Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reducing one's carbon footprint

One of my oldest friend, and a faithful reader of this blog, Steve Kramer, sent me and Titus Levi an email Sunday about a new purchase he made that helps him reduce his usage of gasoline, and also his carbon footprint. He has a home-based software/internet business and, for as long as I've known him, he's been a one-car family. This email shows how with a little innovation and some commitment, a lot of people can reduce their personal dependence on foreign oil.

With his permission:

I added an electric motor to my bicycle on Thursday, and I thought I'd share my intentions and initial experiences.

First, I bought the Bionx PL500 conversion kit manufactured in Canada from Bionx from Electric Cyclery in Laguna. It cost around $2k (including sales tax) to purchase the kit and another $50 to install it on my bicycle.

I'm hoping to use it, and my Burley trailer, instead of my Honda Odyssey for most of our local transportation.

Previously, Jeanette would drive Levi to school and head to the gym (an eight mile round trip), and I would either go to the gym with Jeanette or with my cousin Miguel (who would pick me up in his car). Now, I plan to take Levi to school on the bike, then head over to the gym for my daily workout. After the workout, It's back home to get in a little work. At 11:30, I'll take the bike to El Pollo Loco for lunch, then head out to pick Levi up from school at 12:30 and bring him back home. Jeanette has made arrangements to carpool with a neighbor for her trips to the gym.

Levi's school is right next to a grocery store, so I plan to do the grocery runs with the bicycle, also.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, Levi has Karate class up the hill (a six mile round trip). It's a pretty steep hill, but I did a test run yesterday and quickly and easily zipped up it. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Levi has swimming lessons at the club house (a one mile round trip), and I plan to use the bike and trailer for that, too. Jeanette should be able to join us on her bicycle for that, as well as T-Ball practice on Saturdays.

Since these trips represent the bulk of our driving, I'm hopeful that I'll get my investment back within two years, not to mention the health benefits and outdoor enjoyment.

The Bionx system replaces the rear wheel with one that has an electric motor / generator built into the hub. It has a lithium ion battery that neatly locks and unlocks from the bicycle frame and a recharger that plugs into a wall socket (a full recharge takes three hours). It also has a controller that attaches to your handle bars. While riding, the controller lets you select from five pedaling assistance levels: none, 25%, 75%, 150% and 300%. The assistance levels are proportional to how strongly you pedal, so it feels very natural to a cyclist. A throttle on the controller allows you to move without pedaling at all. For downhill and braking, the motor changes to a generator and recharges the battery.

Using the throttle on flat ground without pedaling, I sustain 25mph. The manual claims I can get about twenty miles without pedaling on a single charge, although I haven't gone far enough in one trip to test that yet. I've read that you can get sixty miles per charge at the 25% assistance level.

While I know this isn't an ideal solution for everyone's energy cost problems, I'm very excited about the economic, health and family benefits I think we'll enjoy.

No comments: