How I charged my electric vehicles

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rmc50
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How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby rmc50 » Tue Jun 14, 2016 11:57 pm

The last three years I have gone to Burning Man with a pedicab with electric motor assist, and the last two with a tricycle with electric motor assist. The first two years I struggled keeping the batteries charged. Last year I got it figured out.

What simply doesn't work is to take the batteries out and charge them with a conventional 12 volt charger. It is also very unwise to be swapping batteries in the dark after you have had a few drinks. Let's just say that the motor controllers do NOT survive being hooked up to the battery in reverse polarity!

Two years ago I had 36 volt chargers that would allow charging the batteries as a "Bank", but I was relying on the generator of the RV to provide the power. The reality is that it required much more recharge time than I was willing to run the generator for.

My solution for last year was a 45 watt solar panel, 200 Amp-hour batteries (pair of 6V golf cart batteries) and a small inverter (300 watt). The solar panels kept the golf cart batteries charged. The inverter ran the 36 volt chargers I had for the pedicab and trike. Anytime that the trike/pedicab were in camp I had them hooked to the charger.

It worked great! I had brought a spare set of batteries for both the trike and pedicab but never swapped them out as the charging kept up.

The solar panel was just enough. A couple of times I connected the 20 amp automotive style charger to give the golf cart batteries a boost when I would be running the generator for other reasons.

maladroit
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby maladroit » Wed Jun 15, 2016 8:56 am

I dislike that solar > charge controller > batteries > inverter > charger > batteries cycle because every step results in lost energy. But sometimes it's not about squeezing the last watt. For smaller loads solar panels are pretty darn useful...never underestimate harvesting 300Wh per day from a tiny, totally silent setup. Sure, you could run your generator for an hour and make 5x that power, but it's not always convenient especially if you stumble back into camp at 4am.

legionvr6
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby legionvr6 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:59 pm

We ran 3 solar geni's at my camp (all home brew). One was out new 580W setup that successfully ran an AC unit all week. Have you thought of attaching the solar panels directly to your trike and cab ? that way you can always be charging the batteries. You can get a charge controller that supports 36V charging and run panels in series to create the needed voltage. that 45W panel was probably a 12V panel (probably 14-18V at peek) so 3 would be needed or you could use 2 x 24V panels

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spacetime
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby spacetime » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:09 pm

maladroit wrote:I dislike that solar > charge controller > batteries > inverter > charger > batteries cycle because every step results in lost energy. But sometimes it's not about squeezing the last watt. For smaller loads solar panels are pretty darn useful...never underestimate harvesting 300Wh per day from a tiny, totally silent setup. Sure, you could run your generator for an hour and make 5x that power, but it's not always convenient especially if you stumble back into camp at 4am.

This! I think that the big hidden opportunity around power for folks not on the city grid is solar >charge > batteries > inverter. I'd say losing efficiency at every step isn't a bug, but a feature in that you get close to 'anyone can do this' simplicity in the system.

Generators are noisy, stinky and expensive. There normally so much sun in the city that if you pair enough solar with a large enough capacity set of batteries you can:

- Use a fridge and freezer instead of coolers and ice
- Use an actual AC unit instead of a swamp cooler
- Recharge all your personal devices and provide adequate camp lighting
- Recharge electric vehicles and eBikes.

Having run and evolved solar setups for three years, (first time was to in the spirit of our residence at AEZ), I can say without a doubt the cost and quality of these setups should be getting a serious look.

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Admiral Fukkit
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby Admiral Fukkit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:26 pm

The one thing you mentioned that isn't accurate is that generators are "expensive".
Considering the cost, weight and complexity of a solar setup that can deliver a continuous three or four thousand watts, solar hasn't yet gotten anywhere near the point of practicality for temporary portable use, for anything but really small electrical loads.

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spacetime
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby spacetime » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:41 pm

Admiral Fukkit wrote:The one thing you mentioned that isn't accurate is that generators are "expensive".
Considering the cost, weight and complexity of a solar setup that can deliver a continuous three or four thousand watts, solar hasn't yet gotten anywhere near the point of practicality for temporary portable use, for anything but really small electrical loads.

How much do you consider expensive for a new, good, reasonably quiet 3k watt generator?

Also, what kind of items apart from my list does a camp need that go outside the 400-600 watt continuous range?

While it is nice to have the idea of 3k watts, if the camp is largely running 12V devices, that's 250 amps! Even if you shed 50 for conversion power loss, apart from powering a small village, I can't even come up with requirements from a single or dual residency camp that would need that much power.
Last edited by spacetime on Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

legionvr6
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby legionvr6 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:42 pm

Admiral Fukkit wrote:The one thing you mentioned that isn't accurate is that generators are "expensive".
Considering the cost, weight and complexity of a solar setup that can deliver a continuous three or four thousand watts, solar hasn't yet gotten anywhere near the point of practicality for temporary portable use, for anything but really small electrical loads.



This is true but most camps only need basic power. Our smallest solar geni was just a 50W semi-flex panel strapped to the top of our shade structure going to a cheap $20 solar controller and group 25 battery in a battery box. stupid simple and provided enough power for me to run my swamp cooler for hours a day and still have enough power to pump up air beds, charge camera's and phones without draining the system. I can't run an AC unit but most camps don't need that

maladroit
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby maladroit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:46 pm

I liked my small solar-only setup in years past, it is quiet and kept the lights on and the swamp cooler running. But this year I ran a 2000 watt inverter generator all week to air condition the hexayurt and run a chest freezer. It was also worth the size, weight, and cost to me. The generator was only $400 a few years ago.

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spacetime
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby spacetime » Fri Sep 15, 2017 3:01 pm

What were the power requirements of the AC you used?

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby maladroit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 3:51 pm

I used the smallest AC window unit. Don't have the BTU but it cost between $100-150. My generator (as is the case with many 2000 watt inverter generators) can't technically run it; it will start up the AC just fine when the generator has eco mode turned off, but you buy these generators so that they can run in eco mode most of the time (quiet, low RPMs).

Knowing that the AC would start fine when the generator was at full RPM, I cracked open the generator and found that the eco mode switch shorts two wires to run at full RPM. I also cracked open the air conditioner and cut a PCB trace that enables the compressor. Then I built a circuit that watched the signal from that PCB trace; the air conditioner wants to start the compressor. It activates a micro relay that shorts a long pair of wires running to the generator, wired into the eco switch. After a few seconds at full RPM, the circuit activates another micro relay to reconnect the cut PCB trace, starting the compressor. Once the compressor is started, the generator will run it happily in eco mode, so my circuit turns off the first relay, letting the generator RPMs drop again.

Last year, this was necessary in order to maintain a set temperature in the hexayurt, or else it would get too cold. So the compressor and generator would cycle a few times per hour. This year, we probably could have done the process manually...as the air conditioner almost never managed to get the temperature down to 72, and the compressor ran almost the whole time.

This was with 2" R-Max walls and 1.5" ceiling on an H12 yurt.

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BBadger
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby BBadger » Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:06 pm

spacetime wrote:Also, what kind of items apart from my list does a camp need that go outside the 400-600 watt continuous range?

While it is nice to have the idea of 3k watts, if the camp is largely running 12V devices, that's 250 amps! Even if you shed 50 for conversion power loss, apart from powering a small village, I can't even come up with requirements from a single or dual residency camp that would need that much power.


The nice thing about these 2kW and 3kW generators is that they have an eco mode (1/4 of max power) that is quieter. For a 2kW Honda, for example, it is rated for about 1600W continuous, so the eco mode outputs 400W and sips gasoline (about 1 gallon per day). The 3kW version on eco mode can generate about 700W and lasts 20hrs on a tank, producing only 49dB of noise (quiet suburb noise). I think if the load is lower the consumption is reduced further. I've never really used my Honda 2000 on anything besides eco mode, and usually return home with spare gas.

So essentially a generator on eco mode is perfect for such a camp that only needs 400-600W. It'll last you all week on a minimal amount of gas and noise.

A solar setup can be nice with the silence it provides and not needing to deal with gasoline, which I hate working with. It comes with its own headaches though. The panels are expensive, fragile, and take up a lot of space. The batteries are heavy and costly too. Also, you're also limited by how much power you can actually provide, so if you have not just one, but two electric vehicles, you may not be able to charge both when you need to.

If you only need like 400W you can get away with just bringing a 2000W generator and running it in eco mode the entire event. You'll suck down a mere gallon per day, which means only packing two 5 gallon containers and your genny should last you the week. You could even get a cheaper Ryobi generator for $650, which has an app for remote control start and overload reset too (so you can turn on your AC from your tent without getting up). It's not as quiet as the Honda, but it's not terribly loud either. You can also get a 3000W Honda for about $2000.

As far as cost, a 600W solar panel setup will cost you about $800 for the panels; batteries will cost about $100 a piece depending on how much reserve you want, and then a charge controller or some other setup. That setup will probably run you about as much as the 2000W generator (assuming $1000 for a Honda), but takes up a lot more room and weight. It does give you silence and nearly maintenance free operation though.

For me, I don't like having to transport that much bulky material. Panels are large and fragile and batteries are heavy. It's pain enough transporting a generator in my cargo system. Panels would avoid gas though, which is a whole other hassle.
Last edited by BBadger on Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby maladroit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 4:16 pm

I brought 20 gallons of gas for personal use and used about 15 for air conditioning and keeping a chest freezer below zero, plus an impact wrench for lag screws and charging up some deep cycle batteries for lighting. The hexayurt lighting and accessories (exhaust fan, etc) ran on a small 30W panel + battery rig I've been bringing out for 6 years.

Gasoline was definitely shitty to work with this year. Camp had a lot more gas on site for running the big Honda for charging up the art car's 28kWh storage. We had a black 55 gallon drum that pressurized in the intense heat and had to be very carefully vented. I'm not sure there's a safe way to do that. Guy screwed the cap back on tight that day. Woke up the next morning and it looked like the Man sneaked out of his gazebo and crushed it like a soda can.

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby legionvr6 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:25 pm

BBadger wrote:
spacetime wrote:As far as cost, a 600W solar panel setup will cost you about $800 for the panels; batteries will cost about $100 a piece depending on how much reserve you want, and then a charge controller or some other setup. That setup will probably run you about as much as the 2000W generator (assuming $1000 for a Honda), but takes up a lot more room and weight. It does give you silence and nearly maintenance free operation though.

Sorry to spoil your math but $800 for 600W of solar? We ran 2x290W panels in parallel and picked them up for $99 a pop. Actually $84 since there was a coupon code for ebay purchases that day. Both panels brand new. Shipping may add a bit to it but we were able to pick ours up locally. We also picked up an EPEVER 40A MPPT charge controller new for $80. Biggest expense in our large solar array was the batteries. 2 deep cycles in the geni box and 2 under the hood of the truck. Those would be around $340 all together. There still the 2000W inverter, wires and MC4 connectors to factor in but I think our whole setup came out to around $700.

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Admiral Fukkit
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby Admiral Fukkit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:29 pm

I said solar hasn't yet reached the point of being practical for temporary portable use for anything but small loads, and you came back with "well how could you need more than a few hundred watts".

You may do a minimalist camp, I never have. I like to run a big enough A/C to cool my whole rig, not the smallest little thing that hasn't got a hope in hell against the desert heat in a bigger space.
I like to run an air compressor, for tools, tires, and having a live blowgun to blow the playa dust off of... everything.
I like to be able to use the microwave without having to shut everything else off.
I use a Rainbow water-filtered vacuum that can remove playa dust from the air. It draws about 900 watts.

Solar to accommodate what I want would be ridiculously expensive and "yuge". Can you imagine the battery bank to operate any real amount of power all night?

Even for smaller loads, casting generators as expensive and loud isn't accurate. Solar is great for charging your cell phone or powering a small vibrator. But when you pass about the 400-500 watt zone, it's not competitive. Especially at night!

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby legionvr6 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:43 pm

Admiral Fukkit wrote:I said solar hasn't yet reached the point of being practical for temporary portable use for anything but small loads, and you came back with "well how could you need more than a few hundred watts".

You may do a minimalist camp, I never have. I like to run a big enough A/C to cool my whole rig, not the smallest little thing that hasn't got a hope in hell against the desert heat in a bigger space.
I like to run an air compressor, for tools, tires, and having a live blowgun to blow the playa dust off of... everything.
I like to be able to use the microwave without having to shut everything else off.
I use a Rainbow water-filtered vacuum that can remove playa dust from the air. It draws about 900 watts.

Solar to accommodate what I want would be ridiculously expensive and "yuge". Can you imagine the battery bank to operate any real amount of power all night?

Even for smaller loads, casting generators as expensive and loud isn't accurate. Solar is great for charging your cell phone or powering a small vibrator. But when you pass about the 400-500 watt zone, it's not competitive. Especially at night!


If this reply was aimed at me I actually agree with you. But most people really could just rock a little solar rig and that would cover most of their needs. If I was running a camp that needed real power all the time, day and night, gas geni is the only real option that's sensible. Luckily I don't have a sound camp that needs non stop power. Our big power needs are just during the day

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Admiral Fukkit
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby Admiral Fukkit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:14 pm

Well, that and 30 years ago I worked night shift for a place that gave me a solar powered calculator and I've been pissed ever since.

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BBadger
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby BBadger » Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:23 pm

legionvr6 wrote:Sorry to spoil your math but $800 for 600W of solar? We ran 2x290W panels in parallel and picked them up for $99 a pop. Actually $84 since there was a coupon code for ebay purchases that day. Both panels brand new. Shipping may add a bit to it but we were able to pick ours up locally.


Anecdotal eBay purchases are not reliable sources for pricing. Right now on eBay I can't find these mythical $100 290W panels. What I can find are 285W solar panels going for $250 each, with another $190 for shipping. That's about $100 less than my estimate above, which was based on roughly the price posted by Amazon sellers.
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby spacetime » Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:58 pm

Admiral Fukkit wrote:You may do a minimalist camp, I never have. I like to run a big enough A/C to cool my whole rig, not the smallest little thing that hasn't got a hope in hell against the desert heat in a bigger space.
I like to run an air compressor, for tools, tires, and having a live blowgun to blow the playa dust off of... everything.
I like to be able to use the microwave without having to shut everything else off.
I use a Rainbow water-filtered vacuum that can remove playa dust from the air. It draws about 900 watts.

Okay, we are definitely talking about different things. As crazy as we've gotten, all our stuff except our bikes still fit in a Civic coupe, a roof rack. This included our yurt on the way out!

For stuff like air compressor, we don't have a mutant vehicle so if we needed it we'd look to another camp that offers that.
We definitely don't microwave out there, nor a fancy vaccuum. We get dusty.

Solar to accommodate what I want would be ridiculously expensive and "yuge". Can you imagine the battery bank to operate any real amount of power all night?
It would take a lot but why would you run any of the stuff you're talking about all night!

Even for smaller loads, casting generators as expensive and loud isn't accurate. Solar is great for charging your cell phone or powering a small vibrator. But when you pass about the 400-500 watt zone, it's not competitive. Especially at night!

Now, my camp lineage has been AEZ->staff camp->across from kids village and hushville. So I've gotten used to a quiet neighborhood. This year you could hear any generators in the vicinity easy. It wasn't like, 'wow this generator is louder than that one,' our swamp cooler was loud by measures of where we were at in the city. I think that matters.
Bbadger wrote:Anecdotal eBay purchases are not reliable sources for pricing. Right now on eBay I can't find these mythical $100 290W panels. What I can find are 285W solar panels going for $250 each, with another $190 for shipping. That's about $100 less than my estimate above, which was based on roughly the price posted by Amazon sellers.

We used a single Suaoki 100W Ultra Thin Flexible Solar Panel, which amazon offered over prime to me for $150 about a two months ahead of the burn. This thing was totally badass, extremely light (we packed it in with the yurt stack), and efficient. It could have been mounted to the roof of the yurt. (I actually did this for two days, but I took it down.) I could see adding one or maybe two more of these but again at 300w that's at least 18 amps pumping into a battery cell continuously for 14 hours maybe more each day! That's a ton of power.

It sounds like there are reasons to want a generator, but between gas, the noise and the requirement that they be running to enjoy value that's a no for me. I too, value the silence. It does cost a fair amount to set up the battery bank, but if you have the capacity, I think you could probably run only ~$300 of solar and run AC, a fridge / freezer and still keep the small 'personal' devices charged.

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby legionvr6 » Fri Sep 15, 2017 7:06 pm

Power needs are different for everyone. My fist solar setup probably cost me around $130 using batteries I got for free and gave us enough power to charge phones, cameras and help neighbors charge the same items at Symbiosis and was all we needed.

Sometimes you can snag some amazing deals on panels to make powerful solar setups for cheap but as BBadger pointed out they aren't always found. so your milage may very. Buy or if possible build what you need to enjoy your burn.


Also here's some 270W Trina panels for $100. We're using the 290W models
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Brand-New-Trina ... SwB-1YzF7H

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Admiral Fukkit
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby Admiral Fukkit » Fri Sep 15, 2017 10:26 pm

spacetime wrote:
For stuff like air compressor, we don't have a mutant vehicle so if we needed it we'd look to another camp that offers that.


Seriously? If you need something, your answer is to look for a camp (i.e., someone else) to provide it for you? How plug & play of you.


Why would I run all that stuff at night?
It's Burning Man. It's a 24/7 place.
There have been some years when it was so warm I ran the A/C all night. Often we sleep during the heat of the day and we are up at night when everything is better anyway.
We cook, work, and run all sorts of stuff.

For the record, my rig is a camper on the back of the truck. I paid $1500 for it.
After some updates and fixing up, I might have $3000 into it. It's been to BM more than ten times. I'm not just a rich guy who throws money at whatever I want.
That's why I don't run solar at BM. It's too impractical and expensive!

Why do people think handling gas is so difficult? It's pretty much just like water. You just pour it in. Easy. WTF. You can even buy it at the Hell Station right in BRC.

I had a friend at AEZ from around '00 to '04 (Reverend Gadget) who had enough solar on his bus to do anything he wanted, but his setup was pretty extreme, would have been out of my budget to duplicate.

I want to see the $300 solar setup that runs an A/C and a reefer. You can't even buy a decent inverter to handle that for $300, much less enough panels to make that kind of power.

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby spacetime » Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:31 am

Anyway, back to OP's topic, think for the capacity of eBikes, and electronic vehicles a solar setup should do it. In the other thread on eBikes, a person with 64Ah of battery did only one 4 hour charge all week. This can easily be handled with a 100W panel, a 35Ah battery and a $20 controller. Also some cables.

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Admiral Fukkit
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby Admiral Fukkit » Sat Sep 16, 2017 1:12 pm

Go find a camp that provides you with an e-bike and power to plug it into.

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby BBadger » Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:52 pm

Admiral Fukkit wrote:Why do people think handling gas is so difficult? It's pretty much just like water. You just pour it in. Easy. WTF. You can even buy it at the Hell Station right in BRC.


I do like the fact that gas is like a high-power battery on demand. What I don't like is having to store it on playa and when it spills and makes a mess. I've also had some spill in my car... yeech.

Though part of the problem is my crummy fuel tanks, and the fact that I haven't built one of those external fuel tanks for my genny. That would make things a lot easier.
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby Admiral Fukkit » Sun Sep 17, 2017 9:45 am

Build the external tank! Total game-changer! You'll love it. I know what you mean about spilling all the time when refilling the built-in tank, you can't see the level and having it slosh out is usually your first and only warning that it's full... that does suck.

One tip, it works better if you elevate the tank to about the height of the generator gas cap so it isn't fighting gravity.
Even higher is great so gravity actually helps but a leak would be disastrous.

OK two tips. I've found the pre-made aluminum gas caps with a threaded fitting to use for this, while very nicely made, come with a gasket inside the cap THAT DISSOLVES IN GASOLINE!! Wtf?
That leaves you with particles of gunk that clog your carburetor and air leaks that prevent the external tank system from working.
It's easy to cut out your own with a pair of scissors or razor knife and a sheet of gasket material from an auto parts store. Try to verify that it's OK to use in fuel.

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby BBadger » Mon Sep 18, 2017 12:12 am

Thanks for the tips! Do you suggest using one of those horizontal gas tanks sold as external fuel tanks, or using something like a metal jerry can?
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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby Jackass » Mon Sep 18, 2017 6:39 am

Outboard boat motor gas tank, which I think is the first one that you mention. Clean, simple, safe(r).
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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Re: How I charged my electric vehicles

Postby unjonharley » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:08 am

BBadger wrote:
Admiral Fukkit wrote:Why do people think handling gas is so difficult? It's pretty much just like water. You just pour it in. Easy. WTF. You can even buy it at the Hell Station right in BRC.


I do like the fact that gas is like a high-power battery on demand. What I don't like is having to store it on playa and when it spills and makes a mess. I've also had some spill in my car... yeech.

Though part of the problem is my crummy fuel tanks, and the fact that I haven't built one of those external fuel tanks for my genny. That would make things a lot easier.


The LNT camp giged me one year for having fuel to close to the shelter .. Also that I needed a safety containment in event of a spill/leak .. This year I bough a new metal can .. Found a fuel can holder (designed to transport fuel in a car) .. It is made to contain spilled fuel .. WalMart .. Now I can set my fuel on the playa, away from the shelter .. As required ..
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