Prius Personal Log  #112

March 25, 2004  -  March 29, 2004

Last Updated: Sat. 6/12/2004

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3-29-2004

All Good Things.  There was obviously no way I could continue at this furious pace forever.  Change was inevitable.  Being able to construct the User Guide and Info-Sheet for the 2004 Prius, while also taking a over 1,000 digital photos for the Prius Winter collection (not published yet), and at the same time actively participating in several online discussion-groups, plus setting up the website on a new server meant making a number of sacrifices.  In this case, I had to postpone the most recent 205 log entries until now.  Catching up on a 6 week backlog is extraordinarily draining.  It also prevents me from having much of a personal life.  So, I've been scrambling to tie up loose ends... knowing that the pace will slow down significantly soon.  When the weather finally warms and stays that way, I intend to play.  That means less time in front of the computer.  Sorry, but that reality is growing near after 4 years of relentless persistence.  Naturally of course, I will continue to take lots of Prius photos.  That gives me a great excuse to travel.  Gatherings and the on-the-spot parking lot presentations will carry on as well.  But proceeding with the quest to find a "Mrs. 1701-A" will be given a much higher priority.  (Wish me luck!)  Many more Prius owners are stepping up to the plate now, using the website as a template for their own hybrid endeavors.  Things are moving along remarkably well.  The momentum is built up.  A greener future awaits.  C ya there! 

3-29-2004

It doesn't pollute.  That's what someone claimed today when discussing the PZEV Ford Focus.  "P" in PZEV means partial, there is still pollution.  0.2 is what Focus earns for emission credit.  0.3 is what Prius earns for emission credit.  That clearly indicates that neither is totally clean, despite emitting significantly less than other vehicles on the road.  It also clearly indicates that Prius is officially recognized as the cleaner of the two.

3-28-2004

Regenerating.  When you lift your foot off the accelerator-pedal, regenerating automatically begins using the 10kW motor.  When you step on the brake-pedal, regenerating automatically switches over to using the 50kW motor.  The most regen-symbols (those little green leaves on the Consumption Screen of the Multi-Display) I've ever achieved with my 2004 is 3.5 in one 5-minute segment and 12.5 over a 30-minute span.  More is likely possible since Summer allows greater regenerating, but the warmest I've ever driven my 2004 in is 66 F degrees.  So naturally, I'm still patiently waiting to find out how much more.

3-28-2004

Lots of Hot Air About Hydrogen.  An editorial published in the LA Times today sighted the nonsense about hydrogen.  It pointed out how the fuel will end up costing about 4 times as much as gasoline and how range will be cut in half.  Neither of those aspects will be accepted with by consumers, obviously.  As for me, I'm quite upset that it will ultimately result in twice the emissions that my Prius emits.  I'm sure glad that fact is now being told to others, rather than waiting 15 more years like this current administration tried to conceal from us.  Hydrogen represents a big step backward.  But like with everything, raised awareness is a good start toward progress.  The benefit of hybrids will become apparent fairly soon... I hope.

3-28-2004

Hill Climbing.  Sometimes, I just plain can't figure out if some message posters simply don't understand how the Prius hybrid system works or are intentionally misrepresenting it.  When climbing a hill, the engine ordinarily recharges the battery-pack.  If pushed harder, some of the electricity is routed to the motor.  If pushed even harder, the motor uses all of it.  If pushed beyond even that, the battery-pack joins in to feed the motor.  So it is extremely rare for enough electricity to not be available.  And in my 70,000 miles of driving Prius, I certainly haven't ever come close to that situation.  It just isn't a realistic scenario.  There is plenty of power for hill climbing.

3-27-2004

20 years from now.  What in the world would make a person think so much time is needed for hybrids to become standard?  If an average vehicle is only in service for 8 years anyway, that's over 2 full cycles, which is enough to replace everything now on the road.  And in that same time, a vehicle will be remodeled at least 4 times.  To revise so much, yet not improve the drive system that much would be rather odd.  So I would expect hybrids becoming standard much sooner.  And by judging the rollout based on other new technologies of the past, it shouldn't take more than 10 years... of which, has already begun.

3-27-2004

How many gallons?  That still gets asked from time to time.  At room temperature, the tank holds 11.9 gallons.  During the dead of winter in Minnesota, it shrinks by about 1.5 gallons.  I'm not the type of person that likes driving on fumes though, so I always fill up diligently.  But when I first got my 2004, the tank needed to be filled.  It took 10.7 gallons.  This evening, the "Add Fuel" warning had not triggered yet.  But I stopped to fill up anyway, since I'll need to again in just 4 days to accurately gather monthly statistics.  The tank took 8.5 gallons without topping off at all.  So that puts the gauge dead-on for me, informing me of the 9 gallon limit I usually fill by.

3-27-2004

Remember When?  To gain more cargo room for our stuff while traveling, we would strap a car-top carrier onto the roof.  It's like people completely forgot about anyone ever having done that.  Instead, they make excuses about needing an obscene amount of space.  Thank goodness the first hints of more sensible size SUVs becoming popular are emerging.  People used to like the feel of a vehicle too, where hugging the road was a big factor of appeal.  Then high-ground clearance, despite not actually being needed, captured the market and they abandoned the desire for that feel.  But guess what, it is coming back.  Heck, even the aerodynamic look is too.  Seeing a full cycle occur has been enlightening.  It won't be too long before I don't have to remember any of it anymore.  It will have returned completely.  Excellent!

3-27-2004

Sweet!  Between my brother and I, we had 3 sightings of 2004 Prius within just blocks of my house today.  I had one more, my first Salsa in fact, but it was over 2 miles away.  A whole bunch of Prius, gotta love it!

3-27-2004

What you aren't being told.  Some make claims that the EPA testing amplifies the results by starting not acknowledging the state of the battery-pack.  To that, I say "phooey".  But when I point out that you aren't being told that going from "drained" to "full" only takes a few minutes and has very little impact on overall MPG, those claims is meaningless.  I really makes no difference.  There's a 3 mile stretch that I drive routinely.  It is a 35 MPH road that connects one highway to another, providing an appealing shortcut for many.  I can drive pretty much the entire length using only electricity.  When I merge onto the second highway, the battery-pack charge-level is at the point where it desire recharging.  So engine RPM is increased.  That provides so much electricity, the battery-pack isn't drawn from at all.  Instead, it is charged.  After just 3 minutes of cruising at 60 MPH, the battery-pack is already topped-off.  And I know this for a fact, since I leave the highway at that point... where I resume electric-only driving.  The fact that charge-level is recovered so rapidly is very handy.  The fact that recovery has very little impact on MPG is fantastic.

3-27-2004

EPA under fire.  Attention on their "non-representative of real-world driving" testing routine has really grown lately, due to the growing interest in hybrids and the sky-rocketing gas prices.  The values they publish are only for warm weather driving.  A/C use from hot weather and heater use in cold weather is not accounted for, both negatively skew results.  MPG reduction caused by winter-formula gas and cold air (which is more dense) isn't either.  And of course, their 55 MPH highway speed limit isn't even close to the speeds people actually drive, causing a significant drop in efficiency.  The purpose of the testing was originally intended to provide a basis of comparison for shoppers.  Now it is viewed upon as a misrepresentation of efficiency, implying more than it really is... and owners are not happy, they feel cheated.  So now it looks like those tests may finally be revised.  Yeah!

3-27-2004

Two Motors.  Toyota calls their hybrid system "HSD" (Hybrid Synergy Drive), which uses two motors to accomplish the electrical tasks.  Having a second motor available allows for the ability to both generate & consume electricity at the same time.  This allows the gas engine to run at a more efficient state by using electricity generation as an offset of optimum RPM.  Some of the electricity is used as power for electric thrust, the remaining is used for recharging the battery-pack.  So recharging via braking is not the primary source of electricity, the engine is.  This also means the battery-pack is not always need power the electric motor.  The two motor design provides for much more electrical thrust than a single motor design, since the battery-pack charge-level typically remains near full.  This, along with the power-split device that connects the motors & engine, accommodates the ability to drive exclusively using electricity.  That ability, which owners call "Stealth", is the reason MPG can be so high for city driving.

3-27-2004

One Motor.  Honda calls their hybrid system "Assist", which uses one motor to accomplish all electrical tasks.  The design uses an electric motor to supplement thrust when the gas engine is in an efficient state, like when accelerating.  The primary source of electricity for the battery-pack is regeneration from braking.  The secondary source is charging via the gas engine; this causes MPG to decrease, but fortunately it isn't needed often.

3-26-2004

He's Driving Right At Me!  That was scary.  I was parked at the end of the lot.  What I thought was a car cutting across as a shortcut, turned out to be a Lexus on a collision course.  It raced right at me, but I didn't panic for some reason.  When the car stopped, a man got out and politely asked if I had a moment to talk while pointing at the Prius.  Ahh!  He wanted to ask an owner questions.  So I was happy to oblige.  He was thrilled.  I left him with an Info-Sheet and a website card, along with a silly grin on his face.  The delight he expressed was fantastic.  Cool!

3-26-2004

Apparently, I haven't heard it all.  This quote today in an online discussion about hybrids totally amazed me, "but hurt fuel economy when it's driven in other conditions".  I had no idea at this point someone would even attempt to say something so absurd.  Even when a hybrid is in the worst of conditions, it still achieves better efficiency than its traditional engine-only counterpart.

3-25-2004

Tax Instructions.  This year (for 2003 tax returns), write "Clean Fuel" on line 33 of the 1040 form to take a deduction for purchasing a Prius.

3-25-2004

Smaller than I expected.  As if it wasn't amazing enough...  Take a moment now to look at your hand.  The Planetary CVT is the size (height, width, and length) of the average adults palm.  That's it!  It really surprised me to discover (at the Auto Show this year) the heart of the hybrid system was so small.

3-25-2004

CVT types.  Did you know their were 2 types?  "Cone & Belt" is the type of CVT in the Honda hybrids.  It provides an infinite gearing ratio, allowing flexibility that fixed gears cannot.  That enables the gas engine to run more efficiently, in concert with an electric propulsion-motor, which saves gas.  That type of works well for a single motor system, and is what most people are familiar with.  The other type is what is used to support two different types of motors at the same time.  It is a relatively new design which features a power-split design, rather than one that supports tension adjustments.  "Planetary" is the type of CVT in the Toyota/Lexus hybrids.  It too provides an infinite gearing ratio to support gas engine and electric propulsion-motor use; however, the ability to also support a generator-motor at the same time is available.  This alleviates the burden on the battery-pack, allowing electricity to be supplied on-the-fly from the engine instead.  It also enables the ability to propel the vehicle without the engine at all, using nothing but electricity from the battery-pack.

3-25-2004

HSD Potential.  HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) is the system currently available only in Prius.  Later this year, it will also be available in a SUV... due to the flexibility the design offers.  Different size engines & motors & battery-packs can be attached to HSD, allowing for a variety of configurations.  The 2001-2003 model Prius used a 1.5 liter engine with 33kW motor and a 274-volt battery-pack.  The 2004+ model Prius uses a 1.5 liter engine with a 50kW motor and a 204-volt battery-pack, along with an inverter to increase the electricity to 500 volts.  There is a 2004 model Prius used for racing.  The low-emission, fuel-efficient Atkinson-Miller type engine was replaced with a standard Otto type engine, the one used in Echo.  That change increased both the available horsepower and the maximum electricity available (via the on-the-fly generator).  This was accomplished without the need to alter the HSD system at all.  The original motor & battery-pack continued to be used, as is.  The catch was that the fuel-efficiency dropped and the emissions increased.  But it worked well for racing.  When HSD is introduced in a SUV, the configuration will put more emphasis on power and less on efficiency & emissions.  This will result in a hybrid that can actually out-accelerate its traditional engine-only counterpart, yet still save some gas and reduce some emissions.  The SUV setup uses a 70kW motor in front and a secondary 50kW motor in back.  This not only supplies greater power, it also demonstrates the potential of HSD design by providing 4-wheel drive.

3-25-2004

It's Dead!  I can't believe it is finally over.  After all that online debating, the host on the Edmunds group finally declared the matter closed by marking the discussion thread read-only.  That means no more posts are possible.  The topic "Is it time to buy a hybrid? Are they up to the chore?" is dead.  Yeah!  And guess it got replaced with: "What type of hybrid should I buy?"  So you can deduce what the answers the question were...

3-25-2004

My first duel-sighting!  While cruising down the highway today, I spotted a White 2004 Prius.  That was exciting, but not as good as the reaction when I noticed it was being followed by a Silver Classic.  That was cool... and a bit creepy.  It was in the precise location where I had my first double-sighting (2 classics).  And to further add to the dramatic drive, I spotted a White Classic just 2 minutes later.

 

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