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Sustainability/Green

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!

Maintaining Your Car and Keeping that Classic on the Road

XB Ford Falcon GT Coupe

With some of the nicely kept Ford Falcon GTs fetching a handsome price on the second-hand car market it would be tempting to grab one, enjoy it, maintain it and know that you’ve bought an investment.  Holden’s exiting from the automotive industry also suggests that some of the awesome Commodores and HSVs would be an appreciating classic too.  But running any classic, whether from Porsche, BMW or even Toyota, can be a fun hobby and a sound investment.

The good thing about owning older Falcons and Commodores, and I’m talking about any of the models going back to the early sixties for the Falcon and late seventies for the Commodore, is that there is such a great following in Australia and New Zealand for these cars, particularly the sports models, that there always seems to be a flow of parts from somewhere out of the Southern Hemisphere.  Even aftermarket parts for a component can be easily located and sourced, and this will be true for a lot of classic cars.

There are some things that are essential to our daily lives, and currently vehicles are a huge part of anyone’s daily/weekly routines.  They drive us to our jobs, drive the kids to all of their activities; they get us to that favourite holiday or picnic spot, and are essential for running those little errands.  Without a vehicle, it would be impossible to do everything that we need to do and are used to doing.

Out of need (and for the love of it), there are many of us that have become good at keeping our vehicles in good running shape, and that doesn’t just apply to those who collect and maintain older vehicles like the cruisier Falcon and Commodore.  If you can keep your own vehicle in the best shape possible, then you can avoid the added costs of repairs or at least put repairs off for a time, and even put off the need to buy a new vehicle.  When driving, we are still seeing cars from decades ago still going strong, and you may even see some that look almost just as good as the day they were bought.  An old Ford Falcon XR8 or GT still catches attention, and Holden’s HSVs from even the early 2000s look awesome and sound amazing.

AU Ford Falcon XR8

There may be some of you who, like myself, drive a newer car (Toyota Camry for me) for getting all the weekly errands done, and then have a classic or older vehicle (Ford Fairmont for me) for enjoyment on a long cruise or holiday away.  The vehicle tucked away in the shed for the weekend can be one of those cars that you can tinker away on during your days off, while getting the pleasure of a long run out on the open road for that long weekend away.

In this day and age, there are so many resources that are on the web which can inform drivers about how to keep their vehicles in great shape so that they will run nicely for as long as possible.  The secret to being able to enjoy a car (old and new) for many, many miles is regular maintenance.  Here are just some of the basic routine maintenance tasks that you can do to keep your car on the road and running fine.

Oil Change

Change your engine oil and oil filter often.

This is the single best thing you can do to extend the life of your engine.  Keep a note of the odometer reading and date that you changed the oil and filter so that you can schedule it in for next time.

Replace your transmission fluid and differential oil.

It’s not as often as engine oil and filters need changing, but the transmission and diff oil should be done regularly (around 40-to-60,000 km) to keep these systems running sweetly.  Check your vehicle’s manual for the suggested timeframes for changing them.

Add new engine coolant.

Every once in a while, the engine coolant needs flushing out and some new coolant put back into the cooling system.  This is important because it keeps the pipes from freezing up in cold weather, it keeps the tiny coolant passages free from debri and muck that will build up overtime, and it is also very important for your heating system inside the car.  A heater core is often tricky to get to and often requires removing the whole dash just to get to the small heater core radiator.  This was the little culprit that caused my old Terrano to cook its engine!

Maintain your wheel bearings.

Wheel bearing maintenance or replacement is important because they ensure the smooth running of the tires.  When checking in for your next car check-up, make sure to ask for a wheel inspection to see if your bearings are in OK condition.  Usually, this only involves adding some grease to the bearings to get them moving smoothly again.

Change your brake fluid.

This helps fend off moisture building up in the braking system, leaving your brakes free of rust and corrosion and working at their optimum, which really comes down to staying safe out on the road.

Cleaning

Keep your exterior and interior nice and clean.  It’s recommended that you wax and wash your car four times per year at a minimum.

Keeping the interior out of heavy sunlight helps this area last longer and stay smarter.  If you have a car with leather seats, do apply leather conditioner as required to keep the leather soft, pliable and protected.

To keep your vehicle in great shape, it only takes a bit of initiative in the form of having your car taken in for maintenance every once in a while, and or doing it yourself.  If you experience any weird sounds or unusual problems with your car, then it needs to be checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible.

Now… Back out to my Falcon!

Where is Motorsport Currently Found on the EV Map?

Formula E racing car.

Traditionally, the latest cutting-edge technology finds its way into road cars via the heat of motor racing.  We are seeing EV racing going big quickly with the relatively recent Formula E championship, but how many motor racing championships are looking to EV technology for their future racing blue-print?  As yet, EV motor racing technology hasn’t made its way into the everyday life of most average Australian motorists.  Most of us still drive a motor vehicle with a healthy internal combustion engine, and most of us won’t be intending or even considering buying an expensive EV as an everyday means of transport anytime soon.

Supercars are continuing to investigate implementing hybrid technology into its racing schedule.

Formula One has had its engine regulations tweaked further with the aim of promoting closer racing and more balanced competition, as well as bringing economic and sporting sustainability to Formula 1.  So, the cars are now flashier and more visually alluring, with the reshaping of the front and rear wings looking good.  Formula One has a target to be net zero by 2030, and the way this is to be achieved is by removing single use plastics from its events, in collaboration with its circuits.  Formula One won’t be going electric but will stay hybrid, and this has been a definite decision that the ‘powers that be’ have taken for the good of the automotive industry as they keep their racing car platforms relevant for future road cars.  Formula One does not see electrification as the new world-religion, and it has stated that EVs are definitely not the only way to move forward with cars.  Hybrid technology is Formula One’s current future objective, where the 2025 engine-unit will be hybrid and using 100 % sustainable fuels.  Formula One sees a need to reduce the costs of this new engine-unit and platform so that it is affordable and less complex, which will open up huge potential for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to use in other applications for road cars.

In the World Rally Championship, current hybrid engine regulations from 2022 through to 2025 is all go, which introduces hybrid technology to the fastest cars on gravel.  The hybrid technical regulations are a long way from being finalised, but initial talks have mooted a ‘supplementary hybrid system’ which controls components and software.  The proposed hybrid units would allow WRC cars, which will retain the 2017 aero and engine package, to run as full EVs on transit stages, while providing a power boost on competitive special stages.  Following 2025, the plan is to open up the rules to allow manufacturers to use their own electric systems for racing.

Formula E

Formula E is going from strength to strength, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche recently joining the grid.  Formula E, officially the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, is a single-seater motorsport championship for electric cars (EVs).  The series was conceived in 2011 in Paris.  Formula E is the biggest motor racing event solely focussed on EV racing alone, where it is the proving ground and platform to test new ev technologies, drive development to the production line, and put more EVs on the road.

Using the sport as its showcase, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is sending the biggest message out to the world that may help alter perceptions and speed-up the switch to electric, in a bid to counteract the so-called “climate crisis” as well as addressing the effects of air pollution – particularly in cities.  Sure, Formula E is the fastest-growing series in motorsport because its also the newest; however, it is certainly going to help put EV technology out there on the roads, even if most current EV buyers are either famous and or high-end earners.

Some electrification in motor racing is happening, where we’re seeing classes like the British Touring Car Championship, IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR and World Rallycross Championship having some sort of hybrid or fully electric rules etched into the near-future pipeline.  This is all good, but the reality is that most motorists in the general public will still be driving a car with a combustion engine, or combustion engine with hybrid technology, or a car with a combustion engine running on bio fuels in a decade because of the price of a new EV being way too steep, the lack of an EV infrastructure another, the cost of developing a country’s power grid worthy of supporting the power drain of a big EV fleet, EV battery life span, and the list goes on…

All of the many negative attributes that can be accredited to EVs aside, there are some fascinating new technological developments in hybrid and ev technology unfolding within motorsport itself.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions and EVs

Founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, has some knowledgeable things to say about carbon emissions and CO2 in the atmosphere.  Many politicians and “scientists” are stating that CO2 is the big baddie that will cause us all to burn up in smoke as the temperature of the earth will continue to heat up; and that life on earth is in terrible danger, and that the only way out of this escalating CO2 is to inflict all humans to pay higher taxes and drive EVs.  It all sounds a little fishy!

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, which constitute 85% of our energy use, must be reduced to zero by 2100.  It is their idea that a vast and diverse mix of policies should be employed to restrain and reduce the use of light duty vehicles (LDVs), the sort of vehicles that you and I drive.  The IPCC suggests “aggressive policy intervention to significantly reduce fuel carbon intensity and energy intensity of modes, encourage travel by the most efficient modes, and cut activity growth where possible and reasonable”.  That sounds like severe action going down like a lead balloon upon hard-working people in the world trying to pay escalating taxes to the fat cats in high places.  Maybe some of it’s true.

Apparently, those in the IPCC claim that “if we don’t save ourselves from ourselves we’re toast!”  Scientist Patrick Moore says that “Here is what is strange, though.  All life is carbon-based; and the carbon for all that life originates from CO2 in the atmosphere.  All of the carbon in the fossil fuels we are burning for energy today was once in the atmosphere as CO2 before it was consumed by plankton in the sea and plants on the land.  Coal, oil and natural gas are the remains of those plankton and plants that have been transformed by heat and pressure deep in the earth’s crust.  In other words, fossil fuels are 100% organic and were produced with solar energy.  That sounds positively green!”

Other scientists also say these coal and oil remains were laid down during the catastrophic flood that occurred over the earth’s surface as recorded in biblical events.

Patrick Moore, and other scientists, also state that if there were no CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere, the earth would be a dead planet.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed this essential ingredient for life a pollutant!  How can CO2 be bad?

Carbon Emissions is the term used by governments and policymakers as the emissions that come from burning fossil fuels for energy.  Patrick Moore continues, “…This term is entirely misleading because CO2 is not carbon.  CO2 is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas which is an indispensable food for all living things.  Can you have too much of it?  In theory, yes.  That is what climate alarmists say is happening now!  They are stating that “CO2 levels are getting too high!”  Are they right?  The Big Picture tells us something surprising.  For most of the history of life on earth, CO2 has been present in the atmosphere at much higher levels then it is today.  During the Cambrian explosion, when multicellular life came on the scene, CO2 levels were as much as 10x higher than they are today.  From a Big Picture perspective, we are actually living in a low CO2 era…”

Patrick also suggests that science tells us that “… the optimum growth for CO2 is 4–5x what is currently found in our atmosphere.  This is why quality greenhouse growers all around the world actually inject CO2 into their greenhouses.  They want to promote plant growth, and this is the way that they do it.  Likewise, higher levels of CO2 in the global atmosphere will promote plant growth.  This is a good thing!  This will actually boost food and forest productivity, which will come in handy with the human population of earth set to continue to grow.”

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, for Prager University, states that “… we are seeing the positive effects of increased CO2 now.  Satellite measurements have noted the greening of the earth as crops and forests grow due to our higher levels of CO2.  It turns out that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are not dirty words after all.  We should celebrate CO2 as the giver of life that it is.”

What are the more dangerous emissions from fossil fuels?  The majority of vehicle exhaust emissions are composed of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapour, and oxygen in unconsumed air.  Carbon monoxide, unburned fuel, nitrogen oxides, nitrated hydrocarbons, and particulate matter such as mercury are also present in vehicle exhaust emissions in smaller quantities.  Catch these nastier particulates, which are hazardous to our respiratory system, via the catalytic converter or other means, and the conventional internal combustion engine is not quite such a monster.  In fact, a decent hybrid vehicle for city driving along with hydrogen fuel-based vehicles seems a much better alternative to a mass wave of EVs and taxes.  Hybrids and hygrogen-celled cars in congested areas seem a perfect fit for now.

Hybrids currently available in Australia include: many Toyota and Lexus models, Toyota Corolla SX Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid, Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Hyundai Ioniq, BMW X5 xDrive45e, Lexus ES300h Sports Luxury, Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Hybrid, Mercedes-Benz C 300e PHEV and BMW 330e iPerformance PHEV.

If you’re interested in more from Patrick, have a look at: https://www.prageru.com/video/the-truth-about-co2/

EVs and the Japanese Manufacturers

I like to get a feel for what is truly happening in the EV world by heading over to the Japanese to see what they are up to.  The Japanese make the best cars in the world, at least from a reliability and practical point of view, so it makes sense to me to have a look at what their plans are when it comes to EV innovation, invention and implementation.

Mazda

Mazda MX 30 EV

Mazda is planning to introduce ‘Skyactiv Multi-Solution Scalable Architecture’ for hybrids, PHEVs and EVs in 2022, and they plan to offer three EV models, five PHEV models and five hybrid models sometime between 2022 and 2025.  Mazda will also keep hybrids and PHEVs as part of their saleable new cars beyond 2030.

By the end of 2023, Mazda plans to show at least two plug-in hybrids by the end of the year.

In 2026 Mazda plans to show the platform for a new generation of EVs in the early part of the year.

By 2030 Mazda plans to offer a hybrid or electric variant for every model that Mazda has in their line-up.  However, even though Mazda will develop a dedicated EV platform by 2025, Mazda’s majority of vehicles beyond 2030 will be hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and, as such, Mazda is not about to stop developing its internal combustion engines anytime soon.

Honda

Honda EV Crossover

Honda plans to develop its own solid-state battery tech, rather than relying on outside developers.

By 2023, a Honda EV built in partnership with GM, reportedly a crossover, is expected to enter production.

Honda foresees that 40% of their models will be electric or hydrogen fuel-cell powered by 2030, climbing to 100% by 2040.  Honda is one of just a handful of automakers alongside Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW, to devote plenty of their development energy into to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Toyota

Toyota BZ EV Concept

By 2025, Toyota plans to launch 60 new hybrid, electric, or fuel-cell vehicles by the end of that year, and it also expects to have reached its goal of selling 5.5 million EVs each year.  Their dedication to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is strong, and they remain big game players in this sort of technology.

Looking across the Tasman (where NZ’s PM, Jacinda Ardern, put her foot in it by claiming that Toyota would be providing EV utes in just 2 more years) it is evident that Toyota will not be putting all their eggs in one basket and going totally bent on EV production.  Toyota is adamant that a slow EV uptake is more likely, and hence they would not be giving up on their particularly good hybrid engine technology any time soon.

Nissan

Nissan ids Concept EV

Nissan is the manufacturer of the highly successful Nissan Leaf EV Hatchback, which has been in production for some years now.  By 2023, Nissan plans to have launched eight EVs by the end of the year and will be hoping to be on target to sell 1-million hybrid or electric vehicles, globally, per-year.  Nissan states that their hybrid technology and their technology to improve their internal combustion engines won’t be stopping before 2030, at least.

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi has the marvellous Outlander PHEV, which has been in production for many years now.  By 2030, Mitsubishi plans for 50% of its global sales to come from hybrid or electric vehicles.  I guess that leaves 50% to be still made up of efficient internal combustion vehicles.

Subaru

Subaru Solterra EV Concept

Subaru, by 2030, expects 40% of its global sales to come from hybrid or electric vehicles.  By 2035, Subaru plans to have a hybrid or electric version of every vehicle in its line-up.  Subaru seems to be singing off a similar song sheet to Toyota, where they both suggest that the hybrid vehicle will prove to be more popular in the short term, particularly as the EV infrastructure has a long way to go.

By 2050, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Nissan have made bold plans to reach net-zero carbon emissions.

The big questions are: Will the EV-charging infrastructure match the manufacturer claims?  Will people be able to afford an EV, let alone the huge cost to make their home charge ready, as the ideologically bold demands that some governments introduce along with big taxes?  Who is going to pay for all of this?

I read a recent comment where a reader of ‘Car and Driver’ made a very informed comment:

“It’s a ‘no thanks’ on Li batteries from me.  Lithium extraction has already spoiled the Atacama desert in Chile and now they have their sights set on the American West.  I can reduce my CO2 footprint far more by just driving less than by purchasing a 100 kWh battery, and the 10-20T of CO2 that was released to make it. I’ll wait for fuel cells.  As a Toyota driver… I have time.”

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…

 

Will Vehicle Carbon Taxes be Revisited?

A few years ago, there was talk of a proposed ‘carbon tax’ on new vehicles by slugging non-compliant auto makers with fines in an effort to reduce emissions. However, it became very clear that such a move would leave the door open for car manufacturers to pass on these fines to motorists in the form of increased car prices. In the meantime, alternative fuel technologies like hydrogen, electric vehicles and hybrids have failed to catch on, while phasing out of diesel and petrol vehicles has essentially been limited to offshore markets rather than here in Australia.

Even if such penalties were to be limited to non-compliant vehicle manufacturers that fail to meet stricter emissions standards, the result would have a flow-on effect across the new car market, effectively reducing the notion of a free market and any ‘true’ choice that motorists have when it comes to having access to the vehicle they want.

 

 

The real matter at hand

However, for all the focus on the technicalities of the ‘tax’, the real matter is how we manage the environmental burden from vehicles in an equitable manner. Or should we be content in punishing motorists for driving cars that are less fuel efficient than their peers?

Recent examples would suggest anything but. After all, take a look at states like Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and it becomes immediately apparent that road usage charges for electric vehicles loom as a distinct risk that could threaten the uptake of electric vehicles. That is one example where an equitable manner has been sought to apply to the use of our roads, but there is no denying it is also ‘punishing’ the sort of behaviour that we are trying to promote.

Nonetheless, back to the original tax proposal, and in many respects, it never really stood a chance. In some quarters, the measures were tipped to start as early as next year, however, the reality is, Australia’s new car market continues to be defined by the very makes and models that would theoretically be punished for falling foul of emissions standards. With our love for SUVs and dual-cab utes, should Australians be locked out of some of their favourite cars by virtue of significantly higher prices as manufacturers seek to offset the hit to their hip-pocket?

 

 

It’s also been stated a number of times that Australia often misses out on some of the ‘cleaner’ or more advanced iterations of certain vehicles from the European market due to the standards of our emissions and fuel quality. Again, however, costs are at the centre of the discussion here, and in a new car market that is finally seeing signs of life, would industry players want to potentially derail this when a number of supply-chain issues have already weighed on upwards momentum?

All up, however, we do have some reason to be concerned about motorists holding onto their vehicles for longer – in the process, increasing the average age of cars on our road. Not only does this serve little to stimulate the economy but it won’t do much to tackle emissions across the nation’s entire fleet.

Several years on, are we actually any closer to answering the question as to how we encourage auto-makers to step away from higher emissions vehicles? Down under, it doesn’t appear so.

The 2021 World Car Of The Year Is…

Volkswagen’s ID.4. The electric SUV is the German brand’s fifth WCOTY after: 2013 World Car of the Year – Volkswagen Golf, 2012 World Car of the Year – Volkswagen UP!, 2010 World Car of the Year – Volkswagen Polo, 2009 World Car of the Year – Volkswagen Golf VI.

It’s still unclear as to whether it will make its way to Australia. What will be unavailable is a 77kWh battery, offering a range of up to 520 kilometres. Power is rated as 150kW and torque at 309Nm providing a 0-100kph time of 8.5 seconds. The rear is where the engine is located. Battery charge from a 120kW DC source can provide 320 kilometres of range in a half hour, and the 11kW charger built in can provide 53 kilometres in an hour.

It’s expected that a dual-motor version will be released with power bumped to around 225kW. Chassis wise, it’s a bespoke EV design, and on a length of 4,580mm, it sits neatly between VW’s Tiguan at 4,486mm and the Tiguan Allspace, a seven seater and 4,701mm in length. Crucially, it will offer cargo space of 543L (rear seats up) to 1,575L (seats folded), offset against the Tiguan’s 615L/1,775L and the Allspace’s 230L and 1,655L. Up front is a cargo area of sorts, with the cargo being the 12V battery for the ID.4’s ancilliaries and accessories, plus the various cooling system equipment parts.

ID.4 will be built across three continents and in five factories, highlighting the still “Dieselgate” beleaguered company’s move to a stronger EV presence in a market that is growing worldwide.

Ralf Brandstätter is the CEO of Volkswagen, and he firmly believes in positioning this EV as a mainstream model “with the potential for significant volumes.” Those volumes, he says, are in in Europe, China, and North America. The ID.4 will also “play host” to a range of related brand vehicles from Skoda, Audi, and Cupra.

Future versions of the ID.4 are said to include all-wheel drive and a choice of both batteries and engines. These include a 109kW, 125kW, 129kW or 150kW rear-mounted electric motor with a 52kWh battery the power source for the first two, and a 77kWh battery for the latter. This battery

will also be the source for two all-wheel drive versions, with either 195kW or a mooted GTX packing the 225kW engine.

History Made: Mercedes-Benz EQS

Mercedes-Benz has long been seen as the leader in trickle-down technology being seen in cars some years after featuring in the brand’s higher end saloons such as the S-Class. And with the release of their first all electric luxury vehicle, the EQS, this tradition is set to continue.

The EQS will offer ranges of up to 770 kilometres and will pack a powertrain of up to 385kW. A performance version is said to be in development and with up to 560kW. It will sit within the expectations of the S-Class saloon segment. The vehicles will be rear axle driven however the models fitted with the 4MATIC will have a front axle engine also.

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Mercedes says the initial models will be the EQS 450+ with 245 kW and the EQS 580 4MATIC with 385 kW. The rated power consumption rates are quoted as 20.4-15.7 kWh/100 km, and 21.8-17.4 kWh/100 km. New technology for the batteries has them enabled with a higher energy density. Of the two batteries to be available, the larger will have a usable energy content of 107.8 kWh. Mercedes says this is around 26 percent more than the EQC, their EV SUV.

It’s tech that is bespoke for M-B, with the software having been fully developed by the company and allowing over the air updates. This keeps the management system up to date, and for the life cycle of the battery. In respect to the charging rates, the DC fast charge stations pump in 200kW( and 300km in around 15 minutes. On a home charger system the EQS charges up to 22kW with AC power. The software will also allow intelligent charging programs and battery-saving charging.

A key component of EV technology is is energy recuperation. The EQS uses a program called DAuto, which can recuperate energy from deceleration to zero without the need for the brake pedal to be utilised. Smart cruise tech employs the same mechanisms with vehicle traffic ahead of the EQS. Intelligent energy recovery is situation-optimised with the aid of ECO Assist and acts with foresight, taking into account traffic conditions or topography, among other things, and up to 290kW can be generated. The driver also can set three energy recovery levels and the coast function via paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

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Also available as OTA or over the air will be the activation of vehicle functionalities. This includes two driving programs for younger aged drivers and for service staff. Light entertainment in the installation of games will also be available. Plus the updates will allow personal preference settings such as changing the steering angles for the rear wheel steering from the standard 4.5 degrees to the maximum 10 degrees. Planned is the activation of subscription services and testing on future programs.

Aerodynamics plays a big part in vehicle fuel efficiency and the new EQS has plenty of aero in the design. in fact, it’s currently rated as the most aerodynamic car available with a drag coefficient of 0.20cD. In conjunction with that slippery body is the reduction of wind noise at speed, improving comfort levels.

The need for aero is due to the EQS being on a new chassis architecture to provide a home for the powertrain. Mercedes-Benz calls the design language Sensual Purity, with smooth, organic, lines, a reduction in the join lines in panels, the fastback styling. The front end is a “Black Panel” look with the headlights running seamlessly into the grille panel which can be optioned with a 3D star pattern to complement the three-pointed Mercedes star.

Embedded throughout the EQS is a network of sensors, up to 350 of them, depending on specification. Amongst the types of information recorded are distance travelled, ambient lighting conditions, acceleration rates and speeds achieved. AI then utilises these datasets to adjust the car on the fly. This includes monitoring the battery charge levels in respect to the distance required to see the next charging point thanks to the onboard Navigation with Electric Intelligence.

Mercedes-EQ, EQS 580 4MATIC, Interieur, Nevagrau/ Iridescentblau, AMG-Line, Edition 1; MBUX Hyperscreen; ( Stromverbrauch kombiniert: 20,0-16,9 kWh/100 km; CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 0 g/km) // Mercedes-EQ, EQS 580 4MATIC, Interior, neva gray/ iridescent blue, AMG-Line, Edition 1; MBUX Hyperscreen ; (combined electrical consumption: 20.0-16.9 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km)

Being a class-setting EV, the EQS packs in some high-end green technology for the passengers. An example is the HEPA filter than can be set to fully clean the air inside the cabin before passengers enter with the onboard data system, MBUX, able to display particulate levels inside and out. Recycled materials are used in areas such as the carpets. The manufacturing process is fully carbon-offset as well.

The MBUX Hyperscreen is the absolute highlight in the interior. This large, curved screen unit sweeps almost from A-pillar to A-pillar. Three screens sit under a cover glass and appear to merge into one. The 12.3-inch OLED display for the front passenger gives him or her their own display and control area. The entertainment functions are only available there while the car is being driven in accordance with the country-specific legal regulations. Mercedes-EQ relies on an intelligent, camera-based locking logic: if the camera detects that the driver is looking at the front passenger display, it is automatically dimmed.

As part of its Ambition 2039 initiative, Mercedes-Benz is working on offering a carbon-neutral new car fleet within 20 years from now. By as early as 2030, the company wants more than half the cars it sells to feature electric drive systems – this includes fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. In many areas, Mercedes is already thinking about tomorrow today: the new EQS is designed to be correspondingly sustainable. The vehicles are produced in a carbon-neutral manner, and resource-saving materials such as carpets made from recycled yarn are used. This is because Mercedes-Benz considers the entire value chain, from development and the supplier network to its own production. Mercedes-Benz AG has had its climate protection targets confirmed by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI).

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New Internal Combustion Engine Technology

Are the days numbered for the internal combustion engine?  With ever stricter emission standards becoming the norm and all the talk about electric vehicles being the current rave, you would have to be forgiven for thinking that the future for the internal combustion engine is looking rather bleak.  However, here are some findings that suggest that the internal combustion engine might just be around for quite some time yet.

Let’s start off with one of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers: Toyota.  Toyota continues to employ their hugely effective hybrid technology in many of their current models.  Even the little Yaris has just recently had its own special hybrid motor become available to its line-up.  Toyota’s hybrid systems are so successful at being efficient and they are proven in everyday, real-world situations to be reliable.  You only have to look at the incredibly low fuel consumption figures of the latest Camry Sedans and RAV4 SUVs to get an insight into how effective Toyota hybrid engines are at lowering fuel consumption and reducing pollution levels in and around CBDs.

But there are also other areas of the internal combustion engine that haven’t been pushed quite to the boundaries of exploration and these are in the areas of compression ignition.  ‘Engineering Explained’ host Jason Fenske has recently talked about homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) being a big gain area for the internal combustion engine, particularly for the engine’s burning efficiency.  The HCCI engine burns gasoline but uses compression ignition like a diesel engine rather than a spark plug.  So, in theory, gasoline/petrol HCCI technology provides huge efficiency gains like you find with some of the current diesel motors; however, the huge efficiency gains would be without the soot and high levels of nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions.  HCCI does require much finer controls in the area of fuel intake temperature, as well as the timing of ignition to get spot on.

Another vicinity that Fenske sees as being a big gain aera for internal combustion engine technology is the area of pre-mix charge compression ignition (PCCI).  What PCCI does is inject some of the fuel early to let it mix with air in the combustion chamber, before injecting more fuel later on in the combustion process.  This method of combustion provides more control over the engine’s ignition timing than HCCI, however it can also create pockets of unburned hydrocarbons.  The key here is to limit the unburned hydrocarbons but access the higher efficiency potential that PCCI offers.

Then there is reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI), where Fenske suggests that this technology uses two fuels, where one fuel is a low-reactivity fuel (like gasoline) that is port injected, and a high-reactivity fuel (like diesel) that is direct injected.  “Reactivity” refers to a fuel’s tendency to ignite under compression.  RCCI is a method that leads to big gains in fuel efficiency, where Fenske says that some lab research has shown 60% gains in fuel efficiency.

Something else that is being worked on by researchers from Valencia’s Polytechnic University (UPV) is that of a new internal combustion engine that does not generate carbon dioxide and other harmful gases.  According to the engine’s designers, it is a “revolutionary” engine that meets the regulation on emissions planned for 2040 and also has excellent efficiency.  There master stroke is in using special ceramic membranes in the engine’s design, these membranes enable the selective separation of oxygen from the air to produce ‘oxycombustion’, where pure combustion gas is generated.  This pure combustion gas that is composed of water and CO2 can be captured inside the vehicle and stored, without having it expelled from the exhaust system.

Motoring big wigs, Toyota and Ferrari, still have an extensive long-term plan for using internal combustion technology into the future.  Hybrid technology is delivering impressive gains in fuel efficiency and emission reduction, particularly in built up, congested areas.