Prius Personal Log  #110

March 13, 2004  -  March 19, 2004

Last Updated: Sat. 6/12/2004

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3-19-2004

Tweaked.  Toyota altered the configuration of Prius to demonstrate the opportunities that await.  Check this out...  The ICE powertrain portion is now a mildly tweaked version of the conventional four-cylinder 1.5-L engine producing 99 hp (74 kW) at 6500 rpm, versus the stock Prius' Atkinson-cycle late-inlet-closing unit putting out 77 hp (57 kW) at 5000 rpm.  The propulsion motor is now rated at 60 kW (82 hp), versus the stock 50 kW (68 hp) at a higher voltage of 550 V.  The maximum system output is thus 107 kW (145 hp), versus the stock car's 82 kW (111 hp) at 85 km/h (53 mph).  Maximum torque is unchanged at 478 Nm (353 lb-ft).  The 28-cell NiMH battery pack receives additional cooling and its output is hiked to 34 kW (46 hp) versus the stock 25 kW (34 hp).  With the body gutted but retaining air-conditioning and power windows, and the chassis appropriately tuned, this tweaked Prius is a bundle of fun.

3-19-2004

Another owner webpage.  This one features photos of a 2004 Driftwood after a heavy, wet snowfall in Minnesota... owner:  Kou

3-18-2004

Not a Hybrid.  As a result of a review posted today, a brutally honest approach seemed to be warranted in this case... First, calling it a "hybrid" of any type is inappropriate.  It is not a hybrid in any form.  There is only a single propulsion system, no blending of any kind.  It is really just an upgrade to 42 volts.  Second, calling it a "car" is just plain wrong.  It is a truck!  Third, there is a zero percent increase in highway efficiency, providing city benefit only.  Lastly, there is no driving emission reduction whatsoever.  I have nothing against that vehicle at all.  In fact, I am delighted to see improvements that have nothing to do with increased horsepower, increased acceleration, or increased size.  What I don't like is the misrepresentation.  A more appropriate name than "mild hybrid" is needed.  Surely they can coin a new word for their advertising campaign, rather than milking someone else's reputation for their own benefit.  This is going to turn into a very odd battle.  In defense of genuine hybrids, Ford will be joining forces with Toyota and Honda to compete against GM.  How about that?

3-18-2004

Missing the point.  Since pushing Prius is not my objective anyway, attempts to dilute those facts have no effect.  The point always has been and always will be HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive).  It's the technology, not the vehicle.  HSD will be available in all passenger vehicles Toyota offers by 2010.  Lots of people will be happy then, even those that currently don't believe hybrids will prevail.

3-18-2004

Battery-Pack Expectancy.  It is expected to last the entire lifetime of the vehicle, so no replacement should be necessary.  Watching the Multi-Display, you'll observe how little the pack is actually used.  Most of the electricity comes directly from the engine instead, hence the long life.  You'll also notice how "empty" is never reached.  The system protects the pack from ever getting deep-discharged, the very thing that ages batteries quickly.  It also prevents full cycles from occurring that often.  So the 10,000 you have available is plenty.  Replacement can be done by module (there are 28), the whole pack all at once isn't necessary.  Costs should be taken into account using the price in 2009.  (That's a minimum of 30,000 miles per year if you started driving today.)  By then, very high volume production should have driven the cost down quite a bit.  When the pack actually does get old, reduced capacity will be the outcome.  That means MPG will drop.  It will have very little impact in actual power available.  The engine will simply have to run more often, to supply electricity that way instead.  So it isn't that big of a deal anyway.

3-17-2004

Minnesota Credit.  Did you know one was being considered for hybrids now?  If passed, it would be effective July 1, 2004.  That money is based on the factors of actual benefit, not the price.  I like that a lot.  Others states haven't done that, even though all hybrids are not created equally.

3-17-2004

Discontinued Later?  I still see absolutely no reason why Prius won't continue as a leading-edge platform for new technology rollout.  After all, it already has some premiere features... like "SE/SS".  Have you noticed that the Lexus only has "SE", the start part still requires a key.  Toyota's goal for the decade is to increase their US market-share from 10 to 15 percent.  Doing that is a much easier task if the product line is expanded.  More choices, especially with one as unique as Prius, increases the odds of taking away business from the competition.  And don't forget, Solara doesn't quite fit the mold either.

3-17-2004

Reflection.  I drive by a restaurant every morning on the way to work.  The building comes right up to the edge of the street.  Its front is covered with windows.  Those windows very clearly reflect an image of the Prius.  So naturally, whenever I drive by, I can't resist diverting my attention to watch.  Perhaps that is why I am able to spot 2004 Prius on the road so easily now.  Hmm?

3-17-2004

Still Waiting.  Right now, the Multi-Display value is at 49 MPG.  Spring is getting mighty close now.  All the snow we got last night is melted already.  The same thing is suppose to happen tonight.  When the snow finally leaves for good and the temperature stays in the 40's, MPG will finally climb into the 50's and stay there.  I can't wait! (Only having winter efficiency to report is really a pain.)

3-16-2004

Measurement Considerations.  The bladder in the tank (used to virtually eliminate evaporative emissions) changes size based on temperature.  That gives the false impression of Multi-Display inaccuracy, since the size of the tank isn't always the same.  Gas station pumps themselves are rarely consistent, so that messes up measurements as well.  Also, keep in mind that just 50 cents of gas difference can mean about a 2 MPG error.  And if that weren't enough, there's summer verses winter fuel to consider too.

3-16-2004

Easy being green?  Reading the Focus ZTW article just published by "Car and Driver" was enlightening.  They talked about how pleasing the power was, despite the special engineering needed to meet the strict emissions requirements.  And they did it all for only a 3 percent price increase.  Overall, it looked like a definite feather in Ford's cap for having accomplished that.  Then I turned to page two.  That revealed the base price listed for the manual transmission was actually $200 more than Prius and their observed efficiency was 15 MPG less than Prius... grinding all arguments about financial saving to an abrupt halt... especially when you consider that the base package for Prius also a Digital Speedometer, Multi-Display, LED Brake Lights...  The job for that car to compete with Prius is considerably harder to be green than some think.  Not me though.  I always knew Prius made it made it easy.

3-16-2004

Misleading First-Impressions.  The only real-world MPG data currently available is from 2004 Prius that aren't even broken-in yet, many are in temperatures significantly below the EPA minimum testing criteria, and they are all using winter-formula fuel.  Once break-in is complete, the minimum temperature becomes a reality, and the same fuel the EPA tests were performed with becomes available, efficiency averages will climb to about 50 MPG.  And I know that for a fact, since my 2001 Prius delivered 50 MPG all last summer.  Doing the same with my 2004 will be considerably easier, since the design is clearly improved.

3-16-2004

Patience.  Expecting immediate market responses is absurd, yet some do.  (Too bad they weren't forced to take college economic & accounting classes like I did.)  It's like saying... Digital Cameras should have debuted at 4 megapixels, Hard-Drives should have debuted at 120 GB, DVDs should have debuted with the ability to record, Printers should have debuted with the ability to print photos ...and all for the affordable prices they are now available at today.  It has become blatantly obvious that the underlying problem is people in general simply have no sense of patience.  And quite honestly, that actually is ok.  Reducing production costs takes time.  So premiering a new technology in a configuration that will draw lots of attention makes a ton of good business sense, since you need someone to buy the product once the production costs are finally reduced.  Far too many product debuts have failed due to lack of interest.  Remember, vehicles are considered long-term investments.  Most people will wait for reliability data before making a purchase.  That means a minimum of 6 years.  And if you the study, you'll see evidence of the 6 year plan.  In 2000, sales began.  Improvements to the technology and rollout to 4 other vehicles is on schedule and generating a ton of publicity.  There is already very little doubt about well publicized "300,000 per year by 2006" goal being achieved.  And 2006 is the year America's best selling car, Camry, is expected to be available as a hybrid... precisely when that 6 years of reliability data becomes available.  Patience.

3-15-2004

Watts.  Traditional halogen bulbs consume 55 watts.  The HID bulbs in some Prius (like mine) only consume 35 watts.  I bet you didn't know that.  I certainly didn't.  So besides being a better-to-see-with technology, it is also more energy efficient.  And get this, there's no filament inside.  Illumination comes from a high-voltage arc of electricity instead.  Shocking!

3-15-2004

The Market.  Since the "one size fits all" approach is illogical, pushing it makes no sense.  But that is the very reason that dang discussion thread thrives.  Arrgh!  Some focus on the vehicle features, rather than the technology itself.  Some only acknowledge the current hybrid figuration available, fixating solely on a specific aspect.  Some only see a financial saving, ignoring the other benefits.  And that's why I keep pushing the long-term, trying to get them to see the benefits of the HSD design in the vehicle & configuration of their choice, rather than just what's available today.  No vehicle in the history of the world has ever satisfied everyone's need.  Roads are different.  Climates are different.  Traffic is different.  Passenger & Cargo needs are different.  Even expected length of ownership is different. S o trying to claim any one vehicle can fulfill all those needs is completely unrealistic. Step back and look at the big picture, not just something in particular.  The "market" is very diverse, so constrained arguments against about hybrids that are not have little merit.

3-14-2004

Fall Photos.  Finally, those photos from way back then... photo album 67    photo album 68    photo album 69    photo album 70

3-14-2004

Hill Climbing.  It is a commonly asked about, and the response is exactly the opposite of some expect.  Hills tend to increase, not decrease, the benefits of the hybrid system.  The engine runs at its most efficient state (full load) on the way up, which causes the battery-pack charge-level to climb.  So you typically end up with more stored electricity at the top than you do at the bottom.  The power-split device simply diverts energy to recharging.  And then on the trip down, the engine usually shuts off completely.  So you automatically toggle between electric drive and recharging even more as you drive along.  It's pretty sweet!  In short, the system is far more capable than people realize.

3-14-2004

Website Cards.  I've been passing them out for 3.5 years now to stimulate interest in Prius, providing teaser info & photos hoping to make people curious enough to check out my website.  And it has worked extremely well.  So it was time for another update... website cards 7    website cards 8    website cards - print

3-13-2004

613.7 Mile Tank.  Hey!  An owner reported that record.  I can't even remotely compete with that, yet.  The temperature here was only in the teens for a big chunk of this week.  Then to make matters worse, it was warm when I filled up.  So MPG suffered from both the cold and bladder-effect.  I can't wait to play in a warm environment.  It's still a month away.  I can't stand it!  The waiting is suppose to end once you finally get a Prius... or so I thought.  The fact that Prius can continue to invoke excitement year after year is an amazing aspect of the technology only owners can have a true appreciation for.

3-13-2004

Intent.  Mine has been pointed out many times.  It's simple.  I practice hybrid debate skills on that certain discussion thread (the one that, unfortunately, still keeps kicking).  So whether they like it or not there, there are helping with the rollout efforts of hybrids.  Just refer to the book of Microsoft, even negative publicity is helpful.  And whether they believe all of the experiences I have or not, they are nonetheless true.  After having thousands of them over the last 4 years, it's only natural that a few end up on the extraordinary side.  Right place at the right time does really happen if you keep trying over and over again.  Just look at my photo album.  The 879 nice shots are the result of deleting the 13,000 that didn't turn out.  Back on intent... The thing I find most entertaining is how some absolutely won't consider anything beyond what they grew up with.  The use of the word "performance" is the best!  I chuckle every time someone uses it.  And I love the opportunity that I'm allowed to be sarcastic about it afterward.  Y'all are great!  Where else would I get to do that?  I personally define "low performance" as a vehicle that isn't capable of getting a minimum of 45 MPG.  The national average is only in the around 25 MPG.  After 100 years of tweaking engine design, that's pathetic.  Considering how many miles people drive annually, the fact that MPG is a low priority is sad.  And that's without even taking the emission or political issues into account.  Anywho, my intended goal will be achieved regardless.  Short-Term is PZEV.  Long-Term is ZEV.  And all along the way MPG will continue to get better and better.

3-13-2004

Typical?  Have you noticed lately how the body style of the Classic model is slowly become more and more typical?  The rigid & boxy look is out.  The SUVs are all taking on a rounded & curvy feel now.  That makes the older Prius begin to fit in rather well.  It also gives the Civic-Hybrid the impression of being outdated.  Kind of makes you wonder what Honda will do this fall.  Hmm?  So, that makes a person wonder how long it will take before the more practical dashboard layout of Prius becomes the "in thing" too.  People crave change.  And the fact that having a speedometer that is not obscured by the steering-wheel and you don't have to look down or refocus much to see it is more practical, makes it likely to catch on.  Being the 21st Century and not having a screen on the dashboard is a bit odd.  Even the cheap cell-phones have color screens.  Why shouldn't a vehicle, especially when the screen can be used as a cell-phone interface?  It can also be used in conjunction with a camera to make backing up safer & easier.  Info on hybrid system operation is quite useful too.

 

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