Monday, January 31, 2022


Yet another example of Aussie ingenuity and innovation, comes from the unlikely location of the Caiguna Roadhouse on the desolate Nullarbor Plain.

Inventor Jon Edwards has harnessed the power of ‘chip fat’ – waste vegetable oil, to create a world-first EV charging system!

Recently the unique EV charger powered a Polestar 2 for a cross-country journey from South Australia to Western Australia. 

And, get this, the whole damn thing is a completely net-zero exercise, with no incremental impact on the environment.


The inventor says: “The cost of installing an equivalent solar-powered EV fast charger would be over five times the cost of building our new unit, known as the BiØfil system.”


Edwards added: “Solar energy would not have been cost-effective for such a low traffic location, making BiØfil an environmentally-friendly interim solution for EVs driving across the Nullarbor right now”


BiØfil’s proponents identified that the proposed electric vehicle highway in Western Australia left a gap on the Nullarbor, saying that the Caiguna Roadhouse EV charger is critical to anyone wishing to complete an around-Australia trip by EV.

BiØfil plugging a gap, and inventor Jon Edwards

Caiguna is positioned 370km east of Norseman, and 370km west of the South Australian border, making it the ideal halfway point for a recharge.


The BiØfil fast charging unit extracts energy from waste oil using a generator. The vegetable oil used in food fryers comes from seed crops, such as canola and sunflower, which absorb CO2 and sunlight, and the CO2 produced to power the EV charger is equivalent to the CO2 absorbed.

It’s truly a win-win for EV owners and the environment.

Polestar Australia MD, Samantha Johnson said: “Polestar is thrilled to share its passion for innovation and sustainability with visionaries like Jon Edwards. To turn a waste product into a CO2-neutral charging system is the sort of ingenuity which has led to so many Australian innovations."


Thursday, January 27, 2022


I am not a ‘boatie’, but ever since my first visit to Monaco for the Grand Prix in 1976, I have been fascinated by the yachts that moor in the inner harbour and offshore. On a regular day, it’s possible to moor your yacht in Monaco for USD$5000 per night, but during the Grand Prix every May, that number swells to USD$100,000 for a five night package – and you can only buy a five night package!

Actually, we should quantify that a bit more – depending on the size of the yacht and the location, it can cost USD$10,000 a night, or USD$160,000 a night for a real biggie, close to the circuit entry!


It’s a tale of wealth, of numbers in dollars that can easily stupefy us regular folks. This year the biggest yacht in Monaco was ‘FAITH’, a USD$200 million,  96.4m creation that was formerly owned by President of Aston Martin, Lawrence Stroll, who sold it recently to the father of Williams driver Nicholas Latifi.

'Faith' can be rented for a cool USD$1.5 million a week!

Stroll probably needed the ‘readies’ to top up his bank account after buying Aston Martin and creating Aston Martin F1 from the remnants of Force India F1.


This seems like an appropriate time to discuss Force India and its (formerly wealthy) owner, Indian-born Vijay Mallya and his superyacht, Indian Empress (below). Currently the Bank of Qatar is selling off the yacht (said to be worth nine million Euros), to recover some of Mallya’s debts from racing, spending down the fortune his father left him, and flashy parties.

Defiant to the last, Mallya is still fighting extradition to India, and although granted his lawyers say it can't be acted on due to an unidentified legal matter still to be heard in a British court.


Mallya gave credibility to the axiom: “How do you spend a small fortune on F1? Start with a big one!”

When he inherited UB Group from his father in 1983 at just 27, it was India’s biggest brewer and seller of spirits, generating huge revenues in India and around the world.


Mallya’s downfall is a sad, but predictable tale of rapid diversification and expansion, taking on too much debt, which went to funding UB Group, Force India F1, Kingfisher Beer, Kingfisher Airlines, the Bangalore Royal Challengers BBL team and his lavish lifestyle which included his superyacht.


I interviewed him at the Australian Grand Prix in 2010, when it was still possible to rate him a successful corporate entrepreneur, but it took just eight years to conclude his downfall including a highly publicised revocation of his Indian passport and drawn-out  efforts to extradite him to India.


Keeping the balls in the air with UB Group leveraged to the hilt, and beyond, Mallya has surrendered all of his business ventures, but more alarmingly has now been charged not only with loan defaults, but ‘conversion’ (which is a one word description for borrowing funds to save one venture, but illegally allocating it to another). Mallya is essentially facing multiple fraud charges, and is in hiding in a luxury home in London awaiting trial.


During his time at the head of Force India, Indian Empress hosted the most lavish parties in Monaco, on (then) the biggest yacht ever seen in the harbour.

Guests even included (unsurprisingly) Prince Albert and Princess Charlene.

Although they were quick to distance themselves from the big-spending F1 owner, when the banks began closing in.


While we’re on the subject of big boats and big personalities, one of the biggest yachts in Monaco every year is 'Planet Nine', which comes not only with its own chopper, but even hangar space on board for the helicopter!

'Planet Nine' is owned by 51 years old Nathaniel Rothschild, scion of the Rothschild family, worth about USD$50 billion, and the only heir to the estate and title of his father Jacob, the 4th Baron Rothschild.

The difference is that Nathaniel, unlike Mallya, has a tight grip on his fortune, his companies, his investments, his prosperity and his new wife.


Nat's supertub is not the only yacht to visit Monaco which has its own chopper, but the others have disappeared, probably due to over-spending and too much leveraged debt.

However, it's a great way to watch the race, with champagne and caviar close at hand to feed you and your guests.


I’ve visited Monaco twice for Grands Prix, and also during Mediterranean cruises.

Even visiting when the GP isn't on, there are so many yachts that 25 years ago Prince Albert began an ambitious project to reclaim ‘land from the sea’ which resulted in an expansion of the tiny kingdom into the Mediterranean, with space for even more expensive yachts!


In 1981 this one was turned away by the Harbour Master for lack of a spare mooring

Along with its famous Casino, it's just another way to ensure revenue keeps flowing into the Monegasque coffers.

Ensuring the continued myth and legend that keeps Monaco alive in the minds of the wealthy, and those of us schmucks who work for a living. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2022


This GREAT DRIVE depends on whether you want to ‘climb’ the Grossglockner; or ‘glide’ down with your foot constantly on the brake pedal. If want to glide, you depart south from Salzburg. If you want to climb, you’ll head north from Lienz.

How you get to either starting point is up to you, but with 13 kilometres of driving, and rising 1.27km in altitude this is a serious mountain road. Of course, if want to guarantee ‘no snow’, you do it in July and share the blacktop with tour buses, serious cyclists, motorbikes, family cars, the occasional supercar and wheezing camper vans.


The high point for most people is a stop at the Eidelweissspitze at 2571m, and although we were there in June with lots of sun and floating clouds the freezing winds meant a quick stop for photos and back in the car.

I was PR Director for Daewoo Auto Australia at the time, and we took off from Munich to join my Pommie friends from the Daewoo Technical Centre in Worthing (UK).

They were busy grinding up and down the Pass in three, disguised, 900cc Daewoo Matiz hatchbacks – supposedly undergoing hot weather testing!

The road was first proposed in 1924, when some Austrian engineers thought the route would attract tourists – however, with only 154,000 private motor cars, and 92,000 private motorcycles in all of Germany, Austria and Italy, they were soundly ridiculed. At this stage Austria’s economy was in tatters after the First World War, and finally the government relented and hired 3200 workers (from an unemployment pool of 520,000) to get things started. It was opened in 1935, and was a toll road from day one.


A one-day pass is 35 Euros, and worth every bit, as you wrestle your way through almost 40 hairpins, watched over by Austria’s tallest mountain, Grossglockner (below), at 3798m.

The road is also the access point to the Hohe Tauern, Austria’s largest national park, and a side trip reveals plenty to see and some more interesting roads. You shouldn’t think about the High Pass as the only road to conquer – there’s plenty of side trips and you could easily while away four days.


We based ourselves in the tiny Austrian village of Kaprun, but it’s home to an outstanding four-star hotel, the Burgruine. 

However, if you really want to rub shoulders with experienced High Pass drivers, you may decide on the Porschehof, originally built by Porsche for its summer testing crews, but now privately owned.

Probably the ideal months to sample the Grossglockner High Pass is either September, or April, but remember, like all alpine environments snow and blizzards can strike all year round – so it’s a gamble, but virtually traffic-free roads would be your reward.



Sunday, January 16, 2022


Back in June 2014 I posted a story which I believed represented huge potential for the production of solid-state batteries, using a new development of a substance called Graphene.


From my early research I immediately recognised the benefits from using Graphene in a host of devices, initially in screens for mobile phones, computers and TVs.

However, a huge step forward has occurred in the USA and has been reported this week by GoAutoNews. Here is the story:


Nevada-based Nanotech Energy has taken out the prized Innovation Award at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for its innovative graphene-based non-flammable battery technology.


The company’s Graphene-Organolyte batteries can be tailored to fit any shape or size and can be used to power Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), consumer electronics, and a variety of other electrified devices.

Claimed to potentially revolutionize electric vehicles, batteries made using this technology are said to be more stable in extreme temperatures or when punctured or deformed.

Nanotech Energy claims its graphene battery can retain more than 80% of its rated capacity of 1400 charging cycles and can be recharged 18 times faster than any other battery currently on the market.


If, and there’s always an ‘if’, this technology can be scaled up cost-effectively it could be some sort of silver bullet for the advancement in the takeup of BEVs.


JOHN CRAWFORD            Source


Friday, January 14, 2022


The kernel of the Cadillac Sixteen story was created by me, with a chance photo I snapped on the Concept Lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2003 (right). 


The car was being shown for the first time in California and had attracted huge interest. As I walked past, an attendant opened one side of the centre-hinged hood, so I snapped off just one shot of the huge and very impressive engine.

It blew me away, but secretly I thought “I’ll bet it’s a dummy engine, no-one would really build a ‘running’ sixteen-cylinder engine – especially GM.”


How wrong I was. Whilst searching for inspiration for a fresh Blog post I came across that 2003 photo in a ‘Miscellaneous’ folder, and beginning right there the Cadillac Sixteen car and engine has turned into something of a saga for me, and this is my paen to a ridiculous, audacious, mind-blowing and sophisticated example of American automotive engineering and design at its finest.


However, it’s much more of a story about people, rather than cold metal parts being assembled by skilled artisans.


You won’t be surprised to know that GM’s Chairman at the time, Bob Lutz, was the driving force behind the Sixteen project, aided and abetted by Design VP Wayne Cherry.

The plan was to convince GM that this grand old brand should be on a pedestal, wearing the crown as GM’s ultimate showcase for high-value design and engineering.


And remember, Cadillac has form here. Back in the 1930s it produced America’s only V16 engine, which was offered from 1930 through to 1938.

Let’s start with vehicle design. The exterior was penned by Brian Smith (left), and interior by Eric Clough (right) – two very experienced designers, carefully inspired and motivated by Wayne Cherry.

From a design perspective the Sixteen appeared right in the middle of Cadillac’s pursuit of the ‘Art & Science’ theme which debuted in 1999.

Not only was the focus a car ‘big enough’ to properly encapsulate the huge engine, but also to capture a set of proportions which may have the effect of slightly ‘minimising’ the impact of such a huge car.


Both designers scored some major brownie points with their tasks. Brian Smith produced a rakish, low slung and imposing shape; whilst Eric Clough produced not only a tasteful and beautifully-finished interior, with a sophisticated and understated blend of materials, but also a completely unique ‘dial set’ for the instrument panel, including a one-off Bulgari clock.

But it’s under the hood where the audacity of the Sixteen program really impresses. Make no mistake, 13.6L capacity; 16 cylinders; a 38” inch long crankshaft; 1000hp, plus a massive torque figure of 1000 lb ft is a very bold statement.

But get this. The engine program resulted in TWO engines being produced – just in case something catastrophic occurred when testing the original prototype.


Let’s start with the basics. Yes, the underlying architecture starts with GM’s small block V8 (below), which is a cam-in-block design. This provides the basic dimensions of the behemoth, plus all the ancilliaries.

Of course, making twice the engine from one is not a new idea. Recently, Aston Martin created its original V12, by marrying two Ford Duratec V6s together; Bentley made its W12 by binding together two narrow angle 15 degree VW V6s; The VW Passat W8 was two VR4s, and the famous Bugatti W16 was two narrow angle V8s (based on the VR6) one-behind-the-other.


There was the challenge of not just fitting it into the engine bay, but Brian Smith also had to design jewellery to adorn the massive powerplant, like tappet covers, accommodating sleek exhaust manifolding, and integrating the ‘working’ parts under the centre-hinged hood panels.


Okay, so under the hood we need a giant, cast crankcase, a huge crankshaft and camshaft, two huge cylinder heads plus scavenge pumps and a special, cast dry sump.

But, what I find really exciting, interesting and praiseworthy is that GM turned to local suppliers in Michigan for the bulk of the work, calling in engine specialists Katech, Dearborn Crankshaft and LSM Systems Engineering. Both the crank and camshaft were machined from billet steel, and the cylinder heads were machined in-house at Katech. Line boring the Mains was undertaken by Schwartz Machine.


Tom Stephens
European specialists were called on for a couple of big jobs. The block was cast by Becker CCC; the eight-stage dry sump cast by ACTech GmBH, and torsional stiffness studies and calculations for the crank were done by Ricardo in the UK.

However, the program was led by GM veteran powertrain engineer, Tom Stephens, heading a team of specialists from GM-HPVO.


Once all the parts were finished they were all returned to Katech for the final assembly and first start-up. It was an extraordinary project of much complexity, but GM wanted to show the Cadillac Sixteen at the 2003 North American International Motor Show in Detroit in early January, so the entire program from start to finish had to be completed in an ambitious seven months! Remember this also included making a complete, second, running engine!

Okay, so the Sixteen never became the ‘halo’ car it was intended to be, and whilst many lessons were learned, from an engineering and design standpoint, there was nothing specific that carried over to future Cadillac projects, but what this project did do, was to highlight the resources, and competencies still alive and kicking within GM.


What was the Cadillac Sixteen, powered by the XV16? Was it a crazy dream car; a vanity project; a folly, or a fruitless way to expend millions of GM dollars on an exotic fantasy machine?


I don’t think any of that matters. The fact is the project was conceived, created and carried out by a GM team that was dedicated to showing off their talents – and what ‘could be’ for Cadillac. Sadly, neither the GM Board nor the Cadillac marketing team took any notice.

Although it didn’t go into production, the Cadillac Sixteen was featured in two full-length movies; two computer games and a TV show.

It was also tested by TOP GEAR’s James May, who was so impressed, he said “GM should make this car, it’s a blinder!”

To all of the team working under the leadership of Bob Lutz, Tom Stephens, Wayne Cherry, Brian Smith and Eric Clough, you did a great job!


Imagine floating this idea today?

Thanks to the GM Archive for many of the photos in this story.




Saturday, January 8, 2022


Could this be true? Yes, and Cadillac displayed this attention to quality and durability shortly after its founding in August 1902.

The first Cadillac, designed by Henry Leland (right), and using his own single cylinder engine, left the factory on October 17, 1902. It was a mechanical masterpiece, a precision work of engineering built to unprecedented tolerances. 

Leland had perfected his inclination for thousandths-of-an-inch accuracy working in the late 19th century firearms industry. He had started as a machinist with the Colt’s Fire Arms Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. It was there that he honed his skills for the mass production of interchangeable parts, and learned assembly line manufacturing.


Cadillac became the best built automobile in America, and in 1908 the company was awarded the coveted British Dewar Trophy for Engineering Excellence.

The Dewar Trophy was a cup donated in the early years of the twentieth century by Sir Thomas R. Dewar, M.P. (a member of the parliament of the United Kingdom).

It was to be awarded each year by the Royal Automobile Club (R. A .C.) of the United Kingdom "to the motor car which should successfully complete the most meritorious performance or test furthering the interests and advancement of the [automobile] industry".


On Saturday, 29 February 1908, three Model Ks from the 1907 Cadillac production were released from the stock of the Anglo-American Motorcar Company, the UK agent for Cadillac automobiles, at the Heddon Street showroom in London (these were engines Nos. 23391, 24111 and 24118).

The three cars, all registered in London under the numbers A2EO, A3EO and A4EO, were driven 25 miles to the Brooklands race track at Weybridge.

There, the cars completed ten laps of the track, or roughly 30 miles, before being locked away until Monday, 2 March 1908, when they were released and disassembled completely, using only wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, and pliers.


Each car was reduced to a pile of 721 component parts, which were then scrambled into one heap by the RAC. Eighty-nine parts requiring extreme accuracy were withdrawn from the heap, locked away at the Brooklands club house and replaced with new parts from Anglo-American's showroom stock.


The parts were then sorted into three piles, each with all the parts needed to assemble a car. A mechanic - Mr. E. O. Young - reassembled the first two cars with the help of his assistant - Mr. M. M. Gardner. Sometimes they had to work ankle-deep in water, using only wrenches and screwdrivers.


The third car was re-assembled by Thursday morning, 12 March. With the painted parts on the original cars not being identical in colour or style, the reassembled cars were mismatched in appearance, gaining the nickname "harlequin cars".


By 2 p.m. on Friday 13 March, the three cars had completed the mandatory 500-mile run with singular regularity.  Only one point was lost owing to a broken cotter pin on the ignition lever (promptly replaced from stock).


During the event, it was reported that one of the sheds where the parts were stored became partly flooded during a heavy storm, and some parts became rusted. Only oily rags could be used to remove all traces of the immersion.


On completion of the test, one of the cars was locked away until the start of the 2000-mile reliability trials in June 1908.  It won the R.A.C. Trophy for its class.  Parts interchangeability had been publicly demonstrated and intensively field-tested.


From 1909 Cadillac adapted the badge on its cars to read ‘Cadillac – Standard of The World’ – a boast which Cadillac could appropriately lay claim to, based on winning The Dewar Trophy. In fact, Cadillac won The Dewar Trophy a second time, in 1912, for its development of the electric starter motor and electric lights.

General Motors owned a brand which could rightly claim to be America's answer to the Rolls-Royce, but since the mid-60s, GM has frittered away the status and image of the Cadillac brand, lumping it in with its assortment of other brands - Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick.

Rather than set the brand on a pedestal as its 'hero' marque, Cadillac was forced to fight for funding and investment along with its lesser siblings.

Despite heroic attempts to revive Cadillac's formidable reputation it remains 'just one of the brands' - although GM stalwarts like Mark Reuss, Michael Simcoe and Bob Lutz have played a huge part in attempting its reformation to a position of greatness.

Cadillac's latest achievement ordains a 'new order' in its product offerings - the impressive Lyriq EV.

Be sure to read my next feature on the background and engineering excellence represented by the 2003 Cadillac Sixteen. It's a concept which should have been taken more seriously by the suits at GM.

John Crawford

 (Source - Wikipedia)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

THE YEAR AHEAD by John Crawford

One thing I can confidently say as we enter 2022, the Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) boom will NOT take place this coming year. Certainly not in Australia. Yes, sales will probably spike, but it will not be a boom year!


It’s not here, it won’t arrive in 2022, and it will be some time before the global motoring public is ready to take the huge leap from the dependability of completing their many journeys with ICE-powered cars. Also, remember BEVs today are fantasy vehicles, and ego-driven due to the huge cost of exotic BEVs versus ICE cars.

This leaves carmakers forced to continue production of lower-cost ICE cars, whilst still being forced to invest billions in BEVs.

 As for the BEV industry howling for government, and other subsidies to boost BEV sales, that’s just the carmakers and the vested interests combining to try and cover their huge cash investments in a technology which is NOT a silver bullet to curbing automotive emissions.


Especially in countries where the grid gets its base load from coal-fired power stations – you’re just swapping one form of pollution for another. Oh, and don’t forget that early BEV adopters will also have to cope with queuing for recharges.

Carmakers, seeing ICE emissions getting tougher and tougher turned to what seems like a simple solution – make our customers buy BEVs! Simple as that. And, keep this in mind, once, and if, there’s widespread take-up of BEVs, it will wreak havoc in the established automotive after market.


Think about the impact on accessory makers which support ICE cars; the service industry which totally relies on servicing and maintaining ICE cars as the bread’n’butter of their business; and more importantly the need to restructure how governments collect revenue from BEV owners, because fuel taxes will disappear.

You can also forget about the urban myth that states that BEVs are environmentally-friendly. Not so. The carbon footprint of a BEV is far, far higher (in a cradle-to-the-grave comparison) to ICE cars.


I couldn't resist this. Here's a photo of a goose charging an EV.
In Australia, I think, so far, the conservative federal government is resisting handing out subsidies by the taxpayer for relatively precious few to own a BEV. The Labor (Socialist) opposition, which of course is simply desperate to get into power, will promise the earth (and more) just to be popular among the city elites and the greens.


When you examine ALL the agendas behind the push for BEVs, they are just like clouds of mist – you can see right through them, depending on which one you’re examining.


The day when EVERYTHING mobile will be powered just by batteries fed by spurious power generation simply will not happen.

Believe it or not, I am not a EV denier. I just want governments, industry et al to consider ALL the alternatives.

It may be batteries for small cars, hybrids for larger cars and fuel cells for buses and trucks.


It’s a bit like the environmentalists' daydreams that wind and solar can provide base load power for the whole country.

Not only is it unlikely to happen, it will never happen.

The solutions for base load power generation are much more complicated than being in the sunshine, feeling the wind in your hair.


Oh, sorry. I was daydreaming of powering along in my own Bentley Continental GT Speed ICE convertible with the roof down.

I’m going to be brave, and say that I could probably write this editorial at the end of 2022, just as easily as I can write it now. 

However, for the sake of being fair-minded here's a look at where personal mobility could be headed.