Sericite Journal – Seoul Searching

I have arrived in Korea to spend some time refining my interest in sericite porcelain stone, researching and making a few pots too. I am spending the first few days in Seoul to begin with to catch up with a few friends.

I spend the first day wandering around to get my bearings and just seeing what turns up. I spot a very narrow door tucked into a small corner between a department store and a clothes shop. I investigate and it turns out to be a tiny restaurant .

Every little space is utilised!

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I meet up with my friend Ms Kang and her partner, she takes me to a part of Seoul that I haven’t been to before. It’s the trendy ‘hip’ part. There are a number of streets full of eateries. In the evening, after work, all the restaurants spill out onto the streets in fine weather. It’s May and the weather is balmy, so every space is utilised. We spend the night walking the streets looking for a ‘cool’ wine bar that she has read about, but don’t find what we want. We walk down many laneways, dingy small alleys and descend into dimly lit basements or up flights of stairs to single darkened rooms, windows blacked out. Rooms that might once have been small office spaces, and presumably very cheaply rented. They masquerade as ‘hip’, ‘cool’ night spots now.

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We find three wine bars. But they are all up-themselves with too much ‘cool’ and not enough wine! The wine is priced at a ridiculously expensive rate, for unknown cheap Chilian or South African quaffing grade vino, you have to buy the bottle, there are no tasting notes, or a price by the glass. We are in a group and against my better judgement, the consensus is to buy a bottle. The owner goes to great lengths to decant the wine into an airing flask. It’s all so pretentious. This wine has nothing to loose to the air, it doesn’t need airing, no aroma. In fact the sulphates are the only flavour it has. It has no nose, no taste and no finish. It’s completely flat throughout. I’d rate it as a $3.00 ‘Aldi’ cooking wine. Pity we had to pay over $60 to find out. I offer to pay, as these people are my friends, But Ms Kang is very generous and covers the bill, speaking in Korean to the bar owner, telling him to ignore my plastic card and take hers.

Lesson, don’t bother going to a Seoul wine bar. We are so spoilt in Australia with so much affordable, good wine to choose from. I’m guessing that wine tasting is new to Seoul. The next day I find some Australian wine for sale in a small local convenience store, so I buy a bottle that I recognise from home, I buy it as a present for my friends. It is not top notch, but I know it and know that it will be 10 times better than the ‘vin ordinaire’ that we were meant to appreciate in the bar. Had the wine been OK, the ambience was quite interesting in a retro kind of way. All candle lit, it reminded me of the beatnik clubs of the late 60’s.

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The next day, I’m off to the Ewha Womens University, where I’m to meet a professor of Ceramics. We are organising for me to do some teaching to her students. Ewha is the oldest university in Korea, as I understand it. It’s a nice campus with a mixture of new and old buildings. Open and seemingly spacious, as the most modern example of its architecture is entirely under ground, leaving a large space above for gardens and greenery. Every little space is utilised! I like it. I am invited to give a presentation of my research to the students. 

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In the afternoon, we wander the old market district. I seem to find myself in what feels like a kilometre long avenue of dried fish stalls. It goes on and on and on! I’ve never seen so much dried fish.

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Then it’s the chilli isle.

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Though the dried vegetables whet my appetite, I don’t buy, as I have nowhere to cook. Then through the food hall isle and into the fashion lanes.

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I find some very nice open-weave natural ‘ramae’ fabric, and although I’m tempted, I resist. I find a ready made, long sleeved, ramae shirt, but it costs a lot more than I can afford. Over $150. If it were my last day here and I still had some money on me I might be tempted, but this Is only my 3rd day and I haven’t done any work yet, so I need to make my budget stretch.

The next day, Ms Kang takes me to icheon, the potters village, to visit my friend Lee Jun Beom. It is the May Ceramics Festival time and all the studios have their stalls out. There are some very impressive pieces, some less impressive and some amazing miniatures .

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I was quite taken with the ‘fake’ irridescent blue oil spot tenmoku. I imagine that is was made by painting on the dots with something like a bismuth lustre?

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It is a really interesting day, aimlessly wandering from shop to shop, studio to studio. The last time I was here, my friends took me to the local Ceramic Art Gallery and Museum. In conversation with the Director, it transpired that my research was of interest to him. He asked to see my work. I only had small images on my phone to show him. I didn’t come prepared to represent myself. I was taken off guard. My friends talked me up quite a bit to him it seems. I can’t speak Korean, so don’t know the content of their conversations, but it transpired that he became interested in collecting a piece of mine for the international section of the collection in the Museum. Regrettably, we didn’t seem to wander to that part of town on this trip. However, instead, we found our selves somewhere completely different.

I walk into a small studio, quite unpretentious, there is nothing outside to give the game away. Suddenly, I realise that I know this work. I recognise it. I’m sure that I know the maker. I have met her before. In another place and at another time. I’m almost certain. This lady does the most intricate carving on porcelain. I saw her demonstrate two years ago at the Yanggu Porcelain Museum Conference. I was very busy at the time, demonstrating and preparing give my own presentation, so I only had time for a cursory glance around the demonstrators. Janine had more time and got to speak to this lady at length. Her name is Shin Lee, going on her visiting card that I can see on the table. Luckily she can speak some English.

I walk up to her with my friends and say that “I think that I know you from Yanggu.” She replies straight away. “Yes, is your wife with you today”!

How amazing is that? She remembered meeting Janine and speaking with her from two years previously. This potter, or should I say artist/carver/decorator is a real master! It appears that her husband throws the pieces and she incises the intricate images, particularly of Hydrangeas.

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I like her heaps, it’s a real joy to meet her again. She is lovely and her work is impossible to fully appreciate until you get up close and handle it, feel the intricacies, appreciate the subtleties of the carving that highlights the shading effects of the bass relief carving. Again, If this were my last day, I’d buy a piece, but my suitcase and back pack are already chokers with stuff that I need to unload when I get to Bangsan.

I haven’t even reached Yanggu yet, so my cargo of porcelain pieces that I made at home during the last 12 months from the ‘borrowed’ Bangsan sericite porcelain stones takes up a lot of space and weight. I’m returning the stones I ‘borrowed’ as finished pieces, shaped from the 100% Korean sericite, crushed, milled and made plastic in my workshop. I transform them from mere stones, into porcelain clay body, by crushing, grinding and milling them into a wet, plastic, malleable clay-like substance. I form them into pots on my old wooden potters wheel, then bisque and glaze fire them into permanence. I glost fire them using pure Australian sunshine, glazed with my own porcelain stone celadon/guan style glaze made from my local weathered white granite glaze stone, enhanced with the addition of some local kangaroo bone ash. I’m donating the pieces to the Yanggu Porcelain Museum as a gift that represents the meeting of two minds, myself and that of Mr Jung the Director of the Museum. 

As both of our cultures enjoy drinking beer. I see it as a ‘Cultural Shandy’. A contemporary melding of Korean and Australian ceramic cultures. Well, that is my take on it anyway.

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I signed the bowls with both my usual initials stamp, my workshop seal, but also the ‘Yanggu’ chop in Korean lettering, to identify its true origin. It represents the journey from Bangsan to Balmoral and back again.

The next day, I spend some time in the Namdaemun market area of Seoul. There are some astounding figures quoted about the number of stalls and number of visitors that the area gets each day. The market site is a very ancient one, but during and after the Korean War, there was a thriving black market in renditioned military goods. The economy was in ruins. The country was largely destroyed. Society was in turmoil and almost everyone was living in hardship or poverty. The market offered a way for the necessary transfer of goods, services and information in an informal and I believe quite efficient way. The site has persevered and sustained itself through necessity, it’s quite simply very popular. Even as the concrete high rise of the city encloses it, it still continues to exist. I wonder how long a market like this will survive against the pressures of development?

I wander the very narrow and intensely interesting back lanes. I come across a narrow lane of kitchens. Every one calling to me to step past and around the hot stove and into the seated area to have a very freshly prepared lunch. It’s enticing, but it’s also only 11.30, so a bit early for a cooked lunch. Instead, I take a photo and keep walking.

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I eventually decide to buy a small ‘Panjun’ style round handheld pancake. Korean style walking fast-food. I choose this place simply because it has a queue of 30 people waiting to buy one. If the locals are prepared to queue and wait for it, it must be good. Or so my thinking goes. This time last year, when I was in Seoul, I had a meal in a restaurant with loads of other respectable citizens at lunch time peak hour in Insadong. I knew as I ate it that something wasn’t right. As I left, I felt quite unsettled in the stomach, half an hour later, I almost blacked out, got quite dizzy and threw up in the street at the bus stop. Janine and I shared the meal together. However, I was the only one to eat the pickled chilli relish in the jar on the table, Janine didn’t. It was a respectable, busy restaurant, in a posh part of town. How can you tell?

I’m pleased to repot that the pancake was delicious, followed by no unpleasant side effects – and only $1 great value!

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While I’m here in this place where so much is possible, I decide to get one more name stamp carved with my initials. I find a tiny shop with a young lady that does such things and draft out my design, but regrettably, she doesn’t get it or doesn’t care, or perhaps she has no inherent sense of design flare? I don’t know. But my own hand-made wooden stamp that I cut myself at home has a better look to my mind.

Mine is a bit wobbly, but looks better overall. However, it doesn’t really matter, as it is so small and is only on the foot ring, such that no-one will ever really see it.  

The next day I leave Seoul and take the train and bus to Chuncheon where I am destined to meet up with the director of the Yanggu Porcelain Museum. I have texted him an image of my buss ticket, so that he will know where I am and at what time. 

Over my 5 visits to Korea, we have become friends. United by our common interest in sericite porcelain.

On this visit, my fifth, I am invited to stay with Mr Jung and his wife in their home. I’m flattered and feel really honoured by this gesture of generosity at a very personal level.   

The next day it’s down to work in the Porcelain Research Centre. My time is limited, so I must get busy. The Yanggu Porcelain Museum is situated in the tiny village of Bangsan right up near the DMZ, in the geographical centre of (the unified) Korea. The site has a history going back 700 years. ‘Sericite’ mica has been mined here for that long. Sericite is otherwise known as ‘Porcelain Stone’, ‘Do-suk’, in Korea, ’Bai-tunze’ or ‘Pai-tun-ze’ in China, ‘Groan’ in Cornwall, sometimes ‘Muscovite’ Mica or ‘white mica’ in Australia. This is the stuff of the original porcelains that were independently discovered and developed, long before kaolin and felspar was added into the mix. It seems that porcelain was invented wherever sericite was plentiful.

The Museum here has several bodies available. All based on sericite, most of them are  available to be used individually, but the Porcelain Centre also has a couple of blended bodies that are much easier to use. These are prepared for use by the part-time students and visitors who come on cultural tours. The blended sericite bodies have been cleverly developed by Mr Jung to over-come the various short comings of each of the individual materials. 

There is a 2 material blend that combines a very low temperature maturing mica With a more refractory one. Individually they need special attention and different firing temperatures, but combined they work very well together. There is also a 3 way sericite blend. These blends have the advantage of all firing at the same temperature, which makes life a lot easier for the staff. 

Like me, Mr Jung, the Director of the Porcelain Museum, has a life long interest in sericite porcelain, He being born and raised here in Yanggu County.

They no longer use the original mined sericite from 700 years ago. The mine site is now lost. No-one knows where it once was. I suspect that it is probably over the border in North Korea a couple of kilometres away to the North. Just over the hill from the Museum. There is however a site, closer to the border, where the mined sericite or Do-suk, was sorted  into different grades and stored, before being carted down the valley to the river to be shipped to Seoul and the Royal Porcelain Works. Ancient documents name the site and list how 70 tonnes of material was shipped out in each 12 month period, usually in spring and autumn, at high water, when the river was not either in flood or dried up.

I have visited the ancient storage site on 3 occasions to investigate and collect samples for my research. I have had my samples analysed at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. The results are published in my recent book ‘5 Stones’. The ancient material is indeed almost pure sericite with some silica. It is beautifully plastic to throw on the wheel even without ageing. I was thrilled to discover this when I got my box of stones home and processed them into a plastic body.

There isn’t much to be seen these days. And I wouldn’t know that it was there, except that I was shown the remote site. On my last visit, I arrived just after torrential rains had caused havoc in this part of the country. On arrival at the site, I found that the rain had caused some quite deep erosion in the gutters of the dirt track leading up to the site. Because I knew what I was looking for, I was able to identify small white fragments of the stone that had washed down the road in the gutter. I rescued these, washed and cleaned them, and ‘borrowed’ them to make the work that I am now returning to the Museum as fired pots.

No-one here seems to be interested in collecting ‘in-situ’ materials for making ceramics. It’s not taught in the schools or Universities here, so no one knows how to do it. Added to that is the fact that you can buy almost anything you want already prepared from a pottery supply shop. There is no incentive to try unknown and untested wild materials.

I’m lead to believe that I am the only person to attempt to make work from these ancient stones in the past few hundred years. All the current sericite comes from an industrial sized mine site a few kilometres away up the river. Korea it seems is very geologically rich in Sericite sites.

However, things may be about to change. Since I was here last. Mr Jung, the Museum Director, has taken an interest in my research and reads my occasional emails about my prospecting and mineral processing with interest. He was recently out bush-walking in the hills behind his home and has discovered what he thinks might be a seam of sericite in the side of a road cutting used by loggers. We have hatched a plan to go up there and investigate. We will go as soon as I have finished throwing and turning my pots. Perhaps while they are drying prior to bisque firing.

So far I have tried the two blends and 3 individual sericite bodies that Mr Jung has prepared. There are two new materials that I haven’t seen before. The raw material appears just off white when raw and dry, but develops into a beige to khaki colour when wetted down. The other is slightly pinkish when raw, but develops into an apricot, to pale terra cotta colour after processing. They are both quite plastic to throw, the apricot one has a tendency to split though. I feel that a little addition of ‘Calgon’ to the slip during processing might help ameliorate this?

I have seen the fired samples and they both seem to be good, firing just off white, but not too translucent. I think that they may be quite good in wood firing, with the lowish iron content, they may flash well.

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The view from my room in the early morning, just after sunrise at 6.00am is not a Shepards Delight, but just a sign of the filthy air quality here, and this is way out in the far countryside. Hours away from the centres of heavy industry and Seoul. The locals claim that all this  polluted air is blown over from China, and some of it probably is, but Korea is a highly industrialised country with a majority of cars and certainly all trucks being diesel powered.   My Jung and I are in agreement that the origin of the pollution is probably somewhere around 50/50. Whatever the origin, the air most certainly has to be cleaned up. People will be dying young with lung diseases growing up breathing this toxic mess.

World wide, we need to phase out diesel engines and coal fired power stations as an easy first step to cleaning up the environment. I say easy in this case, simply because there already exist cleaner alternatives such as solar and wind power to generate electricity. Of course it won’t be politically easy. The UK spent a whole week this month, May 2019,  with all its coal thermal power stations off line, relying entirely on its non-coal sources of energy. It can be done now.

Of course there will be screams of denial, loads of hand wringing and calls for extensions by the very powerful vested interests and their political allies who get generous ‘black’ donations from the carbon intensive industries. The Murdoch press will wail and nash their teeth, publishing hysterical headlines, based on untruths, if the past is anything to go by. 

Change is over due, Cleaning up our environment has to be done. We desperately need to clean up the disgusting mess that we have made in this generation. It’s our responsibility to start to fix what we have largely broken. The climate crisis has already gone too far.  We are going to need a combination of government regulation and free market solutions to claw back the global heating to manageable levels. Profitable business opportunities await the entrepreneurs who dare to make the change and forge the way. The broken old vested interests are simply being lazy. It’s time for them to step aside, stop holding us back and let the future begin.

Driving on Sunshine – 3 month up-date

Driving mostly on sunshine is very fuel efficient!

We are just home from spending the Easter Long-Weekend in Canberra at the National Folk Festival. 5 Days of great music, camping out under the stars, catching up with old friends and drinking some very nice pear cider.

We drove down and back in our new plug-in, Electric car. The Hyundai Ioniq plug-in. Canberra is roughly 200 kms. away, so we drove the first 1/4 or so on sunshine and the rest on petrol. We get around 65 to 70 kms on a full charge of sunshine from our solar panels at home. This distance varies slightly, depending on how hard you push the car (I don’t ) and how much regenerative braking that you do, as regenerative braking re-charges the battery from the energy recovered from the braking system.
Instead of applying pressure on the brake shoes in the wheel hubs to slow the car. Regenerative braking engages the electric motor and uses it in reverse, so instead of using electrical energy to propel the car forward. The forward energy of the car is used to run the generator to charge the battery and this drag on the system slows the car. The disc brakes are only engaged when you press very hard on the brake pedal, such as in an emergency.
The car automatically swaps over to petrol when the battery charge gets very low, always preserving just a little battery power in reserve for when the car is just cruising and doesn’t need a lot of oomph to get along. Braking, when going down hill, recharges the battery, so the car is intermittently changing between electric mode from the battery and the internal combustion engine all the way along the trip.

Before setting of for home, I check the dash to see that we have a driving range of 111 kms, but home is 200 kms away, so I decide to buy some fuel.

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We have travelled 3,788 km in this car since new and we have put $50 in the tank so far. I can see that we still have 8% left in the fuel tank.
We fill up in Canberra before the long drive home and put in 36.95 litres into the tank, at $1.45 per litre.
On the way home Janine calculates that we have travelled 2,138 km on our first $50 tank full of fuel.
So this seems to indicate that we are averaging about 1.7 litres per 100km.
It crossed my mind when I bought this car that I would be able to achieve a bit better than 2,000 km on a full tank of petrol, and so it seems that we have done it.
We arrive home via the shops in Mittagong and are just short of 4,000 km on the odometer.
The first thing that I do when I get home is plug it into the solar PV system and re-charge the battery fully, ready for the next trip.
When we are driving locally, we mostly drive on 100% sunshine. The battery is sufficient to get us to the shops and back in any direction that we need to go.
We only use petrol when we go on long trips like this one to Canberra, or to Sydney, the South Coast or The Blue Mountains.
At the end of each trip, when I switch off the ignition. a small window in the instrument panel reports on the latest trip.
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This trip was 33 kms and I used 0.6 litres per 100 kms. Which means about 200mls. I’m not entirely sure as yet why the petrol engine fires up at unexpected times, even though I have chosen fully electric mode. I believe that it is something to do with charging up the 12 volt battery, that is used to power the dash, computer, air-con, head lights and other things that don’t involve moving the car forward.
We have achieved these very fuel-efficient figures in our driving, because we always drive steadily, and evenly, avoiding sudden stops and fast take-offs. The on-board computer tells me that we are averaging 390.64 kilometres per litre of fuel. This is because we usually drive mostly on sunshine.
The info below is down-loaded to my phone on the 1st of each month. This report is for March and doesn’t include the Canberra trip.
It is a very rewarding feeling to be able to drive mostly on sunshine. It fits in with our philosophy very well. This isn’t about saving money on fuel. This is all about attempting to live an ethical life with a low-carbon foot-print. Extracting our selves from the coal/oil based carbon economy as much as possible. It started 30 years ago when we stopped driving our old, but reliable VW beetle and bought a small, 3-cylinder 900 CC. engined, fuel-efficient Daihatsu car, slashing our fuel consumption, and then 12 years ago when we installed our first solar panels. Two years ago, ordering the Tesla battery when it became available in Australia.
Now we are driving on sunshine – well mostly!

Improvised Cannoli

I have relatives coming to stay and I really like them. We don’t see them often enough. So to celebrate their stay with us. I try and make an effort. Something different for change!

My niece is of Italian heritage and so I choose to make my bastardised version of Cannoli de Sicillianna.
It sounds impressive, but I don’t have any of the ingredients.
The recipe that I use comes from a book about opera by Antonio Carluccio. It is all about foods that are suitable accompaniment for opera.
I remember seeing Rick Stein on the idiot box doing a special on food and opera. I didn’t get it. I thought that he was stretching a long bow.
Anyway, I saw this book by Carluccio in a 2nd hand book shop, maybe 20 years ago and bought it.
It has a recipe for cannoli (P76), but I can’t bring myself to follow it. Apart from the need the make the tubes from scratch and deep fry them in lard!
I don’t even have any of the ingredients except the ricotta.
The recipe calls for ;
500g. ricotta,
100g. super fine sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla sugar
2 tbsp. orange flower water
50g. candied orange peel
50g. candied lemon peel
50g. candied citron
50g. glace cherries
50g. candied angelica
80g.bittersweet dark chocolate
and icing sugar
I can buy ricotta at the local shop, only a 10 km trip, but have to drive the 50km into town and back to buy the glace cherries at the supermarket.
All the other ingredients look pretty exotic.
You get used to living in the country and making do, so I improvise.
I am only making one dozen of these little cakes, so I halve the quantities.
I’m not into deep frying in lard, so instead I make some little tartlet bases and blind bake them for 15 mins.
I use the few dried fruits that I have in the big stoneware jar in the kitchen for making our muesli. Then instead of orange flower water, I decide to use finely grated lemon and lime zest, plus the juice of half the lime. Janine has some vanilla paste in her cooking cupboard. Instead of all the exotic candied fruits, I use my dried fruits muesli mix and instead of bittersweet dark chocolate I substitute half a dozen tiny ‘Aldi’ dark chocolate easter eggs finely sliced. After all, it is Easter.
 
It actually works out really well. They look rough but they taste delicious.
Funnily, they didn’t turn out like the picture in the book!

Electric Car Review – Ioniq PHEV

I’ve had the new Hyundai Ioniq PHEV Plug-in hybrid electric car for just over a week now. So I can give a better account of what it is like to drive and own. As with most modern cars, it has a heap of complex software options in the inbuilt computer which is capable of doing more things that I care to learn about in the short-term. A bit like my phone or my laptop, it can do much more than I will ever ask it too. It will take me a little more time to work through all the options and internalise them to a point that they are at my finger tips and therefore useful to me. At the current time most of it is still opaque to me, so I don’t attempt to use stuff that I don’t see any need for. Especially if it distracts me from my driving, I don’t go there. 

 

I am not a petrol head, so I don’t know anything about cars. I’ve always bought the cheapest, fuel-efficient car that I could afford. That was nearly always a 3 cylinder, 1 litre engine car. We had a Daihatsu Charade and then a Daihatsu Sirion. We had them for about 10 years each and about 250,000 kms. Being one of the cheapest cars on the road, they came with manual everything, totally no-frills driving. I really enjoyed driving a small manual car. That is what I’m used to. So the hardest thing to get used to in this new car is not the technology or the electric propulsion, but the fact that it is an automatic! I’ve never driven an automatic car before. I still feel the need to lift my left foot to de-clutch as I approach a stop sign!


The car has 3 modes of travel. Fully electric directly off the battery, Hybrid electric where it starts off in Electric mode and sometimes switches to petrol mode if you put your foot down. and then ‘Sports’ mode, which seems to engage both motors at once. This mode is pretty zippy – I’m impressed! Changing between these modes is done electronically with the press of a button.


I have spent the first week mostly driving in ‘eco’ mode in fully electric selection, because this is why I chose this car. I have lots of solar PV on my roof and a Tesla battery at home, so I’m completely ready for fully solar electric living and travel. I have found that I can do all my local driving on the battery in eco electric mode. Recharging is done using a bog standard 10 amp 3-pin household power point and takes 4 hrs if the battery is almost fully depleted.


Because I’m not a pushy or aggressive driver, driving as I normally do and am used to doing around here, the car stays in ‘eco’  fully electric mode 99% of the time. Just occasionally when I come to a steep hill and put my foot a little harder on the accelerator, the petrol engine cuts in when I’m in Hybrid mode and I can feel the surge of extra power propel the car forward. Because the car is electric (most of the time), there is no engine noise or vibration when you pull up at the lights. The car pulls away smoothly and silently from the lights. If it is in hybrid mode the engine cuts in after a hundred meters or so, or if/when you get up to 20 kms/hr or so. This is totally seamless and the only way that I know that it has happened is the little icon on the dash that changes from electric to hybrid.


Most of the time it is just steady as she goes, totally silent, comfortably plush and comfy driving. The most noise that I hear is the tyre noise on the bitumen, I’ve become quite aware of the differences in road surface and the various noises that they each create. Visibility is very good with the mirrors. I really dislike cars that have tiny back windows. The back hatch on this car has a metal bar across it as part of the design to strengthen the huge flowing lines of the sculptured, mostly glass hatch. but visibility is still very good. I’m used to driving with the 5 point visibility habit and this design works perfectly well for me. However, I can see that I will eventually start to loose this habit, as I become more accustomed to the reversing camera and the active side mirrors.


Even though this car is the base model it has a few bells and whistles. Like side mirrors that have an alarm built-in that beeps and flashes to let you know another car is very close on that side if you put your blinker on to change lanes. It makes a humming sound that is generated when driving slowly in pedestrian zones like shopping centre car parks, so that people car hear you approaching from behind. It has adaptive cruse control, so that if you are cruising along and another car pulls into your lane in front of you, this car automatically senses that car and slows down to the same speed as the car in front, keeping several car lengths distance. The car also beeps if you cross a marked lane without indication. When reversing, it beeps if there is a car coming from either side that you can’t see, as you attempt to reverse out of your parking spot. The media player/radio also cuts the volume to half when you put the car into reverse, so that you become more aware of your outside surroundings as you reverse. All these little gadgets are very common in all new cars these days I expect, But our last car purchase was 13 years ago and it was the very basic poverty model. So this is all new to me.


The car has an automatic, 6 speed, dual clutch, gear box, so that either motor can operate independently, but also at the same time in unison, when you choose to. It is powered by an Atkinson cycle 4 cylinder, 1.6 litre petrol engine, as well as the electric motor. Although it is still a small car hatch back, it is also the biggest car that I have owned. The Atkinson Cycle motor is a very interesting design and is particularly fuel-efficient. Try searching for it on the Wiki. To get the best fuel efficiency out of the car, many of the panels are made of aluminium and the rest of the body is made from super high strength, hot pressed, high tensile steel making it lighter, yet stronger. This saving in chassis weight is taken up by the battery. In stead of using the brakes, the car uses  standard regenerative braking that is basic to all hybrid cars. An idea that has been around since the 50’s. Over-all there are a lot of little efficiencies all combined together to make this an impressive piece of engineering.


Of course, most of these ideas are not new. The Toyota Prius has been around for 20+ years, but it can’t drive on sunshine, it is strictly a petrol powered car. Many of the initial concepts of both electric and hybrid cars were introduced to me by Meredith Thring in 1980 when I read his book. Professor M W Thring pioneered many of these innovations in Yorkshire at the University of Sheffield and later at Queen Mary College, at the University of London in the post war period. See regenerative braking above. I bought the book that he wrote after he retired in 1980, called ‘The Engineers Conscience’. Interestingly, he was an Australian who moved to the UK to work, so maybe we can lay some marginal claim to the intellectual property invested in this car. I can safely claim to have been intellectually engaged in watching the long, slow development of these cars since the 80’s.


I have driven 500 km so far and the fuel tank is still completely full, the indicator hasn’t left the full mark yet. I must say that it is a very rewarding feeling to be able to drive totally on sunshine. I know that this will annoy some people, but the development of cars like this has been in the back of my mind since 1980 and has now become manifest in the availability of this car in Australia now. I have to say that it is so important to me and very rewarding to be able to drive for the rest of my life on the sunshine that I collect off my own roof. 

That’s priceless.

Driving on Sunshine

I’ve been telling people that 2019 is going to be the year of the electric car. Yes, I’ve said it before, just a week or so ago. Well, It really is now. We have just taken delivery of our  electric car.

It’s a beauty, totally silent running. It’s quite a wonderful experience to behold a powerful, yet simple, quiet and elegant car perform so well. And mostly running on sunshine too! Why has it taken so long for this type of car to become available in Australia?

Our new electric car is a Hyundai Ioniq, plug-in electric car. We ordered it a few weeks ago. The first to be delivered here in Australia, or so I’m told by the dealer. We had to order it and wait for it to be built in Korea, then shipped to Australia. The local dealership system doesn’t carry the ‘basic’ model in stock, only the premium model. This car has been available in Korea and other countries like New Zealand for 2 years. Why so long to get to Australia?

The Hyundai Ioniq electric car is available in 3 models. Fully electric, Normal hybrid (like a Toyota Prius), and a plug-in hybrid. After considerable research, we decided to choose the plug-in hybrid model. A fully electric car has a limited range of 230 kms. Not enough for us to live here out in the country and travel to Sydney and back for the day. Maybe in another few years there will be more recharge stations and better batteries? As it stands, we would need to own two cars, a petrol car and an electric one. For this reason we chose the plug-in electric hybrid, because we can do 95% of our trips on fully electric, battery-powered, solar generated electricity. But also be able to drive longer distances on petrol power when we need to go the long distances occasionally. Like our once a year trip to Canberra or up the North coast.

It’s a very modest car. Nothing showy. I have only owned it for one day so far, so very early days. The company claims 63 kms of fully electric power with ‘normal’ driving and 1000 more on a full tank of petrol. The blurb claims something like 110 kms per litre of fuel. I drove it around and reduced the battery down to 20%, where the petrol engine started to cut in occasionally, acting like a hybrid does. I plugged it into the standard 3-pin, 10 amp power point at home and it recharged itself in 3 and a bit hours using the built-in charger. Fully recharged on solar power.

The onboard computer keeps a track of how you drive. I have always driven carefully and steadily to conserve petrol in all my previous cars. Which have always been very small, fuel-efficient cars. Mostly 3 cylinder, 1 litre cars. This is the biggest car that we have ever owned, but it is still classed as a small car. A 5 seater 1.6 litre hatch-back. After charging the battery the computer tells me the distance I can travel on the battery and even shows me on the built-in sat nav screen, the radius of the places I can reach on the map + where all the nearest charging stations are.

We live 25 ks from the nearest towns where we do our shopping and banking, where we have all our accounts etc. So I expect that I can do 100% of our local trips on solar power in future.

So the first day has gone very well. The car does everything that I expected, It comes with an 8 year warranty on the battery and mechanical parts. I look forward to only visiting the fuel pump a few times a year in future. It’s a nice feeling to look forward to driving mostly on sunshine for the rest of my life. Because we already own a Tesla Powerwall II battery, we can always recharge the car on stored sunshine, even on dull over cast days.

   

Note to self, don’t buy plastic crap – again!

I wanted a simple dust pan and hand broom to clean up in the workshop. The only choice in the shop was between 2 similar styled plastic ones. What happened to wooden handled hand brooms with stiff bristles? And metal dust pans!

Long gone in the race to the bottom of quality and price. Couldn’t someone at least produce something of quality that would last? I hate having no choice but to have to buy plastic junk. this is just land fill in waiting. Well, as there was no choice I had to choose a plastic one and lo-n-behold, what happened, but the handle broke in two in the first few weeks. I refuse to be so insulted with such blatant built-in obsolescence, so I determined to fix things.

I made a pair of reinforcing brackets out of some scrap pieces of aluminium and bent them to fit snugly into and onto both sides of the broken handle, then pop riveted them into place. This is still a piece of plastic crap, but at least I have fore-stalled its trip to land fill for a while.

 

I still want to buy a wooden handled, natural bristled, long-lasting broom. I’ll have to look harder. This impromptu repair won’t stop the rest of the plastic from collapsing in time.. Maybe I can dismantle it and reuse the bristles?

Watch this space.

The old dust pan too is on its last legs. At least this one has seen a bit of use to justify its existence.

I decided to make a dust pan that will last couple of hundred years out of a piece of Stainless steel scrap. The off-cut is a bit smaller than I would have liked, but I use what I have.

It all sort-of goes to plan. It’s a bit narrow. The next one will be better. This is my first attempt after all. When I get a bigger piece of off-cut, I’ll make a wider one.

Driving on Sunshine

I’ve been telling people that 2019 is going to be the year of the electric car.

Well, It is.

I have just taken delivery of my first electric car.

We took delivery on Friday.

It’s a beauty, totally silent running.

Amazing torque.

It’s quite a wonderful experience to behold a powerful, yet simple, quiet and elegant car perform so well.

And running on sunshine too!

No petrol tank to fill.

Why has it taken so long for the powers that be to get on board.

I’m a very proud owner.

I love it.

img_3826

All they need to do now is to scale it up.