trams
  • Up to 270 new buses and the continuation of the hybrid bus trial
  • Regional rail improvements to boost capacity by 9000 extra passengers and hour
  • Upgrades to regional transport infrastructure (in partnership with the Commonwealth)
  • Improved freight access to Port Melbourne
  • Completing the Melbourne ring road
  • Improving regional rail lines including electrification of existing lines
  • Fostering research into second and third generation biofuels
  • $100 million increase in funding for bicycle lanes and shared paths
  • $5 million public bicycle hire scheme for inner Melbourne
  • Encouraging the use of low emission vehicles
  • Mandatory emissions targets for State Government fleets

Negatives:

  • No transport emissions reduction target set
  • No inclusion of viable alternative fuels such as natural gas

You can download the VTP here (9.2Mb PDF).

You can download maps showing the detail here.

Freight Futures is a companion plan to the VTC dealing specifically with Victoria’s long-term freight network strategy. You can download Freight Futures here (5.3Mb PDF).