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Journal Yaztromo's Journal: Running on Empty

This weekend I spent both days riding around the city on my new e-Bike. The sun was out, the weather was fine, and it felt god to be out and one the road and bike trails here in Victoria. Saturday I happened upon a Ska festival down at the inner harbour. Today I was one of the few to join in on an electric bike brigade ride along the coast.

Both days, unfortunately, I wound up having to do some serious pedalling as my batteries started running dry. Today was worse, in part because I had a passenger with me during the brigade ride (the young son of the woman who started the brigade ride really wanted to ride with me, so I let him jump on the back) -- by the time I got home, the battery was pretty much dry, and I had to pedal up a moderate grade on the way home, as the motor didn't have sufficient power to move the bike uphill on its own (and it wasn't giving me much help, either).

Fortunately, this bike has an optional second battery which goes under the seat, however I haven't spent the $90 for this option -- yet. But this weekends rides have got me thinking about power issues to extend the range of my bike.

Purchasing the secondary battery seems like a no-brainer, but like virtually all rechargeable batteries, it has a maximum lifetime, and it's probable that my usual home-to-University (and son home-to-work) trips won't really need it. Charging it as part of the system without ever discharging it will reduce its lifespan (the secondary battery doesn't run in a parallel circuit with the primary battery -- you actually have to switch the key to a different position to use it). I suppose I can simply switch which battery I use on a day-to-day basis, to "level" them equally...

Other thoughts go toward perhaps exploring some sort of portable solar charging system -- in the summer when it's hot and sunny at least, when the bike is sitting parked somewhere for several hours, I should be able to take free advantage of the sun's rays to give the battery some sort of boost. The trick here is that I'd want something ultra-portable (Canadian Tire has some neat foldable panels, but they don't generate much in the way of watts, don't output the correct voltage, and don't have the correct sort of interface) that can simply be plugged into the existing charging socket. Something that can go into the box at the back (or perhaps under the seat, which currently has lots of room as I don't have the secondary battery, although if I do get the secondary battery this space will probably disappear) would be ideal.

Or, perhaps I should just be a bit more sinister and take advantage of "public" power outlets. Today I spent several hours at a BBQ at a city park, near the outdoor stage. The stage has power outlets for use in staging public music shows, and I could have taken my bike up there after the show this afternoon, plugged it in in a corner, and locked it up (setting the alarm) and just leech my 15 worth of power from the City. I didn't do this, naturally, but the thought did cross my mind (especially as the thought of having to pedal home wandered through my brain. While you can pedal it, in reality the pedals aren't positioned to emphasize optimal body mechanics, and the bike is heavy, and it only has one gear, so pedalling it without the electric motor over long distances isn't particularly enjoyable. Some of the people I met at the e-Bike brigade today have actually removed their pedals altogether, as they simply never use them, but I guess they aren't doing 3 - 4 hour tours like I have been this weekend :P).

I need to take the bike in this week for some minor warrantee maintenance (they told me to come back to get the brake cables tightened, and there seems to be a minor switch malfunction where the emergency off switch won't actually disengage the power when switched off every so often...), so I think I'll pick up the secondary battery then. Anyone have any ideas on the use of solar panels to charge a 48V battery?


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Running on Empty

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IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.