Saturday, April 24, 2010

Electric Bikes and Microwave Ovens

Earth Day has come and gone and it is time for a positive blog this week. My old microwave oven died last night after ten years of almost daily use. Microwave ovens are a pretty darn good technology. Almost all the heat from the electric power source is transmitted to the food. For baking potatoes I estimate the microwave to save three quarters the energy compared with a convection oven. I love baked potatoes and popcorn, the two foods that microwave oven cook perfectly. The Sierra Club estimates even greater saving using a microwave oven. I extracted this from their web site: “Microwave ovens use much less energy than conventional ovens, so they can save you some pocket change. Let’s assume you are paying 12 cents a kilowatt-hour for your electricity. If you run a medium-size (1,000-watt) microwave at high power for 15 minutes, you’d spend 3 cents. A typical electric oven run at 350 degrees for one hour would cost you 24 cents. Do that every day, and you save yourself $75 a year with the microwave. More significantly, by keeping the kitchen cool in summer, a microwave may reduce your air conditioning costs.”

This morning I had to go to Best Buy to find the best buy on a replacement microwave oven. The recession and globalization has lowered the price of an item such as a microwave oven so I only had to fork out a single Ben Franklin for the purchase. I see the US Treasury has unveiled a new $100 Bill with old Ben and some new anti-counterfeiting features. This bill will go into circulation in February 2011. I am glad to see they kept the color shifting ink on the bottom right corner. The Green Machine played a significant role is getting this technology incorporated in the 1996 $100 bill. The optically variable nano pigment was invented by a friend of mine named Roger Phillips in Santa Rosa California.

Anyway off of that tangent and now to the point of this blog. Outside the Best Buy in Marin City they had about fifteen models of electric bicycles on show. They had a fellow from Sanyo demonstrating a high end electric bicycle that cost about $2,300. This lithium ion job with pedal assist and regenerative braking has a range of 40 miles. The regenerative braking prevents the bicycle from exceeding a speed of 15 mph downhill. The pedal assist helps extend range as much amperage is drawn during the initial acceleration from a dead stop. This is kind of like a Prius of bicycles that folds and can be taken on public transport such as BART. The electric motor in the Sanyo bike is small motor fit into the hub of the front wheel. The bike has LED head lamps as well as tail lights and brake lights. Most of the bikes on show were equipped with lithium ion batteries and rear hub motors and were priced at about $1,000. There were a few models that use lead acid batteries and have the motor attached to the frame of the bike and propel the wheel via a chain, these lower end bicycles cost approximately $500.

The manager of the store as well as the person from Sanyo explained the performance of the various bikes and also told me that the Marin City store had sold the most electric bikes of all the Best Buy stores in California. This made the Green Machine very happy knowing that his fellow citizens in the county the George Bush Senior referred to as the hot tub capital of the USA are buying green machines. Let’s show the country we can also heat our hot tubs with solar thermal systems. Perhaps old George who likes sky diving may tour our beautiful county just north of the Golden Gate on an electric bike and drop into the Green Machine’s hot tub in the back yard. If Alfalfa dropped in I would give him some hot wax that I melted using sunlight.


  1. Good blog! Note you can also get 'hub motor and battery pack' retro-fit kits that will attach to that old bike in the garage that many of us never use. It costs even less than the cheapest electric bike and you are doing the best form of recycling: Reusing! I have one and commute 10 miles everyday on it to work.

  2. Good Blog Lev and comment from Paul - the bike merits a major rollout campaign.

  3. Paul you are the "Green Machine" well done. Eric the Chinese have already had a major roll out campaign there are 130 million E bikes in China. This is a match for the cost and performance of batteries. A 50 pound bike and a 180 pound man. Not like a Nisaan Leaf that is a 2,800 pound car.

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