Electric Obfuscation

I want to talk about this ‘article’ posted on USA Today that makes the claim that operating an electric vehicle is somehow shockingly more expensive than a regular car (and, thus, you should consider staying away).

Upfront, I will say I find this article is contrived and it does not align at all with my experience of electric vehicle ownership.  Quite the contrary:  owning an electric car has had significantly lower operating costs for me.  (It’s one of the reasons I love it so much.)

1) You likely won’t need to buy a home charger.  I can’t speak for every single electric car on the market, but I’ve not heard of one that cannot plug into a standard 120v outlet.  So there’s no cost there if you want to stick with regular L1 charging.

2) If you want to upgrade, at least with my Model 3  I could go to 240v charging simply by having a 240v/50A circuit installed with the correct outlet as the car came with an adapter.  This cost me a couple of hundred bucks for the electrician to run some cable and conduit.  Not very much.

3) HERE’S THE BIGGEST MENTAL HURDLE TO OVERCOME FOR MOST OF US.  Do you ever fret about leaving the house and needing to find a special place to charge your phone?  No, you do not, because you charge at home and can leave with a full charge.  The same is true with an electric car.  You plug in when you get home.  Even on an 120V circuit, you are getting ~5miles of charge per hour.  That’s not super fast, but a typical car will spend 10h or so in the garage from the evening and overnight.  That’s 50mi of charge, which will cover most people’s commutes.  If you have a 240V charger, then you can get a full charge in a couple of hours.*  Deadhead miles and time investiture while you wait for something to charge is, for the most part, not an issue.**

4) Their purported cost of charging, however, is where I take the greatest exception.  Where I live has relatively expensive power costs.  And I even pay extra for 100% renewable electricity (75% wind, 25% solar).  It’s well less than 30c per kWH off peak.  When I drive, my car is using <250WH per mile.  If I were to compare this to a 50mpg car, then to drive an equivalent 50 miles I would use 12.5kWH which would cost me $3.75 — and to be clear that’s both rounding up on the energy per mile I use to drive, rounding well up on the cost of electricity, and using a very high mileage car as a comparison point.  And I still end up a bit cheaper than a gallon of gas here.  Remove those artificial inflation points and my actual comparative cost would be less.

5) In addition, there’s almost no maintenance to an electric car. No belts, oil changes, spark plugs, wire, tensioners, filters, or etc. I’ve not had to bring my car in for servicing since I bought it 4 years ago.  This brings down the operating costs even further.

Between less “fuel” cost and less  maintenance cost, I estimate I will save thousands of dollars of operating costs compared to that of my previous gas-powered car.

In short, I find this article is narrow and contrived.  There are ways to make EV ownership more expensive, but why would you want to?  You could also write an article saying here are the things to watch out for to ensure you’re not making EV ownership more expensive, but that’s not what this article does either.   Of the “4 extra costs,” the first is not entirely necessary (the cost of a home L2 charger, and even if you do include the cost, over what timeframe did this study average it?  If you install it and own the home and EVs for 20 years, the cost becomes truly minimal), the second ignores the phone effect (you can charge at home), the third is non-universal (an EV tax?), and the fourth also ignores the phone effect (why would you need deadhead miles?  how many of these are they estimating?  what cost are they assigning it?).

I find this article misleads and that’s a shame.

* If you live in a rental unit without outlets, then this could be of concern and would need the landlord to install outlets.  But especially with economies of scale, that might not be that large of a hurdle.  Years ago, some of the parking lots at my University already had outlets to each stall to plug in your block heaters, which displays the ease of bringing power to parking.

** This is especially weird as the main instigator of this so-called study owns a Porsche.  You’re telling me that person couldn’t afford to install home charging and, while they sleep, get 200+ miles?

*** Let’s use their values, too, OK?  They say 33 MPG car at $2.81/gallon (certainly not there now), costs $8.58 for fuel (not including maintenance).  Let’s say your EV uses 300WH per mile.  100 miles is 30kWH times .30 per kWH equals $9.  Note my actual cost at home, using my actual overall efficiency and cost of electricity is about $5.40, but I’m rounding up to account for other people’s driving habits and costs on commercial chargers.  But even if it was $9, that’s not exactly breaking the bank, and you save much of that amount in lack of maintenance.

**** The article states that charging rates can vary by 100% on a week to week basis.  That one I really am curious about — I’ve never encountered that with any of the charging spots I’ve seen or used.  Electricity pricing in some states must be really weird.

Gaming Thursday

It might… just be time… for a little bit…. of vehicular mayhem!

And lo did most of the goods from the new Car Wars 6th Edition arrive!  Definitively a different feel (both rules-wise and the aesthetic of the vehicles) than the old school game. For which, perhaps hilariously, I made dozens upon dozens of designs though played only a few times…

I’ve not done any test games of this edition yet, but looking forward to kicking the tires and lighting the fires to see what it’s got.

Wonder Wednesday

I’ve just been introduced to these great works by Hilla and Bernd Becher.  There’s something cool within repetition that isn’t exact actual repetition. It’s like a harmony, where each overlapping individual thing produces a richer whole and thus a distinct experience.  On top of that, they can be truly intriguing,  inviting fascination with the collection and collectiveness and patterns and similarities and differences and organization of them all.

(Also, check out Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes series.  It is equally interesting and fascinating… especially when coupled with some great architecture and artistic placement such as at the Benesse House by Tadao Ando!)

Philosophy Tuesday

“It is good to remember that love is (also) a verb.”

— expressed by many

A great reminder indeed.  Especially since, in many of the stories we hear or watch, love is presented as a thing that is either found, or that descends from upon high, or that is either there or not there and thus no different than an object, like a rock.  It becomes is a passive noun.

Hence that reminder that there is another side to love, a love that is active and agency-filled.*  Love is a way of being, and like all ways of being it is therefore capable of being created and brought forth in the moment, moment by moment by moment.  We can be present to love and can go further to be loving.

It is a practice!  And the more time we spend being loving, the richer and more resilient our relationships become, the less contempt we peddle, and the grander (and delightful and happy and…)  our experience of life becomes.

 

* Of course, it’s not that love isn’t also a noun, and that our emotions are not involved.  Love arises much easier when the right context is present, often when who we are being aligns.  Not to mention the complexity of the different kinds of love, for which the English language, at least, is deficient in differentiating.  There’s romantic love, familial love, friendship love, and our overarching love for humans and humanity.  So the key here is to simply not forget that love is (also) a verb and to not live as though it’s only a passive noun or as though it’s only a verb.  It is big and encompasses all.

Architecture Monday

I like this, a building ‘rescued’ from it’s intended undifferentiated glass box origins, taking the raw concrete frame and building something that is more in tune with its context and the environment in which it sits.  With colour, pattern, and plenty of greenery, it is at once nicer to look at, nicer to be in, and nicer to the planet.

The whole idea is quite clever in a rather logical way.  The side of the building that sees the most sun in this hot and humid environment houses the stair core and other utility elements, creating a buffer to keep heat and glare out.  The other two sunny sides are surrounded by open-air balconies, two of which are encased in a colorful set of scrim, shifting in geometric patterns to create openings out of which plants poke their leaves towards the sun.  The other two levels are protected by the overhang and more potted plants.

Heat and glare are kept out, and you’re working next to a little garden oasis.  Even more so when you open the sliding doors and let the breeze flow through.  As a supreme bonus, check out the little reading nook, nestled into the walls throughout!

Sweet work.  A building that could have been a pillbox that instead found life as a nifty object that’s lush and creates a wonderful space inside, all while needing less energy to run.  That’s what it’s all about.

MGB Headquarters by Spacefiction Studio

Philosophy Tuesday

There’s an amusing little phrase I heard recently that sheds some insight into our brains’ negativity bias, that is, the bias that places more weight/emphasis/concern/importance on and has us react or fret or ruminate more on things or events or news that are of a more negative or bad nature than things of a neutral, positive, or good nature. *

It’s quite simple, and goes like this:

“Life has to keep winning every day; death only has to win once.”

This is so good!  For what it speaks to is our calculating self and its survival-based (and thus evolution-narrowed) preoccupation and focus.  Whatever could be considered threatening** gets the calculating self all agitated and screaming in ways that rainbows do not.

Mindfulness and being present are what work wonders to counter this bias.  Letting our immediate reaction be, letting the calculating self sound off without becoming it, and listening to and even embracing our central selves as the voice to guide us forward, not only in our actions but also in how we get to experience our life with delight, wonder, and peace of mind.

 

* Of course, negative/neutral/positive are value judgements as well, so there’s malleability even there…

** And what we consider threatening can also be quite wild and out of place, especially in our current-day environment(s).***

*** Especially when we remember the way our calculating self cannot tell the difference between a threat to the body and a threat to our identity.  So much of the threats our calculating self sees and responds to are often only of the identity variety…

 

Architecture Monday

What do you do when an old building in a dense urban area finds itself ready for new tenants?  Especially when that building is now surrounded by much taller and larger buildings, and there is a premium on developing new space?  As much as I love adaptive reuse, sometimes the pressure to densify argues to do something more.  An “easy” solution is to incorporate the existing building – or at least the existing façade – into the new one, often as a base for a new high-rise.

And then there’s the opportunity to do something much more radical.

The above project is, alas, only a concept piece and the land owners aren’t gong forward with it… but what a concept!  Beyond just making more commercial space, this idea was to take the over-a-century-old building and turn it into a cultural and art facility, doubling its floor area by literally mirroring it.  The result would have been this double-take inducing, water-like, reflection of the building hovering over the existing one.

What a mind trip!

Though, not a complete mind trip, as there would have been an additional new element added to the rear to house further facilities and, nicely, another stage facing an adjacent park.  So from certain angles that would have ‘broken’ the illusion.  But who cares, from so many other angles, even if you caught a glimpse of the rooftop canopy shell the illusion of the inverted building would’ve remained strong and kept all its ‘woah’ factor.

Again, alas, not to be, but one damn cool idea.

Station C Queen West Art Centre by Paul Raff Studio

Philosophy Tuesday

In the last few years we got to train under Sifu an amusing scene would often play itself out.  One of us would ask him a question – usually about how we were trying to embody one of the concepts or apply one of the fundamentals – and he would respond with:  “Well….. yes/no.”

It happened often enough it became a running joke among us.

BUT! Within that humour lies some fundamental truth(s).  (No surprise, of course, given that it was Sifu…)

Take just about anything that’s deep and related and foundational, and as you explore it or use it or apply it or see it arise around you, very little is exclusive or binary.  Gradients exist everywhere. And elements that seem like opposites don’t always act in opposition to each other.  They may instead be differing sides of the same coin that work best when both are brought to bear in appropriate amounts.

Putting it a slightly different way, yes/no is the principal behind Yin and Yang and its notion of dualism where even seemingly contrasting energies not only are interconnected but they often contain (and, again, work best when they do engage) a little bit of the other in it.  In addition, there is a flow, with energies shifting and waxing and waning in differing amounts to respond to what’s appropriate in the moment.  When there is an unbalance, that’s when things fall apart.*

Which is something that we tested and experienced time and time again in our tai chi training!  Apply a particular concept or tension at 100%, and we would collapse.  But shift it a bit, even dialing it a little back by 10%, and then we would be strong.**  At our core, 60/40 was often the sweet spot, though at times 70/30 was a better split.  And we could be 90% at the point of application while maintaining balance within our core at 60/40, doubling the yin and yang to not only between differing concepts, but also between our active extremities and our rooted and originating core.

And while it manifests itself quite viscerally in the physical testing of our tai chi training, the concept of yes/no holds sway far beyond into all aspects of our individual lives to that of our families and communities and beyond.

Best of all, for me at least, I’m lucky that whenever I notice I’m beginning to stray from the middle path and set myself to wonder about it, I get to be guided back with Sifu’s voice echoing in my head with a delightful and amused “Well… yes/no.”

 

* To which, this yes/no idea also connects quite well to another of my favourite fundamental concepts, that of the Middle Path (from within the Buddhist tradition).

** Which is related to the concept of “Straight but not Straight” or as I called it “Shaolin Straight”.