Prius Personal Log  #102

January 30, 2004  -  February 2, 2004

Last Updated: Sat. 6/12/2004

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2-02-2004

Daily Reality.  People seem to forget the fact that it is common to have a daily commute where some highway driving includes stop & slow conditions, build up caused by merging & bridges.  Traditional vehicles perform horribly when they encounter that.  Full hybrids like Prius shine.  So the real-world data for traditional vehicles is grossly over-estimated, making them appear much more efficient than they really are sometimes.  That means the payback on a hybrid is actually greater than thought.  Also note that a full hybrid will last much longer under those conditions too, since a lot of that driving type will be exclusively powered by electric propulsion... unlike a traditional vehicle, which is forced to run the engine 100 percent of the time.  And worse, coolant gets very hot since air circulation is almost non-existent in stop & slow driving.  Hybrids look better and better the more you learn about them.  Do you know what MPG you actually get?

2-02-2004

Driving slow in the snow.  It's the logical thing to do.  The safety factor is well proven, speed causes accidents.  What might not be apparent is the fact that hybrid owners are more than happy to slow down.  The direct result is an increase in MPG.  So when the road become slippery, I don't mind all that much.  The efficiency improvement certainly helps make the nasty traffic much more tolerable.

2-02-2004

Extra Space Required.  Misconceptions about hybrids are common.  The amount of space required is one that I don't often even think about.  So believe the electrical system is an add-on, something required additional room.  That isn't actually true, for either mild or full hybrids.  Remember that the engine is smaller.  That in itself provides what's needed.  But if you take a closer look at Prius specifically, you'll notice the front-end length (the hood area) is shorter.  That's because with a full hybrid the system is a unified design, combining resources in a way that mild hybrids can't.  So you actually gain room, rather than lose it.  This translates to a slighter shorter car with more than average leg room.  As for the battery-pack in back is buried over the rear axle just behind the back sear, and it is only the size of about 5 loaves of bread.  So it is much less intrusive than many people realize.

2-02-2004

Persuade Me.  I've heard that a number of times.  And I'd love to, later.  But currently, the delivery wait is frustrating and most end up paying sticker price.  So Prius is only for the truly devoted, right now.  Next year, Prius should become as it was last year.  It was available on the lot for immediate purchase with a discount, just like any other vehicle.  By then, the long-term ownership data will begin surfacing in greater numbers.  Until then, you basically have to study the design of the full hybrid.  That reveals a superior build, one that should last longer and cost less overall to maintain.  But for now, it simply isn't worth debating with those that assume that's not the case.  Proof will come... in a few years.

2-01-2004

PINK!  Last week temperatures got all the way down to -18 F degrees.  This week we are getting a ton of snow.  Fortunately, by amazing cosmic coincidence, I was able to plan a gathering between the two.  And it worked out well, 7 Prius showed up and a bunch of people without Prius yet did too. Anywho, the point is I've been carrying a digital camera around with me ...lots of photo opportunities lately.  So... when I got stuck in heavy snow traffic delay traffic this morning, I was ready.  After 15 minutes of stealth driving (only 1 mile of actual distance), the charge-level (shown inside the battery on the Energy Monitor) dropped to just 2 bars.  And sure enough, exactly as predicted the color changed from blue to pink.  I whipped out the camera (knowing the engine would fire up just seconds later to begin recharging) and managed to capture the moment almost perfect aligned and without any outside glare on the screen while still driving.  Yeah!  It's a bit on the blurry side since I was using the big lens.  But hey, that's one of the only times I will ever get the opportunity to see that.  So I'm grateful to have got a good of a photo as I did.  Here's the moments I captured... photo album 63

2-01-2004

"Economy" Still.  That belief didn't fit in the past.  It doesn't now either.  Prius sits between Corolla & Camry, baring nothing in common with "economy" cars.  It offers a 100% improvement in real-world efficiency as well as a number of options only available on high-end vehicles.  But if people believe the largest vehicles becoming hybrids will finally make the technology compelling, I can live with that.  Since gas-guzzling vehicles come with a higher than average price tag in the first place, spending a little more for the hybrid version is a no-brainer.

2-01-2004

Why a button?  Some wonder why "Park" isn't on the gear-selector.  You'll find yourself understanding why after a few weeks of driving.  Toyota made things easier for you by having both Park & Power buttons to push.  Just ask a teenager that hasn't ever driven a traditional vehicle which set of shutdown motions make more sense, shift & push or just push & push.  They'll chose two of the same type of movement every time, stating having to remember to do two different things is harder.  In short, Toyota started over by not conforming to mechanical constraints that traditional designs require.  Just because something was always done a certain way in the past does not mean it was the best choice.

2-01-2004

Still reaching for keys?  Just this morning, I demonstrated exactly the opposite behavior when running to the Prius in the cold and flipping open the door.  I wondered if someday I'll try that with a vehicle that doesn't have SE/SS (Smart-Entry & Smart-Start) and end up slamming my body into it because the door didn't unlock automatically.  The new technology Prius delivers is wonderful... and very habit changing.

2-01-2004

January MPG.  42.3 was my average for the month, after driving a total of 1,948 miles.  The average was actually 43.1 MPG though, until the ridiculously cold conditions last week where the temperature dipped all the way down to -18 F degrees.  Dang!  Oh well, it was still better than my Classic's January average of 40.9 MPG over the previous 3 Winters.  That was really impressive, but the 2004 is even better.  And if you look at Lifetime data, the 2004 really shines.  Both values are 45.4 MPG, but the 2004 average only includes Winter months.  So once things (finally) warm up, you'll really be impressed.

2-01-2004

2004 Info-Sheet.  With temperatures recently reaching all the way down to -18 F degrees, resisting the unique digital photo opportunities was futile.  So I went ballistic with the camera.  That resulted in 23 really good ones to add to the collection, which now puts me closer to having enough to start thinking about the construction of the new Info-Sheet.  Check out the Classic version of the Info-Sheet CLASSIC and let me know what types of facts & photos should be included in the one for the 2004.  That document proved to be a very popular method of quickly sharing info with those interested in Prius.  So it only makes sense to work toward the creation of one for the new model too.  Since the 2004 is so different, I suspect the format & content of this new document will be quite different too.  Feel free to comment about any aspect of Prius you feel is important to share with others.

1-31-2004

Good Stuff.  Toyota holds the record for highest NiMH energy density technology, hence the battery-pack's small size.  The 50kW electric motor is record setting too.  It delivers the highest power output per unit of weight & volume in the world.  Cool, eh?

1-31-2004

Did you know?  There is a misconception currently thriving online among those that discuss the Honda hybrids.  Those participants are clearly unaware of an important difference between the hybrid type they are familiar with and the Toyota.  Prius has 2 motors, not 1 like the Hondas.  That gives Prius the ability to both create & consume electricity at the same time.  That is how Toyota is able to prevent a "recal" (recalibration event) from ever happening, sometime some Honda hybrid owners experience on rare occasions.  In a single motor design, the system has to choose to either create & consume.  Doing both simultaneously is impossible.  The "recal" is evidence that the system is struggling to provide both assist and recover the charge-level.  Honda will come up with a software managed solution to prevent that from happening in the future.  Toyota never needed to, an inherent design benefit of their 2 motor system automatically did that for them.  You really need study info shared online, sometimes the misinformation gets really out-of-hand.  It gets outdated rather quickly too.  It should even make you wonder how long this entry will remain relevant.  The only constant in the universe is change.

1-31-2004

30% Smaller Battery-Pack.  Some believe the reason for the size reduction in the 2004 is due to Toyota over-estimated the potential available or simply playing it conservative.  The real reason is that Toyota invented a better NiMH battery, one that holds a greater energy density.  So despite the 26% reduction in size, there was actually a 35% increase in available power.  Pretty cool, eh?  And if that technological advance doesn't boggle your mind, try this:  That change eliminated 10 modules within the pack, which translates directly to a drop in price.  How's that for impressive!

1-31-2004

45.4 MPG.  That's an unexpected treat.  I didn't anticipate the Lifetime MPG for my 2004 Prius to match my Classic at the peak of Winter.  Cool!  That should mean that the drop before the rise won't be that dramatic, just a smooth decline as the cold season comes to a conclusion.  Then when the true warmth arrives, a steady climb into record territory.  I can't wait (but know it's well worth the patience) to have the opportunity to gloat later.  MPG in the low to mid 50's will definitely impress people.  And of course, a teaser or two in the upper 50's will even impress me.  Yeah!

1-31-2004

Lost Perspective.  This extreme cold has made me become used to "only" getting 40 MPG.  But someday (soon, I hope) the temperature will climb and the snow will finally melt away.  Efficiency will climb then too.  I welcome those days.  50 MPG seems just like a dream now.  Hopefully, it is just a month or two away.  We'll see.

1-31-2004

Today's Gathering.  We had owners of 6 new Prius and 1 classic attend.  A few still waiting for delivery showed up too.  That's not bad considering how cold it was (9 F degrees) and the fact that there was a threat of snow.  We ended up sitting around for quite awhile (2 cups of coffee for me) just swapping hybrid stories.  It was great!  I snuck out into the cold for a few minutes of frozen photos too.  Once it finally warms up outside (and more finally get their Prius), we are really going to have fun.  Stay tuned.

1-31-2004

Forgetting about Japan.  Many don't look that way.  They completely forget about the market there.  If they were to search for facts about the hybrids available there, they'd discover Estima (a 4WD hybrid minivan) and Crown (a large sedan hybrid) both available from Toyota.  They'd also discover Prius has been available for an additional 3 years.  Success about hybrids becomes much more obvious once you know that.  Did you before reading this?

1-30-2004

Eeek!  -18 F degrees   Couldn't resist photos like this... photo album 63

1-30-2004

Instant Detour.  I took full advantage of the Navigation System today.  The heavy traffic made for a welcome happenstance.

1-30-2004

1349 Behind Now!  It keeps getting worse.  I'm taking digital photos much faster than I'm publishing them.  Ahh!

1-30-2004

Better MPG with Synthetic Oil.  I have pretty solid data showing that you should gain 1 to 2 MPG by switching to synthetic.  And on a day like today, where the commute to work was -18 F degrees and the commute home was -8 F, it's rather hard to deny the 36 MPG average I maintained on those drives was not better than you could get with dino-oil.  Extreme cold is the when synthetic really demonstrates the advantage it offers.  But there's nothing to complain about when it's warm either.  Last year's 50 MPG average throughout the Summer certainly proved that.

1-30-2004

Ethanol Beliefs.  Areas that are still using MTBE fear upcoming change over to ethanol.  They heard reports from ages ago about how it performed poorly and damaged some systems.  Those of us in the Midwest know that misleading messages from experiences in the ancient past (the 80's) haven't been relevant for awhile now.  100 percent of the "gas" available in the metro area of Minnesota has been 10% ethanol years.  That's millions and millions of gallons sold without anyone complaining.  In fact, just the opposite has happened.  The acceptance has made the area a national testing ground for E85 (that's 85% ethanol, 15% gas).  Both varieties work just fine.  The local farmers and refiners are quite pleased by the business ethanol has created too.  And as a result, the efficiency (and cleanliness) of the production process has been improving as well.

1-30-2004

Diesel Beliefs.  Some believe traditional diesel passenger vehicle sales will exceed hybrids in the future, ending the rapidly growing appeal for hybrids.  I wonder what will stimulate the market for diesel.  It's been around for decades.  What will suddenly make them a favorite choice?  There certainly isn't any driving force behind diesel expansion recently.  My guess is the next generation of HSD will be so impressive it will scare the heck out of the automakers struggling to compete, so out of desperation they will choose to endorse diesel instead... which would be a bizarre twist, since they abandoned diesel just a few years ago when the PNGV project came to a screeching halt.  But would that actually be enough?  I doubt it. The potential for gasoline hybrids is absolutely enormous.  The only shift I could realistically envision would be a diesel hybrid.  That would definitely end the appeal for engine-only diesel systems.

1-30-2004

Full Hybrids Win.  Pistons, Values, Rings, etc... there are more of those in a traditional vehicle.  There are also components that don't even exist in a full hybrid, like a Torque-Converter.  The reduction & elimination of parts is a benefit (that should be obvious).  So a comment like "more stuff = more potential for trouble" is what should be applied more to a traditional vehicle instead.  And those physical engine components get used less by the hybrid too.  Also, remember that since the electric motors are the Brushless-AC type, it should easily last several hundred thousand miles without the need for so much as even a tweak.  They're built remarkably tough with surfaces that don't make contact.  Full hybrids are obviously what will be in all our futures.  The real question is whether they will ultimately use a gas engine, a diesel engine, or a fuel-cell as a power source.

 

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