The Australian government is giving low-interest loans to a select group of organizations to purchase low-emissions vehicles.

The program excludes the general public and targets corporate and government fleet buyers, as well as not-for-profit organizations.

A government statement says that with an estimated 450,000 fleet vehicles, this represents a major share of the cars and vehicles on Australia’s roads.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt says because of the number of vehicles within their operations, fleet buyers and lessees can play a key role in increasing the proportion of low-emissions vehicles on Australian roads, as well as the adoption of new technologies such as electric and fuel-cell vehicles.

The A$50 million ($44.2 million) program is funded through the Clean Energy Finance Corp. (CEFC) and is being provided through the Eclipx Group – one of Australia’s largest independent fleet leasing companies.

It will provide Eclipx’s corporate, government and not-for-profit fleet buyers with access to favorable loan interest rates when choosing eligible low-emissions passenger and light-commercial vehicles.

To be eligible for the CEFC finance, Eclipx customers must ensure the vehicles meet a carbon-dioxide emissions threshold 20% below the most recently published Australian averages for new passenger and light-commercial vehicles.

Hunt says light vehicles are a major contributor to Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and more efficient fleets can reduce these emissions as well as cut operating costs.

“This work will build on the success to date in helping to meet and beat Australia’s 2020 greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction target,” Hunt says.

He says while improving fuel efficiency can mean higher upfront costs for car buyers, analysis by greenhouse-gas-emissions researcher ClimateWorks Australia indicates the average car owner would recover these additional costs within three years through fuel savings – well within the average length of vehicle ownership of about five years.

“The broader economic benefits are also tangible,” Hunt says. “Within 10 years, Australia could save up to A$7.9 billion ($7.0 million) a year through reduced fuel use from the increased adoption of low-emissions vehicles.”