I would like to share my experience of buying and using an electric car on Cortes. I knew I was taking a chance when I bought it that it wouldnít work or wouldnít be able to fill the needs of my family but so far, overall, I am happy. My wife also had reservations about me spending $6000 on a 25 year old 2 door car with 240,000km and questionable drivetrain, but I have since won her over. I have also won myself over. You see, when youíre environmentally conscious, like most of us are nowadays, there is a nagging guilt in the back of your mind about burning fossil fuels. Whether youíre driving your children to school, going to church, or on your way to the next pipeline protest, you are supporting the power structure that cares little for your children, your God or Mother Earth. My wife and I both feel somewhat lighter now while driving, having unburdened a few handfuls of culpability, and we both feel that weíve taken a step in the right direction. I want to share some information about electric cars in general and about my particular journey before and since. But first I need to tell you about the downside, which, conveniently, is also the upside; Now that I have an electric car, Iím forced to drive lessÖ, sometimes. Guess what happens if the car comes back from a trip closer to fully discharged than fully charged and someone (my wife) forgets to plug it in? Youíre riding your bike. Yes, itís true. If we donít pay closer attention to how we manage our driving, we are forced to get along doing something else. It turns out this is a blessing in disguise and an inconvenience that I think everybody should be observing.
The electric motor was invented before the internal combustion engine (ICE). In the past 100 years the electric motor has mostly been used in industrial settings. And for the sake of growing the early industrial economy, the design of the electric motor was honed and perfected for a century. Today we have this crime called planned obsolescence. Our computers, iPads and cars are designed to self-destruct 10 years after we buy them, also for the sake of boosting our economy. The efficient and indestructible electric motor has slipped unforeseen under this racket and has deposited itself under the hood of my car. A simple electric drivetrain like this is up to 90% efficient whereas the very best and most modern ICE is only about 20% efficient. That means that 80% of your fuel is being converted directly into by-products like vibration, noise and smoke. For this reason alone skeptics in California should think again when they say that the electricity generated from Coal and used in electric cars is more polluting than ICE. They have their hands in the pockets of the companies that drill and frac. This car is quiet and what I like best is that as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator it stops using energy. No idling at red lights. Electric cars are known to have very high torque. The motor in this car weighs 99 pounds and is about the size of a watermelon. It is DC, running at 144 volts and is rated at 14.8 kw continuous; equivalent to about 20 horsepower (amazingly, that is all you need to get a car up to highway speed). The motor can withstand bursts of over 100kw, which delivers almost double the horsepower than this car was initially designed for. I can smoke the little 12 inch front tires 200 feet down the road in 3rd gear. My brother would appreciate this attribute. He builds hot rods- big cars with 8 cylinders the size of yogurt buckets. Cars that burn through a tank of gas in 45 minutes on the highway. I keep trying to convert him to electric but heís got his head in the sand. If only heíd get on board; building electric cars that impress people and are economical; laying the ground for the future. Heís stuck on ICE and I think his brain is frozen (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apoeGMWF17c
My small white electric car costs roughly 8 times less to drive than my previous small white car. Now, my previous car was only 22 yrs old and used to cost me about $70 a month to fill up (at Squirrel Cove). My family and I drive an average of 19km per day (we drive a lot), which works out to about 11 cents per km. My new car sucks 60 amps to drive roughly 60km. Now we all know that 60ah 144v = 8.64kWh. With an average cost in BC of 9.395 cents per kWh, that means it costs 81.1728 cents to drive 60 km. By dividing that up we find that each km driven in this electric car costs 1.35 cents. 8.6 times cheaper than my old car. According to Wikipedia, 1 eMPG is equivalent to 0.047km per kWh. I am getting about 60km per 8.64kWh so 6.94km per kWh. 6.94 divided by 0.047 equals 147.6. I am getting the equivalent to 147 miles per gallon of gas. But Iím not imbibing the gallons, Iím flowing with the electrons. Now we just drive by the gas station and wave and laugh. The battery is made up of 45 Lithium Polymer cells. Each cell is 3.2 volts for a total of 144 volts. The battery is by far the most impressive part. It weighs 220 pounds and is encased in a waterproof metal box that has taken the spot of the gas tank under the back seat. If you took the lid off and touched the two terminals farthest from each other the resulting shock could kill you (but so could 110v household current, or drinking gasoline). The battery accounted for 2/3 the cost of the car. The batteries are good for 2000-3000 discharge cycles which is equivalent to 120,000 to 180,000 km in this car. After 2000 cycles you start to see drop in range, at which point they could be used for an alternative energy system for your home. If these batteries last me 4 years, it will have paid itself off in gas saving. Lithium batteries are 100% recyclable but the cost of recycling is roughly 4 times that of mining new lithium. The largest deposits of lithium are found in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Already car companies are expressing interest in becoming friendly with these countries. There is also a lithium mine near San Diego where the Tesla Company is setting up shop. See: http://www.teslamotors.com/en_CA
. Tesla does recycle the batteries in their cars but not the batteries in other peopleís cars. Unfortunately, so far, the supply and demand doesnít cater to recycling lithium. There is a promising new material recently discover called Graphene. It is pure carbon made in sheets one atom thick- one of the few known 2 dimensional objects in the world. It has a strength 100 times that of steel (A one metre square of graphene could hold a 40kg cat and weigh less than one of the catís whiskers). Northwestern University scientists made a lithium battery with Graphene sheets that stored 10 times the energy of a normal lithium battery and recharged in 15 minutes. See: http://www.graphenea.com/blogs/graphene-news/7915653-graphene-batteries-and-supercapacitors-to-power-our-world
As it is, the battery in this car is relatively small- 60 amp hours. It uses about one amp hour per km, depending on your style of driving, and so the car can only go about 60 km between charges. One time I drove 73 km but it was flat ground, highway driving at 80kms/hr with only a few stops and a tail wind. Most people consider a 60 km range to be too little, but for Cortes it is enough. Iíve driven to and from Courtenay a few times, but it was cutting it too close 57kms. Iíve decided to not do that again until I upgrade my charging system. To make that trip feasible I have had to stop at some point and charge for an hour at 220 volts. Once in a storm there was a strong head wind, I had an orchard ladder on the roof and the car died 5 kms before I reached Courtenay (and I was late for work). Another time the car died on my way from Mansonís to Whaletown with 5 people in the car and 3 bikes on the back (but this was because I had unplugged my dashboard mounted altimeter and was unsure of the state of charge before leaving home). I do have range anxiety, but it forces me to make every trip count. The car will charge with a conventional 110v plug but you can cut the charge time in half by using a 220v plug. To charge my car from zero to 100% takes 5 hours at 220v, but the average charge from local commutes takes less than an hour. I can upgrade to a more powerful charger; a 6kw charger would cut the 5 hr charge time down to a third of that. I could also install a 2nd 60 ah lithium pack under the hood but these things take money. Currently if I need to drive more than 60 km in a 5 hour period, I need to make alternate plans. Like I said it is the voluntary inconvenience which challenges the status quo.
Someone might argue that this car will also have maintenance costs and perhaps costs above and beyond what a normal car would have. While it does have parts that are specialized and unique to electric drive systems, itís design is elementary. A problem involving the electrical propulsion system of this car could be diagnosed with a multi-meter. The motor has only one moving part and is bomb proof. I could replace it with a similar used one for less than $500. There is also no radiator to leak, no oil to change, no spark plugs to change, no starter, no tune ups, no antifreeze, no fans or belts or hoses to break, no fuel pump, water pump, ignition system and no exhaust pipe or clutch. (Some electric cars have no transmission and no brakes (instead the motor is put in reverse)). The experience of a lot of electric car owners is that their vehicles are very reliable and virtually maintenance free. Car companies donít like this aspect because they make a fortune selling car parts. Because this car is a conversion it was less expensive than a new electric car and is far less complicated. I might even be able to fix it myself. It also has the environmental advantage of being re used, whereas a new electric car is just that: One More Car. I appreciate the humble and uncomplicated stature of this simple car.
And I know that simple is better. When I worked at Monkey Wrench Bikes, I came to appreciate low tech solutions. Richard Andrews was involved in a project in Guatemala called Maya Pedal (Mayapedal.org). They outfitted workshops with low tech, bicycle powered machines for their farms and industries where electricity is often unavailable. My car is a far cry from a bicycle but it is headed in the right direction. I have a friend on Lasqueti named John Lindsey who is the most environmentally conscious person I know. When I excitedly told him about this car, he threw a wet blanket over my enthusiasm. He said we have to get away from the automobile and move into 4 wheeled electric bicycles. He says he loathes automobile fetishism. I know Iíve got a ways to go. We need to wean ourselves off the luxury of driving. I donít truly believe that this earth can support a billion electric cars, who knows. I reached a tipping point when I worked as a medic on an oil rig in Fort St. John. I saw with my own eyes the destruction of the earth and the appalling arrogance of the industry; Fracking is just mental! I got my paycheck and bought this car. I decided that Iím never going to buy another gas car again.
My dream for the future is to build another electric car and donate it to the Cortes Car Co-op. I want to know more about how it works. I know that I would thoroughly enjoy it; the unique mixture of car talk, horsepower, alternative transport and sticking it to the man is tantalizing and right up my alley. I think a standard 4 wheel drive Subaru Justy would be a good choice (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subaru_Justy)
, or an old Datsun 1200 station wagon, or perhaps a modern Toyota Yaris. Anyone have any of these lying around in their yard? The first thing I need to do is learn more about electrical engineering. Can anyone out there teach me or introduce me to a good book or audiobook? There are so many terms I donít know; ohms and joules- such funny little words. I canít think of a better way to engage my children with a little home learning engineering and science. I would be open to anyone who wanted to be involved, or donate money to this cause. The more people involved the cheaper and easier it will be. Let me know. If Iíve convinced one person to convert to electric with this article then Iíve done well. If you want me to help you find an affordable electric car, also let me know (I scoured Craigslist for a year to find this one). You can reach me at dandyhorseriseup.net Here are some more interesting linkshttp://www.teslamotors.com/blog/mythbusters-part-3-recycling-our-non-toxic-battery-packs
Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association- www.veva.bc.ca
they have a buy and sell section. More EV buy and sell sites (mostly from the US but occasionally you can find Canadian registered EVs) http://www.evfinder.com/ http://www.evtradinpost.com/ http://www.canev.com/