October 4, 2010

We (still) don't know how lucky we are … for now

Toyota had a couple of interesting things to say about petrol and diesel at its Highlander SUV launch today. One was that, despite the recent tax and GST increase at the pumps, we still have one of the cheapest petrol prices. Check out the graph above (click to make it bigger) that shows, in New Zealand currency, we're the fourth cheapest place for petrol. The blue bit shows the tax portion in NZ cents, the green is the pre-tax price. So be glad you're not in Norway or Turkey, then.

The lower chart from Toyota tracks the rise of diesel (red line) over the last eight years, and the decline of petrol (blue line). But wait, It also shows petrol's levelled out, poised – suggests Toyota – to make something of a comeback. As a recent purchaser of a petrol vehicle, this is music to my ears. Several reasons for the comeback: it's still "cheap", there have been huge improvements in the efficiency of petrol engines, and some now offer torque characteristics not dissimilar to a diesel's.

But a word of warning about both items: Toyota CEO Alistair Davis  noted, “we are using fossil fuels faster than the planet can replenish, and as China gets richer the pressure gets worse.” Oil was expected to remain as the main vehicle fuel for the foreseeable future, but as demand kept rising, supply would ultimately reach a peak and this would lead to a growing gap between supply and demand, he said. What this means: it won't be all that long before we're reminiscing about the good old days of $2 or even $3 a litre petrol.

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