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S to Z 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 or outdoorsy-person’s companion?  The following are several useful vehicles that 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 ensuring you have a better chance of getting through soft sand and out of sticky situations.

For years, station wagons have been a go-to machine for the surfer; for good reason too as they offer plenty of space for lugging gear and for sleeping.  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 MPVs/vans above, there are some great vehicles worth a look if you’re into doing a bit of surfing, fishing and any other type of outdoor adventure.

Here is the best of them from S (Skoda) to V (Volvo).  Let us know if we’ve missed anything in between!

Skoda Kodiaq

Arguably the best in the business is Skoda’s Kodiaq.  It does everything a surfer wants very well.  The 2.0-litre Turbo petrol engine is smooth and powerful.  4×4 capability is at the ready, and the Kodiaq Wagon boasts 7-seats and a 7 speed automatic 4×4 gearbox.  A 132 kW/320 Nm turbo-petrol is under the bonnet of the base and Sportline variants.  The punchy RS packs a 176 kW/500 Nm version of the 2.0-litre engine. The AWD-only Skoda not only offers 3 rows of seats, it is also able to open up 2005 litres of boot space.  With standard autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, active LED headlights and a cosy, suede-trimmed interior complete with sat-nav, keyless start, two-zone climate-control and side and rear-window blinds, the Skoda Kodiaq is one very impressive package.

Skoda Superb AWD Scout

Grab yourself an AWD Skoda Superb Scout crossover wagon and surfing trips just got a whole lot nicer.  Under the Scout’s bonnet sits a 200 kW/350 Nm, 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The spacious, comfortable and high-quality cabin is laden with plenty of soft-touch panels and easy-to-read interfaces. Safety technology includes front and rear autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with active assist, blind-spot monitoring and self-parking.  The Superb Wagons will take 660 litres of luggage, expanding to 1950 litres with the rear seats folded. Towing capacity is rated at 2.2 tonnes.

SsangYong Rexton

Here’s another strong contender for best surfing wagon.  The seven-seater, five-star safe, 8-speed auto, 4×4, 2.2 Diesel-Turbo SsangYong Rexton large SUV uses a 149 kW/441 Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that boasts less than 9 litres/100 km fuel economy.  With, all-independent suspension, all-wheel disc brakes and an eight-speed auto gearbox, the big Korean-made SUV is equipped to go bush.  Boot space is a handy 1806 litres with second and third rows flat.

Subaru Forester

An icon in the surfing fraternity, the Subaru Forester always delivers the goods.  2022 sees the 5-door wagon offer a CVT 7-speed AWD with even autonomous emergency steering standard.  This is five-star safe, great on sipping small amounts of fuel and comfortable on any surface of road.  The Forester continues with the 136 kW/239 Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine, and the 2.0-litre mild-hybrid claims 6- to 7 litres/100 km.  The Forester offers generous levels of passenger space, and the luggage capacity can open to 1768 litres with the rear seats folded.  Of course, the Forester is known for going places that Physics suggest it shouldn’t.  It is capable off-road, just keep in mind that it’s not a “Landie”!

Subaru Outback

Surprise, surprise, here is another Subaru, and a favourite with surfers.  The latest Subaru Outback is the newest of a long line of wagon’s that have carried surfboards and surfers all around the country.  Subaru’s Outback is made for the surfer’s design brief, so it will happily go off-road, cruise the open road, accommodate a mattress and provide great accident protection.  Five-star safe and comfortable to drive, the 5-door Outback Wagon uses a 138 kW/245 Nm 2.5-litre boxer petrol four-cylinder driving all four wheels through a new CVT transmission.  Subaru’s Outback crossover is bigger inside and out, employs the company’s latest global platform and features all the latest safety technology.  You can tow up to two-tonnes, and you have a boot with up to 2144 litres!

Toyota

Plenty of choice in the Toyota brand. Take your pick out of the RAV4 (smallest), Kluger, Fortuner, Prado (largest), and Land Cruiser.  All will get you far and beyond the tarmac, the Prado and Land Cruiser being truly 4×4 bush bashing capable.  Comfortable, reliable, and safe.  Boot space starts at around 1800 litres for the RAV4 and gets bigger from here.

Volkswagen Touareg

Good things come from VW, as surfers well know – the VW Kombi being a surfing icon.  Well-dressed, big and brutish is what many of the ladies like, and the Volkswagen Touareg has it all.  Available as a huge 5-door SUV shape, the Touareg boasts five-star safety, 4×4 competence, and a huge boot (over 1800 litres).  Passenger space is right up there with the best in the business.  It is available with a choice of three diesel engines: two 3.0-litre V6s – 170 kW/500 Nm (170 TDI) and 210 kW/600 Nm (210 TDI), plus a ruthless 310 kW/900 Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 monster.

VW Tiguan Allspace

Over 2000 litres of boot space (Allspace version), a practical no-nonsense interior, 5-star safe, comfortable to drive, AWD availability, and the Tiguan starts to make sense.  It is also another vehicle that has self-parking capability.  With 4MOTION AWD and a dual-clutch six or seven-speed auto transmissions, the Tiguan is an impressive mid-size SUV.  The choice of motors is good; a 110 kW/250 Nm 1.4-litre and 162 kW/350 Nm 2.0-litre petrol turbo is available along with the torquey and thrifty 147 TDI 147 kW/400 Nm turbo-diesel.

Volvo XC60

Volvos are amazing cars to drive.  They are so comfortable, elegant, and boast all the best tech. Safety is a given, and the XC60 has up to 1792 litres of boot space.  Five-door SUV styling, an 8-speed automatic with AWD and you’re away.  Volvo’s XC60 SUV line-up is powered by petrol-only mild-hybrid 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines. The R-Design continues with the more powerful 220 kW/420 Nm B6 mild-hybrid powertrain while the Polestar Engineered sticks with the 311 kW/670 Nm T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain.  Both are nice and responsive engines.

Volvo XC90

Even with all 7 seats in place, the Volvo XC90 boot can hold up to 302 litres of luggage.  Folding down second and third rows makes way for 1856 litres.  A superbly comfortable, AWD capable, and delivering huge safety credentials, the new Volvo XC90 is a luxury SUV like no other.  All XC90s come with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning/assist, sat-nav, self-parking, AWD, an 8-speed automatic transmission and a fuel-saving idle-stop system.  The XC90 D4 is powered by a 173 kW/480 Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.  The T6 petrol comes with a 140 kW/400 Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.  The 2.0-litre plug-in petrol-electric hybrid XC90 T8 claims an amazing 2.1 litres/100 km fuel consumption and slingshots to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds!

K to R 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 with AWD or MPVs 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 sticky situations.  Having a vehicle that can get you across country and down onto the beach makes for the ultimate surfer’s vehicle.

There are some very good vehicles worth a look if you’re into doing a bit of surfing, fishing and any outdoor adventure.  Aside from an AWD Van or AWD MPV, here are the best of them from K (Kia) to R (Renault).  Let us know if we’ve missed anything in between!

Kia Sorento

The seven-seat Kia Sorento SUV is one of the most advanced vehicles in its class.  If you find parking a mean trick, then it can even park itself without anyone inside. Quiet, roomy and with a large boot, the Sorento is available in Sport, Sport+ and GT-Line and the choice of a front-drive 3.5-litre 200 kW/332 Nm V6 petrol with an eight-speed auto gearbox, an AWD dual-clutch auto 148 kW/440 Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel or a 190 kW/350 Nm PHEV.  The roomy cabin is enhanced by a commodious 616-litre boot that increases to a massive, all-seats-folded 2011 litres.

Land Rover Defender

Ultimate 4×4 traction.  The 2.0-litre D200, D240 and D250 diesels produce 147 kW/430 Nm, 177 kW/430 Nm and 183 kW/570 Nm respectively, while the petrol engines output 221 kW/400 Nm, 294 kW/550 Nm and 386 kW/625 Nm.  All Defenders are highly capable, dual-range 4x4s, all driving through an eight-speed auto gearbox.  Up to 2231 litres of boot space gives you plenty of space to sleep!  5-star safe.

Land Rover Discovery

Ultimate 4×4 traction with added sophistication. Of course, the Range Rover alternative is luxury to the max!  Discoverys are big on comfort and refinement and offer up to 2104 litres of sleeping space.  5-star safe.

LDV D90

A big, cushy, well-priced 7-seater with 5-doors.  Sitting on a strong ladder-frame chassis and boasting a punchy 160 kW/480 Nm, 2.0-litre bi-turbo-diesel with an eight-speed auto transmission this is a seriously decent machine.  Offering rear-drive or dual-range 4WD with multi-mode terrain selection, off-roading is a breeze.  5-star safe and providing up to 2382 litres of sleeping space.

Mahindra XUV500 W10

A 7-seater with 5 doors and a 6-speed auto, the Mahindra XUV500 SUV is one of the best-value mid-size seven-seaters in Australia.  It is powered by a 103 kW/320 Nm 2.2-litre turbo-petrol engine.  AWD form is the best version and performs well off-road.  Let down only by a 4-star safety rating, the Mahindra has over 700 litres of boot space with the third row seats flat and grows to an excellent mattress in the back material.  You also get a five-year/100,000km warranty with five years of roadside assist when bought new.

Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi’s fourth generation Outlander SUV is a roomy 5-door wagon that is comfortable to drive, has all the modern tech, offering its owner plenty of space.  Available in AWD, running with an 8-speed CVT gearbox, and using the new 135 kW/245 Nm 2.5-litre engine this is a reliable unit that will take you and your mates places.  Boot space is up to 1461 litres, safety is 5-star, and you also get Mitsubishi’s class-leading 10 year/200,000 km warranty.

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

Another highly rated surfer’s wagon, the 2022 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Wagon.  With its 8-speed automatic gearbox is smooth.  It’s a dual-range unit with Low and High, so 4×4 traction combines with a high ground clearance and long-travel suspension to ensure plenty of off-road capability.  There’s heaps of passenger space and it’s surprisingly smooth and comfortable on the road.  The Pajero Sport is available in both five and seven-seat form and is powered by a 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel producing 133 kW/430 Nm.  5-star safety and a boot space that’s huge. The Pajero Sport boasts a big, square cargo space and boasts 673-litres of cargo volume even up to the second row.  Fold the second row down as well and it’s cavernous.

Nissan X-Trail

The sharp-looking Nissan X-Trail is a real surfer’s choice.  Nissan’s X-Trail continues to rate among the best cargo-carriers in its class.  It feels nifty on the road and is five-star safe.  The AWD version uses a naturally-aspirated petrol engine with 126 kW/233 Nm.  Boot space is huge and close to 2000 litres, enough to lie down and stretch your legs out overnight.

Renault Koleos

A pretty cool looking wagon is the new Koleos from Renault.  Nissan’s X-Trail and Renault’s Koleos have teamed up and are based on the same platform.  Five-star safe and superbly comfortable, Renault’s five-seat Koleos mid-size SUV combines attractive looks and excellent people and luggage-carrying abilities.  There’s a choice, at the top-level for 4WD, and the 126 kW/226 Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine drives through a modern CVT transmission.  Boot space is almost 2000 litres!

Stay Safe While Driving Home For Christmas

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Chris Rea’s classic, “Driving Home For Christmas”. Quite a lot of us will be doing this during this holiday season – driving somewhere to celebrate, that is, not listening to Chris Rea. Whether we’re driving from one side of town to another to visit the relatives, or whether we’re taking the chance to make the most of the newly opened borders and head off on a long-awaited summer road trip, we want to have a happy summer holiday season that’s remembered for all the right reasons, rather than for a road tragedy.

If you’re planning a trip of any length during this Christmas, New Year and summer holiday season, then here’s a bunch of tips to keep in mind to make sure that things go smoothly and safely for everybody.

  1. Allow more time for your journey. During the lead-up to Christmas, the roads are super-busy. Everybody’s travelling and/or doing their Christmas shopping, and taking the kids places now that school’s out for the summer. At the same time, it always feels like the road works crews are stepping things up, trying to get scheduled maintenance tasks done before the Christmas closedown. This means that you can expect the roads to be busy and that things will take longer. Save yourself some stress and allow for the extra time, rather than ending up stressed and under time pressure, which could cause you take silly risks.
  2. Drive sober. You’d think that we shouldn’t need reminding about this, but every year, you hear about some idiot crashing thanks to having had a few too many bevvies. Yes, it’s party season and the time of year when we’re most likely to over-indulge, but the risk of driving drunk is still there. Play it safe and know your limits. Have a designated driver (take turns if needed). These days, it’s perfectly socially acceptable to not drink alcohol, and there are plenty of non-alcoholic cocktails that say “party” without getting you smashed (in both senses) – a Virgin Mary is rather seasonally appropriate, don’t you think? If you have overdone it, then don’t drive. Better to crash on a mate’s sofa than into a lamppost.
  3. Stay hydrated. It’s summer, so things get hot. This means that our bodies need more liquid. What’s more, if you have a flask of something nice and cold (and non-alcoholic, of course) then you can help yourself chill down and avoid headaches with a nice cold drink. If you’ve got a long trip planned, then try freezing a plastic bottle of water overnight then taking this with you. It will slowly melt as the hours pass, giving you a deliciously cold drink.
  4. Get yourself a good playlist. If you’re going to be stuck in the car for ages driving interstate with the kids, then a good playlist – of Christmas carols or otherwise – can help you get in the right mood and can help you stay calm. Create yourself a playlist of favourite Christmas carols then sing along with them as loud as you can with the windows down, especially if you’re stuck in road works. See how many smiles you can collect. Alternatively, if you’re fed up with twee jingly tunes, then put on your own playlist of bangers to listen to so that the annoying tune you heard in the store doesn’t stay on repeat in your brain.
  5. Keep the speed down. If you’ve allowed more time for your trip, you should be OK here. However, if you haven’t it’s better to arrive later than never. It’s also better not to add to the Christmas expenses with a speeding ticket. The cops are usually out in force at this time of year, so keep the right foot light. This especially applies if you’re driving to a less familiar area where the speed limits may not be what your instincts are telling you.
  6. Get your car summer-ready. It’s always wise to ensure that the fluids are topped up and that the windscreen is clean, and that everything else is as it should be in your car. It’s especially important to do this before a long trip if you haven’t had one for a while, which is likely to be the case in 2021 when the interstate borders have opened after having been closed for so long.
  7. If you can, avoid the more congested routes and times. Smart use of maps and timing your travel for less popular times can help avoid clogged roads and being caught in a traffic jam. Driving at night or in the early morning can also be cooler. However, make sure that you don’t try do drive when tired. And if you do get caught in a stream of traffic that’s top to toe in tail lights, then don’t stew about it but just go with the flow. You will get there eventually, as long as you get there safely.

EVs and Rare Earth Mining

Rare earth metals.

Where are all the earth’s rare metals mined?  Are electric vehicles (EVs) really so environmentally sound and friendly?

Rare earths are difficult to find and obtain in most parts of the world, and they are used a lot in all sorts of common and accessible products like mobile phones, cars, aeroplanes, missiles, radars etc.  Rare earths are also abundantly used in EVs.  EVs use special magnets to power their engines, and most of the magnets in EVs that can cover longer distances on one battery charge are made from rare earth metals.  The metals aren’t necessarily rare, but they can be dirty and difficult to process.  Many of the processes related to rare earth extraction (getting the rare earths out of the ground) are dangerous, environmentally unfriendly, and, in many cases, the mining workers are older boys and younger men.  The process to obtain many of the rare earths is environmentally destructive and produces radioactive waste.

Of the 17 rare earths, neodymium is possibly the most needed rare earth in the world right now.  EVs cannot function without neodymium, and lithium – which is currently mostly found in Bolivia.

China has a large portion of the rare earth mining pie and supply network.  Back in 2010, China produced as much as 90% of the rare earths that the world needed, and it now seems obvious to me why China’s economy and infrastructure was booming so much at the time.  Also, around this time, the rest of the world started to see just how China ruled the rare earth market and power struggles commenced.

Without the rare earth metal, neodymium, an iPhone cannot vibrate and wind turbines would not work.  In order for EVs to gain more milage between charges, Rare Earth Permanent Magnets (REPM), which use neodymium, are required.  REPMs are the most powerful magnets currently available.

So, though rare-earth elements are used in trace amounts, their unique properties, which include magnetic, heat-resistant, and phosphorescent qualities, make them essential in the production of products like batteries, car engines, EVs and LCD TV displays.  EV motors, iPhones, military jet engines, batteries, and even satellites all have something in common: They require rare-earth elements to function.

Other elements like terbium, tritium and europium are crucial to targeting mechanisms in all high-tech weaponry systems.  The higher-tech that an EV becomes, a corresponding increase in the level of rare earth mining will be required.  The more EVs that are run on the roads (resulting from strict emission standards and government taxing), the more the rare earth resources will be called upon to build and maintain the EV fleet.  Currently, an EV battery doesn’t last much longer than 10 years, so EV battery replacement requirements will mean that much more rare earth metals will be needed to maintain the ever-growing global EV fleet.

As of 2018, China had 37% of the world’s rare earth deposits.  Brazil currently has 22%, Vietnam 18%, Russia 10% and India has 5.8%. The rest of the world, including the US and Japan, have the rest.

Despite having more rare earth ore than the US, India only mined 3,000 tonnes of rare earths in 2020.  During 2020, the US mined 38,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, Australia mined 17,000 tonnes and China mined 140,000 tonnes.  In 2020, the US had 16% of the production rate of the world’s rare earths; Australia had 7%, and India had 1%.

In 2020, the following countries were the biggest producers of rare earth metals:

China, mine production: 140,000 MT

United States, mine production: 38,000 MT.  The US is also a major importer of rare earth materials, with their demand for compounds and metals worth US$110 million in 2020.  The US has classified rare earths as critical minerals, and it is a distinction that has come about from recent trade issues between the US and China.

Myanmar (also known as Burma), mine production: 30,000 MT.  Myanmar mined 30,000 MT of rare earths in 2020, up from 22,000 MT the previous year.  Myanmar provided 50% of China’s medium to heavy rare earths feedstock.

Australia, mine production: 17,000 MT.  Australia holds the sixth largest-known rare earths reserves in the world.  It is poised to increase its output, where the production of neodymium-praseodymium products is projected to increase to 10,500 tonnes per year by 2025.  Northern Minerals opened Australia’s first heavy rare earths mine in 2018.  Its main products are terbium and dysprosium, the latter of which is used in technology for things like permanent magnets.

Madagascar, mine production: 8,000 MT.

India, mine production: 3,000 MT.  India holds almost 35% of the world’s total beach sand mineral deposits.

Russia, mine production: 2,700 MT.  Russia intends to increase the nation’s share of global rare earths production from the current 1.3% level to 10% by 2030.

Thailand, mine production: 2,000 MT.

Vietnam, mine production: 1,000 MT.

Brazil, mine production: 1,000 MT.

Rare-earths are also mined in South Africa, Canada, Estonia, and Malaysia.

Is an internal combustion engine’s resultant emissions and fossil fuel use really worse than the rare earth metal production mining for EVs and other high-tech electronics?  I would question whether a modern and new internal combustion engine with its catalytic converter to capture any emissions is worse than an EV’s definite connection to negative environmental impact and questionable work-force ethics.

Sometimes it is easier to disregard these pre-showroom EV facts and talk about the post-showroom EVs being so wonderful and environmentally-friendly with their so-called zero emissions.  Perhaps hydrogen-fuelled cars (to a certain extent), solar energy, and, definitely, cars running on biofuels are a sounder transport investment, but I guess money, power and business links still talk louder for some.

Why We Need More Information on Vehicle Reliability

Local car manufacturers have long been reluctant to release information about vehicle reliability, just as they were with repair data until  developments prompted a change. While those changes were a promising sign for motorists, not much else has changed on the reliability front.

Still, the current standards and practices just aren’t good enough. Your new vehicle is likely to be the second largest individual purchase you’ll make in your lifetime. No one wants to end up with a ‘lemon’, so it follows that manufacturers should be more open when it comes to publishing information about vehicle reliability. That is, if they genuinely value their customers loyalty.

What’s the current situation?

From an owner’s perspective, having full and complete information is invaluable when engaging in a decision making process. It’s necessary in order to filter out options that do not align with our needs. This is something that has been recognised abroad. From the US to the UK and other parts of Europe and Asia, industry surveys with motorists surrounding vehicle reliability are common practice and the results are published for all to see.

In turn, this ensures manufacturers not only receive feedback but are compelled to embrace it – to act upon it and improve their vehicles. Tesla, one of the industry’s most-recent entrants to the motoring space, has been one of the most prominent stakeholders in accepting feedback and it goes some way to explain why their growth has been off the charts as it becomes the most-expensive, publicly-listed car brand in the world.

Tesla is one of the first to admit they have had several notable problems with their ‘high end’ vehicles, however, their approach is all about finding the right solution(s) to improve motorists’ driving experiences.

In Australia, only half the feedback cycle is being undertaken. Motorists are often surveyed for their thoughts on vehicle reliability, but the results are rarely if ever made public.

In fact, it’s hard to know in what way this information is being used given its guarded nature. That being said, it’s widely accepted that mechanical issues have improved some way in recent years – even if we are seeing an abundance of recalls that never seem to stop – but it has generally been the car companies with global reach, under pressure from research in other territories, that are amongst the frontrunners in terms of reliability.

What’s the other side of the equation?

If there is one thing to recognise in defence of manufacturers, the human mechanics of operating a vehicle cannot always be recorded. That is, whether a driver has adequately maintained their vehicle, followed through with appropriate servicing, and ultimately how they drive their car.

Now you’re probably saying these things shouldn’t matter. And they shouldn’t. But for the purpose of a direct comparison between cars and manufacturers, it’s hard to compare the likes of a BMW driven by a P-plater, with a Toyota Camry driven by a retiree.

The other element to consider is that reliability data is only one piece of the puzzle. The type of failure, as well as the cost of repairs, should also be considered. One might expect that ‘luxury’ vehicles encounter fewer reliability issues, however, if each time this vehicle requires repairs that cost three times that of a ‘regular’ sedan, what are the results really demonstrating? Furthermore, with the majority of problems these days encompassing technology problems, can these issues be compared on the same scale as that of vehicles with mechanical problems?

Nonetheless, these points shouldn’t really take away from the point that we need further disclosure around vehicle reliability. The introduction of ‘lemon laws’ in recent time is certainly beneficial, but that’s a reactive response when buyers deserve more up-front information and certainty. In fact, manufacturers owe it to motorists, particularly if they are in search of brand loyalty and a vision to improve future cars.

Ford Movements

Hot off the Press News has Ford investing big money in EV production.  All up, Ford and a South Korean supplier will spend $11.4 billion US on Ford’s EV production and expansion.  Ford hopes this spend will enable them to produce more than one million EVs per year in the second half of this decade.  The buzz words used in new and future cars include the term electric vehicles or EVs.  Established automakers like Ford are racing to try and close the gap on Tesla’s EV lead.  As you may be aware, Tesla produces a range of EVs, and Tesla are currently on the way to selling more than 800,000 electric cars this year.  Tesla is currently the most valuable automaker in the world, with a market capitalization of nearly $800 billion US.  Ford’s market value is $56 billion US.

Ford F-150 Lightening

Ford’s big spend will be its 2nd biggest spend in its history.  Under the climate change banner and the Biden government, this latest US multibillion-dollar move to quickly transfer production plants to EV production is seen as a fast track phasing out of gasoline-powered cars and trucks as part of the global push to combat climate change.  I won’t debate the science here.

Ford is to build 2 battery plants in Kentucky and 1 in Tennessee under the joint venture with its main battery cell supplier, SK Innovation of South Korea.  In addition, Ford will build an assembly plant at the Tennessee location to churn out EV trucks. Ford will invest $7 billion and SK Innovation $4.4 billion, the companies have said.  Ford expects electric vehicle models to make up 40% of their vehicle production by 2030.  That’s only a little over 8 years away!

Ford’s new truck plant and battery factory in Tennessee is likely to be the place that will produce a new battery-powered Ford F-Series pickup truck, this following the previously announced F-150 Lightning pick up truck.  I have to say that the F-150 Lightening is an impressive beast!  Ford has said a mix of both the public and businesses had already placed 150,000 reservations for purchasing the F-150 Lightning.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Also this year, Ford began selling the Mustang Mach-E, which has taken a sizable market share from Tesla.  Ford also plans to add an EV delivery van into the mix by the end of the year.  Then, in early 2022, the electric F-150 Lightning will roll out of their showrooms and silently onto the tarmac.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Mr. Jim Farley, Ford Motor’s  president and CEO, has recently said that making electrical vehicles affordable should be among the top priorities for automakers, so that the average vehicle-buyer can purchase one.  This is good news, as a new EV is well out of most people’s budget.

He also made a couple of rather poignant comments: one on a key issue on questioning how EV production will impact labour/jobs (a subject rather close to home with our relatively recent Ford and Holden closures), and the other on materials.  So, apparently, it costs 30% less to manufacture the Ford electrical vehicles.  This will definitely affect production rates and employment long term.  Then there is also the issue of battery supply and the rare minerals (i.e., lithium, cobalt) needed to power them, said Farley.   Mr Farley stated, “We have to bring battery production here, but the supply chain has to go all the way to the mines.  That’s where the real cost is, and people in the U.S. don’t want mining in their neighbourhoods.  So, are we going to import lithium and pull cobalt from nation-states that have child labour and all sorts of corruption, or are we going to get serious about mining? …  We have to solve these things and we don’t have much time.”

Here in Australia, we haven’t jumped on the EV wagon just yet, and if we are going too, then there is so much infrastructure that will be needed to be implemented before owning an EV becomes a viable option for people like me.  Even the thought of the costs involved in getting the right infrastructure is eyewatering, and, like most impatient home renovators and idealistic politicians, the job must be done yesterday!  The hard working folk pay for it, of course!

There seems little patience on offer by many governments and climate change activists for making the move to EVs (and other new transportation technology like an EV repower on your existing car) a more balanced and delicate affair.  For now, owning an EV is very much for the elite, so Farley is on the right track when he says that the cost of EV ownership must be addressed very quickly.

Ford still has many plants throughout the U.S.  However, like other big automotive manufacturers, Ford also has locations right around the world.  Ford has many production plants scattered about the globe, and these include assembly plants, engine plants, forging plants, stamping plants and transmission plants.  Here, in Australia, Ford still has special engine production and stamping plants.

On a more local note, Ford has a new feature called ‘FordPass’ offered on all their new models sold in Australia.  FordPass has a few systems worthy of a mention that include:

Remote Start+, where minutes before leaving, you can start your connected vehicle’s engine from your mobile device in order to heat or cool the cabin using the last known climate control setting.

Vehicle Status, where you can check key variables such as fuel level and your odometer on the FordPass App to help plan your journey.

Remote Lock/Unlock, where, conveniently, you can use your mobile device to make sure the car doors are locked or unlocked without being anywhere near your vehicle.  If only it could do that for my house front door!

Vehicle Locator, where you can check your vehicle’s exact location in the FordPass App, which is particularly useful if you share your vehicle with one or more members of your household or if you have forgotten where you parked it.  However, if you’ve forgotten where you’ve parked it, then maybe you better get breath tested!

Vehicle Health Alerts, where the FordPass App sends Vehicle Health Alerts directly to your mobile device, pre-empting service needs and general maintenance such as low washer fluid.

Live Traffic, where this feature enhances your SYNC 3 Navigation system by delivering up-to-date traffic updates.  This technology allows you to adjust your recommended route based on the traffic conditions, helping you to arrive more relaxed and on time.

Ford Ranger Special Ediiton

In this second half of 2021, Ford Australia offer a nice broad range of vehicles that include the Puma, Escape and Everest SUVs; the Ford Focus car; the Ford Ranger Ute; the Transit Commercial range that has custom vehicles, vans, buses and cab-chassis models; the Ford Performance range that includes the Fiesta and Focus ST, the Focus ST-3, the Ranger Raptor, the Mustang and Mustang Mach-1; and the Special Edition Rangers and Everests.

It is good to see Ford keeping pace with any EV and hybrid automotive technology and movements; though at what societal and environmental cost?  New Ford vehicles are good, and Ford offers a very complete package for all new vehicles in the Ford range.  Once you’ve driven a Ford, its not so easy to change out of the brand come new car buying territory.

A Case for Hydrogen-Powered Cars

What’s to like about hydrogen, and hydrogen-powered cars?  We cannot see taste or even smell hydrogen, yet hydrogen makes up over 90% of matter.  The stars and the sun are made up of hydrogen gas.  Here on earth, hydrogen forms compounds; compounds are a mixture of elements that we find on the Periodic Table (That’s the big poster found in every science lab at school, which has 120 – or so – little squares with letters that make up the organised Periodic Table with all the known elements in our world.).  Hydrogen is found in almost every living thing.  Hydrogen gas is used to make chemicals such as ammonia and methane.  Hydrogen is in the water that we drink (H2O).  Some car manufacturers and scientists have been beavering away developing what is known as hydrogen-powered cars.

Before the car was even invented, hydrogen power had been around and in use in various forms since the 1800s.  It was used widely for gas streetlamps back in the day.  It was a Welshman, Sir William Robert Grove, who invented the first fuel cell back in 1839.  When you use hydrogen in a fuel cell, the only thing you produce is electricity and water!

So, hydrogen-powered cars are vehicles that contain tanks of hydrogen fuel that then combine with oxygen from the air in a process that delivers power to the car for motion.  The beauty of the hydrogen-powered vehicle is they produce only water as a waste product.

In a little bit more detail, a hydrogen fuel cell inside a hydrogen-powered car works like this…  The fuel cell has a proton exchange membrane that uses compressed hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity.  The hydrogen goes into the membrane at one end called the anode, while oxygen goes into the membrane at the other end called the cathode.  A platinum catalyst, which is positioned on the anode end of the membrane, splits the hydrogen into positive protons and negatively charged electrons.  The proton exchange membrane takes only the positive ions, while the electrons are fed into a circuit to make electricity.  It’s this electricity which is used to drive the car’s electric motor[s].  These electric motors are what provide the driving for the hydrogen-powered car to give them speed and power!

At the cathode end, the positive ions are travelling along the membrane and combining with oxygen from the air to make water (H2O).  This water drips out of the car’s exhaust/tailpipe.  If you are driving your hydrogen-powered car through a desert and need some water, then you could believably drink it.  Now, how green is that!

How can we produce hydrogen for vehicles?  Without going into too many details here (I’ll save that for another blog), hydrogen can be produced in mass from a renewable electricity system that uses generation plants like hydro dams, solar power and wind power generators.  This purpose-made hydrogen is known as green hydrogen.  Australian mining company, Fortescue, has been talking with government recently regarding the creation of a hydrogen production system for Australia as early as 2023/24.

Tiwai point, which you’ll find on the Southern-most tip of New Zealand (NZ makes up Australia’s two biggest islands!), is currently being used as an aluminium smelter.  The NZ government is in talks for designing and consenting to converting this smelter into a green hydrogen production plant even as early as 2023.

I think the hydrogen-powered vehicle makes a lot of (green) sense.  It would cut down on the need for an endless supply of new battery packs that EVs require, which are made from preciously rare earth’s resources (e.g., lithium, nickle, cobalt…), and the energy and space to dispose of the spent battery packs would be a problem.

Of course, we would need to build up a network of hydrogen refuelling stations across Australia to power this new type of vehicle.  This network-building will be easy enough and relatively cheap compared to the massive and costly EV network/upgrade.  Green hydrogen fuelling stations could simply be added onto any petrol/diesel refuelling station currently in operation across Australia.  This would also ease the changeover period for the general public.

If you are wondering what hydrogen-powered cars might look like, do take a look at the new Toyota Mirai, for an example.

Toyota Mirai

 

Aussie’s Rosco aiming for 1000 mph

Aussie Invader 5R

It might be a bit hard to call it a conventional car but then it’s not really a conventional car in the sense that the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car looks more plane/rocket in its appearance.  The Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car boasts an insanely long arrow-shaped design with three wheels, large aerodynamic wind deflectors and an engine with close to 150,000 kW!  Yes, that’s correct; you did read that figure correctly.  To put that in perspective, an Aussie V8 Supercar puts out, on average, around 475 kW of power.  Now, if you’ve ever experienced the wonderful roar of these V8s when they blast by around the circuit, then you can understand the aura of such kW potency.  But this Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car makes as much power as 316 of these Aussie V8 Supercars put together! The Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car is powered by a single bi-propellant rocket reportedly capable of producing upwards of 62,000 lbf of thrust.  That’s over four times more than a Boeing 737 jet!

Founder and designer of the new Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car, Rosco McGlashan, has the world’s fastest land speed record in his sights.  He will reportedly be the pilot of the 16-metre long, nine-tonne steel-framed vehicle.  And the target?  The target top speed of 1609 km/h (1000 mph) would be the fastest of any land-going vehicle, ever. And 1000 mph would see it blitz the current land speed record held by the Noble Thrust SSC on a Nevada salt flat in 1997, which averaged 1223.7 km/h and broke the sound barrier while doing so.

Rosco McGlashan

Rosco McGlashan would like to set the new record next year once all the Covid palaver is over-and-done-with, and it will likely be set somewhere in the Queensland or Western Australian desert.  Rosco is no stranger to setting speed records; he is already the holder of the Australian land speed record, where in 1994 he clocked 802.6 km/h behind the wheel of a jet-powered predecessor to the Aussie Invader 5R out on the dry salt flats of Lake Gairdner, near Adelaide.  He has, after all, built all of his drag racing, exhibition, and land-speed racing vehicles himself over the years in a shed at his home.

Rosco has accurate computer modelling on the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car, which suggests that the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car will have enough power and thrust for launching the car from 0-100 km/h in approximately 1.1 seconds.  It should reach its target of 1000 mph in less than 30 seconds.  Slowing the Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car down is no mean feat and will thus will require a full 13 km of flat desert just to stop it.  A multi-stage deployment of high-speed hydraulic air brakes, mid-speed parachutes, and low-speed disc brakes have been designed to activate progressively to safely bring the vehicle to a halt.

Picking an exact location will depend largely on which organization or individual steps up as the primary sponsor for the effort. As will the practical necessity of having 5 km of flat desert for getting up to speed plus another 13 km to stop it.

Aussie Invader 5R

January 2021 Sales Figures Show Upwards Swing

Australia’s Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has released the sales figures for January of 2021. A total of 79,666 vehicles were sold in January 2021 which is up by 11.1 per cent on January 2020. 71,731 vehicles were sold in that month. Every state and territory saw an increase, and following on from December 2020, with the Northern Territory seeing the highest increase of 38.7% to just 1.9% in Victoria. Private buyers contributed by having an increase of 25.4%. Business buyers decreased, but by only 1.3% whilst government and rental sales dropped by 11.2% and 12.4%.

Of note was that Holden as a brand registered zero sales.

The private sales had the passenger vehicle category down by 9.3% compared to January 2020, with SUVs rising by 17.4%. Light Commercial Vehicles jumped by 24.6%. Toyota lead the way in January 2021 with 16,819 vehicles (21.1%) with HiLux 3,913 of those. Mazda was 2nd overall on 8,508 with 10.7% market share. Hyundai saw 5,951 new vehicles sold for a 7.5% share and Kia on 5,500 units for 6.9%. Mitsubishi backed up with 5,179 units and took a market share of 6.5%.Ford’s Ranger was the 2nd highest seller behind the HiLux, moving 3,120 units, just ahead of the RAV4 with 3,066 whilst the LandCruiser sold 2,388 units. Mazda’s CX-5 had 2,081 units find new homes.

The FCAI chief executive, Tony Weber, said: “During the past three months sales had increased by 12.4 per cent compared to the corresponding period twelve months earlier. The January sales numbers are indicative of positive consumer confidence in the domestic economy. With attractive interest rates and a range of other economic indicators encouraging consumption, we hope to see this trend in new vehicle purchasing continue through 2021.”

Toyota was the leading brand in January with sales of 16,819 vehicles (21.1 per cent of the market), followed by Mazda with 8,508 (10.7 per cent), Hyundai with 5,951 (7.5 per cent), Kia with 5,500 (6.9 per cent) and Mitsubishi with 5,179 (6.5 per cent).

The Toyota Hilux was the best-selling vehicle in January 2021 with sales of 3,913 vehicles, followed by the Ford Ranger (3,120), the Toyota RAV4 (3,066), the Toyota Landcruiser (2,388) and the Mazda CX5 (2,081).

In the Micro Car segment, the Kia Picanto continued to dominate in a three car field. The Fiat Abarth and Mitsubishi Mirage are the other two, and sold 49 and 56 respectively, way off the 573 of the Picanto.In the light car category, Chinese owned MG scored gold with 859, outclassing the Suzuki Swift (562), Volkswagen Polo (526) and the Toyota Yaris (486). Moving to the Small Cars, and Toyota’s Corolla moved 2,062, Just clearing the revamped Hyundai i30 on 1,952. 3rd was a tight tussle, with the Kia Cerato emerging as the winner over the Mazda3, on 1,545 to 1,501.

Medium cars and sub-$60K, and Toyota’s big Camry blew the opposition away on 815. Subaru’s Liberty was 2nd on 183. Skoda and there Octavia took bronze on 153, ahead comfortably of the Mazda6 with 114.

Large cars and there’s really only one contender now, Kia’s Stinger on 147, 99 units ahead of the Skoda Superb.

People movers and Kia’s Carnival moved 442, thumping the Hyundai iMax and Honda Odyysey, both on 67. Moving into Sports Cars and the Mustang said hello to 361 new homes, well ahead of Mazda’s MX5 and Hyundai’s soon to be discontinued Veloster, on 53 and 45.

For the Light SUVs sector, Mazda’s CX-3 absolutely dominated with 1,344. Toyota’s new SUV based on the Yaris, the Yaris Cross, moved an impressive 541, just edging out the slightly older VW T-Cros on 494.

In the Small SUV sector, another close battle here and it was 25 units separating the Mitsubishi ASX (1,278) to the MG ZS (1,253). Hyundai’s run-out Kona was the only other to crack the 1,000 with 1,091. It’s been updated and available for sale from February.

RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 duked it out for the Medium SUV segment, with 3,066 to 2,081. 4rd was Nissan’s X-Trail on 1,593, clear of Hyundai’s Tucson on 1,206. Go large and it was Toyota’s Prado on 1,259, ahead of Kia’s recently updated Sorento on 745. Mazda’s in-betweener, the CX-8, saw 571, tying with Hyundai’s Santa Fe. In the upper large, Toyota’s LandCruiser outclassed its opponent, Nissan’s Patrol, with 1,499 to 241.

Inside the ute/pick-up segment, the HiLux in both 4×2 and 4×4 continued its dominance. In two wheel drive guise it more than doubled the Isuzu D-Max, with 823 to 406. Ford’s Ranger was 3rd on 318. In the 4WD sector it was 3,090 to Ranger’s 2,802. In 3rd was Mitsubishi’s Triton, edging the D-Max on 1,416.

Petrol is still the clear winner in preferred fuels, with just 32 PHEVs, 78 EVs, and 1,915 Hybrids moving in the Passenger segment. In the SUVs, 30,062 petrols moved in comparison to diesel with 7,811, PHEV on 126, EV on 213, and Hybrids at 3,332.

On a country of manufacturing basis, Japan was the leader at 29,275, with Korea on 11,516. Thailand and their ute/pickup manufacturing shone at 16,903, and Chinese made vehicles rose to 4,198. This puts the brands sold from Chinese manufacturing into 4th overall.

Top Six Tips For Ending The School Run Motoring Madness

If you listen carefully, you might hear the sound of parents (and quite a few children) cheering because the long summer holidays are over and it’s time for the school year to start.  Or maybe you won’t hear the cheering because all you can hear is the sound of traffic as everybody carts the little nippers to school.

I don’t suppose I’m the only person with grown-up children who avoids certain parts of the road at certain times of day, namely the places nearest the school and the times when school is starting and finishing.  We all know that the traffic goes mad at this time of day, with everybody wanting to pick up their kids or drop them off, depending on what the case may be.

I get it, I really do.  I’ve brought up kids and got them to school, and I appreciate how you want your children to arrive on time and safely.  I can understand how you’re busy and how you need to fit the school run into a hectic day.  However, there are things that we can all do to ease the congestion a bit so that there is less chance of an accident.  After all, if the road outside the school is madly full of cars of all sizes all trying to get the best parking spots to pick up young Jack and Olivia, then there is more chance of what the traffic analysts will coldly call a “human–vehicle conflict” and what everybody else calls a tragic accident.

So what can we do to make sure that everybody gets their kids to school and back safely? Now that the school year is starting off, here my six best ideas that you might like to apply.

  1. Do the kids actually need to be dropped off at the gate? This is where I trot out the old “I had to walk to school” speech, although I had to walk along a main road rather than through the snow, barefoot and uphill both ways. If your children are reasonably fit and active, and they have good traffic awareness around driveways and intersections (especially if there are good traffic lights or pedestrian crossings), then consider having the kids walk to school. It’s good exercise for them – and possibly you.  If the school is within 2 km of your home and your children are over 10, then there probably isn’t any good reason why they can’t walk themselves to school.
  2. Can you stay out of the crazy congestion zone? If the school is a bit further away and/or your regular commute takes you near it, then you could consider dropping the kids off outside the crazy zone right outside the school.  For example, instead of taking that detour on the way to work to drop the kids at the school gate, why not drop them off where you would have turned off? If they’re too young to walk alone, then park the car and walk with them for those last few blocks to the school gate. If they’re old enough to walk alone… well, they’re probably at the age when having Mummy walk with them to school is embarrassing anyway.
  3. Try carpooling. If you are not the only person on your street who does the school run, or if your kids go to the same after-school activities as someone else at the same school, then maybe it’s time to organise a car pool. This will be limited by the number of seats in your vehicle, of course.  Perhaps it’s time to think about getting a seven-seat MPV? However, car pooling can be a great way to build community and make some connections.
  4. Don’t double-park. If your only option is to drop the kids off at school yourself, then be a courteous driver. Don’t double park so that you can drop the youngsters off as close as possible to the gate. Double-parking makes things extremely difficult for those who are still learning how to cross the road as well as being supremely annoying for other drivers.  It’s also illegal.  Even if you’re not technically parked but are just stopping just for a moment to just let the kids out, still don’t do it.
  5. Keep out of any No Parking zones. Yes, your children are special, valuable and important. So are everybody else’s children. Let’s all respect the No Parking zones and don’t think that the rules don’t apply to you because you’re doing it for your children and they come first.
  6. If your school drop-off zone has time limits, respect them. Quite a few school have “kiss and run” drop-off points where you can stop for long enough to drop the kids off and say goodbye with a hug or kiss (if your kids are young enough to let you do this).  If we all respect the time limits here, then these systems will work.  These places are not the time to discuss lost homework, nosebleeds, etc. If an emergency arises, deal with it further down the street, not in the “kiss and run” spot.

Oh yes – if you want to try any of the ideas that involve children walking and there’s a chance that they’ll be late, you can take advantage of the fact that children who are old enough to walk by themselves are also at the age when parents are embarrassing because they exist.  Acquire some ghastly piece of clothing and state that if you have to drop them off because they mucked around and are now running late, you will do so wearing said item of clothing IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY.  It works.