Australia must ban sales of new petrol cars by 2035 and introduce "world-class" fuel efficiency standards within two years to meet its 2050 net-zero emissions target, a new report has warned.
The analysis from the International Council on Clean Transport revealed Australia would not only miss its climate goals under the automotive industry's current voluntary code but petrol cars would continue to "dominate" the local market even past 2050.
Environmental groups said the report showed new regulations were urgently needed and the automotive industry could not be trusted to set its own targets.
The report, issued on Tuesday, found Australia could cut 96 per cent of emissions from light vehicles if it adopted regulations already in place in Europe, New Zealand and the US state of California.
These "world-class standards", the study said, should include a ban on new petrol car sales by 2035 in favour of battery electric vehicles, and the introduction of fuel efficiency standards to reduce emissions from petrol cars before the deadline.
The report's lead author, Tanzila Khan, said she urged Australian policymakers to "adopt the world-class standards starting no later than 2024" to have a chance of meeting its net-zero goal.
But if Australia instead used the existing voluntary targets created by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the report found, the country could only reduce emissions by 35 per cent in 2050.
Petrol cars would also continue to "dominate" transport in Australia under this scenario, the modelling found, making up 68 per cent of the market.
Co-author Zifei Yang said the study proved Australia could significantly reduce carbon emissions if it acted swiftly.
"It's abundantly clear that emission standards would be effective in driving significant reductions in CO2 emissions from Australia's fleet," she said.
Greenpeace Australia senior transport campaigner Lindsay Soutar said the report showed Australia had "a lot of catching up to do" to ensure the country did not lag behind other nations.
Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles made up 12 per cent of Australia's carbon emissions in 2021, he said, and new laws were needed to reduce them.
"The car industry clearly cannot be trusted when it comes to regulating emissions from the vehicles it sells," Ms Soutar said.
"The current voluntary standard would see the car market dominated by the sale of fossil fuel-guzzling, pollution-belching petrol vehicles well into the 2050s."
But chamber chief executive Tony Weber defended the industry's voluntary standards, which he said were introduced in 2020 in the absence of a government policy.
The standards sought to reduce emissions from passenger cars and "light SUVs" by four per cent per year until 2030.
Mr Weber said the organisation was now working with the federal government to develop new fuel standards, and warned more work needed was needed to roll out charging infrastructure and ensure electric vehicles met consumers' needs.
"Ultimately government and industry can work in this space but nothing changes unless consumers come along for the journey," he said.
"Consumers need to be provided with products they want to buy at price points they can afford (and) products that will meet their needs for work and leisure."
The federal government released its National Electric Vehicle Strategy consultation paper in September, which asked questions about fuel efficiency standards and petrol car bans, and received more than 500 submissions.
The ACT is the only state or territory to announce a ban on petrol and diesel car sales by 2035 to date, though energy giant BHP has put forward a similar proposal, and the Committee for Sydney proposed a ban on petrol and diesel vehicles in 2027.