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The case for an Australian-made small second car

By Valerie Yule - posted Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Australian production of very small cars for households, to be used as a second car would make environmental good sense. The main problem of safety in traffic associated with these small cars can be solved.

More than half of Australian households are likely to have more than one car. Up to 80 per cent of cars on the road are estimated to carry just one person. Australian-made small “second-cars” for city travel could help to solve three problems.

For our security and future economy, Australia needs to maintain a sustainable heavy industry, basic manufactures, the skills required, and skilled tradesmen. Innovation is needed to reduce the present reliance of the automotive industry on producing uneconomic and environmentally unsustainable large cars, without scrapping all the factories, equipment and workers that make them.


Single-occupant private cars contribute significantly to carbon emissions and other pollution, resource depletion and other global problems related to climate change and future shortages. And their usual size increases traffic congestion.

A visitor from Mars would be astonished that to go anywhere one person takes around with him a tonne of metal. Buck Rogers future-comics never imagined such a form of transport. There is a story of aliens who assume that cars are the main players on earth; humans are merely objects needed to steer them.

Large second cars have been the automatic choice when petrol costs, carbon emissions, climate change, traffic congestion and pollution were not anything to worry about. But no more.

Australians could produce light, cheap two-seater citicars as second cars for households. There are also large potential markets for small cars for older drivers and for young adults on tight budgets, who can borrow or rent a larger car when needed.

Smaller cars reduce parking problems, including at public-transport connections.

Problems and possible solutions

The major problem for small cars is the real and perceived dangers in traffic.


It would be necessary for city roads to have speed limits under 50kph, and “safe lanes” on urban freeways where heavy trucks and 4WDs had to take special care about visibility of small cars.

It may be time to tax urban-based 4WDs to extinction so that small cars were less at risk. 4WDs have poor visibility when it comes to spotting small vehicles, and typically drivers are less skilled than truck-drivers. The main reason cited for the urban use of 4WDs is that it provides a feeling that it is safer driving a two-tonne monster. “Personal tanks” do, on the whole, increase personal safety but they reduce the safety of others: they are responsible for more third-party accidents through obscuring other drivers’ views, both when they are parked as well as when they are being driven on the roads.

Drivers of small cars have their vision impeded by large 4WDs in car parks and at crossroads; 4WDs cause more congestion, waste more fuel, and as recreational vehicles, are spoilers of bushland, creeks and other on-road and off-road rural environments.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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