Saturday, May 21, 2022

IS RUSSIA'S CAR INDUSTRY KAPUTSKI? NYET! by John Crawford

No one was more surprised than me to find the Russian war on Ukraine could provide a news item for DRIVING & LIFE.

 

Recently Renault announced it was completely withdrawing from Russia and would sell its controlling stake in AutoVaz to a Russian institute. Autovaz currently produces a car designed entirely by Renault.



However, the loss of Renault will be felt very keenly. It was the number one foreign carmaker in Russia by a comfortable distance – 45,000 employees and 39 per cent of the market – so Renault’s exit leaves a huge hole in domestic supplies.

 

Up until Russia began its war on Ukraine, the remaining market share was taken up by Lada (also produced by Autovaz), and imports from Western Europe, China and Korea – which are now almost certain to evaporate.


The most popular Russian model is the Lada Kalina/Granta (right) – based on a much-modified version of the original Lada, which was wholly-based on the 1966 Fiat 124 sedan.

 

A Moskvich Trio
Given Russia’s current pariah status in the world, Moscow’s mayor came out with one of the dumbest ideas yet. He suggested that the Autovaz (Renault) plant be re-purposed to build the old Moskvich models – one of Russia’s least-successful cars.

According to the Mayor, Autovaz could use a Chinese platform, in partnership with truck-maker Kamaz, with the model to be built at Renault's former Moscow factory. Sources told Reuters that Kamaz was in talks with its partner, Chinese carmaker JAC, about using its design, engineering and production resources to produce a brand new Moskvich model, based on Chinese engineering.

Russia’s motor industry, as such, is really just Autovaz which swallowed up GAZ, Lada and Moskvich – but it will be in big trouble trying to source parts for new cars – which was the number one reason (beside protesting Russia’s war on Ukraine), which Renault said was the motivator to sell up and leave.


Russia only ever produced one 'executive' car, the Volga, developed by GAZ. In 2014, on a visit to St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), I snapped a 2004 model, which had seen better days.



In 2006 GAZ acquired the designs and intellectual property of the then-current Chrysler Sebring. It was re-designed, and the Volga Siber was unveiled in August 2007, and production began in July 2008, with a goal of producing 20,000 units the first year. However, sales figures were not met, and only 2500 Sibers were built in all of 2009.



It’s clear, even via this rather obscure auto industry development, that ordinary Russians are going to continually and increasingly suffer, because of Putin’s obsession with reuniting the old Soviet bloc.

 

Still, maybe Putin has some sympathy with Moscow’s Mayor, and re-birthing the Moskvich could form an iconic element of a return to the ‘old’ Soviet system?

 

Who knows what really goes on in Putin’s head?


JOHN CRAWFORD

Thursday, May 12, 2022

THE REAL COST OF CHARGING FOR CHARGING? by John Crawford

I am going to do something I have never done up to now. I am going to republish a paper by two learned scientists, without any illustration at all. The subject is serious and just adding photos or icons to brighten the page would be a frivolous waste of your time and mine. This paper is worth reading. I have edited it to make the piece shorter, but not changed the context or the meaning.

Read on ....

Dr. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris on EVs and Charging Capacity

Jan 15, 2022

The utility companies have thus far had little to say about the alarming cost projections to operate electric vehicles (EVs), or the increased rates that they will be required to charge their customers. It is not just the total amount of electricity required, but the transmission lines and fast charging capacity that must be built at existing filling stations.

Neither wind nor solar can support any of it. It’s very likely EVs will never become the mainstream of transportation!

The problems with electric vehicles (EVs), reveal that they are too expensive, too unreliable, rely on materials mined in China and other unfriendly countries, and require more electricity than the nation can afford. Here, we address factors that will make any sensible reader avoid EVs like the plague. 

 EV Charging Insanity

In order to match the 2,000 cars that a typical filling station can service in a busy 12 hours, an EV charging station would require 600, 50-watt chargers at an estimated cost of $24 million and a supply of 30 megawatts of power from the grid. That is enough to power 20,000 homes. No one likely thinks about the fact that it can take 30 minutes to 8 hours to recharge a vehicle between empty or just topping off.

What are the drivers doing during that time?

 ICSC-Canada board member, New Zealand-based consulting engineer Bryan Leyland describes why installing electric car charging stations in a city is impractical:

“If you’ve got cars coming into a petrol station, they would stay for an average of five minutes. If you’ve got cars coming into an electric charging station, they would be at least 30 minutes, possibly an hour, but let’s say its 30 minutes. So that’s six times the surface area to park the cars while they’re being charged. So, multiply every petrol station in a city by six. Where are you going to find the place to put them?”

The government of the United Kingdom is already starting to plan for power shortages caused by the charging of thousands of EVs.

Starting in June 2022, the government will restrict the time of day you can charge your EV battery. To do this, they will employ smart meters that are programmed to automatically switch off EV charging in peak times to avoid potential blackouts.

In particular, the latest UK chargers will be pre-set to not function during 9-hours of peak loads, from 8 am to 11 am (3-hours), and 4 pm to 10 pm (6-hours). Unbelievably, the UK technology decides when and if an EV can be charged, and even allows EV batteries to be drained into the UK grid if required. Imagine charging your car all night only to discover in the morning that your battery is flat since the state took the power back. 

Better keep your gas-powered car as a reliable and immediately available backup! While EV charging will be an attractive source of revenue generation for the government, American citizens will be up in arms.

 Used Car Market

The average used EV will need a new battery before an owner can sell it, pricing them well above used internal combustion cars. The average age of an American car on the road is 12 years. A 12-year-old EV will be on its third battery. A Tesla battery typically costs $8-10,000, so there will not be many 12-year-old EVs on the road. Good luck trying to sell your used green fairy tale electric car!

Tuomas Katainen, an enterprising Finish Tesla owner, had an imaginative solution to the battery replacement problem—he blew up his car!

EVs Per Block In Your Neighbourhood

A home charging system for a Tesla requires a 75-amp service. The average American house is equipped with 100-amp service. On most suburban streets the electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than three houses with a single Tesla. For half the homes on your block to have electric vehicles, the system would be wildly overloaded.

Batteries

Although the modern lithium-ion battery is four times better than the old lead-acid battery, gasoline holds 80 times the energy density. The great lithium battery in your cell phone weighs less than an ounce while the Tesla battery weighs 1,000 pounds. And what do we get for this huge cost and weight? We get a car that is far less convenient and less useful than cars powered by internal combustion engines.

Bryan Leyland explained why:

“When the Model T came out, it was a dramatic improvement on the horse and cart. The electric car is a step backward into the equivalence of an ordinary car with a tiny petrol tank that takes half an hour to fill. It offers nothing in the way of convenience or extra facilities.”

Our Conclusion

The electric automobile will always be around in a niche market likely never exceeding 10% of the cars on the road. All automobile manufacturers are heavily investing in the production of EVs, and all will be disappointed in their sales. Perhaps they know this and will manufacture just what they know they can sell.

This is certainly not what President Biden or California Governor Newsom are planning for.

The Reality

You do not need to have an advanced degree in mathematics to understand the term “Overload”! The average person, no matter where you live, can quickly identify the political feel-good sensation that is being attempted by those short-sighted individuals who are promoting the EV revolution….Vehicle manufacturers, Governments, Charging station builders, Transmission Line contractors, Battery producers….etc. “It’s Magic”….and you are saving the planet by creating less pollution as you get rid of your gas burning vehicle and take out a five year loan to pay for the shiny new $60,000 electric car. No more fill-ups at the service station and the global warming is solved. You can now sit back and imagine the new polar ice formations that are providing a safe environment for the Polar Bears, Seals, Penguins that we all adore. We have done our part saving humanity…..and you can see the smile on little Greta Thunberg’s face! BUT WAIT….why are we losing power at our house?

Well the short answer is….We failed to understand that our electrical grid reached max capacity and was overloaded when all of the EV’s were plugged in tonight at the same time. The next short answer is…..where do you think the energy came from to supply the grid in the first place? It sure was not from Wind or Solar….nor from any other alternate energy source we use which, when all combined, only provides 7% of today’s use demand. It was from the traditional combustible resource called Hydrocarbons!

Until we discover a non-hydrocarbon energy source that is efficient and safe, GET OVER IT….we are committed to Oil & Gas!

CREDENTIALS

Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years of experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

 

Monday, May 9, 2022

THIS ONE'S A ZINGER! by John Crawford

I’d like to say that in nearly 40 years spent fooling around with cars, working for car companies, writing about cars, and witnessing over the horizon thinking, I’d seen it all.


Well, of course, I haven’t, but I am certainly glad I’ve hung around long enough to hear LA-based Kevin Czinger talk about, not just a car, but much more importantly, how his company, DIVERGENT, makes the car you see here.



The Czinger 21C is a handsome brute, with fascinating details buried in its specification sheets and the computational effort which designs and creates the guts of the car.


Forget the car for a moment, just stop and think where Czinger is heading. It’s not completely unknown territory for those of us conversant with 3D printing and assembly. However, as far as the car industry is concerned what Kevin has pulled together will make Henry Ford roll over in his mausoleum.

 

Let’s start with the key to the whole shebang. It’s an acronym (naturally) – called DAPS. Which stands for Divergent Adaptive Production System. And, quite frankly, it’s more interesting than the car – although that alone is a breathtaking and really cool hypercar. It's a two-seater with occupants sitting one behind the other.

 

What Kevin and his really smart troupe have come up with is a totally new (also, tried and tested) way to create a complete car, and ALL of its parts on a computer, which then feeds the data into a bank of 3D printer process robots, and out the end of the sausage machine comes a fully-assembled car!



Kevin will be the first to tell you that Czinger is NOT a car company, but a developer of software and hardware which carmakers can license to build new cars at a fraction of the sunk costs that go into making a swathe of different cars for different buyers. Czinger’s plan is that it will fully-develop the system and then license it to OEMs. In fact, he’s already closely allied to BMW, Volkswagen and Ford.

Seperately, he has an agreement, and a confirmed project going ahead with Groupe PSA. 


Not only does it save on capital expenditure (because it only spends on fully-complete, production-ready parts), but the whole DAPS concept means that by re-programming the data you feed in; you can get a completely different car at the other end, without the cost and time it takes to design, create, prototype-build, crash-test and ultimately roll out to a customer.

 

It’s also totally recyclable. Basically you take a Czinger 21C at the end of its life, melt it down, charge it with Nitrogen and it all dissolves into powder – which you can then use to build the next car! As TV’s Meerkat says “Simples”!

 

Kevin Czinger’s first go-around produced a prototype called the ‘The Blade’ (below) and it was enough to scramble Jay Leno’s brain when he came face to face with both car and its creator in his Burbank garage.


If you watch this clip, you'll also be impressed with how Czinger and his team also utilised carbonfibre and industrial-strength aluminium in areas where rigidity was key, but active tension did not mean they had to spend big on exotic materials.


Darth Vadar on wheels?


Now, I’ve been to Jay’s Garage a couple of times and of course he has some pretty cool stuff – but, as Kevin Czinger talked, and did a walkaround of The Blade I could see Leno soaking it all up like a blotter, processing it, then waiting for the next tasty morsel of information to be laid out by a really remarkable guy.

 

When you look at individual parts created by the 3D printers it appears that the engineers actually 'designed' how the parts are shaped into such organic forms - but no, that's simply how the AI-driven algorithm created the shapes - to both optimize use of materials and also to create maximum strength and stress tolerance. But they sure are a work of art.



The powertrain is an in-house-designed twin-turbo, flat plane crank 2.8L V8, mated to an 800 volt F1-like KMu system driving the front wheels.


Transmission is also an in-house-designed 7-speed sequential box.


Kevin Czinger is a Yale graduate, who played college football, switched to Wall Street, then became an entrepreneur - the style of which I have never seen before. He’s confident without being cocky (That’s ‘cause he KNOWS he’s the smartest guy in the room), he’s wise, thoughtful, super-competent at what he’s talking about, and about as laid back as they come in California. 


I watched the clip from Jay Leno’s Garage on YouTube and quite frankly I had to watch it twice to pick up ALL the stuff I missed first time around, as my brain was being jellied by Czinger’s concepts and his computer-like thinking, which I swear I could sense whirring around in his head. He’s one impressive guy, and he is going to change the way cars are made, single-handedly!




This car (above) is the 'track-specification' with a massive rear wing and prominent canards on the front splitter - a combination which can produce one ton of downforce over 200mph!


And, every element of DAPS is covered by 450 patents, so I'm guessing marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Konigsegg will have to go cap-in-hand to buy into this breakthrough concept!


It all appears unbelievable at first, but believe me, Kevin Czinger ‘s DAPS will become ‘a thing’! If it isn’t already.


The car? Oh that's just something they mashed up with robotic 3D printers! And there'll only be 80 produced!

 

JOHN CRAWFORD

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

VALÉ MODERN MOTOR MAGAZINE by John Crawford

It’s always sad to see an old friend pass away, which is exactly how I felt when Are Media, which acquired Wheels, Motor, Street Machine, 4x4 Australia, Which Car and Unique Cars, announced that it was closing down MOTOR magazine.

 

The magazine began life as MODERN MOTOR back in 1954, and to date has published 825 issues over 68 years. For most of its life it was in direct competition with WHEELS magazine, which always beat MODERN MOTOR in circulation. But it was MODERN MOTOR which initiated, and maintained the pursuit of still-secret new cars, hiding in the bushes with long telephoto lenses.

 

I am extremely proud to have been one of the many editors of this storied magazine, and also proud to have contributed to its reputation as a magazine which regularly broke news about still-secret cars. Wheels had much longer deadlines, which allowed MODERN MOTOR to get sensational news to the public much earlier than its esteemed competitor. MODERN MOTOR also took on a number of record-breaking adventures.



The magazine’s founding editor, Jules Feldman (above), hired me to take over the magazine at one of its lowest points. It was losing circulation and revenue, and had never pursued what the publishing industry termed ‘One Shots’.

'One Shots' were very profitable ‘occasional’ publications, because they were basically a mash-up of related stories which had previously been published in Modern Motor, utilising already existing artwork, with a brand-new cover.

 

I’m pleased to say that from 1972 through 1977 I and my motley crew managed to halt the slide in circulation, produce a number of profitable ‘one shots’ and lifted ad revenue to an all-time high. Having said that, it’s important to note that MODERN MOTOR simply was never able to match the outstanding standard of journalistic skill which was always a hallmark of Wheels.

 

However, during my time as Editor, we pivoted from just road tests and tech features to become strictly an automotive news magazine, and we continued the tradition of ‘scoop stories’ of secret new models.


We broke some major stories – among them the Holden Torana hatchback; the Holden Gemini (mistakenly called Torana), and the one I’m most proud of – the Holden Commodore in 1976 – a full two years before the first production car rolled off the line at Fishermens Bend!



In the final two years of my tenure in the editor’s chair we did freshen up the cover artwork, changed layouts inside and gave the magazine a more contemporary look, thanks to a very creative and visionary art director called Alan Moult.


Many years later the then publisher, ACP magazines, dropped the word Modern from the title and it became just simply MOTOR.

 

I left the magazine in 1977 to compete in the Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Car Rally.

 

Farewell old friend, working with you was a true highlight of my  life and career among cars and car people.


John Crawford

Sunday, May 1, 2022

UNCOMMON COMMON SENSE FROM BMW by John Crawford

When the Australian auto industry publication, GoAuto, published a story this week quoting statements from a BMW press conference, I had to do a double take. Was this really what the German carmaker said?


After re-reading the piece with a slightly lower heart rate, it seems that BMW could be the only carmaker which is NOT betting the farm on EVs.

BMW has pledged ongoing production of the internal combustion engine (ICE), as it cautions about becoming too dependent on a select few markets wanting EVs. 

The company said there was still a market for ICEs, and that if BMW didn’t make them “someone else will”.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse said the “EV push” increases are dependent on “a very few countries”.

UPDATE: Taking the same view as rival Mercedes-Benz, BMW has said it would "aim EVs where market conditions allow". The back story to this somewhat benign statement is that neither BMW or Mercedes-Benz have ANY intention of discontinuing ICE cars. The reasons behind this are completely transparent.

Both German companies have said they will not be allocating any more funds for future development of ICE powerplants. The reason being they don't have to. They have perfectly adequate, contemporary and competent ICEs, which with a few tweaks can be made more efficient and produce fewer emissions.

So the Germans are quite happy to develop their EVs for markets where 'market conditions allow'. Also note that both companies are focussed on electrifying their SUVs, NOT their precious performance cars.

BMW also announced in January that it would not scale up its own battery cell production for EVs until the technology was much more mature. 



But the Munich-based carmaker has refused to blindly follow other car-makers – including General Motors – by committing to completely phasing out ICEs by a specific date. 

BMW said it plans to adjust production among battery, hybrid and efficient ICEs as different parts of the world adopt cars that produce zero emissions at different rates.

I find BMW's position statement comforting, sensible and realistic.

This is not say that BMW has failed to explore the EV potential. Starting way back in 1991 there was the E1 concept (top left), and moving into series production with the i3 in 2013. Then there was the i7.

Therefore, this doesn't mean BMW has been sitting on its hands when it comes to EV concepts. Recently I wrote about the exciting iVision Circular project (below right), which is a tribute to BMW’s genuine attempts on the EV front. Then there's the i4 concept.

Now, here is something the loony Greens don’t want to hear, but as I have written in the past few years, there is a very long and healthy potential life for ICE-powered vehicles. The ‘magic statistic’ is tailpipe emissions.

Already many companies are capable of significantly lowering tailpipe emissions, which drastically increases the life span of ICEs.

I mentioned comments from one of VW’s most revered VW engineering directors that if 100g/km was a ‘magic number’ (and should governments decree that must be lower), ALL carmakers could reduce (at a cost to the consumer) tailpipe emissions down to whatever number was deemed acceptable – yes, even 70 g/km!

Such a significantly smaller 'number' would immediately impact exhaust emissions to the point that many other, diverse industries, would easily exceed them – and the ‘car’ would no longer be the ‘bogeyman’ that the Greens are attempting to inculcate into our thinking.

This push to ‘so-called’ zero emission EVs is totally driven by ‘woke’ governments and environmentalists who really don’t have a good record of their feet being planted in real science, and reality.

Believe me, there is NO reason to outlaw the ICE cars yet. Not to mention the fact that they are cheaper to produce, cheaper to buy, last longer, and have a far smaller carbon footprint when they are recycled.

Yes, recycling! The carbon footprint of just MAKING EVs is humungous; as is the carbon footprint of recycling all those exotic components.

Many times I have quoted a ‘back-of-the-envelope’ comparison between a ICE Toyota Corolla versus a Toyota Prius, in terms of recycling. The carbon footprint of manufacturing and then recycling the Hybrid is approximately four times greater than the ICE Corolla.

If you really want to be honest about the impact of ICE-powered cars versus EVs, then you need to undertake a genuine cradle-to-the-grave comparison of ICE versus EVs.

I am delighted to see a major carmaker like BMW drag this truth into the public spotlight – not that I think it will convince the loony Left.

The takeaway from all this verbiage? Go out and buy your favourite BMW, and really enjoy your motoring – for many years to come.




JOHN CRAWFORD


Monday, April 25, 2022

WHAT THE HECK IS 'PORPOISING?' by John Crawford

This year changes in F1 rules and regulations forced race teams to come up with new aerodynamic solutions to give their drivers a more competitive advantage.

However, from the first two pre-season test sessions, one thing has dominated discussions among the teams, regulators and drivers. And, this has been dubbed ‘porpoising’

Essentially the previous design of F1 cars utilised a flat floor, with most of the aerodynamic airflow being managed by the design of the body and areas like front and rear spoilers, and various ‘bits’ of carbon fibre appearing in unusual places.

However, this has become an extreme problem for teams and drivers. The designers are working flat out to eliminate this new demon.

Essentially, F1 has said ‘no more flat floors’, and venturi runnels must be created to control air flow under the car.

A quick description of ‘porpoising’ is that the down force pushes the car down to the track, and in order to reduce drag, the driver has to back-off to allow the car height to rise. 

The teams are frantically working to avoid this problem which is causing strain on the driver, and the car.

MOTOR SPORT'S tech editor Mark Hughes has written a more precise definition which I am republishing edited form, from the F1 website.

The venturi tunnels create downforce by inducing a lower air pressure in the underfloor than above, thereby sucking the car to the ground. The lower the tunnels get to the ground, the more powerful the effect is. The faster the car is going, the harder those tunnels suck and the closer to the ground they get… giving a cascading effect.

But if the ride height gets too low, the rear outer corners of the floor from which the tunnels are formed are not stiff enough to prevent those corners from physically touching the ground as the tunnels suck on the car and it sinks on its suspension. When this happens it creates such an effective seal that the tunnel is choked and stops working.

The floor is effectively a big cantilever and it is thus extremely difficult to make the corners stiff enough not to be pulled to the ground at high speed.

It’s relatively easy to cure by increasing the rear ride height so that it never reaches the critical stall point even at high speed, but not without losing a lot of performance.



The images from wet track running in Barcelona suggested the McLaren may be able to achieve good downforce despite its greater rear ride height, because it has more powerful vortices running down the sides – giving the floor a strong seal without having to have it so low that it makes contact with the track at high speed. That makes it apparently more stall-proof.

 

On the final day of Bahrain testing, Red Bull (its RB18 featuring modified sidepods with a bigger undercut at the front) appeared to be running their car with a small degree of rake.

 


This was when the car set the fastest times of the test and during those laps it appeared to be relatively immune to porpoising. Rake helped create downforce under the previous technical regulations because it effectively made the flat floor into a big diffuser, with a small gap between the leading edge of floor and the ground expanding into a bigger area behind.

Clearly, Red Bull and Ferrari think they have a solution

But under the current regulations, with the venturi tunnels in place of the flat floor, the tunnels need to be close to the ground for much of the length of the car and raising the rear will tend to reduce the downforce they create.

But the rake angle could be used as a tuning device to keep the downforce from reaching the stall point which creates the porpoising. This point will vary from track to track and so the rake can be adjusted appropriately simply by adjusting the rear pushrods and/or front pullrods.

There is lap time to be found by running the car low. But it’s a hazardous path to follow, with the onset of porpoising just waiting to ambush the best-laid plans. It’s going to be fascinating watching the teams race to solve the problem.

JOHN CRAWFORD

 

Monday, April 18, 2022

LITTLE BIG APPLE AUTO GALLERY - by John Crawford

This is not a big story, because whilst it’s always great to attend the New York Auto Show, it has never been able to cut it when it comes to first-time concept car reveals. It’s all because of two things – timing and relevance.

 

Easter is when car companies are getting ready to show new concepts in September, so their hands are full with things like final sign off, and the BS press releases suggesting maybe intro dates for the unreal examples on the turntable.

 

As far as relevance is concerned, the NYIAS has always been about what New Yorkers can buy ‘NOW’ – never mind teasing them with a possible new model a year down the track.


New York is all about instant gratification, but here’s three which for me suggested two car companies were prepared to spend precious dollars on a concept, whilst another pushed the boat out on hopes of joining the huge American auto market in the next year or so.

 

First, the most daring – the Genesis Speedium. This is nothing more than a very expensive re-hash of the Genesis coupe concept, which has been revealed previously. Speedium is really just a ‘Shooting Brake’ – however the Hyundai-Kia Design Team thought it was important enough to have ALL their current, and recently retired design gurus on hand to answer questions about ‘nothing’.




Head of Design Luc Donckerwolke paraded his healthy, now-ample, frame around a private studio to discuss ‘nothing new’, whilst recently-retired Peter Schreyer was also on hand. Schreyer is a sophisticated, worldly and well-respected member of the Design Pantheon’s top tier, so I’m guessing he probably just wanted to hang out in the Big Apple for a few days.

 

Next we come to the greatest con-job Chrysler has mounted for some time given that, as a nameplate, Chrysler does not rate highly within the Stellantis Group. In fact, my very well-informed friends in the American automotive media scene almost walked past the Chrysler Airflow. Why? Well, it’s the third time in two years this design studio escapee has been pushed out to pretend Chrysler remains relevant after the Stellantis mash-up.



Don’t believe it. This stylish crossover (well done Ralph Gilles) has already been seen before as I said, but this time it has a new coast of paint, and some copper embellishments. That’s it! 

That’s the sum total of the changes to an EV now called the Chrysler Airflow Graphite.

In the news release, Chrysler Brand CEO Christine Feuell said "The latest version of our all-electric concept, represents the many possibilities on our brand’s road to an all-electric future. This new persona of the Airflow highlights the flexibility of the Chrysler brand’s future design direction and our ability to create personalities reflective of our diverse customers."

 

My Stellantis ‘moles’ (of whom there are many within the huge group of Stellantis’ marques) tell me, “Total BS.”

 

The Airflow will struggle to see a showroom any time soon, and Christine will either be re-assigned within a year, or out on the job market after her ‘gardening leave’.

 

Now, among the big global names of Stellantis and Hyundai we come to the ‘tiddler’ paddling in the big pond – Vietnam’s own national carmaker – Vinfast. This is the company which acquired the old GM-Holden proving ground at Lang Lang for USD$30 million, and five months later put it back up for sale!

 

Mind you, if you’ve got thirty mill of resources to throw around like that, you’re either loaded, or a loser waiting to happen. Plenty of those in car industry history.

 

Vinfast launched a couple of production-ready electric SUVs and said they’d be on sale in the USA by the end of this year! Really?



I have enough experience from working in the USA and a lot of industry experience garnered over 40 years to recognise when car companies are out of their depth. The US market, as we know, is HUGE and once you’ve launched in all 50, you have to keep the supply lines locked and loaded to keep your dealers and potential customers happy and satisfied.

I suggest that's going to be difficult to master at the moment.

 

Vinfast, right now, is a nobody. If you asked even the average American car nut what Vinfast was, they’d probably say it was a new Air Fryer!

 


Good luck with that one guys. It’s a big world outside Vietnam, and are you’re really sure you can ‘do the business’? And, fancy making a big splash first time out in the Big Apple? That either takes balls, or brainless belief.

Nonetheless I wish I was in New York at showtime, buzzing around the city on the Subway. It’s one of my favourite cities, and I have lots of places I love to visit, like MOMA, the NYC Art Gallery, Saks 5th Avenue, the Carlyle Hotel, plus favourite restaurants like Michael’s East on West 55th, and the Parma in the 1400 block on Third Avenue (where everything they serve is made in-house). 

 

As I’ve mentioned previously, not many New Yorkers actually own a car. Most of them think cars only come in two colours – Yellow OR Black. Which makes the New York International Auto Show a true car industry conundrum.



 
JOHN CRAWFORD

Friday, April 15, 2022

KIA EV6 - A SIGNIFICANT BENCHMARK by John Crawford

This post started with good intentions. I was going to compose a tribute to Kia and its designers and engineers for the EV6. It’s a significant vehicle for Kia, but more than that, it’s a significant benchmark among the latest crop of EVs created by the world’s carmakers – some large, some small.

 

However, on Thursday, April 14 Australia’s premier automotive magazine, WHEELS, trumped any modest efforts by me to praise the EV6, by announcing that the magazine has awarded Kia’s new EV its prestigious CAR OF THE YEAR award.

In the previous issue, the April 2022 edition, the magazine pitched the EV6 against two competitors – its Hyundai stablemate, the Ioniq 5, and the Swedish Polestar 2. That comparison also awarded the winner’s laurels to the EV6, so perhaps taking out COTY was no big surprise.

 

For obvious copyright reasons I can’t publish the findings of the COTY team, but I do want to make comments of my own about this impressive car.

 

Some of my readers believe I am anti-EV, but that is not so. I deplore assertions that they are zero-emission cars (especially in Australia, where our electricity grid is fed from coal-fired power stations), and I do think that alternatives, such as Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) provide an even better alternative to simple battery power.

 

I’m afraid every time I get behind the wheel of a BEV I feel that twinge of range anxiety. In a car like the EV6 however, I was able to relax in the comfort of a 484km range, thanks to its 77.4 kWh battery. This is no small thing, and one of the EV6’s most important assets when it comes to choosing which BEV you might buy.

 

You won’t see one in a showroom (they’re simply too scarce in Australia, which is only being allocated 500 cars in the initial shipment), so it’s virtually impossible to imagine what it looks like compared to other cars, and its competitors. So, I will offer you some perspective.

 

The EV6 is, in my mind, a pretty big hulk of a car. It’s certainly not compact – by any measure. I offer my own appraisal, to a like-minded vehicle you will immediately recognise – the Range Rover PHEV. Here’s a photo of the two, plus a brief chart of similar specifications.


You’ll soon see that the EV6 could challenge a small garage space.



That said, as you would then expect, the EV6 boasts excellent interior space, great legroom front and rear for its five passengers, plus a 480L/1260L rear load space (and a small ‘frunk’ under the hood which offers 20L).

 

At this point in my life, I would not be considering changing cars (even for one as appealing as the EV6), and especially to a BEV. In my neck of the woods there are a total of FOUR public chargers – or you’ll have to face the cost of charging it at home, which is a bit like a ‘slow boat to China’ – even though I have a bevy of solar panels on my roof.

 

The car had 64% battery power left when I picked it up, so as soon as I got home I plugged into my 15A power socket, which (after five hours of sunlight) boosted the capacity to 79% - which was a pleasant surprise.

 

After driving around the Gold Coast most of the day, I found a vacant charge point at a local shopping mall, and hooked up with the Type 2 plug for 45 minutes, which resulted in slightly less than 80%. 



However, there was a sobering reminder of just how L-O-N-G it takes to reach 100%. The dash readout said I would have had to leave the car for a further 4.5 hours! I think it would be prudent to invest in a ‘home charger’ which would cut the charging time.

 

The EV6 pictured here is the middle of the range, a single motor (RWD) GT Line, which comes in around AUD$74,900. The basic EV6 Air model has a pricetag of AUD$67,900 – so, cheap, they are not.





Still, with the price of a Tesla 3 around AUD$70 grand this does not seem to have put off the early adopters. However matching the price tag on the EV6 are lots of luxe items.

 

Once on the road the EV6 fulfils the promise delivered by Kia Australia’s localisation team headed by the skilled and experienced Graeme Godbold (below). Graeme’s group of specialists is responsible for ‘Australian-ising’ every Kia which comes Down Under, and as I am the owner of a Kia Cerato I can attest to the fact that they do a bloody good job!

 

The big EV6 may not handle like an MX5, but it is very agile, very confidence boosting, turns in beautifully and in addition the ride is outstanding. This last point is emphasised by Kia Australia in all its media releases and brochures because Graeme’s team selected ZF Sachs variable dampers, and they iron out bumps and ripples, and provide impressive secondary ride.



In fact, I would easily compare the EV6’s ride and handling right up there with the Jaguar i-Pace – it’s that good, and a very solid reason to buy a ‘localised’ Kia, from any part of its range.

 

The steering is well-weighted, and instantly responsive, with just the right amount of power assist across its arc of movement. However, whilst the basic point and steer responses are excellent, I can’t say the same for that bloody lane-keeping software, which as I casually drift slightly over the lane marker, literally wrenches the wheel in the opposite direction. This is one piece of tech I don’t think any of the carmakers have perfected.

 

On the subject of technical gear and gizmos, you’ll want for nothing. I’m not going to list the full complement – just read the brochure. One thing though, the Meridian audio system on the GT Line is outstanding.

 

The centre console is an attempt by the interior designer to do ‘something different’ and I think it’s a bit dinky, and not really very practical in use. 



It’s a great lump of plastic implanted between the front seats, which in effect is nothing more than a huge armrest.



Externally, the EV6 and its platform-sharing sibling, the Ioniq 5, could not be more different.


The Hyundai is all prisms, sharp edged style lines, side panels boasting edgy graphics and lots of square corners on things like headlights, and interior decoration, like the IP screens.


The EV6 has a flowing, curvy, almost coupe-like sloping profile finishing at the rear with a ‘ducktail’ spoiler reminiscent of the Aston Martin DBX.




Okay, so did Kia’s EV6 deserve its COTY award? Why should my opinion count for anything, when a team of experts paid to have such opinions have climbed all over, poked and prodded the darkest corners, and thrashed the contenders for more than a week.

 

As far as I’m concerned, they got it right – given the long list they had to prune down to one winner!

 

For my money (and I’m not shelling out for one), the EV6 was one of the nicest cars I’ve had the pleasure of driving this past twelve months. It’s an appealing design, smartly turned out in terms of style, design and equipment and drives like a dream.

 

What’s not to like? Well unless a 484km range isn’t long enough for you, you’d have to agree with WHEELS, the Kia EV6 is very impressive – for a BEV, and a pretty slick preview of the future of personal mobility.



JOHN CRAWFORD