Now that the Hunter EV Festival is all done and dusted for 2012 and we're back into the swing of daily business and the demands of the IT Consulting day job, I've had some time to reflect on the festival and lots of conversations held whilst we were there demonstrating. Before I get into the details of it though, I've been checking out some of the stuff coming out of Interbike 2012 (where Stealth Electric Bikes will be attending and demonstrating - see their nice white Bomber at left), including this moped redux from GasBikes in the USA (below left).
I'd made the point during a brief interview with 1233 ABC Newcastle that this is exactly the kind of stuff being built in sheds all around the country, by backyard tinkerers and kids looking for some easy speed, with some real frankenbikes getting churned out that I don't think I'd throw a leg over anytime soon. I'd also mentioned during that interview that people could make a brief visit to Campbells Store in Morpeth to check out the museum section there and have a glance at an old Malvern Star petrol powered Auto-Byke (pictured below right, circa 1950).
Note the similarities between the two, with the superior standover height, low CoG and comfy saddle on the old skool rig. Just don't ask me to take either of them off-road. Got me smiling when I thought of the advantages of going electric - no more 2 stroke to mix, riding in blissful silence free of fumes, able to enjoy the places I find myself in without creating a disturbance.
Seeing these got me thinking about what's happening with the SmartGrid-SmartCity initiative for Newcastle, which we discussed as part of an industry workshop during the Hunter EV Festival. They'll be using a fleet of 20 Electric Cars across Sydney, Central Coast and Newcastle to do some modelling of electricity demand on electricity grid to see if they can make some predictions about how that load and user behaviour might extrapolate at scale. Current market prices put a Mitsubishi iMiev at around $48,000 excluding OnRoadCosts, giving us a vehicle that has an effective range of 155km maximum.
Gee. Wow. Gosh. Oh My. It reminds me of one of the posts from a US-based Stealth electric bike owner that had participated in a group ride with 15 other standard bikes for up to 145 miles (230km). And had a blast, being able to chat along the way with the group whilst averaging about 25-32km/h. Not that you can do that in Australia, with our 25km/h power assist cut-out limit.
I wonder what sort of modelling went into thinking about the net impact of the iMievs on longer term health of its occupants, who'll remain sedentary. Who'll still be just as stuck in traffic congestion as their non-EV'd car based cousins. Who won't feel the pleasure of wind across their face as they cruise past lines of stuck traffic in their morning commute. Who'll be stuck behind glass, disconnected from their context, coccooned and sated.
I bet they won't be having as much fun as the guys in the video below, who are getting waaaayy more bang for their buck, on a bike that represents a very modest investment compared to an EV'd car. Remember people, an EV car is still a box on wheels that does little to fix congestion issues. They get stuck in traffic too. They also need to be parked, just like any other car. And there's no way you can use one for a quick ride on a local bush trail with all the grin factor and fun that's involved.
I also wonder why someone hasn't yet set up an EBike or Active Transport CRC in a city where obesity is a looming health issue, with some decent cycling infrastructure. Maybe it's because there's plenty of the former, too little of the latter. I'm sure they could do a lot with the $980,000(49k x 20) that's just been spent on Mitsubishi EV's. When I asked the question of attending Infrastructure Australia representatives, health and social benefits don't factor directly in their decision making for community infrastructure projects. Go figure.
It's time for change. If there is anyone wanting to partner on Active Transport research involving Ebike trials as part of that mix, I'm all ears and ready to help. Or perhaps the role they have to play in replacing dirtbikes as an environmentally friendly alternative. Either way, there's more modelling to be done than just presuming we're all buying into a transport future that's centered on car usage. Because that's a one way trip..
Revitalising Hunter roots, exploring Newcastle's Electric Vehicle identity and transformation
I'm looking forward to getting back to Newcastle on 18 August, 2012, for the Hunter Electric Vehicle Festival (backed by the good folks at Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment and the Festival partners). After all, with Hunter as a middle name and birthplace, I'm kind of obliged to get along and see what sort of EV vibe exists for Novocastrians. I'm well familiar with the area, having grown up at various locations like Stroud, Stockton and Morpeth, studied at Uni, raced MTB up around Killingworth and adventured at various times in the Barringtons.
My regular uni commute (whilst I was studying Health Science at Newcastle Uni) was a longish one, at about 30km, from Duckenfield/ Hinton through East Maitland or Raymond Terrace (see the Google Maps link below for an idea). How I wish one of the Stealth Electric bikes had been around then. The ride to Uni was bearable, but the ride home was usually slow in the last part after a long day. The decision to ride or cage-dwell it would have been much easier with 3kw under me - it would have been fun hitting Cadel Evans time trial averages in Uni clobber and burdened with a laptop+textbooks (+printer on occasions).
Back then (we're talking 90's people) I watched the rail lines running through swampland, providing a much more direct link to the city, without the meandering path taken by the roads at the time. I remember wishing at the time that the rail corridor could be considered for dual-purposes, letting bikes run alongside for a more certain and direct commute. It's easy to avoid a train - just stay off the tracks!. They're a lot more predictable than some of the cars and obnoxious drivers that I had to deal with at the time.
I've been back recently, catching up with family, and watching as the Hunter goes through its transformation into a new identity, taking on a mixed identity of part quarry, part innovation-centered regional city. I've got a soft spot for Nukes, with friends and family still there now. Chances are they're going to be in the near vicinity of our display stand, so forgive me if I get caught between family obligations to reconnect and the chance to talk about either the Fighter or Bomber that we'll have along with us for the display. Remember, these bikes are not just for sitting on and twisting a throttle - you get the best out of them by using their potential as Active Transport - something Newcastle blokes might do well to reflect on, with 70% of Hunter men being rated as either overweight or obese. Now that's something to consider tackling at scale..I wonder what the folks at Transition Newcastle might have to say about it.