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Sustainability/Green

Mercedes-Benz EQC Unveiled and Mitsubishi ASX Updates.

It’d be fair to say that Tesla has been seen as an innovator when it comes to the fully battery powered car. Their Model X is a beautiful example of practicality, being a large and roomy people mover, with no challengers. Until now. Mercedes-Benz, an originator of the electric car, first put forward a concept of a people mover powered by electricity at the Paris Motor Show. That concept has now been released as a working version under a new branding, EQ. Known as the EQC, this SUV styled machine is powered by a pair of motors, one each for the front and rear combining to produce 300kW. Consumption is rated at 22.2 kiloWatt hours per 100 kilometres driven.Peak torque is quoted as 765Nm, and top speed is limited to 180km/h. Range is said to be 450 kilometres which of course will depend on driving conditions. It’ll be a hefty beast though, with a kerb weight of 2425 kilos for the 4761mm long machine. Gross Vehicle Mass for the 1884mm (sans mirrors) wide and 1624mm high EQC is 2930 kilos, with the battery pack making up 650 kilograms of that. However there’s enough oomph to get the EQC to 100km/h in a breath over five seconds.

Charging is courtesy of an on-board charger that is capable of delivering 7.4kW, making it AC home charging compatible. Using a M-B supplied “Wallbox” increases that by up to three times, with up to 110kW, and in forty minutes from nearly empty up to eighty percent.Styling is a mix of standard high riding SUV, a sloping rear roofline to add a bit of coupe, and a standout front panel in black. This encloses the headlights and a grille like structure. There’s an LED strip that borders the top of the panel that draws a line between the headlights. Design highlights inside have a ribbed edge to the instrument panel that resembles the heat exchange vanes from a music amplifier. Mercedes-Benz have ensured that the EQC will feel like a driver’s car by designing a cockpit-like feel to the cabin. Charging information can be found via the MBUX, or the Mercedes Benz User Experience. Charging current and switch off times can also be set here. MBUX will have its own tile on the screen to access EQ functions.

One of those is a form of pre-journey climate control, where the system can be activated to a certain present temperature before the vehicle is called into use for a drive. The satnav system will constantly calculate the best route based on charge time and usage plus aid in finding the best charging station on a distance basis. Pricing and release dates are yet to be confirmed.Another SUV is on its way however this is an update from an established vehicle. Mitsubishi‘s ASX has been given a freshen up and a surprising decision embedded in the update. There will be no diesels in the three model range, with a 2.0L petrol fed power plant as standard instead. Another surprising change is the move away from an AWD option to a purely front wheel driven system. Only one option will have a manual and that’s the entry level ASX ES at $23,490 RRP and a CVT equipped version at $25,490 RRP. The ES can also be specced with the ADAS option.Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), along with reversing sensors, dusk sensing headlamps and rain sensing wipers. Exterior features include front fog lamps and door mirrors with side turn lamps. The ASX ES optioned with Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) will have a recommended retail pricing of $26,990. The LS is $27,990 RRP with the top level Exceed well priced at just $30,990 RRP.

All vehicles will have DAB audio, seven airbags, smartphone compatibility, a minimum of two USB ports, reverse camera, and two ISOFIX child seat mounts. The LS adds Forward Collision Mitigation, two tone alloys, auto high beam, leather accented seats, and auto headlights & wipers. The Exceed takes this list further with heated front seats, six speaker sound system, the ADAS as standard, plus a glass roof.Check with your local Mitsubishi dealer for availability.

Kia Australia Releases 2019 Cerato S, Cerato Sport, Cerato Sport+

The evergreen Kia Cerato sedan has been given a pretty solid makeover, with the hatch due for its own tickle and release later this year, plus GT versions for both are said to be on their way. There’s also been a range realignment name-wise.. We have driven the Kia Cerato S, Cerato Sport, and Cerato Sport+.

The Cerato S sedan starts from $23,790 plus on roads, as tested. The review car was in Steel Grey, a pleasing shade and a $520 option. The Sport was $25,790 plus on roads, clad in a gorgeous Horizon Blue, and the Sport+in Snow White Pearl came in at $28,290, plus on roads, and paint. Servicing costs are for a fixed amount over Kia’s class leading seven year warranty, and top out at $2,869.00. There’s a good range of colours available but only one is classified as a non-premium colour…If you’re after a manual, you’ll find it in the Cerato S only. You’ll also find only a 2.0L injected four cylinder across the range, with six speeds, in both auto and manual guise, hanging off of the side for the engine. It’s a peak twist of 192Nm and power is 112kW. Rev points are 4000rpm and 6200rpm respectively and there’s a noticeable increase of oomph once 3000rpm is seen on the dial. As we drove the autos only, they’re pretty much all good in the transmission sense. It’s the engine that needs refining and smoothing. See 4000rpm on the tacho and there’s a noticeable harshness and noise. It’s a metallic keen that, although somewhat raucous, is really only ever apparent when a heavy right foot is used, thankfully. It’s otherwise quiet, pleasant even.

It’s here that the auto shines. Seamless shifting when left to its own devices, it delights in its smooth and unhurried nature. Tilt the gear selector right, it goes into Sport mode, and when rocked forward and back, the changes are sharp and crisp. Acceleration in all three is enhanced by using Sport mode as the changes suit the characteristics of the engine’s tune. That engine tune helps in economy too. Kia says it’s 7.4L per 100L from the 50L tank for a combined cycle and a still too high 10.2L/100km for the urban cycle. Driven in a mainly urban environment with engines all under 3000km of age, we averaged under 7.0L/100km across the three.Road handling from the three was similar yet in one car somewhat oddly different to the others. The Sport+ rides on the same tyre and rim size as the Sport. 225/45/17 is what’s bolted to each corner and the alloys look sensational. The S has steel wheels at 16 inches, with 205/55 rubber. The S and Sport are more akin in they ride than the Sport+, with the McPherson strut front and coupled torsion bar rear feeling tighter, tauter, and less composed in the Sport+. Long sweepers with minor corrugations had the rear step out, whereas the S and Sport were less inclined to deviate. In a straight line all three sat comfortably but the Sport+ was more the princess in the bed with the pea. Minor irregularities were magnified and enhanced in the Sport+, with just that little bit more unwanted pucker factor whilst sitting on its leather clad pews. Freeway rides are tied down, there’s little to no float, and road noise is minimal thanks to extra noise reduction materials plus NVH reduction engineering. Get funky in the tighter corners in the mountain roads and handling is predictable with steering nicely weighted. Boot it out of a corner and the steering loads up and there’s no tending towards lift-off understeer.The S and Sport have cloth seats, manual adjustment, and no heating. The Sport+ has heating, no venting, and no powered front seats, an odd omission for a top of the range car. In fact, there’s really not a whole lot of difference between the three in some areas. All have the drive mode choice of Eco/Comfort/Smart with Sport engaged as mentioned. All have AEB with Forward Collision Warning – Car Avoidance, with the Sport+ getting Pedestrian and Cyclist on top plus adaptive cruise. All three have Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, voice activation, and Digital radio via the eight inch screen, with the Sport+ having the same dropout issues as experienced in the Sorento. Climate control is in the Sport+, with “standard” aircon in the other two. The driver sees info via steering wheel mounted tabs on a 3.5 inch TFT screen between two standard analogue dials. Perhaps here a LCD screen for the dials would help add cachet and differentiate the the Sport+ further.All three have Blind Spot Detection as an option, as do they have Rear Cross Traffic Alert as an option. These are part of two safety packs available at a $1000 or $500 price point. All other safety systems such as Hill Start Assist are common. The Sport+ gets an electro-chromatic (dimming) rear vision mirror, LED daytime lights, push button start, centre console armrest that slides, and folding wing mirrors. It’s also the only one with an external boot release on the car. That sounds like nothing important but when you’re used to pressing a rubber tab on the boot and not using the key fob, it’s not a smart choice.What is a smart choice is the redesign outside and in. Kia’s gone with the Euro style touchscreen that stands proud of the centre dash and it looks good. There’s turbine style airvents and the Sport+ has more brightwork around these and in the cabin than the Sport and S. There’s a pair of 12V and USB ports up front, with one dedicated to charging and the other for the auxiliary audio access via the smartphone apps. Although the front screen has been moved backwards, there’s no decrease in head, shoulder, and leg room for the 4.6m long sedan. Boot space is, ahem, adequate, at 434L with a long and quite deep design, and the spare is a full sizer, albeit steel fabricated unit.Outside there’s been a major re-skin; the front screen has been moved by nearly twelve centimetres and the bonnet line has been raised. The headlight clusters flow backwards at the top into the guards, with a nod towards the Stinger in styling here. At the right angle, somewhere from the rear quarter, there’s more than a hint of a certain Japanese luxury brand too. Sport+ has LED driving lights in a Stinger like quad design around the main headlight. There’s angular vents at each front corner that house the indicators and the Sport and S have a pair of globe lit driving lights between. Rear end design has been revamped and there’s beautiful styling to the tail lights, flanks, rear window line, and an integrated lip in the boot lid itself. Reverse lights have been moved to a triangular housing in the lower corners, echoing the front and again harken to a Japanese brand. It’s a handsome and well balanced look overall.Warranty is Kia’s standard seven years and there is 24/7 roadside assistance available as well.

At The End Of The Drive.

Kia’s growth curve is strong. Its building vehicles with a good feature set, with high quality, and quietly doing so with gusto. The Cerato sedan, the latest in a range of cars that DOESN’T include a four wheel drive capable ute, is commendable for both its very good looking sheetmetal and high levels of standard equipment. What initially looks like oversights in some areas is potentially a pointer towards what will come in the Kia Cerato GT. As it stands, though, a weak link is the engine. It doesn’t feel smooth, slick, and quiet enough at revs, and for a naturally aspirated 2.0L petrol engine nowadays, a peak power of 112kW really isn’t advertising friendly. It’d be nice if the torque was available at a lower figure or if there was more of it, but for the average buyer, the main concern would be the rare occasion they’d venture into plus 3000rpm territory.

Frugal is the word that stands out here too. So bundle a good looking sedan with good petrol usage in with sharp sub $30K pricing and that feature set, and Kia is kicking goals. Kia Australia’s Cerato for 2019 is available now.

How Long Does It Take To Charge An EV?

I guess we’ve all noticed by now that EVs (either hybrids or full-time electric vehicles) are getting common on the roads.  Maybe you’re considering getting one for your next car.  Charging stations for EVs are popping up left, right and centre.  This is because the battery in an EV, just like the battery in any other device powered by electricity, needs to be recharged.  It’s kind of like charging your phone or your laptop.

Most, if not all, of us have had some experience with charging up things with batteries and know that it can take some time.  This raises a rather important question about EVs: how long does it take to charge one?  We’ve mostly become familiar with how to fuel up an internal combustion engine (ICE) car: you pull up to the bowser, you open the fuel cap, you fill up with the liquid fuel of your choice, then you nip in and pay for it, possibly picking up a packet of peanuts or a coffee while you’re at it.  It doesn’t take too long – maybe 10 mins max, depending on how long the queue at the checkout is, how big your fuel tank is and how empty it was when you started.  But what about an EV?  There’s nothing physical going into the tank and we all know that it can take a while for a battery to recharge (I usually give my rechargeable AA batteries about 4 hours, the laptop takes 2 hours and the amount of time for the phone varies depending on who else needs the charger and whether I need the phone!).

The good news is that on average, it takes 20–30 mins to get to 80% when charging an EV, especially if you’re using one of the public charge points around town.  This means that most of us might have to plan a charging session into our days – during lunchtime, maybe, or while picking up groceries.

There’s a certain strategy to ensuring that your EV has the charge it needs to keep ticking on around town.  I’m assuming here that you are based in the city and do most of your driving in the city.  If you’re in a rural area and do a lot of open road running, things will be a bit different and given the range of what’s currently on the EV market, you might either consider sticking with an ICE vehicle or at least a hybrid, or you’ll have to try another strategy.  Anyway, for the typical suburban driver, the best strategy is to use the public charging points around town for top-up charging, and you do the full charge to 100% overnight at home if possible.

The reason why it might not be best to try charging your EV to 100% charge at one of the public points is because charging an EV isn’t like filling up a petrol or diesel vehicle. With the ICE, you pump in the fuel at a steady constant rate and if you graphed it, it would make a straight line – as long as your grip on the pump is nice and steady.  However, the graph for charging time is more like one of those curved lines related to quadratic equations – you know, the ones we all struggled through at high school and couldn’t see the point of.  Charging starts with a hiss and a roar and you can get to 80% charge pretty quickly.  It’s the final 20% needed to get to full charge that seems to take forever.  It’s more like pumping iron at the gym than pumping gas – you do the first round of sets and reps quickly, but those last few when you’re getting tired tend to be a bit slower.  This is why charging to 100% is best left for overnight charging sessions at home.

The good news about overnight charging is that night rates for electricity are often lower than daytime rates.  This is because all the commercial users of electricity – factories, shops, heavy industry – don’t put as much demand on the power grid outside working hours, so there is plenty of power for everybody else.  Whether this will remain the case when EVs are adopted more widely is uncertain – let’s hope that lower overnight rates remain a thing.

Of course, the exact time of charging will depend on the individual EV and it also depends on the type of charger that you’re connecting your car up to.  Chargers come in three types: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.  Levels 1 and 2 use AC current but Level 3 uses DC current.  Level 3 DC chargers generally are only compatible with Tesla models, which is ironic, given that Nikola Tesla specialised in AC current.  Level 1 chargers just plug into a typical 10-V socket and are best kept for emergency top-ups, as they charge pretty slowly.  What you will generally come across both at home (if you install one) or around town are Level 2 chargers.  Level 2 chargers have a charging rate of 15–100 km/hr, meaning that in one hour they give your vehicle enough charge to take it 15–100 km.  The low-power Level 2s installed at home tend to be towards the 15 km/hr end and the public ones are at the other end.

The different levels are not the same as the plug types, which are known as (predictably) Types.  There are four types: Type 1 (J1772), Type 2 (Mennekes), Type 3 (Scame) and Type 4 (CHAdeMO).  Tesla, being a posh marque, has its very own type of charging plug, rather like Apple, although it’s based on the Type 2 Mennekes.  Type 3 is also pretty rare in Australia.  There’s also a combo plug (known as a Combined Charge System or CCS) that combines either the Type 1 or Type 2 (it varies depending on the marque) with a pair of DC connectors.  Charging stations generally have CHAdeMO and CCS to make thing simpler.  The different plug types are quite a lot to wrap your head, so I might have to explain all this in another post.

Anyway, in a nutshell, here’s the basics you need to know:

  • The average time needed to charge to 80% is half an hour although this depends on the level of charger.
  • Charge time isn’t linear – the first 80% is fairly quick but the final 20% is slower.
  • Full charging to 100% is best done at home overnight.
  • Around-town chargers are best kept for topping up to 80%
  • Slower chargers (Level 1 and Level 2) use AC current but the fast ones use DC.
  • Nikola Tesla, who was the pioneer of AC electricity, would be spitting mad that the cars with his name use DC current. Just as well he never got around to inventing that death ray…

 

 

2018 Kia Picanto GT-Line

What do you do to improve your baby city car? New wheels, some exterior garnishes, additional lighting and a cool exterior colour. What don’t you do to improve your baby city car? Give it more grunt and change the gearbox is what. And that’s exactly what you’ll find with Kia‘s otherwise good looking Picanto GT-Line. Quite frankly it’s a wasted opportunity from the Korean car maker. We’ll cover that off later in more detail.What you do get is the standard 1.25L petrol fed four, a four speed auto, 62 kilowatts and 122 torques at 4000 rpm. Fuel economy is, naturally, great at 5.8L/100 km of normal unleaded for the combined cycle from its 35L thimble. Consider, too, a dry weight of 995 kilos before passengers etc. Kia’s rationalised the Picanto range to a simple two model choice, the S and the GT-Line. If you’re after a manual the S is the only choice. Price for the GT-Line is super keen at $17,290. Metallic paint is a further $520, taking the test car’s price to $17,810.It’s a squarish, boxy, yet not unappealing design, especially when clad in the silver grey the test car has. Called Titanium Silver it’s more of a gunmetal grey hue, and highlighted by red stripes at the bottom of the doors, red rimmed grilles for the airvents and the lower section is splashed with silver around the globe driving lights. The grille itself is full black and the angle of the grille combines with the laid back styling of the headlights (with LED driving lights) to provide an almost Stormtrooper look. At the rear the neon light look tail lights complements the twin pipe exhaust. It’s a cool and funky look.Kia has upped the 14 inch alloys to classy looking eight spoke 16 inchers. Rubber is from Nexen and are 195/45. As a package they look fantastic. Going further is the grip level. For a vehicle that’s a long way off from being a sports car it has some of the most tenacious grip you’ll find under $30K. AWT’s Blue Mountains lair is close to some truly good roads for handling and ride testing. On one particular road, a specific one lane and one direction (downhill) road, the slightly too light steering nevertheless responds to input cleanly and succinctly. Cramming a 2400mm wheelbase inside an overall length of 3595mm helps, as does the low centre of gravity. It’s a throttle steerer too; come into a turn and back off, let the car make its own way and feel the nose run slightly wide. Throttle up and the nose settles, straightens, and all is good with the world. Body roll is negligible and direction changes are executed quickly, Braking from the 254mm and 236mm front and rear discs is rapid, stable, and quick.Ride quality from the Macpherson strut front and torsion beam rear is delightful for the most part. It does lend towards the taut and tight side and that could also be attributed to the lower profile rubber. Yet it’s never uncomfortable in normal and everyday usage. Hit some ruts or ripples and it’s here that the Picanto GL-Line gets flustered. The short travel suspension will kick back at the chassis and the car will, momentarily, become unsettled. On the flat it’s composed and will provide a comfortable enough ride but with any undulations may get a little choppy thanks to the short wheelbase.It’s on overtaking or uphill climbs that the drive-line shows its Achilles heel. Kia seems to be the only car maker that has stayed with a transmission so archaic and out of step with the industry. For both versions of the Picanto, as much as many loath them, a CVT would be a better option. For the GT-Line, and emphasis on the GT, a turbo engine such as those found in the Suzuki range or even Kia’s own tech would be a better option. Although our test drive finished on a commendable 6.6L/100 km, an extra cog or two would help that and make the Picanto a far more enjoyable car to drive.Inside, too, could do with a lift. Although there’s piano black door inserts with hints of red striping, and red highlights on the driver and passenger seats, the rest of the cabin, complete with Cadillac tail-light inspired air vents, lacks real cache compared to the opposition. Considering its size there’s adequate room up front, barely enough for the rear seats, and a 255L cargo space over a space saver tyre that’s fine for two people shopping wise. All good however the standard all black theme would greatly benefit from strategically placed dabs of colour.However, there’s an Audi style touchscreen mounted on the upper dash edge. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are on board but satnav isn’t, meaning you’ll need the smartphone connection for guidance. It’s AM/FM only, so misses out on DAB. The 7 inch screen is clean and user friendly, as is the driver’s view. Simple and unfussed designs work best and here Kia has nailed that. Two dials, speed, engine revs, fuel level and engine temperature. Simple. A centred monochrome info screen with information made available via tabs on the steering wheel. Simple.Small in size the Picanto GT-Line may be but it doesn’t lack for tech. AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard, as are Euro style flashing tail lights for the ESS or Emergency Stop Signal. Add in six airbags, vehicle stability management, Forward Collision Warning, and it’s pretty well covered. It does miss out on Blind Spot Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert though, but rear sensors are on board. This is all backed by Kia’s standard seven year warranty and fixed price servicing that will cost just $2552 over seven years.


At The End Of The Drive.

The Kia Picanto and the 2018 Kia Picanto GT-Line represent astounding value. Consider a RRP of $17,810 plus on roads, a decent set of safety features, and that could be better than it is fuel economy, and it’s a walk up start for anyone looking for a city car that’s a good looker, a sweet handler, and will have enough room for a average shop for one or two people. Our shop for four filled the boot and required only a bag or two to be relocated to the back seat.Kia’s Picanto is a very good car, but a real need for change in the engine and transmission would make it better. Yes, it’s economical but could be better. Drive one and make up your own mind or have a look here 2018 Kia Picanto info to find out more.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Holden Equinox LT Diesel.

This review is a little different in that the difference between the Holden Equinox LT petrol we’ve reviewed and the Holden Equinox LT diesel is….the engine. And gearbox. Apart from that, there literally is nothing different about the car inside or out. Same interior trim, same annoying Stop/Start tech that canNOT be switched off manually, same reasonably attractive exterior. The link to that review is here: 2018 Holden Equinox LS Plus and LT petrol
What the diesel offers is a 1.6L capacity engine, with a six speed auto transmission only. The current RRP is $39,990 and that’s a three thousand dollar difference over the equivalent petrol version. Standard warranty is five years but Holden were offering a seven year package.

Peak power is 100kW, with peak torque being a very good (for the size of the engine) 320Nm.  That’s a narrow maxium torque range, from 2000 to just 2250 rpm. Fuel consumption for the 1.6L in LT trim is a thrifty 5.6L/100 kilometres on the combined cycle. Go to the heavier LTZ & LTZ-V and that goes to 5.7L/100km or 5.9L/100 km. The six speed auto is also a standard auto, in that it’s a torque converter style, not a dual clutch or CVT. It’s an interesting drive setup; the traction control appears to have been formulated to allow some front wheel drive slip. Give the go pedal a good prod from stand still and there’s a noticeable scrabbling for grip for a second or two before the tyres hook up. Actual forward motion is deceptively quick. There’s a mild thrum from the front, which indicates there’s plenty of noise insulation and there is. There’s sheets fitted to the wheel arch and firewall, plus there’s a form of active noise cancellation too.The transmission selector is the same mechanism as found on the nine speed, with a rocker + and – switch for manual shifting. Like most well sorted electronic autos, there’s little to be gained in normal driving conditions by using the manual change. From a standing start and a low throttle application, the six speeder rarely disappointed. The diesel itself is throttle responsive, with a free spinning nature up to around 4000 rpm. Our real world drive, covering both urban and highway, saw a final fuel consumption figure of 6.1L/100 with a 75/25 urban leaning driving style.

Expect that figure to increase if you fit a towbar and utilise its 1500kg (braked) towing capacity. Bear in mind it’s a small diesel, not the bigger 2.0L or 2.2L (or even bigger) as seen in larger SUVs or utes. Other reviews seem to point out the relative lack of oomph from this engine but they’ve matched the 1.6L in the Equinox against 2.2L engines as found elsewhere. A fairer comparison would be against Suzuki’s excellent Vitara diesel. Although smallish, there’s still plenty of get up and go for when it’s needed. Roll off slowly and there’s quiet, unobtrusive changes and barely a hint of that traditional diesel rattle. Push a little harder and the changes are crisper, with the engine making itself known audibly but still quietly as mentioned. It’s really only when a heavy right foot is employed that the diesel really gets noisy and the six speeds seem to be lacking a cog or two or three.

Holden’s electronic engineers haven’t built in a feature to turn the Stop/Start mechanism off. The theory behind the feature is that it’s a fuel and emissions saver for when stopped at stop signs or red lights. the downside is that sometimes the car’s barely stopped before forward progress can be restarted. It can catch the car (and driver) unawares and sees the Equinox lurching forward, rather than moving smoothly. A little trick is that if the foot is lifted slightly off the brake pedal, it’ll re-engage the engine and still stop the car moving forward.

Ridewise it’s the same well sorted and compliant Australian tuned for Australian conditions ride as found in the petrol models. If there’s really anything that Holden should consider with the Equinox diesel, it’d be to evaluate having the nine speed fitted and calibrated to suit the specific torque delivery of the smaller oiler.

Another factor to consider is the forthcoming release of the Acadia, a larger SUV and a seven seater at that, helping Holden to re-target customers in the SUV market.

Contact Holden for more details on both and contact Private Fleet to see what we can do on a deal.

EVs, Power Bills and Emissions

How do we change a system employed by government?  If we went cold turkey on many of our traditional national policies the flow on effects throughout the public and business sectors would be ruinous.  If you believe the headlines which state that traditional motor vehicles are heading for a cliff edge where there will be no more fossil fuels available to power them, and that the environment will be so much the better without vehicles that are powered by conventional fossil fuels, then things look pretty dismal.  But is this actually so?

There are numerous countries around the world that have their special governmental team of policymakers pushing for electric vehicles (EVs) to be subsidised and made easier for those who can afford an expensive EV to buy one.  Across the ditch the New Zealand Labour/Green government are creating a fast track for EV purchase in the hopes to lessen greenhouse emissions and keep NZ green.  And in America they have recently brought in policy that reduces the initial purchase price of an EV by up to $7500 USD.  Of course, the subsidizing is paid for by the tax payer.  Those who cannot afford to buy a new electric vehicle pay for the privileges that the wealthier EV owners enjoy – like free use of public charging stations and preferential access to carpool lanes.  What about the grand schemes and plans of making some American States totally EV and thus pronouncing the ban of all internal combustion vehicles by 2040 (California).  Is this really fair?

Could this thinking and ideology be the motivation behind EVs in Australia?  How could the typical Australian on an average wage manage a law that states that you must drive a new and expensive EV by 2040?  By the way, we’ll also use your current taxes to help the wealthy buy an EV quickly (and enjoy its benefits) while you struggle to put the food on the table, let alone by an EV!

Let’s also remember that most of Australia’s electricity is made by coal and other natural resource plants.  A large fleet of EVs across Australia will draw down on the current available power supplies very heavily.  But wait, I know, we could use people’s current taxes to build more expensive cleaner power plants and provide bigger, better power networks!  That will make Australia a better place.  Power companies will enjoy the profits and will be sure to put the price of power up once electricity comes in short supply.

Hang on!  Are electric vehicles really as great as they claim to be?  Supporters of the EV suggest that EVs will reduce air pollution and tackle climate change.  But will they?  (Climate change is another issue – and one that many can make plenty of money, too)  It’s evident that a new vehicle powered by the modern conventional internal combustion engine is, in fact, way more pollutant-free than one might tend to think.  Extracting Lithium and other materials for batteries has an environmental impact of its own.

The appropriate comparison at governmental levels for evaluating the benefits of all those new electric vehicle subsidies, mandates and ideologies should be the difference between an electric car and a new petrol-or-diesel-car.  New internal combustion engines are very clean and emit only about 1 percent of the pollution that older vehicles did back in the 1960s.  New innovations on internal combustion engines continue to improve these engines and their efficiency and cleanliness.

When we consider EVs, and their large appetite for electricity, the energy to power them has to come from somewhere.  Cars are charged from the nation’s electrical grid, which will mean that they’re only as “clean” as Australia’s mix of power sources.  An environmental impact in the mining of the lithium, cobalt, and nickel that go into car batteries is evident.  Extracting Lithium is actually not so bad; most of it is extracted from brines that are evaporated by the sun, but it has a sizeable carbon and physical footprint.  We have a long, long way to go before the production of electricity for the main grid looks as green and as clean as an EV appears.

What’s the inexpensive answer?

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Toyota Camry SL V6 & Ascent Hybrid.

Car reviews are always a personal point of view. People have a love for a brand and that’s personal. Toyota has that brand loyalty and it’s won them millions of customers over decades. Toyota‘s Camry is a big part of that loyalty here in Australia and we first saw it as a five door hatch somewhere in the 1980s.The mid noughties saw the V6 Camry reborn as the Aurion and was sold side by side with the four cylinder and hybrid Camrys. Now, in 2018, we’re back to no Aurion and a V6 Camry. One of those, the top of the range 2018 Toyota Camry V6 SL trim spec, with barely two hundred kilometres on the clock, graced the driveway. There’s also a Hybrid version that sits above the Prius range and below the similarly styled Lexus offering.Exterior and interior styling are strongly reminiscent of Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus. Tweaked for Toyota’s audience, there’s sharply angled headlights with LED lighting at both ends on the V6, standard globes for the Hybrid, a full length glass roof with sunroof offered for the full petrol car, and an almost coupe rear roofline. There’s aerodynamic strakes on the wing mirrors and embedded in the rear light plastics. The boot itself has a designed in extended lid that doubles as a spoiler. It’s perhaps the front end that brings a Spock like raised eyebrow, with a twin level V that stretches from each side to meet at the (blue hued on the Hybrid) Toyota logo.Inside it’s strongly Lexus, with multiple dash folds, a beige and black trim combination in the V6 car supplied, some buttons too easily hidden by the steering wheel, and a disturbingly cheap look plastic on the centre console compared to the rest of the interior. The dash design is an S shape line from the driver’s binnacle that winds down to finish near the passenger’s knee. Leg room isn’t an issue though, nor is cargo space. The Hybrid has moved the battery pack from the boot to under the rear seats, giving a full 524L of space. With a 2825mm wheelbase, an increase of 50mm over the outgoing version, front and rear leg room is more than adequate for intended passengers. What isn’t is no USB ports for them in the Ascent, that’s left for the SX and SL to deliver.Up front is a easily spun 3.5L V6. Peak power is 224 “killerwasps” at a almost stratospheric 6600rpm. Peak torque is 362Nm at a more typical petrol rev point of 4700rpm with quoted economy of 8.9L/100km for the combined. This is quite achievable in real world driving but utilise the spirited V6’s revving ability and that figure goes south and quickly. Power is put through to the ground via an eight speed auto connected to the front wheels. It’s not the most refined eight speeder around, with each change regardless of throttle position having the body rocking back and forth in sympathy. Compared to the super smooth nine speed in the ZB Commodore tested immediately before, it was almost harsh in its changes.The Hybrid counters this with a combined total of 160kW however this is less than the full capacities available from the petrol and battery system separately. The four is a 2.5L unit with 131kW and 88kW from the electrical side. Transmission here is a CVT and rarely does it feel out of step with the drive-train. It’s also a combination that equals the urge of the V6 when pushed, will quietly hum away on a (very) light throttle, and will pick up its side skirts and bootscoot away rapidly anywhere in between. Economy is quoted as 4.2L/100 km of 95RON or E10. AWT saw a best of 5.0L/100km and that was on a fuel sapping run to Canberra and back. The tank in the Camry seems to be of a V shape, meaning as the fuel level lowers the trips towards half, quarter, empty become quicker.Camrys have, somewhat fairly, been tagged as whitegoods on wheels. There’s little engagement, they’re designed to move human bodies from A to B and back again without issue. And these two do. If the word fun can be injected into these two, it’s the Hybrid more likely to do so but only just ahead of the V6, in a driver’s sense. A niggle with the Hybrid that AWT has had is the all too quick engagement of the petrol engine to supplement the battery system. On a flat road and with an eggshell’s pressure on the accelerator, the Hybrid will move away under battery only up to a point where the computer, regardless of whether EV has been selected via a button in the centre console, brings in the petrol engine.A dash screen on both allows varying info such as navigation, audio, and in the Hybrid, shows the power distribution and battery level. It shows the change between battery only, both, or when the petrol is driving and charging the battery. It’s here that faint thunks from the CVT as it deals with the changing drive inputs can be felt.

Road holding in a straight line shows that the Camry V6’s rear end is too soft. Every minor ripple set the Camry’s rear bouncing, and more often than not a good dip would have it on the bumpstops. The front was defineably tauter, with the same bumps that had the rear flustered consigned to a mere bump. Combined with a V6 and front driven wheels, a heavy foot will also induce a phenomenon rarely seen in cars nowadays. Torque steer. Some plough on understeer was noted as well with Bridgestone Turanza 235/45/18 rubber not seemingly up to the task. Another disconcerting suspension issue was the readiness of the rear end to skip sideways when on a turn and hitting even a small irregularity.Somehow, the Camry Hybrid felt better sorted at both front and rear. Float was reduced, turn in was crisper, there was a lesser feeling of understeer, a minimised lateral movement and compression at the rear. Ride felt more confident, perhaps thanks to the Michelin Primacy 215/55/17 tyres. Even in the rainy periods that struck Australia’s most populous city during the test week, the Hybrid gave a more composed and sedate performance on road, instilling a higher level of confidence.Features wise there’s plenty. DAB audio is in both and the model dependent varying sized touchscreens are easy to use although have a pre-programmed split screen look. Default mode has a map on two thirds and audio on the other third, however the soft touch Audio button then brings up the chosen source. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t installed but a connected smartphone allows music apps to be used. There’s a charging pad for compatible smartphones snuggled in under the lower dash fold, next to a 12V and USB/3.5mm socket connector. The tiller has tabs on the left spoke that allow access to the dash screen. Cupholders front and rear via the console and pull-down are in, as are door mounted bottle holders. LED lighting is featured and the glass roof in the V6 was simple to operate via the standard roof mounted toggles.Airbags (seven, including kneebag) and driving aids abound, with the Hybrid having the drive mode options in the console. The SL trim level has a Head Up Display which is discrete to the point it’s almost unnoticeable. Park Assist front and rear is fitted and it’s a doddle to use. Reverse parking comes with a camera and guidelines on the screen to help in tighter car park and roadside kerb parking. Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert is SL specific.

At The End Of The Drive.
Pricing for the 2018 Camry range starts from a manufacturers list price of $27,690 for the four cylinder Ascent. The Hybrid Ascent is $29,990. Go to the Hybrid SL and you’re looking at $40,990. The SL V6 is $43,990, bot of course check with your dealership and for special offers head to Toyota Australia’s website

The cars themselves will sell to the Toyota faithful and potentially steal a few from elsewhere. Pedaled hard the Hybrid edges ahead of the V6 purely on driveability, is definitely more economical, and in SL form they have a goodly range of kit. From a driver’s point of view however there still doesn’t seem to be a real level of engagement, that sense of momentary flutter when getting in. For AWT it’s perhaps the somewhat disjointed looking dash design and the V6 SL’s lack of real ride as opposed to what a free revving V6 engine offers. That’s possibly best left to the V6 SX for those that want a rorty and sporty V6 Camry.

 

Hybrid Subarus Are On The Way.

Subaru’s popular small SUV style cars, the Forester and XV, are coming to Australia in hybrid vehicle versions. The downside to this is that there’s currently no firm date in mind, however Aussie Subaru boss Colin Christie said: “We don’t have exact dates and times, and also not sure which tech will go into the cars, but Subaru has made it clear that they are moving down the hybridisation path and moving down the electric path. They have been talking about having fully electric vehicles in the early 2020s. I think it’s an absolute move in terms of environmental, fuel efficiency and economy but hybrids are still quite a small volume in the Australian market, but we see them as supplemental to our sales so we will have our 2.5-litre direct injection in case of the Forester, and then the hybrid will be an incremental model.”

The expected growth in EV and hybrid vehicles appears largely to do with the forthcoming emissions laws changes in Europe, to Euro 7, and the Californian government changes.

What this means for Australian importers is dealing with the choice of cars that would suit the Australian market. Subaru’s technology liason with Toyota will certainly help its cause, but, as always, there are questions as to who wears the costs of incentivising customers; is it the manufacturer or should it be the government?

Christie says: “There are customers out there looking for hybrid vehicles more and more, still relatively small numbers but that will grow and we are seeing more demand increasing in some areas, but at the end of the day it’s a future tech story and a step towards electrification, and a natural step in the journey for the brand.”

What are your thoughts? When it comes to getting more hybrid/EV cars on the roads of Australia, who should assist in off-setting costs?

The Electric Highway.

One of the appeals of the Australian landscape is its huge gaps between the cities, allowing an almost uninterrupted view of the beautiful world we live on. That also means that using a car not powered by diesel or petrol may be limited in its ability to traverse the distances between them.Come the Electric Highway. Founded by the Tesla Owners Club of Australia, TOCA, they took up a joint initiative with the Australian Electric Vehicle Association to literally fill in the gaps. With a smattering of Tesla supercharger and destination charger points mainly spread along points of the east coast and largely between Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, a driver can now drive no more than 200 to 300 kilometres before seeing another charging point. The network is made up of 32 amp three-phase chargers which are about 200km apart on average, with the furthest distance between charge points being 400km. Most are capable of adding 110km of range in 30 minutes.

Tesla itself is looking at another eighteen superchargers around Australia by the end of 2019 which is complemented by the Australian Capital Territory’s decision to install fifty dual Electric Vehicle charging points at government sites in order to reach its zero emissions goal by 2022 for government cars.

Although most states have so far effectively failed to get on the electric car wagon, Queensland has bucked that trend by investing heavily in charger points.In that state, EV drivers can travel from Coolangatta to Cairns, and west from Brisbane to Toowoomba, using the government’s fast charger network, which is also vehicle agnostic. This means that the charger points are able to deal with the various car charging point designs, which does beg the question of why a global standard appears to not have been settled on. The rollout was completed in January of 2018.It’s also worth noting that the Western Australian government owned power company, Synergy, did assist the TOCA initiative. In WA alone, more than 70 charge points were installed in towns and roadhouses on all major roads in the south and east of the state, as well as some remote locations in the north.

The initiative, a team effort by Synergy and the WA branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, is installing three-phase charge points in towns and roadhouses on all major roads in the south and east of the state, as well as some remote locations in the north.

WA’s regional utility, Horizon Power, also contributed to the roll-out, with installations of 3 phase outlets in the Kimberley area.

“We’re endeavouring to show that there is ‘people power’ behind the drive to EV’s, and hopefully governments can follow,” said Richard McNeall, a TOCA member and coordinator of the Round Australia Project.Currently most charger points are free, however there is a mooted change to this, but not at a huge impost. With pricing yet to be settled upon it’ll be worth looking out for press releases on this matter.

UK car maker Jaguar Land Rover has also announced plans to add a charging network in Australia, ahead of the release of its first EV, the I-PACE all-electric SUV, later this year. JLR Australia says the up to $4 million network would include 150 changing stations, using 100kW DC chargers provided by Jet Charge.

Plug Share is the site to go to to find out where the charge points are located.

BMW’s EV Wireless Charging

BMW’s Wireless Charging

The new BMW 5-Series iPerformance models boast some very cool ‘world-first’ technology.  Available factory-fitted with a fully integrated inductive charging facility means that you can arrive home, park over a ground pad (the inductive charging facility/station) and hey-presto your car charges up, ready for your next trip away.

BMW’s Wireless Charging consists of the GroundPad (an inductive charging station), that can be installed either in a garage or outdoors, and the CarPad, which is fixed to the underside of the vehicle will connect to the GroundPad once parked appropriately.  This technology is available as an option on the new BMW 530e iPerformance model.  The GroundPad generates a magnetic field that induces an electric current in the CarPad, which then charges the battery in the car.

BMW’s 530e iPerformance model has the parking systems that help the driver to manoeuvre into the correct parking position over the GroundPad using a WiFi connection between the charging station and the vehicle.  Once the connection has been made, an overhead view of the car and its surroundings then appears in the car’s display screen with coloured lines that help guide the driver into position.  An icon shows up on the screen when the correct parking position is reached for the process of inductive charging.  BMW say the position for parking over the top of the GroundPad isn’t difficult to locate as the position can deviate by up to 7 cm longitudinally and up to 14 cm laterally – so it has plenty of buffering for getting a good connection.  To easy!

We already are becoming familiar with the wireless charging systems inside many new cars from different manufacturers where mobile phones and electric toothbrushes can be wirelessly charged inside the car.  BMW says its wireless charging uses the same inductive charging technology already widely used for supplying power to devices such as these.

BMW has unveiled a wireless charging system that will be available in Germany, followed shortly by the UK, the US, Japan and China.  It’s nice to be able to boast this technology and do away with cords and manual contraptions for charging your hybrid.  Germany and Europe seem to be leading the way with cutting edge EV technology, and this inductive charging system, created by BMW, will set the ball rolling for other manufacturers to follow suit.

I can imagine, like BMW, a world where you just pull up to your car park in the city, and the wireless inductive charging facility that’s set in place, in the road, underneath your EV will charge up your car while you duck into the café for a coffee or buy the necessary office equipment for your business.  This is all pretty cool technology!