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Environment

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.

 

2021 Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge PHEV: Private Fleet Car Review

Hybrid technology is becoming a way of life in the automotive world and ranges from the everyday car to the ultra luxury. Somewhere in between is Volvo and their hybrid SUV “Recharge” offerings. The big ‘un, the XC90, is now partially electrified and available as a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle or PHEV.Complete with a solid list of standard equipment and extras, their is a Manufacturer’s recommended list price and as driven price of $114,990 and $120,715.

The key to what turned out to be a surprisingly rapid and agile big SUV is a 2.0L petrol fed engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged. The EV part comes from a battery that assists and electric motor that produces, says Volvo, 65kW and 240Nm to work with the petrol powerplant’s 246kW and 440Nm. That torque figure comes in at 2,200rpm and runs to 4,400rpm.

This endows the hefty, at 2,315kg, XC90, with ferocious speed, albeit limited to 180kph as a top speed. It will easily see the freeway limit in 5.5 seconds, and overtake others at a rate that would have Superman blink in astonishment. Along the way, Volvo says economy is rated at 2.1L/100km from a 70L tank.Herein lies the rub. The battery, when fully charged, offers just 35km of range on battery power alone. In conjunction with the drive modes, such as (mild) off-road, and the Polestar engineering mode, this is possible but in the real world mostly not. To extract the best out of the combination, it’s highway cruising that needs to be employed as the battery runs down to a point that it no longer really assists but will supplement in a reduced capacity. To that end we saw a final overall figure of 6.4L/100km, in itself a better than respectable figure for the mass of the XC90 Recharge.The Four-C Active Chassis suspension is height adjustable thanks to electronically controlled airbags being employed and does so with the drive modes programming. It’ll also lower in height when the XC90 Recharge is switched off via the centre console located rotary dial. Here one would think that the ride quality is not that good. It’s the opposite, and although not quite completely dialing out the artificial feel airbag suspension setups have, it’s never anything less than comfortable.

Up front is a double wishbone transverse link setup, with the rear a integral axle transverse leaf spring composition. Together they bring a wholly adept ride and handling package to the XC90 Recharge, along with the grip levels thanks to the 22 inch double spoke black painted and diamond cut alloys. Pirelli supply the rubber and they’re 275/35s from the famous P-Zero range.Although a thin sidewall, the suspension is clearly tuned with that in mind, such is the poise and lack of bump-thump displayed. And those wide tyres add so much tenacity in being able to corner harder and longer when enjoying that flexibility from underneath the bonnet.

Steering is precise, and mayhaps too precise for some used to oodles of understeer or numbness. It’s perfectly weighted and for the size of the wheels and rubber, there’s a pleasing lack of “ponderous”. It’s more a delight than it has the right to be, and nimble enough in the feel to make it a small to mid-sized hatch rather than the large SUV it really is.

Rolling acceleration delivers in that “pin you back in the seat” manner, especially when the battery is charged. Although untimed, that quoted 5.5 seconds, too, is on the mark from a seat of the pants point of view.Recharge of the battery from the brakes is on a graduated level. Drive, once the ignition dial is switched, is engaged by a simple tap forward or backwards lever just ahead of the switch, and a tap back from Drive changes the amount of braking regenerative force that feeds the battery. Although needing a very long hill to make any appreciable impact, there is enough noticeable retardation and a small increase in range seen in the dash display.

Volvo have kept the fact that it’s a PHEV quiet. Apart from the numberplate fitted, there is the charge port on the front left fender and a badge on the powered tailgate with “Recharge”. Aside from the hole for that charge port, which opens at the press of a hand to reveal a weatherproofed, covered, port, it’s an invisible PHEV presence.The exterior is otherwise unchanged, from the Thor’s hammer driving lights and indicators to the LED rear lights, it’s a curvaceously boxy body. Inside there’s luxury in the form of the Bowers and Wilkins audio, leather seats, the integrated tablet-style infotainment screen, and LCD dash display. Run a drive destination into the navigation and the centre of the LCD driver’s screen shows the map. There is also a subtle, and almost lost, HUD display.Rear seats have their own climate control and the capacious cargo area (651L to 1,950L) has plenty of high quality carpeting and switches for the powered tailgate. There is a bag for the charge cable and a hook to hang it from. There is also a cargo blind which was in the way when it comes to moving the third row seats and no obviously apparent storage locker for it too.Controls for the car are embedded in the touchscreen, with climate control including venting/heating for the front seats, safety features, and smartapps such as Spotify and TuneIn included. The tablet style screen works on swiping left and right for the main info, and a pulldown from the top for settings and an electronic instruction manual.

Our review car came with options fitted; Climate pack which has heating for the windscreen washers, rear seat, and tiller at $600. The centre row seats has powered folding headrests at $275, whilst metallic paint is a hefty $1,950. The Nappa leather covered seats in charcoal to match the trim is $2,950.It’s a Volvo so those letters can be pronounced “safety”. Volvo has their CitySafe package, with Pedestrian, Vehicle, Large Animal, Cyclist Detection, and Intersection Collision Mitigation. Intellisafe Assist has Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist, Collision Warning with Auto Brake (which picks up parked cars on corners…), and Intellisafe Surround that includes Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Collision warning (which stops the car from moving if sensors pick up an obstacle), and airbags throughout the cabin.At The End Of The Drive. There is something to be said for the brands, in the automotive sense, that are leading the charge (no pun intended) towards hybrid and fully EV availabililty. Brands such as Jaguar have announced they’ll be fully EV by 2025, for example. Volvo, under the chequebook auspices of Geely, continue to produce the classy and safety-oriented vehicles they’re renowned for, and push towards a more expansive hybrid range.As potent as the petrol engine is on its own, the short distance available from battery power alone and as a backup for hybrid driving detracts somewhat from the intent, especially for our wide brown land. In Europe where you can drive through seventeen towns in the time it takes to sneeze four times, it’s a different story.

For the driver, it’s a sports car in a big car body, and just happens to be able to carry up to seven people in comfort and knowledge of safety thanks to the famous Volvo safety heritage. In the competition area there are the three German brands against it, and in a purely EV sense, Tesla’s Model X, complete with its lights and door dance routine for entertainment value. In a tough market segment, sometimes the difference can be small to see in value but Volvo assures that the extra range capability is coming. That will help the XC90 increase its appeal.

Thanks to Volvo Australia for the provision of the 2021 XC90 T8 Recharge.

 

The European EV Compass

The best of European engineering and technology has always been considered to be some of the finest the world has to offer (particularly German, Swedish and British engineering).  However, with the advancement in microelectronics and electrical know-how that is coming from the Asian parts of the world, there is little time to be had before German, Swedish, Dutch and British (to name a few) technology giants, and automotive and engineering giants, could get swallowed up and placed in the history books.

It might be that to counter the advancement (or even to just keep pace with) of big Chinese, USA, Korean and Japanese automotive, electronics and digital giants, that it’ll likely take a collective pan-European approach in tech-innovation and mobility transformational advancements.  The movement is happening in Europe but is it fast enough?

Rather than each country try and do it alone, a pan-European alliance for the electric mobilization of Europe along with the coordination and alignment of national policies would be far more capable of countering the competition from the USA and China.  Being able to pool assets, funding, supply chain networks, research and development, battery production, electronic charging point networks, power storage technology, recharging technology and Pan Eurpean policy initiatives that promote market entry for electric vehicles (EVs) will go a long way to keep Europe at the forefront of transport design and innovation.

With the spotlight heavily focusing on environmentally-friendly transport, EVs and driverless cars, and their growing numbers filling the roads up in Asia and in Europe, the rest of the world will also need to catch up with the technology, or change to other manufacturing designs instead.  Now and into the future we are seeing how global status, energy and transport are directly linked to each other.  Renewable electricity generation and storage at the national level is an assignment across Europe that is a huge task on any given day, but its roll-out also needs to quicken its pace.  Politics will play an important role for European countries to pull together to use renewable energy, energy networks and EV and Fuel Cell vehicle technologies.

Demanding logistical changes like this also calls for an adoption of a new social perspective on this new way of doing transport, even new way of life, whether that be in purchasing a new energy efficient car or pooling together to get from A to B or using environmentally friendly public transport.  Not everyone can cycle to work!  The automotive landscape in Europe is changing, just as it is globally.  Government policy will play a leading role in moderating and coordinating the transformation of the automotive industry into new ways of doing transport for the people.

At European local government levels, there also requires the push to implement the urban-transport transformation towards emission-free and fossil-fuel-less transport systems.  Urban and development planning needs to promote the electric charging infrastructure, as well as providing big financial benefits and incentives for the public to change from fossil-dependent transport to the use of EVs.  Global carbon emission goals are driving the need to steer away from fossil fuels.

In the future, there would seem to be few chances to succeed as a nation if smaller countries choose to go it alone.  Then again, maybe that’s what Australia, NZ, UK and Japan might do best; they could be attractive in their own right if they did emission-free transport their own unique way, unconnected with the rest of the world’s EV and driverless vehicle systems.

Isn’t It IONIQ…BEV And E-GMP Hyundai IONIQ5 On The Way

Hyundai have given to the world two more new automotive acronyms. BEV (battery electric vehicles) and E-GMP (Electric-Global Modular Platform) are attached to the new IONIQ5. Classed as a mid-sized SUV, it’s due in Australia sometime in Q3 (July to September) 2021.

The IONIQ 5 will have two battery pack options, either 58 kWh or 72.6 kWh, and two electric motor layouts, either with a rear motor only or with both front and rear motors. All PE variations provide outstanding range and deliver a top speed of 185 km/h.

The E-GMP platform sees Hyundai exploring design and engineering boundaries, with the base platform here providing a wheelbase of 3,000mm (100mm more than Palisade) inside an overall length of 4,635mm. The battery pack is expected to provide a driving range of up to 470km. A pair of motors will propel the IONIQ5 to 100kph in just over five seconds thanks to 225kW and 605Nm in all wheel drive mode when using the Long Range Battery. Go to the standard battery and there’s an expected 0-100 time of 6.1 seconds.

A key feature of the BEV is the ultra-fast charging, with 10% to 80% in 18 minutes of charge, and the platform will support 400V and 800V infrastructure. This also enables a range of 100km in five minutes worth of charging. A feature growing in stature, the ability to output charge, is also aboard. IONIQ 5 also provides an innovative V2L function, which allows customers to freely use or charge any electric devices, such as electric bicycles, scooters or camping equipment, serving as a charger on wheels with up to 3.6kW of power using what Hyundai called the V2L (Vehicle To Load) function. The port to connect and output will be placed under the second row seats. An external port is also fitted and can charge other devices whilst the IONIQ5 is powered down.

Thomas Schemera, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer, said: “IONIQ 5 will accommodate lifestyles without limits, proactively caring for customers’ needs throughout their journey. It is truly the first electric vehicle to provide a new experience with its innovative use of interior space and advanced technologies.”

Hyundai says the IONIQ5’s exterior heralds a new chapter in their design, with the vehicle equipped with Hyundai’s first clamshell hood which minimises panel gaps for optimal aerodynamics. The front bumper is defined by an eye-catching V-shape incorporating distinctive DRLs that provide an unmistakable light signature which is a bespoke IONIQ5 look. These small pixel-like clusters also appear at the rear of the vehicle. Colour choices will have nine for the exterior, three inside. Obsidian Black and Dark Pebble Gray/Dove Gray, while the optional colour pack offers Dark Teal/Dove Gray.

There are auto-retracting door handles that will provide a styling for a clean surface look, which also will increase aerodynamic efficiency. A distinctive C-pillar, derived and inspired from a previous EV concept, identifies the IONIQ5 from a distance.

Hyundai has a design brief they’ve termed Parametric Pixel and this is seen in the 20 inch diameter aero wheels. SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and Head of Hyundai Global Design Centre, says: “A new mobility experience for the next generation – this was the mission from the first day we began this project, to look ahead towards the horizon, but stay fundamentally Hyundai,” said . “IONIQ 5 is the new definition of timeless, providing a common thread linking our past to the present and future.”

The interior has a “Living Space” theme which shows a movable centre console, the Universal island, with a travel of 140mm. Batteries are located in the floor, making for a flat surface and aiding interior space. The powered front seats have been reduced in thickness for better rear seat space. It’s a “green”car, with eco-friendly, sustainably sourced materials, such as recycled PET bottles, plant-based (bio PET) yarns and natural wool yarns, eco-processed leather with plant-based extracts, and bio paint with plant extracts used in areas such as the seats, door trim, headlining, and floor.

Interior design sees 531L of cargo space at the rear, with nearly 1,600L on offer with the second row seats folded. A front cargo area, or as it’s known, a “frunk” (front trunk).

With Remote Charging, IONIQ 5 drivers can start and stop charging with the push of a button on their smartphone app. During colder months, Remote Climate Control allows users to schedule pre-heating of IONIQ 5 while it is connected to an external power source. Not only does this ensure comfort for occupants during the drive, but it also saves battery power that would otherwise be needed to heat the vehicle on the road.

IONIQ 5’s Dynamic Voice Recognition system accepts simple voice commands to conveniently control cabin A/C, radio, hatch opening/closing, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled seats and other functions. The system can also assist with various points of interest (POI), weather status and stock market data updates.

IONIQ 5 also features a premium Bose sound system. Its eight speakers, including a subwoofer, are strategically placed throughout the vehicle for a high-quality listening experience.

IONIQ 5 will be available in selected regions starting in the first half of 2021, with Australia set to launch in Q3 2021.

Japan’s Automotive Brilliance

Tokyo, Japan

You can’t go anywhere around Australia without noticing just how many Japanese made vehicles are motoring around our roads (and off them).  Since the 1960s, Japan has been among the top 3 automotive manufacturers in the world.  The country is home to a number of motor companies, and you’ll be familiar with them: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Subaru, Isuzu.  There are, of course, more than these mainstream manufacturers.  Japan has around 78 car-manufacturing factories in 22 regions, and these employ over 5.5 million people (more than the entire population of New Zealand).

The strong competition that is happening on a global scale in the automotive industry has forced the manufacturers to come up with a new model design every four to five years.  Along with the new models, new innovative designs and new technologies are presented and used by the automakers in their new vehicles.  Automotive manufacturing is the prominent manufacturing type in Japan, which takes up 89% of the country’s manufacturing sector.  A large amount of time and money are invested into developing and improving the automotive manufacturing process, which, in turn, increases the quality and efficiency of their manufactured automotive products.

Some of the brilliant new developments from Japan automobile manufacturers have led to distinct and innovative new designs for current and future automobiles.  In order to control the market dependency on fuels, and in order to design vehicles that are more fuel-efficient, Japanese automakers have invested and built hybrid vehicles and fuel-cell vehicles.

The ideology and popularity of environmentally friendly vehicles is creating a wave of global interest and demand for these sorts of vehicles.  More and more automakers around the globe are focusing on creating the types of vehicles that are friendlier on the environment to their production line.  Japan’s automotive manufacturers are leaders in this field.  Japanese innovations in these technology sectors include autonomous taxi services and airport transportation, high-definition maps and open-source software modules for autonomous vehicles, advanced hydrogen fuel cell and alternating-current battery technology, and silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductor films for EV power electronics.  Japanese companies have been developing hydrogen fuel cell technology, which is projected to reach a market size of approximately $43 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 66.9% from 2019 to 2026.  Japan’s prowess in creating autonomous vehicles and their resulting cutting edge safety features puts them well ahead of the game.

An electric vehicle is an automobile that produces power from electrical energy stored in batteries instead of from the burning of fossil fuels.  Top automakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are already class leaders.

Hybrid vehicles use two or more distinct power sources to move the car.  Typically, electric motors combine with traditional internal combustion engines to produce power. Hybrid vehicles are highly fuel efficient.  Again, Japan’s Toyota motor company is one of the automotive industry leaders in hybrid vehicle research and production – with the Toyota  Prius model leading the way.  Hybrid variants are available on many of Toyota’s collection of new vehicles.

A Fuel Cell Vehicle is equipped with a “Fuel Cell” in which electricity is generated through the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.  This chemical reaction provides the source of power to the motor.  Fuel cell systems operate by compressing hydrogen made from natural gas and gasoline, which is then converted to hydrogen by on-board systems.  Toyota’s latest fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai II, is sold in Japan.  The Mirai II uses a Hydrogen Electrochemical fuel cell that creates 130 kW.  The electric motor that is powered by the fuel cell produces 136 kW and 300 Nm.  It’s very stylish, too.

Toyota Mirai II