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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 08-23-06, 02:54 PM   #1
Fasteryoufool
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Let Me Bounce an Idea Off of You...

I've thought for quite some time that car manufacturers were going about the whole "alternative fuels" thing the wrong way. They try to make them... cars. IMNSHO, if you make them large, full of conveniences and airbags... duh, they're going to be heavy and get lousy fuel economy or range.

In California (and most states, I believe) anything under 1500 lbs. with less than 4 wheels is considered a motorcycle, and is not subject to car standards of emissions, safety, etc.

So... any idea why it wouldn't be feasible to build a three-wheeler electric vehicle with a bunch of plain-old car batteries, on a lightweight tube frame chassis, heavy-duty bicycle running gear (MTB maybe) and a fiberglass body? You could do one that was clean enough (drag-wise) to run at freeway speeds on relatively little power, light enough (I'm thinking 1000lbs. would be easily accomplished) that the battery power would be sufficient for a decent range between charges.

With a set of LED headlamps/taillamps, it could be run at night with a minimal loss of range, though you obviously couldn't have a heater, and I'm thinking a three-seat three-wheeler should easily have a decent range... what do you think?
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Old 08-23-06, 04:10 PM   #2
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Works great till the weather gets cold. Unit body construction makes for more efficient use of the space of the car too. The idea of smaller lighter cars is proven though, no doubt about that.
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Old 08-23-06, 05:02 PM   #3
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yeah...the Euros have had this one mostly figured out for a while...the American personal-space bubble and its immense size are probably what holds us back from that. I think its Daimler Chrysler that's bringing in the "smart car" from europe to the us this year. it gets ridiculously good mileage that's mostly thanks to its reduced mass more than any other factor.

what i'd like to see is less weight and more diesel. I'm 6" (and a wide 6" at that) and I don't have any trouble crawling into an Echo or any other small car I've ever been in.

better yet...most people don't use their back seats...I think we could chop a lot of mass and save more gas by selling more 2-seaters.

w/regards to the OP's idea, I think Triumph made a gas-powered version of what he's discussing...3-wheels very Aero, air-cooled motorcycle engine and some very nice mileage. can't remember the name of it to save my life though.
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Old 08-23-06, 05:19 PM   #4
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Electric forklifts can go all day without recharging, and they weigh many thousands of pounds. Plug them into the charger at night, and the next day they are ready. And that's from driving around almost constantly all day long and powering the hydraulic system of the lift . Naturally I pondered the idea of using similar drive train parts but on a much lighter vehicle with a transmission that allows higher speeds. The problem: I was told the batteries weigh something like 3000 pounds. Still, for people who just want an economical vehicle for going to work and running errands around town, you would think it would be a fairly simple thing to construct. But apparently it isn't.
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Old 08-23-06, 06:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Lamplight
Electric forklifts can go all day without recharging, and they weigh many thousands of pounds. Plug them into the charger at night, and the next day they are ready. And that's from driving around almost constantly all day long and powering the hydraulic system of the lift . Naturally I pondered the idea of using similar drive train parts but on a much lighter vehicle with a transmission that allows higher speeds. The problem: I was told the batteries weigh something like 3000 pounds. Still, for people who just want an economical vehicle for going to work and running errands around town, you would think it would be a fairly simple thing to construct. But apparently it isn't.
Fork lifts dont go very fast, nor very far, and they usually are operated in relatively warm places.

Small electric cars have been around for a long long time, just not sold commercially in any quantities. People are always free to build their own, and some have done just that. A 10hp DC electric motor will push a small car at freeway speeds for around 50 miles or so using good old lead acid batteries, about 800-1000lbs of them. The big catch here is, this is in WARM weather only. Batteries have big problems with cold temps and capacity, chemical reactions slow with temperature decreases.

A 10hp DC motor costs about $1000-$1400 these days. Add batteries, an electronic speed control good for at 200-400amps, wiring, a suitable donor car, and a charging system and your electric Many front wheel drive cars can literally be converted by removing the engine and attaching the electric motor right to the existing tranny with and adapter plate/bell housing. Many of the DC motors suitable also have similar RPM ranges, just the torque curve is reversed from a gas engine, which is actually a good thing. You would run into issues with weight, a decent sized battery pack will overload the cars suspension even gutting much of the car. Its a tradeoff, any design is.
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Old 08-23-06, 06:57 PM   #6
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Yes, pedex and Lamplight have hit it on the head. You can do a lot even with electric power, but only at low speed. So, if our primary waste of energy is drag, we want to drop CdA as much as possible, and drive slowly if possible. Doing this we can drop energy consumption to a fraction of the modern auto and have a very useful and comfortable rig. I'll bring more later...
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Old 08-23-06, 07:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
Yes, pedex and Lamplight have hit it on the head. You can do a lot even with electric power, but only at low speed. So, if our primary waste of energy is drag, we want to drop CdA as much as possible, and drive slowly if possible. Doing this we can drop energy consumption to a fraction of the modern auto and have a very useful and comfortable rig. I'll bring more later...
Or do the better option, get rid of most fo the cars, and use electrified rail. The "me me me, its all about me attitude" in this country is an expensive beast we cannot afford indefinitely.
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Old 08-23-06, 07:36 PM   #8
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Isn't this the CAR FREE forum? With all the auto-erotica that goes on here you'd think this was Motor Trend magazine or something. A small car is still a car and not a bicycle.
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Old 08-23-06, 07:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thor29
Isn't this the CAR FREE forum? With all the auto-erotica that goes on here you'd think this was Motor Trend magazine or something. A small car is still a car and not a bicycle.
Is bicycle use required to be considered an officially approved car-free poster? My guess is that the majority of adult North American city dwellers who are car free (for what ever reason) don't ride bikes anywhere.
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Old 08-23-06, 07:55 PM   #10
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@pedex
The problem we have is that we've already expanded well beyond what's practical in terms of electrified passenger rail. Some people will need flexible, efficient, personal transportation, unless we end up abandoning fringe towns en mass. There is also the current business model to contend with, it's far more likely that we may see an individual or small group manufacture small electric cars to be registered as motorcycles than a large corporation actually fund a decent electric rail system, ala Europe. Given the choice of building myself an efficient velomobilish microcar, or wait for an electric rail network, I'll build the small "car" because I'll be six feet under before we see a decent electric rail network in the states.

Change what you can, accept what you can't.

@Thor29
Yesh, yesh, this is the car free forum. What the OP was refering to wouldn't be a car, it would be a motorcycle. Of course it could be the size of a velomobile, and faster than any bike under human power, but we must cling to our stigmatized notion of segmented transportation! There can be no blurring of bounds, only the bike and car, god and the devil, pepsi and coke!
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Old 08-23-06, 08:03 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
@pedex

Change what you can, accept what you can't.
and abandon sheot thats just plain stupid and not sustainable, we can do it voluntarily or have it forced on us
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Old 08-23-06, 09:02 PM   #12
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I doubt that this home grown vehicle would pass any states requirements
to get a title for plates. If you intend to use an engine then the state will
get last word on what it is. I this vehicle is Human Powered at all then
there's a chance you could slide in under the requirements but don't
count on it.
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Old 08-23-06, 09:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Tightwad
I doubt that this home grown vehicle would pass any states requirements
to get a title for plates. If you intend to use an engine then the state will
get last word on what it is. I this vehicle is Human Powered at all then
there's a chance you could slide in under the requirements but don't
count on it.
Actually many states have provisons for "experimental" vehicles. Meet the same basic criteria for other vehicles minus the pollution and crash testing, with limits of course. Brakes, lights/signals, windshield, bumpers, horn. Converting an existing gas car however avoids most of this.
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Old 08-23-06, 09:45 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Tightwad
I doubt that this home grown vehicle would pass any states requirements
to get a title for plates. If you intend to use an engine then the state will
get last word on what it is. I this vehicle is Human Powered at all then
there's a chance you could slide in under the requirements but don't
count on it.
Most states have very few restrictions on motorcycle registrations - if it's got lights, signals, weighs less that 1500 lbs., and has less than 4 wheels and moves under its own power, it's a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle. In many states for example, you can take any purely off-road 4 stroke dirtbike, hang lights and signals on it, add a battery, upgrade the alternator to allow running lights, and register it for road use.
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Old 08-23-06, 10:46 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pedex
and abandon sheot thats just plain stupid and not sustainable, we can do it voluntarily or have it forced on us
Ah yesh, a vehicle that can be powered off of ~1/3-1/2 of an acre of presed seed from "weeds", very unsustainable. Because no one in America has any grey water they could use for irrigation...
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Old 08-23-06, 10:48 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
Ah yesh, a vehicle that can be powered off of ~1/3-1/2 of an acre of presed seed from "weeds", very unsustainable. Because no one in America has any grey water they could use for irrigation...
Okay, I'm interested in this car you've been building. How's progress?
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Old 08-23-06, 10:53 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thor29
Isn't this the CAR FREE forum? With all the auto-erotica that goes on here you'd think this was Motor Trend magazine or something. A small car is still a car and not a bicycle.
The way I look at it, it's like when someone says don't think about an elephant. Then the first thing you think about is an elephant, right?
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Old 08-24-06, 01:56 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Platy
Okay, I'm interested in this car you've been building. How's progress?
In my head, I'm almost finished!
Spec wise it's pretty easy to map out since it's all been done before. Let's use a vehicle that's as aerodynamic as the best hpvs we've seen, but ~2.5 times as wide, no need to feel like a sardine. Roughly speaking, the energy we loose to fluid friction at ~25m/s~55mph will be the largest source of "lost" energy, so if we drive around town, we'll use substantially less. At 55mph this glider with CdA=.092m^2, Crr=.009, W=500N (aka kg) will need ~(500).009N+.6(25^2).092N=4.5N+34.5N=39N to overcome fluid and rolling friction on flat ground with no wind. It will need 39N(25m/s)=975w, or 975wh over an hour, or, at 55mph, 975/55=~17wh/mile.

Let's go EV geared appropriately with drivetrain efficiency at ~75%, so we need ~23wh/mile. If we're not obssessed about performance we can go with Saft STM NiCD batteries in an insulated box with a high R value. Lets say we go with a 6.7" advanced motor (or we can go cheaper), .75-9hp with appropriate single speed gearing. We will have 36v(100ah)=3.6kwh available, and since we use about 1.3kwh to go 55 miles, this pack should give us a shade under 150 miles all electric. More than what's needed for the average commute. Assuming we're the average driver, and driving 10,000 miles per year, we'll need ~230,000wh per year, or ~230kwh per year. According to the Purdue University Horticulture dept, one ha of Jatropha Curcas can provide ~20,000kwh per year. Since a ha is ~2.5 acre, we'll get ~8,000kwh per acre. Now converting this fuel to electricity will incur a penalty, lets say we have a diesel genset/ battery charger with ~25% efficiency, so that 8,000kwh is only ~2,000kwh once converted to electricity. Let's say we only have 1/5th of an acre to work with, and we suck at growing stuff, then we'll only have ~400kwh with o.k. yields, or ~200kwh with crappy yields. Alternatively, a 100-200watt solar panel may provide ~1kwh per day, more than enough for the average commute. Of course lights, a radio, whatever electrical crap you want to add will decrease range, but it depends on what you want.

Now, this little beast will require ~80kg in batteries, maybe ~50kgin the drivetrain, 200kg for the rolling shell, and ~80kg for the driver. So ~400kg. Add another 100kg for good measure, and we're at our target weight. The frame should be a unibody exoskeleton (ala the arieal atom) that will provide a protective cage for the driver, or cager if you will. They should use a racing harness and motocycle helmet for added protection, as well as significant padding on the frame where the driver may hit it in an accident. I think the body should be made from paper mache due to cost, ease of repair, and coolness, but we can do fiberglass or carbon fiber if we have the cash. Acceleration will be a bit lacking, kinda like a 80s economy car, but energy efficiency is the goal. A 1kw gasoline genset can be adding if we want the range liquid fuels provide.

An excellent demonstration of fluid friction is to take two pieces of paper. Ball one up into something the size of your fist, and the other as much as you can. Then throw each one as hard as you can at a 45 degree angle and observe which one goes farther. If something has more volume, it takes more energy to move through a fluid. This is why semis are long and rectangular, instead of boxy like SUVs. Vehicles with ICE engines are built to be inefficient, but they don't have to be.

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Old 08-24-06, 06:32 AM   #19
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post the link to your crop yields then check to see if they include fossil fuel inputs to grow the crops, then subtract those, also factor in water input if needed plus harvesting energy inputs and processing energy used to turn the crop into usable fuel, I think you will find them to be very very optimistic to the point of absurdity

you are aware this has been done before right? using old fashioned proven technology, you can expect about 25%-40% depending on what crop you choose and where your located, temperate areas where you can grow year round helps out obviously
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Old 08-24-06, 06:34 AM   #20
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I'd like to see the ability to register vehicles for non-highway personal use. Imagine being able to hop in a golf cart like car and make a run to the store or movies etc. Basically it could be used for all the local trips at say 15mph. With a good windshield and roof they are very weather resistant and can get good mpg and a good engine can be very clean or even electric. crash testing wouldn't be needed since it's only going 15mph. People that have excuses for not riding a bike could sure drive a cart. It would even solve the old excuse of what to do with the kids.
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Old 08-24-06, 09:15 AM   #21
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crash testing wouldn't be needed since it's only going 15mph.
What about the idiot in the suv rear ending you at 45mph???

I'd rather have one of these than a golf cart...or a variation thereof.

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Old 08-24-06, 09:34 AM   #22
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These are a recognized category of vehicle -- the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. I've been seeing them in several resort towns. The GEM is the most common. It has headlights, seat belts, and is registered as an automobile.

http://www.electric-bikes.com/nev.htm

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Old 08-24-06, 09:35 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pedex
post the link to your crop yields then check to see if they include fossil fuel inputs to grow the crops, then subtract those, also factor in water input if needed plus harvesting energy inputs and processing energy used to turn the crop into usable fuel, I think you will find them to be very very optimistic to the point of absurdity
Quote:
Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
Let's say we only have 1/5th of an acre to work with, and we suck at growing stuff, then we'll only have ~400kwh with o.k. yields, or ~200kwh with crappy yields
Do you bother reading anything? I already cut the lower bound for outputs in ~half on a fifth of an acre, or a ~quarter on two fifths of an acre if you like. I am assuming marginal land, grey water inputs, no significant fertilization (it does fix nitrogen), etc... Or, instead of converting it to mechanical to electricity to battery to electricity, we could just use a diesel for motive power, and see better than the 25% energy efficiency mentioned. Or, you could just get a 100-200W solar panel/battery pack... Or buy the 20-25 gallons of gasoline or diesel we'd need per year. Or, run around in circles, "The sky is falling..."
Seriously, wth is up with you. Read an entire post, then Google, then post.

Otoh, if you're commute can be done through side streets, then a very small HPV ala the Varna Diablo, or Critical Power should allow ~25mph@100w on flat ground, no wind etc... The only problem with this (aside from stability in crosswinds and practicality) is your food has some fossil fuel penalty, so it may be more fossil fuel efficient to have a stand, perimeter, or greenhouse, of oil producing plants that provide you with power because it's probably easier to grow a Euphorbiaceae than your required diet, since they are succulents and the family is really freiken hardy imle. More peak power is needed for highway use, so if you're commute goes through highways you'll at least need electric assist. YMMV.

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Old 08-24-06, 09:54 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by r8ingbull
I'd like to see the ability to register vehicles for non-highway personal use. Imagine being able to hop in a golf cart like car and make a run to the store or movies etc. Basically it could be used for all the local trips at say 15mph. With a good windshield and roof they are very weather resistant and can get good mpg and a good engine can be very clean or even electric. crash testing wouldn't be needed since it's only going 15mph. People that have excuses for not riding a bike could sure drive a cart. It would even solve the old excuse of what to do with the kids.
Actually, in some areas with a lot of retired people, golf carts ARE legal to use on the roads. In my home town (A small town in the mountains in Arizona) you'd see them on neighborhood roads pretty regularly, even though they technically WEREN'T legal there.... the cops wouldn't hassle you unless you tried to drive it on the main road through town.
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Old 08-24-06, 03:57 PM   #25
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The largest problem you will run into with battery operated/powered vehicles is the BATTERIES.
What do you do with them when they can no longer hold a charge? Now you have pollution probem on your hands.
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