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Hyundai and Hydrogen

I’m showing my age a bit when I say that I can remember some of the earlier Hyundai cars – the Hyundai Pony and Hyundai Excel come to mind.  Back in the 80s and early 90s, Hyundai cars were light, comfortable, and not really up to the same safety standards as the cars that were produced in other parts of the world.  Nowadays, however, the story is completely different, and the South Korean automaker often tops crash safety tests with their vehicles, the vehicles are still comfortable, and the style and technology has won many awards.  Hyundai has been always improving to the point where they are now a premium brand, very desirable, and leading the world on many fronts.  Key new innovations from the Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) team are exciting and are part of Hyundai’s vision for building a cleaner, greener world that includes vehicles that no longer rely on fossil fuels.

Because of the past couple of years, where covid has taken the world’s centre stage, there has been a big shortage of semiconductors in the auto industry, to the point that some auto manufacturers have had to shut down.  Semiconductors are used in the manufacture of electronic devices, including diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits.  These devices have a wide application in anything electronic, including laptops, computers, appliances, and, of course, the modern automobile.

Like all vehicle manufacturers, HMC has been affected by the shortage and have had to temporarily suspend some of their factories.  Despite the shortage, however, along with Toyota and Tesla, Hyundai is among a handful of automakers that actually increased their global sales despite the chip shortage.

However, Hyundai now plans to develop and build its own semiconductors so that they are not so reliant on chipmakers from other corners of the globe.  Hyundai wants to make sure it has a steady supply of semiconductors for their projects on-and-into the future by making its own.  It will be the parts and service arm for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis who would play a key role in the in-house development.  Stockpiling the electronic chips would be important for Hyundai, so that when other global crisis occur, they will then be in a better position to weather the storm.  Toyota and Tesla have already had stockpile contingency plans in place for some time, which has ensured that they fared well during covid.

Hyundai and Hydrogen

Hyundai are part of the Hydrogen Heavy Duty Vehicle Industry Group – comprised of hydrogen industry leaders Air Liquide, Hyundai, Nel Hydrogen, Nikola Corporation, Shell and Toyota.  This Group has signed agreements with Tatsuno Corporation and Transfer Oil S.p.A. to industrialize globally-standard 70 MPa hydrogen heavy-duty vehicle high-flow (H70HF) fuelling hardware componentry.  But, also, in Incheon, which is just west of Seoul, and in Ulsan, production plants will begin producing the hardware in the 2nd half of 2023 with an annual capacity of 100,000 hydrogen fuel cell systems.

South Korea’s influence on core Hydrogen components will see it as the world’s largest fuel cell production capacity, which will also help the HMC to diversify their business and tap into construction machinery and logistics equipment.

EVs might be the big talking point for some, but it is hydrogen that is the dark horse in the clean-green race.  These two new fuel cell plants in Korea will accelerate the hydrogen economy and secure broader global market dominance.  I reckon that Australia could be a hub for Hydrogen in the Pacific, don’t you think?

Hyundai’s wide-ranging hydrogen revolution accelerates with the showing of their 500 kW Vision FK sports car prototype and the e-Bogie autonomous commercial transport vehicles.  HMG recently announced that it will launch next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell power units in 2023 that will double the power output, halve the cost, and reduce package size by 30%, when compared to current systems.  Hyundai has a plan to offer “hydrogen for all” by 2040.

Hyundai’s Hydrogen Timeframe

In case you were not already aware, HMG is the parent of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis.  By 2028, HMG says it will have applied fuel-cell systems to all of its heavy commercial vehicle models, including large trucks, significantly reducing transport-related CO2 emissions.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

By 2030, Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) will have achieved price parity with Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), HMG says.  And by 2040, HMG expects hydrogen to be available for everyone, for all vehicle types, and globally, triggering a lifestyle revolution.

Models for the Future

The Vision FK sports car is a 500 kW, hydrogen-powered high-performance prototype coupe that is capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in less than 4 seconds, while still offering a range of 600 km between top ups.  The Vision FK’s fuel cell unit carries N Performance branding, suggesting that it would be a future Hyundai N model rather than a luxury-focused Genesis.  HMG’s head of R&D, Albert Biermann, would not be drawn on when the Vision FK would go from prototype to production, but he did confirm that the next-generation Nexo fuel-cell SUV will launch “in the second half of 2023 followed by a Staria” The Staria is a people mover recently launched in Australia.  “We are also working, of course, on fuel-cell cars for Kia and Genesis. That will take a little longer time. After 2025 you can expect further fuel cell applications.”

The e-Bogie commercial application is a fuel-cell-powered autonomous trailer that could revolutionise commercial transportation.  Biermann also stated, “We are working full throttle on commercial [first] because that is the most effective way to avoid CO2. We are putting a lot of focus on fuel cells, not only for passenger cars but also for commercial vehicles.”

HMG’s Chairman, Euisun Chung, is even more emphatic about the significance of hydrogen fuel cell applications toward a sustainable future.  “This may be the last train to a Hydrogen Society, and time is running out. Hydrogen is the most powerful and pragmatic solution to overcoming environmental challenges. Hydrogen mobility will accelerate human progress.”

He went on to say that Australia may have a role to play.  “We know Australia is a country with vast and abundant renewable energy.  We are exploring business opportunities in Australia with our partners. Our goal is to build a sustainable ecosystem for [a] global hydrogen society.”

He also said that, “We will not immediately phase out internal combustion engines (ICE) commercial vehicles, but we are not starting any new developments of ICE. No new models and no new platforms. Everything will go forward with BEVs and FCEVs.”

Interestingly, according to Hyundai’s head of fuel cell development, Mr Saehoon Kim, FCEV technology has one huge advantage over BEVs: “The main problem with [a] BEV is the scalability of batteries. For a small EV it’s okay, but for commercial large scale [operation] the question immediately is …. How are we going to stack all these batteries with the heavy weight, and who is going to be happy with the low range? So, in this case fuel cell fits perfectly.”

Hyundai’s heavy commercial fuel cell program is already well advanced. In mid-2020, 45 Hyundai Xcient fuel cell trucks began commercial operation in Switzerland. Biermann stated that the trucks covered 210,000 kilometres per month and have saved 130 tonnes of CO2 emissions every month in operation.

The key to Hyundai’s commercial strategy is its third-generation fuel-cell system, which is in the final stages of development. Hyundai expects to launch two units in 2023, one producing 100 kW for passenger vehicles and SUVs (including the next Nexo and Staria FCEVs), and a 200 kW unit for commercial applications.  It has been said that by using two fuel-cell systems for trucks Hyundai can provide around 350 kW, which is equivalent to the power of current diesel engines used in trucking logistics.

This is all very exciting news and one that I have welcomed hearing.  I’m a fan of the new hydrogen fuel-celled vehicle technology moving forward.  This is Hyundai at its best, and we can only continue to watch this space.

Current Hyundai achievements:

The current ICE Hyundai i20 N has been crowned champion of Top Gear’s Speed Week.  The 26 fastest cars in the world participated in Top Gear’s Speed Week 2021.  It was the Hyundai· i20 N’s sharp handling and everyday usability that stood out to those in the Top Gear team.

Hyundai i20N

Ford Movements

Hot off the Press News has Ford investing big money in EV production.  All up, Ford and a South Korean supplier will spend $11.4 billion US on Ford’s EV production and expansion.  Ford hopes this spend will enable them to produce more than one million EVs per year in the second half of this decade.  The buzz words used in new and future cars include the term electric vehicles or EVs.  Established automakers like Ford are racing to try and close the gap on Tesla’s EV lead.  As you may be aware, Tesla produces a range of EVs, and Tesla are currently on the way to selling more than 800,000 electric cars this year.  Tesla is currently the most valuable automaker in the world, with a market capitalization of nearly $800 billion US.  Ford’s market value is $56 billion US.

Ford F-150 Lightening

Ford’s big spend will be its 2nd biggest spend in its history.  Under the climate change banner and the Biden government, this latest US multibillion-dollar move to quickly transfer production plants to EV production is seen as a fast track phasing out of gasoline-powered cars and trucks as part of the global push to combat climate change.  I won’t debate the science here.

Ford is to build 2 battery plants in Kentucky and 1 in Tennessee under the joint venture with its main battery cell supplier, SK Innovation of South Korea.  In addition, Ford will build an assembly plant at the Tennessee location to churn out EV trucks. Ford will invest $7 billion and SK Innovation $4.4 billion, the companies have said.  Ford expects electric vehicle models to make up 40% of their vehicle production by 2030.  That’s only a little over 8 years away!

Ford’s new truck plant and battery factory in Tennessee is likely to be the place that will produce a new battery-powered Ford F-Series pickup truck, this following the previously announced F-150 Lightning pick up truck.  I have to say that the F-150 Lightening is an impressive beast!  Ford has said a mix of both the public and businesses had already placed 150,000 reservations for purchasing the F-150 Lightning.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Also this year, Ford began selling the Mustang Mach-E, which has taken a sizable market share from Tesla.  Ford also plans to add an EV delivery van into the mix by the end of the year.  Then, in early 2022, the electric F-150 Lightning will roll out of their showrooms and silently onto the tarmac.

Ford Mustang Mach-E

Mr. Jim Farley, Ford Motor’s  president and CEO, has recently said that making electrical vehicles affordable should be among the top priorities for automakers, so that the average vehicle-buyer can purchase one.  This is good news, as a new EV is well out of most people’s budget.

He also made a couple of rather poignant comments: one on a key issue on questioning how EV production will impact labour/jobs (a subject rather close to home with our relatively recent Ford and Holden closures), and the other on materials.  So, apparently, it costs 30% less to manufacture the Ford electrical vehicles.  This will definitely affect production rates and employment long term.  Then there is also the issue of battery supply and the rare minerals (i.e., lithium, cobalt) needed to power them, said Farley.   Mr Farley stated, “We have to bring battery production here, but the supply chain has to go all the way to the mines.  That’s where the real cost is, and people in the U.S. don’t want mining in their neighbourhoods.  So, are we going to import lithium and pull cobalt from nation-states that have child labour and all sorts of corruption, or are we going to get serious about mining? …  We have to solve these things and we don’t have much time.”

Here in Australia, we haven’t jumped on the EV wagon just yet, and if we are going too, then there is so much infrastructure that will be needed to be implemented before owning an EV becomes a viable option for people like me.  Even the thought of the costs involved in getting the right infrastructure is eyewatering, and, like most impatient home renovators and idealistic politicians, the job must be done yesterday!  The hard working folk pay for it, of course!

There seems little patience on offer by many governments and climate change activists for making the move to EVs (and other new transportation technology like an EV repower on your existing car) a more balanced and delicate affair.  For now, owning an EV is very much for the elite, so Farley is on the right track when he says that the cost of EV ownership must be addressed very quickly.

Ford still has many plants throughout the U.S.  However, like other big automotive manufacturers, Ford also has locations right around the world.  Ford has many production plants scattered about the globe, and these include assembly plants, engine plants, forging plants, stamping plants and transmission plants.  Here, in Australia, Ford still has special engine production and stamping plants.

On a more local note, Ford has a new feature called ‘FordPass’ offered on all their new models sold in Australia.  FordPass has a few systems worthy of a mention that include:

Remote Start+, where minutes before leaving, you can start your connected vehicle’s engine from your mobile device in order to heat or cool the cabin using the last known climate control setting.

Vehicle Status, where you can check key variables such as fuel level and your odometer on the FordPass App to help plan your journey.

Remote Lock/Unlock, where, conveniently, you can use your mobile device to make sure the car doors are locked or unlocked without being anywhere near your vehicle.  If only it could do that for my house front door!

Vehicle Locator, where you can check your vehicle’s exact location in the FordPass App, which is particularly useful if you share your vehicle with one or more members of your household or if you have forgotten where you parked it.  However, if you’ve forgotten where you’ve parked it, then maybe you better get breath tested!

Vehicle Health Alerts, where the FordPass App sends Vehicle Health Alerts directly to your mobile device, pre-empting service needs and general maintenance such as low washer fluid.

Live Traffic, where this feature enhances your SYNC 3 Navigation system by delivering up-to-date traffic updates.  This technology allows you to adjust your recommended route based on the traffic conditions, helping you to arrive more relaxed and on time.

Ford Ranger Special Ediiton

In this second half of 2021, Ford Australia offer a nice broad range of vehicles that include the Puma, Escape and Everest SUVs; the Ford Focus car; the Ford Ranger Ute; the Transit Commercial range that has custom vehicles, vans, buses and cab-chassis models; the Ford Performance range that includes the Fiesta and Focus ST, the Focus ST-3, the Ranger Raptor, the Mustang and Mustang Mach-1; and the Special Edition Rangers and Everests.

It is good to see Ford keeping pace with any EV and hybrid automotive technology and movements; though at what societal and environmental cost?  New Ford vehicles are good, and Ford offers a very complete package for all new vehicles in the Ford range.  Once you’ve driven a Ford, its not so easy to change out of the brand come new car buying territory.

Classic Citroen

As mentioned in a more recent blog, Stellantis is official: PSA and FCA have merged under the name Stellantis.  The name Stellantis originates from the Latin verb “stello” which means “to brighten with stars”.  Car maker, Stellantis, now has 14 car brands under its wing, and they include: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroen, Dodge, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Ram, and Vauxhall.  As far as its size goes, Stellantis is now the 4th-largest carmaker in the world, behind Toyota, VW Group, and the Renault-Mitsubishi-Nissan Alliance.

As you might have noticed, one of the 14 car brands is Citroen.  Stellantis is planning to launch a new model under the Citroen brand for India and Latin America in 2022.  The idea is for Stellantis to push outside the boundaries of its conventional European sales territory and branch further into emerging markets where it has had much less exposure.

Citroen left India in the 1930s, so some water has certainly past under the bridge since then.  At a time when some other foreign carmakers are leaving India after struggling to make a profit there, Stellantis is seizing an opportunity with its Citroen-based products and heading straight on in.  The company recently said it plans to produce a new version of the Citroen C3, which is commonly a city car in Europe, will be launched into India and Latin America in the second half of 2022.  The car will be produced in India through a joint venture with CK Birla, and in Brazil.  It is likely to be the first of 3 models aimed primarily for India and Latin America – these 3 models being produced over the next 3 years.  By 2030, Stellantis expects India to become the world’s 3rd biggest car market after China and the U.S.

Citroen C5 X

However, Stellantis isn’t running away from Europe car markets anytime soon.  It is well-known that the big German brands are dominating the midsize car segment in Europe, however Stellantis’s European focus is ramping up.  Following the Peugeot 508 and glorious Citroen DS9, Citroen has a new flagship model that they want to put against the classy Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Audi A6 models.  What is exciting is that the new Citroen C5 X will be a car that is a bit sedan, a bit wagon and a bit SUV in its design.  The relatively flat roofline has a bit of sedan in its lines.  The drawn-out rear-end brings the station wagon style, and then the tall ride height is more SUV – reminiscent of the C5 Aircross.  At 4805 mm long, 1865 mm wide and 1485 mm tall, the new Citroen C5 X is smaller than its potential German rivals.  It offers 545 litres of boot space behind the rear seats, which can be expanded to 1640 litres after the rear seats have been folded flat.

Citroen C5 X

It has to be said that the new Citroen C5 X boasts a quirky exterior that takes after the 2016 Cxperience concept.  Its interior will be loaded with technology – all the very best tech that Citroen has to offer.  A 12-inch touchscreen for infotainment, a large head-up display with support for augmented reality, a fully digital driver’s display, separate physical controls for the climate-control settings, sumptuous seating, and superior ride quality and comfort are just some of the features of the soon-to-be available Citroen C5 X will provide.

Citroen C5 X

Speaking of Citroen ride quality, the new Citroen C5 X flagship will come with the patented Citroen Advanced Comfort suspension, with the plug-in hybrid version making comfort even further advanced by featuring an active suspension.  It boasts what the French automaker refers to as Progressive Hydraulic Cushioning, which when combined with exceptionally comfy seats, it should enable a silky-smooth ride even on bumpy surfaces – all in legendary Citroen fashion.

A variety of petrol-fed engines are planned; however, Citroen highlights the plug-in hybrid powertrain with 168 kW and more than 50 km of electric range as a special model to take on the gradual change to hybrid and EV technology.  The Citroen C5 X PHEV model will be able to travel at speeds of up to 135 km/h in full electric mode.

The brand-new Citroen C5 X, made under the Steallantis name, will go on sale in Europe in the second half of 2022.  Let’s hope that we see it as part of Citroen Australia’s line-up, too.  With Australia’s growing love of the SUV, it would seem a logical model to bring over here…

For something a little different! 

Citroen DS 1970

The 1955–1975 Citroen DS is still regarded as one of the most unique and interesting cars to have ever been made.  The idea of retrofitting one of these to modern electric propulsion would be in the spirit of all things Citroen.  A company known as ‘Electrogenic’ decided to reinvent the Citroen DS model with a battery-powered conversion.

The Oxford-based company retained the original car’s aerodynamic body but swapped the 2.0-liter petrol-fed engine for a brushless electric motor that produces 89 kW of power and 235 Nm of instant torque – a rather meaty performance upgrade.  Interestingly, the power is delivered to the front wheels through the car’s original manual gearbox.

Providing the electric energy for the powertrain is a 48.5-kWh battery pack that is housed within the DS’s body.  Electrogenic stated a real-world driving range of about 225 km per charge was doable.  A 29-kW charger will refill the batteries to full capacity in about two hours.  If the customer wanted a larger battery for a higher range between charges, it can be provided in a combination with a more powerful charger.

One of the fine attributes of the old Citroen DS was its silky-smooth hydro-pneumatic suspension.  Electrogenic has also improved the hydro-pneumatic system by replacing the standard mechanical pump with an electric pump, which is more silent and delivers a more sophisticated ride than the original.

From the outside, the only visual differences between the original DS and the electric-powered conversion are the lack of exhaust pipes and the subtle but distinctive “DS EV electronique” decal on the boot.

Steve Drummond, director of Electrogenic, says that “Repowering classic cars with all-electric drive brings a number of benefits, from the ease of use to reliability and performance gains”.  Of course, the quiet EV function brings out the best in old-timer classics.

BMW Brilliance

BMW has always been a favourite standout brand of mine, and BMW is forging new models and technology even as we speak.  It has been a bit of a gruelling year-or-two with the covid shenanigans, and car manufactures are only one small segment of the global economic pie to have taken a sizable hit.  The shortage of semiconductors has been, and still is, a problem because cars rely on these items for controlling anything from your electric windows to all the fancy driving assistance aids.  However, the winds are changing, and the rebound is occurring.  Luxury car marques like BMW seem to be doing very well, and even with the electronic chip shortages being a bit of an issue it seems that BMW will get through this period in fairly good shape.  There is always a talking point re this special car marque; sometimes the designs might look great to some and not so flash for others, but there is always a gem being turned out from this great team of motoring designers and manufacturers.  BMW cars are more often than not great to drive, good looking, practical and advanced cars.

In this covid recovery period, various chief financial officers recently mentioned that, for now, luxury marques like BMW would consciously undersupply demand levels, which seems a prudent, sensible path to take, as BMW new car prices are holding up very well – quite bullish in fact.  The increased pricing power has already trickled down to the bottom lines for BMW and Daimler.  Mercedes achieved a 12.2% return on sales in the last reported quarter, which was up from 8.4% in the same period in 2018 (2018 being of a period not affected by the pandemic or diesel emissions litigation costs).  BMW achieved a 16% return on sales, which was up from 8.6% in 2018.  BMW also reported a $5.7 billion net profit in the second quarter of this year, suggesting global auto markets are continuing to recover from the pandemic — particularly when it comes to luxury cars like BMW and Mercedes.

BMW M4 Minty Green

This is great news for BMW and car lovers in general, but what’s new in BMW’s box of tricks?  A very cool thing that BMW revealed at the recent Munich Motorshow (early September 2021) was to be found in the BMW M4 corner, where this manic machine, with its impetuous acceleration, showed a jaw-dropping minty green sheen to its beautiful, sexy exterior.  The M4 Competition wore a Mint Green paint job and sat upon gorgeous bronze 20-inch rims.  Both of these options are available as part of the brand’s expanded BMW Individual customization line, which you can find on BMW’s online configurator, where more than 130 other paint options and eight different wheel options are available.  This latest BMW M4 Competition also had a new fibre front splitter, a restyled rear bumper, a rear wing, and some unique side skirts that were all made with carbon fibre.  Carbon fibre interior seating surfaces and trim pieces are also part of the online configurator.  So, try before you buy!

The Munich motor show also allowed the public to preview a hydrogen-electric BMW X5 that is due to enter very-limited production in 2022.  This is an exciting moment because the vehicle was first previewed in 2019 as the i Hydrogen Next concept.  It’s currently in the prototype stage, and early this month it was confirmed with the go ahead, going by the name of BMW iX5 Hydrogen.

A hydrogen-electric vehicle is like a battery-electric vehicle, but instead of drawing power from electricity out of the charged battery the hydrogen-electric vehicle relies on a hydrogen fuel-cell stack to produce electricity power.  BMW’s iX5 Hydrogen has the hydrogen fuel-cell positioned up front where it draws hydrogen from 2 tanks, one in the X5’s transmission tunnel and another under the rear seats.  The tanks are made from carbon-fibre-reinforced-plastic and can hold about 5.9 kg of hydrogen at more than 10,000 psi.  Tank filling takes only a few minutes.  The hydrogen fuel-cell combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air to create electricity.  This process only has water (H2O) as a by-product – Wow!  The electricity primarily powers a single motor at the rear axle but is also used to charge a small battery that steps in from time-to-time to deliver extra grunt to the motor during high-load situations.

BMW iX5 Hydrogen Platform

The BMW iX5 Hydrogen will have a total system power output of 275 kW.  The hydrogen fuel cell, on its own, generates about 125 kW.  The vehicle’s aerodynamically shaped 22-inch wheels are wrapped in a new Pirelli tyre that is made from natural rubber and a wood-based synthetic fibre known as rayon.  These two materials replace much of the petroleum-based synthetic rubbers used in modern tyres.

The extensive field testing has already started in earnest within Europe.  Particular focus points have had the engineers examining how effectively the CO2-free drivetrain works in real-life conditions.  Also, they are measuring metrics which include reliability, safety, and efficiency during everyday conditions to ensure that the new model is perfect for mass production.  Hydrogen fuel cell technology has the potential to supplement internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrid systems, and battery-electric vehicles.  The BMW iX5 Hydrogen has hydrogen tanks that can be filled quickly in only 3–4 minutes.

BMW states that the small batch of iX5 Hydrogen models that are destined to be built in 2022 will only be used for demonstration and testing purposes.  BMW doesn’t expect to have any hydrogen-electric vehicles at dealerships until 2025 at the earliest and depending on the direction that the automotive markets take.

Newest off the showroom floor is the all-new BMW iX3 with its refreshed exterior design.  The new BMW iX3 has a sexier appearance and introduces the M Sport Package as standard.  BMW has achieved an impressive CO2 emission assessment for this next-generation iX3, and the vehicle boasts an exceptionally efficient drive system.  Extensive use of secondary raw materials in the manufacture of aluminium castings and thermoplastics combines with the new iX3 boasting an absence of rare earth materials and the use of more green electricity in its production.

BMW iX3 2022

The BMW iX3 has a kidney grille that is larger still, and it has a single-piece frame that comes in Pearl-effect Chrome with blue accents to match with the BMW i styling cues.  Its headlights have been made slimmer.  It also boasts 19-inch black aerodynamic wheels, an automatic tailgate, adaptive suspension, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, and Smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

BMW is a bit of a landmark in the automotive world, a benchmark, the perfect blend of performance, luxury and practicality.  In the future, BMW wants to be ready to supply customers with their powertrain of choice, whether it be gasoline, diesel, battery or hydrogen.  In the case of hydrogen, BMW sees it as an opportunity for customers that favour long-distance driving or who happen to live in regions without adequate battery recharging infrastructure.

I have so many favourite BMWs and other cars, including the 4.0-litre Falcons, which have rolled our roads over the last few decades of motoring, but let’s not be nincompoops and let’s embrace new ways of automotive power; let’s embrace the new BMW i technology.

Audi News

Audi has been pumping out some magnificent cars in the last few years, most of them being excellent petrol and diesel cars.  What direction are they taking in the blending of hybrid technology and EV-only?  The straight answer is that Audi is on the ball and have been introducing an exciting range of EV power into their brand nice and gradually, as they should.

Audi e-tron S Sportback

The e-tron is, perhaps, the more widely identified model that Audi are making as fully electric cars.  The e-tron is already nearing a new update, and the set of models we’re likely to see arrive sometime in 2022 are the Audi e-tron S and the Audi e-tron S Sportback.  What is special about these two is that Audi e-tron S models carry two electric motors on the rear axle and one on the front and can generate a nearly instantaneous 370 kW of power and 973 Nm of torque in full boost mode for 8 seconds at a time.  Because the 2 rear motors have been designed independently of one another, they can operate with the utmost precision and can help the driver power out of corners with the confidence of Audi’s special torque vectoring systems.  In normal driving conditions, the front motor remains off until it is needed.  When needed for ultimate performance and traction, the front electric motor flicks on and into action.

The new Audi e-tron S models boast wider bodywork than the standard models.  They will be equipped with Digital Matrix LED headlights, where each light is divided into 1.3 million pixels and can be controlled with precision, opening up many new functions.  As road traffic regulations allow, these digitized lights could include on-road lane markers and lightbeam functions that can dip around or below other cars.  The matrix-design LED headlights come as standard, however.

Audi e-tron S

Both of the Audi e-tron S models come standard with a 12.3-inch virtual cockpit, 3D satellite navigation imagery, predictive traffic light information, in-vehicle LTE-powered Wi-Fi for up to eight connected devices, a top-view camera, traffic sign recognition, Audi active lane assist with turn assist, Audi pre sense front, adaptive cruise assist and Audi phonebox with signal boosting capability.

Audi Grandsphere Concept

Also hugely exciting for Audi fans is the Audi Grandsphere concept, a luxury sedan with an electric drive system.  Magnificent comfort, which Audi liken to a first-class flight, will be the experience Audi is aiming for with Grandsphere.  At 5.35 metres long, the Grandsphere sedan combines the luxury of private travel in ultimate comfort with a comprehensive onboard experience with Level 4 automated driving where the interior turns into a spacious sphere of experience without a steering wheel, pedals, or displays.  Instead, the front of the cabin is a first-class lounging area with maximum space, more open views, and access to all the functions of a holistic digital ecosystem that the Audi Grandsphere will provide.  This is a very ambitious car; however, with the rate of hybrid and EV technology becoming more and more readily available, and as we already live in an age where digitized everything is at your fingertips or voice control, the Grandsphere concept might not be too far from becoming a reality.  I only hope that the fun and satisfaction of human ability and the experience of the real world will not be stifled by technology and virtuality.

Audi Grandsphere Interior Concept

A Case for Hydrogen-Powered Cars

What’s to like about hydrogen, and hydrogen-powered cars?  We cannot see taste or even smell hydrogen, yet hydrogen makes up over 90% of matter.  The stars and the sun are made up of hydrogen gas.  Here on earth, hydrogen forms compounds; compounds are a mixture of elements that we find on the Periodic Table (That’s the big poster found in every science lab at school, which has 120 – or so – little squares with letters that make up the organised Periodic Table with all the known elements in our world.).  Hydrogen is found in almost every living thing.  Hydrogen gas is used to make chemicals such as ammonia and methane.  Hydrogen is in the water that we drink (H2O).  Some car manufacturers and scientists have been beavering away developing what is known as hydrogen-powered cars.

Before the car was even invented, hydrogen power had been around and in use in various forms since the 1800s.  It was used widely for gas streetlamps back in the day.  It was a Welshman, Sir William Robert Grove, who invented the first fuel cell back in 1839.  When you use hydrogen in a fuel cell, the only thing you produce is electricity and water!

So, hydrogen-powered cars are vehicles that contain tanks of hydrogen fuel that then combine with oxygen from the air in a process that delivers power to the car for motion.  The beauty of the hydrogen-powered vehicle is they produce only water as a waste product.

In a little bit more detail, a hydrogen fuel cell inside a hydrogen-powered car works like this…  The fuel cell has a proton exchange membrane that uses compressed hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity.  The hydrogen goes into the membrane at one end called the anode, while oxygen goes into the membrane at the other end called the cathode.  A platinum catalyst, which is positioned on the anode end of the membrane, splits the hydrogen into positive protons and negatively charged electrons.  The proton exchange membrane takes only the positive ions, while the electrons are fed into a circuit to make electricity.  It’s this electricity which is used to drive the car’s electric motor[s].  These electric motors are what provide the driving for the hydrogen-powered car to give them speed and power!

At the cathode end, the positive ions are travelling along the membrane and combining with oxygen from the air to make water (H2O).  This water drips out of the car’s exhaust/tailpipe.  If you are driving your hydrogen-powered car through a desert and need some water, then you could believably drink it.  Now, how green is that!

How can we produce hydrogen for vehicles?  Without going into too many details here (I’ll save that for another blog), hydrogen can be produced in mass from a renewable electricity system that uses generation plants like hydro dams, solar power and wind power generators.  This purpose-made hydrogen is known as green hydrogen.  Australian mining company, Fortescue, has been talking with government recently regarding the creation of a hydrogen production system for Australia as early as 2023/24.

Tiwai point, which you’ll find on the Southern-most tip of New Zealand (NZ makes up Australia’s two biggest islands!), is currently being used as an aluminium smelter.  The NZ government is in talks for designing and consenting to converting this smelter into a green hydrogen production plant even as early as 2023.

I think the hydrogen-powered vehicle makes a lot of (green) sense.  It would cut down on the need for an endless supply of new battery packs that EVs require, which are made from preciously rare earth’s resources (e.g., lithium, nickle, cobalt…), and the energy and space to dispose of the spent battery packs would be a problem.

Of course, we would need to build up a network of hydrogen refuelling stations across Australia to power this new type of vehicle.  This network-building will be easy enough and relatively cheap compared to the massive and costly EV network/upgrade.  Green hydrogen fuelling stations could simply be added onto any petrol/diesel refuelling station currently in operation across Australia.  This would also ease the changeover period for the general public.

If you are wondering what hydrogen-powered cars might look like, do take a look at the new Toyota Mirai, for an example.

Toyota Mirai

 

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/