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Electric Vehicle Kits for the Masses? 177

Aciel asks: "I just finished watching 'Who Killed the Electric Car', and was quite impressed. I'm too poor to buy anything but an old clunker, and not eager to pollute the atmosphere (or empty my wallet) with gasoline. The movie inspired me: I think I'd like to convert an old car (or perhaps a motorbike) to run on electricity. Have Slashdot readers attempted such a thing before? What experiences have you had, and what would you recommend or not recommend?"
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Electric Vehicle Kits for the Masses?

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  • Modern EV's (Score:2, Interesting)

    The project is basically a huge audio amplifier (seen in the movie) amplifying a signal modulated by an embedded computer. This signal is similar to that which drives your speakers, but instead it drives the motor(s) in such a way as to not damage them with acceleration and braking forces.

    The expensive components in this amplifier are large bucket capacitors and rediculous huge transistors or valves.

    The whole rig would cost roughly the same to build as a small radio transmitter, plus the cost of modding t

    • Re:Modern EV's (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Saturday October 07, 2006 @07:25AM (#16347077)
      Amplifier? I guess you mean a "Variable frequency drive".
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_Frequency_Dr ive [wikipedia.org]
      AFAIK this is the state of the art for electric cars. Digging something up on Google...
      Unfortunately, I could not find a system made specifically for cars on the quick. But for an example of a complete VFD, the following should give you a rough idea of prize, size and weight:
      http://www.joliettech.com/abb_acs-550_ac_drive_ove rview.htm [joliettech.com]
      Note that the ABB ACS550 AC is somewhat different from what you want in a car. It takes power from a 3-phase AC line, so it will have a rectifier and some big buffer capacitor that would be unnecessary in a car system where you draw DC from the battery. OTOH, you might want energy recovery when braking, which is not specified for the above and would probably cost extra.

      I'll leave the search for motors and batteries to someone else ;-)
      • One of my professors drives an old truck that he converted to an EV. He gives a short overview here (towards the bottom): http://home.earthlink.net/~alcompaan/ [earthlink.net]
      • by nebbian ( 564148 )
        Most VVVF (Variable voltage, variable frequency) drives used in heavy industry use something called "Dynamic Braking", where the back EMF from the motor is fed to the big DC rails, to slow the motor down. So in other words, regenerative braking comes built-in. I'm pretty sure you can get VVVF drives without the AC parts, as some of the machines I worked on used DC rails to get their power.
      • FWIW, in electric RC and sometimes robotics we use what are called "electronic speed controllers" (ESCs). They're basically what you're describing. ESCs have been getting fairly sophisticated in the past few years, especially the brushless models, and would doubtless be a good model to work from.
    • Though it isn't in the price range of the OP, this company here has demonstrated that the motors and control system (including ABS and traction control) to convert any small car into a 4wd EV can certainly be made available to DIYers:

      http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/08/the_hybrid _mini.php [treehugger.com]
  • Your first qualification takes you out of the race: The cost of components, motors, controllers, (and especially batteries) are much more than the cost of a gas-sipping clunker. As much as people want to save gas/the world, the economic reality for most is that the total cost of electric is much more than conventional alternatives.

    That said, I love my Prius. I can justify it with a long daily commute, as I get a more comfortable drive in it than a similarly thrifty gas-powered car. Overall, I could
    • Yeah. First off, an older car isn't what you want - too heavy. And as bbsguru said, to do this on the cheap? Not likely. this guy [austinev.org] converted a junked Hyundai Elantra, doing all of his own welding/fabrication and buying everything piecemeal from EBay (no kits here), and still spent $6000 to get a 25 mile range and 'pretty darned slow' acceleration. Of course, its a work in progress, but that should give you some idea of the bare minimum. For that money, you can buy a nice well-maintained diesel VW and g
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by usrusr ( 654450 )
        older cars would not be that bad for a project like this, since they used put way less steel into tunring the car into a crash-proof tank 20 years ago than they are doing today (at least speaking of european cars like the smaller ranges of VW, a 50ies US cruiser with cast-iron tail fins would probably be a different story). "passive security" might be nice for people who are even scared of walking, but it poses a bad hit on fuel economy.

        but that aside, i question the whole idea of converting cars to electr
  • by Crazy Brian ( 657840 ) on Saturday October 07, 2006 @06:31AM (#16346753) Homepage
    Check out http://www.austinev.org/evalbum/ [austinev.org] for over 800 examples of electric cars, most of which are conversions or kit built.
    • I think converting a bicycle is a good first project. It can be done for a couple hundred dollars and is pretty nifty as you can race around at a decent clip, you have almost no fuel cost, you can pedal if you run out of charge, and you can throw it on a bike or in the back of a car if you need to go long distances. Not at all bad for a weekend project and less than buying a XBox.
  • Not a solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Drasil ( 580067 )
    Unless your electricity is generated in a way that doesn't damage the environment you are simply moving the pollution from your car to the power station. A conversion to run your existing car on methanol or something similar would do more to help the environment. The simple truth is that private vehicle ownership will have to end one day, and the ideal time for it to end would have been 30 years or so ago.
    • you are simply moving the pollution from your car to the power station
       
      an oft-repeated fallacy. Larger = more efficient. Why do you think hardly anyone has bread-making machines at home?
      • by Drasil ( 580067 )
        Yes, there are economies of scale involved, the actual details are much more complex. Bear in mind however that the transmission of electricity over power lines is inefficient. I wouldn't be surprised if electric cars would cause more pollution that their petrol or diesel driven counterparts. Is there an expert here that knows the answer?
        • I agree, I'm not an expert. Someone needs to run the numbers.
        • I do have a little knowledge of the field and may be the best you will get posting here. The short answer is that it depends how you define pollution. The oil industry, for instance, does not want to define carbon dioxide as pollution, but the alternative energy and nuclear lobbies do. I take that viewpoint, myself, because I have grandchildren and I don't want them to die in one of the global warming induced wars from about 2030 on.

          A properly designed small direct injection Diesel powered car (VW Golf in t

          • There is also an interesting breakthrough that hasn't made much news UPS (which has a lot of stake in the cost of driving around) has invested in a new technology. Hydrolic hybrids http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/06/epa_and_p a rtner.html [greencarcongress.com] No battery needed.
            They are implementing this as a test right now. But from another article I read the technology is applicable in street cars as well.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by supasam ( 658359 )
              I'd like to see one of those high pressure accumulators get punched by a soccer mom in a suburban.
          • by Drasil ( 580067 )
            I [...] may be the best you will get posting here.

            I'll drink to that!

            After my initial post I did a little investigating. It seems electric cars may well lead to significantly less carbon dioxide emmissions than the current gas guzzlers, perhaps as much as a threefold reduction is possible (although that's optimistic). The best you can do is to not drive any car at all, I don't.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          No, I'm not an expert, but maybe I can sound like I make sense.

          Transmission over power lines is about 85% efficient (over very long distances). A good internal combustion engine is (if I recall correctly) about 10-20% efficient. Plus, it takes a whole lotta batteries to equal the weight of the engine block plus the half-full gas tank.

          Peeking around the tubes, the estimates I've been finding for EV fuel efficiency is about 1 or 2 cents per mile (compare to 7.5 cents per mile for a car that gets 40mpg at $3
          • by thsths ( 31372 )
            > Another benefit is that your electric car becomes more environmentally friendly every time someone puts up a new wind farm.

            From a marketing perspective, wind farms are the best thing since sliced bread. You can sell the environmental friendliness many times over: to the investor giving the money, to the area where you put it up, to the customer getting the electricity, to the electric car using the electricity. Everybody involved even a tiny bit will claim that they are responsible for less polution or
          • Most of that electricity is generated using plant that is at best 40% efficient (The "65%" you sometimes see quoted includes heat recovery in cogen plants - work fine in the winter in cold places, but the heat is pure waste in the summer.) If you allow that, you also need to allow for "free" vehicle heating in winter from the waste heat.

            The electric vehicle needs electric motors, which have weight. It currently needs hundreds of kilos of batteries to get a reasonable range, far more than that maybe 100kg pe

            • by Eccles ( 932 )
              If you allow that, you also need to allow for "free" vehicle heating in winter from the waste heat.

              Also, a Prius has a smaller ICE than a conventional vehicle of similar power. The Jetta TDI, for example, outweighs the Prius by ~100 kg. (Granted, the body styles are different enough that the comparison isn't great, but the Prius isn't especially heavy for a car of its class. I don't think Toyota sells diesels in the U.S., thus I went with the VW.) The Prius's electric batteries aren't that large, esp. c
              • by Eccles ( 932 )
                Oop, editing screw up.

                If you allow that, you also need to allow for "free" vehicle heating in winter from the waste heat.

                My response was meant to be, this is largely cancelled out by the cost of air-conditioning in summer.
        • by Eccles ( 932 )
          I'm not an expert, but have seen analyses that have. But I would also make one other general observation: price generally has a good correlation with energy use and thus emissions. If gasoline costs more per KwH than electricity (and it does), it's highly likely burning it in your car causes more pollution than having a power plant generate it and transmit it to you.

          Along these same lines, you can generally guess at the pollution impact of (for example) selling your old gas guzzler and buying an econocar.
      • "Why do you think hardly anyone has bread-making machines at home?"

        Nearly everyone has bread making machines at home.

        Of course, not everyone knows how to use their hands, a few mixing bowls, and an oven.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Helix150 ( 177049 )
      This is true except it is not a good analogy- it would be true if the power plant required the same quantity of fuel and released the same by-products as a car engine to generate the same amount of power. This is not the case. Power plants are FAR more efficient, as I recall it uses about 10% the fuel if not less to generate the same amount of power.

      Remember, power companies have a (somewhat) vested interest in making their plants efficient, because they pay for fuel and get political flak for polluting.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cunniff ( 264218 )
      From the article found here [electroauto.com], in California (which has generally pretty clean power plants), "Over the course of 100,000 miles, CO2 emissions from EVs are projected to be 10 tons versus 35 tons for ICE vehicles". Even on the East Coast, which has much dirtier plants, "EVs in the Northeast would reduce CO emissions by 99.8 percent, volatile organic compounds (VOC) by 90 percent, NOx by 80 percent, and CO2 by as much as 60 percent".

      One interesting comparison in the article takes power line inefficiences into
    • Stationary pollution treatment equipment is much more effective than mobile pollution treatment equipment. Electric cars damage the environment less than gasoline cars.

      http://www.ruf.dk/ [www.ruf.dk] is a dual-mode transportation system that uses the best characteristics of electric trains and cars.
      • Electric cars damage the environment less than gasoline cars.

        So long as you properly dispose of used batteries.
    • At least solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, ethanol, etc are all possible at the plant (or in your house). It may be expensive, but we could actually switch them over to clean energy. You can't do that at all if everyone's driving gas cars.
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      "private vehicle ownership will have to end one day?"

      When they pry the keys out of my cold dead fingers. Dont tell me when i have to give up my 'private vehicle'. You may like mass transit but some us REFUSE to deal with it. i you want to ride the bus, go ahead but leave me out of it.

      And you are somewhat incorrect about moving the pollution:

      1 - central power stations are cleaner then all the cars it could replace. Are they 100% clean, no of course not. But they are cleaner.
      2 - coal plants are really clea
  • by VGfort ( 963346 )
    You might take a look at some of the used ones they have: http://www.zapworld.com/cars/salecars.asp [zapworld.com]
    • Nice link, those cars however that they rebuilt were disgusting. Old bodies, poor range, poor performance, and poor price. The positive thing is it rules out remaking an old gas powered car into electrical. As many have suggested going for a more efficient gas or diesel car is your best bet.
  • You can't afford to buy anything but an old clunker, yet you are inspired to convert a car to electricity? Am I the only one confused here? Do you think that converting a car to electricity is free? I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but first you need to acquire an automobile - which costs money. Then you need to convert said car to electricity - which also costs money and probably more than the car is even worth.

    How about asking this instead: Dear Slashdot, does money grow on trees? Because I wa
    • by Kalak ( 260968 )
      DIY is frequently less expensive than paying someone else to do it. You don't have to pay for the labor in many cases and can use less expensive alternatives if you're willing to be your own maintainer.

      Have you built anything before or do you only buy consumer made products? If you haven't built anything yourself (hardware or software), leave your geek card at the door on your way out.
      • DIY is frequently less expensive than paying someone else to do it. You don't have to pay for the labor in many cases and can use less expensive alternatives if you're willing to be your own maintainer.

        Oh, absolutely. But in this case, paying someone else to do it gets you access to all sorts of R&D write-offs and tax incentives. Check out sites like this 914 [austinev.org] where the owner has spent over $10k, plus the cost of car, and hasn't even really started yet.

        Doing an expensive endeavor yourself is often chea
      • DIY is frequently less expensive than paying someone else to do it

        This is assuming that your time is not valuable. If I can pay someone to do something that would take me 10 times as long, it is money well spent. I have very little free time as it is.

        And of course I have built something before. I just can't imagine someone who can barely afford a crappy car being able to afford a car + the electric conversion.

      • by usrusr ( 654450 )
        true electric cars have a very big part of the money in their batteries. good luck at DIYing huge lipolys.

        and don't even think of the cost of replacing them every few years.
    • by hb253 ( 764272 )
      Amen brother! or sister? :-)
  • by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Saturday October 07, 2006 @08:45AM (#16347585) Journal
    Someone else suggested ZAP. I don't know what they are like for other things, but I converted my bike over to electric power with one of their ZAP XPress kits. On the one hand, the kit had a bunch of plastic parts that broke almost immediately. When I tried to contact their warranty department, they said "please write in." So I wrote in, and the required warranty request bounced Adressee unknown. Also, on the negative side, the company seems to do all its work in China, which implies to me unjustified profits and possible slave labor. On the other hand, once I replaced the parts with alternative, stronger parts, the kit did last me for a year and paid itself off.



    But they do sell a bunch of $1500 electric mopeds, if you're interested in going that route.



    There are some other vehicles out there, too -- you'll have to look for them, though. Some are only in development, like the x-cycle [avianmotors.com], while others are incredibly expensive, like the Sparrow.



    Here's my suggestion.



    I'm going to assume that you can get under the hood of a car, remove the engine, and essentially work on a car without killing yourself.



    In that case, you probably want to get a street-legal old vw-bug or Ford Fiesta (or Yugo)... anyhow, something that is small and aerodynamic, and then convert it to electric with a $3000 conversion kit from e-volks [e-volks.com]. (They also have a $1500 conversion kit, but I'd go with the better one if I were you.) This is Wilderness Energy (which sells hub bicycle conversion kits, unfortunately also of Chinese manufacture and easily broken) expanded to automobiles.



    Just... I'd go ahead and make the electric supply/recharge system separate from the vehicle, for the reason that you'll want to change it over later as you get more money.



    Initially, you'll want Sealed-Lead-Acid batteries as can be had from Wal-Mart in the Bike section. They're cheap but heavy, and you string up enough of them to get whatever distance and speed you need.



    But later, you'll want to convert to Lithium-ion phosphate, since it is lightweight, extremely efficient, long lasting, and doesn't blow up like a DELL.



    Two sources for those are A123 [a123systems.com] and Valence [valence.com].


    • In that case, you probably want to get a street-legal old vw-bug or Ford Fiesta (or Yugo)... anyhow, something that is small and aerodynamic ...

      Apparently you've not driven an old VW Beetle. Small? Yes. Aerodynamic? Not so much.
      • by jamesh ( 87723 )
        From the literature i have read, putting the batteries in the front adds a bit of weight which helps balance the thing a bit, and also is better from a safety point of view. Those lead acid batteries are nice and crumply(sp?) too, which helps in a frontal collision. Not sure if using unexploded li-ion batteries would give you the same benefit though... might want to improve the firewall a bit.

        So aerodynamics aside, they aren't a bad choice for a first ev.
        • Old Beetles (and Squarebacks [cardomain.com] and Fastbacks [cardomain.com], if you can find them anymore) are surprisingly simple and effective vehicles. Many of the parts are stamped or welded stampings (don't *ever* let the hamfisted towtruck operator sling your old Beetle.) They're pretty simple to work on, though you should expect to hack yourself a couple of times on the engine air shroud. As an EV donor, it's probably a pretty good choice.

          However, I've driven them on the New York Thruway in winter, and lemme tell ya, the things
    • by mfarver ( 43681 ) *
      and then convert it to electric with a $3000 conversion kit from e-volks. (They also have a $1500 conversion kit, but I'd go with the better one if I were you.)

      Please don't.. the e-volts kits are fantastically underpowered for a car. Despite their claims, a 72V series DC vehicle will not do freeway speeds. Best practice in hobbiest conversions has been closer to 120VDC for awhile. The absolute minimum for a freeway EV is 96V and a small car (Geo Metro). Top end at 96V will be 60-65mph, and a 29+ second
  • Forget this question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Saturday October 07, 2006 @09:03AM (#16347715) Homepage
    I want to know how to go about converting my 18-speed. Going thirty miles an hour uphill would be teh aw3some.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by n2rjt ( 88804 )
      Electric bicycles are, IMHO, more ready for prime time than electric cars.
      I commute on an EGo (www.egovehicles.com) 17 miles each way.

      Conversion kits for road bikes such as your 18-speed are easy to find online.
      Checking google, I see ZapWorld.com among others.

      You won't go 30 miles an hour uphill, though.
      15-18 MPH on the flat would be good for a conversion kit.
      Electric motors have high torque, so you'll not slow down much up hills.
      Before getting something fast, like your desired 30 MPH, check licensing laws
  • I wish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StonyCreekBare ( 540804 ) on Saturday October 07, 2006 @10:24AM (#16348301) Homepage
    I've looked pretty hard at this question myself. But, sorry to say, electricity to drive a vehicle doesn't make much sense. The problems are two-fold.

    (1) The electricity. Here in California, paying PG&E rates, the cost to drive a mile with a given vehicle size/weight is much less for gasoline than electricity. I have seen this argued endlessly, but it is simply true. Even if you are willing to pay the cost, availability isn't there either.

    The electricity infrastructure is teetering on the edge of failure now. Adding a bunch of electric cars would collapse the system. If the public would encourage the building of a bunch of new nuke plants (I think the Pebbel-Bed reactors being designed now are very promising) we might be able to meet the demand, but realistically that isn't going to happen. Adding new coal plants to charge electric cars seems just WRONG on several levels.

    (2) The vehicles. The technology for electric vehicles simply isn't there for anything more than a glorified golf-cart. The best batteries are nowhere near good enough, are way too expensive, and don't last near long enough. Heck, we can't even build a good reliable battery for a laptop computer yet. And as for avoiding pollution, not only does most current electricity generation use fossil fuel and thus pollute at the generation site, but the manufacture and disposal of large numbers of toxic batteries is not exactly green either. And think those exploding Sony batteries have been a headache to laptop owners, wait until the scenario repeats itself on the scale of an automobile sized battery. Can you say "Car Bomb"?

    I honestly think the best solution is to buy an older, small and efficient car from a manufacturer known for producing reliable and efficient cars. I bought a 20 year-old Toyota MR2. Cost, under $500.

    Pollution? First, when buying an older car, simply budget putting a new catalytic converter on it right away, even if the one on it is working. Ditto, a good tune-up. I did, and then when I registered it the state mandated a smog test at speed, under load on a dynometer. The numbers returned were so low, the tech was blown away. He actually re-tested it a second time before believing the numbers. He said I could qualify as a "Super Low Emission Vehicle" based on the numbers alone. But since the make and model wasn't endorsed for that category, I couldn't officially do so. But new catalytic converters do work very, very well.

    Mileage? Around town, grocery store runs and the like, it gets 37-39 mpg. On the road, between 43 and 48 depending on various factors. Plus, it's fun to drive. Plus, it's been dead-bang reliable.

    It ain't a Prius, but it's darn close in terms of overall pollution and mileage. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, low impact on the environment, and reliable. Downsides? Well, it's getting a little long in tooth, appearance-wize. I probably should budget some paint and trim sometime soon, and because it's so tiny, I keep banging my head when I get in and out.

    I keep hoping to put up a bunch of solar panels and charge my own electric car and declare my own personal fuel independance some day. But it isn't practical, and may not be for a long time, if ever. Ask me again in 20 years or so. Like it or not, the old-fashioned gas-buggy is the overall best solution. Just pay attention to what you're buying, buy just what you need and no more, and arrange your life to require as little driving as you can, and you will know you are living a life in harmony with both society and the environment.

    Stony
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I bought two old 3-cylinder Geo Metros for my business and painted them industrial safety yellow. One gets 54MPG and the other gets 50MPG. Odd thing is the one with the air conditioner gets the better mileage.

      I also thought about converting them to electron drive, but the cost and technology isn't there yet. I'm actually researching switching over to propane or compressed natural gas. The mileage drops a little, but the cost is less, the engine runs much cleaner and it's far better for the environment.

      CNT a

      • Air conditioning is strange. Mythbusters did a couple shows, showing that depending on the speed you are traveling and the outside air temperature, sometime turning on the airconditioner uses up less fuel than opening the window to cool yourself off. (reduced aerodynamis.)
    • Re:I wish (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Saturday October 07, 2006 @04:58PM (#16350911)

      The electricity. Here in California, paying PG&E rates, the cost to drive a mile with a given vehicle size/weight is much less for gasoline than electricity

      That's just wrong. The RAV4-EV requires around 30KWh for a full charge and has a range of around 110 miles. PG&E's highest tier for energy usage is $0.21 per KWh, meaning it costs $6.30 to "fill up" your vehicle. At the current national average gas price, $2.27/gal, that's equal to 2.76 gallons of gas. Thus, the RAV4-EV gets 39.9 equiv miles to the gallon, which is significantly higher than the gas-powered variant (28-30MPG).

      It looks even better at CA's average residential electric price, $0.14/KWh.

      The electricity infrastructure is teetering on the edge of failure now. Adding a bunch of electric cars would collapse the system.

      That's a crap argument based on overdramatized supposition. Yes, we are running the grid closer to capacity than we have ever done - but that's because unused capacity is inefficent. Everyone points to the energy shortages in CA (which were caused by market factors) and the 2003 blackout (which was caused by a number of factors, including poor maintenence and inadequete staffing by FirstEnergy).

      The grid is more complex than it has ever been. We need more power and we want it at a lower price and with fewer emissions than ever before. Better control systems, tighter monitoring, and better maintenence are necessary to keep the grid operational. The trade-off is that the grid is far more efficent.

      As for adding capacity, our electricity usage has more than tripled since 1970. More plants will need to be built to support electric vehicles, but that's not a problem at all. We just have to keep doing what we have been doing for the past 100 years - building enough capacity to meet demand.

      The technology for electric vehicles simply isn't there for anything more than a glorified golf-cart.

      Wrong. The technology is there, it was just abandoned by the auto-industry. Current conversion EVs may have poor performance, but that's because they were never designed as integrated systems and generally run on low-voltage DC. High-voltage multiphase AC systems (like the system in Toyota's Rav4 EV and GM's EV-1) had no problems maintaining highway speeds and normal acceleration, and achieved ranges of up to 140 miles - that's useful for a lot of people.

      Assuming that the tehnology isn't there because conversions don't act like traditional vehicles is foolish. Inverter, motor, and battery technologies are mature and on the road today (Toyota Prius, anyone?). Electric cars may not be economically feasable currently, but that doesn't mean that the technology doesn't exist.

      And think those exploding Sony batteries have been a headache to laptop owners, wait until the scenario repeats itself on the scale of an automobile sized battery. Can you say "Car Bomb"?

      Ni-MH batteries don't burn when abused, nor do Lithium-Ion-Phosphate batteries. And every time someone says something like "car bomb", I just have to laugh - you're driving around with 10+ gallons of highly flammable fuel as is. Ford Pinto, anyone?

      but the manufacture and disposal of large numbers of toxic batteries is not exactly green either

      This is a misconception. Ni-MH batteries are not particularly toxic, and they recycle well - there are both economical and ecological reasons for recycling. Toyota, for example, pays $500 for every dead Prius battery packs.

      Any production has environmental impact. Oil exploration and refining, for example, requires a huge quantity of energy and carries significant environmental risks.

      And as for avoiding pollution, not only does most current electricity generation use fossil fuel and thus pollute at the generation site

      Absolutely. But even modern coal power plants are considerably more efficent than the

      • That's just wrong. The RAV4-EV requires around 30KWh for a full charge and has a range of around 110 miles. PG&E's highest tier for energy usage is $0.21 per KWh, meaning it costs $6.30 to "fill up" your vehicle. At the current national average gas price, $2.27/gal, that's equal to 2.76 gallons of gas. Thus, the RAV4-EV gets 39.9 equiv miles to the gallon, which is significantly higher than the gas-powered variant (28-30MPG).

        Now figure in $26,000 cost of the battery pack and try again. [wikipedia.org]

        At $2.60/g
  • I'd have to agree that the conversion route probably won't work out too well. You'll end up with a car that can go 30 MPH and has ~20 mile range.

    Get yourself an old GeoMetro (or even older Chevy Sprint if any still survive). They get at least 50MPG on the hiway and 40 around town. It's too bad they don't make them anymore...

    I'm waiting for the Toyota Aygo that's supposed to be available in the US next Fall (2007). As it will have a 3 cylinder, 1 liter engine in a SmartCar-sized package I suspect that th
  • Here's what I did. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Saturday October 07, 2006 @01:57PM (#16349827)
    Years ago, I read the book Divorce Your Car! [amazon.com]

    It tells the reader about how even if cars ran on pollution and planted flowers everywhere they went, they're still a big pain in the ass and really, not worth the trouble. They're hard to maintain, expensive, deadly, hard to find parking for (and when we build more roads and parking, traffic and parking problems just get worse), and expensive to society as a whole.

    The book also tells of two possible solutions to the problem, that you can implement right away. There's the car-lite life, and the no-car life. Because I was young and living in a big city with good public transit (where I still currently live, but not for much longer), I chose the no-car life. Instead of buying a car, I found an apartment closer to rapid transit, which gives me a direct route to work. I get my groceries delivered to my door - I can do this over the internet or any one of the many local grocery stores. If the trip is short, I just walk or bike. And if I *need* a car, I call for a cab.

    The car-lite life means using your car as little as possible. 90% of all trips are less than a mile anyway, so why not walk or bike them? And yes, you'd be amazed how many shops will deliver, but I'd bet you hadn't had the need to ask before, have you? If your city has rapid transit in one form or another, it more than likely lets you park at the nearest train station, so that you can keep the trip distance down. Or perhaps you can lock up your bike there. There's not always a need to bike the *whole* way to get where you're going.

    Either option is also good for your health, by the way. Not only are you contributing less to smog, but you're getting more exercise. And no doubt, your doctor knows how that's a good thing.
    • by Gabrill ( 556503 )
      Just curious, but how did this affect your weather-down day ratio?
    • 90% of all trips are less than a mile anyway, so why not walk or bike them?

      100% of my trips are more than five miles away. And even a mile's walk in a storm is a misery.

      And yes, you'd be amazed how many shops will deliver, but I'd bet you hadn't had the need to ask before, have you?

      I don't buy food unless I've picked it myself. This goes double for fruit and vegetables, triple for eggs and bread. And I doubt independent butchers have delivery services. Unless you like eating supermarket crap, then it might

      • by Profound ( 50789 )
        It seems that the parent poster generalised, assuming he was talking to someone who lived in an urban area. You are one of the small percentage that doesn't, so it doesn't apply to you.

        >> Walking or cycling short distances (a few miles or less) isn't exercise unless you weigh 300 pounds.

        Are you joking? You can ride pretty easily on a bike, but it takes a lot more human exertion than pushing accelarate/brake and turning a wheel.

        >> And how much smog do you think a bus with two people on puts out?

        P
        • It seems that the parent poster generalised, assuming he was talking to someone who lived in an urban area. You are one of the small percentage that doesn't, so it doesn't apply to you.

          I'd think it would be a rather small number that both live in the heavily urbanised areas where public transport is viable, and work and travel at the right times. Most people live in light urban areas or the suburbs.

          You can ride pretty easily on a bike, but it takes a lot more human exertion than pushing accelarate/brake and

    • It tells the reader about how even if cars ran on pollution and planted flowers everywhere they went, they're still a big pain in the ass and really, not worth the trouble. They're hard to maintain, expensive, deadly, hard to find parking for (and when we build more roads and parking, traffic and parking problems just get worse), and expensive to society as a whole.

      This is really stupid.

      1) Cars aren't hard to maintain, if you have a little mechanical knowledge. Just make sure you buy either a Honda or a To
      • by Profound ( 50789 )
        >> Riding a bike and getting hit by a car is far more deadly than getting hit by a car while driving a car.

        Cars kill 1 million a year in accidents and 1.5 million a year in air pollution (cars make up 50% of pollution which kills 3M globally)

        Everyone riding bikes would cause FAR FAR less deaths, but the trouble is, if everyone does the right thing, the defectors (in game theory terms) who do the "wrong" thing get the payoff in personal safety. By driving a car for safety you gain personally, at the ex
        • Cars kill 1 million a year in accidents and 1.5 million a year in air pollution (cars make up 50% of pollution which kills 3M globally)

          That's right, cars kill a lot of people. Now, take 25% of those people, stick them on bikes, and what do you think will happen to the death toll? The ones who are still in cars will be slaughtering the ones on bikes.

          Air pollution can be reduced by more effective anti-pollution laws and enforcement. I see lots of crappy old cars spewing out pollution driving around; it's
          • by Profound ( 50789 )
            The move to the suburbs and mass adoption of the car took place in only a decade or two, post WWII. It might take 20 years to turn around, but not doing so will fuck the planet for ever.

            The best way to get people onto bikes is to create the equivalent of bike freeways that cyclists can travel along without any cars. This can be very cheaply done by putting a bike lane next to a river. The river running East-West in the city of Adelaide has this path, and every year or so the local paper has people from 5/10
            • The move to the suburbs and mass adoption of the car took place in only a decade or two, post WWII. It might take 20 years to turn around, but not doing so will fuck the planet for ever.

              It's not as easy as you think. Things are a little different in Australia than in the US; here, there's 10 times as many people, and things are a lot more developed. WWII was a long time ago, and the population was much smaller back then. Since that time, things have expanded, and people have moved west. Where I live, Ph
              • by Profound ( 50789 )
                Even worse, there's actually few penalties here for killing other people (in cars or on bikes) in traffic, even if negligence is proven.

                link - this woman's husband was killed by a driver. His fine? $1000. Kill a biker with your SUV and you only have to pay $1000.


                I know, this makes me really mad.

                Kill someone with a few grams of metal, in the form of bullets, or knives, and you go to jail.
                Kill someone with a tonne of metal, in the form of a car, and you get a slap on the wrist.
          • by Profound ( 50789 )
            >> it's making a change so disruptive that it would cause untold economic destruction

            I think this is the crux of the issue. To solve the looming problems in the world we may find that life gets harde and we have to make sacrifices, but surely we can afford this? Why not have the same number of TVs than people, rather than more? Why not use your own effort to get around more, or read on the bus rather than burn fuel sitting in a multi-tonne vehicle carrying a 70kg person?

            I work as a software developer.
            • It's a bit harder, sometimes, but I like the feeling of using my own body to get around, rather than being carried around by fossil fuel powered machines.

              Yeah, I do too, which is why I ride my bike around the subdivision on weekends, in the evenings, etc.

              I think this is the crux of the issue. To solve the looming problems in the world we may find that life gets harde and we have to make sacrifices, but surely we can afford this?

              We could, if enough people were willing to make these sacrifices. But go almost
      • This is really stupid.

        Is it? Or are you just a bitter, closed-minded jerk? Just because what I propose doesn't apply to *you* because of the choices *you've* made, because you're not willing to think differently from the people around you... well, I guess that makes me really stupid, doesn't it?

        1) Cars aren't hard to maintain, if you have a little mechanical knowledge.

        I suppose that depends on how you mean "hard to maintain." When was the last time you had to make repairs that did not cost several hundred d
  • Electric Automobile Association [eaaev.org], and Links to Local Electric Auto groups [prodigy.net]. You just missed the Electric Automobile Association of Silicon Valley [eaasv.org] annual rally in Palo Alto - there were a bunch of homebuilt cars, a few commercial cars such as the Tesla and standard or hacked hybrids, a range of motorcyles and scooters, and a lot of electric bikes, some of which can be souped up to go freeway speed... I've been going to these on and off for about a decade, and it's evolved from being almost entirely hobbyist

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