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Materials used for Seating in Modern Cars

If you’re looking to by a new car, one of the most important things to consider, aside from practicality, safety, and exterior looks, is its interior.  The interior is important because this is going to be where you spend most of your time with your new car.  You are going to want it to look great and feel comfortable, so, obviously, the seats are massively important.  Here are the types of seating materials and a bit of info on each type so that you may be better informed when it’s time for your new upgrade.

Nylon Car Seats

If the car has fabric seats, then it is more than likely going to be nylon or polyester material.  Nylon is one of the most common car seat materials that car upholsterers use, and you’ll often find it trimming the base and lower trims of the particular model of car that you are looking to buy.  Nylon has very good durability and is also resistant to heat.  Because of its stretchability, the seats can also be quite comfortable to sit in, but essentially the comfort comes down to how the car manufacturer has designed the seat’s internals.  Nylon materials aren’t that expensive to produce, so car manufacturers like to use this lower cost material.  A good vacuum cleaner with a soft-bristled brush easily tidies them up and, if a spill occurs, the nylon can be cleaned relatively easily with warm soapy water or a decent upholstery shampoo.  Nylon is porous, so what gets spilled on the seats can work into the cushion structure.

Vinyl Car Seats

Vinyl is also commonly used in car seat upholstery and it is also quite affordable to use in car manufacturing.  Vinyl is very easy to clean and maintain and it also mimics leather in its looks.  Vinyl is not very porous either, so dirt and dust doesn’t easily make its way into the seat’s internals.  You can usually just wipe the vinyl upholstery with a damp cloth in order to clean it effectively.  It also vacuums easily.  Vinyl will get hot in the summer, so darker colours will absorb the heat and transfer the heat very quickly onto your bum – you have been warned!

Leather Seats

Leather upholstery is what you will find in premium models.  It is an expensive material to use and looks amazing.  Leather is a porous material and also stays cooler in the summer than its cheaper vinyl cousin.  One of the drawbacks of leather upholstery is it does require the correct cleaning and maintenance products.  If the wrong products are used, then the leather will fade and harden.  Salt and leather don’t go well together – often a forgotten fact as people jump back onto the leather seats in wet togs after a swim at the beach.  Leather is a tough material and therefore durable, however when it does get damaged (e.g., damage caused by sharp objects or salt) it can be difficult to fix.

Faux Leather Car Seats

Faux leather or artificial leather is a commonly used material in modern vehicles.  It looks classy but is less expensive than the real thing.  Faux leather is also easy to clean and waterproof but doesn’t breathe like standard leather and can also get hot in the summer!

Alcantara Car Seats

Alcantara is a suede-like car seat material that is made from 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane.  Alcantara is a premium material, very durable and looks amazing.  It is also expensive, gets dirty relatively quickly, and can fade quickly.

Polyester Car Seats

Polyester is a material called microsuede, and it looks and feels similar to normal suede.  It is also similar to Alcantara.  Polyester is a cheaper alternative to Alcantara and is comfortable.  It isn’t considered quite as premium as Alcantara because it is not that easy to clean, and it is a fabric prone to picking up the dirt quite easily.  You have to gently use a soft fabric cleaner with a damp cloth to clean the seats otherwise it can damage.  Water and other liquids also stain the fabric quite easily.

Why Are 20% Of EV Owners In California Switching Back To Petrol?

You’d think that in a US state like California, which always seems to be so progressive, liberal and with-it – and which has a governor who has decreed that by 2035, all new cars sold will be EVs or at least “zero-emissions” cars – you’d see people flocking to taking up EVs left right and centre.  After all, if you think about it for a moment, Governor Gavin Newsom’s call would rule out not just your good old-fashioned petrol or diesel vehicle but also hybrids, which have both petrol and electric engines. It also applies to trucks (although the article may mean what we call utes and they call pickup trucks in the US of A), which makes me wonder how they’re going to ship goods about the place, as electric big-rigs are still at the developmental stage.

Anyway, given these points, it was something of a surprise to read a study carried out in California that found that about 20% of those surveyed said that they had gone back to petrol-powered vehicles after having owned an EV. OK, to be more precise, 20% of hybrid owners had gone back and 18% of battery-powered EV owners had switched back. You can read it for yourself here: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00814-9 (this will take you to the summary – to read the full thing, you have to pay).

The big question is, of course, why they’re doing this. The answer seems to be the issue of charging speed. The study seemed to find that Tesla owners didn’t seem to want to switch back, given that Tesla provides superfast charging for life for their vehicles – although I dare say that the cost of a Tesla has something to do with the fact that their owners aren’t switching back. However, those with other types of EV are more likely to switch back (compared with Tesla owners).

The people who were most likely to switch back were women, those living in rental homes, those living in high-rise apartments and those who didn’t have access to a Level 2 charger or higher at home or at work.

Some of these factors are easy to understand.  If you live in a rental home, you probably don’t want to pay to have a Level 2 EV charger installed in something that you don’t own – if your landlord would let you do this in the first place.  Landlords probably don’t want to pay to put in Level 2 EV chargers in rentals – although this might change in future; in the past, they didn’t always put in dishwashers but it’s common enough now.  In the case of an apartment, when you think that the garage or other parking space is all the way down there while you live right up there, or if you have to park your vehicle in a shared space and someone else has bagged the charger… well, you can see just how inconvenient it is.

The length of time it takes an EV to charge also probably has something to do with why women were more likely to ditch their EVs. If your EV is parked up and charging in a shared garage in an apartment building, you’ll have to nip down now and again to check how it’s going. In the case of a public charger, you may complete your errands before the car has finished charging and have to wait around. This means that you’ll be hanging around for a while. Unfortunately, it can be a nasty world out there for a woman. Even though 99% of guys are decent blokes, there’s always that 1%.  And you never know if that guy on the other garage or looking in your direction or walking towards you is Mr 1% or not.  This means that no woman really wants to spend longer than she has to in a public space that may not be all that well lit at night, with her only safe space being a car that isn’t quite charged up.  I’m speculating here, but speaking as a woman, that would be a concern I’d have – to say nothing of the hassles of trying to keep kids entertained while the car charges and being held up waiting for the car to charge when there’s a ton of things to do.

The issue seems to be charging time and access to Level 2 chargers. Let’s take a bit of a look at different charger types and you’ll get an idea of what’s involved:

Level 1 chargers: Slow as a wet week – it takes up to 25 hours to charge a typical EV with enough to get 100 km of range. However, it’s good for topping up plug-in hybrids. The advantage of these is that they can plug into the standard Australian power outlet without any need for the services of an electrician.

Level 2 chargers: These are faster than Level 1 chargers, taking up to 5 hours to give a typical EV 100 km of range. However, because of the charge they carry, they need special installation and older homes may need the wiring upgraded to carry the load, and it needs a special plug, which means you’ll need an electrician to come in and do the job of installing them.

Level 3 chargers: These use DC rather than AC power, and they are very expensive to install – putting one of these chargers could cost nearly as much as a brand new car. Your house doesn’t have this type of power supply, so they’re only available commercially. However, they’re faster, giving 70 km of range in 10 mins of charging.

Of course, these times are approximate and will vary from vehicle to vehicle – like charging times for other electrical things vary.  However, full charge times are usually measured in hours rather than minutes. If you’ve got grumpy kids in the car, even 10 minutes for a top-up charge at a fast charge station can seem like eternity…

 

Tips for Teaching a Person Learning to Drive

It’s that time in the life of a Dad or Mum where your daughter or son has got to the age of learning to drive.  For some, this is a time where stress levels begin to rise; just the thought of having to go through busy intersections with a rather nervous learner isn’t something for the faint-hearted.  However, it can be a very rewarding time where you get to hand that little bit more independence and responsibility over to your teenager.  Here are some tips from someone who has gone through this stage in life twice; actually three times, if you include the time when I was at university and gave lessons to a good mate of mine who still hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car by the time he was 21.

First of all, the teenager will need to get a learner permit.  For this, your child needs to be 16 years old.  The only exception is in the ACT, where the minimum age is 15 years and 9 months.  In some states, you just fill in a learner licence application form, while in other states of Australia, your child must also pass a written or computer-based test on the road rules.  Some states also have an eyesight test thrown in for good measure.

Once they have their learner permit, then in most Australian states and territories the learner drivers must gain driving experience on the road before they can do the test to get their P plate.  They must do their learner driving under the supervision of a driver who holds a full unrestricted licence.  The learner will also need to complete the Hazard Perception Test, continue to gain experience, pass the Practical Driving Assessment and then get a Provisional Licence.

To get through these steps, the first hurdle is getting to know the road rules.  Reading up on the rules is, obviously, really helpful.  This can even be done just before they hit the age of being able to go for their licence.  It’s during this learning phase that I found bringing out my old ‘Matchbox’ cars (you can use any toy cars), drawing some roads on a big sheet of cardboard/paper and using them to push through the drawn-up intersections to gain a spatial birds-eye view of who gives way and why.  Works a treat!

Out on the road, they’ll learn as a passenger, however, when it comes to them getting behind the wheel, it’s a really good idea to ease them into driving in a place where there is very little traffic, just so they can get used to the car, how it stops and goes, how it sits on the road, what it feels like to control and getting to know where it begins and ends.  Even a farmer’s paddock is a nice wide open space where there is nothing close in the vicinity to accidentally hit, but you get the idea, I’m sure.

If you’re not a competent teacher, make sure that you find someone who is.  The teacher’s demeanour always influences the learner’s ability, so a firm, soothing and relaxed manner always delivers a positive rub on the learner, helping them to gain confidence and grow quickly in ability.  A harsh, scared teacher will make for a nervous learner who will quickly dislike the whole experience.  I’ve known some people who struggle to drive even years after they finally got their license, all because of the whole bad experience of learning to drive.  You can always bring in the services of a qualified driving instructor if you can’t find someone you know and trust to do the job well or if you know that your skills just won’t cut the mustard.

When it comes to the particular car that the learner will be driving, then my advice is to ensure that the car is a safe choice.  Cars with an excellent safety rating are a must for new learners.  It is madness to put your own daughter or son in something that won’t provide good protection in an event of a crash.  It’s always best that they learn to drive the car that they’ll be sitting the practical tests in.  And my advice is that they should continue to drive this car even once they have their licenses and are out on the road by themselves (at least for a year or two).

Only if a learner is a true natural and picks up driving easily would I suggest a manual vehicle for them to drive, though manual cars are getting less and less easy to find, let alone buy these days.  An automatic vehicle is so much easier to drive when you are learning, as it takes away the fear of being in the wrong gear at the wrong time, stalling at an intersection; and it’s just one less thing to do and think about while you’re getting used to driving out on the road.  I know of one young husband whose wife has been for her learner license three times and failed the practical tests.  He still insists that she learns to drive a manual car first, just like he did; because in his eyes if you learn to drive a manual, then you’re going to be a better driver in the long run.  Um… no.

Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the experience of teaching your teenager to drive.  Keep being an encourager; it is fun and you can add to the good times by going out for a coffee afterwards.

History Made: Mercedes-Benz EQS

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

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

Mercedes-EQ, EQS, V 297, 2021

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

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

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

Mercedes-EQ, EQS, V 297, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mercedes-EQ, EQS, V 297, 2021

Kleva Kluger Is A Hefty Hybrid.

Toyota’s near twenty year old Kluger nameplate is joining the Toyota family of Hybrids. The big petrol powered machine, which has never had a diesel option, weighs in at a hefty two thousand kilos (dry) in its forthcoming Hybrid form. It will become the eighth Hybrid for the Japanese company.

The Kluger will come in 2WD or AWD petrol, or AWD Hybrid, and the Hybrid has the Toyota 2.5L petrol, whilst the Kluger stays with the familiar 3.5L V6 capacity in a new engine block. There willbe three trims levels, with the GX 2WD petrol starting from $47,650, the GXL 2WD petrol from $56,850, and Grande 2WD petrol from $68,900. Move to AWD and pricing runs at: GX AWD petrol from $51,650,
GXL AWD petrol from $60,850, and Grande AWD petrol from $72,900. The Hybrid range starts from $54,150 for the GX AWD hybrid, $63,350 for the GXL AWD hybrid, and $75,400 for the Grande AWD hybrid. Premium paint is a $675 option, with the Grande offering a rear seat entertainment system at $1,500.Sean Hanley, the Toyota Australia Vice President Sales and Marketing, said the addition of a hybrid option to one of Australia’s favourite family SUVs demonstrated Toyota’s commitment to driving sustainability forward. “The popularity of SUVs continues to grow and the new Kluger hybrid models mean that families can have all the space, comfort, refinement and versatility of a large SUV with a low environmental impact. In addition to that, the stylish new look, improved safety and high level of advanced technology makes the Kluger the perfect SUV for the modern family.Power comes from the 2.5L four and a pair of electric motors up front, backed by a single rear mounted engine. Toyota says the Hybrid’s combined power is 184kW, with the petrol engine contributing 142kW itself. Torque isn’t quoted for the Hybrid, however 242Nm is the 2.5L petrol engine’s figure and emissions of 128g/km. Jump to the 3.5L and 218kW is backed by 350Nm with drive being passed through a new eight speed auto.

The Hybrid has an electronic continuously variable transmission (e-CVT). The e-Four AWD system allows up to 100 per cent of drive to be sent through the front wheels or up to 80 per cent through the rear, depending on the conditions being driven in. This Dynamic Torque Control AWD system, which effectively disconnects the rear diff when AWD isn’t required, will be available in the GX and GXL. The Grande also receives a torque vectoring system, splitting torque to left or right as required. There will be three driving modes too, with Eco, Normal, and Sport offering a breadth of choice. Also included in the AWD models is a terrain adjustable program for Rock and Dirt, Mud and Sand soft-roading.Underneath the wheelhouse, the new Kluger is built on an updated chassis, called Toyota New Global Architecture or TNGA platform. The wheelbase is increased by 60mm longer wheelbase as is the overall length. It’s also somewhat broader than the current 2021 model for more interior room and stability on road. The suspension has been redesigned with multilink front and rear setups, with better overall ride quality, better handling, and better behaviour under braking conditions. Bigger discs at 340mm front and 338mm add their presence.

An exterior revamp sees a lessening of the heavily squared-jaw look, with slim LED headlights and taillights, with the front fenders rolling inwards slightly at the top for a visual weight reduction. There is a new line for the rear wheel arches, with a sinuous curve rolling up from the doors that reminds of the current IndyCar rear structure. Wheels themselves will be 18 inch alloys on the GX and GXL, and bespoke Chromtec 20 inch alloys for the Grande.The increase in space means increased comfort and Toyota adds in sliding and 60/40 split centre row seats, with the seven seater having 60/40 split fold also. Trim material finish has gone up a grade with soft touch dash materials, a higher quality cloth trim in the GX, and faux leather for the GXL. That grade also has gained heated front pews. GX and GXL have an 8.0 inch touchscreen, Android and Apple compatibility with DAB and Bluetooth, plus satnav for the GXL along with tri-zone climate control. Grande adds in a sunroof, HUD, and an 11 speaker audio system from JBL.

GX has dual zone, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers as standard. Five USB ports make for family friendly smart usage. The increased wheelbase adds up to increase the cargo and third row space as well. Also upped is safety, with Toyota’s Safety Sense gaining traffic sign recognition, intersection turn assist, and emergency steering assist across the three, backing up the already substantial safety package.

The current expected release date for Australia is June.

Overseas model shown, courtesy of Toyota

What happened to Park Assist Technology?

Park assist technology was talked up as the next big feature for many of our cars, particularly as a pre-cursor to fully autonomous driving. However, despite much hype, and after what is now 20 years of development and fine-tuning, the feature is still rather uncommon as far as being an inclusion in today’s cars.

 

Looking in the rear-view mirror

The push for park assist technology stemmed from the day-to-day frustrations of parking.

Forget the dreaded issue of parallel parking –with the metaphorical flick of a switch, you’re all good. The notion behind it all was that you need not worry about the prospect of a fender bender in a tight spot – after all, computers will control your vehicle’s movements with precision that even the best drivers wouldn’t be able to match.

How does it all work?

Using a simple touch-screen activated system, sensors scan the sides of the road, parking lots, garages and the like in search of spots that a motorist would be able to park their vehicle.

Once a vacant parking spot has been identified, a series of sounds and on-screen images will be used to illustrate the particular situation.

At this point the vehicle’s automated system will be engaged, which relies on the power steering system to override the steering wheel and direct the car into position.

If the system is used for guidance instead, the screen will display a series of projectories for the driver to use to align the vehicle into the space -designating control to the driver. In either case, however, the driver will be required to adjust the throttle to move the vehicle, and will also have the support of cameras.

Why hasn’t it completely caught on?

There are stumbling blocks here on a couple fronts.

First, the system has really been leveraged in a way where drivers have been encouraged to use it as means of providing guidance, and therefore, ultimately navigating the parking process themselves. Not only that, not every driver is still comfortable in the idea of giving away that control.

Meanwhile, because the full-suite of autonomous technology has historically been limited to high-end vehicles, and only recently been filtering down the ranks, it has still yet to find widespread adoption, which can only be achieved through its integration in mainstream, accessible cars.

All the while, despite improvements after multiple generations of development, the autonomous component of the technology is still not fit for every circumstance, nor every car. That said, the guidance mechanisms have proven to be invaluable for everyday drivers.

But the notion of a complete hands-off parking experience might be some time away, for there is still much progress to be made here before you might find it in your next entry-level model. Now, manufacturers are so focused on an all-encompassing autonomous experience, parking alone just won’t cut the mustard!

 

New Internal Combustion Engine Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X Marks The Spot For Genesis

Genesis has unveiled a new concept car. A stylish, low set coupe, the Genesis X is an EV and GT (Gran Turismo)for the future. Launched in a hi-tech media joint presentation with Jason B. Bergh with the location being a private rooftop in Los Angeles, and a showing of a film that brought together the Californian car culture to meet the vision of Genesis and its sustainable ideals, Genesis X highlights a different take on concept cars.A key visual identification of the concept is the Genesis Two Lines element. Seen in the company’s current vehicles, the Two Lines is extended on the concept, both on the exterior and interior, and the charging devices built in.

Exterior design work sees the bonnet a one-piece “clamshell” unit, presenting a harmonious and uniform surface. The unbroken appearance allowed the designers to highlight the Two Lines idealism with both fenders having an unbroken sweep of lights strips from either side of the signature Genesis grille towards the door lines.

The grille’s structure has been reworked for a deeper three dimensional presence, and the interior sections have been painted the same Lençóis Blue as the concept’s exterior. The colour is said to evoke the hue seen in the lagoons of the Maranhenses National Park in Brazil, where a lake forms only during the rainy season. This sits above a classically styled air intake and thinner lines for the grille structure.

This brings to the Genesis X concept a sporting look yet functionality isn’t overlooked, with air to cool the electrics and batteries, channeling air through a aero-designed undertray for efficiency and increased drag reduction for better range.Jay Chang, the Global Head of the Genesis Brand, observed: “The car that we are unveiling today is a concept car that embodies the essential elements that Genesis pursues in its designs. Please take a moment to meet the future of Genesis design through this concept car, which embodies our brand’s progressive and audacious spirit.” SangYup Lee, the brand’s Global Design Chief, echoes that with: “The Genesis X Concept can be described as the ultimate vision of Athletic Elegance, the inherent design language of Genesis. The signature Two Lines theme and sustainable luxury will be blueprints for the futuristic designs and state-of-the-art technologies that Genesis seeks to adopt in its future models.”

In profile it’s a classic GT motif, with long bonnet and truncated rear, joined by a gentle parabolic curve that in a quarter view highlights the tapering cabin and rear wheel flares. The rear has a dual parabola oval that houses the Two Lines taillights. There is no visible bootline seen in the concept though. The rear window has a pair of metallised strips that visually counterbalance the front and look to be, on the left side, the port for the charging of the battery. There’s more aero and tech with the wing mirrors eschewing the traditional glass mirrors. Here, Genesis goes slimline and embeds digital cameras. Aero and sportiness are combined in the bespoke, yet simple, five spoke wheels. These will cool the brake calipers whilst minimising drag at speed.For the interior Genesis highlight their “green” aspirations with “upcycled” leather trim. These are made from leftover materials, rather than sourcing them from new. In a weave pattern, the material is used on sections of the steering wheel, the safety belts, and the airbag cover. Also, to differentiate between driver and passenger for the four seater coupe, the trim designers took the unusual route of using two different colours. The passenger’s trim is Ocean Wave Green Blue, the driver’s a Scotch Brown.There’s further differentiation with the driver’s seat separated from the passenger via a solid looking floating console with a wrap around binnacle enveloping the driver’s section. This houses the Free-Form display, which manages various functions such as clusters, navigation and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, and the Crystal Sphere Electronic Shift Lever, which integrates driving mode settings. Again, the designers have woven in the Two Lines ideal, with the binnacle drawing the lines to the air vents and side window mouldings.To debut the Genesis X Concept to consumers around the globe, the brand opened its digital motor show website (digitalmotorshow.genesis.com) with the unveiling of the concept car, offering visitors various interactive experiences and 360-degree views of its interior and exterior.

At the time of writing, Genesis had not released details of the EV drive.

Hydrogen Fuel Is The Nexo Step.

Hyundai Australia has unveiled their Nexo vehicle. Powered solely by hydrogen, it’s set to be a game-changer if the right infrastructure is put in place. For now, a fleet of twenty will roam the streets of Canberra during a trial phase.Nexo is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, rated at 95kW, coupled to an electric motor. It generates 120kW and 395Nm, and has a theoretical range of over 660 kilometres. Here’s how it works, says Hyundai.

Hydrogen gas is stored in high-pressure tanks and is sent from these to the fuel cells. It mixes with oxygen taken straight from the atmosphere and reacts across a “catalyst membrane” and creates electricity for the engine and battery, and water as the sole by-product. Excess power is stored in the battery system. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, or FCEVs, can be refilled in virtually the same time as a petrol fuel tank.

“The arrival of NEXO on Australian roads as an ADR-approved production vehicle is a landmark in Hyundai’s ongoing commitment to green mobility and to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle technology.” Hyundai Motor Company CEO, Jun Heo said. The hydrogen NEXO SUV is a cornerstone in the Hyundai portfolio, complementing our hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles the IONIQ and Kona Electric. NEXO is also a sign of things to come, as Hyundai continues in its long-term drive towards leadership in eco-friendly vehicles.”

It’s a one specification vehicle for the moment, and comes well equipped in that sense. A main 12.3 inch satnav equipped touchscreen is the centre of the appeal, complete with Android and Apple smartphone compatibility. The driver has a 7.0 inch info screen, and a Qi wireless smartphone charger is standard.

Seats are leather appointed, and passengers see the sky via a full length glass roof. Sounds are courtesy of Krell. Nexo rolls on 19 inch alloys, and sees its way thanks to LED headlights and daytime running lights. A Surround View Monitor, Remote Engine Start, Remote Smart parking Assist, and a powered tailgate add extra convenience. Comfort comes courtesy of a dual-zone climate control system, powered front seats, heating for the steering wheel and outboard sections of the rear seats.

SmartSense is the name Hyundai give their safety system package and the Nexo will have Forward Collision Avoidance, Driver Attention warning, and the Blind Spot Collision Avoidance is radar based. Lane Keep Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Avoidance Assist and Smart Cruise with Stop/Go functionality are also standard.

Exterior colour choices are limited. White Cream Mica, and a Dusk Blue Metallic will come with Stone Grey two-tone interior, whilst Cocoon Silver and Copper Metallic are paired with a Dark Blue interior.

The main hydrogen system is built around three storage tanks with a capacity of 156 litres. Up to 6.33 kilograms of hydrogen can be held at a pressure of 700 bar. The testing of the tanks has included structural integrity for collision impacts. The battery is a lithium-ion polymer unit, rated as 240V and 1.56kWh. It also assists in running the onboard 12V systems.

The battery itself effectively comprises most of the floor, making for better cabin packaging and a low centre of gravity. The system is also rated for cold start operation at temperatures down to -29 Celcius. It will start within 30 seconds.

In keeping with its green credentials, structural components include aluminium for the bumper beam, front knuckles, rear wheel carriers and front lower control arms. Lower kerb weight assists in the vehicle’s handling, ride, and reduces cabin noise input. The front fenders are lightweight and flexible plastic.

Hyundai Nexo refill

Bio-based materials also up the green, with up to 12.0 kilograms of CO2 being reduced as a by-product of the manufacturing process. Total weight of bio-product is 34 kilos and this is found in the carpet, headliner, trim material, door trims, and the seats and console. Bio-paints derived from corn and sugarcane waste material are also used.

Strength and safety comes from high tensile steel, making the monocoque body both rigid and torsionally strong, with over 56% of the Nexo’s bodywork made from the high strength steel/ This extends to the tank sub-frame and tested in rear collision simulations.

Hidden details such as air guides underneath and air deflectors aid aero efficiency. Hidden wipers, a Hyundai first, are fitted at front and rear, and with slimline retracting door handles the Nexo has a drag coefficient of just 0.32cD.Chassis development was carried out in Australia, Tim Rodgers, the Hyundai Motor Company Australia Product Planning and Development Specialist, said. “The platform was designed to address this challenge, with an extensive use of lightweight parts for the strut front and multi-link rear suspensions, such as aluminium knuckles and lower control arms. By reducing unsprung mass there is less energy that we have to manage through the damper and the spring, so we can use a slightly different valve characteristic and achieve the results we require.

We’ve come out of the R&D process with a refined suspension that matches quite nicely with acoustic levels in the cabin. Beyond achieving this, the tuning program targeted the normal ride and handling benchmarks, to give NEXO the same style of body control we tune into all our cars, and the same level of competency Australia’s notoriously challenging back roads.”

Not yet available for private sale, it can be leased. Hyundai have a specialist Aftersales team in place to deal with inquiries, and they can be reached through a Hyundai dealership in the first instance.

Ammonia as a Fuel for Cars

Who would have thought that liquid ammonia might just be that untapped energy source the world needs.  All the flimflam around carbon emissions, EVs and hydrogen powered cars pales substantially when you start to grasp how ammonia could well become the biggest driving force for global transportation, given the right technology.  All it would take is more clean, green electricity via solar and wind energy and, hey presto, the ability to make more liquid ammonia becomes way easier, less costly and environmentally friendlier.  But let’s not stop there; let’s match that new ammonia production methodology with perfected ammonia combustion technology, and we have ourselves a green ammonia-fuelled vehicle.

Ammonia has been around for well over a hundred years and has many uses.  The current dated process of making ammonia isn’t green.  Combining nitrogen molecules that come from the air with hydrogen molecules that come from natural gas and coal creates huge amounts of greenhouse gases.  So to make ammonia the green way has taken scientists to perfect the art of taking hydrogen from water and separating it from oxygen atoms using electricity.

Australia is the place to be for producing liquid ammonia the green way.  There is so much practical solar energy available here in Australia for getting electricity from an array of solar panels which feed into the liquid ammonia production plant.  Wind energy can equally be harnessed and fed into the production plant.

When this clean electricity gets to the production plant, electro chemical cells use electricity and catalysts to make components of air and water into ammonia.  All of this process is clean and is performed without fossil fuels and the extreme heat that is required by older methods of ammonia production.

The older ammonia production plants are also costly to run and produce carbon dioxide emissions.  Australia could easily be a world leader in producing cleanly made liquid ammonia via solar and wind energy

Research for perfected ammonia combustion technology for vehicle engines is ongoing and could well be all we’re waiting for.  Ammonia (NH3) is made up of 3 hydrogen atoms bonded to a single nitrogen atom; it can serve as a low-carbon fuel, where the only emissions after ammonia combustion would be that of nitrogen and water.

An ammonia-fuelled vehicle would operate in much the same way as our conventional combustion motor designed for running on fossil fuels.  The liquid ammonia is burned with oxygen to create energy.  Unlike conventional gasoline vehicles, ammonia-powered vehicles would not emit CO2.  Here is a win-win scenario that it would seem necessary to mandate.

In a hydrogen-powered car, a hydrogen fuel cell powers the vehicles’ on board electric motor, only giving off heat and water vapour as a result.  Likewise, an ammonia fuel cell gives off heat, nitrogen and water vapour.

Researchers in spark-ignition systems are continuing to perfect ammonia combustion technology.  The main hurdle that needs to be overcome in an ammonia-fuelled combustion engine is that when ammonia is combusted, the combustion produces a flame with a relatively low propagation speed.  This low combustion rate of ammonia causes the combustion to be inconsistent under low engine load and/or high engine speed operating conditions.  Scientists are also investigating the possibility for ammonia to be used in fuel cells as a cheap, clean and powerful energy source for vehicles.  Researchers have succeeded in developing a new catalyst that burns ammonia (NH3) at a low temperature.

Australia could create solar- and wind-powered ammonia production plants which could then be the tap sources for liquid ammonia.  The Australian grown ammonia could be used locally to power large vehicle fleets as well as for exporting around the world for overseas use.  This is all very exciting stuff and will be something I’ll continue to follow as information and details become available.