Sunset from my backyard.
In the spirit of all Anonymous meetings, “Hi, my name is Andrew, and I’m a greeny.” I’ve been a greeny since a seed was planted in my psyche by television in the early 70’s, early in my childhood development, an image of a native american (whom I later learned was really an Italian actor) with one lone tear streaming down his face. No other ad campaign in history has affected me as such. No, not even Sally Struthers and her poor starving third world children who I could feed for pennies a day. This one tear affected me so much that to this day, I try to live my life as environmentally friendly as possible. I try to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I try. I don’t always succeed. But I try. Most of the time. When it’s convenient. And when it’s not, well, I deal with the guilt of that lone tear.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I have adult ADD. If I were a child today, I’d be on lithium. I have a warped sense of humor, a devious nature, and way too much free time. I usually get very excited about something, start it and then lose interest never to pick it up again let alone finish it. Yes, go ahead, imagine what my garage looks like.
This year I became completely disgusted with gasoline, the middle east, and the price of Starbuck’s coffee. This disgust excited and motivated me. Being a realist, I knew it was almost impossible to break the national dependency on grande soy lattes, and iced frappuccinos, so I had to do something instead about our dependancy on foreign oil. I’m not the kind of person to start a movement, or march on city hall, or protest by burning red plastic gasoline cans on top of new Hummers shinning quietly in the nighttime halogen glow of dealership lights.
No, really I’m not!
So, I figured I’d do what I do best. Start another fool-hearty project that will most likely end in disaster and ridicule. And is it any surprise I wound up where all ill begotten ideas end up, here on the Internet?
Think globally, act locally. The only true control you have is over your own life and how you live it. Change that. Show your neighbors and inspire those around you by acting. Demonstrate how easy it can be to do the right thing. Be an example.
In my quest to green my life and break my dependance on foreign oil, I decided to start small and only tackle my commute to work. Now in retrospect this is probably an area I was doing quiet well in already. I drive a Hyundai Elantra. My car gets between 28 and 30 miles per gallon city and 32 to 34 miles per gallon highway milage. I only drive 15 miles total (that is to and from work) a day. So, my 12 gallon tank lasts me two weeks. But I still feel guilty for not buying a hybrid car, even though I know the car companies were pillaging and raping the greeny’s and profiting on our collective feelings of guilt, feelings I’m sure I share with all Americans everywhere who grew up watching that poor lone tear slowly fall down that Italian actor’s cheek. There is no legitimate reason for the mark up on hybrid vehicles. And having come to that conclusion long ago, that the ROI on a hybrid vehicle was NEVER, I went with the best value for a small car with good gas milage. It didn’t make economic sense for me to buy a hybrid. Luckily, my guilt was stemmed when Penn and Teller agreed with my decision on a recent Bullshit on HBO, so I am completely vindicated and justified, because Penn and Teller know everything and never get anything wrong. Right? Right!
So, not a hybrid, then what? An electric car? Nope, can’t get an EV-1 anymore. Which by the way is reported to be the best electric car ever mass produced. But that’s just what I read, I haven’t actually watched my bootleg copy of “Who killed the Electric Car” yet. I can’t remember which portable hard drive I saved it to, or if I burned it to DVD; where did I put it? Probably in the garage.
I toyed with the idea of manufacturing a home-made electric car. To which I actually laughed at myself, out loud no less. No, it had to be simple. I had to think smaller. It was not unlike trying to build an airplane or glider, but I was no brother Wright. I can barely maintain my own bicycle. And the simplicity of the situation came to light, I decided to electrify my mountain bike.
At first I was contemplating mounting an electric engine and battery on the rear rack. Putting a gear on the motor’s axle and running a chain straight down to the rear gears on the back wheel. The more I thought about it the more I hated the idea. There had to be a better way and, of course, there was.
Surprisingly, information on alternative electric vehicles was sparse on the net back in the beginning of 2007 when I was scouring the web. I searched, and searched, and searched, and finally found a few sites which were not only helpful but had the solution I was incapable of dreaming of! There I found what can only be called the most ingenious, simple, elegant solution to my dilemma: a hub motor. Yes, they built the electric motor inside the rear hub! The site that had this revelation, this magnificent solution, was a Chinese site that mass produced the motors and batteries, but I wasn’t feeling lucky enough to buy something like this from China. However, I started refining my searches based on the new information I was gathering. I came across another manufacturer’s site and they had links to local distributors. One of those distributors was www.poweridestore.com
, a company in Atlanta, GA.
Having found a local distributor all I needed to do was figure out how I was going to afford it. And in all honesty, no matter what it is, when you want something badly enough you find a way to pay for it. I put it on my American Express Credit card.
I have to take some time here to say several kind words about the owner of the Power Ride Store, Earl Witcher; he is by far one of the most honest and fair people I have had the pleasure to do business with. I had a tragic wiring error which caused the controller to burn out. I drove the bicycle down to Atlanta (it’s only four hours each way) and Early spent the better part of a Saturday with me trying to figure out what I did wrong and how to fix it to get me running. I highly recommend using the black and red anderson connectors he sells. That was my fatal flaw while trying to wire my system initially. You can’t buy anything from a nicer guy.
Ascetically speaking there’s nothing to complain about. Unless you knew what an e-bike was and you were looking for it, you wouldn’t know there was anything different about my bike. Aside from a bag on the back (which holds the battery), a little black box behind my seat, a slightly modified back hub/rim, some wires zip-tied to the frame, and a few assorted switches on the handlebars, it looks like a completely ordinary bicycle.
An ordinary looking Bicycle
An ordinary looking bicycle but an extraordinary riding experience. It is so much fun to ride! My controller has two gears, high and low. In high gear with light peddling I am able to keep a steady speed of 27 mph on level road and I have the ability to climb hills without breaking a sweat. The low gear has a high degree of torque and can propel me at a speed of 8 mph up the steepest of hills here in Charlotte, NC (also with light peddling). Keep in mind, with light peddling on level pavement you travel anywhere between 6 and 10 mph. The e-bike goes close to three times that speed and 27 mph seems very fast for a bicycle.
So, it’s fast; but, it also goes far too. I have about a 20 mile range per charge, and it only takes around six or so hours to recharge the battery. So, if you were 20 miles from work, you could ride your e-bike there in a little under an hour (assuming you don’t live in the mountains), plug it in at work to charge the batteries at your desk and be ready to ride home at the end of the day — getting in two light cardio workouts.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, practically speaking biking to work is very enjoyable for me from 55 degrees to 75 degrees when it’s not raining. This summer temperatures soared into the 90’s for days on end and although I could have gotten to work without risking heatstroke, I still would have been a sweaty mess. I rode to work maybe a dozen times before the weather just made it too inconvenient. My work does have a shower that I can make use of, so I’m thinking about packing a change of clothes and bath items to shower and change at work next summer.
I’m still looking for an electric vehicle to drive to work on the days when it’s below 50, above 80 degrees, or raining, sleeting or snowing out. My e-bike is a great start, but I want a commuter car that performs like the Tesla, and is priced like a Hyundai.
This is the first installment of my greeny projects… Oh yes, there are more to come.