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The Electric Cat Wins EV Award

Infrastructure is expanding, understanding of the technology is increasing, and more brands are getting into the electric car field. Once renowned for sports cars and luxury cars, Jaguar is one of those companies. Their new i-Pace has recently been named Top Gear Magazine’s Electric Vehicle of the year, with the car racking up 19 awards in 2018.

It’s powered by a pair of bespoke electric engines that develop 400 horsepower and 696Nm of torque. 0-100 time is 4.5 seconds thanks to its all wheel drive and lightweight architecture. Getting the car underway with a drained battery takes just 40 minutes to an 80% charge level at a charging station, or, like virtually all buyers would do, a home charger will do that overnight. Expected range is 470 kilometres, enough to travel from Sydney to Canberra comfortably and take advantage of the charging stations there.

Available in Australia from $119,000 plus on roads, the i-Pace will also have the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, capable of over-the-air software updates, and uses artificial intelligence to adapt to a driver’s personal preferences, ensuring driving and infotainment settings are matched to each individual using the car.

The legendary Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, said: “We’re delighted to see the I-PACE named EV of the Year by BBC TopGear Magazine.

“As our first all-electric Jaguar we set out with a goal to make the I-PACE the world’s most desirable electric vehicle and recognition like this clearly shows that we are achieving it.”

Contact Jaguar for more details here.

 

Yellow Or Blue: The Question That Exposed Dangerous Drivers

This picture, put into circulation by the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, asked what really should have been a simple question to answer. Of the four cars pictured, which has the right of way?

Surprisingly, an overwhelming amount of respondents to the question, shared by us also, said the blue car.  Straight away this raises an issue that should have the politicians and heads of traffic police investigating better driver education and training.

Of the four cars, one is behind another and therefore is immediately out of the equation. The car it’s behind is at a Give Way sign, and must remain stationary until other cars have passed through. The blue car is crossing a clearly marked delineation on the road’s surface. Road regulations state that any crossing of such a marked line,including at roundabouts, merge lanes, and intersections such as this, require indication.

This leaves the yellow car, following the road as marked by the dotted centre line, as the first car to go through. The RACQ themselves published this: “The give way sign at this intersection makes the path the yellow vehicle is on the continuing road, which curves to the right. The red and orange vehicles are facing a give way sign and must give way to all other traffic. Therefore the yellow vehicle goes first, the blue vehicle goes second as it is effectively turning right off the continuing road and the red and orange vehicles follow.”

Responses to this ranged from: “ Yellow, Blue, Red, But why is Blue indicating right? There is no right turn” to “There should be a give way sign at the t-section and not where it’s currently placed.”

Questions were raised about the road design and markings: “The marks on the road mean nothing . It clearly states in the road rules all vehicles must give way to the vehicle on your right. As there is no give way sign, stop sign or arrows on road, apart from the red car with give way sign. So it is blue ,yellow and red.” It’s this kind of response that should also raise red flags with road designers.

Many queried why the blue car was indicating. The Queensland government’s official stance on this is:” When you change lanes, you must give way to any vehicle in the lane you are moving into. This rule applies even if your lane is ending and you have to cross a lane line. “ These are from the NSW Roads and Maritime Services website and clearly show the same regulations that should be adhered to. And in one succinct sentence: ” Generally if you’re turning across another vehicle’s path, you must give way.” At all times, any lane change, be it as shown here, or at merge lanes, or at roundabouts, indicators MUST be used.

Finally, it seems that governments really do need to rethink their road safety plan if something such as this, in a hypothetical sense, potentially translates to a real world situation. If so, it means many drivers in the blue cars would be held responsible for the crash.

Isn’t It Ioniq, Asks Hyundai?

Korea‘s Hyundai has released details of their new-to-market hybrid Ioniq. A three drive mode choice of purely electric, battery and petrol engine, and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) offer versatility in a shapely four door coupe’ style.

In the technology stakes, the car’s lithium-ion polymer bettery will charge from zero to eighty percent in around 25 minutes, with the drive range of up to 230 kilometres being available. The Ioniq Hybrid offers up to 63 kilometres on battery with the 1.6L Atkinson cycle petrol engine and six speed dual clutch auto extending that range. With the petrol engine there is peak power of 77kW, peak torque of 147Nm, and combines with the electric engine’s 32 kW / 170 Nm in the hybrid and 44.5 kW / 170Nm for the PHEV. The purely electric Ioniq develops 88kW and is rated at 295Nm.

Expected fuel economy is quoted as 3.4L to 3.9L per 100km for the hybrid and 1.1L/100km for the PHEV. The Ioniq Electric receives a charging system capable of 100kW via DC or direct current. Inside the Ioniq hybrid is a 8.9kWh battery for the expected 60 kilometres or so range, which of course depends on driving attitude and conditions. Hyundai has joined forces with JET Charge for installations of charging portals and can be sourced though the dealership network.

The Ioniqs have the proven McPherson strut front, with the Electric on a torsion beam rear suspension. The hybrid and PHEV will be on the multi-link rear. IONIQ Hybrid Elite features aerodynamic wheel covers on 15-inch alloy wheels and other variants feature a range of distinctive aerodynamic alloy wheel designs in 16- and 17-inch.Each of the three engine options can be specified in either the Elite or Premium trim levels. Any version asked for will have Hyundai’s SmartSense safety package on board as standard. The Elite Hybrid version has the IONIQ occupants protected by Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with pedestrian detection, Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning systems. Rear view camera and park assist is also standard.

There will be Driver Attention Warning, and Lane Keeping Assist systems fitted also. A Smart Cruise Control system completes the Hyundai SmartSense suite in every version and in IONIQ Electric this is complemented by a Stop & Go function. For the occupants enjoyment there is an eight inch touchscreen, eight speaker sound system from Infinity, SUNA satnav with ten year update allowance, Apple CarPlay and Siri voice control. Android Auto and DAB is also fitted.The Ioniq Electric has a single gear reduction driveline and, as a result, a flat floor for extra space. Regenerative braking energy recovery is standard, and can be regulated via steering column paddles. Hyundai’s standard three drive mode choices, Normal, Eco, and Sport, are standard.

Charging wise, the Ioniq Electric comes standard with a ICCB, In-Cable Control Box, and for fast charging a commercially available charging 100kW box has eighty percent in 23 minutes or the 50kW box in 30 minutes. A 6.6kW on-board AC charger can charge the high-voltage battery in around four and a half hours when connected to a charging station of equal or higher capacity. With the installation of a personal charging station, this will allow a full overnight charge at home.

Helping with the economy figures are the lightweight body construction and adhesives. The Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) is 53.5 percent of the body. Aluminuim components such as the bonnet and tailgate save 12 kilograms with the front cross-beam, front lower arms, front knuckles, rear hub carriers, and front brake calipers also in aluminuim. Exterior dimensions are 4470 mm, 1820mm, and 1450mm (L, W, H) with a wheelbase of 2700mm. Ground clearance is 150mm. Head room is good with the Elite having front room of 994mm and the Premium with 970mm. Rear headroom is 950mm. Leg room is also decent with 1073mm for the front, 906mm at the rear. There is plenty of shoulder room with a handy 1425mm and 1396mm front and rear. Hip room is a crucial factor, and there is 1366mm & 1344 mm front and rear.

Cargo area is rated as Hybrid: 456 L, Plug-in: 341 L, Electric: 350 L to the top of the rear seats, and to the roof,
Hybrid: 563 L, Plug-in: 446 L, Electric: 455 L.Five paint colours are available across the IONIQ range – Polar White, Platinum Silver and Intense Blue Metallic, and Iron Grey and Fiery Red Mica, at a $495 cost.
The Hybrid and six speed DCT is $33,990 and $38,990, with the PHEV at $40,990 and $45,490. The Electric is $44,990 and $48,990. Prices are exclusive of dealer and government charges.

Contact your local Hyundai dealer and Private Fleet for availability on the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq.

Porsche On A Mission E

Porsche Mission E

Porsche Mission E Interior

So what have Porsche been up to really recently – and I mean currently working on?  They are right into creating a new breed of E-Performance cars: exciting cars that have supercar performance, electric power and boundless attraction.  Who’s not going to like a car with the name Porsche Mission E.

The Mission E models are made up of one very quick 4-seater sedan with a height of only 1.3 m and a very special E Cross Turismo – which is basically a Mission E on steroids to tackle a range of terrain and road surfaces you’d come in contact with on any given adventure.

Porsche E Cross Tourismo

Porsche E Cross Turismo Interior

Porsche’s Mission E is a superbly light car with an architecture that’s very distinctive.  The all-electric drive gives the car absence of a transmission tunnel, and this feature opens up cabin space and imparts a lighter, more generously proportioned ambient feeling inside the car.  You get four individual seats that are inspired by bucket-type racing seats.  So strap yourself inside, and whether you’re driving or an occupant in the back you’ll enjoy all the appropriate lateral support you’ll need to match the driving dynamics of the car.

So they are both go fast cars.  Both Mission E vehicles offer a 0-100 km/h sprint time of around the 3.5 second mark.  With a range of over 500 km, you can then recharge to a range of 400 km in a mere 15 minutes – thanks to Porsche’s innovative 800-volt technology.

Take a look at the exterior and interior pics.  They really are an exciting new breed from Porsche!  Looking forward to when we can experience them over here in Australia.

Here are some other special Electric supercars that will be around shortly, all bidding for attention.

Do you know of any other supercar electric models?  Of course, there’s already the very cool BMW i8.

And, here are some of the others to be seen shortly.  Still a little hazy on the Nissan IDS but it looks cool!  Hopefully not too far away:

BMW i8

Jaguar XJ

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 Interior

Nissan IDS

Nissan IDS Interior

Kia Really Goes To Rio and Hyundai Nexo Goes Five Star.

Turbo or not turbo, that is the question. Kia seems to think the answer is yes, with the petite little Rio getting a rejig both in the mechanical and model sense. Finally the four speed auto has been given the flick and will be replaced by a six speed. The Si and SLi have also been discontinued and replaced by a model called Sport which will take the new six speed. The GT has a revvy 1.0L three cylinder and Kia’s own seven speed dual clutch auto.It’ll still be a three model range. The S kicks everything off with the unchanged 74kW four with six pseed manual or, sadly, the four speed auto. There’s a pretty good list of standard equipment including the expected stability and safety programs, reverse camera, reverse sensors, six airbags, and the smart apps of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Sport goes up a notch with a leather trimmed tiller, the aforementioned transmission choices, leather trimmed gear selector, and electric folding mirrors. It’ll also roll on stylish 17 inch alloys.

The top of the range GT-Line features a three cylinder turbo engine. It pack a fair bit of a punch for the size, with 88kW and 172Nm of torque on tap. The new seven speed dual clutch auto should take advantage of that and make the GT-Line the car it’s deserved to be. Autonomous Emergency Braking, Idle Stop and Go, and Lane Keep Assist enhance the appeal. The funky GT-Line body kit, LED driving lights and position lamps, LED rears and LED fog lamps add to the visuals of the pert Rio GT-Line.Along with Kia’s standard seven year warranty comes some sharp pricing. The S manual is a steal at $16,990 driveaway, and just $500 more for the S auto. The new Sport will start at $17,990 for the manual and $18,990 for the auto, with both also a driveaway price. The GT-Line remains super competitive at $21,990 and with the new seven speed DCT promises fire cracker performance in its price and class. Contact Kia for more details.A car due to land in Australia in the first half of 2019 is the hydrogen fed Hyundai Nexo. With the known volatility of the fuel, safety is paramount and the Nexo has achieved a Euro NCAP five star rating. This makes it the world’s first fuel cell vehicle to receive this rating. To back up the claim is a full suite of safety equipment under the Hyundai SmartSense banner. Forward Collision Avoidance Assist with pedestrian assist utilises radar and camera technology. In a three stage process the FCA will alert the driver by sound and by a visual alarm. Assessing the situation the onboard system may apply the brakes depending on the danger level. Maximum emergency braking is applied if the system feels it’s warranted.The onboard Lane Keeping Assist is part of the package that helped gain the EuroNCAP five star rating. That’s backed up by the Lane Following Assist system that’s also standard equipment. The pair keep the Nexo on the straight and narrow at speeds up to 150 kilometres per hour. Contact Hyundai for more details.

Fossil Fuel, EVs or Bio Fuels?

Fossil Fuels

Is petroleum diesel still a fuel that is going to be around to power our cars in the future?  On the surface, it might look like the era of the diesel engine might be drawing to a close, especially when we hear that some manufacturers are pulling the pin on building new diesel engines.  The truth is that non-renewable resources, which include fossil fuels such as oil, coal, petroleum and natural gas, are all finite in their quantity available in nature for the future.  Diesel fuel is a petroleum product, and so is considered to be a finite non-renewable resource.  Certainly it would seem that petroleum-based diesel has a limited window of opportunity for powering motor vehicles around the globe.  But is this actually the case?

Added to the seemingly limited supply of our fossil fuels, we also hear that some car manufacturers are deciding to avoid building new diesel engines all together.  Volvo was one of the first to announce boldly that by 2019 there would be no more diesel powered Volvo cars and SUVs in their line-up.  Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions cheating scandal has meant that they have decided to stop selling diesel models, as well.  Volkswagen Group is pretty big when you consider that VW, Audi and Porsche are all under the same banner.

Because our global economy relies on so many diesel engines for performing many mechanical tasks we can’t drive the world’s diesel fleet over the cliff and forget about them just yet.  The reality is that even America’s economy would grind to a halt immediately if they decided to go without diesel power overnight.  Diesel engines are used in so many commercial applications – trucking, construction, shipping, farming, buses and much, much more.  Diesel motors are still far more energy frugal (assuming proper and legal emissions treatment is followed) compared with gasoline equivalents.  For any sort of heavy-duty transportation work or for towing purposes, the low-end torque of a diesel engine simply cannot be matched by gasoline motors which have to be worked much harder for the same amount of work – and therefore pump out more emissions.

EVs

EVs are getting plenty of press at the moment, but in reality they have a very long way to go before they can truly be considered as a true logistical alternative to the diesel motor.  There just simply isn’t the network in place to produce so many EVs nor power so many EVs for our global economy to continue growing at the pace it is.

Biofuels

What I haven’t heard so much of lately is the advancements made in biofuels.  Biofuels seem to me to be the much more sensible replacement option for petroleum diesel, as biodiesel fuels are a renewable resource.  Biofuels are derived from biological materials such as food crops, crop residues, forest residues, animal wastes, and landfills.  Major biofuels are biodiesel, ethanol, and methane; and biofuels, by their very nature, are renewable over a period of less than one year for those based on crop rotation, crop residues, and animal wastes or about 35 years for those based on forest residues.

Emissions from burning biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine have significantly lower levels of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, sulphur oxides, odour, and noxious “smoke” compared to emissions from the conventional petroleum diesel motor that we are more familiar with.  Also, carbon dioxide emissions from combustion of biodiesel are reduced by about 10% when compared to petroleum diesel, but there is a more significant carbon dioxide benefit with biodiesel made from plant oils.  During the photosynthesis process, as the plants are growing and developing, carbon dioxide is drawn from the environment into the plant, while the plants release beneficial oxygen into the environment.

How are EV batteries made?  Are they as clean as renewable biofuels?  If EVs are running on electricity produced by burning dirty fossil fuels, the climate benefits are limited.  Because of the complex batteries that EVs use, it currently takes more energy to produce an electric car than a conventional one.  While fewer emissions are produced by the cars themselves while driving on the streets, CO2 is still being emitted by power plants needed to charge the EVs.  And, disposing of those complex EV batteries creates an environmental hazard in itself.  EV batteries also need to be made from non-renewable minerals such as copper and cobalt, and rare earths like neodymium.

Some other negatives for EVs are that the mining activities for the minerals in countries like China or the Democratic Republic of Congo often cause human rights violations and vast ecological devastation which include: deforestation, polluted rivers and contaminated soil.  Not so great!  And, in addition, many automakers use aluminium to build the bodies of EVs, and a tremendous amount of energy is required to process bauxite ore into the lightweight metal.

Trucks, ships and tractors still think diesel power rules!  Even though some car manufacturers have abandoned petroleum diesel fuelled cars, there are other automotive manufacturers that have actually ramped up their diesel vehicle production.  General Motors, Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Mazda, Kia, Jeep, Ford, Nissan and Chevrolet are all manufacturing plenty of new diesel motors.

Hmmm?!  Biofuels then?

Understanding Your Air Conditioning

The weather is starting to get at least a bit warmer, and it’s about time that we started thinking about summer and about summer motoring.  For most of us, especially if we’re in the hotter parts of Australia, having air conditioning that works well is an absolute must if you want to stay sane during the daily commute during the heat of summer – or while on your holiday road trip.

Making sure that your air conditioning is in good working order becomes a bit easier if you understand how it works.  It might seem that it works by magic – you switch it on and cool, refreshing air blows out of the vents – but of course, it doesn’t.  Unless you don’t ride to work on a car but on a flying carpet or on a broomstick Harry Potter style.

Like a lot of systems in your car, air conditioning works by pumping some kind of fluid around a system, transferring heat energy as it goes.  Your radiator does much the same thing, using fluid to take the heat energy away from the engine and put it somewhere else.  This process is simpler in the radiator, as the natural way things work is for heat energy to pass from the hot object to the cold object – that’s part of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.  However, the trick with air conditioning is to cool something down, which is a bit harder.  However, it’s not rocket science and, in fact, the science of air conditioning pre-dates rocket science (almost) and cars have been sold with air-con since the 1940s at least.

Air conditioning systems have three main parts: a compressor (#4 in the image above), a condenser (#1) and an evaporator (#3 – and #2 is a one-way valve).  The compressor is the powerhouse of the system and it’s driven by your car engine.  This is why old-school penny pinchers wanting to get a few more kilometres per litre will advise you not to run the A/C unit unless you have to – the more you ask your engine to do, the more fuel it will consume.  However, on a hot day, the only other way to keep cool while driving is to open the windows, which increases drag, which also increases fuel consumption. Your choice was between saving fuel and keeping cool.  Anyway, I digress.  The compressor has the job of taking the refrigerant gas and putting it under loads of pressure.  This pressure heats the gas up (think of how hot a bicycle pump feels when you use it), which seems counterproductive although it’s necessary. It needs the pressure to get around the condenser.

From the condenser, the pressurised refrigerant gas moves into the condenser.  This is a sort of radiator that manages to steal the heat from the pressurised gas as the gas worms around the tubes in the system.  As the gas cools in the condenser, it turns to liquid.  It’s now ready for the evaporator.

Cooling by evaporation is the oldest known method of cooling down.  This is how your sweat works and why spritzing your face with water feels so refreshing.  The process of turning the liquid into vapour or gas, be it the refrigerant in your air-con system or the sweat on your forehead, uses heat energy, so the place where the liquid used to be feels cooler.  This, incidentally, is why alcohol swabs and perfume (and aftershave) feel cool on the skin: alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water so it evaporates quickly, using some of your skin’s heat to do so, and we perceive any rapid loss of heat as cold.  The evaporation (technically boiling) temperature of the refrigerant is even lower (and so is its freezing temperature).  In fact, when it hits the evaporator, the refrigerant should be at about 0°C.

When it gets to the evaporator, which is usually located away from the rest of the system and quite close to the car’s cabin, the refrigerant absorbs some of the heat of the cabin as it changes from liquid back to gas again.  Abracadabra – the heat energy goes from the air around you and into the refrigerant and you feel nice and cool, especially if the fans in the car take that cool air and make it move, which makes the most of the windchill factor. Ahhh – refreshing!

The gas then cycles into the compressor and the process begins again.  There are a few other bits and pieces in an A/C system, like the parts that remove actual water from the refrigerant liquid (this is why water drips out of the bottom when your A/C is running).  Removing water and other bits is vital, as water would actually freeze in the system and damage it badly.

On the whole, air conditioning systems take care of themselves unless they’ve been physically damaged.  This is why the hoses in an A/C system need to be checked, as they’re the most vulnerable parts (all that pressure!).  However, no system is absolutely perfect and bits of gas will escape so from time to time, you will need to re-gas or re-charge the refrigerant in the system.  Simply, this involves topping up the refrigerant levels.

And what about climate control?  How does this differ from ordinary air conditioning?  The big difference is that air conditioning just tries to cool things down no matter what.  Climate control, on the other hand, tries to keep things at a set temperature (which YOU select).  Climate control will turn the air conditioning system on or off, and will adjust air flow and add hot air from the radiator as needed, using input from the temperature sensors.  And that’s about it.  They say that climate control is more fuel-frugal than ordinary air conditioning because it doesn’t need to run the air conditioning system all the time nonstop – it only does it when it needs to.

Dual zone and multiple zone climate control works in the same way as ordinary climate control but it’s got a few more temperature gauges so the system can fine-tune what it’s doing in different parts of the vehicle, which avoids the “I’m too hot” – “I’m freezing” argument.

If it’s been a while since you had your air conditioning system checked out, then maybe it wouldn’t hurt to take it in for re-gassing before the summer starts.

 

Audi Unveils The e-Tron

Audi has unveiled the e-Tron in a webcast from California. Focusing on the design element, price, and the extensive charging network that Audi and its business partners have and will invest in, the e-Tron, Audi’s Tesla challenger, is available now to order online in the US. Audi have also partnered with global retail giant Amazon in what is currently a unique move, allowing one stop at home charging via the Amazon Alexa smart-home device.An energy recuperation system is expected to harvest up to 90% of the battery’s usable capacity to power the vehicles twin electric engines. Quick charging for the 95 kW/h battery provides up to 150kW or 80% from empty in around thirty minutes. A zero to 60mph time of the 5.5 second mark has been quoted also. Driving range won’t be an issue although Audi didn’t confirm expected range. With a raft of charging stations available throughout the US on major roads, connecting and recharging from the west to east coast won’t be an issue. With the immediate competition offering figures between 240 to 295 miles of range, an extensive network will alleviate range anxiety.

The e-Tron is based on the Q series of AWD vehicles, features the signature Audi grille which will have a platinum hue to signify Audi’s electric intentions, and will start in the USD$74K range. It also means that visually they are immediately more relatable, in an electric car sense, to buyers familiar with the Audi styling. Interior styling should be “standard” Audi with the multi-media and virtual cockpit fitments. There will be a pair of large screens for the centre section of the dash, with a 10 inch and 8.6 inch screen for satnav/entertainment, and climate control usage. With the driver having the Virtual Cockpit it means most conventional tabs and buttons have been removed. Autonomous driving will be on board but to a level that still requires human input. A Comfort and Sport mode is programmed to have the semi-autonomous factor as well. A panoramic roof and four zone climate control are standard. The much talked about digital mirrors will come later.Audi have provided the e-Tron with a signature look up front. Alongside the stylish grille are new four bar LED driving lights that blend well into the overall Audi styling. And the rear is standard Audi as well, with a clean and uncluttered design.

The entry level e-Tron will have twenty inch diameter wheels, a 360 degree camera, and a pounding B&O sound system. Vented and heated seats will be standard. Spend a little more and the Prestige at USD$81K offers a HUD or Head Up Display, massaging front seats, and dual pane acoustic (noise reduction) windows. Then there is the First Edition, a limited run numbers version. USD$86,700 has Daytona Grey paint, 21 inch wheels, and just 999 will be available in the US.
The car is due for deliveries in the US in the first quarter of 2019.

Yes, Virginia (Fanpetals), There Is A New Biofuel Feedstock On The Block

Sida hermaphrodita or Virginia Fanpetals: a new player in the biofuel game.

When it comes to biofuels, especially the sort of biofuel that gets used for ethanol, there’s always a bit of an issue.  You see, it kind of defeats the purpose of having a sustainable fuel source if you have to pour on truckloads of fertiliser (a lot of which can come from petrochemicals as well) and tons of water.  It’s also rather frowned on if the crop in question takes away land from something that could be used for growing crops that people are going to eat directly (as vegetables, flour, cooking oil, sugar, etc.) or indirectly (after a fodder crop has been fed to animals that produce milk, meat or eggs).

Now, we’re not doing too badly over here in Australia on the biofuel ethanol front, as we’ve got the sugarcane industry. Using residues from other crops is a tried and true means of sourcing ethanol feedstocks, with sugarcane residues being particularly good at it.  In fact, Brazil, which has a bigger sugarcane industry than we do, is a tad further ahead when it comes to using ethanol for everyday driving.  Other sources include residues from wood processing and residues from the alcohol industry (they’re doing this in the UK).  Apparently, the trick is to find the right methods and the right bacteria, etc. that will break your feedstocks down so it can be turned into ethanol.

However, the search is on around the world for novel feedstock crops for biofuels of all types (this includes the crops that can produce oils for turning into biodiesel as well as the ones that have suitable stems or whatever for turning into ethanol).  The ideal crop is something that grows easily with minimal input needed in the form of fertiliser and pesticides, doesn’t need people poking around with tractors much except during harvest, doesn’t demand water like a camel that’s been for a week in the desert and produces the three Fs: Food (for humans), Fodder (for animals) and Fuel.

One of the new players on the biofuel crop front is a plant that looks a bit like a common weed known as Virginia fanpetals, Virginia Mallow or Sida (its Latin name is Sida hermaphrodita). This is a native of the US but for some reason, it’s getting a fair amount of interest from a team in Eastern Europe because it doesn’t demand the same amount of water as elephant grass (Miscanthus), which is another easy-growing biofuel feedstock.  What’s more, they’ve found that it’s a triple-F plant if you want to get technical.  The plant has lots of flowers that are very attractive to honeybees, so the Food part of the equation comes in the form of the honey produced that way.  The leaves, when they’re green, are pretty nutritious for animals.  And when the plant is dry, the whole lot, stems and leaves, are great for biofuel (and they also burn cleanly in incinerators, making them an alternative to coal for generating electricity).

Sida is also tough as old boots, as it grows very happily on sandy soils and can handle drought and frost perfectly well.  It also has a feature that would make it a right pain if it established itself in your garden: if you cut it back to ground level, it comes back again next spring and will do so for 15–20 years.  This is what’s getting those researchers rubbing their hands with glee: no ploughing, harrowing or sowing.  Just a bit of fertiliser a couple of times a year and you get a crop year after year.  And it grows on the sort of ground and in the sort of conditions that are useless for, say, potatoes, wheat and carrots.  In other words, it looks like it could be a bit of a winner.  Can we grow it over here and make even more of our own biofuel?

However, finding out about this got me thinking.  Now, we all know that we’ve got unique plant life knocking around in the Outback that’s used to really harsh conditions.  Are they any good for biofuels?  Is there something sitting out there that could be the next big thing?  I really, really hope that there’s a nice CSIRO research team poking around to see if there are any native plants that could do the trick.

Closer to home, however, I also can’t help but notice all the weeds in the garden and the way that the lawn is starting to grow like crazy in the springtime.  And let’s take a look in our rubbish bins at all the banana skins and apple cores.  Couldn’t this be used as a bioethanol feedstock as well?  Once you start looking around and getting this sort of mindset, all sorts of possibilities open up (especially when you’re on a long drive).  Maybe we’d clear up some of the rubbish problem while we’re at it…

Bioethanol isn’t the only way forward, of course.  It’s one of three possible lanes on the sustainable motoring highway, with the other two being electricity and biodiesel.  And we shouldn’t forget the biofuels while we get all excited – rightly – about the new electric vehicles.  After all, classic car drivers, tradies, tractor drivers, truckies and the owners of hybrids all need something to put in the fuel tank!

Mercedes-Benz EQC Unveiled and Mitsubishi ASX Updates.

It’d be fair to say that Tesla has been seen as an innovator when it comes to the fully battery powered car. Their Model X is a beautiful example of practicality, being a large and roomy people mover, with no challengers. Until now. Mercedes-Benz, an originator of the electric car, first put forward a concept of a people mover powered by electricity at the Paris Motor Show. That concept has now been released as a working version under a new branding, EQ. Known as the EQC, this SUV styled machine is powered by a pair of motors, one each for the front and rear combining to produce 300kW. Consumption is rated at 22.2 kiloWatt hours per 100 kilometres driven.Peak torque is quoted as 765Nm, and top speed is limited to 180km/h. Range is said to be 450 kilometres which of course will depend on driving conditions. It’ll be a hefty beast though, with a kerb weight of 2425 kilos for the 4761mm long machine. Gross Vehicle Mass for the 1884mm (sans mirrors) wide and 1624mm high EQC is 2930 kilos, with the battery pack making up 650 kilograms of that. However there’s enough oomph to get the EQC to 100km/h in a breath over five seconds.

Charging is courtesy of an on-board charger that is capable of delivering 7.4kW, making it AC home charging compatible. Using a M-B supplied “Wallbox” increases that by up to three times, with up to 110kW, and in forty minutes from nearly empty up to eighty percent.Styling is a mix of standard high riding SUV, a sloping rear roofline to add a bit of coupe, and a standout front panel in black. This encloses the headlights and a grille like structure. There’s an LED strip that borders the top of the panel that draws a line between the headlights. Design highlights inside have a ribbed edge to the instrument panel that resembles the heat exchange vanes from a music amplifier. Mercedes-Benz have ensured that the EQC will feel like a driver’s car by designing a cockpit-like feel to the cabin. Charging information can be found via the MBUX, or the Mercedes Benz User Experience. Charging current and switch off times can also be set here. MBUX will have its own tile on the screen to access EQ functions.

One of those is a form of pre-journey climate control, where the system can be activated to a certain present temperature before the vehicle is called into use for a drive. The satnav system will constantly calculate the best route based on charge time and usage plus aid in finding the best charging station on a distance basis. Pricing and release dates are yet to be confirmed.Another SUV is on its way however this is an update from an established vehicle. Mitsubishi‘s ASX has been given a freshen up and a surprising decision embedded in the update. There will be no diesels in the three model range, with a 2.0L petrol fed power plant as standard instead. Another surprising change is the move away from an AWD option to a purely front wheel driven system. Only one option will have a manual and that’s the entry level ASX ES at $23,490 RRP and a CVT equipped version at $25,490 RRP. The ES can also be specced with the ADAS option.Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), along with reversing sensors, dusk sensing headlamps and rain sensing wipers. Exterior features include front fog lamps and door mirrors with side turn lamps. The ASX ES optioned with Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) will have a recommended retail pricing of $26,990. The LS is $27,990 RRP with the top level Exceed well priced at just $30,990 RRP.

All vehicles will have DAB audio, seven airbags, smartphone compatibility, a minimum of two USB ports, reverse camera, and two ISOFIX child seat mounts. The LS adds Forward Collision Mitigation, two tone alloys, auto high beam, leather accented seats, and auto headlights & wipers. The Exceed takes this list further with heated front seats, six speaker sound system, the ADAS as standard, plus a glass roof.Check with your local Mitsubishi dealer for availability.