Australia's diesel revolution thwarted without training 


The success of next generation frugal and environmentally friendly diesel cars in Australia will be jeopardised unless urgent action is taken to address training in this new technology for apprentices.

That was the feedback from Charles Darwin University automotive lecturer Tony Harding, who has just returned from a four-week fellowship in Europe exploring latest diesel engine technology.

European consumers are embracing diesel cars as their drivability, behaviour and fuel efficiency exceed petrol counterparts, a situation Mr Harding said was unimaginable even five years ago.

‘A revolution in technology has turned what were smelly, loud and sluggish engines best suited for heavy transport into refined, quiet and incredibly efficient motors,’ he said.

Most new European cars, including sport and luxury, are diesel. Sales in Australia have tripled over the past three years and Mr Harding said the local drivers were now warming to the technology.

‘As in Europe, there’s no reason why diesel motors will not become mainstream within the next five years and we must prepare apprentices to maintain and service these cars,’ he said.

Both Holden and Ford have been losing share to smaller, more efficient cars and are testing diesel engines for their Australian-built family cars.

Diesel cars now account for nearly half of Volkswagen’s Australian sales.

Mr Harding said the characteristics of diesel motors, including very high fuel pressures and particular injection systems, required specialist training.

‘In many ways the diesel motors are more sophisticated than petrol counterparts, using extreme fuel pressures, and both technologies servicing skills unique to the engines,’ he said. ‘The workforce must be ready for this.’

Mr Harding visited Delphi Lockheed Automotive in Warwick, South Devon College, and Kingston University in London as part of a $10,000 fellowship funded by the International Specialised Skills Institute (ISSI), a not-for-profit organisation that identifies and fills employment shortages within Australia.

He said the trip reinforced his enthusiasm for diesel technologies to be adopted in Australia.

‘It has given me a heads up to the technologies I thought we wouldn’t see in the next 10 years,’ he said.

Mr Harding will present his findings to the ISSI, co-developing a national training strategy to help students adapt to next-generation diesel technologies.