Electric What?

A week or so ago, I heard that Elon Musk would do business with the Defense Department by helping to build things for national defense.  At first, though grateful, I didn’t think much of it.  To be sure, he is already building rockets, but those have no direct military purpose.

Then the thought occurred to me that he might build electric powered tanks, you know, the things that run around with big guns on them.  If such a vehicle could be built that would have a range of three or four hundred miles, it would have many advantages.

First they would be quiet.  A track version would make hardly any noise, only the track itself.  If a wheel version were built, it would make no noise at all.  Talk about sneaking up on someone.

Second, it would neither need an intake for the motor nor an exhaust.  It would mean it could operate almost anywhere, even submersed under shallow water.  Naturally, there would have to be an air supply for the crew, but that would hardly be a problem.  It also means that the tank would be, to some degree, NBC proof (nuclear, biological and chemical).

Reliability would be a big factor, as long as the batteries were reliable.  Electric motors can be built that last just almost last forever.  Diesel and jet engines can be very expensive to maintain.  Worse, repairing them can take a long time.  The electric motors are inexpensive, small and easily replaced.  If repair is desired, that is usually simple too.

I am not totally sold on the idea, but, if anyone builds them, we should.  Maybe it is worth a little research.  Maybe for the rest of the military vehicles too.  I understand those Teslas can really move out.  Can you imagine an army that can move along at over a hundred miles an hour, without making much noise.

I would hate to think that we don’t make them and the bad guys do.  I would hate to put our soldiers in such a position.

Off to the Races

With all the advances made with electric cars, a thought occurred to me, a race with all electric cars.  One of the reasons for car races is to prove the cars.  Races put stress on vehicles and expose weaknesses.  Many improvements have come from the auto racetrack.

Maybe the ultimate improvement is to prepare society for the conversion to electric autos.  The races would put the cars to the test allowing us to see any weaknesses.  Conceivably, it would encourage improvements that will make them competitive with gas powered vehicles.

Already, from what I understand, the electric cars accelerate very fast.  However the race cars would be altered for speed, safety and range.  The rear seats and air-conditioner would be removed to reduce the weight.  I’m sure the engineers can think of many things I have no knowledge.  On the other hand, maybe the racecars could be designed and built from scratch.  Certainly, classes would have to be established: size, weight, etc.

I’m sure a venue could be found.  There are many tracks all over the county that remain inactive most of the year.  I’m sure that the bleachers could be filled with fans.  It would help the track as well as those who want to race the cars.

Wait a minute.  Maybe it wouldn’t work.  Just how many fans are going to want to see a race that is virtually silent?  Electric motors hardly make any noise, certainly the big noises that the current race cars make.  I suppose they could pipe a bunch of sound effects into the bleachers.  The cars would pretend to make noise and the fans would pretend to cheer.

Then again, they could have some of the internal combustion engines nearby.  Whenever the electric cars go by, they could rev the engines for the delight of all the observers.  They could even put their hands over their ears just as they would if the noise came from the electric cars.

Sounds like a plan to me.

An Electric Riding Mower?

More years ago than I care to admit, I bought a used 5 hp Sears riding mower.  Given the size of my yard, it did just fine.  Unfortunately, it only lasted three seasons.  (It was in pretty bad shape when I bought it.)  Even so, I only paid $100 for it and it saved me a lot of walking.

I wouldn’t mind having something similar today, but I can’t find a riding mower that is smaller than 8 HP.  Moreover, they like to make the things far more complex than they need to be.  For instance, the little thing I bought had hard rubber wheels and I didn’t need to concern myself with flats.  All the rider mowers today have pneumatic tires that might require repair or replacement.

There is one thing the little Sears mower lacked that I would have preferred, an electric starter.  Sometimes I had to pull on that rope 4 or five times to start it.  Back then, it wasn’t a problem.  Now, I am 70.  Pulling on starter chords can cause real back pains, especially if I have to pull on it multiple times.

For this reason, I now use an electric mower.  For quite a while, I used one with a power chord.  It was a nuisance.  I spent more time managing the chord than I did mowing.

So, I bought a battery powered mower the other day.  It cuts well and it is very quiet.  There is no power chord, and I’m sure the tree huggers would just love it.  I just hope the battery last more than one or two seasons.

Then, a few days ago, the thought occurred to me.  For years they have been pushing electric cars to cut down on pollution.  If it’s good for cars, why not rider mowers?

I don’t need a big one.  It would have two parts.  The mowing part could be very similar to the mower I have.  The second part would be the tractor like part.  Each part would have its own battery.  It would allow me to get around should the mower battery run low.

Other than the batteries, they would likely last just about forever.  The batteries would likely have to be replaced every 3 to 5 years.  There would not be a reason to make special trips to get gas, not to mention the hazards of storing it.  Also, of course, there would be no need for any belts.  The mower and both rear wheels would be powered by separate motors.

Also, it would negate the need for a starter, which adds quite an expense to the gas powered mowers.  If I want to go, I press a lever or pedal.  There would be no need to engage or disengage the cutting blade.  It would be a matter of toggling a switch.  (The mechanism for engaging the blade is not complex, but likely adds fifty dollars to the cost of the riding mower,)

I’m sure such a mower would not replace the big 12 hp mowers.  Some people have big yards.  Me.  If I got a 12 hp mower for my little lot, it would be like using a sledge hammer for a thumb tack.  Besides, if I was able to use the little electric riding mower, I could claim that I am doing my part for the environment.

Now if I can just figure out a way to put an air-conditioner on it.

About Electric Cars

I published a post on electric cars a few years ago.  Since then, they have made a few improvements.  I saw on TV where a man was going to make a car where the batteries could be recharged in five minutes.  I would be satisfied with thirty minutes.  On long distance trips, it would allow me to eat while my car was being charged.

I really do like the concept of electric cars.  I saw a Tesla the other day.  It was very impressive.  It never made a noise and it had an impressive appearance.  Still, I wonder how the driver stayed warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Here in the Memphis it does get above the century mark in the summer and well below freezing in the winter.  The thing is, gasoline motors generate heat.  In the winter, we take advantage of that.  For cooling, the A/C compressor is driven by the engine.  Would someone like to tell me how the Tesla does it.  I can’t imagine such an expensive car existing without heat and air.

Regardless, there are still some problems, ignoring the creature features.  If, suddenly, everyone was to go out and get an electric car, our electric grid would likely be taxed beyond its limits.

Speaking of tax, we who drive gas cars pay a road tax.  It varies from state to state, but it helps to pay for our roads.  Those that drive Tesla autos get to use the highways for free.  I don’t know.  It might also apply to the battery powered trucks.  Eventually, the governments at all levels aren’t going to like that.  When and if electric vehicles become numerous enough, they will figure out a way to collect taxes on the vehicles.  There are a number of ways to do it and I would suspect there are a few that are already considering it.

So.  Whatever you are paying to run your car now, you might want to figure that you will likely pay a little bit more.  Let’s figure out what a fair amount would be.  Nowadays, I use about one gallon of gas for every 28 miles, more-or-less.  I guess, for that gallon, I pay about 25 cents.  (I remember paying 25 cents a gallon, gas and taxes.  Things sure have improved.)

At any rate, that means that those driving a Tesla should pay a little less than a penny a mile.  Maybe that would mean a meter placed in each car by law.  Maybe the driver would pay in advance as the rest of us do.  On the other hand, he might pay as with any other utility.  Once a month, the odometer is read and the driver pays based on his mileage.

It could also be done electrically over the internet.  The car would send a signal to the billing authority and a credit card would be billed.  I’m sure people smarter than I am have considered it.

I have no idea how it will be done, but those of you driving electric cars might as well get used to it.  You will start paying road taxes too.

Then, there’s those pesky batteries.  They just don’t last forever.  Occasionally, they will have to be replaced.  I have no earthly idea how much that will cost, but when I look at the cost of replacing my laptop battery, I get the feeling that they don’t just give the things away.

Maybe, sometime in the next few decades, we will all drive electric cars.  I hope so.  As I said, I do like electric cars.  I just don’t know if I would like paying for them.  Besides, I really like my A/C and heater.

GAS TAX??!!

I heard someone else suggest increasing the gas tax, this time federal… 25 cents a gallon.  Easy assumption.  The man does not have to eek out a living and drive fifty miles each way for work.  He certainly doesn’t have to drive a hundred miles to and from work each day as some do.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe he drives an electric car.  At present people driving electric cars don’t pay gas tax.  (I suspect that will be changed soon, though I don’t know how.)

On the other hand, he might use a subway, train or bus to go to work.  He’d not pay a penny for gas tax, leastwise not directly.

Regardless of his method of transportation, he likely doesn’t have to give up groceries to pay the taxes.  He likely doesn’t hurt to pay the bills as most of us do.

There is a solution for building and repairing highways.  Stop squandering the money they have.  Obama was authorized a trillion dollars for “shovel ready projects.”  I believe he should have to repay it.

I still don’t know where that money went.  Maybe it’s time for the government to pinch their pennies for a while.  Maybe it’s time they stop squandering it.  Then maybe they will be more careful with it.  (I don’t hold out much hope for that.)

If you agree with me, send this to someone else.  Send this to your representatives.  Yell it from the housetops.  I’m not sure, they might increase it anyway.  It is what the government does.  It is what they do.  They tax and they spend.  What else would they do.  What else can they do.  Oh, yes.  Make laws.  They do have a tendency to mess that up too.