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Fueling your Car

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.

Raw Materials and Sustainability in an Automotive World

Car interiors are looking very stylish with many colours available, many textures and, of course, technologies.  Even the exterior and structure of new cars utilise some pretty sensational materials that are lightweight, strong and malleable.  So what are the main raw materials that make up the structure, style and flair that we love in our vehicles?

Inside each new car are different materials that require a number of raw materials for their production.  Aluminium, glass, coking coal, and iron ore are used in the process of making steel.  Kia and Mazda use very high-grade, high-strength steel in the production of their cars.  Mazda even states that they use very thin and strong steel.  There is a cost, though; the more high-grade, lightweight and high-strength the steel, the costlier it is to produce.  High-strength steel alloys cost more to manufacture.  Not only is the high-grade alloy harder to create in its raw form; it is also harder to work with.  Stamping it and forming it becomes harder, and so more energy and stronger tools are needed to press, form and cut it.

The automotive industry also relies on oil and petroleum products, not just for the gasoline and fuel to power the vehicles, but for the synthesis of plastics and in the production of other synthetic materials.  Petroleum products are needed to make huge amounts of plastics, rubber and special fibres.  After the raw materials are extracted from the earth, they are transformed into products that automakers or auto parts companies use in the car assembly process.

But wait; there is more – but only if you are into driving an electric vehicle (EV).  An EV is made up of all the raw materials described above, as the only thing that’s different about an EV from a vehicle that is powered by a combustion engine is that an EV uses a battery pack to get its power.  In every EV battery, there’s a complex chemistry of metals – cobalt, lithium, nickel and more.  These are all raw materials that need to be mined from somewhere around the globe.  Some researchers are expecting to see double-digit growth for batteries’ special raw materials over the next decade, and this sort of growth will increase the pressure on the raw material supply chain for EVs.

Hydrogen vehicles are powered by hydrogen.  The power plants of such vehicles convert the chemical energy of hydrogen into mechanical energy by either burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, or by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to power electric motors.  The fuel cell is more common.  A hydrogen powered vehicle is made up of the same core raw materials as the contemporary combustion powered cars and the EVs; however, like the EV, the hydrogen vehicle gets it power from a different source (hydrogen).  As of 2019, 98% of the hydrogen was produced by steam methane reforming, and this emits carbon dioxide.  Hydrogen can be produced by thermochemical or pyrolytic means using renewable feedstocks, but the processes are currently expensive.  So, you can run a hydrogen vehicle with an internal combustion engine that uses hydrogen as the fuel.  However, you can also run a hydrogen vehicle that uses a hydrogen fuel cell.  The hydrogen fuel cell is more complex, relying on special raw materials (one raw material being platinum as a catalyst) to deliver the hydrogen for powering the vehicle.

Biofuel is another fuel which can be used for powering combustion engine vehicles.  Biofuel can be produced sustainably from renewable resources.  The hitch with this one is ensuring there are large enough areas and methods dedicated to growing and producing biofuel for the masses.  Biofuel is considered to be a fuel that is derived from biomass, which can be from plant or algae material or animal waste. Since such plant, algae or animal waste material can be replenished readily, biofuel is considered to be a source of renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas and even EVs.

Without a doubt, the automobile industry is one of the largest consumers of the world’s raw materials, and it’s important we get informed as to just how green a heralded new technology is said to be.  Science and sustainability need to continue to power our much needed vehicles about the globe and not fossil fuel giants, electric companies or blinded government bureaucrats.

Tesla Hikes Charging Rates at its Supercharger Stations

While it’s meant to be a frontrunner for the rush to electric vehicle adoption, Tesla has made a decision that has raised the eyebrows of industry onlookers, increasing the cost of its charging rates at Supercharger sites.

The move is understood to have been implemented silently over the last few weeks, despite the absence of any official confirmation from the auto-maker. The increase in price is equivalent to a near 25% jump, with the charge per kW increasing from $0.42 per kW to $0.52 per kW.

 

How will owners be impacted?

Australian Tesla owners have had little say in the matter, with no heads up given before the price increase. Of course, it would likely be out of owners hands even if they were advised, since the company’s 35 Supercharger sites across the nation have been an integral part of the broader infrastructure network being rolled out to support electric vehicle uptake. That network is set to expand by a further 7 soon enough, with additional sites currently being built.

To better understand the cost impact, one estimate provided by Caradvice focused on the Model 3 Long Range. Their estimates suggested that charging the Model 3 Long Range from an empty battery to a full battery would now cost approximately $43.30, a notable increase from the former price of around $35. That might still be some part cheaper than most if not all ICE vehicles, however, let’s not forget that some technology companies – which Tesla certainly is as much as an auto-maker – are price makers.

 

 

We certainly hope the manufacturer doesn’t plan to push through any further price hikes in the near-term, because we might start to see questions being asked as to the value motorists are getting. It’s one thing for the latest electric vehicles to be equipped with long range capacity, however, having to paying more for the ‘luxury’ to charge them at Tesla’s sites may be a contentious move, even if the car company has recently taken an axe to the retail price of its cars.

Nonetheless, as far as driver uptake goes, shifting numbers around to pay less up-front and then pay more while in use could gain traction – provided motorists are actually aware of what they’re signing up for. That’s the missing thing here, however, greater transparency. And Tesla will need to remember they might enjoy an early-mover advantage right now, but will it last if you alienate your customers through non-communicated price hikes?

BMW Updates And Hyundai Hydrogen Power.

BMW continue to roll out new or updated models at an astonishing rate in 2020. For the brand’s M Pure range, there will be another two models being added. Dubbed M135i xDrive Pure and M235i xDrive Pure, they’ll come with an extensive range of standard equipment and sharp pricing. The M135i xDrive Pure is priced at $63,990 and the M235i xDrive Pure at $67,990. This is a $5K savings in comparison to related models.

Power for both comes from BMW’s TwinPower Turbo four. 225kW and 450Nm spin an eight speed auto Sport Steptronic transmission that send grip to all four paws via the xDrive system with an LSD on the front axle. Steering column paddle shifts are standard. External style cues comes from the sharing of styling packages, wheels, and tyres.

BMW lists the M135i xDrive Pure with M Sport steering, 19 inch alloys in M spec Cerium Grey that wrap M Sport Brakes and blue calipers. Inside there is a BMW specification Head Up Display and the bespoke Driving Assistant package. There is Lane Departure Warning, Lane Change Warning, Approach Control Warning with city-braking intervention, Rear Cross Traffic Warning, Rear Collision Prevention and Speed Limit Info. There is also their Comfort Access System that features Electric Seat Adjustment, driver’s side seat memory function with the seats in Trigon black and Alcantara, and dual zone climate control. On top of that is the M135i xDrive which adds a panoramic glass roof, adaptive LED front lights and “Dakota leather upholstery, plus a thumping Harman Kardo audio system. The value here is over $6K. The same packages apply to the M235i xDrive Pure and M235i xDrive.

The stable now consists of M135i xDrive Pure and M235i xDrive Pure, the M340i xDrive Pure M550i xDrive Pure, before migrating to X2 M35i Pure, X5 M50i Pure, and X6 M50i Pure.

The two new additions will be available in the coming months.

Hydrogen is being touted by Hyundai as the next thing in vehicle power sources and the Korean company has moved swiftyly into areas outside of passenger vehicles. In a global first, Hyundai have sent to Switzerland 10 units of their hydrogen powered machine called XCIENT. This commences a roll-out which will comprise 50 units to start with. A goal of 1,600 trucks are expected to be released by 2025. Due to the tax structures in Switzerland, Hyundai chose the country with one levy, the LSVA road tax on commercial vehicles which does not apply for zero-emission trucks, as a main consideration. That nearly equalises the hauling costs per kilometre of the fuel cell truck compared to a regular diesel truck. And thanks to the green energy costs from hydropower, it counts towards the eco performance of the country.The power system has a pair of 95kW hydrogen fuel cells. Just on 32 kilos of the fluid form are stored across seven super-strong storage tanks. Hyundai specifically developed the system for the truck with the current and expected infrastructure in Switzerland, and have engineered in a range of 400 kilometres. Refuel time minimises downtime with anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes. Hyundai says that this should work in with obtaining “the optimal balance between the specific requirements” of the customer base and that refuel infrastructure. In Cheol Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Vehicle Division at Hyundai Motor, opines: “XCIENT Fuel Cell is a present-day reality, not as a mere future drawing board project. By putting this groundbreaking vehicle on the road now, Hyundai marks a significant milestone in the history of commercial vehicles and the development of hydrogen society.”

A key attraction of the hydrogen technology is how well, like diesel, that hydrogen is admirably suited to long distance driving and the quick turn-around times required in heavy haulage. Engineering can also build engines, such as they have here, to deal with expected terrain such as the road system in a mountainous country. To that end, Hyundai is developing a unit for a tractor with a mooted range of 1,000 kilometres with markets such as the United States and Europe in mind.

The origination of the program goes back to 2019 with a joint venture named Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility, a partnership between H2 Energy in Switzerland and Hyundai. The basis for the trucks being operated will work around a lease agreement with commercial operators and on a pay-per-use agreement. This helps budget requirements as there is no immediate up-front costs.

Depending on the results, with expected high success levels, the program may be expanded to other European countries.

What Did People Use Petroleum For Before The Internal Combustion Engine?

Vintage advertisement for benzine-based stain remover.

Petroleum is currently the backbone of the motoring industry, despite the push for alternate fuel sources such as biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, etc.  Ever since Karl Benz first invented the internal combustion engine and fitted it to the horseless carriage, vehicles have run on petroleum of some type – apart from a brief period where Diesel engines ran on vegetable oil.

On Bertha Benz’s legendary first long-distance drive in her husband’s new invention, she ran out of fuel and had to stop and pick up more from the nearest pharmacy.  It’s easy to just take in that sentence and think what a funny place a pharmacy is to pick up petrol until you stop and think about it: why was a chemist’s shop selling petrol?  What on earth were people using it for before we had cars to put it in?

Petroleum has certainly been known for at least four millennia. The name comes from Ancient Greek: petra elaion, meaning “rock oil”, which distinguished it from other sorts of oil such as olive oil, sunflower seed oil and the like.  The stuff was coming out of the ground all around the world, and quite a few ancient societies found a use for it.

The most useful form of petroleum back in the days BC (as in Before Cars as well as Before Christ) was bitumen, the sticky variety that we now use for making asphalt for road surfacing.  Bitumen (also called pitch or tar) didn’t just stick to things; it was also waterproof. As it was a nice waterproof adhesive, it came in handy for all sorts of things, from sticking barbed heads onto harpoons through to use as mortar – the famously tough walls of the ancient city of Babylon (modern-day Iraq, 2which is still oil-rich) used bitumen as mortar.  The Egyptians sometimes used it in the process of mummification, using it as a waterproofing agent.  In fact, the word “mummy” is thought to derive from the Persian word for bitumen or petroleum, making mummies the very first petrolheads.

For the next thousand years, petroleum in the form of bitumen was mostly used for waterproofing ships, to the extent that sailors became known as “tars” because they tended to get covered with the stuff.  In the 1800s, it was used to make road surface – before there were cars to run on them.

It was probably the Chinese who first had the idea of using petroleum as fuel.  “Burning water” was used in the form of natural gas for lighting and heating in homes, and in about 340 AD, they had a rather sophisticated oil well drilling and piping system in place.

The bright idea of refining bitumen to something less sticky and messy first occurred in the Middle East (why are we not surprised?) at some point during the Middle Ages.  A Persian alchemist and doctor called Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (aka Rhazes) wrote a description of how to distil rock oil using the same equipment the alchemists used for distilling essential oils.  The end result was what we know today as kerosene, and it was a lot more flammable.  Kerosene was used for lamps and in heaters, especially as it was a lot cleaner than coal.  It was also used in military applications.  Naphtha (one of the other early names for petroleum products) was possibly one of the mystery ingredients in Greek fire.

Kerosene and the like really took off during the Age of Coal and the Industrial Revolution, as they were by-products of the coke-refining industry.  About this time, scientists started tinkering around with various ways to refine crude oil into products like paraffin and benzene and benzine.  Benzene and benzine are not named after Karl and Bertha Benz the way that diesel fuel is named after Rudolf Diesel.  These words are actually derived from “benzoin” and benzene was given its official name by yet another German scientist in the early 1800s.  The similarity between the surname Benz and the name of the petrol product is pure coincidence – really!

The petrol product (ligroin) that Bertha Benz picked up at the pharmacy was probably sold as a solvent, like the ad in the picture up the top. This was one of the most common household uses of bottled refined petroleum.  Petrol is still very good as a solvent and can bust grease like few other things, so it was popular as a stain remover and a laundry product.  It might have ponged a bit and you had to be careful with matches, but it was nice and handy, and meant you could get that candle-grease off your suit without putting the whole thing through the wash.  Other uses for benzene that sound downright bizarre to us today included getting the caffeine out of coffee to make decaf and aftershave.  REALLY don’t try this one at home, even if you love the smell of petrol, as we now know that petrol products are carcinogenic and you should keep them well away from your skin, etc.

It was the widespread use of petroleum-based products such as paraffin in the 1800s that made the demand for whale oil drop dramatically.  This happened just in time to stop whales being hunted to extinction.  Using petrol was the green thing to do and helped to Save The Whales.  Now that whales have been saved and are thriving, cutting down on the use of fossil fuels is the main focus of a lot of environmental groups.  Irony just doesn’t seem to cover it. http://credit-n.ru/about.html