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Sustainability/Green

Are PHEVs Set for a Boost?

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEV for short, have been pushed to motorists as a more ‘sustainable’ driving option. Boasting an on-board engine and generator that can power a rechargeable battery, advocates have argued that they offer emissions benefits and potentially lower operating costs for drivers.

Not everyone remains convinced however. Popularity for PHEVs has largely meandered along in recent years, despite this growing push for ‘eco-friendly’ driving. Although the category is starting to account for a larger proportion of electric passenger cars, if you ask many motorists, one of the prominent concerns for the technology has been limited driving distances (range).

In what could be welcome news for some, one development may see an improvement in this area.

 

ZF EVplus concept

The ZF EVplus concept was unveiled at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, incorporated within a BMW 330e. Having stripped the existing 7.6kWh battery, ZF installed a 35kWh replacement unit to provide power to the vehicle.

As you might guess, this corresponds with a decent bump up in power, but also a marked increase in the vehicle’s driving range when placed in all-electric driving mode. The jump takes it from approximately 30km range to more than 100km, which is a sizeable improvement, particularly considering this incorporates real-world operating conditions.

This new driving range is said to exceed the sort of performance milestones achieved by some of the latest competitors, including the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, as well as other electric models from the Mercedes-Benz and BMW stables.

 

 

Will it make driving more practical?

This is ultimately the million dollar question. Although 100km might not sound like an extensive driving range, let’s not forget this is when the car operates as an electric vehicle. PHEVs still have an internal combustion engine that can work as required, which is not the case for fully battery electric vehicles (BEVs). On top of that, most drivers don’t actually commute these sort of distances each and every day, or at least without an opportunity that they might be able to plug in the vehicle to top up its range.

So with either option to fall back on, for most motorists, some would say the concerns are overblown, and driven by behavioural conditioning. That is, we’ve become accustomed to driving the way we do, so we’re reluctant to change that to other methods.

This sort of development opens the way for a new era of PHEVs to enter the market in the not too distant future. However, the key obstacle for manufacturers’ lies with breaking through perceptions, and creating affordable PHEVs. If motorists cannot understand nor appreciate the appeal and attractiveness of PHEVs, then it is naïve to think that such cars can command the price premium they currently do.

Tech Torque: What Is An Electric Water Pump?

Life sometimes gives us questions to ponder. Why is the sky blue, are The Rolling Stones a better band than The Beatles, should I have pineapple on a pizza, and what is an electric water pump?
Unlike the others, the answer to what is an electric water pump is surprisingly simple to divine.

An electric water pump, or EWP, is a mechanical device, powered by electricity, and pumps water. There. Sounds simple. But wait, there’s more. One immediate benefit of an EWP is in the name, the electric bit.

Because it utilizes that amazing and invisible power, an EWP isn’t reliant on the spinning of a crankshaft, the rise and fall of conrods, and the pulsing of injectors. They work as long as there is juice in the battery. This means that if a car or truck or bus has been running for a while and the ignition gets switched off, a control device can keep the EWP running afterwards. This is especially crucial in automotive high load areas or in motorsport.Consider a drift car, running a high revving petrol engine and fitted with a turbo. A talented driver can pound a drift car around a circuit and the engine will be constantly working hard. The driver gets to the end of their run and switches off. A mechanical water pump them immediately stops working. This means cooling fluid is no longer pushed through the engine internals and through the radiator. This can lead to severe damage to the engine and potentially the radiator as well.

Another benefit of an EWP is the constant pressure and flow rate. An easy comparison is a child’s toy fan. Blow gently upon the vanes and it’ll spin slowly. Give it a good huff and it’ll spin hard before winding down. That’s a mechanical water pump, rising and falling with engine revolutions.

An EWP suffers not from this, and EWPs from an Australian company called Davies, Craig, with flow rates of up to 150 litres per minute, will CONSTANTLY deliver flow, as they’re not dependent on a crankshaft and belt to spin. And because they’re electrically powered they’re not sapping energy from a mechanical system. This means less strain, better fuel economy, and longer lasting mechanical parts. And they’re a lot smaller, which means less weight, better efficiency, and can be mounted in certain positions to help tidy up an engine bay. Digital controllers can assist here. These allow fine tuning of how an EWP works, including running a pump after a car’s engine has been switched off.Along with moving a cooling fluid through a radiator and engine, moving air across the vanes of a radiator, or heat exchanger, is crucial to keeping an engine as cool as possible.
Cars come with a belt driven fan, and those belts are attached to pulleys which are attached to the engine. Quite a few designs have a mechanically driven fan attached to the nose of the mechanically driven water pump. The fan has a kind of clutch that allows the fan to spin up to speed or spin down to a stop by itself.

In a cooling sense, these fans are only effective if the engine is running. And due to their source of power, they’ll not be as energy or fuel efficient, plus they’ll sometimes not be as aerodynamically efficient due to the design of the fan blade, their location in respect to the radiator, or lacking a shroud to assist in directing airflow. When it comes to electric fans for cars, or thermatic fans, there’s a different range of possibilities to explore. Because they’re powered by the vehicle’s electrical system, they’re far more energy or fuel efficient. A digital controller can be fitted to allow the fan to be on all of the time, only when needed, or to run after an engine is powered off.

A driver can choose to fit one fan or, two fans, and in an upstream (ahead of the radiator) and/or downstream (between the radiator and engine) configuration. If going for a two fan, upstream/downstream configuration, it’s recommended to have one fan on one side of the radiator (left or right) and the other in the opposing side. Let’s say one fan is on the engine’s side and mounted ahead of the driver, therefore the other would be on the headlights’ side and ahead of the passenger.

When it comes to finding and fitting the right electric fan or fans to suit your particular car, there are a couple of areas to look at. The thickness of the radiator is the first point of call. This is due to the amount of airflow required to pull or push air through the vanes. Then there is the shape of the radiator itself. As a rule, one large electric fan will do as good, or a better, job than two smaller ones. However, a wider than taller radiator may negate a single fan fitment, therefore two smaller diameter fans can be mounted side by side. It’s here that the research teams have provided a different solution. Davies, Craig electric fans for cars are built to have reversible blades and hubs.

When it comes to the design of the blades themselves, these are shaped to be both more aerodynamically efficient (reducing drag) and less likely to vibrate and cause supersonic shock. This is literally where the ends of the blades reach a velocity approaching the speed of sound, and therefore, not unlike many WW2 fighter planes that crashed due to the phenomenon not being understood, shake uncontrollably.The blade design A Davies, Craig uses has them straight out from the hub, and by curving the struts that are inside the shroud housing, airflow is increased and airflow noise is decreased. Also, when it comes to the tips of the blades, we’ve looked at the aerospace industry and the work put into the winglets on the ends of the wings on aircraft. Those stubby little winglets decrease air turbulence and balance air pressure as the tips rotate past the shroud. And because not every engine is the same, Davies, Craig offers six different fan diameters, from 8 inches to a whopping 16 inches. This means that there will be one or two electric fans, at least, that will be ideal for your engine and radiator size. Couple these with their extensive range of digital controllers and there is a package that will do a lot to be far better than an existing mechanically driven package.

Hiccups And Glory: Tesla Cybertruck Revealed.

Mid afternoon Friday 22nd November (Sydney time) and Tesla has unveiled a surprise.

Called the Cybertruck it’s fair to say it’s unlike anything seen from any manufacturer, both in looks, and in specification.Tesla says: it will have a range of 500+ miles, and will see a zero to 96kph (60mph) time of around 2.9 seconds. The body is made from a sledgehammer resistant “Ultra-Hard 30x Cold-Rolled Steel”. The window glass is also intended to be shatter and impact resistant as evidenced by a few ball-drop demonstrations. Somewhat embarrassingly, a short range throw of a small steel ball like that used in the drop test broke the supposedly shatterproof glass in the vehicle shown.The cargo section is big enough to house an electric ATV, also shown during the launch, and has a payload capacity of up to 3,500 pounds or 1,587 kilos. There is 6.5 feet of length in the bay and there are extendable ramps and a charging point built in. An estimated 100 cubic feet of storage space is available inside the sci-fi looking wedge shape. There is also room for six adults and a 17 inch touchscreen to access the vehicle’s main controls.The ramp that allows cargo access showed the flexibility of the suspension with up to four inches of travel. The drivetrain will be a rear mounted engine, front and rear, and a triple motor configuration. The exterior is striking, to say the least, with a distinctive wedge shape and eye-catching LED strips front and rear. And in an alloy sheen reminiscent of a De Lorean, it should be an all-weather capable vehicle.
Pricing is slated to start at around $40,000USD.

2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: The Tesla Model 3’s middle specification car. There is the “entry level” Standard Plus, the car tested called the Performance, and the Long Range AWD to top the range.What Does It Cost?: The Performance has a starting price of $93,900. There are the usual government and delivery charges on top. Our review car came in a lovely multi-layered Pearl White, There are four other metallic colours and they are a $1,500 cost option. It’s also almost completely ready to drive autonomously with the “Autopilot” facility as standard. the full self drive is $8,500. All up, the review car prices out at just under $120,000.

On The Inside It’s:A mix of stark minimalism, hi-tech, and whimsy, with plenty of comfort. The Performance has the Premium Interior which is sumptuous black leather clad seats that are heated and powered for plenty of positioning options. There’s the same wood strip for the dash and the 15 inch landscape oriented touchscreen that has Google well and truly as its heart. This controls everything the car does; from steering wheel and mirror adjustment to tracking vehicles around the Model 3, from providing audio options such as TuneIn and Spotify (with the first year’s subscription free if you don’t already have it) to providing hilarity from the “Gas Emissions” tab in a entertainment submenu, and will even allow a name to be given to the car. The whimsy inside Tesla is highlighted by the “caraoke” option. You read that right. It’s exactly what you suspect and is intended to be used when the car is stationary. We can attest it will provide access when the car is stopped, but will play whilst underway. There is also access to Netflix, YouTube, and Tesla instructional videos.

The touchscreen is, oddly, the weak link in the chain.It’s a solid sheet of glass with a metal surround. As such, it becomes a heat sink and on warmer days readily absorbs heat to the point the bare finger gets singed. Perhaps a vent behind the screen or an embedded loop would do the trick.

When not barbecuing fingers, it’s a high resolution display, with the default being a monochromed look Google maps, with the option of displaying the satellite image, and the graphics that the car’s cameras and ultrasonic sensors read to show surrounding vehicles. The lower section has icons for menus, which then bring up the audio options, the entertainment options, the settings for the vehicles. Compared to the Standard Plus, the entertainment goes up a notch, with Netflix, YouTube, and Tesla instructional videos being made available.The steering wheel is devoid of anything bar two roller dials and the Tesla logo, and the dials manipulate some of the information provided via the touchscreen.One of the small yet user friendly things about Tesla is how the doors are operate. Here there are small tabs on the top of the door grip which are pressed to release the doors. And unlike the pricier Model S and Model X, there is no remote key fob with which to remotely open the doors. Everything is operated via a smartphone app. This remotely opens the charge flap, releases the charge cable, can summon the car, or prestart the air-conditioning system which includes dog mode. This allows those that wish to keep Poochie cool and stay in the car to do so, plus it flashes up on the screen a note to advise of this function being operated. Should the car need to be moved without the owner, a Concierge card is provided.

There is also the sound system. There are 14 speakers spread around the cabin, with the front setup not unlike a soundbar for a TV. It’s loud, punchy, clear as crystal. It’s that attention to detail that really appeals. USB ports? Four, thank you. Embedded information about charge locations? Indeed. Safety features? Lacks for nothing.On The Outside It’s: A condensed version of the larger Model S. Slimmer in all dimensions, and sitting slightly lower than the Standard Plus, it nonetheless has a very strong family look to the other two models, not unexpectedly. The windows, profile, the lines that join front and rear, a line over the hip, are all common for the Model 3, Model S, and Model X. The Model S and X have similar looking headlights, whereas the Model 3 goes its own way with a design that evokes Porsche. At the rear the tail lights are essentially identical. Michelin supply the Pilot Sport tyres and are 235/35/ZR20. Wheels on the car supplied were subtle looking alloys in a ten spoke design. Dry weight is not unexpectedly hefty. It’s 1,847 kilos. Boot capacity is 542L and of course there’s “frunk”. This is the front trunk, also accessed via the smartphone app, and provides extra space up front.Out On The Road It’s: Delightful in many ways. It’s rapid, in both standing start and overtaking. Intoxicating, endearing, stupid grin inducing rapid. But it’s this sheer muscle car power that makes it safer than people expect. Think coming up a merge lane to a freeway and the car that is oncoming behind you has the room to move right but doesn’t. A quick check of available space, a gentle press on the go pedal, and tomorrow is in front of you. Tesla quote 3.4 seconds for the sprint from standstill to 100. There is absolutely no reason to disbelieve that at all.

The starting procedure is simple. Foot on the brake, pull the right side steering column lever downwards and check that D is highlighted on the touchscreen. Floor the pedal. Take a breath because you’ll need it as suddenly your spine is somewhere in the back of the seat’s padding.Energy harvesting can add a bit more to the expected range, as the brakes have two settings. The standard is more than enough and in some situations mitigates needing the foot to hit the brake pedal, such is the power of the system. In some circumstances it’s enough to bring the car to a stop by itself and on a downhill run will grab the brakes and slow the car here solidly.

There’s also little to quibble about when it comes to the ride quality too. It’s up there with some of the better suspension combinations for suppleness, confidence building, and strikes an ideal balance between grip, sportiness, and dialing out intrusive road imperfections.A key selling point is the ability to drive autonomously. Most of our drive was done manually, and more so to fully enjoy the ability of the Model 3. To engage the self-drive, the car must first be able to clearly read the roadside markings and will show a grey steering wheel on the screen. A couple of gentle tugs on the right hand lever and this should then make that icon blue, indicating self-drive is engaged. Under no circumstances should the hands be fully removed from the wheel.

The steering on its own is spot on. It’s beautifully weighted, has only minimal feeling of being artificially being assisted, and is ratioed for two turns lock to lock.

At The End of the Drive. The Performance should be the pick over the Standard Plus for those that like to fully exploit a car’s abilities. The extra urge from the twin motors, the extra range, and perhaps even the extra entertainment features for some, make the Tesla Model 3 Performance a winner. Sure, it’s $120k in price but currently there are no other fully electric cars that come close to delivering what this car can: an all round powerhouse Performance.

 

2019 Toyota RAV4 GX Hybrid AWD: Private Fleet Car Review.

This Car Review Is About: Toyota released a Suburban Utility Vehicle in the late 1990s. Named the RAV4, or Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive, it’s this car that’s to “blame” for the rise of the SUV. In mid-2019 Toyota released a new version and it’s been a substantial upgrade. For the first time the RAV4 has been given a hybrid driveline option and it’s available across three of the four model model range. There is the entry GX, then GXL, Cruiser, and up-spec Edge, the only one not available with a Hybrid.Under The Bonnet Is: Power is either a 2.0L petrol or 2.5L hybrid. The GX is the only version available with a proper gearbox, a six speed manual, otherwise there is a Constant Variable Transmission for all bar the Edge. Driveline options are two or all wheel drive for the hybrids. The Edge also has only the 2.5L petrol and comes with an eight speed auto. Economy figures are startling. The GX manual is quoted as 6.8L/100km, and 6.5L/100km for the auto. Go hybrid (as tested) and it’s quoted as 4.7L100km for the standard engine, 4.8L/100km for the hybrid. These figures are on the combined cycle using 91RON. We averaged on a purely urban cycle a brilliant 5.5L/100km from the 55L tank. Kerb weight for the hybrid GX is quoted as 1,705kg.Peak power for the standard engine is 127kW. The two and AWD hybrid system is rated as 160kW/163kW. Peak torque from the 2.0L is 203Nm. The hybrid engine quotes 221Nm from the petrol engine only, with no figure from the Toyota website showing a combined torque number.

What’s It Cost?: This is where it can be a bit messy due to the variants. In Glacier White, with 2WD and 2.0L manual, my drive-away price was just over $34,300. Tap the AWD button and the website automatically updates to 2.5L hybrid and CVT. Price jumped to $42,203…Choosing Eclipse Black and the price went to $42,821. GXL starts at $39,628 for the 2.0L auto in white. Metallic paint takes it to $40,246, then the hybrid option in black goes to $45,911.On The Inside Is: A long list of standard equipment. Playthings for the front seat passengers include DAB audio on a slightly fiddly to use eight inch touchscreen, plus Bluetooth streaming, and USB/Aux. The layout can be modified in look however the default, in a three screen layout, is to have the navigation screen as the primary or larger, allowing audio, eco, clock, etc, to be moved around in the other two smaller screens. Naturally the Toyota app system provides flexibility. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are coming… Wireless phone charging is available in the GXL upwards. The rear seat passengers have charge points and airvents, plus the subwoofer for the audio is behind the driver.In the hybrid there is a screen that shows the drive system, with the display showing power being apportioned between the wheels, battery, and petrol engine. There is also a usage page that shows distance and economy figures. The driver has a smaller info screen and this shows on-the-fly eco info amongst the usual radio, safety, and connected device information. If there’s a query about the interior it’s to do with the dash design overall. It mirrors the blocky exterior and offers no sense of cockpit or wraparound. However, there’s a nice touch with knurled rubber surrounds to a couple of the dials under the screen. The rear seats are 60/40 split-fold and cargo space is 542L. Lift the rear floor and there is a space saver spare.

On The Outside Is: Dual exhaust pipes featuring at the rear under a manually operated tailgate. The exterior is a more solidly engineered look, with a blocky, non-organic design. The front end has a bulldog-jowl stance, with the grille line on either side a downturned angle. This echoes the stance in profile, with a longish nose giving a head’s down appearance. The rear is also squared off and has plenty of angles and straight lines. The cargo section houses a space-saver spare, with a full sizer being an option. Black polycarbonate body mouldings feature on the sides and under the front & rear lights.Head inside and all four windows are dual touched powered. Heated seats don’t appear until the Cruiser nor do powered seats. The GX has 17 inch alloys and 225/65 Bridgestone Atenza rubber. Lighting is halogen fog lamps and LED Projector, dusk sensing, headlights for the Hybrid. The cluster is surrounded by LEDS and it’s a classy look. Wing mirrors are power operated and heated.

What’s It Go Like?
Like the proverbial off a shovel. Although noticeably front wheel drive in normal drive situations with a heavy feel to the filler, it makes it abundantly clear that it’s a front wheel biased setup when punched hard off the line. The traction control system has been tweaked to allow a driver to launch hard but with some front wheel scrabbling, even with those 225 width tyres. It quickly picks up the drive and sends power to the rear as needed. And it gets away quickly, with no sense of feeling weighed down. In gera acceleration is pretty good too, just quietly, with rapid picup and response from the pedal push.There is electric power only up to 20 to 25 kp/h if using a light right foot, but then brings in the petrol engine above that, or quicker for a heavier throttle input. There’s a few vibrations on engagement and these too disappear quickly. The petrol engine is muted in sound and when heard has a dulled metallic edge to its note. It’s a delightful highway cruiser and is as equally adept around the ‘burbs. Although the steering is front heavy it’s weighted enough to have the driver connected and aware of what’s going on with the MacPherson strut setup. On the highways it lightens enough to have lane changing feel natural, nimble, and confident, rather than imparting a sense of heaviness.Ride quality is fantastic. It’s supple and compliant, with well controlled damping. The trailing wishbone rear has a slightly tauter feel to deal with the 580L cargo space. This means slow speed bumps have the rear bang a bit harder but still not uncomfortably so.

Naturally the braking feel is en pointe, with instant engagement from the barest touch. It’s a natural and instinctive travel too, with the modulation as finely adjusted as you can get to read, via the foot, just where the pedal is and what it’s doing.What About Safety?: Passengers are wrapped in seven airbags, for good measure. Toyota crams its SafetySense package into the new RAV4 range and it’s a potent package. Lane Departure Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Trace Assist with the CVT model, plus Pre-Collision with pedestrian and cyclist. Then there is Rear Cross Traffic Alert, front parking sensor alert, Road Sign Assist, Active Cruise Control, and auto high beam.At The End Of The Drive. Toyota have gone hard on the hybrid philosophy, and it’s working. There’s a high level of standard equipment and safety, a dogged, assertive look, and it’s not a bad drive. Aurally it’s as dull as dishwater, the bulldog looks may not appeal to all after coming from a more angular and sharper exterior, and the fiddly touchscreen may also not be a winner. Head to the Toyota website for more, or check the spec sheet here.

 

Kia Goes Back To Black And Offer More Protection.

Kia Motors Australia has added a pair of distinctive Special Edition models to its showrooms, providing standout options to Sorento and Stinger buyers. The Sorento Black Edition offers outstanding value to buyers wanting to make a bold styling statement with their lifestyle-choice large SUV. Sitting on 19-inch gloss black alloy wheels the Sorento Black Edition also boasts a gloss black grille, gloss black roof racks, dark chrome door garnish and black side mirror covers. There are distinctive “Ice Cube” LED fog lights, black front and rear skid plates, panoramic sunroof and privacy glass to complete the street-wise look.

Available in both 2.2 diesel ($52,490 drive away) and 3.5-litre petrol ($48,990 drive away) the Black Editions are trimmed to sit between SLi and GT-Line. They are available in four colour options: Clear White, Silky Silver, Aurora Black and Snow White Pearl.

For Stinger, the Carbon Edition, based off the 3.3-litre bi-turbo GT, brings a deck of exclusive carbon fibre exterior trims to set the Special Edition model apart from its siblings. With carbon fibre door mirrors, grille surround, fender vents, rear skid plate and hood vent the Carbon Edition is easily identifiable as something special. For the interior there is a special Carbon Edition badge ahead of the gear lever and a sporty Alcantara steering wheel. At $67,990 (drive away) the Carbon Edition is available in the new Neon Orange, Micro Blue, Hichroma Red, Snow White Pearl and Aurora Black.

All models benefit from Kia’s industry-leading 7-Year Warranty, 7-Year Capped Price Service and 7-Year Roadside Assist program.

KIA is also leading the charge to improve the customer purchase experience with Australia’s first vehicle protection products sold as a genuine factory branded accessory. The KIA branded range will provide customers the opportunity to protect their new and pre-owned vehicles with the highest quality surface protection using ceramic coatings developed exclusively for KIA. KIA have partnered with MotorOne, Australia’s leading aftermarket supplier, to ensure their customers get the most technologically advanced protection formulas coupled with a comprehensive lifetime warranty.

The ceramic exterior surface coating is sourced from Korea, using state-of-the-art technology to protect the vehicle’s paintwork whilst maintaining the showroom shine without the need for waxing and polishing. Available only from dealerships, the treatment is professionally applied to new or used vehicles up to five years old. The treatment is especially important for car users that are plagued by the effects of bird and bat droppings when parking their car outside.

The complete interior surface protection formula uses an advanced polymer technology that maintains the condition of leather, vinyl, carpet and fabric surfaces. The treatment creates a dirt and liquid repellent coating, protecting the vehicle’s interior from stains and marks. KIA, in conjunction with the MotorOne product development team, has undertaken extensive product durability testing on all vehicles in the KIA range to ensure customers experience outstanding performance, durable protection and a vehicle that stays cleaner for longer.

Each KIA dealership is undertaking comprehensive training for the sales teams, covering education and treatment of paintwork and interior fabrics and, more importantly, extensive product application training for the technical team to ensure a premium delivery on every vehicle fitted with KIA Car Care products.

Things You Need To Know About Hydrogen As A Fuel

In the quest to achieve more sustainable motoring, there are three main players: biofuels (i.e. producing petrol and diesel that will run in conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels), electric vehicles (we’ve heard heaps about these) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCV).  Electrical vehicles seem to be the hottest of the hot at the moment and they grab quite a lot of the attention from the media and from the government.  To take one hot off the press example, they’ve just given the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this year to the guys who invented the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, even though this tech has been around for a fair few years now and first got onto the market in 1991.

However, let’s not completely overlook the other two members of the sustainability team. If you asked me to take my pick of the three, I’d go for HFCVs. This is because it gives the best of both worlds: the zero-exhaust factor of EVs and the ease of refuelling of ICE vehicles.

Hydrogen is the lightest element on the periodic table and it’s one of the most common elements on earth – actually, make that THE most abundant element in the universe.   As we all learned in school, good old water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. In fact, you could say that all energy is, technically speaking, hydrogen powered.  Our sun is one great big ball of hydrogen undergoing a massive nuclear reaction (fusion rather than fission), and it’s the energy given off by this that is ultimately the source of all energy on Earth – even the fossil fuels, which are ancient forests that once trapped sunlight through photosynthesis.

If we could somehow replicate this process on Earth at a smaller scale, most of the world’s energy problems would be solved and it would generate all the electricity to meet our needs and more. However, the problem would be to stop it getting out of hand or an H-bomb would be the result. Cold fusion is the dream of many a scientist…

The first thing you need to understand about HFCVs is that when you put hydrogen fuel into the vehicle, the fuel isn’t burned the way that the fuel in an ICE burns. NASA uses this tech in rockets but it’s far, far too explosive for more down to earth uses. Instead, the hydrogen is used to generate electricity, which is released when hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce (you guessed it) water. This takes place in fuel cells, which do the job of converting good old oxygen and hydrogen to water.

Quite a lot of vehicles around the world use hydrogen fuel cell tech already. These are mostly forklifts and buses; however, cars are coming onto the scene and they’re beginning to get a fair bit of interest.

The big question about any sustainable energy source is to ask where it comes from and how one gets it – a question that people aren’t quite asking enough in the case of EVs, if you ask me.  In the case of hydrogen, there are two main sources. One is from electrolysis of water and the other is from steam reformation of methane. Of the two methods, electrolysis of water (where the water molecule is split into H2 and O by a current of electricity) is the cleaner of the two – as long as the electricity used comes from a sustainable source, such as wind, solar or hydro (using hydro to produce hydrogen seems appropriate). The other method uses methane – thus busting up and reducing something that is both a waste product and a greenhouse gas – but it also produces a bit of carbon monoxide during the production stage.  There are quite a few other methods out there but these are the most common.

Hydrogen is produced for commercial use already on quite a large scale. It’s used quite extensively in, of all things, the petrochemical industry during the process of refining petrol. You could therefore think of a switch to hydrogen fuel cell tech as cutting out the middleman.  The other major commercial use of hydrogen gas is in electrical power stations, where it acts as a coolant.

The biggest issue with hydrogen fuel is storage and transport, as hydrogen is a slippery customer that can explode and burn with the ferocity of rocket fuel simply because it is rocket fuel. On the other hand, liquid hydrogen is super-cold (even colder than the liquid nitrogen the doctor uses to remove warts and low-grade skin cancers) and needs to be kept that way. It’s the storage and transport issue that our very own CSIRO is working on.  Nevertheless, the potential is out there and is being used in many parts of the world. In the US, for example, there are already 40 retail outlets for refuelling hydrogen cars just in a single state (California), with more in other states and more to come.

Over here, we’ve already got one public hydrogen fuel station in Canberra, with more being planned. As renewable hydrogen is a hot topic (or maybe a cool topic, given that liquid hydrogen has a temperature of about –250°C), there are a ton of hydrogen projects going on at the moment, and there are hopes that renewable hydrogen fuel will become one of Australia’s biggest exports.  Just a couple of days ago, there was news out that Siemens was launching a big plant in Western Australia to produce hydrogen fuel, and that’s just the latest one. We’re going to be producing it ourselves, so it makes sense that we should put it on our cars as well.

Hybrid News From The Three Pointed Star.

Luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz has provided details of their new hybrid C-Class. There is also a potentially hybrid and/or electric S-Class on its way sometime inside the next decade. The C 300 e Sedan has a motor that can deliver 90 kilowatts of power and 440Nm of torque. Without utilising the petrol engine, there is up to 52 kilometres of electrical driving. Pair in the petrol driven 2.0L four, with a handy 350Nm of torque and 155kW of power, driving the rear wheels via a nine speed auto, peak power is rated as 235kW and torque as 700Nm. M-B says that combined fuel economy can reach as low as 2.1L per 100 kilometres. 0 – 100kmh is 5.4 seconds, the same as the Standard Plus Tesla Model 3.

The standard C-Class has a 2.0L with slightly lesser power and torque at 150kW and 300Nm of twist. 0 – 100kmh is 7.1 seconds.

The battery pack is able to hold 13.5kWh. It can be recharged to full from empty in around two hours using a Type 2 charger, or seven hours on a home circuit. It’s a smart capable battery, which allows both the heater element and cooling system to pre-climatise the interior. Other electronic goodness comes from Live Traffic Updates as standard, the Driver Assistance Package which bundles the Mercedes-Benz Distronic automated cruise control in with a predictive speed adjustment system. This covers off bends, junctions, and roundabouts.

Overall, the range has 19 different variants. There’s petrol power, diesel oomph, hybrid drivelines, and four body shapes. Buyers can choose from Sedan, Estate (wagon), Coupe, and Cabrio. Mercedes also have a limited edition Sport Edition package that buyers can specify as an option for the Sedan, Estate and Coupe. Add it to the Sedan and Estate and that’s $7,700. It’s $7,200 for the Coupe. The range starts at $64,500 and the Sport Edition has driveaway prices starting at $69,900.

When it comes to the S-Class, M-B have previewed a possible version with the unveiling of the EQS concept. EQ is a separate division, a sub-brand, that Mercedes-Benz have created to have an electric car division. By selling the S-Class, which is slated to be available early in 2020, and the EQS a year or so after, M-B then allows their customers to choose which they feel best represents a top level vehicle.

One of the aims of the concept is to assist in getting Level 3 Autonomous Driving classification. The chassis itself will become a modular platform, and will form the basis for a range of vehicles the M-B say will be released in the early 2020s. However, the S-Class, at this stage, is looking to stay as a petrol or hybrid rand range, leaving the EQS series as the separate and complementary arm using electric power. There will be a highly intensive LED look too, for the EQS, to help differentiate visually.

The Perfect Form of Transport???

Here at Private Fleet, we keep an eye on trends in car design and the way things are shaping up.  At the moment, I reckon there are three biggies: fuelling systems, autonomous vehicles and sensors.

Let’s start with fuel.  We all know that the supplies of crude oil aren’t as big as they used to be and the ones that are left are frequently in places that are very hard to get at or are located in politically volatile countries.  This means that if we can cut down our dependence on non-renewable fuels, we’ll be able to keep on trucking the way we’re accustomed to.  We’ll also help cut down on greenhouse gases, which is supposed to stop global warming or climate change.

In our quest to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we’re trying a bunch of different things, all of which are getting a lot of attention in the automotive world.  Electricity is the hottest one at the moment, with a major push towards EVs and hybrids that use both electricity and petrol.  However, that’s only one of the three.  Just as well, as one has to ask where the electricity is coming from and how it’s being generated.  If it’s being pumped out by coal- or gas-fuelled power stations, then EVs aren’t the perfect green solution.  The other hot topic in fuel is to look for other things that can be used to make diesel and petrol that are renewable – biofuels.  The trick here is to find something that can be grown without taking land and water resources away from what we need to feed a hungry world.  Lastly, there’s the hydrogen fuel cell option, which doesn’t produce much in the way of waste but is a little on the fiddly side to produce and transport, although they’re working on that.

All in all, this suggests that the perfect transport of the future should be able to run on something sustainable that’s easy to get hold of, and that it should produce minimal waste, or at least waste that can be useful for another purpose.

The second hot topic is the all the innovations being added as active safety features and driver aids.  There seems to be a new one out every time I turn around.  Temperature sensors for automatic climate control, 360° vision and reverse parking sensors are old hat. Now we’ve got side impact detection and avoidance, lane change assistance, autonomous braking, even systems that detect when the driver is getting tired or annoyed.  They’re working on getting the car to listen to you, with voice activated commands for all sorts of things.

This suggests that the perfect transport of the future should have a ton of sensors for all sorts of things, should be able to react according to the input of those sensors without the driver having to do anything, and should be able to interface with the moods of the driver.

Lastly, we’ve got the topic of autonomous cars: ones that will steer themselves, pick the right speed, pick the right part of the road and all the rest of it all by themselves.  This is closely related to the improvements in sensors and driver aids.  If autonomous cars reached their full perfection, you’d be able to hop in when well and truly under the influence, tell it to go home and then nod off until you find yourself parked outside the front door.

If we all of these factors together, we can get an idea of what the designers are trying to come up with.  Let’s imagine what it would look like: something that runs on plant-sourced fuels and produces biodegradable waste that can be converted to fertilizer; has ultra-sensitive sensors for temperature, mood and upcoming hazards in practically a full circle; is voice activated and even does voice-activated acceleration and parking; and can think for itself even when the driver is exhausted or drunk.  Natural materials for the upholstery and a cheap production method would be an advantage as well.  It already exists: when I was a child in a rural town, we called this a HORSE.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander Electric

This Car Review Is About: Hyundai dipping a toe into the battery powered waters of electric cars. The Korean company has the Ioniq range of petrol/hybrid/battery, whereas the Kona has no hybrid option.With a range of around 460 kilometres, it’s more than suitable for daily running around in the urban environment, and so it proved during our week-long test.

What Does It Cost?: The range of Kona Electric starts at $59,999. That’s before government charges and dealership costs. The Highlander starts in the middle $60k range, and that puts it within the ballpark of the forthcoming Tesla Model 3. The car comes with a charge cable which plugs into a standard home power socket. For an extra couple of thousand Hyundai will supply an adapter box that gets installed at home. At a rate of around7.2kW per hour of charge, it trickle charges at a rate good enough to avoid range anxiety if plugged in overnight. In the week we drove it, it was topped up just twice.On The Outside Is: A car that is possibly overdone in styling to alert people to the fact it’s an electric car. The Tesla range, for the sake of inevitable comparisons, look like a normal set of cars outside, and have a distinctive yet still normal-ish look inside.

Front and rear lower bumpers have been restyled in comparison to the standard versions. There is a ripple, wave like, motif to them, and the front looses the centrally mounted driving lights. Somewhere in the front guards are cornering lamps, barely visible unless looking for them. Our test car was clad in a two-tone metallic Ceramic Blue and Chalk White body and roof styling, with a number of exterior colours and combinations available, at a reasonable cost of under $600 for the metallic paints. The wheels are bladed five spoke items, with the blades sporting a heavily dimpled design on one half of each of the slabby five spoked design.These reflect the nose of the Kona Electric. As there is no need for a traditional cooling system, the front has the air intakes replaced with a plastic insert that draws attention to itself by virtue of these dimples. The colour highlights these quite strongly too. This nose section houses the charge port, and here Hyundai has a solid win.

Press lightly and the cover pops open. Insert the Type 2 Mennekes charger device which is found in a sturdy bag in the undercover cargo section, attach to an extension cable, a green loop lights up, and charging is underway. To remove the charger requires nought more than a push of a simple press-stud. It’s more effective and far more simple than Tesla’s overthought system.The overall look is very close to the normal Kona but the dimpled look is probably a non-necessary addition. The dimpled wheels are unnecessary too. Normal looking wheels would have toned down the “look at me, I’m electric!” look.

On The Inside: The Kona Electric interior is more sci-fi than traditional in some aspects. The seats are vented and heated, with the car provided having white leather-look material which wouldn’t be suitable for younger childre.. The steering wheel is heated, there are cup and bottle holders, and a wireless charge pad for compatible smartphones, plus a USB port or two. All normal.

Then Hyundai goes to Star Trek inspired designs for the centre console. Its a floating or split level design and not exactly easy to get items into the lower storage section. The upper level is home to four buttons for engaging the drive, a tab for the heated steering wheel, another for three drive modes (Sport/Normal/Eco), and all in a somewhat chintzy looking silver. It’s horribly overdone, visually tiring, and goes past the point of sensible in pointing out to passengers they’re in an electric car.There are some good points: the drive modes change the look of the full colour LCD screen that is located inside an analogue dial. These, at least, look sensible and appropriate. There are different colours and looks to the kinds of information being displayed. There is also a HUD or Head Up Display for safer driving. The touchscreen is slightly revamped to take advantage of the propulsion system and has sub-screens that allow for personalisation and adjustment of the drive modes.

In regards to charger points for public usage, the onboard map system has these preprogrammed. That’s a good thing as this particular kind of charge point seemed to be a little spare on the group using certain apps.On The Road It’s: Soft in the suspension. It’s a well controlled softness, but it’s soft. There’s a lot of travel in each end, with the front exhibiting more sponginess than the rear. It really does feel as if it could do with a dialing up of the stiffness with a corresponding change in dampening to provide a still progressive yet tauter setup for a better ride. Hyundai say that something like 37 different damper combinations and a number of varying spring and anti-roll-bar setups were tried. However, it must be said that the suspension has to deal with 1700 kilos or so, which includes the floor mounted battery pack. That does help with handling by providing a low centre of gravity, so that softness, although the final result of the extensive testing, may not be to everyone’s taste.

There’s an unexpectedly high amount of road noise too. There’s a sensation of wind coming in via a door left open in respect to the noise level. The ecofriendly rubber adds to the ambient noise levels also.Acceleration is decently quick with a sub eight second 0-100 time, and there’s a gauge in the dash that tells you the percentage of normal, economical, and aggressive driving. Even with our drive routinely seeing hard launches, never did that aggressive driving gauge get above 2%.

To engage Drive, one places a foot on the brake pedal, presses the normal looking Start/Stop button, then presses one of the four drive buttons to get underway. Drive, Reverse, Park, Neutral are the choices.

Actual physical engagement of the drive gear is instant here, and the system does insist upon the brake pedal being used, for example, when selecting Drive from Reverse. Here Hyundai go a little more sci-fi in the aural side. There is an eerie whine, an almost subliminal sound that has people wondering if they’re hearing it or not, as it never goes beyond the level of a faint background noise.

There is a question mark about the drive system. The car reviewed was the Highlander model, meaning it came with the HUD in the dash, heating & venting in the seats etc. However the drive system was front wheel only. This meant that the front rubber would scrabble for grip off the line in those same hard launches.

There are three drive modes, which seem redundant for an electrically powered car. They’re activated via a selection tab in the console and Hyundai do provide personalisation of each for items such as climate control and recharge via the touchscreen. Regeneration levels are also changeable via a pair of paddles behind the tiller. These same paddles allow for bringing the vehicle to a full halt if the left paddle is held.The steering itself is heavier than expected in normal driving. That’s more to say it’s not as assisted as expected, feeling more akin to the front rubber being deflated by around 20 to 30 percent. All up, though, the Kona Electric, for all of its perceived deadweight, is nimble enough, with rapid and unfussed lane changing when required, a definitive sense of weight transfer when lifting off the accelerator, and the mid range urge is enough to raise a smile. Punch it whislt using the heated seats and steering wheel though, and watch that expected range figure drop, and rapidly.

It’s otherwise a delightfully enjoyable cruiser but “suffers” from a peculiar quirk. Although the electronic brains engage the drive systems almost instantly between Drive/Reverse, from a standing start there’s a small but perceptible hesitation before the actual drive kicks in. Think of that momentary lag along the lines of a diesel’s slight intake of breath. It’s an unusual sensation however once knowing it happens all of the time, adjustments on driving style make for smooth progress.

The brakes are an integral part of the drive system and they’re just on the fine side of grabby in normal driving. Downhill descents have them gently squeeze and you can feel the retardation the regenerative system endows.

Hyundai adds extra tech in the form of the smartphone app called Hyundai Auto Link Premium SIM. By tying in with the car’s telematics you can look at driving history, driving efficiency, general battery information, plus it allows a user to book a service remotely. Items such as hazard lights, or lock/unlock can also be performed by the app.

And The Safety? As expected, Hyundai’s full range of SmartSense active safety tech is here. AEB is standard, radar collision alert, Blind Spot Alert, Lane Keep Assist, and active cruise control are all here. The actual safety rating is five star.

Warranty and Services? Service intervals are once a year of every 15,000 kilometres. That second figure is appealing for some as it means they’re more likely to do less than the 15K…For those that aren’t frightened by range anxiety, and drive it as they would a petroleum fed machine, it’s a figure easily achieved. Hyundai have also capped the first five service visits at $165. Warranty wise there is a five year standard figure and the battery pack has eight years.
At The End of the Drive.

Hyundai is part of the growing band of brothers that have joined the fully electric powered car family. It’s a technology that has history against it, and the future on its side. But there’s no need for today’s cars to be made to look like something from 200 years in the future. Aside from the Star Trek meets Jetsons looks, it’s a capable enough chariot. Pricing is something that will change for the better but for now, it’ll have to do.
Hit up Hyundai here for more info.