Category Archives: Uncategorized

Who killed the electric car? And who’s reviving it today

Eleven years ago a movie called ‘Who killed the electric car’ came out chronicling how General Motors developed and introduced an all electric car back in the mid 1990s – the EV1 – and how the project failed and was ultimately cancelled. The movie doesn’t explicitly state why, but suggests that established interests in the oil and automotive industry and the government were not exactly in favour of a move to all electric drive vehicles at the time.

electric car charging

Although the EV1 had a pretty respectable range – 100 miles (161kms, still suitable for most daily drive distances today), it was nonetheless perceived as not being enough, especially as charging – as today – took a lot longer than filling a petrol tank. The other issue at the time and still a factor today, is that there was (and still is) no nationwide network of charging stations in any country to allow longer journeys.

All this looks like it might finally be changing. A combination of factors has made this possible, but perhaps the most significant is big advances in battery technology, so that today not only can batteries allow greater distances to be driven on one charge, the time it takes to recharge these batteries is coming down as well. And in some parts of the world (including to a limited extent Australia) governments are either subsidising or building the infrastructure needed to support all electric vehicles.

Two other factors are helping this along – firstly an increased awareness of the environmental impact of petrol and diesel engined vehicles, and secondly an understanding of the savings that can be achieved in terms of running costs (see our previous article – Running on the small of an oily rag) compared to conventional ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles. The Tesla S for example has less than 150 moving parts against a normal car, which can have up to 10,000. In a nutshell this means there are much fewer things that can go wrong and this is one reason why Tesla offers a lifetime guarantee on its cars. It can also ‘service’ its customers’ vehicles remotely via a type of software update over the internet – so Teslas in theory never need to go in for a service.

Tesla is certainly leading the way in electric car manufacturing, but it is also encouraging mainstream car manufacturers to take the leap into all electric. Of course there are already a few all electric cars out there, although the industry as a whole has so far tended to opt for halfway house solutions – hybrid vehicles that operate with an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

2018 however may see this change, with a slew of all electric vehicles due on the market in Australia. Tesla is – unsurprisingly – leading the charge with their new ‘affordable’ model, the Tesla 3 due in Australia next year. Likely to be priced at around $50,000 and around half the price of their current high end Tesla S, the 3 will nonetheless come with pretty good specifications – a 0-100 acceleration time of under 6 seconds, a range of 345km and a rapid charging option that will allow the car to recharge in less than 15 minutes – less even than the Tesla S which takes 30 minutes on a supercharging system to recharge the battery.

Hot on the heels of Tesla will be Hyundai, with their Iconiq model which will offer an all electric variant, price at around $35,000, the next generation Nissan Leaf with a rumoured 550km range on the top model (likely to be priced to compete with the Tesla 3), and Jaguar with their I PACE model, which promises a 500km range, a rapid charging option and a blisteringly quick 0-100 time of under 4 seconds – nearly Lamborghini territory. If you like the sound of the Jag you will have to wait until the end of 2018 and have around $120,000 in your back pocket.

Maybe 2018 is the year to take the plunge, get the car loan and go all electric!

Image credit: http://dahlstroms.com/

Thinking of buying your first jetski?

Jetskis have been around since the mid 60s when an Australian called Clayton Jacobsen II (who lived in Byron Bay) was looking for a sports activity as fun as his (then) sport of motocross, but with less chance of getting hurt when you fell off. He based his original design on smaller personal water craft developed in the UK and Germany which were then called ‘water scooters’.

jetski

The big difference between a regular boat and a jetski is that it is powered by an internal water jet motor as opposed to the more conventional outboard. The motor sucks water through an inlet on the bottom of the jetski using an impeller, and this water is then jetted out the back to propel the jetski forward. The jetski is manoeuvred from left to right using the handlebars which move the nozzle of the water jet from side to side.

As quite a lot of water has to be forced through the internal tube, jetskis required quite powerful engines – a larger jetski will often have an engine of a similar size to one in a small car – around 1.5l capacity.

Technically speaking, the term ‘Jetski’ is in fact owned by the Kawasaki brand and only (legally) describes their bits of kit, however, much like the word ‘hoover’ the term has become a generic term for all ‘personal water craft’ (or PWC’s).

As you’d expect for such a water-loving nation, Australia has more than its fair share of jetskis – in Queensland alone there are over 20,000 jetskis registered, with registrations increasing all the time. Around three quarters of these are based in South East Queensland.

Which jetski will be the best choice for you will depend on what you’re planning to use it for*. If it’s just for yourself and for having some fun on the water, a solo stand-up jetski may be the best option, although sit down solo jetskis are also available, they are a bit bigger and more expensive. If you’re looking for something that can accommodate more than one person, there are models that can take up to four people.

Much like surfboards, some jetskis are really only for experienced riders – the shorter and narrower models are much faster and more manoeuvrable, but not the best to learn on. It’s best to start out with a more stable jetski design, which in practice means a wider and slower, less manoeuvrable model.

Although jetskis are mostly associated with recreational activity, they are also used for an array of other water-based activities – they are increasingly used by the surf lifesavers as rescue craft, and are used for water-based law enforcement around the world, and the US Navy actually uses them as remote controlled surface targets.

In the seaside town of Bournemouth in the UK they are even used by food delivery service Deliveroo to deliver food to customers on the beach. It’s a lot quicker than driving, apparently.

*also bear in mind that, in Australia, you will need to have a valid marine licence to operate a jetski, if it has an engine with more than 4.5kW of power (pretty much all jetskis have more powerful engines than this)

Bathurst will be different next year

This year marks the end of an era for supercar racing in Australia – it’s not that the Bathurst 1000 (also known as the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000) is finishing – it’s not, and plans are already underway for the 2018 race.

bathurst

No, it’s more to do with the cars that will be racing. As of 2018 the traditional Ford and Holden V8’s will firstly no longer be based on Australian manufactured production vehicles (since Ford have already stopped production here and Holden will shortly), and secondly the V8 engine format will not continue, at least for Holden, who next year will be competing in a car not only designed but manufactured in Europe rather than Australia, in either a four cylinder turbo or V6 all wheel drive format.

So, sadly, gone are the days of the Ford and Holden V8’s battling it out for dominance on Mount Panorama.

Bathurst has been home to motorsport since 1963 when the Armstrong 500 race, previously held at Phillip Island, relocated there. The original race was – as the name implied – over a 500 mile circuit, which doubled up at Bathurst to the current 1000 mile race.

Over the years many different classes of cars – from production saloon cars to various classes of touring cars – have raced in the Bathurst 1000, but as of 1999 the race swapped to the supercar category and since then has been one of the venues for this championship.

You might be forgiven for thinking that it’s only about the two (former) local manufacturers – Ford and Holden – but that’s not strictly the case. Other marques do take part, such as BMW, Nissan and Volvo, but given the main attraction of the event has been the Holden vs Ford battle, other marques were completely excluded from the race from 1999 until 2012. They were allowed back in in 2013, but only Nissan has had any success on the track since then.

As things stand, Holden is ahead of Ford with 32 wins against Ford’s 20.

Many famous drivers have competed over the years, including Bob Jane (as in Bob Jane T Marts) and Jacky Ickx (who went on to F1), but the undisputed ‘King of the Mountain’ is the late Peter Brock, who won the race nine times beween 1972 and 1987, two wins ahead of his nearest rival Jim Richards.

What makes the Bathurst track different to most other racing tracks around Australia, or even the world, is the height variation – the highest point is vertically 174m above the lowest point (hence the name ‘Mount Panorama’) and the resultant unique driving experience which makes watching Bathurst very different from other motorsport races.

It’s also technically on public roads (although you’d be hard pressed to see the difference on the TV when the race is on) – it’s only closed off to general traffic during racing events and in fact some properties can only be accessed from roads that form part of the track, which must make it interesting when the races are on. Anybody wanting to ‘give the track a go’ should be aware that the local police rigourously enforce the normal 60 km/h speed limit.

It will be interesting to see what happens at the race next year without the deafening roar of the V8’s – a specially built ‘Sandman’ Holden was driven around the circuit, powered by the new twin turbo V6 which (as explained above) will replace the current V8 engine. The driver – Greg Murphy – liked it, but some of the spectators were disappointed it was so quiet compared to the V8’s. Comes to something when people complain a car is too quiet.

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Benchill

A scooter or a motorbike – which is the best bet?

Back in the 70s your answer to this question determined which tribe you belonged to – the Mods, represented by the scooter riding Sting in the film Quadrophenia, or the Rockers, who, if they had to choose a two wheeled conveyance, would pick a motorbike every time.

Even though a small tribal element in this choice still survives today, for most people the choice of buying either a motorbike or a scooter is down to one thing – beating the traffic. So, which should you get?

The first thing to consider is the length of the journeys you are going to make. If your commute, or any of the regular trips you need to make, take you on to fast roads or on to the motorway, you should forget the scooter option, as ‘mopeds’ (defined as two wheeled vehicles with an engine capacity of less than 50ml and a top speed of less than 50kmh) are generally prohibited. Even if you could legally, it would not be a pleasant experience.

If on the other hand you need to get around the city, a scooter is a great choice – very low fuel consumption and easy to park almost anywhere. It is more or less the same with a motorbike, although fuel consumption is higher and – although they are still fairly easy to find a parking spot for, not quite as easy as for a scooter.

This may be stating the obvious, but a recent survey in the UK of motorbike (and we presume other two wheeled) riders confirmed that they are less stressed by their daily commute than car drivers. Getting stuck in traffic jams was the biggest frustration for car drivers in the UK, with 60% stressed out by them, whereas only 13% of the motorbike riders found it at all stressful.

Previous studies have also found that motorcycle and moped commuters are much happier when they arrive at work and…

  • are six times less stressed than their car-driving colleagues
  • are late less often
  • have quicker journey times

In fact one European study found that if just 10% of commuters swapped to a motorbike or moped, traffic congestion would reduce by 40% and if 25% of car drivers swapped, it would completely eliminate all congestion.

Statistics out of Australia show that riding a motorbike or moped is also becoming a more popular option here – between 2010 and 2015 the number of motorcycles on the road increased by 22%, and recent stats from the ABS show that just in the last 12 months the number of motorcycles on the road rose by 2.5% as against an increase of just 1.9% for cars.

There are of course obvious occasions when a two wheeler just won’t work – think bad weather, cargo or passengers to transport etc, so the ideal situation is to have access to a car as well as a scooter or motorbike.

And if you’re new to riding a motorbike, even if you have a current driving licence and know the road rules well, it’s a very good idea to get some riding instruction, ideally before venturing out on the road, so that you can commute – and save money and stress less – safely.

Which car should you buy if you’re a budding Uber driver?

Drive around any Australian city and you’ll see quite a few cars with that little circular black sticker with a small white square in the middle in the back window. This indicates that the car is an Uber car and – as long as you have the Uber app on your phone, you can book a ride in it.

uber app

It is amazing how quickly Uber has been adopted, not only in Australia but around the world, and you can see why – fares are normally around half of a taxi fare, the cars are generally smart and the drivers are generally friendly, plus you can book a ride from wherever you happen to be and your ride (in our experience anyway) is picking you up 5-10 minutes later. Plus since the fare is booked to your credit card, you just hop out at your destination, all done.

So, they are pretty good from the user’s perspective – but have you ever thought what it would be like to drive one? The great news is that you can clock on and clock off whenever you like, so it’s easy to combine with your other responsibilities (like work maybe?). And an extra few dollars into the bank account certainly doesn’t hurt.

There are some requirements for Uber drivers, but the most important is having a vehicle that Uber regards as fitting the bill. The most basic car (which is for an ‘UberX’ vehicle) must be less than ten years old, have at least four doors and seat at least four people plus the driver. Of course it must be ‘in excellent working condition’, which includes working aircon and windows.

If you don’t have access to a vehicle that meets these conditions (and Uber does insist on a vehicle inspection before you can start driving with them), all is not lost – you can always buy a new car. Well, not necessarily a new one – as long as it’s under ten years old you’re fine. So the big question is – which are the best cars for Uber drivers?

The Performance Drive website has a few recommendations for budding Uber drivers – their first pick is the trusty Toyota Corolla for sheer reliability as much as anything else, plus the hybrid version keeps fuel costs way down, with a consumption figure of 4.1/100km.

Their second choice might seem a bit strange though – they are suggesting the BMW 330e, which is a mere $73,000 – not what you might regard as Uber driver territory, however there is another category of Uber car – the ‘Uber Select’ – that is for people who want to ride in style. Uber suggests a number of models it thinks would fit the bill, from the Hyundai Genesis to the Maserati Quattroporte. And if you’ve a Tesla S, or yes – a BMW 3 series – as long as it’s under ten years old you’re in, plus you make a little more money as an Uber Select driver, so you might pay off that $73K a little more quickly. The big advantage of the 330e is its fuel consumption – just 2.1l/100 km, thanks to its hybrid setup – a four cylinder turbocharged 2l petrol engine coupled with a 65kW electric motor, which does all of the low speed driving, while giving you a 0-100kmh acceleration of 6.1 seconds when you need it.

Some of the other cars that make the grade, at least as far as Performance Drive are concerned, are the Hyundai i30, the hybrid version of the Toyota Camry and the Skoda Superb. At the smaller end of the scale they suggest the Kia Picante which costs just over $14,000 new, which will make car loan payback pretty quick. However we’ve yet to see a ‘compact’ car with an Uber sticker in the back window – the Hyundai Getz – arguably one of the most common cars on the road in Australia, is strangely absent from the Uber fleet. Or have you seen one?

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/132115055@N04/26094517575

Need a home loan for a house you can build for $14K?

Amid all the talk of house prices and affordability, the cost of the actual buildings themselves might be about to take a tumble, if tech developments in 3D printing and automated bricklaying – to name just two – become commonplace in the building industry.

Earlier this year a Russian company called Apis Cor demonstrated that a house – admittedly quite a small one at 38m2 – could be 3D printed on site and painted inside 24 hours at a cost of just $10,134 (AU$13,325). The house is designed to last 175 years.

This is not the first house to be built using 3D printing technology, however the difference is that the Russian house is printed on site rather than being printed/pre-fabricated elsewhere and then delivered and assembled on site – when the house has been printed the printer itself is moved offsite using a crane.

The 3D printing approach means that a number of design features otherwise very hard to replicate using conventional building methods, are easy to execute. The display house has curved external walls, and in fact almost any building shape can be created. The finishing touch in the house was the addition of a curved screen Samsung TV matching the curvature of the wall.

If 3D building printing is not your thing – maybe you prefer a slightly more traditional building – then perhaps you should consider the Hadrian X – a robotic bricklaying machine that can lay up to a thousand bricks every hour – the equivalent output of two bricklayers over a day. That makes the robots 20-25 times faster than their human equivalents.

The company behind Hadrian X – Fastbrick – is based in Perth and has been around since 2015 but a recent deal with US construction equipment company Caterpillar, which has taken a $2.6M stake, has thrust it into the limelight. The company claims that its robots not only build faster but more accurately than humans, allowing a four bed house to be built in two days, instead of the usual 6-8 weeks, at a saving for the home builder of $20K-$30K.

Futurists looking to what houses might be like in fifty years time are looking at the impact that current technology developments outside the home might have on housing design. Although fully self driving cars are limited to the Google experimental cars zipping around parts of California, Tesla and other manufacturers are reasonable advanced in the designed of fully self driving vehicles.

At a certain point cars will morph into a very affordable and convenient taxi service which may make owning a car not as important as it is today. If cars are no longer needed by many homeowners, garages may no longer be needed either, and the space could be put to other uses. Maybe as drone hangars. If advances in drone technology continue, we may all have our own drones that ‘pop down the shops’ (or something similar) while we stay at home.

All of this crystal ball gazing about how easy and cheap everything will ultimately be, doesn’t however address the issue of housing affordability. Ironically it’s not the cost of the house that’s the main component of rising house prices – it’s the cost of the land itself. And no amount of technology (at least that we’re aware of) is going to change that.

PS We haven’t yet had a loan application for a 3D printed home, but we’re looking forward to our first!

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bricklayer_J4.jpg

Running on the smell of an oily rag

This is one saying that may not make any sense at all to drivers (if the term ‘drivers’ even means anything) in 25 years time. ‘Well, that was back when transportation devices needed to be topped up with fuel, son.’ might be the response from the dad of the future.

But since it does still mean something in 2017, as a follow up to one of our previous articles on the cost of owning and running a car, we thought we’d look at what most people see as the major cost component – the cost of the fuel.

Petrol pump

Fuel consumption per mile/km has improved significantly over the past 40 odd years – figures out of the US show that average fuel economy (for cars) went from around 13mpg (18 l/100km) in 1975 to 33mpg (7 l/100km) in 2010. The latest available figure for Australia is from 2013 when the passenger vehicle average was around 11 l/100km, perhaps reflecting the greater popularity of gas guzzling four wheel drives down under.

And with the not so new generation of hybrids and pure electric vehicles on the market in Australia or coming soon, the whole concept of fuel consumption is getting a bit more complicated.

There are essentially four different options you have if you’re buying a new car and you’re looking to get one that’s economical with fuel – diesel, petrol, hybrid and pure electric. All have their pros and cons – let’s have a look…

Diesel

Despite the recent ‘fudging’ of the fuel consumption figures by some fancy footwork on the part of VW, diesels are still anything up to 35% more fuel efficient than the equivalent petrol engined car.

They can also run on more environmentally friendly fuels such as bio-diesel, and newer engines do not suffer some of the problems of older diesels eg smoky/smelly exhaust fumes and difficulty starting in the cold.

Servicing costs are generally lower too, as diesel engines require less maintenance that petrol engines. However, the difference in price between diesel and petrol isn’t as great as it used to be, and the fuel efficiency benefits are generally cancelled out if the bulk of driving is short trips or city driving.

Petrol

The good old ICE (internal combustion engine) has improved considerably over the last 10-15 years. One of the leaders in this field is FIAT, that, by introducing new technology (including adding turbochargers) in its smaller 900cc engines has been able to get more power and more efficiency out of these tiny powerplants.

The highest ranking petrol engined car – not including hybrids – on the Green Vehicles Guide is the tiny FIAT 500 0.9 Turbo Twin Air Auto, coming in at 3.9 l/100km, the same as the Toyota Prius Hybrid.

Hybrid

Hybrid cars are those that have both an electric motor and a conventional internal combustion engine to power the car. In most hybrids, it’s the electric motor that powers the car at low speed and the petrol engine that takes over at cruising speed, which is when the petrol engine is operating at peak efficiency.

When the driver wants to accelerate quickly, both power sources are used and when braking or driving at higher speeds, the spinning of the wheels feeds power back into the electric generator. Finally, when the car stops, both engines shut off.

This is how the Toyota Prius and Porsche Panamera hybrids are able to hit 3.4 l/100km and 2.5 l/100km respectively. Hybrid cars are great, the only downside is that you pay a premium for these more technologically advanced cars – the Prius is $35,990 plus on roads and the Panamera (wait for it) is $242,000.

Electric

After a succession of electric only cars that clearly failed to inspire (think the Holden Volt and the Mitsubishi MieV), it looks like Tesla may be the car company to break through for the pure electric car. Unlike these predecessors, all Teslas have a good range – not that different from what you’d get out of a tank of petrol in a ‘normal’ car – and they don’t look like futuristic utility vehicles.

The luxury end Tesla S – at $125,000 – is outselling its similarly priced rivals and the new Tesla 3, the car for the masses, is due out in Australia next year with a moderately affordable price tag of around $45,000.

All electric is a great option if you just need to nip around the local area, however it’s still a bit of a risk for a longer trip unless you know where you’re going to stop and charge. And when you do stop it’s going to take one hour of charging for each 81kms of driving using a regular power outlet or half an hour for 270kms of range at a supercharging station.

You might have to wait a while until Tesla builds a supercharging station near you – currently in Australia there are just 12 of them in total. But they are conveniently located on the drive from Brisbane to Sydney and then on to Canberra and Melbourne.

Just don’t plan a trip across to Perth.

Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/Petrol_pump_mp3h0355.jpg

What your choice of car colour says about you

Metallic purple. A strange choice for favourite colour perhaps, but inspired by a particularly spectacular Lamborghini Murcielago coming round Hyde Park Corner on a rainy late afternoon in London just as it was getting dark. And it looked a million dollars, especially from a vantage point in a long bus queue.

Your choice in car colour says a lot about you apparently, and most of the cliches are true – red is an assertive, dominant colour… and by inference the driver too, and an orange car is likely to be driven by someone who is ‘bubbly and spontaneous’. And if you drive a brown car ‘you may be considered frugal’, although in our opinion the exact shade of brown is pretty important – there’s a mid/light brown which, unless you’re aiming for camouflage, is a uniquely horrible colour.

Australia remains pretty conservative in its choice of colour when it comes to cars – 33% of respondents in a 2016 survey conducted by CarAdvice preferred a white car, with grey, black and silver the next most popular colours (18%, 13% and 12% respectively). White has always been a favourite in Australia, with any number of reasons being cited – highly visible, easy to clean, cool in the heat, good resale value – take your pick.

There hasn’t always been so much choice – the Model T Ford was famously available ‘in any colour you want, as long as it’s black’ and if you want to stand out from the crowd, you generally have to pay for it. Both Ford and Toyota charge you extra for any colour other than white on their main models (Focus, Camry, Corolla), so add ‘extra cost’ to the reasons why most cars in Australia are white – to the tune of $400 on average.

And if it’s a luxury end car like an Audi, BMW or Mercedes, triple that. The highest paint related ‘extra’ we’ve ever heard about was the $29,876 you’d have needed to pay if you wanted the ‘liquid silver’ paint job on your new Mercedes SLS AMG, now unavailable (that’s the car, not the colour option – you can probably still get that on its own).

But if you want to be in with the in crowd, it turns out that the colour blue is on the up. BASF Coatings, who supply paint to many car manufacturers, put together a report this year indicating that blue was gaining in popularity because the colour ‘has a calming effect and a strong correlation with natural things’. Or maybe they just have a small surplus in blue paint they need to move.

Fundamentally it comes down to how much you want to stand out in your car. If you want to hide in the masses, get a white, grey, blue or silver car. If you want to stand out, go for something a little more garish.

We’ve heard a rumour that, while Lamborghini is keen to see you drive away in one of their cars in whatever ludicrous colour you want, their cousins and arch rivals at Ferrari are a little more conservative.

It might surprise you to know that most buyers of new Ferraris already have one or two older Ferraris in their garage. Part of the reason for this is that existing customers are given first dibs on new models. But if you put in your order on your first Ferrari and you ask for it to be pink, let’s say, Ferrari would happily supply it – but don’t expect any invitation to own another one! Mind you this could just be scuttlebutt, we haven’t put it to the test.

Finally, if you want to get the maximum attention, do what this lady in the US did – invite a bunch of graffiti artists to go wild on your car. Just don’t use it as a getaway car.

PS if you need finance for your paint job, you know who to call…

 

Image credit: https://pixabay.com/p-1173890/?no_redirect

Why now might be the time to install solar at your business

You know when Senator Cory Bernardi installs solar in his home, it’s time to start taking it seriously. This month it was reported that arch climate sceptic Bernardi had installed a 12kw system on the roof of his home in Adelaide, but gave his reasoning as not wanting to be hostage to the vagaries of power in his home state, rather than any ‘road to Damascus’ type conversion to belief in climate change.

solar panels

As he pointed out, you don’t need to be a climate change believer to understand the many other benefits that come from having the sun generating your power for you, not least some form of insurance against possible ‘brownouts’ and the ever rising cost of conventional electricity.

In fact Australia is embracing solar panels now at a rate not seen before – installations have hit their highest point in five years with 15,000 homes and businesses getting solar panels in one month this year (March).

Queensland is leading the charge, putting in 25 megawatts in March alone – enough to power 5,500 homes and businesses, and now in Queensland 30% of private houses have solar. At this rate of installation 30%-45% of total energy requirements in Australia will be met by ‘customer-owned generators’ (ie owners of residential and commercial premises) by 2050. And nearly all of this will be solar.

Although feed-in tariffs, that is the price at which electricity companies buy back electricity from owners of solar systems, have fallen, the cost of installing solar has fallen too, with the cost per kilowatt having gone down from 46c to 22c over the four years from 2010 to 2014.

And on the global stage Australia is in the top 5 countries in terms of total residential* solar power, trailing only China, Japan and the US in total capacity, with residential solar power in Australia currently accounting for 2.8% of all power generated.

Cory Bernardi’s not the only surprise – you wouldn’t have thought it from the manufacturers of two of the biggest gas guzzling cars in the world, but both Ferrari and Lamborghini have installed solar panel arrays to power their factories. Ferrari has a huge solar array that produces 213,895 kWh a year and is almost energy self sufficient and claims a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions – the equivalent of 40,000 tonnes as a result.

Lamborghini was first to move on solar, jumping on the bandwagon back in 2009 when it installed a 17,000 sqm solar array on its factory roof which generates 1,582 MWh a year and results in a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions every year.

Any discussion of renewable energy and electricity generation would not be complete without referencing Elon Musk and Tesla and – as you might expect – he announced last month that Tesla had produced a glass solar roof tile for people who’d like to generate electricity from the sun without having to install solar panels so obviously on their roofs.

He explained that the goal was to have ‘solar roofs that look better than normal roofs, generate electricity, last longer, have better insulation and actually have a cost, an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity’. You can order your new roof on the Tesla website – yes it’s available in Australia – for a downpayment of AUD$1,310, plus you get a lifetime guarantee on the roof tiles. Not bad!

So if the time is right for you to get solar panels for your business, get in touch with our team at Ezilend and we’ll sort out the finance for you. You’ll be saving money and the planet in no time!

*this refers to all ‘customer-owned generators’ ie it includes business and residential installations

Image credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=9099

Truck loans or drone loans?

It’s fair to say that truck technology has not progressed at lightning speed over the last 30 years. Trucks – whether small ones or ‘big rigs’ – don’t look very different today than thirty years ago. And notwithstanding some improvements in handling (if you haven’t seen the Jean Claude Van Damme Volvo commercial you should watch it here) and fuel efficiency, there haven’t really been too many big changes in technology.

delivery drone

That might be about to change thanks to a small number of tech companies, mainly but not exclusively based in the US (there’s one in Volvo’s home country – Sweden).

You’d be right in guessing that where there are potential massive leaps in automotive technology, Elon Musk from Tesla is not far away. Last month (April) he let slip via Twitter that Tesla is proposing to launch a semi truck in September. Of course the truck will be electric powered, but it will also incorporate ‘autopilot technology’ which will take a chunk of the hard work off the driver, although Tesla is still saying that a driver will still be needed, at least ‘in the short term’.

Musk is looking to address the big issue of truck driver fatigue and reduce the number of accidents attributed to this, although he admits that regulators in the US will need to see a lot of data on the safety of any new autopilot controlled truck before allowing any driverless versions out there.

There are also plans to produce a pickup truck in the next two years. He’s clearly serious about the truck side of things, having brought an ex Daimler exec called Jerome Guillen in to head up the program.

Running an electric truck has one major drawback however, pointed out by rival truck manufacturers, and that is range. Even with a huge battery array, which trucks shouldn’t have any problem accomodating in the trailer section, a purely electric truck is unlikely to be able to travel more than 500kms before running out of power, and this is a way short of what many truck drivers have to do in a day (often more like 1000kms).

Rival manufacturer Nikola Motor Company has an answer for the problem – supplement the batteries with a hydrogen fuel cell, which boosts the range to a much healthier 1600kms.

Obviously not restricted by US regulators in its home country, Swedish company Einride has a more ambitious goal than Tesla, with plans to get its fully electric and fully autonomous vehicles, called T-Pods (which can move 20 tons of cargo 200kms on a single charge) on Swedish roads by 2020. They are also hoping to roll out a ‘test fleet’ on public roads in Sweden as early as next year.

Finally, UPS is approaching new technology for trucks from a completely different direction – testing out combining their delivery trucks with drones to make deliveries quicker and reduce fuel consumption. The way it works is that a delivery truck has a drone installed in the trailer roof, and when the truck arrives at one delivery destination where there are other deliveries needed close by, the driver delivers to one location in person, while the drone drops off the other deliveries at the same time. The drone, called the Horsefly, has been developed in conjunction with drone tech company Workhorse Group, and will be fitted to new lithium-ion battery powered electric delivery vans.

Whichever way you look at it, tomorrow’s truck could be a much different proposition from today’s! And remember, when you need to buy that first fleet of drone equipped and/or autonomous trucks, give us a call at Ezilend to arrange the truck finance. We’ll get one of our robots to help you out!

Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delivery_drone