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Archive for January, 2019

Home-Grown Zero-Carbon Hydrogen Technology

CSIRO’s Toyota Mirai HFC vehicle (image from CSIRO)

There are three possibilities when it comes to finding an alternative to the standard fossil fuels used in the majority of vehicles on the road.  The first is a switch to biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol, etc.), the second is to go electric (the sexy new technology that’s mushrooming) and the third is hydrogen fuel cells or HFCs.

I discussed the basics of HFCs in my previous post.  If you can’t remember or if you can’t be bothered hopping over to have a look, one of the points I raised was that most of the hydrogen gas used to power HFCs comes from natural gas, with methane (from sewage and effluent) coming in as the more sustainable second possibility.  However, there’s another possible source of the hydrogen fuel that’s being worked on by our very own CSIRO researchers right here in Australia: ammonia.

Most of us are familiar with ammonia as the thing that makes floor cleaners (a) really cut through grease and (b) smell horrible.  However, ammonia is also produced as a waste product by living cells and in humans, it quickly turns into urea and is excreted as urine.  In fact, some of the pong associated with old-school long-drop dunnies comes from the urea in urine breaking back down into ammonia again (the rest of the smell comes from methane and some sulphur-based compounds, depending on what you’ve been eating).

Ammonia is chemically rendered as NH3, which should tell you straight away that there are three nice little hydrogen atoms just waiting to be turned into hydrogen gas; the leftover nitrogen is also a gas –and that’s one of the most common elements in the atmosphere (it makes up three-quarters of the earth’s atmosphere, in fact).  Yes, ammonia in its pure form is a gas (the liquid stuff in household products is in the form of ammonium hydroxide or ammonia mixed with water).  The fun here from the perspective of HFC technology consists of splitting the ammonia gas up into nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas, and then separating the two.

And this is precisely what the ammonia-to-hydrogen team at CSIRO have been working on.  In August year, they made the big breakthrough by developing a membrane-based technology that will convert ammonia into hydrogen gas.  The hydrogen gas can then be used by vehicles powered by HFC technology.  The bit they’re all rubbing their hands with glee about is because up until now, one of the obstacles with getting HFC-powered motoring off the ground is that it’s hard to transport hydrogen gas from wherever it’s produced to the hydrogen equivalent of a bowser.  However, ammonia is a lot easier to get from A to B.  This means that with this home-grown technology, Australia will be able to export hydrogen (in the form of ammonia during transport) to the markets that want it.

Asia seems to be the hot spot for vehicles using HFC technology, with Toyota and Hyundai really getting behind the tech; European marques, on the other hand, seem to be concentrating on electric vehicles.  In fact, Japan is eyeing up hydrogen as a source of energy for generating power for homes as well.

The question has to be asked where they’re going to get all this ammonia from.  However, it’s possible to take nitrogen gas and water, then zap it with electrical current and turn it into ammonia – and it was an Australian researcher who came up with the tech to do this. It’s kind of like a fuel cell – which breaks down gas to produce electricity – but in reverse: using electricity to produce ammonia.  The new Australian technology is considered to be an improvement over the traditional method of producing ammonia (which is needed for making the fertilizer that grows the food you eat), which takes hydrogen gas from fossil fuels and reacts it, spitting out a good deal of CO2 in the process.  The new Aussie tech skips the bits involving carbon in any form, as it takes nitrogen from the atmosphere (N2) and water (H2O) and puts out NH3 and O2.  O2 is oxygen – what we breathe.

The idea is that in the future, they’ll set up a plant or two in the middle of the outback where there’s lots of solar and wind energy available for generating electricity, pump in some H2O and get ammonia for export AND use in hydrogen cars thanks to the new membrane tech out the other end with zero carbon emissions.  It could be asked where they’re going to get the water from in the middle of the Outback but I suppose that it’s not essential to use clean, fresh drinking water for the process, as it’s pretty easy to distil pure water out of wastewater.  In fact, one has the very happy vision of a process that takes sewage from cities, whips out the ammonia, urea and methane already in there (bonus!), distils out the water for making more ammonia and exporting the lot; any solids can probably also be used for fertilizer.

It’s going to take a little while for all the systems to get into place.  It’s still very early days for HFC vehicles but a start has been made and some of the hurdles have been overcome.  A few HFC vehicles have made it onto these shores.  The analysts say that it will probably take another decade or so until HFC cars become common on our roads but it’s likely to happen.  Look what happened with electric vehicles, after all.  Once they were really rare but now there’s charging points just about everywhere you look.

You can find more information here , here  and here .

 

BMW 3 Series Gets Makeover.

BMW‘s evergreen 3 Series has been given a substantial makeover for its impending release. The seventh generation of the car, first released in 1975, will come to Australia for a March 2019, on sale date. There’s a two model range on offer, with the 320d priced from $67,900 plus on roads (includes GST and LCT), and the 330i from $70,900. An xDrive M340i M performance model will hit our shores later in 2019.The 3 Series stays with a 50:50 weight distribution with the additional benefit of a weight loss of up to 55kg. Body rigidity has gone up by 25% to 50% which helps handling, along with the wider front and rear tracks for extra grip. A revamped suspension also comes into play, with a redesigned front end having more camber, and variable damper ratings allowing for 20% stiffer spring rates.

BMW’s Adaptive M suspension system is here, with electronically-controlled dampers. This system offers comfort- and sport-focused modes that are changeable in-cockpit. It combines the 10mm lower ride height and geometries of the M sport suspension standard in the 320d. M Sport brakes with blue callipers are standard on the 330i and have four pistons up front, and one piston rears. Handling can be further improved by opting for the M Sport differential with variable torque distribution.An exterior redesign has a one piece grille and the LED adaptive twin headlights up front, a redesigned and sharper look to the iconic Hofmeister kink, and reprofiled taillights with a smoky glaze. The diesel will have a choice of 18 inch diameter alloys, with the petrol fed version having 19s.BMW have bitten the bullet on the options list too. The M Sport Package is standard and the Luxury Line package is an option at zero cost. BMW says the M Sport Package brings the following elements to the 3 Series:  BMW Individual High-gloss Shadow Line, with black window frames and air breather surrounds, M Aerodynamics Package with aerodynamic front and rear bumper sections and side sills,  BMW Individual interior Headliner in Anthracite, M Leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons, Interior trim finishers in Aluminium Tetragon, 18-inch M light alloy wheels in bicolour, double-spoke design (320d), 19-inch M light alloy wheels in bicolour, double-spoke design (330i), and M Sport Brakes (330i).Choose the Luxury Line pack and there are: Leather Vernasca upholstery, Interior trim finishers in fine-wood, high-gloss ash grey, Sport leather steering wheel, Instrument panel in sensatec, Sport seat for driver and front passenger, 18-inch light alloy wheels in bicolour, multi-spoke design (320d), and 19-inch BMW Individual light alloy wheels in bicolour, double-spoke design (330i).

Interior space has been increased as well thanks to a 43mm wheelbase increase along with an increase of width of 16mm. Backed against an increased level of trim quality are improved support from the electrically adjustable sports seats, a choice of 3 wood and 2 aluminiom trims, and BMW’s Operating System 7.0. This incorporates a 12.3 inch hi-res display screen for the instrument cluster and a 10.25 inch centre console display screen. New for the 3 Series is Head Up Display, standard on the range. Naturally the safety standards are high with Lane Change and Lane Departure Warnings, amongst others, as standard.Contact Private Fleet to see what we can do for you on price, and contact BMW for more details.

A Legend Returns: Toyota Supra Is Back.

One of the automotive world’s worst kept secrets was finally let into the public domain today. The Toyota Supra is back in the automotive spotlight and harks back to history with its classic straight six engine up front driving the rear wheels. Dubbed the GR Supra, it’s due to land in Australia in late 2019.The fifth generation platform packs a 250kW/500Nm, twin-scroll turbocharged, six cylinder engine of 3.0L capacity. Power hits the tarmac via Toyota’s eight speed automatic gearbox. Toyota’s Gazoo Racing section has been brought in to work on the cars which are all to be built in Graz, Austria. Testing was held at the Nürburgring Nordschleife and included a session with Toyota’s own president, Akio Toyoda. Launch Control sees a zero to one hundred time of 4.3 seconds.The driver can take control of gear changes using paddle shifts on the steering wheel and can select Normal or Sport driving modes to suit their preference and the conditions. The vehicle stability control has a special “track” setting that can be selected, reducing the level of system intervention so the driver has greater control of the vehicle’s dynamic performance.Design cues from Toyota’s heritage are evident in the sheetmetal. The S2000‘s long bonnet inside a compact body shape, with the distinctive “double bubble” roof is complemented by the fourth generation’s broad rear flanks and rear spoiler. Toyota’s penchant for pet names is here, with chief designer Nobuo Nakamura giving his team a simple brief around the concept of “Condensed Extreme“, ensuring they were free to express their vision of a pure and individual sports car in a truly original design.

There are three distinct elements to the GR Supra’s look: a short wheelbase, large wheels and wide stance; a taut, two-seat cabin; and a long bonnet with a compact body that reflects the drivetrain combination of in-line six engine and rear-wheel drive. All are embodied by the “Condensed Extreme” ethos. And although bigger than the two door 86 coupe, it’s a shorter wheelbase and rolls on bigger rubber.The driver and passenger are facing a distinctively designed cabin with a cockpit taking cues from a single seat race car. The seats themselves are race influenced, with thick bolsters for extra side support, holding the driver and passenger snugly. The dashboard is a low slung affair, allowing excellent forward vision, with the asymmetric centre console marking a clear division between the enveloping driver’s cockpit and the more open passenger side of the Toyota GR Supra’s cabin.Toyota’s engineering teams have worked to give the GR Supra a superlative ride and handling package. Structural rigidity is said to be higher than the Lexus LFA supercar, with a centre of gravity lower than the 86 and a 50:50 weight distribution, with the movement of the engine rearwards to achieve that figure, contributing to the end result.A newly designed suspension frame has a five-link rear end matched by a double-joint spring MacPherson front. Unsprung weight is helped by using aluminuim for the control arms and swivel bearings. Each corner has 19 inch forged alloys wrapping high-performance stoppers. Every Supra that will be sold in Australia will have an active differential for even better handling.

Pricing for Australia is yet to be confirmed. Contact your Toyota dealer for details of the forthcoming 2020 Toyota GR Supra.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells – The Basic Facts

One of the more exciting vehicles that’s scheduled to come to Australia at some unspecified date in 2019 is the Hyundai Nexo – one of the vehicles recently awarded the Best in Class for all-round safety by Euro NCAP.  This vehicle combines regular batteries with hydrogen fuel cell technology. Three vehicles made by major marques have been designed to run on HFCs: the aforementioned Hyundai Nexo, the Toyota  Mirai and the Honda  Clarity.

Toyota Mirai concept car

Hydrogen fuel cell technology is another option for overcoming our addiction to fossil fuels (the other two are biofuels and electricity).  But what is hydrogen fuel cell technology and how does it work?  Is it really that sustainable and/or environmentally friendly?  Isn’t hydrogen explosive, so will a car running on hydrogen fuel cell technology really be safe?

OK, let’s start with the basics: how does it work?

Diagram of a hydrogen fuel cell

A hydrogen fuel cell (let’s call it an HFC for short) is designed to generate electricity, so a vehicle that’s powered by HFC technology is technically an EV.  A chemical reaction takes place in the cell and this gets a current going, thanks to the delicate balance between positive and negative ions (all chemistry is, ultimately, to do with electricity). How is this different from a battery?  Well, a battery uses what’s stored inside it but an HFC needs a continual supply of fuel.  Think of a battery as being like a lake, whereas the HFC is a stream or a river.  The other thing that an HFC needs is something for the hydrogen fuel to react with as it passes through the cell itself, which consists of an anode, cathode and an electrolyte solution – and I don’t mean a fancy sports drink.  One of the things that hydrogen reacts best with and is readily found in the atmosphere is good old oxygen.

Naturally, there’s always a waste product produced from the reaction that generates the charge. This waste product is dihydrogen monoxide.  For those of you who haven’t heard of this, dihydrogen monoxide is a colourless, odourless compound that’s liquid at room temperature.  In gas form, dihydrogen monoxide is a well-known and very common greenhouse gas, and it’s quite corrosive to a number of metals (it’s a major component of acid rain).  It’s vital to the operation of nuclear-powered submarines and is widely used in industry as a solvent and coolant.  Although it has been used as a form of torture, it’s highly addictive to humans and is responsible for hundreds of human deaths globally every year.  Prolonged contact with dihydrogen monoxide in solid form causes severe tissue damage.  You can find more information about this potentially dangerous substance here*: http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

For the less alarmist of us, dihydrogen monoxide is, of course, H2O or good old water, like the stuff I’m sipping on right now on a hot summer day.  Yes – that’s the main waste product produced by HFCs, which is why these are a bit of a hot topic in the world of environmental motoring.

OK, so air goes in one bit of the HFC, hydrogen gas goes in the other, and water and electrical power come out of it.  The next question that one has to ask is where the hydrogen fuel comes from (this question always needs to be asked: what’s the source of the fossil fuel substitute?).  The cheapest source of hydrogen gas as used on HFCs is natural gas, which is, unfortunately, a fossil fuel.  So are some of the other sources of hydrogen gas.  However, you can get it out of methane, which is the simplest type of hydrocarbon.  Methane can be produced naturally by bacteria that live in the guts of certain animals, especially cows.  Not sure how you can catch the methane from burping and farting cows for use in making hydrogen gas for HFCs.  And, just in case you’re wondering, some humans (not all!) do produce methane when they fart.  It’s down to the particular breed of bacteria in the gut (archaea if you want to be picky – they’re known as methanogens).  They’re as common as muck – literally.  So yes, there’s potential for hydrogen gas to be produced from natural sources – including from sewage.  The other thing is that producing hydrogen gas from methane leaves carbon dioxide behind.  But this has way less effect as a greenhouse gas than methane, so that’s a plus.

If you’re currently feeling that HFCs might not be quite as environmentally friendly after all and we all ought to drive straight EVs, then I encourage you to do a thorough investigation of how the electricity used to charge EVs comes from. It’s not always that carbon-neutral either.  Heck, even a bicycle isn’t carbon-neutral because when you puff and pant more to push those pedals, you are breathing out more carbon dioxide than normal.  All in all, HFCs are pretty darn good.  The worst thing they chuck out as exhaust is water, and the hydrogen gas needed to power them can come from sustainable sources – very sustainable if you get it from animal manure and/or sewage, which also means that poop becomes a resource instead of a problem to get rid of.  They’re doing this in Japan – and they’ve also managed to get the carbon bits of the methane to become calcium carbonate, which sequesters carbon and has all sorts of fun uses from a dietary supplement through to agricultural lime.

Another plus about HFCs is that they are a lot more efficient than combustion engines.  A large chunk of the potential energy going in turns into the electrical energy that you want, which is then turned into kinetic (motion) energy by the motor so your car gets moving (or it turns into some other form, such as light energy for the headlights or sound energy for the stereo system).  Some comes out in the form of heat.  Combustion engines waste a lot of the potential energy in the form of heat (lots of it!) and noise (ditto).

The amount of electrical energy produced by a single HFC isn’t going to be very large, so inside any vehicle powered by hydrogen technology, there will be a stack of HFCs, which work together to produce the full amount of oomph you need. The fun part in designing a vehicle that runs on HFC technology involves ensuring that the stack has the oomph needed without being too heavy and working out where to put the tanks of hydrogen gas.  However, this isn’t too hard.

The other problem with manufacturing HFC vehicles is that the catalyst inside the cells is expensive – platinum is common.  This is probably one of the biggest barriers to the spread of the technology, along with the usual issue of nobody buying HFC vehicles because nobody’s got an easy place to get the gas from and nobody’s selling the gas because nobody’s buying HFC cars.  They had the same issue with plug-in EVs too, remember, and we all know how that’s changed.  However, last year, our very own CSIRO came up with some technology to get hydrogen fuel for HFC vehicles out of ammonia and they want to go crazy with this and use it all over the show.  This is exciting stuff and probably deserves a post of its very own, so I’ll tell you more about that another day.

I feel in the need for some 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine theine combined with dihydrogen monoxide in solution with β-D-galactopyranosyl-(1→4)-D-glucose and calcium phosphate, also known as a cup of coffee, so it’s time for me to stop and to wish you safe and happy driving – hopefully without too much methane inside the cabin of your car on long journeys!

*Some people in the world have far, far too much time on their hands.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 MY Isuzu MU-X LS-U Seven Seater

This Car Review Is About:
The 2018 model year MU-X from Isuzu. It’s a diesel fed engine range only, comes with seven seats, and two or four wheel drive across three trim levels. The vehicle tested was the near top of the range seven seater with four wheel drive called LS-U. Prices start at $50,200 plus on road costs for the entry level MU-X LS-M, $50,400 for the LS-U, and $56,200 for the top of the range LS-T.Under The Bonnet Is:
A low revving 3.0L diesel that produces 130kW at 3600rpm, and delivers 430Nm of torque between 2000 to 2200rpm. There is 300Nm on tap at just 1500rpm. Isuzu quote the engine as consuming, on a combined cycle, 7.9L to 8.1L per 100km, depending on trim level. The review vehicle was with us for just under three weeks, with a majority of country running (close to 2000km being covered), and generally with four aboard plus cargo. We finished on 8.5L/100km, decent considering the 2750kg gross vehicle mass (GVM). It’s rated as Euro5 for emissions and for up to 3.0 tonnes for towing. Fuel capacity is 65 litres.It’s a key start, not push button. A simple turn, the engine fires up almost immediately. The engine itself has a variable geometry turbo which is designed to alter the flow of engine exhaust in an effort to overcome the phenomenon known as turbo lag. It’s mostly well sorted here, however there were more than a few occasions where the engine felt like it was switched off, and they were invariably coming into a stop zone, and then being able to continue fairly quickly. The response was as if the turbo had stopped and needed a reboot to start spinning again.

It’s a fairly quiet unit, especially when off-load pedal wise. Hard acceleration brings out the typical diesel clatter and chatter but it’s surprisingly quiet otherwise. A good analogy is being in an aircraft coming into land, where the engine noise drops and becomes a background sound.

Transmission choices are limited. The range is mainly a six speed auto, however there is a six speed manual available on the 4×4 LS-U. The review vehicle was fitted with the auto and it’s fair to say it’s a very well sorted unit. Given the engine’s low stress, low rev, locomotive style characteristics, the ratios for the auto do a great job of harnessing the torque. 110kmh sees around 1600rpm in sixth on the freeway. 120kmh is still just under 2000rpm. Shifts are smooth, mostly seamless, and the Hill Descent Control part of the software knocks the gearbox back a cog or two and holds there on downhill tarmac based runs.

The four wheel drive system is operated electronically. A centre console mounted dial allows shifting between two wheel drive to four wheel drive high range “on the fly” at speeds up to one hundred kilometres per hour. Low range requires a stopped vehicle, neutral, and Drive. The end result is a solid, proven, ability to get some real dirt into the 255/60/18 rubber from Bridgestone.

On The Inside Is:
Seven seats, all cloth covered in the LS-U with Isuzu PR also throwing in rubber mats, a decision that paid dividends later. Trim is mainly black plastic, with a semi-gloss sheen. The third row seats are pull-strap operated, with a simple pull to both raise and lower. There is some additional cargo compartments fitted at the rear behind these seats. Middle row seats are tumble fold, allowing access from the rear door to the seats. The tail gate is manually operated, not powered.The driver’s seat is powered, with the passenger’s manually operated. The dash is a simple affair and varies considerably from Holden’s Trailblazer (formerly Colorado 7). The centre stack is dominated by a large dial for the aircon temperatures, with fan control, air direction, etc mounted in a sub-circle around it. This feeds extra vents in the roof which are themselves controlled by a separate dial for fan speed in the roof, with a dash mounted on/off button. The upper console has a shallow but broad storage locker, with a button that sometimes sticks. Centre console storage is a small locker and two cup/bottle holders.The driver’s dash display is simple, again with a circular theme in the LCD screen. This features fuel on the right in segments, with engine temperature on the left. The screen is multifunction, showing travel distance, distance to empty, fuel consumption, and more. Access is via a push button on both stalks, meaning you can scroll through left to right, or vice versa. It’s a nicely laid out look and shows up how badly the main eight inch touchscreen needs an overhaul. It’s full of pale, pastel, colours, looks like a washed out example of something on Japanese TV screens from the 1980s, and although featuring satnav, the response time is slow. Too slow. Also, there is no DAB audio. To counter this, it links to both DVD and CD, with roof mounted surround speakers for the front seats. Should one wish to utilise the cargo, up to 1830L of space is available with rear and middle row seats folded.Head, leg, and shoulder room aren’t a problem. Isuzu lists front leg room as 1106mm, middle as 915mm, and rear at 815mm. Head room up front is 1009mm, middle at 980mm, and 929mm for the rear. This provides great all round vision for the family. Shoulder room is 1453mm, 1340mm, 1009mm respectively.The Outside Has:
The test car had a tow bar, weather shields, and bonnet protector fitted. Check with your Isuzu dealer for costings. Paint is a gorgeous pearlescent white, and highlights the 1860mm height, 4825mm length, and 1860mm width nicely. Although the exterior shaping hasn’t changed much over the last few years, there has been a couple of subtle rejigs to at least keep a semblance of freshness. The front is a gentle yet assertive mix of angles, with LED running lights set as eyebrows above the main lights. There are globes in the lower bumper section to back these up.The black plastic bonnet protector and weather shields contrast well with the white pearl. Isuzu offer Cosmic Black, Havana Brown, Magnetic Red, Obsidian Grey, Titanium Silver, and Splash White as their palette. All highlight the muscular stance and body of the MU-X’s stern stare and do a good job of slim-lining the otherwise bulky rear. A full sized spare is mounted outside and under the cargo area.

The design allows the MU-X to have an approach angle of 24 degrees, 25 degrees departure, but the high centre of gravity provides just 19 degrees of ramp-over. Isuzu back up the ability by adding in a solid list of safety features. Four channel ABS, Electronic Stability Control, and Hill Descent Control get backed up by Trailer Sway Control. Reverse Camera, rear sensors, and six airbags are also standard.

On The Road It’s:
An easy going, lope along, low stress machine. The readily available torque down low is somewhat hobbled in the acceleration stakes by both the gearing and the fact it runs out of puff quickly once around the 3500rpm mark. It’s just above idle when traveling at around sixty, meaning the diesel chatter is a muted background thrum. The characteristics of the package settle down to something simple: it’s muscular but not quick, with overtaking an example of planning ahead.

The review car was taken on two substantial country trips from the Blue Mountains where it demonstrated its easy going highway nature. It’s a superb cruiser, and with the revs sitting below 2000rpm it really is a super relaxed machine to be in. Although the cloth seats lacked ventilation, they are well padded enough to have a two to three hour stint behind the wheel having the driver relatively fresh. The relatively high sidewalls on the rubber add a sometimes spongy ride but also do a lot to help absorption of varying road surfaces, both on and off tarmac. Front suspension is coil springs around gas filled dampers, with a multi-link rear end and gas filled dampers feeling marginally softer.

On the straight the MU-X is solidly planted however the steering lacks real feel. It’s like a tight and twisted rubber rope from centre to a good half turn either side. Oddly enough, the response is quite quick but the slightly soft suspension and a feeling of a high centre of gravity leave a sensation of spongy movement, a lurching body. In context, any moves need to be planned, such as they were on the highway south of Canberra and between Cooma and Bega.

A properly trained driver can adjust to the body movement and work with it to ensure a smooth transition from planted to movement. Brown Mountain is a prime example of this. There’s a down and up hill section of ten kilometres that tests both engine and transmission, both steering and ride. The steering gets a excellent test here and the MU-X needs some judicious handwork to make sure weight transfer is kept to a minimum. The brakes on the MU-X are pretty damned good at dealing with downhill runs too, with reasonable pedal feedback, a decent movement through the pedal travel, and good ability to haul it up when required.The MU-X was taken off road and with ground clearance of 230mm it’s not the highest sitting machine but managed a section of the Bega river with no qualms. Four wheel drive high was all that was needed. It was a different story on a local fire trail well used for off-road testing. Water pressure popped an insert in the lower left bumper, dislodged a plastic shroud, and a rock compressed a side step. All nothing major but enough to show some reinforcement is required. What was also noticeable is a sensation of the suspension stiffening up, adding more confidence to the ride.The Warranty Is:
Five years or 130,000 kilometres, with capped price servicing for the first five services.

At The End Of The Drive.
Isuzu’s industrial heritage is on display here with the MU-X. And that’s a good thing. It’s strong, reliable, and comfortable. The interior could use a lift in presence, especially the dash and console, otherwise it’s comfortable enough to be in and to drive from. Fit and finish on the inside is tight and well made, with a good glass area helping minimise feelings of being closed in. The economy is also great for a family, with consistent figures below 9.0L/100kmh for a loaded vehicle a surefire winner.

What was noticeable during the near three weeks of review time was the sheer amount of D-Max and MU-X vehicles seen. This, amongst many reasons, is reason enough to consider the Isuzu MU-X range when looking for a family oriented SUV. Here is the link to access further details and download a brochure. Don’t forget to contact Private Fleet to see what we can do for you.

Toyota Takes Five, Warranty Wise.

Just days after Subaru announced they will be offering a five year and/or unlimited kilometre warranty, Toyota has joined the party. They’ve announced the introduction of the Toyota Warranty Advantage – a standard five-year manufacturer warranty for all new Toyota vehicles sold from January 1, 2019. For private buyers there’s an unlimited kilometres warranty, with commercial vehicles getting 160,000 kilometres.

Toyota also offers a 60 buy-back scheme. Owners of new vehicles are entitled to a full refund for any failure that prevents the vehicle being driveable within 60 days of collecting their new vehicles, and this 60-day money-back guarantee also applies where there have been multiple unsuccessful attempts to repair a vehicle. There is an added bonus; Toyota dealers will cover the cost of a loan vehicle and towing, if required, if a vehicle requires a warranty repair and is deemed as undriveable.

Like most companies, Toyota will now offer an extended warranty if a new car is serviced to log book specifications, of up to an extra two years. This also extends to hybrid cars and the battery systems with an extra five years and/or unlimited kilometres as long as an annual hybrid “health check” is carried out by Toyota from the fifth year onwards.

If there is a component failure due to a manufacturing defect, the coverage and apply past the Toyota Warranty Advantage period. This also covers, thankfully, Toyota genuine parts and accessories, with coverage up to five years and linked to the vehicle’s warranty coverage.

Sean Hanley, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said: “The Toyota Warranty Advantage demonstrates the willingness of Toyota and our dealers to provide excellent customer care that matches the enviable reputation of our vehicles for quality, durability and reliability. Our guests have told us that being able to remain on the road, with minimal disruption and inconvenience was most important to them.”

He also said: “Which is why we’ve taken the time to develop the Toyota Warranty Advantage, to ensure that we deliver what our guests are looking for – a consumer-focused warranty program that will ensure that Toyota owners feel confident and appreciated throughout an exceptional ownership experience.”

Toyota have also gone hard on capped price servicing. All new Toyota vehicles are also covered by Toyota Service Advantage, with a new Toyota HiLux costing just $180 (petrol) or $240 (diesel) for each of the first six scheduled services over three years or 60,000km (whichever occurs first). A new Toyota Corolla hybrid costs just $175 for each of the first five annual scheduled services over five years or 75,000km (whichever occurs first).

Contact your Toyota dealership for details.

The Fine Art of Waving

Well, I hope that 2019 has started well for you.  If you are reading this while still out on a road trip, good for you!

I also covered a few miles over the holiday season, driving to visit relatives as well as to get a bit of R & R.  While toddling around the place and occasionally zooming around the place, it came to my attention that when you’re driving in rural areas, it seems to be the done thing to wave to other drivers… but not if the traffic’s heavy.  There seems to be some sort of unwritten code about waving at other drivers.  Well, it’s about time that this code got written down!

The first rule seems to be that like waves to like.  You don’t see car drivers waving to truckers, truckers waving to motorcyclists or motorcyclists waving to car drivers.  However, truckers wave to truckers, car drivers to car drivers, and motorcyclists to other motorcyclists.  There are a few exceptions to this rule.  Small children riding as passengers are allowed to wave at anybody and should be waved back to because it’s a nice thing to do and provides a bit of a human connection during a long boring trip in the back of the car while visiting Grandma.  Truckers and motorcyclists are also allowed to wave back to children on the side of the road who wave to them.  The other exceptions to the “like waves to like” rule are (a) if someone has pulled over to let you pass or done something else nice and (b) if you recognize the other driver.  Actually, these last two exceptions always apply: one always acknowledges friends and extra courteous behaviour.

Waving is also only done to oncoming vehicles. You do not wave to vehicles that you’re overtaking or who are overtaking you.  You also do not wave to stationary vehicles or to vehicles in the lane beside you.  Only oncoming drivers count.

The next rule for waving as a car driver is that it only really takes place in rural areas and in places where the traffic isn’t heavy.  We don’t wave to each oncoming vehicle in the city – in the city, we tend to see other cars as impersonal things coming towards us as we travel along in our little metal bubbles.  In the country, however, another driver is another human in a large and mostly empty landscape.  If rural traffic is heavy for whatever reason – congested interstate highways and the roads leading to music festivals, for example – then waving is optional.

Thinking about this, it would be kind of fun to extend the “like waves to like” rule to city driving as well, just to add a bit more of a personal side to things. After all, driving is becoming more and more automated these days, and we spend so much time connecting with others via screens, so a bit more contact with real humans is always welcome.  However, you don’t want to spend half your driving time waving.  I therefore propose the following: in the city, you can wave to other cars with the same make, model and colour as yours.  Like calling “Snap!”  This kind of happens already in the case of classic cars and in the case of somewhat less common vehicles.  But let’s all give it a go!

In fact, Nissan had a campaign a few years back (in 2011, in fact) trying to come up with an official wave for drivers of the LEAF  hybrid to give other LEAF drivers.  A hunt through the Nissan Electric Facebook page  suggests that the results were inconclusive but at least they tried…  Maybe they tried too hard.

Let us now turn back to the typical wave from driver to driver on a rural road.  How does one do it?  Fully taking one hand off the wheel and sticking it out the window while waving frantically is only saved for when you see a friend driving the other way.  If you do it at a stranger, you’re a bit of a weirdo and you’ve transgressed the code of behaviour.

There seem to be different types of wave.  All of them are considered polite acknowledgements of fellow drivers and you are free to choose any style that suits you.  If you are particularly bored and want to keep the passengers amused, get them to keep a score and see which one is the most popular.

  • The nod: This is the most basic acknowledgement of the humanity of another driver. This is done by quickly bowing one’s head forward or in the direction of the other driver (i.e. on a slight diagonal).  Used by more introverted people, staunch silent types and those who like to have both hands on the wheel at all times.
  • The single finger: No, not THAT single finger salute! This is the polite version and is a bit more visible than the nod.  This involves straightening the index finger (pointer) of one hand or the other (usually the right hand – but I’m right-handed.  Do lefties raise the pointer of their left hands?).  All other fingers stay curled around the steering wheel.
  • The flap: This is an extension of the single finger wave. Instead of just one finger uncurling and leaving the wheel, all fingers plus the thumb open up while the heel of the hand rests on the steering wheel, giving the oncoming driver a brief flash of palm.
  • The full hand: The whole hand leaves the steering wheel and is raised no further than head height. The palm faces the oncoming driver.
  • The karate chop: Here, the hand leaves the wheel can be lifted as high as high as the head or even slightly above it, but only the side of the hand is presented to the oncoming driver rather than the palm.  It’s kind of like a sloppy military salute.

What about not waving?  Is this acceptable?  The code here states that if the other person doesn’t wave to you, you don’t have to wave back.  However, if someone waves to you, it’s polite to wave back.  If you fail to wave back, you will be judged, often according to what you drive.  If you are driving a new(ish) luxury model, you will be perceived as a stuck-up snob who sees themselves as better than anybody else on the road.  If you are in a muscle car, you’re considered a power-obsessed jerk who thinks they own the road.  If you’re in a battered old vehicle, you’re considered to be a bum and a lout with no manners.  If you own a small hatchback, you’re considered to be a selfish millennial/old fogy.  If you drive none of the above, you’re just considered to be rude.  Children (or possibly other passengers if you’re bored enough) are then permitted to poke out tongues or do other rude hand signs at the non-wavers, preferably once they’ve passed out of sight or just as you’re passing each other.

Have a great summer of driving and always be courteous. Including waving.

Subaru High Fives! The Warranty, That Is.

Subaru has joined the extended warranty club, with five years and unlimited kilometres warranty now being made standard. As an added benefit, Subaru will extend the warranty of three years to five.

As Subaru’s website says: If you purchased your new Subaru before 1 January 2019 and during a campaign period which included an offer of a 2 year manufacturer’s extended warranty, your standard Subaru Warranty of 3 Years/Unlimited Kilometres will automatically have been extended to 5 Years/Unlimited Kilometres.

If your vehicle’s warranty is extended under the offer you will have received a communication from Subaru Australia confirming your vehicle is covered by a 5 Year/Unlimited Kilometre Warranty.

This brings Subaru into line with all but two manufacturers in the mainstream marketplace, with just Toyota and Nissan left holding the three year warranty line.

Any vehicle bought new from Subaru from January 1 automatically attracts the new warranty as well. Extra peace of mind comes in owner transferable warranty, meaning that if an owner of a vehicle with the five year warranty on-sells the car within that period then the warranty goes with the car.

The fine print can be found here:Subaru Five Year Warranty