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.
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.
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.