Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanks, Update, and a Radio Show to Listen To

First things first: it's time for me to thank everyone who emailed or posted encouraging remarks during the long dormancy period of this blog and/or after my woeful post about losing faith in the E-Vanagon. I really appreciated your responses! It is most invigorating to know that there's an audience out there and I vow to be more regular in my blog updates from now on.

I got permission from Kim to share his particularly consoling words: "I know how you feel, I have had plenty of projects fall short of that wonderful mental picture that I went in with. Then I remind myself 'oh yeah this is an experiment' ... it is not what my mind saw but it will do."

So ... oh yeah! This is an experiment!

For those of you wanting to know what's actually going on with the E-van, the answer is it gets driven occasionally on short hops ... Matt took it down to Frenchtown and back two days in a row, where it was parked anonymously all day while he took the bus into NYC (gotta get a chrome EV badge from Third Planet Energy so everyone who walks by can know the van's electric!) but he charged it up in between trips. So we have really not been testing its range thoroughly. We need to make a test run of the commute we want it to make (to the dojo and back), but I need to drive back-up and we haven't managed to arrange a night for that yet.

So no documentation of the van's range post-motor refurbishment yet. I was sufficiently recovered from my dual-breakdown trauma to try to take it out the other night, but Matt had it parked on the hill with the e-brake on so tight that I couldn't release it! Fortunately we had a back-up electric car that I could take to pick up my daughter!

As I posted last time, it is now confirmed that I don't have an Energy Harvest grant to fund the 2008 workshop, but all is not lost -- I have other ideas! First up will be applying for a state environmental education grant (deadline December 15) if that will be appropriate. I'm also going to start casting my net out for folks who might be interested in providing a vehicle and the funds to cover the conversion kit. Workshop fees could probably pay for the teacher's salary and the minimal overhead if I can find a donor -- so if you've got a yen to drive away a vehicle converted by the 2008 Electric Vehicle Conversion Workshop, let me know!

I leave you with a link to a radio show on which John Dietter, a teacher on the small Maine island of North Haven, and several of his former students discuss the electric Vanagon they created out of a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro. The Vanagon, which competed several times in the Tour de Sol, is now powered exclusively by a dedicated solar array. A truly zero-emissions EV!

On the show, Kim Petty, my encouraging blog reader (who also lives on an island in Maine, and is poised to convert a Vanagon himself) calls in to talk about his Small Internal Combustion Engine Elimination Project. He points out that a small-scale and affordable introduction to electric vehicle technology can be the "slow wean" of gradually replacing smaller ICEs in one's life. In pursuit of this goal Kim has acquired an electric tractor, and converted a small boat to electric. His most recent toy is an electric log-splitter. A former Porsche mechanic and self-avowed motorhead, Kim admits, "There's something about the thrill of a large, powerful engine that you just don't give up easily." Nevertheless, he says, "there's lots of stuff that can be done with electric motors." He too plans to charge his EVanagon with photovoltaics.

The link below will take you to the hour-long show.

More soon. Thanks for following along, and for cheering me up when I'm down!

Great News - Gas is $3 a Gallon!

For a long time our unofficial company slogan has been, "We at Bucks County Renewables are in favor of high gas prices." Of course it's no fun to have to pony up more cash at the pump, but apparently only pain in the pocketbook will drive consumer attention to the need to find alternatives to our current oil-guzzling transportation model.

We're also cognizant that gasoline prices are actually low in this country. The Energy Information Administration (home of official energy statistics from the US goverment) gives these averages as of 11/12/2007:

Belgium $7.88
France $7.40
Germany $7.97
Italy $7.46
Netherlands $8.39

U.S. $3.33

Of course there are countries where the prices are lower -- sometimes substantially so. China and some Eastern European countries continue to subsidize the cost of gasoline, keeping consumer price below what we pay in the US; and in oil-producing countries like Iraq and Venezuela, a fill-up can cost just pennies a gallon!

More food for thought on the issue:

According to the National Defense Council Foundation, the economic penalties of America's oil dependence total $297.2 to $304.9 billion annually. If reflected at the gasoline pump, these “hidden costs” would raise the price of a gallon of gasoline to over $5.28. A fill-up would be over $105.

A 1998 report by the International Center for Technology Assessment examining the hidden costs of gasoline offered a high estimate of over $14 a gallon

A more recent (2006) report by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security put the true cost of Persian Gulf-derived oil at just under $10 a gallon -- at those rates, the "real" cost of filling up a family sedan would be $217.20, and filling up a large SUV, $325.80!

These abstract considerations aside, $3/gallon gas got me thinking about next summer's EV conversion workshop, and preliminary preparations are getting underway for that program. We may be expanding the focus to incorporate other alternative fuels -- stay tuned!

Phooey -- I was just going to write that I was still waiting to hear about the PA DEP Energy Harvest Grant I applied for to cover the costs of this workshop, and then I thought I'd better hit their website and check (again) to see if they'd announced the winners yet. Apparently they did so on November 13, and Bucks County Renewables did not receive one of the 28 grants awarded (nor so much as a "sorry, you didn't make the cut" email, which is a little disappointing -- you would think the state would notify all the program applicants and not just the winners).

Um, so that means figuring out a different way to pay for the project. Too bad they aren't adding on a tax to our cheap gasoline here in the U.S. in order to fund research and education programs like ours, eh?

More soon! Thanks for following along, everyone.