It seemed innocent enough to me. And to some of you out there (like Alex Bransky and Trisha Lacey) what I did last week will probably sound like a great idea. To others (like George Bush -- BTW thanks for reading my blog man) it may seem unAmerican. But I'd do it again, in a heartbeat! What is it, you're no doubt wondering? While making travel arrangements for a business trip to Washington D.C. I decided to skip the rental car entirely and bring along an electric scooter, checked as baggage. It's a fairly portable 37 pound thing, and fits inside my largest duffel bag.
This isn't the first time I've taken it on the plane, and each time I do it fetches lots of interesting questions at the airline ticket counter, the first of which is always, "That's not gas powered, is it?" When I drag it off the baggage carousel at my destination, always there's a cute little love note from the TSA informing me that curiosity got the best of them and they took a look inside the bag.
|Charging 2 of the 3 batteries in the scooter
After arriving at Dulles I simply rode the bus (for my future reference it was the 5A, which costs $3 and stops at Roslyn which is a metro station), then a subway to a stop within three miles of the hotel where I was staying. At that point I plopped my suitcase on the deck of the thing, sat on it, and rode off into the sunset.
I weigh in at 140 lbs, and the suitcase and carryon bag added another 55 pounds. With around 200 pounds onboard it ended up being kinda slow on the hills. But it made it. After dumping the luggage at the room I took it out for a spin to go get dinner, and with just me onboard it was nice and zippy. During the week I clocked a total of 40 miles on the scooter, and even in areas with some hills it did pretty well.
This old rig, a Razor E300, had started life with lead acid batteries onboard. But due to the heavy weight of the cells, and the limited range, I replaced them with much better (albeit expensive) lithium batteries. Not the same exploding kind in laptops. Those are made with cobalt, and although they have higher capacity, they can't withstand a high current load. Instead I used lithium manganese batteries, the kind found in the newest power tools that are hitting the market. With three 28 volt batteries onboard, I get 5-6 miles of range in hilly areas, or 7 miles where it's flat. And it recharges in just an hour! Totally convenient.
Luckily for me the weather was perfect, not hot at all. And there was only one day of rain during the week, and even then it was dry when I was actually out commuting. So it ended up being the perfect form of transportation.
On Saturday I took some time to sightsee around all the monuments at the National Mall. After looking around for a few hours the juice ran out, so I stopped in at the Hard Rock and recharged while eating lunch. All topped off again I did another hour of looking around, and still had enough charge left to drag my heavy suitcase from the hotel back out to the metro station for the subway ride to the airport. This time I tried out a different (nicer) bus service -- the Washington Flyer that leaves from the West Falls Church station. Cost was $9 for that leg of the trip.
After testing out this scooter, I'm a big believer in lithium-powered electric vehicles. Costs me one cent in electricity every 4 miles. I love it. I can't wait until the majority of America discovers that by using an electric vehicle to commute, it's ultra-cheap, and you give up very little in terms of convenience. Bring on the plug-in hybrids!
Here's a post in a forum about scooters that gives more specifics about how I set up the batteries.