Some pictures of living in the truck over the last month (2017-05-03 to 2017-06-08).
(Click picture to see a larger version.)
Some pictures of living in the truck over the last month (2017-05-03 to 2017-06-08).
(Click picture to see a larger version.)
The most interesting models (high performance but at the lower end of the possible price range) that we found are these:
More interesting information and sources
Just a quick brain dump: more and less useful things you can do with the components of an old electric wheelchair (usually two 24 V DC geared electric motors of 200-400 W each, a motor controller, and batteries).
To approach any of these ideas, or your own of course, have a look at some of the more interesting devices people already created out of electric wheelchair parts:
Finally, here are some good technical explanations about how to add remote control to an electric wheelchair:
A friend with a big heart for victims of human trafficking asked me to identify opportunities for helping trafficked women in Europe. As my (initial) results can be useful for others as well, I publish them here. My research focused on work opportunities for English speakers, as opposed to also speaking, say, an Eastern European language. The sections are ordered accordingly: the "most adequate issue" for English speakers to care about comes first.
Summary: This "trend" is becoming worse and worse since 3-4 years and it is not an understatement to call it a human rights crisis since early 2016. It also seems the most adequate (or one of the most adequate) work opportunity in Europe for social workers and counsellors with English language skills.
The Guardian has a good, recent introduction to the problem, complemented with a little photo documentary. According to that, 11,000 Nigerian women arrived to Italy in 2016, which is double the already high 2015 numbers. And the UN estimates 80% of them will end up in prostitution across Europe. This fate is also reflected by prostitution in Italy itself: as early as 2008, before the "real" start of this crisis, 90% of Italy's sex workers were migrants, of which 40% were from Africa, mostly Nigeria (source). One interesting fact from the Guardian's reporting is that these Nigerian women are brought into Italy as refugees (mostly in small boats via Libya), and remain in South Italy's refugee reception centers for about three months. That is, until they receive documents granting them temporary residence as refugees. So there is a small window of time in a protected setting to identify, contact and inform them about their real situation – before they leave the refugee center to be picked up by their traffickers again. However, the Guardian article also mentions there are only 1600 places for victims of trafficking in Italy, so currently most of the 11,000 women do not receive any help in time.
Language wise, it can be expected that Nigerian women arriving to Italy at least speak basic English: Nigeria has English as its official language and 53% English speakers. Given the many tribal languages in Nigeria, English is seemingly the preferred medium of communication even among Nigerians, as can be observed from the documentary video in the Guardian article. Regarding interaction with Italians, from my own experience getting around in Italy with just English works quite well, though it works much better in Northern Italian cities than in South Italian towns and villages, where even young people sometimes don't speak English. However most of the activities in South Italy would happen in or around the refugee reception centers, where English is the main mode of communication between staff and refugees anyway, and also between national and the many international staff members.
When it comes to organizations working in Italy against human trafficking, a (non-exhaustive) list is as follows:
Obviously, given Italy's religious demographics, >90% of all faith-based organizations working against human trafficking in Italy will be Roman Catholic. To find more of these organizations, an appropriate Italian search term is "cristiani organizzazioni contro tratta di esseri umani".
The demographic composition of sex workers in these three countries, but esp. of the UK, makes it another work opportunity for English-speaking social workers and counsellors. (The numbers below are from 2008, as found in the TAMPEP report. Obviously, significant changes could have occurred since then, but more recent numbers are hard to come by.)
In Germany, working in English with victims of human trafficking seems rather difficult due to demographics: 60-70% victims of human trafficking in Germany come from Eastern Europe. Some more data: "Two thirds (612) of all identified victims [of human trafficking in Germany] originated from Eastern Europe: Bulgaria (25,3%), Romania (20,9%), Hungary (7,7%). 20,8% of victims had German nationality." (source, translation my own). Since many of the victims come with a low level of formal education, and English has not been the predominant lingua franca in Eastern European countries for decades, it cannot be expected that they know to speak English. People with Eastern European language skills, of which there are a considerable amount in Germany, seem more apt for this particular work.
Still, for completeness, here are ways to identify organizations working against human trafficking in Germany:
Good news for my truck, it got MOT again ("TÜV") so I can move around a bit. Used the opportunity for a nice little tour. Including: buying some parts for my "living space" in a hardware store; overnighting under 380 kV; a visit to a hydraulics workshop (leaving 230 EUR for three new hoses for my truck's winch, phew!); and a nice afternoon of cycling in the forest. See pictures!
Speaking of forests: I had an idea how to make staying with the truck in forests less of an issue. Because officially, in Germany you're only allowed to overnight at one spot in your car for one night only, "to re-gain fitness for driving". Everything else is tolerated to some extent, but can cause you problems. (Which is mostly limited to being told to drive away … .) But when I saw a lot of trash at the entrance of the protected forest where I stopped for cycling, it led to this idea: I'll see what happens when I always collect some trash from forests I live in with the truck. When some forest ranger, police person etc. wants me to leave, I prove that I am beneficial to the place, and they might let me stay. Especially when I can show them from my blog that it's a habit. So, expect quite some pictures of trash in the future! The first one is below, collected 2009-09-14 at this beautiful place (50.580852,8.731282). It's essentially a way of commoning: pay nature for a nice place by taking its trash.
Over the recent months, I spent quite some hours thinking about adequate logistics systems for rural, hilly Nepal. Especially for the villages not having road connections for now – is getting "the road" really the only way of development? Because with the road comes pollution, road accidents, and a faster pace of life. Actually, transport for people is not that much of an issue (except for medical emergencies of course): for their occasional travels to the cities, people walk to the next road / bus stop. Means we only need a solution for transporting goods: the big problem is indeed load transportation. Where this takes much effort, access to market is difficult, earning money is difficult, and supply is difficult. Load transport has to be more efficient (in personal time units) than relying on porters, carrying things oneself, or using mules. Aerial ropeways are one solution for this, but the problem is that they require a lot of additional infrastructure, and the cost of that hinders the widespread deployment (they are also infrastructure with a single point of failure, which was the demise in previous ropeway installations in Nepal). This is not the case when reusing the existing foot path network!
So here is a proposal that I think is my best idea for this so far. It would put Nepal into the same league with the countries most advanced both in electrical transportation and autonomous vehicles, while at the same time needing no additional roads or other infrastructure. The technology is cheap and can be managed locally (given some training).
The basic idea is a narrow (max. 80 cm wide) autonomous vehicle for load transportation on foot tracks. I propose it would be a transporter built with bicycle parts like an electric cargo quadrocycle, but without a place for a rider. It can navigate using a line on the ground, or optical beacons, or a guide wire. Each would be able to carry about 40-100 kg, depending on the exact design. It will be powered by a relatively small Li-Ion battery and recharge with photovoltaics cells that it carries as a roll with it, and deploys on the roadside in sunny spots when it has to charge. (Alternatively, there could be charging stations every few kilometers, but that is less flexible and more expensive for the first few vehicles.) Frequent charging stops are not a problem when transportation is automated. And since standard bicycle parts are used, maintenance and repairs are simple and cheap. For example, wheels should be standard 26" mountain bike wheels. These vehicles will be slow (say 3 km/h uphill, 8 km/h on flat terrain, up to 15 km/h downhill) and can carry much less than trucks, but since they are autonomous, they can drive all day and even through the night (at least the way back downhill, and also uphill if having access to grid-connected charging stations in houses along the way). Also, even with modern jeeps but safe driving you get hardly 8-10 km/h when offroad driving on "roads" in Nepal's hills (been there, done that) – so the autonomous vehicles will be just a bit slower given that they can shortcut the road with footpaths.
For energy storage, free, used 18650 Li-Ion cells harvested from notebook batteries, powertool batteries and the like are a more affordable and more economic solution than ultracapacitors – it is more economical even though ultracaps do not wear down. Because to cover 1 km between charging stations at 17% slope uphill with a 80 kg total weight bicycle, about 33 Wh are needed, which cost 430 EUR in supercapacitors at 13 EUR/Wh. Li-Ion cells on the other hand are free when harvesting used ones, and can be used for 1000-2000 cycles if charging to only 3.92 V/cell. Assuming 1500 cycles and one cycles per day on average, that's 4-5 years on one battery pack until it degraded to 70% its original capacity (and even then, it can still be used).
The Li-Ion battery has to be large enough to allow a 1.5 W load per cell or lower, since that is how used cells last the longest (due to their reduced current carrying capacity). That is easily solved by letting the vehicle go a very slow speed, which is also great for reducing breakage and maintenance anyway. At (say) 3 km/h, driving 15% uphill with a 80 kg total weight vehicle will need about 100 W, so about 66 Li-Ion 18650 cells (very doable). At 2 Wh/cell typical charge capacity (3 Wh/cell remaining capacity, charged to 3.92 V/cell or about 66% capacity), this means 130 Wh total energy content, or 80 minutes of driving, covering 4 km. So a reasonable proposal would be 100-cell batteries and recharging approx. every 5 km (or further, depending on how steep the uphill slope is).
The low power needs of 100 W maximum (or even just 50 W maximum if reducing the uphill speed to half) mean that DC motors from battery power drills can be used. These are available nearly for free second-hand. No gearbox is needed, since a max. speed of 3 km/h is acceptable and the motor can cover a range of 0-3 km/h by itself by just using a PWM motor controller as integrated in power drills. For a constant reduction gear, one can simply use a bicycle chain gear, a bicycle chain, and a very large (ca. 30-40 cm diameter) DIY gear mounted to the bicycle wheel. Each wheel or each axle can have its own DC motor, and the DC motors incl. the reduction gear mechanism of the front axle would simply move with the wheel when it is steered. This way, the vehicle is a 4×4, making it much more capable on muddy tracks.
In addition, it should be possible to tow this vehicle as a bicycle and motorcycle trailer, allowing to move it faster when accompanied by a person. This is useful to move it around within a settlement, or when it broke down and has to be towed to a workshop. Also in addition, the vehicle should have a simple display with a selection mechanism so people can select its next destination. This allows to build a network of paths using optical beacons, but also requires that the vehicle can navigate bifurcations etc., and determine its position.
Another advantage of transport on foot tracks is that these transporters can use the small wire bridges which are popular in Nepal's hilly area and mountains. No need to create much more expensive, heavy-weight bridges for cars. In addition to using foot tracks and wire bridges, the transporters could even be enabled to use aerial ropes by themselves (hooking themselves to them with an overhead arm, rolling along them, hooking off at the end). This allows shortcutting the way over creeks (where a bridge is not existing or much further) and also to navigate aerial 1-3 km ropeways to go a shortcut over difficult mountain terrain. The cheap battery power enables this new kind of ropeway. What makes it esp. cheap is that it only needs bamboo towers and a single steel rope (or chain or fabric belt), no moving elements at all. The carriages will propel themselves along the rope with rubber wheels on top and below the carrying rope (or, in the case of chains, hard rubber or plastic wheels with cavings to grab the chain elements). Also, since footways are used for most of the way, only a bit of new construction is needed, driving down costs further.
To make operating this device possible in the long term (means, incl. maintenance), it would be operated as a service, with village people paying to get items delivered to and from their village, or later also to other places (like, to and from their fields). This is in contrast to people owning their own vehicles. The operators would have to be technologically skilled, perhaps young people from a nearby city creating a startup. Though I am not sure yet what the fees could be and how profitable a company would be offering this as a service. However, such a company has the advantage that scaling comes with cost advantages: one team can operate a fleet of 100-200 of these devices driving around in one district. They will all operate autonomously, until they break (in which case, they can be towed by another device and collected in a workshop until the travelling operators get there).
I'm not saying that constructing such a robot is simple, but it is much simpler than building one for full-scale city traffic. It can completely avoid roads, since there is always a footpath available in Nepal as an alternative route. And on footpaths, the wort that can happen is encountering a mototcycle. Having a flashing beacon light on its top will help, and a simple protocol like "autonomous vehicle will stop at the side of the road when you honk three times, so you can overtake it safely". Which would make it the 1001st use of the horn in Nepal 😀
So I just finished another little project: my new entrance ladder. Ok, let's say it's finished except for a layer of paint, as always. All paint jobs pile up for when I have no urgent needs and will start to care how things actually look 😛
This shows the truck's right side, with the door to the living area open. The new ladder is hooked for storage to the inside of the door and will only be in use (means hooked below the door) when the truck parks on the roadside or otherwise in confined spaces where the normal stairs cannot be used. Or, like now, where the normal stairs exist only in pieces laying around …
The reason I'm writing this is to illustrate how a few pieces of trash and a few hours of time, mixed in the right way, can become useful items for everyday use. Here are the ingredients:
Which makes for a total monetary investment of 4.00 EUR, or 4.55 USD. I'm still ok with that amount 😀
Of course I could also have bought an entrance ladder. Why didn't I? For one thing, it is difficullt to find something that fits here (I looked once, and only found fitting ones from yachting accessory for at least 100 EUR). And then: While this might be uneconomical in monetary terms for me now, I am learning and getting better at building my own stuff. It's an investment into the future, because I discovered that building your own stuff grants you a form of freedom. How so? Because you can always build some simple, useful items you need, and this way you can always cover some of your needs without a paid job. Just free trash and free time needed. Now what if we could build everything we need from trash? Would we still fear "unemployment"? Would we still accept hiearchies in the workplace, strict time regimes, uninhabitable and ugly offices, bad pay?
With projects like these, I'm exploring how much freedom there is in free trash. I know about efficiency issues with DIY building, the need for automation and so on. But it's just the start, and so far I cannot even see the end: open source tech solutions are getting more powerful every day. (Have a look at EarthOS if you are not convinced yet, it's my collectionf of "open source solutions for everything in life".)