Vol. VI No. 43 - Tuesday
December 18, - December 24, 2007

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Updated every Tuesday
by Saichon Paewsoongnern

Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Proton - emma chizzit to get into one?

The Malaysian Proton was on display at the recent motor expo in Bangkok, and the price is certainly a draw card for this manufacturer. The smallest “Savvy” with the 1.2 liter engine and lowest specification trim can be yours for as little as B. 399,000 and they were offering 5 percent deposit (B. 19,950) and if you want to go to a 72 month contract, you will be charged 4.1 percent interest and the monthly repayments will be B. 6,560. (Let’s hope that they will last six years.)

Proton Neo

The “Neo”, which is actually a good looking vehicle, starts at B. 499,000 (top of the range is B. 564,000) and the entry level can be yours for B. 24,950 deposit and B. 8,204 per month for six years.
The third Proton on offer was the Gen2 with the entry vehicle B. 549,000, yours for B. 27,450 deposit and drip feed of B. 9,026 for the 72 months.
If you are prepared to put down more as your initial deposit, the interest percentage drops down as low as 2.8 percent.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked who built a “wonder battery” for cars and said it would put the petrol cars out of business. Clue: it was the beginning of the 20th century. It was Thomas Edison, and who knows, he might just be correct, but a long time after he thought it would happen.
So to this week. A transverse engine and front wheel drive immediately brings Sir Alex Issigonis’ Mini to mind. This came out in 1959 and stunned the world. But he was not the first with this concept. In what and when did this first appear?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Some differences over EV’s
Dear Editor,
I refer to a couple patent untruths published in “Electrifying Subaru”, Auto Mania, by Dr (certainly not science) Corness.
1. He states: “Only electric vehicles have the ability not to pollute the planet”. Fact is they are far worse polluters than liquid fuel propelled ones, as the electrical energy that fills the battery is generally produced in coal or gas fired power stations. Apart from that, even the most efficient battery system delivers only a fraction of the energy that goes to “fill” it. Pollution occurs but well away from where the car is used. Worse still; the CO2 produced is also far greater than in a liquid fuel driven vehicle.
2. It is cheaper. Well yes and no. If it weren’t for the inordinate amount of tax that goes into the cost of liquid fuel, I venture to say that they would be cheaper per km than electrically propelled ones.
3. It doesn’t need an “expensive fuel delivery system”. The electricity grid is just as much a “fuel delivery system” and believe you me, it isn’t all that “cheap”.
A further point, not mentioned by the Dr. whereas it takes just 1 or 2 minutes to recharge the car’s fuel tank for the next 200 to 300 km, the best battery systems take 10’s of minutes, or more commonly, an overnight charge to be refilled.
Powering vehicles by rechargeable batteries makes sense only if the electricity grid delivers electricity derived from nuclear, or other non polluting sources. It makes no sense otherwise.
The main point to remember: whenever something is moved, energy is involved and more often than not that means burning carbon as the prime source of fuel.
Adrian Gaemers
Dear Adrian, Welcome to the letting off steam page in Automania, remembering that steam was the automotive power of choice more than 100 years ago – but it has been superseded!
With all due respects, your postulation that electric vehicles are far worse polluters than liquid fuel propelled ones, because the electrical energy that fills the battery is “generally produced in coal or gas fired power stations”, is faulty. There are many ways to produce electricity, including hydro-electric power, wind turbines and even tidal – the winds of change are upon us. Non-polluting production of energy is well advanced. That goes for your CO2 production as well. The EV does not produce it, whilst the liquid fuel vehicle does. Using your logic, mobile phones should be banned as they are also polluting as they recharge from the grid.
As far as “battery system delivers only a fraction of the energy that goes to ‘fill’ it”, I would query that statement, as batteries are a clear winner in the grid-to-wheels efficiency battle. Conventional Lithium-ion batteries charge at about 93 percent efficiency and operate at about the same efficiency, leading to an overall efficiency of over 85 percent.
Price? As the price of crude oil escalates (now almost $100 per barrel), the cost of liquid automotive fuel also goes up, while electricity costs have risen far less proportionally.
Incidentally, never mind about running out of fossil fuels, the oil industry is pricing itself out of the market. So where are we heading? There are two alternatives, and they are hydrogen and battery electric, and as time marches on, the decision appears to be coming down more on the battery side than the hydrogen fuel cell concept.
I also wrote, “As battery technology seems to be advancing rapidly, these electric concepts already look more than viable for the majority of commuters, and could possibly be seen in a showroom of a major manufacturer in the not too distant future.” Note I used the words “concepts” and “commuters” and “not too distant future”. The thought behind the item was one of commuter transport tomorrow.
Finally, I would query your assertion that I am a “Dr (certainly not science).” As a medical doctor, I was trained in ‘science’ and I gave up using leeches and trephining many years ago, ditto magic spells.

Honda Racing Fest Saturday December 15
The final round of this year’s Honda Racing Fest will be held at the Bira Circuit (Highway 36) on Saturday December 15. This has been a most successful promotion by Honda, with the spectator car park absolutely full for every meeting. The racing has been close, helped by stringent scrutineering, but I do wish they would remove the mufflers, as instead of a throaty roar, they go past with a very quiet ‘whoosh’ and some tyre noise.

Honda Fit Club

The other classes include sedans up to 1.6 liters and up to 2 liters. Other categories include the Honda Pro Club cars (any racing cars provided they have an “H” on the front and then the Club Cars, which are daily transport road cars (with some safety equipment).
Note again these are Saturday events, as opposed to the usual Sunday meetings. Action will begin about 10 a.m. and go through till 4 p.m. and generally there is a pit walk around noon.

The case for biodiesel
Our fossil fuel is coming to an end, so we are told. As stocks dwindle with our need for oil unabated, the principle of supply and demand continues. As demand goes up, so does the price.

Commercial biodiesel

If you want to know the ‘real’ facts in this world, read the financial pages of your local newspapers. “Follow the money” should be everyone’s motto. Did you know, for example, that the poor oil companies who are scratching around, trying to get us motorists enough gasoline to last for the rest of the decade, because they are really nice guys, and who so reluctantly have had to increase the price of their product, just recorded the greatest profits in their history? Read the financial pages and follow the money! The price went up, and so did the profits. Somebody is making a killing here, and it isn’t us. We are the losers. No prizes for guessing who are the winners!
However, we are stuck with the situation, and I believe that market forces will see the motoring world adopt different energy sources, because they will be cheaper. Diesels are already more cost efficient than the current crop of purple petrol eaters.
For many industrial operators, biodiesel is seen as the path to follow, and many governments are legislating to make this a favored option. Even in Thailand, there are government moves towards assisting in the planting of oil palms as forerunners of a biodiesel push, while up in the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai, the university there is running small waste oil recycling plants to produce biodiesel from discarded cooking oil. It seems that we can be more efficient, if not self-sufficient.
It should also not be forgotten that Rudolf Diesel’s first successful variant of his engine ran on peanut oil! We are not dealing with some new technology. The idea of putting pure, natural vegetable oil – like the oil we fry chips in – into the fuel tanks of diesel vehicles is as old as diesel technology itself. Natural vegetable oils such as canola oil are CO2-neutral, sulfur-free and non-toxic and research shows that fuel consumption and engine performance are the same as in conventional diesel operations.
The biological origin of biodiesel is what really makes it attractive because, unlike fossil-derived fuels, the CO2 emitted from bio-derived fuels is not subjected to any environmental regulation.
Putting the above very simply, scientific studies show that biodiesel works and even low percentages of biodiesel added to ‘ordinary’ petrodiesel is beneficial. Again, this is nothing really new!
HM the King of Thailand, in his birthday address to the powers that be, and the nation at large, stated that biodiesel would assist in removing our dependence on imported oil, and already some police departments have looked into their own biodiesel recycling plant, using old cooking oil. It was also interesting to note that the total plantation area of tobacco has become smaller, as tobacco farmers are changing to palm oil for biodiesel.
In essence, we need not be the losers in the fuel crisis. Biodiesel works, it can be made commercially viable for the growers, and all it needs is a push from central authorities. The petroleum industry may not like it, but our bank accounts will. For your next car think Euro-diesel engines powered by biodiesel.
This is where we have to change our thinking. The new Euro-diesel engines are quiet, powerful and inexpensive to run, compared to petrol engines. Ford, BMW, VW and Mercedes Benz have been offering diesel examples of their range for many years. Time we really looked at it too.