Hong Kong: The Home of Efficient Public Transport


Read these first:-

Kuala_Lumpur_LRT_Monorail_Map

(Comparatively Malaysia is not far from a very efficient public transportation system and with further extension to the LRT lines and the upcoming MRT lines, one hopes that it will close the gap in the current system. Perhaps we can learn one or two things from Hong Kong.  Image source: Google)

Well, I don’t know it made one of the best first impressions – perhaps it is because I have not taken a public bus in Malaysia in a very long, long time (and I still don’t) and seeing an empty, new comfortable bus made me in love with the idea of taking the bus again or perhaps because of this:-

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. Over 90% of the daily journeys are on public transport, making it the highest rate in the world

(Source)

I just came back from a short trip to Hong Kong and one of the thing that catches my eyes when we had touched down and exited the airport is their public transportation.

The Hong Kong International Airport itself was impressive although it was not in anyway better than our own KLIA (it was way too crowded compared to KLIA too). The airport is well connected by train (which includes their superb Airport Express), buses and taxis, very similar to KLIA. Instead of taking the obvious option of using the Airport Express, we opted to take the Airport bus instead to the city. One of the colleague had a hotel reservation made and we could get off nearer to the hotel if we take the bus instead of the train. And it was cheap too – HKD40 for one way trip to the city centre (the Airport Express using the Octopus card costs HKD100 per trip).

We were tired and despite taking the bus, it was very comfortable and we managed to catch a short nap along the way. From the bus stop, we had to walk to the hotel and after one of my colleague had checked in to a hotel, the rest of us decided to take the taxi to our apartment (another 30 minutes ride and cost us HKD41 for 3 of us and a couple of large luggage bags). The driver hardly spoke English but he understood where we wanted to go but what struck me immediately was there was 3 seats at the front which was not a norm but I guess no one dares to sit on the middle seat. Not when the taxi driver was wearing shorts.

Walking around the apartment residential area is a breeze and it was a good chance for me to lose some baggage around my waist. And we did walked a lot here – good thing I brought my sports shoe along. There is no any MTR (mass transit railway) station near the place that we were staying but they do have others namely bus, tram and of course, the iconic red color taxi.

bus2

bus1

(Our option for public transport – the double deck buses. We took one from the Airport and so is the inter-city buses)

To move around, I would strongly suggest to get the Octopus card (we got ours at the airport and used it for the bus from the airport). Same thing with our Touch n Go card here and one can recharge the card at the numerous 7-eleven shops for free. The bus station is just about 100 metres from the apartment. The tram station is a bit further and we decided not to take the tram in the morning. It is slower and does not have air conditioner. The bus on the other hand is far more comfortable and it is very, very efficient. And since the bus stop near the apartment is just the 3rd bus stop on the bus lane, we always can find an empty seat during the rush hours.

And here’s one reason I respect the Hong Kong commuters – they queue up to take the bus. Yes, there is a queue line on the pavement to ensure everyone know where to queue up but I have also seen the same discipline of queuing up when they are waiting for the elevator. Something that is grossly missing back here in Malaysia. Here, even before the people come out from the lift, those who were waiting for the elevator would simply rush in. They won’t even queue up but instead crowd around the entrance. Same un-civic attitude can be seen when one waits for the bus. The crowd would rush in and would be pushing and pulling to get onto the bus. Not a big surprise considering how they jump queue on the road. Nope, not here. Everyone waits and everyone gives way.

And Malaysia should introduce double deck buses – it’s way too cool than the single deck Intrakota buses we have in Malaysia (it is even worse with the old crappy, dirty Metro bus). It takes more passengers too. I have experienced taking the double decker bus when I was in Singapore but it was not a good experience, mainly because it is usually full by the time it reaches our bus stop. The top deck is only allowed for sitting passengers and the driver that I saw in Hong Kong made sure of it (he monitors via a CCTV).

And they always say that public transport is a money losing business and that it is why it is run by the Government. But back in Hong Kong, it seems to be a different story:-

Is this problem intractable? Not exactly. Take Hong Kong for example: The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation, which manages the subway and bus systems on Hong Kong Island and, since 2006, in the northern part of Kowloon, is considered the gold standard for transit management worldwide.

In 2012, the MTR produced revenue of 36 billion Hong Kong Dollars (about U.S $5 billion)—turning a profit of $2 billion in the process. Most impressively, the farebox recovery ratio (the percentage of operational costs covered by fares) for the system was 185 percent, the world’s highest. Worldwide, these numbers are practically unheard of—the next highest urban ratio, Singapore, is a mere 125 percent.

(Source)

Which is true if you consider on how the transportation system is integrated in Hong Kong – there have a number of major terminals where the MTR, bus and taxi have their main stations in one place. This is something we need to consider very seriously here in Malaysia.

As I had said, we rarely took the MTR – there is none near to our apartment and the one we took was when we were going to the Times Square for shopping. So, when it was time to fly back, I decided to take the taxi to the Hong Kong station (where the Airport Express train departs). It was a short ride and the driver dropped me off at the entrance. The Hong Kong station is located quite close to the Central MTR station and allows passengers (for certain airlines) to check-in (similar to facilities in KL Sentral). I already checked in online and since I only had a small luggage bag to bring along, I proceeded to the escalators to the platform. The Airport Express is a dedicated train from the city to the airport very much the same as our KLIA Express and it is indeed fast, clean and comfortable. It costs HKD100 for one way trip from the Hong Kong station to the airport.

Out from the MTR station, it was just a short walk to the check in and baggage drop counters. It was a nice thing although I experienced the same queues and stone faced officials at the immigration counters. Sometimes certain things never changes.

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NVIDIA’s Tegra K1


nvidia-car-tegra-k1

(So much computing in just one car – well, it is not a dream anymore. The focus must be on technology and know-how and not an in-fight on who owes the name of God and everyone getting so tense on issues that will not elevate the nation with the rest of the developed countries. Image source: http://phandroid.com)

The world is certainly moving on a pace that we have not seen in the past as evidenced by this Wall Street Journal report:-

NVIDIA‘s new Tegra(R) K1 mobile processor will help self-driving cars advance from the realm of research into the mass market with its automotive-grade version of the same GPU that powers the world’s 10 most energy-efficient supercomputers.

Tegra K1 features a quad-core CPU and a 192-core GPU using the NVIDIA Kepler(TM) architecture, the basis for NVIDIA’s range of powerful GPUs — including the processors that are used in the top 10 systems featured in the latest Green500 list of the world’s most energy-efficient supercomputers.

Tegra K1 will drive camera-based, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) — such as pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and street sign recognition — and can also monitor driver alertness via a dashboard-mounted camera.

“To process the steady deluge of sensor and camera data required by a self-driving car, NVIDIA is bringing highly energy-efficient supercomputer technology inside the vehicle,” said Taner Ozcelik, vice president and general manager of the Automotive business at NVIDIA. “Tegra K1 solves this by providing 10 times the computing power of previous mobile processors without consuming additional energy.”

The Tegra K1 is also the first mobile processor to support CUDA(R) — the parallel computing platform at the heart of modern computer vision. In its automotive-grade form, this super chip is hardened to withstand a wider range of temperatures and withstand harsher operating conditions.

In addition to computer vision, the Tegra K1 processor excels at creating razor-sharp, photo-real 3D graphics. Using NVIDIA’s Material Definition Language — which simulates how light reflects and refracts off of actual materials — digital instrument clusters and infotainment systems can be customized with a wide range of virtual materials, from copper, titanium and brushed aluminum, to stitched leather and carbon fiber.

Libraries of photo-realistic rendered material provide a nearly limitless range of customizable digital cockpit configurations. These allow drivers to configure their gauges, controls and dials to suit their unique tastes.

(Source)

No doubt, as many past milestones in the computing world, it will be only matter of time before even this too would be surpassed by even more powerful and intelligent processes. And in the meantime, right here in Malaysia, we have this still lurking on the front pages:-

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir will not be dragged into a fight with Malay rights group Perkasa, who had accused her of seeking cheap publicity by supporting the Christians in the Allah controversy. Marina, who is the daughter of Perkasa patron Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had refused to comment when she was asked about Perkasa’s criticisms against her. “I don’t want to comment about Perkasa. They talk so much rubbish,” she said after attending the first National Unity Consultative Council meeting in Kuala Lumpur today.

(Source)

Whilst we have been looking at the wrong issues when the world is flying on a totally different orbit, not all is lost with citizens like Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir (who’s father is the patron of Perkasa) coming out and say that some people in this country talk so much rubbish. That is correct indeed – something that was further reinforced by this and unfortunately we still have a bit more way to go before we can gain back our sanity on what is more crucial for the nation.

No To Cheaper Cars?


(The latest Toyota Camry 2.5 is priced RM180,000 in Malaysia whilst the premium model only costs RM91,000 in US. So why is the huge difference in the car pricing in this country? Imagine source: TheCarGuys)

Folks, the general elections are coming soon and as I mentioned in my blog in the past, we must insist on voting for politicians who are able to see the bigger picture and be more intelligent enough in ensuring the issues that they raise in the public arena are of public interest and shapes the general policy and direction of this country.

One of the recent issues that were raised is the Pakatan Rakyat’s proposed plan to reduce price of cars in this country.

The proposal to reduce the prices of cars in this country by Pakatan Rakyat (an issue where a proper closure has been long overdue) if they are voted into power has sent a rather disturbing ripple among BN politicians. The reasons and the benefits to reduce car prices obviously works in good favour of the ordinary citizens and yet, we have not seen any BN politicians (except perhaps this guy) who had come out in the open with full support of this proposal.

Why? Is it because the proposal was initiated by the opposition and thus the support for the proposal is seen as a support for the opposition?

In argument against the said proposal, some argued that it will put the local automotive industry at a disadvantage once foreign cars were made cheaper. Valid argument no doubt but then again, how long more the local automotive industry needs to be able to compete on a global sense after almost 30 years in existence? Others try to stir racial issue by saying that the majority employed in the industry from a particular race and the impact of cheaper cars means a challenge to the race’s rights, which is rather nonsense as all races in this country are also involved in the industry one way or another.

Then we have this argument:-

Dalam keghairahan Pakatan Rakyat untuk menurunkan harga kereta, mereka terlupa untuk memberi maklumat kepada rakyat Malaysia apakah impak cadangan tersebut terhadap kualiti alam sekitar dan kenaikan sisa karbon serta kesesakan lalu lintas di jalanraya.

Ramai orang merasakan cadangan mengurangkan harga kereta ini bercanggah dengan tindakan kerajaan untuk menubuhkan Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) yang dipertangggungjawabkan untuk mereformasikan sistem pengangkutan awam di negara kita.

Seperkara lagi, orang kampung di luar bandar tidak akan mampu untuk membeli kereta walaupun harga kereta diturunkan. Tetapi mereka akan merasa implikasi dari cadangan ini. Besar kemungkinan mereka terpaksa berkorban kerana sekolah dan klinik di kawasan pendalaman terpaksa di kurangkan akibat kekurangan peruntukan pembangunan disebabkan cukai kereta berbillion ringgit yang dipungut oleh kerajaan sudah berkurangan.

Ini belum lagi membicarakan tentang komitmen negara kita untuk mengurangkan intensiti karbon negara sebanyak 40% sepertimana yang diperakui oleh Malaysia dalam Protokol Kyoto.

(Source)

The MP for Kota Belud raises two key issues in response to Pakatan Rakyat’s call to reduce the price of vehicles in this country. One is the impact on the environment due to more vehicles purchased (since it is cheaper acquire them now) and two, the expected increase in traffic jam. He also said that the call for cheaper car is going against the on-going reformation of the public transport by the Government (although I don’t see the direct implication of cheap car on the reformation process as public transport still need to be reformed regardless whether cars are made cheaper or not) and the Government would lose a sizeable income and will cause the country unable to meet the carbon intensity by 40% as dictated by the Kyoto Protocol.

Before that, let’s ponder why Pakatan Rakyat is calling for reduction of car price in the country in the first place?

High taxation is the reason why cars are so expensive in Malaysia. Currently, according to Rafizi, Malaysians pay 70% in taxes when they buy locally-made cars of below 1,500cc.

“Buyers end up paying almost RM16,500 in excise duties and sales tax for a car worth RM40,000,” he said. “On top of that, car owners also pay about 4% in interest for the loan.” According to his estimation, a typical car owner in Malaysia pays nearly RM600 a month towards settling his car loan. Toll charges and the cost of petrol would take up another RM400 of his monthly income.

Rafizi said Pakatan would phase out excise duties on cars to reduce household debt and increase disposable income.

Citing the Statistics Department’s Household and Basic Amenities Survey Report 2009, he said 53% of Malaysian households earn less than RM3,000 a month. “The report also shows that 71.9% of Malaysians own a car,” he said. “High car installments have become one of the reasons Malaysians are burdened with huge debt.”

As of May 2012, car loans repayment ranked second highest in household debt, standing at a staggering RM134 billion, he added.

(Source)

It is not a big secret that Malaysians are paying ridiculous price for cars in this country compared to other countries. And a bulk of the price is attributed to excise duties and sales tax. And seriously I am in favour for cheaper cars – the benefits are just too obvious – more people will be able to drive in cars that are safer, more economical, environmental friendly and equipped with better technology. And with car price cheaper, the hire purchase amount would be lower and Malaysians would have more disposal income for their family, education and healthcare. If you think about it, a good portion of the hire purchase loan is now being used to pay off a bulk of the excise duties and sales tax which has incorporated into the overall car price. This means we are in high debt to pay taxes to the Government.

Let’s leave aside the issue of the impact on the local automotive industry (there will be some impact no doubt but what is more important is how the industry plans to address the current shortcomings and go head to head in the global market) and on how Pakatan intends to make up the loss of a sizable income for the Government due to reduced excise duties and sales tax.

Let’s focus on the Kota Belut MP’s 2 main argument’s against the lowering the cost of cars in this country.

Impact on the Environment

(The standard that we use for emission evaluation – the European Emission Standard which started back in 1992. Where is the Malaysian version of this? Image source: Wikipedia)

We must recognize that modern cars are far more efficient than the cars that we drove 10 – 20 years ago. With the influx of hybrid cars and cars that meet the European emission standards (with EURO 6 coming up soon in 2014), the impact on the environment is low and in general sense, is improving with a more stringent emission standards put in place.

If we still insist on meeting the reduction of the carbon intensity by 40% as dictated by the Kyoto Protocol, then we should not only address the emission from vehicles on the road but also holistically, greenhouse gas emission from other industries (such as the energy industry) as carbon dioxide is just one of the greenhouse gas identified in the Protocol. And if we are only looking at emission from vehicles, then shouldn’t we insist on a stringent emission standards for all vehicles in this country? We don’t have our own emission standards but often rely on European emission standards and how many vehicles in this country meet the latest European emission standards? Only the very latest Proton models (running on Campro CFE with CVT) seem to meet the latest EURO 5 emission standard but what about the rest?

Average Car Carbon Emission in European Union Countries = 160 g/km
Target for 2012 = 120 g/km
Target for 2020 = 80 g/km

Proton Gen-2 Carbon Emission = 157 g/km (ranges from 131 to 192 g/km for other models)
Proton Waja/Impian Carbon Emission = 167 g/km (manual transmission) 172 g/km (auto transmission)
Proton Satria Neo Carbon Emission = 177 g/km
Proton Savvy Carbon Emission = 134 g/km

Proton Waja and Proton Satria Neo beat the average car carbon emission in Europe. Seems like Proton Savvy is the greenest of all (not so green though) at 134 g/km considering that it is only a 1200 cc.

If you drive your car 10,000 miles per year and have an average polluting car (i.e 160g/km of carbon emissions) then every year your car will emit 2.6 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. If you wish it offset this amount by planting trees you would need to plant at least 4 trees for every year you spend driving the car.

Proton’s cars are not so green. In fact, there are no information regarding carbon emission in Proton’s official website or Proton’s brochure. It is only mentioned “Low carbon emission” in the sales brochure. Well, not so low after all!

(Source)

We still have “tonnes” of older Proton models on the road, still emitting greenhouse gases year in, year out. Why not we enforce the emission control on them and other older models? By making the price of new cars cheaper, aren’t we accelerating the change of the older fuel guzzling, higher greenhouse gases emitting vehicles to newer fuel saving, lower greenhouse gases emitting vehicles?

Impact on the Traffic Jam

Even with the current high cost of car ownership, there is no positive improvement on the traffic jam especially in the Klang Valley and other major cities.Perhaps the situation is all rosy and well in Kota Belut but not so here – just try to drive during the peak hours and see how fast you can go.

This is because we have to come to a situation where having a car is no longer a luxury but rather a bare necessity. It is also safer and more convenient compared to one using the public transport (which is still in the process of revamping itself). Most household these days have at least 2 cars as it is also necessary for housewives to drive for daily shopping and to send & pick up their kids from school, etc. So before we can argue that cheaper cars means worsening traffic jams, we need to see the condition of traffic movement at the present and what is being done to elevate the situation.

Just look at Klang Valley with it’s all road infrastructure and public transportation integration at the very best, the traffic condition is still bad. Number of cars on the road is obviously a reason for the bad traffic jam but there are other factors as well. Queue jumping at key bottlenecks chokes the overall traffic system and gets cascaded all over. Another is the lack of feeder roads to the main roads especially from one residential area to another. The traffic jam is made worse due to high number of vehicles with low occupancy rate (just check and see how many people in most of the cars) and a lack of coordinated travel time similar to the one deployed during the festive season (or based on registration number which will force a greater use of public transport) for day to day travel to and fro workplace.

If cars are made cheaper, it will not necessarily means that the traffic jam will get worse (it already is) by a very drastic rate. There will be some increase (perhaps by those motorcyclists who now can afford to buy cars) but how much the increase will be is highly dependant on other factors as mentioned above. And there are others costs need to be considered as well – maintenance charges, parking, toll and fuel which will play crucial role on those who wants to drive around in a car on a daily basis.

Final Say

It is easy to say that all of Pakatan’s ideas are bad ideas and throw-in the usual arguments towards it but we need a solid solution for the existing problems as well. In the case of Pakatan’s call for cheaper cars in this country, one would strongly agree that there will be a major impact on the local automotive industry and the revenue for the Government (which Pakatan said is manageable if the general expenses are well managed) but then again, does that mean we should keep the car prices arbitrarily high and keep the people in high debts and away from better quality, safer & a more environment friendly cars?

If the Government is not agreeable in reducing the car price down, then what would be the alternative measures to increase the household disposable income of those who need to use a car for their daily routine and yet a bulk of their income is tied to high car price & loan? A more flexible hire purchase arrangement (like using monthly rest and not Rule 78 or multi tier hire purchase rate) or perhaps some kind of long term cash rebate or sales tax relief for those who drive a more eco-friendly (remember we need to address the targets under the Kyoto Protocol) cars? Or perhaps some staggered tax policy that based on the capacity of the vehicle and net income of the car owner?

Can we have this now? No, not the cheaper price for cars but rather, a better focus of the issues at hand.

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Best Car Service Center?


Read the previous posts on car and car maintenance:-

(The last thing you expect to see in a car service center. Image source: http://hooniverse.com)

It is heartening to hear that Proton have come up with a 60 minutes express service but in my opinion, they should have done this a long time ago.

Sending your car for car service can be a sticky thing. When you buy a new car and if you think the car as something that gets you from A to B, you probably will not be so worried of sending your car for the periodic service (some of you may even get your dad or brother to send the car for service on your behalf). You will send it to the nearest authorized service center, drop off the car and go home after telling them to call once the service done.

But on the other hand, if you think of the car as something more than a tool to get you from A to B, you are going to have a headache. After all, since the car is brand new and you have paid so much for it, the last thing you wish to see is for it to be “man-handled” and getting back the car with scratches and dirty patches here and there. And for those who have done their “homework”, you will know that not authorized car service centers belongs to the car manufacturer. Quite a number belongs to private car service centers.

When I got my very first car, I sent it to a car service center belongs to Proton Edar. It looked like it was the right thing to do. Back in 2004 – 2005, Proton was still struggling in getting out newer models and quality of their cars sucked big time. Their service centers had the same problem. I practically was spending the whole day just to do a simple service and I was rather annoyed and angry at the frequency of the mechanics taking their short breaks. But my complaints to the service center manager fell on deaf ears and the so-called customer service did not improve. All that changed when the warranty expired and I was free to service my car in any car service centers.

A lot of changed since then. Proton’s cars are better built these days although their QA side can use a good overhaul and service centers have now become more customer service focused. I have been to two authorized but private service centers that handle Proton cars in recent times and the experience was quite different than those times in 2004 – 2005.

But then again, how you will define the criteria that make a good car service center? What are the things you look for when deciding that you want to go to Service Center A instead of Service Center B? I don’t know about others but here are some of mine (in NO specific order):-

1. Bring Own Lube

If you head over to some websites like Lowyat, this seems to be the key criteria for most of them. Proton Edar service center which I went to for my first car often uses engine oils from a large container instead of using the usual smaller packages but they do allow their customers to bring in their own lube if they wanted to. Bringing in your lube is nothing to shout about – most service centers allows it, as long as it meets the car’s specifications. The good thing about bringing your lube is simple – there will be leftover after they have used for your car. A couple of services later, you will enough leftovers to fill one whole bottle.

2. Cleanliness

I am not talking about the cleanliness of the workshop or customer waiting area. I am talking about how clean your car will be once the mechanics have done with it. Perodua for example, places disposal papers on the floor and wraps the seat with plastic bag so that the car remains clean. I am not sure about Proton though – my recent service (which was done in a private authorized service center), the mechanic placed a disposal paper on the floor but did nothing to wrap the seats. But the good thing is, they provided quick wash for that and I did not find my car dirtier than before.

3. Waiting Period

How it takes for the car service center to service one car? Proton in their latest announcement says 60 minutes. Pretty good accomplishment if you ask me – I have spent hours in the past. But the trick, I guess it is knowing which service centers have less cars for the day and which day and more importantly making appointment before

4. QC Area

How many of you have seen how your car being serviced? The usual happens – you meet some customer service representatives, explain your problems with the car, the worksheet then get passed to the mechanic who is available (not necessary the best or skilled), the mechanic gets to work and once he done with your car, he parks it and pass back the worksheet back to the customer service representatives who then inform you and collects the payment. Who to check whether the mechanic did a good job?

My first service of my new car, I was outstation and decided to go to the nearest service center and was surprised to see a QC area. My car got serviced and the mechanic instead of parking it in customer’s parking parked it at QC area where a more senior mechanic double checks the worksheet against the work done by the mechanic. He noticed some shortcomings and calls the mechanic over – they go through something and the car then got sent back for the mechanic to complete the job. The car then sent back to the QC area for another round of checking before it is considered work done properly.

5. Technical Explanation

Your car has been serviced and the customer service representative explains what has serviced and what has been replaced and he/she is speaking in Greek. Sounds familiar? They use unknown jargon and technical and if you are not a mechanic yourself or have done your homework, it does not mean anything to you. The best car service centers will actually explain in lay terms of what have been changed – what was the cause of the fault and the impact if the part was not replaced.

6. Customer Waiting Area

Even a simple car service will take at least 30 – 45 minutes to complete. If you have more complaints on the car and they may need to change parts, the waiting time is going to be even longer. So, how you plan to spend the time whilst the mechanics are working on the car? Most authorized service centers have dedicated customer waiting area, fully equipped with a TV, newspapers, magazine, coffee/tea making facilities and well maintained toilets. Most do indeed but some have small waiting area – a couple of sofas (which is not enough for the crowd and most had to contend with standing up or walking around until they get back their car) and that is about it.

One of the best waiting area I have seen is a Perodua service center – the waiting area is not big but it is just next to the service area so we can see through a glass wall what the mechanic is doing without coming out from the air conditioned waiting area.

7. Access to Food & Drinks

I am not talking about the complimentary tea and coffee but a real restaurant or food stall for breakfast or lunch, depending on what time your car service is expected to be completed. Image stuck somewhere at some industrial area without any food stall in the morning, having nothing but complimentary coffee, sitting rather boringly at the small customer waiting area. Damn, I rather sit down at some Mamak Shop, having a hot teh tarik and a smooth roti canai.

8. Complimentary Car Wash

Frankly, this is nothing to shout about but you know what, it is like that cherry on top of the ice cream. The car been serviced, it sounds good, it drives good and with a good car wash, it looks good too.

9. Ability to Identify Problems

You driving your car and you heard a funny sound coming from the left side of the car. You decide to tell about it on your next car service. You explain it to the customer service representative and hope that they will make clear to the mechanic and the mechanic will be able to identify the problem but when you get the car back, the problem is still there. What had happened? Did customer service representative heard your problems wrongly or misunderstood you? Did the mechanic misunderstood the worksheet or was not skillful enough to know what need to be done to fix the problem?

Hmm, that’s about it for now until the next car service. I am pretty sure that others will have different criteria in determining which service center is better (like an uncle I know – he wants to stand next to the mechanic when the mechanic is working on the car)

Recycling a Car


(When you think of Volvo, you will think Sweden, safety and luxury. Now you can add environment friendly to the  Volvo brand.Image source: http://magazine.volvotrucks.com)

The buzz word of the day is recycling and there is no major act from Malaysians to prioritize recycling in daily life.

It was interesting watching “Mega Breakdown” over at the Discovery Channel where a 2 man team breaks down a used Volvo truck and recycles 95% of the truck. What is more interesting is the fact that Volvo actually plans on what can be recycled at the very early stage – during the design stage – when they design a new truck for the market and they aim for 90% recycle rate (and they managed to prove that the 95% cycle rate can be achieved):-

Now, I took a step back and try to reflect the situation right here at home – Malaysia. Just how far we are when it comes to recycling of used vehicles. Our roads are already over choked with vehicles of all shapes and designs. And instead of limiting the cars on the road and improving on the public transports, we instead just extend the existing roads and create new ones. At the end, it only means more cars.

So, what we have done with those cars which had passed its working life? Let’s see – we have used car dealers, the “potong kereta” (half cut) shops and finally scrap metal dealers. These 3 industries do make some impact on how we are able to recycle back the old cars whenever we drop them aside when we opt for new car. But if it comes to high recycle rate, even with an active industries, it is not enough due to several restrictions:-

Used Car Dealers – just how many of us opt to buy used car these days as compared to new cars which is more fuel efficient, safer and bristling with new technology.

Just how many of the used Protons and Peroduas are lying under the sun and rain, rusting away in the many used car dealer’s yard? Too many, I say. So, recycling by means of selling the car to someone else is not a viable option (the model of the car also plays a major role – used BMW or Mercedes Benz for the right price is a heaven sent deal).

Half-cut Shops – they can be a blessing in disguise when we need to replace faulty or damaged parts. for an cheaper but safer alternatives

Whilst it is true that parts purchased from these half-cut shops are not brand new and may conceal hidden damages, it is still better option for those who cannot afford to buy brand new parts from the authorised dealers. For those who want to modify their local assembled cars with higher quality parts from Japan for a reasonable price, half-cut shops is the place to go. Then again, the problem with half-cut shops is this – there is no way to gauge the quality of the parts purchased from them.

Despite some of these parts are original or from a higher quality brand, there is no way to tell when these parts will subsequently fail. And a failed part is not only dangerous but your insurance claim may be deemed null and void as the parts did not come from authorized dealers.

Scrap Metal Dealers – they play an important role when it comes to recycling. Just about anything that can be recycled – old newspapers, old batteries, glass bottles, tin cans, metals, etc, they are the one to go to.

Since we only sells to these dealers, there is no danger of getting faulty parts (although the money earned from selling to scrap metal dealers is chicken feed). The problem however is dismantling. We cannot just drive a car up to the dealer and ask him to dismantle it himself. Firstly, it will be difficult to gauge how to pay for the parts and secondly if dealer do not have the expertise, dismantling is going to be one messy work and may not be environment friendly too (just imagine them throwing away a bucket load of used engine oil into the drain) .

That leaves us to relook at how Volvo does it.

To facilitate recycling, Volvo Trucks produced a dismantling manual back in the mid-1990s. At the design stage, Volvo Trucks already takes account of what is going to happen the day the truck is taken off the road.

The parts in good condition become spare parts; others are recycled or are turned into new energy. To make dismantling effective, the parts have to be easy to remove. All the cables and wiring, for example, are held together with 2,000 plastic clips to make them easy to dismantle.

All the materials are selected with recycling in mind. Using dyed plastic rather than painted plastic is just one of the many details.

(Source: Volvo Trucks)

And Volvo even comes up with a list of items that can be re-used or recycled and that makes it easier (for them and recycling centers) to recycle its trucks and this includes the following:-

Batteries
Around 60 per cent is lead and it is melted down and used to produce new batteries. Some 30 per cent is sulphuric acid, which is neutralized to produce water. The remainder is plastic, which is turned into energy. Good batteries can be re-manufactured and sold.

Brake discs
Can be recycled via smelting.

Bulbs
All the components are recycled after being taken apart.

Cooling media
The gas R134a (HFC) can be re-used after cleaning, if it is not contaminated by oil. R134a which is contaminated by oil can be incinerated and turned into energy.

Electronics
The metal is recycled, while the energy is recovered from the plastic.

Engine
The metal is melted down and turned into new engines. Engines in good condition can be re-manufactured.

Glass
Can be fully recycled through smelting.

Glycol
Can be re-used if the quality is high. Otherwise, it is neutralized and turned into water by adding bacteria.

Metal
Iron, steel, aluminum, copper and bronze are materials with a high value. They are recycled to a level of almost 100 per cent via smelting.

Oil and oil filters
High-quality oil can be re-used. Contaminated oil can be used as energy in the cement industry, for example. Oil filters can be recycled to a level of 90 per cent. They are centrifuged to separate the oil, which is recycled through purification. The metal and plastic are melted down or are turned into energy.

Silencers
Old silencers are melted down. Silencers from Euro 4 and onwards contain a ceramic substrate and an active element, in addition to metal. The metal is recycled; while the ceramic substrate is melted down, thus enabling the metal it contains to be recovered. The active element is also recycled via smelting.

Textiles
Incinerated and turned into energy.

Tyres and rubber
Tyres can be reconditioned, turned into blasting mats or road cones or sent for energy recovery in the cement industry. Rubber of other kinds, such as hoses and gaskets, is turned into energy.

Re-use = sold as spare parts or re-manufactured and sold with a warranty
Recycling = melted down or cleaned to be turned into new products
Energy recovery = incineration that results in energy for smelting plants, the cement industry or district heating. Dangerous substances are neutralized with chemical additives and treatment

(Source: Volvo Trucks)

So, whilst the used car dealers, half-cut shops and scrap metal dealers are doing their part to “recycle” the old cars in the country, it is certainly not enough to “clear away” the old cars for upcoming newer models. Of course, the more viable thing to do is to improve on our public transportation system and get more people to use the public transport than cars. But we will still be faced with disposed old cars.

So, as how Volvo been working on recycling of its trucks since the mid 1990s, will the local car assemblers namely Proton and Perodua look into active recycling of its cars? After all, if they are able to recycle the parts of the old cars, it can be re-used in their newer cars. Cost of the recycling may take some good calculations and profitability may be slim. But what is more important is that we would able to recycle the old cars and preserves our environment.

Further, with active participation of the car manufacturers themselves, the secondary recycling industry may just get the boost they need to invest for more recycling centers, technology and increased rate of recycle.  So, instead of focusing on designing electric and hybrid cars, let’s focus on recycling of the older cars first.

Proton Wira in Hollywood


In case you have missed this whilst watching “The Hurt Locker”…

Does the back view of the orange colored car looks very familiar?

This scene for the movie was shot in Jordan and as we all know Proton exports the car to Jordan. But the funny thing is it says “Mitsubishi” on back of that Proton Wira. Is it another way to get Jordanians to buy Proton cars? Perhaps similar with us buy Proton thinking we are getting Lotus technology for dirt cheap price.

Fuelling Stupidity


(Photo source: http://skiingthealps.com)

Just assuming that this is what was truly said, it just reaffirms the notion that stupid statements can also comes from anyone including the oppositions.

From theStar:-

JOHOR BARU: A two-tier fuel pricing system for foreign registered vehicles will adversely affect the economy of the city.

Johor DAP chairman Dr Boo Cheng Hau said such a move would inconvenience both foreigners and local businesses dependent on the Singaporean clientele.

Johor DAP vice-chairman Norman Fernandez urged the Government to weigh the cost of restricting Singaporeans to unsubsidized petrol against the economic losses suffered by traders.

Meanwhile, Senai assemblyman Ong Kow Meng said that a two-tier pricing system would breach international free trade agreements.

“We will also be the laughing stock internationally if we implement the two-tier pricing system,” he said, adding that Petronas should instead pay for the subsidized fuel.

Stupid Statements

What the DAP politicians is trying to say here?

Continue to give subsidized fuel to foreigners, at the expense of Malaysians’ public fund? Whilst a complete ban of fuel to foreigners will be of inconvenience and should be restudied but if it means having 2 tier pricing system where subsidized fuel is for Malaysians and unsubsidized fuel is for foreigners, then it is workable.

Two tier pricing system is the right way to go to stop the indirect leakages of Malaysian’s public funds to foreigners.

Foreigners should be allowed to unsubsidized fuel but a strict enforcement must be made to ensure that subsidized fuel is off-bound to foreigners. Where is the breach of international free trade agreements if foreigners are allowed to obtain fuel from Malaysia but at actual market rate?

Allowing foreigners to enjoy subsidized fuel is not only deemed unfair to Malaysians but should also be taken as high treason (why? it is almost like giving away money to foreigners).

Two tier pricing system will not cause us to be laughing stock but stupid statements by “publicity desperate” politicians will.

Why now?

In Malaysiakini, it was reported that RM1.2 billion was spent subsidising fuel sales at petrol stations located near the borders of Thailand and Singapore and 80% of the fuel was sold to foreign-owned vehicles. So, the ban will allow a saving up to RM1.0 billion.

RM1.0 billion is a lot of money and that is what the foreigners took from Malaysians in day broad light. Just imagine how much was subsidised for last 10 years? Why the Government didn’t implemented the 2 tier pricing system long time ago?

We could have saved billions of ringgit in subsidy and perhaps re-route the amount to national development.

Alternative enforcements

Nothing has been said by the Government on the measures taken to reduce the rampant smuggling of the subsidised fuel from this country. Ban of fuel along the border will only increase smuggling activities and while the enforcement agencies will be on the lookout for these smugglers, what the Government have done to tighten the screw on the smugglers?

Has the punishment for smuggling been increased? Has the enforcement been beefed up to curtail the rampant smuggling? If we are subsidising RM1.0 billion at the petrol stations near the borders, then definitely we are “subsidising” even more to the smugglers.

The bigger picture

The international fuel price is only going to go up and Malaysians must be prepared to fork out more for fuel. With Malaysia going to be a net fuel importer soon, forget about cheap fuel in Malaysia – even with high subsidy & tight enforcement.

The question that remains is what the government have done to ensure that continuity of national development and welfare of the people in light of the high fuel price – alternative source of fuel (what happened to the bio fuel hype?), reduction of shortages, improvement of public transport, re-rationalisation of the roads & highways, fuel saving vehicles and more.

Of course, there is always the option of “change of lifestyle” – not the type that the Government often asks us to do but don’t do the same themselves. I am talking about changing the way we drive and getting that fuel to last longer.

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