Saturday, November 16, 2013

Who farted?!

Okay, this is weird. Not that I’m complaining, since I’ve always wanted superhuman powers. Unexpectedly, with an electric vehicle as my trusty sidekick, this once-childhood dream is becoming a reality.

I mentioned in a previous rant that my hearing has improved dramatically;  I can now hear faint sounds while driving my Focus Electric that I’ve never heard before while driving any other car. You know, like the Bionic Woman, except that I’m a man. Sure, the logical explanation for this phenomena is that an electric vehicle doesn’t have a noisy engine to mask out those faint sounds. So my hearing is probably still permanently damaged from too many rock concerts and one incredibly loud Fender Mustang played through an amp turned up to 11.

If it was just one of my six senses sharpening up, I’d succumb to the logical explanation and leave it at that. But my sense of smell also improves when driving the FFE. Sometimes, with this particular superhuman power,  I can actually smell what goes on inside of cars around me. For instance, this past Monday morning I picked up a slight stench of cigarette smoke while crawling southbound in the 405 HOV lane. The stench grew stronger as I inched up to a black LeSabre with the driver’s window rolled down. It reached maximum putridity when we were wheel-to-wheel, then fortunately faded away as I slowly pulled ahead. All this while my windows were rolled up, fan on its lowest setting. Funny thing was that the guy in the LeSabre wasn’t even smoking, as far as I could tell. Apparently the car just stunk of it.

On another recent commute I’ve smelled an alluring perfume while moseying past an older but very well-maintained 325 convertible, driven by an equally well-maintained woman in her thirties. I’ve also picked up the distinct smell of gear oil, 75w90 by my calculation, as I approached and passed an early-1990s Silverado. Perhaps he just changed his diff oil and didn’t do a good job of cleaning up. And get this – on the way home yesterday, going north on the 405 toward Sunset Boulevard, somebody somewhere was smoking a joint. Which was uncanny, since there wasn’t a single VW Microbus in sight. I switched lanes and saw  a new white Prius hybrid with the sunroof and rear window cracked open. Looked suspicious, so I pulled up next to it, and sure enough, the dude was toking away. Unbelievable.

I’ve also picked up new scents while at speed that I’ve never noticed before. No matter which car I drive on my commute on the 405, I can always count on catching a whiff of the Budweiser beer factory, then ten minutes later, getting hit by the rotting stench of, well, something rotting, somewhere near the Sepulveda dam. But when I drive the Focus Electric, I can also smell other pleasantries emanating from establishments that can’t even be seen from the freeway, like bacon and eggs from a restaurant just north of the beer factory, and the intoxicating, unmistakable aroma of McDonald’s french fries lingering somewhere between the Victory and Sherman Way exits. These are new scents I’ve just recently noticed on a daily commute that has been a routine for the last twelve years, thanks to my recently developed superhuman sense of smell.

Let’s pretend for a moment that such nonsense is, in fact, nonsense. But how else can we explain why one might be able to pick up more scents in an EV than in an ICE vehicle? Bored to tears during one unusually long commute to work, I decided to play devil’s advocate, and came up with one word: heat. Tons of it. How much? By my calculation, an ICE produces over three times the amount of heat per hour than a gas furnace sized for a 3000 square foot house.  After a quick search of the internet and crunching some numbers, it looks like a 200hp internal combustion engine wastes about 400,000 BTU of heat per hour, dissipated mostly through the cooling system and exhaust. This heat escapes around the car, which probably prevents the surrounding cooler air from entering the car’s ventilation system without somehow  being  affected, perhaps diluted, by the hot air. In comparison, an EV motor produces such a small amount of  heat that it doesn’t even need much of a cooling system, so ambient air can enter the EV’s ventilation system, scents and all, undiluted.

Unfortunately this explanation seems slightly more plausible than my superhuman power theory, which means that in all likelihood I’m still just a normal guy.

Damn. Sometimes reality stinks.

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