# On electric cars…

“Once consumers get used to the charge-at-home ritual, the pilgrimage to the gas station will very quickly feel as inconvenient as rewinding the VHS tape and driving it back to Blockbuster.” LINK: https://medium.com/the-tesla-collection-1/7cbf5130e11

One caveat with electric cars is that in the winter when it is very cold, you have to use the battery to heat the cabin. Apparently new models (like 2013 LEAF) are getting heat pump heaters which will be 2-3 times efficient at heating.

BTW, Saw my first LEAF today at… the Whole Foods parking lot in Andover.

My sense is a plug-in hybrid would be most practical for the new few years, but at some point I bet the full-EVs will take over.

# Drive to the library? Yeah right.

Careful towns of the world out there… before you spend lots of money on new or revamped libraries. Unless you are in a city, or near a walkable and vibrant town center, they are a tough sell, even with cheap \$3.50/gasoline. And how long will that last?

Here’s the math for me in suburban MA:
- Distance to library: 5.2 miles. 10.4 miles round trip
- Our minivan — let’s say I get 20.8 MPG to make the math simple.

So that’s:

10.4 miles * 1/20.8 MPG * \$3.50 \$/gallon = \$1.75 per trip assuming there is no overlap with other errands, which is likely given the route.

And that’s just the cost of the gas of course. If you use the ~\$0.50/mi that the US government uses for taxes for business mileage (accounting for the full cost of ownership) then that’s 10.4 miles * \$0.50/mi = \$5.20 per trip.

And then add in the cost of the time. Let’s say 20 minutes of driving.

It’s a tough sell. Not just the library. All of suburbia. It’s ultimately kinda in serious doo-doo, ain’t it? James Howard Kunstler is probably on to something.

Counter-points and followups:

1) I say all the above as someone who has LOVED libraries in the past. But I guess the difference was: 1) that was pre-interweb and 2) that was libraries I walked to or rode my bike to (the Amherst Jones Library, and the UMass/Amherst Dubois library)

2) I am fond of the idea of the library being a “town center” that is more about ideas and people than being about media (paper or digital). Related concepts are Sudbury Schools, the Transition Town movement (tool sharing, etc), Cohousing.

3) The article linked below talks about “Library as Platform” which to me is basically acknowledging that there are increasing numbers of private services we use which “out do” libraries in terms of connecting us with media. Amazon. Google Books. Goodreads. “The Library” *could* do all of that. But how?

4) PS. And what about all those duplicate public school libraries! What a shame! What if all the schools in town were clustered around the town’s libraries and they all shared! I know, I know… one can’t turn back the clock on sprawling suburban development. It’s just sorta a shame.

5) Speaking of poorly designed public resources… I’ll talk about the placement and design of playgrounds sometime soon. Ugh. Almost always another huge missed opportunity. But there are some good ones!

# On driving and turning left in MA…

You’d think I would have learned this by now, but alas, I have lived a sheltered life recently…

Dear car GPS companies, Please step it up and add an “avoid left-hand turns from side-streets in MA” checkbox option in your software! (I mainly care about living and not crashing trying to get onto that busy main road, but UPS says it also saves gas.) Dear Erik, take some responsibility and use the map sitting there and ignore the GPS if you want to. It won’t kill you (actually… that’s the whole point!!!) to turn right and drive an extra mile to avoid that insane left turn into crazy traffic. RECALCULATING… LINK

# The 100-year-old electric car

“One hundred years ago there were electric cars that went 30 mph and had a range of 100 miles. They also had swappable battery packs and features that we pine for today.

So what happened?

Well, we like to drive faster than 30 mph.

The 100-year-old electric car is another story. It is simple. It is reliable. It is repairable by anyone. No wonder it did not succeed.”

– Tom Gocze

# Nissan Leaf / EV calcs

NISSAN LEAF CALCS
100 miles for full charge of battery (24KWh)
sudval.org commute for one year:
7200 miles/year (10 miles one way x 4 a day)
so that’s 7200 / 100 * 24KWh = 1728 KWh / 12 = 144 KWh per month
\$28/month (at \$0.20/KWh) vs \$66/month for gasoline (at 26MPG and \$3/gallon)
And no oil spill guilt (just solar. and/or mountain top removal type guilt)

I doubt we’d buy a LEAF. Probably a plug-in hybrid instead. But who knows.

# Electric Car Future? Fix the Grid First

“If the latest estimates by the WWF and Allianz SE are correct, the US, the UK, Japan and Germany will take several decades to provide grid-sourced electricity which will result in significantly less carbon dioxide per mile being produced by an electric car than the equivalent new EU (or Japanese) car running on gasoline or diesel.”

Interesting Article

# Hypermiling

Our car (a 2001 Saab 9-5 wagon) gets pretty good gas mileage without thinking about it much. Seems like we average around 26 MPG in our typical around-town driving, and on the highway (without racks or roof-top boxes) about 31 MPG. That’s partly why we chose it… most minivans and SUVs get considerably worse gas mileage. But where was I… when I am driving to and from school, if I reset the car’s little computer readout which shows AVG gas-mileage, so I am then looking at just the current trip, I can get around 40 MPG. Nice. So just now I got to wondering… is there anyway to get a readout like the Priuses apparently have showing real-time MPG to aid in my hypermiling on a regular basis — without having to constantly reset the Saab’s computer (a bit of a pain)? Yes! Here it is! SCANGAUGE II

Oh, and I just am reminding myself to check my tire air-pressure and to screw in those little cheap thingies that show you GREEN when your pressure is ok for a given tire — apparently tire pressure matters quite a bit too. Sure there will be some time to pay off the expense, but my guess is the breakeven point wrt fossil fuel use, emissions, etc (vs \$\$) is incredible quick even if one is able to dial back ones fuel use by even a small amount like 5%. For us, driving 12k a year at an average of ~26MPG, that’s 462 gallons of gas. Visualize 462 gallons of gas. (Google tells me that 462 gallons is 61.76 ft^3. So that’s a cube of almost 4 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet.) Yikes!

# Where is my electric car?

I’m waiting for an electric car I can buy. I don’t think any of the ones in the works fit the bill… so sorry Prius plug in hybrid, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Mini E, Tesla S, etc, etc… my problems?

1) They are too small! That’s a problem because of a) carpooling… I need to be able to haul at LEAST 5 kids to and from school. We’re talking mini-van or SUV I guess. b) safety. Check the numbers at IIHS.org/HLDI.org. A prius is still about twice as dangerous in terms of injury and death rates as our Saab 9-5. I want to save the planet, but I’m not will to risk my family. This is no joke… as I’m sure you know… the chances of dying in a car crash are in the neighborhood of 1/8000 a year or 1/5244 in 2 years

2) They are too quiet! I am hoping this gets resolved somehow, but I am just not willing to risk killing a pedestrian because they didn’t hear my car coming. Apparently folks will be figuring out what to do about this at some point, but until then, I am seriously considering sitting on the sidelines.

OK, so what other problems did I forget? There are other (non?) issues, … There are probably answers to these…

1) Effective MPG hurts a bit (maybe only a bit?) because there is no waste heat to heat the car in the winter. And it’s cold here.

2) Cradle-to-cradle environmental impact / full-life-cycle of the cars: Are the batteries a concern or not? I heard that there are some crazy rare earth metals that are needed for them that is decimating china, etc. NYTIMES My guess here is that it pulls down the green-ness a bit, but maybe overall still worth it vs internal combustion engines.

3) Is this is a solution for everybody? Can the electric-grid handle it? My answer here is that it seems like if people install several kW solar arrays on their roofs, they might do quite well for covering their commuter miles at least.

4) We are already a 1-car family. So it’s a little odd to buy a second car. Would we then sell our other one? But then what about long trips that are outside the range of an electric car? Rent?

5) Bang for the buck. Is buying a brand new car to cut our fossil fuel use in half a good use of money vs other ways of “saving the planet”? (we already average 26MPG in our Saab 9-5… closer to 30+ on the highway or local carpool if I hypermile…)

# our plant-based diet

I haven’t kept close track, but I would say that we have reduced our intake of animal products by about 90% in the last few weeks.  Still the occasional egg and fish.  Inspired by the books: The China Study and Eat to Live.  Veggie madness.   The kids are still eating pretty much what they did before, though soy dogs instead of normal hot dogs, and maybe more veggies too, since they are everywhere.

Gotta get holistic on this earth-friendly living — our eating habits really need to take a shift to keep up with the low/no energy/solar house we are building.  Still eating the typical stuff at holidays, etc.  And too much chocolate, I suppose.

Next on the list:  an all-electric car minivan I hope.

And growing some (hopefully substantial) amount of food on our property!  Check back in a year or so on that.

# net zero vs passive house

There is a lot here that is similar. The main difference is that passive-house uses more insulation and might not have on-site wind or solar PVs to offset heating, cooling and electricity usage. But the house that gets built might otherwise be similar. Though as noted, passive-house will likely have more expensive insulation and energy detailing since the house is trying to meet a certain heating load for certification, whereas the net-zero house is probably trying to keep initial costs low (meaning \$ sooner gets spent on PVs rather than insulation). Which house is cheaper in a cash-flow sense with a 30-year mortgage? Which house will be cheaper over an even longer time frame? hard to say. Both PV arrays (net zero) and expensive very-insulated windows (passive house) will need to be replaced eventually.

I’d use BeOpt if one can to figure out where to spend limited dollars to save the planet and the pocketbook.

It might be on a “used” house, and/or a hybrid or electric car, not on PVs or insulation or windows!