Monday, October 27, 2008

A Volatile Market

"I think $100.00 a barrel is a fair price" - OPEC oil minister on where he thinks oil should be priced.

Do they just pull these numbers out of their collective asses or what? What ever happened to "market fundamentals" like supply and demand? Hey Jack, if there's no demand for oil because the global economy has tanked, then oil is worth whatever the market will bear, not whatever you think is "fair". These guys don't even realize that by artificially raising the price, that they'll just delay an economic recovery, and thus demand for oil.

This kind of volatility is what drives me to drive a car that doesn't play the Oil Game. I'm so mad at energy producers that I'm really, really trying to figure out how to get my hands on some solar panels. I consume 360-400 kWh per month of electricity for driving. If I generated that much with a solar, grid-tie system, I am essentially driving on sunshine. Of course, if I were really bitter, I'd fork out $40k for a system that generates 1400 kwh/month and eliminate my electric bill completely and be off the grid.

I see 2 silver linings in the current economic failures:

1. People have not yet reverted to their normal, wasteful driving habits. SUV sales are still down, small car, hybrid sales are still up...for those who can actually secure a car loan.

2. People are listening to these assholes at OPEC talk about raising the cost of energy in the middle of a recession when people are struggling and it's making them angry. That means that alternative energy development hasn't yet collapsed in the face of cheap gas prices.

People definitely need to understand that the market is volatile, the pundits are lousy at predicting the future, and you could get pump shock again in the near future, especially if it's a really cold winter. We need to keep pushing, keep developing, and not slack off just because gasoline prices have dropped 40%. If anything, this is a welcome breather while we come up with solutions to wean us from the petroleum tit.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Talk Show of My Own...

"Right, sir and then we'll need you to email us a picture of yourself" - CNN correspondent in a request for an interview.

Pfft...yeah right, get knotted.

For fun, I've sent in a few "opinions" to CNN's iReport regarding my EV and my views on the latest crop of foo- er, I mean candidates. Someone at CNN thought my views were worth airing (sincerely or for entertainment, I'll never know which) so I received a call on my cell phone. He had me right up to the point where he asked for a photo of myself. I declined, stating that I'm not the one running for President and that I love my anonymity too much. I'm not posting my picture for all the world to see, while the media twists my words into something humorous or that supports some journo's point of view. I'm pretty opinionated. My supervisor routinely suggests that I start my own "Imus in the morning" type of talk show. I'm as offensive as Imus so that's probably not too good of an idea.

My mileage has increased over the last month or so. I'm driving 15 miles per day, 5 days a week with 40 miles on 3 weekends, and 100 miles during a drill weekend. That's 520 miles per month. I'm up to 3100 miles on the new pack so far. I've been very careful to keep the batteries clean, connections tight, and keep them well watered. My fancy new hydrometer shows the electrolyte to be clear and clean and all cells in good health.

Checking individual cells is kind of a pain and I'm glad it's infrequent maintenance. You have to pop the caps off of all the batteries and stick this "turkey baster with a gauge" down into each cell. Your check how far the float rises and note the reading. An 8 volt battery has 4 cells. If one of them is dead, then the battery is out of balance with all the others. I have a total of 64 cells to check. It takes me about 20 minutes, but that's because I have to crawl around and remove the engine lid to get at the last four batteries comfortably.

You can't place a volt meter on an individual cell, so this is a way of checking the voltage chemically. It's something easy that anyone can learn in a few minutes.

The paint on my motor was flaking off so I cleaned and re-painted it with Hi-Temp black BBQ grill spray. The motor's heat cured the paint and made a durable finish. Once the weather cools, I'll place the belly pan back on the car to protect the motor and controller from the winter road salt.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Election Fatigue

I'm too disgusted to start off with the usual entry quote.

We've got 60-odd days until Voting Day and I'm already tired. The issues are being defined by the criteria of whichever one makes the best weapon against a campaign opponent, not whether it's a national problem or not.

I think that neither of the current presidential candidates (or their running mates) are at all a good choice but I'll make a public statement...a bet if you will, that Barack Obama will end up being the next President. When I think of how I've spent 18 years of my life in the military supporting and defending this mess we call the "United States", I just wince.

Oh, and my favorite time of year is here- Hurricane season. It's fun to watch oil and gas prices rock 'n roll to the unpredictable pathways that these storms take. We've set our critical national infrastructure up in what is essentially a lane in a bowling alley and we've put what was one of our larger cities in basically a large soup bowl. Sweet.

Friday, August 15, 2008

For Every Action, there is an equal amount of Inaction to Ensure a Zero Rate of Progress

"People should just stop driving" - quote from a CNN reader

Well, I now understand why "Rome is burning"..or at least one reason. Because we squabble ourselves into inaction. We The People have no right to be angry at Congress for not accomplishing anything meaningful in the last couple of years. I don't think we could do any better for ourselves.

Read this article: , then scroll down to the comments.

For every person who said a DIY EV conversion was a "great idea", there were 2 who said "it'll never work", "it's not practical", "it's dangerous", "it pollutes as much as a gasoline car" etc, etc.

Let me school any of you who are reading my blog as to why these people are full of crap and I'll offer web links to back me up, unlike all the uneducated naysayers who commented on the article.

1. "It'll never work" Tell that to these 2,000 people: (These are just the folks who felt like sharing, not all of them do) I drive mine every single day, 20-40 miles.

2. "It's not practical" Hey asshole, don't presume to speak for me. I can't help it that you bought a McMansion that was a 90 mile round-trip from your job. Don't penalize me because I lived within my means. My EV hauls me, my groceries, my buddies and family to 90% of places that I need to go. You're right, it's not practical for everyone, just the 80% of us who typically drive 27 miles per day. Since it doesn't work for everyone, let's make it illegal so no one can do it.

3. "It's dangerous" No shit. So was sailing to America. So was landing on the moon. So is stepping outside and taking a deep breath. Gasoline is dangerous. So is your hydrogen fuel cell car. It might sound grandiose to compare an EV to the space shuttle, but the risk vs. gain is just as vital in our current situation. The reward totally justifies the risk, and the risk is minimal. The risk of sticking your head in the sand and wishing we could go back to the '50's is much more dangerous.

4. "It pollutes as much as a gasoline car" Another myth. Study after study shows that an EV powered by coal-fired electricity is still 2/3 cleaner than a gasoline powered car. Why? Because it's more efficient. EV's use less energy to do the same thing. They use less because they don't waste energy as heat, noise and friction. Because currently there is still enough spare capacity available that the power plant isn't burning any extra coal to charge my car. See:
And if you're still feeling guilty about your carbon footprint, feel free to install enough solar panels on your home to offset the amount of kilowatt hours that your car is using. Typically, 300kwh/month. You don't HAVE to make electricity from coal and you don't HAVE to get it all from your local utility. Stop being such a bunch of pussies. Spend some money on something meaningful instead of Madden '09 for your Xbox 360.

5. "All those batteries will cause worse pollution than gasoline cars" Another bullshit myth. Has anyone been tracking scrap metal prices lately? Lead, nickel, copper, steel and iron (the main components in most batteries) are going at record prices. We'll do the same thing with EV batteries that we've been doing for years: Recycling them. Every time you turn in your old, dead car battery at the auto parts store for a new battery, the old one is recycled. You don't really think that the auto parts store is just tossing it in the dumpster do you? It's worth money to them! Hell, people STEAL batteries for money. 97% of a lead battery is reused. Read here:

In conclusion, don't be stupid all your life. Too many people have "let perfection become the enemy of good". What that means is, people refuse to adopt a new way of doing things because it's not absolutely positively perfect. Since no one can agree on a single, new way to do everything, everyone wants to sit around, bitch and do nothing.

The single best reason to go EV is just "because I want to, and you can't stop me". If you don't like it, feel free to pass me in the left lane.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Too Good To Last (Again)

Still nothing clever to quote. My acquaintences have been quite bland lately.

I haven't had an EV failure, but the oil bubble has finally popped and fuel prices are deflating fast. This will drag out my return on investment on my battery pack considerably.

Based on the last two oil spikes, in '70 and again in the '80's, I'm sure that we as a nation haven't learned a thing and that America will soon return to it's "regularly scheduled program" of SUV's, excess and American Idol.

What a drag. I'm sorry for all the pain that recent energy prices have caused (especially low income folks) but there was real motion on energy development, and an increase in consciousness. I thought I was finally going to witness my country stepping into the 21st century.

Now, I'll be re-labeled as a non-conformist crackpot instead of a forward-thinking individual and resume my normal place in society.

Ah well.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

No Ill Effects...

No quotes today, I'm in a hurry.

I've installed a blower motor to send cooler air over the motor controller in the hot summer months. I'd like to make a "Y" splitter to send some cooler air over the motor brushes as well. The car continues to run without problems. I add water to the batteries every couple of months and scrub the green fuzz off of the battery terminals. I've driven some long commutes to my Navy reserve center.

I bought a quality battery hydrometer to check the condition of the individual cells. All batteries check out fine. The electrolyte is clear and clean indicating that the plates are not shedding any active material. So far I have 2300 miles on the new pack. I'm aiming for 10k-14k miles on this pack.

With gas around $4.00/gallon, I'm saving about $80.00/month, recuperating the cost of one new battery per month. Fuel prices are falling, so my advantage is slipping. I have no intention of abandoning the project if fuel prices fall however.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The real operating cost

"Kill-a-What? What's that? No dude, Kill-a-Watt" -discussion at work.

A Kill-a-Watt is a meter that you can buy which will tell you how much power any particular appliance in your house is using. You can calculate how much money something costs you for a day, a week, or a year. It's cheap and simple. The only limitations are that it's 110 volts only, and 15 amps maximum.

Guess what? My car's onboard charger draws 16 amps. The meter was very cheap so I plugged it in and babysat the affair until the bulk phase was over and the amps dropped off for the finishing phase. I didn't care if it melted down, I just didn't want to start a fire. The car has a bigger impact than I thought but it's still better than $4.09/gallon.

If I drive every day, the car uses 300 kwh (kilowatt hours) per month. My May electric bill was 1001 kwh, so the car was 1/3 of that. I pay .10 cents/kwh. That's $30.00/month, driving 20-40 miles a day.

Let's compare that to my DeLorean that gets 23 mpg combined city/hwy. 30 hwy.

20 miles a day for 30 days: 20 X 30=600 miles.
600 miles / 23 mpg= 26 gallons of fuel at 4.09/gallon, is $106.00


And yes, I probably drive 20 miles on the weekends too. All that errand running, grocery shopping, etc. Hell, it's more if you factor in my 98 miles of driving to and from my reserve unit in Baltimore once a month. So is it cheaper to operate? Yeah, now that gas prices are crazy. If the oil bubble pops, it might not be.

Now I have to recoup the cost of those damn batteries I bought. $1245.00 total, $83 each and I bought 15 of them.

A savings of $76.00 a month...that'd be 16 months.

Should be cake right?