Tag Archives: residential

Conscious Commuters- What All of Us Should Be

One of the truly interesting elements of the move toward transportation electrification, electric vehicles, alternative fuels, is the iconoclastic challenge they pose to the status quo.  A car seems antiquated when you consider that it was designed to burn fossil fuel, translate most of its energy into heat, and dedicate a fraction of that energy to forward momentum.  You have as a result, a Hummer which weighs in at five thousand pounds transporting a woman of 100 lbs to the gym to work out and burn additional calories.  Am I (are we) missing something?

Yes. In profoundly important ways.

Look at this product and tell me what you see.

This is one of my favorite new designs, manufactured by Bob Vander Woude of Conscious Commuter based in Portland, Oregon. No sweat, no grease. It is a folding electric bicycle with a lithium battery inserted into the tube, shaft driven, and lightweight.  You can get it up hills at 20 mph, ride to the train, fold it and carry it on.  It can be charged at home or the office for the next commute.  It is an electric vehicle.

So, when you think about EVs, don’t think about cars.  Instead, think about what type of transportation needs you must fill and how cost, safety and range  need to be blended to fill those needs.  With EV’s and the miniaturization of hardware and software, the human imagination can better able adapt the design to fit the need.  Of course, we will need to have a transportation policy that makes the road available and safe for increasingly diverse modes of transportation but that is the direction we are moving in.  A Hummer may make sense in Afghanistan loaded with troops and supplies.  Does it make sense to go to Albertson’s for a gallon of milk using a $4 gallon of gas?  Stated alternatively, even if someone can afford it, can the rest of us?

 

 

 

 

Out of the Boxx- A new electrified urban scooter legend?

Today I saw firsthand why the definition of an electric vehicle should be kept broad. I had seen a picture previously, but it debuted in its many colors at the Portland Auto Show‘s Eco- Center.  Designed by motorsports engineers, meant to be simple but distinctive, and likened to what Apple did for the design of the  PC- meet the BOXX.

 

Weighing in at 120lbs, with two electric drives for each tire, it has an 80 mile range per charge and a top speed of 45 mph (and probably faster).  It is an urban transport vehicle you can drive to the office and take on the elevator with you or leave outside and remove the battery and ignition compartment (seen on the floor next to the silver version). It costs approximately $4000. It is an Oregonian native designed to appeal to men and women with the need for convenience and style.  It has a laser that visually constructs a safety lane around it as it moves at night (which I have not seen but is really cool sounding).  You can buy them on line- and several have already been sold that way. The throttle and brakes are together on the handles, along with an emergency brake on the foot peg.  Portland is a homebase for electrified motorcycles and bicycles and unicycles– no one can accuse us of not thinking out of the Boxx.  What do you think?

Here’s a different color:

 

Reality Check- Four Months in with the Nissan LEAF

I bought (actually leased) the Nissan LEAF on September 17, 2011.  I have had it for over 3900 miles and four months. So, how is it going?

Interestingly, today is the first time I ever walked away from the car in a parking lot leaving it on without realizing it. This may sound strange but the car is so silent, and if you are distracted, as I was because I misplaced the key fob while two friends waited for me to join them on a five mile run in the Arboreteum, you can just walk away from it without noticing.  When I came back an hour later and opened the door, I immediately realized something was wrong as the interior was hot and the fans were running. I could have at least shut off the climate control! That said I still had plenty of charge to get back.

So, other than this mishap, I have not run out of “gas” nor have I experienced any buyer’s remorse.  What are notable observations?  I have applied the brakes hard twice to avoid a collision, when another driver pulled out directly in front of me- it stopped without a problem.  I have run the battery down to four miles or less of range- which did provoke range consternation, though not anxiety.  I still enjoy driving it because the torque is striking and responsive.  I could try to snow you about the performance, but, when it is in its regular D mode, it really is fast– 0-60 in 7 seconds.  I have inadvertently squeaked its tires while accelerating in a curve.

I wish there were more far flung public charging stations so I could use the car for extended travel.  Those charging stations that are out there need MUCH better signage.  I literally drove around an entire multi-level parking structure in Salem looking for two level 2 chargers and never found them, later to be told they were there. Still I do 99% of my charging at my residence which is a function of my typical mile usage during the day.  I seldom neglect to connect the charger at night.  When I do charge downtown, I tend to use the same public charging locations.  I miss having the gas station attendant clean the front and rear windows; if you don’t have to gas up, you don’t get any personalized attention.    I also tend to average 75 miles per full charge if counting highway miles and use of climate control.

When I now drive a combustion vehicle I immediately have to recalibrate my foot pressure on the gas pedal because I notice the ICE is not as responsive as the EV and requires more finesse to keep from accelerating in a herky-jerky fashion. EVs accelerate cleanly and evenly with foot pressure.

I have had only one person, a pedestrian, notice the “Zero Emission” decal while I was driving (in this case stopped at a light) and actually engage me in conversation.  Otherwise people are completely oblivious to the car and its message.

I tend to shut off the noise manufacturing device as it irritates me.

I can’t imagine the car yet being suitable for colder climate states.  I lived in Maine for ten years and I can tell you that this vehicle is not ready for the trial of a long winter- activating the climate control taxes the battery and reduces the range by 10-15% immediately.  Even pre-heating it while it is attached to a charger does not offer much advantage as the car chills down quickly when used; windows offer little insulation and the car does not retain heat.

Perhaps the most interesting change of driving awareness dynamic arises from the “fuel” gauge, which ostensibly tells you how many miles  remain on your battery.   For those who are video-game-minded, the whole point is to maximize your mileage.  So, while driving up a hill saps the battery by 7 miles, tapping the brakes (did I tell you it uses regenerative braking?) on the downhill puts you up by 1.  Driving becomes a game of terra firma give and take.  My goal is to return home with more energy than I left with.  Driving the Nissan LEAF, I find myself much more conscious of the influence of terrain on my driving experience.   Have you ever thought in those terms driving a combustion engine?