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Stay Safe While Driving Home For Christmas

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Chris Rea’s classic, “Driving Home For Christmas”. Quite a lot of us will be doing this during this holiday season – driving somewhere to celebrate, that is, not listening to Chris Rea. Whether we’re driving from one side of town to another to visit the relatives, or whether we’re taking the chance to make the most of the newly opened borders and head off on a long-awaited summer road trip, we want to have a happy summer holiday season that’s remembered for all the right reasons, rather than for a road tragedy.

If you’re planning a trip of any length during this Christmas, New Year and summer holiday season, then here’s a bunch of tips to keep in mind to make sure that things go smoothly and safely for everybody.

  1. Allow more time for your journey. During the lead-up to Christmas, the roads are super-busy. Everybody’s travelling and/or doing their Christmas shopping, and taking the kids places now that school’s out for the summer. At the same time, it always feels like the road works crews are stepping things up, trying to get scheduled maintenance tasks done before the Christmas closedown. This means that you can expect the roads to be busy and that things will take longer. Save yourself some stress and allow for the extra time, rather than ending up stressed and under time pressure, which could cause you take silly risks.
  2. Drive sober. You’d think that we shouldn’t need reminding about this, but every year, you hear about some idiot crashing thanks to having had a few too many bevvies. Yes, it’s party season and the time of year when we’re most likely to over-indulge, but the risk of driving drunk is still there. Play it safe and know your limits. Have a designated driver (take turns if needed). These days, it’s perfectly socially acceptable to not drink alcohol, and there are plenty of non-alcoholic cocktails that say “party” without getting you smashed (in both senses) – a Virgin Mary is rather seasonally appropriate, don’t you think? If you have overdone it, then don’t drive. Better to crash on a mate’s sofa than into a lamppost.
  3. Stay hydrated. It’s summer, so things get hot. This means that our bodies need more liquid. What’s more, if you have a flask of something nice and cold (and non-alcoholic, of course) then you can help yourself chill down and avoid headaches with a nice cold drink. If you’ve got a long trip planned, then try freezing a plastic bottle of water overnight then taking this with you. It will slowly melt as the hours pass, giving you a deliciously cold drink.
  4. Get yourself a good playlist. If you’re going to be stuck in the car for ages driving interstate with the kids, then a good playlist – of Christmas carols or otherwise – can help you get in the right mood and can help you stay calm. Create yourself a playlist of favourite Christmas carols then sing along with them as loud as you can with the windows down, especially if you’re stuck in road works. See how many smiles you can collect. Alternatively, if you’re fed up with twee jingly tunes, then put on your own playlist of bangers to listen to so that the annoying tune you heard in the store doesn’t stay on repeat in your brain.
  5. Keep the speed down. If you’ve allowed more time for your trip, you should be OK here. However, if you haven’t it’s better to arrive later than never. It’s also better not to add to the Christmas expenses with a speeding ticket. The cops are usually out in force at this time of year, so keep the right foot light. This especially applies if you’re driving to a less familiar area where the speed limits may not be what your instincts are telling you.
  6. Get your car summer-ready. It’s always wise to ensure that the fluids are topped up and that the windscreen is clean, and that everything else is as it should be in your car. It’s especially important to do this before a long trip if you haven’t had one for a while, which is likely to be the case in 2021 when the interstate borders have opened after having been closed for so long.
  7. If you can, avoid the more congested routes and times. Smart use of maps and timing your travel for less popular times can help avoid clogged roads and being caught in a traffic jam. Driving at night or in the early morning can also be cooler. However, make sure that you don’t try do drive when tired. And if you do get caught in a stream of traffic that’s top to toe in tail lights, then don’t stew about it but just go with the flow. You will get there eventually, as long as you get there safely.

EV Revolution

Let’s ditch fossil fuels and crude oil for a while, since some say that oil is considered environmentally unclean and unfit for burning.  So, what about electric?  Which of our earth’s finite resources are needed to make electric vehicles (EVs)?  It will be Tanzania, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Canada or even Brazil who could be the providing the rest of the world with precious raw metals that the greener EV requires.

As electric cars appear to be going mainstream and all our main automotive manufactures look to ditch internal combustion engines (ICEs) by 2025-ish, these big automotive giants have to source and make investments into electric cars and their necessary componentry.  Countries like South Africa, Tanzania, China and even Australia have very mineral-rich and rare metal resources.  These countries and their mining industries are the world’s best environmentally friendly strategy to power EVs and their mass production.

There is a global race on that is driving the demand for countries, including quite a few in Africa, to mine as much of their precious metal resources to equip the world with a greener fleet of vehicles.  This clambering for sourcing all the right stuff for EV production en masse could soon provide billions of dollars into certain countries’ GDP rates.

Rare metals like copper, lithium, cobalt and nickel are some of the most discussed metals in EV production demands.  Other metals like neodymium (a rare earth metal), aluminium and zinc have emerged as some other new resources that will be needed in the rapid quest for a greener world. Statista, a German company specializing in market and consumer data, estimates that the demand for metals such as nickel, aluminium, and iron (all the critical components in EVs) will jump to as much as 14 times the rate that it is now by 2030.  This huge demand for environmentally friendly EV minerals for meeting the green EV car revolution will provide a great cash injection for a well-endowed African state.  Demand for metals like lithium and graphite are also expected to rise substantially, even by as much as 9-10 times by 2030.

The large estimated increase (14x) in demand for the clean EV minerals to meet the intended global EV production rates over the next ten years is accompanied by the need for vehicle battery outputs and infrastructure, which are expected to rise by millions of times over in the very near future.  Even Toyota recently announced a 13.6 billion US investment into electric cars and hybrids, with some 9 billion US dollars to be spent on battery production alone.  This is fantastic news for the environment and carbon zero.

The increase in demand for these rare and hard to obtain metals is pushing top mining and big investment companies around the globe to invest in the acquisition of key materials used in the production of EV batteries, EVs themselves, and their much needed electrical infrastructure.  Solar energy componentry, as well as the EV requirements, all point towards an enormous boom in demand for these rare and hard to reach resources, as well as creating an opportunity to make even more money than the awful and “dirty” fossil fuel endeavours.

It is expected that the sales and production of EVs will continue to accelerate quickly over the next five years.  Big automotive giants who are changing to larger-scale EV production have major mining countries like South Africa, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Botswana on their radar.  These are just some of the main African countries, let alone other countries around the world, who enjoy bountiful reserves of some of the world’s most precious metals and minerals: minerals such as gold, diamond, cobalt, iron ore, coal, and copper.  Meeting the demands by governing authorities and their growing appetite for better and greener EVs will be much better for the environment – and for special places like Africa, I’m sure.

President Hakainde Hichilema is the new president for Zambia, and he has recently announced plans to ramp up mining in particular, and to jump-start Zambia’s economy.  Part of his economic plan provides for the rapidly growing EV battery industry, with cobalt and copper identified as key components.  The workforce will be a great place for young men from the age of 15 years old, who will be able to work in the dangerous mining industry.  Countries like Zambia and Tanzania are working hard to supply the developed countries of the world with the rare metals. The developed countries are considered to have a higher status and economic standing, a better understanding of the environment, human ethics, health and emission standards.  Their demand for a green EV world is a good thing for all people and the environment.

As the big green machine, Tesla, and auto giant Toyota are joined by other larger EV-producing manufacturers, African mining countries are going to have to move faster than ever to meet the demand put on them by the governing authorities of the world and their ever-increasing and severe carbon emission goals and standards.  The president of Zambia, Mr. Hichilema, has wasted no time in announcing his administration’s hopes to quickly provide the clean EV battery supply chain and invest much of his country’s proceeds into its development.

Rare metals and their difficult and extensive underground extraction methods are needed in EV lithium ion battery technology and are critical for improving the driving range of electric vehicles so that they can compete with the best, most frugal, “archaic” ICE technology and emission-capturing methods. These rare metals are buried beneath the fields of African nations, ready to be harvested by economically sound, rich and developed countries with zero carbon emission goals and standards.

South Africa, a mining giant, has also announced plans to set up production plants to manufacture EVs of their own, including plants for the manufacture of EV components, such as EV batteries.  This could see South Africa as one of the multi-billion-dollar raw material producers of the world.  South Africa already has its raw material extraction industry, its capital markets, and its existing manufacturing and export infrastructure to build upon.

Environmentally friendly keywords that current governments, economists and greenies around the world are sharing with the public are words like carbon emissions, climate change, EVs, EV infrastructure, mining, metals, zero carbon, clean technology, investment and climate crisis.  All of these keywords correspond with the rising demand for the precious metals used in EV production.

As it stood in 2020, the total global nickel reserves amounted to approximately 94 million metric tons.  Of that amount, it was Indonesia that held the world’s largest share.  Following the tropical and beautiful Indonesia is Australia, with our nickel reserves estimated to be 20 million metric tons.  Best we get stuck in, then!

The Things We Do in Our Cars

I was thinking about the different demands that we all put our vehicle through on our daily drives throughout a year.  It got me thinking about all the changes that can happen to us inside 12 months – whether the weather seasons change dramatically, families get larger or smaller, job promotions happen, we can change jobs for whatever reason, building renovations happen, moving house occurs, we make new friends, we start a fitness schedule at the gym, we try out a new sport across town, go fishing, go for that caravan trip around Australia and what not…  Our lives are fun and full of regular tasks that we both love or put up with, have jobs that we stick with or change, are full of people that come and go and people that we just love to be around and who will always be a part of our life.  The cars we drive regularly, are often a reflection of our lifestyle and can tell us a story about who we are and where we are in life.

With this ticking through my thought processing, I started to think about the changes that may or may not happen to our cars as we drive them, and how the lifestyle changes and choices that we make can affect the cars we drive.  In essence, a car is a very adaptable machine (or at least should be), and it has to be fit for purpose to cater to our own individual needs.  Often, I find myself needing to hitch up the trailer to grab some more compost for the garden, take a load to the recycling centre or help out a mate who is shifting house.  I like to make use of my drive into town to charge my mobile phone up on the way and listen to my favourite music with the volume wound right up.  Some days the temperature outside can get so cold in wintertime that I need to wind up the heater in order to thaw my fingers out and demist the rear window.  But then in summer, when the temperatures soar, I’ll have the air-conditioning wound up to maximum to keep the family inside the car nice and cool, particularly when we have the tiny grandchild travelling with us.

We have different drives that we frequently make in a month, and they all take different roads and cover varying landscapes.  Some journeys require us to drive up steep streets to get us to our friend’s house on top of the cliffs overlooking the sea, other roads have us in the middle of congested city streets and then another drive may take us for an hour or two north into the wild blue yonder through flat and undulating scenery to visit family.

We’ve learned to trust our cars to get us from A-to-B whatever the weather, whoever we have onboard, whatever we have to tow or carry.  Can a new EV manage all the lifestyle changes and demands dependably?  I’d hate to be late for my daughter’s graduation because my EV ran out of power halfway there, or that I missed the ferry because the EV had to be topped up at a charging point that had a long queue, and what about the police who aborted a chase after a dangerous criminal because he spent too long with the heater on and the siren going at the same time.

We need a car fit for purpose, a car that is cheap to run, nice to the environment and above all dependable!

Why Are 20% Of EV Owners In California Switching Back To Petrol?

You’d think that in a US state like California, which always seems to be so progressive, liberal and with-it – and which has a governor who has decreed that by 2035, all new cars sold will be EVs or at least “zero-emissions” cars – you’d see people flocking to taking up EVs left right and centre.  After all, if you think about it for a moment, Governor Gavin Newsom’s call would rule out not just your good old-fashioned petrol or diesel vehicle but also hybrids, which have both petrol and electric engines. It also applies to trucks (although the article may mean what we call utes and they call pickup trucks in the US of A), which makes me wonder how they’re going to ship goods about the place, as electric big-rigs are still at the developmental stage.

Anyway, given these points, it was something of a surprise to read a study carried out in California that found that about 20% of those surveyed said that they had gone back to petrol-powered vehicles after having owned an EV. OK, to be more precise, 20% of hybrid owners had gone back and 18% of battery-powered EV owners had switched back. You can read it for yourself here: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00814-9 (this will take you to the summary – to read the full thing, you have to pay).

The big question is, of course, why they’re doing this. The answer seems to be the issue of charging speed. The study seemed to find that Tesla owners didn’t seem to want to switch back, given that Tesla provides superfast charging for life for their vehicles – although I dare say that the cost of a Tesla has something to do with the fact that their owners aren’t switching back. However, those with other types of EV are more likely to switch back (compared with Tesla owners).

The people who were most likely to switch back were women, those living in rental homes, those living in high-rise apartments and those who didn’t have access to a Level 2 charger or higher at home or at work.

Some of these factors are easy to understand.  If you live in a rental home, you probably don’t want to pay to have a Level 2 EV charger installed in something that you don’t own – if your landlord would let you do this in the first place.  Landlords probably don’t want to pay to put in Level 2 EV chargers in rentals – although this might change in future; in the past, they didn’t always put in dishwashers but it’s common enough now.  In the case of an apartment, when you think that the garage or other parking space is all the way down there while you live right up there, or if you have to park your vehicle in a shared space and someone else has bagged the charger… well, you can see just how inconvenient it is.

The length of time it takes an EV to charge also probably has something to do with why women were more likely to ditch their EVs. If your EV is parked up and charging in a shared garage in an apartment building, you’ll have to nip down now and again to check how it’s going. In the case of a public charger, you may complete your errands before the car has finished charging and have to wait around. This means that you’ll be hanging around for a while. Unfortunately, it can be a nasty world out there for a woman. Even though 99% of guys are decent blokes, there’s always that 1%.  And you never know if that guy on the other garage or looking in your direction or walking towards you is Mr 1% or not.  This means that no woman really wants to spend longer than she has to in a public space that may not be all that well lit at night, with her only safe space being a car that isn’t quite charged up.  I’m speculating here, but speaking as a woman, that would be a concern I’d have – to say nothing of the hassles of trying to keep kids entertained while the car charges and being held up waiting for the car to charge when there’s a ton of things to do.

The issue seems to be charging time and access to Level 2 chargers. Let’s take a bit of a look at different charger types and you’ll get an idea of what’s involved:

Level 1 chargers: Slow as a wet week – it takes up to 25 hours to charge a typical EV with enough to get 100 km of range. However, it’s good for topping up plug-in hybrids. The advantage of these is that they can plug into the standard Australian power outlet without any need for the services of an electrician.

Level 2 chargers: These are faster than Level 1 chargers, taking up to 5 hours to give a typical EV 100 km of range. However, because of the charge they carry, they need special installation and older homes may need the wiring upgraded to carry the load, and it needs a special plug, which means you’ll need an electrician to come in and do the job of installing them.

Level 3 chargers: These use DC rather than AC power, and they are very expensive to install – putting one of these chargers could cost nearly as much as a brand new car. Your house doesn’t have this type of power supply, so they’re only available commercially. However, they’re faster, giving 70 km of range in 10 mins of charging.

Of course, these times are approximate and will vary from vehicle to vehicle – like charging times for other electrical things vary.  However, full charge times are usually measured in hours rather than minutes. If you’ve got grumpy kids in the car, even 10 minutes for a top-up charge at a fast charge station can seem like eternity…

 

How To Identify A Boy Racer Car

We might loudly proclaim that we hate them and that they’re annoying, but deep down inside any serious motorist, very well hidden indeed, is a wee bit of a boy racer. Just a little bit of one.  Otherwise, why would we be so drawn to high-performance vehicles with motors that roar and purr?

All the same, few of us over the age of 35 would really admit to being a boy racer, especially if we happen to be girls. We keep that part of us well hidden and only let it out in small doses occasionally.  We drive sensible family vehicles.  If we do get to the point where the budget allows us to plonk down our hard-earned cash on a high-performance vehicle, we prefer something that combines true performance with understated style. Others of us, of course, simply own the whole boy racer image and want a proper boy racer car that looks the part. Or, more precisely, the sort of vehicle that a boy racer car aims to imitate.

The true boy racer car isn’t quite the same as a high-performance machine. To really qualify as a boy racer car, one has to take a fairly sporty number that doesn’t cost the earth (Nissan Skylines and Subaru Imprezas used to be fairly popular but there are others) and then modify it like crazy. Not just any modifications, either. If you tinker with and tune the engine to boost its performance, what you can end up with is a “sleeper” – a vehicle that might look ordinary but isn’t. Boy racer modifications are all about attention-grabbing looks… and sounds. It’s about making heads turn, especially the heads of younger drivers. It’s the motoring equivalent of pouring on half a bottle of aftershave in an attempt to impress the ladies (note: we’re not going to be that impressed).

These vehicles are referred to in the US as “ricer cars”, which is a gender-neutral term. However, I have a suspicion that this may be a slight racial slur, as I have no idea what these cars have to do with rice, apart from the fact that the cars that usually get these modifications tend to be of Japanese origin, though not always. I’ve seen pictures of some BMWs, Fords and Holdens pimped up like crazy. So “boy racer car” is what I’m going to have to call them – I mention the term only so you can have fun Googling bad examples.

To be a true boy racer car, at least three of the following modifications ought to be present:

  • Dramatically lowered suspension. This seems to be the only actual mechanical fine-tuning done to a boy racer car, as the aim is to improve the handling and make the ride a bit stiffer just like a real sports car. The rule seems to be that the lower it is, the cooler it is. Just don’t take it so low that you can’t clear the kerb or speed bump.
  • After-market spoilers. If done well, a good after-market spoiler will give extra grip and improve the on-road performance. It’s a matter of aerodynamics. However, the stereotypical boy racer hasn’t quite got it into his (it’s usually his, rather than her) head that it’s not how big it is but how it’s applied that counts. What you’ll end up seeing on a boy racer car is a massive spoiler. Sigmund Freud wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised…
  • Other body kit. If you can’t actually lower the suspension, make the car look lower by adding side and front skirts.
  • Fancy paint jobs. Go-faster racing stripes and decals are just the start. The idea is to look something like a professional racing car but without actually having any sponsors. There seem to be two main schools of thought in the paint jobs of boy racer cars. One goes for the racing car look, with longitudinal stripes and chequered flags. The other type goes for bright custom colours, often neon green, purple, hot pink and similar gaudy shades.
  • Aftermarket alloys. OK, this one isn’t unique to boy racer cars and it is possible to put on alloys that look tasteful and add a bit of personality. However, if the alloy wheel is enormous and/or brightly coloured, it’s definitely getting into boy racer territory.
  • Tinted windows. Not just subtle tinted windows or tinting that comes from the factory so that you aren’t dazzled with glare on a bright sunny day. We’re talking about stick-on tinting from your local automotive supplies shop so dark that you can barely see who’s in the car.
  • Bonnet blowers. While these have a serious purpose if the vehicle in question has been given an engine upgrade and needs to be cooled more efficiently, in a true boy racer car, it’s for looks. Again, the mentality seems to be that the bigger the better. Never mind that something that big is going to interfere with the aerodynamics.
  • Loud exhausts. Nothing says “performance” like an exhaust that roars and screams like an animal. This feature is found on classier vehicles as well. Jaguar designers, for example, are known to carefully tune the note of the exhaust so that it evokes the perfect visceral response. Boy racer cars, however, don’t have quite the same type of finesse and just go for decibels.
  • Even louder stereos. If they can’t go fast enough around town to bring the noise of the exhaust into play, then the stereo is the way to catch people’s attention from at least a block away or two. The stereos have enough bass to make the ground shake and the vehicle vibrate visibly to the point where onlookers wonder if it will make the ridiculously big spoiler held on with superglue fall off.

If you think I’ve missed any of the key characteristics, then add your suggestions in the comments below!