As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Fueling your Car

The Things We Do in Our Cars

I was thinking about the different demands that we all put our vehicle through on our daily drives throughout a year.  It got me thinking about all the changes that can happen to us inside 12 months – whether the weather seasons change dramatically, families get larger or smaller, job promotions happen, we can change jobs for whatever reason, building renovations happen, moving house occurs, we make new friends, we start a fitness schedule at the gym, we try out a new sport across town, go fishing, go for that caravan trip around Australia and what not…  Our lives are fun and full of regular tasks that we both love or put up with, have jobs that we stick with or change, are full of people that come and go and people that we just love to be around and who will always be a part of our life.  The cars we drive regularly, are often a reflection of our lifestyle and can tell us a story about who we are and where we are in life.

With this ticking through my thought processing, I started to think about the changes that may or may not happen to our cars as we drive them, and how the lifestyle changes and choices that we make can affect the cars we drive.  In essence, a car is a very adaptable machine (or at least should be), and it has to be fit for purpose to cater to our own individual needs.  Often, I find myself needing to hitch up the trailer to grab some more compost for the garden, take a load to the recycling centre or help out a mate who is shifting house.  I like to make use of my drive into town to charge my mobile phone up on the way and listen to my favourite music with the volume wound right up.  Some days the temperature outside can get so cold in wintertime that I need to wind up the heater in order to thaw my fingers out and demist the rear window.  But then in summer, when the temperatures soar, I’ll have the air-conditioning wound up to maximum to keep the family inside the car nice and cool, particularly when we have the tiny grandchild travelling with us.

We have different drives that we frequently make in a month, and they all take different roads and cover varying landscapes.  Some journeys require us to drive up steep streets to get us to our friend’s house on top of the cliffs overlooking the sea, other roads have us in the middle of congested city streets and then another drive may take us for an hour or two north into the wild blue yonder through flat and undulating scenery to visit family.

We’ve learned to trust our cars to get us from A-to-B whatever the weather, whoever we have onboard, whatever we have to tow or carry.  Can a new EV manage all the lifestyle changes and demands dependably?  I’d hate to be late for my daughter’s graduation because my EV ran out of power halfway there, or that I missed the ferry because the EV had to be topped up at a charging point that had a long queue, and what about the police who aborted a chase after a dangerous criminal because he spent too long with the heater on and the siren going at the same time.

We need a car fit for purpose, a car that is cheap to run, nice to the environment and above all dependable!

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/

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…

 

What Future Lies Ahead for Diesel-Powered Cars?

It’s no secret that a growing number of countries around the world are looking to promote the uptake of ‘green’ vehicles. What with concerns around the environmental and health implications, many places have even set out plans to ban production of new petrol and diesel-powered cars from the end of this decade. And while Euro6 diesel emissions are considerably ahead of where they were a decade ago, now significantly reduced, that hasn’t dampened the calls for change in the broader community.

Faced with mounting pressure associated with corporate social responsibility, as well as regulatory change, more and more car manufacturers are committing to cleaner fuel technologies.

But what does that mean for the beloved diesel engine? After all, many of the commercial vehicles of today rely on diesel, and locally, Australia’s obsession with SUVs and utes has also ensured that it remains particularly relevant in the new car market. Does significant change lie ahead?

 

 

How popular are diesel vehicles in Australia?

It’s easy to say that the wheels were first put in motion following the ‘Dieselgate’ controversy with Volkswagen and a number of other car brands, where diesel emissions cheating devices were masking the true extent of their emissions. Spurring on a stricter suite of regulations, many auto-makers felt the burden of these changes would constrain margins and ultimately, that money would be better deployed towards more sustainable solutions for the long-term.

The impact of these changes, particularly in the European market, should not be dismissed by new car buyers on the other side of the world here in Australia. After all, we are a car importer, and Australia often receives Euro-designed vehicles.

However, as alluded to above, Australia’s new car buyers have shown little sign of a diminished appetite for diesel vehicles, with sales still strong. During 2020, Australians purchased 290,659 diesel cars. Although this was 12.5% lower than the 332,219 bought in 2019, when you take into consideration the broader slowdown in the market due to COVID-19, where overall sales fell 13.5%, the results were effectively in line with one another. Meanwhile, of the existing vehicle fleet on our roads, one in six cars are powered by diesel, or a total of 2.6 million cars.

 

 

What can we expect here in Australia?

It’s quite clear that the preference of local car buyers is markedly different to that of new car buyers in other regions, particularly Europe and Asia, where our love of 4WDs and utes cannot be matched.

Diesel, despite its drawbacks, is still embraced on account of the fuel economy and pulling power that is needed amid the sprawling nature of our cities, as well as our love of the great outdoors. It’s also unlikely that until such time that alternative fuel technologies like hydrogen and electricity become mainstream, and are even tailored towards our local taste for SUVs and utes, our own ‘bubble’ may continue to remain popular. The recent decision by various state governments to tax road usage among electric vehicles won’t help incentivise buyers to make the switch either.

Nonetheless, the key takeaway is that it is unlikely to expect local regulatory changes any time soon. What does that mean for us by the end of this decade when our peers have moved on? For now, we’ll have to wait and see.

 

Hydrogen Fuel Is The Nexo Step.

Hyundai Australia has unveiled their Nexo vehicle. Powered solely by hydrogen, it’s set to be a game-changer if the right infrastructure is put in place. For now, a fleet of twenty will roam the streets of Canberra during a trial phase.Nexo is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, rated at 95kW, coupled to an electric motor. It generates 120kW and 395Nm, and has a theoretical range of over 660 kilometres. Here’s how it works, says Hyundai.

Hydrogen gas is stored in high-pressure tanks and is sent from these to the fuel cells. It mixes with oxygen taken straight from the atmosphere and reacts across a “catalyst membrane” and creates electricity for the engine and battery, and water as the sole by-product. Excess power is stored in the battery system. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, or FCEVs, can be refilled in virtually the same time as a petrol fuel tank.

“The arrival of NEXO on Australian roads as an ADR-approved production vehicle is a landmark in Hyundai’s ongoing commitment to green mobility and to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology.” Hyundai Motor Company CEO, Jun Heo said. The hydrogen NEXO SUV is a cornerstone in the Hyundai portfolio, complementing our hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles the IONIQ and Kona Electric. NEXO is also a sign of things to come, as Hyundai continues in its long-term drive towards leadership in eco-friendly vehicles.”

It’s a one specification vehicle for the moment, and comes well equipped in that sense. A main 12.3 inch satnav equipped touchscreen is the centre of the appeal, complete with Android and Apple smartphone compatibility. The driver has a 7.0 inch info screen, and a Qi wireless smartphone charger is standard.

Seats are leather appointed, and passengers see the sky via a full length glass roof. Sounds are courtesy of Krell. Nexo rolls on 19 inch alloys, and sees its way thanks to LED headlights and daytime running lights. A Surround View Monitor, Remote Engine Start, Remote Smart parking Assist, and a powered tailgate add extra convenience. Comfort comes courtesy of a dual-zone climate control system, powered front seats, heating for the steering wheel and outboard sections of the rear seats.

SmartSense is the name Hyundai give their safety system package and the Nexo will have Forward Collision Avoidance, Driver Attention warning, and the Blind Spot Collision Avoidance is radar based. Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Avoidance Assist and Smart Cruise with Stop/Go functionality are also standard.

Exterior colour choices are limited. White Cream Mica, and a Dusk Blue Metallic will come with Stone Grey two-tone interior, whilst Cocoon Silver and Copper Metallic are paired with a Dark Blue interior.

The main hydrogen system is built around three storage tanks with a capacity of 156 litres. Up to 6.33 kilograms of hydrogen can be held at a pressure of 700 bar. The testing of the tanks has included structural integrity for collision impacts. The battery is a lithium-ion polymer unit, rated as 240V and 1.56kWh. It also assists in running the onboard 12V systems.

The battery itself effectively comprises most of the floor, making for better cabin packaging and a low centre of gravity. The system is also rated for cold start operation at temperatures down to -29 Celcius. It will start within 30 seconds.

In keeping with its green credentials, structural components include aluminium for the bumper beam, front knuckles, rear wheel carriers and front lower control arms. Lower kerb weight assists in the vehicle’s handling, ride, and reduces cabin noise input. The front fenders are lightweight and flexible plastic.

Hyundai Nexo refill

Bio-based materials also up the green, with up to 12.0 kilograms of CO2 being reduced as a by-product of the manufacturing process. Total weight of bio-product is 34 kilos and this is found in the carpet, headliner, trim material, door trims, and the seats and console. Bio-paints derived from corn and sugarcane waste material are also used.

Strength and safety comes from high tensile steel, making the monocoque body both rigid and torsionally strong, with over 56% of the Nexo’s bodywork made from the high strength steel/ This extends to the tank sub-frame and tested in rear collision simulations.

Hidden details such as air guides underneath and air deflectors aid aero efficiency. Hidden wipers, a Hyundai first, are fitted at front and rear, and with slimline retracting door handles the Nexo has a drag coefficient of just 0.32cD.Chassis development was carried out in Australia, Tim Rodgers, the Hyundai Motor Company Australia Product Planning and Development Specialist, said. “The platform was designed to address this challenge, with an extensive use of lightweight parts for the strut front and multi-link rear suspensions, such as aluminium knuckles and lower control arms. By reducing unsprung mass there is less energy that we have to manage through the damper and the spring, so we can use a slightly different valve characteristic and achieve the results we require.

We’ve come out of the R&D process with a refined suspension that matches quite nicely with acoustic levels in the cabin. Beyond achieving this, the tuning program targeted the normal ride and handling benchmarks, to give NEXO the same style of body control we tune into all our cars, and the same level of competency Australia’s notoriously challenging back roads.”

Not yet available for private sale, it can be leased. Hyundai have a specialist Aftersales team in place to deal with inquiries, and they can be reached through a Hyundai dealership in the first instance.

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.

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

Are Solid State Batteries the Next Big Thing?

Toyota is set to headline the next technology development for electric cars, solid state batteries. After a delay in producing  a prototype of the technology in 2020, the Japanese car giant is set to give us a preview of its efforts this year. If all goes well, with the backing of the Japanese government, full production of solid state batteries could be just a few years away.

 

What is a solid state battery?

A solid state battery is a form of battery technology utilising solid electrodes and a solid electrolyte as opposed to liquid or polymer gel electrolytes that are common in lithium-ion or lithium polymer batteries.

This type of technology is considered a more superior fuel technology compared with lithium ion batteries due to the fact that solid state batteries are typically smaller, faster to charge, more energy dense and do not pose as much of a fire risk without the presence of a liquid or gel.

 

 

 

What does this mean in the real world?

In some quarters, observers anticipate that solid state batteries will help enable electric vehicles to drive as much as 1000km without requiring a recharge. This is much greater than the likes of the range achieved by Tesla, even if its numbers have been improving with each release. Furthermore, these batteries could theoretically be recharged in less than 10 minutes, which would be a considerable breakthrough.

There are also some secondary benefits associated with solid state batteries that ties in with vehicle design. This includes the prospect of better space optimisation and a sense of roominess in the cabin on account of the smaller battery.

Over the long-term, these batteries are expected to maintain about 90% of their charge for as long as 30 years, which would make them significantly more durable and reliable than today’s lithium ion batteries.

 

The race to be first to market

While Toyota is at the centre of the push to develop solid state batteries, they are certainly not on their own. In addition, the likes of Volkswagen and Nissan are working on their own prototypes, while US car start-up Fisker is also looking to pioneer a solution for its luxury sedans.

With such an expansive and burgeoning market ripe for the picking, manufacturers will be keen to break through and make an impact with their own technology. Who will be first to market remains to be seen, however, there can be no denying that electric vehicles will only become mainstream when there is the fundamental technology in place to support long-range driving.

Low Voltage: The Charge To EV Vehicles

With world governments declaring a transition to electric vehicles over the next three decades or earlier, such as the U.K. by 2030 or 2035, it would be reasonable to presume that Australian governments would also back any push, without extra roadblocks, to have EVs the primary vehicle for passenger transportation.

The Australian Capital Territory has gone to that length, as has the state government of Tasmania, with the Apple Isle declaring the government’s fleet will be 100% electric by 2030. the A.C.T. began their transition process in 2018 . Neither the A.C.T. or the Tasmanian government have currently declared that any form of EV tax will be implemented.

However, South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria have all announced that the users of an EV will be subjected to a user tax. Victoria has declared that as soon as July 1, 2021, a road user tax on EVs will be implemented. Tony Weber, from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, isn’t impressed:

“Australian state governments want to kill the technology at its infancy. Is this because some states want to substitute the Commonwealth excise tax with their own tax? Are motorists being caught in a petty game in which the states want to establish a new revenue base at the expense of the Commonwealth?”

Weber also points out the disassociation of the governments here in regards to what other nations are doing in respect to development alternatives for public vehicle transport.

“All around the world, global automotive companies have invested billions of dollars to develop environmentally friendly vehicles. And all around the world, progressive governments have supported the introduction of these vehicles. But here in Australia, we inhibit their introduction by levying extra charges on them. It simply beggars belief at this early stage of electric vehicle introduction.”

Mr Weber’s points take aim at the short-sighted attitude of the Australian states that appear to prefer revenue over doing something that reduces exhaust emissions and going some way to reduce the effects of climate change. “With its proposal to tax LZEVs through a road-user charging tariff, South Australia is discouraging the uptake of environmentally friendly motoring and is turning its back on the topic of Climate Change.”

The argument for the taxes comes from those that see that by using no petrol or diesel, which have excises attached, by using the same roads without those excise contributions, EVs are effectively getting a free ride. This overlooks the charges by electricity suppliers to any location providing an outlet for an EV to be charged, however then it’s pointed out those EV charges don’t go back into the roads.

This is something the Australian Automobile Association has in mind when it comes to a fairer apportioning of charges: “As people move towards electric vehicles and other low emission technologies, revenue from fuel excise is declining, which not only risks road funding, but also means some drivers are paying for roads while others are not, which is neither a fair nor a sustainable model. A nationally consistent approach will be important to drivers, who won’t want a patchwork of unique state charging systems, technologies, or rates.”

Regardless of which, it would appear to be a prudent move by the governments to look at what the A.C.T. is doing: Zero stamp duty on new zero emissions vehicles; 20% discount on registration fees; Annual savings from reduced running costs; Help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep our environment clean and healthy; Quieter driving and reduced noise pollution.

And perhaps: In 2017 the United Kingdom and France announced their intention to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, with all cars to be fully electric. Since this time, other countries have also committed to phasing out new petrol and diesel car sales including Scotland, India, China, Norway and the Netherlands.

Then there is the announcement in mid November, 2020, by General Motors, here.

As Bob Dylan once sang: the times, they are a-changing…but it seems some governments are stuck in time.