Its been a while since my last post, we are now on Day 33 of the Trans American Trail. Since my last post we have cycled approximately 1,500 miles, we have left Oregon and crossed Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and we are now in our 5th state, which is ‘Colourful Colorado’
Whilst in Montana, we dropped in on the headquarters of Adventure Cycling Association (ACA). The ACA is a national cycling association in the United States which provides services for cycle-tourists, publishes maps and campaigns for better cycling facilities. The TransAmerica Bicycle trail was the first route mapped back in 1976. Since then the Adventure Cycling Route Network has blossomed into an awe-inspiring network of 41,420 miles.
In the past couple of weeks we have cycled through what feels like a heatwave which has made life quite tough. In Idaho the temperature was over 100 degrees for 4 days in a row, to combat this we took to leaving at 5:30 am and attempting to finish before noon. If we found ourselves cycling in the afternoon it was like peddling with your face in the oven.
For the past ten days, we have been cycling at an altitude of 5,000 feet plus, this means although still hot through the day it cools down quite dramatically in the evening which is great for sleeping. We have cycled as high as 9,650 feet so we can definitely feel it on the lungs; we continue to go up for the next 4 days culminating in the Hoosier pass which is 11,542 feet....something to look forward too.
As touched upon in my previous post, we have met some fantastic people, the majority of which have been so friendly and went out of their way to speak to us and make us welcome in their country. Below are a couple of examples of this.
We arrived in Darby from Missoula, I was in the supermarket picking up some tins of beans for dinner, daydreaming about whether the campsite would have a shower. I was approached at the checkout by 3 generations of female. This is quite a common occurrence so I wasn’t too surprised, one of the ladies then asked if i would like to stay with them, again i took this in my stride. It turned out the youngest of the three along with her husband was a host on a website called www.warmshowers.org in which generous individuals give up their garden/couch and shower for touring cyclists. I was shocked but very gladly accepted, within 30 minutes we were showered and sitting waiting for a 3 course meal, the hosts made us breakfast too. Very humbling, and yet another example of the generosity which has met us at almost every turn.
The day after the magnificent hospitality shown by our Warm Shower hosts, Tom and I stopped at a MacDonald's for some free re-fill Coke and Wifi. We were telling some local kids about our trip (which was in defense and explanation as to why we were dressed like a couple of plonkers) when some guy passed us $40 and said 'welcome to America!' I am not sure what we said to invoke such generosity, I told him this would be donated to our charity and we were very grateful by his gesture. On the charity front we are attempting to raise 1 pound for every mile cycled in aid of Cancer Research and this week we reached the half-way point which we are delighted about.
More information can be found on this on transamcyclists.blogspot.com.
We read an interesting study distributed by the ACA yesterday which was prepared by a cycling team from the UK who are cycling across the USA. The conclusion was that American motorists were found to be more courteous toward cyclists than their British cousins, allowing more room on the road and resisting crazy overtaking maneuvers. Tom and I discussed this and we wholeheartedly agree. There is obviously the odd exception but so far so good.
Reposted with permission from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
When it comes to oil use, our country is at a crossroads: we can put the U.S. on a path toward cutting projected oil consumption in half, or we can continue to threaten our health and economic well-being by moving to increasingly dirty, inaccessible and dangerous sources of oil.
The choice is clear. It is time to commit to creating a future in which we live in healthier communities, prosper from a strong economy, and help safeguard our planet against the disastrous effects of climate change.
It is time to set the country on a path toward Half the Oil.
Half the Oil and You
Spending Less on Gas: Transportation is the second-largest expense (after housing) for most North American households. Improving the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles will reduce the amount Americans spend on gas, and is one of the biggest and most immediate consumer benefits of a Half the Oil future.
Saving Billions on Oil: Reaching a Half the Oil future would cut the total projected consumer spending on oil by $550 billion per year in 2035.
Increasing Consumer Choice: Consumers will also have greater freedom to choose how their vehicles are powered, including an expanding array of electric vehicles that cost significantly less to fuel than today's average gas-powered vehicle and can save nearly $13,000 in fuel costs over the vehicle's lifetime.
Half the Oil and Your Community
Smarter Growth: Reaching a Half the Oil future means continuing to design communities that better integrate transportation options with the places in which we live and work, a set of principles collectively called "smart growth."
Saving Oil: Working toward smart-growth policies and practices will reduce commute times, make streets safer, clean up our air, revitalize local economies — and yield oil savings of 1.5 million barrels per day in 2035.
Better Health: Oil-saving technologies will be deployed in communities near ports and other distribution hubs that create heavy traffic, reducing harmful diesel emissions and their associated health impacts, including respiratory illness, asthma, and heart attacks.
Half the Oil and Our Country
Creating Jobs: Just through investing in efficiency in cars and trucks, we can create as many as 1 million new U.S.-based jobs, many of which will be directly held by employees of the light- and heavy-duty vehicle and parts-manufacturing industries.
Stimulating the Economy: Jobs will also be created as consumer spending is shifted from oil to other sectors of the economy that demonstrate a higher potential for job creation compared to the oil and gas industry, thereby stimulating employment, real wages, and state revenues.
Curbing Climate Change: In a Half the Oil future, we will significantly reduce emissions from the largest source of U.S. global warming emissions today — oil and other petroleum products — to the tune of 2 billion metric tons per year by 2035.
Stabilizing Markets: Finally, cutting our oil use — and using alternative energy sources not associated with the global energy market — also means that we have an insurance policy against oil price shocks and the dramatic rise in prices and economic impacts that accompany them. For example, an energy source such as electricity can power a vehicle without subjecting families to unpredictable fluctuations in gasoline prices.
Visit the Union of Concerned Scientists' website to view charts for the average U.S. spending on gas and gasoline vs. electric fuel costs.
As mentioned in MAX Update 100: The Shows Must Go On, the latest blog software eliminated the MAX Update index, which made finding old posts a genuine challenge. To remedy this, I've started an index on my own web site at Kinetic Vehicles, so posts can be located by number, title, or subject.
One reason this is taking me a while is it's so distracting. I search motherearthnews.com for the next post on the list and then read it and...boy, since I'm starting the index at the beginning and working my way up to the now, I haven't seen some of these posts for years, and some of them are a real trip down Memory Lane. And some make me wonder “What was I thinking?” And some claimed “I'll get back to you on that,” and I never did. And one was deliberately evasive.
Ah yes, MAX Update No. 32: Why We Resigned From The Auto X Prize. That was about four years ago, and I still (as recently as last week, in fact) get calls saying “There's got to be more to the story than that,” and yes, there was. I'll touch on two of the reasons not mentioned.
I believe the Progressive Automotive X Prize (as it was eventually named) did some good by getting people thinking about fuel efficient automobiles, but the organizers seemed to lose sight of some of their initial goals. One goal was to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas production (specifically CO2) through dramatically reducing the use of fossil fuel, but that Dramatically drifted down to Better Than Average, and ended up with the only fossil fuel use restriction on electric cars was they couldn't exceed 200 grams of CO2 per mile.
Mind you, they had their reasons for going easy on electric cars, and 200 grams per mile doesn't sound like much, but that's 20 kilograms—44 pounds—of CO2 in a hundred miles. That's more than double the CO2 output of a gallon of gasoline, about double what MAX gets (and 10 times what MAX gets on straight vegetable oil) and when you consider that the majority of the “fuel” they calculated for electric cars was nuclear and hydro, setting the emissions bar at Better Than Average is not impressive. Lots of cars are already better than average (for example, any VW TDI sedan running biodiesel blend is under 200 grams of CO2 per mile) and the X Prize Foundation wouldn't have got much press with “10 Million Dollar Prize Announced for Better Than Average Cars.”
So I wrote them a letter, as a competitor, telling them how I felt about that, and that they'd look ridiculous when my article about the rules hit print...which leads me to Reason Number 2:
When the rules were finally released (more than a year after the entries opened), they included competitor gag rules (“X PRIZE shall have the exclusive right to control and manage any Media Content...all media content arising from or in connection with the Competition, including without limitation...all forms of literary works. Team hereby grants X PRIZE the exclusive right to...the life story and personal experiences of the Team and each Team Member, as related to their participation in the Competition (known as the “Story Rights”). X PRIZE shall have the exclusive, perpetual and worldwide right to Use the Story Rights...X PRIZE shall have the right to edit, dramatize and fictionalize actual events and characters contained in the Story Rights...”) which meant anything I wrote about the competition (excuse me; the Competition) could be rewritten (or simply refused) by X PRIZE before submission to Mother Earth News (or elsewhere). It may be egotistical for me to think I may have brought this on myself with my Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword rants, but I wasn't willing to give up my right to write, so I told them I wouldn't sign their agreement and they gave me my entry fee back.
There were other issues, but that was the clincher. I'm a writer first and a competitor second, so we agreed to disagree, and I agreed to wait for the dust to settle before I mentioned this in print.
But I digress. The MAX Updates Index is coming along, and you can get there in a single click.
Reposted with permission from PluginCars.
Temperatures in many U.S. states are reaching record-breaking highs this summer, making even the most normal of everyday activities unbearable for all but the most hardened heat-loving Americans.
Like humans, electric car battery packs prefer moderate temperatures rather than extreme ones. What can you do to keep EV batteries happy in unbearable weather?
Avoid Extremes of Use
Just like any other battery pack, passing current in and out of your car’s battery pack will warm it up. The higher the current passing through the battery pack — either in or out — the quicker the pack warms up.
It’s worth noting too that as the battery pack reaches 20 percent full or less, its cell voltages start to drop dramatically. Since electrical power equals voltage times current, the current drain on the battery pack will increase as the pack voltage drops to maintain the power levels demanded by the car. This will in turn heat your car’s battery pack up — not exactly what you want when it’s already in the triple digits outside.
To keep your electric car battery pack as healthy as possible and as cool as possible, it’s best to avoid heavy acceleration and running your vehicle down to a low state of charge.
As we’ve just explained, passing high currents through your car’s battery pack will cause it to heat up far more quickly than passing low currents through it.
Because the CHAdeMO quick charge and Tesla Supercharger stations rely on extremely high current flows to quickly replenish the battery packs on cars like the Nissan LEAF or Tesla Model S to 80 percent full in less than 30 minutes, think twice before using them when the mercury is reaching for the sky.
The same is true for 100 percent or ‘range’ charges in hot weather. As a battery pack reaches a full state of charge and its internal resistance rises, it becomes harder and harder to push electrons into the battery. In turn, this puts additional stress on the battery pack and increases the rate at which it heats up.
Consequentially, if you know you only need an 80 percent charge to reach your destination, setting your car to stop charging at 80 percent will put less strain on it and help it stay healthy in hot weather.
With the sidewalks in some cities hot enough to give pedestrians second degree burns, you need to make sure that your car gets just as much shade as you do. Where possible, park in the shade out of direct sunlight, as this should help your car’s battery pack stay cooler than it otherwise would. In addition, you’ll find your car far more pleasant to return to.
Keep Your Car Plugged In
While some cars like the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i rely on passive forced air cooling to keep them cool in hot weather, others — such as the Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Volt and BMW ActiveE — use sophisticated thermal management systems with liquid coolant.
By closely monitoring the pack temperature, these fully-automated systems work by pumping refrigerant around the battery pack to keep them operating at peak efficiency. If your car is not plugged in, they will use some battery power to keep the pack cool. If your car is plugged in, they will generally run from mains power.
If your car uses an active thermal management system, it’s a good idea to keep it plugged in whenever possible in hot weather, to maximize range and keep the battery pack as cool as you can.
Photo by Nissan
A little over a year ago, my husband, Terry, started talking about building a solar tractor. Since we were planning a move to a thirty-acre farm in Arkansas, the tractor would have to actually be the workhorse we expected we would need rather than a conversation piece shown off in parades. The original tractor — and I use that expression loosely — was a Ford 1950 8n bound for the scrap metal pile. When Terry told me he paid $200 for the rusty tractor pieces he proudly showed me I admit I wondered about his sanity. The front tires were lying off to one side and there was no motor, seat or fenders. Despite my doubts, his enthusiasm never waned and he began building his solar tractor.
For those who are mechanically-minded and are thinking about building their own solar tractor I will attempt to relay the information given to me by Terry—also sometimes known as “MacGyver” due to his ability to fix anything and make something out of nothing! So, according to my mad scientist…
First, the crank shaft was removed and cut at the last rod bearing, leaving the rear main, flywheel attachment and collection pressure plate. Next the crank shaft was machined to accept the end cap of a universal joint after the drilling and tapping on the crank shaft was completed. The crank shaft was re-installed into the tractor, leaving the two rear main bearings. A grease fitting was installed into the block of the tractor. A rubber bladder was located—an automatic lubricator which keeps the rear main lubricated.
A trip to the welding shop for steel—including sixteen inches of a 16” pipe to cradle the 36-48 volt Hyster forklift motor purchased in Dallas at a rewinding shop for $600—came next. The pipe was cut in half, leaving two “cradles,” one of which was attached by welding a bracket to hold the pipe. The bracket was attached to the front frame of the tractor and a chain was welded over the top of the forklift motor once it was set inside its cradle. The chain basically works as a strap which holds the motor in place, preventing it from slipping backwards or forwards or rotating under torque. Next I searched (and searched and searched) on the Internet to find a spline to fit on the 21-tooth motor drive shaft. Eventually we ended up ordering a 21-spline clutch and taking it apart. (Price for steel and spline—approximately $250)
A bolt was run through a link of the chain with a nut threaded onto the bolt which pulls the chain down tight against the forklift motor, creating a tensioning chain bracket. A steel bracket was then fabricated and bolted to the original cast iron oil pan. Two block bearings with a drive shaft between them were installed, then a pulley was installed on the drive shaft and a universal attached to the end of the drive shaft to mate with the universal joint on the crank shaft. Terry next installed a double-belt pulley on the 21-tooth spline onto the motor drive shaft. After another Internet search we ordered an Alltrax Performance Controller ($700) to control the voltage which goes to the motor and to allow operation of the electronic foot pedal.
The electronic foot pedal was then attached to the original tractor throttle lever. The Alltrax Performance Controller is programmable; it works in a 300-650 amp range, 12-72 volts DC. Terry selected a 48-volt system so it would work with the 48-volt solar photovoltaic system installed at our home. In this way, when the batteries on the tractor are running low it can be plugged into the household battery bank.
The tractor is mostly kept at a working amperage rate of 100-200 amps per hour. It presently has eight-250 amp batteries installed, but we intend to add four more deep cycle batteries (purchased at Sam’s for $95 each) by the time we are ready to begin plowing and need longer operating times.
We bought a new seat from Tractor Supply, two new wheels, two front tires and a new steering wheel (approximately $600 for all) Terry later found the original two rear fenders at the same shop we purchased the tractor. We ordered an amp meter in order to be able to easily see how many amps were being drawn from the batteries as well as a voltage gauge which displays the voltage remaining in the batteries. ($100) I think of these two additions in the same way a gas gauge tells you when it’s time to pull into the gas station and re-fuel.
The tractor was painted Terry’s favorite color—green—before the motor was strapped in. After the motor was installed a battery stand was welded over the top of the DC drive motor which is large enough to accommodate twelve 250-amp deep-cycle batteries. Once the performance controller was installed battery cables were run, linking the batteries together. A frame was welded to hold the three 240-watt Canadian Solar panels. ($700) The panels and a Morningstar Solar MPPT 45 amp charge controller ($150) were installed. As with any solar photovoltaic application the charge controller is connected to the batteries, working like the regulator on a car. The batteries are charged but prevented from over-charging.
The total cost of the tractor was approximately $4,100. We purchased a brush hog, box blade, scoop and a five-blade cultivator after searching on the local Craigslist for the best prices for good used equipment. The size of the PTO had to be enlarged a bit to run the newer equipment. The tractor’s top speed is approximately 20 mph. It will run for nearly two hours with the eight batteries however that time would be extended with the addition of four more batteries. Because there is no oil pump to keep the back main lubricated it is necessary to grease the automatic lubricator each time the tractor is used which takes about 3-5 minutes. There is no difference in power as compared to a typical gas or diesel tractor — Terry has graded our rough driveway, slashed the weeds in one field and tilled up our garden area.
The tractor requires from 8-10 hours for a total recharge, therefore those farmers who spend all day on their tractor probably would not be able to use only a solar tractor. For our small farm applications the solar tractor is perfect. Terry has no desire to spend more than a couple of hours at a time on the tractor anyhow so the time limitations don’t really affect us. Aside from being a great little workhorse on our farm, the solar tractor is — as you can probably imagine — a great conversation piece!
I put a couple of short clips of the tractor working on YouTube here and here.
The Solar Impulse landed in New York City on July 6, 2013, completing the final leg of its cross-country flight and making it the first solar-powered airplane to fly across the United States.
Powered by 11,000 solar cells on its oversized wings, the plane landed approximately three hours early due to an 8-foot-long tear in its left wing. The crew said the breakage posed no threat to pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, although they had to skip the planned fly-by of the Statue of Liberty.
Piccard told The Washington Post, “Flying coast-to-coast has always been a mythical milestone full of challenges for aviation pioneers. During this journey, we had to find solutions for a lot of unforeseen situations, which obliged us to develop new skills and strategies. In doing so, we also pushed the boundaries of clean technologies and renewable energies to unprecedented levels.”
This revolutionary aircraft – the first to navigate cross-country strictly on solar energy – rose to 30,000 feet and reached a top speed of 45 mph. Weighing approximately the size of a small car, the Solar Impulse flew with power comparable to that of a motorized scooter. According to the Post, “the cross-country flight is a tuneup for a planned 2015 flight around the globe with an upgraded version of the plane.” Europe experienced its first transcontinental solar airplane flight in 2012.
Photo by Solar Impulse
The League of American Bicyclists released a series of online educational videos earlier this month as part of its Smart Cycling program.
The 19 videos use clear, easy-to-follow narration to instruct viewers on a wide range of bicycle safety topics. For beginning cyclists, there are lessons on how to choose the right bike and determine proper helmet fit. Other videos tackle more dicey subjects such as navigating in heavy traffic and riding on sidewalks.
Despite bicycling’s recent surge in popularity, the road remains a dangerous place for cyclists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 677 cycling deaths and an additional 48,000 injuries in 2011. The League hopes to increase bicycle safety through its Smart Cycling program.
Visit the League of American Bicyclists website to view the videos.
Photo courtesy of League of American Bicyclists