A Fresh Look at Electric Cars and Hybrids


Electric Cars

The concept of the electric car has been around for quite a while, though the only real practical electric car as of late has been the downtown cable cars, though I guess those could technically qualify as trains instead. The largest issue for the longest time has been trying to pack the energy density necessary into battery packs for be able to go anywhere practical. Lead batteries have existed for some time, though they don’t pack nearly the same energy density as lithium batteries do. Which is partially why electric cars have only recently reimerged onto the cutting edge of the car market. As we’ve invested more research into lithium battery packs for laptops, car makers have realized the potential in new electric cars.

I have an interest now in getting either an electric car, or a hybrid. I have an aging Ford Mustang ’98 which has seen some better days. With the transmission now slipping, and the check engine light flashing every week or two it’s time to find a new car. With as few miles as I’m putting on it I still pay close to $200 a month on it in gas. I figured in looking for a new car, if I could buy or lease a new car for roughly the same cost in gas then I wouldn’t mind leasing. The trade off ultimately would be whether I could save as much in efficiency with better mileage to makeup the cost for a lease. With an electric car, you don’t even have to pay for gas, though unfortunately with the money down, and the cost to install charger in your home, the cost is comparable to a prius. Aside from other drawbacks with electric cars like maintenance, and traveling range, and recharge time. Electric cars are really appealing, they can have good performance as noted with the Tesla Roadster, or they can be ultra efficient as with the Aptera 2e which was claiming a whopping 300MPGe (it’s now unfortunately discontinued until further notice)

HGTV’s Not-So-Smart Home

I guess the term smart home does not necessarily mean green home. After arranging a visit of HGTV’s overpriced $20 tour we left feeling disappointed. The home valued at nearly $1 million was neither green nor smart. Painted with a couple good pastels, the home had a great beach feel to it, but it seemed to lack much of any feature I’d attribute to a smart home. ADT had cleverly placed cameras around the house to showcase their monitoring solutions, so technically it was a secure home. Overpriced toilets in each of the bathrooms offer new buttons to press rather than the traditional flushing lever.  Pseudo-high-tech fans circulate in the bed and living rooms. Keypad doorlocks control all the doors.  Garage door openers have built in batteries for when the power goes out. Shades on the back windows open and close by an ipad app, though you’re going to have to switch out the battery every couple months. A $5,000 induction based stove insures you can only use specially made cookware. Unlike regular infrared or convection based stoves, an induction based stove essentially works with magnet wire to transfer energy to pots and pans which is then converted locally to heat, which I guess is cool because your stove never actually heats up, and that’s nice if you want a stove that can double as a seat or as a desk, but this is a stove, it’s meant to get hot.

By far the most intelligent features of the ‘smart’ home were the rain barrel they had in front, and the metal roof on top. I say that because the metal roof, unlike normal asphalt and tile roofs reflects a lot of sunlight keeping the house cooler, it can also be more durable in the event of a storm or hurricane.

Beyond these honorable mentions we saw in the house, there were the things we didn’t see that bothered us the most. There were no solar panels, there was no programmable thermostat (they just had a vanilla set-it-and-forget-it thermostat) there were no LED lights, or CFL’s they for whatever reason seemed to prefer using incandescent lights and more energy. Which isn’t very smart. I wasn’t really expecting to see incandescent lights in a ‘smart’ home I thought surely at a bare minimum they would have CFL’s, I didn’t even know they still sold incandescent lights in stores with which to replace your old burnt out ones. But somehow they still managed to special order some incandescent light bulbs to keep their meter spinning. It’s 2013, is this really the smart home of the future? Aren’t we supposed to be in space already with hover cars, parking in carports in our jetson’s-esque dome homes? Instead the house that’s being touted nationally on the home and garden channel as a ‘smart’ home is still using much of what was made for homes more than 100 years ago, while also being as energy efficient as an SUV. In a dire time when greenhouse gas emissions have surpassed the threshold warned about by global scientists, we need to ask ourselves, is this really the best we can do?
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When I think of a smart home

Again in retrospect we were referred to check out the smart home by JEA, who informed us it was a good example of solar energy in homes. There were no solar panels, and there were no solar water heaters.

International Music

When I was in highschool I started listening to a German metal band named Rammstein. I fell in love with their music, and I’m still a long time fan. Before I left for college I tried researching and finding other international bands and their music. Among them I found R&B Russian music, South Korean and French Electronic music, as well as others. I compiled a playlist on youtube for all to enjoy, check it out below.

A word about Tropical Smoothie’s Styrofoam cups

Tropical smoothie and Styrofoam cups
Tropical smoothie is a company that has a brand that is deeply invested into healthy lifestyles. Most of their sandwich sizes are small portions with healthy ingredients. They offer among all fruit smoothies a green kale smoothie and a bright orange carrot smoothie. The company has been very innovative to retrofit their outlets with tropical décor and color schemes, though the company isn’t entirely green. Along with some of its innovative features Tropical Smoothie exclusively sells each of it’s healthy smoothies in a tall Styrofoam cup. It’s likely that they chose a Styrofoam cup over a traditional wax and paper cup for it’s properties in insulating refreshing smoothies. However, Styrofoam though inexpensive can be costly on the environment. Styrofoam is recyclable like plastic and cardboard, but the problem with Styrofoam and the economics of recycling is it’s only profitable to recycle Styrofoam in ridiculously large quantities. How ridiculous? Well you’re probably aware of the light-as-air quality of Styrofoam, it’s not very dense. A brick of Styrofoam the size of a car may only weigh a few pounds. To recycle it you’d need a ton, so imagine needing to gather a cube of Styrofoam the size of a football field. Even then after recycling it, a plant may not get very much money for the recycled Styrofoam, so there’s not much incentive to do so. In effect, the impracticality of recycling Styrofoam makes it unrecyclable. What’s important to note here is that though Styrofoam can be recycled, the truth of the matter is it probably won’t. After using Styrofoam in cups and boxes, it’ll be tossed like other types of trash into a landfill where they will attempt to degrade it which will take more than a lifetime, or incinerate it which saves space in landfills but emits some pretty horrible toxins into the atmosphere. The best solution here is just to not use Styrofoam in the first place. Other companies like Starbucks and Tropical Smoothie’s competitor both use paper based cups. Starbucks has it’s own patented corrugated cardboard cup. Jamba juice has a wax and paper cup for it’s smoothies though it lacks the insulation of Tropical Smoothie’s Styrofoam cups. What’s really needed here is a redesign. Tropical Smoothie’s brand is rooted in healthy living, and green and sustainable living should be part of the mix too. It wouldn’t make much sense to make healthy smoothies while at the end of the day polluting the same air and planet we’re on. Making the switch from Styrofoam to some other alternative wouldn’t have to hurt Tropical Smoothie’s bottom line either. Using a corrugated cardboard cup like Starbuck’s would be easier to recycle, it wouldn’t cost much more than Styrofoam either. If I was designing it, I’d actually leave the outside of the cup with raw brown cardboard for the texture. Have it feel like the outer edge of a coconut, make it feel biotic, and almost living compared to the sterile look of a white Styrofoam cup. Fill them with the different Smoothies Tropical Smoothie has, and practically have their kiwi smoothie look like you’re drinking it straight from a kiwi. If the switch to a new cup style would enforce their brand image, as a healthy and responsible vendor while not cutting their bottom line, then it’s a no-brainer.
Trash Day