Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Not so much (electric) ... and also those crazy Europeans

Well, I rode the electric bike last Monday and then again on Friday. Something I did, I assume riding it to work on Monday four miles and then *not* charging it at work (since it is supposed to have a range of 8 miles and I thought I could just ride it back home) has caused the battery to basically fully discharge. Now it seems to have a range of two miles of electric charge, with pedaling. Needless to say I am pissed off. I tried calling the company yesterday, but they wanted the bike and charger present, which would be difficult considering I was calling from work (during lunch). I meant to call them when I got home (they're on the left coast), but got distracted.

Now, I was always taught and learned the hard way a few times that you don't recharge a battery until it mostly or fully discharges. It you always leave a laptop plugged in, after a while the battery will never hold a charge. But apparently Sealed Lead Acid batteries are different, you must charge after each use and letting them get down to 20% charge spells doom for the battery. Which still makes no sense to me.

ButI have this fear that Currie Technologies will say I screwed up the battery. So I am dithering between sending the battery for "warranty work" and just buying a new battery and being done with it. I will probably choose the worst of all worlds, buy the new battery and also send the old battery in for warranty work, so they can yell at me.

Meanwhile I took my “basement bike” to Iron City Bikes to get worked on. To me, a basement bike is one you used to ride, and then it got a rear flat tire, which are pains because of the derailleur, so it sat for a couple of years. My bike is a hybrid or cross bike, one with a frame shaped like a mountain bike frame, but lighter and with tires thinner than a mountain bikes but not as thin as a road bike. It has no motor, though, so I either have to ride that eight tenths of a mile hill up Stanton or carry it up city steps from Morningside.

But the city schools are suppose to let out this week. I may try the city buses again, with the folding bike.

A bunch of articles and blog posts have looked to Europe as a model for alleviating some of our current problems, particularly around oil. I remember reading somewhere in the PG sometime in the last two weeks a piece about how in Austria people often live in apartment complexes near a bus line or a light rail line, and commute that way. The piece mention how people walk around city centres, and how there is almost no street crime.

But I also read yesterday about truckers in Spain, France and Portugal going on strike protesting high gas prices. And of course you wonder about stories about low crime in Europe when there are soccer riots and used to be terrorists.

I do think that some European-style gas taxes here (ie $4 a gallon) would be a good thing. Although tough to deal with on a personal level.

The latest Europhile suggestion was made by Bob Feikima on Sunday (who I know of through a relative). He complains that American drivers try to cheat traffic lights, barreling through yellow and then the first part of red lights. In fact, he said that lights equipped with cameras cause rear end collisions, as drivers at the rear of a column of cars are surprised when someone aheadof them obeyes the law. He was advocates removing all traffic lights and signage from intersections, something apparently done in Europe, Then if you are approaching an intersection and see a driver, you have to”negotiate” by catching his/her attention and bargaining on whether you have to stop or he/she should.

Personally I am not impressed with this idea. As I drive through Stanton Heights and other neighborhoods around the city, there are frequently narrow streets with about three lanes. So if cars are parked on both sides, and a car is approaching me, I have to do this negotiating thing that Feikima suggests. I generally pull over, expecting the other car will proceed for a little way and then do the same. But what happens about ninety percent of the time is that the other driver continues and drives right past me. My only other alternative would be to play chicken with other drivers, not terribly appealing.

This is what is likely to happen if Feikima’s suggestion is adopted. There will be a whole bunch of side impacts as cars try to jockey their way through intersections, believing they can beat the on coming car and force it to slam on its brakes (and most satisfyingly skid into a parked car). But maybe soon we will be forced to abandon our cars for bikes anyway. I am willing to risk an electric bike to electric bike accident.


Mark Rauterkus said...

Electric bikes are very kewl. Too bad the battery isn't holding the charge for you.

In China, they ride the bikes around town for about a week on a single charge.

If I was mayor, we'd be with bike lanes and allow electric bikes everywhere.

Plus, we'd do electric boats too!

EdHeath said...

Well, it looks like I should be riding electrically again soon. I will be more careful with the replacement battery (which paradoxically seems less careful to me).

The Chinese must have pretty impressive batteries to get a week out of them.

Have you read “Oil on the Brain”? Chris Schulz recommended it to me. The author tries to cover oil as gasoline, when it is refined, when it is pumped, and then foreign experiences with oil, including in Iran, Chad, Venezuela, and in China (as our rival in consumption). The book mentions a prototype Chinese hydrogen car that uses small fuel cell motors for each wheel, that might cost as little as five thousand dollars. That would be worth driving. I’ll be taking the book back to the library in the next couple of days.

Melanoma Blog said...

if your having trouble w/your ebike, check out the electric bicycle forum.