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Where is Motorsport Currently Found on the EV Map?

Formula E racing car.

Traditionally, the latest cutting-edge technology finds its way into road cars via the heat of motor racing.  We are seeing EV racing going big quickly with the relatively recent Formula E championship, but how many motor racing championships are looking to EV technology for their future racing blue-print?  As yet, EV motor racing technology hasn’t made its way into the everyday life of most average Australian motorists.  Most of us still drive a motor vehicle with a healthy internal combustion engine, and most of us won’t be intending or even considering buying an expensive EV as an everyday means of transport anytime soon.

Supercars are continuing to investigate implementing hybrid technology into its racing schedule.

Formula One has had its engine regulations tweaked further with the aim of promoting closer racing and more balanced competition, as well as bringing economic and sporting sustainability to Formula 1.  So, the cars are now flashier and more visually alluring, with the reshaping of the front and rear wings looking good.  Formula One has a target to be net zero by 2030, and the way this is to be achieved is by removing single use plastics from its events, in collaboration with its circuits.  Formula One won’t be going electric but will stay hybrid, and this has been a definite decision that the ‘powers that be’ have taken for the good of the automotive industry as they keep their racing car platforms relevant for future road cars.  Formula One does not see electrification as the new world-religion, and it has stated that EVs are definitely not the only way to move forward with cars.  Hybrid technology is Formula One’s current future objective, where the 2025 engine-unit will be hybrid and using 100 % sustainable fuels.  Formula One sees a need to reduce the costs of this new engine-unit and platform so that it is affordable and less complex, which will open up huge potential for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to use in other applications for road cars.

In the World Rally Championship, current hybrid engine regulations from 2022 through to 2025 is all go, which introduces hybrid technology to the fastest cars on gravel.  The hybrid technical regulations are a long way from being finalised, but initial talks have mooted a ‘supplementary hybrid system’ which controls components and software.  The proposed hybrid units would allow WRC cars, which will retain the 2017 aero and engine package, to run as full EVs on transit stages, while providing a power boost on competitive special stages.  Following 2025, the plan is to open up the rules to allow manufacturers to use their own electric systems for racing.

Formula E

Formula E is going from strength to strength, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche recently joining the grid.  Formula E, officially the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, is a single-seater motorsport championship for electric cars (EVs).  The series was conceived in 2011 in Paris.  Formula E is the biggest motor racing event solely focussed on EV racing alone, where it is the proving ground and platform to test new ev technologies, drive development to the production line, and put more EVs on the road.

Using the sport as its showcase, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is sending the biggest message out to the world that may help alter perceptions and speed-up the switch to electric, in a bid to counteract the so-called “climate crisis” as well as addressing the effects of air pollution – particularly in cities.  Sure, Formula E is the fastest-growing series in motorsport because its also the newest; however, it is certainly going to help put EV technology out there on the roads, even if most current EV buyers are either famous and or high-end earners.

Some electrification in motor racing is happening, where we’re seeing classes like the British Touring Car Championship, IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR and World Rallycross Championship having some sort of hybrid or fully electric rules etched into the near-future pipeline.  This is all good, but the reality is that most motorists in the general public will still be driving a car with a combustion engine, or combustion engine with hybrid technology, or a car with a combustion engine running on bio fuels in a decade because of the price of a new EV being way too steep, the lack of an EV infrastructure another, the cost of developing a country’s power grid worthy of supporting the power drain of a big EV fleet, EV battery life span, and the list goes on…

All of the many negative attributes that can be accredited to EVs aside, there are some fascinating new technological developments in hybrid and ev technology unfolding within motorsport itself.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions and EVs

Founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, has some knowledgeable things to say about carbon emissions and CO2 in the atmosphere.  Many politicians and “scientists” are stating that CO2 is the big baddie that will cause us all to burn up in smoke as the temperature of the earth will continue to heat up; and that life on earth is in terrible danger, and that the only way out of this escalating CO2 is to inflict all humans to pay higher taxes and drive EVs.  It all sounds a little fishy!

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, which constitute 85% of our energy use, must be reduced to zero by 2100.  It is their idea that a vast and diverse mix of policies should be employed to restrain and reduce the use of light duty vehicles (LDVs), the sort of vehicles that you and I drive.  The IPCC suggests “aggressive policy intervention to significantly reduce fuel carbon intensity and energy intensity of modes, encourage travel by the most efficient modes, and cut activity growth where possible and reasonable”.  That sounds like severe action going down like a lead balloon upon hard-working people in the world trying to pay escalating taxes to the fat cats in high places.  Maybe some of it’s true.

Apparently, those in the IPCC claim that “if we don’t save ourselves from ourselves we’re toast!”  Scientist Patrick Moore says that “Here is what is strange, though.  All life is carbon-based; and the carbon for all that life originates from CO2 in the atmosphere.  All of the carbon in the fossil fuels we are burning for energy today was once in the atmosphere as CO2 before it was consumed by plankton in the sea and plants on the land.  Coal, oil and natural gas are the remains of those plankton and plants that have been transformed by heat and pressure deep in the earth’s crust.  In other words, fossil fuels are 100% organic and were produced with solar energy.  That sounds positively green!”

Other scientists also say these coal and oil remains were laid down during the catastrophic flood that occurred over the earth’s surface as recorded in biblical events.

Patrick Moore, and other scientists, also state that if there were no CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere, the earth would be a dead planet.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed this essential ingredient for life a pollutant!  How can CO2 be bad?

Carbon Emissions is the term used by governments and policymakers as the emissions that come from burning fossil fuels for energy.  Patrick Moore continues, “…This term is entirely misleading because CO2 is not carbon.  CO2 is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas which is an indispensable food for all living things.  Can you have too much of it?  In theory, yes.  That is what climate alarmists say is happening now!  They are stating that “CO2 levels are getting too high!”  Are they right?  The Big Picture tells us something surprising.  For most of the history of life on earth, CO2 has been present in the atmosphere at much higher levels then it is today.  During the Cambrian explosion, when multicellular life came on the scene, CO2 levels were as much as 10x higher than they are today.  From a Big Picture perspective, we are actually living in a low CO2 era…”

Patrick also suggests that science tells us that “… the optimum growth for CO2 is 4–5x what is currently found in our atmosphere.  This is why quality greenhouse growers all around the world actually inject CO2 into their greenhouses.  They want to promote plant growth, and this is the way that they do it.  Likewise, higher levels of CO2 in the global atmosphere will promote plant growth.  This is a good thing!  This will actually boost food and forest productivity, which will come in handy with the human population of earth set to continue to grow.”

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, for Prager University, states that “… we are seeing the positive effects of increased CO2 now.  Satellite measurements have noted the greening of the earth as crops and forests grow due to our higher levels of CO2.  It turns out that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are not dirty words after all.  We should celebrate CO2 as the giver of life that it is.”

What are the more dangerous emissions from fossil fuels?  The majority of vehicle exhaust emissions are composed of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapour, and oxygen in unconsumed air.  Carbon monoxide, unburned fuel, nitrogen oxides, nitrated hydrocarbons, and particulate matter such as mercury are also present in vehicle exhaust emissions in smaller quantities.  Catch these nastier particulates, which are hazardous to our respiratory system, via the catalytic converter or other means, and the conventional internal combustion engine is not quite such a monster.  In fact, a decent hybrid vehicle for city driving along with hydrogen fuel-based vehicles seems a much better alternative to a mass wave of EVs and taxes.  Hybrids and hygrogen-celled cars in congested areas seem a perfect fit for now.

Hybrids currently available in Australia include: many Toyota and Lexus models, Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid, Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Hyundai Ioniq, BMW X5 xDrive45e, Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury, Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz C 300e PHEV and BMW 330e iPerformance PHEV.

If you’re interested in more from Patrick, have a look at: https://www.prageru.com/video/the-truth-about-co2/

EVs and the Japanese Manufacturers

I like to get a feel for what is truly happening in the EV world by heading over to the Japanese to see what they are up to.  The Japanese make the best cars in the world, at least from a reliability and practical point of view, so it makes sense to me to have a look at what their plans are when it comes to EV innovation, invention and implementation.

Mazda

Mazda MX 30 EV

Mazda is planning to introduce ‘Skyactiv Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture’ for hybrids, PHEVs and EVs in 2022, and they plan to offer three EV models, five PHEV models and five hybrid models sometime between 2022 and 2025.  Mazda will also keep hybrids and PHEVs as part of their saleable new cars beyond 2030.

By the end of 2023, Mazda plans to show at least two plug-in hybrids by the end of the year.

In 2026 Mazda plans to show the platform for a new generation of EVs in the early part of the year.

By 2030 Mazda plans to offer a hybrid or electric variant for every model that Mazda has in their line-up.  However, even though Mazda will develop a dedicated EV platform by 2025, Mazda’s majority of vehicles beyond 2030 will be hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and, as such, Mazda is not about to stop developing its internal combustion engines anytime soon.

Honda

Honda EV Crossover

Honda plans to develop its own solid-state battery tech, rather than relying on outside developers.

By 2023, a Honda EV built in partnership with GM, reportedly a crossover, is expected to enter production.

Honda foresees that 40% of their models will be electric or hydrogen fuel-cell powered by 2030, climbing to 100% by 2040.  Honda is one of just a handful of automakers alongside Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW, to devote plenty of their development energy into to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Toyota

Toyota BZ EV Concept

By 2025, Toyota plans to launch 60 new hybrid, electric, or fuel-cell vehicles by the end of that year, and it also expects to have reached its goal of selling 5.5 million EVs each year.  Their dedication to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is strong, and they remain big game players in this sort of technology.

Looking across the Tasman (where NZ’s PM, Jacinda Ardern, put her foot in it by claiming that Toyota would be providing EV utes in just 2 more years) it is evident that Toyota will not be putting all their eggs in one basket and going totally bent on EV production.  Toyota is adamant that a slow EV uptake is more likely, and hence they would not be giving up on their particularly good hybrid engine technology any time soon.

Nissan

Nissan ids Concept EV

Nissan is the manufacturer of the highly successful Nissan Leaf EV Hatchback, which has been in production for some years now.  By 2023, Nissan plans to have launched eight EVs by the end of the year and will be hoping to be on target to sell 1-million hybrid or electric vehicles, globally, per-year.  Nissan states that their hybrid technology and their technology to improve their internal combustion engines won’t be stopping before 2030, at least.

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi has the marvellous Outlander PHEV, which has been in production for many years now.  By 2030, Mitsubishi plans for 50% of its global sales to come from hybrid or electric vehicles.  I guess that leaves 50% to be still made up of efficient internal combustion vehicles.

Subaru

Subaru Solterra EV Concept

Subaru, by 2030, expects 40% of its global sales to come from hybrid or electric vehicles.  By 2035, Subaru plans to have a hybrid or electric version of every vehicle in its line-up.  Subaru seems to be singing off a similar song sheet to Toyota, where they both suggest that the hybrid vehicle will prove to be more popular in the short term, particularly as the EV infrastructure has a long way to go.

By 2050, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Nissan have made bold plans to reach net-zero carbon emissions.

The big questions are: Will the EV-charging infrastructure match the manufacturer claims?  Will people be able to afford an EV, let alone the huge cost to make their home charge ready, as the ideologically bold demands that some governments introduce along with big taxes?  Who is going to pay for all of this?

I read a recent comment where a reader of ‘Car and Driver’ made a very informed comment:

“It’s a ‘no thanks’ on Li batteries from me.  Lithium extraction has already spoiled the Atacama desert in Chile and now they have their sights set on the American West.  I can reduce my CO2 footprint far more by just driving less than by purchasing a 100 kWh battery, and the 10-20T of CO2 that was released to make it. I’ll wait for fuel cells.  As a Toyota driver… I have time.”

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…

 

Will Vehicle Carbon Taxes be Revisited?

A few years ago, there was talk of a proposed ‘carbon tax’ on new vehicles by slugging non-compliant auto makers with fines in an effort to reduce emissions. However, it became very clear that such a move would leave the door open for car manufacturers to pass on these fines to motorists in the form of increased car prices. In the meantime, alternative fuel technologies like hydrogen, electric vehicles and hybrids have failed to catch on, while phasing out of diesel and petrol vehicles has essentially been limited to offshore markets rather than here in Australia.

Even if such penalties were to be limited to non-compliant vehicle manufacturers that fail to meet stricter emissions standards, the result would have a flow-on effect across the new car market, effectively reducing the notion of a free market and any ‘true’ choice that motorists have when it comes to having access to the vehicle they want.

 

 

The real matter at hand

However, for all the focus on the technicalities of the ‘tax’, the real matter is how we manage the environmental burden from vehicles in an equitable manner. Or should we be content in punishing motorists for driving cars that are less fuel efficient than their peers?

Recent examples would suggest anything but. After all, take a look at states like Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and it becomes immediately apparent that road usage charges for electric vehicles loom as a distinct risk that could threaten the uptake of electric vehicles. That is one example where an equitable manner has been sought to apply to the use of our roads, but there is no denying it is also ‘punishing’ the sort of behaviour that we are trying to promote.

Nonetheless, back to the original tax proposal, and in many respects, it never really stood a chance. In some quarters, the measures were tipped to start as early as next year, however, the reality is, Australia’s new car market continues to be defined by the very makes and models that would theoretically be punished for falling foul of emissions standards. With our love for SUVs and dual-cab utes, should Australians be locked out of some of their favourite cars by virtue of significantly higher prices as manufacturers seek to offset the hit to their hip-pocket?

 

 

It’s also been stated a number of times that Australia often misses out on some of the ‘cleaner’ or more advanced iterations of certain vehicles from the European market due to the standards of our emissions and fuel quality. Again, however, costs are at the centre of the discussion here, and in a new car market that is finally seeing signs of life, would industry players want to potentially derail this when a number of supply-chain issues have already weighed on upwards momentum?

All up, however, we do have some reason to be concerned about motorists holding onto their vehicles for longer – in the process, increasing the average age of cars on our road. Not only does this serve little to stimulate the economy but it won’t do much to tackle emissions across the nation’s entire fleet.

Several years on, are we actually any closer to answering the question as to how we encourage auto-makers to step away from higher emissions vehicles? Down under, it doesn’t appear so.

New Internal Combustion Engine Technology

Are the days numbered for the internal combustion engine?  With ever stricter emission standards becoming the norm and all the talk about electric vehicles being the current rave, you would have to be forgiven for thinking that the future for the internal combustion engine is looking rather bleak.  However, here are some findings that suggest that the internal combustion engine might just be around for quite some time yet.

Let’s start off with one of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers: Toyota.  Toyota continues to employ their hugely effective hybrid technology in many of their current models.  Even the little Yaris has just recently had its own special hybrid motor become available to its line-up.  Toyota’s hybrid systems are so successful at being efficient and they are proven in everyday, real-world situations to be reliable.  You only have to look at the incredibly low fuel consumption figures of the latest Camry Sedans and RAV4 SUVs to get an insight into how effective Toyota hybrid engines are at lowering fuel consumption and reducing pollution levels in and around CBDs.

But there are also other areas of the internal combustion engine that haven’t been pushed quite to the boundaries of exploration and these are in the areas of compression ignition.  ‘Engineering Explained’ host Jason Fenske has recently talked about homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) being a big gain area for the internal combustion engine, particularly for the engine’s burning efficiency.  The HCCI engine burns gasoline but uses compression ignition like a diesel engine rather than a spark plug.  So, in theory, gasoline/petrol HCCI technology provides huge efficiency gains like you find with some of the current diesel motors; however, the huge efficiency gains would be without the soot and high levels of nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions.  HCCI does require much finer controls in the area of fuel intake temperature, as well as the timing of ignition to get spot on.

Another vicinity that Fenske sees as being a big gain aera for internal combustion engine technology is the area of pre-mix charge compression ignition (PCCI).  What PCCI does is inject some of the fuel early to let it mix with air in the combustion chamber, before injecting more fuel later on in the combustion process.  This method of combustion provides more control over the engine’s ignition timing than HCCI, however it can also create pockets of unburned hydrocarbons.  The key here is to limit the unburned hydrocarbons but access the higher efficiency potential that PCCI offers.

Then there is reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI), where Fenske suggests that this technology uses two fuels, where one fuel is a low-reactivity fuel (like gasoline) that is port injected, and a high-reactivity fuel (like diesel) that is direct injected.  “Reactivity” refers to a fuel’s tendency to ignite under compression.  RCCI is a method that leads to big gains in fuel efficiency, where Fenske says that some lab research has shown 60% gains in fuel efficiency.

Something else that is being worked on by researchers from Valencia’s Polytechnic University (UPV) is that of a new internal combustion engine that does not generate carbon dioxide and other harmful gases.  According to the engine’s designers, it is a “revolutionary” engine that meets the regulation on emissions planned for 2040 and also has excellent efficiency.  There master stroke is in using special ceramic membranes in the engine’s design, these membranes enable the selective separation of oxygen from the air to produce ‘oxycombustion’, where pure combustion gas is generated.  This pure combustion gas that is composed of water and CO2 can be captured inside the vehicle and stored, without having it expelled from the exhaust system.

Motoring big wigs, Toyota and Ferrari, still have an extensive long-term plan for using internal combustion technology into the future.  Hybrid technology is delivering impressive gains in fuel efficiency and emission reduction, particularly in built up, congested areas.

X Marks The Spot For Genesis

Genesis has unveiled a new concept car. A stylish, low set coupe, the Genesis X is an EV and GT (Gran Turismo)for the future. Launched in a hi-tech media joint presentation with Jason B. Bergh with the location being a private rooftop in Los Angeles, and a showing of a film that brought together the Californian car culture to meet the vision of Genesis and its sustainable ideals, Genesis X highlights a different take on concept cars.A key visual identification of the concept is the Genesis Two Lines element. Seen in the company’s current vehicles, the Two Lines is extended on the concept, both on the exterior and interior, and the charging devices built in.

Exterior design work sees the bonnet a one-piece “clamshell” unit, presenting a harmonious and uniform surface. The unbroken appearance allowed the designers to highlight the Two Lines idealism with both fenders having an unbroken sweep of lights strips from either side of the signature Genesis grille towards the door lines.

The grille’s structure has been reworked for a deeper three dimensional presence, and the interior sections have been painted the same Lençóis Blue as the concept’s exterior. The colour is said to evoke the hue seen in the lagoons of the Maranhenses National Park in Brazil, where a lake forms only during the rainy season. This sits above a classically styled air intake and thinner lines for the grille structure.

This brings to the Genesis X concept a sporting look yet functionality isn’t overlooked, with air to cool the electrics and batteries, channeling air through a aero-designed undertray for efficiency and increased drag reduction for better range.Jay Chang, the Global Head of the Genesis Brand, observed: “The car that we are unveiling today is a concept car that embodies the essential elements that Genesis pursues in its designs. Please take a moment to meet the future of Genesis design through this concept car, which embodies our brand’s progressive and audacious spirit.” SangYup Lee, the brand’s Global Design Chief, echoes that with: “The Genesis X Concept can be described as the ultimate vision of Athletic Elegance, the inherent design language of Genesis. The signature Two Lines theme and sustainable luxury will be blueprints for the futuristic designs and state-of-the-art technologies that Genesis seeks to adopt in its future models.”

In profile it’s a classic GT motif, with long bonnet and truncated rear, joined by a gentle parabolic curve that in a quarter view highlights the tapering cabin and rear wheel flares. The rear has a dual parabola oval that houses the Two Lines taillights. There is no visible bootline seen in the concept though. The rear window has a pair of metallised strips that visually counterbalance the front and look to be, on the left side, the port for the charging of the battery. There’s more aero and tech with the wing mirrors eschewing the traditional glass mirrors. Here, Genesis goes slimline and embeds digital cameras. Aero and sportiness are combined in the bespoke, yet simple, five spoke wheels. These will cool the brake calipers whilst minimising drag at speed.For the interior Genesis highlight their “green” aspirations with “upcycled” leather trim. These are made from leftover materials, rather than sourcing them from new. In a weave pattern, the material is used on sections of the steering wheel, the safety belts, and the airbag cover. Also, to differentiate between driver and passenger for the four seater coupe, the trim designers took the unusual route of using two different colours. The passenger’s trim is Ocean Wave Green Blue, the driver’s a Scotch Brown.There’s further differentiation with the driver’s seat separated from the passenger via a solid looking floating console with a wrap around binnacle enveloping the driver’s section. This houses the Free-Form display, which manages various functions such as clusters, navigation and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, and the Crystal Sphere Electronic Shift Lever, which integrates driving mode settings. Again, the designers have woven in the Two Lines ideal, with the binnacle drawing the lines to the air vents and side window mouldings.To debut the Genesis X Concept to consumers around the globe, the brand opened its digital motor show website (digitalmotorshow.genesis.com) with the unveiling of the concept car, offering visitors various interactive experiences and 360-degree views of its interior and exterior.

At the time of writing, Genesis had not released details of the EV drive.

2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GSR PHEV: Private Fleet Car Review

Hybrid technology has fast become part of the automotive landscape. First seen in Toyota’s Prius, it hasn’t taken long to trickle down into mainstream passenger cars and SUVs. However, a new form of hybrid tech, the plug-in hybrid version, has taken more time. A front-runner for SUV PHEVs has been Mitsubishi with their Outlander.The Range: In 2021 they offer three; the ES, GSR, and Exceed. We spent a week with the sporting tuned (by Bilstein, no less) GSR Hybrid. It’s priced at $56,490 drive-away, and has a pair of electric motors for front and rear wheel drive simultaneously via a single ratio transmission. Main power is from the standard 2.4L petrol engine with 94kW and 199Nm. That’s on 91RON unleaded.The electric motors offer 60kW (front) and 70kW (rear), and are charged via one of two ports on the rear right quarter. The petrol tank is good for 45L and the economy is rated as 1.9L/100km on 91RON unleaded. Although Mitsubishi’s system constantly updates as you drive, in the Hybrid there are sub-menus to check charge rates, battery usage, and fuel over given times.

Our final figure would be somewhere around the 5.5L/100km mark if we read the graph correctly. That’s on our usual 70/30 urban to highway runs.The battery is rated at 12kWh and has an on-board charger rate of 3.7kW. using a standard home system it’s somewhere between 6.5 to 7 hours to “fill”. The plugs are Type 1 and CHAdeMO. Drive is engaged via a simple lever with an electronic Park function. There is also an adjustable Brake mode to recover more kinetic energy if possible. This works best on longer downhill runs.

At full charge, the PHEV offers up 55 to 55 kilometres as an estimated electric only range. For Australia, a range of 100 kilometres would be better. As an example, from the lower reaches of the Blue Mountains to Sydney is something between 70 to 80 kilometres…A charge gauge in the driver’s display shows how much is being harvested, as does a dial in the main touchscreen sub-menu. When running low, a button on the left side of the console next to the drive lever offers save or charge. This engages the petrol engine and makes it a generator for the batteries.Drive to each corner is via a single speed transmission, with drive modes such as Sport, Snow, Mud, plus battery save and charge modes. Stability on road comes from Mitsubishi’s much vaunted S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) and Active Yaw Control. Sport lifts the overall performance and adds some serious extra squirt to the already rapid acceleration.

The GSR nameplate, once synonymous with the Lancer, adorns the powered tailgate. The current body shape is due for a hefty facelift (pictures at end) and release later in 2021 with a heavily reworked nose, and squared off rear with bumper lines lifted from the Pajero Sport.

As it stands there are the integrated eyebrow running lights in the headlights, wrapped in the chrome strips that boomerang forward then back towards the wheelarches. The current profile is largely uncharged for some years, with a sloped rear window line and broad spanning rear lights.The Drive: Bilstein provide the shock absorbers for the MacPherson strut and coil front, multi-link and stabiliser bar rear. 225/55/18 wheels and tyres from Toyo unpin the body. They offer decent grip, but even with the dual axle drive there was some minor slippage on damp roads.

We say damp as we drove it during the “rain bomb” that hit most of Australia’s southern eastern coast. When driven during the not-so-heavy patches, and on roads that had drained most of the surface water away, driving confidence was high. It was on corners and downhill runs when more circumspect driving was required.

What was noticeable was the fantastic tune of the suspension and the damping of the Bilsteins.Although the ride could be described as hard, given the GSR nomenclature, it was on the side of comfort with swift response smoothing out freeway dips and rises without feeling as if it jolted at each end of the travel. Smaller bumps jarred but again only for a moment as the Bilsteins disappeared those impacts rapidly.

Freeway driving had the rapid response telling the driver each square inch of road surface quality without any loss of comfort.

However, one one somewhat soggy and rutted gravel-style track, we heard uncharacteristic groans from the front strut tower caps. The suspension felt as if the stiffness of the setup was overwhelming the caps. As a result, speed had to be dropped to essentially a crawl in order to feel that travel was safe and not damaging the towers.

The Interior: Inside it’s water-resistant micro-suede cloth seat and leather bolsters. They’re as supportive as they come, and electrically powered for the driver. They’re heated up front too, unusual but welcomed for cloth pews and they’re quick to generate heat. There is only heating, though, and the switches are rocker for low or high.

The 8.0 inch touchscreen houses plenty of information and for the PHEV there are sub-menus aplenty to access information on how the hybrid system is working. There is also a punchy eight speaker audio system with DAB plus Bluetooth streaming and the smartphone apps. The interior however does show its age with no smartphone charge pad, an item sure to be included with the update…we hope.

Dashboard design for the Outlander is classic Mitsubishi; open and broad, well spaced for buttons, soft touch materials, and an organic flowing design. The steering feel feels on the large side compared to other marques however turn to turn lock is made easier in context. Head, leg and shoulder room for the five seater is huge with 1,030mm and 1,039mm head and leg up front.It’s a five seater due to the battery’s location and wiring for the charge port. Second row passengers have a pair of USB charge ports, and there is one plus a 12V up front. Cup and bottle holders number four apiece in total.

The powered tailgate is light and seems to prefer being opened by hand however the gentle push of the drop button does the trick in closing it. Folod the second row seats and 1,602L of capacity is available to you. There is also a 12V socket in the rear along with cup holders for seven seat non-hybrid Outlanders. Two underfloor nooks offer some small extra space and hold the charge cable and jack equipment.The Safety: Adaptive Cruise Control with sensor distance changing holds hands with the Forward Collision Mitigation system. This has pedestrian detection but not cyclist. This means the organic safety component needs to be scouting forward. Lane Departure and Blind Spot Warning systems are in place.

Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also standard. Auto functions for high beam and wipers are standard, as is a rear view camera. Sensors front and rear are standard. Seven airbags include a driver’s kneebag.

The Rest: Warranty for the battery is eight years or 160,000km. Warranty details can be found here. Capped price servicing varies between the PHEV and non-hybrids. More on the 15,000k or 12 monthly service can be found here.

At The End Of The Drive. We have driven a few Outlander PHEVs over the last three to four years.

Our first run was in late 2017, and it was given a solid workout. Driven from the eastern fringes of the Blue Mountains to the central western town of Temora, a historic R.A.A.F base and now a museum, the Outlander PHEV showcased how these sorts of hybrid vehicles work nicely. It’s noticeable that in real terms only minor changes have been made since outside and in.

With a new Outlander on the way, buyers of the current model won’t be disappointed. As a range, it offers good pricing, good performance, and good value. Comfort in the GSR is high and the only niggles were the out of the ordinary complaints from the front end.

As a driver’s car, it meets that goal, and as a package for showcasing hybrid tech, it does an admirable job. Check out the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV range here.

Vehicle courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

Ammonia as a Fuel for Cars

Who would have thought that liquid ammonia might just be that untapped energy source the world needs.  All the flimflam around carbon emissions, EVs and hydrogen powered cars pales substantially when you start to grasp how ammonia could well become the biggest driving force for global transportation, given the right technology.  All it would take is more clean, green electricity via solar and wind energy and, hey presto, the ability to make more liquid ammonia becomes way easier, less costly and environmentally friendlier.  But let’s not stop there; let’s match that new ammonia production methodology with perfected ammonia combustion technology, and we have ourselves a green ammonia-fuelled vehicle.

Ammonia has been around for well over a hundred years and has many uses.  The current dated process of making ammonia isn’t green.  Combining nitrogen molecules that come from the air with hydrogen molecules that come from natural gas and coal creates huge amounts of greenhouse gases.  So to make ammonia the green way has taken scientists to perfect the art of taking hydrogen from water and separating it from oxygen atoms using electricity.

Australia is the place to be for producing liquid ammonia the green way.  There is so much practical solar energy available here in Australia for getting electricity from an array of solar panels which feed into the liquid ammonia production plant.  Wind energy can equally be harnessed and fed into the production plant.

When this clean electricity gets to the production plant, electro chemical cells use electricity and catalysts to make components of air and water into ammonia.  All of this process is clean and is performed without fossil fuels and the extreme heat that is required by older methods of ammonia production.

The older ammonia production plants are also costly to run and produce carbon dioxide emissions.  Australia could easily be a world leader in producing cleanly made liquid ammonia via solar and wind energy

Research for perfected ammonia combustion technology for vehicle engines is ongoing and could well be all we’re waiting for.  Ammonia (NH3) is made up of 3 hydrogen atoms bonded to a single nitrogen atom; it can serve as a low-carbon fuel, where the only emissions after ammonia combustion would be that of nitrogen and water.

An ammonia-fuelled vehicle would operate in much the same way as our conventional combustion motor designed for running on fossil fuels.  The liquid ammonia is burned with oxygen to create energy.  Unlike conventional gasoline vehicles, ammonia-powered vehicles would not emit CO2.  Here is a win-win scenario that it would seem necessary to mandate.

In a hydrogen-powered car, a hydrogen fuel cell powers the vehicles’ on board electric motor, only giving off heat and water vapour as a result.  Likewise, an ammonia fuel cell gives off heat, nitrogen and water vapour.

Researchers in spark-ignition systems are continuing to perfect ammonia combustion technology.  The main hurdle that needs to be overcome in an ammonia-fuelled combustion engine is that when ammonia is combusted, the combustion produces a flame with a relatively low propagation speed.  This low combustion rate of ammonia causes the combustion to be inconsistent under low engine load and/or high engine speed operating conditions.  Scientists are also investigating the possibility for ammonia to be used in fuel cells as a cheap, clean and powerful energy source for vehicles.  Researchers have succeeded in developing a new catalyst that burns ammonia (NH3) at a low temperature.

Australia could create solar- and wind-powered ammonia production plants which could then be the tap sources for liquid ammonia.  The Australian grown ammonia could be used locally to power large vehicle fleets as well as for exporting around the world for overseas use.  This is all very exciting stuff and will be something I’ll continue to follow as information and details become available.

2021 Toyota Yaris Cross GXL 2WD Hybrid: Private Fleet Car Review.

Toyota started the SUV phenomenon with the original RAV4. Surprisingly, it’s a bit late to a party it helped plan, with the city SUV Yaris Cross coming after other brands have released similar vehicles. There’s a three model range with GX, GXL, and Urban, and a 2WD, 2WD Hybrid, and AWD Hybrid, the same as found in the newest RAV4. Each have a 3 cylinder, 1.5L petrol engine, the same as now found in the Yaris hatches.Pricing for the GX starts from $30,447 in Ink Black, 2WD and non-hybrid, with metallics, including the Mineral Blue found on the review vehicle, to $30,962. The pricing matrix can be slightly confusing so follow this link to find a price for your location and specification. Our Mineral Blue GXL Hybrid 2WD starts from $36,168 drive-away for our location.

The important parts of the Yaris Cross are the engine package and the size of the body. On the first point, we’ll admit to being somewhat baffled by the numbers. In non-hybrid trim, the 1.5L triple cylinder is rated, says Toyota, at 88kW and 145Nm. The hybrid package is 85kW and 120Nm……Economy isn’t hugely different at 5.4L/100km to 3.8L/100km on the combined cycle, with 91RON and a tank of 42L or 36L in the Hybrid. Transmission is a CVT with ten preprogrammed ratios and includes a mechanical first gear for better off the line acceleration. The AWD version has a separate rear axle electric motor and can take up to 60% of the torque when the drive sensors says so.Sizewise, the Yaris Cross sits on a 2,560mm wheelbase, with a total length of 4,180mm. There’s a height of 1,590mm, and width of 1,765mm. In comparison the Hyundai Kona in 2020 spec is 4,205mm and 1,550mm long and high on a 2,600mm wheelbase. Wheels for the GX and GXL are 16 inch diameter alloys, with rubber at 205/65 and from Bridgestone’s Turanza range.

That SUV body gives it an extra 30mm ground clearance than its hatchback sibling and stands taller by 90mm, spreads wider by 20mm and is longer by 240mm..

In profile, the Yaris Cross bears an unsurprisingly striking resemblance to bigger sibling RAV4, complete with bulldog blunt nose, a kicked up rear, and steeply angled tailgate line. The cargo door opens to a 390L space (314L in Urban) which houses a spacesaver spare. The Urban gets the goo kit.

The front is perhaps the blandest part of the Yaris Cross, and one of the blandest seen on a car in recent times. It looks nothing like the standard Yaris hatch nor the GR versions; they, at least, still have a family resemblance. Here we see a pair of intakes split by a body coloured strip, a pair of vertical LED strips, and darkened headlight covers. Body moldings for the wheel arches are joined by a thick slab on the sills which has the car’s name embossed in.Inside it’s not quite as bland. The dash is the same as the hatch, with a pair of smaller dials set ahead of an information screen. The left dial shows the energy status of the drive on the go, from charge to Eco, to Power. Speed and fuel tank info are on the right. The centre screen shows battery and drive flow information, audio, economy (3.9L/100km) was our final average). satnav and DAB are included in the main 7.0 inch touchscreen.In the console are the switches for the drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport), traction control, and EV mode. As is the norm for Toyota, the petrol engine kicks in on anything other than a light throttle. The drive selector has a B for Brake, which harvests energy from the braking. There is only one USB port and no offering of a wireless charge pad. Plastics are of an average look and the steering wheel insert was slightly loose and squeaky.

Rear seat leg room is tight, quite tight. Adults would struggle to be comfortable and lanky teenagers don’t quite fit. A centre portion of the 60% part of the 60/40 seats has a pair of cupholders and that’s as much in the way of extra convenience items the rear seat passengers in the GXL will have. Having said that, the actual comfort level of sitting in the cloth covered seats is good, with plenty of support and the fronts eats have good lumbar support too.As a driving package the Yaris Cross demonstrates that even Toyota can get it wrong. The driveline exhibits the same bang and shunt as experienced in the Yaris ZR Hybrid as the throttle is applied or lifted. At times, in opposition, it’s smooth and seamless as the petrol engine kicks in and out, and noticable more on light throttle applications.. The 1.5L is raucous at times, and the insulation under the bonnet is thin, allowing plenty of noise through. Toyota have also located the bonnet strut directly above the engine. The doors aren’t well insulated either, which means external noises filter through easily, and the lack is noticeable when closing the doors. There’s a tinny “thunk”, not a satisfyingly weighted thump.

Steering is light, and the chassis is easily upset over bumps, but minimally changes the direction of the nose. It’s twitchy at times, and light cross winds had the Yaris Cross move around. It’s less composed than expected, all around, with an unsettled ride more often than not the sensation, rather than a well mannered experience. In small spaces, such as roads for a three point turn, underground carparks in shopping centres, and general daily driving, the fidgety handling becomes a benefit, as the short body and the light steering make moving the Yaris Cross around in these environments easy. On both sides of the drive, the Bridgestone rubber squealed…The same applies to the drive; it’s by no means a rocketship, even allowing for the CVT and the battery. Sink the slipper and the 1.5L yells its three cylinder noise, the CVT sees the rev count climb, and forward pace is …leisurely. It’s been timed elsewhere as something around the 11 to 12 second mark to reach 100kph. Again, the Yaris Cross points towards being better suited for the urban environment rather than the outer ‘burbs.

There is a good safety package as standard across the range. A pedestrian and cyclist calibrated anti-collision system is standard, as is Lane Trace Assist, Intersection Turn Assistance, and Traffic Sign recognition for speed signs. The GX misses out on Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. There are eight airbags, including two between the front passengers and, in a first for Toyota in Australia, an SOS function which can call an emergency centre at the press of a button or automatically in the event of airbag deployment.Warranty is a five year/unlimited kilometre mix, with servicing capped at $205 for a cycle of 15,000 kilometres. Battery warranty is ten years.

At The End Of The Drive.
City SUVs appear to be “the next big thing” in a crowded marketplace and although Toyota hasn’t lead the charge in this segment, it lobs a solid, if uninspiring, entry. It’s clearly marketed (and engineered, we think too) at a couple with no or one small child, making it an ideal second car too. The ride quality deters from really exploring its envelope as it’s dynamically off-par. But punt it at city velocities and it’s at home.

But, and yes, there has to be another but, it’s the price. Consider the Mazda CX-3 which ranges from $22,710 to $38,450, Ford’s new Puma ($29,990 to $35,540), Subaru’s XV, ($29,240 – $35,580), and the VW T-Cross ($27,990 – $30,990). Hybrid tech does factor but for some the drive quality will turn them away.