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Alternatives · 25 August 05

Trek Road Bike

After the company I work at moved closer to our house, Zeke and I started walking to work a couple of times a week. No EV, no gas car, just the back roads and wooded trails. It’s a great way to commute.

Of course not everyone is lucky enough to live three miles from work. Still, that doesn’t mean your only option is a full sized vehicle; electric or otherwise.

Electric Scooter

I see a few folks who commute to work on scooters. Sure, there are days when they take the family car, but there are probably 100+ days that the scooter is enough. They have modern gas scooters. You can also buy an electric scooter or electric bike from a variety of sources.

Better yet, build one yourself. There are other electric motorcycle conversion links on the resources page. I’m kind of partial to Jerry Bowden’s and not just because he has a great first name. Here’s a collection of information about Electric Bikes, Scooters, and Motorcycles.

Some folks have different transportation needs altogether, like these electric tractors and lawnmowers. We bought a battery powered weed whacker last year and followed up this year with a battery powered push-mower for trimming the yard. They are both great: quiet, no-oil/grease, and fume free. Neither is as powerful as their gas counterparts but we don’t need them for heavy chores.

I was thinking the other day that one option for a battery powered weed-whacker is to move the battery into a safe, sturdy backpack. Takes the weight off the arm muscles and makes it easier to tote more power and/or swap out the battery.


Back to vehicles. Ran across this little GEM recently. Even though it looks like a golf cart it is street legal, what they call a “residential vehicle.” The GEM can go about 25mph and up to 30 miles range.

They have a handy GEM Cost Comparison Calculator to show how much money you’d save over driving a gas powered vehicle.

I’ve always wondered about the legalities in making your own mini vehicle like this. Not that I have the fiberglass chops to whip something like this together (or garage space at the moment) but a little enclosed, lightweight EV would be a blast. Some of the small cars from Europe would be great candidates too, if you could figure out how to get one, sans-motor, over to the states.

Comments 2
  1. Jack    Aug 27, 2005 12:16 PM    #
    Don’t electric vehicles just export the pollution to some other location and lose efficiency in power transmission? I can see how they appear to be clean, but the power must be generated somewhere. Is the preference for electric an aesthetic one?
  2. Jerry    Aug 27, 2005 12:32 PM    #
    Hi Jack,

    Yeah, that’s a common perception, or perhaps misconception.

    Common rebutal: a few dozen coal fired electric plants are much easier to monitor and regulate than a hundred million gas powered automobiles.

    An electric car uses electricity for energy, plain and simple. It doesn’t care where it comes from: solar, wind, hydro, coal plant, or thousands of gerbils spinning wheels.

    If someone is going the whole eco route they might install their own solar panels, wind generators, or even a hydro gen. Others might buy from “green” power companies.

    The one truth is, at least as far as I’m aware, is that NOBODY is equipped to make their own gasoline. Bio-diesel sure, but not gas.

    And gas has its own distribution costs and pollution which are seldom mentioned in the “electricity is dirty” argument.

    Think of it: oil wells to pump it from the ground (local pollution), pipes and ships and trucks to haul it to a refinery(pipes use electricity to pump, trucks use diesel, refineries aren’t exactly “green” and require energy to run), then there’s distribution of the gas again via pipes and trucks, and finally it sits in a tank down the street which uses electric pumps to load it into the vehicles and in most states the fumes outgas into the environment. And after all of that only about 20 percent of the energy from gas goes into moving the vehicle, the rest is wasted as heat or out the exhaust un-combusted.

    Of course electricity from a coal plant involves similar collection and transportation of coal resources. Coal isn't imported as much as oil is...least I don't remember any wars started to secure a distant coal field.

    It is more complex than most people immediately consider, since we just go to a pump or plug into a wall and aren’t aware of all of that has happened to bring it there. Each has downsides but I think electricity has more flexibility.

    You and I are able to control where and how we get electricity, this isn’t an option at all with gasoline.