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Effective Costs of Urban Personal Mobility Modes

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

"Combustible mixture of the arrogant ignorance in science and financial- political power will blow up into our faces." - Carl Sagan.

At gridlock boredom, I took a squint left. "Look, Tesla is right next to us!!" I poked my friend in the unshared excitement. Than I gazed at the front wheel to see how engineers handle hushed extra weight but hyped agility – banal oversizing (still, suspension failures have been reported). The driver's smug grin at me was saying,"You can't afford it..." Traffic moved. He jerked and halted as traffic stopped in just 15 m.

Showing off, he wasted 40Wh damaging battery and environment with peak current and brake pads and rubber dust. Though it's only 0.05% of Tesla's full charge, this energy suffices a km walk, 4 km ride on an e-bike, or 10 km in FELA - enclosed power-assisted trike.

Humans have evolved a reason, a little of which is in some cultural patterns. And the habitual unreason gets unaffordable to the degree of a threat to our civilization.

Energy use per capita correlates with the advance of civilization. However, the true measure must be the energy efficiency while conspicuous waste is a sign of civilization's decay. Average North American consumes twice the amount of energy than West European "coinciding" with much higher incidents of obesity; 60x of a Nigerian's!! Up to a third of the energy is used by transportation, 75% of which by private cars.

We need personal mobility, not cars. FELA would meet this need in terms of performance and comfort. As for excitement and safety for all, FELA beats cars too.

In life cycle assessment (LCA), it’s effective speed, accounting for time spent on the job to cover transport expenses, that justifies a vehicle use. FELA’s effective speed is 3.5.x the other conventional modes of urban mobility except for ebike (estimate below).

The Faster Car on Datasheet the Slower it is in Real Life

With the price of a car, every cost, whatever it is - service, fuel/energy, repair, insurance, etc. goes up. The sum of all those costs is Total Cost to Own a vehicle (TCO).

Unless you are of a few lucky who can’t help but enjoy your working hours, they are subtracted from your life budget. Suppose you are choosing a personal mobility mode, whether it's gonna be a car, or Tesla 3, riding transit (not to bother with extra item in household) or FELA, you run a spreadsheet like this:

Total Costs of Ownership, TCO, and Effective Speed

Initial Data car EV Transit ebike FELA

Vehicle price, in $1,000 30 40 1. 10

Specific energy, Wh/kg 10000 200 200 200

Insurance (age/sex/experience..) $ 4,000 5,000 0 0

Capital cost (bank interest loss),%/y 2 2 2 2

Inspection, $ (1% of price) 300 400 10 100

Taxes for road maintenance, $/y 200 200 0 0

Obligatory service to keep warranty, $ 300 300 0 0

Vehicle efficiency Wh/km 1400 250 12 4.0

Gas or electricity price, $/kWh 0.14 0.10 0.10 0.10

Mileage, 10000 km/y; LIB capacity 60kWh (EV); 500Wh (ebike or FELA

Annual vehicle repair costs, $ 1,000 500 20 20

Li battery service life capacity, MWh 60 0.5 0.5

Parking, $/day 20 20 0 0

Road tolls, $/day 10 10 0 0

Gas or battery price: $1.50/kg; $0.14/kWh

LIB cost, $ 15,000 125 125

LIB mileage, in 1,000km 240 41.7 125

LIB oil change cost per km, $/km 0.01 0.063 0.003 0.001

Tires, $ 600 600 100 150

Tires cost per km, $/km 0.030 0.030 0.005 0.008

Service per km, $/km 0.035 0.094 0.008 0.009

Standing Costs (just to keep it) car EV transit ebike FELA

Depreciation 20% of remaining value/y, $ 6,000 8,000 200 0

Insurance, $/year 4,000 5,000 0 0

Financing/Loan interest, $/year 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00

Inspection (1% of remaining value) 240 320 8 100

Car tax, $ 300 300 0 0

Cost of capital $/year 600 800 20 200

Total Standing Costs, $: 11,140 14,420 228 300

Running Costs

Fuel or energy, $ 1,909 250.00 12.00 4.00

Annual service or pass for transit, $ 650 1,225 2,000 80 85

Repair or upgrades, $ 1,000 1,000 100 300

Parking, $ 5,200 5,200 0 0

Tolls, $ 2,600 2,600 0 0

Fines (speed/parking.. Tickets), $ 300 300 0 0

Car wash, $ 50 50 0 0

Total Running Costs, $/y : 11,710 10,630 2,000 192 389

Total Costs of Ownership, $/y 22,850 25,050 2,000 420 690

Effective Speed assuming $30/h wage

Working hours to cover T.C.O., h 762 835 67 14 23

Average speed, kph 30 30 10 30 40

Travel time a year, h 333 333 1000 333 250

Total commute-related time a year, h 1095 1168 1067 347 273

car EV Bus Ebike FELA

Effective Speed, km/h 9.1 8.6 9.4 28.8 36.6

As you can see, the driving time is only 30% of the total car-related time. City traffic estimate shows that a car of tripled agility averages only 8% time saving. That raises effective speed by negligible 2-3%, even assuming no extra costs from added agility (it's B.S. - just look at TCO for "muscle cars"). A significant cut in that 30% involves huge capital for building and maintaining ‘faster’ roads that gets zero in a decade due to "induced demand" phenomenon.

Developing "counterproductivity" concept, Ivan Illich, to all the above time sinks, added the time in the health care because of a car crash, in the oil industry to fuel cars...etc., and he got 6 km/h for the real (effective) speed of a car, i.e. you're better off just walking

Uncertainty of the input data I’ve used is in +/- 10-15% range, but that won’t change the scary for car-junkies conclusion:

Attempts to improve car-centered infrastructure or making better [autonomous] cars is environmentally unaffordable, even disastrous exercise in futility.

The extra costs of fuel, wear-tear on the chassis, speeding tickets, crashes from driving faster would offset the 2% increase in effective speed many times over.

In contrast, any increase in trip speeds for e-cyclists or FELA pilots results in a 90% increase in effective speed.

So, limiting speeds for pedelecs (e-bikes and FELA are of this type) by 25kph puts a big damper on social progress.

A good news for g-forces addicts: a retrofitted with 1/100x Tesla powertrain FELA will give you even more "high" from synergy of you and the machine half of your weight.

The effective speed estimate shows that our cars do not save us the time, don't make us free, healthier or fit nor happier.

What do you think about the effective speed estimates and conclusions from it.

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