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June 3, 2010
Ray LaHood: "People Want Out of
In March, U.S.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood surprised delegates at the National
Bike Summit, when he jumped up on a table and proclaimed that national
policy would no longer “favor motorized transportation at the expense of
nonmotorized.” It was a watershed—a direct statement from the US czar of
transportation that fuel-efficient auto technologies, such as hybrids and
electric cars, are only part of the solution.
"People want out of their
cars, they want out of congestion, they want to live in livable
neighborhoods and livable communities,” LaHood told the crowd.
Despite the federal
support for electric-drive cars--$2.4 billion in grants and $25 billion in
low-interest loans for retooling – it will take a decade or more for hybrids
and EVs to rise above their niche status. The greenest cars are still
cars—which require tons of energy, produce lots of emissions, and erode the
quality of life along increasingly congested roadways. And after all,
bicycles are the only true zero emissions vehicles.
Mr. LaHood, the
64-year-old former Republican member of the US House of Representatives,
outlined the new policy in his blog. He called on state and local
governments to go beyond minimum planning and maintenance requirements to
provide convenient and safe amenities for bikers and walkers. “Walking and
biking should not be an afterthought in roadway design.” Transportation
agencies are urged to take action on a number of fronts, including the
creation of pathways for bike riders and pedestrians on bridges, and
providing children with safe biking and walking routes to schools.”
In a follow-up tweet,
LaHood wrote, “More cars on more roads may not be the best way to move
people more effectively.” The response from the blogosphere was almost all
positive. One enthusiastic commenter wrote on LaHood's Facebook page,
“Finally we have a Secretary of Transportation and not a Secretary of the
Blame for Gulf Coast
Spill Begins at the Pump
If you're mad about the
spill, think about what you're driving.
The devastating oil spill
in the Gulf Coast will embolden green transportation advocates to push
harder for change—from fuel-efficient cars to public transportation and
bicycle use. But that change won’t happen until drivers make a fundamental
connection between their oil use, oil spills, and other severe environmental
and economic risks.
especially those fueled by electricity instead of petroleum, could play a
key role in reducing the need to drill. The good news is that electric cars
and plug-in hybrids are finally coming to market, but they are trickling out
while the spill in the Gulf gushes out. The current spill is not an isolated
event. Between 2001 and 2007, there were 356 oil spills of varying degrees
of seriousness on federal lands and waters alone.
We could get angry at Big
Oil, or at negligent federal regulators, but consider this possibility:
Nothing will change as long as the average driver—not just hybrid and EV
owners—fails to connect the dots. That’s why author Lisa Margonelli’s clever
idea is maybe about the best we can muster right now: “We should print the
risks [of using oil] on every gasoline receipt, just as we label smoking’s
risks on cigarette packs.”
"Electric cars are not for everyone. They only meet
the needs of 90% of drivers." Ed Begley
On this page: Electric Bikes,
Lawn Mowers, Electric Cars
After seeing Who Killed The
Electric Car (a must for anyone who is reading this page), we soon
found ourselves at an electric vehicle conference in Wenatchee, WA in May
2007. It was nice to show up in a Mercedes with a 1400-mile range on
vegetable oil and be the OLDEST technology in the parking lot (not even
worth showing off). This crowd is way beyond internal
With the efficiency of EVs
compared to any internal combustion vehicle, coupled with the simplicity in
construction and maintenance, it was great to finally see some real electric
cars. As advised by the veterans we met, we jumped into electric assisted
bikes as a learning avenue for the real deal (4 wheeled vehicles). After
2000 miles during two
summers of riding various models of electric assist mountain bikes around Bozeman, I am still
surprised at how much fun they are. They are more practical than a car
in many ways.
Instead of getting less exercise, we found we
just rode 2-4 times further in any given day and still burned off plenty of
calories. The more I ride ebikes, the less I want an electric car. People like to think that bikes
are only to be ridden when looking for some exercise, and ebikes don't
change that - you can still put in the
same amount of effort, you're just going 2-4 times faster and further.
Add a trailer and the car really starts to collect dust. Using a 'kid'
trailer I can collect 150 lbs of vegetable oil at a time, or groceries, or
building materials, etc. with ease.
time-lapse transportation video proving the efficiency of biking vs. car
I challenge anyone to beat me
with any other mode of transportation on a random list of 10 errands around
town, anywhere within the 35 mph speed zone. Ebikes have the speed
of a car in town, but with all the advantages of a bike (parking at the door
instead of jammed up in a parking lot, moving to the
front of the line at stoplights and stop signs, utilizing alleys and
sidewalks when a street is closed). My bike computer
confirms it, with an average speed of at least 15 mph. I can do a 4
mile errand loop in 45 minutes that would take 2 hours in a car! Another nice thing about ebikes
is the silence. Good brakes are a necessity.
If you need to brush up on your bike
maintenance skills, go to the Bike Kitchen on Tuesday evenings.
http://www.bozemanbikekitchen.org/ If you want to learn more
about bike based business ideas check out
So what is an E-bike?
An ebike is a regular looking bicycle that has an electric motor in the hub
of one of its wheels. You should pedal upon starting out but I don't
break a sweat unless I want to. You'll get more range by pedaling even
a little. The kit consists of an entire wheel (front or rear) which is
basically an electric motor with spokes and rim built onto it, the motor
controller, throttle, and battery - that's it! Ebikes should be
thought of as a very lightweight (55lb) motor cycles in many ways, except
they require no license, permit, insurance or registration.
Here is one of my first ebikes:
The motor on this one is in the back wheel, the battery is behind the seat tube, and there's a twist grip on the right handlebar to
send juice to the motor. It tops out at 18 mph, takes 2.5 cents to
charge up and has a range of 10-15 miles depending on how hard you pedal.
The motor and the rider share the work load, and it doesn't matter to the
bike who or what is doing the work.
There are a dizzying number of
e-bikes out there and kits for mountain bikes as well. Most complete
ebikes are expensive, around $2000, and top out at 18-20 mph. Kits are
much cheaper with a $900 price tag, allow you to use your existing bike, and
have a higher top speed. Here is the kit I recommend, which fits onto
most any bike:
http://www.electricrider.com/crystalyte/roadrunner.htm (look at
the 4825 'Power System Only' link) and then power it with the LiFePO4 Life
Note: Jan 2012, this motor is temporarily discontinued but the
company is looking for a new supplier. It's a great combination price
wise and speed wise, and the current motor offered is over twice the price
so let's hope they find a replacement!
I used to use lithium polymer batteries from Battery Space
www.batteryspace.com but they have
a dismal life of less than 300 charges and aren't worth the light weight
aspect. The LiFe battery is rated at 2000 charge cycles, is less
expensive, stores more energy since it's 48v and still 10 amp hours, is
capable of 26 mph on my Roadrunner motor, and has a range of 20-25
miles depending on type of tires and amount of pedaling on your part.
It consumes 5 cents worth of electricity to charge the battery. I
prefer a front wheel motor which balances the bike weight-wise and gives you
all wheel drive for winter riding.
Whatever kit you choose, stay
away from the lead acid batteries - they ruin the biking experience with
their weight and bulk. The lithium battery is $425 of the $900 total
kit cost, but it's worth it.
IF YOU WANT AN EBIKE but
need some help deciding which components to buy, and would also like some help with the
installation, Choice Energy has the solution: for $100 we will help
you get up and running quickly with the best components available. To learn more, email us
So you don't want/need an ebike or car? There are plenty of other
products using the same principle. I purchased a cordless electric lawnmower
from Ace Hardware in May 08 and it worked great for the last three summers - mowed 4 lawns on one charge,
$0.05 in electricity (.5 kwh)! If you can't mow your lawn with one of
these then you should think about how big your lawn is. Lawn chemicals
are petroleum so they not only kill the life in your lawn and toxify the bugs, birds, pets,
fish and animals but they have a carbon impact as
well. Generally you can spend less on a garden than on keeping your
grass green. Kentucky Bluegrass doesn't even have good protein
for feeding livestock such as sheep, goats, or horses. Springhill Sod
Farm now wells native fescue sod which uses half the water, needs less
mowing, greens up 3 weeks earlier in the spring, and stays greener though
the dry part of the summer and fall. There's a perennial grass marketer at the
Saturday farmers market if you want to release some of your lawn to native
plants and flowers:
www.summitvalleyturf.com You'll have to survive the bluegrass
advertising on their web site and skip to the wildflower sod page.
Order this lawnmower from Ace Hardware, $350 587-5401, you'll need the
Item Number: 7197031. It takes about a
week to arrive here.
Mobile lawn mowing on custom kit trailer
Here is the link for the trailer kit:
More info on our All Electric Mowing Service
The S10 trucks are the best vehicle to convert to electric, in my opinion.
Hundreds of them have been done around the country so there are good plans
available, and you can find them with blown motors for very cheap.
The total cost for a cold climate EV is roughly $22k. It will do 70
mph, have a 40 mile range for mostly in town driving, and will cost
$.05/mile in electricity. And you don't have to wait for the electric
car of the future to become available.
How much does your current vehicle cost to own and operate?
Take a look at this cost calculator:
The average car in the US costs over $600/month, sucking up
17% of our income. That equates to over $1M in retirement savings even
at 5% interest, or enough to send 2 kids to college - simply by having one
less internal combustion car!
For info on EVs and electric
scooters, we are fortunate to have
Eco Auto where you can
just go down and buy a 35-mph EV or scooter (a scooter looks like a moped but makes no noise
and costs much less to drive). Entrepreneur Ron Gompertz has done a
tremendous job of raising awareness here in the Gallatin Valley and
providing products for those who can see the dead end in petroleum cars.
Auto Assc, let's put MT on the map! Check out their EVs For Sale page
for a great list of electric cars, bikes, and lawn equipment, plug-in EVs,
etc. From this site, you can access all you want to know about EVs,
from where to buy new EVs, used EVs, EV conversion kits, facts on emissions,
battery recycling, and much more.
What to do:
- subscribe to the
list to be receive updates on electrics
- help build an electric car, either from a complete kit or individual