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EVs and Rare Earth Mining

Rare earth metals.

Where are all the earth’s rare metals mined?  Are electric vehicles (EVs) really so environmentally sound and friendly?

Rare earths are difficult to find and obtain in most parts of the world, and they are used a lot in all sorts of common and accessible products like mobile phones, cars, aeroplanes, missiles, radars etc.  Rare earths are also abundantly used in EVs.  EVs use special magnets to power their engines, and most of the magnets in EVs that can cover longer distances on one battery charge are made from rare earth metals.  The metals aren’t necessarily rare, but they can be dirty and difficult to process.  Many of the processes related to rare earth extraction (getting the rare earths out of the ground) are dangerous, environmentally unfriendly, and, in many cases, the mining workers are older boys and younger men.  The process to obtain many of the rare earths is environmentally destructive and produces radioactive waste.

Of the 17 rare earths, neodymium is possibly the most needed rare earth in the world right now.  EVs cannot function without neodymium, and lithium – which is currently mostly found in Bolivia.

China has a large portion of the rare earth mining pie and supply network.  Back in 2010, China produced as much as 90% of the rare earths that the world needed, and it now seems obvious to me why China’s economy and infrastructure was booming so much at the time.  Also, around this time, the rest of the world started to see just how China ruled the rare earth market and power struggles commenced.

Without the rare earth metal, neodymium, an iPhone cannot vibrate and wind turbines would not work.  In order for EVs to gain more milage between charges, Rare Earth Permanent Magnets (REPM), which use neodymium, are required.  REPMs are the most powerful magnets currently available.

So, though rare-earth elements are used in trace amounts, their unique properties, which include magnetic, heat-resistant, and phosphorescent qualities, make them essential in the production of products like batteries, car engines, EVs and LCD TV displays.  EV motors, iPhones, military jet engines, batteries, and even satellites all have something in common: They require rare-earth elements to function.

Other elements like terbium, tritium and europium are crucial to targeting mechanisms in all high-tech weaponry systems.  The higher-tech that an EV becomes, a corresponding increase in the level of rare earth mining will be required.  The more EVs that are run on the roads (resulting from strict emission standards and government taxing), the more the rare earth resources will be called upon to build and maintain the EV fleet.  Currently, an EV battery doesn’t last much longer than 10 years, so EV battery replacement requirements will mean that much more rare earth metals will be needed to maintain the ever-growing global EV fleet.

As of 2018, China had 37% of the world’s rare earth deposits.  Brazil currently has 22%, Vietnam 18%, Russia 10% and India has 5.8%. The rest of the world, including the US and Japan, have the rest.

Despite having more rare earth ore than the US, India only mined 3,000 tonnes of rare earths in 2020.  During 2020, the US mined 38,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, Australia mined 17,000 tonnes and China mined 140,000 tonnes.  In 2020, the US had 16% of the production rate of the world’s rare earths; Australia had 7%, and India had 1%.

In 2020, the following countries were the biggest producers of rare earth metals:

China, mine production: 140,000 MT

United States, mine production: 38,000 MT.  The US is also a major importer of rare earth materials, with their demand for compounds and metals worth US$110 million in 2020.  The US has classified rare earths as critical minerals, and it is a distinction that has come about from recent trade issues between the US and China.

Myanmar (also known as Burma), mine production: 30,000 MT.  Myanmar mined 30,000 MT of rare earths in 2020, up from 22,000 MT the previous year.  Myanmar provided 50% of China’s medium to heavy rare earths feedstock.

Australia, mine production: 17,000 MT.  Australia holds the sixth largest-known rare earths reserves in the world.  It is poised to increase its output, where the production of neodymium-praseodymium products is projected to increase to 10,500 tonnes per year by 2025.  Northern Minerals opened Australia’s first heavy rare earths mine in 2018.  Its main products are terbium and dysprosium, the latter of which is used in technology for things like permanent magnets.

Madagascar, mine production: 8,000 MT.

India, mine production: 3,000 MT.  India holds almost 35% of the world’s total beach sand mineral deposits.

Russia, mine production: 2,700 MT.  Russia intends to increase the nation’s share of global rare earths production from the current 1.3% level to 10% by 2030.

Thailand, mine production: 2,000 MT.

Vietnam, mine production: 1,000 MT.

Brazil, mine production: 1,000 MT.

Rare-earths are also mined in South Africa, Canada, Estonia, and Malaysia.

Is an internal combustion engine’s resultant emissions and fossil fuel use really worse than the rare earth metal production mining for EVs and other high-tech electronics?  I would question whether a modern and new internal combustion engine with its catalytic converter to capture any emissions is worse than an EV’s definite connection to negative environmental impact and questionable work-force ethics.

Sometimes it is easier to disregard these pre-showroom EV facts and talk about the post-showroom EVs being so wonderful and environmentally-friendly with their so-called zero emissions.  Perhaps hydrogen-fuelled cars (to a certain extent), solar energy, and, definitely, cars running on biofuels are a sounder transport investment, but I guess money, power and business links still talk louder for some.

Why We Need More Information on Vehicle Reliability

Local car manufacturers have long been reluctant to release information about vehicle reliability, just as they were with repair data until  developments prompted a change. While those changes were a promising sign for motorists, not much else has changed on the reliability front.

Still, the current standards and practices just aren’t good enough. Your new vehicle is likely to be the second largest individual purchase you’ll make in your lifetime. No one wants to end up with a ‘lemon’, so it follows that manufacturers should be more open when it comes to publishing information about vehicle reliability. That is, if they genuinely value their customers loyalty.

What’s the current situation?

From an owner’s perspective, having full and complete information is invaluable when engaging in a decision making process. It’s necessary in order to filter out options that do not align with our needs. This is something that has been recognised abroad. From the US to the UK and other parts of Europe and Asia, industry surveys with motorists surrounding vehicle reliability are common practice and the results are published for all to see.

In turn, this ensures manufacturers not only receive feedback but are compelled to embrace it – to act upon it and improve their vehicles. Tesla, one of the industry’s most-recent entrants to the motoring space, has been one of the most prominent stakeholders in accepting feedback and it goes some way to explain why their growth has been off the charts as it becomes the most-expensive, publicly-listed car brand in the world.

Tesla is one of the first to admit they have had several notable problems with their ‘high end’ vehicles, however, their approach is all about finding the right solution(s) to improve motorists’ driving experiences.

In Australia, only half the feedback cycle is being undertaken. Motorists are often surveyed for their thoughts on vehicle reliability, but the results are rarely if ever made public.

In fact, it’s hard to know in what way this information is being used given its guarded nature. That being said, it’s widely accepted that mechanical issues have improved some way in recent years – even if we are seeing an abundance of recalls that never seem to stop – but it has generally been the car companies with global reach, under pressure from research in other territories, that are amongst the frontrunners in terms of reliability.

What’s the other side of the equation?

If there is one thing to recognise in defence of manufacturers, the human mechanics of operating a vehicle cannot always be recorded. That is, whether a driver has adequately maintained their vehicle, followed through with appropriate servicing, and ultimately how they drive their car.

Now you’re probably saying these things shouldn’t matter. And they shouldn’t. But for the purpose of a direct comparison between cars and manufacturers, it’s hard to compare the likes of a BMW driven by a P-plater, with a Toyota Camry driven by a retiree.

The other element to consider is that reliability data is only one piece of the puzzle. The type of failure, as well as the cost of repairs, should also be considered. One might expect that ‘luxury’ vehicles encounter fewer reliability issues, however, if each time this vehicle requires repairs that cost three times that of a ‘regular’ sedan, what are the results really demonstrating? Furthermore, with the majority of problems these days encompassing technology problems, can these issues be compared on the same scale as that of vehicles with mechanical problems?

Nonetheless, these points shouldn’t really take away from the point that we need further disclosure around vehicle reliability. The introduction of ‘lemon laws’ in recent time is certainly beneficial, but that’s a reactive response when buyers deserve more up-front information and certainty. In fact, manufacturers owe it to motorists, particularly if they are in search of brand loyalty and a vision to improve future cars.

Ford Movements

Hot off the Press News has Ford investing big money in EV production.  All up, Ford and a South Korean supplier will spend $11.4 billion US on Ford’s EV production and expansion.  Ford hopes this spend will enable them to produce more than one million EVs per year in the second half of this decade.  The buzz words used in new and future cars include the term electric vehicles or EVs.  Established automakers like Ford are racing to try and close the gap on Tesla’s EV lead.  As you may be aware, Tesla produces a range of EVs, and Tesla are currently on the way to selling more than 800,000 electric cars this year.  Tesla is currently the most valuable automaker in the world, with a market capitalization of nearly $800 billion US.  Ford’s market value is $56 billion US.

Ford F-150 Lightening

Ford’s big spend will be its 2nd biggest spend in its history.  Under the climate change banner and the Biden government, this latest US multibillion-dollar move to quickly transfer production plants to EV production is seen as a fast track phasing out of gasoline-powered cars and trucks as part of the global push to combat climate change.  I won’t debate the science here.

Ford is to build 2 battery plants in Kentucky and 1 in Tennessee under the joint venture with its main battery cell supplier, SK Innovation of South Korea.  In addition, Ford will build an assembly plant at the Tennessee location to churn out EV trucks. Ford will invest $7 billion and SK Innovation $4.4 billion, the companies have said.  Ford expects electric vehicle models to make up 40% of their vehicle production by 2030.  That’s only a little over 8 years away!

Ford’s new truck plant and battery factory in Tennessee is likely to be the place that will produce a new battery-powered Ford F-Series pickup truck, this following the previously announced F-150 Lightning pick up truck.  I have to say that the F-150 Lightening is an impressive beast!  Ford has said a mix of both the public and businesses had already placed 150,000 reservations for purchasing the F-150 Lightning.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Also this year, Ford began selling the Mustang Mach-E, which has taken a sizable market share from Tesla.  Ford also plans to add an EV delivery van into the mix by the end of the year.  Then, in early 2022, the electric F-150 Lightning will roll out of their showrooms and silently onto the tarmac.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Mr. Jim Farley, Ford Motor’s  president and CEO, has recently said that making electrical vehicles affordable should be among the top priorities for automakers, so that the average vehicle-buyer can purchase one.  This is good news, as a new EV is well out of most people’s budget.

He also made a couple of rather poignant comments: one on a key issue on questioning how EV production will impact labour/jobs (a subject rather close to home with our relatively recent Ford and Holden closures), and the other on materials.  So, apparently, it costs 30% less to manufacture the Ford electrical vehicles.  This will definitely affect production rates and employment long term.  Then there is also the issue of battery supply and the rare minerals (i.e., lithium, cobalt) needed to power them, said Farley.   Mr Farley stated, “We have to bring battery production here, but the supply chain has to go all the way to the mines.  That’s where the real cost is, and people in the U.S. don’t want mining in their neighbourhoods.  So, are we going to import lithium and pull cobalt from nation-states that have child labour and all sorts of corruption, or are we going to get serious about mining? …  We have to solve these things and we don’t have much time.”

Here in Australia, we haven’t jumped on the EV wagon just yet, and if we are going too, then there is so much infrastructure that will be needed to be implemented before owning an EV becomes a viable option for people like me.  Even the thought of the costs involved in getting the right infrastructure is eyewatering, and, like most impatient home renovators and idealistic politicians, the job must be done yesterday!  The hard working folk pay for it, of course!

There seems little patience on offer by many governments and climate change activists for making the move to EVs (and other new transportation technology like an EV repower on your existing car) a more balanced and delicate affair.  For now, owning an EV is very much for the elite, so Farley is on the right track when he says that the cost of EV ownership must be addressed very quickly.

Ford still has many plants throughout the U.S.  However, like other big automotive manufacturers, Ford also has locations right around the world.  Ford has many production plants scattered about the globe, and these include assembly plants, engine plants, forging plants, stamping plants and transmission plants.  Here, in Australia, Ford still has special engine production and stamping plants.

On a more local note, Ford has a new feature called ‘FordPass’ offered on all their new models sold in Australia.  FordPass has a few systems worthy of a mention that include:

Remote Start+, where minutes before leaving, you can start your connected vehicle’s engine from your mobile device in order to heat or cool the cabin using the last known climate control setting.

Vehicle Status, where you can check key variables such as fuel level and your odometer on the FordPass App to help plan your journey.

Remote Lock/Unlock, where, conveniently, you can use your mobile device to make sure the car doors are locked or unlocked without being anywhere near your vehicle.  If only it could do that for my house front door!

Vehicle Locator, where you can check your vehicle’s exact location in the FordPass App, which is particularly useful if you share your vehicle with one or more members of your household or if you have forgotten where you parked it.  However, if you’ve forgotten where you’ve parked it, then maybe you better get breath tested!

Vehicle Health Alerts, where the FordPass App sends Vehicle Health Alerts directly to your mobile device, pre-empting service needs and general maintenance such as low washer fluid.

Live Traffic, where this feature enhances your SYNC 3 Navigation system by delivering up-to-date traffic updates.  This technology allows you to adjust your recommended route based on the traffic conditions, helping you to arrive more relaxed and on time.

Ford Ranger Special Ediiton

In this second half of 2021, Ford Australia offer a nice broad range of vehicles that include the Puma, Escape and Everest SUVs; the Ford Focus car; the Ford Ranger Ute; the Transit Commercial range that has custom vehicles, vans, buses and cab-chassis models; the Ford Performance range that includes the Fiesta and Focus ST, the Focus ST-3, the Ranger Raptor, the Mustang and Mustang Mach-1; and the Special Edition Rangers and Everests.

It is good to see Ford keeping pace with any EV and hybrid automotive technology and movements; though at what societal and environmental cost?  New Ford vehicles are good, and Ford offers a very complete package for all new vehicles in the Ford range.  Once you’ve driven a Ford, its not so easy to change out of the brand come new car buying territory.

A Case for Hydrogen-Powered Cars

What’s to like about hydrogen, and hydrogen-powered cars?  We cannot see taste or even smell hydrogen, yet hydrogen makes up over 90% of matter.  The stars and the sun are made up of hydrogen gas.  Here on earth, hydrogen forms compounds; compounds are a mixture of elements that we find on the Periodic Table (That’s the big poster found in every science lab at school, which has 120 – or so – little squares with letters that make up the organised Periodic Table with all the known elements in our world.).  Hydrogen is found in almost every living thing.  Hydrogen gas is used to make chemicals such as ammonia and methane.  Hydrogen is in the water that we drink (H2O).  Some car manufacturers and scientists have been beavering away developing what is known as hydrogen-powered cars.

Before the car was even invented, hydrogen power had been around and in use in various forms since the 1800s.  It was used widely for gas streetlamps back in the day.  It was a Welshman, Sir William Robert Grove, who invented the first fuel cell back in 1839.  When you use hydrogen in a fuel cell, the only thing you produce is electricity and water!

So, hydrogen-powered cars are vehicles that contain tanks of hydrogen fuel that then combine with oxygen from the air in a process that delivers power to the car for motion.  The beauty of the hydrogen-powered vehicle is they produce only water as a waste product.

In a little bit more detail, a hydrogen fuel cell inside a hydrogen-powered car works like this…  The fuel cell has a proton exchange membrane that uses compressed hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity.  The hydrogen goes into the membrane at one end called the anode, while oxygen goes into the membrane at the other end called the cathode.  A platinum catalyst, which is positioned on the anode end of the membrane, splits the hydrogen into positive protons and negatively charged electrons.  The proton exchange membrane takes only the positive ions, while the electrons are fed into a circuit to make electricity.  It’s this electricity which is used to drive the car’s electric motor[s].  These electric motors are what provide the driving for the hydrogen-powered car to give them speed and power!

At the cathode end, the positive ions are travelling along the membrane and combining with oxygen from the air to make water (H2O).  This water drips out of the car’s exhaust/tailpipe.  If you are driving your hydrogen-powered car through a desert and need some water, then you could believably drink it.  Now, how green is that!

How can we produce hydrogen for vehicles?  Without going into too many details here (I’ll save that for another blog), hydrogen can be produced in mass from a renewable electricity system that uses generation plants like hydro dams, solar power and wind power generators.  This purpose-made hydrogen is known as green hydrogen.  Australian mining company, Fortescue, has been talking with government recently regarding the creation of a hydrogen production system for Australia as early as 2023/24.

Tiwai point, which you’ll find on the Southern-most tip of New Zealand (NZ makes up Australia’s two biggest islands!), is currently being used as an aluminium smelter.  The NZ government is in talks for designing and consenting to converting this smelter into a green hydrogen production plant even as early as 2023.

I think the hydrogen-powered vehicle makes a lot of (green) sense.  It would cut down on the need for an endless supply of new battery packs that EVs require, which are made from preciously rare earth’s resources (e.g., lithium, nickle, cobalt…), and the energy and space to dispose of the spent battery packs would be a problem.

Of course, we would need to build up a network of hydrogen refuelling stations across Australia to power this new type of vehicle.  This network-building will be easy enough and relatively cheap compared to the massive and costly EV network/upgrade.  Green hydrogen fuelling stations could simply be added onto any petrol/diesel refuelling station currently in operation across Australia.  This would also ease the changeover period for the general public.

If you are wondering what hydrogen-powered cars might look like, do take a look at the new Toyota Mirai, for an example.

Toyota Mirai

 

Aussie’s Rosco aiming for 1000 mph

Aussie Invader 5R

It might be a bit hard to call it a conventional car but then it’s not really a conventional car in the sense that the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car looks more plane/rocket in its appearance.  The Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car boasts an insanely long arrow-shaped design with three wheels, large aerodynamic wind deflectors and an engine with close to 150,000 kW!  Yes, that’s correct; you did read that figure correctly.  To put that in perspective, an Aussie V8 Supercar puts out, on average, around 475 kW of power.  Now, if you’ve ever experienced the wonderful roar of these V8s when they blast by around the circuit, then you can understand the aura of such kW potency.  But this Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car makes as much power as 316 of these Aussie V8 Supercars put together! The Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car is powered by a single bi-propellant rocket reportedly capable of producing upwards of 62,000 lbf of thrust.  That’s over four times more than a Boeing 737 jet!

Founder and designer of the new Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car, Rosco McGlashan, has the world’s fastest land speed record in his sights.  He will reportedly be the pilot of the 16-metre long, nine-tonne steel-framed vehicle.  And the target?  The target top speed of 1609 km/h (1000 mph) would be the fastest of any land-going vehicle, ever. And 1000 mph would see it blitz the current land speed record held by the Noble Thrust SSC on a Nevada salt flat in 1997, which averaged 1223.7 km/h and broke the sound barrier while doing so.

Rosco McGlashan

Rosco McGlashan would like to set the new record next year once all the Covid palaver is over-and-done-with, and it will likely be set somewhere in the Queensland or Western Australian desert.  Rosco is no stranger to setting speed records; he is already the holder of the Australian land speed record, where in 1994 he clocked 802.6 km/h behind the wheel of a jet-powered predecessor to the Aussie Invader 5R out on the dry salt flats of Lake Gairdner, near Adelaide.  He has, after all, built all of his drag racing, exhibition, and land-speed racing vehicles himself over the years in a shed at his home.

Rosco has accurate computer modelling on the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car, which suggests that the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car will have enough power and thrust for launching the car from 0-100 km/h in approximately 1.1 seconds.  It should reach its target of 1000 mph in less than 30 seconds.  Slowing the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car down is no mean feat and will thus will require a full 13 km of flat desert just to stop it.  A multi-stage deployment of high-speed hydraulic air brakes, mid-speed parachutes, and low-speed disc brakes have been designed to activate progressively to safely bring the vehicle to a halt.

Picking an exact location will depend largely on which organization or individual steps up as the primary sponsor for the effort. As will the practical necessity of having 5 km of flat desert for getting up to speed plus another 13 km to stop it.

Aussie Invader 5R

January 2021 Sales Figures Show Upwards Swing

Australia’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has released the sales figures for January of 2021. A total of 79,666 vehicles were sold in January 2021 which is up by 11.1 per cent on January 2020. 71,731 vehicles were sold in that month. Every state and territory saw an increase, and following on from December 2020, with the Northern Territory seeing the highest increase of 38.7% to just 1.9% in Victoria. Private buyers contributed by having an increase of 25.4%. Business buyers decreased, but by only 1.3% whilst government and rental sales dropped by 11.2% and 12.4%.

Of note was that Holden as a brand registered zero sales.

The private sales had the passenger vehicle category down by 9.3% compared to January 2020, with SUVs rising by 17.4%. Light Commercial Vehicles jumped by 24.6%. Toyota lead the way in January 2021 with 16,819 vehicles (21.1%) with HiLux 3,913 of those. Mazda was 2nd overall on 8,508 with 10.7% market share. Hyundai saw 5,951 new vehicles sold for a 7.5% share and Kia on 5,500 units for 6.9%. Mitsubishi backed up with 5,179 units and took a market share of 6.5%.Ford’s Ranger was the 2nd highest seller behind the HiLux, moving 3,120 units, just ahead of the RAV4 with 3,066 whilst the LandCruiser sold 2,388 units. Mazda’s CX-5 had 2,081 units find new homes.

The FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said: “During the past three months sales had increased by 12.4 per cent compared to the corresponding period twelve months earlier. The January sales numbers are indicative of positive consumer confidence in the domestic economy. With attractive interest rates and a range of other economic indicators encouraging consumption, we hope to see this trend in new vehicle purchasing continue through 2021.”

Toyota was the leading brand in January with sales of 16,819 vehicles (21.1 per cent of the market), followed by Mazda with 8,508 (10.7 per cent), Hyundai with 5,951 (7.5 per cent), Kia with 5,500 (6.9 per cent) and Mitsubishi with 5,179 (6.5 per cent).

The Toyota Hilux was the best-selling vehicle in January 2021 with sales of 3,913 vehicles, followed by the Ford Ranger (3,120), the Toyota RAV4 (3,066), the Toyota Landcruiser (2,388) and the Mazda CX5 (2,081).

In the Micro Car segment, the Kia Picanto continued to dominate in a three car field. The Fiat Abarth and Mitsubishi Mirage are the other two, and sold 49 and 56 respectively, way off the 573 of the Picanto.In the light car category, Chinese owned MG scored gold with 859, outclassing the Suzuki Swift (562), Volkswagen Polo (526) and the Toyota Yaris (486). Moving to the Small Cars, and Toyota’s Corolla moved 2,062, Just clearing the revamped Hyundai i30 on 1,952. 3rd was a tight tussle, with the Kia Cerato emerging as the winner over the Mazda3, on 1,545 to 1,501.

Medium cars and sub-$60K, and Toyota’s big Camry blew the opposition away on 815. Subaru’s Liberty was 2nd on 183. Skoda and there Octavia took bronze on 153, ahead comfortably of the Mazda6 with 114.

Large cars and there’s really only one contender now, Kia’s Stinger on 147, 99 units ahead of the Skoda Superb.

People movers and Kia’s Carnival moved 442, thumping the Hyundai iMax and Honda Odyysey, both on 67. Moving into Sports Cars and the Mustang said hello to 361 new homes, well ahead of Mazda’s MX5 and Hyundai’s soon to be discontinued Veloster, on 53 and 45.

For the Light SUVs sector, Mazda’s CX-3 absolutely dominated with 1,344. Toyota’s new SUV based on the Yaris, the Yaris Cross, moved an impressive 541, just edging out the slightly older VW T-Cros on 494.

In the Small SUV sector, another close battle here and it was 25 units separating the Mitsubishi ASX (1,278) to the MG ZS (1,253). Hyundai’s run-out Kona was the only other to crack the 1,000 with 1,091. It’s been updated and available for sale from February.

RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 duked it out for the Medium SUV segment, with 3,066 to 2,081. 4rd was Nissan’s X-Trail on 1,593, clear of Hyundai’s Tucson on 1,206. Go large and it was Toyota’s Prado on 1,259, ahead of Kia’s recently updated Sorento on 745. Mazda’s in-betweener, the CX-8, saw 571, tying with Hyundai’s Santa Fe. In the upper large, Toyota’s LandCruiser outclassed its opponent, Nissan’s Patrol, with 1,499 to 241.

Inside the ute/pick-up segment, the HiLux in both 4×2 and 4×4 continued its dominance. In two wheel drive guise it more than doubled the Isuzu D-Max, with 823 to 406. Ford’s Ranger was 3rd on 318. In the 4WD sector it was 3,090 to Ranger’s 2,802. In 3rd was Mitsubishi’s Triton, edging the D-Max on 1,416.

Petrol is still the clear winner in preferred fuels, with just 32 PHEVs, 78 EVs, and 1,915 Hybrids moving in the Passenger segment. In the SUVs, 30,062 petrols moved in comparison to diesel with 7,811, PHEV on 126, EV on 213, and Hybrids at 3,332.

On a country of manufacturing basis, Japan was the leader at 29,275, with Korea on 11,516. Thailand and their ute/pickup manufacturing shone at 16,903, and Chinese made vehicles rose to 4,198. This puts the brands sold from Chinese manufacturing into 4th overall.

Top Six Tips For Ending The School Run Motoring Madness

If you listen carefully, you might hear the sound of parents (and quite a few children) cheering because the long summer holidays are over and it’s time for the school year to start.  Or maybe you won’t hear the cheering because all you can hear is the sound of traffic as everybody carts the little nippers to school.

I don’t suppose I’m the only person with grown-up children who avoids certain parts of the road at certain times of day, namely the places nearest the school and the times when school is starting and finishing.  We all know that the traffic goes mad at this time of day, with everybody wanting to pick up their kids or drop them off, depending on what the case may be.

I get it, I really do.  I’ve brought up kids and got them to school, and I appreciate how you want your children to arrive on time and safely.  I can understand how you’re busy and how you need to fit the school run into a hectic day.  However, there are things that we can all do to ease the congestion a bit so that there is less chance of an accident.  After all, if the road outside the school is madly full of cars of all sizes all trying to get the best parking spots to pick up young Jack and Olivia, then there is more chance of what the traffic analysts will coldly call a “human–vehicle conflict” and what everybody else calls a tragic accident.

So what can we do to make sure that everybody gets their kids to school and back safely? Now that the school year is starting off, here my six best ideas that you might like to apply.

  1. Do the kids actually need to be dropped off at the gate? This is where I trot out the old “I had to walk to school” speech, although I had to walk along a main road rather than through the snow, barefoot and uphill both ways. If your children are reasonably fit and active, and they have good traffic awareness around driveways and intersections (especially if there are good traffic lights or pedestrian crossings), then consider having the kids walk to school. It’s good exercise for them – and possibly you.  If the school is within 2 km of your home and your children are over 10, then there probably isn’t any good reason why they can’t walk themselves to school.
  2. Can you stay out of the crazy congestion zone? If the school is a bit further away and/or your regular commute takes you near it, then you could consider dropping the kids off outside the crazy zone right outside the school.  For example, instead of taking that detour on the way to work to drop the kids at the school gate, why not drop them off where you would have turned off? If they’re too young to walk alone, then park the car and walk with them for those last few blocks to the school gate. If they’re old enough to walk alone… well, they’re probably at the age when having Mummy walk with them to school is embarrassing anyway.
  3. Try carpooling. If you are not the only person on your street who does the school run, or if your kids go to the same after-school activities as someone else at the same school, then maybe it’s time to organise a car pool. This will be limited by the number of seats in your vehicle, of course.  Perhaps it’s time to think about getting a seven-seat MPV? However, car pooling can be a great way to build community and make some connections.
  4. Don’t double-park. If your only option is to drop the kids off at school yourself, then be a courteous driver. Don’t double park so that you can drop the youngsters off as close as possible to the gate. Double-parking makes things extremely difficult for those who are still learning how to cross the road as well as being supremely annoying for other drivers.  It’s also illegal.  Even if you’re not technically parked but are just stopping just for a moment to just let the kids out, still don’t do it.
  5. Keep out of any No Parking zones. Yes, your children are special, valuable and important. So are everybody else’s children. Let’s all respect the No Parking zones and don’t think that the rules don’t apply to you because you’re doing it for your children and they come first.
  6. If your school drop-off zone has time limits, respect them. Quite a few school have “kiss and run” drop-off points where you can stop for long enough to drop the kids off and say goodbye with a hug or kiss (if your kids are young enough to let you do this).  If we all respect the time limits here, then these systems will work.  These places are not the time to discuss lost homework, nosebleeds, etc. If an emergency arises, deal with it further down the street, not in the “kiss and run” spot.

Oh yes – if you want to try any of the ideas that involve children walking and there’s a chance that they’ll be late, you can take advantage of the fact that children who are old enough to walk by themselves are also at the age when parents are embarrassing because they exist.  Acquire some ghastly piece of clothing and state that if you have to drop them off because they mucked around and are now running late, you will do so wearing said item of clothing IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY.  It works.

Our Population’s Need for Cars

The numbers are saying that there is a growing percentage of our population here in Australia that are classed as elderly; by elderly I mean over 65 years of age with a bit of a white/grey background in their hair colour.  Our largest age group sits in the 30 to 34 year old bracket.  Our population of youngsters under the age of 10 also continues to increase.  As well as that, Australia’s overall population is continuing to grow swiftly – thanks mainly to Australia being a great place to make the shift to live and work in.  Building our infrastructure to keep up with the influx and accommodate the population growth is something Australia continues to do well, and definitely Australia does infrastructure a whole lot better than most countries in the rest of the world.

Brisbane, Perth and Sydney know how to do public transport, with Melbourne a shining light when it comes to usable public transport; in fact, more than 80 % of all public transport kilometres in Melbourne are travelled on roads.  All our big Australian cities do the public transport service pretty well, Adelaide being well up the user-usability, user-friendly, and user-satisfaction rankings, too.  However, most of us rely on our own private vehicles to get us across town and city, to travel from one township to another, or even to get from one major city to another throughout, and across, Australia.

The Australian road network covers more than 877,000 kilometres, which is quite phenomenal when you think about it, and well over half a million Australians rely on these roads for their full-time employment.  A relatively recent (2016) analysis of the preferred method of travel that residents in Australia used to get to work showed that 11.4 % used public transport, while 66.1 % used a private vehicle.  These figures still followed pretty-true in Australian Greater Capital Cities surveys, where 15.7 % used public transport and 63.3 % used a private vehicle.  Whilst many of the elderly move closer to the city centre or find a hub that is close to amenities, even the elderly find it hard to totally give up the car keys.  You can’t beat the park just outside your destination!

Here are some interesting stats and bits of info taken from various recent surveys held in Australia, and we need to thank the likes of the Australian Bureau of Statistics for keeping us informed.  Did you know that there were 19.8 million registered motor vehicles across Australia as at the 31st January 2020.  This points to our national fleet having increased by 1.5 % from the same figures discovered in 2019.  Of the 19.8 million vehicles, 25.6 % of the national fleet are diesel and 72.7 % are petrol.  Light, rigid, diesel trucks continue to have the largest growth rate in registrations, increasing 5.8 per cent over the year.  This is followed, rather contemplatively for me, by campervans with a 3.5 per cent growth in registrations.  Light rigid trucks include your Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux type vehicles.

Though still a very small portion of the pie, electric vehicles are gaining some traction in Australia.  Sarah Kiely, Director of ABS Transport Statistics, stated that “While electric vehicles are still small in number, less than 0.1 per cent of the fleet, the 14,253 electric vehicles registered in 2020 is almost double the previous year.”

The growth in our population and the need for more new cars for transportation are reasons why we are seeing the WestConnex  infrastructure project (US $16bn) that is linking Western and South Western Sydney with the city, airport and port in a 33 km continuous motorway.  Once this project is finished, motorists will be able to bypass up to 52 sets of traffic signals from Beverly Hills through to Parramatta.  The Melbourne Airport rail link (US $5bn) is set for construction beginning 2022.  There are many big-ticket infrastructure items on the go, and in the pipeline, that all help get our people about efficiently.

It might be time to trade in your 10.4 year old car (the average age for an Australian car) in for a new Toyota, which is the most preferred manufacturer by Australian new car buyers.

Driving the Hours of Darkness

One of my favourite times for driving is at night or in the early morning; and by early morning I mean well before ‘sparrow’s fart’.  The roads are mostly empty and everything is quiet and serene.  It is possible to travel during the hours of darkness and quite quickly cover the ground.  Here are some definite advantages of travelling by night, with a few of the disadvantages thrown in as well.

First of all there is nothing quite like the fresh, cool air that you get during nightfall.  A lot of the wildlife has settled for the night and the night air has a pristine smell that I love.  When you get out and stretch and take a break during the night drive, the air is always satisfying and refreshing – but just as long as it’s not a frog strangling gulley washer!  You can hear the silence with only the odd chirp or bark, squeak or rustle of wind filling the air.  Just after midnight, the roads are mostly empty and it can be an ideal time to drive.  You will get the odd long haul truck unit doing the intercity run, but on the whole, I find driving at night to be pretty relaxing.

Who doesn’t like getting places faster?  At night, driving with very few other vehicles on the road means that you can keep up a steadier speed at higher velocity which allows you to cover the ground in a shorter amount of time.  You can hit the speed limit and stay at it for longer.  This is a win-win because it also links in with fuel efficiency, which I’ll touch on later.

Not having the sun about means the night air is cooler, which is a phenomenon that’s rather nice in a hot sunny country by-day – like it is in Australia.  Your air-conditioning requirements are not quite so demanding, therefore avoiding the need to pump through gallons of cool fresh air at maximum levels in order to keep cool inside the car.  You also have less heat streaming in through the closed windows and onto your skin, another nice feature about night driving.  Sun strike is not a problem, either.

If you are getting from A to B quicker at night, then it is obvious that the lack of traffic will mean that the drive will be more fuel efficient.  Because there are fewer cars on the road, your speed is even and you avoid the stop and go motion of other cars around you.  There actions and choices slow you down, and the more of these the slower you go as they the weave in and out of your lane and generally make life more stressful. Because you’re avoiding other cars by travelling at night, you are going to get better fuel efficiency.  A steady higher speed is good for economy.  Putting a lighter load on the air-conditioning system by driving at night in the cooler air is also good for fuel economy.  More economic, cooler, more relaxed, quicker and more fuel efficient at night: now who doesn’t like that?

When you do need to refuel at a gas station, getting fuel at night is a breeze, with nobody around other than the sleepy cashier.  And there are even no cashiers at card-only fuel stations.

As with most things, there can be a downside to night driving.  Yes, you could get sleepy when driving during the hours that you’re normally in bed.  Not many shops open; and should you want to stop for a sleep, then most motels are closed up by 9/10 pm.  Kangaroos and other larger creatures still wander, shuffle or bounce onto the road from seemingly out of nowhere in the dark.  They can even do this in daylight, mind you…

Driving at night is/or can be fun and enjoyable.  I personally enjoy it but realise that it’s not for everyone.  After I have done a long haul at night, I do tend to take things pretty cruisy the next day, while ensuring I get a great night’s sleep the following night.  I sense a few roadies coming on; it is the festive season, after all.

Road Trip Australia

One of the things that we can look forward to once everything settles back down to normal after covid is being able to fully appreciate Australia and its diversity.  Instead of grabbing that best flight deal for an overseas trip, I reckon we could pick up the road map and get out and see Australia by road a bit more. Support the locals, you know…

The following are some of the best road trips in Australia; so take a look and be inspired:

1) Round the Perimeter

Doing the whole lap of Australia around the coastline would have to be the ultimate Australian road trip.  The road trip follows around 15,000 km of our great Highway One, and it links seven of the major cities.  You’ll get to explore and taste the menu that Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Broome, Perth, Esperance, Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart all have to offer.

If you can nab a 4WD for this road trip, then you’ll be able to take your time and head down some of the fun tracks that shoot off to the side.  Around Australia will include everything from big city lights to sleepy coastal towns, lush green rainforest to dusty and dry red Outback.

One thing that you might like to factor in is that when you travel the northern part of Australia (Broome to Cairns) it’s best to do it in the April to September window to make the most of the good weather.  During the wet season roads can be closed.

2) Torquay to Allansford, Victoria

One of the country’s most famous road trips stretches along the southern coast on Victoria.  Travelling from Torquay to Allansford winds 243 km along some of Australia’s most stunning coastline.  You’ll also head through rainforest, along sunburnt cliffs, by shipwrecks, and, you’ll also see the famous Twelve Apostles – but there is only eight of them now!

3) The Gibb River Road, Western Australia

If you want to tackle some 4WDing, then the Munja Track, in Kimberley is a super exciting adventure.  The route was constructed in the 1960s to transport stock, and this 660 km road cuts right through from Derby to Wyndham.  You’ll get to see magnificent and remote wilderness, some of our most ancient gorges, beautiful, thundering waterfalls, some sacred Aboriginal sites and so much more.  Take a look at Bell Gorge, where you’ll find a multi-tiered waterfall cascading down layered sandstone into several pools.  And, you can even swim!

4) Cairns to Cape York, Queensland

You’ll need a decent 4WD for this 1000 km drive that begins at Cairns and ends at Cape York.  This is the road that gets you through to the Barrier Reef.  There is loads of red dirt and the river crossings will have crocodiles.  The lush rainforest is amazing, and there are 2 World Heritage areas (The Reef and the Daintree).

5) Perth to Ningaloo, Western Australia

Here is the road that has loads of beautiful secluded beaches and crystal clear water.  It’s close to 1200 km in length and starts at Perth and ends at Exmouth.  Western Australian beaches also have some stunning Coral Coastlines.

Love the sea? Then this is a trip for you.  Western Australia is where the Indian Ocean meets the rugged Outback.  You’ll get to see the Pinnacles Desert and the World Heritage Shark Bay.  How about swimming with dolphins, manta rays and whale sharks?  There is also the breath-taking  gorges of the Kalbarri National Park – wow!

If you book this trip in the June to September window, then you’ll also be wowed with the colourful wildflowers that carpet the barren landscape.

6) The Great Alpine Road, Victoria

This route starts in Wangaratta and winds its way around 500 km through Victorian High Country to Metung in Gippsland Lakes area.  On the way you’ll be travelling over Australia’s highest accessible sealed road, which takes in mountain ranges, deep valleys, wine regions and the sparkling waterways of the Gippsland Lakes region. This is a lovely scenic road that has some nice quaint historic towns along the way.

Victoria’s highest alpine village, Mt Hotham, is nice to visit year-round, with excellent downhill skiing and cross-country trails.  You can also book in for a horse ride, and fish during the warmer months.

7) The Savannah Way

The Savannah Way is around 3700 km in length and it offers loads of adventure.  It takes you from Queensland all the way to Western Australia.

Encompassing 15 national parks and five World Heritage along the way, this is the ultimate east to west road trip. Tropical rainforest, vast grassy plains, remote cattle stations, waterfalls, gorges, turquoise waters and ancient rock art; it’s all there.  Boodjamulla National Park is one of Queensland’s awesome sights and experiences.

It’s advisable to carry a radio for when mobile reception isn’t the best, as you are in some faily remote country at times in the Outback.

8) The Nullarbor, South Australia

This is Australia’s straightest road trip: the Nullarbor Plain.  It’s not hard to find, running 1256 km between the goldfields of WA and the Eyre Peninsula in SA.

It is a legendary flat plain that meets with the towering sea cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. It’s home to prolific wildlife, and you’ll be able to see emus, kangaroos, dingoes and camels along the way.  It also boasts the world’s longest golf course!

9) The Pacific Coast, New South Wales & Queensland

If you haven’t done this trip, then it has to be on your to-do list.  The Legendary Pacific Coast follows around 900 km from Sydney to Brisbane through the Central Coast, Port Stephens, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Ballina and Byron Bay.  This is coastal Australia at its best, with it being home to a host of surfing beaches, charming seaside towns, pretty landscapes and national parks.

Take your time and venture off the main highway to find rich pickings of fun activities, boutiques and food.

10) The Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales

This one’s a photographer’s joy; The Grand Pacific Drive is a 140 km scenic coastal drive taking you through rainforests, over the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge and through the coastal cities and townships of Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and the Shoalhaven.  This also has some of New South Wale’s most beautiful cliff faces.

Get yourself ready!