It's about time I mentioned my Tesla Model S. It is a complete game-changer, and is guaranteed to revolutionize the entire auto industry, if lobby groups don't ruin things for us all.
I pre-ordered my Model S on March 27, 2009, within minutes of reservations opening up. I had been following Tesla for many years, before they released the Roadster, which was their proof-of-concept electric vehicle. Tesla Motors is the first successful American car company to start up since the early 1900's - as long as they continue their current trajectory. They are dedicated to 100% electric vehicles, and have engineered the Model S from the ground up to take advantage of the electric powertrain. They also have no dealerships, since in this internet age most of us do our own research online before buying a vehicle, and it eliminates a layer of bureaucracy that merely inflates prices. Consumer Reports recently gave the Model S 99/100, the highest score they've ever given out, and "would have given 110" if there was a 10-minute battery quick-swap option. Tesla recently announced that it indeed will do so over the coming year (it's only useful for long road trips).
I could go into all the reasons why I love the car, and all it's amazing specs, and my minor quibbles (which amount to a bit of a creaky noise that occurred in spring with the changing weather, but is now gone; and the only real negative for me is the distance to the nearest store - Toronto - although they send a service Ranger to my garage at home to do most maintenance and repairs), but you could check out the independent Tesla Motors Club forum for that kind of info. I will say that this is the real deal; this is the most practical, functional car I've ever had. It's the most expensive car by a huge margin, though my providential investment in TSLA stock made that a moot point (bought between $25-35/share, sold between $70/$90, and still have a fair bit invested with the price currently trading at $110). It's time for people to stop wasting time and money on an obsolete, dirty, noisy technology (the internal combustion engine) which burns our non-renewable oil instead of using it for important things like medicine and plastics, and start moving to electric vehicles. The biggest reason is that the electric powertrain is not tied to any specific energy source; I charge on home solar and grid hydro, but even in the most coal-dependent State the electric car will have less emissions than an ICE car, contrary to some FUD faux-articles. Check out the TMC forum for more discussion on that. But it also means in the future, when we discover cold fusion or some magical "unobtainium" fuel from Mars, the electric powertrain will not become obsolete.
It also fits my whole family - 2 kids can sit in the rear jump-seats (and yes, it's actually the safest place to be in the car, and it is the safest car on the road hands-down).
Furthermore, Tesla's 2nd-generation powertrain in the Model S (even their first gen. in the Roadster) is superior to a hundred years of innovation of the ICE powertrain. It is incredibly smooth and responsive, instantly reacting to input, incredibly more efficient, quieter, quicker, and best of all, WAY simpler. This is why hybrids are unfortunately a red herring - carmakers (via pressure by the dealership lobby) want you to believe that hybrids are a necessary bridge, but you end up with an incredibly complex system that means you get the worst of both platforms. Let me tell you, even today, the ICE powertrain is completely unnecessary for 99.9% of your driving needs, unless you are someone who actually drives through the night with minimal stopping more than twice per year on a trip longer than 500 miles. But the dealerships want stuff to break down so they can make a profit. Tesla has a "break-even" service model; their goal is to make money by selling the car, not by maintenance. This is why they make the vast majority of their own parts in-house, and the few troubles they have had with parts come from third-party manufacturers.
I could go on, but instead I'll be driving my car and passing smelly gas stations by (it takes ~10 seconds of my time to refuel: 5s to plug it in, and 5s to unplug it - no wasted time standing doing nothing in between, and it's full every morning). I've had it since January (yes, through the -40 cold snap), and it has performed better than I imagined, and it works fine in winter in Manitoba. I hope other manufacturers follow suit, but they are way behind and lobby groups are doing their best to keep the EV down. I'm doing my part to bring the cost down for the average consumer (Tesla's next goal is to use profits from the S and their upcoming electric crossover, the X to finance their 3rd generation car, a compact 5-seater, which will retail ~$40k Canadian). Tesla's ultimate goal is for every new car on the road to be electric, by setting a standard for all other auto makers to follow. Because once people drive a real electric car (read: Tesla is the only one to currently take advantage of an EV's capabilities), they understand. It's time for those who have money to invest in the future, to invest in things that will bring about change for the better, so that the mass market can become more sustainable by leaving the ICE behind in a museum where it belongs.
PS - I spoke with an avid hot rodder at "Summer in the City" (I brought my car and did some promotion work there).I understand that many people have a sentimental attachment to their old cars and have fond memories associated with them.
Yes, there will always be a few die-hard gearheads who love the stink and noise and vibration and complexity (ie vulnerability to major breakdowns even with constant maintenance) of the ICE, just as there are some people who still ride horses and carriages and love to shovel horse manure every day. A horse at least has a real personality and can be a friend. To each his own. :)
The future is now! Electric vehicles have made vast strides in 2012, and we are well on our way to a cleaner commute. This spring I purchased a Zero DS electric motorcycle. My original plan was to commute off-road, but after experiencing this ground-breaking ride I quickly went out and got my license. My $6.50 commute to Falk Nurseries is now ~$0.20. And it's fun.
The best part is probably having a full charge every morning, so no wasting my time driving to a gas station and waiting around while watching the $$$ meter go up up up. I have more range anxiety with my gasoline car.
Yes, I've heard ad nauseum about long tailpipes and FUD like that; when one evaluates new technology, one must look at what is intrinsic to the tech, and what is adaptable. Intrinsically, all ICE's must burn fuel. Whether that's gasoline, diesel, or biofuel, it requires hundreds of explosions in an engine in order to function, intrinsically creating instant pollution that needs to be handled. An electric motor is simple, intrinsically gives off zero emissions and is significantly quieter, cooler, and smoother. Not to mention 100% torque at all RPM's. The energy source is variable, and this is what people don't seem to understand. Yes, coal power exists, but it isn't necessary for EV's, whereas burning alcohol is necessary for ICE's. Plus there is all the intrinsic fuel transport required to keep gas stations full, which in turn produce uncounted energy costs. With EV's electricity flows without needing more pollution and without damaging our highway infrastructure with heavy equipment. In my situation, Manitoba's grid is 99.9% hydro, which means virtually zero emissions; additionally I have grid-tied solar, so when I drive my Zero DS, I am essentially solar-powered.
I could talk for a few hours about electric vehicles, but I'll say this; the auto industry doesn't know what's coming - change is happening, and once people experience electric transportation there is no going back. The oil lobby is doing their best to misinform the public, but now that Tesla is on the streets in full force every car company will be forced to change or be left behind in the museums beside the horse-and-buggy.
I am fascinated by the concept of producing electricity from a photovoltaic array. The technology is awesome because we simply will not run out of this power supply while there is life in this universe. I've heard a group of scientists wanted to release particles into the atmosphere to partially block the sun's light to stop global warming, which thankfully was stopped by the public outcry in the UK, but even if people do something that short-sighted, we can still have solar power generation in space. So every penny invested in this tech now can reap benefits for the rest of earth's history. There are no moving parts, very little maintenance, and no emissions or waste (after manufacture).
Back to my situation; in Manitoba there is little incentive for any of this due to our very profitable hydroelectric dams, but thankfully Manitoba Hydro at least allows grid tie-ins. There was some bureaucratic hassle because mine is the first grid-tied photovoltaic array in my municipality (and I think in the whole region of the South East), so the inspectors were totally unfamiliar with this. Installation was definitely the simplest part!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, EvolveGreen, an importer of green-tech, helped me plan my system. They recommended a rail-mounted array for the simplest installation. I bolted some mounts onto my roof, and then attached the railing to it into two sets of two parallel rails. These rails are kind of like complicated C-channel - there are special clamps that I can fit into grooves, and basically screw them in wherever I need to along the length of the rail. So I clamped each panel tightly on, and the spacing occurs naturally because most of the clamps are "T" shaped - the stem of the T acts as a spacer. Once the panels were all in place, I screwed on an Enphase microinverter to each panel, and the wiring for them is incredibly simple: it clips right into the panel, and then each inverter clips to the ones adjacent so it forms a parallel circuit. The only part I needed an electrician for was to then get these wired into my electrical panel, so they basically ran wire through my roof down to my utility room and then connected it up to my circuit breaker panel. We did have to wait before connecting it up, for MB Hydro to provide me with a bi-directional meter, and their inspection.
So, currently I am producing power each day from sunrise to sunset, although cloudy days are much less efficient. The energy produced feeds into my circuit panel, and powers my house. A lot of the time I still draw hydro from the grid, but at peak production I feed back into the grid because I'm producing more than I use. I find that this number is low in winter - around 10% of my power feeds back right now. In summer I infer it will be significantly more. The goal in Manitoba is to produce less than we use in a month, because if they start paying me it is the base rate, and I get taxed on "income" - but while I'm only reducing my bill, every kWh I produce is worth the base rate + taxes. Because our rates are among the lowest anywhere it will take me about 17 years for the panels to pay for themselves, assuming rates don't go up, but I'm estimating it will be closer to 14-15 years since the rates went up this year, and there is government approval for hikes for the next 2 years at least. My system has a 25 year warranty, so it will eventually be profitable. It's nice when a hobby can at least be profitable in the long run!
One last thing I'll mention is that Enphase provides what they call the "Enlighten monitoring system" - basically a box I plug into the wall near my circuit breaker panel that can detect what each individual inverter is producing. It collects data and sends it to my Enlighten web page and it can generate reports for both my entire array and each individual panel. Here's your reward for reading until the end: I've made this available for anyone to see: my Enlighten page. I hope that someday everyone with a house can have solar!
Supermarkets have a supply system designed to be economically efficient, usually meaning dealing with as few suppliers as possible in as large quantities as possible. That means the big chains ship the same apples across the country. This is incredibly inefficient from an environmental viewpoint, since good quality apples can easily be grown in every province in Canada, and long-haul trucking means apples are often picked unripe - they can be in transit for several days and then be stored for months in altered environments before they are allowed to ripen. This works if one just cares about "fresh" apples available at any time of the year, but a specific variety will taste the best if allowed to ripen on the tree (like most fruit). Because these storage systems often require specific levels of oxygen and nitrogen, and particularly a specific temperature range, they consume electricity as they sit in storage, unlike many root cellars, which is a great "pioneer" technology that I'd love to use myself... if only my water table was deeper! I am looking at the possibility of an earth-bag root cellar, though.
When most people think of pest control we think of pesticides or ways of killing bugs and critters that damage crops. While this is one aspect, there are several other directions to come from. One is environmental control. That is, instead of killing off the pest, I look at the world around the orchard and see what I can do to change the situation to prevent them from enjoying the area. So, for example, that could mean planting marigolds around the perimeter - several bugs and small animals apparently detest the odoriferous vegetation. Of course, they don't smell great to humans either, and it doesn't work in winter.
I just finished phase 2 of a fence. I started with stucco wire at the bottom to help keep out the rabbits, and above this I used a deer-fencing material from Lee Valley - a fine black polypropylene mesh which is invisible from 20' away. It looks like giant spider-webs in the morning after a frost - really neat. I dug in a few 6 x 6 posts, but mainly stapled the fencing to sturdy trees around the perimeter. It isn't very noticeable from the house, and I'll be able to grow grapes and other vines on it, which will further discourage animals from trying to push through. The deer test the fence about 3' above the ground, which is still the very sturdy stucco wire, and they can see the fencing go well above their jumping height, and so leave it alone. I'm sure if a full-size buck went charging through it could take it down, but unless one builds a fence across a deerpath that isn't likely to happen.
I've read about several other remedies to keep deer away - soap hanging from trees, various ways of spreading human smell around the yard (hair clippings, or spreading , and other sprays, but most seem to be temporary fixes (rain washes away scents, etc.) What are your remedies that work well?
I've been busy installing solar panels on my roof these last few days, and it's been surprisingly simple. As far as I'm concerned, every building should have solar on its roof - cost is the only issue - although if you think about it, it's a guaranteed, if very long-termed investment. Mine will likely take ~18 years to make back my investment, so if I was doing it only for $$ I wouldn't bother. More to come once winter sets in and I actually have time to blog!