Monday, August 18, 2008

Converting gas-powered cars to electric

* Story Highlights
* Switching his truck to an electric engine saved one man about $700 in four months
* As gas prices rose, sales tripled for one conversion parts dealer
* Some converters are fed up with spending money on gas, foreign oil
* Others like the environmental bonus of going electric

By Curt Merrill

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Larry Horsley loves that he doesn't buy much gas, even though he drives his '95 Chevy S-10 back and forth to work each day.

Horsley, a self-described do-it-yourselfer, simply plugs his truck into an electric wall outlet in his Douglasville, Georgia, garage and charges it overnight, instead of buying gasoline refined from mostly imported oil.

"If I can keep a dollar from going overseas, I'll spend two dollars," he said. The whole conversion, including the truck, cost him about $12,000, which parts dealers say is about standard.

Another Atlanta-area tinkerer, David Kennington, converted his Honda Civic del Sol from gasoline to electric for a different reason: "I'm a raging greenie," he said.

Both Horsley and Kennington are fed up. They're among a growing number of Americans who are refusing to wait for big-car manufacturers to deliver mainstream electric vehicles, called EVs. Not only have they rebelled against the status quo by ripping out their gas-guzzling engines and replacing them with zero-emission electric motors, they say just about anyone can do it.

Another electric DYI-er in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Bob Batson, has formed a company called Electric Vehicles of America that sells vehicle parts for other anti-gasoline rebels looking to convert.

Batson said business has more than tripled in the past year. "Sales trends are definitely up as the price of gasoline goes up," he said.

60 mph on 20 batteries

Outside his metal roofing business, Horsley opened up the hood of his converted Chevy truck to show how he did it. How do the engines work? We explain »

The entire process is "basically straightforward," he said, after four months driving it on electric.

"Anyone who has basic mechanical skills can build one of these," Horsley said. "But it takes time," he said, about three months. Most of that period was spent waiting for the parts to be shipped.

He's got the motor of his maroon S-10 pickup set up to run on 20 six-volt batteries, the same kind used in golf carts. The motor connects to an existing manual transmission to propel the truck up to 60 mph.

Horsley removed the vehicle's radiator to make room under the hood for a few of the batteries. The rest are concealed in the back, under the pickup's bed.

Other components such as a fuel injector were replaced with their electric counterparts and some, like the exhaust system, were removed completely.

Horsley started the conversion amid cool temperatures in January, so he didn't install air conditioning. But in August, sweltering in Georgia's brutal 90-degree heat and humidity, Horsley calls that decision a mistake -- one he won't make next time.

He said his wife won't let him convert her car, but he's looking for another used truck to convert.

The truck can travel about 40 miles without damaging the lead-acid batteries before the vehicle needs recharging, Horsley said. But he said 40 miles is enough to get to and from work and run errands around town.

While limited range is the main disadvantage of electric vehicles, most people don't need to drive very far on a regular basis, said Batson.

"What people don't always realize is that the average person only drives 20 miles per day," he said.

Cost versus savings

For his part, Kennington describes his sports-car red Honda as a "science experiment." He first converted the two-seater into an electric vehicle four years ago and has been tinkering with it ever since. He's swapped out components and tried multiple battery configurations.

With his current nine-battery setup Kennington gets about 20 miles per charge, so he only drives it on short trips a couple times a week from his Austell, Georgia, home.

"I did it for the learning experience," he said.

Kennington said he's waiting for better battery technologies, like nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion, to become more affordable. Those batteries can provide more power with less weight for increased range, but currently cost $10,000 to $20,000 per set, compared with about $2,000 for lead acid batteries, he said.

"I hope at some point that I will be able to drive it on a more regular basis and that it will be more useful," he said. "Do I expect it to someday to be my only car? No."

He said most people who own electric cars also have a gasoline or hybrid vehicle for longer trips.

Kennington is president of the EV Club of the South, a group of electric vehicle owners and enthusiasts. He said interest in EVs is directly tied to gas prices.

"When gas goes up, more people call me and more people come to the meetings," he said.

Horsley estimated that he has saved $700 since switching to electric four months ago. He's quick to point out that that's just the savings on gas. He also doesn't have to pay for oil or filter changes, since there is no engine oil or fuel filters to change.

"I was originally skeptical," he said. "But now I'm convinced."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Toronto High School Under Attack

OSSTF's Toronto district approves debate request by 2 teachers
Last Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2007 | 10:51 AM ET
CBC News

A decision approving a request by two Toronto high school teachers to have a union debate on whether to condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinians has come under fire by human rights groups.

The motion, set to be debated later Thursday, was brought by English teacher and Jewish activist Jason Kunin, who has often criticized the Israeli government, and Hyssam Hulays, a computer science teacher.

It was approved by the Toronto district of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, and is being opposed by B'nai Brith and the Jewish Defence League.

"The level of discourse has been just incredibly low and vile," district union president Doug Jolliffe told the Canadian Press about approving the debate. "But to turn and say we cannot have any kind of discussions on this…. It's not Holocaust denial, where there is no argument to be made."

It speaks of "Israel's continued violation of the human rights of Palestinians," and asks the union to create classroom materials on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to support an international boycott of Israel.

B'nai Brith has launched an e-mail campaign calling on teachers and others to contact the union local and urge it to drop the motion. The Jewish Defence League says it will picket the meeting.

B'nai Brith members worry anti-Israeli sentiment could turn anti-Semitic and find its way into the classrooms.

They say the motion ignores human-rights abuses in other countries and there's no condemnation of Palestinian violence.

B'nai Brith executive director Frank Dimant told CBC News the resolution is about "bringing hate into the classroom.

"This is not an opportunity to discuss. This is bringing propaganda into the classroom. And I think propaganda has no place in Canadian classrooms."

The motion also calls on the union to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper to criticize Israel's "aggression" against Gaza and Lebanon, and end sanctions against the Palestinians' Hamas government.

Neither Kunin nor Hulays returned calls to their schools on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hiroshima Peace Declaration 2008

Tehran Times Political desk

TEHRAN - On the 63rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, solemn ceremonies were held today in Hiroshima and other cities in memory of the victims of the tragedy and to encourage people to work for world peace and nuclear disarmament.

Thousands of people, including Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and elderly hibakusha (atomic bombing survivors), attended the ceremony at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park.

Following is the complete text of Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba’s Hiroshima Peace Declaration 2008:

Another August 6, and the horrors of 63 years ago arise undiminished in the minds of our hibakusha, whose average age now exceeds 75. “Water, please!” “Help me!” “Mommy!” -- On this day, we, too, etch in our hearts the voices, faces and forms that vanished in the hell no hibakusha can ever forget, renewing our determination that “No one else should ever suffer as we did.”

Because the effects of that atomic bomb, still eating away at the minds and bodies of the hibakusha, have for decades been so underestimated, a complete picture of the damage has yet to emerge. Most severely neglected have been the emotional injuries. Therefore, the city of Hiroshima is initiating a two-year scientific exploration of the psychological impact of the A-bomb experience.

This study should teach us the grave import of the truth, born of tragedy and suffering, that “the only role for nuclear weapons is to be abolished.”

This truth received strong support from a report compiled last November by the city of Hiroshima. Scientists and other nuclear-related experts exploring the damage from a postulated nuclear attack found once again that the only way to protect citizens from such an attack is the total abolition of nuclear weapons. This is precisely why the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Court of Justice advisory opinion state clearly that all nations are obligated to engage in good-faith negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, even leaders previously central to creating and implementing U.S. nuclear policy are now repeatedly demanding a world without nuclear weapons.

We who seek the abolition of nuclear weapons are the majority. United Cities and Local Governments, which represents the majority of the Earth’s population, has endorsed the Mayors for Peace campaign. One hundred and ninety states have ratified the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. One hundred and thirteen countries and regions have signed nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties. Last year, 170 countries voted in favor of Japan’s UN resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Only three countries, the U.S. among them, opposed this resolution. We can only hope that the president of the United States elected this November will listen conscientiously to the majority, for whom the top priority is human survival.

To achieve the will of the majority by 2020, Mayors for Peace, now with 2,368 city members worldwide, proposed in April of this year a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol to supplement the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This Protocol calls for an immediate halt to all efforts, including by nuclear-weapon states, to obtain or deploy nuclear weapons, with a legal ban on all acquisition or use to follow by 2015. Thus, it draws a concrete road map to a nuclear-weapon-free world. Now, with our destination and the map to that destination clear, all we need is the strong will and capacity to act to guard the future for our children.

World citizens and like-minded nations have achieved treaties banning anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions. Meanwhile, the most effective measures against global warming are coming from cities. Citizens cooperating at the city level can solve the problems of the human family because cities are home to the majority of the world’s population, cities do not have militaries, and cities have built genuine partnerships around the world based on mutual understanding and trust.

The Japanese Constitution is an appropriate point of departure for a “paradigm shift” toward modeling the world on intercity relationships. I hereby call on the Japanese government to fiercely defend our Constitution, press all governments to adopt the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol, and play a leading role in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons. I further request greater generosity in designating A-bomb illnesses and in relief measures appropriate to the current situations of our aging hibakusha, including those exposed in “black rain areas” and those living overseas.

Next month the G8 Speakers’ Meeting will, for the first time, take place in Japan. I fervently hope that Hiroshima’s hosting of this meeting will help our “hibakusha philosophy” spread throughout the world.

Now, on the occasion of this 63rd anniversary Peace Memorial Ceremony, we offer our heartfelt lamentations for the souls of the atomic bomb victims and, in concert with the city of Nagasaki and with citizens around the world, pledge to do everything in our power to accomplish the total eradication of nuclear weapons.

Tadatoshi Akiba

Mayor of the City of Hiroshima