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Car Review: 2019 Hyundai Kona Highlander & 2019 Hyundai Tucson Elite.Private Fleet

This Car Review Is About: A pair of SUVs from Korean goliath, Hyundai. It’s great to have to Hyundai back in the garage, and the two cars reviewed, Kona and Tucson, show the direction of one section of the car market. The Kona was the highest trim level, the Highlander, with the Tucson a mid level trim, the Elite. Kona comes in four trim levels with the conventional, non-electric, powertrain. There is Kona Go, Kona Active, Kona Elite, and Kona Highlander. There is also the limited edition “Iron Man” version. Tucson is Go, Active X, Elite, Special Edition, and Highlander.

Under The Bonnet Is: A choice of turbo or non-turbo engine. The Highlander spec Kona came with the Atkinson cycle 2.0L that drives the front wheels, the turbo is AWD. 110kW and 180Nm are the peak power and torque outputs, at 6,200rpm and 4,500rpm. The Elite came with the same capacity engine and front driven wheels, but slightly uprated in regards to power and torque, at 122kW and 205Nm, which are available at 6,200rpm and 4,000rpm. Tucson also has the 1.6L/AWD, and adds AWD to a 2.0L diesel.Both cars run E10 compatible fuel systems and are EURO 5 compliant. Transmission for the 2WD Kona is a six speed auto, as is the Tucson. The Elite Tucson is available with the diesel and 1.6L petrol, which gain an eight speed auto and seven speed dual clutch auto respectively.Consumption for the Kona is rated as 7.2L/100km for the combined, 9.7L/100km for the city, and just 5.8L/100km on the highway cycle. In 2.0L and 6 speed auto trim, the Tucson has 7.9L/100km combined, 11.0L/100km in the city cycle, and a reasonable 6.1L/100km for the highway. Weights are 1,290kg (dry) to 1,383kg for the Kona, with Tucson ranging from 1,490kg (dry) to 1,590kg.

On The Inside Is: A really funky interior for the Kona Highlander, a restrained and functional interior for the Tucson. Highlander spec for the Kona sees the body colour added to the piping on the seats, colour coordinated seatbelts, the air-vent surrounds, and gear selector surround. As the test car came in a colour called Lime Twist it makes for a very eye-catching look.The Tucson Elite review car had mocha coloured seats and an otherwise standard looking interior. There are notable similarities between the two in respect to the layout of the dash, and a couple of of differences. The Tucson, for example, has two separate buttons for fresh and recirculating, whereas the Kona uses one. The Kona also goes for a Head Up Display, accompanied by a slight buzz as it rises monolithically out of the top of the driver’s binnacle. The actual dash designs are different; the Kona is at odds with the sharp and edgy exterior design by having a flowing, organic, dash. The Tucson is a more traditional look, with a flatter profile and has air vents at either end that are reminiscent of an American classic car’s rear end.Kona Highlander has dials for both fan speed and temperature, Tucson Elite has a separate pair of tabs for fan speed, and two dials for individual front seat temperatures. Naturally the Kona offers venting and heating for the front seats but the Elite offers neither., even with perforations in the seat materials. Kona Highlander has a wireless smartphone charge pad, two USB ports up front, with Tucson Elite having a sole USB port front and rear.Headroom is identical, at 1,005mm up front, and virtually the same at 961mm for the Kona, 963mm for Tucson in the rear. Front seat legroom is lineball with Kona scoring 1,054mm for the front, Tucson 1,053mm in the front, with the shorter overall Kona losing out in the rear leg room stakes. It’s 880mm to 970mm. Shoulder room for the Kona is 1,410mm/1,385mm front and rear, whilst the Tucson has 1,450mm/1,410mm. Load up the rear and the Kona has 361L/1,143L to the Tucson’s 488L/1,478L. Both have steering wheel controls for audio, dash screen information, Bluetooth phone connection and voice activation, with both looking virtually identical. the driver’s displays are the same, and the upper centre dash for both is where the touchscreens for audio, satnav, and more are found. There are minimal design differences between the two, and both have screens that are a delight to use in their looks, simplicity of usage, and layout. Both have the almost mandatory apps including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and DAB audio.

On The Outside It’s: Revolution and evolution. The Kona is one of the new breed of small SUVs that are supplementing the medium and large SUV segments. The marketing for the Kona is aimed at the younger demographic and the design of the Kona itself is of an appeal to the same. Kona eschews the traditional front end design of upper mounted headlights and replaces them with LED daytime running lights. the headlights themselves are mid mounted, with the lower centre air intake featuring conventionally powered lights, with cornering lamps also up front. The rear has LEDs in the Highlander, with separate clusters for the reverse and indicators. Tucson is in its second generation and has been given a refinement front and rear. The LED DRL strips are now set as “eyebrows” to the headlights, rather than being located in the lower front quarters. The grille and headlights are reprofiled, there are new wheel designs, and the rear has been subtly reprofiled from the originals slightly bulbous shape, and the horizontal line in the lower third of the rear door has been deleted. Both have the durable black polyurethane body mouldings for soft-roading protection and visual appeal.

Rubber for the Highlander is 235/45 on 18 inch alloys, with the tyres from Hankook. The Tucson is slightly smaller in width at 225/55/18, with Kumho the supplier here.

On The Road It’s: A bit chalk and cheese. Although the Highlander is no heavyweight, the high rev point for the peak torque means off-the-line mojo isn’t great with the 2.0L non-turbo. Patience is required and any move from a stop sign before going into oncoming traffic needs to be well judged. Rolling acceleration isn’t fantastic but it’s nice enough and builds in a linear fashion.

The Tucson Elite is more spritely, more responsive from the start. Although it was the non-turbo engine, the performance was definitely more engaging and sparkling. Peak torque is higher in numbers and lower in the rev range, so the cogs can deliver the torque more efficiently, it seems.

Both exhibit well mannered on-road credentials. The Highlander is harder in the suspension, with a notably tighter ride across all tarmac surfaces. Steering initially felt like twisting a thick rubber rope, the Tucson lighter and easier to deal with daily. The Kona eventually felt as much of an extension as the Tucson. Braking in both was balanced, progressive, and although not instant in response from a press of the pedal, could be judged perfectly as the pedal went down.

The Tucson had an opportunity to show off its soft-road ability with a long drive in a national park and on gravel roads. Up front, the ABS calibration definitely errs towards a tarmac bias. Some of the roads are just wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass at low speed safely, and occasionally the Tucson’s stopping ability into a certain section was called upon. There was no lack of control, the car went straight ahead, and once or twice the pressure was such to engage the emergency flashers.

On the rutted surfaces the suspension was tuned well enough that body control was solid. There was little noise intrusion, and the suspension transmitted little of the jiggles through. The front end felt connected to the front and even when provoked somehow managed to keep understeer to a minimum.

The Safety Systems Are: Quite solid in both. The Hyundai SafetySense package in the Kona Highlander is shared with Kona Elite, and included Forward Collision Alert with Pedestrian and Car avoidance, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lanbe Keep Assist, and six airbags. In Tucson trim, the Elite gets these but they’re an option below. The Lane Keep Assist is perhaps a bit aggressive, with a non-subtle tugging of the wheel in the driver’s hands as it works to centralise the cars in a lane. And The Warranty Is: Five years/unlimited kilometres is the current Hyundai package. 12 months worth of roadside assistance is included at purchase, the first service is free. Hyundai also offer a Lifetime Service Plan, and your local Hyundai dealer can explain how that works in more detail. There is also the Hyundai AutoLink app, and it looks pretty cool to play with. It’s a multi-function monitor system that transfers info from the car to a smartphone, allowing tyre pressure checks, fuel and battery status, even driving time.

At The End Of The Drive. The growth of the SUV market seems almost unstoppable. Here, a major world player offers a small and medium sized option, with the Santa Fe at the top of the tree. The Kona and its marketing seem to be ideal for a clientele in the 20-30 year old demographic, and potentially a sing;e or couple with no children. The Tucson goes towards the mid 20s and upwards, and with one child at least.

Neither are horrible to live with and certainly the Kona became easier to understand in how to drive it as the week progressed. the Tucson, in comparison, was like strapping on a familiar set of boots, partly because I was involved in the original model’s launch program. The fact that the room up front is identical and really not that much different for the rear seat speaks volumes for the overall design and packaging of the Kona.

On a tech level the Kona Highlander has the HUD to offer, and for those that don’t wish to use it there is a switch that lowers the screen. Dynamically the Tucson comes out as the winner, but a trim-for-trim comparison would provide a more apt comparison. In either respect, Hyundai kicks goals as a car brand to aspire to, and the “N” series of i30 is certainly highly regarded.
2019 Hyundai Tucson range and 2019 Hyundai Kona range info is available in more detail via these two links.

2020 RAV4 Ready To Roar.

If you’re not a fan of SUV style vehicles, best you stop and look away now. The Toyota RAV4, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is widely regarded as the original SUV. 2019 has the release of a vastly updated car and range to continue the legend.

The range will include, for the RAV4’s first time, a hybrid. There will be two petrol engines, four trim levels, and 2WD or AWD variants.
The Gx range is the entry level, with GXL, Cruiser, and a solitary, and new Edge trim spec.. Here’s how the pricing structure shakes down.

GX Petrol 2WD manual: $30,640, GX Petrol 2WD CVT $32,640, GX Hybrid 2WD CVT $35,140, GX Hybrid AWD CVT $38,140;
GXL Petrol 2WD CVT $35,640, GXL Hybrid 2WD CVT $38,140, GXL Hybrid AWD CVT $41,140;
Cruiser Petrol 2WD CVT $39,140, Cruiser Hybrid 2WD CVT $41,640, Cruiser Hybrid AWD CVT $44,640 &
Edge Petrol AWD Auto $47,140The base petrol engine is a new 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre, direct injection, four-cylinder engine that drives through Toyota’s now well-proven continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a launch gear mechanism. The GX also gets a manual with a rev-matching program. The hybrid goes a step further, with a 2.5L Atkinson Cycle powerplant. Peak oomph depends on the driven wheels. There are combined maximum outputs of 160kW for 2WD variants and 163kW for AWD versions. This also continues Toyota’s fuel efficiency drive, with just 4.7 litres/100km2 for 2WD variants and 4.8 litres/100km2 for AWD versions.There is also a nifty rear axle mounted drive system. Toyota fits an additional rear motor generator to provide power to the rear axle for the electric AWD system. Complete with a Trail mode, it enables up to 80 per cent of the total drive torque to be delivered through the rear wheels.

A new model reaches the RAV4 family. The Edge trim level also has a 2.5L petrol four, and there’s 152kW of peak power, with 243Nm of peak torque available, reaching the ground via an eight speed auto. A mechanical AWD system can split torque at up to 50:50 front to rear from a 100% front driven only delivery. The Edge trim level will also feature off-rad drive modes, being Mud and Sand, Rock and Dirt, and Snow.RAV4 has also been given an extensive makeover outside, with a stronger resemblance to the HiLux family. The exterior redesign brings a sharper look, a bolder look by moving away from the curvier outgoing model, and 17-inch,18-inch and 19-inch alloy wheels which add a visually solid and planted presence on the road. The GX starts the party with LED headlights, auto wipers, and dual exhaust pipes. Inside there’s a 4.2 inch driver’s display, 8.0 inch touchscreen with DAB audio and voice recognition, higher grade trim feel and quality than before, and improved safety features including AEB as standard.The GXL has 18 inch alloys, up from the 17s on GX, and adds privacy glass for the rear windows. A rear camera with guidance lines is added. Wireless charging up front and rear airvents get a nod as well, plus there’s five USB ports, with three for the front seat passengers. The Cruiser trim level goes to 19 inch wheels, heated front seats and a powered driver’s seat. The driver’s display gets bumped up to a 7.0 inch screen. The Edge gets more cosmetics, venting for the front seats, and a leather look material for the pews.Underpinning the slightly shorter (5mm), lower (30mm), and wider (10mm) body is the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that features a 30mm longer wheelbase and wider track, that has been extended by between 25mm and 55mm. This, together with a revised front MacPherson strut and new multi-link rear suspension, gives the new RAV4 substantially improved driving dynamics, superb ride comfort, and improved handling.Safety is raised, as expected. Seven airbags including driver’s kneebag, with the Toyota Safety Sense package including AEB with pedestrian detection for day and night conditions, and daytime cyclist detection, active cruise control for the autos, lane trace assist and lane centreing, plus lane departure alert with lane keep assist.

Check with your local Toyota dealership for availability and to book a test drive.

Sleek And Sporty: Rimac Concept 1 and Rimac Concept 2.

Rimac is one of a number of new brands that is looking towards a purely electrically powered future for cars. Rimac itself has seemingly snuck under the radar, with its most notable achievement to date being the destruction of a car at the hands of a British car show host…

Rimac Automobili is based in Croatia and was founded in 2009 by Mate Rimac. He says that his original idea was to start with the proverbial blank sheet and grow an automotive design business from what started as a hobby. The dream was to build the world’s first fully eklectric sports car, and the kicker was having a petrol powered car’s engine that Rimac was racing expire, allowing he and his team to convert it to a fully battery powered system. As many components weren’t available “off the shelf” Rimac and co had to develop the parts themselves. They now hold 24 individual patents.Concept 1 was spawned from a series of cars being converted from petrol to electric. The success of the conversions had the owners of the converted cars spread the word of the company’s work. From here, Rimac was able to realise part of his dream and drew up plans for what would become the Rimac Concept 1.

Franfurt’s 2011 car show saw the first public showing of the Concept 1, and was greeted with largely positive reviews. At a cost of around USD$980,000, just 88 would be built. Rimac Concept 1 features a quartet of electric motors, with an output of 913kW/1224hp, and 1600Nm/1180lb-ft for torque. In a lightweight body of carbon fibre, the 90 kWh motors launch the Concept 1 to 100kmh/62mph in 2.6 seconds. It’ll see the double ton in 6.2 seconds and will crack the quarter mile in 9.9 seconds.

Range for the Rimac Concept 1 has also been increased as as the team further developed the car. Original range estimates hovered around the 200 mile mark, with current best world figures now around the 310 miles distance.Owners receive the Rimac All Wheel Torque Vectoring System, which distributes torque between all four paws on demand and depending on driver’s setup choices. The interior is bespoke leather and handmade trim.

The Rimac Concept 2 takes the original and expands and improves upon it in almost every area, including price. With expected first deliveries schedule for 2020 as the car undergoes testing and homologation, the current expected hit to the wallet is just under Eu1.8,000,000 or a tick over USD$2,000,000.

Rimac has really “upped the ante” for the Concept 2. Top speed? 415kmh/258mph. Power? 1408kW/1888hp. 100kmh/62mph time? 1.85 seconds. Range? 647km/402 miles. It’s been touted as being able to twice lap the fabled Nurburgring twice with no drop in overall performance. And charge time is said to be up to 80% in around a half hour.Autonomous driving is on board and is at a Level 4 standard. Eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, lidar, and six radar sensors will go a long way to ensuring Level 4 driving for the owner. Extra smart tech comes in the form of facial recognition to unlock the butterfly wing doors that form an integral part of the super slippery body. Built of carbon fibre also, the chassis and body house the battery pack, mounted low for better weight distribution, centre of gravity, and handling. Weight is estimated though to still be around 1930kg/4300lb. There’s nary a hard edge to be seen on the Rimac Concept 2’s body, with sleek lines, plenty of aero influences, and a huge rear wing, necessary if Sir is to travel at 200mph.

The drive system is similar to the Concept 1, with full torque vectoring, and the ability to switch between front wheel, rear wheel, all wheel drive modes on the fly. The driver’s display screen can overlay driving lines to show an almost arcade game like look if the system senses that the car is being driven in the appropriate environment.

Just 150 examples are to be made and it’s said that all examples have been pre-sold.

Car Review: 2019 Tesla Model X 100D

This Car Review Is About:
One of the two vehicles currently available from Tesla. The Model S and Model X are very closely related and come with a choice of drive combinations. A new model, a smaller car called Model 3 is scheduled for Australian release from July 2019. The vehicle tested is the non-P 100D. P for Performance, 100 for the kiloWatt hour drive, D for Dual motor (or, if you will, all wheel drive). The Model X can be specified with different seating configurations and the test vehicle was fitted out as a six seater. What About The Dollars?
Cost for the car tested started at $129,500. Metallic paint is $2,100, with the big black wheels $7,800. The seating colour scheme was $2,100 with the dash trim, a dark ash wood look, a standard no-cost fitment. It’s the electronic bits that add on, with the full self driving option and auto-pilot $7,100 and $4,300 each. With options fitted, Luxury Car Tax, and GST, plus charges such as government taxes, the car as tested came to $186,305.

Under The Bonnet Is:
Empty space. Yup, the Tesla Model X has a “frunk”, a front trunk, or in Aussie speak, a front boot. It’s big enough for a travel case of hiding the home charge cable that Tesla supplies. The engines for the 100D are located underneath at the front and rear, and engage via a single speed transmission. It’s this combination that gives the Tesla Model X startling acceleration, and in Ludicrous mode, a drive option available in the “P” designated cars, it’s quicker again. Call it three seconds to 100kph and you’d be on the money.On The Inside Is:
A choice of seating options. The test car came fitted with a white leather covered set of six seats. The three pairs all have their own form of power adjustment. Up front the driver has fore and aft movement, seat back adjustment, and lumbar support. The middle row are also adjustable for fore and aft, allowing access to the rear seats. However they do not have seat back adjustment. The third row are powered in a slightly different way, with a button locking or releasing them for raising or lowering.

Tesla fit a massive, vertically oriented, 17 inch touchscreen that houses virtually all of the functions. Audio, navigation, music access, air-conditioning, doors, car features, settings, online user manual, and some special features are all here. The map system is from Google and rendered in superb high definition on the screen. Drive orientation is in the upper right corner and can be set to swivel in direction or North as a permanent upper orientation.The overall front section presence is clean, uncluttered, traditional even. The driver’s binnacle has a full colour LCD screen that shows information such as energy usage, map, radio, and more. The steering column is perhaps the weakest part ergonomically. A left hand side indicator sits above the cruise control lever and both can be easily confused for the other as they’re very close together. The drive engage lever is on the right and is simple in operation.The centre row seats move forward and as they close towards the front seats gradually nose downwards to allow access to the rear. The rears are not adjustable for anything other than folded or not. Behind them is another storage locker with a lift away cover that otherwise provides a flat floor.The touchscreen itself houses “easter eggs”. At the top centre of the screen is a “T” symbol. Hold that for a second or two and a graphic that describes the individual car shows. A second or two later a screen appears above that and has an Atari games symbol, a Mars map symbol, a reindeer, a Christmas tree ornament and others. The Atari symbol brings up five games including Asteroids and Missile Command. The reindeer has the car’s driver display show a Father Christmas and sleigh, and rings Christmas bells on the indicator stalk. There is also an “emissions testing” icon that brings a grin to every ten year old boy when a sub-menu of different farts comes up.

On The Outside Is:
The extended roof version of the Model S. Extended as in the Model S formed the basis for the Model X. A higher roof line houses the famous folding gull wing doors, and there’s another part of the delight. When the Christmas ornament is pressed from the easter egg list, it invites the passengers to exit, and close the doors. A few seconds later if it works, as it’s sometimes hit or miss, the front windows roll down, the superb sound system pumps up, and the exterior LED lights up front flash in synchronisation. The doors themselves open and flap in unison and it is one unbelievably entrancing sight to see.The rear view sees an embedded airfoil otherwise the same looking tail lights at Model S. The nose is slightly different but unmistakeably Model S. The footprint is huge, with fan shaped alloys painted in black spanning 22 inches in diameter. Rubber is Goodyear Eagle and are 285/35.

The doors are normally hinged at the front, gull winged for the rear, and the driver’s door can be set to open on the approach of a person carrying the Tesla key fob. Unlike the Model S the door handles don’t extend out from the body, and require a firm press on the handle or via the key fob individually. A tap or two on the top can open or close all doors.

On The Road It’s:
A mix of elation and mild levels of meh. The meh is the steering feel. Although there are three drive modes that change the weight of the steering, it feels artificial and isolated. That’s not unexpected in such a technologically oriented vehicle. But that’s the worst of the on-road feels.

The time with the Model X coincided with a trip from the Blue Mountains to Bega via Canberra. Door to door it’s just on 500 kilometres. The full charge range of the Model X is knocking on 480km. An app that can be installed into your smartphone shows, once the car is linked to your account, the range expected, and when charging, the charge rate and charge distance. The AMOUNT of charge can also be adjusted, from zero through to 100%, with 80% being the default.

All Tesla cars come with a charge cable to hook the car up to a home’s electric network and Tesla themselves provide a higher output charge station to their buyers. These charge at 7 to 8 kilometres of range per hour. The first stop was at the supercharger portal in Goulburn. That’s a two hour drive with a supercharger near Canberra airport approximately another hour away. Superchargers will add in somewhere between 350km to 400km of range in an hour according to the app.Cooma is the next supercharger stop, another hour or so from Canberra, and this one is in an off the main road and not entirely welcoming location. It’s a set of six in a carpark entrance for a shopping complex, and on our visit half of the supercharger bays were taken up by non electric cars. The drives gave us a chance to properly evaluate, in a real world, family usage situation, and although the range expectations were one thing, proper usage delivers another.

Cargo was two adults, two children, a small dog, and a few overnight bags. Then there is the weight of the car and the topography to consider. Autopilot and cruise control were engaged and a small point on the autopilot. The lever needs to be pulled toward the driver twice to engage, and the cameras strategically embedded around the car will then “read” the roadsides in order to keep the Model X as centred as possible. The autopilot function itself was in “Beta” testing mode and again accessed via the touchscreen.The biggest appeal of the the Model X, and Model S, for that matter, is the sheer driveability of the chassis and drivetrain. Electric motors deliver torque constantly, as per this and acceleration across any driving condition is stupendous. The “P” designation adds in “Ludicrous” mode, which amps up the “get up and go” even further. Engage the drive, and it’s a double pull to bring the car out of hibernation mode, and plant the foot. That mountain you could see on the horizon is suddenly there before you.

The braking system can be set for two energy harvest levels and on the ten kilometres worth of downhill running at Brown Mountain, some forty kilometres west of Bega, added an effective twenty kilometres of range. It’s the uphill runs that pull the range expectations downwards, and severely at that. The ever-growing network of destination chargers alleviate range anxiety and a visit to the beautiful coastal town of Merimbula found a destination charger at a bayside motel. The navigation system can provide locations of chargers and when a destination charger shows, a tap of the screen advises the usage, as in in this case, passing through holiday makers. A big thanks to the good people at the Albacore Apartments, by the way. There are two Tesla destination chargers and these add range at 75 to 80 kilometres per hour.

The return trip was via Cooma without stopping and heading to Canberra’s Madura Parkway charge stop. Handily located next to a major fast food store and a number of other shops, an hour’s break saw the Model X arrive back at its Blue Mountains lair with perhaps 70km worth of range left.

Actual ride quality is on the high side of decent considering the size of the wheels and low profile rubber. Ride height can be ajusted via the touchscreen but a high ride setting lowers the car back to its standard height once a preset speed is reached. The Model X is stiff but not bone-shakingly so, taut, but not uncomfortably so. It’s flat, exhibits minimal body roll, and is surprisingly compliant on unsettled and rough surfaces. And although the steering lacks “humanity” it also points the Model X exactly where the wheel tells it to. Naturally, brake feel is spot on too.

The Safety Systems Are:
A solid list of 360 degree cameras, parking sensors that measure in millimetres and show on the driver’s screen, distance sensing radar cruise control, AEB, overhead and knee airbags, plus the usual electronic driver aids. The cruise control can be set to one to seven seconds of distance between the Model X and the car ahead. It’s worth noting that the braking can be on the hard side so driver involvement is still required to watch the road ahead. The same goes with the autonomous steering. Hands on the tiller are recommended at all times.

And The Warranty Is:
Four years for the body and structure. The drive systems and battery get eight years. Extra information is here.

At The End Of The Drive.
The timing of the drive came just after the leader of the Australian Opposition party put forward a proposition that by 2030 fifty percent of cars to be made available for sale be electric. Naturally this sparked the conversation about costs, range, and the time taken to recharge versus refueling a petrol or diesel car.

There’s an undeniable time factor in regards to recharging. But there is a welcome upside. The Goulburn stop provided an opportunity to visit a street mall, the Cooma break a visit to a park with historic significance. The Merimbula stop provided a chance to sample the local lifestyle and the Canberra stop a welcome half way point, lunch, and a leg stretch. The Model X itself is not a tiring car to drive meaning driver fatigue is minimised.

Therein, as the saying goes, lies the rub. The return trip from Bega took as much time as a normal petrol/diesel powered trip, even allowing for the hour or so to recharge. The upside was the break allowing a safe, straight through, return drive and the lack of fatigue from driving a comfortable vehicle. The downside was the evidence that range expectations versus the real world have some way to go before the two meet with a lesser margin in between.

And yes, the cost is significant, especially with the extra Australian government charges involved. However there are plenty of cars that start at the same price and offer an extensive option list. And there is the fluctuating cost of fuel. Depending on location it is theoretically possible to not pay a cent in recharge costs with an electric car.

Tesla will be releasing a lower cost version, effectively, of the Model S, and a new, smaller, SUV called the Model Y is in development. With battery technology improving and the uptake of solar power and batteries for home usage also on the upswing, plus the promise of further electric cars as standard from makers, they all mean that for the Australian market our driving future is in for an undeniable change.

Model X information and more on the other cars from Tesla can be found here.

Traffic Sign Recognition: What Is It?

What’s one of the more common scenarios for picking up a speeding ticket besides simply being leadfooted?  Apart from accidentally letting the speedo creep up because you’re looking at the road ahead rather than at the dial (avoidable with cruise control, of course), the other time speeding tickets happen to nice well-behaved drivers who weren’t meaning to go too fast and wanted to keep to the limit is when you’re driving in an unfamiliar town or (even more annoyingly) a part of town that you knew but has recently been redeveloped.

You know how this one goes.  You’re toddling along through town and then you get to a bit that looks like the houses are coming to an end and you’re getting into more rural areas so you press the accelerator down a wee bit to get up to 70 km/h.  Or you know that there’s a town coming up ahead but it still looks like you’re in market garden and lifestyle block land so you keep your pace up a bit. but next thing you know, there’s disco lights in the rear view mirror and you’re getting a ticket. Because what you thought was now a 70 km/h area actually wasn’t one at all and you should have been doing 50 km/h.  Dagnabbit!

The problem in this situation is that you either didn’t see the sign or you thought that you’d gone past the sign without seeing it, and instead, you relied on the visual landscape cues around you to decide on your speed.  Traffic psychologists say that most experienced drivers rely on these visual stimuli all the time and if the Powers That Be could afford to do it, this would be the most effective way of making sure that the typical driver stuck to the speed limit (we’re not talking about those leadfoots that scream through quiet streets at 80 km/h, making you worry about every single dog, cat, cyclist and small child in the neighbourhood).  In fact, I’m sure I’m not the only person who drives through certain small towns at 50 km/h thinking “No way should this area be a 70 km/h zone!  Too many houses and shops!  I’m going slower.”

However, they can’t afford it and they probably need the revenue from those speeding tickets (we all know this happens) so they rely on the traffic signs – the lollypop signs, as we call them in our house.  What every driver needs is a navigator in the passenger seat whose job is to keep an eye out for said lollipops and remind the driver.  This is precisely what traffic sign recognition is supposed to do for you when you’re driving alone.  It keeps a lookout for those traffic signs and displays what the current speed limit is on the dashboard display.

When I first heard of traffic sign recognition technology, which is now a safety feature or driver aid in a lot of high-end luxury cars like Mercedes and BMW, I groaned a little bit.  Not because I didn’t like the idea of having a feature that let me know what speed I’m supposed to be going but because I had this dread that the technology would pick up on every single sign on the road ahead and display that.  Information overload isn’t good for decision-making processes so this sounded like more of a distraction than a help.  The cynical part of me also wondered when they’d monetize this so that certain ads or signs would pop up, notifying you of particular businesses ahead – the dreaded golden arches, for example.

However, I needn’t have worried.  The designers are all too aware that most modern roads are awash with signage, which is why it’s so easy to miss those lollipops in the first place.  The tech uses pattern recognition technology, so that it only picks up on actual traffic signs – the ones with the white backgrounds and a red circle around them, with the number displayed in black.  The software and the front-facing camera home in on these patterns and can recognise the numbers, and it’s this that gets displayed on your dash.  The software can also pick up useful signs like Give Way, Stop and No Entry – and warn you if you go ahead anyway!

The exact tech goes through a very complicated process to extract the necessary data at the right speed – my eyes started crossing while trying to wrap my head around it, so I won’t attempt a simple explanation here. If you’re the more nerdy sort, then here’s the low-down.

Traffic sign recognition (aka traffic sign assistance or TSA) is quite a handy little feature and it’s no longer found exclusively in high-end executive saloons.  It’s found in new versions of familiar little family cars like the Ford Focus.  In fact, there’s a rumour going about that this will become mandatory on all new cars sold in the EU from 2022 (2020 is just next year, so this is no longer the Big Benchmark and planners will lose their favourite pun about 2020 vision).

At this stage, at any rate, the vehicles are sticking to the basic signs rather than adding in all the safety warning signs.  This is partly because traffic signs around the world vary somewhat.  Software that recognises a Swedish polar bear warning sign would be useless in Australia, where we have kangaroo warning signs, for example.  What’s worse is that even signs that mean the same thing vary slightly from country to country.

But what happens if the sign in question is obscured by vegetation or has been shot out of recognition or knocked down by some hoodlum?  Well, the software can’t recognise what it can’t see, so once again, you’re back to your visual cues.  At least you can try arguing that the sign was obscured to the cop.  It sometimes works, especially if you did see the edge of the sign but couldn’t read it thanks to a tree.  If you’re unlucky, they’ll spend your speeding fine on clearing that vegetation or upgrading the sign.

 

Labor Says 50% Electric Cars By 2030….Can It Be Done?

In what could be a crucial first shot for the environmentalists vote in an upcoming Australian Federal election, Labor leader Bill Shorten has stated a couple of goals need to be achieved in respect to electric vehicles. The goals themselves are simple to read.

By 2030 half of all new vehicle sales are to be of the electric variety. By 2025 half of the Australian government’s fleet are to be electric. A change to the taxation structure for businesses needs to be implemented, in that an allowable deduction of 20% for depreciation for private fleet EVs of a cost of over $20,000.

 

Sounds relatively simple. However, the devil is in the detail. There are self-interest groups such as the Australian Institute of Petroleum. There are the pricing issues of EVs versus petrol/diesel/hybrid cars. Then there are the human factors such as “range anxiety”, a lack of knowledge of where charging points are, and even a push-back against the technology itself. There are elements of distrust to be overcome also, and yet there are a couple of fair questions, such as the cost of a replacement EV battery, and the ecological impact of dissecting and recycling (if possible) the battery’s elements.

Charge Points.
https://www.drivezero.com.au/electric-car-charging-stations/ is one of many sites to use but the end result is that maps do show just how accessible a charge point is, and this site also shows state by state and the kind of plugs available.

Cost.
It is, absolutely no doubt, a barrier. It’s been raised over and over again and although a brand or two can be pointed to as being “exxy”, in real terms an EV is far cheaper than what they potentially could be. But then there is the actual CHARGE cost. WhichCar editor David Bonnici provided some figures in late 2018, saying: the new Nissan Leaf consumes 10kWh/100km. If you’re paying 0.28c per kWh (an average price during peak periods within Victoria) it will cost you $2.80 (10kW x 0.28) to charge it enough to travel 100km. The Leaf has a claimed 400km range, which means a full charge will cost you $11.20 ($2.80 x 4).

When plasma TVs then LCD TVs were introduced, their costs were seen as stupidly prohibited, with rumours at the time of release of a TV network, being an early adopter, paying $30K for a 42 inch plasma. Plasma has gone the way of the dodo and now 8K tv is on its way, which will spur the production of 8K content, even as DVD still, somehow, manages to hang on. The screens have come down in cost and by huge margins. In screen size and in quality those have gone up. The point here is that technology has a habit of dropping in real price terms for the level of tech being offered. There is simply no reason to expect EVs to reverse that trend and the Tesla Model 3 is an example of that.

Then: The Jaguar I-Pace on the other hand is rated at 19kWh/100km, which means it costs $5.32 for a 100km trip and $25.53 for a full charge to travel its claimed 480km range. Considering the ridiculous fluctuation in unleaded petrol prices, which at the time of writing are around $1.40 for E10, that charge cost isn’t so hard to deal with.

Charge Time:
The timeframe for a partial or empty to full charge is also coming down, with better battery charging technology making substantial differences. The Nissan Leaf, for example has varying rates depending on source. Starting from a depleted battery, about 20 hours at 110-120V (depending on amperage), approximately 7 hours at 208-240V (depending on amperage) and about 30 minutes at 480V (quick-charging station).

Tesla’s solar powered and battery fueled supercharger stations offer a different setup. The supercharging stations charge with up to 135 kW of power distributed between two cars with a maximum of 120 kW per car. They take about 20 minutes to charge to 50%, 40 minutes to charge to 80%, and 75 minutes to 100% on the original 85 kWh Model S.

Summation:
This article was NOT intended to be an in-depth industry look. It was intended to provide a general overview at what is involved in the EV business. It is not intended to be an endorsement or dis-endorsement of a Labor policy. There is and will continue to be misinformation and misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of where to go for a charge but that information is readily available as fact.

The answer to the question posed is yes. It can be done. There are a few VERY important factors to be overcome, such as infrastructure, information provision, and perceived cost. And then there is the perception of how a purely electric vehicle drives.

That’s simple. Go and drive one. Companies have vehicles for demonstration. And there really is no better demonstration of one brand’s ability than this (with thanks to our friends at CarAdvice): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eGhjhx8O9M

Has Steam Gone Walkabout?

What about a steam powered car?  In recent times people’s consciences and attention has turned to more environmentally friendly ways of commuting.  So with electric, hydrogen, hybrid and bio-fuel vehicles all available on the current automotive market, why not give steam another go?

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for a steam powered comeback is the grip that the oil companies have on automotive power.  However the winds seem to be changing, with more-and-more people reflecting on how their lifestyle and decisions impact on the environment.  Internal combustion engines produce a lot of pollution and tend to be rather noisy.  Without a doubt cleaner burning engines are resonating with buyers who have cash to spend.  EVs and hybrids are expensive but there are people very happy to buy them.

Difficulties that drove steam powered cars to become museum pieces were:

  • The external combustion steam engines could not be manufactured as cheaply as Henry Ford’s internal combustion engines.
  • Steam engines were also much heavier engines.
  • It took several minutes before the boiler was hot enough for the steam motor to generate power for take-off.

These difficulties created the “Warehouse and Kmart” phenomenon of today, where people flock to where the cheap buys are regardless of the impact.  But with today’s modern materials, steam cars could be as light as their internal combustion engine alternatives.  With a new advanced condenser and a fast heating boiler, the possibility of a modern-day steam car with decent efficiency and a warm-up time that’s measured in seconds rather than minutes could provide the comeback punch that steam needs to become an attractive and viable option for new-car buyers.

Just ponder on this for a moment – a new modern motorcar running on steam that has powerful seamless acceleration instantly, is clean burning, very quiet and, unlike combustion engines, can run on almost any fuel that produces heat.

Steam engines don’t need any gears or transmissions.  They are much more in the same vein as EV cars that have all their torque available at any rpm.  Due to the fact that steam provides constant pressure, unlike the piston strokes of an internal combustion engine, steam-powered cars require no clutch and no gearbox – making them extremely easy to drive.  By virtue of their design, steam engines provide maximum torque and acceleration instantly like electric motors, and particularly for urban driving where there’s lots of stopping and starting, clean-burning steam would be great!

What developments in steam have occurred since it rudely got forgotten and laid aside?  Some good news is that in 2009, a British team set a new steam-powered land speed record of 148 mph (237 km/h), finally breaking the Stanley Rocket’s record which had stood for more than 100 years.  In the 1990s, a Volkswagen Enginion (a model for research and development) boasted a steam engine that had comparable efficiency to internal combustion engines, but with lower emissions.  And, in recent years, Cyclone Technologies claims it has developed a steam engine that’s twice as efficient.

It might have preceded the internal combustion engine by around 200 years, but as the world is finally starting to take a serious look at the future viability of personal transport, perhaps the wonder of gliding by steam power will once again be seen on our modern roads.  In an age of touchscreen infotainment systems, EV cars that can do 400 km on a charge and driverless cars, surely there is room for new, clean-and-efficient steam cars.

Currently the increased focus on environmental responsibility could be weakening the link between the oil industry and modern motorcars.  Wouldn’t you just love to be able to fill your car up with rainwater and head off on your work commute!

Thoughts?

Hyundai Kona Electric Is Revealed.

Hyundai Australia has teased and drip-fed information about the fully electric Kona, and now have provided a full overview. There are two crucial points in the information, with the first being the expected usable range from a full charge. That’s 449km. The second is the retail price. That’s $59,990 plus on road and government costs.80% charge from zero can be reached in as little as 54 minutes when plugged into a 100kWh charger, otherwise will take longer from the more easily accessible charging stations and from a home based charger. A 50kWh charger will take 75 minutes to reach 80% whilst the onboard 7.2kWh charger will take over nine hours using a domestic current setup.Power and torque from the 64kWh battery powered motor is substantial. It’s rated at 150kW, and 395Nm of torque. They’re good enough to get the Kona Electric to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds. Drive is via a single gear style transmission, and the Kona Electric has a regenerative system that can be adjusted on the fly via the paddle shifters. Smart technology allows the driver to bring the vehicle to a stop simply by holding the left paddle.There will be two model levels, the Elite and Highlander. Both will have the same drivetrain. Both will feature the same high specification safety package as well. Called SmartSense it features Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Smart Cruise Control with a Stop and Go function, and a Driver Attention Warning to alert drivers of potential fatigue.

Lane Keep Assist, Blind Sport Collision Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Collision Warning will also be standard. Also standard will be DAB+ pumping through an eight speaker Infinity system, Apple CarPLay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and accessed via an 8.0 inch touchscreen. Highlander gains wireless charging for compatible smartphones, a glass roof, powered front seats with venting and heating, and a heated tiller. Extra tech comes in the forms of a Head Up Display, High Beam Assist, LED lighting front and rear, and a frontal park assist system. Hyundai Auto Link, a smart app, allows owners to stay in contact and monitor their car. A SIM module is required for the Kona Electric.The exterior has some discernible changes compared to its petrol powered sibling, notably the closed in front end. The rear bumper has been reprofiled for better airflow, and the rear lower lights have been given a change too. Wheels will be 17 inches in diameter. A choice of six colours (metallic is a $595 option), Galactic Grey and Phantom Black, Ceramic Blue, Pulse Red, Lake Silver and Chalk White, come with choices (depending on exterior colour) of interior trim. and a no cost two-tone body & roof option on Highlander will be made available.

Ride quality should be on point, thanks to the local engineering and development team. An independent multi-link rear and MacPherson strut front have been fettled to suit the weight and balance of the battery powered Kona. 15 front and 22 rear suspension designs were looked at, along with six spring and damper combinations.Andrew Tuitahi, the Hyundai Motor Company Australia Senior Manager of Product Planning said:“The low centre of mass brings lots of benefits that seem obvious, but also many challenges that were new to us. This demanded different damper design and spring choices, to the end that Kona Electric shares very little in its ride and handling package with its petrol-powered sibling.”“The Kona Electric powertrain and weight distribution required a very different approach to tuning compared with the conventionally engined Kona, and naturally defined a different brief.” He also said: “The powertrain is so silky-smooth and quiet, we felt that it demanded a smooth and quiet ride quality to match. In meeting our standard for comfort and dynamic ability, the vehicle we have ended up with is full of character and charm.”

Here and there are aspects of weight saving, such as the alloy front control arms, Advanced High Strength Steel (10% lighter and twice as rigid as normal mild steel), plus adhesives to back up welding points.

Servicing is every 15,000 kilometres and comes with a fixed $165 cost. The abttery comes with a 8 year or 160,000 kilometre warranty. Contact your Hyundai dealer for more details.

Tesla Unveils Model Y SUV.

 

Tesla has released details of their Model 3 based electric SUV. Dubbed the Model Y, it slots into the mid-sizer SUV space and will be priced from USD$39,000. That price is applied to the Standard Range version. It will also come in Long Range, Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive, and Performance variants.Tesla say the Model Y will be able to reach 62mph/100km/h in 3.5 seconds, and should see a top speed of 150mph/240km/h. Range expectations are 230 to 300 miles for the Standard and Long Range versions.

The Model Y will be available for sale in the U.S., according to current expectations, in the autumn of 2020 in the northern hemisphere for the Model Y Performance, Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive, and Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive variants, with Standard Range vehicles due in 2021.

Model Y will feature a panoramic glass roof to provide an extra sense of space inside the mid-sizer for the seven passengers. A single 15 inch touchscreen will provide driver and passenger information and comfort. There is an application for smart devices that can be installed also, allowing a driver to enable pre-airconditioning, remote unlock, and a Summon mode. Notable, however, will be the Model Y using the normal door method with vertically aligned hinges, and not using the costlier Model X gull-wing system.Naturally the Model Y will be compatible with the extensive charger network and will be able to take advantage of the forthcoming V3 charging rate system, which will provide a rate of up to 1,000 miles worth of charging in an hour.

Expected release dates for the Australian market are yet to be confirmed.

Tesla Reveals V3 Superchargers

Fresh from the success of his Space-X mission to the ISS, Elon Musk‘s other love, Tesla, has released information on a change to their car charging system. Called V3 Supercharging, it brings a massive change in how Tesla cars are charged, and drastically lowers the charging time.

To be rolled out in the U.S. initially, V3 Supercharging moves to a different charging point, with a solitary charging cabinet, as Tesla puts it, with a 1 MW (megaWatt) capacity able to provide a new Model 3 Long Range car with up to 75 miles worth of range in just five minutes and the equivalent of one thousand miles of range in just an hour.The cabinets themselves will now provide one car with one power source, with the previous method a power-share model meaning if two cars were attached to the one charge cabinet, charge rates were slower. By providing a single stream, Tesla anticipates average charge times to drop to 15 minutes for a full charge.

Another innovative change to the Tesla charge system is a pre-warming of the batteries as the car approaches a charging point. Called On-Route Battery Warmup, the onboard system recognises the car’s proximity to a Tesla or compatible car charging point. By warming the battery on approach, it means the chemical makeup of the battery is more respondent to the incoming charge. This is anticipated to reduce charge time by up to 25%.

The overall changes are anticipated to reduce the overall charge time by 50%, and increase the number of cars being charged in the same amount of time.

Tesla will add more to their existing charging system too, with their current V2 superchargers, numbering over 12,000 worldwide, to be updated to a 145kW charge rate. The improvements are forward planning for the release of the recently re-priced Model 3 and the forthcoming Model Y. Asia-Pacific stations are currently scheduled for a Q4 2019 update.