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Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Isn’t It Ioniq, Part 2.

Hyundai recently released details of upgrades to its electric and hybrid small car, the Ioniq. It’s available as a hybrid, a plug in hybrid, and full battery pack power system.
The fully electric version has had the battery capacity upgraded, which brings with it a range increase. It’s up from 28.0kWh to 38.3kWh, with a new mooted top range of 294km. Power and torque are rated as 100kW and 294Nm. The on-board charger has also been uprated, with an increase to 7.2kW from 6.6kW. This enable a charge to 80% from empty in approximately 54 minutes.

Ioniq Hybrid has been given a 32kW/170Nm permanent magnet motor for the rear axle, with partial power from a 1.56kWh made from a lithium-ion-polymer battery. The PHEV delivers 44.5kW, with peak torque of 170Nm. The battery pack is a 8.9kWh lithium-ion-polymer battery and backs up the 1.6L direct injection petrol engine. 103.6kW and 265Nm are the combined capacities, says Hyundai. Pure electric mode allows a top speed of 120kmh and up to 52km of battery only range. Transmission is a single speed for the Electric, a six speed dual clutch for the other two.

They also receive a regenerative energy system, and a new Eco DAS, or Eco Driving Assist System, which lowers energy usage and fuel consumption when areas such as intersections are being approached and speed is reduced. This works alongside PEMS, the Predictive Energy Management System, that oversees the battery recharge and discharge rates. This is specific to up and down hill roads, and adjusts the drive system on the fly, integrating the petrol engine and recharge system as required.
Safety has been uprated too. Pedestrian Detection and Cyclist Detection is standard now and packaged with Front Collision Warning and Avoidance Assist. Lane Keep Assist and High Beam Assist are also standard. A cool option is Lane Following Assist; this keeps the Ioniq in the centre of a lane in just about all forms of traffic situations, plus partners with Intelligent Speed Limit Warning to read street signs.

For the tech-heads, Hyundai have their Hyundai Blue Link, a connected to car system which uses smart device technology to allow remote access, check charge levels, and set air-conditioning. An update adds eCall, an emergency backup system that will contact emergency services if airbags have been set off or a specific emergency button inside the cabin has been pressed.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are on-board as standard, and accessed via a 10.25 inch display screen. An extra and welcome piece of tech is the ability to connect two Bluetooth enabled devices for music streaming. This sits above a redesigned centre console stack, with a redesigned aircon panel and upgraded finish. The IONIQ Electric’s standard high-resolution 7-inch LCD console display (optional for hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions) has been improved with mood lighting to visualise the different drive mode themes. To round off the improved modern interior design, blue ambient lighting has been applied across the passenger-side lower dashboard and the centre console.
Outside the Ioniq has also been freshened. A refurbished grille design with a mesh-type look starts the party for the Hybrid and PHEV. The electric version has a closed grille and this has an updated pattern. The bumper up front and rear panels have been updated as well, with new running lights, colours, and LED powered front and rear lights. Wheels are 16 inch for PHEV and Electric, 15 or 17 for the hybrid.

With thanks to Trevor and Chris at eftm.com.au, here’s their long-term review of the current Ioniq: Hyundai Ioniq at EFTM

Hyundai says the updated Ioniq range will be available in the second half of 2019.

Sleek And Sporty: Rimac Concept 1 and Rimac Concept 2.

Rimac is one of a number of new brands that is looking towards a purely electrically powered future for cars. Rimac itself has seemingly snuck under the radar, with its most notable achievement to date being the destruction of a car at the hands of a British car show host…

Rimac Automobili is based in Croatia and was founded in 2009 by Mate Rimac. He says that his original idea was to start with the proverbial blank sheet and grow an automotive design business from what started as a hobby. The dream was to build the world’s first fully eklectric sports car, and the kicker was having a petrol powered car’s engine that Rimac was racing expire, allowing he and his team to convert it to a fully battery powered system. As many components weren’t available “off the shelf” Rimac and co had to develop the parts themselves. They now hold 24 individual patents.Concept 1 was spawned from a series of cars being converted from petrol to electric. The success of the conversions had the owners of the converted cars spread the word of the company’s work. From here, Rimac was able to realise part of his dream and drew up plans for what would become the Rimac Concept 1.

Franfurt’s 2011 car show saw the first public showing of the Concept 1, and was greeted with largely positive reviews. At a cost of around USD$980,000, just 88 would be built. Rimac Concept 1 features a quartet of electric motors, with an output of 913kW/1224hp, and 1600Nm/1180lb-ft for torque. In a lightweight body of carbon fibre, the 90 kWh motors launch the Concept 1 to 100kmh/62mph in 2.6 seconds. It’ll see the double ton in 6.2 seconds and will crack the quarter mile in 9.9 seconds.

Range for the Rimac Concept 1 has also been increased as as the team further developed the car. Original range estimates hovered around the 200 mile mark, with current best world figures now around the 310 miles distance.Owners receive the Rimac All Wheel Torque Vectoring System, which distributes torque between all four paws on demand and depending on driver’s setup choices. The interior is bespoke leather and handmade trim.

The Rimac Concept 2 takes the original and expands and improves upon it in almost every area, including price. With expected first deliveries schedule for 2020 as the car undergoes testing and homologation, the current expected hit to the wallet is just under Eu1.8,000,000 or a tick over USD$2,000,000.

Rimac has really “upped the ante” for the Concept 2. Top speed? 415kmh/258mph. Power? 1408kW/1888hp. 100kmh/62mph time? 1.85 seconds. Range? 647km/402 miles. It’s been touted as being able to twice lap the fabled Nurburgring twice with no drop in overall performance. And charge time is said to be up to 80% in around a half hour.Autonomous driving is on board and is at a Level 4 standard. Eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, lidar, and six radar sensors will go a long way to ensuring Level 4 driving for the owner. Extra smart tech comes in the form of facial recognition to unlock the butterfly wing doors that form an integral part of the super slippery body. Built of carbon fibre also, the chassis and body house the battery pack, mounted low for better weight distribution, centre of gravity, and handling. Weight is estimated though to still be around 1930kg/4300lb. There’s nary a hard edge to be seen on the Rimac Concept 2’s body, with sleek lines, plenty of aero influences, and a huge rear wing, necessary if Sir is to travel at 200mph.

The drive system is similar to the Concept 1, with full torque vectoring, and the ability to switch between front wheel, rear wheel, all wheel drive modes on the fly. The driver’s display screen can overlay driving lines to show an almost arcade game like look if the system senses that the car is being driven in the appropriate environment.

Just 150 examples are to be made and it’s said that all examples have been pre-sold.

Wacky Concepts From The 2019 Geneva Motor Show

Motor shows have a number of attractions.  The most important part of them is the introduction and the unveiling of new models by all the big manufacturers.  This is where we get to see what’s going to be hitting the roads at some point in the near future.  It’s where we see where the future of motoring is going.

However, as well as all the sensible new suggestions, there are always the offbeat contributions.  And you’ve got to admit that having a look at the weird stuff that designers have proposed is part of the fun of any good motor show worth its salt.  One needs a bit of comic relief, after all!

Geneva 2019 didn’t disappoint in either regard, even though some of the big names like Ford, Jaguar and Volvo didn’t put in an appearance.  There were plenty of good practical offerings up for the viewers, most of which fell into the EV category, as this is the way that Europe is going (here’s hoping that they have the capacity to generate electricity to match).  The ones that are slated for release in Australia will eventually make it onto our reviews page for those who want to know more and would like to own them – and I hope that the Audi Q4 e-tron makes it down here, for one.

There were also hot sports cars galore from all the big names.  Ferrari and Bugatti did not disappoint, showcasing a couple of hot hypercars that looked every bit as cool as they ought to be.

Naturally, there were the more entertaining elements and concepts as well.  Here’s some of the beauties that raised eyebrows for their quirkiness.

GFG Kangaroo

This is an SUV. No, honestly; that’s what the designers say that it is, which shows you just how flexible the term “SUV” is these days.  The GFG Kangaroo concept SUV might look like a sports car but it’s got flexible suspension to give it extra ground clearance whenever you want it, and those cool front splitters that look like a boy racer’s favourite dream are retractable, which improves the approach angle so you can drive this up a slope.  This isn’t just some mock-up idea – the manufacturers actually made a driveable prototype and got it to do what it’s supposed to do. Well, bonus points to them for actually giving it a go and who knows?

Citroen Ami One

Designed with the legendary 2CV in mind as well as hip young Parisians who don’t want to ride the local equivalent of a Lime scooter on a cold rainy day, the Citroen Ami One might look like a car but is technically classified as a quadricycle. This means that one doesn’t need a proper driver’s license to drive it – though you’d think that the ability to parallel park, obey the give way rules and indicate properly would still be needed.  It’s got two seats, the display panel and sound system require you to drop your smartphone into the special slot, and its top speed is 28 mph (that’s about 45 km/h).

Fiat Centoventi

Named after the Italian word for 120 (the number of years that Fiat has been in business), the Centroventi is a vehicle that aims to be as customisable and modular as a computer if not more so.  The best idea with the modular concept would have to be the extra battery slots so you can extend the range by dropping in another battery if you want to (apparently, the idea was inspired by the way that you can add extra memory cards or drives to your computer for more data if you want to).  The general idea is that you start with the basic all-white idea, then order the customizable accessories you want to personalise it… and you fit the accessories yourself.  It also has a big display on the rear so you can send messages to those behind you.

Nissan IMQ

I wasn’t sure whether to leave this one off the list of weird offerings or whether to wait and see if it made it into production for the Aussie market, but came down on the side of weirdness. The word the designers had in mind in this potential replacement for the Qashqai was “kabuku”,which, so I am told, means “to embrace the unusual”.  Looks-wise, it is weird, especially in the interior.  The outside is something that looks vaguely familiar in outline but with lots of angular features but inside?  What’s with those seats?  They don’t look like the usual armchair styles but have gone in for minimalist things that look like they’re floating.  They look like something from a classic sci-fi movie.  One would definitely want to give it the bum-on-seat test to see if they’re comfy or not, because they don’t look all that inviting even if they have been properly ergonomically designed.  The interior also features textures galore.  Most bizarre is the steering wheel, if you can call something that’s shaped like the side view of a wonky loaf of bread a wheel.  I’m sure it all works but… it’s a lot to wrap the mind around.

SEAT Minimo

Continuing the theme of little dinky-wees, the Minimo also can’t make up its mind whether it’s a car or a glorified bicycle. It seats two but the passenger goes behind rather than beside the driver.  The idea is to reduce congestion by having a vehicle that takes up less space.  But where do you put your groceries?

 

 

Jaguar Threepeats In Major Awards.

It’s rare, if ever, that one brand and one car takes out more than one major award at one event.The Jaguar I-Pace was a triple winner in three award categories: the overall 2019 World Car of the Year, the 2019 World Green Car and the 2019 World Car Design of the Year. This is the first time in the World Car Awards’ 15-year history that one-car has achieved a win across three categories. It is the second time in 15 years that one company has achieved a triple-win. Mercedes-Benz previously attained this honour in 2015.The World Car Design of the Year category, and the corresponding award, are meant to highlight new vehicles with innovation and style that push established boundaries. This year, the cars eligible for the 2019 World Car Design of the Year award encompassed all the contenders competing in the other five award categories.

In doing so, Jaguar-Land Rover has created history. 2019 marks the third consecutive Design win for the company and the fifth time overall, having won the World Car Design of the Year award in 2018 (Range Rover Velar), in 2017 (Jaguar F-PACE), in 2012 (Range Rover Evoque) and in 2013 (Jaguar F-Type). No other car manufacturer has achieved this number of Design wins in the event’s 15 year history.

The I-Pace itself is garnering accolades where it counts. Sales of the I-Pace have reached in excess of 11,000, with customers in over 60 countries, since it was released.
The I-Pace uses a 90kWh lithium-ion battery. This can deliver a potential range of nearly 500km. There is a charge rate of flat to 80% in just 40 minutes using a 100kW DC system, or takes just over ten hours to achieve the same state of charge when using a domestic wallbox which charges at 7kW AC. This is perfect for overnight home-charging.

In respect to the design awards, The I-Pace’s mix of cab-forward profile, short overhangs and taut, muscular haunches provide a clear visual difference compared to other SUVs. There is a spacious interior thanks to the electric drivetrain, and naturally is finished with beautiful premium details and exacting Jaguar craftsmanship.
And being fully electric brings the Green Award. Prof. Dr. Ralf Speth, Chief Executive Officer, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “It is an honour that the Jaguar I-PACE has received such an accolade from the prestigious World Car jurors. For I-PACE to be awarded 2019 World Green Car gives our first all-electric vehicle the ultimate recognition it deserves. I would like to thank the team who have created I-PACE for their passion in making it so outstanding.”

Upgrades and Updates Makes Tesla Longer Lasting.

Tesla has revealed details on an update to their drive systems. Further development of their latest generation of drive unit technology raises the efficiency level to 93% which improves overall range by over 10%. Part of this comes from pairing a permanent magnet motor in the front with an induction motor in the rear.

In addition to adding range, power and torque increases significantly across all Model S and Model X variants, improving 0-100 kmh times for the Long Range and Standard Range models.

Paired with the new more efficient drivetrain design, V3 Superchargers have improved on power delivery. Model S and Model X are now capable of achieving 200 kW on V3 Superchargers, and 145 kW on V2 Superchargers. Together, these improvements enable our customers to recharge their expected range by up to 50% faster.

The air suspension system has been updated for Model S and Model X with fully-adaptive damping, giving it an ultra-cushioned feel when cruising on the highway. It also applies when using Autopilot. It’s an in-house software package  using a predictive model to anticipate how the damping will need to be adjusted based on the road, speed, and other vehicle and driver inputs. The system is fluid in its ability to adapt the suspension for the road conditions, automatically softening for more pronounced road inputs and firming for aggressive driving.

Another improvement is the leveling of the suspension system while cruising, keeping the car low to optimize aerodynamic drag. As with all of Tesla’s in-house software, the adaptive suspension can receive over-the-air updates. This ensures the latest information can be made available as soon as possible.

Wheel bearings and new tyre tread designs are being added to the range to improve range, ride, and steering.

Rivian Electric Ute Confirmed For Down Under.

As companies move to battery powered vehicles, questions are coming out about the recreational side. As most are looking at cars or passenger style SUV body types, it’s a fair question.

United States company Rivian is one that is going outside the standard passenger car box. A dual cab ute, the R1T is the start, with a seven seater Range Rover looking SUV, R1S, are both currently slated for full production in 2020. Brian Gase, the chief engineer for Rivian and a visitor to Australia on a regular basis, says that the brand wants to get these cars to Australia as soon as possible. “Yes we will have an Australian launch,” Gase said. “And I can’t wait to come back to Australia and show this to all of those beautiful people.” The company itself must be doing something right, as there is a US$700 million investment from Amazon, and a recently announced US$500 million injection from Ford.Like Tesla’s Model S and Model X, the pair will share the same underpinnings. Unlike Tesla, they’ll have an engine for each wheel. Rivian quotes 560kW and 1120Nm of torque. A common floorpan also allows simultaneous development of right and left hand drive models. Gase says: “The truck makes sense in the Australian market. We see significant value, particularly with the SUV in right-hand drive markets. And we’ve commonised everything on the vehicles forward of the B-pillar, so by default, getting a right-hand-drive truck is a low barrier, because I’ve got a right-hand-drive SUV.”

The actual timing for release depends on the production schedule at the Illinois factory. Gase says: “The ‘when’ is a tough question. How do you pick the right strategic markets on what’s core to your brand, where you’re going to see sales? And that’s why Australia is so exciting to us because you guys share a lot of the off-road and nature values that I think we have as a company. And you’re not on Italian narrow roads where this vehicle is a harder footprint to fit in.”

Payload is expected to be 800kg for the four door ute, and should pack a 350mm ride height. All wheel drive means fantastic grip and Gase says 45 degree slops should be driveable. 0 to 100kmh times should be around the 3.0 second bracket. Expected range is currently around 640km. Prices for Australia are yet to be set, however US pricing starts at $69K for the R1T, and US$74K for the R1S.

 

 

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

The EV From Down Under

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

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

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

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

ACE Cargo

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

Ace Yewt

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

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

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

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

Tesla Confirms U.S. Model 3 Milestone

Elon Musk and Tesla have announced that the much talked about Model 3 (with a still as yet unknown Australian sale date) will now be available in the United States for a barrier breaking US$35,000. A change of name has been added, and Tesla offers the Standard range and Standard Range Plus. Deliveries will start within weeks.

Tesla preempted the announcement by stopping orders, before reopening the system with the two variants being listed. The Standard Range Plus will add an extra US$2,000 to the hip pocket hit. What a buyer will get is either 355 kilometres or 386 kilometres of range, 0 to 96 km/h (0 to 60mph) of either 5.6 seconds or 5.3 seconds, and either 210 km/h or 225km/h for top speeds.
It won’t be far off the same overall size as the Model S; it’s 4694mm in length, sits on a 2875mm wheelbase, and is 1933mm wide with the wing mirrors folded. Front and rear track is 1580mm.

As has already been seen, Tesla don’t skimp on equipment. satnav, Bluetooth, 4 USB charging points, and a skin friendly tinted glass roof are listed as standard. It’ll roll on 18 inch alloys, and they’ll come with battery saving aero coverings.The interior will feature a large touchscreen mounted up high on the dash, and this will be the only screen made available for the vehicle.
Tesla have made much of their semi-autonomous driving system or Autopilot. Tick that option box and you’ll need to find an extra $3,000 in American money. A work in progress is the next level system, which purportedly offers self parking and a “Summon” system. The latter needs a smartphone app in order to operate it.

However Tesla have made a change to their bottom line by announcing they’ll be closing their current dealership network, and the estimate is that prices should drop by six percent as a result of the expected savings. Any knock on to the Australian network isn’t currently known.
Tesla Australia can be reached via the link.

 

Hydrogen Fuel Cells – The Basic Facts

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

Toyota Mirai concept car

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

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

Diagram of a hydrogen fuel cell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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