On Horrid Screens and Expensive Appliances

A while ago, I wrote a blog – actually more of a rant – about the state of Mercedes’ instrument cluster screens and how utterly terrible they look. (https://michaeldekock.com/2020/09/21/mercedes-tablets-for-everyone/) Then BMW came out with their new iX electric SUV that featured Munich’s version of those awful screens. Now, the current 3-Series is getting its LCI (‘Life Cycle Impulse’), BMW’s fancy way of saying mid-life update) and it looks like it will also have the terrible-looking screens. In the camouflaged photo, it’s covered by a piece of fabric, but it seems inevitable.

What the fudge is wrong with the traditional instrument binnacle?! Audi has done a brilliant job with their Virtual Cockpit system, so why not just do the same thing? But no, everything must look like someone stuck an old, thick-bezeled tablet on the other side of the steering-wheel and went to lunch. It’s stupid and unacceptable.

The same is happening with Hyundai nowadays. The new Tucson and Santa Cruz have this ugly, flat and weirdly angled instrument screen behind the steering-wheel. The rest of the interior looks great, but the screen just ruins it and makes it look cheap. And what boggles my mind about the whole thing is that this fugly thing is the part of the interior where the driver will look the most! I’d get distracted by how ugly it is. Honestly, those screens are the only reason I don’t like 90% of the current Mercedes range. I sat in a new G-Class and it almost works as the screens are more integrated into the dash, but it’s still pushing it. I’d rather save my money and get a previous-gen C63 with the brilliant M156 V8 and proper analogue dials.

The only car company that gets away with having tablets as instrument cluster screens is Tesla, as they started it and their cars still look the best with it. The Models 3 and Y’s interior are the most boring of anything currently in the car industry, but they do screens well. I’d still rather have a Model S or X, even though they are ridiculously expensive.

It is fair to note that whilst I rant on and on and on about the state of Mercedes’s screens, they are the company who will sell the Hyperscreen in the new EQS electric saloon. Their current screens are crap, but this new Hyperscreen – Oh, boy, is it pretty! It is a single piece stretching from the driver’s instrument cluster to a screen for the front passenger, with a massive bit in the middle. It’s fantastic! It still seems to have the weird, rounded Mercedes UI buttons/information boxes, but it showcases a properly futuristic design. I can only imagine how cool it will be in an EQGLS, or EQSL, or (hopefully one day soon) an EQSLS. Imagine an actual, viable (and cheaper) version of the SLS Electric Drive, the grand-daddy of the electric supercar.

On to another issue…

A company recently imported a Model X P100D into South Africa and it cost them R3.8 million with the cost of the car and various customs taxes, including a 15% EV tax that South Africa has. EV tax?! European countries give you a DISCOUNT when buying an electric car because you are SAVING the planet! South Africa on the other hand, TAXES the SHIT out of you for buying an electric car just because… Because we apparently can. It’s ridiculous!

If we as South Africans are going to embrace the future of motoring in the form of electric cars, they will need to be cheaper. Heck, we haven’t even embraced the hybrid yet! The Prius is being shunned in favour of the Hilux, Land Cruisers and RAVs whilst Lexus has pretty-much given up on selling their hybrid models here. Now automakers expects boers to trade in their rugged and hard-working bakkies for a Jaguar I-Pace or a Porsche Taycan for two, three or maybe even four times the price of said bakkie?

Good effing luck with that.

Help stop the hate – adopt a V8!

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a Psychology graduate, busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, because he struggles to get a job in this day and age. Can you believe that? Utterly ridiculous…

Kon’nichiwa, Hydrogen-Powered ICE-san!

A few weeks ago, Toyota unveiled that it has been working on a hydrogen-powered ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and unveiled it in the form of a 1.6L three-cylinder with some similarities to the engine in the GR Yaris. It currently resides in the front of a Toyota Corolla Hatch race car and in the video it sounded pretty good – like a normal engine with a custom exhaust. It was also driven by none other than the CEO of Toyota, Mr Akio Toyoda – the great grandson of Mr Toyota/Toyoda himself. They haven’t released any specs on the engine in terms of power, torque, RPM or anything like that, but if it has ‘similarities’ with the GR Yaris’ three-potter, then it’s pretty nippy.

Toyota also revealed that they’ve been working on the engine for the past six years and to prove its viability, it raced in a 24-hour endurance race and didn’t do bad at all. Imagine you could have a bigger engine, like a V8, and have it grumble whilst driving around all the while emitting water out the back. Imagine it, massive automotive festivals with cars revving and racing and making noises, but it doesn’t hurt Johnny Polarbear at all. That would be awesome!

I also did some research on hydrogen-powered cars – not FCEV’s (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) – and realised that there are quite a few attempts. The coolest of which I found is the BMW Hydrogen 7, an E65 760i LCI that’s 6.0L V12 runs on both petrol and liquid hydrogen. It was limited to around 200 cars and if you wanted to lease one, you had to be influential and have media coverage around you. It also made much less power and much less torque than its normal 760i sibling.

Weirdly, the engine kept its 13.4L/100km fuel economy using the petrol tank, but when you used the hydrogen, it did a whopping 50L/100km! And it only had a tank equivalent to 100L of hydrogen, meaning you could only drive 200km on the hydrogen. Strangely, that’s not why the car was a failure. It flopped because at that time, finding a fuelling station that would sell you hydrogen was an enormously difficult task. It would’ve been easier to find the Duesenberg Coupé Simone!

Today – as pointed out by James May when he sold his Toyota Mirai a few months ago – it is still difficult to find a hydrogen fuelling station. The other problem with hydrogen is that it is difficult to make and keep it liquid. It needs to be pressurised to many atmospheres and kept at -253°C, otherwise it would just float away. The good thing about hydrogen is that it is the most abundant thing on our planet, so even if it does float away, we’ll be able to get it back later – unlike petrol.

I have never been a big fan of Toyota cars – including the legendary Supra – as most of my family only buy Toyota (although one bought a Land Rover recently after a 7-car Toyota streak and I am massively impressed). I’m not denying that they’re great cars – in fact they make some of the best and most reliable cars in the world. They’re just a little bit boring the last couple of years (bar the new Supra, GT/GR86 and GR Yaris). However, if Toyota is the saviour of the Internal Combustion Engine through use of liquid hydrogen, then by all means, buy as much Toyotas as you possibly can.

And to all other automakers, invest in research and development of Toyota’s hydrogen ICE! If this works, then the future may not be silent after all…

Help stop the hate – adopt a (hopefully hydrogen-powered in the future) V8!

©2021 Michael De Kock 

Michael de Kock is a Psychology graduate, busy doing a National Certificate in Motor Mechanics to get more skilled, because he struggles to get a job in this day and age. Can you believe that? Utterly ridiculous…