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BMW’s EV Wireless Charging

BMW’s Wireless Charging

The new BMW 5-Series iPerformance models boast some very cool ‘world-first’ technology.  Available factory-fitted with a fully integrated inductive charging facility means that you can arrive home, park over a ground pad (the inductive charging facility/station) and hey-presto your car charges up, ready for your next trip away.

BMW’s Wireless Charging consists of the GroundPad (an inductive charging station), that can be installed either in a garage or outdoors, and the CarPad, which is fixed to the underside of the vehicle will connect to the GroundPad once parked appropriately.  This technology is available as an option on the new BMW 530e iPerformance model.  The GroundPad generates a magnetic field that induces an electric current in the CarPad, which then charges the battery in the car.

BMW’s 530e iPerformance model has the parking systems that help the driver to manoeuvre into the correct parking position over the GroundPad using a WiFi connection between the charging station and the vehicle.  Once the connection has been made, an overhead view of the car and its surroundings then appears in the car’s display screen with coloured lines that help guide the driver into position.  An icon shows up on the screen when the correct parking position is reached for the process of inductive charging.  BMW say the position for parking over the top of the GroundPad isn’t difficult to locate as the position can deviate by up to 7 cm longitudinally and up to 14 cm laterally – so it has plenty of buffering for getting a good connection.  To easy!

We already are becoming familiar with the wireless charging systems inside many new cars from different manufacturers where mobile phones and electric toothbrushes can be wirelessly charged inside the car.  BMW says its wireless charging uses the same inductive charging technology already widely used for supplying power to devices such as these.

BMW has unveiled a wireless charging system that will be available in Germany, followed shortly by the UK, the US, Japan and China.  It’s nice to be able to boast this technology and do away with cords and manual contraptions for charging your hybrid.  Germany and Europe seem to be leading the way with cutting edge EV technology, and this inductive charging system, created by BMW, will set the ball rolling for other manufacturers to follow suit.

I can imagine, like BMW, a world where you just pull up to your car park in the city, and the wireless inductive charging facility that’s set in place, in the road, underneath your EV will charge up your car while you duck into the café for a coffee or buy the necessary office equipment for your business.  This is all pretty cool technology!

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.

The Race To Zero Emissions

Once upon a time, we were all whispering about a possible conspiracy that someone had invented a car that ran on something that wasn’t fossil fuel but the Big Oil companies resorted to various forms of skulduggery ranging from buying out the patents or technology through to murder to ensure that petrol and diesel continued to reign supreme in the motoring world.  Fast forward to nearly 2020 (i.e. today) and there’s a new rumour on the block: the rumour that petrol and diesel powered cars are going to be phased out.

In fact, this is more than just a rumour.  They’re starting to do it already in the UK.  The famous university city of Oxford is going to ban fossil fuel powered cars from the city centre by 2020, meaning that only electric vehicles (and probably hydrogen powered vehicles) will be allowed to buzz around in the heart of the city.  Looks like the complaint made by JRR Tolkien back in the day about “the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic” in the streets of inner Oxford is going to be dealt with… well, at least the roaring bit.  The idea is to make the city centre the world’s first Zero Emissions Zone.  (OK, to be picky, it will be Zero Emissions as far as car exhausts go – there will still be carbon dioxide and methane emissions as long as human beings breathe, burp and fart.)

This move to ban petrol-based cars is not unique to places as notoriously academic and ivory-towerish as Oxford.  In fact, the Government of Scotland has announced that it will phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2023.  Ms Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has acknowledged in her statement (which covers other topics – the bit in question is about one-third of a way down if you want to find it) that it’s an ambitious project and is going to need a lot of infrastructure established.

This move by Scotland to be the first to phase out new petrol and diesel cars is ambitious, but it looks as though it’s part of a race between the old rivals England and Scotland to be the greenest.  Apparently, the UK government has announced  that it wants all new vans and cars on the roads to be zero emission vehicles (which is not a bad term for lumping electric, hydrogen and ethanol vehicles together – although it probably doesn’t include biodiesel vehicles). Because the UK has rules about the age of cars that they allow on the roads, this means that all their vehicles are slated to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2050.

What this means for the owners of vintage and classic vehicles, I don’t know.  I guess they’ll have some sort of exemption or they’ll only be allowed out on special occasions.  Or maybe they’ll have to be retrofitted to take biodiesel or ethanol.  I suspect that even the royal Rolls-Royces and Daimlers aren’t going to be exempt.

Naturally, if there’s rivalry between England and Scotland to do something first, you can bet like anything that the other ancient rivalry will flame up and indeed it has: France has also announced that it won’t be selling any new petrol or diesel cars after 2040.  Happily, the French government has also said that it will provide some sort of subsidy for poorer households so they can get an upgrade.  And yes, this puts the pressure on all those French marques like Citroën , Renault and Peugeot  to up their game and make sure that they’re only making hydrogen and electric vehicles by this stage.

Naturally, Scandinavia is already in on the game (and, incidentally, they’re old rivals of Scotland’s as well – which is why the north of Scotland likes to keeps up a few Viking traditions).  Norway is already smugly announcing that half of its new vehicle registrations are electric or at least hybrid, and it says the Norwegian target is to end sales of fossil-fuel-only cars by 2025.  Norway has been handing out tax breaks and concession for electrics and hybrids for ages, and it’s got the geography and rainfall needed to sustain the hydroelectric plants that are necessary to charge all those batteries.  The Netherlands and Germany are also in on the act. This means, of course, that all the German and Swedish car marques we love are going to concentrate on electrics and hybrids.  My beloved Volvo announced  that every new Volvo car and SUV from 2019 onwards will be electric in some way: full-time electric, plug-in hybrid or at least a little bit hybrid.

However, if governments can live up to their promises (IF!!!), then it looks as though Scotland wants to win the zero-emissions race.  I feel a song coming on, to be sung to the tune of Loch Lomond:

Oh ye’ll take the low road, and I’ll take the high road

And I’ll phase out petrol cars before ye

And me and my diesel will never drive again

On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

In fact, it seems as though Australia is a little bit behind here, as we’ve been slower to embrace electrics, although they are becoming more and more common.  I’ve seen a few new charging points popping up near where I live, so people are starting to get on board.  The Green Party has asked the Australian government to jump on board, but the Powers That Be are hesitant.

And I think they’re right to be hesitant.  I’ve still got a ton of questions about the whole thing, though, as I guess many of us do.  What happens to old classics and collectors’ items?  Do electric vehicles and hybrids have the range to tackle our long Outback roads without stranding people in the middle of nowhere?  What if we can’t afford a new car?  How are we going to charge all those vehicles – are we going to just burn petrol and diesel in electric power plants instead of car engines (which seems pretty pointless)?  Where do ethanol (which we’re already using in Australia) and biodiesel fit into this picture?  Do we have enough charging points and can our electricity system handle all the new demand?  What will happen to all those old vehicles internal combustion engines?  Do they go to the landfill?  Is there a way to recycle the metal and plastics used to make them?  And what if we LIKE the cars we’ve got and what they can do??? Does the average Aussie driver get a say in all this?

However, we can certainly expect to be including a lot more electric vehicles in our car reviews, and it’s certainly an exciting time of change for the motoring industry, so we’ll do our best to keep you updated.

Narva’s L.E.D.s Light The Way Offroad.

Aftermarket lighting supplier Narva introduced the Ultima 215 LED driving lights in 2017. An important feature of the Ultima 215 is that it meets the stringent requirements of CISPR 25 which is part of the ECE Regulation 10 for EMC, a feature that is sadly not evident in many other lamps on the market. By the way, CISPR is Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques or International Special Committee on Radio Interference.

Narva Marketing Manager, Jake Smith, said the company knew the lights would be popular but had not fully anticipated the spectacular market uptake. “Throughout the lamps development we were extremely excited about the lights’ performance and the potential impact they would have on the market. The 215 L.E.D lamps provide the latest technology, outstanding light output and the reliability and toughness Narva lights are known for and these qualities, coupled with a reasonable price point has struck accord with customers. The strength of our research, development and testing meant that the lamp was compliant with CISPR 25 on release, further broadening the appeal of the lamps, especially for emergency services applications where the avoidance of radio interference is critical.”The units have proved popular with the 4WD and travel industries. Former motorbike racer, Daryl Beattie, has turned his hand to running a travel company. One of his vehicles is a tough and sturdy IVECO 4×4 support truck which now sports two pairs of the 215s. Covering the rugged Canning stock route, the Simpson Desert, and routes that go to Cape York, Beattie says of the Narva 215 units: “They produce a staggering white light that’s easy on the eye and fills in the shadows way down the road ahead – they are the best spotties I’ve ever owned.” Daryl added:“After using the Ultima 215s, I can safely say they are the only L.E.D driving lights that I’ll be using on my adventures.”

The Ultima 215 L.E.Ds feature a class-leading hybrid beam pattern that combines volume for off-road use and long range performance for on highway transport applications. Each light is equipped with 33 x 5W (165W) XP-G2 Cree L.E.Ds that develop a pure white output (5700°K) and a penetrating light of 10,500 raw Lumens. As a pair, the lamps provide an impressive 1 Lux of brightness at 900 metres.

As well as using powerful Cree L.E.Ds, the performance is aided by the lights’ highly polished, aluminium, metallised reflectors which feature precisely scalloped parabolas for superior control and performance. The lamps feature die cast aluminium housing, ‘Active Thermal Management System’ allowing the lights to run harder for longer, while also incorporating a nitro breather vent and integrated DT connector, and are fully sealed against water and dust ingress to IP66 and IP67. Other benefits of the lamps include an L.E.D front position light to improve daytime driving visibility, virtually unbreakable polycarbonate lens and see-through lens protector.

Naturally there’s a bespoke mounting harness and a five year warranty to back everything up. Narva is an Australian owned company and products can be found at reputable 4wd and offroad equipment stores.

Air, Apparent.

A band called “The Hollies” released a song in the mid 1970s called “(All I Need Is)The Air That I Breathe“. We humans breathe air. It’s made up of 78% nitrogen which is an inert (doesn’t react with anything) gas, oxygen at 21%, 0.93% argon and various other gases. CO2 or carbon dioxide is measured to be around 0.04%. It’s the oxygen and CO2 that we carbon based lifeforms worry about the most. But what does it mean when it comes to those other living, breathing things called cars?

Bugger all actually. Cars breathe in air via intakes or through air filters in pre- fuel injected cars via carbies. At the other end comes out CO2 and a smattering of other gases, and that’s the cycle of life. BUT, have you ever tried to push a car with a flat tyre? Yup, air inside comes out and makes rolling a car near nigh impossible. So we fill them with air and away we go.Air, I hear you ask? But that nice man at the service and tyre shop said I should get nitrogen in my tyres, right? Well, in a way, by using air you’ve already got nitrogen. 80%, remember?
But he said it’ll reduce wear and tear on my tyres? Well, no. The biggest cause of wear and tear on tyres is how we drive the cars that use them. If we also don’t check the pressures, so if the tyres are over or under inflated, either of these contributes to wear and tear. When air goes in (80% nitrogen, remember) and the pressures are right, then wear and tear should only be dependent on how you drive.

He also said that nitrogen improves ride quality? Ride quality is dependent on tyre pressure, springs and shocks working properly, road surfaces…you get the picture. So if your air filled tyres are at the right pressure, then ride quality remains the same irrespective of 80 or 100 percent nitrogen.

I’m sensing a pattern here. He also said that by using nitrogen it’ll make the tyre run cooler? Hmm, a toughie….ah…nup. It’s the moisture content of the air, so in fact, if you use dry normal compressed air, it’ll also run cooler., as long as, again, it’s at the correct pressure and the tyre isn’t overloaded.

So, the bottom line, if I’m charged five or ten bucks per tyre to get nitrogen in, I’m just wasting money? In a nitrogen filled nutshell, yep. Don’t waste your money and say no to nitrogen.

Nissan Leaf Wins Award.

Nissan‘s small electric car, Leaf, has won, at the hugely prestigious Consumer Electronics Show, CES Best of Innovation award winner for Vehicle Intelligence and Self-Driving Technology.
Each year, the Consumer Technology Association announces its CES Best of Innovation award winners as part of the buildup to the January CES in Las Vegas. Nissan and the association will put on a special display of the new Nissan LEAF at the 2018 show. As confirmation of Nissan’s leading investment in innovation, the Nissan LEAF 100 per cent electric vehicle with ProPILOT (and e-Pedal technologies also won the following honour: CES honoree for Tech for a Better World.

Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s executive vice president for global marketing and sales, zero-emission vehicles and the battery business, and chairman of the management committee for the Japan/A&O region says: “It is a great honour to have this early and important recognition for the new Nissan LEAF. This award recognises products and technologies that benefit people and the planet, so it is fitting that the new LEAF has been honoured. It is more than just a car. It is the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, our vision to move people to a better world.”

The new Nissan LEAF brings a compelling package of everyday-useful innovations and technologies to more people worldwide than any electric vehicle has done before. The car is helping make the world a better place not only through innovation, but also through accessibility to more people.
Additional capabilities such as vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid integration (availability depending on market) help owners know they can waste less and give back more.

Head to The Nissan website for more information.

Plastic Bags To Fuel: It’s For Real

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you may have seen a few posts by various environmental groups kicking up a big stink about the amount of plastic that’s floating around in our oceans – and justifiably so. You might have seen a few pictures of the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch (floating around in the North Pacific somewhere between Japan and the USA). A lot of it is in the form of polyethelene, which is not biodegradable – the only thing that breaks it down is sunlight, which is why we deal with it by burying it in landfills underground where the sun can’t get at it. There are literally mountains and islands of it out there.

At the same time, folk are looking around at the existing crude oil supplies and realising that they aint gonna last forever.  This, as well as the pollution issue, is one of the spurs driving the push towards hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and biofuels.

Plastic is, however, another petroleum-based product.  In other words, once upon a time, the lid of your coffee cup, your chip packet and your polar fleece top came from the same stuff that you put in your car to get to work this morning.  What if this process could be reversed?  What if you could un-refine the plastic and turn it back into oil that could then be refined the other way and used to keep our cars (and trucks and trains and ships and aeroplanes) running?

Well, they can do it.  A few teams around the world have come up with ways to take all that waste plastic and convert it into something that can be used as a fuel feedstock – for diesel.  I’m not a chemical engineer, so don’t ask me why most of the fun new technologies for producing greener fuel end up producing diesel rather than petrol (with the exception of ethanol, which plays nicely with petrol, as we’ve known for years here in Australia). Although one Aussie company called Foyson  Resources (aren’t you proud?) has come up with a way to get petrol out of plastic.

The technology for converting plastic back into some form of oil has been around for at least 10 years, with companies in Japan, China, India, the Philippines and the US all having a go at it.

The process they use is called pyrolysis.  Those of you with a smattering of Greek may recognise the “pyro” bit, which indicates that heat is involved.  Literally, the process means “separating by heat”.  It’s been described as a sped-up version of how oil fields and fossil fuels came to be in the first place.  Basically, the long polymer strings made up of lots of carbon, oxygen and carbon atoms  get split apart into shorter bits about 18 carbon molecules long.

OK, let’s ditch the chemistry and describe it simply.

1: Appropriate plastics are fed into the machine, usually after being shredded or chipped. Suitable plastics usually include polyethylene, polypropylene and a few others – but not PET (Recycling #1), which is easier to recycle.

  1. The shredded plastic is heated slowly and turns to a gaseous form. The exact temperature at which this happens can be anywhere from 250°C through to 400°C, depending on the pyrolysis plant in question.
  2. The gas is cooled to a liquid: crude oil. Bingo!
  3. Other gases keep going and have to go somewhere. With some pyrolysis plant designs, the gas is captured and used to heat the pyrolysis chamber. However, some of the gases can be a bit nasty, which is why the kibosh was put on a Canberra plastic-to-fuel plant last year.
  4. Leftover solids come in the form of “carbon black”. This can be used as a construction material or just like old-fashioned coal, which it’s practically identical to.

It seems to be early days still for the plastic-to-oil process in Australia, with the Foy Group (the ones who have got the grant to start a plant in Hume, Canberra) facing a few hurdles thanks to the possible emissions. However, given (a) the amount of plastic waste we all churn out and (b) the need to find good supplies of the crude for our petrol and diesel, I’m sure these hurdles can be cleared.  I’m picking plastic-to-petrol as The Next Big Thing for greener motoring – and it won’t require any changes to our existing vehicle fleet.

If you’re really, really keen, it is apparently possible to do the plastic pyrolysis thing at home and make your own diesel. This probably comes with a heavy cost in the form of the energy input needed to heat a home-built plant, with the result that all the oil you produce will then be used to run the generator or powerplant used to heat the pyrolysis plant used to produce the oil and round it goes. At least it gets rid of plastic bags…

I personally would not try this at home and prefer to either cut down on the plastic bags I use or send them to the recycling depot.  However, if you are keen and want to try, this page tells you how.   No guarantees and do it at your own risk!