Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting Charged Up

This Saturday, I went to Fort Atkinson, WI to show off my electric motorcycle at a small Alternative Vehicles event, hosted by Heart of the City.

While it was a small event, not held in conjunction with any other event, such as Earth Day, or even a Farmer's Market, it still had some great exibitors.

Attending were representatives from the Milwaukee Hybrid group, bio-fuels, electric bikes, and two different Neighborhood Electric Vehicle dealers.

There was something odd about this event, and it didn't dawn on me until one of the Milwaukee Hybrid Group commented on it. "Looks like we're the gas-guzzlers here."

He was right. The only gasoline powered vehicles were the Prius and Escape Hybrid.

Even the diesel being shown off was 100% bio-diesel. No petroleum there.

As strange as it seems, EVs (electric vehicles) are becoming mainstream in their own small way, at least in some sub-cultures of our society.

Just recently (last Tuesday!) my city has passed ordinance allowing Neighborhood Electric Vehicles to use the public roads. The publicly-owned power utility is going to purchase one or two NEVs for staff to travel between the Utility building and the City Hall. That trip happens several times a day. The two buildings are within two miles of each other. That's not enough time for a gasoline engine to EVER warm up, KILLING fuel economy - but a perfect use for an Electric Vehicle.

Since the Utility had to replace an aging vehicle anyways, going with an electric vehicle is a great way to not only help the enviroment, but also just plain save tax-payer dollars.

With the City owning an electric vehicle, it helps "pave the way" (pun intended) for private EV ownership, and public and private EV charging stations.

One of the NEV dealers, Green Autos, (https://www.greenautos.com/) was kind enough to provide me with an EV Charging Station sign. I am hoping to be able to use it as a sample to help spark the imagination of local officials in how we could build an EV-Friendly community.

And this isn't all about Battery Electric Vehicles either. As commercially manufactured Plug-In Hybrids become the norm, we will already have the charging infrastructure available for them.

Imagine a city in an Economic Boom because it attracts the best customers and employees, who know that employers and retail establishments support clean transportation. Employees could drive to and from work all week without using gasoline. How's that for an attractive work-place?

Through electric charging stations and other programs, along with our lakes and parks, our city could become an Eco-Tourism destination.

It's all possible, and it's all happening right now.

Not long ago, I got an odd comment on one of my web videos. This was one of several videos showing me building an electric car. The posted comment was "Great for you, but what about us who can't afford electric cars, and don't have all those great skills you have!?!"

Skills?! When did I get those?
I built my electric motorcycle with pretty much just a socket wrench, hacksaw, and wire stripper!
The electric car cost even less to build than the motorcycle did!

One of my personal heros, Thomas Edison, once said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

I didn't have lots of money, nor plenty of mechanical/electrical experience.

What I do have is a library card and a dream, that we can do things better than we have in the past.

That's all any of us really needs, just motivation, and a plan for the future.

So, what is it that you can do? Work at it. Dream big. Make things happen.

If every one of use just uses what they have to improve on how we have been doing things, just think how bright our future will be.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

NEV Ordinance Passes!

Yea! We now officially have NEV ordinance in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin!

Feel free to now drive about in your friendly Neighborhood Electric Vehicle!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Your canned goods come from WHERE?!

I am now looking at ingredients in a whole new light.

Since starting No More Corn Syrup, I have been reading every ingredient list on every grocery item I get my hands on. I now have a pretty good idea of what things do and don't have corn syrup in them.

What gets really confusing is WHERE things come from.

I was feeling pretty good about myself today as I made a snack of natural vanilla yogurt topped with mandarin oranges.....until I read the back of the can.

No, it did not contain Corn Syrup - rather, it was a PRODUCT OF CHINA.*

OK - so maybe the term MANDARIN oranges should have tipped me off, but I am starting to notice that more American canned goods come from China than most people think.

Last week, I used some canned mushrooms to top a pizza. After opening and using them, I saw that those too were Chinese food.

In the recent past, we have had some scares with Chinese products, mostly toys, that have concerned the public. Now I am not saying that my pizza mushrooms or oranges are laced with lead. But it does seem pretty crazy to ship some little tiny oranges in a can half-way around the world to top my yogurt. I'm not sure how much fossil fuel is used to move my oranges, but it's got to add up.

You know what they say about if "Your're not part of the solution..."

Last time I checked, both oranges and mushrooms grow in the good ole' USA.

So next time you are grocery shopping, don't just check the ingredient list. See where it came from too.

Or better yet, start a garden. Then you know what it is AND where it came from.


*Nothing personal against China. I try not to buy too much from New Zealand or other distant lands either.

69 EV3 solid coupler

Norm ponders the solid coupler and more.

(68) EV3 motors pulled

Norm pulls out the Samurai engine and explains the concept of how the solid coupler will work.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

VEGAN by mistake!?

So today, I was eating lunch.

I had from scratch black bean soup with garlic, carrot, and celery, which was leftover from last nights dinner.

With it, I also had a big chunk-o-bread. Which was test trial # two of me actually making bread from scratch. This one was a mix of wheat flour and corn meal with a 10-grain crust rub.

While eating it, I was talking to my wife and commenting how there was no butter or oil in the bread, or cheese on the soup.

I had to pause mid-spoon-ful. Wait a minute....
No butter, no cheese, no meat, no honey.

Holy crap! I just cooked VEGAN! (and didn't even realize it at the time!)

Amazingly the bread did NOT require any butter or honey. The soup really didn't need any meat or cheese or sour cream.

They both got some really good flavor from (gasp!) their INGREDIENTS!

The better part of the ingredients were Organic. My wife has been buying more and more organics. Besides the lack of pesticides, they actually TASTE better too. My wife seems to notice it more than I do, though.

I have noticed that the food I have been eating lately tends to have a more subtle flavor to it. It doesn't have to be SOOO sweet or salty, or whatever flavor the commercial food industry is bashing you over the head with.

It simply is what it is.

And that's a good thing.

Friday, March 6, 2009

No More Corn Syrup: Day 10

Today is garbage day. The first garbage day since doing a full week of No More Corn Syrup.

In my kitchen, I have a slide-out built into one of my cabinets. Inside, is two, 13-gallon garbage cans. The front one is for trash, and the rear is for recycling.

When either is full, I take the trash bag out to a large garbage can in my garage. Recycling gets dumped into a big blue bin. On garbage day, I take the trash and recycling outside, add it to the garbage can and blue bin in the garage, and haul those to the curb.

This morning, I grabbed the trash. The bag was only really half-full, but I take it out anyways, so it doesn't just sit around and get smelly. I pulled out the recycling container and went out to the garage.

Now here's the weird part. The garbage can in the garage was EMPTY. I had never taken out the trash EVEN ONCE earlier in the week!

The recycling blue bin had some cans and bottles in it, but just a few.

What's going on here? Did I somehow misplace my trash and recycling? I looked around. Nope. Didn't find any.

The one trash bag wasn't even full. What's going on here?

Here's my idea. Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup are usually in more processed food. More processed food usually has more packaging. Therefore, less corn syrup equals less garbage!

Is it that simple? By getting rid of Junk Food, I'm creating less junk?

In the recycling bin, aluminum soda cans and 2-liter plastic bottles were distinctly missing.

Another thing I have noticed is that some of the Organic products have slightly less packaging than their NON-Organic counterparts.

What have I been eating all week?

Oh - look at the compost bucket. Er, that IS sort of overflowing, isn't it... Well, guess I gotta take that out. However, that just gets turned into compost, and eventually recycled into tomatoes and cucumbers - all free of corn syrup AND packaging. Plus, I can measure those in Food-Feet, NOT Food-MILES. (See! I knew we would save some gas on this project!)

Greenhouse MK2

I am home today, it's sunny, and time to test out the cheap-o greenhouse!

It's 42℉ and sunny. A beautiful, unseasonably warm day.

I finished building ver 2 of the mini-solar-greenhouse at the end of the day 3 days ago.

For the last two days plus just this morning, it has been soaking up solar energy, although it's been fairly cloudy until this morning.

When I pulled off the hatch of the greenhouse, the first thing that happened was that I got hit in the face with a blast of hot air and my glasses steamed up!

I crawled inside and pulled the door shut behind me.

The thermometer I had left in there was reading off the chart, but it was laying flat on the black blanket in the sun, so I know that's not accurate.

It was WARM in there though. No, I take that back. HOT. It felt like the high 80's℉ in there.

That's over a 40℉ difference in air temperature!

I think leaving the black blanket in there made a big difference as well. While all surfaces inside the greenhouse were warm (except the wet ground) the blanket itself was HOT and radiating heat!

I could tell that the greenhouse was still not perfectly sealed up. There was a small gap on at least the one end, and a few little spots where the the ground wasn't level and there was a little space to the ground.

The next thing I noticed amazed me. Green grass. The exposed grass had sucked up enough heat and light to start turning green again! Outside the greenhouse, it's all still brown and dormant.

It was hot and steamy in there. All the snow was completely melted off, although there was still a couple very small bits of ice left in there. The ice was actually bubbling as it melted away!

I SO want a bigger version of this greenhouse now!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cheap-O Greenhouse

I built a greenhouse this morning....From scratch....In about ten minutes.

Ok, ok. So it's not what you would call "Big" or "Permanent" or even "Sturdy".

It is however, made completely from free/used/reusable materials, and a good little experiment.

If you live the the daylight-starved great white North like I do, any solar building in the winter is a good one.

I got the idea about this after visiting the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute a few weeks back.

They had a BEAUTIFUL greenhouse there made from patio doors, greenhouse glazing, sheet metal, and insulation. The beams were natural round wood poles. It looked like all materials in the building were recycled.

Now here's the thing. It was an A-frame. The easiest building in the world, because the walls and the roof are the same thing. Imagine the capital letter A. That's what it looks like.

The south wall was all glass and the north wall was all insulation - simple.

For a while, I have thought it would be great to have a greenhouse on my property, but they get complicated and expensive fast.

I already had a couple of sheets of salvaged 4-foot by 9-foot polycarbonate greenhouse glazing. I also have a few sheets of 1/2 and 3/4 EPS (pink foam insulation.

All I did was lean two pieces of the glazing together, with the insulation against the north sheet. I held the two corners together with spring clamps, and then threw a packing blanket over either end. It actually took me longer to write this message than to build it!

No, this is not a permanent greenhouse, and no there is nothing growing in it. In fact, it will be lucky if it doesn't just blow over.

I put a thermometer in there when I built it (30 degrees F.) It's partly cloudy today. I'm going to let the greenhouse sit for a while, and then I will crawl in it this afternoon to see what the temperature is.

This is just a simple proof-of-concept shelter. Obviously, it would have to be built more solid, larger, and have permanent materials to be an actually useful building.

For me though, it's often easier to actually DO something than just dream or sketch on paper.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

No More Corn Syrup - Day 5

Kashi brand Breakfast cereal with milk. It took 20 minutes to chew this stuff. Tasty, and you sure can't gulp it down the way you can with heavily processed food. Coffee with natural sugar and real cream.

One of the new EV Club members runs a pizzaria. He brought a couple of pizzas made the night before to bake for lunch. Very tasty - good crust - No corn syrup, I checked days ahead of time.

Dinner: Kristin made from scratch Vegetable Quiche. VERY tasty! No corn syrup or meat!

Right now I have a loaf of bread rising on my kitchen counter. I have never made bread before (without a bread machine!)

If it weren't for this experiment, I don't think I would really ever bother, but because of my earlier complaint about bread having corn syrup, somebody suggested I make my own, and you know what a push-over I am.

This bread recipe is really easy to make, but takes a LONG time. I started about 20 hours ago!

I do have to say, I am really enjoying food a LOT more. It tastes better. It's more fun.

I was originally thinking that by going without corn syrup, I would be doing without. I would be MISSING my favorite foods.

Far from it. Instead, I am FREED from bad food, and it opens up a whole new world to me.

I made "simple syrup" last night. Do you even know what it is? It's real easy. It's just sugar dissolved in water. I made a simple syrup, then used that with (real) lemon and lime juice to make a margarita mix. Add plenty of ice and tequila, and BAM! Corn-syrup free cocktail time!

I was a bit disappointed recently though. When looking through the "ethnic food" aisle at the grocery store, I found the Coca-Cola from Mexico. What's great about Mexican sodas is that they use sugar, instead of corn syrup. When I double-checked the ingredient list, I found that they CHANGED THE FORMULA! My Mexican cola now contains "high fructose corn syrup AND/OR cane sugar. Looks like trade laws and other things have changed enough that they sometimes use corn syrup, and sometimes cane sugar, depending on whats available (read: cheapest) at the time.

Looks like a Rum & Coke is off my list of acceptable tasty beverages.

[EDIT: I just finished eating home-made Hazel-Nut-Chocolate Pudding! It's SOOOO good. Just because I am not eating corn syrup doesn't mean I won't eat everything else!!!]
Hey EVeryone!

It was a great day. Today was another EV Build Day at Tom's.
(I forgot my camera at home, but did take photos with someone else's camera. I will host photos later.)

I towed the Metro into the city and got prime parking space in the heated garage.

I already had the "test hole" cut in the backseat, and showed Rich what I was planning on doing, and let him poke around in there and see how the suspension and other things lined up and may or may not interfere with the box.

Brian offered to donate his 36" by 30" by 20" machine case to my project to become the back seat battery box.

I LOVE the plasma cutter!!!!

We cut the entire box down to a 10.5 inch height. Tall enough for the batteries, including posts, plus a little more for insulation and wiggle room.

We then chopped the box down to a 15 inch depth, and left it the entire 36 inches wide. Since my batteries are 7 inches wide, 5 of them side-by-side is 35 inches, so the 36 inch width is perfect!

36 inches also EXACTLY clears between the rear swing arms.

We welded the cut-off part of the box to the section we were using to make the 5th side (the sixth, top side of the box is left open.) Then we used the plasma cutter to chop off the extra part.

This made a very nice 36" by 15" by 10.5" metal box. And it's solid, so there's plenty to weld to, and no concerns about cross-bracing. In fact, be can weld a solid seam all the way around the box to make the car even sturdier than before!

Again, the plasma cutter was used to cut the big hole through the back seat. We dropped the box through the hole, and then had to figure out height before tack welding it.

We ended up making it so the the BOTTOM of the box was pretty much even with the floor of the car. The box wasn't lower than anything else, so I am not too worried about speed bumps!

This does make the top of the box stick out about three inches ABOVE the front lip of the seat, but the bottom of the box is out of the way of the parking brake cables and brake lines.

Speaking of brake lines.....After being away from the car for a few minutes, Brian asked me if I wanted to know the good news, the good news, or the bad news.

Long story short, the brake lines are gone. Time for new ones. We didn't get TOO much brake fluid on the floor. Oh, did you know that brake fluid is flammable? Well it is. It can be started on fire by a plasma cutter, just in case you didn't know.

That's odd, we actually were joking about setting electric cars on fire earlier in the day. Don't worry, it was only a small fire, and quickly stomped out.

I have a long section of conduit running under the car from the spare tire well to the front. I needed to move it to make space for the battery box. To do that, I had to disconnect the front end of the battery cables, charging cables, and 120V cables. I pulled all the cables, threw them in the back, and removed the conduit.

We fit the box through the back seat hole (after several people doing Fred Flintstone impressions.) Rich tacked the box in with the welder. It's in there nice and solid now, although we will finish off with a solid weld all the way around, and some welding from the bottom too.

The top of the box sticks up roughly 3 inches from the sheet metal of the car. Since the foam of the back seat is 5 to 6 inches thick, I should be able to hollow it out to put the back seat back in. Also, that extra three inches makes the top of the box about even with the bottom of the "trunk" area. So, another thing I could do is cut some thin plywood to fit and cover the spare tire well and extend out over the battery box. The plywood would then be covered with some nice thin carpet, and form a large, flat cargo area, similar to a Honda Insight (the original one!, not the new one!)

I am not sure if I want to keep the back seat for "Looks" and "normalicy", or go with the big cargo area, which could look really cool too. It also might be neat for showing off the car. I could actually install plexiglass over the batteries, and have other components (charger?) in the spare tire well. I could normally have carpet over the top, but pull it off for displaying the car!

Anyways, I now need to replace the rear brakelines, pull all the batteries out of the back, install new conduit between the batt box and the front, figure out how to fit for batts in front! Oh criminy! That's a lot of work!

I feel very excited about the project again!

OOOh! Tom also had a couple of small DC/DC converters kicking around; 2 5 volters, and a 3.5V! They are a style that should be able to be run in series, which would make a 30 amp 13.5V output! Sounds like plenty for headlights to me! That would allow me to use a much smaller 12v battery! Might help free up some space under the hood!

With the cabling pulled, the car can no longer move under it's own power. Since I stripped out the insides, there's no driver seat either!

That's how I ended up being pushed backwards, down Tom's driveway to the road - quickly!

"That's odd", I remember thinking to myself when I pressed the brakes and the pedal sunk to the floor. "That's right, we did loose the brakes, didn't we.."

I yank the hand brake as the car flies towards the road, me sitting on the floor of the car, too short to see out the rear window.

Once traffic clears, the guys push me to the back of my truck to hitch up the tow bar and take off for the day.

Cut a hole in the car, lost the brakes, started a fire, and didn't die in a flaming wreck!

What will we do next time to top it!? :thumbup:

(I will post some photos of the batt box when next I have some time in daylight.)