putting my money where my mouth is

My work commute is only 10 miles, but it’s still annoying. I’ve never had a car commute before. In high school I rode my bike, in college I walked (and froze, when I moved off campus), after college I took the bus into NYC and walked or took the subway (and froze). Rural life is wonderful (and the delight of a warm cozy car is one I will cop to) but it does involve trips to the gas station, which is an annoyance and interruption in my generally holier-than-thou lifestyle.

So I’ve been researching electric cars. After an entire day imagining how awesome my life would be with an electric sparrow (I guess they are called NMG cars now) I woke up and realized that

1) I just can’t afford a new car right now, and

2) the truth is that I haul so much produce around that a one-person car just won’t cut it for me.

Every week I pack my smallish station wagon with tomatoes and garlic and summer squash and recycling (my landlord has no recycling program so I haul all my recycling home. It’s just as fun as it sounds.) and so much more, including sometimes people who never fail to remark on the lingering aroma of homemade garlic vinegar that was en route to my palace of fermentation (aka the basement) a few weeks ago when a squirrel dashed into the road and caused the precious, precarious vinegar to slosh out of its container. Vinegar really hangs around. But the squirrel is still hanging around too, so what can ya do.

a tiny picture of cute and tiny cars

So I moved onto something smaller to use on the days when I’m not hauling (about half the time) – a scooter!

A nice used Vespa is what naturally came to mind, but I’m sick of oily blood on my hands and am determined to get an electric scooter. My sweetheart got on the case and we talked about my requirements: cuteness, reasonable speed, and reasonable distance without a charge.

I’m really excited about our (OK; his) findings: the R-30 from EVT America. It’s a vintage-inspired scooter that goes up to 45 mph (fine for my commute – I can take a back road that is 40 mph), can go for up to 30 miles without a charge (maybe more for me though, because I weigh less than the 160 lb driver they tested for), and can be charged with a regular plug.

I took the plunge and got on the waiting list (it won’t be available until September). I am busily saving money in order to afford it, and am hoping it will arrive before it gets super cold and it’s no fun to ride.

Also, the last time I rode a motorcycle I was 10 and a druggie friend of my dad’s (he had a tattoo of a tiger around his entire body and literally lived in a van down by the river) took me for a ride. I’m going to try to go for some practice runs with friends who have cycles before the scooter arrives. Plus, the roads I’ll be riding on are very rural and quiet.

You might be wondering if the whole electric thing is an environmental toss-up if someone (like, say, me) doesn’t have solar panels (or a geothermal system, etc) on their house. Good question. A small percentage of our energy (less than 10%) does come from sustainable sources (primarily wind) through Community Energy. In addition, until we save up for, design, and build our 100% off-the-grid geothermal dream hizzy on the land (I am thinking this will happen within, say, 50 years. My sweetheart has decided it will happen within 10 years. We’ll see.) we’re hoping to put rented solar panels on our house.

Rented solar panels, who knew, right? Isn’t that a neat idea? It won’t save us as much money as buying the panels would over the long term, but Hudson Valley Clean Energy came out to give us an estimate for solar panels, and it turns out that it would take us forty years to see any savings. Paying for forty years’ worth of energy in one lump sum isn’t exactly a possibility for us, so we found this company and are on their waiting list for rented solar panels. I have about four friends who are on the same waiting list, and we all are excited and yet also somehow think this company might be a scam, but none of us can put our fingers on why. At any rate, none of us have put any money down, so we’ll see what happens.

One more thing – heating oil users: did you know you can replace some of the oil in your tank with biodiesel? I’ve been researching and talking to people about it, and apparently it’s true and safe and OK – everyone I talk to seems to think that it’s not the best idea to replace all your oil with biodiesel though, just some. I found a guy on Craigslist who is selling biodiesel for less than the price of oil, and am excited to try it out this winter.

Can baby steps avert the apocalypse? I guess we’ll see.

6 Responses to “putting my money where my mouth is”

  1. Dustin Rhodes

    I drove a scooter for about 8 years. I had two Vespas and then, about two years ago, I bought a Bajaj Chetak. I got over 100 miles per gallon easily, and the scooter was incredibly amazing. I loved it. It was beautiful, totally reliable and low-maintenance. Plus, it went about 60 mph. I would, if I were you, weigh lots of options. Both of my Vespas only went about 45 miles per hour, and I never felt safe not being able to speed up when I needed to. The Bajaj is the only scooter I ever felt totally and completely safe on. It was peppy and very sturdy. Yes, it runs on gasoline. But I would recommend looking into that. Go test drive. I don’t have a scooter any longer now that I live in a city. I miss it terribly. But specifically I miss the Bajaj. Thankfully, I sold it to a friend, so I get to keep in touch.

  2. Ilene

    I have to think that a used anything (Vespa, moped, whatever) would have less of an impact than a new electric powered something. This is one of those things that’s super hard to calculate. A friend asked me what kind of car I would get if the car fairy came down and offered me one, and I have no friggin idea. Used with high mpg? Used and convert to biodiesel? New with the best technology available? I tend to think that one of the used options would have the lightest impact, but I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision. (Though if the car fairy is reading this, don’t pay attention to that statement! I’ll take the car!)

    Re your own energy not be currently green, if you can’t find a green energy ESCO in your area (and here in NYC I had like 10 to choose from – very complicated decision actually) you can always offset your dirty fuel with Sterling Planet. You buy a package of kilowatts, I think 400 is the minimum, and they send you a monthly bill for the amount you’ve paid for (10/month for 400, 15 for 600, etc). That much green energy goes back into the grid.

    Safe motoring, chica. WEAR A HELMET.

  3. lagusta

    Hmm, some good points, thank you both!
    Although I’m a huge fan of used everything, I totally forgot to consider that yes, a used scooter would be better than a new one. The thing is though, I have some weird hatred of going to the gas station and the idea of plugging the scooter into my house is deeply appealing. The Bajaj Chetak certainly looks interesting though. I will keep turning it over in my head…

  4. Dustin Rhodes

    I am just deeply, madly, totally in love with the Bajaj Chetak. It’s an amazing scooter.

  5. Ilene

    At 100 mpg, you won’t be going to the gas station very often! And it does feel good to be able to pay for your gas with a 10 dollar bill, when everyone else is forking over their credit cards. Whatever you get, enjoy. Post pics. Give us a ride.


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