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August 29, 2003

eGo economics - or, should J stop worrying and learn to love the eGo?

I was facetiously suggesting this evening that I buy an eGo for J, given that I've had such a good time riding mine, and that we've found ourselves in several situations lately where she was driving a car to meet me someplace, or returning from someplace, while I was riding my eGo.

Given that I bought at the pre-$999 price point and got a rebate I haven't spent yet, I could make the eGo-for-J quite a bit cheaper, especially if I can compound that discount with my hopefully soon-to-arrive evangelist program discounts.

Intrigued by the idea, I sat down to figure out what the base costs would be. I was thinking maybe I'd split the cost with her, since it'd be more fun for me, and I have a significantly larger disposable income. In the midst of my musings, J pointed out that there was another option I hadn't been accounting for - with an eGo, she could sell her car. Woah. That changes everything.

I quickly drew up a spreadsheet. I calculated the cost of the eGo, with the accessories she'd probably want, and minus my expected discounts. Throw in a helmet, shipping and registration. That brings the eGo to around $1000 again (they gave me a pretty hefty rebate for buying so close to the price drop...).

Then, we looked at the blue book for her car, and her car payments. Looks like she just recently passed the point where the car's worth more than she has left on the loan. That's good news. And that's before we actually sell it (well, ok, it could sell for less, given the market conditions around here, so that's iffy). Of course, the number I used for her outstanding loan is the sum of her remaining payments, not that actual balance of the debt. It should cost somewhat less to buy out the loan than that.

Delving a little deeper, I threw in the cost of insurance (about $80/mo less for just motorcycle insurance than for car insurance), the amount she spends on gas (she, like I, would not pay any increased utility costs for charging the eGo), and her parking permit.

Turns out, if she can live life with the eGo, and only occasionally rent a car (say, 8-10 days a year), she'll come out about $3000 ahead the first year. Since she's got 2 more years, at least, in her program, this is not unrealistic. Living on campus has its advantages, and Stanford has lots of ways of supplementing transit because of the low amount of parking on campus. Heck, if she moves off campus, she can start collecting another $160 or so as an incentive Stanford offers to those who don't need a permit on campus. If she manages with the eGo for two years, she's saved well enough to make the difference between buying a new car and a used one at the end of her program. Pretty incredible.

Now, why is this all so possible? Basically, I think, as a grad student living on campus, a car isn't a very good deal. So, a reasonably solid car-substitute-only-cheaper is. Now that J is over 25, renting a car is also fairly cheap, and there are at least a half dozen rental places within the eGo's operating range, making it pretty compatible with occasional jaunts of larger distances. Having a boyfriend who is keeping his car helps, too, for socializing and whatnot. Goodness knows the mass transit in the peninsula isn't sufficient.

She's going to make the decision soon, but I think we'll soon see how J stopped worrying and learned to love her eGo.

August 25, 2003

Silliness in the Valley

I've seen plenty of instances of much-larger-than-should be vehicles, normally SUVs, in spots labeled "compact", or "small car", but this recent occurrence takes the cake. Thanks to J for getting a pic of it.

Yes, that really is an SUV parked across two spots labelled "small car". No shame, none at all.

August 20, 2003

eGo roundup (discounts, flats, safety), PotD

It's getting a bit tedious to do day-by-day updates, so here's a summary:

eGo has dropped their prices, at least for "Back to School". It's now $999 for an eGo 2 Cycle through their website. Yes, I once again got burned (can anyone say iBook? Yeah, model upgrade and $200 that time, too). I called them, though, and they didn't leave me totally out in the dark.

I got a flat on the eGo Monday morning. That made for kind of an annoying day (not to mention that PARC didn't have Internet, thanks to a rather annoying version of MSBlaster, and a lot of unpatched machines). I fixed it with a fresh tube, which I proceeded to blow out (yeah, very loud). Sage wisdom: Before inflating a 100p.s.i. bike tire at a filling station, make sure that their gauge runs to the same range of pressures as you're filling. I'm fortunate to still have both my hearing and my sight... others have been less lucky with blowouts.

However, because it was violent, it makes for the Picture of the Day:

Pretty impressive, eh? Replacing that mistake was a little more difficult - the eGo can use normal inner tubes (although "thorn resistant" ones are recommended), but it must have high pressure tires, especially for a heavy rider such as myself. Calling around bike shops, it's not impossible to find such a beast, and I eventually ended up purchasing a replacement at Chain Reaction in Redwood City. I didn't realize it until I was being wrung up, but I even bought the exact same model tire as my eGo came with, which isn't even the one that the eGo folks were recommending over the phone.

In all the rear-tire maintenance, I had to re-tension the eGo drive belt twice. The first time, just before the blowout, I had it just right. Today, after a second trade, including the whole tire this time (and 100p.s.i. tires are hard to get off of the frame, too, in case you couldn't guess), I wasn't as successful. Good tools help, though. Yesterday I was using an entirely inadequate wrench, today I had tools that fit well, and snug, just not enough time to tweak.

Because of my foolishness Monday night, I've cost myself an extra two days of commuting with the old gas guzzler. Put gas into it today for the first time since I got the eGo in late July, though. At 2.05 for the cheap gas, I'm looking forward to a lot of eGo miles in the future....

August 13, 2003

Should we take on the RIAA?

No, no, not literally take them on. Let the culture change around them, as it seems to be (and why does no one quoting their sales as down over the last two years try to correlate that to the larger market situation? Sheesh).

What I'm interested in is a possible experiment. The RIAA seems to be using automated systems to look for infringers. But they're not being very selective. Some people propose honeypots, but I have another idea, which seems totally socially and legally valid, which would cause them to reconsider their methods, and stop accusing people for completely invalid reasons.

My suggestion is for people to begin making mp3s of their reactions to music that they love. I'm going to try to put together a sample site soon, and maybe even be willing to host a bunch of the files. Sit down with some earphones, some sound recording software, and have at. Try to make the mp3s the right length, and go ahead and name them after the song you were listening to. Obviously, you should own a copy of the song... that's the law. If you can find a link to the album at Amazon or that it's for sale on iTunes, that'd also be useful to note.

Anyone with me? Feedback is appreciated.

August 12, 2003

eGo, day 9

I've ridden the eGo to and from work every day since last Tuesday. As a commuter vehicle, it does a good job. It would still be nice to have some sort of quick-refillable range boost. Hydrogen fuel cells - how many years off are you?

6) PARC researcher (not related to last night) - Parked his bike at the bike rack next to mine, then asked me the whole 9 yards. Didn't realize there were no pedals at first, and expected it to be totally silent (the eGo makes very little noise, but is not silent). I tried to explain that the weight would make pedaling quite a chore, but I don't know if he understood me. Seemed interested, all the same.

August 11, 2003

eGo, day 8

More interested passers-by:

4) PARC researchers, as I was leaving. Waited patiently in their carpool car until I took off. I expect a follow-up on this one.

5) Guy at Safeway - asks about eGo, charging time, etc. Seemed interested in how applicable it was to that task (carrying groceries).

August 05, 2003

eGo, day 4

I took a vacation over the weekend, that's why I haven't blogged any more eGo days since last week.

Today was another Ultimate day, but my first day commuting all the way from home in one trip. It went pretty well... one thing I find I have to do with the eGo is build a new set of maps in my head. I've already got the "bike-able routes" map... you know, maximizing uninterrupted speed, flatness, minimizing the top speed cars are allowed to go around you, bike lanes, etc. Likewise, I have the "drivable routes" map in my head, too. Now I've got to establish the "eGo routes".

It's a different process, right? Lots of the neighborhoods around here have blockades in place to "calm" traffic. But they're designed to be bike-able. So far as I can tell, they should be eGo-able too, for the same reason as I'm allowed to ride in the bike lane when it's attached to a road. Not like I'm making a lot of noise - the eGo is very quiet. But, hills are less of a problem than on a bike. At the same time, I can't ride on bike-only paths, of which there are quite a few in Silicon Valley that could shorten my travel distance. And riding on roads with a 35 mph or greater speed limit, even in a bike lane, is still nice to avoid.

So, I'll be doing that. It means that, given a starting point and a destination, there will be more or less 3 different routes I will take, depending on the means of transportation I'm employing. Strange stuff.

Another thing: eGo has an "evangelist" program. So, if you read my blog and are interested in the eGo, let me know, and I'll hook you up. They built the program to both reward me, for telling you about the eGo and getting you excited, and you, so you won't be bitter that I'm the one getting all the perks. Write me here if you want to cash in. Unless, of course, you're a spambot. In which case... go away. Thanks!