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Carnauba Wax: Giving Your Car A Brazilian

Christmas is just around the corner, and many car enthusiasts have a pretty shrewd guess that one of their relatives will give them car wash products as a present.  Polish and all the rest of it is one of those go-to presents, along with socks and underpants for guys, and bath salts or scented soaps for girls.  One of those products may, if you’re lucky, contain carnauba wax (note: this statement applies to the car cleaning products, not the undies or bath salts).

I used to think that carnauba wax was a brand name and I wasn’t the only one to think this, I discovered after a few quick conversations with friends. However, this isn’t the case. Carnauba wax is a generic plant-based product that is known for its high shine and toughness.

These days, it’s nice to be using something that originally comes from a plant rather than being stirred up in a lab. This is the case for carnauba wax, although your car polish will be stirred up in a lab somewhere, and the wax goes through a fair amount of processing before it gets into the package waiting for you in your Christmas stocking. It’s a product from the leaves of a palm tree that grows only in parts of Brazil, which is why you’ll also hear this wax being called “Brazil wax” or “palm wax”. The name “Brazil wax” is out of fashion at the moment, probably because that term has another meaning – although you can use carnauba wax for a Brazilian wax.

The palm tree in question is Copernicia prunifera or the carnauba palm, and the wax is just one of its many products. Although the tree is grown extensively in the suitable parts of Brazil commercially to get this highly desirable wax, the rest of the tree is pretty useful as well. It produces fruits that are used as animal feed, and for making jelly and a type of flour, and even coffee substitutes and oil. The wood is resistant to termites and is good for making houses in the local area that resist these pests. The leftover bits of the leaves after the wax has been removed are used for textiles or are used as feedstock for biofuels. And just in case that wasn’t enough to give the carnauba palm plenty of green credit, it also grows well in saline soils that aren’t any good for other crops, it’s resistant to drought, and because the trees aren’t cut down to harvest the leaves, they provide a good habitat and food for wild birds and sequester carbon while they’re at it. Wins all round!

The leaves of the carnauba palm have a natural wax coating that help it retain moisture and to stand up to other stresses, such as insect attacks. After the leaves have been cut from the trees, which is done a couple of times during the dry season, they are left to dry in the sun. This makes the wax dry to a crumbly yellow-white powder. After that, the leaves are beaten out to release the wax, and the powdered wax is collected. Various other things can be done to it before it’s exported. In fact, because of the properties of the wax in its raw state, you wouldn’t be able to do much with it unless you mixed it with this and that and/or refined it.

Carnauba wax has about the highest melting point of all the natural waxes: a shade over 80°C, in contrast to beeswax, which melts at around the 60-degree mark. It’s also very hard as well as being able to produce a high shine. This makes it perfect for use in a polish for cars, as it’s long-lasting and good-looking as well as being protective.

As well as being used in car polishes, carnauba wax turns up in a variety of other products. As it’s plant-based and nontoxic, it’s safe to use in cosmetics such as lipsticks (another go-to Christmas gift for women) and for coating some types of sweets, such as M&M chocolates (yet another generic gift idea). As a food additive, it’s got the E-number E903. It also turns up in surfboard wax, shoe polish, dental floss and furniture polish. But don’t try eating your car polish. The carnauba wax will have been mixed with various solvents to make the polish.

Car wash products containing carnauba wax come in three types: pastes, sprays and liquids. Pastes are the purest form of the product and are the most long-lasting, although it requires a fair amount of elbow grease and/or professional tools to apply properly. Sprays are the easiest to apply but don’t last as long. Liquid forms of carnauba wax are in the middle, being fairly easy to apply but longer-lasting than a spray.

Some synthetic waxes last longer than carnauba wax, which lasts about 3–5 months, depending on where you keep your car, the weather, how many incontinent seagulls have flown overhead, how often you wash your car, etc. However, carnauba wax is cheaper, as well as being a natural product with all the benefits mentioned above.

The only real downside about carnauba wax is the fact that some of the commercial plantations and harvesting operations pay their workers poorly – and it’s quite a labour-intensive job that can be and is done by hand.  Although some organizations are getting their act together to ensure that their carnauba wax comes from properly responsible suppliers that treat their workers right, even this isn’t without its problems, given that carnauba wax comes from Brazil and only from Brazil, and that this is a country that got a score of 38/100 in the latest corruption index (where 0 is totally corrupt and 100 is not corruption whatsoever; Australia has a score of 75/100) and – at least according to my Brazilian sister-in-law who has friends and relatives in the coffee industry – producers have to pay a hefty fee to get Fair Trade certification, which puts off a lot of smaller cooperatives from getting this certification. So things get a bit messy on the ethical front.  I’d still rather buy a product that’s got a natural origin, is good for the environment and keeps real humans employed instead of robots. In my books, it comes down more on the Nice side of the ledger rather than the Naughty side.

One last warning: if you want to put carnauba wax on your wish list for gifts, make sure that you (a) specify that you want the automotive sort, not the cosmetic sort and (b) call it carnauba wax, not Brazil wax or Brazilian wax, or you never know what you might end up with.

What to Look for When Buying an Eco-Friendly Car

With emissions concerns becoming an ever-growing concern among new car buyers, many motorists are turning to eco-friendly cars in the hope they not only reduce their carbon footprint, but also lower their operating expenses as well.

As motorists start to see a wider range of eco-friendly cars pop onto the market, consumer choice has been broadened significantly, even if still some way behind internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

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Hybrid vehicles

Hybrids offer the best of both words as far as petrol and electric. The general notion is that the car will switch between the two systems in order to maximise efficiency.

For example, when the car is stationary, accelerating or driving at a low speed, the electric engine will kick in. While cruising at a higher speed, however, the petrol engine starts to take over and power the car. The petrol engine can also recharge the battery itself, which means you don’t have to be sitting at home or a designated charging spot waiting to recharge your car before setting out on your journey.

Electric vehicles

Meanwhile, electric vehicles are starting to see their penetration increase just like hybrid vehicles did a few years ago.

EVs rely exclusively on battery-power and charging, which has been a deterrent to many because of the limited range and infrastructure to cater to this. At the same time, charging points at home aren’t necessarily as economical as one might hope in this day and age. But both of those factors are improving.

Improvements to the range of electric vehicles have allowed them to drive further than previously possible. Long gone are the perception surrounding the limited driving ranges of first-to-market EVs. However, despite potentially lower ongoing running and maintenance costs, EV purchase prices have yet to truly become accessible to the mainstream consumer.

What to keep an eye on

One of the key measures as to how eco-friendly or green a vehicle is based on their emissions output.

Hybrid vehicles are still associated with emissions because of their dual functionality, while electric vehicles may also be tied to some emissions where the source of electricity charging the vehicle is not renewable. For example, one might argue that coal-generated electricity defeats the point of an EV.

The ratings for emissions outputs also vary in the real world compared with in lab or track testing. It’s one thing for manufacturers to spruik certain numbers based on ‘perfect’ conditions, however, outside of that bubble we all know that things are never quite the same in the real world.

Let’s not also forget that, ‘Dieselgate’, one of the biggest controversies in the motoring industry related to such discrepancies, even if related to diesel-powered vehicles.

Last but not least, uptake for both hybrids and EVs is a gradual process at this stage. Prices are still elevated, particularly when compared against other international markets where these vehicles have yielded greater uptake.

A large part of that is attributable to government policy and support, however, for motorists looking to make the early switch, there are benefits associated with lower operating expenses, but one must ensure they can afford to purchase or finance what are dearer vehicles to begin with.

One Thing They Don’t Tell You About EVs When The Rubber Meets The Road

The thing that a few of the proponents of EVs don’t often tell you about is about the tyres.  They’ll tell you about how EVs produce less in the tailpipe emissions department and about how quiet they are and how much better the range is these days, but if you’re new to the world of electric vehicles, you may be in for a surprise the first time you have to change the tyres.

What they don’t tell you is that EVs need special tyres and fitting the sort of tyre that worked perfectly well for an ICE vehicle of the same size or even the same weight won’t work on an EV. The tyres on an EV have to cope with a number of the characteristics of electrical motors. Specifically, the tyres have to cope with the increased torque, the weight of the battery pack, the need for better energy efficiency and the need to reduce road noise.

Because electric motors behave differently from internal combustion engines, they have much higher torque figures. Torque, as we should remember from our high school physics class, is rotational force (as opposed to linear acceleration), so it bites in where the rubber hits the road – literally.  The more torque, the more force is applied.  Now, I like a good bit of torque in a motor, but tyres don’t like it as much, and too much can wear them out more quickly. This means that an EV has to have tougher tyres. They also have to have more grip to avoid slipping when accelerating, especially in wet or slippery conditions.

On top of that, the tyre has to handle the increased weight. You might not realise this, given that most EVs tend to be smaller urban vehicles (although this is changing).  However, EVs weight more because of the battery pack. In fact, the battery pack can make up to quarter of the weight of an EV – and yes, this outweighs the bits that aren’t in an EV, such as the radiator, the fuel tank, the exhaust system and so forth. The battery pack also needs to be protected against mechanical damage (such damage is very bad news for the battery and is the leading cause of electrical car fires). This extra weight applies to hybrids as well as to purely electric vehicles (battery electric vehicles or BEVs). This means that the sidewalls on the tyres for EVs need to be stronger and heavier to carry the weight.

These two factors alone would be enough to indicate that putting regular tyres on an EV or hybrid vehicle is a bad idea, as the tyres would wear out more quickly – a lot more quickly! In fact, some have argued that if you are concerned about the environment, you should bear in mind that although EVs produce less from the tailpipe, they create more particulate matter from tyre wear. This is why several of the big-name tyre manufacturers have created special tyres for EVs.

If you’ve ever looked at the tyres made specifically for EVs, you may notice that they are taller and thinner. This is to decrease the rolling resistance.  Going back to high school physics once more, something that’s heavier has more inertia and thus requires more force to get moving (think about how easy it is to kick a soccer ball rather than a medicine ball).  Naturally, a tyre that’s stronger and more resistant to wear will be heavier, which would mean more inertia and thus rolling resistance. Making the tyre narrower will reduce the drag and thus the rolling resistance. This is important, because if you have waited half an hour to charge up your EV from a public charging station, you want that charge to last as long as possible before you have to do it again, so reducing the drag and the rolling resistance will be more energy efficient.

Lastly, there’s the noise issue. In an ICE vehicle, the rumble of the engine drowns out the road noise.  In an EV, there is no rumble, so road noise is the only thing you can hear.  Road noise isn’t quite as soothing as engine noise (most of the time), and that’s the only thing that you can hear in an EV, especially if you’ve switched off the sound system to save power and extend the battery range.

You can put tyres designed for other cars on EVs and hybrids, but three things need to be borne in mind.  Firstly, you have to be sure to get something that can handle the extra weight.  Secondly, a regular tyre will reduce the range of the battery.  Thirdly, the tyre will wear out a lot more quickly, meaning that you won’t actually save anything by putting regular bog-standard tyres on an EV. 

It’s best to put the proper tyres on an EV, as you will get better range and longer tyre life out of them.  Admittedly, these tyres are more expensive (like performance tyres on a splashy sports car).  They will also wear out more quickly, but not quite as quickly.  This is something that tyre manufacturers such as Michelin are working on but you will have to factor in if when deciding if an EV is right for you and your budget.  Despite being built tougher, these tyres still need to be maintained correctly – checking the pressure and rotating them regularly.

As with all things, the issue of battery weight and tyre wear are things that researchers are looking into and trying to improve, so we can look for things to get better (and hopefully cheaper) as time passes.

Some More Exciting Mazda News

If you are anything like me, then you’ll be driving along the highway spotting the cars coming the other way.  One of the snazzier brands out on the roads would have to be those from out of Mazda’s showrooms.  Mazda’s great variety of models all look great and boast some striking modern designs.  Even the new Mazda BT-50 ute, a very reliable workhorse, is looking pretty slick, and so too the family-oriented new Mazda 6 Sedans and Wagons.  Mazda also offers a wide range of brand new SUVs with sharp looking exteriors and endearing interiors that are well-equipped.  The small MX-30 is one of these SUVs, and it also has some cool new materials used inside the cabin – like the cork inlays that offset nicely against the premium leather trim.

Toyota, Mazda, Kia, and Hyundai sell the most cars in Australia; Toyota being out in front by a decent margin, with Mazda coming in at second place.  For quite some time, in Australia, Mazda has been a popular vehicle to buy.  Mazda’s 2022 sales of 43,687 are down 9% on this time last year, though Mazda retains its 2nd placing to Toyota’s 1st place for overall sales.  Sales drops have occurred right across the market, thanks to the shortages of components and current logistical issues.  Mazda had sold 101,119 vehicles in 2021, quite a large portion of the whole pie, considering all the brands that are available to buy new in Australia.

So, what’s some hot off the press Mazda news?

You may have noticed a tidy looking compact SUV running our roads the past couple of years.  Mazda’s MX-30 is one of Mazda’s newer creations in recent times – gaining in popularity too.  The little Mazda MX-30 has been a key model for Mazda in that this has been Mazda’s model of choice for bringing new technologies, hybrid motoring, and EV motoring into their modern fleet of vehicles that will also lead them in a new direction for future motoring.

As the direction of future transport trends toward cleaner engines and lower emissions, Mazda launched a series of mild-hybrid powertrains.  We saw these first being used in the Mazda 3 and Mazda CX-30.  The Mazda MX-30 provided a mild-hybrid engine, but Mazda also made available their brand new pure-electric drivetrain available for the MX-30.  Designed purely for an emissions-free city commute, the Mazda MX-30 Electric uses its 107 kW to whistle up to 0-100 km/h in 9.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 140 km/h.  The driving range proves to be over 175 km, a handy dollop of motoring before recharging needs to happen.

Some other new Mazda technology which will be implemented will be that of a new small rotary engine as a supplementary power source.  With a NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) accredited range of 224 km, this will provide Mazda-buyers with another means of excellent low-emission city transportation.

Mazda’s approach to electrification is based on the customers’ demand for EVs, and the regional infrastructure available to support them.  Within 5 years, Mazda hope to introduce a new hybrid system alongside more battery-electric models in their line-up of new vehicles.  This is in response to the newer European emissions rules that come into effect.

Towards the end of this decade, Mazda’s entire line-up will offer fully electrified versions.  One model that has been talked about as being another exciting Mazda EV will be the little MX-5’s progression into EV powering.  Now that’s a tasty thought!