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Driving in Australia

Pay-as-you-go rego back on the table

The controversial topic of car registration is back on the table again, and the notion of a pay-as-you-go system is back in the spotlight as the Victorian Government reportedly leads the assessment of the proposal. Amid the impact of COVID, which has seen many of us not use our cars at all, the issue has gathered extra attention, and it could even bring the topic to a head sooner than otherwise might have been the case.

Central to the discussion has been a recommendation from Infrastructure Victoria, which has proposed car rego fees be abolished in favour of a ‘user pays’ system. Although they have set an extended timeline for this, advising it happen within the next 10 years, that may actually be earlier than other bodies have advocated.

In voicing its support for the proposal, Infrastructure Victoria, which is an independent state government advisory body, argues that the transition to a pay-per-use system would discourage unnecessary driving and promote the uptake of public transport and the like. It believes the current car registration system effectively gives motorists a reason to use their vehicles frequently. Furthermore, the authoritative body suggests that a fixed-price rego does “not reflect the relative costs of providing road infrastructure, the costs of congestion, air and noise pollution, carbon emissions, and road trauma”.

 

 

Changes could be much broader

However, it isn’t just a pay-per-kilometre system that is under review. Infrastructure Victoria is also suggesting that drivers entering the inner city be slugged with a congestion charge. The target here is quote clear, insofar as trying to decrease vehicle use. In turn, that would alleviate traffic on our roads, while also doing more for the environment, residents, as well as ensuring a more ‘efficient’ commute.

Motorists could also be faced with the prospect of paying fees depending on the type of vehicle they drive. That is, cars with a greater impact on our roads and the environment could pay more than those with a more modest impact when it comes to noise and air pollution. Electric vehicles would be one of the beneficiaries under such a proposal, while large trucks would obviously carry the burden. In some weighs, our current system already seeks to address this point, albeit the independent state government advisory body believes there may be more room to fine-tune this.

It may even seem all well and good as far as intentions go, but then again, electric vehicle owners have recently been stung with their own separate pay-per-kilometre levy as of the start of July, in addition to their registration fees, which is sure to raise eyebrows given Infrastructure Victoria is pushing for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2030.

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

 

The Things We Do in Our Cars

I was thinking about the different demands that we all put our vehicle through on our daily drives throughout a year.  It got me thinking about all the changes that can happen to us inside 12 months – whether the weather seasons change dramatically, families get larger or smaller, job promotions happen, we can change jobs for whatever reason, building renovations happen, moving house occurs, we make new friends, we start a fitness schedule at the gym, we try out a new sport across town, go fishing, go for that caravan trip around Australia and what not…  Our lives are fun and full of regular tasks that we both love or put up with, have jobs that we stick with or change, are full of people that come and go and people that we just love to be around and who will always be a part of our life.  The cars we drive regularly, are often a reflection of our lifestyle and can tell us a story about who we are and where we are in life.

With this ticking through my thought processing, I started to think about the changes that may or may not happen to our cars as we drive them, and how the lifestyle changes and choices that we make can affect the cars we drive.  In essence, a car is a very adaptable machine (or at least should be), and it has to be fit for purpose to cater to our own individual needs.  Often, I find myself needing to hitch up the trailer to grab some more compost for the garden, take a load to the recycling centre or help out a mate who is shifting house.  I like to make use of my drive into town to charge my mobile phone up on the way and listen to my favourite music with the volume wound right up.  Some days the temperature outside can get so cold in wintertime that I need to wind up the heater in order to thaw my fingers out and demist the rear window.  But then in summer, when the temperatures soar, I’ll have the air-conditioning wound up to maximum to keep the family inside the car nice and cool, particularly when we have the tiny grandchild travelling with us.

We have different drives that we frequently make in a month, and they all take different roads and cover varying landscapes.  Some journeys require us to drive up steep streets to get us to our friend’s house on top of the cliffs overlooking the sea, other roads have us in the middle of congested city streets and then another drive may take us for an hour or two north into the wild blue yonder through flat and undulating scenery to visit family.

We’ve learned to trust our cars to get us from A-to-B whatever the weather, whoever we have onboard, whatever we have to tow or carry.  Can a new EV manage all the lifestyle changes and demands dependably?  I’d hate to be late for my daughter’s graduation because my EV ran out of power halfway there, or that I missed the ferry because the EV had to be topped up at a charging point that had a long queue, and what about the police who aborted a chase after a dangerous criminal because he spent too long with the heater on and the siren going at the same time.

We need a car fit for purpose, a car that is cheap to run, nice to the environment and above all dependable!

Maintaining Your Car and Keeping that Classic on the Road

XB Ford Falcon GT Coupe

With some of the nicely kept Ford Falcon GTs fetching a handsome price on the second-hand car market it would be tempting to grab one, enjoy it, maintain it and know that you’ve bought an investment.  Holden’s exiting from the automotive industry also suggests that some of the awesome Commodores and HSVs would be an appreciating classic too.  But running any classic, whether from Porsche, BMW or even Toyota, can be a fun hobby and a sound investment.

The good thing about owning older Falcons and Commodores, and I’m talking about any of the models going back to the early sixties for the Falcon and late seventies for the Commodore, is that there is such a great following in Australia and New Zealand for these cars, particularly the sports models, that there always seems to be a flow of parts from somewhere out of the Southern Hemisphere.  Even aftermarket parts for a component can be easily located and sourced, and this will be true for a lot of classic cars.

There are some things that are essential to our daily lives, and currently vehicles are a huge part of anyone’s daily/weekly routines.  They drive us to our jobs, drive the kids to all of their activities; they get us to that favourite holiday or picnic spot, and are essential for running those little errands.  Without a vehicle, it would be impossible to do everything that we need to do and are used to doing.

Out of need (and for the love of it), there are many of us that have become good at keeping our vehicles in good running shape, and that doesn’t just apply to those who collect and maintain older vehicles like the cruisier Falcon and Commodore.  If you can keep your own vehicle in the best shape possible, then you can avoid the added costs of repairs or at least put repairs off for a time, and even put off the need to buy a new vehicle.  When driving, we are still seeing cars from decades ago still going strong, and you may even see some that look almost just as good as the day they were bought.  An old Ford Falcon XR8 or GT still catches attention, and Holden’s HSVs from even the early 2000s look awesome and sound amazing.

AU Ford Falcon XR8

There may be some of you who, like myself, drive a newer car (Toyota Camry for me) for getting all the weekly errands done, and then have a classic or older vehicle (Ford Fairmont for me) for enjoyment on a long cruise or holiday away.  The vehicle tucked away in the shed for the weekend can be one of those cars that you can tinker away on during your days off, while getting the pleasure of a long run out on the open road for that long weekend away.

In this day and age, there are so many resources that are on the web which can inform drivers about how to keep their vehicles in great shape so that they will run nicely for as long as possible.  The secret to being able to enjoy a car (old and new) for many, many miles is regular maintenance.  Here are just some of the basic routine maintenance tasks that you can do to keep your car on the road and running fine.

Oil Change

Change your engine oil and oil filter often.

This is the single best thing you can do to extend the life of your engine.  Keep a note of the odometer reading and date that you changed the oil and filter so that you can schedule it in for next time.

Replace your transmission fluid and differential oil.

It’s not as often as engine oil and filters need changing, but the transmission and diff oil should be done regularly (around 40-to-60,000 km) to keep these systems running sweetly.  Check your vehicle’s manual for the suggested timeframes for changing them.

Add new engine coolant.

Every once in a while, the engine coolant needs flushing out and some new coolant put back into the cooling system.  This is important because it keeps the pipes from freezing up in cold weather, it keeps the tiny coolant passages free from debri and muck that will build up overtime, and it is also very important for your heating system inside the car.  A heater core is often tricky to get to and often requires removing the whole dash just to get to the small heater core radiator.  This was the little culprit that caused my old Terrano to cook its engine!

Maintain your wheel bearings.

Wheel bearing maintenance or replacement is important because they ensure the smooth running of the tires.  When checking in for your next car check-up, make sure to ask for a wheel inspection to see if your bearings are in OK condition.  Usually, this only involves adding some grease to the bearings to get them moving smoothly again.

Change your brake fluid.

This helps fend off moisture building up in the braking system, leaving your brakes free of rust and corrosion and working at their optimum, which really comes down to staying safe out on the road.

Cleaning

Keep your exterior and interior nice and clean.  It’s recommended that you wax and wash your car four times per year at a minimum.

Keeping the interior out of heavy sunlight helps this area last longer and stay smarter.  If you have a car with leather seats, do apply leather conditioner as required to keep the leather soft, pliable and protected.

To keep your vehicle in great shape, it only takes a bit of initiative in the form of having your car taken in for maintenance every once in a while, and or doing it yourself.  If you experience any weird sounds or unusual problems with your car, then it needs to be checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible.

Now… Back out to my Falcon!

When ADAS Features Fail

I don’t quite know why I’ve become more attentive to learning about a car’s ability to protect its occupants in the event of a collision, along with its ability to avoid the collision altogether in the first place.  I expect it has a lot to do with having close family members who occasionally need to drive themselves places.  Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) are growing in popularity.  ADAS systems can help prevent accidents not only at speed, but also when parked as a stationary car.  ADAS features are designed with one purpose in mind and that is to increase driver and occupant safety.

ADAS features include things like automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, collision warning systems, cross-traffic alert, forward and rear collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, park assist, pedestrian detection and avoidance systems, cyclist detection and avoidance systems, road sign recognition, active radar cruise control… and the list goes on.  ADAS employs cameras and sensors to detect a potential collision or event and then proceed to activate systems of avoidance if necessary.  These are important safety features which help prevent accidents.

Research on insurance claims that was carried out by LexisNexis Risk Solutions showed that vehicles involved in incidents that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 27% reduction in the frequency of claims made for bodily injury.  The results also showed that vehicles that had ADAS on-board exhibited a 19% reduction in the frequency of claims made for property damage.  Obviously, this would suggest that the systems must be doing some good.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed that the crash involvement rate for vehicles with blind-spot monitoring was 14% lower than for the same vehicle without the equipment.  Researchers also stated that the study also suggested that if every vehicle sold in the US in 2015 was equipped with blind-spot monitoring, 50,000 crashes and 16,000 crash injuries might have been prevented.

At present, one of the big downsides of the ADAS features is that they are darn expensive.  Not only do they put the price of a new car up, they also make the car costlier to insure because if any of the systems gets damaged the insurance and repair bills are usually eye-watering.  Hopefully, ADAS features will come way down in price and become similar to standard computer software and technology which is, on the whole, a dime-a-dozen now.

The other thing is that I hope ADAS will function 100% of the time correctly as intended, because vehicles designed to be able to automatically brake for objects such as other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, and to drive themselves inside highway lanes without driver input, is not an exact science.  A slightly frightening example of my concern here is when Volvo was demonstrating its pedestrian AEB technology to journalists in 2016.  Volvo used their V60 model in the demonstration, where it was travelling toward a dummy named Bob.  The V60 didn’t detect Bob being in the way, and so Bob was hit in what was a controlled environment.  An alert driver in the V60 may well have returned a better outcome.

Then shortly after, another Volvo V60 was demonstrating its collision detection and avoidance system where it was to avoid hitting a stationary truck.  The failure to detect and avoid the collision can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNi17YLnZpg

Again, an alert and competent driver could well have resulted in a better outcome, should this have happened in the real world.

In 2018, the IIHS took five new vehicles and tested them.  The Tesla Model 3, the Tesla Model S, the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and the Volvo S90 were the test vehicles.  Each vehicle’s AEB, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist systems were tested.  Some of the problems IIHS encountered was that the AEB didn’t actually work in some vehicles in some circumstances.

In other tests, the IIHS observed: “The BMW 5-series steered toward or across the lane line regularly, requiring drivers to override the steering support to get it back on track.  Sometimes the car disengaged steering assistance on its own.  The car failed to stay in the lane on all 14 valid trials.  The Model S was also errant in the hill tests.”

Sadly, just a couple of years ago an autonomous Uber fitted with even more sensors than any standard ADAS-equipped road car killed a pedestrian at night in the US.  This happened while researchers and designers were conducting public testing.  What this suggests is that the ADAS technology is amazing and good enough to be placed into new cars.  However, it doesn’t mean ADAS will always work as intended, and it does point to the fact that drivers must still always be fully alert at the wheel.  If the driver is not fully alert, the outcome from these system fails can sometimes be way worse than if the driver was fractionally slower to manually override the systems detection time and action times.

I’ve heard of numerous occasions when vehicles have falsely detected situations.  A more common fail is when accident emergency braking (AEB) engaged on-board a car when it shouldn’t have, which meant that the AEB stopped the vehicle abruptly and unexpectedly on a clear road.  At the time, traffic is still coming up behind the vehicle.  Lane keep assist isn’t always that great either, and the results of a high-speed mishap on a main highway is tragic.

ANCAP is Australian’s big car-safety tester, and a recent representative suggested that AEB and lane-keeping assist technology, which is where the car will steer itself, was beginning to be put under the microscope.  This would test for how accurate the system actually is, and if it would actually do the opposite and steer the vehicles into a dangerous situation.  Testing ADAS features should take priority over just saying that the technology is available in the car at the time of crash testing, whereby the appropriate ADAS feature box is ticked and the job done.

ADAS mostly works for the better.  It does raise obvious safety problems, particularly when manufacturers have all the pressure to pack in as many ADAS features into their vehicles as possible for as little cost as possible to remain competitive on the sales front.  This pressure would suggest that these systems could be prone to potentially become unsafe.

With cars loaded with ADAS features, you could also say that drivers of these new vehicles might be tempted to hop on the mobile phone to check messages once they have activated the adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist systems.  Essentially, it becomes easier to break the law; which takes us back to the point that we shouldn’t rely heavily on ADAS technology because it can fail to work.  We don’t often hear this preached at the car sales yard or on new-car adverts.

In Australia, features such as antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) are mandatory in new vehicles that are sold to the public.  These mandatory requirements are set to be pushed to the next level, where automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist would have to be on-board any new vehicle being sold to the public.  Even alcohol detection devices may well be part of these standard requirements.  Europe is set to introduce some of these requirements over the next few years, and Australia is likely to follow the lead.  Newly imported European cars would end up with these features anyways, a win-win for us new-car buyers.

ADAS is good, but we still need to drive our cars.

Tips for Teaching a Person Learning to Drive

It’s that time in the life of a Dad or Mum where your daughter or son has got to the age of learning to drive.  For some, this is a time where stress levels begin to rise; just the thought of having to go through busy intersections with a rather nervous learner isn’t something for the faint-hearted.  However, it can be a very rewarding time where you get to hand that little bit more independence and responsibility over to your teenager.  Here are some tips from someone who has gone through this stage in life twice; actually three times, if you include the time when I was at university and gave lessons to a good mate of mine who still hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car by the time he was 21.

First of all, the teenager will need to get a learner permit.  For this, your child needs to be 16 years old.  The only exception is in the ACT, where the minimum age is 15 years and 9 months.  In some states, you just fill in a learner licence application form, while in other states of Australia, your child must also pass a written or computer-based test on the road rules.  Some states also have an eyesight test thrown in for good measure.

Once they have their learner permit, then in most Australian states and territories the learner drivers must gain driving experience on the road before they can do the test to get their P plate.  They must do their learner driving under the supervision of a driver who holds a full unrestricted licence.  The learner will also need to complete the Hazard Perception Test, continue to gain experience, pass the Practical Driving Assessment and then get a Provisional Licence.

To get through these steps, the first hurdle is getting to know the road rules.  Reading up on the rules is, obviously, really helpful.  This can even be done just before they hit the age of being able to go for their licence.  It’s during this learning phase that I found bringing out my old ‘Matchbox’ cars (you can use any toy cars), drawing some roads on a big sheet of cardboard/paper and using them to push through the drawn-up intersections to gain a spatial birds-eye view of who gives way and why.  Works a treat!

Out on the road, they’ll learn as a passenger, however, when it comes to them getting behind the wheel, it’s a really good idea to ease them into driving in a place where there is very little traffic, just so they can get used to the car, how it stops and goes, how it sits on the road, what it feels like to control and getting to know where it begins and ends.  Even a farmer’s paddock is a nice wide open space where there is nothing close in the vicinity to accidentally hit, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

If you’re not a competent teacher, make sure that you find someone who is.  The teacher’s demeanour always influences the learner’s ability, so a firm, soothing and relaxed manner always delivers a positive rub on the learner, helping them to gain confidence and grow quickly in ability.  A harsh, scared teacher will make for a nervous learner who will quickly dislike the whole experience.  I’ve known some people who struggle to drive even years after they finally got their license, all because of the whole bad experience of learning to drive.  You can always bring in the services of a qualified driving instructor if you can’t find someone you know and trust to do the job well or if you know that your skills just won’t cut the mustard.

When it comes to the particular car that the learner will be driving, then my advice is to ensure that the car is a safe choice.  Cars with an excellent safety rating are a must for new learners.  It is madness to put your own daughter or son in something that won’t provide good protection in an event of a crash.  It’s always best that they learn to drive the car that they’ll be sitting the practical tests in.  And my advice is that they should continue to drive this car even once they have their licenses and are out on the road by themselves (at least for a year or two).

Only if a learner is a true natural and picks up driving easily would I suggest a manual vehicle for them to drive, though manual cars are getting less and less easy to find, let alone buy these days.  An automatic vehicle is so much easier to drive when you are learning, as it takes away the fear of being in the wrong gear at the wrong time, stalling at an intersection; and it’s just one less thing to do and think about while you’re getting used to driving out on the road.  I know of one young husband whose wife has been for her learner license three times and failed the practical tests.  He still insists that she learns to drive a manual car first, just like he did; because in his eyes if you learn to drive a manual, then you’re going to be a better driver in the long run.  Um… no.

Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the experience of teaching your teenager to drive.  Keep being an encourager; it is fun and you can add to the good times by going out for a coffee afterwards.

GMSV Releases Corvette Pricing & Addition To Silverado.

GMSV has today (March 30, 2021) released details of an addition to the Silverado range, plus confirms pricing for the Corvette.

The Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss will come with a recommended retail price of $106,990. Drive is courtesy of a 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 and ten speed auto, and offers a towing capacity of 4.5 tonnes. GMSV’s Director, Jo Stogiannis, says the Trail Boss is intended to be the off-road warrior of the range. “LT Trail Boss personifies what Silverado is all about. It’s big, it’s tough and it comes ingrained with brand-DNA which showcases qualities of strength, power, performance and no-nonsense work-hard attributes.”

A factory fitted suspension lift kit raises the LT Trail Boss by 25mm at the front, and 30mm for the rear, providing extra off-road clearance and peace of mind. Ride quality and handling is enhanced thanks to Rancho monotube shock absorbers, and extra grip comes from a mechanical rear locking diff. Style and practicality see the 18 inch black painted alloys contrast and complement the black front and rear bumpers.Although intended to be the off-road Silverado of choice, there is no skimping on safety or comfort. Both front seats are heated, feature ten way power adjustment, and the steering wheel is heated also. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard. Front and Rear Park Assist will ensure easier parking, and safety on tarmac has Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert to look after all aboard.

To ensure off-roading enjoyment is enhanced, Hill Descent Control is standard, plus a heavy-duty air filter provides clean air for the V8, and underneath, there are all-terrain skid plates to provide extra protection.

Orders for the LT Silverado Trail Boss are being taken now, with deliveries scheduled for mid-2021.

GMSV also confirmed pricing details for the hotly anticipated Corvette. There will be five models available initially, all with high specifications. Both coupe and convertible body types will be available, with the 2LT and 3LT trim levels plus a special Carbon Edition package. Motorvation is courtesy of a 6.2L V8 producing 370kW and 637Nm with drive to the rear wheels via an eight speed dual-clutch auto.

The recommended retail pricing structure starts with the 2LT coupe from $144,990, and the convertible from $159,990. The 3LT coupe starts from $160,500, whilst the convertible starts from $175,500. Pricing for the Carbon edition is yet to be confirmed. This will be built on the 3LT Coupe body, and will feature premium wheels, a premium brake caliper package, a hand-picked interior trim, plus a build plate and owners’ pack.

Australian specification Corvettes will be built with higher equipment levels to enhance the appeal. Known as the Z51 Performance Package with Front Lift, Ms Stogiannis says: “Overwhelming feedback is that our intended customers are performance enthusiasts, they want to have the ability to experience the C8 Corvette to its fullest potential.” The package is an option in the Corvette’s home country.Front Lift raises the nose of the Corvette to minimise potential contact damage on kerbs, and it’s a simple button push to do so. Included in the Z51 package is the Magnetic Selective Ride Control system, with millimetre precision thanks to a real-time damping system that reacts in a millisecond to the changes in road surfaces. Sounds come from a dual mode exhaust, stopping is thanks to Brembo, and rear grip is enhanced via an E-LSD. The body will have a front splitter and a rear spoiler. Engine longevity is increased via extra cooling .

All versions will have a full colour Head Up Display, and passengers will enjoy a 14 speaker Bose premium sound system.

The cars are factory right hand drive, the first to come to Australia in its history. Bowling Green in Kentucky is the factory’s location, and they’ll roll off the line in late 2021, with some deliveries currently scheduled in the same period, with the rest in early 2022.

Of the car, Ms Stogiannis said: “Corvette is an iconic car and there is a massive groundswell of interest and anticipation building ahead of its local launch. We have every expectation it will more than live up to its legendary status.”

(Information courtesy GMSV).

 

Hydrogen Fuel Is The Nexo Step.

Hyundai Australia has unveiled their Nexo vehicle. Powered solely by hydrogen, it’s set to be a game-changer if the right infrastructure is put in place. For now, a fleet of twenty will roam the streets of Canberra during a trial phase.Nexo is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, rated at 95kW, coupled to an electric motor. It generates 120kW and 395Nm, and has a theoretical range of over 660 kilometres. Here’s how it works, says Hyundai.

Hydrogen gas is stored in high-pressure tanks and is sent from these to the fuel cells. It mixes with oxygen taken straight from the atmosphere and reacts across a “catalyst membrane” and creates electricity for the engine and battery, and water as the sole by-product. Excess power is stored in the battery system. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, or FCEVs, can be refilled in virtually the same time as a petrol fuel tank.

“The arrival of NEXO on Australian roads as an ADR-approved production vehicle is a landmark in Hyundai’s ongoing commitment to green mobility and to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology.” Hyundai Motor Company CEO, Jun Heo said. The hydrogen NEXO SUV is a cornerstone in the Hyundai portfolio, complementing our hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles the IONIQ and Kona Electric. NEXO is also a sign of things to come, as Hyundai continues in its long-term drive towards leadership in eco-friendly vehicles.”

It’s a one specification vehicle for the moment, and comes well equipped in that sense. A main 12.3 inch satnav equipped touchscreen is the centre of the appeal, complete with Android and Apple smartphone compatibility. The driver has a 7.0 inch info screen, and a Qi wireless smartphone charger is standard.

Seats are leather appointed, and passengers see the sky via a full length glass roof. Sounds are courtesy of Krell. Nexo rolls on 19 inch alloys, and sees its way thanks to LED headlights and daytime running lights. A Surround View Monitor, Remote Engine Start, Remote Smart parking Assist, and a powered tailgate add extra convenience. Comfort comes courtesy of a dual-zone climate control system, powered front seats, heating for the steering wheel and outboard sections of the rear seats.

SmartSense is the name Hyundai give their safety system package and the Nexo will have Forward Collision Avoidance, Driver Attention warning, and the Blind Spot Collision Avoidance is radar based. Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Avoidance Assist and Smart Cruise with Stop/Go functionality are also standard.

Exterior colour choices are limited. White Cream Mica, and a Dusk Blue Metallic will come with Stone Grey two-tone interior, whilst Cocoon Silver and Copper Metallic are paired with a Dark Blue interior.

The main hydrogen system is built around three storage tanks with a capacity of 156 litres. Up to 6.33 kilograms of hydrogen can be held at a pressure of 700 bar. The testing of the tanks has included structural integrity for collision impacts. The battery is a lithium-ion polymer unit, rated as 240V and 1.56kWh. It also assists in running the onboard 12V systems.

The battery itself effectively comprises most of the floor, making for better cabin packaging and a low centre of gravity. The system is also rated for cold start operation at temperatures down to -29 Celcius. It will start within 30 seconds.

In keeping with its green credentials, structural components include aluminium for the bumper beam, front knuckles, rear wheel carriers and front lower control arms. Lower kerb weight assists in the vehicle’s handling, ride, and reduces cabin noise input. The front fenders are lightweight and flexible plastic.

Hyundai Nexo refill

Bio-based materials also up the green, with up to 12.0 kilograms of CO2 being reduced as a by-product of the manufacturing process. Total weight of bio-product is 34 kilos and this is found in the carpet, headliner, trim material, door trims, and the seats and console. Bio-paints derived from corn and sugarcane waste material are also used.

Strength and safety comes from high tensile steel, making the monocoque body both rigid and torsionally strong, with over 56% of the Nexo’s bodywork made from the high strength steel/ This extends to the tank sub-frame and tested in rear collision simulations.

Hidden details such as air guides underneath and air deflectors aid aero efficiency. Hidden wipers, a Hyundai first, are fitted at front and rear, and with slimline retracting door handles the Nexo has a drag coefficient of just 0.32cD.Chassis development was carried out in Australia, Tim Rodgers, the Hyundai Motor Company Australia Product Planning and Development Specialist, said. “The platform was designed to address this challenge, with an extensive use of lightweight parts for the strut front and multi-link rear suspensions, such as aluminium knuckles and lower control arms. By reducing unsprung mass there is less energy that we have to manage through the damper and the spring, so we can use a slightly different valve characteristic and achieve the results we require.

We’ve come out of the R&D process with a refined suspension that matches quite nicely with acoustic levels in the cabin. Beyond achieving this, the tuning program targeted the normal ride and handling benchmarks, to give NEXO the same style of body control we tune into all our cars, and the same level of competency Australia’s notoriously challenging back roads.”

Not yet available for private sale, it can be leased. Hyundai have a specialist Aftersales team in place to deal with inquiries, and they can be reached through a Hyundai dealership in the first instance.

FCAI Sees Tunnel’s Light As Sales Increase

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the FCAI, has released the new vehicle sales figures for February 2021. 83,977 vehicles were sold in February 2021, which is up 5.1 per cent on February 2020. Sales for that month saw 79,940 vehicles sold.

This positive result was reflected in the increases seen for N.S.W., W.A., S.A., QLD, and the N.T. Victoria was down by 8.7%, Tasmania by 3.9%, and the ACT by 38.3% compared to February 2020. Year to date sales of 163,643 vehicles is up 7.9 per cent on the same period in 2020.

SUV sales continued to dominate the market with sales of 42,651 vehicles and representing 50.8 per cent of the total market for February 2021. Light commercial vehicle sales represented 23 per cent (19,326) and passenger vehicles 22.9% (19,194).

On a marque basis, Toyota had a 21.9% market share, Mazda 9.9%, Hyundai 7.4%, equal with Mitsubishi and just ahead of Kia, and Ford on 7.0%, and 5.6%. Nissan clocked 4.6% with fellow Japanese maker Subaru on 3.1%. VW had 3.6 whilst Chinese owned and built MG also saw 3.6%.February sales saw a continued shift in preference by buyers to move away from passenger vehicles. Sales fell 15.3% in February 2021 compared to sales in February 2020. Sales of SUVs were up 8.6 per cent and sales of light commercials were up 24.3 per cent. Hybrid SUVs continue their inexorable climb, with 2,713 sold in February 2021, against 2,546 for the same period last year, and 5,456 from January 1st compared to 4,018 last year. PHEV sales were also up, with 149 and 275 against 92 and 149 on a month and year to date basis.

Toyota’s RAV4 lead the way in the category, with 2,750 against the Mazda CX-5’s 2,048. It was a scrap for third place with Mitsubishi’s Outlander (1,178), Nissan’s X-Trail (1,151), Hyundai’s Tucson (1,062) and Subaru’s Forester (1,009) duking it out. In the large SUV category and at sub-$70K, Toyota’s Prado won comprehensively with 1,407. Isuzu’s MU-X saw 745 sales for 2nd place, edging the outgoing Subaru Outback on 608.FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said the result showed that confidence was continuing to grow in the market. “During the past four months we have seen an increase of 10.6% in new vehicles and this has been reflected with strong growth in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory in February 2021. The sales reduction in Victoria can be attributed to the COVID 19 restrictions that were put in place during the month.“We remain confident that this trend of growth will continue in an environment where business operating conditions continue to normalise.”

Toyota was the leading brand in February with sales of 18,375 vehicles (21.9 per cent of the market), followed by Mazda with 8,322 (9.9 per cent), Hyundai with 6,252 (7.4 per cent), Mitsubishi with 6,202 (7.4 per cent) and Kia with 5,871 (7 per cent).

The Toyota Hilux was the best-selling vehicle in February 2021 with sales of 4,808 vehicles, followed by the Ford Ranger (2,900), the Toyota RAV4 (2,750), the Toyota Landcruiser (2,521) and the Toyota Corolla (2,427).

Kia’s revamped Carnival continued to dominate the People Mover sub-$60K segment, with 606 sales for a massive 62.5% market share, with Honda’s Odyssey on just 127. Mercedes-Benz listed 28 in the plus-$60K market for the V-Class.Purely electric passenger vehicles have seen a mild increase, with 119 for February 2021 against 86 for the same time in 2020. It’s the same on a YTD basis with 197 to 165 for 2020. For the electric SUV segment, it was a better result, with 139 to 60 for a month comparison, and 352 to 97 on a YTD basis.Key Points:
• The February 2021 market of 83,977 new vehicle sales is an increase of 4,037 vehicle sales or 5.1% on February 2020 (79,940) vehicle sales. February 2020 and February 2021 each had 24 selling days and this resulted in an increase of 168.2 vehicle sales per day.
• The Passenger Vehicle Market is down by 3,466 vehicle sales (-15.3%) over the same month last year; the Sports Utility Market is up by 3,378 vehicle sales
(8.6%); the Light Commercial Market is up by 3,784 vehicle sales (24.3%); and the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Market is up by 341 vehicle sales (13.8%) versus
February 2020.
• Toyota was market leader in February, followed by Mazda and Hyundai. Toyota led Mazda with a margin of 10,053 vehicle sales and 12.0 market share points.

(Information courtesy of FCAI)

2021 Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge PHEV: Private Fleet Car Review

Hybrid technology is becoming a way of life in the automotive world and ranges from the everyday car to the ultra luxury. Somewhere in between is Volvo and their hybrid SUV “Recharge” offerings. The big ‘un, the XC90, is now partially electrified and available as a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle or PHEV.Complete with a solid list of standard equipment and extras, their is a Manufacturer’s recommended list price and as driven price of $114,990 and $120,715.

The key to what turned out to be a surprisingly rapid and agile big SUV is a 2.0L petrol fed engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged. The EV part comes from a battery that assists and electric motor that produces, says Volvo, 65kW and 240Nm to work with the petrol powerplant’s 246kW and 440Nm. That torque figure comes in at 2,200rpm and runs to 4,400rpm.

This endows the hefty, at 2,315kg, XC90, with ferocious speed, albeit limited to 180kph as a top speed. It will easily see the freeway limit in 5.5 seconds, and overtake others at a rate that would have Superman blink in astonishment. Along the way, Volvo says economy is rated at 2.1L/100km from a 70L tank.Herein lies the rub. The battery, when fully charged, offers just 35km of range on battery power alone. In conjunction with the drive modes, such as (mild) off-road, and the Polestar engineering mode, this is possible but in the real world mostly not. To extract the best out of the combination, it’s highway cruising that needs to be employed as the battery runs down to a point that it no longer really assists but will supplement in a reduced capacity. To that end we saw a final overall figure of 6.4L/100km, in itself a better than respectable figure for the mass of the XC90 Recharge.The Four-C Active Chassis suspension is height adjustable thanks to electronically controlled airbags being employed and does so with the drive modes programming. It’ll also lower in height when the XC90 Recharge is switched off via the centre console located rotary dial. Here one would think that the ride quality is not that good. It’s the opposite, and although not quite completely dialing out the artificial feel airbag suspension setups have, it’s never anything less than comfortable.

Up front is a double wishbone transverse link setup, with the rear a integral axle transverse leaf spring composition. Together they bring a wholly adept ride and handling package to the XC90 Recharge, along with the grip levels thanks to the 22 inch double spoke black painted and diamond cut alloys. Pirelli supply the rubber and they’re 275/35s from the famous P-Zero range.Although a thin sidewall, the suspension is clearly tuned with that in mind, such is the poise and lack of bump-thump displayed. And those wide tyres add so much tenacity in being able to corner harder and longer when enjoying that flexibility from underneath the bonnet.

Steering is precise, and mayhaps too precise for some used to oodles of understeer or numbness. It’s perfectly weighted and for the size of the wheels and rubber, there’s a pleasing lack of “ponderous”. It’s more a delight than it has the right to be, and nimble enough in the feel to make it a small to mid-sized hatch rather than the large SUV it really is.

Rolling acceleration delivers in that “pin you back in the seat” manner, especially when the battery is charged. Although untimed, that quoted 5.5 seconds, too, is on the mark from a seat of the pants point of view.Recharge of the battery from the brakes is on a graduated level. Drive, once the ignition dial is switched, is engaged by a simple tap forward or backwards lever just ahead of the switch, and a tap back from Drive changes the amount of braking regenerative force that feeds the battery. Although needing a very long hill to make any appreciable impact, there is enough noticeable retardation and a small increase in range seen in the dash display.

Volvo have kept the fact that it’s a PHEV quiet. Apart from the numberplate fitted, there is the charge port on the front left fender and a badge on the powered tailgate with “Recharge”. Aside from the hole for that charge port, which opens at the press of a hand to reveal a weatherproofed, covered, port, it’s an invisible PHEV presence.The exterior is otherwise unchanged, from the Thor’s hammer driving lights and indicators to the LED rear lights, it’s a curvaceously boxy body. Inside there’s luxury in the form of the Bowers and Wilkins audio, leather seats, the integrated tablet-style infotainment screen, and LCD dash display. Run a drive destination into the navigation and the centre of the LCD driver’s screen shows the map. There is also a subtle, and almost lost, HUD display.Rear seats have their own climate control and the capacious cargo area (651L to 1,950L) has plenty of high quality carpeting and switches for the powered tailgate. There is a bag for the charge cable and a hook to hang it from. There is also a cargo blind which was in the way when it comes to moving the third row seats and no obviously apparent storage locker for it too.Controls for the car are embedded in the touchscreen, with climate control including venting/heating for the front seats, safety features, and smartapps such as Spotify and TuneIn included. The tablet style screen works on swiping left and right for the main info, and a pulldown from the top for settings and an electronic instruction manual.

Our review car came with options fitted; Climate pack which has heating for the windscreen washers, rear seat, and tiller at $600. The centre row seats has powered folding headrests at $275, whilst metallic paint is a hefty $1,950. The Nappa leather covered seats in charcoal to match the trim is $2,950.It’s a Volvo so those letters can be pronounced “safety”. Volvo has their CitySafe package, with Pedestrian, Vehicle, Large Animal, Cyclist Detection, and Intersection Collision Mitigation. Intellisafe Assist has Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist, Collision Warning with Auto Brake (which picks up parked cars on corners…), and Intellisafe Surround that includes Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Collision warning (which stops the car from moving if sensors pick up an obstacle), and airbags throughout the cabin.At The End Of The Drive. There is something to be said for the brands, in the automotive sense, that are leading the charge (no pun intended) towards hybrid and fully EV availabililty. Brands such as Jaguar have announced they’ll be fully EV by 2025, for example. Volvo, under the chequebook auspices of Geely, continue to produce the classy and safety-oriented vehicles they’re renowned for, and push towards a more expansive hybrid range.As potent as the petrol engine is on its own, the short distance available from battery power alone and as a backup for hybrid driving detracts somewhat from the intent, especially for our wide brown land. In Europe where you can drive through seventeen towns in the time it takes to sneeze four times, it’s a different story.

For the driver, it’s a sports car in a big car body, and just happens to be able to carry up to seven people in comfort and knowledge of safety thanks to the famous Volvo safety heritage. In the competition area there are the three German brands against it, and in a purely EV sense, Tesla’s Model X, complete with its lights and door dance routine for entertainment value. In a tough market segment, sometimes the difference can be small to see in value but Volvo assures that the extra range capability is coming. That will help the XC90 increase its appeal.

Thanks to Volvo Australia for the provision of the 2021 XC90 T8 Recharge.