Crazy thoughts and new concepts…

It has been one crazy week. It’s a reminder that anyone in public view, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a celebrity or a simple web master or blog owner, is going to eventually pick up some “constantly angry at the world”, irrational stalker who has nothing better to do than ruin a perfectly good day for someone else, even though the rest of the world sees them for what they are. But life’s too short for that, and so I have done some re-wording and removed a post that had nothing to do with this topic…. not for his benefit, because he doesn’t deserve the credit, but simply because it’s the right thing to do for ME.   No matter how we try to follow the laws and standard procedures of the internet, provide excellent service, and stay honest, there’s always going to be someone who finds a fault with it. That’s life. I see no need to stoop to their level.

Now on to the right topic…

I was thinking earlier of energy conservancy and small vehicles. I have been reading lately about some of the new solar panels that are so thin they can be applied like these vehicle wraps that you see on busses and other advertising vehicles. Just think of the possibilities that presents for things that have a lot of wide, flat surface, like vans and motorhomes. Also, there is a solar cell technology being developed by someone in Australia that will produce power (albeit limited) in total darkness! The increased efficiency would eliminate the need for worrying about which direction our cells were facing.

We could be seeing total electric recreational vehicles within  the next ten to twenty years! (Hopefully sooner rather than later!) Maybe rather than one big engine to haul their weight down the road, it could be separate individual electric motors on each wheel. That would also solve many of the problems with four wheel drive-trains, and heights of such vehicles. Also, instead of 500+ parts to worry about, you’d have one electric motor per wheel. If it goes bad, you would simply change the motor. Electric motors are relatively cheap as it is, and in mass production, the cost could be brought even lower. It would be no more involved than changing a front hub, and completed in less than half a day.

But let’s look at today’s readily available technology. Electric golf carts have been around for years already, and although some people may not know this, some are even street legal, with lights, turn signals, seat belts and everything else they need. Now think about this… we’ve all seen those LONG golf carts, like resorts use for shuttling residents to activities and such. Our park in Mesa had one, and the park next door had several.

If cars are large enough to camp in, then why wouldn’t a properly designed LONG golf cart that is street legal work just as well? Now, keep in mind, I’m not talking about plastic or canvas sides on it. After all, we don’t want to have to worry about safety. It would obvously have to have some kind of hard sides and doors to make it secure, just like a car. But think about it. It might have only the one drivers seat (could even be a swivel seat, as some single travelers have indicated they would like), or it could retain the two front seats for couples, and the whole back part flat (probably over the batteries) and eight feet long, rather than having seats in it… wouldn’t that accomplish the same purpose as a camping car or a minivan?!

Most of us have seen some of the fancy golf carts that look like roadsters, vintage cars, and even Hummers.  I like the Hummer design because it also has high ground clearance and some tough looking tires! What if that Hummer design were extended, enough to allow for bed length behind the driver’s seat, had solid sides, and a nice flat roof like a van so that it could be filled with high output solar panels? It should be able to go (at least) “longer” distances if not indefinitley (I’m thinking at least a hundred miles of constant driving every other day, or indefinite short trips EVERY day) and use the days (and /or down time) in between to come back to full charge again… without plugging into anything!

Although it may be expensive to buy or set up the way you want, once it’s done, there’s no fuel cost! No pollution! And with the right tires, should even be able to go on those back roads in the desert to explore almost indefinitley, with no worry of running out of gas!

The motors, the batteries and everything on them are already designed to haul six to eight full size adults of about 200 pounds each. Surely, you can keep your camping and traveling supplies (and yourself) to a total of less than 1600 pounds! You don’t even haul that much in your compact cars! They wouldn’t hold it!

As far as speed… most golf carts are designed for power rather than speed, so it might require some minor modifications in the gearing, and maybe a slight compromise between speed and power. After all, you wouldn’t want to get out on the highway with a vehicle that can only do 35 MPH, would you?  I think a street legal vehicle like this ought to be capable of at least 60 MPH on the highway, just for safety. If it were designed for off-road use, too, all it would need is a two-speed gearbox for slower travel. The normal speed control on the electric motor would do the rest.

I could see sizing down to something smaller than a minivan for travel camping if it were something this efficient. Think of the fuel (and dollars) you would save, and still be able to be on the go every day, seeing this beautiful country! I could make a few sacrifices, and even add on that rear tent I had talked about to make things really comfortable!

How about it, some of you engineers and retired engineers, and “would be” engineers! Anyone up for a project, to show what really can be accomplished?! Let’s hear your ideas!

And for those who would love to have standing room without a rear tent in this, a minivan, or even a full size van… stick around. I have a project coming up that will allow you to have that “Westy” style pop-top for as little as (hopefully) about $500 in materials, if you are willing to do the work yourself!

As with this minivan creation “concept”, I will present the idea and how to’s first, and then later on provide a set of working plans for it. In fact, I will probably do it on our own T&C as an experiment (hey, how much could I be out of pocket with a ’94 van, right?) By the time we wear out our van, the top will be well worth having!

But we have to stick to one project at a time. The plywood for the minivan furniture is being purchased this week, and although we have to make some room in the garage yet to work on it, the weather is finally starting to cool down a bit… at least in the mornings. Hopefully, within the next month I should have the detailed plans complete… and pictures… and videos…HURRAY!

Let’s hear some thoughts!

UPDATE! 9/4/11 6:33 PM CST:  Did you think I was kidding? I just read a short PR report from Riverside, CA about a Chinese battery maker wanting to build the first electric RV that will go 180 miles on a charge! Couple that with the new solar technology and we’ve got a winner!  Here is the report, as follows:

Hey, I don’t care where they come from, or who makes them… we NEED them!