The Blog

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Public Announcement! May 30 in Sebastapol

Happy Riders
The "Eco Hummer" heading for Sebastapol

The Vixen

Allergy and Elements Protection

On Saturday, the Blue Sky Showroom opened its doors to the public in an old Ford Dealership. Blue Sky is 4 companies under the same roof that share the electric vehicle vision. Michael has been working with Thunderstruck Motors (one of the 4) and they have been very helpful on the battery front as well as teaching us about electrics. Michael was invited to speak during the open house about his experiences with electric bikes and right before he spole he told me that he was going to introduce me so that I could talk about the Green Ride to Our White House. After we spoke, a small group of the people who had listened to us gathered around and the interest and excitement was fabulous. I gave out this blogsite and I hope to create relationships with some of the people who are interested in supporting this project.

To get to the event, Michael rode his "eco hummer" from his house to Sebastapol which is a trip of about 40 miles. I followed in the truck with a load of more electric bicycles. I gave him an hour lead time and he beat me by almost 15 minutes! He averaged a little over 20 miles per hour, pedalled along with the motor and used less than 2/3rds of his battery 48 volt 50 amp battery pack. Of course the batteries weight 65 pounds and he was pulling them in a trailer but the performance was impressive and as we learn more about this technology, we are discovering ways to maximize range and still average a good speed.

After our talk, we hung out and talked to people interested in electric bikes. It was a lot of fun and a preview of what I expect we will be doing a lot of on The Green Ride. It's such a gas to put people on the bikes and after about 2 loops around the parking lot, they are grinning ear to ear. Not only do they have fun but they immediately understand that electric bicycles increase the viability of using a bicycle by a lot!

On Friday, Michael and I went to look at the Vixen RV. They look better in the pictures. The owner had not cleaned it up but it was still obvious that making it work for our needs would be a huge and expensive project that neither of us want to tackle. It's a vehicle that has a loyal following and hopefully Brett will be able to find someone who needs a project who will buy it. We are now turning our sites onto a Dodge Sprinter that we can convert to a RV. For the same money we will have a very reliable vehicle that will have value once we are done with the Ride.
Time to hunt for a SAG vehicle!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Here is the video footage from the electric bike workshop with the Cabrillo College bike coop. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Batteries, Batteries Batteries (oliver)

Talking with Michael the other evening was very sobering. As I've mentioned before, the technology is not yet reliable for what we want to do and a new wrench has been thrown into the tech pot.
It turns out that since Michael has been working with the battery cells that he's chosen, he has been getting a metallic taste in his mouth and he's felt more fatigued than usual. He spoke with Rob about his symptoms and Rob suggested that the batteries Michael is using 'off-gas'. Since Michael carefully monitors his batteries during charging, he has his face right over the cells and is breathing off'-gasses. None of us are sure about what the connection is between the batteries and his symptoms but we are not excited about going down this particular road with batteries that might pose a health hazard beyond the obvious hazard of dramatic failure.
The reason for this adventure is to promote a viable alternative in the form of a safe, durable and trouble free electric bicycle. Even if we were looking to financially capitalize on this project, we all feel very strongly that the integrity of what we are doing is primary. Having a battery system that is dangerous doesn't meet our integrity requirements.
So the search is on for better batteries.
We believe that they are out there and we are also quite sure that they will be significantly more expensive. Apparently, the round, small sized cells like those used in the Tesla are safer and don't have the 'off-gas' problem. We are searching around for batteries that will work for us and when we find them we'll figure out how to get our hands on them without spending our children's inheritance!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oliver - Green Riders go to Santa Cruz

A happy rider returns!

4 electric bikes and a trailer loaded up.

Onkel Reinhart taking a spin!

Michael and I went down to Santa Cruz yesterday with 4 electric bicycles in the back of the pick up truck. Michael talked for about 25 minutes to the students from the bike co-op who were interested. (I tried to record the talk but failed!) After the talk, we let the students ride the electric bikes around campus. They all came back grinning, delighted with the power and speed. Michael's talk highlights the challenges with current electric bicycle technology. It's a rather complex story but very interesting. My take away from the afternoon was that there are a lot more challenges ahead than I had anticipated with getting the electrics worked out for this trip. Since Michael is taking on this part of the project, I hadn't paid it much attention. I now realize that getting this project to work is a big deal in that we will have to develop technology that will bring electric bicycles to a new level where they will greatly broaden their appeal due to improved performance. Existing electric bikes don't climb well and don't have great range. We need to achieve range and hill climbing ability without adding huge battery packs. No matter what system Michael has tried, he still gets about 1 mile per pound of battery. 60 miles is a lot of weight!!!Michael and I have a great conversation going about how to charge batteries on board the Vixen while we are underways. One equation we thought of is how much gas in a generator would it take to charge a battery pack? Another idea is to create a trailer with regenerative braking to carry and charge extra batteries as the Vixen rolls down the road.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vixen news and more

The Vixen is the RV that we are interested in using as our SAG vehicle.
Brother Michael talked to his neighbor who has one and inspired him to offer to loan the vehicle to us for the ride!! We will do some work on it to get it able to charge batteries for the bikes en route and add a "granny gear" so that the vehicle will make it over passes. What a generous offer!!
The Vixen adds to our story. Here is a 21 foot RV that sleeps 4, is fully self-contained gets 30 mpg and was built in 1987! The technology to move around efficiently is here and has been here for a long time. We will highlight that!
Also, the generosity of the neighbor is a story about new ways of living in a post- "all about me" society. Based on a belief in more than money and personal gain, the owner of the Vixen is willing to let us borrow the RV. I haven't spoken with him and don't know why he is willing to share his vehicle so I can't ascribe any reasons to his decision. Based on his willingness to be so generous, I have to assume that he supports what we are doing and is willing to let us fix up the RV for the trip, add a lot of miles and return it to him when we're done with it.
I hope the generosity that Michael inspired in his neighbor is an indication of the value of the Green Ride. By supporting the trip in whatever way, individuals, businesses and other institutions will contribute to the possibilities for different ways of living in this country that we are promoting. Get out of cars! Ride bikes! Share with your neighbors! Build communities that are increasingly self-reliant for energy, food and entertainment.
It turns out that the owner's of Vixen's are quite the family. It will be fun to include them in this project and hopefully we can get together with some of them on our ride.
Today, MIchael and I head down to Santa Cruz with a load of electric bicycles to show them to the Bicycle club at Cabrillo College. Albin is organizing the demonstration and we hope to inspire some of the club members to take a more serious look at doing electric conversions.
We are also going to get our mother's brother to ride one of the bikes this morning. If nothing else than for the photo opportunity!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Green Riders' first ponderings

Taking on this journey is a big deal. It will disrupt our lives and the lives of our loved ones. On the other hand, sitting on our undisrupted butts won't do much to add to the growing movement on this planet of people, institutions and businesses that understand the desperate need for change.
The biological systems that make up this planet are failing rapidly and that recognition is a bummer. So this ride is dedicated to cheerfully showing how doing things differently can be fun and that humans can fix the mess we've made.
Today we are still not commited to this project but we are getting closer.
I bought a bike that we may convert to electric.
We're looking at a Vixen RV to use as a SAG wagon.
I'm writing this blog.
We talk about the project every day.
We've done a visioning exercise.
We're impressed by the work that needs doing to get our vision to become a reality.
We're worried about our old bones, muscles and patience.

I'm also really excited.
This feels like a project that can make a difference in the world, challenge my aging body and relieve some of the constant frustration and angst I have about the world that my daughters are inheriting. I strongly believe that if enough people get off of their undisrupted butts and passionately do something to fight for a livable future, we can make it happen. I'm absolutely positive that staying in the chute we're sliding down will get us where we're headed. Not a conversation I like having with my daughters!! Oliver

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Getting started

The Green Riders are Tinki, Michael and Oliver Bock.

We are two brothers and a sister. Tinki's son Albin is getting excited about joining in the adventure. Not only for the adventure but to push for the change he knows the world needs.
Right now we are talking about Albin being the SAG (Support And Gear) guy. And since he's young, he can help us implement the internet piece and probably ride for us when we feel too old. (Hopefully only one of us will feel to old at a time!!)

We are not athletes or even in very good shape and we are going to ride electric bicycles across the country to go have lunch with President Obama. Along the way we are going to stop . . . a lot. For lunch. For dinner. To duck behind a tree to . . . and to talk to people along the way who are commited to greening the planet.

We'll talk to people at solar farms, wind farms and organic farms.

We'll talk to politicans, business people, farmers, academics . . .hey, anybody who "gets it" and is commited to a future where our children's children will thrive.

We'll get tired and grouchy.

We'll get happy flying down hills on our rigs. (Have you heard the joke about how to tell a happy biker?)

We'll play with each other as we have for more than 50 years.

We're leaving Palo Alto, CA on April 22, 2010.

We'll arrive in Washington D.C. . . . when we get there?

Next steps look like:
1) Get the gear good. Bikes SAG wagon etc.
2) Create a time line for both before the ride and during.
3) Develop material for potential sponsers
4) Pick a route
5) Find someone to organize and keep us focused.
6) Pitch potential sponsers
7) Develop interactivity piece (video, photos this blog etc.)
8) Research stops that will highlight our mission.
9) Tighten and focus vision
10) Work our networks to get access to people and places that support our vision.
11) Decide what to have for lunch with Obama. (Top priority)
12) Design 10 second media pitch "Commit to Green . . . energy . . . policies . . . business behavior . . . farming . . . water use."
13) Flesh out media pitch for more in depth coverage item #12's Commit to Green" list.

What have I forgotten??