As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Technical

Understanding Your Air Conditioning

The weather is starting to get at least a bit warmer, and it’s about time that we started thinking about summer and about summer motoring.  For most of us, especially if we’re in the hotter parts of Australia, having air conditioning that works well is an absolute must if you want to stay sane during the daily commute during the heat of summer – or while on your holiday road trip.

Making sure that your air conditioning is in good working order becomes a bit easier if you understand how it works.  It might seem that it works by magic – you switch it on and cool, refreshing air blows out of the vents – but of course, it doesn’t.  Unless you don’t ride to work on a car but on a flying carpet or on a broomstick Harry Potter style.

Like a lot of systems in your car, air conditioning works by pumping some kind of fluid around a system, transferring heat energy as it goes.  Your radiator does much the same thing, using fluid to take the heat energy away from the engine and put it somewhere else.  This process is simpler in the radiator, as the natural way things work is for heat energy to pass from the hot object to the cold object – that’s part of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  However, the trick with air conditioning is to cool something down, which is a bit harder.  However, it’s not rocket science and, in fact, the science of air conditioning pre-dates rocket science (almost) and cars have been sold with air-con since the 1940s at least.

Air conditioning systems have three main parts: a compressor (#4 in the image above), a condenser (#1) and an evaporator (#3 – and #2 is a one-way valve).  The compressor is the powerhouse of the system and it’s driven by your car engine.  This is why old-school penny pinchers wanting to get a few more kilometres per litre will advise you not to run the A/C unit unless you have to – the more you ask your engine to do, the more fuel it will consume.  However, on a hot day, the only other way to keep cool while driving is to open the windows, which increases drag, which also increases fuel consumption. Your choice was between saving fuel and keeping cool.  Anyway, I digress.  The compressor has the job of taking the refrigerant gas and putting it under loads of pressure.  This pressure heats the gas up (think of how hot a bicycle pump feels when you use it), which seems counterproductive although it’s necessary. It needs the pressure to get around the condenser.

From the condenser, the pressurised refrigerant gas moves into the condenser.  This is a sort of radiator that manages to steal the heat from the pressurised gas as the gas worms around the tubes in the system.  As the gas cools in the condenser, it turns to liquid.  It’s now ready for the evaporator.

Cooling by evaporation is the oldest known method of cooling down.  This is how your sweat works and why spritzing your face with water feels so refreshing.  The process of turning the liquid into vapour or gas, be it the refrigerant in your air-con system or the sweat on your forehead, uses heat energy, so the place where the liquid used to be feels cooler.  This, incidentally, is why alcohol swabs and perfume (and aftershave) feel cool on the skin: alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water so it evaporates quickly, using some of your skin’s heat to do so, and we perceive any rapid loss of heat as cold.  The evaporation (technically boiling) temperature of the refrigerant is even lower (and so is its freezing temperature).  In fact, when it hits the evaporator, the refrigerant should be at about 0°C.

When it gets to the evaporator, which is usually located away from the rest of the system and quite close to the car’s cabin, the refrigerant absorbs some of the heat of the cabin as it changes from liquid back to gas again.  Abracadabra – the heat energy goes from the air around you and into the refrigerant and you feel nice and cool, especially if the fans in the car take that cool air and make it move, which makes the most of the windchill factor. Ahhh – refreshing!

The gas then cycles into the compressor and the process begins again.  There are a few other bits and pieces in an A/C system, like the parts that remove actual water from the refrigerant liquid (this is why water drips out of the bottom when your A/C is running).  Removing water and other bits is vital, as water would actually freeze in the system and damage it badly.

On the whole, air conditioning systems take care of themselves unless they’ve been physically damaged.  This is why the hoses in an A/C system need to be checked, as they’re the most vulnerable parts (all that pressure!).  However, no system is absolutely perfect and bits of gas will escape so from time to time, you will need to re-gas or re-charge the refrigerant in the system.  Simply, this involves topping up the refrigerant levels.

And what about climate control?  How does this differ from ordinary air conditioning?  The big difference is that air conditioning just tries to cool things down no matter what.  Climate control, on the other hand, tries to keep things at a set temperature (which YOU select).  Climate control will turn the air conditioning system on or off, and will adjust air flow and add hot air from the radiator as needed, using input from the temperature sensors.  And that’s about it.  They say that climate control is more fuel-frugal than ordinary air conditioning because it doesn’t need to run the air conditioning system all the time nonstop – it only does it when it needs to.

Dual zone and multiple zone climate control works in the same way as ordinary climate control but it’s got a few more temperature gauges so the system can fine-tune what it’s doing in different parts of the vehicle, which avoids the “I’m too hot” – “I’m freezing” argument.

If it’s been a while since you had your air conditioning system checked out, then maybe it wouldn’t hurt to take it in for re-gassing before the summer starts.

 

Audi Unveils The e-Tron

Audi has unveiled the e-Tron in a webcast from California. Focusing on the design element, price, and the extensive charging network that Audi and its business partners have and will invest in, the e-Tron, Audi’s Tesla challenger, is available now to order online in the US. Audi have also partnered with global retail giant Amazon in what is currently a unique move, allowing one stop at home charging via the Amazon Alexa smart-home device.An energy recuperation system is expected to harvest up to 90% of the battery’s usable capacity to power the vehicles twin electric engines. Quick charging for the 95 kW/h battery provides up to 150kW or 80% from empty in around thirty minutes. A zero to 60mph time of the 5.5 second mark has been quoted also. Driving range won’t be an issue although Audi didn’t confirm expected range. With a raft of charging stations available throughout the US on major roads, connecting and recharging from the west to east coast won’t be an issue. With the immediate competition offering figures between 240 to 295 miles of range, an extensive network will alleviate range anxiety.

The e-Tron is based on the Q series of AWD vehicles, features the signature Audi grille which will have a platinum hue to signify Audi’s electric intentions, and will start in the USD$74K range. It also means that visually they are immediately more relatable, in an electric car sense, to buyers familiar with the Audi styling. Interior styling should be “standard” Audi with the multi-media and virtual cockpit fitments. There will be a pair of large screens for the centre section of the dash, with a 10 inch and 8.6 inch screen for satnav/entertainment, and climate control usage. With the driver having the Virtual Cockpit it means most conventional tabs and buttons have been removed. Autonomous driving will be on board but to a level that still requires human input. A Comfort and Sport mode is programmed to have the semi-autonomous factor as well. A panoramic roof and four zone climate control are standard. The much talked about digital mirrors will come later.Audi have provided the e-Tron with a signature look up front. Alongside the stylish grille are new four bar LED driving lights that blend well into the overall Audi styling. And the rear is standard Audi as well, with a clean and uncluttered design.

The entry level e-Tron will have twenty inch diameter wheels, a 360 degree camera, and a pounding B&O sound system. Vented and heated seats will be standard. Spend a little more and the Prestige at USD$81K offers a HUD or Head Up Display, massaging front seats, and dual pane acoustic (noise reduction) windows. Then there is the First Edition, a limited run numbers version. USD$86,700 has Daytona Grey paint, 21 inch wheels, and just 999 will be available in the US.
The car is due for deliveries in the US in the first quarter of 2019.

Yes, Virginia (Fanpetals), There Is A New Biofuel Feedstock On The Block

Sida hermaphrodita or Virginia Fanpetals: a new player in the biofuel game.

When it comes to biofuels, especially the sort of biofuel that gets used for ethanol, there’s always a bit of an issue.  You see, it kind of defeats the purpose of having a sustainable fuel source if you have to pour on truckloads of fertiliser (a lot of which can come from petrochemicals as well) and tons of water.  It’s also rather frowned on if the crop in question takes away land from something that could be used for growing crops that people are going to eat directly (as vegetables, flour, cooking oil, sugar, etc.) or indirectly (after a fodder crop has been fed to animals that produce milk, meat or eggs).

Now, we’re not doing too badly over here in Australia on the biofuel ethanol front, as we’ve got the sugarcane industry. Using residues from other crops is a tried and true means of sourcing ethanol feedstocks, with sugarcane residues being particularly good at it.  In fact, Brazil, which has a bigger sugarcane industry than we do, is a tad further ahead when it comes to using ethanol for everyday driving.  Other sources include residues from wood processing and residues from the alcohol industry (they’re doing this in the UK).  Apparently, the trick is to find the right methods and the right bacteria, etc. that will break your feedstocks down so it can be turned into ethanol.

However, the search is on around the world for novel feedstock crops for biofuels of all types (this includes the crops that can produce oils for turning into biodiesel as well as the ones that have suitable stems or whatever for turning into ethanol).  The ideal crop is something that grows easily with minimal input needed in the form of fertiliser and pesticides, doesn’t need people poking around with tractors much except during harvest, doesn’t demand water like a camel that’s been for a week in the desert and produces the three Fs: Food (for humans), Fodder (for animals) and Fuel.

One of the new players on the biofuel crop front is a plant that looks a bit like a common weed known as Virginia fanpetals, Virginia Mallow or Sida (its Latin name is Sida hermaphrodita). This is a native of the US but for some reason, it’s getting a fair amount of interest from a team in Eastern Europe because it doesn’t demand the same amount of water as elephant grass (Miscanthus), which is another easy-growing biofuel feedstock.  What’s more, they’ve found that it’s a triple-F plant if you want to get technical.  The plant has lots of flowers that are very attractive to honeybees, so the Food part of the equation comes in the form of the honey produced that way.  The leaves, when they’re green, are pretty nutritious for animals.  And when the plant is dry, the whole lot, stems and leaves, are great for biofuel (and they also burn cleanly in incinerators, making them an alternative to coal for generating electricity).

Sida is also tough as old boots, as it grows very happily on sandy soils and can handle drought and frost perfectly well.  It also has a feature that would make it a right pain if it established itself in your garden: if you cut it back to ground level, it comes back again next spring and will do so for 15–20 years.  This is what’s getting those researchers rubbing their hands with glee: no ploughing, harrowing or sowing.  Just a bit of fertiliser a couple of times a year and you get a crop year after year.  And it grows on the sort of ground and in the sort of conditions that are useless for, say, potatoes, wheat and carrots.  In other words, it looks like it could be a bit of a winner.  Can we grow it over here and make even more of our own biofuel?

However, finding out about this got me thinking.  Now, we all know that we’ve got unique plant life knocking around in the Outback that’s used to really harsh conditions.  Are they any good for biofuels?  Is there something sitting out there that could be the next big thing?  I really, really hope that there’s a nice CSIRO research team poking around to see if there are any native plants that could do the trick.

Closer to home, however, I also can’t help but notice all the weeds in the garden and the way that the lawn is starting to grow like crazy in the springtime.  And let’s take a look in our rubbish bins at all the banana skins and apple cores.  Couldn’t this be used as a bioethanol feedstock as well?  Once you start looking around and getting this sort of mindset, all sorts of possibilities open up (especially when you’re on a long drive).  Maybe we’d clear up some of the rubbish problem while we’re at it…

Bioethanol isn’t the only way forward, of course.  It’s one of three possible lanes on the sustainable motoring highway, with the other two being electricity and biodiesel.  And we shouldn’t forget the biofuels while we get all excited – rightly – about the new electric vehicles.  After all, classic car drivers, tradies, tractor drivers, truckies and the owners of hybrids all need something to put in the fuel tank!

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.

Australia Has A New Motorsport Category.

Australia’s motorsport history is rich, diverse, and populated with plenty of examples of home grown thundering machines. There’s been inspiration from overseas and perhaps none more well known than the Formula 5000 series that ran in various parts of the world. There was the Tasman series, a yearly duel on track between Australia and New Zealand with the F5000 cars. But after a lengthy spell in the garage and a couple of stumbles in the last couple of years, Australia now has a rebirth of the F5000.

Welcome to our circuits, in 2019, the S5000.

The Super5000 car itself is a stunningly good looking open wheel design, and will be powered by a 5.0L V8 “Coyote” engine sourced from Ford. Australia’s Hollinger will supply the sequential six speed manual transmission, and grip comes from massive rubber front and rear, with the tyres at the powered end measuring seventeen inches in width whilst the front will be measured at twelve inches across. A carbon fibre body, complete with the FIA mandated “halo” comes from the noted French based chassis builder pairing of Onroak-Ligier and Australia’s Borland Racing will be responsible for the engineering and integration of their components into the French supplied parts.

To be run under the auspices of CAMS, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, the newly formed Australian Racing Group will oversee the category, with well known and highly respected magazine publisher and former racer Chris Lambden the category manager. The car itself is the brainchild of Chris, with the original Formula Thunder concept eventually morphing into this S5000 vehicle. Part of the expected driver’s appeal for the racing aspect will come from a deliberately restrained aero package, with moderate levels of down-force meaning the driver’s ability is more of the package and not electronically dialed out.Safety, of course, is not overlooked. The aforementioned halo is an integral part of the carbon composite body structure and there’s a solidly engineered floor-pan to add strength and rigidity. Overall length is 4900mm, and the S5000 will roll on a 3000mm wheelbase. They’ll be wide, too, at 1950mm. The engine is a sealed unit, meaning that mechanical tweaks will be zero. Power will peak at 560 horsepower and torque will be 460 ft-lbs (418kW and 624Nm).

Mechanically the power-plant will feature a front mounted drop gear set that will lower the overall engine height. This means the engine can be set lower in the chassis and aid the car’s centre of gravity as part of the handling setup. The Hollinger transmission will be a transaxle, with the outer structure also housing suspension mounting points and shock absorption.The actual racing calendar is yet to be confirmed however updates can be sourced by registering at the S5000 website.
(Images courtesy of the ARG, S5000.com.au, and SS Media)

2019 Toyota Corolla ZR & SX Hybrid.

Toyota has given its evergreen Corolla a substantial makeover. Inside and out it’s a new car and there’s also been a slight change to the way the range is structured. There’s three hatches: Ascent Sport, SX, and ZR, with hybrid technology featuring strongly. Private Fleet drives the 2019 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid and 2019 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid with the Ascent Sport to come.The cars come with either a 2.0L petrol engine, or in the hybrid’s case, a 1.8L petrol engine. Sole transmission choice is a 10-step CVT in the SX and ZR, the Ascent Sport does offer a six speed manual alongside the CVT. Pricing is competitive, with the range starting at $22,870 + ORC for the Ascent Sport manual and finishing at $31,870 + ORC for the ZR Hybrid. Premium paint is a $450 option and the Ascent Sport offers privacy glass and satnav at $1000. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres with a new capped price service program at just $175 per service.Toyota says the economy of the cars is improved; the ZR Hybrid is quoted as 4.2L/100km for the combined cycle, a figure not reached by AWT but nor far off it at 5.0L/100km overall. A 1400kg dry weight is a good starting point. The engine itself is an Atkinson Cycle design and produces 72Kw & 142Nm by itself. Alongside the battery system that has a 6.5Ah output, the combined power is 90kW and 163Nm. The transmission features a three mode choice: Eco, Sport, and Normal. The CVT itself when fitted to the 2.0L has an innovative feature and one that Toyota claims is a world first. A “launch gear mechanism” Direct Shift is engineered in, allowing the engine and gearbox to work together and provide a fixed first gear ratio. Once the car has reached a preprogrammed speed it reverts back to the steel belt CVT mechanism. It does sound noisy but isn’t a thrashy note, rather a sound of refinement and “I’m working here!” Underway it works seamlessly and silently in the background, with the only time it reappears being when the accelerator is given the hoof.

However I continue to have a slight beef with the EV, Electric Vehicle, mode that the Hybrid tech has in Toyota cars. Select EV, hit the accelerator, and it almost immediately switches into both EV and petrol assisted mode. Move away gently and it stays in EV mode until the lowly speed of 20km/h is reached and again the petrol engine kicks in. Having driven purely electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and normal (non plug-in) hybrids, I would prefer the battery system to be more gainfully employed and have the petrol engine’s assistance lessened. It does assist in charging the battery as the levels drop but in a free-flowing drive environment is should be doing this, not driving the front wheels along with the battery system. As a result the mooted fuel economy should be further improved. However the centre console located gear selector is PRNDB, with the B being a stronger regenerative braking assistance. This means that the kinetic energy from braking is also harnessed and returned to the battery.The three drive modes work well enough in the real world, with Sport providing a crisper throttle response, faster acceleration and better high speed response. The ten speeds can be accessed via steering column mounted paddle shifts in the non-hybrid cars. The hybrid system itself in the ZR and SX is displayed in regards to its interaction via LCD screens in the driver’s binnacle. The SX has a small full colour screen mounted to the right hand side with the ZR’s seven inch screen a full colour display that shows a bigger version of that available in the SX. This includes a drive mode display showing the battery driving the front wheels, the petrol engine driving and charging as well. These are access via a simple four way toggle switch on the left hand spoke of the tiller which itself has been redesigned and is a new three spoke look. The look of the bigger screen though is busy and perhaps somewhat overloaded with info. It then points the ZR towards a younger, more tech-savvy, audience, and moves it away from the traditional mature aged buying base of the Corolla. Even the SX, perhaps?Toyota have followed the Euro route with a high centre mounted touchscreen for audio, apps (including ToyotaLink), and navigation. It’s smart and logical with a higher eyeline not distracting the driver from what’s ahead. The ZR amps this up by offering a HUD or Head Up Display with plenty of info such as speed zones, and soothes the ears with DAB via a well balanced JBL sound system. A voice activation system has been added, as has Siri Eyes Free. There’s leather accented seats in the ZR, cloth in the SX and Ascent Sport, but no electrical adjustment across the range, an odd omission in the ZR. However the ZR does have heated front pews and a wireless smartphone charging pad (as does SX), albeit hidden away under a dash section that perhaps protrudes too far into the cabin, counterpointed by a 24mm lower line. The dash itself is less busy and angular than before, with a more integrated and smoother look. Although not powered the front seats are comfortable and have plenty of under-knee support. Keyless start and dual zone climate control are standard in the SX and ZR. There’s also a higher grade feel and look to the textiles inside the ZR.There’s ample rear leg room and shoulder/head room is more than adequate. Boot space is just about right for a weekly family shop, As usual Toyota’s ergonomics are well thought out in where a natural hand movement would go, except in the case of the door grips. They’re forward of where a natural reach would go and in AWT’s opinion too close to the door’s pivot point. Safety is high in the ZR, indeed across the range, with seven airbags as standard as is a rear view camera. Adaptive Cruise Control is on board for all three, with a minimum speed of 30km/h and operates across a range of three preset distances to the car ahead. PCS or Pre-Collision Safety is here and works in a day & night environment range. AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking is part of this and the ZR also has Blind Sport Alert and Lane Keep Assist or, in Toyota speak, Lane Tracing. Cameras around the car measure the car’s position in relation to roadside markings and gently tug the car into position, along with uttering audible chirps to alert the driver. There’s also an active voice guidance safety system that’s integrated with the satnav, providing warnings such as school crossings and speed cameras.Underneath there’s been plenty of changes. It’s part of the Toyota New Generation Architecture, TNGA, with a 40mm lower, 30mm wider, and 40mm longer body that looks more assertive and confident. A 40mm longer wheelbase gives the 225/40/18 rubber on the ZR (205/55/16 for Ascent sport and SX) a more planted feel however there’s a lot of road noise from the Dunlop tyres on the ZR. The SX’s rear is far quieter. Ride quality has been improved by ditching the torsion beam rear and building in a multi-link system. McPherson struts have been a staple of the automotive industry for decades and Toyota have stayed with a tried and true setup here. Springs, dampers, mounting points, die-cast aluminuim frames and more have transformed the handling of the Corolla. Although the rear is a touch soft in AWT’s opinion the overall ride and handling is near nigh spot on. In low speed turns there is no understeer at all, the steering response at speed on the freeway and urban road system is intuitive, and the whole chassis is worthy of applause. There’s negligible float at any speed, turn in is assisted by an electronic “active cornering assist” system, and even the dreaded bump-thump from the shopping centre speed reducing devices is minimalised.The exterior has been well massaged, with the metal between the hatch and rear passenger doors changed to a more, for the want of a better word, natural look, for a hatch back, moving away from the previous triangular motif. The tail lights are freshened and sit underneath a fourteen degree sharper window. The window-line itself draws the eye to either end, and especially to the redesigned front end. There’s a lower cowl and a cropped front by fifteen millimetres that lend a more assertive look. Being a Hybrid the Toyota logo is limned in a cobalt blue, bracketed by even more slimline looking headlights and LED driving lights in a sharp, linear, look. There’s no spare tyre in the Hybrid, but there is in the standard petrol engined version. A tyre repair kit is added for the ZR Hybrid. The Ascent Sport gets either a full sized or space saver (Hybrid) and the SX is a space saver only. The rear also has an X subtly embedded into the design, with a line from each lower corner curving upwards and inwards, as are lines from the top edge of the rear lights.Eight colours are on offer to highlight the fresh, new, look to the world’s biggest selling car. There are solid, pearl, metallic and mica colours headlined by four new hues of metallic Volcanic Red and Peacock Black. In mica there are Eclectic Blue and Oxide Bronze. As well as the three new colours, Corolla hatch is also available in a premium Crystal Pearl along with Glacier White, Silver Pearl and Eclipse Black.At The End Of The Drive.
Spanning fifty years and more, the Corolla is a mainstay of markets around the world and continues to be a top ten and top five seller here in Australia. With the Hybrid tech making its way into the mainstream model range for Toyota, in this case Corolla, it opens it up to a new market but begs the question of what will happen to Prius…As a driving package the 2019 Toyota Corolla ZR Hybrid is trim, taut, and terrific. It’s responsive to minor steering inputs without going overboard, it’s composed and unflustered across a broad range of environments, and is “let down” by excessive road noise, a couple of design quibbles, and a slightly softer than expected rear end. However it’s a very competitive price range and price point for the ZR Hybrid, and if the bells and whistles of the ZR don’t appeal, the 2019 Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid, at $28,370 + ORCs may be a better and lighter wallet biter. All information can be found here for the 2019 Toyota Corolla range

Women and Auto Design

Honda/Acura NSX

The chances are your car was designed by a man, but with more women becoming involved in the automotive industry we might well wonder whether our car was designed by a man or a woman?  This is an interesting question that many of us have likely never given much thought to.  We all love a nice looking, nice driving car, so I wonder how many women are involved in the automotive design industry that we don’t know about.  Really, there are very few clues that would reveal a car designer’s gender.

There’s no doubt that the automotive industry is still dominated by men, but women are beginning to make important inroads.  The vast majority of female car designers are employed doing textile jobs where they select seat fabrics, choose exterior colours, and oversee the interior design and styling.

Exterior design, which is considered to be the choice job in automotive design, is led by men.  It’s not that automakers are wilfully trying to keep women out of the top design jobs.  Indeed, Motor Trend’s spokesperson MacKenzie thinks that “If there was a woman designer who was talented, a hard worker and competitive, which is what this job demands, the car companies would knock each other out of the way and rush to hire her.”  Maybe the early years of a person’s life, and there exposure to certain things, has more to do with what type of work will interest them later in life.  The stereotypical one kind of toy for boys when they’re young and another kind of toy for girls might have more influence on the shaping of their career choices than first thought.  MacKenzie says that the majority of students who come to the design school were smitten at some point in their lives by the look and performance of vehicles – and not just cars but things with wings or things that zip down rails.

This is fascinating stuff and begs the question that perhaps dolls and tea parties aren’t the only thing small girls might be interested in.  Definitely, I found our daughter, as a child, often played with cars and blocks as well as playing rugby with her older brother.  She also had dolls to play with, too.  Her passion for rugby still continues to this day as well as her love for Jeeps.  She is just about to finish high school and attend university to study physiotherapy.

Michelle Christensen and the NSX

2018 has provided us with some wonderful new car designs, and one of the raciest and best looking super car designs has to be that of the beautiful Honda NSX.  This gorgeous design was, in fact, designed by Michelle Christensen, the Acura NSX exterior design lead.  How did she get there?  Michelle Christensen is the first woman to lead design on a supercar.  She directed the eight-person team responsible for Acura’s (Honda’s) resurrection of the NSX, which ended production in 2005.  In her words: “They wanted an emotional, 3-D kind of feeling,” Christensen says. “My priority was to keep that.”  Prior to designing the NSX, Michelle worked on Acura’s RLX sedan and its now-discontinued ZDX crossover.  She grew up working on muscle cars with her father in their San Jose, Calif. garage and got her design chops at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design.  There’s that childhood input again.  The fact that Acura chose Michelle Christensen as the lead for the awesome NSX’s exterior speaks volumes about the inroads women are finally making at the upper ranks of automotive design.  Awesome!

Did you know that the once GM’s leading artist-engineer H.J. Earl (Harley) saw into the the future and drew input from his group of talented women designers, and they came alongside his “all-male” car designers.  His women automotive designers of the 1950s proved to be ground-breaking, controversial and extremely successful.

In 2004 Volvo Cars unveiled a concept car that, till then, had never been attempted in the more than 100 years of automotive manufacturing: the first car designed and developed almost exclusively by women.  Unveiled at the New York Auto Show, the car, though created from a woman’s perspective, included features appealing to both sexes — including easier maintenance, intelligent storage solutions, a better line of vision, computer-aided parking and a bold, yet elegant, exterior.

The car included features not typically found in man-made cars: no hood; no gas cap; easy-clean paint; head restraints with room for ponytails; numerous exchangeable seat covers of various colours and materials (linen, leather, felt, etc.); compartments for handbags; gull-wing doors that make it easier to load and unload larger items and children; computerized assistance for parallel parking; and improved sight lines.  Owners carrying large items were able to set the doors to open automatically when they reach the doors.  At the point-of-purchase, retailers can conduct a body scan of the driver measuring height and length of arms and legs.  The data is stored in the vehicle’s key, and the car recommends a seat position for the driver that provides her or him an optimal line of vision and reach.  The car also electronically notifies the owners chosen service centre when maintenance is due, and the service technician contacts the owner to book the appointment.  Do any of these ideas/features that these women thought of sound familiar in any of our brand new cars today?  The answer is definitely yes – the automatic door and boot rings a bell!

Bridget Hamblin and Honda

Bridget Hamblin, a Honda Civic engineer, led the car dynamics team responsible for the performance of the 2016 Honda Civic, the brand’s most important car and winner of the prestigious North American Car of the Year award.  Hamblin earned degrees in mechanical engineering at Penn State and the University of Dayton before joining Honda as an engineer working on vehicle suspension and steering in the research and development department.  She says that: “Rather than having sought out the automotive industry, it found me.  My education in mechanical engineering proved to be a perfect fit in vehicle development.”  An Automotive research and development engineer with nine years of experience and a strong background in vehicle dynamics, objective vehicle testing, vehicle handling metric development and passenger car development has gotten her along way ahead in automotive design.

Before joining the Civic project, Hamblin helped develop the Honda Odyssey.  “Because it was my responsibility to lead the development of Civic’s vehicle dynamics, I find a lot of pride in the car’s steering, ride, handling and stability, which is truly impressive.  We really pushed the envelope by benchmarking the Civic, an entry-level vehicle, against European luxury competitors like the Audi A3. And it shows. Being awarded the North American Car of the Year was the icing on top.”

Anna Gallagher, a senior launch manager for Jaguar Sports and Lifestyle cars, held several positions at Jaguar Land Rover, including global brand manager for the new Jaguar F-PACE SUV, before being promoted to senior launch manager for Jaguar Sports and Lifestyle cars.  She was also responsible for the launches of the Jaguar XJ and XJR sedans.  Gallagher says. “I found that I can also give a different perspective so we end up with a more balanced discussion or even solutions we wouldn’t have found with an all-male team.”  The stylish Jaguar F-PACE is the only Jaguar that has always had a female marketing manager heading up the program.  “We needed to protect the coupe-like design, but I also knew that a reason for rejecting cars, particularly from women, in this segment is rear visibility.  Our target customer would have children in the rear so we had to ensure as many children as possible can see out of the windows.”

Women purchase about half of all cars on the market and influence the vast majority of car sales, yet for a century men have made most of the decisions in the design, development and production of a car.  Let’s see a greater shift in these traits!

Space Saver Tyres; A Flat Option.

The last three decades have seen many innovations that have been placed into cars, trucks, and other forms of automotive motion. Anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, airbags, even FM radio and CD/MP3 playing capability. Tyres have improved in size, water drainage, and grip levels. Then there’s the space saver tyre. Intended to be a weight saving device and providing an option should a main tyre receive a puncture, just how effective can one of these be?
Given that many travel for decades without ever suffering a flat tyre or indeed any form of damage, having a space saver does make perfect sense. They’re lighter and by virtue of their name, simply don’t take up as much room, especially with the rise of larger diameter wheels and tyres. However, HOWEVER, it’s also fair to expect that most of the time, that when they get called upon for usage, that one is in an area not far from either home or a tyre retailer.

Herein lies an issue or two. First up they’re rated for a speed of fifty kilometers per hour. Maximum recommended velocity is eighty. Maximum recommended distance is 450 kilometres. That’s all fine when you’re in the built up areas surrounding your home, but when you’re three hundred kilometers away from home, in a car that’s not your own but a press review car, and one that’s ostensibly soft road capable, then there’s a problem.

Suzuki, like many car makers, fits its vehicles with a space saver. The Vitara All-Grip is fitted with Continental tyres and they’re 17 inches in diameter. Although it also comes with a switchable drive system, splitting torque to the rear wheels as well as the front, it’s not really intended for much else than tarmac with perhaps a bit of mud and sand work occasionally. Again, most people would do this within reach of assistance.
The Vitara was driven from the Blue Mountains to Canberra to visit the financial controller’s mother in hospital. Upon arrival it was noted that the right rear had a bottom flatter than a steamrolled pancake. What looked like a screw was later found to be a two inch on either side vee nail. What was also notable was that the Vitara’s handling did NOT exhibit any form of instability.

Thankfully a change of tyre had the Vitara suitable for driving. But remember, dear reader, that we’re three hundred kilometers from home and in between are roads rated from 100 to 110 km/h…Playing into favour was the time. Any later and finding a tyre store close with which to do a repair or swap would have been problematic, a problem that would have been instantly solved if a full sized spare had been provided. As it turned out, the inner side exterior sidewall had been scored enough to lessen the structural strength and thereby rendered it unuseable.
Further providence came in the form of the press contact and a Bob Jane’s within a safe speed fifteen minutes away. Again, if a full sized spare had been fitted neither a visit then nor an overwhelming ninety minute wait from entry to departure have been required. Consider, too, that if a place had not been available then a three hour return journey would have been at least four and with the end result, at minimum, being a space saver spare on the verge of unuseability.

So what options are there? The initial diagnosis was to fit a plug and patch. Potentially illegal, according to some. If it had been a “simple” nail, perhaps a can of that inflating and sealing goo might have helped. Stress that word “might”
What about fitting run flat tyres? Hmm…not an option unless you’re a royal or a communist country dignitary like Trump. They’re also severely speed and distance limited, with a recommended top speed of ninety kilometers per hour for a maximum distance of just eighty kilometers. Again, not suitable for long haul drives.

Then there are slightly different options like full sized spares on a steel wheel. Cheaper, but heavier. Nuff said. Full sized spare tyres that again are distance limited to their compound. Nup. What about the space saver itself? Well, as stated, speed and distance limited. BUT, and that’s a big but, bigger than a Kardashian’s actually, your car’s stability and braking systems can be negatively affected.
Emergency distance braking is increased. A study by the RACV proved conclusively that space saver tyres affect stopping distance. The vastly smaller footprint also means traction is compromised and contributes to instability under braking.
Simple solution: bin the space saver and fit a full sizer.

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.