Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on May 11, 2014
Discuss this article at the Science & Technology Table inside the Diner
A couple of weeks ago I got the brilliant idea I should get an Electric Bicycle to zip around on. Go Green! Save Gas!
So I began the search on the internet, rewarded with a seeming endless array of choices and prices. Some of these little vehicles looked downright COOL!
Prices not too bad either. According to ads, the Extreme Scooter at right here could be had for the bargain price of around $1800. If I used it for local commuting over the summer, it pretty much would pay for itself in gas in 2 years.
Nice thing about them, they skirt around the DMV regulations, so you don’t need to register or insure them, or need a license to drive one either. So if you lost your license, you could use one for getting to work and to the grocery store.
The Extreme Scooters pictured here were advertised to get around 25 miles/charge, and do up to 20 mph. So if your job commute is under 10 miles as mine is, you could do the trip in around 30 minutes each way, and not even need to recharge. In my case I could recharge at work anyhow, so this would extend its commutation possibilities.
Reading the reviews, they were extremely variable. Most of the reviewers seemed to love them, but there were some real negative reviews also. I was concerned about quality, because these units were of obvious Chinese manufacture. One of my internet friends Uncle Bob advised me to Buy American with a high quality Stealth Electric Bike.
Super powerful, and actually capable of speeds up to 50mph in “Competition Mode”. To be legal in the FSoA riding one around, you have to keep it in USA mode which keeps the speed down to 20mph. This seemed fabulous, until I did a price search. They want $10,000 for this machine! For $10K, you can buy an electric Polaris Ranger utility vehicle!
So the Stealth Bomber bike was out, too pricey. Also not interested at the moment in a Polaris Ranger, I just want something small I could carry easily in my SUV and tool around on it “on location” shooting pictures and so forth. This actually made the Extreme Scooter I was so fond of kind of problematic, because it is too big to pitch into the SUV, so I was dreaming up a bike carrier for it to mount on the back of my trusty 1983 Mazda MPV. I had pretty much decided this was the EV for me by this point!
Then I tried to BUY. The buy page on their website did not work. Bad sign. They didn’t respond to the email I sent to their Sales Department. Worse Sign. Off the list of electric bikes to buy.
So, I downgraded my expectations and started looking at some of the Electric Scooters that retailers like Walmart sell. I finally decided here on a Currie Technologies eZip 1000, which you see pictured at the top of the page. it fit all my requirements in terms of being compact and had enough range and power to do most of what I expect to do with such a vehicle. So I tried placing the order. No go, Walmart Out of Stock.
I look around elsewhere on the net, find it again from Target and try to order. No go. Won’t ship to Alaska.
You see, these devices come with Batteries, and Batteries have Hazmat Restrictions on them for shipping. So getting ANY electric bike up to Alaska by conventional shipping methods available on the net was out of the question. So now time for a work-around.
I have a friend who does the regular Commute down to the North Dakota Oil Patch, and he regularly sends trailers back and forth between here and there. In this case he has a trailer coming up from OR in the next couple of weeks, so I use this as the shipping address at yet another company, Eco Wheelz. Finally it all appears to be going through, except the next day I get an email from Eco Wheelz they sold their last unit last week and don’t know when they will get another one, so my purchase has been Refunded.
Now, desperate, with the clock ticking on the trailer up here, I find another company Afterschool.com that appears to have the unit In Stock and promises Delivery by around May 14th. I order, and it GOES THROUGH! At least for now anyhow, don’t know if I will get an email tomorrow that these folks are Out of Stock too.
Price on this unit, very reasonable at $540 from Afterschool. However, why all these issues with Out of Stock?
My bet on this one is that Currie Technologies Scooters are made, like most everything else these days, in CHINA. This company may in fact be already Outta Biz, or at least no longer shipping stuff over to retailers here in the FSoA. So if I did in fact get my hands on one of them, it may be one of the last available to buy over here.
Whether the company is still in existence or not, I expect Product Support to be non-existent, and even getting replacement parts will likely be tough. On the positive side to this, it is a pretty simple machine overall, I could easily replace the Electric Motor (though I might have to have a new mount welded on), and I can for the moment replace the Batteries through a Battery retailer up here, Batteries Plus. For how long I don’t know, since they also probably have their batteries shipped over from China via ground transport.
The Brake apparatus looks to be mostly like Bicycle Brake stuff, so this is probably fixable. However, good luck with finding a Shock Absorber that fits this machine if the company is outta biz. Also the Chain probably has odd dimensions and would be hard to replace.
In totality when you see all the problems involved in just GETTING one of these things, then with all the issues you will face with keeping them working for any great length of time after JIT shipping collapses, you really get the picture on why Electric Vehicles of any sort really are not a solution here to the collapse of the gas powered vehicle industry. About nothing of what you need to maintain one is made locally, and while if you are a DIY sorta guy with a machine shop you might keep it working a while longer than most, eventually you just aren’t even going to be able to get replacement batteries. Alaska makes the whole process even more difficult right now, but the same problems will exist in the Lower 48 down the line also.
So, such a thing is no permanent replacement, and “Going Green” with one is basically a chimera. They aren’t really very “Green”, they are polluting the landscape all over China to produce such things. Since generally speaking you Plug Them In to an outlet to charge, somewhere down the line gobs of fossil fuels are being burned to supply that outlet with power. Even if you charge it up using Solar PV Cells, those cells are ALSO made in China adding to the pollution over there, and you won’t be able to replace them either in 10 years when they give out, or get blown away by a tornado or whatever.
Despite the fact it is not a permanent solution though, at least for a while it gives you an alternative if Gas Prices go real high and you want to cut your usage of your gas powered vehicle. Its also a pretty good choice for a Minimum Wage worker to get to the job without having to pay high prices for a Car, Registration, Insurance etc. Even taking Public Transportation daily works up a pretty decent bill for a MinWage worker. You wouldn’t be able to use it every day, in bad weather such vehicles are no good. Coming into work soaked to the bone from a rainstorm is not going to work well, and they won’t ride too well on snow either. However, most of the time you can use it, even in cold weather if you bundle up. Not too cold though, because below Freezing the batteries in these things don’t work too well.
For me, this vehicle fits in as another Prep for an intermediary situation where things have not completely fallen apart, but gas has become very pricey or periodically unavailable due to shortages, or Da Goobermint is issuing out Ration Coupons for it. It also looks like fun to zip around on, and given that for me pumping my legs on a bicycle doesn’t work as well as it used to, at $540 it seemed like a good prep to buy.
I’ll be writing more about the eZip if in fact I actually GET it up here. It’s an interesting question how long we might have made the fossil fuels last if instead of developing a Car Culture we had built an infrastructure that was smaller and more compact, and rather than everyone driving around a Car every day to do things, they just used Bicycles and Scooters. That was not how it worked out of course, and there is no going back to try it now. Now, if you get one of them, all it does is maybe get you around during some temporary shortages of gas in your neighborhood, or provide low cost transportation if you are working in a MinWage job.