Friday, April 29, 2011

Bucks County Renewables Awarded Grant for Waste Veggie-Oil Conversion -- and EV-ent in Macungie is TOMORROW

Things never seem to slow down around here whew!

Yesterday I learned that Bucks County Renewables has been awarded $3,000 by the Pennsylvania DEP's Environmental Education Grants Program to offer our first ever waste-veggie oil conversion workshop next spring. BCR is one of 102 non-profits, schools, universities and conservation districts across the state to receive funding for environmental education programming and you can read all about those awards here in the official press release.

I am psyched for this workshop. We are hoping to convert a truck to tow our EV's to displays out of range and stop burning fossil fuel in order to promote the advantages of electric! While EV's are of course best suited for local, daily use, if you're an advocate/activist you often find yourself traveling to share the word at shows like our EV-ent tomorrow. I so appreciate the owners who will be hooking up/towing in their vehicles Saturday morning to Macungie Memorial Park. It looks like it is going to be a beautiful May day and we are going to have a super-fun time!

The Schedule

EV's on display all day long, with owner/drivers standing by to chat with visitors, plus the following:
  • last year's very popular do-it-yourself open-source 1000-amp controller will return, accompanied by a DIY charger for EV's 
  • two local EV conversion shops: NJEVConversions and BH Electrics
  • free CFL's from ECOS Consulting 
  • bake sale 
  • Boy Scout Troop #31 from Old Zionsville PA demonstrating original solar cooker design 
  • solar-cooked hot dogs for sale, plus other foods from the park concession 

1:00 pm State Representative Doug Reichley to cut ribbon on first park plug-in station in Eastern PA

2:00 pm Owner Panel

3:00 Drawing for "EV Gong" from Bertoia Studios

3:15 Quiet EV Parade

Sure hope you'll join us!

visit the website for directions or email with questions

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bucks County Renewables in the News

Hurray -- this year I was asked for an Earth Day article about electric vehicles by the Bucks County Herald, my wonderful local newspaper.  I got to plug Revenge of the Electric Car, our July hands-on workshop AND the EV-ent in Macungie all at the same time!  It appeared last Wednesday -- click on the image below to link directly to the page where it appeared.

With apologies for the unexpected hiatus in EV News Roundup last week -- the lapse came on my end and not on hard working Dan Monroe's part!

Among other things we have been busily getting ready for the EV-ent in Macungie THIS SATURDAY.  Anna, Don, Bob, Val and I met yesterday to review last-minute details.  My heart is in my throat because the e-Van controller has just left Iowa (where it was being rebuilt and upgraded) and so once again Bill is going to have to scramble to get the vehicle put together right before a show.   Somehow we always wind up with a frantic race at the last minute despite all our plans and deadlines.

Looking forward to sharing the happy ending to this story and to reporting on the EV-ent -- not sure if I'll have time for an EV News Roundup this week or not, but I'll try!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Field Trip: New England Electric Automobile Association

So on Saturday I fulfilled a long-standing promise to Jesse Rudavsky of the NEEAA to pay a visit to his club, which draws members from Connecticut, Massachusetts & Rhode Island.  Jesse has traveled down to PA annually to attend the Energy Fest, where we met in 2007.  He's also joined us for the EV-ent in Macungie in the the past, so he is serious about reaching across regional borders!  A professional tractor-trailer operator, Jesse isn't fazed by driving long distances --  and being pretty up-close-and-personal with our current automotive situation, he really cares about what we all choose to drive.

Jesse remembers seeing a converted  electric pick-up truck in a parking lot when he was still in high school, and trying to hang around until the owner returned but being dragged off by his friends.  The first car he bought was a used Honda Insight, which he later traded in for a used Gen I Prius that lasted almost 345,000 miles.  A commenter at mourned Jesse's high-mileage Prius as "a very visible rolling ambassador for automotive hybrid technology"  after the accident -- totally not Jesse's fault -- that stopped its odometer permanently.  Jesse has since put 261,000 miles (and counting) on his Gen II while tirelessly advocating for hybrids to friends, family & the folks he runs into on the street.

Early on in his green-your-ride-ambassador career Jesse ran into that electric pick-up truck from his adolescence again, and this time he was able to meet its owner -- Dave Robie, long secretary of the NEEAA, who has been driving and advocating for converted EV's (trucks, scooters, and electric tractors) for at least as long as Jesse has been alive and probably longer!

Dave Robie with some pull-outs from his Fuel Saver's Guide, a downloadable, engagingly no-nonsense compendium of tips on conserving everything, from gas to domestic energy to money,  time, and effort.

Dave brought Jesse into the fold of the NEEAA and -- as Jesse's been telling me for years -- it is a great group of people, with a long-standing tradition of rotating their meetings between various geographical locations in the region.  Food is a part of their meeting culture (frequent cookouts and, in winter, big pots of chili figure in their gathering notes and reminiscences), which has built an obvious sense of community.  The meeting I went to was being held at an Earth Day event which coincided with their usual 2nd Saturday of the month get-together

so they gathered in the Bethany CT town hall for a brief business meeting and spent the rest of the afternoon showcasing the member EV's on display:

Mike Okrentz' 97 Chevy S10, vanity-plated "ELEKTRK" (sporting stylin' new graphics on the side) and Dave Cover's very sweet 87 Porsche 944 with the ultimate understated 2-letter vanity plate.

Dave's Porsche is kitted out for racing & runs on NiCad batteries -- the first I've seen deployed in an EV.  Hearing him rave about their long-lasting dependability, I asked: why don't we see more EV's utilizing this battery technology?   He explained that it's incredibly hard to get hold of NiCads -- though if you can find them, they are usually very cheap (a main source being military surplus).  Dave's ride also featured this funny magnetic sign announcing his club allegiance:

Prius modder, hypermiler, and lately "How to Kit Out Your Prius for 60+mpg RVíng" evangelist Hobbit was also present -- known and nicknamed for his always-bare feet (he brings slip-ons to wear into restaurants).

Below, his Prius car-camping exhibit: the seat folds perfectly flat, so a single futon on top & windowshades make for private and comfy sleeping.  On either side of the door in this shot you can glimpse of the styly new yellow-and-black striping that adorns Hobbit's "rolling mod laboratory."

Member Guy Maillet's vehicle was not on onsite, but he shared these photos with me; years ago, he both designed and built this vehicle as an internal combustion engine car; much more recently, he converted it to electric using forklift components.

the build

the car

the badge (yes it is actually registered as a "Maillet" with the state of CT -- now that is taking the DIY car thing to a whole new level, I loved it)

The other members present introduced themselves & their vehicles during the business meeting, so I learned that Gilles (ack I missed his last name) owns a Citi-Car and recently became the proud owner of the 1989 EV Jetta formerly belonging to the club's long-time and evidently beloved president Bob Rice, who recently suffered a severe stroke.  President Dave Oliveria, who drives a converted 98 Ford Ranger, has capably stepped into Bob's shoes and all the group has rallied to support Bob and his family, who have been forced to sell off his home and possessions in order to finance his rehabilitative care in what I am afraid is a typical example of our profoundly damaged and damaging healthcare system.   (Sigh ...)

To my disappointment member Karen Nakamura did not have her 2-wheel Piaggo Boxer moped with her.  She converted it to electric herself and it is her only vehicle and totally rad so I had to include this picture, which you can click on to link to her blog -- from which I learned that she is super-technical as well as a more than competent fabricator.   In her last update she'd just switched her setup to run on used Prius NiMH batteries, an interesting aftermarket use.

Another member present, Joe Weber, is a former EV driver who says a hybrid now suits his driving needs better, and club treasurer George Gillett is an EV fan who is prevented from owning one by the fact that he lives in a condo and does not have convenient access to overnight charging.

In addition to maintaining a lively and informative Yahoo mailing list, the NEEAA has a web page where you can see lots of other great member cars.  I cannot resist posting this one before I return to the actual events of Saturday:

this little 1979 Subaru van is so cute I cannot stand it I totally want to meet this van in person someday

After the meeting we went back outside for the rest of the (beautiful, sunny) afternoon and got a surprise visit from a relatively new EV owner in Connecticut, Ronnie Carroll of Bridgeport PA.  Ronnie's friend Nate Mays, Jr kindly helped him tow over this 1974 Pinto, which was converted years ago by a local inventor (at something like 7,000 original miles)   Check out how gorgeous and orange it is.

Ronnie says he had never seen an electric car before, but as soon as he looked at this baby he knew he wanted one, a feeling I must say I believe is captured in the photo above.  Post-conversion the Pinto spent at least 10 years in stasis, in the possession of an owner who had never figured out how to get it to work.  By the end he was threatening to strip out the EV components and soup it up with a V8 engine.  So along comes Ronnie, swaps the guy a Chevette he owned for the EV Pinto  (somewhere out there is a V8-equipped Chevette as an incidental part of this true story) and successfully brings this sweet-and-did-you-notice-orange classic back online -- with a 96-volt pack of 12-volts and I'm sure a lot of loving tinkering (he was modest about how much he had to do).  Ronnie's been  following along on the NEEAA discussion list so this was a chance for him to meet some of the members in person as they gathered around to marvel at the old, old Curtis controller and the massive DC motor -- obviously industrial and possibly out of an elevator.

Everyone shared tips with Ronnie on successfully registering/inspecting an EV and assured him it that his Pinto is a clean build and ready to go street-legal.  One more home-brewed and lovingly-restored EV is about to hit the road in Bridgeport and new connections were forged because of it -- it was all so much fun to witness. Thanks to Ronnie & Nate for making my day, and to Jesse & the NEEAA for a really enjoyable visit to New England!

Of course I was up there to plug the April 30 EV-ent down here in Macungie (heads up everybody that is practically around the corner!) but I also talked up the 21st Century Automotive Challenge in State College PA, and there was a lot of interest among NEEAA members -- in fact they immediately started tossing around the idea of renting a car-carrier and coming en masse.  I am certainly looking forward to seeing any or all of them again on May 21-23. For registration info visit this website and totally sign up!  If you go because you heard about it from me, tell Joel Anstrom I've been promoting the event up a storm because that is true.

Monday, April 11, 2011

EV News Roundup Week of 4/4

Pure EV News

Plugging Electric Drivetrains into Trucks  This is a good overall summary posted on the Reuters site but noting that the material actually came from Matter Network I visited there and immediately ran across this terrific EV truck from Italy: 

look it is called a T-Rex that totally made my day, maybe I will send this link to Ryan North though I am shy about that seeing as how I have been totally plagiarizing his writing style lately.  It turned out that Matter Network actually picked this article up from Gas 2.0 which turns out to be an entirely awesomesauce blog (where the writers deploy words like "awesomesauce").  You should certainly check it out.

SIM-Drive Corporation develops in-wheel-motor-EV  Ecoseed reports on this different concept for EV's -- the electric motors are in the wheels!  Japanese company SIM-Drive has produced the first prototype and is planning mass production in 2013.   

Chevy Mi-ray Concept Introduces Mid-Electric Drive System  EV World showcases this concept vehicle developed by GM Korea and introduced at the 2011 Seoul Motor Show last week.   "Mi-ray" is Korean for "future" so I guess they agree with us here at Bucks County Renewables that EV's are the vehicles of tomorrow, on the roads today.

Kia Rolls Out Naimo Electric Car Concept  Also at the Seoul Motor Show, Kia offered up an electric CUV (crossover-utility vehicle), joining the Venga (which debuted  last year at the Geneva Auto Show) and the adorable little POP city car (which was showcased at the Paris Auto Show).  Let us all worship costy at for the following fabulous line in his POP review back in 2010:   "like what Hello Kitty might drive if she lived in the Tron universe." 

Electric Motorcycles Are Also Extremely Cool

Brooklyn Motorized: Electric With a Jolt of Retro Style and removable batteries (for charging in your apartment) to boot.

Batteries & Charging Technology

Building Better Batteries for Electric Cars  A solid overview of the topic that ran in the New York Times back on 3/30.  Interesting observation from Alex Molinaroli of Johnson Controls (which builds li-ion batts for BMW, Daimler, & Ford): he explains that since we don't yet have years' worth of road-test data from primarily electric cars, manufacturers are currently "overbuilding" their batteries, adding in materials and safety features to ensure they meet the demands of the drive-train warranty.  He claims something like 50% of the material used in current battery packs is "overcompensation."  

Ford Uses Liquid Heating In Focus Electric To Give Batteries The Edge In Cold Weather  My favorite part of this article from Electronic Design is when Sherif Marakby, Ford's director of Electrification Programs and Engineering, points out that batteries are just like people: “they both achieve maximum performance working under moderate, unchanged temperatures."  Now that's a fact!  Mr. Marakby seems like a sensible guy, based on that observation and on the fact that Ford has a very intelligent and forward-thinking electrification plan in place.  They've started with the Ford Focus EV, which they're building on the same assembly lines as the regular gas Focus so that they can ramp up production to meet demands.  They have also committed to electrifying 5 more models in the Ford fleet over the next two years.  Go Ford go, sorry I was kinda trashing you for being mealy-mouthed in the last EV News Roundup

Pennsylvania Firm Develops Wireless Electric Car Charging Mat  Industry Week reports on a start-up down in Malvern, PA (in Chester County) which is developing an innovative charging system for vehicles -- and will be testing it in a pilot program out in California this summer featuring a 100% electric airport shuttle bus.  Big shout-out to Andy Daga of Momentum Dynamics and to Enterprise Rent-a-Car for enabling this excellent combo of test, outreach & education.

Novel Nanowires Boost Fuel Cell Efficiency  Science Daily reports on a group of Yale scientists who have significantly improved the efficiency & durability of fuel cells by developing a new catalyst system.

Our Current Energy Solutions Create Some Big Problems

Fukushima Daiichi: A Bitter Pill for Vermont Nuclear Foes

Gulf oil rig owner apologizes for calling 2010 'best year' ever   2010 was such a great year in safety over at Transocean that their top executive earned a $200,000 annual raise plus a bonus of nearly $375,000 last week, shortly before the 1-year anniversary of one of their rigs exploding, killing 11 people and leaking record quantities of oil for the next 3 months.   When their corporate explanation for Giant Bonuses After Giant Bungles started getting reported all over the place on sites like CNN, Transocean issued a press release noting that referring to 2010 as its best safety year ever "may have been insensitive."  Wow, that's some deep soul-searching self-scrutiny there guys, keep it up.  

On the Technological Horizon for Renewable Energy

River Water and Salty Ocean Water Used to Generate Electricity  Electrolyte-exchanging technology invented by researchers at Stanford could mean power plants at river mouths -- giant batteries fueled by nothing more than the salinity difference between fresh & saltwater.  That is pretty cool folks.

Heard This Before Department

Obama rolls out plan to cut oil imports  The U.S. "will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy," said the President last week, and if you have not seen the brilliantly well-crafted routine below demonstrating exactly how long THAT mantra has been around then please watch.  It is funny but it also hurts!  Thank you to mini-E driver and passionate EV promoter Tom Moloughney for posting this to your fantastic blog right after it aired.  I sent it around to everyone I know but somehow forgot to share it here, I don't know, sometimes that happens.  

Next up this week (before the next installment of EV news -- yes, this is actually last week's roundup whoops sometimes that happens): I visited the New England Electric Automobile Association this weekend and unsurprisingly had a really great time talking to a bunch of cool EV people and ogling on their cars.  Write-up & photos to come!

Friday, April 1, 2011

EV News Roundup Week of 3/28

EV News

Report: European Union working to ban gas and diesel-powered cars by 2050  If this is not a crazy rumor (we'll know on Monday) it will certainly be a BIG JUMP START for EV's, hey?  Big surprise, brothers & sisters, the Ford Motor Company has already objected to this proposal in a very mealy-mouthed press release indeed, entitled "Ford Says EU's Proposals on Future Transport Policy Should Address Congestion, Environmental Issues While Preserving Consumer Choice and Jobs."  Yes, U.S. automakers are shocked, shocked at the idea of someone's government mandating rapid industrial shifts to benefit both the environment & the economy.  Fact: U.S. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations were enacted in 1975. You've seen the dramatic effects of that regulatory leadership I'm sure:

The report on the EU's move to ban gas & diesel vehicles in about the same time it took for us to improve fuel economy in this country by 10 miles per gallon comes from itself (not our usual source autobloggreen), while the CAFE graph is from Canadian blog r h i z o m i c o n 

Volvo C30 Electric Bests Winter's Worst  "Northern Sweden is the perfect place to do sub-zero temperature testing," says Lennart Stegland of Volvo, to which I can only say brrrrr -- from EVWorld: The Future In Motion

First Major Shipment of Nissan LEAFs Arrives in U.S. from, reporting that LEAF production has now surpassed both the Tesla Roadster and the beloved RAV-4 EV.

2011 Nissan Leaf Electric Car Buyers Eager For Order Followup  Sez "An informal poll of Leaf customers rates their dealers 8-10, Nissan Corporate's intentions 10, and Nissan Corporate's or lower. Fortunately for Nissan, those customers who have actually received their 2011 Leafs report a very positive overall review of the car." 

Tesla Roadsters Rack Up Collective 10M Miles  500,000 gallons of fuel saved! from

Tesla Teams with Panasonic to Boost Electric Car Battery Life  More model S glimpses -- from

Norway’s postal service to drive Ford Transit Connect Electric vans  From ecoseed; and the Norwegian postal service turns out to be unsurprisingly pretty cool.  We've had no luck trying to get one of these vans for the EV-ent in Macungie April 30, 2011, I sure wish somebody who would like to sell more Ford Transit Connects would get in touch with us about displaying one to this core audience of early adopters in South Eastern PA near the confluence of NJ, MD, DE, & DC markets at an EV-ent that is also a really fun time.  Email if you can help! 

Since this is from the EXEC Digital part of a magazine called Executive Lifestyle I guess they can be excused for not knowing that the Fisker Karma is! a! series! hybrid!  
EVWorld takes offense at a recent review of  a Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG entitled "Another Nail in the Electric Car's Coffin."  (Mr. Kenzie is evidently an electroautophobe.)  Bill Moore argues fiercely that the Fisker Karma smacks the AMG upside the head.  He also has a great supporting statistic for my argument that EV's are synergistic with renewables energy:  " ... a recent study of early Nissan LEAF owners found that 40% of them also use photovoltaics on their homes, which often is used to charge their cars. Anecdotally, something like a quarter of all first generation Toyota RAV4 EV owners charge their cars with solar energy."

Not Just EV's But Other Solutions to Our Transportation Issues

America's Weight Problem Means Mass Transit Needs An Upgrade Treehugger forgets to mention that our buses & ambulances need to put in thse costly upgrades on account of our messed-up farming policies & toxic food system here, but we Michael Pollan fans know where that's at.

For Its 4th Birthday, Vélib' Plans to Get Faster and Better The oddly-spelled Vélib' is Paris, France's bike-share plan and it's very clever because the vél is for vélo which is "bike" and lib' is how everybody in Paris really says libre which means "free" at least that is how I am interpreting it folks. You do not have to read a lick of French appreciate the eye-popping Eurostyle on the blogheader below, the bike is kind of cool too with its utilitarian-but-chic gray mudguard.

In Wider-Ranging Renewable Energy News & Technical Developments

Debut of the First Practical 'Artificial Leaf  Not the car silly (note category!) -- this artificial leaf mimics photosynthesis & breaks a bucket of water down into hydrogen & oxygen; the catalysts are made of nickel & cobalt, metals that are widely available.  For some reason this item-in-development being targeted to developing countries (I guess because it can only power teeny-tiny, efficient homes at the moment and each leaf only lasts 45 hours)?  Science Daily quotes Dr. Researcher Daniel Nocera as saying, "Our goal is to make each home its own power station"  and we at Bucks County Renewables salute that sentiment sir!

Smaller Particles Could Make Solar Panels More Efficient Science Daily also reports on developments that may prove "a controversial idea" which I am totally in favor of because it has the excellent moniker of multiple-exciton generation (MEG). If the coolest thing you learned today is that an electron that has absorbed light energy is called an exciton, you are in good company.

Tool-Wielding Women in Developing Countries Help Their Communities, Environment Renewable energy and other sustainable lifestyle components need fixing and Treehugger celebrates the end of over-genderizing the matter as do we at Bucks County Renewables.  I am sure Dan sent this link because I happened to mention at the workshop that I don't plan to have anything to do with the Mazda de-iceing and don't even know what an engine hoist looks like.  I am happy to provide sparkling companionship and take photographs while people do complicated things with greasy automotive parts though :-)  

Energy Politics & Business News 

CA Energy Efficiency Policies to Create Over 200K Jobs, but Could be Improved  Ecopolitology summarizes a report & recommendations to the California Public Utilities Commission which found that over 2/3 of the expected jobs related to energy efficiency work will perpetuate low-wage jobs in traditional construction fields rather than stimulating new, specialized, higher-paying "green jobs." 

Japan Carmakers Discuss Power Rotation to Save Energy  Yay, more lessons of cooperation which we can ALL learn from.

The Real Price of Gasoline The externalized costs of gasoline, when added to the retail price of gasoline, yield a range "real" price per gallon of $5.60 to $15.14 depending on which estimates you accept.  The article over at explains this, without any snazzy graphics. The actual report being summarized in the post does have graphics & charts too, but it is 35 pages long, here for the hardcore among you: Source: Real Price of Gasoline.pdf 

Infographic of the Day: Do Americans Pay Too Little for Gas?  Answer: yes, so by all means start talking to everybody you meet about converting an ordinary internal-combustion engine vehicle to 100% battery electric, and spread the good word.  Really, more often than not when I bring up My Favorite Topic of Conversation with somebody I have just met at a social event, it turns out that talking about electric cars is practically their favorite thing to do too and then we both have a good time.  Being an EV advocate can make social events fun: it is a proven fact.