Monthly Archives: May 2010

First 1500+ Miles on the Enertia

1500+ Miles on the Odometer

Mother Nature has been working against me somewhat lately. Summer’s here, and it’s been raining quite a bit. That means two things: I’ve been riding the Enertia a little less, and I’ve been caught in the rain a few times.

More on the Gulf Spill

I think it’s remarkable that the Gulf Oil Spill was the subject of my last 500 mile installment nearly three weeks ago, and that they’ve just stopped the leak a few days ago it’s still flowing countless barrels of oil. Everyone talks barrels of oil lately, but how does that translate to something more tangible. Media outlets are using square footage comparisons like US states and volume comparisons like gynasiums. Personally, I have a hard time understanding exactly what a barrel of oil means to me. Like any scientifically minded geek, I started researching a crunching some numbers.

So here’s how much diesel I’ve saved by commuting on my Enertia.

1510.7 miles / 14.5 mpg = 101.9 Gallons of Diesel

Now what exactly is a barrel? Hint: it’s not 55 gallons.

1 barrel = 42 US gallons

I originally thought that you could turn crude oil into any type of fuel to suit your needs. But upon reading up more on Oil Refining at HowStuffWorks.com, I discovered that refining oil isn’t as much of a process of transforming crude to a particular fuel as much as it a process of separating the various hydrocarbons and using groups of those different hydrocarbons to make the fuel. Diesel is made primarily of alkanes with 12 or more carbon atoms.

Of the 42 gallons of crude in a barrel, an average of 9.21 gallons of diesel is refined. So here’s the number of barrels of oil that haven’t gone to diesel production for my truck because of my 1500+ miles on the Enertia.

101.9 g diesel * 1 barrel / 9.21 g diesel = 11.06 barrels of oil

This clears up a lot of my misunderstanding of the wildly fluctuating diesel prices. It’s cheaper to refine diesel, but you only get so much of it per barrel of oil. Then when you account for the dramatic increase in demand (partly from the military campaigns in the Middle East), you start to understand why the price would go up more than the price of gasoline.

Barrels of Chain Lube

The next thing to figure out is how many barrels of oil have gone into lube for my chain. OK, that’s mostly a joke, but I am having problems finding a light-weight chain lube that will still last and not sling off. I’ve been getting a lot of chain noise as well as physical knocking. This, of course, is exaggerated by the fact that the Enertia is quiet, low on vibration, and doesn’t have cush drive or rubber mounts on the motor. I can actually feel when the master link goes around the super small front sprocket. I can alleviate this with a heavy application of lube, but it only lasts 1.5 days.

Brammo has been more than accommodating to my compulsion to fix this irritant, and has emailed me advice on proper adjustment and lube. They even sent me a new chain. I should have time to swap it out this weekend, so I’ll comment on this thread if it makes a difference.

Hypermiling: It’s Good for Hybrids Too

Drive it like a Prius, please.

Perhaps a psychologist can help me understand this. Why isn’t everyone hypermiling? I don’t mean the extreme sport aspect of hypermiling. I mean the common sense side of hypermiling during your everyday commute? Is it a persistent sense of urgency? Are they perpetually late? Are they just too selfish to impact their way of life? Well folks, hypermiling doesn’t cost you much time, it saves you money, and it actually helps keep you more calm and relaxed in traffic. Heck, it can even be fun.

Your Prius is Worthless by Itself

OK, I’ve turned into a bit of a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) biggot purist lately, and the heavy number of Prius hybrids on the road has really started to irritate me. It’s not the cars themselves, but rather their drivers. More specifically, it’s the driving habits of those pilots. Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but I get the idea that owning a Prius is a way for some people to get their Green Merit Badge and alleviate a little environmental guilt. It’s almost like owning a Prius gives entitles people to keep driving like monsters. I’m going a little overboard here, perhaps, because hybrids draw more attention to drivers that operate them like a 1978 Camaro. To my defense though, I never see Prius drivers even mildly hypermiling.

Prius owners should not stop at ownership in their quest for that Green Merit Badge. They need to understand the embodied energy of that brand new Prius and it’s large battery packs. They need to understand how the drivetrain works. And most importantly, they need to understand how to drive their Prius efficiently.

Understanding a Hybrid’s Benefits

Today’s small hybrids use a drivetrain where the wheels are driven by a combination of the internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motors. The ICE is designed to turn on and off quickly and efficiently, which enables the most obvious advantage of hybrids.

1. The ICE will usually turn off while coasting to a stop and while at that stop.

Unfortunately, most people don’t commute in stop and go traffic, and so they don’t really spend that much time stopped. Consequently, this advantage really doesn’t pay dividends to a lot of drivers. Luckily there’s another major advantage of hybrids.

2. The ICE will usually stay off if you accelerate slowly until you reach a certain speed.

This is where hybrids really shine. If you accelerate smoothly with only moderate pressure on the accelerator pedal, then you’ll cruise along under battery power until you get up to speed. This is important, because an ICE engine has an optimum operational RPM, and they’re not efficient at all while reving through their powerband and shifting gears. So if you can do that acceleration using the battery, then you’ll be saving a lot of fuel.

3. Most hybrids have regenerative braking, so some of your breaking force is used to charge the batteries.

When you use your brakes, some of that energy is used to charge your batteries back up. Unfortunately, a tremendous amount of kinetic energy is lost while braking simply because today’s batteries cannot be efficiently charged at a high rate. It’s simply too much current to be feeding them at once. Therefore, when you press the brake pedal hard, the electric motors will charge the battery a little, but the cars traditional disc brakes will also engage, turning that kinetic energy to heat.

Hypermiling Your Prius

This is the part where you really earn your Green Merit Badge. You can’t just own a Prius, you have to learn to drive it properly. Here are some common sense hypermiling tips.

DO NOTs

  • DO NOT accelerate away from a stop like you’ve got a HEMI.
  • DO NOT wait until the last minute to stop or slow down and then jam your brake pedal.
  • DO NOT tailgate as it impedes your ability to coast without rear-ending the car in front.

This next set of suggestions is the flip side to the above.

DOs

  • DO accelerate slowly.
  • DO look far ahead for changing lights or traffic that might cause you slow down, and then start coasting.
  • DO try to coast into red lights, giving them a chance to turn green so that you won’t have to stop.
  • DO brake lightly and early if you know you’ll need to stop. This will ensure that you get the optimal impact from your regenerative brakes.

Warning: pay attention to traffic around you and especially behind you when you hypermile. Most people don’t drive like this, and so you could really disrupt their poor driving patterns causing them a little road rage or even causing an accident. For instance, if you’re being tailgated by someone beating their kids in the third row backseat of their Suburban, then you probably don’t want to start coasting early for a light that you just saw turn read a half of a mile down the road.

Your Prius is not a Drag Car

I implore you, follow through with your purchase of your Prius and drive it like a Prius. Don’t make the purchase some sort of empty gesture. For more information on hypermiling your Prius, please check out this article on HybridCars.com. They also promote the pulse and glide technique, which I can only recommend if there’s no traffic around. The pulse and glide method is best employed on highways, but I feel it’s more important to minimize speed differentials on highways for the efficiency, safety, and sanity of the other drivers.

Video of a Spirited Ride on the Enertia

I recently picked up a few new mounting options for my GoPro Hero HD camera. Specifically, I picked up a Suction Cup Mount and a Chest Harness Mount. I finally got motivated and headed out to capture some new footage on the Enertia.

I was really surprised with how sturdy the suction cup mount is, that is once I figured out that you need to flip up the lever. It will hold to just about any smooth surface, so with enough painted surfaces the suction cup mount proved to be a very versatile mount. What the chest harness lacked in versatility, it made up for with it’s ideal positioning. Mounting the camera to the chest shows plenty of the motorcycle to give a really good idea of how much the rider is moving, while giving a great sense of speed and lean angle. I was really impressed.

Anyhow, here’s the video. The track is by The XX.

ChargePoint Charging Station Demonstration

I got a little caught up while filming some video on the Enertia this weekend, and I let the battery run down a little further than I planned. Luckily, I knew the perfect place to top off. A nearby McDonald’s has a pair of ChargePoint EV charging stations…AKA Prius Parking Spots. I figured that I would swing by and be forced to squeeze my Enertia between a Prius and the ChargePoint, but when I got there, I had it all to myself.

Here’s the edited footage from the demonstration. The audio was junky, so I just threw in some explanatory text and put a soundtrack on it. Feel free to drop a comment if you have any questions.

First 1000+ Miles on the Enertia

1000 miles on the odometer

I logged another 500+ miles on my Enertia. I’m amazed at how motivated I am to commute on this thing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve owned road-going motorcycles for most of my adult life, and I’ve never felt compelled to commute on one more than once every month or two. This bike is such a pleasure to commute on. After 4+ weeks, I don’t know what I look forward to more in the morning, My cup of home roasted coffee or my commute into work.

Today’s mpkWh

My Enertia and I are definitely getting much more efficient. I set a personal record on my commute home today.

20.2 miles / 2.14 kWh = 9.44 mpkWh

I thought about putting up some more calculations about how much money I’m saving, but instead I’d like to leave the calculations out and simple state the following:

1000 miles / 14.5 mpg = 69.0 Gallons of Diesel

And that’s obviously diesel fuel that I didn’t burn. That doesn’t sound like much, but I’m just one person. As EV adoption grows, this will become significant.

A Truly Inspiring Ride

During this first month with the Enertia, Earth Week has come and gone. I’m not sure if it was Earth Week or the dozens of green conversations that I’ve had since owning the Enertia, but the environment has been on my mind a lot. Everyone seems to be interested in doing their part, but the overwhelming sentiment is that it costs too much to make any significant difference. The beauty about the Enertia is that it doesn’t take much to make a difference whether you measure in carbon, gallons, or dollars.

For the first 500 miles I showed a simple illustration of how much money I’m saving with the Enertia compared to driving my diesel pickup. I’ll definitely admit that I went from one heck of a guzzler to something much more efficient, and so my results are going to be much more significant that most. I could have seen a significant improvement by going to a modest ICE motorcycle or even a modest improvement with a small sedan. But this whole question of “improvement” depends on the criteria by which you’re judging. Counting carbon is a bit controversial with some, especially global warming doubters. But no one (save for oil barons) can argue the numerous negatives of oil.

Gulf Oil Spill

Well it’s true that I went from doing all of my commuting and errands in my diesel pickup to doing those same trips on a motorcycle, but I think it’s tremendously important that I did that trip without the use of fuel derived from oil. Sure I might get my energy from fossil fuels, but it sure wasn’t from oil pumped out of [and into] the Gulf of Mexico.

I’m from that neck of the woods. I grew up in the Florida Panhandle. We’ve got the worlds most beautiful beaches. The sugar-fine sand is as white as the driven snow and piles up in sand dunes almost overnight. Well what do you think that sand is going to look like mixed with crude oil? I’m thinking something along the lines of a Ben and Jerry’s flavor…with dead seafood mixed in. Gives a whole new meaning to Phish Food, huh?

Joking and tourism aside, let’s just take a second to imagine what’s going to happen to the massively large and delicate wetland ecosystems in the Mississippi Delta. I spent a day diving among the mangroves in Bonaire a few years back, and I learned a lot about these sheltered brackish ecosystems along the shore. They are basically estuaries where the oceans fish are hatched, sheltered, and raised until they can fend for themselves out at sea. These are the same fish that are caught commercially and fed to you and I…well maybe you.

Well not all people care about the ocean as much as I do, but I think everyone agrees that we can find some important reason to us to get off of oil. Loosing countless lives of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, America, and the various allies is a strong reason to me as well. Global warming, the bleaching of the worlds ocean reefs, and the loss of island nations are a few others. I don’t care how much of a global warming denier you are…burning oil to get our lazy selves to the nearest fast food drive through has got to end in our lifetime.

Counteracting EVs’ Impact on the Grid

Let’s just say that the Enertia is a bit of a conversation piece. I literally have 3-4 “green” conversations every day. Most of the time the people that approach me are very friendly and supportive. Every now and then you’ll run across someone that starts out friendly, and then ends up in debate mode. I’ve often wondered why people get like this..and why debate the merits of EVs with me? I’ve got a theory, and is has something to do with their guilt surfacing a little then their pride overcompensating and immediately putting them on the defensive…even if I haven’t said a word.

That's a lot of cars to plug in.

Is Electric That Much Better?

Regardless of my pseudo-psycho-babble, this is one thing that I hear a lot from these “debaters”.

“Is electric that much more efficient? I mean there are heavy losses due to transmission. Much of America’s power generation is from coal still. And ICE engines are way more efficient than they ever have been.”

Well, I was one of the lucky engineers who’s curriculum didn’t require him to take thermodynamics, so I really can’t comment on the efficiency gains in ICEs. My EE background is awfully weak too, so I have no idea how much energy is lost to heat radiation in our nations long distance transmission lines. However, the topic has been tackled by bloggers and scientists alike here, here, here, and somewhere in here.

Sometimes, people talk about more specific issues, such as the strain on the nation’s power grid. They realize that the power has got to come from somewhere, and Nuclear Fusion isn’t here yet so it comes down to picking the lesser of several evils. Motorcycle.com recently posted a great Electic Motorcycle Primer and summed up the sentiment nicely.

However, while EVs can appeal even to conservatives, another concern is over where all the extra electricity would come from if the EV phenomenon really took off.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. That’s not to say that I’ve done any kind of research into powerline losses to radiation or even whether or not I get my power from the local nuclear fission plant or from coal. Honestly, all of that seems a little out of my control, but then inspiration hit. Why not look at what is in my control… The beauty about electricity is that it’s readily available to us. It’s readily available for me to use at home and work…but perhaps more importantly, it’s there for me to not use.

Offsetting My Enertia Energy Consumption

I love it when I get inspired. I set out to try and recover my daily energy consumption from my Enertia charges by doing some very simple work around the house. When I mean simple…I did most of this stuff at home while drinking beers one evening. I grabbed my trusty Kill A Watt, and went to town.

Best $19.99 you'll ever spend.

The first thing that I did, was to look for anything that’s plugged in that is rarely used. I was ashamed at what I started to uncover. I basically just took instantaneous reading to see what the power draw was for various appliances.

I started in the garage looking at my “garage theater system” and anything else I could find.
3.4 W * 24 h – PC Speakers in the Off position.
2.4 W * 24 h – DC Transformer for unplugged Wifi Bridge.
3.8 W * 24 h – Unused Motorcycle Battery Tender for Racebike.

Then I moved inside to the den, AKA my man cave.
13.4 W * 24 h – Home Theater Subwoofer accidentally set to On instead of Auto-On
1.4 W * 24 h – Home Theater Receiver
0.0 W * 24 h – Sony PS3
0.9 W * 24 h – Nintendo Wii
23.5 W * 24 h – HD Cable DVR
1.9 W * 24 h – 42″ LCD TV
22.0 W * 24 h – Uninterpretable Power Supply
1.3 W * 24 h – Empty Glade Plug-in Air Freshener

I didn’t find much in the kitchen.
1.3 W * 24 h – Another empty Glade Plug-In Air Freshener

And I don’t have much in my living room, save for my Mame arcade cabinet with the MythTV server.
6.2 W * 24 h – Broken Roomba Docked on its Charger
19.73 W * 24 h – Savings on MythTV Server through running Granola

There wasn’t much in the office as far as vampire appliances. But there was the rather obvious light fixture…duh!
45 W * 3 * 4 h – Replaced 3 60 incadescents with 3 13 W CFLs in my light fixture

OK, that was pretty ridiculous. I spend a few hours maybe twice a month in my den, unless I’m caught up in a video game. All of those items in the den can easily be turned off with a power strip when not in use, and they take no time to boot. The only exception is my cable box, but I so very rarely use it. I watch 98% of my TV on a Linux desktop in the office streaming from my MythTV backend. I can get the other 2% (motorcycle racing) through bittorrent. I’ve been meaning to cancel the HD DVR service and return it…I’ve just been too lazy.

Speaking of my MythTV server, I’ve been giving myself a lot of grief lately for running that puppy 24/7. I recently saw something pop up on digg.com about Granola. It is supposed to do more aggressive voltage and frequency scaling on Linux and Windows machines by providing proprietary algorithms that switch cpufreq governors back and forth based on performance need. I suspect they’re just watching things in /proc and responding to it in some sort of way that more intelligent that the “ondemand” governor. Anyhow, the savings that I report for my MythTV server come from Granola’s calculations/estimations, and not my own measurements.

So the grand total daily saving for my home improvements is: 2.97 kWh per day.

Savings in the (Work) Office

I could have called it quits with my savings that I found at home, but I charge up at work (for free) too. Furthermore, I tend to spend more waking hours at work than I do at home. So I decided to count the charging that I do at work, and to try to see how much energy I save during the day. Now I loosened up the rules a little bit. I’m already rather conscious about my energy consumption at work, so I’ve decided to count the things that I’ve been doing for quite a while along with a few new things.

17.66 W * 24h – Saving on Windows Desktop through running http://grano.la/
~3 W * 24h – Saving on Linux Desktop by setting “ondemand” governor (cpufrequtils)
25 W * 3 bulbs * 8h – Keeping my fluorescent lights off and using natural light

I couldn’t get Granola installed on my Linux workstation. I was having some problems due to the fact that I don’t have enough admin rights to add a new user to the machine. But that got me thinking…what I could talk IT into installing this on all of our Linux and Windows machines. As it is, by personally installing Granola on one machine at work, I might be in violation of their TOS. I’ll consider it an experiment at this point. I did get some savings on that machine through changing the cpufreq governor from “performance” to “ondemand. I measured about a 3 W difference when running the two cores at 2.0 GHz instead of 3.17 GHz.

The story might get a little better if I can get some measurements on my Linux desktop, but this is my savings in the office so far: 1.09 kWh.

How Did I Do?

With my latest Enertia efficiency calculations, I use 3.22 kWh to charge for my 30.4 miles commuted a day. And it looks like I’ve saved 4.06 kWh of energy a day through my changes at home and at work. That’s a net savings of 0.84 kWH.

Finally I have some “ammo” for the debaters that question if the Enertia is that much more efficient than an equivalent ICE motorcycle. I’ve offset the Enertia’s charging requirements…and then some. The only way I could get a Ninja 250 to be that efficient, is to slap some pedals on it. And what about the Enertia’s impact to the grid. I’ve actually found enough savings so that I’m actually lessening the impact to the grid.

I’m starting to think of the Enertia as an “ease-over” vehicle. I consider the Chevy Volt and other PHEV (plug-in hyrid EVs) as ease-over vehicles as well. They are solutions that help us bridge the gap to all-electric transportation without impacting the grid too heavily. These low-impact vehicles are going to be incredibly important to help us buy more time. The way I see it, our energy is running out, but in order to make sure it lasts we need to invest a tremendous amount of it to build renewable power plants, new long-range EVs, and smart grid infrastructure. The only way we’ll be able to afford the energy for such a massive build up, is to start saving energy now through the use of these ease-over vehicles and through energy conservation.