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Driving in Australia

Electric Vehicles: What Will Happen With The Fuel Taxes?

I think we all know by now that electric cars and hybrids are much more common on the roads than they used to be.  It’s 20 years since the original Toyota Prius  – the groundbreaking first hybrid vehicle – hit the roads, which means that if you’ve got your eyes open, you can score a second-hand hybrid.  They’re getting better and better with extended range and more body types coming with hybrid and even all-electric versions.

One of the reasons put forward for why you should switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle – and you hear this one more often with pure electrics – is that electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel, so it’s cheaper to fill up.  You’re not paying all that tax.

Ah yes – the tax.  Can anyone else spot the potential problem here?  What will happen if a large proportion of us switched to purely electric vehicles?  This means that one particular source of government income is going to drop dramatically.  Can we see the government smiling happily about this and how we’re polluting so much less, etc. and just carrying on without the tax coming from fuel?  Maybe they could take a cut in their salaries or spend less on frivolous projects and fancy-pants conferences.  Ooh look – a flying pig.  Better get out your manure-proof umbrella.

OK, if we take a less cynical view and make the charitable assumption that the fuel taxes get used to keep the roads in good order.  If we don’t want our roads to deteriorate if loads of people switch to electric vehicles, that money has got to come from somewhere.  But where?  What are the options?

The first option would be to hike up the fuel tax to cover the shortfall.  There are two problems with this one.  The first is that even though there are some second-hand hybrids knocking about and even though we do our best here at Private Fleet to get you the best deals on a new car, pure electric vehicles still tend to be at the newer end of the spectrum and are beyond the budget of a low-income family (especially if said family needs a larger vehicle than the little hatchbacks that early examples of hybrids tended to be).  This leads to a vicious cycle: they can’t afford to upgrade to an electric with the higher petrol prices, which means they have to keep on using the expensive fuel, etc. or switch to using public transport if they live in towns.

The other people who will get hit hard by this hypothetical hike in fuel taxes are those in rural communities.  Although range of electrics is getting better, it’s not quite where it needs to be for those out the back of beyond: the park rangers, the tour guides in the Outback and the district nurses and midwives.  Going electric isn’t really an option for them – and the sort of vehicles needed by your park rangers and tour guides (i.e. big 4 x4s) don’t usually come in electric (although that’s starting to change).  What’s more, the big rigs and farm tractors don’t come in electric versions either (electric tractors exist but they’re puny), so they’ll keep on needing diesel.  This means that their costs will go up with a hypothetical fuel tax hike, which probably means that farmers and trucking companies will go out of business or else they’ll pass the costs along and we’ll all have higher food prices.  It’s like the old army wisdom about not pissing off the person who cooks: you don’t ever brush off the farming community as unimportant, because they are the ones who produce your food and most of us like to eat.

OK, so the knock-on consequences to rural communities and a lot of Australia’s industries would throw our economy into chaos (just think of all the diesel-powered machines involved in the mining industry, for example – although there are some rugged electric utes that have been specifically designed for the mining industry).  The Powers That Be hopefully aren’t that stupid and they are more likely to find a fairer way of getting the tax money than simply increasing the existing tax.  What’s much more likely is that they’ll create a new tax.  Any guesses as to what that new tax is likely to be?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if people are using electricity instead of using petrol and diesel and thus avoiding the fuel tax, the obvious thing to slap a tax on is the electricity…

You read it here first, folks.  Although at the moment, using electric vehicles will save you at the plug (rather than the pump), it’s only going to be a matter of time until a tax appears, especially as electric vehicles become more common.  Yes, there are other advantages to using electric vehicles such as the reduced pollution and how they don’t depend on a finite resource (biofuels aside), but the advantage of not paying a fuel tax won’t last forever.

Enjoy it while you can!

Historic Holden Could Be Yours.

In Australia’s diverse and rich car & motorsport history there are few combinations of letters and numbers that get the heart beating like A9X. Almost a mythical being for some, the A9X was a code given to an options list for Holden’s LX Torana. Some sources say that the car was closer to the UC Torana that was released at around the same time as the VB Commodore. Just 33 hatchback shells were produced by General Motors Parts and Accessories (GMP&A) for sale to race teams.One of these rare machines is coming up for auction via Pickles Auctions in Perth. There’s a fair bit of history attached to this one. Noted 1970s racer Ron Hodgson had purchased from Holden three bare A9X hatchback car shells. Two of these were transformed into race spec cars. The other was effectively shelved in the case of needing spares. As it eventuated the shell was to be built into a working and running vehicle for a collector. A Group C specification 308cid engine and Warner T10 gearbox, plus Selby suspension and brakes, were fitted. The owner to be, Pat Burke, held onto the car for some years until Burke’s collection was broken up. Noted Western Australian collector Paul Terry purchased the vehicle and was delivered to his stable of cars at the Esplanade Extravaganza Gallery in Albany.It’s appeared in a book and was barely driven. One notable excursion into the public eye was in 1992, driven for just two laps at the Albany Round The Houses. The car’s current owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, says this was the first time he saw the vehicle. He bought it in 1993 and apart from some very judicious laps at Barbagallo Raceway, north of Perth, it remains in a largely untouched and almost pristine condition. There’s also the amount of kilometres covered in thirty years: just 475 kilometres and all of those are either track and event based or movements with 200 of these driven in the 25 years the current owner has had it in his garage of cars. It’s never been road registered.Pirelli P7 rubber wraps classic gold centred Simmons wheels, with an overall specification of 225/50/15. The body is also largely pristine, in the classic black and white combination, and there are black Recaro seats plus racing gauges. Being a pre-noise pollution and emissions reducing car it’s a full, unfettered, exhaust and engine combination.

Pickles have the car listed from August 23 until September 2nd.

Kia Australia Releases 2019 Cerato S, Cerato Sport, Cerato Sport+

The evergreen Kia Cerato sedan has been given a pretty solid makeover, with the hatch due for its own tickle and release later this year, plus GT versions for both are said to be on their way. There’s also been a range realignment name-wise.. We have driven the Kia Cerato S, Cerato Sport, and Cerato Sport+.

The Cerato S sedan starts from $23,790 plus on roads, as tested. The review car was in Steel Grey, a pleasing shade and a $520 option. The Sport was $25,790 plus on roads, clad in a gorgeous Horizon Blue, and the Sport+in Snow White Pearl came in at $28,290, plus on roads, and paint. Servicing costs are for a fixed amount over Kia’s class leading seven year warranty, and top out at $2,869.00. There’s a good range of colours available but only one is classified as a non-premium colour…If you’re after a manual, you’ll find it in the Cerato S only. You’ll also find only a 2.0L injected four cylinder across the range, with six speeds, in both auto and manual guise, hanging off of the side for the engine. It’s a peak twist of 192Nm and power is 112kW. Rev points are 4000rpm and 6200rpm respectively and there’s a noticeable increase of oomph once 3000rpm is seen on the dial. As we drove the autos only, they’re pretty much all good in the transmission sense. It’s the engine that needs refining and smoothing. See 4000rpm on the tacho and there’s a noticeable harshness and noise. It’s a metallic keen that, although somewhat raucous, is really only ever apparent when a heavy right foot is used, thankfully. It’s otherwise quiet, pleasant even.

It’s here that the auto shines. Seamless shifting when left to its own devices, it delights in its smooth and unhurried nature. Tilt the gear selector right, it goes into Sport mode, and when rocked forward and back, the changes are sharp and crisp. Acceleration in all three is enhanced by using Sport mode as the changes suit the characteristics of the engine’s tune. That engine tune helps in economy too. Kia says it’s 7.4L per 100L from the 50L tank for a combined cycle and a still too high 10.2L/100km for the urban cycle. Driven in a mainly urban environment with engines all under 3000km of age, we averaged under 7.0L/100km across the three.Road handling from the three was similar yet in one car somewhat oddly different to the others. The Sport+ rides on the same tyre and rim size as the Sport. 225/45/17 is what’s bolted to each corner and the alloys look sensational. The S has steel wheels at 16 inches, with 205/55 rubber. The S and Sport are more akin in they ride than the Sport+, with the McPherson strut front and coupled torsion bar rear feeling tighter, tauter, and less composed in the Sport+. Long sweepers with minor corrugations had the rear step out, whereas the S and Sport were less inclined to deviate. In a straight line all three sat comfortably but the Sport+ was more the princess in the bed with the pea. Minor irregularities were magnified and enhanced in the Sport+, with just that little bit more unwanted pucker factor whilst sitting on its leather clad pews. Freeway rides are tied down, there’s little to no float, and road noise is minimal thanks to extra noise reduction materials plus NVH reduction engineering. Get funky in the tighter corners in the mountain roads and handling is predictable with steering nicely weighted. Boot it out of a corner and the steering loads up and there’s no tending towards lift-off understeer.The S and Sport have cloth seats, manual adjustment, and no heating. The Sport+ has heating, no venting, and no powered front seats, an odd omission for a top of the range car. In fact, there’s really not a whole lot of difference between the three in some areas. All have the drive mode choice of Eco/Comfort/Smart with Sport engaged as mentioned. All have AEB with Forward Collision Warning – Car Avoidance, with the Sport+ getting Pedestrian and Cyclist on top plus adaptive cruise. All three have Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, voice activation, and Digital radio via the eight inch screen, with the Sport+ having the same dropout issues as experienced in the Sorento. Climate control is in the Sport+, with “standard” aircon in the other two. The driver sees info via steering wheel mounted tabs on a 3.5 inch TFT screen between two standard analogue dials. Perhaps here a LCD screen for the dials would help add cachet and differentiate the the Sport+ further.All three have Blind Spot Detection as an option, as do they have Rear Cross Traffic Alert as an option. These are part of two safety packs available at a $1000 or $500 price point. All other safety systems such as Hill Start Assist are common. The Sport+ gets an electro-chromatic (dimming) rear vision mirror, LED daytime lights, push button start, centre console armrest that slides, and folding wing mirrors. It’s also the only one with an external boot release on the car. That sounds like nothing important but when you’re used to pressing a rubber tab on the boot and not using the key fob, it’s not a smart choice.What is a smart choice is the redesign outside and in. Kia’s gone with the Euro style touchscreen that stands proud of the centre dash and it looks good. There’s turbine style airvents and the Sport+ has more brightwork around these and in the cabin than the Sport and S. There’s a pair of 12V and USB ports up front, with one dedicated to charging and the other for the auxiliary audio access via the smartphone apps. Although the front screen has been moved backwards, there’s no decrease in head, shoulder, and leg room for the 4.6m long sedan. Boot space is, ahem, adequate, at 434L with a long and quite deep design, and the spare is a full sizer, albeit steel fabricated unit.Outside there’s been a major re-skin; the front screen has been moved by nearly twelve centimetres and the bonnet line has been raised. The headlight clusters flow backwards at the top into the guards, with a nod towards the Stinger in styling here. At the right angle, somewhere from the rear quarter, there’s more than a hint of a certain Japanese luxury brand too. Sport+ has LED driving lights in a Stinger like quad design around the main headlight. There’s angular vents at each front corner that house the indicators and the Sport and S have a pair of globe lit driving lights between. Rear end design has been revamped and there’s beautiful styling to the tail lights, flanks, rear window line, and an integrated lip in the boot lid itself. Reverse lights have been moved to a triangular housing in the lower corners, echoing the front and again harken to a Japanese brand. It’s a handsome and well balanced look overall.Warranty is Kia’s standard seven years and there is 24/7 roadside assistance available as well.

At The End Of The Drive.

Kia’s growth curve is strong. Its building vehicles with a good feature set, with high quality, and quietly doing so with gusto. The Cerato sedan, the latest in a range of cars that DOESN’T include a four wheel drive capable ute, is commendable for both its very good looking sheetmetal and high levels of standard equipment. What initially looks like oversights in some areas is potentially a pointer towards what will come in the Kia Cerato GT. As it stands, though, a weak link is the engine. It doesn’t feel smooth, slick, and quiet enough at revs, and for a naturally aspirated 2.0L petrol engine nowadays, a peak power of 112kW really isn’t advertising friendly. It’d be nice if the torque was available at a lower figure or if there was more of it, but for the average buyer, the main concern would be the rare occasion they’d venture into plus 3000rpm territory.

Frugal is the word that stands out here too. So bundle a good looking sedan with good petrol usage in with sharp sub $30K pricing and that feature set, and Kia is kicking goals. Kia Australia’s Cerato for 2019 is available now.

BMW Has Competition For The M2.

BMW Australia has announced another model for their brilliant M2. Powered by a 302kW/550Nm straight six, the BMW M2 Competition starts at $99,900 (plus on-roads) with a M2 Competition Pure starting from $104,900 (plus on-roads). There’s a seven speed DCT, or dual clutch transmission that will take the M2 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. For those that prefer an old style manual, a six speed manual is offered as a no-cost option.That peak power is from 5,250 to 7000 rpm, with that V8 eating torque across nearly three thousand revs, at 2,350 to 5,200 rpm. This backs up the M2’s intent to be a track day weapon, as there is a 1.5 kilogram strut brace and it’s a similar design to that seen in the M3 and M4. The suspension has ball joints that are engineered to have zero excess movement, and elastomer bands that transmit lateral movement to the torque struts in the suspension.

BMW’s M-differential is on board, with the design and engineering allowing a “lock-up” with an amount of zero to one hundred percent allowing precise control through virtually every driving condition. Strength and rigidity comes from a new forged alloy which is employed for suspension components and parts of the five link suspension. Stopping isn’t an issue thanks to the 400mm front and 380mm rears with six pot callipers that are an option. Standard stoppers are 380mm and 370mm.

Rolling stock are 19 inches in diameter and are 9×19 up front, 10×19 for the rear. Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber wraps these, with 245/35/19 and 265/35/19 front and rear. These are super lightweight alloys and feature a Y shaped design coated in a light sheen or black. To take advantage of these there are three driving modes, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, operated via a dial in the cabin. There’s settings available via a toggle switch on the leather bound steering wheel.An exterior update has been fitted with a deeper front skirt for better cooling and airflow. High gloss black coats the grilles and the quad exhaust is also painted black. Wing mirrors are a double arm design that aids in airflow, a M hallmark. And specifically for the Australian market the Competition Pure also gains M Sports seats with Illuminated Headrests and Lumbar Support, front Park Distance Control and the M Seatbelts over the predecessor model.

Compared to the M2 Competition, the Competition Pure rides on the 19-inch light alloy wheels familiar to the outgoing M2, though the Michelin Pilot Super Sports retain the same dimensions as the M2 Competition specification (245/35 R 19 front, 265/35 R 19 rear). The new design wheels are optionally available.Other specification adjustments include a HiFi Loudspeaker system, manually-adjustable M Sport Seats, Bi-LED Headlights and remote central locking (in place of Comfort Access).

BMW says the cars should be available from early 2019.

Greeted With Raptorous Applause: Ford Ranger Raptor

Anticipation can lead to either joy or disappointment. When it comes to the long anticipated Ford Performance Vehicles Ranger Raptor, so far it’s looking more of the former. Here’s what we know.

Engine: a 2.0L diesel provides peak power of 157kW and 500Nm (1750 – 2000 rpm)and means the Raptor will have plenty of bite, thanks to a bi-turbo system that will drink from a 80L tank. It’s EURO V compliant at 212 gr/km, will be offering a 8.2L/100 km fuel economy for the combined cycle, and see a top speed of 170 km/h. with a 0-100 km/h time of just over ten seconds. Good figures from a 2.3 tonne machine before fuel and passengers. The transmission is a ten speed (yes, ten speed) automatic with ratios picked to ensure quicker shifts and to be as close as possible to the right gear for the throttle setting. It’s good enough for a 2500 kilo towing (braked) figure.Chassis: 283mm of ground clearance, a broader track than the standard Ranger at 1710mm front and rear, and 285/70/17 wheels & BF Goodrich All Terrain rubber, specially made for Raptor, combine with composite material front fenders and a bumper with integrated LED fog lamps to provide an assertive on and off road presence. Turning circle is a tight 12.9 metres. The load tray is 1743mm in length and 1560mm in width on a 5398mm long body. Maximum width is2180mm with the mirrors out.Inside: a bespoke interior with blue stitching, leather highlights and “technical suede” for extra lateral grip, a rejigged look to the instrument bezel, and perforated leather sections on the steering wheel make for a classy cabin environment.Ride and Drive: There’s a Terrain Management System, TMS, which includes a Baja mode. This sharpens up the engine and transmission and blunts the intrusion of the traction control to give a driver a real off-road experience. It’s a pair of Macpherson struts up front and Ford’s tried and true Watts linkage at the rear.Brakes: Plenty of swept area on the discs means plenty of stopping power.332mm x 32mm up front and 332mm x 24mm at the rear meet a 54mm caliper. They’re bolted to Position Sensitive Dampers that provide, at full extension and compression, a higher level of rebound force. Mid range damping force is specifically tuned for comfort during normal driving.

Extras: A “breadcrumb” feature in the satnav allows drivers to backtrack the way they came when in areas that may not be included in the mapping system. There’s a Rollover Mitigation System to deal with the 32 degree approach, 24 degree departure, and 24 degree break over angles.

DRIVER ASSISTANCE AND CONVENIENCE TECHNOLOGIES
Adjustable speed limiter, Auto lighting, 25W HID headlights with LED Daytime Running Lamps, LED Fog Lamps, cruise control, Electronic Automatic Temperature Control, Electronic Stability Control, Passive Entry Passive Start (PEPS), Rear Parking Sensors, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Hill Start Assist (HAS), Hill Descent Control (HDC), ESC system with Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Load Adaptive Control (LAC), Roll Over Mitigation (ROM), Traffic Sign Recognition, Steering Wheel Paddle Shifters, Part time 4×4 with Terrain Management System, Unique Transmission Calibration and “Live in Drive” Functionality, rain sensing wipers, rear view camera, Roll Stability Control
SYNC 3 with touchscreen navigation, Auto Start/Stop.

Private Fleet Car Review: Suzuki Vitara S Turbo All-Grip.

It’s been some time between drives with Suzuki’s cool and funky Vitara. A recent catch-up with the turbocharged petrol fed S Turbo All-Grip, one built in November 2016 and close to ten thousand kilometres on it gave us a chance to see how they’ve held together.Sizewise the Vitara is a compact machine, with an overall length of just 4175mm. However clever packaging sees a wheelbase of 2500mm squeezed in. Breadth and height is decent too, at 1775mm and 1610mm. Up front is a 1.4L BoosterJet four, complete with 103kW and 220 torques from 1500 to 4000 revs. Transmission is a six speed auto and a torque split system to divert oomph from the front to the rear on demand.Having said that there is a drive mode selector button inside for Sports and Sand/Snow which lights up on the monochrome centre dash display. The switchover is seamless but the transmission was prone to stuttering and hesitation when cold. There’s a win for economy though, with a thousand kilometre week finishing on 6.1L of 95RON being consumed per one hundred kilometres. That’s from a 47 litre tank and pretty much on the money with Suzuki claiming a 6.2L/100 km for the combined cycle.Acceleration is pretty good, with that level of torque matching the light weight (1235 kg plus fuel and passengers). It’ll quickly and quietly drop a cog or two on demand and roll forward at speed easily enough. Overtaking then also becomes a simple matter of flexing the right ankle, and thanks again to its light weight, stopping is a brezze. Time and again the brakes would haul up the All-Grip with less than usual pressure but it helps when the pedal travel is intuitive and pressured well enough.It’s still the edgy yet slightly boxy shape that was available in the noughties, if perhaps somewhat more upright and squared off at either end. The front end sports LED driving lights in the lwoer quarters but also has globe lit driving lights that come on and override the LEDs when a switch on the indicator stalk is used. Hmm….The grille itself is a series of hexagons but it’s a solid sheet, meaning air is drawn in only through the lower extremities.Rubber is not off road suitable, even though the Vitara is, ostensibly, capable of light off-roading. They’re 17 inch Continentals with a 215/55 profile, wrapping five spoke black alloys. Dry weather grip is superb but in the wet weather they combined with the MacPherson strut front & torsion beam rear to feel skittish. The coil springs fitted to the Vitara S Turbo All-Grib are tuned for a more sports oriented ride, with a small amount of compliance dialed in to give comfort initially. As such the whole package needed dialing back on accelerator and steering input on Sydney’s greasy roads, just to be sure.Ride and handling is well sorted otherwise. It’s comfortable, if a touch taut. Bang crash is minimal on catseyes, speed reducing bumps in shopping centres, and the bigger road based bumps. Unsettled surfaces have the Vitara All-Grip unflustered and the suspension tune allows the dips and wallows to be flattened out with nary an intrusion felt past a momentary bump. Turn-in is precise and feedback is natural from the front.Inside is a compact but non-claustrophobic workspace. There’s splashes of colour such as the red ringed speedo and tacho displays matched by the simple twist and open airvents, a metallic grey insert on the passenger’s side of the dash, and alloy plastic touches on the tiller and gear selector. The radio is AM/FM only in this one, but partners with Apple CarPlay and voice command to provide interactivity. Satnav is standard across the Vitara range.Safety is high with seven airbags including a kneebag, with a full suite of traction control systems. Autonomous Emergency Braking isn’t fitted but remember that this car was built a year and a half ago from the review date. ISOFIX seat restraint points are standard. Hill Hold Control is also fitted to all autos and Hill Descent Control is available for the All-Grip. There’s parking sensors, rain sensing wipers and reverse camera as well.

Cargo space of 375L (seats up, 710L down) is compromised by virtue of the car’s smallish size. Pop open the non powered rear door and there’s a split level cargo area with blind. The lower level highlights a major safety issue common to almost every car maker. That is a space saver spare. Consider for a moment that the Vitara is an off/soft road capable vehicle so fitting them with a space saver is hardly sensible. Consider also the dry weight of the Vitara is only 1235 kilograms so a full sized alloy would have been a minor weight impost over a steel space saver.

The car was driven on a longish day drive to Canberra and return, copping a vee shaped construction nail in the right rear. Complicit in the situation was the suspension tune as there was no indication of a flat. There was no pulling, no drag, no obvious noise as such. The tyre itself looked initially to have been only a nail but upon being “deconstructed” showed a clear groove on the inside exterior where it had rode the alloy’s rim. This resulted in an unwelcome ninety minute delay at a certain tyre retailer.At The End Of The Drive.
Available in seven colours, the Vitara S Turbo All-Grip is currently available on a drive-away program at $33,990. It’s immensely good value, a comfortable ride, and in real terms ideal for a couple. Having piloted these cars before they’re borderline for a family of four outside of urban usage, again simply because of their compact footprint. Although rear legroom is adequate it’s the cargo area for baggage that holds it back and that’s unavoidable.But it IS a fun drive. Overwhelmingly so. It’ll be interesting to see what Suzuki does when its inevitable update comes along. Here’s where you can find out more about the existing model: 2016 onwards Suzuki Vitara

Got A Frosty Windscreen?

During winter, frost is one of those annoyances that face drivers after a cold, clear night. OK, we don’t get frosts anywhere as near as hard as they do in, say Canada or Norway, but we still get them here a bit in the southern bits of Australia (OK, you lucky Queenslanders and Northern Territorials, you can feel smug and go off to read something else).  Frost isn’t just a hazard on the roads but it’s a real pain all over your windscreen.  If you’ve had to leave your car out overnight, or if you were parked on the street during that late-night party, then you can come back to a sparkly windscreen that won’t let you see anything except glitter.  Not safe for driving, especially in icy conditions.

So how are you going to get that ice off your windscreen?  It’s all very well to stay that prevention is better than the cure and that you should have garaged your car overnight or at least tried the old trick of putting a cover over the windscreen to keep the frost off (e.g. a tarpaulin or even a flattened-out cardboard box – and those sunshades can do the job, too, giving them a job over winter as well as during summer).  Your windscreen is iced up and you need to get the kids to school on time or get home from the party, and everybody’s sitting there with chilly fingers and wanting you to hurry up.

  • Starting the car and giving it full blast with the heaters. This does the trick but it does take a long time. Glass is pretty slow to warm up, so if you’re trying to heat it up enough to melt the ice from the inside, you’re going to have a long wait, and you may have to have the engine running and/or drain your battery a lot. It’s not the quickest and certainly isn’t the most economical way to do it. This method will, however, work for those odd little corners and the back windows once you’ve managed to clear off the windscreen and can see your way to start driving.  Your passengers will also appreciate the warmth!
  • Scraping off the ice. If you do this, you have to be sure to scrape the ice off most of the windscreen, not just a little patch giving you a tiny glimpse of the road.  You’re going to need good visibility.  You have to choose the right thing to scrape off the ice.  Metal scrapers of the sort you use to remove stickers from the glass are a real no-no, as they can easily leave a nasty and permanent scratch on the windscreen.  Besides, who’s got one of those handy when you need to remove the ice from the windscreen?  Having something plastic is better – a friend of mine once used the edge of a credit card to do the job.  A squeegee doesn’t usually work, as the edge is too soft.  A plastic spatula would work – unleash your inner MacGyver and see what you can find.  Wear gloves if you can while scraping off the ice, as you’re going to get the crystals all over your hands.
  • Commercial de-icing sprays. Again, who actually has these handy when you need them, unless you live in Canada or the like?  You can make your own out of two parts of isopropyl alcohol or any other strong spirits (vodka, for example) and one part of water, with a bit of detergent thrown in for good measure.  You spray it on then get the wipers going, and maybe finish with a bit of scraping.  The smell of alcohol will dissipate soon but if you get any on yourself, this may take a bit of explaining if you’re stopped by the local cops.  (No really, officer, I only used vodka as a de-icing spray and that’s why there’s an empty bottle sitting on the front seat, honestly…).
  • Warm water. The best solution of all.  It’s quick and does the whole windscreen at once. If you have a big enough bucket of warm water, you can also de-ice the door windows for even better visibility.  All you do is grab a decent amount of water (i.e. a bucket, a saucepan or a jug, not a coffee cup), slosh it over the windscreen and turn on the windscreen wipers.  Job done.  There are two important things to remember, though.  The first and the most important is to use warm water, not hot water.  Don’t grab the kettle that’s just boiled and use that.  If glass heats up too quickly, it will shatter.  All too many people have made this mistake and ended up with no windscreen as a result.  However, warm water – warm enough to stick your hand in comfortably – will be fine and will melt the ice without risking your windscreen.  The second is that you need to take care not to slosh the water over yourself or to stand too close when the windscreen wipers are working or you get wet, which really isn’t nice when the temperatures are low.

And don’t forget to take extra care on the road once you start driving!

Why We Shouldn’t Phase Out ICE Vehicles Yet

 

Hello, I’m a mule – the very first hybrid form of transport.

In certain parts of the world – Europe, to be specific – governments have pledge to stop the sales of new cars that are powered by internal combustion engines only (aka ICE vehicles, where ICE stands for internal combustion engine).  This means that any new cars sold in these countries will be hybrids or pure electrics.

First, before we all panic and start stockpiling petrol and diesel because we aren’t ready to ditch our favourite sets of wheels yet, let’s clarify a few things.   Firstly, Australia hasn’t made any such pledge yet, although certain political parties are starting to talk about it.  Secondly, what will be phased out is the sale of NEW cars only.  Presumably, second-hand car dealers will still have ICE vehicles sitting out in the yards (possibly quite a few of them if all the ones that have been kicked off UK roads make it over here).  And they’ll still have to sell petrol and diesel to run (a) the older cars, (b) the diesel or petrol parts of the hybrids and (c) things like motorbikes that haven’t really caught onto the whole electric thing yet.

Nevertheless, I don’t really want to jump on the “let’s phase out ICE cars” bandwagon.  I don’t think we’re quite ready for that yet.

First of all, there’s the issue of range in pure EVs.  Mercifully, we now have enough charging points along the A1 highway so you won’t get stranded in the middle of the Nullabor, but even so, it takes at least half an hour to fully charge an EV.  This means that your Great Australian Road Trip is going to take even longer than it would otherwise.  Plan accordingly.  However, although the main highways around the perimeter are pretty well provided with charging points, there are bits of the country where the charging points are spaced out further than the typical range of an EV.  This is not good news for, say, park rangers, farmers and rural nurses.  The developers are going to have to really, really work hard to get better range for EVs before these groups are going to even think about buying one.  I keep getting this mental picture of some rural midwife trying to head out to some rural woman going into labour but being held up by (a) detouring to the nearest charging point and (b) waiting for half an hour to charge her vehicle.  Don’t even think about what would happen with emergency service vehicles.

I kind of hope that the Powers That Be who are going to make the decisions about our national vehicle fleet go out and spend a day riding shotgun with some of the folk in our rural communities to get an idea of the distances they drive… and at least put in a few more charging points before they decide to kit out all the nurses with EVs.  Not sure what they’ll be able to do for the park rangers.  Carrying about a diesel generator to power up a vehicle in the middle of nowhere kind of seems to defeat the purpose of promoting EVs in the first place.

Anyway, there’s another issue, and it’s one that affect those in cities as well.  Now, the majority of EVs and hybrids are smaller vehicles.  When it comes to practical commercial vehicles that your typical tradie can use, it’s a different story.  Yes, there are some great hybrid SUVs available, such as the Volvo XC90  and the BMW X5 , but these aren’t your typical choice for a tradie.  As for the Tesla X SUV…  I, for one, would start wondering how much my plumber or electrician charges per hour if I saw him/her driving around in a high-end SUV.  At least Mitsubishi and Nissan have some offerings, including a 2WD version of the Nissan Pathfinder  and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV  (which is reported to be the most popular hybrid/EV in Australia).

Your typical electrician, plumber, builder or landscape gardener usually prefers to drive a ute or van, preferably one with lots of torque to tow a massive trailer as well as lots of load space.  I know this all too well, as the other half is a landscape gardener and I’ve seen the amount of gear he carries in the trailer and carts around in various bits of the trusty dual-cab Navara ute.  Given what your typical tradie charges per hour – which has to be affordable in order to be competitive – new cars aren’t usually on the cards.  A phase-out of ICE vehicles would mean that second-hand vehicles would still be an option for your tradies… but what happens further down the track?  If nobody’s bought brand new hybrid/EV utes and vans then there won’t be any second-hand ones for your small-scale tradies to purchase.  Let’s hope that if the phase-out happens, larger operators will get themselves a fleet of hybrid utes and vans that can then go on down the line.  Either that or the banks are going to have to be nicer to owner-operator tradies so they can finance something brand new.

Tradies also clock up quite a few kilometres just around town, which means that even if pure EV commercial vehicles were available yet, your tradies would have to spend ages charging up possibly at least once a day. This means that you could be left waiting for the plumber (assuming he or she does emergency call-outs) for that little bit longer while your toilet refuses to flush and/or overflows.  Half an hour can be a long time when you’re waiting for the dunny…

At the moment, there aren’t a whole lot of hybrid or electric vans and utes out there on the roads – at least not yet.  Renault  has one electric van that’s going to arrive very soon, Haval has plans for a hybrid ute and there’s even talk about a hybrid version of my favourite tradie’s beloved Nissan Navara.  But they’re still in the future (we’ll let you know when they arrive). Even if a big construction company wanted to kit all of its builders out with hybrid or electric commercial vehicles as soon as they hit these shores, this would still be some way off.

There’s also the issue of all the investment and research into biofuels, but that’s worth taking another whole post to discuss.

In short, it’s too soon to talk seriously about phasing out ICE vehicles in Australia simply because we don’t have enough suitable new replacements for the current vehicle fleet that have the range and the practical ability of the petrol and diesel units currently available.  Although your Green Party members living in the city could probably make the switch to purely electric vehicles tomorrow and not be affected (and I hope they’ve already made the switch and put their money where their mouth is), there’s a significant proportion of typical Aussies who can’t make the switch yet and will have to stick with ICE vehicles for a while yet.  Be patient, folks.  Although there may come a day when hybrid vehicles and EVs triumph, today is not that day.

Is Your Car Winter-Ready?

Lake Mountain Road, Vic.

It might not quite be winter yet, but we have passed the autumn Equinox, which means that the time when the sun is up is shorter than the time when it’s down. This means that it’s time to think ahead and get your car ready for winter. Because there’s no point in getting ready for something if it’s already come and too late, right?

One thing we can be thankful for is that we don’t have to go through quite so extensive preparations for winter as they do in, say, Sweden or Canada… especially if you live in the northern bits of Australia when winter comes as welcome relief from the intense summer heat. However, the southern states and territories can get problems with frost and snow from time to time, and everybody gets things wetter and rainier (except in the very far north in places like Darwin, who have their rainy monsoon period during the summer).

As things are going to get wetter, the most important thing you need to do to get your car winter-ready is to check your tyres.  First of all, they need to have plenty of tread on them, as it’s the tread that channels out the water so you still get plenty of grip.  When it comes to tyre styles, there’s a bit of a trade-off, as having lots and lots of channels means that you can pump lots of water out – and a tyre needs to shift about 6 litres per second in average rainfall at open road speeds – but the problem is that lots of little raised bits wear out more quickly when it’s dry… and nobody wants the hassle of changing tyres every time the weather goes from wet to dry and back again.  The best tyres for driving in the wet are the ones with the directional treads (lots of stacked V shapes) and asymmetrical tyres, although you can’t rotate asymmetrical tyres like you can with the directional ones.  Directional ones look nicer, too!

Tyre pressure is also important to check when the weather goes from hot to cold. This is because air temperature affects tyre pressure, so when the mercury goes down, a tyre that was just right may now be underinflated.  If you remember your high school physics, the hotter a gas gets, the more it expands and the greater the pressure. When the gas cools, then the gas contracts and the pressure decreases.  It’s important to check your tyre pressure at all times, but if the temperature’s changed (or if we’ve had a cold snap), then it pays to check.

The next thing that’s important to deal with is to check the windscreen wipers.  Winter means more rain for everybody except the far north folk, and this means that your wipers are going to see a lot of action. They won’t shift the water and keep your visibility decent if they are in bad condition.  New wiper blades don’t cost the earth and changing them is a job that you can easily do yourself, so there’s no excuses.

While you’re looking at the windscreen and the wipers, this might be a good time to ensure that your windscreen is nice and clean. The angle of the sun will be that little bit lower in the evenings and the mornings, especially the further south you go, so sunstrike and glare can be a problem, especially if your windscreen is filthy. Give it a good clean and top up the fluid for your window wiper fluid.

The next thing is your lights. It’s going to be darker, especially if your state does the Daylight Savings thing (and consider yourself lucky if it doesn’t because it’s a pain). Make sure that all of your lights are working well, including the fog lights. Check that the angles of your headlights on dip and on full beam are angled correctly.

The last thing to get the car mechanically ready for winter is to check the battery.  Your battery is going to get more of a workout, what with the extra demands of heating and lighting.  Top it up with distilled water if needed (tap water is often chlorinated or have other minerals that don’t play nicely with battery acid, so don’t use this).  Check the terminals for corrosion and clean off any greenish bits around the terminals caused by the acid. The best way to do this is with baking soda (which neutralises the acid and will fizz), an old toothbrush and rubber gloves to protect your hands, followed by a good rinse with warm water.  If your battery is getting on the ancient side, then change it. Few things are as miserable as waiting in a freezing cold car on a nasty day for the breakdown guys to come and jump-start your battery.

These steps will help keep your car winter-ready, but don’t forget you and your passengers when preparing your car for winter.  Having the right items stashed away can make a real difference, especially if you have to wait in a parked car for ages for any reason on a nasty cold day, or if some idiot who DIDN’T check their tyre condition skids into your rear end, meaning you have to wait for the breakdown team.  Most modern cars have plenty of useful storage space for all sorts of odds and ends – one particularly useful one is found on the Skoda Superb , which has a special compartment for an umbrella that allows it to drain when wet.  If you own one of these sedans, make the most of this feature!

Here’s the list of things that I’d have in my car to make sure that I can cope, even when the weather swings wildly or gets nasty and cold (on top of other staples like hand sanitiser, snacks and a first aid kit).

  • A chamois leather or microfibre cloth for wiping down the inside of the windscreen. Sometimes, the demister just doesn’t work fast enough or there’s grime on the inside of the windscreen that is causing visibility problems with the lower angle of the sun. Rather than using your sleeve and getting wet (which I have done in emergencies), use a nice soft cloth kept for the purpose.
  • Something to keep the rain off. This could be an umbrella or a raincoat – you can get some nice little compact ones that tuck away in a little bag. This stops you getting all soggy if a downpour decides to descend just as you’re pulling up at the petrol pump and there’s no shelter between your car, the pump and/or where you have to pay (been there, done that).
  • It can take the heaters a while to get going on a cold morning, as they use excess engine heat to heat the cabin. Cold fingers are stiffer and less responsive, so keep your little pinkies warm until the heater sorts its life out.  The obvious place to keep them is… the glovebox.
  • A polar fleece or jumper. It was a nice day when you started out but a southerly buster has roared in.  Or you have to turn the heaters off thanks to that flat battery (or to avoid flattening it).  Keeping half your wardrobe in your car like my husband did when I first met him probably isn’t ideal, but having something to pull on often comes in handy.
  • A blanket or throw. If you have to take kids or passengers who have to wear thinner clothes (formal gowns, dance gear) or who are a bit damp (after sports practice) and cranking up the heater would make things far too hot for you even with a dual-zone climate control, then having a blanket handy for bare knees or off-the-shoulder tops is a nice touch.  A blanket is also more easily washed than your car upholstery in the case of muddy people.  Plus you can use it for impromptu picnics.

Safe and happy driving, no matter what the weather is!

 

Anniversary For Holden Maven Gig.

Imagine being able to trial a job for a month to decide if you liked the conditions, pay and hours, with so many new ways of working through the sharing economy, why shouldn’t this be possible? Holden agreed, so they launched Maven Gig, a car-sharing service that puts power into the hands of the driver.
Since launching a year ago, Maven Gig has achieved significant growth as more Australians turn to freelancing and the sharing economy to generate income and look for flexible ways to get on the road faster. As the personal mobility solution for members of the freelance economy celebrates its first anniversary, Maven Gig has reached a major milestone with its 1000th car hitting the road.
“We’ve seen massive changes to how our customers work and live, and we are embracing the challenge to offer the type of tailored experiences that people want and expect in every facet of their life. Maven Gig is just one way that we are creating new solutions that go beyond just a car, it gives people the power to choose how they want to drive and work,” said Matt Rattray-Wood, General Manager of Maven Australia.
“Freelance work and side hustles are becoming the norm as the public embrace new ways to work, and it’s incredibly exciting that as a car company we have the opportunity to be able to expand into this space. Maven Gig allows members to earn money and enjoy all the benefits of car ownership, all on their own terms.”
Maven Gig gives members access to a wide range of brand new or near new Holden vehicles such as the Trax, Astra hatch and sedan, and the seven seat Captiva. Drivers get unlimited kilometers, 24/7 roadside assistance, comprehensive car insurance and scheduled servicing all included in the rental cost. They can easily swap the vehicles depending on their work or needs.
Matt said the automotive industry was evolving at lightning speed and Holden and Maven intended to be at the forefront of this expanding market.
“With 1000 active members across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, Australians are embracing this service and we are looking at new ways that we can expand our offering.”
“This first year has shown us that there is a strong appetite for our service in Australia, as we look to the future we are diving deeper into the sharing side of the business, exploring apps and what other opportunities there are to provide new mobility solutions for businesses and individuals.”
For more information click here Holden Maven Gig
With thanks to Holden Corporate Communications.