As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Manufacturer News

New Cars and Software Updates

How would you react if you had to pay for the apps that appear on the touchscreen of your new car?  Various auto manufacturers are looking at new ways to charge owners money for features that were previously sold as an option for the car when you bought it new.  One idea that has shown up in their brainstorming sessions was to charge car owners subscription fees for features like Apple CarPlay and its phone-pairing connectivity – as BMW is already doing.  Of course, this has been a feature that has been included for free on many mainstream cars.

Perhaps not so surprising to many would be the results that Cox Automotive collected, which were collected from a survey that asked a relatively small group of a little over 200 people about their thoughts and attitudes towards having to pay over and over again for features that used to be included at the point of sale.  Around 75% of the survey respondents would refuse to pay for features on an ongoing basis.

When asked about having to pay for any safety features on an ongoing basis, the survey showed that around 80% would not want to pay for these safety items again and again.  However, if forced to, these same respondents would be prepared to pay up to $35 per month.  I’m not sure whether the people surveyed were by enlarge high-flyers or a decent cross-section of society that included your average wage earner.  This cost per month was the highest level that these respondents would be prepared to pay for them if they were forced to.

A full 92% of respondents said that the physical items like heated and cooled seats, massage functions, or a refrigerated drinks box should be purchased as a one-off-at-the-point-of-sale option, just like anyone does now when they buy a new car with extra options.

A new car these days is full of computerised technology, so any software updates or subscription fees for software enhancements, EV power upgrades, satellite or vehicle locator enhancements need to be paid for somewhere along the line.  The funny thing is that, even as with a standard Office update on a desktop, the real-life software updates rarely have any significant practical benefits in real-life usage for the user.  Sometimes a new desktop Office update can even complicate things with the user having to relearn the fifth new visual format and appearance update in two years – I know, I was probably exaggerating.

I guess I would be prepared to pay for a driving range enhancement or a better battery capacity after purchasing a new EV, though I guess this could be a bargaining carrot for keeping a customer longer and loyal to a brand, or even enticing them to buy a certain car in the first place.

Interestingly, around 50% of the survey respondents weren’t even aware that subscription fees for car features were a prerequisite.  Rising costs that grow quicker than someone’s usable income is never a welcome scenario, so these sorts of surveys and results will hopefully provide auto manufacturers with the necessary feedback from their customers, and on the customers’ tolerance for any new additional fees in general.

Reasonably Priced Hybrid Vehicles (MG to Z)

In-between stages can sometimes get tricky.  The next set of sit-ups before truly hitting your peak fitness regime.  That gap year before study, or the six months prior to the new job contract starting.  What about the EV world?  We’re not capable of running a full fleet of EV cars yet, but maybe there’s an in-between vehicle that ticks all the right boxes before we go fully electric.

The truth is that the new hybrid vehicles are the best cars for this moment in time.  They deliver the very best low fuel consumption figures and will also try to run pure electric as much of the time as is practical or possible.

Hybrids are great vehicles, usually well-priced, thus perfect for softening the blow to the wallet – there are some hideously expensive EVs available.  Most desirable new EVs have price tags that, for most of us, will be well beyond our budget.  So what hybrid vehicles are on the market for reasonable money?  How much will they set you back when you buy new?  And what sort of fuel consumption can you expect?  Let’s have a look and see (MG to Toyota)…

MG HS Plus EV SUV

Yes, a new and very fuel efficient Hybrid for less than $50k is possible, thanks to the snazzy MG HS Plus EV SUV.  Nice to drive, comfortable, and with roomy interiors, loaded with technology, and five-star safe, these are a great hybrid buy.  The MG HS Essence-spec plug-in hybrid joined the range in 2021 and uses a 119 kW/250 Nm 1.5-litre Turbo four driving the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.  It boasts a strong presence among class leaders that include the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan X-Trail.  It comes with 5-star safety technology that includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian avoidance and satellite navigation as standard.  MG says it takes about 7 seconds for the 0-100 dash, while returning a fuel efficiency that can be as low as 1.7 litres/100 km or more commonly up to 5.7 litres/100 km.

MINI Countryman Cooper SE Classic SUV

The Countryman Cooper SE Classic is a cute three-cylinder plug-in hybrid with electrically-assisted AWD.  BMW indicates a combined cycle as low as 2.4 litres/100 km but may look more like 4.5 litres/100 km for most of the time.  Combining a 1.5-litre Turbo 3-cylinder ULP petrol (100 kW/220 Nm) and a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion plug-in battery, this combined system equates to an output of 165 kW of power and 385 Nm of torque.  The small MINI sees off the 0-100kmh sprint in 6.8 seconds and is a lot of fun to drive.  The MINI Countryman’s roomy interior is backed up by 450 litres of luggage space behind the back seats, growing to 1275 litres if the seats are folded down.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV ES

From around $51k you can get one of these new.  The 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV ES is a very stylish small SUV with very low running costs.  Aspire and Exceed models are also available.  Comfortable and loaded with tech and safety, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV makes a lot of sense.  Even the top of the range Exceed with all of the bells and whistles can be bought for under $60k.  Mitsubishi indicates as low as 1.9 litres/100 km is possible, though real world figure of 3.7–4.0 litres/ 100 km is still impressively low in the real world.  Boot space is around 350 litres, and 0-100 km/h takes about 10.5 seconds.

Peugeot 3008 GT Sport Plug-in Hybrid AWD SUV

For less than $90k you can have one of these very stylish hybrids.  Boasting a 1.6-litre Turbo ULP engine and electric power that combines to a maximum of 222 kW, this sporty SUV uses an 8-speed automatic.  Thanks to twin electric motors driven by a 13.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Peugeot 3008 PHEV enables zero-emissions driving for up to 60km.  Its 222 kW power output and a 6.5-second 0-100 km/h acceleration time makes this one of the fastest SUVs in its class.  It is also 4×4 capable, making it a highly desirable vehicle for undertaking light off-road terrain.  Gorgeous full-grain Nappa leather-appointed seats with grey stitching, nicely-integrated twin digital screens (a 10.0-inch central touch-screen with satellite navigation and a 12.3-inch driver display), real world fuel efficiency likely be around 5–5.5 litres/100 km (but much less than this is possible), and you have yourself quite a vehicle.  Peugeot reckons the 3008 PHEV can achieve a combined fuel consumption figure of 1.6 litres/100 km with CO2 emissions of 36.4g/km.  Boot space is 395 litres.

Peugeot 508 GT Plug-in Hybrid

From around $84k one of these extremely stylish cars can be yours.  Its petrol-electric hybrid powertrain allows the svelte sedan to drive up to 55 km (WLTP) in silence, by switching off the combustion engine and using only its electric motor.  It’s hard not to be impressed with the car’s looks and style.  Inside, the leather seats, the dashboard design, the sporty cockpit layout, and the sheer attention to detail is very impressive.  A 12.3-inch iCockpit digital driver’s display, a 10.0-inch central touch-screen, a 10-speaker sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, five-star safety, it’s all there!  0-100 km/h takes around 8.2 seconds, while the Plug-in Hybrid system uses a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine developing 133 kW at 6000 rpm and 300 Nm at 3000 rpm to get the job done.  The official combined-cycle fuel consumption figure is 1.8 litres/ 100 km, but to achieve that would require frequent charging – something that’s not always possible in the real world.  Expect around 5.0 to 6.5 litres/100 km combined.  Boot space is 487 litres.

Subaru Forester Hybrid

Subaru XV Hybrid

The fifth generation of Subaru’s mid-size, all-AWD Forester SUV was updated in late 2021 with a new look, plus refinements to steering and suspension and a revised instrument panel.  The smaller XV Hatch also uses similar tech.  Expect around 6-7 litres/100 km for the 2.0-litre boxer-based mild hybrid powerplants.  Off-road is no problems at all for the Forester or XV and safety is off the top shelf.  All Foresters and XV Hybrids get active cruise control, blind-spot monitors, lane-change assist, “active” LED headlights and rear cross traffic alert. The Forester offers truly generous passenger space and luggage capacity (422 litres expanding to 1768 litres with rear seats folded).  The XV has 340 litres behind the rear seats.  Both are nice to drive adventure seekers.

Toyota Hybrids

Almost every model on the Toyota showroom floor can be a hybrid.  There are so many that I’ll list them all here in picture form.

Toyota C-HR Hybrid SUV from $42k.

 

 

 

 

 

Toyota Camry Hybrid Sedan between $38-52k.

Toyota Corolla Hatch and Sedan between $32-40k.

 

Toyota Kluger SUV between $60-83k.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

 

 

Toyota Prius between $43-51k.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid

These are truly excellent hybrid vehicles, and, if you don’t know where to start, Toyota is a great place.  Reliability, practicality, some of the best hybrid economy figures (usually very achievable: 3.5 to 5.5 litres/100 km), and excellent 5-star safety are all reasons why Toyota Hybrids are so good.  They are also very competitively priced right across the board from the little Yaris Hatch to the larger Camry Sedan or Kluger SUV.  Get ready to be impressed.

Be an in-betweener and gain some of the Hybrid benefits.

Reasonably Priced Hybrid Vehicles (Kia-Merc)

In-between stages can sometimes get tricky.  The next set of sit-ups before truly hitting your peak fitness regime.  That gap year before study, or the six months prior to the new job contract starting.  What about the EV world?  We’re not capable of running a full fleet of EV cars yet, but maybe there’s an in-between vehicle that ticks all the right boxes before we go fully electric.

The truth is that the new hybrid vehicles are the best cars for this moment in time.  They deliver the very best low fuel consumption figures and will also try to run pure electric as much of the time as is practical or possible.

Hybrids are great vehicles, usually well-priced, thus perfect for softening the blow to the wallet – there are some hideously expensive EVs available.  Most desirable new EVs have price tags that, for most of us, will be well beyond our budget.  So what hybrid vehicles are on the market for reasonable money?  How much will they set you back when you buy new?  And what sort of fuel consumption can you expect?  Let’s have a look and see (Kia-Merc)…

 

Kia Niro Hybrid S

The Kia Niro comes in regular hybrid, plug-in PHEV hybrid, and also pure electric (EV) form. Hybrid variants of this small SUV use a 77 kW/147 Nm 1.6-litre ULP engine that is mated to a 44.5 kW electric motor.  The PHEV version can run in EV mode for around 58 km, while the pure EV model has a 150 kW/395 Nm motor and a 455 km WLTP (World harmonised Light vehicle Testing Procedure) range.  All variants are available in regular or Sport form – the Sport model adding more technology and luxury such as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, climate control and part-leather seat trim, as well as extra safety in the form of blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors and rear cross traffic alert.  Drive away in one of these from around $45k.  Boot space is 382 litres for the regular hybrid, while the PHEV drops to 324 litres.

Kia Sorento HEV GT-Line and PHEV GT-Line

Drive away from in a HEV Sorento for around $73k or a PHEV Sorento for around $88k.  Being a spacious SUV, the Sorento is a very practical companion for the family.  The HEV model runs with a 1.6 litre Turbo engine and an electric motor that puts out a healthy combine output of 169kW.  The 6-speed auto is smooth and well-mapped.  Expect a combined fuel consumption of around 5.5 litres/100 km.  In PHEV form, the Sorento has 195 kW, Kia indicating a combined fuel consumption of 1.6 litres/100 km is possible, though it will likely be more than this in a real world commute.  The 7-seat Kia Sorento SUV won the 2021 car sales Best Family SUV award. Festooned with sensors, cameras and digital screens, it can even park itself without anyone inside.  Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance are all standard. The roomy cabin is enhanced by a boot that has over 600 litres, and when all-seats are folded, a whopping 2000 litres is possible.

Lexus ES 300h

One of the most luxurious hybrid sedans you can buy – let alone hybrid vehicles on the market – for under $70k new for the Luxury version or $90k new for the Sports Luxury version, this stylish car can be yours.  Toyota indicate that a combined city/highway run can be as low as 4.8 litres/100 km.  A combined 160 kW of power and five-star safety, what more could you want?  Boot space is 454 litres, and the 0-100 km/h takes around 8.5 seconds.

Lexus UX 250h SUV

The company’s first EV, the UX 300e has a 150 kW/300 Nm FWD electric powertrain and a 54.3 kW/h battery pack, the Lexus UX 300e claims a 360 km range.  But it is the Lexus UX 250h SUV Hybrid with the 2.0-litre 131 kW ULP regular hybrid engine that we’re particularly interested in here, which is available in Luxury, Crafted Edition, Sports Luxury and F Sport guise.  The Luxury Lexus UX 250h version can be had for well under $60k, a very reasonably-priced luxury machine all things considered.  These are five-star safe, FWD, extremely reliable, and very comfortable to drive.  Toyota indicate around 4.5 litres/100 km for a combined highway/city cycle for hybrid versions.  Boot space is 438 litres.

Mercedes Benz A250e Sedan and Hatch

Immensely low running costs can be had for this plug-in hybrid.  If everything suits the PHEV commute, then Mercedes Benz indicates you could see as low as 1.6 litres/100 km on a combined cycle.  Luxurious, safe, and fun to drive, these can be had for under $80k.  A 1.3-litre Turbo ULP engine with a plug-in hybrid combo that produces 160 kW max through its smooth 8-speed automatic FWD system.  The 2022 A-Class A250e runs the 0-100 km/h dash in less than 7 seconds, providing well for passengers and their luggage, driving with the poise and comfort that are hallmarks of the brand.  Safety, quality, comfort, and premium equipment levels are all up to expected Mercedes Benz standards.  Boot space is 315 litres for the Sedan and 310 litres for the Hatch.

Be an in-betweener and gain some of the benefits.

Reasonably Priced Hybrid Vehicles (A-H)

In-between stages can sometimes get tricky.  The next set of sit-ups before truly hitting your peak fitness regime.  That gap year before study, or the six months prior to the new job contract starting.  What about the EV world?  We’re not capable of running a full fleet of EV cars yet, but maybe there’s an in-between vehicle that ticks all the right boxes before we go fully electric.

The truth is that the new hybrid vehicles are the best cars for this moment in time.  They deliver the very best low fuel consumption figures and will also try to run pure electric as much of the time as is practical or possible.

Hybrids are great vehicles, usually well-priced, thus perfect for softening the blow to the wallet – there are some hideously expensive EVs available.  Most desirable new EVs have price tags that, for most of us, will be well beyond our budget.  So what hybrid vehicles are on the market for reasonable money?  How much will they set you back when you buy new?  And what sort of fuel consumption can you expect?  Let’s have a look and see…

 

BMW 330e Sedan Hybrid Sedan

Drive away from around $85k in your new BMW 330e Hybrid sedan, where a claimed combined fuel consumption of around 5.6 litres/100 km combined with 215 kW provides plenty of spirited driving (0-100 km/h in around 6 seconds).  Comfort, safety and all the new technology is on-board this neat 3 Series Hybrid Sedan package.  375 litres of boot space is present.

Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid Sedan

Drive away in a new Honda Accord Hybrid for around $61k, and you get a wonderful 2.0-litre petrol and electronic combo that serves up 158 kW of power running through a 1-speed CVT FWD set-up.  This is a very comfortable car with plenty of space in the cabin, and you get all the latest technology and safety.  It is fun to drive, with the 0-100 km/h sprint taking around 8 seconds.  Honda indicates that you can expect around 5.0 litres/100 km for a combined fuel consumption figure.  473 litres of boot space is present.

Honda HR-V e:HEV L

Wanting a new small SUV with Hybrid technology?  Then Honda’s little HR-V is a beauty.  Drive away in a new Honda HR-V e from around $45k, and it will boast a smooth 1.5-litre petrol and electronic combo that serves up 96 kW of power running through a 1-speed CVT FWD set-up.  Honda suggests we can expect a combined fuel consumption of around 4.3 litres/100 km.  319 litres of boot space is present.

Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid Premium Fastback

Drive away from around $46k.  With its neat little Fastback design, the 1.6-litre ULP engine combines with a small electric motor to put out a sprightly 104 kW of power.  This Hybrid set-up runs a more conventional 6-speed automatic FWD, and it is a smooth, comfortable vehicle to drive.  Undercutting competitors such as the Toyota Prius and Renault Zoe, Hyundai’s IONIQ comes with plenty of premium features like autonomous emergency braking, an 8-year battery warranty and an attractive capped-price servicing deal.  The regular hybrid version is quoted at having a fuel consumption figure as low as 3.4 litres/100 km, while the plug-in version was quoted at an astonishing 1.1 litres/100 km.  Real world figures will be a bit more, I’m sure, but.  Boot space is 443 litres.

Be an in-betweener and gain some of the benefits.  Take a look at the next blog list of Hybrid vehicles available (Kia-Merc).

Solid-State Batteries for EVs

The flourish of new electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids on the auto markets hint towards the diminishing of fossil fuel use.  EV sales have a long, long way to go before outselling vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs), but the goals have been set by international emission standard agreements.  Certainly, doing away with EV range anxiety, the liquid lithium-ion batteries proneness to catching fire, having EVs with brief recharging times that are in line with current ICE refuelling times, and have pricing parity between a new EV and an equivalent new ICE vehicle would make a world of difference in the minds of people on the lookout for a new car.  Once these EV problems have been solved, perhaps consumers will genuinely buy into an all-EV future.

The good news for EV enthusiasts is that essentially every big automotive manufacturer in the world has unveiled its fleet’s electrification plans and zero-emission target dates. Some manufacturers have even gone further, declaring that gasoline and diesel engines would no longer be available in their model line-ups by 2050.  And, in order for these claims to become reality, some big landmark advancements in the EV future are being made right now, with huge money currently being pumped into various manufacturer’s kitties to research and create the perfect solid-state battery – especially designed for use in EVs.

One automotive manufacturer with a big sway in what goes down in the automotive world is Toyota, and they have pumped billions into creating a solid-state battery for use in their future hybrid vehicles and EVs.  A version of Toyota’s LQ Concept, which first debuted at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, is now using working solid-state batteries, and has been doing so since June 2020.  Toyota has been collecting all the performance data from the solid state batteries in the LQ for research, development, and better solid-state battery designs.  The LQ Concept car is unlikely to end up as a production vehicle, however the solid-state batteries inside the car, and their development, will be used as a blueprint in Toyota’s new hybrid vehicles and EVs soon to make an appearance on the market for buyers to purchase.

Toyota LQ Concept Solid-State

Toyota’s quick development of solid-state batteries for use in all their hybrid and electric vehicles by 2030 is a sign of the ramping up in EV production that is happening not only at Toyota but in all other big global automotive brands who are boosting investments in the anticipation of greater EV and hybrid vehicle consumerism.

What battery type does Tesla use?  Currently, Tesla has been using heavy liquid lithium-ion battery technology.  However solid-state batteries are really the next step in clever battery technology, especially for EVs.  Why?  Solid-state batteries offer much better energy density, which leads to smaller, lighter batteries for cars but with a vastly improved range before recharging is necessary.  Solid-state batteries will also be able to recharge from empty (flat) to 80 % in just 15 min – not anywhere between 2 to 10 hours that is currently the norm, if you can find a spare fast charger to park up at.

The good news for solid-state batteries doesn’t stop here either, because solid-state batteries are inherently safer due to the lack of flammable liquid electrolytes that you’ll find in liquid lithium-ion batteries.  You may have heard of various electronic devices bursting into flame?  Well, liquid lithium-ion batteries bursting into flame and causing fires in various EVs over the last couple of decades has been an issue.  This in itself has deterred many people away from buying into EVs altogether.

So, big dollars are being spent in the design of solid electrolyte batteries (solid-state batteries) that are stable, chemically inert, and still a good conductor of ions between the electrodes.  In essence solid-state batteries will be doing away with the slopping, flammable liquid lithium-ion electrolyte battery designs.

By default, solid-state batteries are more stable, but they are also more compact in design, and therefore lighter.  Solid state batteries thus pack more energy output into the same amount of storage space that heavier and lower-output liquid lithium-ion batteries require.  Because solid-state batteries are lighter, they have more energy density, offer more range, and deliver a better power to weight ratio, and they also recharge faster.

Solid-state batteries have been used in small electronic devices like pacemakers (an amazing bit of life-changing tech) as well as radio frequency identification (RFID), and wearable devices for years.  Having fewer bits and pieces involved in the solid-state battery design means fewer things are present to go wrong.  In addition to their improved safety, size, and stability, solid-state batteries in EVs would also offer faster charging times, more travel range, and even greater energy density.

Solid electrolytes in solid-state batteries can even be composed from a number of everyday materials – even ceramics and glass.  The challenge to making solid-state batteries viable, however, is developing the technology that is commonly used in small devices and applying it to large-scale applications like in an EV.  Currently, solid state batteries are expensive to fabricate because they have been prone to cracking, which has been a result of the brittleness of the electrolytes inside the battery expanding and contracting during continual use.  The new research and development is setting out to change this.

Toyota is cracking the problem and will be using their solid-state batteries in their new range of hybrid vehicles first, which is an ideal testing ground for their fully-kitted EVs soon.  Volkswagen is also promising that they will have solid-state batteries in use and in their cars by 2024.  Like Toyota and Volkswagen, BMW anticipates that solid-state batteries could make it into production cars by 2025.  Tech giants Samsung and Panasonic are working away at creating a range of solid state batteries that automakers will be able to use.  Toyota has partnered with Panasonic to pave the way to an EV future.

Cars with the Biggest Mileage

Irving Gordon in his 1966 Volvo 1800S.

There is such a thing as the “Million-Mile Club”, a club for owners of cars which have travelled the 1–million milestone.  It is a very distinguished club that boasts a special list of cars and some special owners who have clicked over the huge distances.  The details of the car plus its owner can be proudly enlisted for the world to see and admire.  What cars feature most in the highest of highest mileage cub?  Maybe not so surprising to some people, but a few of the older vehicles made by Volvo and Mercedes have made it onto this rather prestigious list.  There certainly was a time where Mercedes Benz and Volvo made some of the most bulletproof cars on the planet.

Maybe some of these big mileage cars should be regarded as being sustainably green.  How many times would other people have bought a new car in that time?

Now I have a sneaky suspicion that there could be an old Ford Falcon or a Commie that could make its way onto the big milage hall of fame.  I did see on a Ford Forum page that of the AU-BF Falcon models, there was an AU Falcon Taxi with 930,000 km, and 04 BA Falcon XT wagon Egas with 906,600 km, an AU Forte Duel Fuel with 850,000 km and a BA Falcon Egas with 566,000 km on it.  These are big numbers, but not quite 1 million miles!  Sorry Holden fans, I can’t find any with much over 300,000 km!

Here’s a quick list of some of the furthest travelled cars on the planet – highest first:

  1. Over 3,000,000 miles (Over 4,800,000 km) – the highest recorded thus far by Irving Gordon in his 1966 Volvo 1800S. He changed the oil every 3,000 – 3,500 miles and changed the transmission fluid every 25,000 miles. Sadly, Irving has recently passed away.

Irving Gordon in his 1966 Volvo 1800S.

2) Gregorios Sachinidis with his 1976 Mercedes 240D clocked 2,850,000 miles.  The car, predominantly a taxi, is now on display in Mercedes-Benz’s personal museum as the longest running vehicle in the brand’s history.

A Mercedes Benz 240D a bit like his.

3) 1979 Volvo 245 GL, a well maintained Finnish company vehicle covered 1,630,000 miles.

The Volvo 245 GL Estate

4) A 1963 Plymouth Fury takes out fourth place having reached 1,620,000 miles by 1999.  It was owned and driven by Joseph Vaillancourt, however it was totalled by another road user in a truck running a red light.  Thankfully Joseph was unhurt!

A Plymouth Fury

5) A 1983 Lincoln Town Car that was owned by Chet Belisle covered 1.3 million miles.  He drove because he loved driving it.

A Lincoln Town Car

6) A 1991 Chevrolet Silverado owned by Frank Oresnik put over 1.25 million miles on the odometer.

A 1991 Chevrolet Silverado

7) A 1993 Toyota Corolla in New Zealand has just recently clocked a huge 1.25 million miles (2,000,000 km) since new. The Whanganui Chronicle’s local newspaper delivery contractor, Graeme Hebley, bought the Corolla wagon from Japan in 2000 with 80,000 km on the odometer.  Since then, he has since driven approximately 5000 km every week between Wellington and New Plymouth for work.  The engine, transmission, bodywork, and drivetrain are entirely original, all thanks to a maintenance routine where the vehicle is serviced every second week.  It has had its cambelt changed close to 20 times in its life.

Graeme Hebley and his Toyota Corolla

8) A 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 Diesel owned by Hugh & Tammy Pennington has done well over the 1 million mile mark with no major maintenance.  Routine servicing was the key.

A 2006 Chevrolet Silverado

Lightyear One – a Solar Powered EV

Lightyear One – a Solar Powered EV

In a country like Australia where the sun shines brightly for most of the year a car like the Lightyear One might be just the thing for getting around in.  Sleek and comfortable, the Lightyear One is a solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) that has been designed and engineered in the Netherlands by Lightyear.

Having been recently tested in Italy, the Lightyear One completed 400 km on a single charge while driving at a constant speed of 130 km/h.  According to Lightyear One’s manufacturer, regular driving will easily result in a range of 725 km (WLTP).  If you’re like me and don’t know what WLTP means, then WLTP stands for Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Test Procedure.  This mouthful is a new standard to measure fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, and range.  The standard was introduced in 2017 and takes the measurements of test vehicles when driven in realistic driving situations to determine their fuel consumption, range, and emissions.

Lightyear One Interior

Because the Lightyear One is a solar-powered EV, its manufacturer also states that it would be possible to drive the car for months without needing to recharge.  In Australia, where the sun shines most days of the year, a car like the Lightyear One would be perfect for this scenario.  Take a good look at the car’s exterior and you’ll see the array of solar panels incorporated into the sleek exterior design.  All of the panels facing skyward are made of solar panels and are ready for harvesting energy from the sun to charge the 60 kWh battery.  5 m2 of solar panels cover the Lightyear One’s roof, bonnet and tail and are capable of harnessing up to 12 km of range every hour. That means during a sunny 8-hour workday, a parked up Lightyear One could harvest 96 km of driving range – more than enough for most people’s work commutes.  Even in cloudy conditions, its maker claims the Lightyear One that around 40 km of range can be harvested in that time.  Obviously, you can also plug the car in for a quick recharge if you ever needed to.

Jump in the Lightyear One and drive on a full charge, and the Lightyear One’s 60 kWh battery pack provides a claimed 725 km of range, making it one of the most energy efficient EVs on the market.  Efficiency of this standard is also achieved thanks to its construction consisting essentially of aluminium and carbon-fibre which gives it a weight of just 1315 kg.  Also the car’s drag coefficient of just 0.20cd is sensational.  As you can imagine, the aluminium and carbo-fibre underpinnings also drive the price of the car upward.

The Lightyear One is being manufactured in Finland, where its first deliveries will be made to Europe in mid-2022.  The car’s price is around the AUD $238,000 mark.  Just 946 of these cars will be built, however the company is already working on a more affordable solar-powered EV called the Lightyear Two which is expected to go on sale in 2024/25.  It will have a much more affordable price, maybe even as low as AUD $50,000.

Lightyear One Sedan

In the Lightyear One there are 4 electric motors on board, one for each wheel.  These provide the driving power.  Together, they produce a combined 101 kW of power and 1200 Nm of torque.  The car’s manufacturers say that the Lightyear One Sedan can seat 5 in comfort, and it has been designed especially for cruising and efficiency, and not for outright speed, thus claiming a 0-100 km/h sprint time of around 10 seconds.

I hope we see cars like this become available to people in Australia very soon.  It also begs the question: Couldn’t the Holden name resurrect itself by Holden designers and engineers making a similar type of car in Australia for primarily Australians?

Hydrogen V8 ICE

Exciting news for internal combustion engine (ICE) lovers: Toyota, Mazda, Subaru and Kawasaki are wanting to collaborate on the attempt to keep the combustion engine alive while meeting all the global clean air targets.  Not only that, but Toyota and long-time Japanese engineering partner Yamaha are at work developing a special new hydrogen-powered 5.0-litre V8 engine.  Unlike a hydrogen fuel-cell car, which combines hydrogen and oxygen atoms to create electricity to drive a motor, this new hydrogen V8 internal combustion engine is a conventional piston-driven engine that has been tuned to burn hydrogen instead of petrol.

While this newly developed V8 engine isn’t completely new, the way it’s fuelled is.  It’s a 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8 that is based off the engine that has been used in the Lexus RC F coupe.  Yamaha says that it produces around 335 kW of power at 6800 rpm and 540 Nm of torque at 3600 rpm.  Having modified the injectors, the head, the intake manifolds and other engine components, this work has added up to make the engine environmentally friendly.  The hydrogen-fed ICE has become less powerful than the petrol-fed V8 that the hydrogen engine is based on.  In the Lexus RC F coupe, the petrol V8 puts out 472 kW and 536 Nm of torque, so while torque has increased a little, power has dropped considerably.  That said, 331 kW is still a stonking amount of power to enjoy, and more often than not it is the torque that you really want in the real world conditions.  You also still get the sound of a burbling V8, and what’s not to like about that!

Yamaha engineer, Takeshi Yamada, said that the engine has a different character to a conventional petrol motor.  He stated that hydrogen engines provide a friendlier feel, making them easier to use even without having utilize other electronic aids for the drive.

Toyota is clearly committed to the project of providing ICE powerplants that use hydrogen as the fuel.  Given that Toyota has run a hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla in Japan’s Super Taikyu race series as well as showcasing a hydrogen-powered Toyota Yaris GR prototype with the same hydrogen engine technology, it is obvious that they want to continue with this new breed of ICE.

One of the beauties about burning hydrogen instead of petrol is that the hydrogen powerplant does not produce carbon dioxide, which is considered to be one of the primary contributors to global warming.  There would also be no significant nitrogen oxides emissions from an ICE designed to burn hydrogen, thanks to the selective catalytic reduction technology used in the aftertreatment of the combustion gases.

“Hydrogen engines house the potential to be carbon-neutral while keeping our passion for the internal combustion engine alive at the same time,” Yamaha Motor president Yoshihiro Hidaka said.  He also added that: “I started to see that engines using only hydrogen for fuel actually had very fun, easy-to-use performance characteristics”.

While hydrogen is plentiful in the universe, it must be separated from other compounds to be used as fuel.  Up to the year 2020, most hydrogen was produced from fossil fuels, resulting in CO2 emissions. Hydrogen obtained from fossil fuels is often referred to as grey hydrogen, when emissions are released into the atmosphere.  Blue hydrogen is the hydrogen produced from fossil fuels when emissions are captured through carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Hydrogen that is produced from fossil fuels using the newer non-polluting technology called methane pyrolysis is often called turquoise hydrogen.

You can also generate hydrogen from renewable energy sources, and this hydrogen is often referred to as green hydrogen.  There are two practical ways of producing green hydrogen.  One of the ways is to use electric power for producing hydrogen from the electrolysis of water.  The other way of producing green hydrogen is to use landfill gas to produce the green hydrogen in a steam reformer.  Hydrogen fuel, when it is produced by using renewable sources of energy like wind or solar power, is a renewable fuel.

Hydrogen can also be created from another renewable energy source called nuclear energy via electrolysis, and this is sometimes seen as a subset of green hydrogen, but it can also be referred to as being pink hydrogen.

Obviously, when a car can be designed to run on hydrogen that has been produced from renewable energy sources, then this is a good thing.  Toyota and Yamaha remain adamant that this is great technology which could carve out a niche for itself in the new EV automotive landscape.

Toyota has also recently revealed a fleet of 12 zero tailpipe-emission concept vehicles, many of which will reach production in the coming years.

This is all good news stuff, especially for those of us who love the sound of an ICE instead of a silent EV.  The noisy farts always get the best round of laughter!

An FCEV for Our Environment

With the rising concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, the development of ammonia fuelled vehicles as environmentally friendly cars would have to look rather promising.  A car running on NH3 – now what’s not to like about that?

Many scientists believe that it is urgent to reduce CO2 emissions because of the global warming effect that the gas has on the climate around the globe.  Despite CO2 in the atmosphere being great for plant growth (some of the edges of the earth’s deserts are greening up again with increased CO2 in the atmosphere), and the earth’s water cycle playing a pivotal role in governing the earth’s temperature, the drive to create taxing emission standards and expensive alternatives continues to drive government policy worldwide.  What if we gradually changed over to another source of energy so that everyone in the world could afford the switch, allowing people to maintain a higher standard of living?

Using CO2–free fuels to reduce the level of CO2 emissions could be a viable option in the current climate.  So, what about ammonia?

An internal combustion engine (ICE) burns a fuel.  Basically, you can convert an engine to run on any fuel such as fossil-fuels, hydrogen and ammonia, and there are many ways to do so.  ICE engines are very good in combination with battery and hybrid systems.  It would be a perfect solution to make a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle with hydrogen that has been cracked out of ammonia and stored in the vehicle.  The ammonia would then be used to drive the electric propulsion system because an electric propulsion system is highly efficient.  That would be a perfect vehicle.

The battery system in this model would not need to be anywhere near the size of a pure EV and anywhere near the weight.  For instance, in a Tesla, the whole EV platform under the car is a battery pack that is massively heavy.  A clean-burning ICE producing heat-waste from the combustion process could use this heat-waste to warm up the cabin’s interior on a cold day, cool the cabin down via a heat exchanger, and could also be used to cool and heat the battery accordingly for optimum battery operating temperatures.

You can store accessible hydrogen in the form of ammonia (NH3).  Unlike hydrogen gas, which requires very low (cryogenic) temperatures to liquefy, ammonia becomes a liquid at –34°C.  Ammonia also does so at room temperature and at 9 atmospheric pressures, making it much more convenient to use as a transportation fuel.  Ammonia is comparatively inexpensive to produce, and the hydrogen can be separated out using catalysts without undue losses.

Essentially, you have a car with a combustion engine that is burning the hydrogen that is cracked out of the stored ammonia onboard the car to produce electricity.  The engine would have an alternator as an electric motor that would power the drivetrain with electricity at close to 99% efficiency.  This set-up is known as a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV).

The FCEV above uses stored ammonia that’s cracked onboard the car to produce hydrogen to run the electric drive train – only emitting water vapour and warm air as exhaust, and is considered a zero-emission vehicle.  Now that sounds pretty smart, efficient and green to me!

Coming Up 2022

Like opening a Christmas present, finding out what cars are coming to us over the next year (2022) is an exciting prospect.  Here’s just a few vehicles that pricked my ears up the most:

Genesis G80 Electric

This is Genesis’ first-ever electric vehicle, and it’s coming to Australia early 2022.  Making use of solar panels that are integrated into the roof, using recycled timber and plastic materials for its interior, the Genesis G80 Electric is a very special flagship.  Ride comfort will be nothing short of amazing, utilising a ‘Pre-view’ adaptive suspension system that feeds data from cameras at the front of the car as well as from the navigation system to pre-empt road surfaces and adjust the suspension’s ride response as necessary.  Four interior sensors and six-microphones are present in the cabin to counteract intrusive audio frequencies – serenity exemplified!

It will be dynamic to drive, light on its feet and comfortable.  The twin-motor electric powertrain delivers 272 kW of power and 700 Nm of torque through an all-wheel drive system, enabling the G80 EV to blister the 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds.

The car will seamlessly switch between 2WD and AWD according to demands and conditions, thus reducing unnecessary power loss and increasing efficiency.  Genesis is claiming a 500 km-plus cruising range for the luxury EV flagship on a full battery charge.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The good-looking new Jeep Grand Cherokee will provide five and seven-seat variants. It will be powered exclusively by the familiar 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine.  The V8 option won’t launch in Oz – a pity, maybe in the future.

The new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee looks impressive with a range that comprises: Night Eagle, Limited, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve trims, all of which will be available, primarily, as seven-seaters.  The Summit and Summit Reserve models will be able to be optioned with six seats rather than seven, allowing two free-standing captain’s seats that is separated by an elevated centre console.  The Night Eagle runs with a five-seater arrangement and, obviously a massive boot space.

The three higher grades also get a Quadra-Lift air suspension that can raise to 262 mm.

Mazda6

A very exciting new Mazda6 comes with a BMW-rivalling straight-six engine and rear-wheel-drive layout.  This will be Mazda’s flagship passenger car, and available in both SKYACTIV-X petrol and diesel forms.  Mazda’s new inline-six engine and eight-speed automatic transmission will be a peach, offering 48-volt mild-hybrid technology that increases power and efficiency by combining a belt-driven starter-generator and a small lithium-ion battery that’s recharged using any recovered energy.  The new mild-hybrid inline-six will produce around 260 kW.

The 2022 Mazda6 should win plenty of design awards thanks to its gorgeous, flowing lines and low-profile stance.  The Lexus IS, Genesis G70, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class will be firmly in its sight.

MG5

All-new and Thai-built, the MG5 is the next step in MG’s excellent plan.  There should be an MPV and a ute offered later as well.  Size-wise it’s similar to a Toyota Corolla, and price-wise should undercut Corolla and Kia Cerato rivals.

The MG5 will come with two body styles and be powered by an internal-combustion engine as well as an electrified powertrain.  First to arrive will be the petrol-powered liftback sedan, and there won’t be a station wagon option.

The MG5 builds onto the already widely popular MG ES SUV models.

Nissan Pathfinder

A brand new Nissan Pathfinder is coming that will offer an eight-seat option, as well as a model that comes with second-row captain’s chairs configuration.  Eight seats is something that even the top-selling Toyota Kluger cannot provide, nor the fine Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, and new Jeep Grand Cherokee.  This, therefore, sets it up nicely with the Mazda CX-9’s second-row captain’s chair variant.  Comfort is at the essence of what is a handy off-road/come tourer, and the Pathfinder will impress with space and refinement.

It will be loaded with goodies: an all-new infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging and connectivity, a 13-speaker Bose Premium Audio system, a digital Intelligent Around View Monitor, a 9.0-inch infotainment touch-screen, a 10.8-inch digital head-up display, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

The 3.5-litre petrol V6 with 210 kW and 350 Nm matches to an all-new nine-speed automatic transmission for smooth, relaxed perogress.  The all-new Intelligent 4WD system with seven-position Drive and Terrain Mode Selector gives it an off-road edge, while drive modes will include Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow, Sand, Mud/Rut and Tow.

Its fresh exterior design with a three-slot V-motion grille, C-shaped LED headlights, a ‘floating’ roofline and slimmer LED tail-lights all looks eye-catching and spacious. A total of 11 paint colour combinations will be offered.

Subaru WRX

Finally, the new Subaru WRX is coming!

The fifth-generation Japanese sports sedan’s boasts a 2.4-litre turbo-petrol boxer engine with 202 kW, and 350 Nm of torque comes spread out over a flatter and wider torque curve.  This will be joined by the higher-output STI version in late 2022/early 2023. A six-speed manual transmission and an improved eight-speed CVT auto with transmission oil cooler and paddle shifters lead the charge.

The new WRX rides on the same Subaru Global Platform that underpins the latest Impreza, helping to congeal a solid handling package with an improved ride and nicer refinement.

The chassis is more rigid, and Subaru provides the WRX with dual-pinion electric power steering, MacPherson front and double-wishbone rear suspension with revised suspension geometry, a lower centre of gravity and electronically adaptive dampers for GT versions, making for a sweet driver’s car with significantly improved handling dynamics.