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It’s School Run Time Again!

Well, the start of another school year is upon us, which means that the roads at certain times of the day are going to be super-busy as mums and dads do the school run.  If your child is starting school for the first time or if he/she is going to a new school that’s beyond walking distance, you might be wondering about doing the school run for the first time.  What do you need to know?  And how do you get your car ready for the school run?

First of all, figure out whether you want to be part of a car pool scheme or whether you’re only going to pick up and drop off your own kids.  This depends on a number of factors, including how large your family is and where all the other families involved in the car pool scheme live. It also depends on how large your family vehicle is.  If what’s handy for the school run is a smaller two-door hatchback that requires passengers to do a fair bit of clambering in order to be squished in the back seat, then you may not be all that popular.  However, if you have a minivan or MPV handy, then you’re probably the obvious choice for doing the school run.

If you choose to go down the car pool route, then sit down and negotiate everything with the others involved in the scheme. What happens when someone is ill or has an unexpected meeting at an awkward time? If someone has to do the lion’s share of the driving (that person with the seven-seater, for example), how will they be compensated for the extra fuel (or power) costs? Will the car pool only be for the mornings, or will it be for afternoons as well – and what happens when one (or more) of the kids has after-school sports or drama or something along those lines? Carpooling, while good in theory, might not work for everybody in all situations.

Getting The Car Ready

Here, we’ll assume that your situation is like mine: two kids and no nearby families, so you’re doing the school run on your own. Do you need to do anything to get your car ready specifically for the school run?

Your car will already be set up in many ways for carrying your own kids (booster seats, for example) but there may be a few more things that you need to think about. For example, will you carry school bags in the boot or in the car cabin? What happens if someone has to carry an extra-big delicate school project – where will that go? How will you make sure that the inevitable paper notices that kids come out of school clutching at the end of the school day don’t get lost in all the other bits that creep into a car’s cabin over time (we’ve all been there!). If you have some sort of system, the chances that an important notice will get lost in the seat-back storage pocket or in the footwell will be minimised.

Other things you might want to get ready include:

  • Having USB chargers ready to go in case someone needs to charge their phone, tablet or laptop – especially if they have only just realised that the laptop has low battery and they’re going to be the first person to present a speech when they get to school.
  • Snacks for after school. Kids are often hungry after a busy day, and this can make them grumpy and whiny, especially if you end up getting stuck in a traffic jam. Dried fruit, nuts, rice crackers and bliss balls are all easy to store in the glove box to restore flagging blood sugar levels while still being reasonably healthy.
  • An umbrella. Weather can be fickle, and if you opt to park further down the road then walk to meet your kids at the school gate, there will inevitably be a day when you didn’t think it was going to rain but…

Cleaning your car before the school year begins is your choice, although I’d recommend giving the inside a good vacuum just to give it that fresh, new feeling that you always get at the start of a new school year. If your kids are old enough to be embarrassed by a dirty car exterior, or if they’re old enough to find writing “Clean Me” messages in the dust funny, they’re old enough to be made to wash the car themselves.  You could make going to the car wash a bit of a weekly ritual – perhaps at the end of the week.

School Run Etiquette

When you do the school run, it’s important to be courteous and considerate of other parents and other children. Don’t go all Mama Bear, ready to run roughshod all over other people in order to get your kids.  Every other parent is as stressed and protective as you are.  What’s more, congestion and visibility are real hazards around school gates at the busy times of day.  To ensure that everybody stays safe, follow the etiquette rules:

  • Don’t double-park, park in bus stops or park in No Parking zones. Parking a little way down the road and having a short walk won’t do you or your kids any harm.
  • Keep your speed down, no matter how busy or rushed for time you are.
  • Respect zebra crossings – that’s a no brainer.
  • Don’t honk your horn to get your child’s attention.
  • Avoid getting into silly status games with other parents involving fashion, achievements and vehicle type.
  • Respect rules such as the time limit in the “kiss and run” zones.
  • Model the sort of patience that you would expect your kids to demonstrate, especially regarding places in the queue, waiting your turn and so forth.
  • If someone else breaks these rules, refrain from shouting corrections and comments out the window. You don’t want to be a Karen.

An MPV – Great for School Runs!

A to J of Surfing Vehicles Dude

“Surfs up!”

“Dude, how am I gonna get there?”

“Bro, you need a car!”

Summer is here, and surfing is a great lifestyle for getting out, chasing the waves, and getting some immunity-boosting Vitamin D.  In fact, any sort of outdoor adventure and exercise will see you a fitter and healthier person for getting out there and doing it.  What 2022 cars make for an ideal surfer’s companion?  The following are several useful vehicles that, if you’re wanting something to get you places, will transport you, a friend or two, some gear, and surfboards/mountain bikes through something more than just a little puddle, mud or soft sand.

Dedicated vans or MPVs with AWD like the Volkswagen Multivan, LDV G10, Mercedes-Benz V-Class, Kia Carnival, Mercedes-Benz Valente, Volkswagen Caravelle, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai STARIA, Volkswagen California, Toyota Granvia, Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo ACTIVITY, and the Volkswagen Caddy are potentially great for surfing travels with one, two or more mates.  Some, but not all, will offer AWD.  Depending on how far down onto the beach you want to get your MPV or Van, AWD is definitely the way to go for getting through soft sand and out of sticky situations.

For years, wagons and SUVs have also been a go-to machine for the surfer; for good reason too as they offer plenty of space, the capacity for lugging gear, and for sleeping.  But having a vehicle that can get you across country and down onto the beach makes for the ultimate surfer’s vehicle.  Outside of the list of vans and MPVs above, there are some great vehicles still worth a look if you’re into doing a bit of surfing, fishing or any type of outdoor adventure.

Here is the best of them, first article of three, from A (Alfa Romeo) to J (Jeep).  Let us know if we’ve missed anything in between!

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Three petrol engines offer the Stelvio between 147–375 kW of power and 330–600 Nm of torque.  The 8-speed automatic and 4×4 (AWD) ability make it ideal for heading off tar seal.  It has 5-doors, 5-seats, a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, and 1600 litres of boot space when the rear seats are folded flat.

Audi Q Wagons

 

Audi Q5 and Q7 models are idyllic; the Q3 maybe a little small, however.  All of these are stylish, AWD and superbly comfortable.  Diesel and petrol engines are available that offer the Q5 and Q7 between 150–251 kW of power and 370–700 Nm of torque.  4×4 (AWD) ability make them perfect for nosing about off-road.  Both Q models have 5-doors, 5-seats, and a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.  The Q5 has 1530 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded flat; Q7 has 1971 litres.

Audi A6 Allroad

Cargo room extends to 1680 litres with the rear seats folded down, and the AWD Quattro system ensures that you’ll get around secondary roads and the odd track pretty comfortably in an A6 Allroad.  A nice wagon to drive, and the surfboard can go on the roof or slide in along the flat cargo area.  A sportier drive than a similarly capable Subaru Outback.  The Audi A6 Allroad Wagon 45TDI is offered in Australia and runs with a tiptronic 8-speed quattro drive.  The 3.0-litre Turbo-Diesel is a peach, packing a healthy 183 kW/600 Nm from its V6 configuration, and scampers from a standstill to 100 km/h in less than 7 seconds.

BMW X3, X5

 

BMW X3 and X5 models are really nice SUV wagons for open road touring.  All are stylish, AWD, and superbly comfortable.  Diesel, electric and petrol engines are available for the X3 that offers between 135–285 kW of power and 300–620 Nm of torque.  X5 models get between 170 and 460 kW of power and 450–750 Nm of torque.  4×4 (AWD) ability make them handy when getting down to the beach or picnic area.  All X models have 5-doors, 5-seats, a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, and the X3 has 1600 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded flat; X5 has 2047 litres.

Ford Everest

The Ford Everest is magnificent.  Its 3.2 Diesel Turbo engine delivers 157 kW and 500 Nm.  The 10-speed automatic and serious 4×4 capability ensure you won’t easily get stuck in this one.  Smooth, loads of road presence, and comfortable, there isn’t many negatives.  1796 litres of boot space is available with the seats folded down.  It has 5-doors, 5-seats, and a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

Haval H9

The big Haval H9 SUV Wagon gets a standard adaptive six-mode 4×4 terrain control system and a 700 mm wading depth.  The 180 kW/350 Nm turbo-four petrol/eight-speed auto is smooth and impresses.  A massive boot space combined with excellent features and a relaxing drive makes it a great surfing/adventure vehicle.  It’s also keenly priced.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai’s 7-seat Santa Fe SUV is large.  With a choice between a 206 kW/336 Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol or a 147 kW/440 Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four, the Santa Fe range is a great driving machine and is available in AWD.  Comfortable, and particularly well set-up in diesel guise, the Santa Fe is a warm travelling companion.  Boot space: 2042 litres.

Isuzu MU-X

A 7-seater with five doors and a rugged 3.0 Turbo-diesel motor is hard to overlook.  Stylish and tough, Isuzu’s new MU-X seven-seat off-roader comes in three spec levels (LS-M, LS-U and range-topping LS-T), each with the option of RWD or 4WD and standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.  140 kW and 450 Nm of torque match with a 3.5 tonne towing capacity.  ANCAP five-star safety and a boot space of 2138 litres makes the MU-X a perfect surfer’s wagon.

Jeep Wrangler

The LWB Jeep Wranglers are stunning lookers.  Perfect in every way but only let down by a rather mediocre safety rating 3 out of 5 stars.  2050 litres of boot space and 4×4 tenacity.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

An awesome, comfortable surfer’s wagon, the Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with a choice of a 3.6-litre petrol 8-speed automatic 4×4, or a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel 8 speed automatic 4×4.  True off-road potential and loads of space with up to 2005 litres of cargo space.  Offering between 184–522 kW (Yes, 522!) of power and 347–868 Nm of torque this packs a punch.  Superior 4×4 (AWD) ability make these ideal, and they are seriously comfortable.  All are 5-star safe.

Why Are 20% Of EV Owners In California Switching Back To Petrol?

You’d think that in a US state like California, which always seems to be so progressive, liberal and with-it – and which has a governor who has decreed that by 2035, all new cars sold will be EVs or at least “zero-emissions” cars – you’d see people flocking to taking up EVs left right and centre.  After all, if you think about it for a moment, Governor Gavin Newsom’s call would rule out not just your good old-fashioned petrol or diesel vehicle but also hybrids, which have both petrol and electric engines. It also applies to trucks (although the article may mean what we call utes and they call pickup trucks in the US of A), which makes me wonder how they’re going to ship goods about the place, as electric big-rigs are still at the developmental stage.

Anyway, given these points, it was something of a surprise to read a study carried out in California that found that about 20% of those surveyed said that they had gone back to petrol-powered vehicles after having owned an EV. OK, to be more precise, 20% of hybrid owners had gone back and 18% of battery-powered EV owners had switched back. You can read it for yourself here: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00814-9 (this will take you to the summary – to read the full thing, you have to pay).

The big question is, of course, why they’re doing this. The answer seems to be the issue of charging speed. The study seemed to find that Tesla owners didn’t seem to want to switch back, given that Tesla provides superfast charging for life for their vehicles – although I dare say that the cost of a Tesla has something to do with the fact that their owners aren’t switching back. However, those with other types of EV are more likely to switch back (compared with Tesla owners).

The people who were most likely to switch back were women, those living in rental homes, those living in high-rise apartments and those who didn’t have access to a Level 2 charger or higher at home or at work.

Some of these factors are easy to understand.  If you live in a rental home, you probably don’t want to pay to have a Level 2 EV charger installed in something that you don’t own – if your landlord would let you do this in the first place.  Landlords probably don’t want to pay to put in Level 2 EV chargers in rentals – although this might change in future; in the past, they didn’t always put in dishwashers but it’s common enough now.  In the case of an apartment, when you think that the garage or other parking space is all the way down there while you live right up there, or if you have to park your vehicle in a shared space and someone else has bagged the charger… well, you can see just how inconvenient it is.

The length of time it takes an EV to charge also probably has something to do with why women were more likely to ditch their EVs. If your EV is parked up and charging in a shared garage in an apartment building, you’ll have to nip down now and again to check how it’s going. In the case of a public charger, you may complete your errands before the car has finished charging and have to wait around. This means that you’ll be hanging around for a while. Unfortunately, it can be a nasty world out there for a woman. Even though 99% of guys are decent blokes, there’s always that 1%.  And you never know if that guy on the other garage or looking in your direction or walking towards you is Mr 1% or not.  This means that no woman really wants to spend longer than she has to in a public space that may not be all that well lit at night, with her only safe space being a car that isn’t quite charged up.  I’m speculating here, but speaking as a woman, that would be a concern I’d have – to say nothing of the hassles of trying to keep kids entertained while the car charges and being held up waiting for the car to charge when there’s a ton of things to do.

The issue seems to be charging time and access to Level 2 chargers. Let’s take a bit of a look at different charger types and you’ll get an idea of what’s involved:

Level 1 chargers: Slow as a wet week – it takes up to 25 hours to charge a typical EV with enough to get 100 km of range. However, it’s good for topping up plug-in hybrids. The advantage of these is that they can plug into the standard Australian power outlet without any need for the services of an electrician.

Level 2 chargers: These are faster than Level 1 chargers, taking up to 5 hours to give a typical EV 100 km of range. However, because of the charge they carry, they need special installation and older homes may need the wiring upgraded to carry the load, and it needs a special plug, which means you’ll need an electrician to come in and do the job of installing them.

Level 3 chargers: These use DC rather than AC power, and they are very expensive to install – putting one of these chargers could cost nearly as much as a brand new car. Your house doesn’t have this type of power supply, so they’re only available commercially. However, they’re faster, giving 70 km of range in 10 mins of charging.

Of course, these times are approximate and will vary from vehicle to vehicle – like charging times for other electrical things vary.  However, full charge times are usually measured in hours rather than minutes. If you’ve got grumpy kids in the car, even 10 minutes for a top-up charge at a fast charge station can seem like eternity…

 

Farewell To the Queen of the Nürburgring

As a female motoring blogger, I was very sorry to hear that one of my motoring heroines, Sabine Schmitz, passed away recently.  It’s particularly poignant when I realized that she was only a few years older than me.

If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, I’m referring to the German motor show presenter who appeared frequently on the British motoring show Top Gear.  We first met her in a 2004 episode, where she became Jeremy Clarkson’s nemesis, as she was a German (groan!) woman (gasp!) who beat Jeremy Clarkson around the Nürburgring (ouch!) in a diesel (eek!) van (aaagh!).  I know I definitely loved it when she made it around the Ring in less than 10 minutes.  This wasn’t her first appearance on a Top Gear show (she appeared briefly in a 2002 special) and it wasn’t her last, either. In fact, after the ousting of the Unholy Trinity of Clarkson, Hammond and May, she was selected by the BBC as one of the new presenters.

Sabine was one of three daughters of restaurant owners who lived near the famous Nürburgring.  She and her sisters all participated in motorsports, but she was the most successful of the three. During her racing career, she won the 24-hour Nürburgring challenge twice (both times in a BMW), as well as placing third, ninth and sixth in Porsches (if you’re looking it up, you’ll find her under her married name of Sabine Reck).  She operated a “taxi service” professionally in the Nürburgring, and later added driver training to her company portfolio.  It’s probably no exaggeration to say that she knew the Nürburgring ring like I know my neighbourhood roads. The track was her neighbourhood road.

As she was known not only for her driving skills but also for her sparkling personality, she appeared frequently on the German equivalent of Top Gear, a show called D Motor. She also provided commentary for motorsports from time to time, becoming known for her sense of humour.

I always enjoyed watching the episodes of Top Gear when she appeared, and it was fantastic to see a woman succeeding in what has traditionally been a very male-dominated area – which is odd, when you come to think about it, given that it was a German woman, Bertha Benz, who brought the motorcar to public attention in the first place. She was a great role model for girls learning to drive and showed the public that driving well is not necessarily a “boy thing”.

She was, unfortunately, diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in 2017, although this was not made public until last year. She fought it hard, but lost the battle a few weeks ago.  I’m sure I won’t be the only one who misses her and will be disappointed not to see any more of her.

One more time, let’s enjoy one of her iconic Nürburgring laps in a van for Top Gear that we loved so much:

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