another step

Our family has taken another step in reducing our carbon footprint. We replaced our 2005 Honda Odyssey with a new Chrysler Pacifica hybrid. Having had a minivan in the family since E was an infant thirty-two years ago, we like their versatility for transporting people and cargo. We wanted to keep that utility but cut back on emissions.

As it turns out, the Pacifica is the only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market. It has a full gasoline-powered engine plus enough battery to travel thirty-ish miles. That means that most days, we can run on battery power but have the flexibility to go on long trips without having to plan on stopping at a rapid charging station as we would have to do with our Chevy Bolt.

As it turns out, in order to get the most advanced safety features, we wound up having to get a lot of other bells and whistles, too.  I admit that I am having a bit of trouble adjusting to nearly everything happening by touch screen. Sometimes, buttons and knobs are easier!

It is nice to not have to go to a gas station very often and I appreciate that we have so drastically reduced our transportation greenhouse gas emissions. For those of us who live in places without much mass transit, transportation is one of the most difficult areas to achieve reductions, so I am grateful to have gone mostly electric, especially as most of our electricity comes from our solar panels.

It’s fun to go green!
Pacifica hybrid

*****
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Bolt update

Because we have recently completed National Drive Electric Week, I thought I would update you on our experiences with our 2017 Chevy Bolt.

We still love it!

I wish I could have shown it off at our local Drive Electric event, but it did not fit into our schedule.

Over these last six months, we have learned a lot about electric driving. Air temperature has a big effect on range. When the weather was warm this summer, our projected range with a full charge was 280-300 miles (450-482 km) rather than the listed 238 (383 km). During the winter, though, our range may only be in the 160s.

The type of driving also has a big impact on the range. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, electric vehicles are more efficient in stop-and-go driving because the energy from slowing, braking, and travelling downslope is used to send charge back to the battery. Yesterday, I drove almost fifteen miles while only having my projected range decrease by two miles because I was driving around town.

The Bolt has a screen that shows how various factors affect mileage in real time. It is a bit of a game to see how much different routes, speeds, etc. affect our kilowatt per mile ratio. In a mixed highway/city session, we get about 4.8 m/kwh, while on an exclusively in-town run, we average about 6 m/kwh. This is much cheaper than running a car on gasoline, especially because maintenance costs on EVs are also much lower. It is even cheaper for us because most of our electricity comes from our solar panels, rather than being purchased from a utility.

My favorite driving mode is L mode, which allows most driving to happen with just the accelerator pedal. It reminds me of using the swell pedal on the organ! L mode makes greater use of regenerative braking without needing to touch the brake pedal, which brings in the use of the disc brakes.

The only real problem we have had is that one of our forward cameras stopped functioning, which meant that we were without pedestrian detection and other safety features for a while as our dealer had to order the parts needed. This wasn’t too great a hardship, given that we had never had these kinds of features on prior cars so we were used to driving without them. Still, it was nice to have them back after the repair.

While we had planned to install a home charging station, we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Given that we usually keep the Bolt within the county and that we have an upgraded home electrical service, it hasn’t been a problem charging slowly with our regular household current, but we will eventually get a home charging station so that we can do a full battery charge overnight. We plan to get a station that plugs into a 220 outlet rather than one that is hardwired.

We are also slowly getting more public charging stations. In August, shortly before L had to return to London, we took ABC to Recreation Park in Binghamton to ride the carousel. We were surprised to see two charging stations in the parking lot. I pulled into a slot and got a few kilowatt-hours in while we rode the carousel. It turned out that the chargers had just been installed. It was fun to see the media coverage, knowing that I had already availed myself of the service.

It has also been fun telling people about our EV and giving people rides. One of B’s co-workers, who has an approximately 120-mile (193 km) daily commute, decided to buy a Bolt from our dealership after talking to B about our experience. We had been the first Bolt sold there and he was the third. We are hoping that the sales of the Bolt and other EVs will expand so that the public charging network will grow, especially rapid chargers that will make it easier to take electric cars on long trips.

This will also make it easier to sell more EVs, which will be better for air quality and climate protection for everyone. As battery prices continue to come down, EVs will soon be priced similarly to gas vehicles without subsidies while being cheaper to run and maintain. Several European countries already have plans to phase out gasoline/diesel only vehicles; perhaps, one day, the United States will follow suit.

Printing

In recent weeks, my printer has been getting increasingly temperamental, until, last week, it decided not to recognize its black ink cartridge altogether. I resorted to printing text in flashy colors, while trying head cleaning and other suggestions to get the black ink flowing again.

Over the weekend, B, who is much techier than I will ever be, tried physically cleaning the printheads, and taking parts out, and whatever, but it appears the old printer is not coming back to life. The cost of the replacement part is almost as much as a new printer, so I set out yesterday to buy a new printer/copier/scanner.

I looked online first and entered the store with my choices narrowed to two. I dutifully looked at the floor samples, which seemed to confirm that the main reason for the price differential between the two was printing speed, but I thought I should ask someone who worked there.

Usually in the tech department, employees wander about asking if you need help, but I had to go find someone. Unfortunately, the someone I found was new and didn’t seem to have a clue about printers! Still, I eventually confirmed the information, chose the slower, less expensive model, bought the requisite ink cartridges, and headed for home.

Ordinarily, B does the tech setup, but he is away on business right now, so it was up to me to set the printer up, or face not being able to print out copies of our tax returns and other important documents that I need this week.

The start of the process was not auspicious, as I needed E’s help to get the printer out of the box.  Those styrofoam forms are tight!

I did manage to follow the instructions, which, fortunately, had sentences as well as drawings. I am notoriously bad at interpreting drawings.

And, everything went smoothly!

Unlike our prior printer which was supposed to be wireless but which I had to have connected by wire to my desktop for it to actually print anything, this printer is operating with just its power cord plugged in. We can put apps on our phones and tablets for access, too, as well as send documents to our printer’s very own email address. Fancy! (OK – I know other people have had things like this for years, but it’s a first for me.)

So, yay for hard copy! Today, I printed a poem that I need for a reading on Friday. (More on that later.)

Maybe, tomorrow, I’ll tackle those tax returns…

Get Smart(phone)

Hmmm….I seem to be indulging my love of parentheses lately.

Warning: I may move on to ellipses next…

Okay, back to the post…

Over the weekend, we went to our wireless store to shop for T’s first smartphone. Given that she is about to head to Missouri to work at a grasslands field research station, she will need GPS and access to databases and such to help with her fieldwork. She also may need it for internet access from the place where she will be living, which does not have broadband available.

They were having a half-price special on an appropriate phone, which the salesperson referred to as buy-one-get-one-free…

So, the next thing I knew, I was getting my first smartphone, too.

It’s quite a step forward in technology for me, given that I was using a flip-phone that was so old the store didn’t have a connector to copy my contacts onto the smartphone. Fortunately, I didn’t have a ton of contacts, although it was tedious to copy them myself. On the other hand, it was a lot easier to type in the names than to push the number buttons the appropriate amount of times for each letter.

It is handy to have E here, as she has had a smartphone for a while and could help me learn how to use my new phone and how to delete or disable apps that came pre-installed, but that I don’t want to bother with. She also taught me important things, like how to silence the ringer.

This probably sounds funny to people who are used to using smartphones and other devices. I realize they are supposed to be intuitive and easy to figure out, but I am not very good at dealing with symbols and swiping and such. I do better with words and manuals with an index that I can read. Of course, those don’t exist any more…

I also don’t use my cell phone as most people do. My landline is still my primary phone number. Very few people have my cell number. I realize that most people want to be connected at all times, but I don’t want anyone bothering me when I am off doing something else. I don’t want a reminder call on my dentist appointment while I am grocery shopping or visiting my parents.

I also don’t text. That may change with T leaving soon for Missouri. I do use g-chat for messaging, so texting is a natural extension of that.

One thing that will be helpful is downloading the apps for some of the stores that I frequent. Recently, our supermarket decided that it would no longer mail out coupons. Having a smartphone will make it easier to download them to my loyalty card.

Who knows? Maybe I will go wild and start taking photos and streaming videos and texting all the time and playing games and such.

Most likely, not…
*****
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jjj-2017

 

Good News for the Southern Tier

Like many other former industrial powerhouses, my home region, the Southern Tier of New York (midway across the southern border of the state with Pennsylvania), has struggled with economic development.

In recent years, while there has been some growth in the education, health care, and arts sectors here in the Binghamton area, the formerly strong manufacturing and hi-tech sectors are a shadow of their former selves.

Since 2011, New York has had an economic development system organized as various regional economic development councils, which make plans which compete for funding. The eight counties of the Southern Tier have won some funding in prior years, but this year the stakes were especially high, with three regional prizes worth $500 million ($100 million a year for five years) each available. The other five regions will share a larger-than-usual pot of funds, so no one is left out.

The Southern Tier economic development plans have always been well-received, including in 2011 when the timeline for initial plans was very tight and coincided with a record flood. Some of our projects have been funded, but progress has been slow, leading to additional hand-wringing and pressure to allow shale gas development, even though only a few jobs would be generated at considerable environmental cost.

While I am grateful that shale gas development was (mostly) taken off the table in New York State last December, our area needed more concrete plans to add jobs in our region.

In the form of one of the $500 million awards announced yesterday, we finally have commitment from the state to help make that possible.

The Greater Binghamton area where I live is central to the plan, with major revitalization centered around the Route 17c corridor.  The Binghamton segment is mixed-use, blending business, retail, arts, increased living space, downtown University presence, and waterfront development. Johnson City is centered on health science/technology and culture, with Endicott, the original home of IBM, centered on advanced manufacturing, including an industrial 3D printing center.  We are excited to begin!

There are projects already lined up for the first year allocation of $100 million, with plans to leverage additional private capital. Of course, the rest of the region is not left out. There are plenty of other projects being funded, too, including food/agriculture initiatives for our many rural communities.

I have been one of the rare cheerleaders for our region, which tends toward pessimism about everything, including our typical-for-the-Northeast weather. I often used some of the earlier projects of our Regional Economic Development Council as alternatives to fracking in my years of commentary on that topic, for which I was frequently ridiculed.

I am ecstatic that my optimism is being rewarded.

Excelsior!

(Excelsior is the state motto of New York and is usually translated as “Ever Upward.”)