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Archive for October, 2014

Making Your Own Biodiesel

When I came across an article in a magazine about making your own biodiesel, my first reaction was “Yeah, right – get out of here!”  However, as I read on, I discovered that it isn’t too hard to do.  It looks to be on about the same level of difficulty as making your own beer, soap, jam or toffee.  In fact, I think making homebrewed beer and wine might be harder.  So I thought that this was such a handy thing to know about that I just had to find out more and pass the knowledge on.

However, before I get onto the recipe, please bear in mind that: (A) I haven’t tried this myself (yet), (B) you need to be really, really careful with all of the ingredients because a lot of them are very corrosive and (C) don’t put straight home-made biodiesel in your engine but mix it with regular stuff from the pump or the result may do something nasty to bits of your engine.  Obviously, you need a diesel-powered vehicle!

Although you could do this project in your kitchen, it’s probably best to do it where you’re not going to be interrupted by cats, dogs or small children, or where idiots are going to mistake your project for something edible.  Caustic soda is seriously nasty stuff.  However, it is used as a drain cleaner and in that horrible spray used for cleaning inside ovens, so it’s not completely incompatible with kitchens.  Gloves are an absolute must and I wouldn’t turn down a mask and goggles if they’re available.

First of all, you need a good source of waste vegetable oil.  If you do your own deep frying, save the oil.  Otherwise, try cafés, restaurants, tuck shops, canteens and takeaway outlets to see if they’ll give or sell you their waste vegetable oil.  If you’re not a heavy user of veggie oil, you could try saving all the little dribbles of oil from your breakfast fried eggs but it’s going to take you ages to build up enough to be useful.  Saturated fat doesn’t work too well, so skimming the fat off the soup or seeing what you can do with fat from a roast isn’t a smart idea.

Two fish and one scoop of chips for me, and  the leftover oil for my car, thanks.

Two fish and one scoop of chips for me, and the leftover oil for my car, thanks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre of filtered vegetable oil plus 1 mL for titration
  • 200 mL of methanol (this is the hardest ingredient to get hold of)
  • 10 mL isopropyl alcohol (for titration)
  • sodium hydroxide (caustic soda – try a hardware store)
  • water (for the titration)

First comes the titration.  Mix up the caustic soda: 1 gram to 1 litre of water.  To work out how much caustic soda solution you need, put 10 mL of isopropyl alcohol and 1 mL of oil in a beaker.  Use an eyedropper to add the caustic soda 1 mL at a time. Check the pH using litmus paper or one of those testers you get at swimming pool supply places after every mL of caustic soda. When the pH gets to between 8 and 9, you’ve hit the right spot.  Count the number of mL of caustic soda you used and use the following formula to calculate how much you’ll need to make your biodiesel: number of mL + 3.5 = N. N is the number of grams of caustic soda you’ll need for your batch of oil.  Use leftover caustic soda solution for cleaning the drains or making soap (and for goodness sake, label the container with a large warning label!)

Put your vegetable oil into one container and your methanol into another.  Put N grams of caustic soda in a dish.  Now you’re ready to get started.  Make sure that the containers you use are a lot bigger than the amount of oil you’re working with in case things foam up when reacting.  In the article I read, the people used 3-litre plastic bottles for mixing the oil and caustic soda/methanol solution to avoid problems with fumes, shaking the mixtures gently to stir them.  You may or may not need to warm the oil gently – some of the many websites about making biodiesel say you do need to but others don’t.

Step 1 is to stir the caustic soda into the methanol.  Stir well but don’t breathe the fumes in.  Don’t touch the container, either, as this reaction gives off heat.

Step 2 is to carefully add the oil to the soda/methanol mixture.  Stir well again.  Be prepared for the mixture to react.  (My eyebrows went up when I read this instruction – all the soapmaking recipes I’ve read, which also involve caustic soda and fat, tell you to add the caustic soda solution to the oil).

In Step 3, you leave the mixture to settle.  Leaving it overnight is best.  When you come back the next morning, you’ll find a layer of glycerine down the bottom and the biodiesel up the top.  The longer you leave it, the better.

Step 4 is the tricky bit: separating the glycerine from the biodiesel.  Let the glycerine dry out a bit and use it for soap.  The biodiesel goes into your fuel tank.

If you use too much caustic soda, you’ll end up with soap, which isn’t a total disaster!

If you try this, let us know how you get on.

Happy driving,

Megan

Twin Peaks: Volvo S60 T5 R-Design and Polestar

Turbos and small engines go together like scotch and ice. Volvo’s done the scotch and ice with its S60 T5 R-Design, taking a 2.0L petrol engine and throwing on a hairdryer, adding in a smooth auto and some sweet interior design work to provide a comfortable work place. Then there’s a 3.0L turbo to play with and a northern hemisphere name….Private Fleet’s Dave Conole loads the R-Design up with three adults and two kids for a week and takes the (as tested) $71000 car for a cruise to the NSW Central Coast then follows up with the Polestar (call it $100K), this time, to the South Coast, via Canberra.Polestar profileVolvo S60 T5 profile

The Donk.
Not unexpectedly, power is peaky, 180kW at 5500 revs, but there’s a mesa flat 350Nm of torque from 1500 through to 4800 revs in the T5. In a car that weighs 1600 kg, that equates to a top speed of 230 klicks, passing 100 in a lick over six seconds. Fuel economy is rated at 6.4L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle from a tank of 67.5 litres. It’s joined to a eight speed dual clutch automatic transmission Volvo S60 T5 engine(with paddle shifts on Polestar enginethe steering column), driving the front wheels and comes with Stop/Start technology plus a full suite of safety and driver assist technology. Polestar gets 257kW (5700 rpm) and over 500 Nm (3000 to 4750 revs) and puts power down via all four paws through a six speed auto. It’s a touch heavier, at 1770 kg and somewhat thirstier, at 10.2L/100 km. Polestar gets an extra level of tech, with Launch Control, adjustable suspension thanks to Ohlins, Brembo brakes and breathes out via stainless steel pipes.

The Suit.
Polestar front leftThe S60 (S for sedan, natch), is a short tailed, long bonneted beauty, Volvo S60 T5 rearwith overt and subtle curves, plus a single sensually curved crease line joining the headlights to the rear lights. It’s not tall at just 1484mm in height, is compact at 4635mm in length and has front/rear track of 1588mm/1585mm, sits on a wheelbase of 2776mm and gains some subtle R-Design and Polestar additions, including a restyled front bumper (extra chin on Polestar), a small Volvo S60 T5 nosebootlip spoiler, aluminuim look (R-Design, Polestar gets black) wing mirror covers and Polestar wheelgorgeous (optional) 5 spoke diamond cut wheels, black and alloy in colour with 8 x 19 inch dimensions for the R-Design with Polestar getting similar colour but different design alloys of the same size, black striping at the bottom of the doors and both copping integrated LED running lights complementing “bending” Xenon headlights plus personal safety comes with Home Safe lighting. Rounding out the rear is a diffuser featuring dual exhaust tips for both.

The Interior.
Passengers are spoiled by being given comfortable, grippy R-Design/Polestar highlighted, leather seats (with perfortaions in the R-Design), electrically motivated for the driver (both in Polestar) and heated for both. They look fantastic and support both legs and torso nicely. The leather theme continues with the gear lever (Polestar is a clear top with coloured LED) and steering wheel, there’s the floating centre console (black surround) and the gorgeous fully digital dash display. R-Design emblems appear in the door sills whilst the Polestar gets “Engineered ByPolestar sill Polestar”. It’s a comfortable workspace, a good looking one however the compact design did make it cozy for three in the back, with 1401mm Polestar seatshoulder room and 1359mm hip room on offer, plus just 852mm leg room. The overall size of the car also contributes to the comparitively small boot space, at just 380L, but there is a R Design sill panelski port through to the main cabin.
The information screens that Volvo fits look great, as does the satnav, however I query the way the info is set up to be accessed, with the various jog dials and buttons only working for what is on the screen. I also feel it redundant to have a push button start system that requires a key to be inserted. Polestar rear seatsEither put a key in and twist or make it keyless start (as seen in the Polestar….). There’s plenty of tech on board, including CitySafe, a radar system that’ll apply the brakes automatically if it senses a vehicle (or anything big enough) in its path, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Information System and more. It’s also decreasing the need for user manuals, with an onboard “book” largely replacing a traditional manual, however it still takes a bit of digging to come close to finding half of the information you may be looking for. Auto Start/Stop is switchable on the R-Design.
The headlight switch is down to the right, above the driver’s knee, as are switches for boot and petrol lid; they work however, ergonomically, they’re out of sightline and there’s pluses and minuses on that. The tiller has a couple of flat spots left and right, just enough to place the palms and get a secure grip.

On The Road.
Quiet. Very quiet. That’s the exhaust I’m talking about for the R-Design. Road noise? That’s another matter; there’s a lot of it and it’s intrusive. Acceleration? The week I spent with the R-Design  was with five aboard all of the time and, as a result, it felt muted. The 350 torques didn’t appear to be there but this was with approximately 200 extra kilos of human aboard, with the expected display of urge not being felt. Also not being felt was torque steer through the front wheels, with the car tracking straight and true when given the command. Polestar has a thrum through the exhaust at around 2000 rpm and becomes a hollow, somewhat tiresome drone at constant speed on the freeway, especially on coarse chip and concrete surfaces. Under acceleration though, there’s a metallic growl that turns into a snarl as revolutions climb. Fuel economy on the R-Design was decent, rarely sneaking abouve 9.0L per 100, with the eight speed ‘box slurring its way through nicely under acceleration and giving a moment’s hesitation between changes on light throttle, giving an impression of manual change. The six speed in the Polestar is reactive enough, rarely found wanting for the right ratio and is quick to move via Sports mode. There’s proprietary software on board, allowing the ‘box to be put in Sports mode, play with the traction control or DTSC as it’s known, however I can’t help but feel that if a seven or eight speed box was fitted the economy of the car would improve…
Polestar gear leverAlthough a taut suspension in the R-Design, there’s enough suppleness to provide a measure of comfort, a measure of compliance with just enough give initially to not break the teeth. Tipping the R-Design into turns also produced surefooted handling, with minimal understeer backed up by a settling of the chassis when the go pedal was pressed. But there’s that Polestar dashthing missing, the aural excitement, with barely a hint of exhaust noise emitted. Not terribubly exciting, sadly. However, on idle, there’s chatter from the four up front, prompting one wag to ask if it was a diesel. Indeed. R-Design also came with the Auto Stop/Start, switchable for use by a button and in city traffic it was turned off.
Polestar is harder edged, to the point that it’s uncomfortable on anything other than a reasonably flat surface, with cat’s eyes roadside more than noticeable, making smaller speedhumps (car parks) and bigger (roads) bad enough to jolt a person momentarily from their seat. Although the car comes with adjustable suspension, front and rear, it’s only done manually, via the bottom of the front right strut and from inside the boot atop the left rear. This would infer that it’s only to be done via experienced people, rather than offering an electronically adjustable setup from within the cabin.
On the flat the S60 pair are comfortable, with initial give ironing out any road niggles in the R-Design while the Polestar didn’t. There wasn’t any noticeable torque steer either in the front wheel drive T5, however with a constant passenger load it may have been dialled out. The rear drive bias of the Polestar was barely noticeable but the heavier steering was. Occasionally, too, there would be a subtle tugging of the steering wheel in the T5, done by the car itself; it’s a self straightening system, for lack of better explanation, for when the lane sensing system decides to try and keep the car between the white lines. Great tech but hard to find in the menus.

The Wrap.
It’s a technofest under the skin, it’s a pretty looking car, it’s comfortable seating wise and seated five well enough. The R-Design was thrifty enough on fuel, handled as expected and is certainly a competent package. But I handed it over, swapping to the Polestar, uncertain as to how I felt about it overall. It was that uncertainty that both irritated and baffled me. Part of me wanted to love it yet I felt unsatisfied, like buying an expensive scotch only to have it taste like a brand much cheaper. The expectations I had were met yet the subconscious expectations weren’t. The lack of exhaust tone from the R-Design and the opposing drone from Polestar, the somewhat fiddly access of info, the (possible) lack of urge the numbers offer versus the thirst….cars are different to different people. To make up your own mind, go to www.volvo.com.au and follow the links to check out the S60 range and book yourself a test drive.Polestar badge

The Car: Volvo S60 T5 R-Design and Polestar.
Engine: 2.0L petrol, turbo, four cylinder, 3.0L petrol, turbo, straight six.
Power/Torque: 180kW @ 5500 rpm, 350Nm @ 1500 to 4800 rpm. 257kW @ 5700 rpm, 500+ Nm @ 3000 to 4750 rpm.
Fuel: 95/98 RON.
Tank: 67.5L.
Weight: 1602 kg, 1770kg.
Economy: 6.4L/100 km (combined). 8.7L/100km (city)/5.1L/100km (highway). 10.2L/100km (combined), 14.5L/100 km (city), 7.3L/100km (highway).
Transmission: eight speed automatic via front driven wheels.
Emissions: EURO6.
Dimensions (LxWxH in mm): 4635 x 1825 x 1484.
Wheelbase/Track: 2776mm, 1588/1585mm (front and rear).
Cargo/Luggage: 380L.
Wheels/Tyres: 8 x 19 x 45.
Price: $63890 + ORCs, $99950 + ORCs.
As tested: $70990, $99950. private_fleet_logo

Road Safety: ‘I forget that others don’t actually want to die’

The title of this piece may at first seem a little strange; you could even say that it is such a logical statement that it really does not need to be said at all. It is this exact point that I wish to expand upon in this post. A few years ago I was out driving with a friend of mine and as we approached a roundabout they appeared to recoil slightly as if something bad was going to happen. It was as we cleared the roundabout in complete safety and control that they uttered to me the very quote that you see now heads this article.

When you first see a quote such as this sitting right there in front of you, it may at first seem hard to process. Of course others do not want to die on the road, why would anyone feel the need to say that? But on the other hand, if this was truly the case it does beg the question of why on earth are there some people that drive on the road as if they have a death wish hanging like a dark cloud above their head? When my friend first said that to me I found it rather amusing, but the more I think about it the more they may actually have a point. It is the view of this author that as the years go rushing by, the effects of Newton’s Third Law are becoming visible than ever before. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For it would seem that with the increase of technology that makes both cars and the roads safer places to be on, actual driving standards are decreasing.

Road safety is taken very seriously, but does everyone heed the message?

Road safety is taken very seriously, but does everyone heed the message?

Over the last few months I have felt increasingly unsafe on the roads, down in the most part to the other drivers on the road. For all I know it is localised to my little slice of earth in which I inhabit. However, I then come to realise that every time I open the newspaper or turn on the news I see yet another fatality as a result of dangerous or driving. People say you should not always believe what you read in the media, so it is lucky that I have also had first hand experience of sharing the same slab of tarmac as some downright lunatics. There are not enough accessible appendages upon my body to count the number of times I have had a car pull out in front of me with barely enough time for me to hit the brakes to prevent an accident. I am fully aware your jumped up Vauxhall Corsa may have a decent enough acceleration and you wish to show this off to all the girls around you while you blast out the latest RnB offerings; the crux of the situation however is not the performance of your car but the quality of my reactions to enact what is essentially an emergency stop to prevent a dangerous accident.

Yet another example I can draw from the dark chasm of idiocy is the pure insistence of many impatient doughnuts who believe that bullying their way down the road is the best tactic to get home. If I happen be pootering along down the motorway at 70mph (because I would never dare go over the speed the limit…I promise…) I really do not want to have some little bottomfluff driving less than 5 meters behind me. His logic is simple; by intimidating me with his dangerous driving I will move out of his way. There is but one flaw in this plan; what if I have to apply the brakes suddenly? The result of that can only be a trip to hospital and many phone calls to insurance companies.

And finally we come to those people who are comparable only to a spinning hamster wheel but no hamster on the inside. I am fully accepting that there are many people who waltz around with their head in the clouds, but this should not be while they are driving. When you are behind the wheel, it is only just that driving is your top priority. Chatting to your friends, doing your hair or dreaming of far off plans are not acceptable excuses for driving like a complete and utter spanner. It may well be a very important phone call in your fancy BMW but that does not excuse you driving straight over a junction and nearly T-boning me right in the drivers door. Last time I checked my life was slightly more important than your business deal. I would hope anyway.

As I touched on at the start of this post, it would seem as safety based technology increases, driving standards begin to decrease. I do have a theory that there are some that believe because road safety is improving, in-car safety devices are getting ever more developed and of course medical care is forever more advanced, it means that they feel more comfortable driving at a lower standard; they feel they are better protected and will be better looked after. On a similar tilt to that of progressive safety measures, we are living in a world of increasingly intense devotion to insurance, claims and of course suing. There are some characters I have had the mispleasure of meeting who have given me ‘top advice’ in the world of road safety and insurance claims. They genuinely told me that if it looks like I will be involved in a crash that I should not try and stop it and let it happen, as long as I make sure it is the other persons fault. Apparently I then get ‘free money’ as a result. They claim in good confidence (..so I am told) that because of all the increased safety devices on the road, that the rewards are greater when things do go wrong.

…there really are just no words. It says so much about the modern world that some people are actively encouraging accidents as just another excuse to make some money.

Interesting insurance claim that would have been...

Interesting insurance claim that would have been…

Maybe all that time ago my friend was actually on to something when they said what they did. There are those that drive with the appearance of one who may be open to serious injury or death. Why else would they act like they do I wonder? And of course more worryingly there are those who seem to be open to possible injury for nothing more than a small financial gain. Maybe it is the ever advancing technology surrounding safety that is to blame. It is almost poetically ironic that the devotion to safety is the one thing that may be making our roads less safe. The one fatal flaw as it always has been appears to be the human element. If this proves but one thing, perhaps self driving cars are the best option for all of us. Maybe they are the answer to the question no one realised really needed to be answered.

Whatever I may have said, do not forget to keep driving people!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

The Latest Crop Of Record Breakers

I came across a copy of the 2015 Guinness Book of Records in the library the other day.  2015.  Either Guinness Publishing uses a peculiar sort of calendar or my local library has a time machine sitting out the back somewhere.  Alternatively, the concept of L-space that interconnects all libraries and bookshops throughout time and space from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld is true.  But anyway, these official record books often have some fun automotive, transport and car-related records, so without any further speculations, let’s have a look at some of the latest beauties showcased.  Might win you a bet or two at the pub.

Country producing the largest number of cars in one year: China. No surprises here, really.  The majority of cars are made in this country now, even marques you usually think of as being European.  However, the European car manufacturing industry is far from dead: Germany holds the Number 3 spot behind Japan.

Red Cherys ripe for the picking, fresh off the factory floor.

Red Cherys ripe for the picking, fresh off the factory floor.

Largest producer of vehicles: Toyota  managed to break General Motors’ 77-year run back in 2008 and the two companies have been fighting it out for top spot ever since. Toyota is the current record holder… at least according to the official book.

Tightest parallel parking of two cars:  Two Chinese drivers parked their cars in a space that was just 42 cm longer than the combined length of their cars.  The make and model of the cars is unknown, but I’m guessing they were little hatchbacks.

Biggest engine in a current production car: Chrysler’s SRT Viper has a whopping 8.39-litre V10 powerplant. This adds up to 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque.  This vehicle can do the 0–60 mph sprint in less than 3.5 seconds (the official Chrysler website claims “low threes”). It does the reverse (60–0 mph) in 106 feet.  Top speed is 206 mph.  Translating this into SI units, we get 470.72 kW for the power, 813 Nm for the torque and 331.52 km/h for the top speed.  I don’t want to even think about its fuel economy.  Let’s just say that it’s not for the frugal driver.

First folding car: The Hiriko Fold, which is a two-seater that folds its chassis so three of them can park in the space needed for a normal four-door saloon.  Not in general production yet.

honda_fcx_clarity

The Honda FCX Clarity – a hydrogen-powered beauty.

First hydrogen powered car: The Honda FCX has the honour of being the first vehicle powered by hydrogen technology, as it came out in 2002.  Because of the super-low emissions, hydrogen fuel technology is the newest and sexiest kid on the sustainable motoring block.  This Honda is in production somewhere in the world, but both Honda and Toyota are thinking about pumping out a few more.

Average amount of time the typical commuter spends stuck in traffic in a year: 38 hours.

Kilometres put on the clock by all driverless cars combined: 300,000 km.  All these have been part of the testing process of the driverless cars being worked on by Google.  They haven’t been in any major incidents so far during all this trial period.  I still don’t like them.  If I’m going to just sit there and do nothing during a commute, I’ll take a bus instead.

Smallest roadworthy car: a homemade job measuring 63.5 cm high, 65.4 cm wide and 1.26 m long.  It might be road legal (in the USA, at least) but can barely fit a passenger and is rather short on safety features.

Longest motor racing circuit: The (in)famous Nürburgring.

Fastest drift: A Polish driver in a Toyota GTR 86 managed to drift safely at 217.97 km/h.  The car in question had been modified to the eyeballs, so don’t try this at home if you have a Toyota 86.

Happy driving,

Megan

5 Simple Ways Buying a New Car is One of the Best Feelings in the World

The ‘new car’ smell

There’s no getting away from it – that ‘new car’ smell is something you just can’t replicate when you’ve had a car for a while or you buy used. The smell is there to remind you of the joy of sitting in your new car – it’s something to reward you for the money you’ve just paid and the effort you’ve put it saving up for it.

The sense that you’d like to go out and drive just because you can

The open road, the freedom to go where you want, and the ‘any excuse to get in the car again’ lasts a good few weeks when you have a new car. It’s something that any petrolhead can associate with – it doesn’t really matter that you don’t need to go anywhere, driving is just all you want to be doing.

The temptation to push the car and see what it can do

It’s likely that if you are upgrading your car, you’ll want to move towards something a bit more powerful and luxurious. Improved handling is also a big plus when it comes to stretching your new car’s legs on the road – and most modern cars allow you to push the limits a bit further and having a new car, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll want to.

Buying a New Car - Best Feeling in the World

The sense that everything is alright with the world.

There’s a reassuring feeling when you’re sat in the cabin of your new car. You’ve worked hard for your money, and being able to spend it on something you enjoy and care so much for gives you a little feeling of enjoyment and success.

Cruising slowly with the windows down just because you like to sit there

The comfort of modern car’s cabins is unsurpassed. It’s a comfortable, enjoyable place to be, and one of the best things about buying a new car is that when the experience is fresh, you’re perfectly happy just sitting there, cruising slowly and admiring the gauges, dials and switches around you. Of course, this feeling soon wears off, so make the most of it while you can!

If you are looking to in Australia, we may be able to help you. Our car knowledge gives us access to a huge range of new car models. Contact us today to see how we can help.