Hydrogen: The Fuel of the Future?

Although hydrogen-powered cars were introduced in the 1990s, the conversation was sidelined after Elon Musk and Tesla Inc. dismissed hydrogen as a viable fuel source, calling it, “mind-boggingly stupid.”

That didn’t stop 2 French engineers from automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen. They developed a blueprint that combined two tried-and-true technologies: a gasoline engine and hydraulics.  In 2010, the pair formed the Hybrid Air Program. The powertrain used a hydraulic pump and a piston to compress nitrogen in a tank called the high-pressure accumulator. Pressing on the accelerator released the pressurized gas which then moves hydraulic fluid through the same pump in reverse. The pump acts as a motor to power the wheels.

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Hydrogen is either the fuel of the future, or a technological bust.

A survey conducted by KPMG found that most senior automotive industry executives believe that battery-powered cars will fail in the long run – which means hydrogen fuel-cell cars will make their big debut and breakthrough for electric mobility.

Almost 1,000 of the executives that were polled said hydrogen cars will prevail. Cars that emit only water will rise above battery cars because their tanks can be filled in minutes as opposed to a charge time of 25-45 minutes.  

Toyota Takes on Hydrogen

Luckily for Toyota, they stood firm in their belief that hydrogen was the future.  Over the past few decades, they’ve spent their time developing mass-market hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Toyota is even willing to bet that hydrogen will triumph over batteries.

In fact, in 2012, the then R&D chief, Takeshi Uchiyamada criticized EVs saying that the cars “do not meet society’s needs,” referring to the short driving range and long charging time. Since FCEVs refuel in just minutes and have similar ranges to gas-powered cars, Toyota is relying on them to be the future.

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In 2015, Toyota launched the Mirai Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV). This polymer electrolyte  fuel cell vehicle outputs 114kW of energy and the hydrogen tank can hold up to 11 lb. (when completely filled). A full tank in the Mirai can travel up to 310 miles.  Handling like a Toyota Camry, this car is basically a conservative family car. And as long as you are not expecting a rapid, sports-car-like acceleration, the Mirai delivers a rather elegant ride.

World Recognition for Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles

There have been massive investments for hydrogen fuel-cell cars, from all over the world, with Japan and California being the top 2 areas of interest. Japan is vying for fuel-cell cars and buses to transport athletes during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and California just recently spent $100 million on building fueling stations.  Because there is a hydrogen infrastructure in limited areas, the Mirai has only been sold 5,500 units globally. Primarily in California, Japan, and Europe.

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In 2016, a ride-sharing service called BeeZero made Munich the first city to offer this service that was comprised of only fuel-cell-powered hatchbacks. However, it was expensive to maintain due to the lack of fueling stations in the area and being outnumbered by other green ride-sharing services like BMW-owned DriveNow, which is comprised of battery- and fuel-powered rental cars.

Although you can purchase these cars (at a steep price), Toyota has sought-out high-profile operators to lease, like the German-based transportation company, CleverShuttle, which currently owns a fleet of 80 Mirais across 4 cities, as well as London’s Metropolitan Police, which has 11 cars they used for both marked and unmarked pursuit vehicles. The focus on leasing to companies instead of individuals is simply a way to generate interest and encourage energy companies to add hydrogen pumps to their filling stations. A car sitting in someone’s garage won’t do either of those things.

With hydrogen fuel-cells being “mature” enough, Nikola Motors is working with NEL Hydrogen’s Lars Jacobsen, on developing and building hydrogen trucks – a $9 billion deal that was secured with Anheuser-Busch.  These trucks are projected to travel up to 1200 miles on a single tank of hydrogen and could hopefully open doors for more consumer-based vehicles.

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High Cost for Emission-Free World

Because huge investments have been made in lithium-ion battery technology, the prices of electric vehicles are being significantly lowered. The BMW i3 retails for approximately $46,200 while the comparable Hyundai ix35 retails for approximately $80,600. Combine that with the limited availability of fuel-cell filling stations and how tricky it is to extract hydrogen from other elements and plug-in battery-powered cars are seemingly much more practical.

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The Hydrogen Council is urging governments to invest. Fuel-cells can store energy more efficiently than fossil fuels – which means they can power machinery, generate electricity, and heat buildings.  The initial investment is extremely high, but for long-term use, the cost will be justified according to forecasts, reaching 26% of automobile sales by 2050.

The Air Isn’t Always Cleaner

Like everything, there’s always a downside. Both hydrogen and batteries carry environmental costs to the point that neither can be called completely green.  The manufacturing process of batteries means they’re almost as bad for the environment as gas-powered cars. Only once they hit the road do the improvements begin.  

As for hydrogen, the majority of hydrogen is not created using renewable sources, but rather, is being mass-produced with steam-methane reforming. What this means is that hydrogen is being produced, but so is a large amount of carbon monoxide.  Not only that, but during the process, it’s possible for methane to leak and it is 100 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide.

This problem is being addressed, but because it is a new source of energy, it takes time to narrow in on one solution that works. Denmark’s BioCat Project is working to use a biological process to turn carbon dioxide and hydrogen into a synthetic natural gas to use in power stations, and while it’s still emissions-heavy, it used renewable energy sources.

Any solution that doesn’t involve burning fossil-fuels is a step in the right direction.

On the Horizon: Game-Changing Semi-Autonomous Driving

In 2018, the Nissan introduced a new and improved model of the world’s top-selling electric vehicle: The Nissan Leaf EV. Besides the capability of traveling further on the road with a 150-mile range, the new Leaf EV has a stiffer chassis, better steering, and better design than previous models… and an option for semi-autonomous driving called ProPilot Assist. 

Semi-Autonomous Driving with ProPilot Assist by Nissan

While Nissan might be a little late to the semi-autonomous game, the ProPilot Assist is a feature that is on par with nearly every other automaker’s combination of lane-keep assistance and intelligent cruise control, along with a feature that parks the car for you.

ProPilot Parking is simple.  Activate the ProPilot Parking and wait for the vehicle’s sensors to recognize an empty space.  On the touchscreen, the driver selects the space and holds down the ProPilot Park button on the center console. The car then performs multi-point turns and maneuvers to successfully park the car.  This was tested in both parallel parking spaces and perpendicular spaces, working well. There are nuances the driver has control over – like how far away they want to be from the car in front of them and their position in the space. However, the car will only make 7 multi-point turns and maneuvers before the system shuts off and leaves the driver to park for themselves.  

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When it comes to the ProPilot Assist and adaptive, intelligent cruise control, the vehicle performed spectacularly on a highway setting.  Not built for windy backroads, the Leaf EV demonstrated an above-average performance, a good indication of how well they read lane markings.

Using a suite of sensors comprised of cameras on the front, back, and side mirrors, as well as 12 sonar sensors and radar system, the Leaf EV stays within its lane (even around turns) at or slightly above the speed limit, flowing with traffic.  During the test drive, the Leaf EV was placed in the same lane as other vehicles and cruise control was activated. The Leaf EV kept its distance, adjusting its speed accordingly. When the car in front slowed down and came to a stop, the Leaf also stopped.  On wet pavement, the Leaf can detect lane markings, however for safety, when the windshield wipers are turned on, the adaptive cruise control is turned off and the driver must take full control.

This is a huge upgrade from the previous models of the Nissan Leaf, and while some features have remained the same (and somewhat mediocre – like the center console), the impressive ProPilot Assist system option makes the Nissan Leaf EV a steady competitor with other EV models like the Honda Clarity EV and the Hyundai Ioniq EV.  

The 5 Best Pet-Friendly Vehicles for Summer Vacation

Pets are a part of the family, and we love taking them where we go! So if your four-legged friend spends a lot of time in the car with you, it’s important to pick pet-friendly vehicle that best suit your human and canine needs.

These are some of the best rated vehicles for humans with dogs, and rightfully so. Between their dog-friendly hatchback entry and seats that lay flat, it’s the perfect spot for Fido to hang out while you cruise around.

Pet-Friendly Vehicle for Vacation

1. Mini Cooper D Clubman

The Clubman’s low chassis makes it easy for dogs of all sizes to get in and out without any trouble.  This 4-door Mini Cooper has ample cargo space and offers comfort and style while being practical and pet-friendly.

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2. Volvo V60 Cross Country

The generous cargo space in the Cross Country makes this perfect for your gear AND your furry friends.  Optional seat liners keep your seats protected from dirt or whatever the dog may track in. This is a perfect vehicle for those who like to stay active.

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3. Honda Odyssey 5-Door Elite Touring

A top-rated family vehicle, why not include some perks for the pets! Full interior climate control ensures comfortability, space under the seats is perfect for storing dog toys, leashes, or treats, and a built-in vacuum makes it easy to clean up the pooch before setting off on your next adventure. Optional pet barriers are available, for the dogs who get easily excited.

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4. BMW X3

The X3 maximized comfort for humans and canines alike with soft heated leather seats, rear climate control, and a sunroof.  The cargo area is spacious enough for small to medium sized pups and for dogs who like to play in all weather conditions, the AWD system makes driving a breeze in snow or rain.

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5. Subaru Outback

Offering one of the most capable AWD systems, the Outback is the answer for all your adventure needs.  If you enjoy being active with your dog, hiking, or playing in snowy conditions, the Outback’s traction and surefootedness will keep you safe as you travel over all terrain types.  The Outback has ample cargo space and offers a wide, low floor as well as rubber floor mats and other pet-friendly accessories.

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For those who dream about having the most luxurious vehicle for Fido, Nissan launched their most dog-friendly and pet focused SUV concept, the X-Trail 4Dogs. As a test to see the reaction of their audience, this Nissan would offer a hose, pull-out blow dryer, dog treat dispenser, a ramp, and 2-way camera so you and Fido can see each other while on the road.  For now, this is just a concept, but it could become a reality! Watch the video below to see this tricked-out luxury dog SUV. 

7 Best (and Safest) Used Vehicles to Buy

As soon as your drive off the lot, your new car loses significant value.  That’s why there has been a rise in used car sales over the last 8 years. Some of the most reliable vehicles on the road get a second life as being sold as used and certified pre-owned cars.  

Used vehicles that are at least 5 years old are typically the best bargain, with most of the vehicles on this list being resold for less than 50% of their original price.  

Best Used Vehicles to Buy

1. 2010 Acura RDXImage result for 2010 acura rdx

This 5-passenger RDX was the U.S. News and World Report top-ranked luxury compact SUV in 2010.  

With a perfect reliability rating from J.D. Power & Associates, the RDX comes equipped with leather seats, bluetooth, and satellite radio.

The 2010 model earned a 9.4 score for safety and resells for an average of $17,726.

2. 2009 BMW X3

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The BMW X3 was the top-ranked compact SUV in 2009 and earned 5/5 reliability ranking from J.D. Power & Associates.  

The sporty exterior is paired with a luxury interior with a panoramic sunroof, but some features like Bluetooth, were considered add-ons at the time.  The powerful engine still holds up 8 years later against newer models.

The resale value of the X3 averages $15,847 and was scored a perfect 10 safety rating.

3. 2012 Cadillac CTS

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Nearing the top of the 2012 Upscale Midsize Cars, this powerful 3.6L V6 received a 4.5 out of 5 reliability rating from J.D. Power & Associates.  

The CTS comes standard with features like leather interior and Bluetooth.

Selling at half its original price at $21,798, the 2012 CTS was scored a near-perfect 9.7 for safety.

4. 2009 Ford Fusion

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This sedan was the No. 1 Affordable Midsize Car in 2009.

With a perfect reliability score from J.D. Power & Associates, the 2009 Fusions comes standard with traction control, optional stability control, and 5-speed automatic transmission.

Reselling for only a fraction of the original price at an average of $8,777, it was given a 9.6 safety score in the evaluation of used cars.

5. 2010 Lexus ES

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Topping the charts of upscale midsize cars in 2009, it was given a perfect 5 out of 5 ranking from J.D. Power & Associates.

This luxurious sedan comes standard with leather seats, power sunroof, and an 8-speaker stereo.

Selling for just a fraction of the original price, you can purchase a 2010 ES for just $12,060 (compared to the original price in the mid-$30,000s). The 2010 model scored a 9.4 safety rating.  

6. 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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This 5-passenger, luxurious sedan earned a perfect reliability score from J.D. Power & Associates.

This Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan comes standard with leather upholstery, heated front seats, and navigation system.  

The E-Class average resale price runs around $26,302, which is about half of the original price.  This sedan was awarded a perfect safety score.

7. 2011 Toyota Avalon

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In 2011, the Toyota Avalon was the top-ranked of the most affordable large cars. Like most Toyotas, J.D. Power & Associates awarded the Avalon with a perfect reliability score.

The 5-passenger sedan features a sleek exterior, updated dashboard, bluetooth and USB connectivity, as well as a power sunroof and leather seats.  

The 2011 model scored a 9.7 safety rating and resells for an average of $17,447.

7 Common Car Detailing Mistakes

Memorial Day marked the start of summer, which can only mean one thing: a full line up of car show and cruise weeks.  Having your car look its best is important, but make sure you are properly detailing your vehicle and not making some of these common  car detailing mistakes.  

Common Car Detailing Mistakes

  1. Washing Your Car in Direct Sunlight

Any detailing professional will tell you not to wash your car in direct sunlight. It’s bad for the paint and finish, but at the very least, it makes the job a lot harder.  In the sun, water and soap dry a lot faster, making it more likely that you’ll have water spots on your car. Keep the surface of your vehicle cool by regularly spraying it down with water.  

  1. Pouring Wax and Polishes Directly on the Surface Of Car

Pouring wax and polishes directly onto the surface of your car can leave dark, uneven streaks and residue on your finish.  To avoid this, pour the wax or polish directly on the applicator, and then apply to your vehicle.

  1. Cleaning the Wheels and Tires Last

You were most likely taught to wash your car from top to bottom – however, this isn’t quite right.  Washing the wheels and tires first will prevent dirt and grime from splashing onto your freshly clean vehicle (and will help prevent scratches).  Since the wheels and tires are the dirtiest part of the car, washing them first and rinsing them off again at the end will keep your car extra clean.

  1. Using Ammonia-Based Window Cleaner

Most household glass cleaners contain ammonia.  Not only does ammonia have a very strong, pungent scent, but if it drips or gets splashed onto your upholstery or dashboard surfaces, it can damage them and stain.  Try one of these ammonia-free window cleaners instead.

  1. Overwaxing

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as overwaxing.  Most cars only need 2 layers of wax in order to be protected. The first layer acts as a foundation and the second coat acts as a protectant and covers the surface.  A third (or even fourth) coating of wax will just come off when buffed out, and could also lead to uneven waxing and streaking.

  1. Using a Chamois for Drying

Instead, you should be using a microfiber towel.  Chamois are too smooth and instead of drying the water off the surface, it can drag water (and even dirt particles) around on the surface of your car and lead to scratching and leave swirl marks on your finish.  Microfiber towels are soft and absorbent, so instead of smearing the water around, it absorbs the water droplets and leaves your car streak-free. When cleaning your drying towels, avoid using a fabric softener that can leave soap residue on the cloth, which can then transfer to your car’s surface.

  1. Using a Drying Towel to Remove Excess Dirt

It can be tempting to use your drying cloth to scratch off small little dirt particles you may have missed when washing.  Those dirt particles can get caught in the drying cloth and then scratch the paint and finish as your dry your vehicle.