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.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Free Electrons!

Woohoo! Looks like I can cross that one off of the bucket list sooner than I thought. Until now, I’ve always had to pay to charge up my Focus Electric. Kudos to the City of Beverly Hills for providing free electricity to go along with two free hours of covered parking in their municipal parking garage, for poor souls like me that drive so much that they’re bound to get an undeserved speeding ticket that begs to be challenged in court.

He said he clocked me at 50 in a 35 with his laser gun. From my perspective, I figure that he did this while mounting his motorcycle with his backside turned toward me. He must have had that laser gun strapped to his right butt cheek, pointing in my general direction. Or maybe there’s some newfangled speed sensing device that can detect the velocity of an object that’s not in line-of-sight. How else can he explain how fast I was going before we saw each other? I was coming over a hill and spotted him mounting his bike across the street, at the bottom of the hill as I crested.  Regardless, I can’t believe he pulled me over… I’m in an electric vehicle, for crying out loud…  aren’t these things supposed to be painfully slow? Shouldn’t he have seen the “Electric” emblem on my hatch while giving chase, then just back off and let me go since there was no way such a contraption could have been doing 50mph uphill? Unfortunately for me, that’s not how things went down.

BHFortunately we have California’s basic speed law, which in essence allows folks to exceed the posted speed limit as long as they’re going under 55mph and can prove that the conditions were not unsafe (i.e. clear day, no traffic). So I decided to challenge the ticket, and I’m glad I did, so far… got a free charge out of it, for starters. Then I got free admission to an impromptu comedy performance… the judge doing arraignments was hilarious and upbeat, commenting on how folks dress, telling us about her flu shot ordeal earlier in the day, and making fun of folks that were late or dozing off. If you ever get a traffic ticket in Los Angeles, ask for a change of venue to the Beverly Hills courthouse, then prepare to be entertained. Too bad the court is only used for arraignments.

One more thing I learned by fighting this ticket… the California Vehicle Code (CVC 22511) says it’s illegal to not practice basic charging etiquette, so long as there’s a sign posted indicating so (see picture).

How cool is that? A city that enforces charging etiquette, and a state that makes it easy for them to do so. Hopefully others follow suit.