Monday, April 25, 2022


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.



Monday, April 18, 2022


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.


Friday, April 15, 2022


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.


Saturday, April 9, 2022


“Therefore, after a decade of setting the standard in its class and leading the way for today’s generation of electric cars, the decision has been taken to discontinue BMW i3 production from summer 2022.”


And so, with that concise paragraph we say farewell to one of the most innovative EVs which we welcomed at almost the very start of the EV revolution, in 2012.


BMW’s i3 was indeed a pacesetter, full of innovation, carefully-calculated engineering and a range of added features such as environmentally-friendly interior materials, and  a series of very high quality standards applied to just about everything in the total production of this unusual BMW.

At the start of the program, BMW displayed a skeletal model of the i3 in its Park Lane showroom in London, and even if you only saw the photos rather than the model itself, you could not help but appreciate the common sense, innovative thinking and daring approach to its construction and performance.

Photo: Ash Gupta

Of all the EVs I have driven since the i3 graced my driveway in December 2016, I don’t think I have enjoyed one as much.

However, next week brings the KIA EV6 to my home, and that’s a test drive I am very much looking forward to.

But, regardless of the relentless pursuit of even more clever engineering and design that the EV6 may represent, the BMW i3 will be remembered as one of the original ‘stars’ of the genre.

Reading through BMW’s fond farewell statement, I can’t help but feel that the company’s next entries in the BEV class may simply represent conventional-looking cars, with battery packs.

How quickly, then, the i3's trend-setting qualities will be consigned BMW's archives.

More than 250,000 i3s were produced in a decade, so I think we could safely call it a success!



Tuesday, April 5, 2022


I think Tesla's Head of Design, Franz Holzhausen, must have been away from the design studio when Elon and the team signed off the Tesla Model 3.

It arrived on the market, minus a 'face'!

The treatment on the Model S is simple, tasteful, and at least gives it some personality.

The Model 3 by comparison looks completely Blah!

 At least the aftermarket is looking after owners who want to freshen the look of their favourite EV. This alternative from Temple Performance in Atlanta would be my choice.

Tesla is going from strength to strength despite the doomsayers in the car industry. The Model 3 is the number one EV in Australia by a long way. But wait, there's more!

In the first quarter of 2022 Tesla delivered 310,000 vehicles, up from 185,000 a year earlier. That's a 70% increase, and comes off the back of Tesla delivering one million vehicles in 2021.

But there's something distinctly tantalising coming from Tesla next year - the long awaited roadster. Here's a preview:

When I look at what Elon Musk has achieved with Space-X, and Tesla, you have to be impressed with his drive, energy, imagination and foresight. He has completely disrupted the global car market, and sent the established carmakers off on a merry chase to match Tesla's success.

John Crawford