All good things…

January 29th, 2013

This update is well past due; it seems facebook has taken over the duties, and this will probably the last blog post. But I couldn’t leave the post about Roby up when we went to just being friends last November. He is a good guy, but sometimes the spark just isn’t there. Such is life…

Roby(*)

August 16th, 2012

So, it seems I have a boyfriend now. How did that happen?

We met at a Bites for Rights outing June 21. That’s where a bunch of restaurants donate a portion of the proceeds to Basic Rights Oregon, the Oregon gay rights group. Some of us from the local gay activity group (gmag) found it a good excuse to get together. Roby turned out to be a relatively new member I hadn’t met yet, and we found we actually had some chemistry.

This was about a week before my two week trip to Norway; we emailed a bit before I left and decided to do something when I got back. That something worked out to be the Kinetic Sculpture Race, which we both enjoyed, and followed by a few more outings of various sorts. On Aug 11, we spent the day in the Eugene area ending with seeing Bourne Legacy and then dinner before coming home. By this time it was clear that something was happening, so I consider this the “start”, though we didn’t really decide “yes, let’s do this” until last night (Aug 15).

Hopefully we’ll have a long time to decide between June 21, Aug 11 and Aug 15 as “the date” ;-)

* That’s actually his given name, pronounced Robby but his parents apparently liked the look of it better with only one B…

To the Hilt: California and back w/o gas!

March 22nd, 2012

On Friday, March 16, 2012, ODOT (Oregon Dept of Transportation) officially opened the first stretch of the West Coast Electric Highway, a series of 8 DC Fast Charge electric car charging stations spaced about every 25 miles from Cottage Grove (just south of Eugene) to Ashland (15 miles from the California border). DCFC (50kW, 480V) charging stations will charge up a Leaf from 10% to 90% in about 20-25 minutes, vs 5 hours for a Level 2 (3.3kW, 240V) charging station - a vast improvement that makes cross country (between cities) travel practical.

A call was issued for EV drivers to attend, and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity! With the support of my employer, Peak Internet (which gives time off for community service activities), I drove my Leaf down to the event. Knowing that Ashland is so close to California, that was also a boundary I couldn’t pass up: I looked up the first interchange inside CA, which turned out to be Hilt, CA, about 15 miles from the Ashland fast charge station - quite doable even with the Siskiyous in the way. To the Hilt and back, here I come!

Ashley Horvat, ODOT Transportation Electrification Project Manager, got me an access fob for the charging stations and we both planned to drive our Leafs down Thursday afternoon, as the event started in Central Point Oregon at 11am on Friday.

For those who are interested, I have a more detailed photojournal of the trip

These stations are the first 8 (soon to be 9) of dozens being scattered around western Oregon. North to south, these first ones are located on I5 at:

  • Exit 216 (Brownsville/Halsey) - Pioneer Villa (coming soon!)
  • Exit 174 (Cottage Grove) - Vintage Inn
  • Exit 148 (Rice Hill) - Motel 6
    (the Aerovironment website says “Oakland”, not “Rice Hill”, which is probably technically correct, but the signs say “Rice Hill” - Oakland proper is somewhat south)
  • Exit 125 (Roseburg) - Brutke’s Wagon Wheel
  • Exit 99 (Canyonville) - 7 Feathers Truck Stop
    Be careful! Use the cross walk where the traffic area is narrowed with concrete barriers to safely cross over to the sidewalk…
  • Exit 76 (Wolf Creek) - Wolf Creek Inn
  • Exit 58 (Grants Pass) - Chamber of Commerce
  • Exit 33 (Central Point) - Chevron
  • Exit 14 (Ashland) - Texaco

The Aerovironment charging stations are really nice - their whole top is lit up a bright green with a set of lights rotating around the edge - but it’s not just flash! They’re actually used to provide useful information:

  • When you activate the station with your fob (which you can get from their web site or you can activate the station by calling the 800 number shown on the station over the display panel), the lights start circling quickly.
  • When you plug into the car and charging starts, the lights turn into a gauge, showing the state of charge. When the circle completes, the car is at 80% (though it’ll keep charging past that, to 89-98%, depending on where you started).
  • The bright green light makes them really easy to find at night

The LCD panel gives you both a graph showing state of charge with a numerical percentage, as well as the actual kWh that have been sent to the car.

So, summary for the trip down:

  • Leav Corvallis: 2pm
  • Arrive Eugene: 3pm, leave 5:20pm - 47.8 miles, 13.1kWh
  • Cottage Grove: 6pm, leave 7pm - 25.2 miles, 7.8kWh
  • Rice Hill: 7:26pm, leave 7:45pm - 26.7 miles, 9.2kWh
  • Roseburg: 8:17pm, leave 8:35pm - 23.9 miles, 7.5kWh
  • Canyonville: 9:10pm, leave 9:34 - 25.6 miles, 8.7kWh
  • Wolf Creek: 10:05pm, leave 10:26pm - 23.0 miles, 8.7kWh
  • Grants Pass: 10:51pm, leave 11:28pm - 18.2 miles, 5.8kWh
  • Ashland: 12:24am - 45.0 miles, 14.5kWh

Total: 75kWh

…and the trip back:

  • Leave Ashland for Hilt: 8:32am
  • Ashland: 9:10am, leave 10:08am - 30 miles, 8.6kWh
  • Central Point: 10:30am?, leave 12:30pm? - 18.4 miles, 4.3kWh
  • Grants Pass: 12:49pm, leave 3:42pm - 25.4 miles, 6.4kWh (10.7 total from Ashland, vs 14.5 to go the other way)
  • Wolf Creek: 4:03pm, leave 5:06pm - 18.4 miles, 6.0kWh (vs 5.8kWh)
  • Canyonville: 5:32pm, leave 5:49pm - 23.2 miles, 6.5kWh (vs 8.7kWh)
  • Roseburg: 6:16pm, leave 6:42pm - 25.3 miles, 7.1kWh (vs 8.7kWh)
  • Rice Hill: 7:09pm, leave 7:29pm - 23.2 miles, 7.1kWh (vs 7.5kWh)
  • Cottage Grove: 8:01pm, leave 8:57pm - 26.3 miles, 7.2kWh (vs 9.2kWh)
  • Corvallis: 10:16pm - 64.4 miles, 14.3kWh (vs total of 20.9kWh and 73 miles for the trip down - the charging stop on the way down was a 10 mile detour that I was able to avoid on the way back)

Total: 67.5kWh
Grand total: 142.5kWh

It’s interesting to note that aside from generally using quite a bit less energy to go north, it also tends to be a bit shorter. That’s because of the different freeway exits used and where you have to go to get to/from the stations, but I think the energy has to do with the fact that you’re generally climbing going south and dropping going north…

For comparison, on this 500 mile trip, my RAV4 would have used 20 gallons of gas, a Prius about 10. At $4/gal, that’s $80 and $40. I’m paying $0.12/kWh (with the renewable and salmon features added in), or about $17. Rounded to the nearest 15 minutes, I spent 8 hours charging on the trip (at the fast chargers, 1/2hr at each, each way, though actually, I think that’s high - some of them were more like 15 minutes). If they charge $10/hr, it will cost the same as my RAV4, if only $5/hr, then same as a Prius.

NOTE: this is only for cross country driving - the vast majority of EV driving will be local where you’re charging up at home and only paying your electric rate, which puts it at about 1/3rd the cost of a Prius for fuel… And whatever you’re paying for it, your money is staying relatively local and not going to the middle east, you’re not consuming an increasingly limited resource, you’re vastly reducing your pollution, as well as all the other benefits that come with driving an EV.

So…505 miles in two days. The return trip only used 67.5kWh vs 75kWh just for the trip to Ashland, whereas the return trip includes the excursion to California - 255 miles at 3.8miles/kWh. Aside from better weather, I realized that overall, it’s downhill from the top of the hill out of Grants Pass to Corvallis, which obviously makes a difference.

It was a fantastic adventure, and I plan to repeat it sometime this summer, finding a weekend with some plays I want to see at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival and making my way back down. I’ll take a day to go each way instead of an evening, but it’ll be worth it to avoid sending my money to unstable regimes in the middle east to consume the last bits of a dying resource just to spew it into the air…

While this is a big step forward, the real step will be after the rest of the stations are completed. For me personally, I’ve been waiting for one between Corvallis and Portland since I got my Leaf, as I go there at least a couple times a month.

Right now, a multi-car family that buys mid-range new cars doesn’t really have an excuse for one of their cars not to be electric with their next car - for daily driving, 50-70 miles is more than enough for most people, and all the L2 charging infrastructure being put in place for opportunity charging while running errands just extends that indefinitely.

The fast charge stations greatly extend that utility: many people will be able to make an EV their sole car.

We are still not to full gas equivalence - you do have to be patient and realize that your trip length will be nearly doubled if it’s a long one, but they are now practical, where they weren’t before. Right now, we’re at 20-25kWh battery packs with 50kW charging systems. In less than a decade, we’ll have 100kWh packs with 250kW charging stations, resulting in 200 mile worst case ranges and 1/2hr charging - 15 minutes for half pack charging: very comparable to the way gas is handled now.

We are at the leading edge of an exciting shift in transportation technology, and I can’t wait for the next phase to be rolled out!

Leafin’!

April 24th, 2011

Peak Engineer Alan Batie has long been a fan of EVs (Electic Vehicles). In June of 2000, he bought his first EV, a used Sparrow (a picture of which, in fact, is the one at the top of the Wikipedia article), and for the last several years has been driving a Solectria Force. Although it only had a 20-25 mile range, it was perfect for Corvallis: he only drove a gas car when he had to go outside of Corvallis and farther than Philomath, even when, as the batteries aged, the range dropped to 10-12 miles.

Something like the Nissan Leaf has, however, been on his wishlist for decades, and Wednesday, April 13, 2011, that wish came true when he took delivery of Leaf #887. He lucked out, and it shipped out from Japan the very day before the recent earthquake that devastated the country.

While even modern, longer range, EVs, like the Leaf, are still primarily metro area, second car, vehicles, with a little planning, patience, and the charging infrastructure currently being put into place, they can satisfy the vast majority of most people’s driving needs. Alan expects to use the Leaf as his primary car, and rent a gas car the half dozen times a year he needs to go outside the Leaf’s range.

Indeed, the first weekend after picking up the Leaf, even before the fast charge infrastructure has been built out, he drove to Battle Ground, WA in the new car as a “proof of concept” to see what it could do. Up 99W to Chuck Colvin Nissan in McMinnville, which has a Level 2 charging station (240V, 3kw), where he had lunch while picking up an extra 15 miles to bridge the gap to the only current DC Fast Charge station (at the PGE headquarters in downtown Portland: 400V, 50kw), where he picked up 15kwh to bring the car up to 90% in 1/2hr while doing a little shopping at Pioneer Place.

With a fresh charge, it was up to Battle Ground for dinner with a friend and then back to PGE for another 15kwh, and McMinnville, where the only snag in the trip happened: the Nissan dealership accidentally turned off power to the charging station when they closed up for the night.

Currently, EV’s are rather like being out in far SW Oregon, where the only gas station is in Fields. If it’s closed, you’re camping for the night. After spending the night in a hotel, he got the car charged up while visiting another friend in McMinnville and completed the 234 mile round trip, using 65kwh of electricity, averaging 3.6miles/kwh (about $8 worth of local, renewable, electricity, vs 14 gallons of foreign gas in his old Explorer or even 5 gallons in a Prius).

Being on the bleeding edge isn’t without its risks, but by the end of this year charging stations will run the length of I-5 from the Canadian border to the California border, making long distance excursions, if not quite as convenient as using gas, at least practical. The technology is changing rapidly right now (one reason he’s leasing rather than buying the Leaf): in a few years the whole driving landscape will be vastly changed by electric vehicles, and not a moment too soon.

In the meantime, even now, EVs are perfect second cars for virtually everyone. For metro area driving, you don’t *need* any charging infrastructure but in your garage. For most people, even a standard 110V outlet (albeit a dedicated circuit) will work, though given the low 3 mph charging rate, a Level 2 charging station that works at about 12-15 mph is what most EV owners are installing. To see what range *you* need, simply reset your trip meter every morning when you leave, noting what it read for the previous day’s travels. Add 50% for peace of mind and that’s all you need to smile and wave at $4-6 gas as you whirrr quietly past the old fossils along the highway.

EV Q&A

February 8th, 2010

I’m not sure why Hasso Hering has it out for EVs, but he clearly does. In a recent editorial asking if “we can handle electric cars”, he complains about the fact that the political response is more study: “You get the drift: More committees, more initiatives, more studies, more big words.”

Then he turns around and suggests that we need a bunch of answers to questions about EVs.

You can’t have it both ways.

Perhaps I can help him, however, having been driving an EV here in Corvallis for nearly 4 years, and in Portland for a year or two previous to that:

Q: Suppose I get an electric vehicle for quick trips around town, but if that’s the only vehicle I can afford, how do I make trips of more than 100 miles or so?

A: If that’s the only vehicle you can afford, you can get a plugable hybrid (e.g. the Chevy Volt coming out late this year), you rent an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car, or you will just have to wait for technology to improve, which it is doing at a phenomenal rate at the moment. Low end and/or used EVs suitable for low speed city driving can be had relatively inexpensively however.

Q: If ODOT puts in charging stations at all the rest areas on the freeway, how long do I have to wait around there for a charge to be complete so I can continue on my way?

A: That is one of the areas where technology is improving and a key factor for pure EV technology to become viable as an exclusive transportation means. Because we’re not there yet doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be planning for it and taking the first steps, particularly as it’s useful for hybrid technology in the interim. Even so, the Nissan Leaf, coming out in a couple of years (and in limited rollouts sooner) is supposed to do an 80% charge in half an hour. Not ideal, but not unmanageable either.

Q: How would they handle congestion at public charging stations if even 10 percent of the traffic runs on battery power and each charging session takes, say, an hour or two?

A: That is indeed something that is going to have to be addressed, but doesn’t seem like a gating factor when you consider that, unlike liquid fueled cars, you don’t *have* to gas up at a public station. Most EVs will be “fueled” at the destination and only cross country trips will require “gas stations”. I would expect that in cities, parking meters will become charging stations where you pay for a charge and your parking space at the same time. The amount of electricity needed is so low that the cost of the charging station is likely dominate the parking charge, and I would expect build-out to ramp up to meet demand. People will likely often choose to wait until they get home to charge, reducing the problem.

Q: What happens to electric vehicles that get caught in tie-ups on the freeway, the kind where you can’t turn off the engine but have to spend an hour or so moving ahead a few feet at a time?

A: Electric motors don’t work like ICE: if you’re not moving, they’re not consuming power, and they don’t consume very much at all when moving slowly. Stop and go traffic is very EV friendly, however unfriendly it is to the passengers.

Q: If these kinds of considerations make it impractical or unlikely that households could rely on electric vehicles alone, how could most people afford an additional rig for just short errands around town?

A: How many families have two (or more) cars already? A large percentage I’d wager. And I’d also wager that it’s a rare thing where all need to be long range vehicles. Reset your trip meter first thing in the morning, just after noting the value for the previous day’s ventures. That’s your worst case, not counting “opportunity charging” options, range requirement. Particularly in Corvallis, it’s just not going to be an issue. My EV is particularly short ranged, and I’ve had to switch to my ICE maybe twice in the 4 years I’ve been here (and at least once was more for comfort than need), and the only time I drive my ICE otherwise is when I’m leaving town.

Q: If they can afford them, where would the extra vehicles be parked, since the garages are already full with the cars they have and can’t do without?

A: How many people actually put cars in their garages as it is? Really, if that were the biggest problem we had to worry about, gas would already be history. Countering misinformation is a far bigger problem.

Of Bagels and Breadsticks

February 6th, 2010

People make altogether too much of human preferences, trying to pigeonhole and judge them, yet the simple fact is we’re just not that simple: while you may prefer bagels to breadsticks, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a breadstick once in a while, especially if that’s what happens to be available, and vica versa. Some may have a strong preference for one or the other, even to the point of disgust at the thought, yet some may find them both equally tasty. Some may have a genetic difference in their taste buds predisposing them one way or the other, but factors in the environment will have an influence as well. Preferences may even vary to some degree over time. It doesn’t really matter which you prefer (if you even have a preference), particularly when there is a vast oversupply of both, yet a lot of people seem to have this strange notion that if your preference isn’t for the one they think is “right”, you’re evil and undeserving of being treated the same as the ones who do. I really don’t understand why it’s such a big deal — c’mon people: it’s just a breadstick!

Thoughts on Economic Stimulus

January 10th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal posted an article on Jan 8 positing that
Government Spending Does Not Stimulate Economic Growth.

After thinking about it for a while, I think the author is taking too simplistic an approach to the question. In the long term, he’s right: the money the government is taking comes from somewhere, but when you look at how stocks and bonds work, the effect of government stimulus is not to take money from Paul to pay Peter, but in the devaluation of the stocks and bonds sold to buy into treasuries. Stocks and bonds are kind of like a financial “potential energy” storage pool: aside from the initial sale by an entity to fund some endeavor, the buying and selling of them does nothing for the economy, just shuffling assets around, until an investor cashes some out to spend. That is not without value, but in terms of short term economic stimulus a minor devaluation has little impact relative to actually getting cash into people’s hands to keep fueling a stalling economy, which would certainly devalue stocks and bonds dramatically, as was recently demonstrated.

Repaying the bonds will be a future drag on the economy, but if the stimulus is successful, there will be enough headroom to cover it. To some extent, it even should act to counter an exuberant rebound, smoothing things out.

Hawaii, Day 10: Homeward Bound

June 7th, 2009

That’s it for the pictures, Sunday morning I packed up and flew home. It was a great trip and it was great to see Chris and his family again, and I’ll be back soon!

Hawaii, Day 9: Reefdancer

June 6th, 2009

On Saturday, I took Chris and Ohia on the Reefdancer (Monique and Tree didn’t want to go or had something else to do). It is a boat that has the passengers down below the waterline with bigger windows than you get in a sub, and most all the fish are in the upper waters anyhow. As it turned out, the windows were still smaller and lower than I would have liked, though they’re perfect for kids, but it was a fun trip even so…

Day 9 Pix

Hawaii, Day 8: Around Hilo

June 5th, 2009

I had an afternoon flight back to Maui on Friday, so that Chris could pick me up on his way back home after work, and so I could do more sightseeing on the big island…

Day 8 Pix