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    How do Tesla cars work?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 30 Sep 2021

    It’s a popular barbecue or front bar topic of discussion: How do Tesla cars work? Fundamentally it’s pretty simple; they work like any other car, but they use an electric motor in place of an internal combustion engine. And instead of filling them with petrol, you recharge the batteries with electricity. There are other differences, too, but that’s the simplest definition of what is a Tesla, and the one that allows it to operate on fully renewable energy on some cases.

    Tesla is a company founded by Elon Musk, the same guy that invented PayPal. So the company has plenty of money behind it. As well as cars, Tesla makes home storage batteries (for storing rooftop solar power) and is investing in all sorts of renewable technology and electrical components.

    Over time, the Tesla cars product has evolved from a small sports car converted to electric, to clean-sheet designs for modern electric cars, SUV, pick-ups and even a semi-trailer than runs on electricity. But which ever Tesla you’re talking about, they all use a common philosophy.

    That starts with a battery. In the case of Tesla’s current designs, that’s the latest lithium-ion battery tech. Connected to that is either a single electric motor or a pair of motors that power either the rear wheels or all four wheels respectively. Just like a slot car, you feed power to the electric motor and the car moves. Of course, a slot car doesn’t carry a battery, it picks up its power form the track it runs on, but even that could be a thing of the future for electric cars which might be able to wirelessly collect power through the road surface. It’s not as far off as you might think.

    Other differences between a Tesla (and any other mainstream electric car) and a conventional car as we know it include bakes that recoup energy as the car slows (which is used to recharge the battery on the run) and the electrification of every system that is handled mechanically by a conventional car (brake boosting, power steering, heating etc).

    Another major difference is that the Tesla drivetrain doesn’t feature multiple gears in its transmission. Because the electric motor offers maximum torque from standstill, the Tesla only needs one gear to achieve lots of acceleration and ample top speed.

    The electric motor these days is a pretty neat piece of gear and is virtually maintenance free. It also has the potential to last a lot longer than an internal combustion engine. The batteries are also much better these days and as well as being vastly more energy-rich (their output per kg) they charge more quickly and battery life can easily be half a million kilometres. Some car-makers now offer a ten-year warranty on battery-packs. Tesla in Australia offers up to eight years battery warranty (depending on the model) but, crucially, up to 240,000km of cover guaranteeing that the battery will retain at least 70 per cent of its original capacity at that point.

    Perhaps Tesla’s biggest claim to fame is that it took electric cars from golf carts to a product that was sexy and in demand. The company was way ahead of the curve in this regard, but now it seems the rest of the world is catching up, and the Tesla car has more serious competition now than it ever did.

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    What is causing my 2010 Hyundai Tucson to overheat?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 29 Sep 2021

    If a car overheats (for whatever reason, but a blown head gasket is a prime cause of this) the damage to the engine internally can be catastrophic. Pretty much any component can be compromised after an overheating event, so knowing where to start looking is the big question here.

    Changing the head gasket requires removal of the cylinder head, and reassembly involves making sure that the camshaft timing is reinstated correctly. If there’s been a mistake made in this regard, the engine will almost certainly not run. 

    Certainly, injector failure is not unknown in modern turbo-diesels, but the fuelling system on a modern, common-rail turbo-diesel is a complex, fine-tolerance arrangement, so you also need to check the filters, fuel pump(s) and operating pressures. Even then, you might find that a simple, cheap-to-replace sensor is the single component preventing the vehicle from running.

    I’d start with an electronic interrogation of the car’s computer. The problem there is that if the car hasn’t actually run with the issue that’s preventing it from starting, the computer may not have had the opportunity to log the problem in the first place. That said, a simple fault code might be all you need to know to move forward, so a scan is in order. Beyond that, it’s back to first principles, checking the timing and clearances of all the mechanical bits and pieces, including having the injectors bench-tested.

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    What is causing my 2010 Hyundai Tucson to overheat?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 29 Sep 2021

    If a car overheats (for whatever reason, but a blown head gasket is a prime cause of this) the damage to the engine internally can be catastrophic. Pretty much any component can be compromised after an overheating event, so knowing where to start looking is the big question here.

    Changing the head gasket requires removal of the cylinder head, and reassembly involves making sure that the camshaft timing is reinstated correctly. If there’s been a mistake made in this regard, the engine will almost certainly not run. 

    Certainly, injector failure is not unknown in modern turbo-diesels, but the fuelling system on a modern, common-rail turbo-diesel is a complex, fine-tolerance arrangement, so you also need to check the filters, fuel pump(s) and operating pressures. Even then, you might find that a simple, cheap-to-replace sensor is the single component preventing the vehicle from running.

    I’d start with an electronic interrogation of the car’s computer. The problem there is that if the car hasn’t actually run with the issue that’s preventing it from starting, the computer may not have had the opportunity to log the problem in the first place. That said, a simple fault code might be all you need to know to move forward, so a scan is in order. Beyond that, it’s back to first principles, checking the timing and clearances of all the mechanical bits and pieces, including having the injectors bench-tested.

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    Where is Tesla made?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 29 Sep 2021

    While the city of Detroit, Michigan is the cradle of the North American car industry, electric-car maker Tesla has always marched to the beat of its own drum. So even though it’s a US based entity, Tesla’s worldwide view and its inherent mould-breaking attitude means that its factories are in some interesting locations. But how many are there and in which countries?

    Tesla currently has three giant plants across the USA, as well as a plant in China. Some of these plants make the Tesla cars we’re familiar with, while others are responsible for battery and solar technology production. Tesla is also building a fourth North American plant as well as a European gigafactory in Germany, while rumours of a second Chinese plant are also doing the rounds.

    Given that Tesla cars are the brand’s most visible, recognisable products, the question usually revolves around where are Tesla cars made? In that case, the answer is the firm’s original gigafactory in Fremont (near San Francisco in California) which builds the Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3, Model Y as well as components for other Tesla products. The original gigafactory in Fremont is a huge facility (as are all Tesla factories) employing something like 10,000 people. It was once the site of a General Motors manufacturing plant and then a Toyota/GM joint production facility.

    The Shanghai plant in China, meanwhile, is the other half of the answer to 'where are Tesla cars built'. That plant produces whole cars, including the Model 3 and Model Y and is slated to produce the forthcoming Telsa Pick-Up which has been pushed back to 2022 at the earliest.

    Tesla’s plant in Sparks, Nevada (Near Reno) is largely a battery factory with production of batteries for Tesla cars as well as its Powerwall home-storage battery. The Sparks plant is also a motors factory, producing the electric motors that power Tesla vehicles. The Tesla Semi (delayed but due soon) is also expected to be built at the Nevada plant.

    Another Gigafactory is located in New York state, in the city of Buffalo. This concentrates on assembly of solar cells and modules as well as the superchargers that allow Tesla vehicles to be charged quickly in the field.

    The factory under construction in the USA now is located at Austin, Texas and will be used to built the Model 3, Model Y and the Pick-Up. The new factory in Berlin, meanwhile, is very close to completion and will initially be used to build the Model Y.

    Tesla has always been a brand surrounded by rumours, and these days, these seem to involve a second Chinese plant. The company has also established an Indian business unit, suggesting that a gigafactory on the sub-continent might also emerge.

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    Do electric cars have gears?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 28 Sep 2021

    One of the most common questions regarding the latest in passenger-car technology is: Do electric cars have gears? The question really should be: Do electric vehicles have more than one gear, but, in both cases the broad answer is no, they don’t. That’s in the case of production cars anyway, and the reason is simple: They don’t really need more than one gear.

    In most cases, the production-based EV has an electric motor that acts more or less directly on the axles (or drive-shafts) turning the wheels. Even on an all-wheel-drive EV, that simply means there’s an electric motor at each end of the car, operating the front and rear drive-shafts. That brings us to the more subtle question of: Do electric cars have transmissions? In the strictest technical sense, they do, but the EV transmission is a very simple device, since it’s a single speed unit rather than a multi-speed gearbox. Simplicity of drivetrain is a major EV selling point.

    So why only one gear? A conventional car needs a multi-ratio transmission (or gearbox) because the engine operates well in only a narrow band of speeds (rpm). So, to keep the engine in its happy-zone, the gearbox can provide it with the gear ratio that is right at that moment; that keeps it spinning at a happy speed, regardless of whether it’s in stop-start traffic or cruising on a freeway at 110km/h. But the electric motor fitted to an EV has a much wider range of speeds at which it makes good power and torque. In fact, an electric motor makes its maximum torque at rest and can spin very fast, so it’s always ready for action.

    This is all tied up with the broad subject of 'how do electric engines work', but it remains that an electric motor (it’s not technically an engine at all) makes lots of torque from the moment the driver presses the accelerator. Which brings us to the topic of 'do electric cars have a clutch' because, again, the answer is no. It doesn’t need one because to stop an EV at a traffic light, you simply stop the motor; it doesn’t remain running at idle like a conventional car engine and, without gears to select anyway, you don’t need it even when taking off from rest. All these things make driving an EV a simpler task than a conventional car with a manual transmission. Maintenance over the life of the vehicle is reduced, too.

    Most production EVs have this simple, single speed transmission, the notable exception being the Porsche Taycan. That car has a two-speed gearbox which enables Porsche to make it accelerate extremely quickly as well as reach a high top speed (both Porsche selling points from the very beginning). Most EV makers gear their cars for either top speed or acceleration (usually the latter) but the electric motor is so flexible that Tesla has shown it’s possible to attain both with a single-speed gearbox.

    The major variation from this concept comes in the form of older cars that enthusiasts have converted from petrol to electric power. In these cases, the engine vs transmission equation means that the car usually retains its manual gearbox. That’s purely because the electric motor sits where the petrol motor once did, and retaining the transmission is a simple way to get the electric power to the wheels. This is one case where the type of motor (petrol versus electric) being used to power the car doesn’t dictate the transmission.

    The vast majority of these home brews use a conventional manual (stick shift to use an Americanism) because converting a petrol car with an automatic transmission is a much bigger job. Even then, most owners of these converted cars find they leave the car in third gear all of the time and allow the huge flexibility of the electric motor to do its thing, driving the car as if it was without gears. Again, the clutch is not needed, even in stop-start traffic.

     

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    What car should I get to tow a 22-foot caravan around Australia?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 22 Sep 2021

    I wouldn’t be concerned about the cylinder configuration of a particular engine. What’s more important is how much power and torque that engine makes, and how towing-friendly that power delivery is. By which we mean how smooth and flexible is the delivery. What you don’t want is a peaky engine that needs to be revved before it delivers the good as that puts a strain on everything and make the vehicle tricky and unpleasant to drive.

    The good news is that all the vehicles you’ve nominated have good, solid powerplants that are well suited to towing a caravan. Modern turbo-diesels – especially with an automatic transmission – are ideal for this task.

    What you should go for, however, is the vehicle with the highest towing rating. In this case, that’s any of the Grand Cherokee, MU-X or older Discovery, all of which have variants that can handle a towed load of 3.5 tonnes. The Everest is almost as good with 3.1 tonne, but only almost. The problem is that the van you’ve nominated can easily weigh between 2.2 and 2.8 tonnes which, with a 3.1-tonne limit, leaves you very little headroom for water tanks and camping gear. You’d be amazed at how much a fully loaded caravan weighs, so don’t rely on the brochure, load the van and take it to a weighbridge to make sure the vehicle you have can legally tow it.

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    Is the rear bumper interchangeable between a 1998 Toyota Landcruiser Prado and a 1998 Prado Grande?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 22 Sep 2021

    The two vehicles you’ve mentioned are, in fact, fundamentally the same vehicle. The only difference in the rear bumpers of each was that the base-model Prado’s bumper was finished in grey plastic, while the upmarket Grande’s was body-coloured for a more integrated look. So, yes, the two bumpers should be physically interchangeable.

    The only difference in any of the Prado’s side mouldings was that the entry-level model, the RV, with its skinnier wheels and tyres, didn’t have the wheel-arch flares, so the moulding that joins the rear bumper to the rear part of the wheel arch would be different on the RV compared with the other Prado trim levels.

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    What is my 2001 Nissan Pulsar worth?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 22 Sep 2021

    Your car is probably still worth around $4000 to $5000 depending on condition and kilometres. The catch is that you won’t be offered that much if you use the car as a trade-in, and the value I’ve quoted would be to sell the car privately, not back to a car dealer. A lack of demand for good used cars is keeping values a little higher (a lot higher in some cases) than they might have been, so even though your car is still worth decent money, you’ll pay a bit extra for whatever you replace it with.

    As far as lifespan goes, that has a lot more to do with maintenance than any other factor. If your car has been serviced by the book, there’s every chance it could last for 200,000 to 250,000km and perhaps even more. But I’ve also seen neglected cars die incredibly young.

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    Which five-speed gearbox models are compatible with my Toyota Hilux's 2Y engine?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 22 Sep 2021

    Swapping a five-speed gearbox into an older car or ute is a pretty well-trodden path, partly because it makes all sorts of sense. While older four-speed gearboxes generally have a fourth gear ratio of 1:1, a five-speed is will have an overdriven fifth gear which makes for more relaxed highway-speed driving and, potentially, a fuel saving as the engine won’t be working as hard or turning as fast.

    The Toyota 2Y engine is, I believe, a more or less bolt-up fitment to the 2Y engine in your vehicle. Commonly found in early, rear-drive Celicas, the W50 is definitely strong enough for your application since the 2Y engine in your car probably struggles to make its full 58kW these days. The only catch you might run into is that if you’re running bigger wheels and tyres or your regularly tow a trailer or the vehicle is way down on power, the engine might struggle to pull that taller gearing. At best you might find yourself shifting back and forth pretty regularly in hilly country or when encountering a headwind. But if you do go through with the swap, you’ll find that the W50 has a fifth gear ratio of 0.853:1 which should reduce your engine speed for the same road speed by about 15 per cent.

    Beyond the Toyota E50 gearbox, there’s really no limit to what you can fit if you have the time and money to have the engineering sorted out. That said, anything beefier than the W50 is almost certainly overkill.

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    If the Hyundai Santa Cruz ute is sold in Australia will it be classified as an LCV?

    Answered by CarsGuide · 22 Sep 2021

    The Santa Cruz not only has an integrated tub, it’s also a monocoque design rather than a separate body on a ladder-style chassis as many commercial vehicles are. But it would, in Australia, still be classified as a light commercial vehicle. According to the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, light commercial vehicles are: '…motor vehicles constructed to carry goods or specialised equipment that are less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass. They include utility vehicles, panel vans, cab chassis vehicles and goods vans.' And that pretty neatly describes the Santa Cruz utility.

    There has been a lot of talk about the Hyundai tray-back making it to Australia, but a couple of things are standing in the way. The volume models, for a start, are front-wheel-drive and the construction rules out the huge towing limit of something like a Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger (3.5 tonnes). But there’s plenty to suggest that the Santa Cruz would be a nicer thing to drive than a conventional dual-cab ute and, for those who don’t need to tow super-heavy loads, the Hyundai might make a bit of sense. But don’t hold your breath on it coming here. For now, Hyundai is saying no to an Australian launch, purely because the Santa Cruz is not being built in right-hand-drive form.

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