Melbourne Motor Show – The Return Trip

Posted: July 9, 2011 in Cars

Tomorrow is the last day of Melbourne’s turn to host the Australian International Motor Show. Next year the show travels back to Sydney and Melbourne will not see it again until 2013. If you have not attended yet I would urge you to, particularly if you are a fan of things automotive, design and particularly technology. There are some amazing things happening in automotive technology right now, particularly with hybrids.

I’m not a fan of hybrids really. I see them as being a stop gap measure to ensure that we continue to use fossil based fuels and make already rich companies even richer. There are alternative sources of propulsion, pure electric and fuel cell, which I think are far more worthy of being developed. Yes, they are extremely expensive right now but show me a new technology that isn’t.

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics

BMW Vision EfficientDynamics

Either way, hybrids are here to stay and there are some interesting proponents of the technology on display at Melbourne. Probably the most interesting is the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics. It’s an exciting design and shows a similar style to that which we have been promised by science fiction movies for decades. It uses a diesel engine in conjunction with electric motors and at it’s most urgent will produce similar acceleration to the current M3, which is impressive.

BMW promise a combined fuel economy of 3.76 l/100 km and maximum combined CO2 emissions of 99 g/km. Most importantly though, it drives now and as I stated in my previous article will form the basis for the whole range of ‘i’ vehicles that BMW is about to launch.

Another interesting concept is a new company called A Better Place. A Better Place have just launched their first site in Denmark and are committed to an entirely different approach to electric motoring. Electric cars aren’t a new idea. They have been around for a long time, however, they have not been done well due to the limits of available technology. Mostly this has been down to batteries being heavy and a not very efficient way to store whole lots of power. Batteries are also expensive and raise the cost of their associated vehicles exponentially. Take a look at the Mitsubishi iMiev’s cockpit; it’s pretty bare in there. Now look at the price of the overall vehicle and compare what you can get in other cars for the same price.

A Better Place acknowledge all this and what they are proposing has some merit. Rather than purchasing the battery pack, which cost around $20 000, they allow you to lease the pack from them. What follows then is very similar to a mobile phone plan. The monthly cost of the batteries relies on how many kilometres you drive. Okay, so nothing really groundbreaking here yet, right? Hold on.

Say you’re driving along and you realise you are not going to make your destination on the current level of charge that your battery pack currently holds. A Better Place, as mentioned above, are currently building sites in Europe. They look a little like a car wash. When you’re driving and realise that your car is going flat your Sat Nav locates the nearest A Better Place site and directs you to it. You drive your car in one end and are deposited out the other, rather than exiting with a clean car you will find that your old, spent battery pack has been replaced with a brand, new freshly charged one. Part of the purchase price also includes a home charging station and the cost of using it, if I understood the boffins at the A Better Place stand correctly, is  included in the cost of the monthly plan.

I can see this working quite well in Europe where people generally travel only short distances at a time, but, perhaps not so well in Australia. Australia does not have a centralised population, we’re everywhere and we tend to drive long distances as a result. This is going to be the biggest hurdle to people’s uptake of electric cars in Australia. I’m also quite happy to be proven wrong on this issue and with A Better Place having the backing of several vehicle manufacturers including Renault it may be that that’s the case.

HSV Black Edition

The return trip proved a little different to the first, scouting mission. I was expecting to look at several cars that I missed on the first visit and indeed that was the case when I spent some time looking over HSV’s new Black Edition cars.

HSV don’t really do subtle very well and while these retain shouty elements they are far more restrained than the rest of the range. Unfortunately build numbers are limited to 25 of each model which ensures that most of them will spend their lives in garages rather than the road, where they belong.

Things took a slight turn after this when Beloved announced that she wanted to look at vehicles that could tow her horse float. So the next few hours were spent looking at 4 x 4 Turbo Diesel Dual Cab utes with occasional glimpses at Bentleys, Porsches and other desirable pieces of metal,including the awe-inspiring Lamborghini Aventador, which Beloved dismissed with, ‘Yeah, it’s never going to happen.’ Well, certainly not with that attitude.

Land Rover Discovery

I don’t know enough about 4 x 4’s to accurately report on them except to say that we pretty much whittled down the contenders to the Nissan Navarra or the Toyota HiLux. This was based pretty much on guess work and toys that you got in the cabin. Then we got to Land Rover and spoke to a very nice man who works at the Geelong Land Rover Dealership. Beloved walked away suggesting that the Discovery would suit our needs very nicely indeed. Now there were some jokes told, by me, about school runs and soccer mums but I have the feeling that she could well be right. Watch this space I suppose.

I would also like to add that Bentley’s are the most ostentatious and garish vehicles entirely suited to dictators and mafia types. I would have one in a heartbeat. I think they are the only vehicle that you can actually see where the money goes when they’re built. Wood and chrome as far as the eye can see and perhaps the one car where I would be happy to sit in the back.

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