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Archive for March, 2016

Freezing Out Smartkey Hijackers

smartkey2Smart keys are included as standard features in the majority of new models these days.  Keyless entry all seems so simple.  You walk up to the car with the smart key fob in your pocket or your handbag and hey presto! The car door unlocks itself just like that.  With the newer models, you don’t even have to press the button.  All you have to do is to walk within a metre of the car and a wee sensor inside the car will detect the presence of the fob and its unique electronic signal.

It’s convenient, especially if you’re struggling with lots of bags or a wriggly toddler.  However, there’s a downside: they can be hacked with a fairly inexpensive device (if you think I’m going to give you the full details of exactly how to get hold of the device, you’ve got to be joking!).

These smart key hacking devices sound like something out of James Bond or possibly MacGyver and operate using a very simple procedure. Instead of messing around trying to read your radio signal and nicking the code that’s transmitted from the fob to the keyless entry sensor (something the very sophisticated high-tech car thieves do), this hacking gizmo simply amplifies the signal coming from the fob.  This means that instead of triggering the unlocking mechanism when you’re close to the car, the fob will trigger it from a lot further away. A lot further away as in over 200 metres away.

This means that when you’re sitting indoors and your keys are hanging up on the hook where they usually live, they’ll be able to unlock the car when the car is sitting on the street.  Once the car’s unlocked, it doesn’t take a crim very long to hotwire your lovely new car and whizz off with it.  You have been warned.

Is there anything you can do to foil these smart key hijackers?  The first thing you can do is to use ordinary precautions such as keeping your car in a locked garage or at least behind a locked gate if all you’ve got is a lean-to.  This means that your car isn’t about to go walkies in the middle of the night when you’re asleep with the keys sitting safely on top of the fridge.  After all, if your car is parked somewhere insecure with bad lighting, it’s still vulnerable to low-tech attacks with the help of a crowbar or a lock-pick, either of the main door or the fuel cap.

The other thing you can do, at least according to a technical writer for the New York Times, is to keep your smart keys in the freezer.  I double-checked to make sure that this advice wasn’t in a piece put out on April Fools’ Day, so it seems to be fair dinkum.  Apparently, a freezer acts as a “Faraday cage”. These block the entry of electric or electronic signals from getting to what’s in the cage.  If you’ve seen those TV shows where someone sits inside a vehicle or a metal cage with lightning zapping around them, you’ve seen a Faraday cage.  Apparently, this is how shark cages for “diving with sharks” operations work as well – it’s thought that the metal interferes with the sharks’ ability to sense your electrical signals (and solid steel protects you from bites, of course).  But I digress…

The other Faraday cage that you are likely to have in your home is a microwave.  Ordinarily, a microwave’s Faraday cage stops the radiation that cooks your food leaking out and cooking you or whatever’s in the fruit bowl beside the microwave.

Therefore, here’s a couple of handy hints for these safer storage spots:

  • If you opt for the freezer, make sure your keys are dry (no raindrops) before putting them in.  Use gloves when you get them out.
  • If you opt for the microwave, be careful not to switch it on by mistake or you will fry (a) the keys and (b) the microwave.  Put the microwave where fiddly little fingers or kitty paws can’t switch it on by mistake.

Safe and happy driving,


PS: I’ve heard that surfers and the like hate smart key systems, thanks to the habit of hiding the keys somewhere near the car while heading off into the waves.  Now you know why surfers like to drive classic old Holdens and VW Kombis – it’s not just an image thing!

A shifting landscape marks the beginning of 2016

It’s little surprise the start to 2016 has been busy for the automotive industry. While the fallout from the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal lingers, the industry has also shifted its attention towards an abundance of motoring issues. Here’s a roundup on the most pressing motoring issues from the first quarter of 2016.


The year started with the US Department of Justice filing a $46bn civil lawsuit against Volkswagen for breaching environmental laws with its ‘cheat’ system that bypassed diesel emissions tests. Volkswagen’s CEO apologised to customers, and sales took a hit – six months after first making news, half a million US cars are still waiting for a solution. Renault was embroiled in a similar controversy, recalling a popular model after its emissions filtering system was found to be faulty.

Meanwhile, Ford pulled out of the Japanese and Indonesian markets following a lack of popularity and high local competition inhibiting sales. In keeping with the Asian theme, Hyundai declared it would take on BMW and Mercedes in the luxury segment through its Genesis G70.

Closer to home, there were promising signs local manufacturing would be spared a lifeline. However, talks between Guido Dumarey (Punch International) and General Motors broke down after neither party could foresee a deal to operate the Holden manufacturing plant in SA.

Holden and Ford enthusiasts reflected on what might be, as both companies announced the final models in their respective Commodore and Falcon ranges. To round things out, the Mazda MX-5 claimed the ‘Wheels Car of the Year’ and also scooped up the ‘World Car of the Year’.


The biggest story of the quarter rested with Takata, a manufacturer of inflator parts found in airbags. While an ongoing issue, the manufacturer’s recalls exceeded 40 million vehicles worldwide following reports of faulty parts that could deploy metal fragments. Locally, the most prominent recall was that from Toyota, recalling 98,000 Rav-4’s due to potential seat belt issues.

Design ideas were at the forefront of the safety spectrum, with numerous manufacturers agreeing to implement auto emergency braking in most cars by 2022, and others working on particular solutions such as external airbags.


Autonomous cars took centre stage across the early motor shows of 2016 as manufacturers envisage a future of self-driving cars. Locally, Mercedes has taken the lead on the issue with driver assistance technology slated for next year. But it hasn’t been a one-way road, with two incidents of note (a near-miss involving the Australian Mercedes; and a Google car accident in the US) accompanying comments from Audi and Porsche that they won’t be adopting the technology any time soon.

Other initiatives included: BMW designing an all-camera rear-vision system; General Motors developing technology to alert drivers to check for children before exiting their car; Volvo’s plans to transition from a car key to a phone; and the Australian government promoting hydrogen powered cars.


Authorities acted on several issues across Australia, including several cases involving unlicensed dealers and odometer tampering. The start of 2016 also saw confirmation of a downward trend in Australian-made cars sold during 2015, with Ford sales slumping 11.6% (its worst performance in 49 years, and behind Mitsubishi for the first time) and Holden’s sales declining 3%.

Regulatory Issues

Parallel imports were the hot topic. As we previously wrote about, the Australian government paved the way to allow the direct import of new (or near-new) right-hand-drive cars from the UK and Japan. This decision has been met with mixed opinion, including opposition from dealer networks and luxury car manufacturers. Meanwhile, no changes are proposed to the luxury car tax, and Australia’s lemon laws remain a point of contention.

Dash It All: The Rise Of The Dashcam.

For better or for worse, the shrinkage of electronic components is a major part of our lives. Mobile phones, tablet computers, music players have all benefited from the march of technology. And now there’s smaller cameras with high clarity in our smartphones and and in a tiny box you can stick inside your car.
Why is this particular piece of tech so important? In certain countries, the art of circumventing the law has become commonplace and without hard evidence, it boiled down to the ol’ “his word against yours”. Strangely enough, the use of dashcams (dashboard mounted cameras, which of course mount to your windows) has also provided us with some great footage of meteorites and their effects on the landscape, crashing planes and the like. In Australia, there’s now a group, called, simply enough, the Dashcam Owners Australia (check owners

But WHAT is a dashcam, how does it work, what do all of these terms mean?
Like everything, (generally), the more you spend the better a gadget you’ll get. Of primary importance should be the resolution. Think of digital cameras like new televisions. The higher the amount of dots the camera will see, the better quality picture it will take, just like a new ultra high definition tv will have more detail than a full high definition tv. You’ll see terms like 720P, 1080P and so on.

P stands for progressive as in progressive scan and that means nothing more complicated than showing one line of picture after the other. The numbers mean how many lines from top to bottom, as in 720 lines or 1080 lines, so 1080P means 1080 lines of picture information in 1 then 2 then 3 and so on all the way to 1080.

As a rule, digital devices like a tablet or smartphone have memory built in. This isn’t the case with a dashcam.

You’ll need to buy (if it doesn’t come with one) a memory card. These are measured in gb or gigabytes, with the higher the number the more memory it has. The price of solid state memory cards has come down and the sizes have gone up, so you can buy a card that says 8gb, 16gb, 32gb and 64gb for not very much now.
The other number to consider is one that is inside a circle, being generally a four or a ten.
Any card with a ten inside the circle means it will have the information the camera records “written” quicker to the card. Also, some cameras will limit the memory size of the card they will use, so a 64gb card may not neccessarily work in a camera that may be programmed to only recognise a 32gb card as its maximum reading ability.
A final note here: depending on the “smarts” the camera has, it will record in a one continual file, or break it down into smaller chunks but all SHOULD, once the card has been filled, simply continue to record but starting at the beginning at writing over the top of the recording before.dashcam two

Quite a few people buy two cameras. One for the front and one for the back. This gives you, the driver, vision of the idiot brake testing you or tailgating you. It’s also handy for when you “run over” someone, only to find them in full health and blackmailing you into paying thousands of rubles… There’s cameras that will go into a standby mode when you turn the engine off (because to power them, you have a cable from the camera plugged into your 12V socket) but will react and come “back to life” should a reasonable nudge of your car occur. This feature is especially handy in car parks, when a wayward trolley or heavy right footed driver decides to rebound off of your chariot. Bear in mind, not all cameras have this battery technology built in, as some only operate when the engine is running, so check with your retailer or the company’s website. For some, one programmed feature may be of benefit: some cameras have a GPS unit built in, which also “reads” your vehicle’s velocity. “I was doing 50 in the 50!” yet the camera says you were doing 70….

The Bottom Line.
It is a sad indictment of our socity when these devices are becoming a neccessity, rather than a luxury. The rise of the lack of personal responsibility, coupled with the rise of the lack of proper driving skills sees crashes turning into legal operas, with the push-pull of who was at fault now at the hands of lawyers that will ask: “Did you have a dashcam?” However, there is an upside, with car insurers slowly recognising that this also helps reduce downtime in matters of sorting who was at fault, with the result being reduced premiums being offered. Check with your insurer if they offer such a discount but always confirm the terms and conditions.
Also, BEFORE buying a dashcam, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. Don’t wander into your local electrical or auto spare parts retailer without a clue. It saves you time and potentially saves money.dashcam one

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4×4

2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel profileToyota‘s HiLux has, like stablemate HiAce, been a staple of their light commercial range since Noah needed a ute to transport some wood. In a somewhat bewildering range, a driver can choose from a two door, a two door with extra room behind the seats, fours doors, petrol diesel, manual auto, two wheel drive, four wheel drive, ute, tray, a bare chassis, and one that will make breakfast and coffee for you (just jokes, it’s allergic to coffee).

A Wheel Thing had the pleasure of the company of the 4×4 dual cab ute WorkMate, with a tautly sprung chassis carrying a 2.4L diesel with self shifting transmission. Given its utalitarian focus, you’d be forgiven for thinking it would be a “meh” kind of car. Apart from the basic interior (understandable), the hard ride (for carrying stuff) and a slightly noisy donk, it was actually a bit of fun.2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel console

There’s a pair of buttons in the centre console, marked Eco and Sports, with the WorkMate defaulting to Eco anyway. Using the Sports effectively provides an overboost and, in two wheel (rear driven) mode, will quite happily have the tyres thinking they’re at a dragstrip. Otherwise, in normal driving, there’s still the standard 400 torques at a ridiculously low 1600 revs to call upon. This rolls in nicely to the peak power of 110 killerwasps at 3400 revs.2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel engine

Being a super low revver helps in consumption, with Toyota’s official figures quoting 8.8/6.4/7.3L per 100 klicks in the urban/highway/combined cycles from the huge 80L tank. Emissions are quoted as 203g/km.

The kerb weight is a surprise, at 2045 kilos. It just doesn’t look that heavy. But, it’s also 5330 mm long, yet doesn’t look it. It’s almost as tall as it is wide, at 1815 mm and 1855 mm and sits on a massive 3085 mm wheelbase.2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel front

Driving the WorkMate with an auto makes driving it less complicated than blinking. Select Drive (after you’ve twisted the key) and that’s it. It’s a pretty well tuned slushbox but has a propensity for holding fourth gear on long downhill runs, someties needing a switch to manual mode to prod the gearbox into fifth. It’s smooth, quiet, almost imperceptible in changes in normal circumstances but tends towards an somewhat jolty change when pushed hard. When used manually it does feel as if the changes are crisper but there’s no extra urge. It’s smooth enough as it is anyways so the occasions for needing to shift manually would have to be special.2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel front seats

It’s a mostly good ride, surprisingly, but does have a very taut rear end. It’s a live (non independent) axle, with good ol’ leaf springs and is suspended on gas shocks. The front features a double wishbone setup, again with gas shocks and wrapped in coil springs. There’s a good handling chassis attached to them, with some push on understeer in the dry. The steering was light, a little numb on centre but loaded up either side nicely. However, the tyres fitted, being a light commercial spec (Dunlop Grandtrek 265/65/17 on steel wheels), didn’t agree with wet weather and were more liable to (say this quietly) lose traction at the rear on a heavy accelerator and definitely didn’t like corners at moderate speeds.

Acceleration was better than leisurely, less than sporting; bear in mind this was fitted with a four wheel drive system (yup, including a low range transfer case), ideal for farmers for example, and therefore geared a little differently. There’s also the matter of its 3000 kilo towing capacity to consider and the two plus tonne cargo capacity.

The interior was….well… workmanlike, with function overcoming aesthetics. Pick a colour you lie, as long as it’s black and you’ll get the idea. Rubber mats, basic plastics, two cup holders in the console, no fancy look for the dash….it’s a work ute, after all. There’s plenty of room in the back seat but, again, it’s a work ute and probably would see more use with one or two people than anything else.2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel front seat detail There’s a cloth trim for the seats, a dark grey combination contrasting with the lighter, almost bone upper trim. A pleasant surprise was the Auto headlights feature, one that A Wheel Thing feels should be standard, like airbags and ABS

The seats are somewhat slabby, lacking side support (it IS a 4WD, you need that) but do have enough cushion in the squab to not be too terrible to sit upon. Perched up as you are, it allows a good viewing position all round. You’ll also look at a somewhat anachronistic yet charming dash (with monochromatic dials for speedo and revs) design, a reminder of how things were, but sprinkled with a taste of the future. 2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel dashThere’s rotary dials for the aircon’s airflow, fan speed and temperature AND a slide switch for fresh and recirculate. As Scotty said in a Star Trek film: “How Quaint.”

There is the now familiar oddly positioned touchscreen entertainment unit in the dash, which is lacking the satnav, oddly. This should be a given for the car’s target market. There is also a couple of steering wheel control buttons, including Bluetooth. There’s cruise control, auto up/down for the driver’s power window, and a reverse camera (which could have used some colour coding for the tailgate).2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel tailgate2016 Toyota HiLux WorkMate 4x4 diesel auto headlight

The Wrap.
The appeal of the WorkMate isn’t just its drivetrain, but its basic approach to the world. There’s an interior you can effectively hose out, an uncomplicated dash, a splash of tech (which could use a bit more), its uncomplicated driving style. The low down and considerable amount of torque endows it with spirit and, mixed with Mother Nature’s tears, can raise the heartrate considerably.
There’s plenty of towing grunt, Toyota’s proven four wheel drive ability, room for four, and you’ll get Toyota’s standard 3 year/100, 000 kilometre warranty as well. At just over $51K, it’s a big ask but just try breaking one 🙂
2016 Toyota HiLux dual cab 4×4 specifications. will give you all you need to know.

Car Review: 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 Sportwagon

With the Holden Commodore effectively the only local car Holden has built for some time (Cruze is a world car, not locally designed), the major changes the car has experienced have come at seemingly ever increasing gaps. Much like the HJ to HZ Kingswoods, changes were cosmetic or unseen, being located under the skin.

It’s much the same with the VY and VZ to VE, with noticeable but not massive external changes but the move to VF models was more radical and almost a nod back to the original VB Commodore. The VB featured long horizontal tail lights, a design that stayed through to the VL. The VF moved away from an almost triangular look, a look that started with the VY, going back to a set of elongated horizontal lights. The front end underwent a slightly less radical change, with the headlight surround changed to a more “eagle eye” look and the lower front bumper given deeper and more inset vents housing the LED driving lights.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagonfront profileBut all the way through, there was a wagon. The ute didn’t arrive until the VN model, however there was always the option of a wagon. With the recently released VF series 2, there’s been the same incremental changes from the VF, with subtle, almost unnoticeable changes unless you look hard. 2015 <strong><em>Holden Commodore SV6</em></strong> wagon tail lightThe Sportwagon’s tail lights are perhaps the biggest external change, with a more strongly defined design to the housing whilst when lit look more like the neon light style favoured strongly by some other brands including Kia. The front bar has also been given a subtle restyle, with the lower air intake widened and the corners indented. Stand away and you’ll miss the changes.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon head lightUnder the lightweight aluminuim bonnet (which noticeably flapped around) beats Holden’s heart. There’s a muscly 3.6L twin cam alloy engine, which has a nice touch of rort when punched hard. It’s a willing revver, spinning easily around to the redline, throwing out 350 Nm of torque at 2800 rpm on the way to 210 kilowatts at a stratospheric 6700 revs. 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon engineTo put that torque figure into perspective, however, most modern two litre engines with a turbo will twist out the same. Consumption is quoted as 9.0L of 91 RON per 100 kilometres from the 71 litre tank although Holden does say better distance per litre may be achieved from 95 and 98. Send it along a straight freeway and the six speed auto will settle in at just over 2000 revs, dropping that fuel consumption (from the average) to around the 8.3L mark if pedalled gently. Sitting just under the peak torque figure, it allows the Sportwagon to get some serious mid range acceleration when asked. It’s a superb highway cruiser, with minimal road noise intruding into the cabin and that ride has the passengers feeling as if they’re isolated from the outside.

The interior also has received a mild workover but you’d have to be an “anorak” to notice; there’s slightly different looking dials in the dash, but the centre monochrome screen remains. 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon night dash2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon dashThere’s the same faux carbon fibre trim, the same oddly located fabric strip in the seats, the same touchscreen (with navitainment and radio apps such as Stitcher & Pandora)as the VF and the same acres of space inside the Sportwagon. 895L of cargo space greet the driver and there’s 2000 with rear seats laid flat.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon cargo

Back outside, there’s some new alloys to wrap tyres with, with five spoked eighteens clad in 245/45 Bridgestone Potenza rubber. Being the tyres they are, along with the continual refinement of the suspension, there’s a brilliant ride and fantastic handling. Hit a bump and there’s minimal rebound. Punt it hard into a roundabout and there’s minimal roll and the nose goes where the steering wheel says, with the faintest hint of understeer.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon wheel2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon rear profileBeing a wagon, there’s a touch more weight over the rear axle, but there’s no way of telling from the front right seat. It’s light, nimble, responsive, and highly unlikely to go Porsche by swinging the tail out. In fact, it’s one of the best handling cars one is likely to find on the road. Rebound is minimal yet there’s no hard bumps, with suspension nicely dialled in to provide a firm ride yet offer compliance enough to iron out the road to flatness.

Backing up the ride quality is one of the best balanced brake systems going. Touch the pedal, feel the bite, without too much grab straight away yet not lacking in feedback to the driver. It’s a firm yet communicative thing as you press further down, with increasing retardation and in a lovely, progressive manner.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon rear seats2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon front seatsThere’s a 2915 mm wheelbase coupled with a 1592/1608 mm track front to rear helping with that stability. Those numbers offer leg room of 1074 mm for the front and 1009 mm for the rear, allowing for plenty of long distance driving comfort. To go with the comfort is safety: Holden have caught up with the 21st century and have added blind spot detection, reverse traffic alert, hill start assist, ISOFIX child seat mounts, front and rear parking sensors, even remote engine start with the automatic, plus there’s the auto park system, rear camera as standard and a full suite of airbags plus the traction control system. You’ll also get Holden’s three year warranty or 100,000 kilometres.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon rear light

The Wrap.
Wagons are not a dying breed, thankfully. But the Commodore Sportwagon is, with around 18 months worth (at the time of writing) of manufacturing left. We can only imagine what the next model, and beyond, would have been like but, as it is, this model will be seen as the best of the last. Much like Ford sold out Sprint models and the forthcoming cessation of the Aurion and Camry locally as well, the final models will be a great swansong.

Head here for more info: 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagonPrivate Fleet Logo - widgetBTW 2016

Pee Power: It’s No Joke (No, Honestly; We Really Mean It This Time)

fuelcellQuite a few years ago, when this blog site was just starting out, we published an April Fool’s day article that claimed that scientists had worked out how to run a car engine on pee.  We intended this as a joke but it looks as though the last laugh’s on us.  There really is a way to run a vehicle on urine.

This is not to say that the white-coated ones have come up with a system by which you refuel your vehicle by taking a very, very large drink of water then… well, use your imagination! Instead, it’s a system where hydrogen is extracted from urine and is then used in hydrogen fuel cells to power a vehicle.

In fact, according to Gerardine Botte of Ohio University, who developed the process of getting hydrogen out of urine in 2009, it’s easier to get the hydrogen out of wee than out of water. In urea (one of the compounds of urine), there’s four hydrogen atoms per molecule rather than two, and they’re not holding chemical hands as tightly, so they’re easy to split off with a cheap little nickel-based electrode that uses 0.37 V to grab the hydrogen rather than the 1.23 V needed to split water up into H2 and O.

This is very good news for the sustainable fuel world. Hydrogen fuel cells are the next big thing. In fact, Toyota , the people who really popularised the hybrid electric vehicle with the ground-breaking Prius are set to launch the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle, known as the Mirai (which has already been released in Japan and California).

So how does hydrogen fuel cell technology work?

A fuel cell is kind of like a battery in that it produces an electrical current that can then be used to power a motor. However, unlike a battery, it needs to be supplied non-stop with fuel, which is usually hydrogen and water. There are several different types of fuel cell out there but in general, what happens is this:

  • Hydrogen molecules flow in at one side and the anode catalyst nicks their electrons (a hydrogen atom contains one proton and one electron). This leaves the hydrogen molecules with a positive electrical charge, while the electrons start the circuit buzzing.
  • The positively charged hydrogen molecules are pulled through the electrolyte towards the cathode.
  • At the cathode, the positively charged molecules meet up with the electrons again. They also meet up with oxygen molecules that have been coming in the other way.
  • The oxygen, hydrogen and free electrons react and produce H2O, which leaves as exhaust.

If you want this in more visual form (and don’t mind a little promo material), watch Toyota’s explanation here:

Each individual fuel cell only produces a wee bit of electrical current, so to be really efficient, you need a whole bank of them.

The main snag with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles so far is the usual problem with any new technology: the infrastructure problem. Hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles are already facing this problem, namely the issue of “topping up”. One of the problems that will have to be overcome is that it’s not a wise idea to have large amounts of pure hydrogen hanging around for any length of time as it’s really, really explosive (heard of the Hindenberg disaster, anyone?). However, seeing as we can cope with other highly flammable materials like LPG, acetylene and even petrol, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

The other issue is getting the hydrogen. Yes, it’s an abundant molecule but it tends to be tied up to other molecules so it has to be stripped off. Methane is a commonly used potential source of hydrogen, but you have to get the methane from somewhere, usually as a waste product of industries such as our sugar cane industry. Extracting the hydrogen for use as fuel is fiddly compared to just producing and pumping ethanol from the same source, so it’s usually the ethanol that wins out.

This is kind of why the discovery that you can get the hydrogen out of urea pretty easily is rather exciting, especially as the leftover molecules after you’ve removed the hydrogen are nitrogen molecules, which have potential to be used as fertiliser (in fact, urea is currently used as fertiliser, as any old-fashioned home gardener will tell you). Let’s face it: if there’s one thing we’re not going to run out of in a huge hurry is pee. If we’ve got an increasing human population and we all have to keep drinking, then we’re all going to widdle. In fact, as an extra bonus, if we’re all saving our pee to use in a fuel cell vehicle, this will reduce pressure on the waste water system which means that there will be more water for use in agriculture and for drinking, which will help reduce world hunger, etc. etc. Human pee isn’t the only source, either, as the process works with just about any sort of urine, including cow, sheep and horse pee.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology has been tried in Australia when Perth was trialling a set of buses running on hydrogen. Here, we’re lagging behind the US, Germany, Japan and the UK somewhat. Perth had the only hydrogen fuelling station for the now-discontinued bus trial.

It’s all rather exciting, really, as there’s plenty of potential. Here’s to Pee Power!

Safe and happy driving,


Is a 'user-pays system' the right approach for our roads?

Infrastructure Australia, an independent statutory body, recently suggested that the government should move away from charging vehicle registration fees and fuel excise in favour of a ‘’user-pays road system”. But is the solution practical?

The proposal would directly charge motorists depending on the distance they drive on our roads, while being touted as an option to fund major projects, lower congestion and contribute to the economy. According to the authority, the scheme could be applied to all regular motorists within 10 years, and within the next 5 years for heavy vehicles.

At the moment, Infrastructure Australia contends that motorists are not familiar with the current approach of paying for road use, whereby drivers often view roads as “free” due to a lack of clarity in the fuel excise they pay. This fuel excise, charged per litre at the pump, effectively acts as a road levy by charging motorists depending on the distance they travel and according to how heavy or inefficient their vehicle is.

The system has also been singled out for being “unfair, unsustainable and inefficient” – largely because of an expectation that less excise will be raised as cars become more economical, and given the inequality between metropolitan and rural regions where the latter are not afforded the same quality of roads yet still pay the same costs.

While such a proposal could potentially encourage people to become less reliant on their cars and also raise funds to reduce congestion, is the proposal any better than the existing approach? Currently, the ‘average’ motorist could expect to pay the following fees that contribute towards the road network:


Fuel Excise

Licence Fees

Stamp Duty

Total Cost (p.a)






Noting the above costs, what is immediately apparent is that one of the larger components of vehicle-related expenses, the green slip or compulsory third-party insurance, is outside the scope of the review. With this and external insurance premiums rising, a notable component of the vehicle related costs are going to remain at least what they are now.

However, the elephant in the room concerns how the system would be implemented. Is every single road going to be set up with tolls? Would roads have differing rates depending on the volume of traffic they cater for? Would vehicles be fitted with a tracking device to monitor their every movement? What impact would privacy laws have on tracking vehicles? With current toll gates prone to the occasional error, what’s to say the same issues wouldn’t be encountered? And how would drivers be able to validate every kilometre they have travelled? These are all issues that would cost motorists additional time and money, either directly or indirectly.


In terms of fairness, such changes would still discriminate against those: from rural locations; with a lower income; or disconnected from public transport. Consider those in remote parts of the country – every time they make a trip to their nearest town centre, or commute to a major city, they will be paying a considerable increase – and the quality of roads provided to them, or the portion of funding towards their roads, is still going to be inferior. Those who are isolated from public transport are inherently disadvantaged by not having an alternative to using their cars. How would the system compensate accordingly?

Although there may be benefits for those living in the major cities and suburbs supported by public transport, in designing a solution that is meant to be more ‘equitable’, this doesn’t offer progression. The current system is far from perfect, however, to recommend a new one that doesn’t address the current one’s shortcomings is questionable practice at best.

Lamborghini Australia Reveals Huracán LP 580-2.

It’s all about the numbers and letters: V10, 5.2L, 426 kilowatts/580 horsepower, 540 torques with 75% of that available at just 1000 revs, 1389 kilograms, 40/60 percent front to rear weight distribution, and Sir has the new to Australia Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2.2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch 1

Revealed to selected members of the Sydney automotive media in a low key yet razzledazzle event at Sydney Lamborghini in the inner western suburb of Leichhardt, with the event hosted by the affable dealer principal, Dwyer Ogle, and attended by Automobili Lamborghini’s Country Manager for Australia (and five other countries too) Eginado Bertoli, the Huracán LP 580-2 will be aimed at the affluent driving enthusiast. The two wheel drive version starts at $415000 drive away.2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch front

The LP 580-2 has been given a mild makeover to distinguish it from its all wheel drive, larger engine, sibling. There’s the restyled front and rear, the nose featuring redesigned air intakes directing air to increase front axle downforce whilst the rear’s design features a spoiler lip in the bodywork which combines with the diffuser’s angle in the underbody to improve the airflow, negating any need for a moving spoiler.2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch 2

Pirelli’s fabled P-Zero tyres wrap 19 inch diameter alloys, of different width front to rear, with steel brakes and aluminuim calipers contoured for better air flow and weight reduction. There’s also a new power management setup, with the suspension being modified, new steering componentry and recalibrated traction & stability control systems, with the Strada, Sport and Corso settings tune to add to the fun factor, with an emphasis on oversteer.2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch engine 2

The V10 engine, for all of its brute force, will feature fuel saving technology, with one cylinder bank shutting down when the computers see no need for all ten to be in firing mode, bring the combined fuel economy figure to under twelve litres of 98 RON consumed per 100 kilometres. Power to weight, thanks to the carbon fibre and aluminuim chassis, is 2.4 horsepower per kilo.
Grunt is sent to the tarmac via the Lamborghini Doppia Frizione (LDF) seven-speed dual clutch auro, calibrated for quicker changes and also loads in a launch control system.2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch engine

Hidden from view but vitally important in how this rear wheel drive car will operate is the optional Magneto Rheological Suspension, MRS, coupling with the Lamborghini Piattaforma Inerziale, a 3D sensor system located in the Huracán’s centre of gravity, providing real time input to the MRS and traction systems.

What immediately captured the attention was the launch video, demonstrating exactly what this car will be capable of, given a talented driver and a race track. Power slides, sideways drifting, full on attitude controlled by the right foot. Lamborghini emphasized that they stay true to their naturally aspirated engine heritage, with the 5.8L V10 delivering that power and torque sans blower or hairdryer.2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch cabin

Opening the doors shows a hard edged look to the cabin and console, with a 12.1 inch TFT full colour display screen in the dash, with the car shown, (in left hand drive), displaying a vibrant yellow-orange highlight package to the carbon fibre and black interior. It looked somewhat cramped yet a taller member of the media contingent folded himself in easily and looked more than comfortable.2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch centre console

During his opening address, Eginado touched upon a key element of how this car will be presented: fun, enjoyable technology. He also said: “Nowadays, with Lamborghini being famous for four wheel drive, we have the strategy to differentiate the product in order to fit all tastes of the customer driving styles.” Referencing Lamborghini’s history, Bertoli says:”It (the LP 580-2) fits to our heritage, to the Lamborghini DNA, with the Miura, the Countach were cars with two wheel drive versions.”2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch headlight

With buyers of Lamborghini’s cars more than well heeled, Australia’s stifling road laws would see that fun not displayed on a suburban piece of tarmac. However, with race tracks and driver education centres hosting drive days, with Sydney based The Formula Company running out of Sydney Motorsport Park at Eastern Creek as one example, the fun factor will be dialed up for drivers at these venues and will allow them to extract every erg of the Huracán’s ability.Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2 rear

In a short interview after the presentation, the engaging Ogle, a burly Irishman with a keen sense of humour, described how he sees the LP 580-2: “Lamborghini has unashamedly made this car to be entertaining, first and foremost. It’s not the most efficient way to get from point to point, we have the 610 for that, which is precise, unbelievably fast, incredibly competent and then we have its slightly unruly younger brother here (gestures towards the LP 580-2 which is really fast but bloody entertaining. It’s for someone who, I guess, ultimately wants to control something on the edge, to control something that to others is uncontrollable.”2016 Lamborghini Huracan LP 580-2 launch 3

That final section succinctly states what Lamborghini sees the Huracán LP 580-2 to be; in a range of cars that are knife sharp in their handling, their poise and sheer on road ability, there’s still room for a manageable amount of insanity.

When asked if he thought the LP 580-2 was for the driving enthusiasts in the Lamborghini customer base, Ogle said: “I think it is, Lamborghini have traditionally always had a rear wheel drive model, it’s part of the DNA, it’s part of the fabric of the brand. It’s always been that slightly menacing car (with a wicked gleam in his eye) and it provides that extra level of menace.”Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2 profile

On the prospective customer approach, Dwyer said: “We’ve retained the Lamborghini traditions. We’ve seen some future Lamborghini traditionalists, we’ve seen some unashamedly leave other brands, and if you’re fortunate enough, this (the LP 580-2) becomes an “as well” and we’ve got a few of those. I don’t think we’ve set out to target other brands, I think it’s a natural consequence of if you build the best car in the segment and you price it accordingly and you provide the correct levels of service afterwards (with a slight but unmistakable emphasis on those words) they buy it.”Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2 interior

Key to the driving experience are the three driving modes selectable via an ANIMA (Adaptive Network Intelligent Managemnt, the soul) steering wheel mounted switch; Strada is is for everyday driving, with a slight emphasis on understeer. Sport moves the goalposts a bit by emphasising a touch of oversteer, aiming for that emotional connection with the fun factor while Corsa is for full blown track insanity by balancing the car’s handling characteristics, allowing the driver to take advantage of both the engine and the neutral chassis “feel”.

Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2. The essence of driving fun.

Orders for the Lamborghini Huracán LP 580-2 are being taken now. Contact your state’s Lamborghini dealer for details.
With thanks to Origin Agency for the information and opportunity to attend, and to Eginado Bertoli & Dwyer Ogle for their time. Some images courtesy of Lamborghini Media.

Origin Agency

Limited Edition Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 Avio Released At Geneva

Lamborghini introduces a Huracán Special Edition at the Geneva Motor Show: the Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 Avio

Sant’Agata Bolognese/Geneva, 2 March 2016 – Alongside the Lamborghini Centenario, the Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4 Avio will make its debut at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Produced in a run of only 250, this special edition’s name, colors and materials pay tribute to the world of aviation and aeronautics.Lamborhini Huracan Avio front

From the outset, Lamborghini has been inspired by powerful fighter jets, from which it has borrowed technological, aerodynamic, ergonomic and stylistic solutions. References to the aeronautical world in Lamborghini’s current product line include digital instrument clusters; controls located on the center console as in airplane cockpits; the red engine ‘start’ button; the tight stylistic language of exterior lines; and a broad range of matt exterior finishes.

The new Huracán Avio offers a host of premium functional features in its standard configuration including lifting system, cruise control and GPS*. But the true uniqueness of the Avio lies in its interior and exterior finishes. White or grey painted details contrast with the body color and enhance exterior details such as the tops of the side member, the side view mirrors and the lip on the front spoiler. A double stripe, again in white or grey, runs along the roof and down the front bonnet.

The door panels further identify the special Avio version with the logo L63, where L stands for Lamborghini and ‘63 is the year the company was founded. A tricolor cockade, the symbol distinguishing nationality used in aeronautics, is placed between the letter and the number.

The Huracán Avio is available in five new color variants, specifically developed for this model: the standard color of Grigio Falco with pearlescent finish, and four optional matt colors: Blu Grifo, Grigio Nibbio, Grigio Vulcano and Verde Turbine. The colors’ names are taken from the coats-of-arms representing courses at the Italian Air Force Academy. Lamborghini’s Ad Personam customization program allows owners to choose from further color and trim options not included as standard.Lamborghini Huracan Avio interior

The interiors alternate black leather with a special Alcantara, which is also in black but boasts a laser-engraved hexagonal motif, available for the first time on the Avio. The material covers the central section of the seat, the armrest, the knee support and part of the door panel, and is enhanced with contrasting stitching in white. The L63 logo is embroidered by hand onto the sides of the seats. The interior color and trim can also be customized through the Ad Personam program. Underscoring the exclusivity of this new special edition is a hand-enameled plate on the driver’s side window

The Avio has all the technical specifications that have made the Huracán a great success: aspirated 610 HP, 5.2 liter, V10 engine; 7-speed gearbox with double clutch; hybrid chassis in aluminum and carbon fiber; a power/weight ratio of only 2.33 kilograms per hp and breathtaking performance: 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 3.2 seconds and a maximum speed of over 325 km/h.

The Avio is scheduled to reach dealers’ showrooms in the summer of 2016.

*EU configuration. Standard configuration varies with market of sale.

Information courtesy of Elise Byrne @ Origin Agency and LamborghiniOrigin Agency

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer Allure Premium

2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer profileFrance’s car making industry has a long relationship with Australia. Renault, Citroen and Peugeot have raced and rallied here, sold some highly regarded cars and shown us a legend or two. Peugeot resonates with us because of these three letters: GTi. They’ve also stayed true to naming their cars with numbers, such as the 308 Tourer Allure Premium that that A Wheel Thing spent a week with.

Take Dr Who‘s TARDIS, slap on four wheels, paint it white, and slide a turbocharged 1.6 litre petrol fed engine under the control stack. Sure, a stretch of the visual imagination, but that’s an idea of what the Peugeot 308 Tourer (European fancyschmantz for a station wagon) is like.

Stand outside and gaze at its curves and think about how compactly designed it looks, then you open the doors, park your bum on the super comfortable seats Mistral black faux leather and Alcantara cloth and suddenly the realisation that it’s roomier than it looks hits you.2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer front seat2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer rear seatThe Tourer is just under 4.6 metres in total length and looks it, yet squeezes in a 2730 mm wheelbase. It hides the spacious interior with a stubby nose, long and slightly downward curving roof (with full length glass) over a low set, bum dragging looking, rear bumper.2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer glass roof Inside there’s that TARDIS interior; boot/cargo space starts at 625 litres then hits 1740 litres with the 60/40 folding pews flat, plenty of rear seat passenger leg room and headroom, plus loads of shoulder room as well. One almost feels as if a bed could pop out or a fridge would appear.2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer rear cargo2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer rear cargo seatPeugeot’s gone (some would say) typically French in design aspects for the interior. Sit down and look forward, you expect to see the dash dials hiding meekly under the top half of the steering wheel. Cue Family Feud’s wrong answer noise. There’s a trapezoidal binnacle housing the instrument cluster staring back at you, with the tiller set lower and…it works, as does the unusual location for a USB charging port, with enough room for a smartphone.2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer extra USB2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer dashThe speedo and tacho (which spins anti-clockwise) are closer to the driver’s forward looking eyeline, providing a better safety factor. Each dial is partnered by a small fuel and temperature gauge, with a simple yet classy monochrome information display bisecting the main dials.

Simple and classy stays with the Peugeot’s centre console, with a 9.7 inch touchscreen offering a slightly different take on things. There’s no aircon controls, they’re all on the touchscreen and accessed via an icon, as are all options, surrounding the screen. Think of each main item such as radio or navigation being accessed via one simple touch with all operations for them taken in hand from there. There’s also a 6.9 gigabyte hard drive to store music.

2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer dash 2The downside is not a deal breaker; if you’re listening to the radio and want to check another station but the screen is showing the navigation, you need to touch the radio icon to bring that up. It’s not 100% user friendly but really only an issue if you need to continually change the temperature or station.

The gorgeous eighteen inch diameter Diamond Sapphire wheels, as fitted to the review car, clad in 225/50 Michelin tyres (natch!) fill the wheel wells, looking almost as if a decent bump would rub the tyre inside. It’s a sporty ride, but more about that later. 2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer wheelThe nose is sweetly curved, hiding the 1.6L turbo four (a bigger oil burner is available), which punches out a seemingly modest 110 kilowatts (6000 revs are required to see them) but a handy 240 torques at 1400 rpm. It’s enough to see a zero to one hundred time of just under nine seconds. 2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer frontAt the rear is a small 53 litre tank, which, with the 110 kilowatts, doesn’t seem much BUT the car starts at just 1315 kilograms, meaning it’s just 11.95 kilos for each kilowatt. Bang it all together and it’s a reasonable 8.8L of go-juice consumed for every 100 kilometres covered in a suburban environment.

The overall look of the Tourer is a mostly a harmonious, wholistic approach; the nose is superbly integrated as a design feature, with the headlights, lower air intake and grille reflecting each other in the angles. A direct rear view gives the viewer an exercise in French pertness with slimline tailights wrapping around into the rear fenders (a look shared with the Renault Magane wagon).2016 Peugeot 308 Tourer rearIn profile the rear drags the overall look down, by dragging the bum down. It looks heavy, overweight and unbalanced. in comparison to the neatly tapering windowline.

The ride is sharp, tight, more akin to piloting a dedicated two door convertible than a compact family wagon. It almost feels as if a corner will lift, ala the GTi, when brought hard into a turn. The wheelbase and weight make it a sparkling performer, with a rapid response from the turn of the tiller, and that relative lack of weight means it’ll stop and quickly. But because the suspension is wound up tighter than a watch spring, the pea in the princess’s bed is far more noticeable.

Give the accelerator a prod from Stop, there’s a hesitancy before the little engine that could springs into life. That low rev point for peak torque then spools in, giving a surge that is at odds with the claimed one hundred kilometre time. On the highway it’s the easy access to that torque that allows for safe, comfortable overaking although the front does get a bit raucous.

The Wrap.
Dr Who would be happy with the room inside the Tourer. You’d have to be a snob to not be happy with the interior features. Performance wise, well, it IS a family wagon but there’s plenty of verve and joie de vivre as well. It’s economical enough tom placate the nervous wallet and brings Peugeot back to forefront of a car company to consider
Pricing is competitive:
Peugeot 308 Touring RRP* Full Driveaway
308 Touring Allure 110kW THP automatic $34,689 $38,787
308 Touring Allure 110kW BlueHDi automatic $36,543 $40,698
308 Touring Allure Premium 110kW THP automatic $38,393 $42,602
308 Touring Allure Premium 110kW BlueHDi automatic $40,622 $44,900

For more details: Peugeot 308 Tourer