7 reasons why an Electric Vehicle is not just about the Environment

I live in an area of the United States where most people think “environmentalism” is a dirty word. Ironic, since it’s the opposite of dirty, but it’s something I have to work around should I want to remain cordial with the people in my community.

I bought an Electric Vehicle (EV) just over three months ago, and boy I wasn’t prepared for the constant bombardment of interaction with strangers because of it. I’m perfectly happy to answer questions, or listen to their criticism, but I learned pretty early on the best way to approach the topic in a place with people who have quite a different world view than I do. So when someone starts out with a snide question such as “So, you must be a tree hugger or somethin’, huh?” I begin like this:

Let’s put aside the whole climate change / global warming debate, and let’s talk about the reasons why you might want to buy an EV.

1) Cleaner air

Doesn’t matter what you believe about what’s bad for the earth, it’s a pretty widely accepted fact that polluted air is bad for humans. It’s also a widely accepted fact that air pollution is primarily caused by cars, particularly in urban areas. Certain cities have it pretty bad, including the one I live in. Since we’re in a valley, inversions are common and people die as a result of bad air days.

If everyone in the city drove an EV, there would be far less air pollution, at least on a local level. The coal power plant that’s far away will spew its exhaust for the cow’s to breathe, not us. So, I drive an EV because air pollution is a public health issue.

2) Convenience

The “how far can I go?” question is entirely a moot point for most people. I rarely drive more than 70 miles in a day, and few people need to drive more. Most EVs have more range than that. When I do drive longer, I typically know I’m going to need to ahead of time, and can make plans if that’s what it comes down to. So despite having an EV that can go 265 miles on a single charge (so I don’t have to make plans nearly as much as if I had a car that could only do 100), I never ask myself “am I going to make it?” It’s a simple question of math. You don’t let yourself run out of gas, and you wouldn’t let yourself run out of charge.

That said, I plug my car in when I get home. In the morning, it’s always full. I never have to stop and refuel unless I’m going on a long road trip. And with 4 kids in the car, believe me, I need to stop every couple hours anyway.

People spend more time than they realize at gas stations. It’s not just the time it takes to park, get out, pay, pump, and leave. It’s the detour from your route. It’s the having to hunt around for a gas station on the way home because you drove to work on fumes because you forgot to fill it up over the weekend and you didn’t want to be late to work on Monday.

Then there’s the silly people who drive miles out of the way to get fuel that is a few cents cheaper per gallon. What a waste.

Bottom line, I just get in my car and drive, and snicker whenever I drive past a gas station.

3) Lower Cost

But your EV is very expensive“. Well, so is your enormous SUV. Or your luxury sedan, or sports car, or pickup truck. Nobody ever makes a big deal about the cost of a gas car. The topic didn’t come up at all when my coworker bought his Lexus (which costs more than my car, by the way, and he now has extreme buyers remorse now that he’s ridden in my car). But the moment you start talking about EVs, suddenly cost becomes the center issue. Really?

Up front cost aside, I’m thinking long term costs here. Gas cars cost a lot to maintain compared to EVs; you have oil changes, spark plug replacements, tubes that leak, and any one of over a thousand moving parts . Let’s hope something like your transmission doesn’t go out before the warranty is up; I’ve had to replace one before, they are NOT cheap. And then, of course, there’s the fuel. That’s a cost that never goes away, is never cheap, and has deep economic consequences that nobody likes to talk about.

It costs me a dollar to drive 30 miles, and that’s assuming I paid for the all of the electricity in the first place. Many work places offer free EV charging. EV charging spots in parking spots of shopping malls and grocery stores and becoming more and more common. Essentially, I’m paying a lot more per mile in tire wear and tare than I am in fuel. Thousands upon thousands of dollars in savings per year. And, of course, the higher your mileage requirements, the sooner you’ll get your return on investment in fuel savings alone.

4) Sustainability

I don’t mean environmental sustainability, I’m talking about stable fuel costs. The price of gasoline is incredibly volatile. Electricity, on the other hand, has a very predictable cost.

When the price of gas spikes, and the economy slows. The price of everything goes up, because everything requires transport. Businesses make less money, products costs more so people have less money, and, of course, people have to put more of their already hurting budgets into buying more expensive fuel. It’s a vicious cycle.

I could then start to talk about installing solar to charge your car and how it’s cost has grid parity and the predictable long-term energy costs thereof, but I won’t get into that because, well, solar is another dirty word where I live. I’m the only home owner in my entire neighborhood with solar panels. I’m also pretty sure I’m the only one in the neighborhood with an EV. Considering where I live, a part of me is glad my south facing roof faces away from the road.

5) Independence

Like it or not, the United States lives and breathes oil, and most of it isn’t produced locally. Our country is completely and hopelessly dependent on foreign oil. Why? Because we need it to fuel our transportation. It’s a simple as that. Cut off the oil, people can’t drive places, and a lot of very bad things happen as a result.

They say that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. I respectfully disagree. Hell hath no fury like an American who has to adhere to fuel rations, or wait in line to buy gas. It’s happened before, and eventually, it will happen again. I fear that next time it does, it’ll be a lot worse.

If everyone drove an EV, we wouldn’t need foreign oil. Not in the way we do today, anyway.

6) Performance

Honestly, this is a thing I used to not care for. I had a Camaro because it looked nice, not because it went fast.

Well, all it takes is one experience in your Dodge Caravan trying to get onto the freeway when a fleet of Semi trucks won’t slow down for you to make you care about performance.

No matter how little horse power your EV has, it has instant torque. There are no gears to shift through; all the power of your motor is instantly available to you, which means you can get going up to a sufficient speed in very little time.

I consider the ability for a car to accelerate in this way a safety feature. Performance matters, even if you don’t use it all that often.

7) Setting an example for my children

It’s one thing to talk to your children about things that are important, it’s entirely something else to make them experience it. It’s about making abundantly clear what your priorities are, and making decisions with them in mind. Buying an EV is an investment in my personal finances, the long term economics of my community and country, and of course, my commitment to the environment. What better way to show my children that if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing right?

I could take an expensive family vacation every year, and buy every new gadget that comes out. Or, I can drive and EV. I could buy a bigger, nicer house; or I can install solar panels. And you know what? In the long run, I’ll find myself with more money than I would have otherwise due to the return on investment, so we will, one day, get to have our cake and eat it too.

It is said that for true happiness, you should spend your money on experiences rather than things. While an EV is a thing, driving it is an experience in and of itself, one that I have and enjoy every single day of my life. Trust me, if for no other reason than the driving experience, I will never again buy a gas car.

My online “office hours”

I am mentoring the develop a kpatch delivery mechanism for the CentOS Google Summer of Code (GSoC) project. Per my recent “office hours” email to the CentOS GSoC, I’ll be online from 10pm to 11pm US Mountain time on weekdays in the #centos-gsoc and #centos-devel chat rooms on irc.freenode.net

I’ve decided that I’ll keep these hours even after the project ends. If anyone wants to get in touch with me outside of email, just drop me a chat during those hours. My username is cormander.

tpe-lkm version 1.1.0 released

A few weeks ago I go an email that tpe-lkm didn’t build on EL7. To be honest, I didn’t even know that EL7 had been released, I’ve been so disconnected from things outside of family and work the past few years.

Anyway, I got back to work and now everything is nice and ready for release. You can download it from the tpe-lkm github project page. It has a few new features as well.

Happy TPE’ing!

The winter solstice is my new year

It’s always made more sense to me that the start of the year should happen on a solstice, like it does on the hobbit calendar. That being said, I’ll make my new years resolution today, on Yule, the celebration of the winter solstice and the renewing of the sun.

2012 hasn’t been the best year for me personally. I’ve been in a pretty bad place mentally and while I blame the stress of my job and having a large family, I have to take some personal responsibility too. I’ve been a bit of a sloth, and it’s only hurt my personal relationships.

2013 is going to be the year I turn that around. This next year I’ll start back up coding on open source projects again, being less anti-social, and finding a better work/family/me balance. This next year, I’ll be a better person.

Okay so that’s a generic (and a bit cliche) of a new years resolution, but there you have it. May your 2013 be better than 2012 as well.

Happy Turkey Day!

For those of you who loosen their belts and consume unhealthy amounts of food today, have a merry time! For those of you who don’t, you’re free of all the family drama.

For those of you who say “Happy needless turkey murder day”, the needless turkey murders happened about a month ago. Today would be “needless turkey consumption day”.

Whichever of the above you fall under, have a great day.

Flying a spaceship is hard

Growing up as a kid I always dreamt of flying around in space. I watched all the sci-fi shows, and had more make-believe sessions than I can count during my childhood. Never once did I think about exactly how to fly one; I just imagined that I flew one, and that I was damn good at it too.

Last week I came across a flight simulator called Orbiter. In it, you get to fly spacecraft in a realistic physics environment. Now, as an adult I know my chances of flying into space are pretty much nil, but the game basically shattered what glimpse of hope I had left about flying into space. I’ll state the obvious: flying a spaceship is hard. Just getting into orbit is a trick. Make it into a stable orbit? A geosynchronous orbit? Land on a moving target (flying to the moon)? You can’t just point your spaceship and “go” like they do in the movies, you really have to do the math, you really have to know what all the controls do, you really have to have the patience. This simulator may have a “time warp” feature to fast-forward, but real life doesn’t. Space is vast, and this simulator shows it real well.

Now, I knew all these things, I guess it just never hit me how difficult it is. Well, now the fantasy is over, and from this moment forward I’ll watch sci-fi media with even more humorous skepticism. People make entire careers out of flying spaceships, and even then a lot of them don’t get to go up into space. After flying in Orbiter, I have even more respect for those at NASA than I ever had.

Childhood (and adulthood) dream shattering aside, it’s a fun simulator. My only complaint is, when you crash, you ricochet off the ground into an out-of-control spin, there is no explosion. Oh well!

My presentation at LinuxCon 2012 in San Diego

Just under two weeks ago I gave a talk at LinuxCon 2012 in San Diego. It was a great experience, and I hope to do it again in the future. Too bad I could only stay for one day, as I could only break away from work for a short amount of time. Here is a link to my time slot.

The title of the presentation was “Distribution Kernel Hardening”. It talked about kprobes, ksplice, and my tpe-lkm kernel module.

I have uploaded my presentation slides and my speaker notes if you would like to have a look, since my session wasn’t recorded. Enjoy!

Cryptomentation

Ever had to read documentation that wasn’t well written, was full of gaps, or just didn’t make a whole lot of sense? I’ve created a word for documentation like this: cryptomentation. Because it’s documentation that’s cryptic.

A somewhat related random quote:

“Why would there be documentation? It’s called “code” for a reason.” -Unknown

AKARI – TOMOYO via LKM

I recently sent an abstract to LinuxCon / Kernel Security Summit, and the other day I heard back from one of the panel members. As I mentioned my thoughts on implementing AppArmor on CentOS/RHEL via LKM, he replied about a project that he threw together called AKARI. It’s a fork of TOMOYO, and inserts into the linux kernel in a very similar way to how I was planning on doing AppArmor, and have been recently been toying with in tpe-lkm.

All I can say is, that’s a whole lot of code I won’t have to figure out :) He’s already solved some of the problems I’ve been facing. I haven’t used TOMOYO before so I haven’t given this module a test yet beyond inserting it into one of my test systems, but so far it appears to work as advertised. As my time permits I’ll throw up a git repo called kmod-apparmor, which contains some of this code, and continue my work on it.