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Australia becoming an "automotive third-world country" says Jaguar Land Rover

The new Range Rover Evoque to miss out on advanced engine technology
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

2 Apr 2019 • 3 min read

Australia's poor-quality fuel is to blame for our drivers missing out on the most efficient Range Rover Evoque engine choices, with the brand's management warning we're becoming an "automotive third-world country".

The fuel quality debate has been raging in Australia for some time, with some manufacturers now unable to introduce their most advanced engine technology here owing to the high sulphur content of our fuel.

Australian standards demand a maximum 150ppm (parts per million) of sulphur for unleaded petrol, and 50ppm for premium unleaded fuel. But those numbers are significantly higher than those in much of the western world, with Europe averaging just 10ppm.

The Australian Government has announced plans to reduce the amount of sulphur in petrol to 10ppm by 2027. But car makers fear it will be too little too late.

The most recent victim is Range Rover, which has introduced mild-hybrid technology (MHEV) on its petrol-powered Evoque range internationally, but is unable to introduce it here because the technology requires a petrol particulate filter (PPF) that won't accept our poor-quality fuel.

As a result, Australia's petrol-powered Range Rover Evoques equipped with the P200 or P250 engines are both less powerful and less efficient than their international counterparts.

"Some of our latest technologies, like our MHEV, we can't take in Australia because they've only made it with a petrol particulate filter, but it wouldn't be successful in Australia with the current fuel we have on offer," says Range Rover spokesperson, James Scrimshaw.

"That means we miss out on 140Nm of torque from the electric motor, and our cars are six per cent less fuel efficient, and emit eight more grams of C02 per kilometre, than international versions. They also miss out on the silent stop/start, which turns the engine off at under 17km/h, making them much quieter in the city.

"Australia is turning into an automotive third-world country."

Range Rover isn't alone, either. Fellow European brand Volkswagen has been among the most vocal on Australia's fuel quality, with the brand facing a future in which it will miss out on the most advanced engines available in its international line-up.

“Conventional vehicles will co-exist with EVs beyond the next decade so an immediate concern for Australian car buyers is that they are losing access to the most efficient petrol engines and hybrids," says VW spokesperson, Paul Pottinger.

"These are manufactured with particulate filters designed to run on European quality petrol, which contains less than 10 parts per million of sulphur. Petrol in Australia contains up to 150ppm, the worst quality among OECD nations, rendering engines with petrol particulate filters non-starters for this market. Even premium unleaded can contain up to 50ppm.

"There is nothing to stop fuel companies importing first world quality petrol tomorrow and installing it on station forecourts in place of current premium unleaded.

“First-world fuel quality petrol is required to get a first-world emissions outcome.”

The Australian Institute of Petroleum has been contacted for comment.

Is Australia being left behind by the automotive world? Tell us in the comments below.