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Lightyear One – a Solar Powered EV

Lightyear One – a Solar Powered EV

In a country like Australia where the sun shines brightly for most of the year a car like the Lightyear One might be just the thing for getting around in.  Sleek and comfortable, the Lightyear One is a solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) that has been designed and engineered in the Netherlands by Lightyear.

Having been recently tested in Italy, the Lightyear One completed 400 km on a single charge while driving at a constant speed of 130 km/h.  According to Lightyear One’s manufacturer, regular driving will easily result in a range of 725 km (WLTP).  If you’re like me and don’t know what WLTP means, then WLTP stands for Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Test Procedure.  This mouthful is a new standard to measure fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and range.  The standard was introduced in 2017 and takes the measurements of test vehicles when driven in realistic driving situations to determine their fuel consumption, range, and emissions.

Lightyear One Interior

Because the Lightyear One is a solar-powered EV, its manufacturer also states that it would be possible to drive the car for months without needing to recharge.  In Australia, where the sun shines most days of the year, a car like the Lightyear One would be perfect for this scenario.  Take a good look at the car’s exterior and you’ll see the array of solar panels incorporated into the sleek exterior design.  All of the panels facing skyward are made of solar panels and are ready for harvesting energy from the sun to charge the 60 kWh battery.  5 m2 of solar panels cover the Lightyear One’s roof, bonnet and tail and are capable of harnessing up to 12 km of range every hour. That means during a sunny 8-hour workday, a parked up Lightyear One could harvest 96 km of driving range – more than enough for most people’s work commutes.  Even in cloudy conditions, its maker claims the Lightyear One that around 40 km of range can be harvested in that time.  Obviously, you can also plug the car in for a quick recharge if you ever needed to.

Jump in the Lightyear One and drive on a full charge, and the Lightyear One’s 60 kWh battery pack provides a claimed 725 km of range, making it one of the most energy efficient EVs on the market.  Efficiency of this standard is also achieved thanks to its construction consisting essentially of aluminium and carbon-fibre which gives it a weight of just 1315 kg.  Also the car’s drag coefficient of just 0.20cd is sensational.  As you can imagine, the aluminium and carbo-fibre underpinnings also drive the price of the car upward.

The Lightyear One is being manufactured in Finland, where its first deliveries will be made to Europe in mid-2022.  The car’s price is around the AUD $238,000 mark.  Just 946 of these cars will be built, however the company is already working on a more affordable solar-powered EV called the Lightyear Two which is expected to go on sale in 2024/25.  It will have a much more affordable price, maybe even as low as AUD $50,000.

Lightyear One Sedan

In the Lightyear One there are 4 electric motors on board, one for each wheel.  These provide the driving power.  Together, they produce a combined 101 kW of power and 1200 Nm of torque.  The car’s manufacturers say that the Lightyear One Sedan can seat 5 in comfort, and it has been designed especially for cruising and efficiency, and not for outright speed, thus claiming a 0-100 km/h sprint time of around 10 seconds.

I hope we see cars like this become available to people in Australia very soon.  It also begs the question: Couldn’t the Holden name resurrect itself by Holden designers and engineers making a similar type of car in Australia for primarily Australians?

Hydrogen V8 ICE

Exciting news for internal combustion engine (ICE) lovers: Toyota, Mazda, Subaru and Kawasaki are wanting to collaborate on the attempt to keep the combustion engine alive while meeting all the global clean air targets.  Not only that, but Toyota and long-time Japanese engineering partner Yamaha are at work developing a special new hydrogen-powered 5.0-litre V8 engine.  Unlike a hydrogen fuel-cell car, which combines hydrogen and oxygen atoms to create electricity to drive a motor, this new hydrogen V8 internal combustion engine is a conventional piston-driven engine that has been tuned to burn hydrogen instead of petrol.

While this newly developed V8 engine isn’t completely new, the way it’s fuelled is.  It’s a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 that is based off the engine that has been used in the Lexus RC F coupe.  Yamaha says that it produces around 335 kW of power at 6800 rpm and 540 Nm of torque at 3600 rpm.  Having modified the injectors, the head, the intake manifolds and other engine components, this work has added up to make the engine environmentally friendly.  The hydrogen-fed ICE has become less powerful than the petrol-fed V8 that the hydrogen engine is based on.  In the Lexus RC F coupe, the petrol V8 puts out 472 kW and 536 Nm of torque, so while torque has increased a little, power has dropped considerably.  That said, 331 kW is still a stonking amount of power to enjoy, and more often than not it is the torque that you really want in the real world conditions.  You also still get the sound of a burbling V8, and what’s not to like about that!

Yamaha engineer, Takeshi Yamada, said that the engine has a different character to a conventional petrol motor.  He stated that hydrogen engines provide a friendlier feel, making them easier to use even without having utilize other electronic aids for the drive.

Toyota is clearly committed to the project of providing ICE powerplants that use hydrogen as the fuel.  Given that Toyota has run a hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla in Japan’s Super Taikyu race series as well as showcasing a hydrogen-powered Toyota Yaris GR prototype with the same hydrogen engine technology, it is obvious that they want to continue with this new breed of ICE.

One of the beauties about burning hydrogen instead of petrol is that the hydrogen powerplant does not produce carbon dioxide, which is considered to be one of the primary contributors to global warming.  There would also be no significant nitrogen oxides emissions from an ICE designed to burn hydrogen, thanks to the selective catalytic reduction technology used in the aftertreatment of the combustion gases.

“Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon-neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time,” Yamaha Motor president Yoshihiro Hidaka said.  He also added that: “I started to see that engines using only hydrogen for fuel actually had very fun, easy-to-use performance characteristics”.

While hydrogen is plentiful in the universe, it must be separated from other compounds to be used as fuel.  Up to the year 2020, most hydrogen was produced from fossil fuels, resulting in CO2 emissions. Hydrogen obtained from fossil fuels is often referred to as grey hydrogen, when emissions are released into the atmosphere.  Blue hydrogen is the hydrogen produced from fossil fuels when emissions are captured through carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Hydrogen that is produced from fossil fuels using the newer non-polluting technology called methane pyrolysis is often called turquoise hydrogen.

You can also generate hydrogen from renewable energy sources, and this hydrogen is often referred to as green hydrogen.  There are two practical ways of producing green hydrogen.  One of the ways is to use electric power for producing hydrogen from the electrolysis of water.  The other way of producing green hydrogen is to use landfill gas to produce the green hydrogen in a steam reformer.  Hydrogen fuel, when it is produced by using renewable sources of energy like wind or solar power, is a renewable fuel.

Hydrogen can also be created from another renewable energy source called nuclear energy via electrolysis, and this is sometimes seen as a subset of green hydrogen, but it can also be referred to as being pink hydrogen.

Obviously, when a car can be designed to run on hydrogen that has been produced from renewable energy sources, then this is a good thing.  Toyota and Yamaha remain adamant that this is great technology which could carve out a niche for itself in the new EV automotive landscape.

Toyota has also recently revealed a fleet of 12 zero tailpipe-emission concept vehicles, many of which will reach production in the coming years.

This is all good news stuff, especially for those of us who love the sound of an ICE instead of a silent EV.  The noisy farts always get the best round of laughter!

Motorcycles

There are those of us who just don’t do motorcycles.  The thought of hurtling along the motorway with a massive engine between your legs sounds downright alarming to many people, and I get that.  Considering that a motorcyclist does have less protection than most road users does put a lot of people off riding a motorcycle.  However, a careful and skilful rider can manage the risks and keep well out of harm’s way.

Maybe you already ride a motorbike.  You might even be wondering about getting your motorcycle license.  If you haven’t experienced riding a motorcycle, then the chances are you’ll enjoy the thrill of riding a motorbike safely.  Safely being the important word.  Once you’ve mastered the skill of riding a motorbike safely, travelling about Australia on two wheels instead of four can be a fun and exciting experience you’ll enjoy for years to come.  Out in the open, taking in the sights and smells, experiencing the elements, being one with the machine as you lean through the corners and feel the response are all reasons why many people love riding motorcycles.

As a tool to combat rising fuel prices, the motorbike could be a useful option.  Whether you’re single or married, the motorbike can combine with your other means of transportation to get you where you need to go.  They use a lot less fuel than a car and have the size (or lack of size) that enables them to slip through congested areas and park in tight spaces.  If emissions are an issue for you, then the motorbike generates less of an environmental impact than a car does.

Even with the recent global health concerns and restrictions on our daily lives, over the last couple of years the motorcycle has enjoyed an increase in sales throughout Australia.  Over the 2020 period, new motorcycle and scooter sales in Australia were up 6.2% from the previous year, showing a strong demand for individual mobility transport options, of which the motorcycle is the best.  And throughout 2021, the growth trend mushroomed with an increase of 16.6%.  That equated to a total of 102 new units sold, the highest level for 15 years.

Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki claim the biggest chunks of the market share, while Suzuki, KTM, BMW, and Harley Davidson deliver strong motorbike sales.  All motorcycle manufacturers have enjoyed the stronger consumer demand for motorbikes, resulting in better sales figures.

Many people find motorcycle riding a relatively easy task but riding out on the road still comes with a fair share of risk.  Lack of experience and recklessness are often key areas associated with motorcycle accidents.  Damp and slippery roads need to be recognized and ridden over with care.

Allowing plenty of space between you and other road users is a must, and as you ride be aware of other people’s actions, intersection dynamics, any oncoming cars, and any car (whether moving or stationary) in front of you as you ride.  If you are reading the other road users well, reading the road conditions right, and keeping your distance, then motorcycling is relatively safe.

There are plenty of nice sport bikes out there like the Buell Hammerhead, Ducati V4 or the Yamaha YZF-R7.  These are great bikes for a fast ride over a short distance.  They can make useful commute bikes as well.

Buell Sportbike

The touring bikes and dual purpose-bikes are better set up for a comfortable seat and long distance ergonomics.  These are swift bikes and can handle two-up and luggage no problems.  They also make a decent commuter.  Bikes like the Triumph Tiger 1200, MV Augusta Turismo, KTM 1290, Kawasaki Versys, Honda CB500X and BMW 1600 GT are great options in this class of bike.  They are a heavy bike, so not ideal for learners and the inexperienced.

MV Augusta Turismo

Scooters and smaller bikes like the Honda Navi, BMW CE O4 Electric Scooter, and Honda CB300 are handy inner-city commuters and great or a learner rider.

BMW Electric Scooter

A Roadster like the Harley Davidson Street Glide ST, Harley Davidson Forty-Eight, Indian Chief, and Triumph Bonneville Bobber are all about the wow factor and looks.  These are sexy bikes, but some people also find their relatively relaxed riding position, which includes arms and legs pointing forwards, nice for cruising on longer rides.

Harley Davidson Forty-Eight

An FCEV for Our Environment

With the rising concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, the development of ammonia fuelled vehicles as environmentally friendly cars would have to look rather promising.  A car running on NH3 – now what’s not to like about that?

Many scientists believe that it is urgent to reduce CO2 emissions because of the global warming effect that the gas has on the climate around the globe.  Despite CO2 in the atmosphere being great for plant growth (some of the edges of the earth’s deserts are greening up again with increased CO2 in the atmosphere), and the earth’s water cycle playing a pivotal role in governing the earth’s temperature, the drive to create taxing emission standards and expensive alternatives continues to drive government policy worldwide.  What if we gradually changed over to another source of energy so that everyone in the world could afford the switch, allowing people to maintain a higher standard of living?

Using CO2–free fuels to reduce the level of CO2 emissions could be a viable option in the current climate.  So, what about ammonia?

An internal combustion engine (ICE) burns a fuel.  Basically, you can convert an engine to run on any fuel such as fossil-fuels, hydrogen and ammonia, and there are many ways to do so.  ICE engines are very good in combination with battery and hybrid systems.  It would be a perfect solution to make a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle with hydrogen that has been cracked out of ammonia and stored in the vehicle.  The ammonia would then be used to drive the electric propulsion system because an electric propulsion system is highly efficient.  That would be a perfect vehicle.

The battery system in this model would not need to be anywhere near the size of a pure EV and anywhere near the weight.  For instance, in a Tesla, the whole EV platform under the car is a battery pack that is massively heavy.  A clean-burning ICE producing heat-waste from the combustion process could use this heat-waste to warm up the cabin’s interior on a cold day, cool the cabin down via a heat exchanger, and could also be used to cool and heat the battery accordingly for optimum battery operating temperatures.

You can store accessible hydrogen in the form of ammonia (NH3).  Unlike hydrogen gas, which requires very low (cryogenic) temperatures to liquefy, ammonia becomes a liquid at –34°C.  Ammonia also does so at room temperature and at 9 atmospheric pressures, making it much more convenient to use as a transportation fuel.  Ammonia is comparatively inexpensive to produce, and the hydrogen can be separated out using catalysts without undue losses.

Essentially, you have a car with a combustion engine that is burning the hydrogen that is cracked out of the stored ammonia onboard the car to produce electricity.  The engine would have an alternator as an electric motor that would power the drivetrain with electricity at close to 99% efficiency.  This set-up is known as a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV).

The FCEV above uses stored ammonia that’s cracked onboard the car to produce hydrogen to run the electric drive train – only emitting water vapour and warm air as exhaust, and is considered a zero-emission vehicle.  Now that sounds pretty smart, efficient and green to me!

S to Z of Surfing Vehicles Dude

“Surfs up!”

“Dude, how am I gonna get there?”

“Bro, you need a car!”

Summer is here, and surfing is a great lifestyle for getting out, chasing the waves, and getting some immunity-boosting Vitamin D.  In fact, any sort of outdoor adventure and exercise will see you a fitter and healthier person for getting out there and doing it.  What 2022 cars make for an ideal surfer’s or outdoorsy-person’s companion?  The following are several useful vehicles that will transport you, a friend or two, some gear, and surfboards/mountain bikes through something more than just a little puddle, mud or soft sand.

Dedicated vans or MPVs with AWD like the Volkswagen Multivan, LDV G10, Mercedes-Benz V-Class, Kia Carnival, Mercedes-Benz Valente, Volkswagen Caravelle, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai STARIA, Volkswagen California, Toyota Granvia, Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo ACTIVITY, and the Volkswagen Caddy are potentially great for surfing travels with one, two or more mates.  Some, but not all, will offer AWD.  Depending on how far down onto the beach you want to get your MPV or Van, AWD is definitely the way to go for ensuring you have a better chance of getting through soft sand and out of sticky situations.

For years, station wagons have been a go-to machine for the surfer; for good reason too as they offer plenty of space for lugging gear and for sleeping.  Having a vehicle that can get you across country and down onto the beach makes for the ultimate surfer’s vehicle.  Outside of the list of MPVs/vans above, there are some great vehicles worth a look if you’re into doing a bit of surfing, fishing and any other type of outdoor adventure.

Here is the best of them from S (Skoda) to V (Volvo).  Let us know if we’ve missed anything in between!

Skoda Kodiaq

Arguably the best in the business is Skoda’s Kodiaq.  It does everything a surfer wants very well.  The 2.0-litre Turbo petrol engine is smooth and powerful.  4×4 capability is at the ready, and the Kodiaq Wagon boasts 7-seats and a 7 speed automatic 4×4 gearbox.  A 132 kW/320 Nm turbo-petrol is under the bonnet of the base and Sportline variants.  The punchy RS packs a 176 kW/500 Nm version of the 2.0-litre engine. The AWD-only Skoda not only offers 3 rows of seats, it is also able to open up 2005 litres of boot space.  With standard autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, active LED headlights and a cosy, suede-trimmed interior complete with sat-nav, keyless start, two-zone climate-control and side and rear-window blinds, the Skoda Kodiaq is one very impressive package.

Skoda Superb AWD Scout

Grab yourself an AWD Skoda Superb Scout crossover wagon and surfing trips just got a whole lot nicer.  Under the Scout’s bonnet sits a 200 kW/350 Nm, 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The spacious, comfortable and high-quality cabin is laden with plenty of soft-touch panels and easy-to-read interfaces. Safety technology includes front and rear autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with active assist, blind-spot monitoring and self-parking.  The Superb Wagons will take 660 litres of luggage, expanding to 1950 litres with the rear seats folded. Towing capacity is rated at 2.2 tonnes.

SsangYong Rexton

Here’s another strong contender for best surfing wagon.  The seven-seater, five-star safe, 8-speed auto, 4×4, 2.2 Diesel-Turbo SsangYong Rexton large SUV uses a 149 kW/441 Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that boasts less than 9 litres/100 km fuel economy.  With, all-independent suspension, all-wheel disc brakes and an eight-speed auto gearbox, the big Korean-made SUV is equipped to go bush.  Boot space is a handy 1806 litres with second and third rows flat.

Subaru Forester

An icon in the surfing fraternity, the Subaru Forester always delivers the goods.  2022 sees the 5-door wagon offer a CVT 7-speed AWD with even autonomous emergency steering standard.  This is five-star safe, great on sipping small amounts of fuel and comfortable on any surface of road.  The Forester continues with the 136 kW/239 Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine, and the 2.0-litre mild-hybrid claims 6- to 7 litres/100 km.  The Forester offers generous levels of passenger space, and the luggage capacity can open to 1768 litres with the rear seats folded.  Of course, the Forester is known for going places that Physics suggest it shouldn’t.  It is capable off-road, just keep in mind that it’s not a “Landie”!

Subaru Outback

Surprise, surprise, here is another Subaru, and a favourite with surfers.  The latest Subaru Outback is the newest of a long line of wagon’s that have carried surfboards and surfers all around the country.  Subaru’s Outback is made for the surfer’s design brief, so it will happily go off-road, cruise the open road, accommodate a mattress and provide great accident protection.  Five-star safe and comfortable to drive, the 5-door Outback Wagon uses a 138 kW/245 Nm 2.5-litre boxer petrol four-cylinder driving all four wheels through a new CVT transmission.  Subaru’s Outback crossover is bigger inside and out, employs the company’s latest global platform and features all the latest safety technology.  You can tow up to two-tonnes, and you have a boot with up to 2144 litres!

Toyota

Plenty of choice in the Toyota brand. Take your pick out of the RAV4 (smallest), Kluger, Fortuner, Prado (largest), and Land Cruiser.  All will get you far and beyond the tarmac, the Prado and Land Cruiser being truly 4×4 bush bashing capable.  Comfortable, reliable, and safe.  Boot space starts at around 1800 litres for the RAV4 and gets bigger from here.

Volkswagen Touareg

Good things come from VW, as surfers well know – the VW Kombi being a surfing icon.  Well-dressed, big and brutish is what many of the ladies like, and the Volkswagen Touareg has it all.  Available as a huge 5-door SUV shape, the Touareg boasts five-star safety, 4×4 competence, and a huge boot (over 1800 litres).  Passenger space is right up there with the best in the business.  It is available with a choice of three diesel engines: two 3.0-litre V6s – 170 kW/500 Nm (170 TDI) and 210 kW/600 Nm (210 TDI), plus a ruthless 310 kW/900 Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 monster.

VW Tiguan Allspace

Over 2000 litres of boot space (Allspace version), a practical no-nonsense interior, 5-star safe, comfortable to drive, AWD availability, and the Tiguan starts to make sense.  It is also another vehicle that has self-parking capability.  With 4MOTION AWD and a dual-clutch six or seven-speed auto transmissions, the Tiguan is an impressive mid-size SUV.  The choice of motors is good; a 110 kW/250 Nm 1.4-litre and 162 kW/350 Nm 2.0-litre petrol turbo is available along with the torquey and thrifty 147 TDI 147 kW/400 Nm turbo-diesel.

Volvo XC60

Volvos are amazing cars to drive.  They are so comfortable, elegant, and boast all the best tech. Safety is a given, and the XC60 has up to 1792 litres of boot space.  Five-door SUV styling, an 8-speed automatic with AWD and you’re away.  Volvo’s XC60 SUV line-up is powered by petrol-only mild-hybrid 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines. The R-Design continues with the more powerful 220 kW/420 Nm B6 mild-hybrid powertrain while the Polestar Engineered sticks with the 311 kW/670 Nm T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain.  Both are nice and responsive engines.

Volvo XC90

Even with all 7 seats in place, the Volvo XC90 boot can hold up to 302 litres of luggage.  Folding down second and third rows makes way for 1856 litres.  A superbly comfortable, AWD capable, and delivering huge safety credentials, the new Volvo XC90 is a luxury SUV like no other.  All XC90s come with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning/assist, sat-nav, self-parking, AWD, an 8-speed automatic transmission and a fuel-saving idle-stop system.  The XC90 D4 is powered by a 173 kW/480 Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.  The T6 petrol comes with a 140 kW/400 Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.  The 2.0-litre plug-in petrol-electric hybrid XC90 T8 claims an amazing 2.1 litres/100 km fuel consumption and slingshots to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds!

K to R of Surfing Vehicles Dude

“Surfs up!”

“Dude, how am I gonna get there?”

“Bro, you need a car!”

Summer is here, and surfing is a great lifestyle for getting out, chasing the waves, and getting some immunity-boosting Vitamin D.  In fact, any sort of outdoor adventure and exercise will see you a fitter and healthier person for getting out there and doing it.  What 2022 cars make for an ideal surfer’s companion?  The following are several useful vehicles that, if you’re wanting something to get you places, will transport you, a friend or two, some gear, and surfboards/mountain bikes through something more than just a little puddle, mud or soft sand.

Dedicated vans with AWD or MPVs are potentially great for surfing travels with one, two or more mates.  Some, but not all, will offer AWD.  Depending on how far down onto the beach you want to get your MPV or Van, AWD is definitely the way to go for getting through soft sand and sticky situations.  Having a vehicle that can get you across country and down onto the beach makes for the ultimate surfer’s vehicle.

There are some very good vehicles worth a look if you’re into doing a bit of surfing, fishing and any outdoor adventure.  Aside from an AWD Van or AWD MPV, here are the best of them from K (Kia) to R (Renault).  Let us know if we’ve missed anything in between!

Kia Sorento

The seven-seat Kia Sorento SUV is one of the most advanced vehicles in its class.  If you find parking a mean trick, then it can even park itself without anyone inside. Quiet, roomy and with a large boot, the Sorento is available in Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line and the choice of a front-drive 3.5-litre 200 kW/332 Nm V6 petrol with an eight-speed auto gearbox, an AWD dual-clutch auto 148 kW/440 Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel or a 190 kW/350 Nm PHEV.  The roomy cabin is enhanced by a commodious 616-litre boot that increases to a massive, all-seats-folded 2011 litres.

Land Rover Defender

Ultimate 4×4 traction.  The 2.0-litre D200, D240 and D250 diesels produce 147 kW/430 Nm, 177 kW/430 Nm and 183 kW/570 Nm respectively, while the petrol engines output 221 kW/400 Nm, 294 kW/550 Nm and 386 kW/625 Nm.  All Defenders are highly capable, dual-range 4x4s, all driving through an eight-speed auto gearbox.  Up to 2231 litres of boot space gives you plenty of space to sleep!  5-star safe.

Land Rover Discovery

Ultimate 4×4 traction with added sophistication. Of course, the Range Rover alternative is luxury to the max!  Discoverys are big on comfort and refinement and offer up to 2104 litres of sleeping space.  5-star safe.

LDV D90

A big, cushy, well-priced 7-seater with 5-doors.  Sitting on a strong ladder-frame chassis and boasting a punchy 160 kW/480 Nm, 2.0-litre bi-turbo-diesel with an eight-speed auto transmission this is a seriously decent machine.  Offering rear-drive or dual-range 4WD with multi-mode terrain selection, off-roading is a breeze.  5-star safe and providing up to 2382 litres of sleeping space.

Mahindra XUV500 W10

A 7-seater with 5 doors and a 6-speed auto, the Mahindra XUV500 SUV is one of the best-value mid-size seven-seaters in Australia.  It is powered by a 103 kW/320 Nm 2.2-litre turbo-petrol engine.  AWD form is the best version and performs well off-road.  Let down only by a 4-star safety rating, the Mahindra has over 700 litres of boot space with the third row seats flat and grows to an excellent mattress in the back material.  You also get a five-year/100,000km warranty with five years of roadside assist when bought new.

Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi’s fourth generation Outlander SUV is a roomy 5-door wagon that is comfortable to drive, has all the modern tech, offering its owner plenty of space.  Available in AWD, running with an 8-speed CVT gearbox, and using the new 135 kW/245 Nm 2.5-litre engine this is a reliable unit that will take you and your mates places.  Boot space is up to 1461 litres, safety is 5-star, and you also get Mitsubishi’s class-leading 10 year/200,000 km warranty.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

Another highly rated surfer’s wagon, the 2022 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Wagon.  With its 8-speed automatic gearbox is smooth.  It’s a dual-range unit with Low and High, so 4×4 traction combines with a high ground clearance and long-travel suspension to ensure plenty of off-road capability.  There’s heaps of passenger space and it’s surprisingly smooth and comfortable on the road.  The Pajero Sport is available in both five and seven-seat form and is powered by a 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel producing 133 kW/430 Nm.  5-star safety and a boot space that’s huge. The Pajero Sport boasts a big, square cargo space and boasts 673-litres of cargo volume even up to the second row.  Fold the second row down as well and it’s cavernous.

Nissan X-Trail

The sharp-looking Nissan X-Trail is a real surfer’s choice.  Nissan’s X-Trail continues to rate among the best cargo-carriers in its class.  It feels nifty on the road and is five-star safe.  The AWD version uses a naturally-aspirated petrol engine with 126 kW/233 Nm.  Boot space is huge and close to 2000 litres, enough to lie down and stretch your legs out overnight.

Renault Koleos

A pretty cool looking wagon is the new Koleos from Renault.  Nissan’s X-Trail and Renault’s Koleos have teamed up and are based on the same platform.  Five-star safe and superbly comfortable, Renault’s five-seat Koleos mid-size SUV combines attractive looks and excellent people and luggage-carrying abilities.  There’s a choice, at the top-level for 4WD, and the 126 kW/226 Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine drives through a modern CVT transmission.  Boot space is almost 2000 litres!

A to J of Surfing Vehicles Dude

“Surfs up!”

“Dude, how am I gonna get there?”

“Bro, you need a car!”

Summer is here, and surfing is a great lifestyle for getting out, chasing the waves, and getting some immunity-boosting Vitamin D.  In fact, any sort of outdoor adventure and exercise will see you a fitter and healthier person for getting out there and doing it.  What 2022 cars make for an ideal surfer’s companion?  The following are several useful vehicles that, if you’re wanting something to get you places, will transport you, a friend or two, some gear, and surfboards/mountain bikes through something more than just a little puddle, mud or soft sand.

Dedicated vans or MPVs with AWD like the Volkswagen Multivan, LDV G10, Mercedes-Benz V-Class, Kia Carnival, Mercedes-Benz Valente, Volkswagen Caravelle, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai STARIA, Volkswagen California, Toyota Granvia, Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo ACTIVITY, and the Volkswagen Caddy are potentially great for surfing travels with one, two or more mates.  Some, but not all, will offer AWD.  Depending on how far down onto the beach you want to get your MPV or Van, AWD is definitely the way to go for getting through soft sand and out of sticky situations.

For years, wagons and SUVs have also been a go-to machine for the surfer; for good reason too as they offer plenty of space, the capacity for lugging gear, and for sleeping.  But having a vehicle that can get you across country and down onto the beach makes for the ultimate surfer’s vehicle.  Outside of the list of vans and MPVs above, there are some great vehicles still worth a look if you’re into doing a bit of surfing, fishing or any type of outdoor adventure.

Here is the best of them, first article of three, from A (Alfa Romeo) to J (Jeep).  Let us know if we’ve missed anything in between!

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Three petrol engines offer the Stelvio between 147–375 kW of power and 330–600 Nm of torque.  The 8-speed automatic and 4×4 (AWD) ability make it ideal for heading off tar seal.  It has 5-doors, 5-seats, a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, and 1600 litres of boot space when the rear seats are folded flat.

Audi Q Wagons

 

Audi Q5 and Q7 models are idyllic; the Q3 maybe a little small, however.  All of these are stylish, AWD and superbly comfortable.  Diesel and petrol engines are available that offer the Q5 and Q7 between 150–251 kW of power and 370–700 Nm of torque.  4×4 (AWD) ability make them perfect for nosing about off-road.  Both Q models have 5-doors, 5-seats, and a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.  The Q5 has 1530 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded flat; Q7 has 1971 litres.

Audi A6 Allroad

Cargo room extends to 1680 litres with the rear seats folded down, and the AWD Quattro system ensures that you’ll get around secondary roads and the odd track pretty comfortably in an A6 Allroad.  A nice wagon to drive, and the surfboard can go on the roof or slide in along the flat cargo area.  A sportier drive than a similarly capable Subaru Outback.  The Audi A6 Allroad Wagon 45TDI is offered in Australia and runs with a tiptronic 8-speed quattro drive.  The 3.0-litre Turbo-Diesel is a peach, packing a healthy 183 kW/600 Nm from its V6 configuration, and scampers from a standstill to 100 km/h in less than 7 seconds.

BMW X3, X5

 

BMW X3 and X5 models are really nice SUV wagons for open road touring.  All are stylish, AWD, and superbly comfortable.  Diesel, electric and petrol engines are available for the X3 that offers between 135–285 kW of power and 300–620 Nm of torque.  X5 models get between 170 and 460 kW of power and 450–750 Nm of torque.  4×4 (AWD) ability make them handy when getting down to the beach or picnic area.  All X models have 5-doors, 5-seats, a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, and the X3 has 1600 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded flat; X5 has 2047 litres.

Ford Everest

The Ford Everest is magnificent.  Its 3.2 Diesel Turbo engine delivers 157 kW and 500 Nm.  The 10-speed automatic and serious 4×4 capability ensure you won’t easily get stuck in this one.  Smooth, loads of road presence, and comfortable, there isn’t many negatives.  1796 litres of boot space is available with the seats folded down.  It has 5-doors, 5-seats, and a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

Haval H9

The big Haval H9 SUV Wagon gets a standard adaptive six-mode 4×4 terrain control system and a 700 mm wading depth.  The 180 kW/350 Nm turbo-four petrol/eight-speed auto is smooth and impresses.  A massive boot space combined with excellent features and a relaxing drive makes it a great surfing/adventure vehicle.  It’s also keenly priced.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai’s 7-seat Santa Fe SUV is large.  With a choice between a 206 kW/336 Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol or a 147 kW/440 Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four, the Santa Fe range is a great driving machine and is available in AWD.  Comfortable, and particularly well set-up in diesel guise, the Santa Fe is a warm travelling companion.  Boot space: 2042 litres.

Isuzu MU-X

A 7-seater with five doors and a rugged 3.0 Turbo-diesel motor is hard to overlook.  Stylish and tough, Isuzu’s new MU-X seven-seat off-roader comes in three spec levels (LS-M, LS-U and range-topping LS-T), each with the option of RWD or 4WD and standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.  140 kW and 450 Nm of torque match with a 3.5 tonne towing capacity.  ANCAP five-star safety and a boot space of 2138 litres makes the MU-X a perfect surfer’s wagon.

Jeep Wrangler

The LWB Jeep Wranglers are stunning lookers.  Perfect in every way but only let down by a rather mediocre safety rating 3 out of 5 stars.  2050 litres of boot space and 4×4 tenacity.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

An awesome, comfortable surfer’s wagon, the Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with a choice of a 3.6-litre petrol 8-speed automatic 4×4, or a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel 8 speed automatic 4×4.  True off-road potential and loads of space with up to 2005 litres of cargo space.  Offering between 184–522 kW (Yes, 522!) of power and 347–868 Nm of torque this packs a punch.  Superior 4×4 (AWD) ability make these ideal, and they are seriously comfortable.  All are 5-star safe.

Australia’s Most-Loved Utes Will be Going Hybrid

Earlier this year, Toyota set the benchmark when it announced that its much-loved dual-cab ute, the HiLux would be produced in hybrid format by the end of this decade. Although a long way off, it certainly set the scene for plenty to get excited about, with electrification here and here in a big way, and only set to gain more traction as time goes on.

We’re actually somewhat optimistic that Toyota will be able to fast-track the development of a hybrid HiLux given the tailwinds in effect pushing manufacturers to accelerate the transition to more environmentally-friendly cars. So while Toyota has flagged until the end of the decade for a hybrid HiLux, that may well be the case for the company’s entire model range, rather than it’s best-seller.

Toyota has been on record as saying it believes hybrids will be one of the dominant forms of vehicle over the short-term, while also representing a major chunk of the new car market down the track.

Ford joins the party with the Ranger

Australia’s other favourite ute, the Ford Ranger, is also set for an electrified future.

The blue oval brand has confirmed it will develop a hybrid Ranger, alongside a hybrid Everest four-wheel drive, with the jointly-developed pair set to be engineered locally in Australia and assembled out of Thailand.

Pleasingly, Ford is on a fast track to production, aiming to have the duo rolled out overseas by 2024, targeting countries where emissions targets are driving the push to green vehicles. Although that date does not extend to Australia at this stage, there is likely to be pressure over the coming years, particularly on a political front, that will hasten the need for more hybrid and electrified vehicles down under.

This development could very well play into the cards of a hybrid Ranger arriving much sooner than the timeline provided by Toyota. If that looks likely, watch out, because Toyota may well throw down the gauntlet to compete with its arch-nemesis on the hybrid battlefield.

It is looking increasingly as though a hybrid Ranger will be offered in petrol-electric format, with countries across Europe and North America now seemingly putting the brakes on diesel emissions.

What’s even more interesting, however, is that the 2022 version of the Ranger has been ‘future’proofed’ to accommodate hybrid power down the track, raising eyebrows about an even earlier arrival. Ford has achieved this thanks to a redesign of the Ranger’s chassis, optimising space under the hood.

 

What does it all mean? The timelines might be quite distant, but we think there could very well be a surprise to the upside in terms of the hybrid development of Australia’s two best-selling cars.

What Is and Isn’t Inside an EV?

What is an EV? What are the obvious things that set an EV apart from the more conventional car that’s powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE)?  And what is an EV like to maintain?

These are just a few of the good questions that might be rattling around in your mind as you consider the possibility of EV ownership.  Let’s face it, most of us probably jump inside our cars and give little thought to what happens inside a car when we drive off.

Let’s start by answering the first question and develop for ourselves an understanding of what an EV is.

The letters ‘EV’ stands for the words ‘electric vehicle’.  EVs don’t have a combustion engine underneath the bonnet, in fact they don’t have a combustion engine at all.  This means that you won’t need to pull over at the gas station to fill your car up with any form of fossil fuel (e.g., unleaded gasoline (91), premium unleaded gasoline (95, 98 or 100 octane) or diesel.  Neither will your car be running on gas (LPG or CNG).  You won’t even have to top your car up with engine coolant or oil for engine lubrication.  Sounds good!

Once you look away from the various processes of mining earth metals like lithium and cobalt (a by-product of nickel and copper mines); neodymium, terbium, or dysprosium (critical metals used in higher powered batteries that can last for longer distances – and everyone wants to be able to last longer) used in EV batteries and electronic componentry, EVs look to be more environmentally friendly and interesting cars to own and drive.

All your power is electronically accessible to your accelerator pedal, and your braking action is processed electronically as well.  When you brake or decelerate, battery power can be reverted back into the battery pack.  Basically, drain the battery in an EV, and you’ll need to plug it into a charging port again before you can get some power for driving about again.  However, that’s nothing new now, is it?

To get power from your house power supply, you’ll need to have a conversion kit built into your home’s power system in order to be able to power up your EV within a suitable time frame, commonly 6 to 10 hours.  More expensive options are available that will enable a quicker charging time.  To get power after commuting around the city, you’re going to require a charging station or a park at work that has a convenient and vacant plug-in port for you to charge your vehicle up again to get home.  There are some other charging stations (and we’ll need many more of these with more EVs running on the road) where you can park up for a couple of hours to recharge or top-up again for your commute home.  If you drive your EV out of town and into the country, you’ll need to be sure that you have enough power between charging ports, because, unlike in a vehicle with a combustion engine, a jerry can won’t get you out of trouble nor will the longest power cord.  I’m not sure what serious Outback off-roading enthusiasts will do if they drive an EV.  Neither am I sure what mobile ‘tradies’ will do when they get caught short on power between towns.

What is missing inside an EV that you have in a common ICE vehicle?

Noise is the first thing that comes to mind.  EVs do without the mechanical noise of the combustion/explosions that takes place inside a working ICE.  What you do get is a very quiet ride with a bit of road noise from the tyres and wind about the bodywork as it slips through the air.  Exhaust emissions are also a non-event.

EVs have no complex clutch or gearing, which means that EVs can accelerate smoothly and quickly, giving you the feeling that you’re driving a sports car.  Instant maximum torque is always accessible.

A purely electric EV has fewer moving parts.  There are only around about 20 moving parts in an electric motor, compared with nearly 2000 mechanical components in an ICE.  The result is that an EV will need less fiddly routine maintenance jobs like changing the engine oil every 10,000km.  You’ll still need to change the tyres on an EV, and you may go through more tyres because of all that instant torque and acceleration.  A pricier tyre made up of a softer compound might also be necessary in order for you to be able to stick to the road better with the EV’s instant and quick acceleration.

You will also need to replace the battery pack, as they do have a life.  This will be the one expensive maintenance bill.  Buy a new EV, and you’ll be able to put this off for 10 years or so.  Buy a second-hand EV, and who knows how long you’ll have before the battery pack will need replacing or you just won’t be going anywhere.

An EV owner will likely also need to pay some sort of road user charge or tax in the not-too-distant future, particularly if more EVs take to our roads.

However, own an EV and you won’t need an ICE tune-up or oil change, and the engine coolant won’t need to be replaced, either.  In essence, an EV has no petrol, diesel or oil.  It has no exhaust, no clutch or gears. It doesn’t have spark plugs, and it has no throbbing combustion noise that you find you get with a V8, a boxer or even a straight six.

As with any car, EVs have both their advantages and their disadvantages.  At this stage, an affordable EV would be a great and enjoyable car for the city environment.

EVs and Rare Earth Mining

Rare earth metals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China, mine production: 140,000 MT

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

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

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

Madagascar, mine production: 8,000 MT.

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

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

Thailand, mine production: 2,000 MT.

Vietnam, mine production: 1,000 MT.

Brazil, mine production: 1,000 MT.

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

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

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