Category Archives: Hardware

Wisconsin is presumably getting more charging?

One of my largest pandemic purchases was a 2016 VW e-Golf and it is a great car but the relatively limited transportation in the great state of Wisconsin means that longer trips aren’t really doable.  Since I am neither a traveling salesman nor a political candidate, that doesn’t tend to be an issue but if I was still commuting daily to Kohler, it might be.

The other day, I was reading an article that said that the governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin had created something called the Regional Electric Vehicle Midwest Coalition.  The plan promises to make it easier to find charging stations, which could boost adoption of electric vehicles if it eases drivers’ concerns about the range of their batteries.  You can read the full Memorandum of Understanding for more details.

I do hope that this spurs modernization of the regional transportation infrastructure but I’m not holding my breath.

Nine electric cars that you can buy in 2021 for under $20,000

Back in May 2020, I bought my first electric car.  I spent a little over $11k for the thing (including shipping).  That was a good deal at the time but I got to wondering what you can currently buy for under $20k.  After all, it has been over a year since then and the used market has grown.  Used car prices have been a little crazy lately, though.

For this experiment, I looked on Autotrader and limited the search radius to within 300 miles of Milwaukee.  I also limited the search to models that are no older than five years. Continue reading Nine electric cars that you can buy in 2021 for under $20,000

Squeaky bike is squeaky

Last year, I talked about the e-bike that I bought back in 2018 with the goal of having something to comfortably commute to and from work.  2700 miles later, I’m not using it to bike to work as much.  Part of that is the fact that I have spent the past 18 months working from home but I also expect the new job to be a lot less bikeable.  Last year, I was contemplating a backup bike for while the main one is in the shop.  This year, I’m wondering if it is even possible to bike to work in the best of times.

In place of the ~15min daily commute to work, I have started doing more pleasure rides and the new truck helps a lot with that.  Before I bought the first of the two trucks, every ride had to start and end at my house.  Now, I can drive to a trailhead, unload the bike, and do trail segments that are normally out of reach.

So, the question that I have is if I should contemplate an upgrade, go back to the “backup bike” idea, or do nothing.  Doing nothing is probably a good default but the call of a new bike is always strong and if I get a $5k trek or something, I automatically have a backup bike.

Have a suggestion?  Feel free to drop a comment, below.

I bought a cheap pick-up truck … again

You might have remembered that a few months ago, I bought a cheap 2007 Chevy Colorado and then two months later, it was totalled by a tree branch.  Since then, I also found what remains of it for sale on a copart lot.  Well, I managed to finally buy a replacement truck.  I got a 2000 Ford Ranger for $4,400.  It is smaller and not as well equipped but I think that it is going to work well for what I need it to do.

It does need a little work to keep the rust at bay, though.  This past weekend, I stopped by the junkyard and picked up a cheap replacement fender.  I also bought new seat covers for it, moved the spare into the bed (a lesson that I learned with my 1992 Explorer), and bought some cans of undercoat and rust reformer for the frame.  Everything else seems fine but I also want to replace the head unit just because it would be a nice touch.

Back in March, I made the goal of visiting all of the state parks in Wisconsin.  The Colorado dieing kind of wrecked that plan, since the e-Golf has a fairly limited range.  This should help, now.

Have any suggestion, tips, questions, etc?  Feel free to drop a comment, below.

Joe added solar panels to his house

This year was meant to be the year where I made a number of high-cost, high-reward upgrades.  After the extremely harsh winter, I knew that I needed to install a level-2 car charger and to buy a pickup truck to do the kind of things that a small electric hatchback can’t do.  I also knew that the electrical panel in my basement needed to be replaced before the charger could be installed.  I had originally planned to stick to those upgrades but after hearing about Summit Solar, I dropped them an email.

I ended up paying $16,600 to put enough solar panels on my roof to offset 40% of my home’s energy use.  Since I got a super low interest rate on a 25yr loan, that only came out to $51/mo in the end.  The way I look at it, I am spending roughly the same amount of money that I had been paying for that amount of electricity but it is just going to the lender instead of WE Energies, now.

The only problem so far is that it has been roughly two months since the solar panels went in and I am yet to actually receive permission to turn them on.  It sounds like it is less of an issue with Summit Solar and more of an issue with WE Energies.  The latest that I heard was that sometime in the next week, they are going to be removing the “testing” meter and replacing it with a “production” meter.

I don’t think that I would do anything differently but I am a little disappointed with how the process is going.

My truck got a little smashed

Almost exactly two months after buying a cheap pick-up truck, it catastrophically broke.  It was parked in my driveway (with me actively working on it) when a branch from one of the trees along the street broke, fell through the windshield, and smashed the dashboard.  This was exactly one week after I paid Best Buy to install a new stereo and a backup camera.  It was five minutes after I had finally gotten the mass air flow sensor replaced (something that I was damn proud of doing myself).  It was weeks after buying $1400 worth of engine work and tires.  Most importantly, it was after I started to feel like I had truly bonded with the thing.

This past friday, the insurance company totalled the truck and no matter what I tried, I wasn’t going to end up able to keep it.  Trust me on that.

I had planned on spending the first week in June, driving around the state, discovering new state parks.  I even visited an inaugural park, 6 days prior.  Now, that is all on hold.

I miss that truck.

I bought a cheap pick-up truck

Back in May 2020, I bought a VW e-Golf and got rid of my trusty Subaru Impreza.  Since then, I had been living without an ICE car in my life.  For the most part, it has worked out well but the extreme cold and deep snow over the past month had gotten me thinking.  More than once, I thoughtlessly crossed the border from Glendale into Milwaukee and gotten the car grounded on foot-deep snow.  When the temperatures got extra fridged, the car freaked out and went into limp mode.  I briefly thought about trading in the e-Golf for a Chevy Bolt but I figured that it would only solve half of my problem.  In the end, I just bought a second vehicle.  I paid $3000 for a 2007 Chevy Colorado with a mess of miles on it but a reasonable decent body. Continue reading I bought a cheap pick-up truck

Living with an electric car in Wisconsin: Winter 2020 Update

As I mentioned back in May, I bought a new electric car this year.  As the weather began to turn cold, I noticed the effective range go down.  It is generally ok, though because everything that I would really need to drive to is within 20 miles of my house.  I did find myself needing to be strategic while driving up to Port Washington, though.  I ran the heater while still plugged in and then shut it off before unplugging and driving off.  That seemed to work.

The winter months were my biggest worry when I bought this thing.  I’m glad that it seems to be working out, so far.


[Cover photo by Jeffrey Grospe on Unsplash ]

Thoughts on the Pixel 4a 5g

Since the Android 11 update bricked my Pixel 3 in September, I have been in a weird place with my phone.  For two months, I was using the iPhone 8.  For one month, I was using the Moto G Fast.  I didn’t like either phone as much as I liked my Pixel 3.  I finally received the Pixel 4a 5g not too long ago and I am pretty happy with it. Continue reading Thoughts on the Pixel 4a 5g