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Tesla Gets A Semi And Updated Roadster.

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

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

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

More information can be found via The Tesla website

Information provided courtesy of Tesla.

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nissan Leaf Wins Award.

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

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

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

Head to The Nissan website for more information.

Tesla Powers Up Across Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Prancing Horse SUV and Sweden Gets Plugged In.

It’s now confirmed that Ferrari, one of the world’s great luxury sports car makers, will also release an SUV. This brings Ferrari into line with companies such as Bentley, Maserati, Jaguar, and Lamborghini.
Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari’s global chairman, dubbed the vehicle a FUV, a Ferrari Utility Vehicle, during an address in the US recently.With a mooted release date of 2020, currently, Marchionne said: ““We’re dead serious about this. We need to learn how to master this whole new relationship between exclusivity and scarcity of product, then we’re going to balance this desire to grow with a widening of the product portfolio.” Australia’s Ferrari representative, Herbert Appleroth said: “He has certainly given everyone some information on where he is thinking.”

When questioned if an SUV model would be an appropriate addition to Ferrari’s Australian range, Mr Appleroth said any future product would be embraced by the local arm and its customers. “Look, any new model that enters this market is highly popular, whatever that is,” he said. “As Enzo always said, he was asked once, ‘What is your favourite Ferrari?’ And he famously quoted, ‘The next one.’ And I think that is the same for us.

It’s said that the vehicle, in line with Ferrari’s business model model, would be exclusive and limited in release numbers.

Volvo‘s performance arm, Polestar, has unveiled its concept car, Polestar 1, and in a first for the Swedish icon, said that future cars would be exclusively electric. Polestar 1 will be manufactured in a new factory currently being built in Chengdu, China. The engine will be a super- and turbo-charged petrol engine assisted by two 80 kilowatt electric motors. Total power and torque is quoted as being 440 kW and 1000 Nm.

Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer of Polestar said; “Polestar 1 is the first car to carry the Polestar on the bonnet. A beautiful GT with amazing technology packed into it – a great start for our new Polestar brand. All future cars from Polestar will feature a fully electric drivetrain, delivering on our brand vision of being the new standalone electric performance brand”.Also, Polestar cars will be ordered 100% online and offered on a two or three year subscription basis. The zero-deposit, all-inclusive subscription will also add features such as pick-up and delivery servicing and the ability to rent alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range, all incorporated into one monthly payment. However, Polestar will open shopfronts where people can visit and physically interact with a vehicle, enhancing the tactile experience. Polestar commenced taking orders from October 17, 2017.

Australia’s Solar Race

Solar Race Car

The ‘Nuon Solar Team’ continues to dominate the solar race across Australia that started in Darwin and will finish in Adelaide.  Racing without conventional combustion engines, the various teams from around the world converged on Darwin having built their vehicles as completely solar-powered electric machines.

There are three categories that are completing the journey.  The first being the quickest team to complete the 3000 km race distance – this race is known as the ‘Challenger Class’.

The second class is the known as the ‘Cruiser Class’, where there are points given to the teams for the number of passengers on board, the amount of energy that they are using in terms of the number of battery recharges that are occurring throughout the journey and the general practicality of the car.  Being a part of the ‘Cruiser Class’, the points aren’t all about speed.

Solar Race Cruiser Class

Finally, the third category is known as the ‘Adventure Class’ which is the non-competitive class, allowing cars built for previous races of the event to run again – usually with new team members.  The ‘Adventure Class’ can also be used as a catchment for those who, while meeting the exacting safety standards, may not have quite made full compliance with the latest race requirements.  This is the category with the more laid-back travel style.

At the end of day three: the quickest team competing in the ‘Challenger Class’ is the ‘Nuon Solar Team’ from Holland.

Nuon Solar Team

Second is the team from Tokai University.

Tokai University Race Team

Third is the team from Michigan University.

Novum Race Team

Just over halfway through the race and there will still be plenty of challenges ahead for all race competitors.  One of the major influences on how well a car performs in this race is the amount of sunshine there will be.  Cloudy days do impact the speed and progress of the cars.

This is an exciting race held here in Australia that is sponsored by Bridgestone, and it’s these sort of races that enable the evolution of production cars being run on electricity and solar energy.  If you can, get out and have a look at the cars as they silently run into Adelaide in a few days time.

Auto Industry News – Q3 2017

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

 

Safety and Environment

In what became the first ever compulsory recall for vehicles in Australia, the ACCC intervened to shine the spotlight on cars affected by defective Takata airbags. The recall eventuated amid a rising number of fatalities worldwide attributed to the faulty components, including a local fatality in Sydney.

Emissions scandals continue to plague manufacturers, with Peugeot and Citroen being looked into for their alleged use of ‘cheating’ devices similar to those used by Volkswagen. The companies join Renault and Fiat Chrysler to be looked into, however, they have strongly denied the accusations. Also being accused of unconscionable conduct, Daimler is facing concerns it sold over one million cars with excess emissions.

In a boost for environmentalists, Queensland’s government announced plans to develop the world’s longest electric highway that will promote the use of electric vehicles.

 

Technology

Fuel technology continues to be a major focal point. Volvo has drawn a line in the sand, as the auto maker plans to begin phasing out petrol and diesel in the coming years. This aligns with legislation in France and the UK that will ban said vehicles from 2040, and China planning to soon ban the production of these vehicles, although Australia isn’t expected to follow suit any time soon.

Locally, the nation could be at the forefront of hydrogen fuel technology, with a world first trial set for hydrogen powered vehicles next year. South Australia even became the first Australian state to endorse hydrogen as the next fuel technology.

On a related note, Sydney will play host to integral trials surrounding the future of autonomous vehicles in Australia, while first round results from testing in Victoria suggest infrastructure and technology are currently ill equipped for self-driving vehicles. Abroad however, and vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is eyeing the electric vehicle market, set to take on dedicated manufacturers as soon as 2020.

Other technology developments include:

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

The government was caught up in a vehicle ‘carbon tax’ controversy, with auto bodies and car makers slamming a rumoured proposal, although the government went on the front foot to deny its prospects.

Elsewhere, the ACCC commenced proceedings against Ford Australia over its ‘faulty’ auto transmissions, however the car maker announced it will contend the accusations. Also facing scrutiny from the ACCC, Holden settled an investigation by announcing the industry’s first vehicle refund and replacement scheme for the first 60 days of vehicle ownership

However, the ACCC saved its biggest salvo for the broader new car industry, detailing a wide range of concerns regarding the way customers’ complaints are dealt with, the sharing of manufacturer data with independent repairers, and real world fuel/emissions tests. The developments could give rise to lemon laws. Naturally, this provoked concern and consternation from the automotive bodies.
Finally, the Federal Court has requested Volkswagen publish changes to vehicle performance on its website and social media arising from the Dieselgate saga.

Indicate, Mate. That’d Be Great.

In surveys of the things that annoy drivers, it’s always in the order of over eighty percent that respondents say people nott indicating that rates as an annoyance. Yet, in any city or town, in any Australian state or territory, you’ll find people that either use their indicators or use them correctly as being of the minority.

In NSW a very common transgression is not indicating when crossing a merge lane, along with non indicating when pulling away from the roadside. Here’s the legislation in NSW:

(2)  The driver must give the change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  If the driver is about to change direction by moving from a stationary position at the side of the road or in a median strip parking area, the driver must give the change of direction signal for at least 5 seconds before the driver changes direction.

In fact, the legislation even specifies what needs to be done: “How to give a left change of direction signal. The driver of a vehicle must give a left change of direction signal by operating the vehicle’s left direction indicator lights.” Naturally this applies for the right hand side of the car too. Note also the time requirement: at LEAST five seconds. Even more confusing is when to use an indicator if a road curves and also has an exit at the apex. Far too many DON’T indicate at the apex or actually indicate as they follow the road….and don’t need to indicate.

Complicated stuff, right? So why are there so many drivers that don’t indicate? Don’t indicate for more than one or two blinks? This also coincides with drivers wrestling their cars from lane to lane almost as if they’re being blown around like a leaf in the wind. Is there something wrong with a gentle, easy, merge along with enough indication?

Roundabouts are another bugbear and these, too, are easy to deal with.

  Giving a left change of direction signal when entering a roundabout

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if:

(a)  the driver is to leave the roundabout at the first exit after entering the roundabout, and

(b)  the exit is less than halfway around the roundabout.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a left change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal until the driver has left the roundabout.

And:

Giving a right change of direction signal when entering a roundabout;

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if the driver is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a right change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal while the driver is driving in the roundabout, unless:

(a)  the driver is changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, or

(b)  the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights, or

(c)  the driver is about to leave the roundabout.

Note 2.

Rule 117 deals with giving change of direction signals before changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, in a roundabout.

Note 3. Rule 118 requires a driver, if practicable, to give a left change of direction signal when leaving a roundabout.
What’s important here is the last comment: indicate left when leaving a roundabout. I could count on one finger the amount of times this is seen on our our roads. What’s more troubling about the lack of indication Aussie drivers do is just how SIMPLE it is to indicate. Cars are designed, engineered, and built with many factors of safety, including how easy it is to access the indicator stalk. They’re literally at your finger tips. So what causes drivers to not uses them? Pride? Arrogance? Stupidity? Laziness? Distracted whilst wearing earbuds (a stupidly non-illegal rule!)?
Non indicating means no involvement in your driving, and having no involvement in driving heightens the risk factor, increases the danger factor. This is also exacerbated by the somewhat myopic focus our police and governments have on speeding as being the allegedly sole cause of crashing. Perhaps if more effort was expended on policing non indicators, not only would the revenue come but the message about being involved as a driver (as ANY worthwhile driver trainer and educator will insist upon) as a high point for safety may start seeing better examples of driving.
Be a safe driver. Indicate, mate. That’d be great.

Will Manufacturers be able to Eliminate Car Crashes?

In recent years, car developments have largely oriented around safety improvements. Manufacturers have honed in on this area, hoping to address the issue of fatalities on our roads. And for the large part, auto makers have played a notable role in reducing the road toll. Further innovations and developments are now being spoken of to maintain this momentum, and possibly, eliminate car crashes all together. But is this really possible?

There are no shortage of measures being designed as a direct response to car accidents. To name a few:

  • Forward collision systems that detect an impending crash;
  • Adaptive headlights which provide visibility around corners;
  • Magnetic roads that ‘guide’ vehicles;
  • Communicative vehicles that ‘speak’ with one another;
  • And the most prominent innovation, fully autonomous vehicles

While each of these innovative measures could help reduce road casualties even further, there’s still a very obvious facet missing from the discussion here. That is, we seem to be doing everything to modify technology, but we’re not actually addressing driver behaviour. In fact, we’re looking to bypass the driver to achieve desired results. Hardly an encouraging fact.

Although making technological changes is all well and good, they introduce a disparity between road users. Those who are driving the latest cars equipped with such technology, and those who do not. Even though many innovations eventually become mainstream across all levels of new vehicles, the time for this roll out is often such that new technology features come along. That is, by the time one feature becomes standard across all vehicles, the next ‘must have’ technology is being fitted into top of the line vehicles. Then the cycle continues.

We’re also not at a level where we can begin to depend on technology at all costs. That is, drivers should not be taught to become ‘dummies’ in their cars, oblivious to their surroundings. The fact is, things can, and sometimes do go wrong when technology is involved, and this is unlikely to be any different when installed in a car where external factors can cause a hazard.

This is where an emphasis needs to return to the person behind the wheel, who ultimately, can still cause an accident on our roads by way of being distracted, poor driving habits, a mistake, or through reckless actions. Today’s licencing requirements are indeed far too lenient. Sure, the burden has increased for new drivers who are on their P plates, but the focus is still misdirected.

It is important new drivers are tested on their ability to drive cautiously and courteously on our roads. This is not a matter for dispute. However, reactive mechanisms have largely been overlooked. That is, if one finds themselves losing control of a vehicle, or in danger of causing an accident, drivers need to be equipped with the necessary motoring skills to avoid or at least mitigate the impact of a crash.

Therefore, as we proceed down the rabbit hole where we increasingly rely on technology doing all the driving for us, we need to be considerate about the impact this will have on driver behaviour. Technological developments will save countless lives but until we also address the skills and mindset of the person behind the wheel, we’re still some time away from getting anywhere near zero road fatalities.

AWD v FWD v RWD

Traction

When it comes to buying your new vehicle, should it be FWD (Front Wheel Drive), RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) or AWD (All Wheel Drive)?  How the car gets shoved along might not matter to many drivers, however there are some differences between the driving layouts that are worth pointing out.  There are some changes occurring where car manufacturers are adopting a new layout for certain key reasons, and we’ll see why shortly.  What type of drive system you prefer really depends on what kind of a driver you are and the conditions you usually find yourself drive in.

Let’s take a look at the three types for drive trains and note the differences.

Firstly we’ll start with RWD, mainly because this can be lots of fun to drive.  A RWD car has a simple design where the drive shaft runs the length of the vehicle: from the engine to the rear wheels.  The design is generally simple and rugged.  It’s less likely to break when running over a curb or large pothole.  FWD vehicles are more complex, and with the added weight over the front axle the chances you’re going to break something in the FWD design is more likely.  FWD set-ups incorporate half-shafts and constant velocity (CV) joints that are more susceptible to damage than a RWD car’s solid axle.

RWD cars usually have a slightly better weight distribution (not as heavy at the front end compared with a FWD car), creating better handling because of this.  A RWD car spreads the weight of its drivetrain more evenly front-to-rear.  But an issue with the RWD layout can arise when the road conditions get slippery.  Rain, snow and ice create scenarios where loss of traction at the rear becomes more likely in a RWD car.

FWD cars do, however, provide better economy – not only in fuel consumption but also in manufacturing costs.  With fewer parts the drivetrain is easier and cheaper to mount into the car as it progresses down the assembly line.  FWD cars are often lighter than RWD equivalents thanks to the design not having to use separate transmission and axle assemblies used in a RWD car.  Reduction in weight leads to better fuel economy on the road, and this is a big draw card for new car buyers.

In certain conditions FWD offers better traction compared with a RWD car.  In the rain and snow, FWD gets better traction on the driving wheels because the front wheels have the extra engine and transaxle weight sitting on top of the front driving wheels – which helps to get better grip in slippery conditions.  Also, the front wheels are pulling rather than pushing the car along, aiding steering control in poor road conditions.

Being nose heavy, FWD cars aren’t usually quite as nimble and fast through the corners as RWD cars. When road conditions allow for higher speeds to be attained, FWD cars have to steer and drive the car with extra weight at the front.  This is why very few “serious” performance cars are FWD.  Maintenance costs are higher compared with RWD, so new bits like CV joints and boots will need to be replaced as the kilometres pass by.

This leaves us with AWD, and the best thing about AWD is that it gives some of the advantages of both RWD and FWD.  The number one advantage of AWD is excellent traction in dry and wet road conditions.  Some AWD designs lean slightly toward the front wheels doing more work, while others lean more toward the rear wheels doing more of the work.  The RWD-based versions are usually more performance-oriented but any of the AWD cars will do a top job of balancing the car’s handling and driving dynamics.

AWD cars do cost more to buy compared with RWD and FWD cousins.  This is because they cost more to produce with all the extra drive train components.  The extra running gear also costs more to maintain.  AWD systems are also heavier drive systems which makes for higher fuel consumption.  The higher fuel consumption, higher production costs and higher maintenance costs will put some buyers off, however a die-hard Subaru fan will have you think otherwise.  For ultimate performance, the AWD system can’t be beaten.

There are electronic traction control systems and driver aids that are getting better-and-better which do aid both the car’s handling and performance characteristics, as well as safety.  And, particularly in variable road conditions that might be wet and slippery, these extra electronic control systems can’t be beat.  These systems are widely used in many FWD, RWD and AWD cars.

The trend is that new car buyers are looking for more SUV and all-purpose vehicles to buy.  It has become simpler for automakers to reconfigure FWD models into AWD formulas where the AWD system is front-wheel power biased.  We are seeing more of these vehicle types on our road, which also means there is a decline in new RWD cars being bought.

Just for interest sake: Holden are still keeping the Commodore name, however the new Commodore won’t have a rear-wheel drive variant.  Instead, it’ll be offered in a front-wheel drive configuration for mainstream models, while a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 AWD model will be the performance model in the line-up.  With a nine-speed automatic gearbox, no differential with dual-clutch control systems controlling front and rear wheels independently, and torque vectoring the AWD model will be a performer.

Holden Commodore AWD

Also interesting is that BMW Motorsport engineers are looking to produce M-badged cars with an AWD model as well as a RWD variant.  With BMW’s M cars getting so powerful, the boss of BMW’s M Division, Frank van Meel, said that it’s getting hard to sell M cars without AWD in markets like Canada and Switzerland where conditions are slippery.

BMW M5 AWD

There is only so much horsepower you can put through two wheels before obtaining the grip needed to accelerate fast is compromised.  Even with the best traction and launch control aids, 2WD systems are beaten by AWD systems, and when engines have such immense power now, AWD is the only logical step forward for performance car manufacturers like BMW.  Audi, Porsche and Nissan already have plenty of experience with AWD performance models.