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Sustainability/Green

Tesla Gets A Semi And Updated Roadster.

It’s been hinted at, guessed about, and now it’s for real. Tesla has given us a semi. 2019 is the year that is currently scheduled for first delivery and reservations are currently being taken in the US for just five thousand American dollars.Tesla has unveiled the new truck at a lavish event and simply stated, the design and specifications are stunning.

  • Zero to 60 mph in five seconds, unladen,
  • Zero to 60 mph in twenty seconds with an 80000 pound (over 36200 kilos) load,
  • Will climb a five degree slope at a steady 65 mph,
  • No shifting and clutching mechanism, regenerative braking recovers 98% of energy and no moving engine parts reduces maintenance, costs, and wear,
  • New megachargers add 400 miles range in thirty minutes,
  • Enhanced Autopilot, the Tesla Semi features Automatic Emergency Braking, Automatic Lane Keeping, Lane Departure Warning, and event recording,
  • Has an autonomous convoy mode, where a lead truck can control following trucks. Tesla has also changed the way we view a semi, with the cabin designed to be driver-centric, and with stairs to allow better entry and exit from the cabin. The cabin itself will allow standing room and for the driver two touchscreens for ease of use and providing extra information at a glance.

Tesla has also revealed a throwback to their origins, with a revamped Roadster. It’s also some numbers that, if proven, are truly startling. Consider a 0-100 kph time of 1.9 seconds, a standing 400 metre time of 8.8 seconds, 0 – 160 kph of just 4.2 seconds, over 250 miles per hour top speed and a range of over 600 miles. It’ll be all wheel drive, a four seater, have a removable glass roof, and will start at a current mooted price of US$200000.

More information can be found via The Tesla website

Information provided courtesy of Tesla.

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV

PHEV. It’s short, sharp, sounds like an ex AFL player but with vastly more substance. It stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. In layman’s terms, it’s an electrically powered car that you can plug in to your home power system to charge a battery inside the car. What it doesn’t tell you is that the petrol engine that’s also fitted can be used as a generator and that the brakes can be used to harvest the kinetic energy generated and recharge the battery on the go. Private Fleet trundles the Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV from the lower Blue Mountains to Temora, in the central west of NSW, via Bathurst, and home via Yass and Goulburn. It’s readily identifiable as a PHEV thanks to the three subtle (ahem) badges on the rear door and front flanks.Oh, there’s a Tesla style fast charge port so you achieve approximately 80 percent full charge from empty in just half an hour, as long as you have the appropriate equipment, including the transformer the PHEV comes with for the everyday single phase household which is best left overnight to really give the “tank” a full charge. Hence the Plug-in part of the name.Mitsubishi currently only have the Outlander as a hybrid vehicle and it’s a kinda cool one with three distinct hybrid modes, EV, Series, and Parallel modes. When the EV Mode is chosen you’re driving purely on battery power alone. You can also drive with the 2.0L petrol engine as a charging unit or as a paired situation where the petrol engine kicks in as required. Transmission is a single or fixed speed transaxle unit.

There’s a big silver EV button in the centre console or two buttons either side of the jet fighter Drive selector (no gears as such) marked Save or CHRG. Save turns off the electric option and runs purely on the petrol powerplant, the other is self explanatory.When fully charged, the battery indicator shows a range of around fifty kilometres. If you accelerate ssssllllooooowwwwllllyyyyy it will stay on battery only but give it a reasonable prod and the petrol engine cuts in. On battery it’s an eerie almost silence, with a barely audible whir as the PHEV wafts away. The petrol engine is isolated, muted, and there’s hardly a vibration in the body to alert you to it being engaged. The computer programing is seamless, as is the actual switching between modes, and the whole system is intuitive.Fuel consumption is still…..well, a concern. Mitsubishi’s refinement to the overall system now rate consumption as 1.7L of 91RON per 100 kilometres. That’s certainly achievable on virtually purely electric runs that cover no more than maybe fifteen kilometres or so. A Wheel Thing finished, after a week and well over 1000 kilometres, closer to 9.5L/100 kilometres. That’s from a 45L tank. Overall power is rated at 120 kW and that’s for the two electric motors fitted, one for the rear and one for the front wheels, which out put a total of 120 kW and 332 Nm. Mitsubishi says 6.5 hours for a full charge to the battery using the charger on a standard household supply.

The petrol engine is rated for a fairly measley 87 kW, but a better torque figure is usable at 186 Nm @ 4500 rpm. It’s also worth noting that you can effectively have the PHEV as an AWD or All Wheel Drive vehicle by the simple expedient of pushing a clearly marked 4WD button in the centre console.The drive west from the lower Blue Mountains sees the westbound highway rise by some five hundred metres vertically over a horizontal distance of perhaps eighty kilometres, before dropping drastically at the western edge to the Hartley Valley from Mt Victoria via one of the most picturesque yet narrow roads around. It’s here that you can tip the drive selector into B3 or B5, two different braking modes to harvest the kinetic energy, and add extra range back into the battery system. The brake pedal itself is slightly numb also but not so enough to isolate feedback to your foot when generating energy on a downhill run where the braking modes don’t slow the car enough.

There’s a couple of steepish climbs before entering Lithgow, the home of famed Australian runner Marjorie Jackson, before a reasonably flat run to Bathurst, and from here to the WW2 prison town of Cowra, where a number of Japanese prisoners staged a breakout. The roads were flat, surprisingly smooth, allowing the PHEV to build up speed slowly in order to not punch a hole in the range availability. The PHEV was also predisposed to understeer, not uncontrollable, but easier where safe to allow the nose to run wide and follow its own path. The steering itself was numb to the point of disconnection on centre, with an artificial feel to the travel either side.

On the more rough tarmac surfaces in the central west of NSW there was noticeable road noise from the 225/55/18 Toyo A25 rubber, which also didn’t look as if they’d fit the wheel well, with plenty of room between the lining and the rubber. The suspension itself is tuned somewhere between taut and not quite so taut, with initial give before firming up rapidly. Adding to the ride query is an overly short front suspension travel, a trait found in some other cars where riding over a school lane speed hump at exactly the legal speed has a crash thump that sounds as if the struts are about to pull out from the body mounts. It’s disconcerting and at odds with the mooted soft road ability the Outlander is marketed with. On the upside directional changes are dealt with well, on smooth roads, with a centre of gravity well below the driver’s seat meaning body roll is minimal.Economy here varied between 4.0L/100 km where the Charge tab was engaged, as once underway the drain on the system isn’t aware as much (naturally) as accelerating constantly. There’s a centre of dash display, as is standard in all Outlanders, in this case showing the range from purely battery and both battery and fuel. In Temora itself, the car was charged up overnight. The purpose of visiting Temora was to watch their Remembrance Day airshow, as Temora is a former working WW2 airforce base and home to aircraft such as a Gloster Meteor, Spitfire, Hudson, and more. The show itself was a quickish 3.5 hours but wrapped with the tarmac being opened for visitors being able to meet the pilots including Red Bull Air Race and former RAAF pilot, Matt Hall.An overnight charge has the battery in the PHEV topped up and Sunday’s return trip via the township of Harden (seriously), via Yass and along the monumentally boring Hume Highway past Goulburn. The roads here were again most straight and corners rated between 75 to 95 kmh meaning that most of them were well within the abilities of the drivetrain to gently ease off and gently accelerate up.

Straight line stability in the Outlander is wonderful, lateral stability not so, with both front and rear, time and again, skipping left and right on rutted and broken surfaces. There’s an instant feeling of uncertainty before either corner cocks a leg and then there’s the sideways movement. A quick lift of the right foot, the chassis regathers its thoughts, and it’s business as usual. In the greater scheme of things it’s a minor annoyance but shows that underneath it’s not quite as settled compared to some of its rivals.Final consumption figures are a long way from the claimed 1.7L/100 km which would be spot on for short distance, flat road, driving. But along the way you can enjoy the decently velour covered comfortable seats, the DAB equipped sound system, with plenty of punch and clarity. Being a largish SUV (call it 4.8 metres in length) means plenty of head (1030 mm), leg (1039 mm for the front), shoulder (1437 mm), and cargo space, with the five seater allowing 477 litres. There’s a parcel shelf that covers the spare and has a small locker for the charge cable. However the dash and overall cabin presence is dating and needs a makeover to bring it up to the perceived level of quality as seen in the Korean and European rivals. Outside it’s no different, apart from the badging, to the currently design ethos of Mitsubishi, with the broad and chromed “Shield” nose, curvaceous body that would shame some super models, and a rounded in profile but square from the rear…rear.You’ll not want for safety in the form of airbags, hill start assist, and the basic traction control systems, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and something called an Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System….what you don’t get is satnav, as the seven inch touchscreen interface has apps for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has GPS, but not a navigation facility.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing Mitsubishi didn’t list a price for the PHEV on their website, stating it was “Price on application”. Given the standard Outlander range starts at $27990 and goes up to $47990 for the Exceed version (also available as a PHEV) it’d be fair to say somewhere in the mid $30K bracket for the LS. It’s different in that you get a petrol power generator and a back up driver unit at that, with the main focus being that it’s a plug in unit and less reliant on the petrol engine. The fact that it’s a SUV is also different, with very, very few other companies offering anything similar and bear in mind the Outlander isn’t aimed at the luxury car market.

Unfortunately that shows up mostly in the interior, and on road the unsettled feeling it exhibits just a little too often. Measured up, on these two standards, against the Santa Fe, Sorento, Fortuner, and the Euros such as the Tiguan, its lagging. Where it scores the brownie points is in the drive tech, so click here: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for specific information and contact your local dealer for pricing.

 

Nissan Leaf Wins Award.

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

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

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

Head to The Nissan website for more information.

Plastic Bags To Fuel: It’s For Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tesla Powers Up Across Australia.

With the continued growth of the electric car segment, driven (no pun intended…well, maybe a little) by Tesla, the ability to travel further and further across the wide brown land has grown even more. Tesla has expanded its charging network further across Australia with the addition of five Superchargers across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and there’s rapid growth of Destination Chargers across the country.

The Supercharger link between Melbourne and Adelaide is complete with the opening of Horsham in Victoria, and South Australian locations Keith, Clare Valley and Adelaide city centre. These additions allow owners to drive from Adelaide to Brisbane emissions-free.

Western Australia’s first Supercharger is now open at Eaton Fair Shopping Centre. Located two hours from Perth and just a few kilometres north of one of W.A.s oldest seaside cities, Bunbury, Eaton is a convenient stop on the way to Margaret River’s picturesque wine region. Tesla owners can enjoy the centre’s retail, food and 24/7 amenities while charging up to 270km of range in 30 minutes.

Australia now has a total of 18 Supercharger stations, with another 17 planned for installation. In just the last four months more than 80 Destination Chargers have been installed bringing the total number of sites around Australia to 384. Recent additions include South Australia’s Barossa Pavilions, a 75-acre hillside retreat located in the , and Deep Blue Hotel and Hot Springs in Warrnambool offering luxurious accommodation and coastal views along Victoria’s famous Great Ocean Road.

These Supercharger and Destination Charging locations are part of the largest electric vehicle infrastructure supply in Australia and Tesla’s continued effort to double the size of charging sites by the end of the year. Tesla Superchargers have a higher power output than the Destination Chargers, with up to 120 kilowatts of power providing up to 270 kilometres of range in just half an hour. Planning for the locations looks at easy to access sites that also provide food, beverage, facilities, shopping centres to allow for drivers to have a rest stop in a pleasant environment whilst recharging themselves and their cars.

Destination Chargers work on the same basis as the charger you’d have installed at home. These allow longer stops for drivers whilst they charge at 40 kilometres of range every hour on single phase or double that on three phase. Tesla provides a map of their Australian charger bases here: Tesla Australia charging locations.

 

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).

Auto Industry News – Q2 2017

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

Sales and Manufacturing

As local auto makers prepare to bow out, both the Victorian government and Federal government have belatedly given the local manufacturing scene a boost in the arm. This comes courtesy of $90m funding and a separate $100mfund respectively. The news would have been immaterial according to the likes of Holden, who claim that despite a second consecutive year of profits, manufacturing cars locally would have been unsustainable. Toyota felt the pain of its local restructure though, as its profits slumped. Ford on the other hand have turned their attention towards the future, including autonomous vehicles and ride sharing services.

On the sales front, compact light hatchbacks continue to lose momentum against SUVs, while sales for diesel passenger vehicles are now approximately half of what they were in 2008. Elsewhere, Mazda was named the most reputable car company in Australia, followed by Toyota and Hyundai.

Ending the quarter, Japan’s auto parts business Takata, who were embroiled in a longstanding controversy surrounding faulty airbags, filed for bankruptcy. With enormous liabilities exceeding 1.7 trillion yen, Key Safety Systems looks set to pounce and acquire the company.

 

Safety and Environment

Data was released showing Aussie motorists are producing up to 50% more emissions than drivers in European cities, while the quality of our fuel ranks 66th in the world. The UK has responded by making a push to reduce diesel vehicle sales and lower pollution, although Australia looks set to defy this trend as SUV diesel car sales soar. Manufacturers’ actions could define the battle though, with the likes of Volvo signalling they don’t intend to continue producing diesel vehicles in the future.

In other news, for the second time this year an enormous haul of counterfeit car parts were intercepted in the UAE. The batch included fake brake pads and head gasket kits, with some of the parts believed to have been on route to Australia.

 

Technology

In the fuel technology sector, things continue to advance. Locally, a report by the National Transport Commission identified fuel efficiency improvements in light vehicles during 2016 were the slowest in 10 years. Furthermore, findings also suggested that Australian motorists continue to move towards larger cars, as green vehicles took a backwards step in terms of the proportion of new cars sold.

The sector could be shaken up however, following a discovery at the UNSW which identified “a cheap way of generating hydrogen from water”. The discovery is leading some to predict the viability of the fuel technology and its local prospects have increased. Whether hydrogen or electricity become the new incumbent(s) remains to be seen, but UBS is tipping electric vehicle prices to approach those of petrol powered vehicles as early as next year, now that worldwide sales have tipped 2m vehicles.

Meanwhile, Roads Australia weighed in about the future of autonomous vehicles, predicting “every new vehicle sold in Australia within 10 years will be driverless”. Further abroad, but still in the self-driving segment, Apple received a testing permit for its driverless technology. Additionally, Google clocked up 1 million kilometres of autonomous vehicle driving including real world tests via an early rider program. Google’s milestone is expected to place it well ahead of any other manufacturers in this area, while also experiencing substantially lower failure rates.

With that said, one US study is suggesting we might move away from owning vehicles as driverless technology is introduced. Even more of interest, some have already started to turn their attention towards the next big potential technology, flying vehicles – something that Uber appear to be keen to get in on.

As for other technical developments, Mazda Australia was spruiking its autonomous emergency braking system as a “safety standard revolution” following its introduction across a wide variety of the auto maker’s vehicle range. Toyota is working on technology that would identify drivers experiencing a heart attack, and safely pull their car over. Last but not least, Apple announced that it will release a system update later this year featuring a “do not disturb” function that comes into effect when it detects someone is driving.

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

Vehicle emissions continued to be a sticking point for various stakeholders during the quarter. After moves from Paris and London to address emissions testing, the AAA began to press the Australian Government to do more on the issue – as well as further road safety funding. BMW Australia also contributed to the broader topic, taking a swipe at our politicians for failing to promote low emission vehicles such as electric cars. On a related point, the Electric Vehicle Council was launched in Canberra and provided a $400k grant.

Even though Volkswagen set out at the beginning of the year to address its affected vehicles in the local market, the manufacturer drew the ire of many Australian motorists for its software upgrades.

As has been customary for some time now, the diesel emissions scandal engulfed other parties. This time, authorities took action against Fiat and Mercedes Benz over concerns they have been caught up in their own emissions scandals.

Finally, as the focus on autonomous driving gathers steam, ANCAP put forward the suggestion that road laws should be nationalised to facilitate the integration of the technology. Moves to do so would follow the likes of Germany, where laws have been passed to approve self driving vehicles.

 

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.

2017 Tesla Model X: A Private Fleet Car Review.

Being an independent reviewer and supplying content means relying on the good graces of companies to allow their cars to be reviewed. Tesla Australia is one of the companies that works with independent reviewers and I was privileged to spend a too quick 30 hours with the new Model X. It’s jampacked with technology and comes with a pricetag to suit.An immediately noticeable feature of the Model X is the strong family resemblance to the Model S. There’s a similarity to the profile, with the A pillar and window line providing a clear lineage. However, a major talking point of the Tesla Model X is the pair of upwards folding rear doors, known as “Falcon Wing”. What hasn’t been noised about is the tech that allows the doors to open in tight parking points. There’s sensors and cameras that will read the surrounding environment, with the cameras mounted discretely next to the rear wheels. The system works holistically and, when the doors begin their opening motions, will keep the doors from opening too wide or high. Maximum opening width is just twelve inches.The doors themselves are roof hinged, in the centre and have smoked glass, and will open outwardly slightly before commencing their vertical travel. The tailgate is powered, however the front doors, unexpectedly, are also powered. It’s here a surprise and delight feature comes into play. When walking up to the car (and ensuring the sedan shaped key fob is on you) the driver’s door will open in greeting. On a wet day this could be a godsend. The fob itself has a hidden button or two, on top and at the rear, which will open/close the tailgate and open/close all five doors. There’s even a spoiler that raises and lowers, ala Bugatti Veyron, hidden in the rear deck.Inside, the cabin is dominated by a touchscreen almost big enough to double as a TV. Sitting in a portrait orientation, this screen is the control centre of any Tesla car, offering information, accessing over the air updates (as was the case during the brief time it was with A Wheel Thing), accessing apps and the radio system and providing startling clarity when using Google Maps. Although given a demonstration by one of the wonderful staff at Tesla’s main Sydney location, the amount of info and how it all operates is somewhat overwhelming, even for a fairly technically literate person. The radio itself is only FM, no DAB, but has TuneIn to compensate. There’s something just a little bit awesome about being able to listen to bluegrass from Georgia in the U.S. or a dedicated Beatles station in Sweden. Audio quality itself is excellent, with the Mark Levinson speakers delivering real clarity, superb low down punch, and vocals that are clean and crisp.There’s a couple of nice touches to the interior. The seats are powered for rear and forward motion at the front, however the middle rows are also powered and have a setting which allows for them to power forward to a certain point to allow access to the second row rear seats. It’s diabolically simple in opertaion and makes utilising both the seats and the door access unbelievably simple. There’s also a huge sloping windscreen which provides a huge amount of forward and upward vision. Fear not, dear driver, you won’t fry like a piece of fresh bacon, for Tesla have embedded enough tint to block UV without losing the wondrous panoramic view. There’s even some tasteful looking carbon fibre trim added in.At the rear left quarter is the housing for the charging cable. Tesla provide an adaptor to suit standard household plugs along with, of course, those that choose to get a supercharger installed at home. Again, it’s just a touch fiddly to get the small hinged flap to open but the actual process of hooking up the cable and seeing a hidden LED glow green to indicate charging is relatively simple of itself.

It’s the drive that sells the Model S and the test car was fitted with the 100 kW/h dual engine package. Yes, “Ludicrous” Mode is on board, accessed via the touchscreen inside the car’s settings, and will help propel the Model S to 100 kph in just 3.8 seconds. There’s also sensational in gear acceleration, with a real punch and license losing potential from 70 kph upwards. It’s literally a feeling of being pushed back into the seat and watching the outside become a blur and allegedly will see the sprint from 70 to 105 in just 1.5 seconds. Yes. It’s that quick.

Here’s why: there’s a 375 kW engine driving the rear wheels, a 193 kW driving the front, which combine to produce a staggering 967 torques. Even though the Model X weighs a more than heft 2500 plus kilos, that torque is on tap instantly. Oh. That Ludicrous mode has an extra bite; press and hold the Ludicrous mode tab on the touchscreen and you’ll be rewarded with a Ludicrous+. BUT you’ll also only save maybe a tenth or two, because, you know, a sub four second 0-100 time that beats supercars like Lamborghini’s Huracan is so passe’….Here we’ll pause for a moment and consider the battery options available. The 75 kWh powertrain will offer (with all battery packs under ideal conditions) up to 417 kilometres. The 90 kWh set will look at489 km. Punch it up to the 100D and Tesla quote a more than reasonable 565 kilometres. Order the supreme pizza, garlic bread, soft drink and free delivery for the P100D and that drops slightly to 542 kilometres. Then there’s seating. In standard trim, the Model X comes as a five seater. Six and seven seater configs are options.You’ll also get a surprisingly nimble, for the mass, vehicle. Being all wheel drive is one thing, but that means zippo if the vehicle doesn’t handle. There’s no problem here, even with those massive 22 inch finned alloys and low profile 255/35 Goodyear rubber hiding red painted and Tesla embossed brake calipers. It does help that the chassis has most of its mass down low, housing the batteries, yet the air suspension is tuned just finely enough to provide a ride that is both comfortable and compliant yet, somehow, imbues the weighty Model X with a sportiness that will appeal to any driver with an idea of how to utilise such a set up. The massive footprint thanks to the tyres and having them pushed out to each corner spreads the mass and really does make the Model X a genuine delight to drive. Oh, that air suspension? yes, it does raise and lower the vehicle, which at a standstill prompted some wide eyes and pointed fingers at traffic lights when trying it (showing off).The steering does lack a measure of feedback straight ahead but does have a tight rack ratio meaning input by the driver is felt straight away and has the Model X responding rapidly. Combined with a gear selector that looks great and requires minimal physical effort to move, it makes getting underway and enjoying the capabilities of the vehicle a doddle.Storage? Glad you asked. Being a design that couples the engines to the wheels directly, it allows the Tesla engineers to build in, somewhat like the read engined Volkswagens, frontal luggage space in what Tesla call a “frunk” or front trunk. There’s plenty behind the rear seats in a compartment and, of course, bottle and cup holders as well.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s now time for the faint hearted to take a pill, find a nice quiet room, turn off the lights, and start singing “Soft Kitty”.
The driveaway price of the Tesla Model X as tested was $305809.00.
Why? Here’s why. The starting price is $201100, with that all wheel drive system included. The gorgeous blue metallic paint is $1450. The massive aero 22 inch wheels are a tear inducing $8000. The superb and super comfy black leather seats in a six seater configuration are, combined, $7950. No, that’s not a typo.
The carbon fibre trim inlay seems cheap in comparison at $1450. Thankfully the deck spoiler, Ludicrous mode, and the Tesla calipers come as part of the package. That awesome audio I mentioned? $3600. Air ride? Included. Hi amp charger upgrade? Hmmm….$2200. Even the autopilot upgrade system was a staggering $7300. With those and a couple of other inclusions (such as the Premium Equipment pack that self opens the door on approach) it came out at $242100 with GST inclusive.

Now here’s where some muttering and grumbling about taxes will be heard, and rightly so. GST applies here, so from that $242K price, there’s $22K in GST. BUT, on top of that, the Australian Government slugs a LCT or luxury car tax. How much? I’m glad you asked. Let’s say, for the sake of fact, $49972. Then there’s ANOTHER tax called stamp duty, a mere snip at $13705.
The end, drive away, price?
$305809.

For a driving enthusiast with that kind of coin, it’s a no brainer. You’d have an electric supercar in your driveway in a blink of an eye. For the rest of us? Lotto.
Go here 2017 Tesla Model X information to wish and dream.