Sunday, May 31, 2009

Master of Puppets

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2009/05/29/BAET17SV0U.DTL&o=2

OpenSourceCivicEV: Moving the Instrumentaiton

Since the Synkromotive controller has its own motor speed limiter based on input directly from the Zolox sensor, I decided to clean up the instrumentation by removing the RPM gauge and moving the Link-10 E-meter onto the dashboard. While this removes some of the "coolness" factor without a tach, I like the more simplistic look as I tend to be a minimalist.Here's the empty pillar pod with the gauges and wiring removed. I'll probably run the local Civic used-parts store and simply get a piece of replacement trim.Here's where I moved the E-meter to. I can actually see it quite well when driving. It's sitting in the same hole where the defroster button used to sit. I simply carved a rectagular hole in the dash and moved the defrost switch down a few inches. It protrudes a bit, but still works fine.In addition to moving the gauges, I wired up the "oil" light to the warning light on the Synkromotive controller. The oil light requires it's input wire to pull down to ground. Since the motor controller puts out a +12V signal when there's a fault, I used a simple transistor circuit (see the schematic at the end of this post) and drove the transistor gate through a 3.3K ohm resistor.

PlugsCars: Snarky CNBC report on "obsessed" Mini E driver

The first consumer with a Mini E lease, Peter Trepp, was interviewed on CNBC. The vroom- obsessed anchor concludes with an erroneous and unprofessional "gotcha" about coal. The report exudes such bias, you may want to let CNBC know how you feel here.

OpenSourceCivicEV: Synkromotive Potbox Issues and Temperature Faults

Over the past week, I've been able to give the Synkromotive controller some good real-world experience during my commute. The controller is very smooth and has several parameters to keep the battery pack healthy. I also like that the Synkro controller doesn't tap off the main pack for part of its power supply which has led to pack imbalances in the past. You can see several voltage-current graphs on the Synkromotive website here. Click on SynkView at the bottom. You'll have to install MS Silverlight to see the graphs. Click on Logfiles/Civic and then an .XML file on the right to see various drives.One major issue I had was that the car tended to lurch when first starting up. This isn't too bad on the freeway, but can be a real pain when in stop-and-go traffic. Last Thursday I was driving home in hot weather in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway in the middle lane. The car seemed to get progressively worse during the drive home with its "lurch-starting."About 2/3 of the way home, the controller faulted and just stopped the car dead in the middle of the freeway. I attempted to clear the fault and get the car started again by turning the ignition key off and on. I must have been impatient (sometimes it takes a full six seconds for the controller to precharge and be ready), but I wasn't able to clear the fault. Traffic was slow, and two kind men helped me push the car off the left side of the road. This was a somewhat unnerving experience, but I guess it's part of the game when trying out a Beta-test motor controller. After propping open the hood, removing the primary 12V power from the controller and hard-booting it, it seemed to start up again and I drove the rest of the way home.The beta controller units have been having a few issues with noisy temperature sensors. During initial acceleration, the electrical noise tends to cause a spike in the temperature sensors, causing the controller to shut down. After I got home from this incident, I observed some of the potbox inputs (Ainput in the Smi window) and realized that I have a really crummy PB5 potbox. The resistance goes from zero ohms and jumps up erratically to 400 ohms or so and then goes smoothly up to 5K. With this new information, I was able to set the "zero throttle" point above the 400 ohm point which makes acceleration much smoother and bypasses the glitches in the potbox.Yesterday, I was driving someone home in the Civic. Again, it was a hot day and we were in stop-and-go traffic. The controller faulted again and shut the car down. Fortunately my friend, who was in a hurry, could walk the remaining eight blocks home while I rebooted the system. Ives at Synkromotive gave me some updated firmware with some extra noise filtering on the temperature sensors. After running the car through the same route with the new firmware and doing some extra stop-and-go testing, I couldn't get the controller to fault again. We'll see what happens the rest of the week.Despite the faulting condition, I've been extremely happy with the power, smoothness, logging and programmability of the Synkromotive controller. This is going to be a really good product when it hits the shelves in July.

OpenSourceCivicEV: Going to the Electrathon/HPV Event at PIR

Last weekend, I took the Civic-EV to Portland International Raceway to show it off at the Electrathon/Human-Powered Vehicles event there. Memorial Day weekend is the one weekend that PIR can't make any loud noises, so they actively recruit electric vehicles and bicycles of all types to race.Here's Gary's Honda Insight EV with lithium ion batteries and an Siemens AC motor.This shows some of the velomobiles (encased recliner cycles) present at the event. They really fly.Here's my humble Civic next to Paul B's Corbin Sparrow.It was really hot that weekend, but the new controller held up well on the freeway.

Something wicked (fun!) this way comes…

CocoEco-Tesla
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CocoEco-Tesla-B
 
This is the first in the CocoEco series, published for the holiday issue last December. (For the full story, see “The Hero and the Sidekick“.)
So many automakers are unveiling electric concept cars these days that the irony almost no longer registers- for all sorts of reasons, the future is pretty clearly electric. But the folks at Tesla Motors, a San Carlos-based company infused with both Silicon Valley talent and funding, aren’t nearly that patient. Earlier this year, they began customer deliveries of the Roadster, a two-seat convertible that was unveiled two years ago and whose Signature edition sold out in two weeks. At $109,000 for the base 2009 model and with a year-long waiting list, this car’s more than a bit out of my range- which does absolutely nothing to temper my appreciation of it, even more than three years after my first giddy test drive. 
In its own way, the Roadster is a sleeper. Not that it doesn’t get noticed; passers-by seem to be compelled by an inaudible “Psst, over here” to check it out, if only to see what “it” is. Premised on a Lotus Elise chassis that has been lengthened, stiffened and re-skinned such that the Tesla engineers visibly blanch at comparisons to the original Lotus, the Roadster has clearly held on to its sporty roots. Still, it also emanates a more cultivated sex appeal- more Maserati-subtle than Lamborghini-in your face, and yet distinctive from anything else. That it’s electric is mentioned almost as an aside in the silence it leaves behind…but to underestimate this car as a golf cart would be a blushing mistake.  
For the gearheads out there, the Roadster is powered by a 248-horsepower (185kW), 3-phase AC motor. Those familiar with fast cars know that when acceleration is your goal, it’s not really about horsepower- it’s about torque- and the watermelon-sized power plant deploys 276 foot-pounds of thrust to move a car just shy of 2,700 lbs. The biggest experiential difference between an electric car and a gas-powered one is that that torque is available at any speed, meaning that the Roadster is just as fast off the line from a stop light as it is accelerating around that hypermiling Prius on the freeway- with a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph to show for it. Which pretty much makes this car the vehicular equivalent of the suggestive, if slightly naughty, best friend sure to egg you on at every opportunity. I don’t care if you don’t think yourself a car person- plant your right foot on the accelerator with a clear patch of road ahead of you, and you’ll enjoy the true meaning of “visceral reaction”. It holds its own on curves as well- the promise of the twists and turns on the Sepulveda detour through the pass makes me wish for traffic on the 405 when I’m in this car.
Thanks to fanatical attention to saving weight in the rest of the vehicle (weight being the enemy of range), the Roadster boasts a range of 221 miles per charge from its 900-lb battery pack, depending on your right foot. My range would likely be considerably less- but oh how little I’d care. Drive more conservatively, and regenerative braking system will recover energy as you coast downhill and to stops, increasing your range by up to 20%. Given that the average person only drives about 30 miles per day, a few dollars’ worth of electricity would provide a week’s worth of pleasurable commuting- something few cars can provide at any cost. 
The Roadster comes with most of the creature comforts one would expect from a car in that price range: heat and a/c, power windows and locks, heated leather seats (microfiber also available), cruise control, iPod compatibility, touch screen info display, Homelink. A Crayola box of paint colors offer something for every personality, and the home charging system will refuel the Roadster for its next adventure while you sleep, in as little as 3.5 hours. Just like a conventional car, you’re welcome to kick the tires (though I’d try to wrangle a test drive instead) at stores in Santa Monica and Menlo Park, CA, with one on the way in New York. 
Unless you have a very special relationship with Santa, the Tesla Roadster might have to remain on your wish list this year, as it will mine. But the team is already working on the next model: a 4-door sedan priced at $60,000, expected for delivery in 2011. But as cool as Tesla’s cars are, the truly exciting part about the company may be its catalytic effect on the industry- an upstart company in California, pitching a thinly-veiled dare to the majors to jump in the deep end of the pool. In the meantime, the nice people at Tesla are proving very tolerant of me pressing my nose to the glass as I lust after their firstborn. I’m looking forward to meeting its siblings. 
 
 

Top six tips for surviving post-peak oil gas-archy

SF Classic Cars ExaminerBy Owen B. RayThe debate continues to rage as to the exact date when “peak oil” production will occur, and some of the doomsayers claim that oil production may peak during our lifetimes. The resulting decline in reserves will supposedly cause massive shortages, and the world will generally burst into flames and fall into a state of Mad Max-style apocalyptic anarchy. In case you haven’t been watching the Discovery Channel lately, “the term peak oil refers to the maximum rate of the production of oil…recognizing that it is a finite natural resource, subject to depletion," says Colin Campbell, founder of The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. The day we start to suck the wells dry is open to debate, but there is no doubt that we’ll be bent over again by OPEC and the oil companies as they extract money from our pockets as fast as they pull oil from the ground.When we have to get all Thunderdome-y to get gas, what are V-8 loving horsepower junkies like ourselves supposed to do? Doing anything with batteries other than using one to start the car is like putting a steak in the microwave, and even thinking about it is cause to be backhanded. (I’m lookin’ at you Neil Young.) The solution has to be loud, go fast, burn something and preferably retain the internal combustion engine. I have come up with the top six totally unscientific and completely non-reality based solutions to get us through dryer times.6. Bio-ethanol: The only reason that bio-eth is on the list is because standard gasoline engines can be converted to run on it with relative ease. However, that is the end of the appeal to ethanol. Producing fuel from anything that simultaneously jacks the price of food and booze is endlessly stupid no matter how you shake it, and producing ethanol results in a massive net energy loss. Overall ethanol sucks, but it is kind of like drinking Budweiser: you’d do it if it were the only way to get by.5. Used veggie oil diesel: The veggie oil diesel engine seems like decent idea, and heavily turbocharged, it could even be a little smoke-belching fun. Twin-turbo Powerstoke diesel in a 1966 Lincoln Conti, anyone? Don’t mind if I do. But once everyone catches on and starts pouring yesterday’s tallow in their tanks you won’t be able to get your greasy hands on the stuff no matter how many times a week you try wearing out the fry oil at your neighborhood McDonalds.4. Drill baby, drill: Peak oil, what peak oil? Drill up the ocean, Lake Tahoe, the Grand Canyon, hell put some wells at 16th and Mission and one in my living room if that is what it takes. Just keep on suckin’ till the world shrivels up like an octogenarian’s butt cheeks. OK, I don’t really approve of this tactic but I really, really love cheap gasoline, but I also really, really think Sarah Palin is Satan’s bastard love child.3. Hobo-diesel: The most controversial but likely the best local solution to an oil shortage in cities like San Francisco is to make fuel out of the homeless. They are naturally high in alcohol and have a decent 89.4 octane rating, but there are some problems with noxious exhaust before and after refining. Hobo-diesel experts say that we can solve chronic homelessness and a fuel shortage in one fell swoop. However, those pesky “human rights” groups will likely whine about this until we get tired of the smell of patchouli and have to give up.2. Hoarding: Hoard now and hoard hard. The 100,000 gallon above-ground fuel tank in your backyard will have the landlord and your neighbors up in arms, but give them a ride to Ikea every once and a while and they will pipe down. The big problem here is the initial investment required to start the hoarding, but get some friends together, have a couple of bake sales and prostitute yourself a little bit and you can make it happen. Be sure to have some heavy weaponry to keep the masses away from your stash when all hell breaks loose.1. Wishful thinking: Gas is going to get more expensive? Dude, how about you put down the crack pipe! This stuff is going to be around forever and it is just going to get cheaper. Mad Max was cool and everything, but we don’t need to get all Al Gore about it. The stuff literally comes out of the freakin’ ground! How much can they possibly charge for it?

How much is that Mini in the window?

2009.01-02_CocoEco_pg94-MINI-E_A
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2009.01-02_CocoEco_pg96-MINI-E_B
This is the second in the CocoEco series…(see “The Hero and the Sidekick” for full explanation.)
 
Given the history, I’m not typically one who would sign up for an automaker’s electric car “experiment” without a few details. But when BMW announced that it will be the first major car company bringing electric cars back to the roads of Los Angeles and the New York metro area, with 500 people selected to drive them, I didn’t take much convincing. Sure, I’m feeling the irony of spending years cheerleading for plug-in vehicles but having a (gasoline) Saturn in my driveway- and sure, I’ve fairly openly challenged most of the car guys I know to see which company might be first to help me remedy that…but I still want to know what’s behind door #3 before I commit to it, right?
Usually that’s the case. But I knew going in all I really needed to about the Mini E, even before BMW released the specs- and that was that a little company tucked in the foothills of northern Los Angeles was doing the drivetrain. AC Propulsion, or “ACP” to fans, has left its fingerprints on most performance-oriented electric cars in the last twenty years, among them the EV1, Fetish, Wrightspeed and yes- Tesla. It pays the rent by converting unassuming, boxy Scion xB’s into asphalt-eating sleepers that send Mustangs back to the kids’ table. So I knew that even if the Mini E wasn’t designed to set records, it was going to be a fun little car. Still, I figured that I ought to at least drive it before I sign on the dotted line, should I be chosen- and certainly before I write about it here. So I called Tom Gage, President of ACP, and invited him to lunch…I even offered to drive. 
Based on early descriptions, I expected the Mini E to be the dorkiest-looking thing on four wheels. The entire fleet will come in one color, a dark metallic silver adorned with- I kid you not- bright yellow graphic plugs on the roof and body panels. The interior is carbon-colored leather and cloth, with the same yellow accents. Not exactly a lust-inspiring combination. But in person, this bi-polar personality of the “I’m serious about saving the world” darker tones with the pure “hey, wanna go play?” brightness actually works- the Mini E looks as stubbornly optimistic as the people who will drive it.
The driving experience is as fun as I expected- like a puppy, the Mini EV has moments of being unsure of itself, but it seems perpetually ready for adventure. It’s nearly 600 pounds heavier than its gasoline counterpart thanks to a 35kWh battery pack (that little addition also takes the car from 4 seats to 2), but the weight is low and centered across the rear axle and the suspension fortified, so it’ll take a hard corner without the back end getting squirrelly. The 150kW (204 horsepower) AC motor more than compensates for the extra weight, and while it rates a respectable-but-not-mind-blowing 8.5 seconds from 0-60, an abundance of torque makes it quick off the line. Its top speed of 95mph is faster than you’ll be able to drive in either LA or New York. My only technical complaint is that the accelerator is squishier than a 5 year-old’s sneakers after a puddle jump- but once firmly engaged, the watermelon-sized power plant is downright enthusiastic. The Mini E also features the regenerative braking that we expect from electric drivetrains; letting off the accelerator slows the vehicle and feeds energy back into the batteries. However, the “regen” is much stronger in the Mini E than other hybrids and plug-in cars, so there’s little need to actually touch the brake pedal at all. Adjusting the aforementioned travel in the accelerator will also allow more subtle control of this blend between stop and go, but it’s still deeply satisfying, especially for those of us who still drive manual trans. 
As impressive as the car is, there is a bit of overpromising on BMW’s part: the 156-mile advertised range “under ideal conditions” will realistically be closer to 100. (For some reason, most automakers fall prey to this temptation to err on the idealistic side in the one place they shouldn’t.) Charging time, optimistically rated at 3 hours on a 48-amp circuit, is closer to 6-8 hours on a regular 240-volt circuit- but since most people charge at night anyhow, the difference will be transparent to the drivers whose cars will still be full in the morning. 
The Mini E will lease for $850/month for 1 year, with no option to purchase- it’s an experiment, after all. (While that price does include maintenance and collision insurance, it’s far more than I would reasonably pay to solve my little irony problem, though I rationalize it as a great demo car for my foundation’s educational work.) And while cheeky, the application was a bit like an automotive Rorschach test; it makes the much-maligned process of getting an EV1 look simple. Above all, BMW clearly wants to make sure I’ll willingly give this car back at the end of the year-so much so that I’m asked to confirm that fact at least three times in the hour-long survey that also wants to know my three favorite inventors and exactly which social networks I’m a member of. It’s an intriguing intersection of California earnestness and elitist German attitude- they overthink it a bit, but not surprisingly there are an abundance of people game for the process.  
At the end of my drive in the Mini E, I was reminded of another aspect of puppies employed my marketing folk everywhere: you let someone play with one, and they never want to give it back. And I didn’t- it’s a compelling car, and the program offers great opportunity for BMW to gain both engineering learning and ambassadors for the technology and the brand. And I’m happy to help with both- but right now, I just want to go on another adventure.

An Inconvenient Talk

The WalrusDave Hughes’s guide to the end of the fossil fuel ageBy Chris TurnerDave Hughes is driving north on Highway 2. Headed out of Calgary, where he worked for thirty-two years at the Geological Survey of Canada, mapping the nation’s coal reserves. Bound for Edmonton, where he grew up and earned two degrees in geology. It’s not yet dawn, the sky deep black and the windows of his pickup truck like mirrors, the southbound lanes a line of smeared headlights as long-haul commuters make the trek the other way into the capital of the oil patch. Hughes sips coffee from a reusable mug, fighting back sleepiness. Just another commuter trailing a cloud of burnt dinosaur bones on his way to work.Dave had to start out fifteen minutes earlier than the requisite ungodly hour so he could pick you up at your house. So you wouldn’t drive yourself. Save a few hydrocarbons, he’d joked. He’s a coal man, a geologist, and he always refers to the holy trinity of fossil fuels whose flames have stoked the past 200 years of industrial growth — coal, natural gas, and especially oil — in that same semi-technical way: hydrocarbons. Dave Hughes has a lot to say about hydrocarbons, mainly how there’s no possible way to keep running the engine of a modern global economy for much longer at the pace we’re burning them. Which is why you felt compelled to join him in the black chill of this late-autumn morning. Because that seems like a pretty big deal.Dave came right to the curb out in front of your house, your personal chauffeur, because you said you were interested in hearing his talk a second time, and he’ll do his level best to bring his talk to just about anyone who asks. The Talk, he usually calls it, and you can tell it has been a proper noun in his head for a good long while now. Somewhere between that first lecture back in 2002 at the University of Calgary and the 155th, the one he’ll give later today at a Natural Resources Canada research facility outside Edmonton, it became his passion, his quiet crusade, his data-freighted inconvenient truth. The Talk. One hundred fifty-four times. Geoscience symposia and energy industry summits and sustainability conferences. The Greater Vancouver Regional District and the Nova Scotia chambers of commerce. A petroleum trade show in Inuvik and a renewable energy confab in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Canadian Institute’s Coalbed Methane Symposium and the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. The audiences vary, but The Talk only tightens, takes on layers, attains a porous firmness like sedimentary stone. It is crowded with hard facts, and it is intended to overwhelm audiences with its certainty. It’s a reality check, a doozy of a reality check, and Dave doesn’t have much time these days for anyone who won’t face this reality.Talk No. 147 took place at an urban sustainability forum at the Westin Hotel in Calgary. That’s where you first saw it. The title slide read “The Energy Sustainability Dilemma: Powering the Future in a Finite World,” and identified its presenter as J. David Hughes. Since then, you, too, have come to think of it as The Talk, and its author simply as Dave. Dave was on the bill that day with such dignitaries as the mayor of Calgary and the premier of Alberta. The officials talked about how to turn this boom town into a place that was “all things energy,” but nothing they said had any real resonance after The Talk. When the provincial sustainable resources minister came up to congratulate himself for setting aside some new provincial parkland on the edge of the city, it was as if he’d just awakened from cryogenic freezing, blipped in from some ancient time long before the existence of the world described in The Talk.The Talk is in essence a constantly updated survey of the state of the planet through a hydrocarbon geologist’s eyes. It plows methodically through reams of energy-geek data. World Conventional Oil and Oil Sands Reserves, 1980–2007. Energy Profit Ratio for Liquid Hydrocarbons. Canadian Gas Deliverability Scenarios from All Sources. The small-font notes at the bottom of each PowerPoint slide enumerate sources that read like a general anaesthetic in print form: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, EIA International Energy Outlook. Pie charts and bar graphs with several rainbows’ worth of colour and an overabundance of italicized and all-capped words: “The absolute first priority,” that kind of thing. (By the way, it should be “to reduce energy consumption as soon as possible.”)The Talk is all kinds of policy-wonky. Your eyes could glaze over. You could even miss the two slides Dave always says are the only ones you must remember. The first is a single-line graph depicting “World Per Capita Annual Primary Energy Consumption by Fuel 1850–2007,” which climbs by 761 percent over its 157-year timeline and flips from 82 percent renewable biomass (mostly wood) at the 1850 end to 89 percent non-renewables (almost entirely fossil fuels) at the 2007 end. The second critical slide has three line graphs in horizontal sequence, all tracking curves that begin in 1850, around the time humanity started drilling for oil in a serious way, and then spiking impossibly high at the right-hand, 2007 termini of their X axes. Global population today: 5.3 times global population in 1850. Per capita energy consumption today: 8.6 times that of 1850. Total energy consumption today: 45 times 1850’s.You could also miss the way these figures resonate with The Talk’s voluminous data on oil and natural gas and coal reserves. You could miss how our current trajectory obliges us to rely on hydrocarbons for 86 percent of our projected primary energy needs in 2030, and how that fits with the strong case Hughes makes that the global hydrocarbon peak (the point at which global energy supply will begin an irrevocable decline, making the energy price shocks of the past couple of years start to look like the good old days) is estimated to occur nine years before that date.Here’s the upshot: if you plan to drive a car or heat a house or light a room in 2030, The Talk is telling you your options will be limited, to say the least. Even if you’re convinced climate change is UN-sponsored hysteria or every last puff of greenhouse gas will soon be buried forever a mile underground or ducks look their best choking on tar sands tailings, Dave Hughes is saying your way of life is over. Not because of the clouds of smoke, you understand, but because we’re running out of what makes them.Click to Continue…

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Solar Bike FAQ

What is the solar panel for? Would you believe it's for charging my iPod? Mostly it's charging a battery that runs a motor. Think human-electric hybrid. On long trips, I only use it for extra help up hills. On short trips, I use it to boost my speed and reduce pedaling effort. Imagine commuting 10 miles without breaking a sweat. Imagine riding a bike which pulls its own weight up hills so that it feels weightless. Do you really have to pedal? While it's possible to ride shorter distances on flat ground without pedaling, I wouldn't want to. I started this project because I like cycling but I don't like climbing steep hills. This is still a bicycle. If I didn't want to pedal, I would have built a solar electric scooter. Did you build it yourself? Yes and no. The bike frame is an HP Velotechnik Street Machine GTe touring recumbent. Most of the other components, like the motor kit, are off-the-shelf items. The lightweight, aerodynamic solar electric module is a one of a kind custom job I designed and built. Can you charge the batteries while pedaling? I get this one a lot. In theory, it is possible. In reality, it takes a lot of effort to generate a useful amount of electricity. Imagine riding a bike with the brakes on all the time. How fun would that be? But what about regenerative breaking down hills and in stop-and-go traffic? Regenerative braking (using the motor as brakes and using the generated energy to charge the batteries) has attained near-mythical status as a source of free, non-polluting energy. It's like the Holy Grail of energy conservation. Regenerative braking makes sense on an electric car because a car is heavy and has a lot of momentum. Because a bicycle is so much lighter, regenerative braking would only add 2-3% to the battery's range. The added cost and weight simply aren't justified. In my case, I'm using a mid-drive motor with a freewheel on it which allows me to pedal without using the motor or motor without pedaling or do both at the same time. It's a very efficient, safe set-up and has very little motor drag when pedaling. However, the wheels cannot turn the motor. To add regenerative braking I would have to change to a completely different drive system where the motor is integrated into the wheel hub.BionX makes an electric bike conversion kit with a regenerative braking option. It's easier to implement this on a hub motor rather than the mid-drive motor I'm using. For the technically-minded, here's a great article with lots of numbers for a more comprehensive analysis: Regenerative braking and electric bicycles (PDF) . What's with the funny looking bike? Oh, the recumbent? In the earliest days of this design, I envisioned a large, flat solar panel with the rider sitting in a hole in the middle. Here's a sketch of that idea. I though I would need a low, stable three-wheeled platform to carry such a large panel. I figured the panel would need to be that big because I read that a cyclist uses 100 to 200 watts of energy while pedaling and I imagined being able to cruise all day without getting tired. I have since figured out that I don't need a 200 watt panel but that I do need a battery. The panel placement and design have undergone a least a hundred changes since the start of this project. Eventually, I may build a custom bike using carbon fiber composite construction to make it lighter. How fast can it go?

  • 52 mph (84 km/h) top speed coasting downhill
  • 15-30 mph (24-48 km/h) pedaling with power assist on flat ground
  • 20 mph (32 km/h) batteries driving motor, flat ground, no pedaling (this is the legal limit in California)
  • 8 mph (13 km/h) projected top speed on solar power alone in full sun, no batteries, no pedaling

What's the range?

  • 34 miles (55 km) on a full charge using just the batteries
  • 20-25 miles (30-40 km) a day on solar power with my current solar module (cloudless day in Northern California in May)
  • 40-60 miles (65-95 km) a day on solar power after I finish my next module
  • Up to 150 miles (240 km) a day starting with full batteries, given ideal sun conditions all day between June and August with my current 40 watt module in the rear and a second 60 watt module in the front (under construction). All of these numbers assume mostly flat terrain. Hill climbing can cut all of these numbers in half.

Are you an engineer? Nope. Would you believe first semester engineering school drop-out? Basically, I'm just stubborn. I refuse to believe it couldn't be done. How much did it cost? About US$ 0.25/mile, assuming it lasts 20,000 miles. I have put 3,100 miles on it so far. Put another way, I've spent enough on research and development to buy two or three really nice carbon fiber road bikes.

Don't see your question here? Drop me a note in the comments.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Hero and the Sidekick

PrintFor a while now, I’ve been writing an auto column for a relatively new magazine called CocoEco. The magazine itself is everything I’m not- up on the latest trends, chic, polished, girly…but they’ve been kind enough to not only include a voice like mine, but have given me relatively free reign on the car stuff. Past articles covered the smart (gas version), Tesla Roadster, and Mini E- the latter two of which several folks have asked me to re-post here at some point. But the latest issue just came out today, and includes the Mitsubishi iMiev! To see the original article, go to www.cocoecomag.com (pg 104) but since I can’t link directly to the article, I’m also including it here.
Our intent is to mix it up a bit on the cars- PZEVs, hybrids, PHEVs, EVs, etc, as well as to  balance between high and lower-end, and between currently available and what’s coming. So if there’s something on your wish list, let me know!
And a special thanks to Dave Patterson not only for getting me behind the wheel, but being good natured about me calling him  a jackass…
The Hero and the Sidekick
Dave Patterson can be a humble guy. “Everyone wants to see the iMiev, I’m just the jackass that comes with it”, he says, without a trace of sarcasm. Where it goes, he tends to go. I’ve known Dave as Mistubishi’s electric vehicle champion for several years since meeting him at a depressingly small alternative fuels auto show in Santa Monica. As unassuming as the car he loves, he informed me then that it was his mission to bring their new EV to the United States- notable, since that wasn’t his job. Officially, Dave is the Senior Manager of Regulatory Affairs, focusing largely on the emissions of small performance-oriented cars like the Evo that his company is most known for. But as he’s chaperoned his elongated jelly bean of a car around the country, he’s learned first hand that if given the chance, people will love something non-polluting just as much.



In automotive world, Mitsubishi acts much like the proverbial middle child, carving out ways to be noticed against companies like Honda and Toyota. In this case, that involved being one of the first automakers to announce its entry into the electric vehicle market after years of the entire industry stonewalling against them. While the iMiev (“i-meev”) was originally intended solely for the Japanese market, it quickly gained a following here as well. Dave’s self-appointed challenge is to amplify consumer demand so it reaches the ears of those who run the program and affects their decisions. In the meantime, there was a car that needed driving, and I was just the girl to do it.



Dave flipped me the keys and had me drive to the Thai restaurant that was the thinly-veiled excuse for my visit (hey, I’m a simple girl). Afterward, we went on an extended drive. If the Tesla Roadster is the sleek leather pants of electric cars, the iMiev is your favorite pair of blue jeans: familiar, reliable, easy. This isn’t to say that the car isn’t fun, because it is- but it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. Its 47kW, 64hp motor isn’t huge- but then, even with seating for four, neither is the car. It accelerates confidently- even a bit faster than I expected, easily achieves highway speeds, and handles adequately- but it doesn’t claim to be performance-oriented. The prototype I drove gets about 70 miles of range per charge on less than $2 of electricity, though Mitsubishi is hoping to increase that somewhat by the time the car goes into true production. Like other electric vehicles, it can be charged at home in a few hours. In short, it’s the microwave oven of cars- not what you’d take on a trip to Vegas, but a highly capable, totally pleasant daily commuter vehicle with room for errands and trips to soccer. And because it uses space efficiently enough to feel roomier inside than it appears on the outside, it’s easy to maneuver and park in the most compact of spaces.



Mitsubishi remains open-minded, even slightly irreverent about the deployment of the iMiev, entertaining consumer demand wherever it lies. In one such example, a carbon-neutral utility in New Zealand called Meridian Energy had been trying to bring electric cars to the Kiwis for a year. But even with a national commitment, their market simply isn’t large enough to attract the attention of most automakers. Knowing an underdog when they see it, Mitsubishi stepped in and sent a demo fleet to help Meridian move their research and education efforts along while waiting for production cars. Unsurprisingly, the Kiwis fell in love with the endearingly pod-like cars and didn’t want to give them back- people around the world suggested that they shouldn’t, crafting all sorts of wild PR stunts around the iMiev. In the end, the cars were returned- but not before a crowd of people showed up to cover the cars with handwritten notes of praise.



Closer to home, Dave got his wish, at least in part. Mitsubishi announced just last month that they will indeed bring the iMiev to the US by 2012. They don’t have all the answers yet (pricing, for example, hasn’t been announced), but nor are they allowing themselves to be paralyzed by that fact. For now, they’ll be starting in Portland, another area looking to make its mark in electric transport- but if history is any indication, they’re open to other areas that make themselves heard. Sounds like an invitation if I ever heard one.



There’s no question that the stakes are high for Mitsubishi- every innovative program lives in a fishbowl to a certain extent, and the attitude of those involved reflect their awareness that they need to get it right. And for Dave, this program is deeply personal- his self-deprecation aside, he’s clearly a true believer hoping for a happy ending. He’s so refreshingly earnest that I can’t help but root for him, but it’ll be a while before we know if simply being a force for good is enough.



At the end of the day, I begrudgingly got back into my own car and left Dave and his iMiev standing in the driveway, the hero and the sidekick… But I’m still not entirely sure which was which.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Environmoto: Brammo Enertia TTR Revealed!

Wow! The first photos we've seen of the actual Enertia TTR race bike in Best Buy livery. It's on!Great article on Wired, Autopia with all the details on the bike, more photos, and the Best Buy relationship. More to come...Source: Cycle World's Matthew Miles, and Brammo's Craig Bramscher via Twitter

From one extreme…

My husband and I have a long-running playful competition going of who has driven more cool, concept, prototype or otherwise interesting electric vehicles. Yesterday, at the Electrifying North Carolina conference, I drove this- an interesting paradox to the Volt test drive, for sure!
I think this has gotta put me in the lead…for now.

1918 Detroit Electric, currently owned by Duke Energy1918 Detroit Electric, currently owned by Duke Energy

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tar sands won't help oil production much

I've been looking for an electronic version of this article for a while now...http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-textGoes to show just how damaging and unproductive making fuel from shale and tar sands really is.The sooner we reduce consumption and switch to EVs the better.

Autoblitz: 2010 Honda Insight

All-new hybrid gets good fuel economyHonda appears finally to have learned how to play in the hybrid game. Simply putting a hybrid powertrain in a regular car doesn't cut it. If a carmaker wants to be taken seriously, it had better deliver a hybrid that looks like what the market has said it wants a hybrid to look like.And that, apparently, given the sales numbers, is a Toyota Prius. Hence, the all-new, Honda Insight is virtually a carbon copy of that market leader.Beyond that obvious surrender to a take-no-big-chances market, however, the 2010 Honda Insight does manage to march to a slightly different drummer. It's smaller than the Prius, for instance, which isn't necessarily a plus, as interior room suffers. But it's lighter, which is a plus, as less weight contributes to it's being a somewhat livelier driver.Beyond this, it generally stays the course, with the common array of standard features plus an optional navigation system and Bluetooth capability. It also can be ordered with gimmicky paddle shifters that imposes an artificial construct of seven electronically created ratios on the continuously variable automatic transmission.When the new Honda Insight is measured against the outgoing-generation 2009 Toyota Prius, it definitely hums a different tune. Put simply, the Insight's EPA-rated City/Highway 40/43 miles per gallon trails significantly the 48/45 mpg rating for the Prius. Honda appears to believe its faithful will willingly trade a few miles per gallon for a modestly quicker car.Perhaps the most significant change Honda brings to the hybrid market is price competition. With the Insight, shoppers now have two similar cars from which to choose. The 2010 Honda Insight's $19,800 Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price just slightly undercuts the $21,000 MSRP of the all-new 2010 Toyota Prius. The first-generation 2009 Prius retailed for $23,375.The 2010 Insight comes in one configuration: a four-door, five-passenger sedan. One powertrain is available: a combination of a 1.3-liter, 88-horsepower, inline four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 10-kilowatt, 13-hp, brushless, DC motor. Power goes only to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). In the top two of the three models offered, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles manage a computer-generated seven-speed, simulated-manual gearbox. The base model uses a standard CVT that's efficient and highly competent.Tom Lankard, NewCarTestDrive.comsource

PlugsCars: Still pimping for hydrogen

Secretary Chu may have acted on the science, but the Terminator hasn't gotten the termination memo.Reporter: Are you satisfied with the number of hydrogen stations and vehicles we have today?Schwarzenegger: I wouldn't be here if I was. I'm hungry! I want more cars, more stations, and not just in California. I think Washington has to get with it. . . We will find the partners and we will build the stations. We always march forwards.

PlugsCars: Electric car agitation in Norway

In Norway, the effort to find a means to get financing so Th!nk can fulfill existing orders for thousands of vehicles took to the streets on Tuesday. A 50-electric car parade took the issue right to the Trade and Industry Department in downtown Oslo. A concrete proposal for a Guarantee Institute for Electric Vehicles was presented to the government.ElectricAid, Norstart and Bellona, along with politicians from the left and the right and the Green Party, Greenpeace and the Norwegian Environmental Union demonstrated support for a loan guarantee program. An answer should be forthcoming shortly.

RevengeOfTheEV: Chelsea Test Drives The Volt

chelsea-gmvoltChelsea Sexton with GM's Tony Posawatz
Our Consulting Producer Chelsea Sexton got to test drive the GM Volt recently.
Here’s her verdict :
From the first Volt unveiling over two years ago, I’ve wanted to drive one. At some point last year, Tony Posawatz’s first words upon seeing me ceased to be “Hey, chels”, and became “I know, I know”. Given the history, I’ve all but made a nuisance of myself for this company, seeking evidence of their sincerity about doing another plug-in car- “fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice” and all of that. I eventually came to believe they mean it, but I haven’t been sure that they really “get it” when it comes to what people love about electric cars- worrisome when they’re staking the future of the company on another one. That they still trash the EV1 to make the case for the Volt doesn’t help- beyond the fact that they are different cars meant for very different markets.  While the EV1 wasn’t flawless, it became the benchmark of what GM was capable of in both engineering and consumer passion. As a result, they’re now known for building a car people are willing to get arrested for- no small act to follow. And at a time when the company is fighting just to survive, I wouldn’t be the only one wondering if the Volt would be nickel-and-dimed to a shadow of its potential.
So when I got a surprise call a few Fridays ago inviting me to fly to Detroit for a test drive, I hopped a red-eye and was there- with “Revenge of the Electric Car” film crew in tow, of course. If the Volt drive wasn’t enough, the Milford Proving Grounds is like Disneyland to a girl like me (though my description of it being filled with gearhead porn made my hosts blush a little!) After a quick tour of the property, we arrived at the section of course that had been closed for us. Standing in the middle of nothing but alternating stripes of grass and road, was a white Chevy Cruze emblazoned with large blue “Volt” graphics, like the smallest kid standing on his toes for the class picture.
Next to the car was Frank Weber, looking more proud and hopeful than I’ve ever seen. Self-described with the statement “I am German, I am an engineer- I do not feel”, Frank has always seemed pessimistic to me against the aspirational backdrop of the Volt team- but even he couldn’t completely disguise his thrill at finally having something functional to show after two years of talking. I’d had enough of the talking, myself- so with little fanfare, I was pointed toward the track and let loose. After the first few of many laps, Jim, “the Voltkeeper” who tended the car all day from a technical standpoint, asked if might stop smiling anytime soon. I think Frank just wondered if all EV people drive that fast…
I drove the Volt off and on all day long (stopping not because the car needed to, but because we were also interviewing GM folks in-between driving segments). It is more refined than many production cars I’ve driven, a fact that ironically breeds impatience- it’s hard not to drive it and think, “oh, this is fine, let’s just get on with production already”. It’s also the quietest full-performance plug-in I’ve seen so far- they must’ve beaten every bit of motor whine out of that car, because it sounds more docile than it is. It’s incredibly smooth, and very solid-feeling, even on the intentionally rough proving ground roads. Because it’s still a mule, Frank assured me that the car is only at about 80% of the final version’s performance capability, and that the extra bit of low-end torque I came away wanting would be there. While the acceleration is quite good (0-60 in 9 seconds), I was admittedly spoiled by the “off the line” performance of GM’s last EV, and the Volt doesn’t quite have the initial surge I was expecting as its progeny.
In fairness, the Volt can’t rightfully be compared to the EV1 (I myself have badgered GM not to do it) but I am aware that it and the other EVs of the 1990s are the frame of reference for many folks. I will say simply that this is not that. It is not a hand built car, so lacks all of the quirks, noises, and yes- individuality- that implies. Undoubtedly, some will be disappointed by that fact- but GM is clearly betting that the masses will be thrilled by it. Most folks love what they can do with the iPhone but don’t give a rip about what’s actually inside. It’s the functionality and flexibility that allows personalization and is most appealing; I suspect a similar line of thinking is informing the Volt.
I also failed to talk the guys into letting me drive the Volt in range-extended mode- I’d really been hoping to put to rest all the conjecture that because no one’s been allowed to drive it that way, there must be something wrong with it. Alas, Frank was typically insistent that it just wasn’t ready. I persisted, assuring him I’m familiar with pre-production systems, but he remained stoic, until I finally pinned him- “what is so wrong with this car that you won’t let anyone drive it with the engine on?” He paused, and admitted almost sheepishly, “well, when the engine comes on, you can hear it.” I kept waiting for more, but that was it-the big mystery… you can hear the engine. I started to note how that would be, oh, I don’t know, standard for an internal combustion engine in any car and that some people prefer it that way, but I was chastened by my own admiration for the position he took. While there’s absolutely a point where you have to stop engineering and start building, Frank’s statement is indicative of the attention to detail being paid to the Volt.
That said, some of the other folks working with the other mules found out we were there and “happened” to drive by a few times, in range extended mode- the thing is already Prius quiet. And because the generator operates within certain distinct “power bands” depending on the driver’s right foot (more power requested, higher the band- if the request is at the lower end of any band, the extra energy is fed back into the batteries) any detectable sound should directly correlate with attendant ambient and road noise. Can’t speak firsthand on the power of the generator- it is on spec certainly enough to keep up with all but the heaviest loads, but time-and my next test drive- will tell.
After I’d looped myself dizzy and exhausted the car, we went over to the Tech Center to interview Tony Posawatz about the latest status of the program and how it’s been affected by GM’s current economic situation. The Volt is Tony’s baby (I actually watched his eyes well up when the production concept rolled out on the platform at the 100-yr anniversary), so I expected him to be upbeat, and he was- they’ve been hiring for the Volt program, and are otherwise keeping noses down and trying not to worry about the political noise- they have a car to build. And as if to prove it, he pointed to a digital clock on the wall in plain view to the core team- it counts down to the minute the amount of time til the next milestone: the day they start building the first 80 “actual” Volts. Just in case someone takes his eyes off the ball. The date is now just a few days away, and everyone knows it. These will still be prototypes, but they’ll be in the right body and one step closer to production. My inner MacGuyver is already plotting an “extended test-drive”…It’s professional duty and all- someone’s gotta test that low-end torque.
Driving the Volt was a mix of experiences- it was a fun day, and it’s great to see spots of hope in Detroit from folks who are excited to be working on “something cool again” (their words). And let’s face it, it was also a relief- there were certainly some years there when I wasn’t sure they’d ever get even this far on a plug-in car again. But in the end, building the car won’t be their biggest challenge- it never has been. Whether they can get behind it effectively as it hits showrooms remains to be seen. And I remain repeatedly frustrated at watching them struggle to tell their own story, or when they allow, say, Bob Lutz to go on national television. I think they’re learning, but I wonder often if the wisdom will come fast enough- and at what cost.
I still don’t know that they entirely understand the nuances of passion people have for electric cars- but I do think that they understand just what’s at stake for this one. It is the end of the poker game for GM, and they’re all in.
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PlugsCars: They broke it, we own it

Looks like GM's imminent bankruptcy will result in the US government holding a 70% stake.NY Times

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

evmotorcycle.org: TTX01 at Thundersprint

TTX01 in a corner
Paul Blezard thrashes the TTX01 at Thundersprint races
The TTX01 was put through it's paces again, this time at the Thundersprint races in the UK on May 10th 2009. Paul had the tank bag on for morning practice, but not for the afternoon racing. Photo by Andi Davies.
James Toseland and Paul Blezard
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evmotorcycle.org: Electric Ducati SS and Electric GSXR

The electric bikes that Jozzer built
Jozzer and his electric motorcycles
Yes folks, both of these bikes are electric and they were both built by Jozzer at the PeaceHaven Electric Vehicle Workshop. These bikes use LiFeBATT LiFeP04 batteries and each have 2XAGNI motors installed. These bikes will each top 100mph!!
Sunday ride on the electric motorcycles
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Poker faces…

me and the "Voltkeeper"me and the "Voltkeeper"

From the first Volt unveiling over two years ago, I’ve wanted to drive one. At some point last year, Tony Posawatz’s first words upon seeing me ceased to be “Hey, chels”, and became “I know, I know”. Given the history, I’ve all but made a nuisance of myself for this company, seeking evidence of their sincerity about doing another plug-in car- “fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice” and all of that. I eventually came to believe they mean it, but I haven’t been sure that they really “get it” when it comes to what people love about electric cars- worrisome when they’re staking the future of the company on another one. That they still trash the EV1 to make the case for the Volt doesn’t help- beyond the fact that they are different cars meant for very different markets.  While the EV1 wasn’t flawless, it became the benchmark of what GM was capable of in both engineering and consumer passion. As a result, they’re now known for building a car people are willing to get arrested for- no small act to follow. And at a time when the company is fighting just to survive, I wouldn’t be the only one wondering if the Volt would be nickel-and-dimed to a shadow of its potential.

So when I got a surprise call a few Fridays ago inviting me to fly to Detroit for a test drive, I hopped a red-eye and was there- with “Revenge of the Electric Car” film crew in tow, of course. If the Volt drive wasn’t enough, the Milford Proving Grounds is like Disneyland to a girl like me (though my description of it being filled with gearhead porn made my hosts blush a little!) After a quick tour of the property, we arrived at the section of course that had been closed for us. Standing in the middle of nothing but alternating stripes of grass and road, was a white Chevy Cruze emblazoned with large blue “Volt” graphics, like the smallest kid standing on his toes for the class picture.

Next to the car was Frank Weber, looking more proud and hopeful than I’ve ever seen. Self-described with the statement “I am German, I am an engineer- I do not feel”, Frank has always seemed pessimistic to me against the aspirational backdrop of the Volt team- but even he couldn’t completely disguise his thrill at finally having something functional to show after two years of talking. I’d had enough of the talking, myself- so with little fanfare, I was pointed toward the track and let loose. After the first few of many laps, Jim, “the Voltkeeper” who tended the car all day from a technical standpoint, asked if might stop smiling anytime soon. I think Frank just wondered if all EV people drive that fast…

I drove the Volt off and on all day long (stopping not because the car needed to, but because we were also interviewing GM folks in-between driving segments). It is more refined than many production cars I’ve driven, a fact that ironically breeds impatience- it’s hard not to drive it and think, “oh, this is fine, let’s just get on with production already”. It’s also the quietest full-performance plug-in I’ve seen so far- they must’ve beaten every bit of motor whine out of that car, because it sounds more docile than it is. It’s incredibly smooth, and very solid-feeling, even on the intentionally rough proving ground roads. Because it’s still a mule, Frank assured me that the car is only at about 80% of the final version’s performance capability, and that the extra bit of low-end torque I came away wanting would be there. While the acceleration is quite good (0-60 in 9 seconds), I was admittedly spoiled by the “off the line” performance of GM’s last EV, and the Volt doesn’t quite have the initial surge I was expecting as its progeny.

In fairness, the Volt can’t rightfully be compared to the EV1 (I myself have badgered GM not to do it) but I am aware that it and the other EVs of the 1990s are the frame of reference for many folks. I will say simply that this is not that. It is not a hand built car, so lacks all of the quirks, noises, and yes- individuality- that implies. Undoubtedly, some will be disappointed by that fact- but GM is clearly betting that the masses will be thrilled by it. Most folks love what they can do with the iPhone but don’t give a rip about what’s actually inside. It’s the functionality and flexibility that allows personalization and is most appealing; I suspect a similar line of thinking is informing the Volt.

I also failed to talk the guys into letting me drive the Volt in range-extended mode- I’d really been hoping to put to rest all the conjecture that because no one’s been allowed to drive it that way, there must be something wrong with it. Alas, Frank was typically insistent that it just wasn’t ready. I persisted, assuring him I’m familiar with pre-production systems, but he remained stoic, until I finally pinned him- “what is so wrong with this car that you won’t let anyone drive it with the engine on?” He paused, and admitted almost sheepishly, “well, when the engine comes on, you can hear it.” I kept waiting for more, but that was it-the big mystery… you can hear the engine. I started to note how that would be, oh, I don’t know, standard for an internal combustion engine in any car and that some people prefer it that way, but I was chastened by my own admiration for the position he took. While there’s absolutely a point where you have to stop engineering and start building, Frank’s statement is indicative of the attention to detail being paid to the Volt.
 
That said, some of the other folks working with the other mules found out we were there and “happened” to drive by a few times, in range extended mode- the thing is already Prius quiet. And because the generator operates within certain distinct “power bands” depending on the driver’s right foot (more power requested, higher the band- if the request is at the lower end of any band, the extra energy is fed back into the batteries) any detectable sound should directly correlate with attendant ambient and road noise. Can’t speak firsthand on the power of the generator- it is on spec certainly enough to keep up with all but the heaviest loads, but time-and my next test drive- will tell.

After I’d looped myself dizzy and exhausted the car, we went over to the Tech Center to interview Tony Posawatz about the latest status of the program and how it’s been affected by GM’s current economic situation. The Volt is Tony’s baby (I actually watched his eyes well up when the production concept rolled out on the platform at the 100-yr anniversary), so I expected him to be upbeat, and he was- they’ve been hiring for the Volt program, and are otherwise keeping noses down and trying not to worry about the political noise- they have a car to build. And as if to prove it, he pointed to a digital clock on the wall in plain view to the core team- it counts down to the minute the amount of time til the next milestone: the day they start building the first 80 “actual” Volts. Just in case someone takes his eyes off the ball. The date is now just a few days away, and everyone knows it. These will still be prototypes, but they’ll be in the right body and one step closer to production. My inner MacGuyver is already plotting an “extended test-drive”…It’s professional duty and all- someone’s gotta test that low-end torque.

Driving the Volt was a mix of experiences- it was a fun day, and it’s great to see spots of hope in Detroit from folks who are excited to be working on “something cool again” (their words). And let’s face it, it was also a relief- there were certainly some years there when I wasn’t sure they’d ever get even this far on a plug-in car again. But in the end, building the car won’t be their biggest challenge- it never has been. Whether they can get behind it effectively as it hits showrooms remains to be seen. And I remain repeatedly frustrated at watching them struggle to tell their own story, or when they allow, say, Bob Lutz to go on national television. I think they’re learning, but I wonder often if the wisdom will come fast enough- and at what cost. 

I still don’t know that they entirely understand the nuances of passion people have for electric cars- but I do think that they understand just what’s at stake for this one. It is the end of the poker game for GM, and they’re all in.

Bank error couple flee to China

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25539422-5001021,00.htmlI'm sure you've heard of this news story: but have a quick look at the price of unleaded guzzoline in the pic of the service station they used to own:$1.589 NZ per litre is about $4 US per gallon - while oil is hovering around $60 per barrel. Just you wait until scarcity pushes the price back up to $150 per barrel and see how expensive fuel is then!!!

PlugsCars: First Electric Mini Delivered!

Peter Trepp in Southern California is the first consumer to take delivery of their electric Mini. The USA Today story begins: "Peter Trepp just can't keep his foot off the accelerator of his new Mini E."Peter blogs about his electric Mini at www.petersminie.blogspot.com/.

a4x4kiwi: EV Links

Thanks for visiting my blog.The best way to read it is go to the earliest post and read from there in chronological order.For those that have come here as a result of the SC article, here are some more links for further reading.AEVA - Find your closest branchAEVA Forums - Loads of discussion, good info, and knowledgeable people.Tuarn Browns Industrial AC conversion (The inspiration for mine)And if you are still keen, I have a Danfoss inverter for sale.

a4x4kiwi: EV Links

Thanks for visiting my blog.The best way to read it is go to the earliest post and read from there in chronological order.For those that have come here as a result of the SC article, here are some more links for further reading.AEVA - Find your closest branchAEVA Forums - Loads of discussion, good info, and knowledgeable people.Tuarn Browns Industrial AC conversion (The inspiration for mine)And if you are still keen, I have a Danfoss inverter for sale.

a4x4kiwi: Article about my ute in the June Silicon Chip magazine

A month or so ago I dropped down to the SC office in Brookvale to show off, as I had previously been in touch with Leo the editor.He decided to do a 6 page article to the Electro-Lux and I even got my picture on the cover.

a4x4kiwi: Article about my ute in the June Silicon Chip magazine

A month or so ago I dropped down to the SC office in Brookvale to show off, as I had previously been in touch with Leo the editor.He decided to do a 6 page article to the Electro-Lux and I even got my picture on the cover.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

PortlandPeakOil: How to Boil a Frog Free Goodie Release 5/24/09 - with a trailer for the movie!

 
Hi all,
 
Before you do anything else, go straight to www.howtoboilafrog.com and get a look at the HTBAF movie trailer – note you can make it bigger by clicking on the green GO button.  Let us know what you think! We still have to raise about $1.25 million to pay for the stock footage & music rights, the missing pieces of animation, post production to finish it properly for a theatrical release, and so on – but we DO have a movie!  Anyone who wants to help us find some or all of the money is welcome to become part of the club of money-finders. You too can help save civilization with comedy!
 
Next, check out our mini-interview of the week from Friend o’ the Frog and Vancouver Peak Oil expert Rick Balfour.  Rick is an architect and urban planner with a real vision for how to prepare for a future that will include global warming, peak oil, mass migration and other little bumps in the road.  At http://www.howtoboilafrog.com/#video, Rick discusses the peak oil motion he brought before the Vancouver, BC Planning Commission - a motion that was turned down in 2006, but is now being recognized as a necessary basis for long overdue changes in Vancouver's urban design. For more information on Balfour's simulated peak oil "war games", and the book that resulted from them, visit his site at http://www.plancanada.com/.
 
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Environmoto: Enertia TTR Race Bike Spec Sheet Released

Brammo has released the specification sheet for the Enertia TTR on their website: www.Brammo.com.They have included two detail photos on the sheet. They mostly focus on the upper mounting area of the rear shock. You can clearly see that the bike will have a full fairing that is spaced away from the chassis... but that's about it! Hopefully we will see more soon...Source: Brammo

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Autoblitz: Air-fueled Battery for Electric Cars

A normal fossil fuel car (using an internal combustion engine) only needs the battery to start the engine as well as run the air conditioning system and the car stereo. But the scene is quite different with electric cars. Batteries run everything. So when one tries to buy an electric car his/her prime concern is battery. Electric car owners are still grappling with the quality and reliability of the electric car battery. The main concern is how long the battery will last before it needs recharging. Researchers are continuously trying to devise new ways for the battery to last longer and recharge easily. Imagine your phones, mp3 players, computers and laptops running for days without recharging, or for that matter your car running far longer on one charge than it presently can with a tank or two of gas. Using air power, it might be possible in as early as 5 years.Researchers at the Scotland’s University of St. Andrews are working on a project on the air-powered battery. If successful they will replace the lithium cobalt oxide electrode in the fuel cell. The “STAIR” (St. Andres Air) battery will be compatible on all renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and oxygen. Professor Peter Bruce who is leading his team for this project, is of the opinion, “Our target is to get a five to ten fold increase in storage capacity, which is beyond the horizon of current lithium batteries. The key is to use oxygen in the air as a re-agent, rather than carry the necessary chemicals around inside the battery.”The major advantages will be the battery will be cheaper and lighter in weight too. Because they are not using expensive material but lightweight porous carbon. This carbon inhales oxygen from the atmosphere while the battery is discharging. We can see that there will be a regular round of charge and discharge. The oxygen will be sucked in through an exterior of the battery that is exposed to air. This oxygen will react within the pores of the carbon to discharge the battery. “Not only is this part of the process free, the carbon component is much cheaper than current technology,” Bruce says.This research project was assigned on a four year basis. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of Great Britain (EPSRC) is sponsoring this project. The project has just completed two years but it has already achieved a battery lasting 8 times longer than a lithium cobalt oxide battery. The original aim was to achieve a battery with a 5 to 10 times more life than contemporary batteries. EPSRC explains, “By discharging batteries to provide electricity and recharging them when the wind blows or sun shines, renewables become a much more viable option.”The air powered batteries might take five more years to be commercially produced. But they will be available for your cell phones, laptops and mp3 players first.source

Even busier

http://emotorcycle.blogspot.com/2009/05/even-busier.html

Even busier

Well, we completed the renovation on the house and sold it within 4 days of putting it on the market (we were thinking it would take a few months). So this has put the bike on the back-burner even more so for the short term. We will be moving mid year so once the move is complete and we're settled in then I hope to get back onto the bike.The move will create some additional problems however with the bike, the place we are moving to has no mains power so recharging will have to be done with leftover power from an off-grid solar power system. Which could work out ok since I like to ride in the summer so that is when we should have left over power.

OpenSourceCivicEV: Installing the Synkromotive Controller

I stopped by the Synkromotive shop this morning and picked up my beta-test controller that I've been wanting to try out. After running out and buying some more magna lugs and welding cable, I came home and removed the Belktronix controller and all the associated wiring.With the old controller gone, I had to figure out how to place the new contactor and controller. Here's my mock placement. I placed the contactor slightly behind the controller to limit the cable lengths I would have to use and keep the high-voltage connections away from eager fingers. After the placement, I removed the piece of thick plastic below, drilled some mounting holes and bolted the controller and contactor in place.This picture shows all the high-voltage 2/0 gauge cable hooked up. I was very fortunate that I could reuse all the old cables and simply crimp on new lugs. My purchase of 12 extra feet of 2/0 gauge cable was for naught, but I'm glad I got it anyway since the welding shop is only open on Friday.The high-voltage connections on the Synkromotive controller are well thought out, especially if the controller is near the motor and parallel to it. The funny downside is that the connector bars are vertical instead of horizontal, forcing me to use less-common "L" lugs on the 2/0 cable to attach things. I'll have to give this feedback to Synkromotive.Here's the preliminary installation. I don't have the motor RPM sensor hooked up yet, but I wanted to get the system going because there's an electric car show this weekend at PIR (we're demonstrating EVs along side the Electrathon and Human-Powered-Vehicle folks).The Synkromotive controller is fully digital and has a USB port on the side. After firing up the user interface program, I was able to verify that everything was mostly operating. Given that this is a beta program, documentation is slim at best and full of bugs. I've already given much feedback regarding specific points in the document that cause confusion.After checking all the voltages, I rotated the potbox by hand with the transmission in neutral and (Voila!) the motor spun. As of 11:30pm, I took it for a quick test drive around the block. The acceleration was very smooth; however, it wasn't as peppy as I had hoped. The amps never got above 150, so I'm guessing there's some calibration I need to do with the potbox. Anyhow, after 7.5 hours, I successfully swapped out the old controller for the new.I'm a big fan of an uncluttered engine compartment. While the Synkromotive controller definitely has some wiring, the Belktronix system was a bit more out of control. Here's a bunch of the "spaghetti" that I removed with the older controller. I like seeing the removed chaos in a box.Once I get the individual Soneil chargers, I can remove additional wiring and clutter without all the shunt balancer boards on top of each battery.Whoosh, I'm liking this new controller! Tomorrow I'll tweak settings a bit more and see if I can take it on the freeway to PIR for the show.Cheers,Tim