Science Club
  1. Does Black Bark Mulch Help Keep Moisture in the Soil?
  2. How Much Water does a Fountain Use?
  3. Find your Body Surface Area
  4. How Fast do French Fries Cool Down?
  5. My Year of Coincidences
  6. Which Firework is the Loudest?
  7. Cost to store a VHS tape in a NYC apartment?
  8. Guess Your Blood Alcohol Level Booth
  9. Find the Loudest Restaurant in Sacramento
  10. How Much do Clothes Weigh?
  11. Trying to Make Clear Ice
  12. Searching the Indian Ocean for a Plane Crash
  13. Electronic Cigarettes - The Fog Machine for Your Face
  14. Scott Leased an Electric Ford Focus
  15. Testing the Effectiveness of a Beer Cozy
  16. Eggshells vs. Taco Shells
  17. How Ice Rinks are Made
  18. Shaken vs. Stirred
  19. Real Appliance Energy Use Tests
  20. Christmas Lights Power Cost
  21. The Best Cold Drink Cup
  22. LED vs. Regular Bulbs & CFLs
  23. Coldest drink in town?
  24. Using Salt to Cool Down Beer
  25. Coors Light Cold Indicator
  26. The Fastest Way to Cool Down Beer
  27. Hairdryer vs. Bowl of Water
  28. Bathroom During a Movie?
  29. Video Projector on a Disco Ball
  30. Cool Trunk
  31. The weight of popcorn
  32. Sunchips bag decomposition
  33. Disscating a cockroach
  34. Sensefly Drone Camera
  35. Entrance Locked
  36. End Rubbernecking
  37. Eyeclops Night Vision
  38. Miracle Fruit Taste Test
  39. Hot Air Bubbles
  40. Helium Bubbles
  41. Neighborhood Speed Trap
  42. Pizza Race
  43. Eyeclops - Bionic Magnifier
  44. Breathalyzer Testing
  45. Fishing Line Fiberoptics
  46. The Value of CFL Bulbs
  47. Barry Marshall Fan Page
  48. Bottling the Keg Leftovers
  49. Spinning Rim Centrifuge
  50. Backwash Experiments
  51. sidewalk chalk
  52. Red Hot Vioxx Action!
  53. Balloon Delivery
  54. Tanning
  55. Making a Candle Out of Lipstick
  56. Evaporation
  57. The lift of a Helium Balloon
  58. Lard Candle
  59. The Properties of Heat Transfer
  60. Insulation Testing
  61. Eating Out
  62. Eating In
  63. Tattoo Removal
  64. Drying Laundry
  65. Viscosity Testing
  66. Magazine Advertising
  67. Collecting Data
  68. Dropping Toast
  69. Refilling an Ink Cartridge
  70. Tampons
  71. Light Bulbs

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Scott Leased an Electric Ford Focus

Great news! My friend Scott leased an electric car!

I went to check it out on Tuesday night. It is awesome! It's an all-electric car, which he charges with a regular power cord plugged into a regular electric socket.

He's exactly in the market for an electric car. He has a long, daily commute to his job. But the commute isn't so far that he needs more than a single tank of electricity.

The car's range is about 76 miles, depending on how it is driven. That's 16 miles more than Scott's typical daily commute, which was enough of a margin to give Scott and Carrie the confidence to go electric. Also, because it can be plugged in to any outlet, Scott can charge the car while he is at work.

Here's the steering wheel. Electric cars are expensive because the technology is new, but they tend to come loaded with luxury options.

The car body looked exactly like a gas-powered Ford Focus to me. It is compact. The interior is large enough to fit three child safety seats, which I can't even do in our Honda Pilot.

Owning an electric car requires that you gain some skills at managing your supply of electricity.

The bad news is that you can't stop for gas. The good news is you don't have to stop for gas.

A full tank will move you 76 miles, but you can stretch that amount by driving gently. You can also chip into that amount if you crank up the air conditioning, or drive like a madman.

A gauge on the dashboard lets you see how you are doing, adding to or subtracting from the computer's guess about how many miles are left on the batteries.

The car has a rear-facing camera which gives you a view of what is behind you. The white lines move in concert with the steering, predicting the arc that your car will take when you drive in reverse.

One reason Scott asked me over was so that I could check the amount of power the car was taking to charge. I brought my Kill a watt power meter and plugged it in. The meter reading jumped around a bit, but peaked around the 1300 watt mark.

1300 watts
That's similar to a vacuum cleaner, or a George Foreman grill, and at 12¢ per kilowatt, charging his car will cost about 15¢ per hour. If his car is completely empty, it will take 20 hours to charge this way, using 26 kWh, at a total price of $3.12.

When he charges it at work, he plugs it in for eight hours. That's about $1.20 worth of electricity he owes his boss, assuming they don't pay a special industrial rate for power.

The electricity port on the outside of the Focus has a bright ring of blue LED lights around it, indicating that it is being charged, and the level of charge. This is a great idea. If you are using a public charging station, occasionally it is tempting for a stranger to unplug your car. This light will give an indication if Scott's car is sufficiently charged.

Scott isn't a fan of this exterior light because it may draw unwanted attention if he charges his car in the driveway at night.

For years I've loved the idea of an electric car. The price of super hi-capacity batteries is going down, and the price of gas remains high. Today, in 2013, circumstances have to be right for an electric car to make financial sense, but the prospect of never again paying for gas is certainly appealing.

Scott was paying 32¢ a mile for fuel in his truck. Now he is paying 4¢ per mile for fuel.

The Tests

  1. Have you been wanting a new car?
  2. Are you spending more than $230/month on gasoline ($54/week)?
  3. Do you have access to another car if you want to go wine tasting?
  4. Does managing your battery level and charging your car sound like fun, or like a pain in the ass?

Most of my calculations involve financing the lease 100% based on gas savings, but of course gasoline cars aren't exactly free either. If leasing an electric car is cheaper than what you are currently paying for gasoline, and your job offers little hope for telecommuting, consider an electric car. You could switch from gas and come out ahead. I hope you do.

Electric Car Swap
Household Item Power Use Database


Scott and Carrie applied for and was granted a $2,500 rebate from the California Center for Sustainable Energy. This is amazing to me, because they are leasing the car!

Update 2

My friend Morgan leased a Nissan Leaf! He wrote to tell his dad and CCed me on the email.

I was not looking to get into a new car, but I read an article online Monday afternoon at my buddy Rob's site ( about how there are some very good lease deals on electric cars right now. Chevy, Honda, Ford, and Nissan are all trying to get a foothold in the EV market and there is a $7500 tax incentive that they can take right off the top.

I called around some local dealers and got some quotes, but then I found an affiliate program through my job that offers fixed pricing. We used a similar program to buy the Van.

So we ended up at $155/month for a base model for 24months. We pay almost twice that in gas for our two cars right now so it seemed like a no brainer! (Of course our electric bill will go up some…I am estimating $15-20 month.)

I've never leased a car before, so I am little leery of how the end game plays out. We can buy off the rest of the car at the end of the lease term, or just turn in the keys and walk away. If it's in good condition and under milage (they gave us 12000 a year, but I put only a little over 6k a year on the truck right now) we don't have to pay anything more.

The full charge range is about 75 miles. My roundtrip to work is only 35 so I should be fine on a single charge. They have a Blink station at work, but you have to pay for a membership and I haven't looked into it yet.

The car only came with the regular 120V adapter. This is the slowest way to charge the car, but it doesn't require a dedicated 220 outlet, (there isn't one in our garage right now) and the 220V adapter is ~$1000 option from the dealer. (I think you can get 3rd party adapter for $500-$600.) I think I can get away with just the 120V for charging, but we will see.

The start up is a little weird, it kind of boots up like a computer. It feels like a big golf cart when you start rolling, but once you are up to speed, it's pretty much like a regular car. It beeps in reverse to warn people since it's so quiet. On the freeway you can take it of "Eco"-mode and it has a little pep. (This reduces the range however. Its kind of the opposite of gas car, city driving is more efficient than highway driving...)

The front panel display is like a little video game. There are white dots that show power, dialing to blue dots that show re-generation when you coast or brake. (You want to minimize your white dots, and maximize your blue dots for max efficiency.) As your trip proceeds, you build up a little tree icon that shows if you driving with maximum efficiency. I got the Full Tree grown on the back half of my way home from the dealership. I only got a 1/2 tree for my drive into work.



Update! 3

More on Morgan's Leaf:

We love it so far.  I can totally get by on a regular 120V charger.  We haven't used a gas station in 3 weeks (and we currently have 3 cars!)  I am going to sell the truck, but I have a few "jobs" I want to finish before I clean it up and sell it.

Since I've been driving it, I've noticed a number of them on the road, in addition to a few Volts, Tesla's, Focus EV's.  I saw a Chevy Spark too, but I couldn't figure out if it was EV or ICE.  The Volts seem a little nicer inside, but smaller than the leaf. The Focus looks more substantial on the curb, but looks like it lacks cargo space in the hatch.  The Spark is tiny.  The Tesla's...well they're freaking awesome, but they are like 80K so they better be freaking awesome.

Portland has a pretty good EV infrastructure, I can find some free 240V stations around, and they even have a these quick charge DC stations that can complete a full charge in 30 minutes, and even these are free.  (My car doesn't have that's a stripped down version).  I have a Blink card, which is a pay network of public chargers that go for $1/hour.  They are everywhere, but I haven't had to use it yet. on Facebook Cockerham on Twitter C K Rob Cockerham on Linkedin Rob Cockerham on G+

The Quest for a solid ice beer tray   Heat Transfer Experiments   Eyeclops Digital Magnifier   Trying to make hot air bubbles   Eyeclops Night Vision goggles   How to Eliminate Rubbernecking   My Homemade Speed Trap 
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