View Full Version : HELP! - Talk for "engineering and society" class

17 February 2011, 1922
My dream of using my bike as a way to get people excited about EVs is starting to come true. An engineering prof at the University of Colorado heard about my electric motorcycle and wants me to come give talks to his classes. The class is "Engineering and Society", and it is for engineers but focuses on societal impacts, environment, stuff like that.

Sooooo...I'm just opening up a thread for ideas about what I should say. I'm a physicist with about one hour to impress a bunch of engineers...I need help...

I'm also getting attention from high schools and other places that would like me to ride up on my bike and talk to kids about EVs...

Here are some of the questions the prof had for me to think about for my talk, maybe you all could help me think about how to answer them:

(He said he'd chime in on the first five as well)

>What are the main environmental advantages of electric vehicles?

>How significant are the main environmental problems that come with electric vehicles? (e.g., CO2 from electric power plants, battery disposal)

>What are the main engineering challenges to building functional electric vehicles?

>What are the main challenges to making them commercially viable?

>Are batteries likely to improve significantly in quality and affordability?

>What are the main challenges you faced in making your motorcycle?

>In what major ways do different kinds of electric motors and batteries differ from one another?

>How did you choose what kind of battery and motor to use?

>Might a bike like yours be commercially viable?

>How does its performance compare with a gasoline-powered bike?

>How does its handling compare? (Does different weight and location of the weight of your motor and battery affect handling?) Have you noticed any unexpected benefits or disadvantages to have come along with your motorcycle (like no hot engine between your legs)?


17 February 2011, 2016
Engineers? Just take a keg and you'll do fine. :D

Seriously, as someone who probably would have been an engineer if he didn't drop out of school 3 times, my interest in building electric vehicles has nothing to do with the environment. That's just an added bonus. The challenge for engineers I think is a societal one. People resist change. They like and understand their cars just fine thank you very much. So to me the interesting stuff in this is trying to give them something they're used to, while trying to steer them towards what they really need. E.g. they want a lot of range, but they only really need to commute.

I think the Chip Yates story would be a good one. It shows just how much power is available in an electric motor, but how difficult it is to pacakge into a bike, with enough juice to run it.

17 February 2011, 2113
EVs benefit national security because they are fuel agnostic. They will move vehicles away from a single source of energy (petroleum) and enable us to use a multitude of energy sources: hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, coal, and even gas. Seems like there's always a gasoline lackey in the audience who tries to argue that burning coal to generate electricity pollutes as much as gasoline (not true). Studies show that extracting crude, shipping it across an ocean, refining it, and shipping it to gas stations takes a significant amount of energy. That gallon of gas at the pump has consumed on the order of a gallon of gas to get there. Then there's the terrible efficiency of ICEs. I can't remember who posted this link but in it is a study of well-to-wheel energy efficiency of various fuels:

But let's say that the pollution angle is a wash (it's not but we'll entertain the shill). Just the fact of not sending billions of dollars to corrupt regimes overseas and not pouring money into blood-for-oil wars is enough reason to switch to EVs.

Batteries are very much recyclable, especially lithium chemistries. No heavy metals or major toxic substances.

ElMotos have the potential to outperform ICEs (as evidenced by Chip, Team Electra and others). But the cost to do that is prohibitive at the moment. Consumer ElMotos can't compete with gassers yet but they're no slouches. They're great fun to ride, especially when you know that it costs pennies per mile in 'fuel'.

Downsides currently are capacity (i.e. range), charging infrastructure, and cheap subsidized gas.

17 February 2011, 2150
I can't remember who posted this link but in it is a study of well-to-wheel energy efficiency of various fuels:

But let's say that the pollution angle is a wash (it's not but we'll entertain the shill). Just the fact of not sending billions of dollars to corrupt regimes overseas and not pouring money into blood-for-oil wars is enough reason to switch to EVs.

Wow, thanks for that presentation. Slides 37-38 really say it all. Especially when the oil really gets scarce, then the MJ/km goes to infinity. (Interesting that diesel HV is close to BEV)

Also, if electricity is produced from renewables, the argument is even stronger.

Speaking of which - you all know what state produces the most wind power? Texas. Friggin Texas!

Actually, Wyoming produces the most per person, but that's because you're dividing by zero (almost). Iowa produces the 2nd most per person - go Iowa! (Where I grew up).

17 February 2011, 2348
Yep -- the wind farms are all over the place in west TX. I saw one blade for a wind turbine going down the highway on an extra-long flatbed 18-wheeler. Absolutely massive.
I buy all my electricity from renewable sources, primarily the wind farms at the moment. Paying a penny or two more per kWh, though when oil went nuts a few years back I was paying less than non-GreenChoice customers. Overall though it's a drop in the bucket. Electricity generation from renewables is a small fraction but it's going up every year.

18 February 2011, 0352
That's awesome, Noah, congrats! I'm envious, we were talking about putting a presentation together for the Larz Anderson Museum (http://www.larzanderson.org) this fall, but it never seemed to come together. I'm still trying, but around here MIT gets most of the attention, (as well they should).

chef, that's a great slideshow... thanks!

Maybe interesting to add to your examples, Spain has devoted an enormous amount of resourced to develop this solar tower farm:

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Besides everything else, just plain beautiful...

18 February 2011, 0636
I had another thought on the drive in to work. I think you should blindside 'em with a left hook. Get their imagination going. Here's how I'd start the talk- - you guys are all engineers. You know power output, and you know what an electric powerplant is capable of. Imagine strapping a (insert kW here) motor to the seat of your pants and feeding it everything it can take. Now. Do I have your attention? - -

They, more than the average joe, are gonna get it. Straight power curves, no power band, full torque, all that stuff is stuff they understand, and they can imagine what it's like to run it. As a buddy of mine says, get them to commit in principle, then reel 'em in on the details.

I sincerely feel we all get wrapped up in all the points that you outline above, and miss what really is going to convince people to embrace this stuff. It's not dull, slow and heavy. It's insanely powerful, exhilarating, and, hell, a total blast. I've driven electric bikes, scooters, motorcycles and hybrid cars. I've talked to people who've driven the Tesla... for all of it, it's the same response, it's a damn riot. And it's because of the completely different nature of the power delivery.

I think I posted the link recently here, but I'm gonna do it again... How to Sell an Electric Motorcycle: http://evmc2.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/how-to-sell-an-electric-motocycle-and-other-stories/

And... are you going to bring your bike? You should.

The one single piece I've seen that is the most effective pitch is the Mission wheelie video:

<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="640" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/UIPaDUCtNB8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This was a screengrab I did, because their vid wouldn't embed, but there are links on the YouTube post to it directly. Show the bitches that! :D

18 February 2011, 0729
Sell them on the technology and performance possible with an EV. The TESLA Roadster and the planned S coupe are great examples of what can be done when you start with a clean sheet of paper alnog with some of these cutting edge racing motorcycles. Set the hook by challenging them to envision contributing to a cutting edge revolution in transportation. Emphasize the infancy of Lithium powered vehicles. Where else can you be in on the ground floor of a games changing technology? Talk about the environment and pollution advantages. Close the deal with the real cost of oil in terms of war, lives and dollars.......

18 February 2011, 0833
EVs will get you to school or to your job when the Middle East goes boom, oil supplies dry up and gasoline becomes a collector's item. It all happened before in the 1970's and it could happen again.

It helps to tell engineers that the technology needs more work and that there is money to be made making the stuff work better.

18 February 2011, 0927
Young engineers are a tough crowd, particularly if this is a required lecture for their curriculum. They are probably force fed technology 24x7, so I would spend a decent amount of time on the influences that formed your mindset. You've been doing the EV scooter thing for while, what pushed you into that direction?

On second thought, use lots of loud & obnoxious music. Lasers would be good too.

18 February 2011, 1000
EVs will get you to school or to your job when the Middle East goes boom, oil supplies dry up and gasoline becomes a collector's item. It all happened before in the 1970's and it could happen again.

Speaking of the Middle east...pop quiz:

Who is the #1 exporter of oil to the US?

A: Canada.

(#2 is Mexico. Then Saudi Arabia followed by Venezuela.)

18 February 2011, 1143
I vaguely recall that Canada supplies roughly half our oil. The mideast is somewhere around a third which may not sound like much, but if that were to go away it would put the market into a panic. The fear alone would cause a huge run on oil prices. Also consider that in a global economy, other nations' dependence on mideast oil affects our prices since Canada, Venezuela and others would have to pick up the slack.

Regardless, we're sending vast sums of money over there to purchase and secure oil. If there's any doubt, look at the ridiculous excesses of the multitude of princes in Saudi Arabia. That's money which could be used for much needed infrastructure in the U.S. or to reduce the national debt.

18 February 2011, 1153
I vaguely recall that Canada supplies roughly half our oil.

That explains a mysterious phone call I got late last night, "You need to stop with that electric motorcycle stuff, eh!"

18 February 2011, 1909
From a previous soapbox rant.....

intellectualizing the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vs. EV issue from any perspective is over. Our reliance on the ICE can no longer be defended on any rational basis or at any intellectual level.

The actual cost of the ICE includes:

The Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon and who knows what tomorrow
1 billion dollars a day to OPEC
Billions or is that trillions of dollars spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
The cost of human life in the same two wars
The cost of the medical repair bills for thousands of young Americans with missing arms, legs and worse as a result of the same two wars.
Respiratory health issues in every metropolitan area of the world
And the list goes on and on.

The ICE age is over. We should be directing our intelligence and resources towards making the transition from petroleum to biofuels and EVs on a national level as quickly and smoothly as possible.

19 February 2011, 1847
Well, my angle is this. Americans are getting their butts handed to them in motorsports on a world level. Other than Chevy's LeMans effort with the corvette, the world racing scene is dominated by the European and Asian manufacturers. We have a chance to kick some Eur-Asian ass, but we need fast EVs to do it. The Euros already are snickering at the Mission R as typical American "just throw hp at it" engineering. We need to go all Carroll Shelby on their ass! :D Just please don't tell me if none of them know who Carroll Shelby is. :(

19 February 2011, 1936
These are all great ideas - now I just have to put them all together into a coherent story.

One angle I was thinking was this: I'd show them some of the most popular EVs you can actually buy...and then I'd show them the Mission R and say "There are two problems with the Mission R: 1) There is nothing particularly new or innovative about the technology behind it, and 2) They haven't actually built a working prototype. We really need innovation and creative solutions...and we need people who take ideas all the way to finished, marketed products that people actually buy."

I dunno - to negative? Or too true?

19 February 2011, 1955
I just to be nit-picky. There's nothing too new about the electronics, but like the Tesla Model S, there has been some serious new approaches to chassis that EVs both force and allow. And I am fairly certain that bike is the bike that they will race, they just don't have it running yet. I think they have a track test due in 2 weeks.

19 February 2011, 2005
Good points. Chassis design is a major area of development.

Maybe a better way to say it is that this is an industry on the cusp of exploding, and it needs all the creative and motivated people it can get right now to make sure that actually happens.

20 February 2011, 0822
Hello, calling the spam police. Emergency deletion needed.

20 February 2011, 1003
That's one of the funniest spams I've ever seen. What are juicy bags?

20 February 2011, 1210
Not just that it happens, but that Americans are leading the way and getting a major foot hold. This is a serious opportunity to get back on top economically.

27 February 2011, 0708
Noah, here's my Sunday Morning Evangelical- :D I've got to get off this machine, but my thread is here:
"Dancing Guy and Lessons on Starting a Movement"

...it came to mind because I'm trying to actually sit down and write out a plan of sorts. I think I posted both the vids on ElMoto V1, if I can get back to this today I'll update this thread with the details of my post, but it's all there, if not.

ok, update, here's the video that got me going:

<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="640" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/fW8amMCVAJQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

and the second video about what motivates people:

<iframe title="YouTube video player" width="640" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/u6XAPnuFjJc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

I found between the two of them, quite eye-opening. For my observations and conclusions, you're gonna have to read the link. :p

27 February 2011, 1047
"it doesn’t matter what, but you have to have them by the heart, not the mind."

Very well said.

27 February 2011, 1422
One thing you said earlier, Noah, that bears a closer look, is that the US gets most of its oil from Canada. Oil is a fungible commodity and it is shipped to the buyer based on the proximity of the closest producer. In other words, we may be getting our oil from Canada, but may be buying (sending money to) Saudi Arabia. If the Saudis have the best price, then we'll buy from them, but they realize that it would be more expensive to ship their oil to us, so they buy the same grade from Canada and have them ship it to us. That's a MAJOR over-simplification, but the point is, just because we get our oil from friendly ol' Canada doesn't mean that unfriendly countries don't benefit from our consumption of it.

27 February 2011, 1440
That's one of the funniest spams I've ever seen. What are juicy bags?

You Don't want to know..... :0