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Humour

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!

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…

 

How To Identify A Boy Racer Car

We might loudly proclaim that we hate them and that they’re annoying, but deep down inside any serious motorist, very well hidden indeed, is a wee bit of a boy racer. Just a little bit of one.  Otherwise, why would we be so drawn to high-performance vehicles with motors that roar and purr?

All the same, few of us over the age of 35 would really admit to being a boy racer, especially if we happen to be girls. We keep that part of us well hidden and only let it out in small doses occasionally.  We drive sensible family vehicles.  If we do get to the point where the budget allows us to plonk down our hard-earned cash on a high-performance vehicle, we prefer something that combines true performance with understated style. Others of us, of course, simply own the whole boy racer image and want a proper boy racer car that looks the part. Or, more precisely, the sort of vehicle that a boy racer car aims to imitate.

The true boy racer car isn’t quite the same as a high-performance machine. To really qualify as a boy racer car, one has to take a fairly sporty number that doesn’t cost the earth (Nissan Skylines and Subaru Imprezas used to be fairly popular but there are others) and then modify it like crazy. Not just any modifications, either. If you tinker with and tune the engine to boost its performance, what you can end up with is a “sleeper” – a vehicle that might look ordinary but isn’t. Boy racer modifications are all about attention-grabbing looks… and sounds. It’s about making heads turn, especially the heads of younger drivers. It’s the motoring equivalent of pouring on half a bottle of aftershave in an attempt to impress the ladies (note: we’re not going to be that impressed).

These vehicles are referred to in the US as “ricer cars”, which is a gender-neutral term. However, I have a suspicion that this may be a slight racial slur, as I have no idea what these cars have to do with rice, apart from the fact that the cars that usually get these modifications tend to be of Japanese origin, though not always. I’ve seen pictures of some BMWs, Fords and Holdens pimped up like crazy. So “boy racer car” is what I’m going to have to call them – I mention the term only so you can have fun Googling bad examples.

To be a true boy racer car, at least three of the following modifications ought to be present:

  • Dramatically lowered suspension. This seems to be the only actual mechanical fine-tuning done to a boy racer car, as the aim is to improve the handling and make the ride a bit stiffer just like a real sports car. The rule seems to be that the lower it is, the cooler it is. Just don’t take it so low that you can’t clear the kerb or speed bump.
  • After-market spoilers. If done well, a good after-market spoiler will give extra grip and improve the on-road performance. It’s a matter of aerodynamics. However, the stereotypical boy racer hasn’t quite got it into his (it’s usually his, rather than her) head that it’s not how big it is but how it’s applied that counts. What you’ll end up seeing on a boy racer car is a massive spoiler. Sigmund Freud wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised…
  • Other body kit. If you can’t actually lower the suspension, make the car look lower by adding side and front skirts.
  • Fancy paint jobs. Go-faster racing stripes and decals are just the start. The idea is to look something like a professional racing car but without actually having any sponsors. There seem to be two main schools of thought in the paint jobs of boy racer cars. One goes for the racing car look, with longitudinal stripes and chequered flags. The other type goes for bright custom colours, often neon green, purple, hot pink and similar gaudy shades.
  • Aftermarket alloys. OK, this one isn’t unique to boy racer cars and it is possible to put on alloys that look tasteful and add a bit of personality. However, if the alloy wheel is enormous and/or brightly coloured, it’s definitely getting into boy racer territory.
  • Tinted windows. Not just subtle tinted windows or tinting that comes from the factory so that you aren’t dazzled with glare on a bright sunny day. We’re talking about stick-on tinting from your local automotive supplies shop so dark that you can barely see who’s in the car.
  • Bonnet blowers. While these have a serious purpose if the vehicle in question has been given an engine upgrade and needs to be cooled more efficiently, in a true boy racer car, it’s for looks. Again, the mentality seems to be that the bigger the better. Never mind that something that big is going to interfere with the aerodynamics.
  • Loud exhausts. Nothing says “performance” like an exhaust that roars and screams like an animal. This feature is found on classier vehicles as well. Jaguar designers, for example, are known to carefully tune the note of the exhaust so that it evokes the perfect visceral response. Boy racer cars, however, don’t have quite the same type of finesse and just go for decibels.
  • Even louder stereos. If they can’t go fast enough around town to bring the noise of the exhaust into play, then the stereo is the way to catch people’s attention from at least a block away or two. The stereos have enough bass to make the ground shake and the vehicle vibrate visibly to the point where onlookers wonder if it will make the ridiculously big spoiler held on with superglue fall off.

If you think I’ve missed any of the key characteristics, then add your suggestions in the comments below!