Hole-In-One (Bill)

s2042I’ve been busy, literally digging into stuff.  The morons who built my house screwed up, so heavy rains gave me a wet basement.  By digging, I’ve been able to seriously whack my electric bill, saving ridiculous amounts of Watts.

More explanation: the property was not graded properly.  A house is supposed to be surrounded by a mild slope, causing rain to run off away from the foundation (and any basement if present).  Failure to grade leads to a damp basement, and in extreme cases foundation damage or settling.  My basement was damp in general, and certainly after serious rains, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I’ve been digging for months now, adding drainage features.  Then I threw the spoil toward my walls, to alter slopes.  I’m not even finished, and already I’ve been able to turn off the dehumidifier in the basement.  Without it, the electric bill fell sharply.  The first month, I didn’t pay attention much.  The second month was a coincidence.  The third month, however, showed me the dehumidifier had been the one biggest energy use in the house, since my electric bill is now half.  Yes, half.  Just digging cut my electricity use in half, and my EV is now “paid off” (in wattage terms) several times over.

I have to retract that first part: the general contractors for the house weren’t morons.  They aren’t paying the monthly utility bills, I am.  So what do they care if they “screwed up”?  Someone bought the new house, so for a builder, they succeeded.  Succeeded in suckering at least one homebuyer.  I, a later owner, am a sucker no more, and not an energy sucker.  Which makes me wonder: how many screwups are there, in this land of detached houses, and how many are simply being covered up by energy sucking? Continue reading

Gogoro: The Tesla of NOT TESLAS

Yeah, we’ve all heard “the Tesla of _____” get tossed out.  It’s usually hype, all hype.  You know what?  A scooter startup might actually resemble Tesla more, and not how most people would expect.  Bear with me now.

Gogoro kept mum ’til CES.  No one let on what was in progress, except to say energy.  They raised $150 million in seed money somehow- way more than Rimac Motors of course, and into aerospace territory.  Also, the founders are from Taiwan tech firm HTC (of phone fame); backer #1 is HTC’s Cher Wang.  This is like Tesla’s Elon Musk coming from Paypal.  So, some new kind of charger maybe?  Boy, were we wrong; Gogoro revealed they are, at first glance, a scooter company, yet not- they happen to have a scooter, and something else in progress.

Sure, other people are building electric scooters, not the least of which is BMW- that’s right, the ultimate scootering machines.  Gogoro’s ride is suitably phone-like; it has sleek, hard lines more like bizzaro furniture, and LEDs shimmering front and back.  No, Gogoro’s trick is not some vehicle, but a platform, and not for your boots.  Gogoro battery modules pull out of the chassis, and slot back to recharge in public kiosks.  Kiosks that will rent batteries to Gogoro riders, plus other customers they don’t say yet.  Who else do Gogoro plan on attracting?  Let’s speculate:gklcf

-The original scooter riders
-Other electric 2-wheelers
-Electric cars
-Other consumer electronics: Lawn care
-Other consumer electronics: Home hubs
-Grid backups and grid substitutes Continue reading

Brammo Go BLAMMO

And the other tire drops: Brammo, that electric motorcycle company that talked a big talk, now tanks big time.  After not even three full years of Empulse motorcycle sales, Brammo, Inc. now ceases to exist as an independent entity, having been bought out by Polaris Industries (makers of ATVs, snowmobiles, the Victory and Indian gasser motorcycle brands, etc.).  Whether they will exist at all is now Polaris’ play.  brmm

The first public clue was Brammo announcing an “end of season” clearance sale.  An end of season sale last August.  Personally, late August/early September is when my riding season is in its second wind, literally.  Anyway, Brammo slashed prices by about half on some bikes.  Then it was seen that dealers- such as they were- still had 2013 Brammo Empulses to get rid of.  They still had clearance Empulses into 2015.  The second public clue were the reports of little or no activity at Brammo headquarters/factory in Oregon.

My clue, however, came years ago, dealing with these Keystone Choppers.  In my experience, Brammo was chasing a phantom: the fickle tastes of a small segment of motorcyclists, itself a small segment of vehicle buyers in general.  Rather than start with a good technology base, then digging in with plans to grow out from there, Brammo tried to nail it with one shot.  They thought they had to have a multispeed transmission/clutch to replicate the “real motorcycle” experience.  Instead, contracting IET for trannys delayed production and sale, and made Empulses the worst of both worlds: the limited range of an electric, with the gear slop of a gasser.  Meanwhile gear losses net you even less range. Continue reading


ceslAnd another CES is in the books.  The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show was big as usual, but if I had to sum it up, two categories would be “wearables” and “rideables.”  Watches and other small-gadget-with-transceivers-and-app were of course everywhere.  Less usual this year: smart transport on display, not just smart accessories.  At the Convention Center:

  • The OneWheel “uni-skateboard” is back.  After last year’s debut, they have succesfully delivered units to Kickstarter backers by Christmas.  Reports are that the finished product is pretty polished, and some even got to ride it.
  • Acton RocketSkates had broken cover before, but CES made it official.  Like OneWheel, they’re “segwayfied” transport, but in rollerskate form, not skateboard.
  • Boosted Board’s e-skateboard was also known, but now cut by hundreds of dollars.
  • The big news: Gogoro’s electric scooter and “ecosystem,” which I’ll discuss later.
  • In established manufacturers, BMW and Mercedes had splashy autonomous car demonstrations.

Stay tuned, apparently they’ve got more energy than I do.

4 Light Bulbs: One BIG Bulb

I’ve written a lot about canceling an EV’s electric usage, via (surprisingly few) “nega-watts”: electricity saved elsewhere.  I’ve mentioned lighting so far.  LED lamps use under a quarter of incandescents’ power- more like a fifth or sixth, meaning they even save over fluorescents.  I also mentioned these nega-watts then cut air conditioning too, since wasted bulb energy turns into heat.

Well, let’s go ahead and stake that vampire good, shall we?  One cannot discuss power savings, and the grid in general, without tackling the A/C question.  What shall we do with the one biggest load in the house, and most businesses too?  Grid load is driven by the hottest days’ A/C load, by definition.  Utilities plan on the max expected A/C usage, then upgrade their network to match.  Anyone with the grid in mind must plan on hot summer afternoons, too.

702fI know what I’ll do about A/C: the rest of my plan.  The last time I needed roof work, I got the lightest shade the company had.  I’ve bought new windows and more insulation, to put in my attic and walls; I’m about to buy even more.  My utility has their own initiatives: subsidies for efficiency, and for A/C budgeting.  In the future, I may nail that coffin once and for all.  I’m looking into a ground heat pump, drastically more efficient than plain ol’ air conditioners. Continue reading

The Re-Fire Strikes Back

Cree 4flow LED lampAgain, welcome to 2015.  And a happy 2015 it is, at least in energy.  Not only have LED lamps fallen in price drastically from just a few years ago, but they continue to improve, in multiple respects.  Cree, one of the bigger names in LEDs, didn’t just release their groundbreaking lamp about a year ago.  They’re now on their generation-2 product, and yes, competition has improved the breed.

I’ve just installed Cree’s “4flow” LED lamp.  I bought this standard Edison base (“A19”) in 40-Watt equivalent.  Actual consumption is 6W, saving 34 nega-watts, or 85% less than an incandescent bulb of the same light output.  That’s also a savings over a compact fluorescent, though far less.  The big trick is getting rid of incandescents, which have only a few percent light efficacy.  The other ~97% of the electricity you put in is wasted as heat.  Basically, incandescents are little heaters that, oh by the way, make some light too.  But unlike fluorescents, LEDs turn on instantly.  They’re vibration, cold, and cycling resistant.  Their lives aren’t shortened by on-off cycles, such as bathroom and hallway installations.  Nor do they contain any mercury, though the mercury level of CFLs has been exaggerated. Continue reading

Coal Fold 2: One-Two Punch (Plus…)

I wrote previously that coal is just not that hot of a fuel.  Compared to natural gas, coal isn’t logical for electric generation, and getting less and less logical with time.  Meanwhile, solar power is getting cheaper every year, with grid parity on the way in a few short years (maybe one).  In some places, parity has already been reached.  Coal pushers still try to tell us that they’re the reliable, American energy.  The claim is that solar (like wind or other renewables) varies, and cannot keep power grids stable and consistent in the face of demand.  What they conveniently forget to tell you is: Coal isn’t too hot at that, either.

As solar prices keep crossing parity, along with the rest of the portfolio (gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, etc.), there will soon be no credible pitch for coal.  My advice: get out.  If you’re exposed to coal financially, sell.  If you’re actually looking at a coal seam, get out via the nearest exit ASAP, and find a new career.  Of course, nothing ever really goes away, as I’ve stated multiple times.  There’ll be a transition period, and even after that the grid will cling to legacy plants.  However, there is no coal growth on the horizon; it’s a matter of coal staying level or contracting, and at what contraction rate.

Electricity use varies through the day, and today’s grid does “load following” to match supply with demand.  In a few situations, usage ramps up strongly, and utilities call on “peaker plants” to fulfill demand.  It is thus desirable for generation to be throttleable, or in grid terms “dispatchable.”  This holds when you can’t find ways to smooth out usage (“peak shaving”), or store electricity on these large scales.  Coal lobbyists then claim they are dispatchable, but no, coal really isn’t. Continue reading