Monday, January 21, 2013

My First Electric Car

I have dreamed of the possibilities of electric cars for a long time.  I've certainly mentioned them here on the blog regularly.  Electric cars offer things the average car cannot.  You can generate electricity, enough even to power an electric car.  You cannot generate gasoline.

I don't remember when I first started following electric cars.  It was a long time ago.  And I'm usually a logically minded person.  Thinking through the reasons why one is a good idea, I get the following:

1.  I can generate electricity in any number of ways, but I cannot generate enough of any other fuel to power a reasonable car.

2.  Electric cars are more efficient on most levels, especially fuel economy, costing as low as a quarter of the cost of even a good economy car to drive.  And they also offer the option of driving more efficiently and learning to drive more efficiently.  Over the life of the car, they actually cost less than a comparable gasoline car.

3.  They don't need to warm up.  You hop in and go.  Even better, you can send a message via your computer or smart phone and your car will warm up for you before you even get there.

4.  Most wear in a car's engine takes place during start up and warm up.  With an electric car, there is no warm up.  Electric motors are extremely durable machines and last a very long time and are infinitely rebuildable.  It's like all your miles are highway miles.

So I got one.  It looks pretty similar to the picture at the top of this page.

The first thing I noticed was how smooth it was.  You don't realize how much your car vibrates until you drive a car without an engine.  I have learned to drive really efficiently and my wife is learning too.  I have no problems with range anxiety.  I have a 30 mile commute and my wife has a 40 mile commute.  Her commute is only three days a week though, so I take the Leaf two days a week and either use our other compact gas fueled car or my motorcycle which usually gets over 40 miles per gallon.

Charging has been no problem.  We opted to use the provided 120 volt charger.  It's actually a misnomer because the charger is in fact in the car, in the trunk.  The "charger" is actually a smart switch which tells the car that power is available and when the car asks for it, the switch turns itself on.  It's a pretty good system to keep people from getting shocked and it also keeps the car from moving while it is plugged in.  I guess there won't be any fail videos of electric cars driving away while still plugged in like I so often see filmed at gas stations with gas nozzles.  You can buy a good economy "charger" which will charge at more than twice as fast using 240 volts, but I also found a guy out in California who converts the stock "charger" into a 240 volt "charger."  You see, the wiring in the stock unit was well over engineered and handles the higher voltage just fine because after all, the real charger is actually in the trunk.  The "charger" isn't really a charger.  Here is his website.  His conversion price is a third the price of a commercially available "charger."

I am really enjoying this car.  It's kinda great to finally have something that I have dreamed about for a long time.  Next project:  Wood gasifier.  I want to make wood into electricity.  It will be by far my biggest, most involved and most complex project yet.  I've set myself a goal to be off grid (everything but internet) by my birthday in the year 2023.  I try to live what I believe.  Not always easy, but fulfilling.

Always in transition,