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Car sales are up: Are they Energy Efficient?

Malaysia Automotive Association (MAA) has announced that the passenger vehicle sales are the highest in 5 years for 2009 and will continue to grow. This is a serious trend that we need to monitor.

The Department of Environment’s 2009 Annual Report states that we have 8,940,230 motorcycles; 8,506,080 passenger cars; 936,222 goods vehicles; 79,149 taxis and 66,581 buses registered in Malaysia. In the same report, it also shows that there was an increase of 539,555 passenger cars between 2008 and 2009.

With increasing number of vehicles on the road, it is not surprising that the energy resources allocation for the transportation sector is very high. Until Malaysia has full-fledged public transportation system, passenger cars will continue to play an important role in transportation. This also means that demand to energy resources in transportation sector will continue to grow higher every year.

The fundamental question is, are these vehicles energy efficient?

For example, European Union has embarked on Energy Efficiency Labelling for vehicles. The European labelling system uses A to G as indicator, where A is the most efficient and G being not efficient. Such labels can assist public to make a wise choice in purchasing a vehicle. Malaysia needs such labelling as well. This will not only assist Malaysians to be more environmentally friendly, but also to save their cost in fuel purchasing in longer run.

To ensure such labelling process can take place, Energy Commission and SIRIM must develop a common testing mechanism to certify vehicles first. Eventually, laboratories need to be equipped to test such vehicles as well. Energy Commission has already developed a Star Rating system. This system consists of lowest of 1 Star and highest of 5 Star rating which is covering selected electrical products. This system can be further improved to cater for vehicles as well as to help public to identify energy efficient vehicles.

In addition to that, the hybrid cars energy efficiency claims must also be strictly monitored. In Malaysia, energy production efficiency is about 35%. Each kiloWatthour (1kWhr) releases 0.6 kg of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) at the current electricity supply efficiency.

This electricity will be converted to charge a battery for hybrid car. If the efficiency of electricity converter is only 60% efficient in charging the battery, the hybrid car’s battery effectively will be only 21% efficient in the total use of electricity supplied. Therefore it wastes energy resources and causing more CO2 emission.

In a direct combustion in engine, the efficiency can go higher than 40%. Therefore, hybrid cars need to be carefully studied on its impact to environment. To solve such headache, it is wise to have energy efficiency labelling in longer run to protect the public.

Only through transparent and independent certification, Malaysians can enjoy energy efficient cars. This will allow them to save their fuel cost as well as reducing carbon emission. It helps also to reduce high energy resources demand from transportation sector.

Piarapakaran S.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)

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