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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.

EV Vs HV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for the big showdown between the two rivals hoping to knock internal combustion engines off the top spot in the world of automotive power. (cue drumrolls, flashing lights blaring heavy metal music and a hyperventilating commentator).  In the green corner, we have… Electricity!  In the other green corner, we have… Hydrogen!  Which of these two mighty rivals will win the title for best engine type and come out champion and win the Green Energy title?

OK, settle down.  Deep breath and time for me to stop channelling the pro wrestling I watched the other night when I was in need of a good laugh.  Right, that’s better.  Now to continue with a discussion of whether hydrogen-powered vehicles or EVs are the best.

Of course, one has to look at all aspects of motoring to decide what’s best. What’s more, when it comes to individual decisions as to what car you want to buy and drive, your personal priorities will come into play. So, without further ado, let the contest begin…

Environmental impact and emissions: On the road from the end-user perspective, it’s a draw.  Running EVs and hydrogen doesn’t pump out pollution or greenhouse gases.  However, the way that the electricity is generated or the hydrogen gas is produced may have to be taken into account. If the widespread uptake of EVs means that power companies have to fire up otherwise disused old coal- or gas-fired generators, EVs might not be all that green.  If the power comes from hydro, wind or solar, then it’s all good.  Similarly with hydrogen: if the process of getting said hydrogen into a fuel form can be done without chewing through non-renewables or pumping out nasties, then it’s all good – and we’re working on that, as we’ve discussed in an earlier post.

Maintenance: Assuming that you can find a mechanic that can deal with EVs (there are more of these knocking around these days) and/or hydrogen vehicles (we need a nice little abbreviation for these: what about HVs?), this is another draw.  Both types of vehicle have fewer moving parts than what’s needed in an ICE (internal combustion engine) – both involve electric motors that create rotational motion directly rather than relying on a controlled explosion to push a piston that turns into rotational motion.  Fewer moving parts means less friction, which means less wear and tear.  However, to be fair, EVs and HVs haven’t been around quite as long, so we will have to wait a bit and see what happens as they get older.

Accessibility: OK, here EVs win hands down.  Charging points can be found in all sorts of places and every time I go to my favourite holiday spot, I come across a new charger where there wasn’t one before.  You can also get charging points for your home so you can charge an EV overnight.  Although our very own CSIRO are working on ways to make transportation and storage of hydrogen easier, we still don’t have very many hydrogen bowsers out there… or at least not yet.

Cost: At the moment, electricity is cheaper to get than hydrogen fuel, so this is another win for EVs.

Time: As a lot of you have already discovered, it can take quite a while to charge the battery of an EV up to full, kind of like it does with your phone or laptop. Even the very fastest superchargers take half an hour to get a battery to 100%. However, hydrogen pumps as easily as petrol or diesel, and you all know how quick that is, so HVs win here.

Range: Another very clear win for hydrogen. In 2017, the Toyota Mirai clocked up 502 km, while a test version of a Tesla picked up somewhere between 397 and 506 km.  In practice and with everyday people driving, the range of HVs tends to be a lot longer than that of EVs.

Specs:

The Telsa Roadster (due for release in 2020) boasts some specs that make all the other supercars, muscle cars and hypercars look like Granny’s little runabout: 0–62 mph (that’s about the same as 100 km/h)) in 1.9 seconds, a top speed of 250 MILES per hour and a reputed 10,000 Nm of torque according to Elon Musk.  Yes, I’m counting those zeroes as well and wondering if that’s for real.  A nice nerd has explained how this figure might be a wee bit misleading, as Tesla’s talking about wheel torque, not engine torque:

On the HV front, the Pininfarina H2 Speed racing machine claims to do the 0–62 mph sprint in 3.4 seconds and has a top speed of 300 km/h and a maximum power output (from four engines combined) of 480 kW; torque figures are hard to come by.

Actually, I would quite like to see a real head-to-head race between the Pininfarina H2 Speed and the Tesla Roadster, and not just because it would be cool to see the Tesla’s acceleration in action.  One of the things that puts me off traditional motor racing a bit is the engine noise and the smell of the fumes, but when electricity and hydrogen compete, these would be totally gone and that’s the whole point of EVs and HVs.  We can probably say now that the Tesla would win the sprint, but over a longer race, the quicker refuelling time of the H2 Speed might make up for this.

 

* Credit where credit is due.  Some of these stats and comparisons have been taken from a 2017 issue of How It Works magazine (issue 105); there have been some developments in both corners since then!

Tesla Model 3 Pricing Confirmed For Australia.

Tesla Australia has confirmed the range and pricing structure for the forthcoming Model 3.Built upon a two model range to start, the Standard Plus and Performance, the new entry level range for the electric car makers starts at $66,000 plus on-road costs and government charges. Expected 0-100 time is 5.6 seconds, and expected range from the supercharger capable Model 3 Standard Plus is 460 km. The Performance is listed as $85,000 plus charges. 0 100 is 3.4 seconds and a range of 560km. 20 inch wheels roll around red alloy calipers, with a subtle carbon fibre spoiler providing extra stability when driving in Track Mode.Five colours will be made available for the expected August launch timeframe; Solid Black, Midnight Silver Metallic, Deep Blue Metallic, Pearl White and Metallic Red multicoats. The metallics are $1,400 and the multicoats $2,100 and $2,800 respectively.

The Model 3 will also receive the over-the-air software updates. A major update is the Autopilot facility, which enables the Model 3 to effectively drive itself albeit still under active human supervision. It enables the Model 3 to to steer, accelerate and brake for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane. The Standard Plus also gets a 12-way 12-way power adjustable, heated, front pair of seats, with premium seat material and trim, an upgraded audio system, plus standard maps & navigation. There is also centre console with storage, 4 USB ports, and docking for 2 smartphones. Entry is via the Tesla keyfob or a new smartcard system.LED fog lamps, Automatic Emergency Braking, Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning and Side Collision Warning will be standard. Buyers of the Model 3 Performance will receive what Tesla denote as the Premium Interior Package. Live traffic notifications with satnav maps, a 14 speaker audio system with music streaming, heated rear seats complement the standard equipment in the Standard Plus. Both cars will allow for customisable driver profiles, and everything is set up from a spare looking dashboard, dominated by a solitary touchscreen in landscape orientation.An extra feature to be released later in the year is traffic light and stop sign recognition. This will enable the Model 3 to further enhance its autonomous driving ability, and it’s forecast that the Model 3 will be able to do so in a full city environment. The Autopilot feature is also intended to allow autonomous driving in situations such as vehicle overtaking and on/off-ramp driving.

The exterior design is one familiar to anyone with a Model S. The headlights are subtly redesigned for a more wrap-around look, the roof is a solidly tinted glass item, and the rear is a more traditional boot, rather than liftback, styling.Orders for the Tesla Model 3 are now open and available via the Tesla Australia website.

 

2020 RAV4 Ready To Roar.

If you’re not a fan of SUV style vehicles, best you stop and look away now. The Toyota RAV4, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is widely regarded as the original SUV. 2019 has the release of a vastly updated car and range to continue the legend.

The range will include, for the RAV4’s first time, a hybrid. There will be two petrol engines, four trim levels, and 2WD or AWD variants.
The Gx range is the entry level, with GXL, Cruiser, and a solitary, and new Edge trim spec.. Here’s how the pricing structure shakes down.

GX Petrol 2WD manual: $30,640, GX Petrol 2WD CVT $32,640, GX Hybrid 2WD CVT $35,140, GX Hybrid AWD CVT $38,140;
GXL Petrol 2WD CVT $35,640, GXL Hybrid 2WD CVT $38,140, GXL Hybrid AWD CVT $41,140;
Cruiser Petrol 2WD CVT $39,140, Cruiser Hybrid 2WD CVT $41,640, Cruiser Hybrid AWD CVT $44,640 &
Edge Petrol AWD Auto $47,140The base petrol engine is a new 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre, direct injection, four-cylinder engine that drives through Toyota’s now well-proven continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a launch gear mechanism. The GX also gets a manual with a rev-matching program. The hybrid goes a step further, with a 2.5L Atkinson Cycle powerplant. Peak oomph depends on the driven wheels. There are combined maximum outputs of 160kW for 2WD variants and 163kW for AWD versions. This also continues Toyota’s fuel efficiency drive, with just 4.7 litres/100km2 for 2WD variants and 4.8 litres/100km2 for AWD versions.There is also a nifty rear axle mounted drive system. Toyota fits an additional rear motor generator to provide power to the rear axle for the electric AWD system. Complete with a Trail mode, it enables up to 80 per cent of the total drive torque to be delivered through the rear wheels.

A new model reaches the RAV4 family. The Edge trim level also has a 2.5L petrol four, and there’s 152kW of peak power, with 243Nm of peak torque available, reaching the ground via an eight speed auto. A mechanical AWD system can split torque at up to 50:50 front to rear from a 100% front driven only delivery. The Edge trim level will also feature off-rad drive modes, being Mud and Sand, Rock and Dirt, and Snow.RAV4 has also been given an extensive makeover outside, with a stronger resemblance to the HiLux family. The exterior redesign brings a sharper look, a bolder look by moving away from the curvier outgoing model, and 17-inch,18-inch and 19-inch alloy wheels which add a visually solid and planted presence on the road. The GX starts the party with LED headlights, auto wipers, and dual exhaust pipes. Inside there’s a 4.2 inch driver’s display, 8.0 inch touchscreen with DAB audio and voice recognition, higher grade trim feel and quality than before, and improved safety features including AEB as standard.The GXL has 18 inch alloys, up from the 17s on GX, and adds privacy glass for the rear windows. A rear camera with guidance lines is added. Wireless charging up front and rear airvents get a nod as well, plus there’s five USB ports, with three for the front seat passengers. The Cruiser trim level goes to 19 inch wheels, heated front seats and a powered driver’s seat. The driver’s display gets bumped up to a 7.0 inch screen. The Edge gets more cosmetics, venting for the front seats, and a leather look material for the pews.Underpinning the slightly shorter (5mm), lower (30mm), and wider (10mm) body is the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that features a 30mm longer wheelbase and wider track, that has been extended by between 25mm and 55mm. This, together with a revised front MacPherson strut and new multi-link rear suspension, gives the new RAV4 substantially improved driving dynamics, superb ride comfort, and improved handling.Safety is raised, as expected. Seven airbags including driver’s kneebag, with the Toyota Safety Sense package including AEB with pedestrian detection for day and night conditions, and daytime cyclist detection, active cruise control for the autos, lane trace assist and lane centreing, plus lane departure alert with lane keep assist.

Check with your local Toyota dealership for availability and to book a test drive.

Sleek And Sporty: Rimac Concept 1 and Rimac Concept 2.

Rimac is one of a number of new brands that is looking towards a purely electrically powered future for cars. Rimac itself has seemingly snuck under the radar, with its most notable achievement to date being the destruction of a car at the hands of a British car show host…

Rimac Automobili is based in Croatia and was founded in 2009 by Mate Rimac. He says that his original idea was to start with the proverbial blank sheet and grow an automotive design business from what started as a hobby. The dream was to build the world’s first fully eklectric sports car, and the kicker was having a petrol powered car’s engine that Rimac was racing expire, allowing he and his team to convert it to a fully battery powered system. As many components weren’t available “off the shelf” Rimac and co had to develop the parts themselves. They now hold 24 individual patents.Concept 1 was spawned from a series of cars being converted from petrol to electric. The success of the conversions had the owners of the converted cars spread the word of the company’s work. From here, Rimac was able to realise part of his dream and drew up plans for what would become the Rimac Concept 1.

Franfurt’s 2011 car show saw the first public showing of the Concept 1, and was greeted with largely positive reviews. At a cost of around USD$980,000, just 88 would be built. Rimac Concept 1 features a quartet of electric motors, with an output of 913kW/1224hp, and 1600Nm/1180lb-ft for torque. In a lightweight body of carbon fibre, the 90 kWh motors launch the Concept 1 to 100kmh/62mph in 2.6 seconds. It’ll see the double ton in 6.2 seconds and will crack the quarter mile in 9.9 seconds.

Range for the Rimac Concept 1 has also been increased as as the team further developed the car. Original range estimates hovered around the 200 mile mark, with current best world figures now around the 310 miles distance.Owners receive the Rimac All Wheel Torque Vectoring System, which distributes torque between all four paws on demand and depending on driver’s setup choices. The interior is bespoke leather and handmade trim.

The Rimac Concept 2 takes the original and expands and improves upon it in almost every area, including price. With expected first deliveries schedule for 2020 as the car undergoes testing and homologation, the current expected hit to the wallet is just under Eu1.8,000,000 or a tick over USD$2,000,000.

Rimac has really “upped the ante” for the Concept 2. Top speed? 415kmh/258mph. Power? 1408kW/1888hp. 100kmh/62mph time? 1.85 seconds. Range? 647km/402 miles. It’s been touted as being able to twice lap the fabled Nurburgring twice with no drop in overall performance. And charge time is said to be up to 80% in around a half hour.Autonomous driving is on board and is at a Level 4 standard. Eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, lidar, and six radar sensors will go a long way to ensuring Level 4 driving for the owner. Extra smart tech comes in the form of facial recognition to unlock the butterfly wing doors that form an integral part of the super slippery body. Built of carbon fibre also, the chassis and body house the battery pack, mounted low for better weight distribution, centre of gravity, and handling. Weight is estimated though to still be around 1930kg/4300lb. There’s nary a hard edge to be seen on the Rimac Concept 2’s body, with sleek lines, plenty of aero influences, and a huge rear wing, necessary if Sir is to travel at 200mph.

The drive system is similar to the Concept 1, with full torque vectoring, and the ability to switch between front wheel, rear wheel, all wheel drive modes on the fly. The driver’s display screen can overlay driving lines to show an almost arcade game like look if the system senses that the car is being driven in the appropriate environment.

Just 150 examples are to be made and it’s said that all examples have been pre-sold.

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

The EV From Down Under

We were all very sad when we got the news that those iconic Australian cars – Ford and Holden – were no longer going to be manufactured here and that the factories were closing their doors. However, we can all smile again for the sake of the Australian automotive industry: a new company in Queensland is going to manufacture a car from scratch.  Great!

There’s a slight difference with this newcomer, though. Unlike the gas-guzzling Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores (OK, they were a bit better when driven on the open road but that’s another story altogether), this new company, ACE EV, is turning its eyes to the hot new sector of the automotive industry: electric cars.

Well, to be more specific, it’s going in for electric vans and commercial vehicles as well as cars.  And, to be fair, the factory is going to be using some parts that were manufactured overseas as well as a few made here.  The idea is to keep the costs down.  They’re not out to produce Tesla clones at Tesla prices.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Tesla per se and it’s neat to see electric vehicles that have bust out of the boring, crunchy-granola, wimpy image and become supercool.  However, a brand new Tesla probably costs more than what I paid for my house.  ACE EV, however, wants to make EVs more affordable for the typical tradie or suburban family.

ACE EV stands for “Australian Clean Energy Electric Vehicles”.  Proudly Australian, their logo features a kangaroo on the move.  This year (2019), they are launching three vehicles, targeting tradies as well as your typical urban motorist, although they’re only selling them to companies as fleet vehicles at this stage.  These are the ACE Cargo, the ACE Yewt and the ACE Urban.

ACE Cargo

The Cargo is designed to, um, carry cargo.  It’s a van that’s capable of carrying a payload of 500 kg and has a range of 200 km if it’s not carrying the full load. The Cargo is designed to be suitable for couriers and anybody who has to carry gear or people from one side of town to the other: florists, caterers, cleaners, nurses and the people who carry blood samples from the medical centre to the lab for analysis. Looks-wise, it’s broken out of the square box mould of traditional vans, probably for aerodynamic reasons, and resembles a single-cab ute with a hefty canopy.

Ace Yewt

Which brings us neatly to the Yewt.  The Yewt is what it sounds like (say Yewt out loud if you haven’t got it yet). It’s a flat-deck single-cab ute and as it’s got more or less the same specs as the Cargo regarding load, charge time and acceleration. You’d be forgiven for thinking that t it’s the same thing as the Cargo but with the cover on the cargo area taken off.  It’s something of a cute ute – and the contrasting colour roof is a nice touch.

Last but not least, there’s the Urban, which is no relation to the Mitsubishi with the notoriously weird name (Active Urban Sandal).  This one’s still in the pipeline and they haven’t given us the full specs brochure yet (it’s due for release later this year), but this is a classic four-seater compact three-door hatch that looks a bit like a classic Mini but edgier.

It’s certainly nice to see some new vehicles made in Australia for Australians, especially given that in a recent poll, about half of all Australians in an official survey by the Australia Institute would support a law that all new cars sold after 2025 should be EVs.  However, let’s not rush things too much yet.  For one thing, EVs are only one of the Big Three when it comes sustainable motoring (biofuels and hydrogen are the others).  The other thing is that all energy has to come from somewhere, even electricity, as stated by the First Law of Thermodynamics.  This means that in order to charge your EV, you’re going to have to generate the electricity somehow and get it to the charging points.  Before we go over lock, stock and barrel to EVs, we will need better infrastructure, and I don’t just mean more EV charging points around town and in our homes.  We’ll need some more generators.  Otherwise, it would be like setting up a bowser but having no petrol to put in it.  If everybody were to try charging their EVs at home overnight, there would be a massive drain on the national grid and we’d be getting brownouts and blackouts all over the show –which means that watching TV, catching up on your emails, having a hot shower and cooking dinner would get rather difficult – and you wouldn’t be able to charge your EV either.  Guess where the power companies will have to get the money from in order to build new power plants – that’s right: your power bill.

May I humbly suggest that before you invest in an EV for your commute that you also consider installing a solar panel or three on your home?  Or a wind generator?  Not one of those petrol or diesel-powered generators – swapping an internal combustion engine in your car for one in the back yard isn’t better for the environment now, is it?  Unless you run it on biofuel or hydrogen.

Has Steam Gone Walkabout?

What about a steam powered car?  In recent times people’s consciences and attention has turned to more environmentally friendly ways of commuting.  So with electric, hydrogen, hybrid and bio-fuel vehicles all available on the current automotive market, why not give steam another go?

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for a steam powered comeback is the grip that the oil companies have on automotive power.  However the winds seem to be changing, with more-and-more people reflecting on how their lifestyle and decisions impact on the environment.  Internal combustion engines produce a lot of pollution and tend to be rather noisy.  Without a doubt cleaner burning engines are resonating with buyers who have cash to spend.  EVs and hybrids are expensive but there are people very happy to buy them.

Difficulties that drove steam powered cars to become museum pieces were:

  • The external combustion steam engines could not be manufactured as cheaply as Henry Ford’s internal combustion engines.
  • Steam engines were also much heavier engines.
  • It took several minutes before the boiler was hot enough for the steam motor to generate power for take-off.

These difficulties created the “Warehouse and Kmart” phenomenon of today, where people flock to where the cheap buys are regardless of the impact.  But with today’s modern materials, steam cars could be as light as their internal combustion engine alternatives.  With a new advanced condenser and a fast heating boiler, the possibility of a modern-day steam car with decent efficiency and a warm-up time that’s measured in seconds rather than minutes could provide the comeback punch that steam needs to become an attractive and viable option for new-car buyers.

Just ponder on this for a moment – a new modern motorcar running on steam that has powerful seamless acceleration instantly, is clean burning, very quiet and, unlike combustion engines, can run on almost any fuel that produces heat.

Steam engines don’t need any gears or transmissions.  They are much more in the same vein as EV cars that have all their torque available at any rpm.  Due to the fact that steam provides constant pressure, unlike the piston strokes of an internal combustion engine, steam-powered cars require no clutch and no gearbox – making them extremely easy to drive.  By virtue of their design, steam engines provide maximum torque and acceleration instantly like electric motors, and particularly for urban driving where there’s lots of stopping and starting, clean-burning steam would be great!

What developments in steam have occurred since it rudely got forgotten and laid aside?  Some good news is that in 2009, a British team set a new steam-powered land speed record of 148 mph (237 km/h), finally breaking the Stanley Rocket’s record which had stood for more than 100 years.  In the 1990s, a Volkswagen Enginion (a model for research and development) boasted a steam engine that had comparable efficiency to internal combustion engines, but with lower emissions.  And, in recent years, Cyclone Technologies claims it has developed a steam engine that’s twice as efficient.

It might have preceded the internal combustion engine by around 200 years, but as the world is finally starting to take a serious look at the future viability of personal transport, perhaps the wonder of gliding by steam power will once again be seen on our modern roads.  In an age of touchscreen infotainment systems, EV cars that can do 400 km on a charge and driverless cars, surely there is room for new, clean-and-efficient steam cars.

Currently the increased focus on environmental responsibility could be weakening the link between the oil industry and modern motorcars.  Wouldn’t you just love to be able to fill your car up with rainwater and head off on your work commute!

Thoughts?

Tesla Unveils Model Y SUV.

 

Tesla has released details of their Model 3 based electric SUV. Dubbed the Model Y, it slots into the mid-sizer SUV space and will be priced from USD$39,000. That price is applied to the Standard Range version. It will also come in Long Range, Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive, and Performance variants.Tesla say the Model Y will be able to reach 62mph/100km/h in 3.5 seconds, and should see a top speed of 150mph/240km/h. Range expectations are 230 to 300 miles for the Standard and Long Range versions.

The Model Y will be available for sale in the U.S., according to current expectations, in the autumn of 2020 in the northern hemisphere for the Model Y Performance, Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive, and Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive variants, with Standard Range vehicles due in 2021.

Model Y will feature a panoramic glass roof to provide an extra sense of space inside the mid-sizer for the seven passengers. A single 15 inch touchscreen will provide driver and passenger information and comfort. There is an application for smart devices that can be installed also, allowing a driver to enable pre-airconditioning, remote unlock, and a Summon mode. Notable, however, will be the Model Y using the normal door method with vertically aligned hinges, and not using the costlier Model X gull-wing system.Naturally the Model Y will be compatible with the extensive charger network and will be able to take advantage of the forthcoming V3 charging rate system, which will provide a rate of up to 1,000 miles worth of charging in an hour.

Expected release dates for the Australian market are yet to be confirmed.

Jaguar i-Pace Wins Major Award

Jaguar’s low slung all electric five door i-Pace has become Jaguar’s first car to win the European Car Of The Year award. It’s an award that is voted upon by sixty journalists from 23 countries. The award looks technical innovation, design, performance, efficiency and value for money.
To date, the i-Pace has found over 8,000 homes with around 75% of those in Europe. There’s obviously plenty of good reasons for the car to be so popular. The driveline, for example, delivers up to 294kW and 696Nm of torque, and with a pair of electric motors working together in a near perfect weight distribution, a zero to one hundred time of 4.8 seconds is just a flex of the right ankle away.

Road manners are Jaguar’s exacting standards. Torque Vectoring by Braking is standard in the i-Pace; it’s a system that delivers controlled independent braking on the individual inside front and rear wheels to add to the turning forces acting on the car. For the driver that wants to push the i-Pace even harder, an optional airbag suspension system can be fitted. This will drop the i-Pace by ten millimetres to help aerodynamic flow at speeds over 105 km/h.
Both of these are backed up by the Coventry firm’s Adaptive Dynamics monitoring system. At up to 500 times a second, the onboard system will read input from the throttle, the actual acceleration rate, braking, and the suspension to provide a best as possible ride and handling experience. Gone a little dirty? Then the All Surface Progress Control and Low Traction Launch systems will help out in low speed driving conditions.

The power system gets looked after too. Active Vanes open and close behind the grille and front bumper air intakes to provide cooling air when required for the electrical system. Enhanced Brake Regeneration feeds kinetic energy back into the power grid almost as soon as the driver lifts their foot from the accelerator. Heavy Traffic Braking is a variable system that adds power back in city driving stop/start.
Contact Jaguar Australia for information on the 2019 Jaguar i-Pace.