Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vespa LX50 HyS - Hybrid Motor Scooter

I'm getting to like being almost car free. Last week the only day I took a car to work was to show it to a co-worker who wanted to buy it.

Although I'm really liking bicycle riding and I just got a free bus pass from work, there's still something holding me back from selling my car. What about when crunch time hits and I'm going home late at night? How about when we have to take our one car to the shop and I've got to pick up my wife? I can't have her ride on the handle bars of my bicycle and although the bus system in Los Angeles is quite extensive, we're spoiled after so many years of owning our own cars.

A motor scooter is one possible solution--I just got my motorcycle permit just to keep my options open. There are some interesting all electric scooters, but what if I run out of juice on the road? Recharging the batteries takes longer than filling a gas tank. In addition, the electricity in our area is generated by burning oil so it isn't exactly clean energy. The old two-stroke scooters are dirty, noisy and don't get great gas mileage, but the new 4-stroke models are a big improvement.

Of course the Vespa is pretty much the standard when it comes to motor scooters and their smaller, 50cc engines, reportedly get up to 80 miles per gallon. However, Piaggio, the company that makes the Vespa, announced a hybrid model that get something around 140 miles per gallon.

So when I'm not riding the bike or the bus I might be running around town on a Hybrid Vespa and saying, "Ciao!" (Eddie Izzard reference.)

Here's the lowdown on the little Vespa Hybrid scooter.
The HyS (Hybrid Scooter) models are parallel hybrids, combining four-stroke combustion engines with electric motors. The electric motor provides power assist, supplying a 25% boost in power for acceleration over the first few meters (a good feature for lunging through urban traffic), while at the same time supporting a 20% decrease in fuel consumption.

The rider uses all the normal controls (accelerator, brakes and additional handlebar commands) as well as a specific switch to choose one of four operating modes:

* Standard hybrid
* High-charge hybrid
* Low-charge hybrid
* Electric-only

In the first three modes the HyS manages power output from the engine and the motor using a drive-by-wire type system. The electronic management system interprets the rider’s request for more torque and selects the assist ratio based on the battery’s state of charge.

Regenerative braking recharges the batteries.

In standard-hybrid mode the battery charge is maintained at optimal traction levels (batteries at 75%). The high-charge hybrid function is geared to maximize the range of the electric motor (batteries at 95%).

If, on the other hand, the rider wishes to recharge the batteries using the 220V battery charger by plugging into a power outlet, he or she can use the low-charge hybrid mode (batteries at 20%) to obtain maximum performance with minimum consumption. (Charging time is about three hours.)

In electric-only mode, the Piaggio HyS shuts down the combustion engine and turns into a silent, zero-emission electric vehicle—an important consideration for those European cities that are increasingly placing restrictions on emitting vehicles.

The control system not only manages the combined power output of the engine and motor, but also forces the engine to work when it can be most efficient, thereby reducing specific consumption, with advantages in terms of lower consumption and emissions.

Why did the Snake Cross the Bike Path?

When commuting by bicycle you get to see all sorts of weird stuff laying on the side of the road. I had to stop and take a photo of this rattlesnake that almost made it accross the bike path.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Picking up my Car with my Bicycle

I've been trying to ride my bike to work as much as possible. Sometimes I've got to use the car--like when I took the car into the shop for service. However, I decided to pick up my car with my bike but how to bring the bike back? Here's my solution, just strap the bike car rack on the bike!

I discovered a glitch with my setup. Notice that the basket doesn't attach to the front hub. That's because the bike is a bit large and has a quick release hub. I thought I had it figured out with the metal and rubber straps I found in a hardware store but as I was getting close to my destination the weight of the bike rack caused the straps to slip down the fork. I've got to figure out a better way to attach that huge basket.

In any case, I did manage to ride my bike twice all the way to work and back and once to the car dealership--which was realtively close compared to my regular commute. I'm not really keeping track of distance, heart rate, etc. like when I was racewalking and running, but even with this low mileage week I rode at least 54 miles. That's about 5 hours on the saddle without doing a weekend ride. When I was racewalking/running in the mornings I'd be lucky to get that much exercise in a week including the weekend.

Hum, getting this much exercise and saving on gas. It all seems great so far, as long as I keep a good safety record.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Basket Case

So I'm working at DreamWorks Animation again and I decided that there wasn't much point to getting up early to run then drive to work so I'm combining exercise and commuting by biking to work. Last time I did it the backpack was rather uncomfortable and I wanted to figure out how to get that weight off my back. Out of all of the racks, panniers, saddle bags, etc. I decided to get a big front basket. Big enough to give rides to my dog--though I didn't take my dog to work! Oh, and I normally ride with a helmet so the photo isn't exactly what I look like riding my bike.

I'm starting out by riding just a few days per week, though I didn't get as tired as I thought I would. It only takes about 1 hour 8 minutes to make the trip. That's not bad considering that driving to work takes 45 minutes and if I add the morning run it's about 1 1/2 hours. The ride home takes the same amount of time on the bike but I've got to deal with the traffic driving home so it often takes me over an hour to get home by car. I have to admit it was fun zipping by the traffic jamed up at the Hollywood Bowl.

I've been debating wearing my Polar heart rate monitor and even getting a GPS unit so I could track my workouts better, but that might turn a pleasureable bike ride into an exhausting workout. I also thought about getting an electric assist for the hills, but that would mean that I'd be exercising less. I even thought about getting another bicycle, either a recumbent or a light weight triathalon model but I'm doing fine with what I've got for now.

Integrating exercise with commuting seems like a good idea. I'm not sure if I'll get involved with the racewalking or running groups on the weekend because at least for now I'm getting plenty of exercise just commuting to work and around town.

Let's see what exercise and a good diet does for my cholesterol. I was able to get it down quite a bit just by being a bit more careful in what I eat, doing some moderate exercise and reducing whatever stress I could out my life.
                             January    June

Total Cholesterol 289 215
LDL Cholesterol 214 121
HDL Cholesterol 48 56