Saturday, March 21, 2009

Top Gear

I think I've confessed before that in spite of my green leanings, I'm a bit of a gear-head. I love exotic cars. I've resigned myself to the fact that I will never own one because I couldn't justify the carbon output. Still, there is a glimmer of hope: The Tesla still has a chance to succeed, and Britain's Lightning GT looks to be a close contender.

This week on Top Gear, the team will take some time away from guzzling gasoline to review some electric and alternative fuel vehicles (looks like they'll cover the Tesla and the Honda Clarity FCV). I can't wait to see what they come up with: Monday, March 23, 8pm eastern, BBCA.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Electric ATVs hitting the trail

From the Washington Post (AP) Barefoot Motors is soon to release it's new electric ATV. At almost three times the price, I wonder how it will sell against the Zap ATV. The difference being that the Zap uses lead acid batteries and requires a much slower charge, while the new Barefoot model uses lithium-iron-phosphate batteries like those in the Chevy Volt.

The Zap tops out at 25mph and has a range of 25, while the Barefoot Model 1 has a top speed of 35 and a range of 20.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Banner Weeks for Electric Cars

The last couple of weeks have been big for electric cars. GM finally debuted the Volt (to be released in 2010) with a newly revamped exterior. It's more generic than the original design, but not nearly as ugly. They're still planning to get 40 miles off of a charge and they say, "The car will cost 'less than purchasing a cup of your favorite coffee' to recharge, and use less electricity annually than a refrigerator."

For those not in the know, the Volt is a series hybrid. Unlike the Prius (a parallel hybrid), the Volt does not use its gasoline engine to supply torque to the wheels. the gasoline engine in a series hybrid serves only to generate electricity to recharge the batteries. All of the motive force comes from the batteries/electric motor. The advantage to this is that you can travel the full forty miles of your charge without ever using any gasoline. It may not be great for those in the exurbs, but for carting around town it can't be beat.

Using this tool from the Brammo website, I calculated my daily miles. I found that on my heaviest driving days (go to Kung Fu in the morning, pick up the boy at school, bring him to his Kung Fu class in the afternoon, hit up Trader Joes in the mean time) I may do 30 miles. With a little bit of planning, I could easily stay below that. Now if I could just get a garage...

All fine and good for pure electrics, but if you already have a Prius, don't dispare! In other news last week, There's a Prius chop shop now open in San Francisco that will convert your prius to a plug-in. Luscious Garage is open for business and it sounds like things might really start to pick up for them. Converting your Prius costs around $7500, but that's down $2500 from the estimated cost from calcars about a year ago. Scroll down on this calcars page and find a list of companies who do conversions.

Conversions are also on the radar at Wired magazine.

And still there's more. Electrics made a grand showing at the Paris Auto Show. The Time article highlights the Nissan NuVu. More pictures of it can be found here.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Enertia Creeps

I have a little Kymco People 50cc scooter that I use whenever I can. It uses less gas and is much easier to park than my normal car. I've always liked the idea of an electric scooter, but I haven't been impressed with the ones I've seen. The Vectrix is a little bulky for me (and expensive). The Zapino comes close, but I need a little more speed to feel safer. Others, like the X-Treme XB-500 don't have near the power or speed to drive safely in traffic. And that's important, because in my experience, if people see you on a scooter (at all) they expect you to be part of normal traffic, not off to the side. Denying people's expectations when you're at such an extreme disadvantage is not safe.

The Brammo Enertia looks pretty exciting. CNN Money/Fortune tells the story of how the Enertia came to be, and has pictures of some of the top contenders in the field. It's slightly more expensive than the Vectrix, but much better looking. Of course, for me, there's still the problem of where to plug it in...

Update (May 22): Terrapass wrote about the Enertia last year and it caused quite a stir, mostly people complaining that it was ugly, expensive, and slow.

Also, The Scooter Scoop has some good stuff on electric scooters/motorcycles.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Dirty Secret

Tesla Roadster
Originally uploaded by jfraser
My dirty little secret is that I'm really into exotic cars. I have a particular soft spot for Aston Martins. For the last few years though, every time I see an exotic the initial drool is immediately followed by pangs of guilt and the knowledge that they are off limits to me forever because there is no way I can justify buying a car that drinks that much gas. If you look at this list of the most vs. least efficient cars, you'll see that eight out of the ten least efficient vehicles are exotics. My dream is tainted. Even if I had the money, I just wouldn't be able to justify the consumption. (even offsetting the carbon doesn't replace what you've consumed.)

In any case, my dream is alive once more! I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Tesla Roadster since I first heard of it a couple years ago. And now the wait is over. The first Tesla store is opening next week in Hollywood, with another coming to San Carlos shortly thereafter. Now I just need 100 grand to buy it, and another 180 grand so I can add a garage to my house in order to have a place to plug it in.

Well, at least I can dream again.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Plug-in Hybrids

I've been saving up links for ages, reading books, watching trends, etc. I'll probably be trotting out quite a few of these old links for a while, just as background information. who knows, some of them might turn out to be important. If not, at least they are things that I find interesting and maybe you will too.

I'm going to start with a book that I read over the summer. It's called Plug-in Hybrids (The Cars that Will Recharge America). This book answered a lot of questions I had about plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. It also addresses the viability of alternative fuels like bio-diesel and hydrogen, and how the use of these compares to the feasibility and benefit of plug-ins. Based on the title, you can guess where it goes, but it's worth the journey to get to the end. It is well a reasoned and thoroughly convincing argument in favor of electricity as our primary means of personal locomotion.

Author Sherry Boschert also dedicates some time to the auto industry's plot to murder electric vehicles. Reading her account of this made me absolutely furious. Like Medea murdering her own children for the pettiest of reasons, the waste was appalling.

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