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

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

Rimac’s Real (well, mostly)

Rimac Automobili, the Croatian company that I mentioned, is one step closer to selling its supercar design.  Rimac has obtained ten million Euros (~12 million USD) towards selling its “C1” or “Concept_One” super-coupe.  Investors have contributed this much for a Series A financing round; the company claims it is expanding and developing.

rimaclogoOn the one hand, this looks pretty compelling.  The vehicle itself, with over 1,000 horsepower as currently designed, can embarrass many Ferraris; founder Mate Rimac claims its interior will have every appointment.  Mate Rimac got his start as an e-racer of his own conversions and homebuilts, so he’s not coming in cold.  He’s also selling components to other automakers, and the Greyp electric bike/moped, again gaining practical experience in real-word products and manufacturing.  This is in Eastern Europe mind you, with low wages and rents but surprising scientific and engineering talent.  Meanwhile, since the C1 car will go for a million apiece, at a low delivery rate, to those who can pay cash on the counter, financing the company behind it will be easier than in a more consumer-oriented, competitive, high-production rate market segment.

On the other hand though, ~$12 million is NOTHING in auto world.  It’s why I led off with “one step closer,” and not “already there.”  Rimac’s capitalization is around 70-80 million dollars; Tesla by comparison required oh… around half a billion to get going.  And that’s starting with the Tesla Roadster, which was built around the Lotus Elise, which was already converted to electric by other houses.  It took three more years to go from Roadster to the Model S, the company burning up money all the way.  While this one financing round makes Rimac more credible than it was before, that’s still not saying all that much.  Continue reading

Post-Peak

2014: what went down (so to speak) on the mountain?

-Zero Motorcycles (well, indirectly) got exactly what they put in: a Zero FX entered, and it finished.  Rider Jeff Clark put in an average time, on an average bike- it was the 2013 FX, not the improved 2014.  This is because it wasn’t literally a factory team, but pretty much sponsored by Los Angeles dealership Hollywood Electrics, who did some light mods.  (Though not enough to leave the production class, for the modified class).

-Brutus Motorcycle put in their V2 custom… and got a worse time than Clark on a Zero.  Last year’s Zero.  Last year’s lightweight Zero.  Yeah, doesn’t say much about them, but it could be the rider, not the bike.  Could be the person tuning the suspension didn’t quite grasp the issues of the course.  Could be the V2 is really more of a drag bike or boulevard catapult, and the suspension doesn’t really tune.  (The course contains hairpins, “The Devil’s Playground,” and a part called “Bottomless Pit.”  )  Never rode a Brutus, nor have any acquaintances.  Don’t particularly feel like it now.

-Bigger news: Mitsubishi’s modified race car (billed by them as a kind of MiEV, but no one actually believes that) came within 2.5 seconds of topping all other cars, gas or electric.  2.5 seconds is close enough to be driver skill, a botched corner, something getting on the course, etc.  And we were that close to a 2013 Lightning moment, but in cages, not bikes.

-Similarly, “Tesla” raced… actually, it was a privateer in a modified Tesla Roadster, not a factory team.  Similarly, a Honda Fit EV beat the sleek, expensive model.  Someone in a Honda Fit, modified only with a race-mandated roll cage, beat a Tesla sports car.

Life’s weird, eh?  Actually, no, this is perfectly understandable.  In a growth industry, lots of stuff is going on, and one slipup means the first can become last- that’s how you know the industry is actually growing and developing.

LiveWire Jive Flyer

hplwx

Credit: Harley Davidson

I’d be slacking if I said nothing about Harley-Davidson’s Project LiveWire.  So here’s something: you can’t actually buy it, which is why there’s no price and no date.  It’s a marketing probe and styling exercise- a “concept bike.”  Of course, automakers show concept cars all the time; we just need to remember what they are, and aren’t.  This one’s at least rideable, which is how it’s in Avengers 2.

Manufacturers show concept vehicles based on their possible plans; this one’s going on tour.  They’ll start in New York next week, then Boston, Philly, etc.; Canada/Europe are slated for next year.  Obviously, company reps will log rider comments.  Less obviously, I’d bet the interested riders themselves will be pegged, so H-D can do demographic studies.  Note that the official video’s full of young people- not a gray beard to be seen. Continue reading