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Fueling your Car

Auto Industry News – Q3 2017

We review all the major news events in the automotive industry from the third quarter of 2017.

 

Safety and Environment

In what became the first ever compulsory recall for vehicles in Australia, the ACCC intervened to shine the spotlight on cars affected by defective Takata airbags. The recall eventuated amid a rising number of fatalities worldwide attributed to the faulty components, including a local fatality in Sydney.

Emissions scandals continue to plague manufacturers, with Peugeot and Citroen being looked into for their alleged use of ‘cheating’ devices similar to those used by Volkswagen. The companies join Renault and Fiat Chrysler to be looked into, however, they have strongly denied the accusations. Also being accused of unconscionable conduct, Daimler is facing concerns it sold over one million cars with excess emissions.

In a boost for environmentalists, Queensland’s government announced plans to develop the world’s longest electric highway that will promote the use of electric vehicles.

 

Technology

Fuel technology continues to be a major focal point. Volvo has drawn a line in the sand, as the auto maker plans to begin phasing out petrol and diesel in the coming years. This aligns with legislation in France and the UK that will ban said vehicles from 2040, and China planning to soon ban the production of these vehicles, although Australia isn’t expected to follow suit any time soon.

Locally, the nation could be at the forefront of hydrogen fuel technology, with a world first trial set for hydrogen powered vehicles next year. South Australia even became the first Australian state to endorse hydrogen as the next fuel technology.

On a related note, Sydney will play host to integral trials surrounding the future of autonomous vehicles in Australia, while first round results from testing in Victoria suggest infrastructure and technology are currently ill equipped for self-driving vehicles. Abroad however, and vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is eyeing the electric vehicle market, set to take on dedicated manufacturers as soon as 2020.

Other technology developments include:

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

The government was caught up in a vehicle ‘carbon tax’ controversy, with auto bodies and car makers slamming a rumoured proposal, although the government went on the front foot to deny its prospects.

Elsewhere, the ACCC commenced proceedings against Ford Australia over its ‘faulty’ auto transmissions, however the car maker announced it will contend the accusations. Also facing scrutiny from the ACCC, Holden settled an investigation by announcing the industry’s first vehicle refund and replacement scheme for the first 60 days of vehicle ownership

However, the ACCC saved its biggest salvo for the broader new car industry, detailing a wide range of concerns regarding the way customers’ complaints are dealt with, the sharing of manufacturer data with independent repairers, and real world fuel/emissions tests. The developments could give rise to lemon laws. Naturally, this provoked concern and consternation from the automotive bodies.
Finally, the Federal Court has requested Volkswagen publish changes to vehicle performance on its website and social media arising from the Dieselgate saga.

Tesla Car Australia Expands The Network Range.

A concern for owners and drivers of purely electrically powered cars is what’s called “range anxiety”. Much like a conventional car, range will vary depending on driving style, with spirited and exuberant driving draining charge quicker.

Tesla Cars Australia recently updated the list of charging stations available, with its 300th charge point being added at the Yarra Valley De Bortoli estate at Dixon’s Creek in Victoria. Over that, Tesla have added 100 charger stations in just six months and announced a global doubling of stations, demonstrating their committment to making having a Tesla car as convenient as possible.

With locations identified across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, once completed and installed Tesla owners will be able to drive from Adelaide’s city centre to Gympie in North Queensland completely emissions-free.

South Australia and Western Australia will see their first Supercharger locations, whilst the other additions in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland will allow for Tesla owners to visit popular holiday locations. Tesla’s milestone 300th Destination Charger is situated approximately 50 kilometres north-east of Melbourne near the towns of Yarra Glen and Healesville and is famous for producing some of the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Australia.

The winery is well suited as a Destination Charging site, which is designed to be installed at locations where owners of the award winning Model S and Model X will spend a few hours to recharge. Most Destination Charging sites are found at wineries, shopping centres, hotels, resorts and secure parking locations, utilising the same infrastructure as owners use at home.

Tesla Destination Charging stations are designed to enable Tesla owners to drive to key locations where Tesla owners frequent for longer stops with the knowledge they have a charging solution. Destination Charging stations use the same unit as the Wall Connector used at home and charge at a rate of 40km every hour on 32amp or up to 81 km per hour with 3 phase. All charging is dependent on a site’s power output. This style of charging is a replication of the convenience Tesla owners receive when charging at home.

(With thanks to Tesla Car Australia).

Will Diesel Vehicles Still be a Part of our Future?

In recent times, diesel fuel technology has been occupying the news in what are (mostly) unwanted circumstances. Headlined by the Volkswagen ‘Dieselgate’ saga, which just about spread to all corners of the world, several other auto makers have also come under scrutiny over concerns they may have installed diesel emissions cheating devices.

In the wake of the scandal, Volkswagen’s CEO even went as far as to say that the manufacturer would no longer be offering diesel vehicles in the US market. The company cited that money being spent to adhere to increasingly stricter regulations could instead be better utilised by serving future technology, such as electric vehicles.

While the remarks were not necessarily aimed at the local car market, it’s not unreasonable that changes occurring in the US market would flow down under. After all, major cities in Europe, and even places like Mexico and India are already planning to take action in some form to discourage the use of diesel powered cars. One example even sees the UK mulling the idea of a trade in system for diesel cars in pollution ‘hotspots’. Meanwhile, the European Union’s industry commissioner has also suggested the phasing out of diesel vehicles could be faster than anticipated.

Given Australia is generally a follower when it comes to the automotive market, one has to wonder – will a change be forced upon local motorists to move away from diesel vehicles?

Across the last decade, it’s estimated that the number of diesel vehicles on the road has more than doubled – today contributing one third of new car sales. As well as environmental issues, the sales growth comes despite health professionals talking about the risks associated with this type of fuel technology. Most concerning, doctors are focusing on the levels of nitrogen oxide being emitted from these vehicles, widely regarded as contributing factors to respiratory illnesses and even cancer.

What’s also evident is the relative ‘strength’ in diesel car sales is being fuelled by the Australian obsession with diesel powered SUVs and utes. It’s in these categories where diesel sales have surged, despite a modest decrease in the proportion of passenger cars sold which are powered by diesel. Compared with the dynamics of other markets, particularly those in compact European cities, or heavily polluted mega cities in Asia, Australia sees a far greater volume of SUVs on our roads.

With a clearly established taste for larger vehicles, it seems Australian motorists will for now continue to place a greater emphasis on the prospect of a greater driving range afforded by diesel. The fuel technology, for all its health hazards, is perhaps being overlooked by authorities given the sprawling nature of our cities and lower population levels. It’s also unlikely that until such time that alternative fuel technologies like hydrogen and electricity become mainstream, and are even tailored towards our local taste for SUVs and utes, then we may have accepted our differences from the rest of the world.

Let’s also not forget, the Australian government earns a sizeable chunk of money from its excise tax on diesel. Will they be taking a slice of margins once alternative fuels becomes readily available? Maybe they’ll find a way to recoup a portion – but it’s hard to imagine they have an incentive to fast-track these changes.

Six Myths About Electric And Hybrid Cars

#1: Electric Vehicles Put A Huge Drain On The National Grid

OK, there’s no denying that if you’re plugging in an electric car to recharge its batteries, you’re going to use electricity, which means that someone has to generate it.  It’s also true that if there’s too much demand on the national grid all at once, then there’ll be problems with “brown-outs” (signalled by lights dipping and flickering when the new load comes on the scene – those who have lived in off-the-grid houses will know all about this).  Notice those key words “all at once”?  The amount of power demanded by electric vehicles – at least at this stage – is peanuts compared to the demand of air conditioning in summer in the middle of the day, especially during a super-hot summer like the one we’ve been having.  In the USA, electric vehicles only account for 10% of the electricity demand. If everybody tried to (a) turn on their air-conditioning in the home and (b) charge their vehicles all at the same time, then yes, this would put too much of a load on the national grid.  The answer?  Charge your vehicle during off-peak times in the evenings and overnight when industry isn’t calling for as much power and air-conditioning systems aren’t working so hard.

#2: Electric Vehicles Haven’t Got Much Range

Some people are reluctant to purchase an electric vehicle because they have mental images of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery and no way to recharge it.  It’s true that if you regularly drove long expanses of open road in the middle of nowhere, you could get yourself in a mess.  However, most of us aren’t driving around the Outback or around the farm on a regular daily basis: most of us are driving around the city. Most electric cars have a decent range of at least 100 km and some have a lot more.  The typical city commute tends to be shorter than this – a lot shorter.  Even if you live in a dormitory suburb.  On top of this, the 100-km range is at the lower end of battery life and ranges for electric cars these days.  The technology is improving as well, and some of the big names in electric vehicles (Tesla, Chevrolet and Nissan) are scheduled to release EVs that can get well over 300 km per charge.

#3: Electric Vehicles Are Expensive Luxury Items

This one is not quite a myth and not quite the truth.  Yes, electric vehicles have a certain cachet and the early examples had quite a large price ticket.  Some still do, especially the fully electric vehicles (as opposed to hybrids, which are on a pricewise par with their petrol and diesel fuelled equivalents).  However, there’s a pattern that economists and sustainable energy boffins have noticed that happens with every new green technology – and even some that aren’t quite so green per se.  The pattern goes like this: (a) A new technology comes on the scene.  It’s hot, it’s new and it’s sexy, and everyone is drooling and excited about it.  (b) The well-heeled jump on board and the new technology becomes a status symbol. (c) The manufacturers start introducing cheaper versions for the mass market (which, incidentally, are improvements over the older versions).  (d) Everybody’s got one and the wealthy are looking for the next hot item.  You’ve possibly already seen this happen in your lifetime with other technologies: think of cell phones.  Some readers will remember back in the 1980s and 1990s with those brick mobile phones.  They were one heck of a status symbol.  Now it seems that the majority of teenagers have a phone that makes the old status-symbol bricks of the 1990s look pathetic.   The same has happened with heaps of automotive technology, too, where what was once a luxury item is now standard: this has happened to seat belts, automatic transmissions, car stereos, cruise control, ABS brakes and airbags.  Heck, even the car itself was once a luxury toy for the wealthy.  The same is starting to happen with EVs and hybrids.  They’re beginning to head mass-market.  Given the desire for cleaner, greener technologies by many governments giving things an extra push and we’ll soon see the price tag of new EVs come down, as has already happened with hybrids.

#4: EVs and Hybrid Vehicles Are Dinky Little Hatchbacks

I wouldn’t call the Nissan Pathfinder a dinky little hatchback.  Nor the Mitsubishi Outlander .  These both come in hybrid variants.  What about electric vehicles?  Well, Audi Australia has an all-electric SUV planned for release by 2020, and that’s just one company.  Yes, you can get small electric and hybrid hatchbacks.  You can also get hybrid sedans and stationwagons.  Land Rover has even put out some hybrid 4x4s (some of which did the rather rugged Silk Road in a publicity stunt a couple of years back).  Electric 4x4s won’t be too far behind, especially as battery range improves.

#5: Hybrid and EV batteries Have Short Lives

One of the big worries about hybrids and EVs is that they would cause environmental headaches thanks to the batteries running out and needing to be disposed of – and batteries can be a disposal nightmare.  However, if you keep the battery nicely topped up and don’t drain it completely out of charge all the time, it has a nice long lifespan and won’t need to be $$$replaced$$$$.

#6: There’s A Conspiracy To Get Rid Of Electric Vehicles

No.  In spite of the documentary that came out in 2006 entitled Who Killed The Electric Car?, there isn’t some petrodollar-backed conspiracy to shut down production of electric cars.  Yes, GM recalled its EV1 back in the 1990s and ceased production.  However, you just have to look around you and look at any good car review site (ours, for example!) to see that there are plenty of hybrids and EVs out there, with more set to enter the market.

2017 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatch: A Private Fleet Car Review.

Toyota adds another arrow to its Hybrid quiver with the release of the Corolla Hybrid Hatch, alongside the Camry Hybrid and Prius. It’s priced sharply, from $26990 plus ORCs and packs great value into the car thanks to borrowing features from the top of the range ZR. A Wheel Thing checks out the 2017 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Hatch.Visually, there’s no way to pick the Hybrid from its siblings, until you note the discreet Hybrid badging on the forward flanks and tailgate. It’s otherwise standard Corolla hatch, with a pedestrian friendly bonnet that almost straight line joins the windscreen. The broad swept tail lights have a sharply defined shelf in their diamond shape and are a defining feature of the rear of the car. Joining the front wheel arch and headlights is a swooping bifurcated line that joins to become one at the rear and draws the eyes to the privacy glass for the rear section.Wheels are ten spoke alloys at 16 inches in diameter clad in 205/55 Michelin Energy rubber. The Hybrid also pinches LED DRLs and auto levelling headlights from the ZR.
There’s further ZR touches inside with dual zone airconditioning, Suna traffic updates and satnav, Toyota Link (using a paired smartphone to provide data for onboard apps), and a 4.2 inch full colour LCD display for the driver that provides information including how the energy and drive is approportioned.The Hybrid Hatch is geared towards a better driving experience, with a double wishbone rear suspension, an electronically controlled brake system (that feeds regenerative energy back into the engine system), bigger 296 mm x 28 mm discs at the front as part of that energy recovery. The drive system itself consists of an Atkinson Cycle four cylinder petrol powered engine and a nickel metal hydride battery charged from the regenerative system and the petrol engine. Transmission is what Toyota describes as an E-CVT, an Electronically controlled Constant Variable Transmission.

At 5200 rpm the petrol engine delivers 73 kW and will give 142 torques at 4000 rpm. The specified fuel is 95RON and Toyota quotes 4.1L/3.9L/4.1L per 100 kilometres from the 45 litre tank (combined/urban/highway). In theory, that allows the Corolla Hybrid Hatch to travel somewhere close to 1000 kilometres. Considering a dry weight of 1365 kg and a gross weight of just over 1800 kilos, that seems like a pretty decent range.
The real world begs, however, to disagree.The system is programed for three drive modes: EV, Eco, and Power. Select EV, after getting in, strapping in, and pressing the blue hued Start/Stop button, then move the somewhat counter intuitive drive selector to D (it’s sprung so it will return to a central position by itself), and gently press the accelerator as the Hybrid silently moves off. Unfortunately, no matter how gently you move off, the programming activates the petrol engine at 30 kmh and flashes a warning on the dash screen to say so.
In real terms this effectively neuters the point of having an electically operated system, as from hereon in, the petrol engine is shown to either be directing power to the front wheels or momentarility topping up the battery. Once off the accelerator, the display will show the car is in Eco but still showing the petrol engine as involved. There is a B option on the selector, with that further engaging the brakes for regenerative energy and charges the battery located under a rear pew.Essentially, the petrol engine is constantly supplying a form of power to the drivetrain, rather than allowing the electrical engine to do more work. Yes, you do get kinetic energy fed back into the system but that restriction on where the petrol engine cuts in and continues to partner with the electrical is obvious with the fuel gauge showing a final figure of a quarter full, the trip meter shows 609 kilometres covered, consumption of 5.0L/100 kilometres and the bulk of the travel has been with a sole occupant…When driven with a light right foot, forward motion is…leisurely. A little bit more pressure does increade rapidity whilst a hard launch will get the Corolla to freeway speeds reasonably quickly but, again, at the expense of fuel consumption. What you’ll also get is a very good ride quality, with plenty of comfort, fluency, absorption, with the typical short travel crash and thump from shopping centre car parks, most likely the Corolla’s second most common habitat. On the highway it’s a smooth, mostly quiet ride, with bare hints of wind noise and tarmac rumble.Turn in from the steering is tight, with a ratio that promises just 2.7 turns lock to lock. There’s some numbness in regards to telling the driver about the road and coupled with tyres that never seemed to offer 100% confidence in grip in, admittedly, almost monsoonal conditions at times, there was a seat of the pants feeling of needing to back off a bit more than one would expect would be needed. It’d be interesting to drive the Hybrid in dry conditions to see what the grip level via the seat of the pants really is.In other aspects, the Hybrid Corolla is the same as any other Toyota. It’s loaded with safety features, has the same 3 year or 100,000 kilometre warranty, some very comfortable if basic looking cloth seats front (manually adjusted, by the way) and rear, a dullish looking plastic plate running across the dash, and retro style air vents left and right. The touchscreen itself is typically good Toyota in layout and usage, plus has apps which require a smartphone to be added in order to access.At The End Of The Drive.
From one point of view, it’s a curious thing that Toyota have added a hybrid to its biggest selling range considering there’s three Prius variants to choose from. BUT, the Corolla Hybrid looks like a Corolla and it IS one of the biggest selling cars going. From A Wheel Thing’s point of view, it’s got the green credentials to appeal, especially with that final fuel consumption figure, but lacks the driveability and variety it should have due to the programming restriction of being predominantly petrol, not electrically, motorvated.
To make up your own mind head over to the Toyota website and follow the links under new cars.

Uh-Oh, I’ve Used the Wrong Fuel. Now What?

As humans, we’re prone to an error or two from time to time. In fact, we could hardly consider ourselves human if we were perfect and not making the odd mistake. And while it’s not common to mix up different fuel types when putting them into your vehicle, it can and does happen. After all, for those pump nozzles to be colour-coded, and even slightly different fits, someone must have realised there was a problem. However, even if you end up making this surprisingly not so uncommon mistake, you can rectify the issue and minimise the prospect of any long-term damage to your vehicle.

When petrol is inserted into diesel vehicles, the more common mix-up, the engine and fuel injector system are most prone to issues. Petrol acts as a solvent to reduce the lubrication within a diesel fuel pump, in turn creating weakness within the diesel fuel pump. Where metals make contact with each other, a lack of lubrication can mean that tiny fragments are created. The impact of these fragments can be notable as they make their way through the rest of the fuel system. Engines potentially may also be exposed to damage as a result of the extreme and ill-regulated compression of petrol fuel.

Although diesel used in petrol engines still has the chance to create catastrophic damage, petrol engines tend to suffer immediate performance issues that are symptomatic of a fuel mix-up. This may include a poorly running vehicle, or one that won’t start at all.

If you’ve realised you’ve made a mistake, the most fundamental rule is to refrain from starting the ignition. As soon as you switch that key, fuel is circulated right through the system, extensively expanding the areas at risk.

Your first point of call should be to ask a licensed towing agency to transport the vehicle to a workshop premises, or alternatively, you will need to put the car into neutral and push it away. The problem with the latter approach however, is that there are few places immediately near a service station where it is appropriate to syphon fuel. Doing this on the side of a road, particularly major roads where service stations are located, is not the most logical location. Furthermore, you also run the risk of polluting the environment via waterways and the ground.

If on the other hand, you don’t immediately realise your error and only start to notice performance issues a short time after fuelling up, stop immediately and arrange for your vehicle to be towed away. The damage at this point, and certainly beyond, is more likely to be meaningful if left longer without being addressed. Diesel systems are likely to require a rework of the whole fuel system or worse, while petrol engines are more likely to need the fuel drained, lines flushed and filter changed.

Using the wrong petrol grade however, is of less concern. Although a lower grade still has the potential to have wider implications for a high-grade system, this is more reserved for specific vehicles. Even some high performance vehicles will slug away on a lower grade without any lasting damage, only a temporary reduction in performance levels. And if you fill up with a high grade fuel in your 91ULP vehicle, learn from your mistake and appreciate that the only damage was a few dollars difference between the cost in fuel grades – certainly not a few thousand dollars in repairs!

 

Are Electric Vehicles Losing Traction in the Market

In a year where new car sales catapulted to new heights, surely it would be reasonable to expect that ‘green’ vehicles with alternative fuel technology shared in this growth? If anything, starting from a low base, one might even expect that their year-on-year growth significantly outperformed petrol and diesel vehicles. After all, Australian motorists are supposedly becoming more environmentally conscious and converting to green technology, no?

Imagine the surprise then, reviewing the recent sales figures for electric vehicles and hybrids in Australia throughout 2016. Electric vehicles in the private passenger segment decreased from 220 sales in 2015, to a dismal 65. That’s right. Not only did electric vehicles in this segment fail to make any meaningful progression, but a mere 65 were sold right around the country over the course of 366 days – lucky to have that extra day too.

As you look across the board in other segments, the numbers for electric vehicles don’t get much better. Sales in the non-private passenger sector decreased 30% (101 vehicles sold). The Private SUV sector sold 7 vehicles, down 92% from 2015 – a number just high enough to count on two hands. The non-private SUV sector decreased 93% from 661 sales in 2015, to 42 in 2016. There’s really no silver lining here at all.

Hybrid vehicles fared significantly better than their ‘eco-friendly’ counterparts, albeit underachieved in some areas. Within the private sector, hybrids saw a respective drop of 4% and 21% for passenger and SUV vehicles. The number of sales for each category however, remains somewhat more respectable than those for electric vehicles at 2,588 and 840.There was encouraging progress in the non-private sector for hybrids, with passenger car sales recording a 9% gain (now 8,049), and SUVs notching up impressive growth of 25% to reach 1,148 sales.

Why then, despite the great fanfare surrounding Tesla’s Model 3 last year in April, are alternative fuel vehicles, particularly electric vehicles, struggling to penetrate into the Australian market? Other countries including Norway and India have already announced initiatives to move towards alternative technology, why is Australia late to the party? Is it a case of motorists pinning their hopes on Tesla’s vehicle, and in the meantime exposing the frailty in the EV market?

We’ve heard calls from Federal and state governments, the Australian Greens Party, auto-makers like Audi, and other key stakeholders for electric vehicles to be supported through an assortment of initiatives – cheaper rego, lower insurance premiums, subsidised charging, and even the prospect of toll discounts. These are all initiatives that will no doubt prove helpful – if not for the fact that there are two other pressing issues which steer motorists away from electric vehicles – a lack of infrastructure, and vehicle prices.

When Tesla’s Model 3 goes on sale later this year, it is set to be priced at $47,500. That’s an improvement over current offerings in the EV market, which range between $55,000 and $130,000. However, the reality is, such a price still represents an imposing figure to motorists who now have access to many ‘affordable’ models of regular vehicles from luxury automakers. Combine that with the fact that motorists are still limited for choice in terms of the necessary infrastructure, and it’s no surprise electric vehicles are losing traction in the market.

The Model 3 could be the starting point for a reversal in sales, but without a fundamental shift from other manufacturers, and the necessary support, it could be some time before traditional vehicles are having to fight for their overwhelming market share.

 

Fuel Saving Devices – Are They For Real?

M

(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

A few years ago, I was approached by a strange man on the street who started chatting and told me all about some stick sort of device he put in his car engine to save him fuel and it was absolutely amazing, blah, blah, blah, and would I like to come to his house and have a look at it?  Needless to say, being a smart woman, I did not go off to the home of a strange guy who said he had a stick that did amazing things he wanted to show me…  I thought no more about this encounter, especially as I discovered later that this guy was the local loony.

However, I have since discovered that devices that can be attached to car engines to supposedly improve the fuel efficiency aren’t the ravings of a lunatic and aren’t the motoring equivalent of “Would you like to come upstairs and see my butterfly collection?”  They are out there on the market, with several made right here in Australia and with lots of people raving about them.  However, are these people right to rave about them?

The first type of device is indeed a stick sort of thing – guess I owe that guy an apology for doubting him but I still wouldn’t go round to his place to have a look at it.  This claims to be a type of catalyst that cleans up the fuel so there aren’t the little gummy particles and other flaws that don’t burn properly during the brief flash of time that the fuel is in the combustion chamber.  In the ordinary way, these large unburnt particles would simply be coughed out in the exhaust system and wasted.  By dissolving these particles into smaller bits, the manufacturers claim that you’ll save fuel because you’re actually using what you’ve already paid for rather than wasting it. Well, that’s what they say, anyway.

Turns out their claims about catalysts may not be all that good.  The red flags went up for me at one site when they claimed that fuel will get mould and bacteria in it over time.  Considering that petrol and kerosene rip living cells to shreds – which is why you should be careful not to get it on your hands and why petrol used to be used to kill head lice – I didn’t quite swallow this one.  Secondly, a catalyst is something that prods a sluggish, reluctant reaction into happening.  The combustion of fossil fuels isn’t exactly a sluggish reaction for a start – quite the contrary.  Lastly, dissolving chunks of grease isn’t anything to do with catalysis (and petrol dissolves grease anyway).  A number of them have been banned or severely reprimanded for making misleading claims.

The second main type of fuel saving device consists of a sort of fan thingummy that changes the way that air flows into the combustion chamber, meaning that those nasty big gummy particles get broken up into fine droplets so that they burn cleaner.  It supposedly makes the air swirl around in the combustion chamber in a sort of vortex shape, which apparently saves fuel.

There is a third type of fuel saving gadget that involves magnets, which are claimed to line up something in the molecules so they burn better.  However, as we all probably learned back when we were kiddies, magnets only work on metal!  If there’s metal in your fuel, something’s very wrong with your car.  Avoid these things.

A bit of prodding around on the internet suggests that most reputable motoring organisations tend to be very, very sceptical about these gadgets and that most of the claims of great savings come from testimonials and not from properly carried out scientific tests.  OK, the claim that parachutes save lives hasn’t been subjected to a proper scientific test either, so simply going on testimonials and empirical evidence isn’t always bad (Smith and Pell, 2003, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC300808/).   I don’t want to be close-minded but I don’t want to be a gullible idiot either, so we’d all like to hear from people who have tried them.  What has been your experience?  Have you managed to save fuel or have you been sucked in by a scam – and with which products?

For those who are interested in saving fuel and want to do things the more conventional way, the following devices are guaranteed and won’t cost you anywhere as near as much as those gadgets in the long run:

  • a clean air filter, changed when you’re supposed to do it
  • tyres inflated to the right pressure
  • your right foot, applied lightly, rather than heavily

And always be as cautious about the claims of device manufacturers as you would be about strangers on the street trying to get you to come back to their place. Some may just be friendly new neighbours but…

A Few Biofuel Myths Busted

E10Tons of research is being done in the area of producing biofuels, even if you might not know this when you go to fill up your vehicle.  Heck, there’s whole scientific journals – several of them, in fact – dedicated to researching biofuels.  A lot of them cover obscure and hard to understand topics, like research to find particular bacteria that are capable of breaking down wood mass so it can be turned into ethanol, but someone’s got to do all the fiddly research if we want something sustainable to put into our cars.

Nevertheless, there are still quite a lot of misconceptions out there to do with biofuels.  Biofuels Association Australia, among other people, are doing their bit to educate the public and expose these myths for what they are.  Some of these things might have been true in the past but all that research has changed things – but general thinking doesn’t seem to have caught up.

Here’s a handful of these myths that we need to say goodbye to. How many are you guilty of believing?

Myth #1: E10 and similar biofuel blends won’t work in my car.

The truth: If your vehicle was made after 1986 and can run on regular unleaded petrol (91RON), it can run on an E10 blend (that’s 10% ethanol mixed with the petrol) without any hassles.  Higher proportions of ethanol and cars that need 95RON or 98RON may be another story and you’ll need to talk to the manufacturers or the petrol companies about whether this will be OK.  If you’re not sure about your car and whether it can run on E10, check it out on the E10 OK website https://e10ok.initiatives.qld.gov.au/. (If you’ve got a diesel engine, we can tell you right away that no, you can’t use E10. E10 is petrol.  Look into biodiesel instead.)

Myth #2: You have to convert your car before you can use biofuels.

The truth: Once again, if your car was made after 1986 and can run on regular 91RON unleaded, it can take E10 without any hassles.  The same goes for your lawnmower, your truck, your motorbike, your boat – anything with an engine.

Myth #3: Biofuels aren’t all that hot for sustainability because they compete with food crops for water, land and fertiliser.

The truth: This can be the case with biodiesel that’s sourced from corn oil. However, the big push these days is to make the most of waste products from the food industry, such as leftover pulp and residues from Australia’s famous sugar industry, wood chips from papermaking, brewery residues, etc., etc.  In the biodiesel department, they know that the competing resources issue is a problem, so they’re doing things like researching crops that produce food and biofuel feedstock at the same time, biofuel crops that grow on land that’s no good for food or that can cope with less water, and algae that grow happily in your local sewage pond.

Myth #4: Biofuels cause deforestation.

The truth: For a start off, this certainly isn’t the case here Down Under, as the waste from the sugar industry keeps up a good supply of ethanol.  As a matter of fact, this is also the case in Brazil, which also has a big sugar industry – no, they’re not cutting down vast tracts of the Amazon to grow biofuel stocks.  To be fair, they may have cut a bit down a long time ago, but most of Brazil’s sugar industry is located a long way from the Amazon.  It’s kind of like saying that Queensland’s sugar industry is causing deforestation in Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory – Brazil has about a million square kilometres than Australia, don’t forget.

OK, if you want to get really technical, some of the industries that produce the waste that gets used to make ethanol may have cut down bits of forest that they shouldn’t. However, it’s not the biofuel that’s to blame here but the original industry.

Myth #5: My vehicle won’t have as much power if I use an ethanol blend in it.

The truth: Actually, ethanol has a higher octane rating than petrol, according to Biofuels Association Australia, so you may end up getting more power instead of less with a biofuel blend.

Myth #6: Biodiesel is hard on fuel lines and gaskets.

The truth: this will depend on how old your car is and what your fuel lines are made of. If your vehicle is on the older side and/or you’ve got rubber gaskets and fuel lines, biodiesel will attack the rubber, as it’s a stronger solvent than fossil fuel-sourced diesel.  Have a wee chat with your mechanic to see what the innards of your vehicle are made of – if they’re not rubber, you should be all good.

To find out more about biofuels in Australia at the moment and find out the latest, have a browse around the Biofuels Association Australia website (http://biofuelsassociation.com.au/).

 

 

 

Tesla Looks Further Towards The Future.

Tesla has announced a new, over the air, software upgrade, for the Model S and Model X. This brings a new, redesigned, User Interface (UI) to the massive touchscreen. With the upgrade due in Australia sometime from October 2016, here’s what Tesla Australia had to say:

tesla_model_s_profile-1-980x420Tesla makes the only cars on the road that continue to get safer, smarter, and more capable over time, thanks to free, over-the-air software updates. While traditional cars have static features, a Tesla is more akin to a smartphone, adding new functionality and enhancements throughout the life of the car.
Software update 8.0 kicks off a significant over-the-air overhaul of the Tesla touchscreen and introduces the biggest UI revamp since the launch of Model S. Customers who purchased their car in 2012 will receive the same value of functionality and improvement as customers who purchased vehicles last month. 8.0 combines a modern look with updates to Autopilot, Navigation with Trip Planner, Maps, and the Media Player for a safer, more advanced driving experience. In an industry-first safety measure, we’re also introducing Cabin Overheat Protection, focused on child (and pet) safety. This feature keeps the car at a safe temperature, even when the car is off, and is made possible by our uniquely large battery packs.
Intuitive media player
The media player has been redesigned and personalised to put your favourite content front and center. Search is now simpler to access and more powerful, accessing streaming radio, live stations, podcasts, and any USB device to help you quickly find what they’re looking for.
Voice commands
Voice controls are now easier and clearer to use. Initiation is quick, and clear visual feedback lets you focus on the road without compromising convenience or control.
  • Voice commands initiate with a single tap
  • Feedback in the form of a transcript now appears on the instrument panel to confirm your command
  • Visual tips remind you what commands are available tesla-update
Maps and navigation
Maps have been updated to span the entire touchscreen, displaying the most important details of your trip. The control bar fades automatically for an uncluttered navigation experience.
  • Search for destinations with a single touch or voice command
  • Zoom adjusts based on location to display what you need to see most
  • Navigate to home or work with a single swipe
  • When at home, swipe the navigation button down in the Maps app and navigation will automatically route you to work. When away from home, swipe down and navigation will route back
Cabin Overheat Protection
In an industry-first safety measure, we’re also introducing Cabin Overheat Protect, focused on child (and pet) safety. This feature keeps the car at a safe temperature for hours, even when the car is off. This feature is only made possible by an electric vehicle with Tesla’s uniquely large battery packs.
Trip Planner
Trip Planner provides a clear overview of your journey before you leave, with maps that zoom out to show your entire route. Putting your Tesla into Drive automatically starts navigation to your first waypoint.
Autopilot Enhancements
Advancements in signal processing use the Tesla’s onboard radar to persistently capture snapshots of its surroundings, creating a 3D picture of the world. Learn more about seeing the world in radar.
Displays now show angled vehicles as they enter a curve and the Autosteer indicator has been updated to more clearly indicate when Autosteer is engaged. We won’t list all 200 improvements to Autopilot in 8.0, but here are a few additions:
  • Autopilot has been tuned to be more responsive and smoother in stop-and-go traffic
  • Enhanced safety requirement which disables Autosteer during trip when safety warnings are ignored
  • Autosteer now navigates highway interchanges
  • Redesigned Autopilot indicators
  • Curve speed adaptation now uses fleet-learned roadway curvature
  • Autopilot now controls for two cars ahead improving reaction time to otherwise-invisible heavy braking events
  • Car offsets in lane when overtaking a slower vehicle driving close to its lane edge

Head to www.tesla.com for further information.