NSW to change P-plate laws too

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Update, June 25: Transport for NSW has today confirmed it will adopt the same 130kW/tonne P-plate restrictions as Victoria, effective from August 1, 2014. However there are caveats for high-performance vehicles.

The NSW state government minister for roads and freight, Duncan Gay, said "Cars that remain banned for p-platers include cars above 130 kilowatts per tonne, and a few models that have performance characteristics that pose a high risk for inexperienced drivers.

"For example the 2007 Subaru WRX has a power-to-mass ratio of 123 kilowatts per tonne, but is banned because it can also go from zero to 100 in less than six seconds," Minister Gay said.

"The new policy incorporates the recently agreed national definition of high performance vehicles with around 7,500 vehicles to remain banned for P-platers.

"Finding out whether a vehicle is okay will also be easier with the launch next week of a new web-based tool on the Centre for Road Safety website (roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au) to let P-plate drivers, their families and employers easily check whether they can drive a particular model," Gay said.

Common sense has prevailed in New South Wales, with major changes to the controversial P-plate vehicle restrictions regime to be announced soon, motoring.com.au has learned.

Australia's most populous state will join the likes of South Australia, Queensland and Victoria in adopting a new scheme for P-platers that does't put a blanket ban on all turbocharged vehicles.

Several small-capacity, low-output vehicles well suited to first-car buyers are on the banned P-plate list in NSW due to their use of a turbocharger.

Fifteen or 20 years ago turbo-petrol passenger cars were often limited to high-performance sports cars, but today car-makers are increasingly adopting downsized turbo technology in their smallest, most efficient vehicles to bring down fleet-average CO2 emissions.

The Ford Fiesta EcoBoost is an example. Powered by a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine that outputs 92kW, the Fiesta EcoBoost is on the "cannot drive" list for P-platers under current NSW regulations.

Inexplicably, however, a high-performance naturally-aspirated sports car such as the Lotus Elise (pictured) can legally be driven by a P-plater in NSW.

The current rule set will change under new regulations, which motoring.com.au understands will be announced by NSW Roads and Maritime Services soon.

It's not clear exactly what system will be adopted in NSW, but it's likely to mirror Victoria's new power-to-weight system, which comes into effect on July 1.

It allows P-platers to drive vehicles with a power-to-weight ratio of 130kW per tonne or less, unless it is manufactured before January 1, 2010, in which case the previous rule applies.

Previously, all Victorian P-platers were banned from driving vehicles with turbocharged or supercharged engines (other than diesels), engines with eight cylinders or more and engines modified to increase performance.

VicRoads will publish a new list of banned vehicles in Victoria on July 1.

Transport for NSW spokesperson, Michelle Perks, would't comment on detailed changes to P-plate restrictions, but said the regulatory body was "working out more details".

Words by Feann Torr, www.motoring.com.au

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