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Archive for April, 2019

2020 Toyota Kluger Revealed.

Toyota has released details of the forthcoming Kluger. It stays with a petrol engine, doesn’t add a diesel, but does go to a hybrid drivetrain. The petrol V6 engine, at 3.5L and recently updated to provide 220kW, will be bolted to an eight-speed auto while the hybrid benefits from a new generation 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine matched to a hybrid powertrain.

This is shared with the current Camry range. A torque split system in the all wheel drive versions will have a mainly front drive bias, but can send up to 50% of torque to the rear as required. A torque vectoring system will add extra agility, with splits between left and right as well as front to rear.Overall, the Kluger looks familiar but is virtually a new design from the ground up. It’s slipperier which means wind and road noise should be lowered, plus a more aerodynamic shape should add extra kilometres of range per litre of fuel. The design is part of the Toyota New Generation global Architecture, or TNGA.

It will be longer by 60mm than the soon to be superseded model, allowing better access to the second and third row seats, and increasing room all around. This includes an extra 30mm slide length for the second row seats. There will be plenty of safety tech on board to protect the occupants as well.Autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and speed-sign recognition are expected to be standard equipment. Also expected is a 12.3 inch touchscreen, and it’s fair to expect that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be embedded. Outside is a slimmer, more streamlined body and will roll on 20 inch wheels for the first time.

Released at the 2019 New York Motor Show, details of on-sale date and price for Australia are yet to be confirmed.

 

 

The EV From Down Under

We were all very sad when we got the news that those iconic Australian cars – Ford and Holden – were no longer going to be manufactured here and that the factories were closing their doors. However, we can all smile again for the sake of the Australian automotive industry: a new company in Queensland is going to manufacture a car from scratch.  Great!

There’s a slight difference with this newcomer, though. Unlike the gas-guzzling Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores (OK, they were a bit better when driven on the open road but that’s another story altogether), this new company, ACE EV, is turning its eyes to the hot new sector of the automotive industry: electric cars.

Well, to be more specific, it’s going in for electric vans and commercial vehicles as well as cars.  And, to be fair, the factory is going to be using some parts that were manufactured overseas as well as a few made here.  The idea is to keep the costs down.  They’re not out to produce Tesla clones at Tesla prices.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Tesla per se and it’s neat to see electric vehicles that have bust out of the boring, crunchy-granola, wimpy image and become supercool.  However, a brand new Tesla probably costs more than what I paid for my house.  ACE EV, however, wants to make EVs more affordable for the typical tradie or suburban family.

ACE EV stands for “Australian Clean Energy Electric Vehicles”.  Proudly Australian, their logo features a kangaroo on the move.  This year (2019), they are launching three vehicles, targeting tradies as well as your typical urban motorist, although they’re only selling them to companies as fleet vehicles at this stage.  These are the ACE Cargo, the ACE Yewt and the ACE Urban.

ACE Cargo

The Cargo is designed to, um, carry cargo.  It’s a van that’s capable of carrying a payload of 500 kg and has a range of 200 kg if it’s not carrying the full load. The Cargo is designed to be suitable for couriers and anybody who has to carry gear or people from one side of town to the other: florists, caterers, cleaners, nurses and the people who carry blood samples from the medical centre to the lab for analysis. Looks-wise, it’s broken out of the square box mould of traditional vans, probably for aerodynamic reasons, and resembles a single-cab ute with a hefty canopy.

Ace Yewt

Which brings us neatly to the Yewt.  The Yewt is what it sounds like (say Yewt out loud if you haven’t got it yet). It’s a flat-deck single-cab ute and as it’s got more or less the same specs as the Cargo regarding load, charge time and acceleration. You’d be forgiven for thinking that t it’s the same thing as the Cargo but with the cover on the cargo area taken off.  It’s something of a cute ute – and the contrasting colour roof is a nice touch.

Last but not least, there’s the Urban, which is no relation to the Mitsubishi with the notoriously weird name (Active Urban Sandal).  This one’s still in the pipeline and they haven’t given us the full specs brochure yet (it’s due for release later this year), but this is a classic four-seater compact three-door hatch that looks a bit like a classic Mini but edgier.

It’s certainly nice to see some new vehicles made in Australia for Australians, especially given that in a recent poll, about half of all Australians in an official survey by the Australia Institute would support a law that all new cars sold after 2025 should be EVs.  However, let’s not rush things too much yet.  For one thing, EVs are only one of the Big Three when it comes sustainable motoring (biofuels and hydrogen are the others).  The other thing is that all energy has to come from somewhere, even electricity, as stated by the First Law of Thermodynamics.  This means that in order to charge your EV, you’re going to have to generate the electricity somehow and get it to the charging points.  Before we go over lock, stock and barrel to EVs, we will need better infrastructure, and I don’t just mean more EV charging points around town and in our homes.  We’ll need some more generators.  Otherwise, it would be like setting up a bowser but having no petrol to put in it.  If everybody were to try charging their EVs at home overnight, there would be a massive drain on the national grid and we’d be getting brownouts and blackouts all over the show –which means that watching TV, catching up on your emails, having a hot shower and cooking dinner would get rather difficult – and you wouldn’t be able to charge your EV either.  Guess where the power companies will have to get the money from in order to build new power plants – that’s right: your power bill.

May I humbly suggest that before you invest in an EV for your commute that you also consider installing a solar panel or three on your home?  Or a wind generator?  Not one of those petrol or diesel-powered generators – swapping an internal combustion engine in your car for one in the back yard isn’t better for the environment now, is it?  Unless you run it on biofuel or hydrogen.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 SsangYong Rexton Limited.

This Car Review Is About: The redesigned SsangYong Rexton. It’s part of a three model range from the Korean car maker, with the Musso and Tivoli the other two. The Tivoli is to be replaced by a name semi-familiar to Australians in the form of Korando. Under The Bonnet Is: A diesel engine for the Limited. The Euro6 compliant 2.2L pumps 133kW and 420Nm through a Mercedes sourced eight speed auto, down to the rear wheels or all four in a high and low range choice. The transfer case is engaged via an electronically operated system, accessed by a jog dial in the console. The torque is available from 1600 through to 2600rpm. Go for the petrol fed powerplant in the lower models and the gearbox is from Aisan.

Combined fuel consumption is rated as 10.4L/100km, with 13.9L/100km in the urban drive cycle. Get out on the highway and SsangYong says 8.4L/100km. We finished on 10.9L/100km from the 70L tank for a mainly urban drive.

On The Inside Is: A superbly appointed cabin, complete with a diamond stitched quilt pattern in the leather adorning the seats and dash. There is a splash of faux wood in a grey plastic which both contrasts and complements, somehow, the dash design. Otherwise, there is a swathe of alloy hued accents in the doors housing the tweeters for the sound system and the three memory settings for the driver’s seat. The seats themselves are super comfortable, with plenty of padding and support. Heating and venting is a smart choice for the Australian spec cars and there’s heating to a Goldilocks temperature steering wheel. It’d be even better if the tiller itself was thicker to hold. It’s a seven seater too, with the third row fully folding and easy to operate via the pull strap system. The rear windows have privacy glass and do a great job of keeping Sol’s UV rays at bay from the side.

The centre dash section is akin to the other Korean brands. A clean layout to the switchgear for the anciliary controls and again in an alloy look adds an extra touch of class. The eight inch touchscreen looks good but doesn’t have satnav, nor does the audio side feature DAB. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay stand up to offer those services instead. The driver has a full colour screen as well, and the speedometer offers three different looks, along with tyre pressures, audio, and more. The gear selector has a toggle switch for manual shifts, and its both plasticky in feel and a little awkward to operate. There’s also a 360 degree camera view system installed and Rexton gets LED lights inside and out, including the glowing sill plates.The rear and middle rows get their own aircon controls, with the cargo section seats having a simple dial and a pair of twist operated vents. There’s a separate cargo cover that’s a bit fiddly to operate. The centre row gets an additional extra, a power socket that for the Aussie market needs an adaptor if you’re looking to plug in a cooling unit or a generator. A cooling unit isn’t a bad idea, in context, as the full length glass roof in the Limited has a thin white cloth shade and heat builds up quite easily.On The Outside:Is a completely revamped look. It’s not unfair to say the SsangYongs seen previously were ugly, very ugly. The Rexton looks more like a “traditional” SUV and is a big unit at that. It stands over 1.8m, is knocking on the five metre long mark, and is close to two metres wide. This adds up to plenty of interior space and an imposing presence on road. Rubber is big and comes from Kumho. Wheels are chromed alloys and the package on the Limited is 255/50/20.

The doors and wing mirrors feature LED lighting and the headlights have high intensity discharge lamps, as well as LED driving lights. It’s a far more cohesive look than the previously far too angular version Black urethane highlights the wheel arches and joins each end along the body. Some gentle curves in the sheetmetal lend an extra softness to the look, and draw the eye towards the front doors. The rear door is power operated and opens up to reveal a maximum of 1806L of space when the rear and centre rows are folded. Access to the centre and front seats is easy thanks to the wide opening doors but a little bit of gymnastics is required otherwise to enter the rear.Out On The Road It’s: An 80/20 mix. Eighty percent pretty good, dragged back by the twenty percent not so. Of real note is the horrendous lag from a standing start. Even though there is 420Nm available from just 1600rpm, getting the engine and turbo to spool up feels like watching paint trying to dry on a damp autumnal day. It’s an unusual feeling considering most diesels now don’t have that gap between the press of the pedal and forward motion. Once on tap though, the Rexton, which weighs around 2100kg, has some seriously good hustle.Load up the go pedal with a heavy right foot, and the drive system gets that 420Nm through to the rear rubber which will happily chirp the tune of wheelspin momentarily. The traction control gives it a second or two before there is the briefest of powerflow interruptions and the big rubber hooks up. The steering then becomes the second part of the equation. It’s a loosely connected sensation, with what feels like a half turn for a quarter turn of the front wheels left and right. There is a mechanical feeling to it, with a sensation of no damping in the setup. This means that the road surface and the engine’s vibrations are transmitted through and there is extra steering movement and adds a measure of twitchiness.

The ride is on the hard side, but doesn’t mean it’s either sporting or uncomfortable. Flat roads are great but find a bump or ridge and there’s less than expected give in the way the body rebounds. Think of the bump-thump your car has and add extra bump. It also means that body roll is virtually existent and the more rapid changes of direction have the Rexton Limited sitting flat. It’s a coil sprung front and a multi-link rear.Braking becomes the last part of that 20%, with a lack of feedback, a soft travel, and a real need to press down to get a sense of retardation. Along with the turbo lag, it adds up to needing to plan a little more than should be needed when it comes to moving the big machine around. Balancing that is the excellent response to the accelerator. When the revs are right in the sweet spot, response time is on point, and the Mercedes sourced seven speeder slurs through efficiently, quickly, quietly.

What About The Safety? No problems here. AEB and Forward Collision Warning go hand in hand, as do Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Detection. Lane Change Assist and High Beam Assist, along with a full suite of airbags including kneebag for the driver ensure the Rexton Limited is a safe office. Tyre pressure monitoring is on board and available as a visual option in the driver’s display.And The Warranty?There has to be something in the water in Korea, as SsangYong go up against Kia by offering seven years. Whack on unlimited kilometres, a good service schedule and pricing, plus seven years of roadside assistance.

At The End Of The Drive:If there’s any real indication of Korean car companies improving quicker than anticipated, it’s SsangYong. Given what the brand offered just a few years ago across the range, this car, the Rexton Limited, and the others such as the Musso four door ute and Tivoli small SUV, to be replaced by the shape of Korando, the brand is on a sharply upwards inclined trajectory. Ignore this one at your peril. Here is where to find out more.

Jeep Readies For Battle With The Gladiator.

Jeep has unveiled its four door ute. Named Gladiator, it’s a Wrangler clone from the front until the beginning of the tray. From here it gets big. 5.5 metres big. The tray itself has a unique imprint which is part of the aim to have it seen as a lifestyle vehicle, not a “tradie’s ute”. For the family oriented, a dirt bike imprint in the front of the tray says straight away it’s for fun, not work. Backing that up is the set of four tie down points to help strap in the two wheelers.

Jeep have also ensured that when the going gets tough, it’s up to the task. The body underneath is steel, ensuring there is plenty of strength. The lower sides of the Gladiator are alloy.

Power will come from the 3.6L V6 petrol, and eventually a 3.0L diesel. Drive to the ground will pass through an eight speed auto with six speed manuals available overseas. Both engines will have ESS, Engine Stop Start, and the petrol engine will pump out 212kW. Peak torque should be around 350Nm. The diesel’s peak torque should be nudging 600Nm. Grunt gets to the dirt or tarmac via front and rear lockable diffs and sway bars with electronic disengagement. These go with a design line from Jeep: fit a 1.5m long tub, serious off-road chops, and carry a full sized spare wheel underneath the tray. That’s a hefty part of the brief, that last part, as in Rubicon spec the wheel’s overall diameter is 35 inches. And being Wrangler based, a removeable roof and doors, along with a folding forward front screen comes as part of the package.

Inside it’s standard Jeep, with a squared, blocky, design ethos. An infotainment screen of 7.0 inches or 8.4 inches will provide smartphone access and mirroring, and in the Rubicon will show pitch angles, plus a front facing camera shows the driver the forthcoming trail. This can be of importance as the length of the Gladiator means that agility may not be up to the standard shorter vehicles have. However, the Gladiator will have a ride setup at the rear that’s been adapted from the even bigger RAM1500, meaning that the jiggly ride a shorter wheelbase car may exhibit should be pretty much dialled out. Want to go “swimming”? The Gladiator will ford up to 30 inches.

The Gladiator is expected to have Autonomous Emergency Braking and adaptive cruise control, along with blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts. Warranty should be five years

Estimated prices are somewhere around $55K as a starter with a current estimated top whack of around $80k. Naturally these are subject to change. Register at Jeep Australia’s website for upcoming information.

 

Traffic Sign Recognition: What Is It?

What’s one of the more common scenarios for picking up a speeding ticket besides simply being leadfooted?  Apart from accidentally letting the speedo creep up because you’re looking at the road ahead rather than at the dial (avoidable with cruise control, of course), the other time speeding tickets happen to nice well-behaved drivers who weren’t meaning to go too fast and wanted to keep to the limit is when you’re driving in an unfamiliar town or (even more annoyingly) a part of town that you knew but has recently been redeveloped.

You know how this one goes.  You’re toddling along through town and then you get to a bit that looks like the houses are coming to an end and you’re getting into more rural areas so you press the accelerator down a wee bit to get up to 70 km/h.  Or you know that there’s a town coming up ahead but it still looks like you’re in market garden and lifestyle block land so you keep your pace up a bit. but next thing you know, there’s disco lights in the rear view mirror and you’re getting a ticket. Because what you thought was now a 70 km/h area actually wasn’t one at all and you should have been doing 50 km/h.  Dagnabbit!

The problem in this situation is that you either didn’t see the sign or you thought that you’d gone past the sign without seeing it, and instead, you relied on the visual landscape cues around you to decide on your speed.  Traffic psychologists say that most experienced drivers rely on these visual stimuli all the time and if the Powers That Be could afford to do it, this would be the most effective way of making sure that the typical driver stuck to the speed limit (we’re not talking about those leadfoots that scream through quiet streets at 80 km/h, making you worry about every single dog, cat, cyclist and small child in the neighbourhood).  In fact, I’m sure I’m not the only person who drives through certain small towns at 50 km/h thinking “No way should this area be a 70 km/h zone!  Too many houses and shops!  I’m going slower.”

However, they can’t afford it and they probably need the revenue from those speeding tickets (we all know this happens) so they rely on the traffic signs – the lollypop signs, as we call them in our house.  What every driver needs is a navigator in the passenger seat whose job is to keep an eye out for said lollipops and remind the driver.  This is precisely what traffic sign recognition is supposed to do for you when you’re driving alone.  It keeps a lookout for those traffic signs and displays what the current speed limit is on the dashboard display.

When I first heard of traffic sign recognition technology, which is now a safety feature or driver aid in a lot of high-end luxury cars like Mercedes and BMW, I groaned a little bit.  Not because I didn’t like the idea of having a feature that let me know what speed I’m supposed to be going but because I had this dread that the technology would pick up on every single sign on the road ahead and display that.  Information overload isn’t good for decision-making processes so this sounded like more of a distraction than a help.  The cynical part of me also wondered when they’d monetize this so that certain ads or signs would pop up, notifying you of particular businesses ahead – the dreaded golden arches, for example.

However, I needn’t have worried.  The designers are all too aware that most modern roads are awash with signage, which is why it’s so easy to miss those lollipops in the first place.  The tech uses pattern recognition technology, so that it only picks up on actual traffic signs – the ones with the white backgrounds and a red circle around them, with the number displayed in black.  The software and the front-facing camera home in on these patterns and can recognise the numbers, and it’s this that gets displayed on your dash.  The software can also pick up useful signs like Give Way, Stop and No Entry – and warn you if you go ahead anyway!

The exact tech goes through a very complicated process to extract the necessary data at the right speed – my eyes started crossing while trying to wrap my head around it, so I won’t attempt a simple explanation here. If you’re the more nerdy sort, then here’s the low-down.

Traffic sign recognition (aka traffic sign assistance or TSA) is quite a handy little feature and it’s no longer found exclusively in high-end executive saloons.  It’s found in new versions of familiar little family cars like the Ford Focus.  In fact, there’s a rumour going about that this will become mandatory on all new cars sold in the EU from 2022 (2020 is just next year, so this is no longer the Big Benchmark and planners will lose their favourite pun about 2020 vision).

At this stage, at any rate, the vehicles are sticking to the basic signs rather than adding in all the safety warning signs.  This is partly because traffic signs around the world vary somewhat.  Software that recognises a Swedish polar bear warning sign would be useless in Australia, where we have kangaroo warning signs, for example.  What’s worse is that even signs that mean the same thing vary slightly from country to country.

But what happens if the sign in question is obscured by vegetation or has been shot out of recognition or knocked down by some hoodlum?  Well, the software can’t recognise what it can’t see, so once again, you’re back to your visual cues.  At least you can try arguing that the sign was obscured to the cop.  It sometimes works, especially if you did see the edge of the sign but couldn’t read it thanks to a tree.  If you’re unlucky, they’ll spend your speeding fine on clearing that vegetation or upgrading the sign.

 

Car Review: 2019 Suzuki Vitara AllGrip Turbo

This Car Review Is About: The revamped for 2019 Suzuki Vitara range, specifically the 1.4L Boosterjet AllGrip. It sits at the top of a tidied up three tier range. There is a choice of a 1.6L normally aspirated engine, a 1.4L 2WD, or the AllGrip as tested. The range starts at a decent $22,490 plus ORC, the turbo 2WD is $29,990, and the AllGrip is $33,990. Options and metallic paint are separate costs items, at $500 for metallic and $1,250 for the two tone choice. There are eight choices available and the test car was in Atlantis Turquoise Pearl with Metallic Black roof. The naming structure has also been revamped to reflect, simply, that it’s a Vitara, Vitara Turbo, and Vitara AllGrip.Under The Bonnet Is: 103kW and 220Nm. The torque is available from 1500rpm through to 4000rpm. Transmission in the AllGrip is a six speed auto only. A slightly different version is available for the 2WD and you can spec a five speed manual for the 1.6L. The turbo drinks 95RON from a 47L tank and is rated as 6.2L/100km on a combined cycle. It’s attached to a dial that brings up Auto, Snow, Sport, and Lock, for those times where more torque for the rear wheels is required. And there is no longer a diesel. Suzuki rates the gross vehicle mass, GVM, as 1,730kg.

On The Inside Is: A slightly made over interior. The most notable change is to the driver’s display. There is a full colour 4.3 inch screen, and this shows the drive modes in high definition. It’s beautiful to read and very easy on the eye. The AllGrip gets a G-force meter, a kilowatt and Nm pair of of circular graphs, a bar graph for brake and accelerator. The drive modes themselves are available via a centre mounted dial. The newly recovered for a soft touch binnacle itself has two push stalks, located at the ten and two o’clock positions on the silvery toned dials and a little hard to find otherwise. Aircon is dial controlled and Suzuki looks towards Lexus by adding a small but classy looking analogue clock that sits between the two centre mounted vents.Seats are manually operated in the AllGrip, and really should be powered here. Trim was a black diamond cloth with leather bolstered sides, and were super comfortable. The normal plastics on the dash and doors didn’t appeal or seem as being of the quality to look at and touch in a top level vehicle but a light gunmetal insert that runs full width does add a splash of colour.Front leg room for the driver and passenger were more than adequate, rear seats had plenty for people to a certain (teenaged) size and have privacy glass too. ISOFIX child seat mounts are standard, and the cargo area is adequate without being overwhelming in a small SUV. It starts at 375L, and maxes at 1,120L. The tail gate is manually operated. The roof in the review car had a full glass roof and light coloured cloth sun shield, however there was still plenty of heat getting through to the cabin.

Although a top line vehicle, only the driver’s window gets Auto up/down, however it does get auto wipers and auto headlights over the 1.6L model. Cruise control, Bluetooth streaming, satnav, paddle shifts for the auto, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard via Suzuki’s cool looking seven inch display touchscreen and there is a USB/12V socket up front. However there is no DAB tuner.On The Outside Is: A lightly revamped body. The main external change has been to the tail lights. They now have a three bar LED lit interior. 17 inch graphite coloured alloys are standard across the range, and rubber is again from Continental at 215/55. The lower front bar has been lightly reprofiled and has the addition of chrome blades around the driving lights and running horizontally across the lower part of the air intake. LEDs now power the headlights in the AllGrip. The former horizontal bars in the grille have been ditched and now refelct the five bar verticals Suzuki is known for. Parking sensors front and rear plus a reverse camera finish off the externals.

On The Road It’s: A little twitchy in the steering. The weight tends towards the light side and took a day or so to come to grips with the feedback level. Ride quality was also a touch twitchy, with the rebound rates on rougher tarmac quicker than expected. The compact size of the Vitara contributes somewhat to the edgy feel; at 4,175mm in length it packs a 2,500mm wheelbase and and rides on a 1,535mm track. This means irregular surfaces will impact more on a compact footprint than bigger vehicles.

The turbo’s torque spread is the standout here. Although the auto was occasionally indecisive when cold, better when warmed up, the engine was on song from the press of the Start/Stop button. It’s better than flexible for the size of the Vitara but would struggle in anything bigger. Acceleration is around eight seconds to see the century mark and is flexible enough to deal with around town without a quibble.Highway manners are acceptable. It rolls along quietly and without fuss, but when required will spring out of its torpor and boot the AllGrip past slower traffic without question. We also had a chance to test the Vitara at the Werribee 4×4 proving grounds, and its soft-road credibility remains untarnished. The 4×4 mode works in pulling the pugnacious little machine through a flowing creek, through and over mud and muddy puddles, and up and down slopes of up to thirty degrees without a blink.

The Safety Systems Are: The safety package for the 1.4L Boosterjet Vitara is comprehensive too. On top of a seven airbag system which includes the driver getting a kneebag, there is Lane Departure Warning, Hill Descent Control, High Beam Assist, Weaving Alert, Blind Spot Monitor, and Autonomous Emergency Braking. This couples with the Adaptive Cruise Control and Stop/Go function as required. It receives an ANCAP five star safety rating.And The Warranty Is: Five years/140,000 kilometres and comes with a five year capped price service package. The provisio is that the five year warranty is if serviced via the five year plan. Roadside assist is three years but will extend to five is serviced through Suzuki. The service schedule may raise an eyebrow as it’s six months or ten thousand kilometres. The first three services, according to Suzuki’s website are $175 with a maximum cost of $300 at the end of the fourth year.

At The End Of The Drive. The Vitara has always been a fun, small, soft-road capable vehicle. The decision to drop the diesel is a bit odd, but as that fuel seems to be on the nose and petrol/hybrids are on the up in respect to economy…The size of the Vitara is fine, but mainly for single/couples/small kids. The safety package in the AllGrip for a mid $30K or so driveaway price (check with your local dealer) is impressive and the overall driveability also impresses. That service impost though….well…

Suzuki can tell you more, here.

The Right Cars For Your Inner Geek

        This BMW that makes you feel like you’re driving the Batmobile is just the start…

Quite a few of us are geeks at heart, even just a tiny bit.  We might not spend our spare time putting together outfits so we can cosplay at conventions or be able to quote all of the script of Star Wars off by heart, but who among us hasn’t, at some point, said “May the Force be with you” to a friend, called somebody a muggle (hey, even my spellchecker doesn’t flag that one, which shows how engrained it is) or enjoyed a good superhero movie (let’s not get into the DC versus Marvel debate here – it’s as heated as Ford versus Holden). So there’s a little tiny bit of a geek in all of us – and a loud, proud and enthusiastic geek in some of us.

Of course, when you select your chosen set of wheels, you should consider a range of practical factors. However, if you’ve got a range of possibilities to choose from, why not please the heart of your inner geek and get something that’s appropriate for your particular fandom (fandom, for those of you who aren’t up with the lingo, is the particular branch of pop culture that you love).

Just to get you started, here’s the shortlist for vehicles that fit in nicely with some of the more popular fandoms out there. Apologies to any fandoms I’ve left off the list – for the simple reason that I’m not familiar enough with them to come up with an appropriate set of wheels to match – but if I’ve left out yours, then feel free to include it in the comments along with the car makes that work.

Game of Thrones: Well, Ssangyong translates as “double dragon”, so any from this Korean marque would be the obvious choice!

Marvel Universe: Thor was originally the Norse god of thunder and lightning, so if you can get your hands on a Saab with the Viggen badge, you’re in luck, as this is Nordic and Viggen means Lightning.  Otherwise, try out an Alfa Romeo Spider or any Jag that comes in black (a black panther being, of course, either a leopard or jaguar with black colouring).

DC Universe: the DC-verse is lucky in that one of the stars actually drives an equally iconic machine: the Batmobile, of course.  An old racing version of the BMW 3-series was known as the Batmobile when in full body kit, but anything sleek, black and powerful with lots of tech can be your very own Batmobile. The more modern BMW i8 or one of the sporty Zs would work well.  However, I have to say that the current version of Citroen’s logo is reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s logo… makes you wonder (ha!) if the designer was a fan.

                               Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.

Lord of the Rings: Either a Ford Ranger to take you on an epic journey through the wilderness, or a nature-loving Nissan Leaf if you see yourself as a Child of Leaf and Star.  However, anything that has performed well on the Nürburgring qualifies as a Lord of the Ring.  If you’re one of the diehards who know the books (like me), then you may know that the brother of the Lord of the Eagles is called Landroval, which I always misread as Landrover.

Sherlock: This calls for an iconic British classic of some variety – your choice of either Mini or Jaguar.  Maybe the Mini for Watson and the Jag for Holmes?

Harry Potter: If you can get your mitts on a classic Ford Anglia as owned by Arthur Weasley, then you’re very lucky indeed.  If you want something more up-to-date, then your best picks would be either Peugeot (which has the Gryffindor lion as a badge) or Alfa Romeo (green + white + serpent = Slytherin).

Star Wars: Really racked my brains about this one.  Oh for a marque called Jedi or Skywalker!  The best I can come up with is a Ford Falcon, as a nod to the Millennium Falcon (piloted by Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, so that works).

Star Trek: What else but the Chrysler Voyager , helping you to boldly go, etc.?   Well, maybe the Landrover Discovery , depending on which era is your favourite. We’ll have to wait until someone calls a make Enterprise (which would make a pretty good car name, actually).

Labor Says 50% Electric Cars By 2030….Can It Be Done?

In what could be a crucial first shot for the environmentalists vote in an upcoming Australian Federal election, Labor leader Bill Shorten has stated a couple of goals need to be achieved in respect to electric vehicles. The goals themselves are simple to read.

By 2030 half of all new vehicle sales are to be of the electric variety. By 2025 half of the Australian government’s fleet are to be electric. A change to the taxation structure for businesses needs to be implemented, in that an allowable deduction of 20% for depreciation for private fleet EVs of a cost of over $20,000.

 

Sounds relatively simple. However, the devil is in the detail. There are self-interest groups such as the Australian Institute of Petroleum. There are the pricing issues of EVs versus petrol/diesel/hybrid cars. Then there are the human factors such as “range anxiety”, a lack of knowledge of where charging points are, and even a push-back against the technology itself. There are elements of distrust to be overcome also, and yet there are a couple of fair questions, such as the cost of a replacement EV battery, and the ecological impact of dissecting and recycling (if possible) the battery’s elements.

Charge Points.
https://www.drivezero.com.au/electric-car-charging-stations/ is one of many sites to use but the end result is that maps do show just how accessible a charge point is, and this site also shows state by state and the kind of plugs available.

Cost.
It is, absolutely no doubt, a barrier. It’s been raised over and over again and although a brand or two can be pointed to as being “exxy”, in real terms an EV is far cheaper than what they potentially could be. But then there is the actual CHARGE cost. WhichCar editor David Bonnici provided some figures in late 2018, saying: the new Nissan Leaf consumes 10kWh/100km. If you’re paying 0.28c per kWh (an average price during peak periods within Victoria) it will cost you $2.80 (10kW x 0.28) to charge it enough to travel 100km. The Leaf has a claimed 400km range, which means a full charge will cost you $11.20 ($2.80 x 4).

When plasma TVs then LCD TVs were introduced, their costs were seen as stupidly prohibited, with rumours at the time of release of a TV network, being an early adopter, paying $30K for a 42 inch plasma. Plasma has gone the way of the dodo and now 8K tv is on its way, which will spur the production of 8K content, even as DVD still, somehow, manages to hang on. The screens have come down in cost and by huge margins. In screen size and in quality those have gone up. The point here is that technology has a habit of dropping in real price terms for the level of tech being offered. There is simply no reason to expect EVs to reverse that trend and the Tesla Model 3 is an example of that.

Then: The Jaguar I-Pace on the other hand is rated at 19kWh/100km, which means it costs $5.32 for a 100km trip and $25.53 for a full charge to travel its claimed 480km range. Considering the ridiculous fluctuation in unleaded petrol prices, which at the time of writing are around $1.40 for E10, that charge cost isn’t so hard to deal with.

Charge Time:
The timeframe for a partial or empty to full charge is also coming down, with better battery charging technology making substantial differences. The Nissan Leaf, for example has varying rates depending on source. Starting from a depleted battery, about 20 hours at 110-120V (depending on amperage), approximately 7 hours at 208-240V (depending on amperage) and about 30 minutes at 480V (quick-charging station).

Tesla’s solar powered and battery fueled supercharger stations offer a different setup. The supercharging stations charge with up to 135 kW of power distributed between two cars with a maximum of 120 kW per car. They take about 20 minutes to charge to 50%, 40 minutes to charge to 80%, and 75 minutes to 100% on the original 85 kWh Model S.

Summation:
This article was NOT intended to be an in-depth industry look. It was intended to provide a general overview at what is involved in the EV business. It is not intended to be an endorsement or dis-endorsement of a Labor policy. There is and will continue to be misinformation and misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of where to go for a charge but that information is readily available as fact.

The answer to the question posed is yes. It can be done. There are a few VERY important factors to be overcome, such as infrastructure, information provision, and perceived cost. And then there is the perception of how a purely electric vehicle drives.

That’s simple. Go and drive one. Companies have vehicles for demonstration. And there really is no better demonstration of one brand’s ability than this (with thanks to our friends at CarAdvice): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eGhjhx8O9M