Prius Personal Log  #125

June 5, 2004  -  June 8, 2004

Last Updated: Sun. 6/13/2004

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6-08-2004

The Latest Article on Hybrids.  There was an underlying theme of "we fear change" and "anything that's different is bad".  I've read many articles of that nature, and it really makes no difference to me. Even negative publicity is good for raising awareness... an important aspect at this stage of rollout.  The data they provided was either poorly researched or an outright lie.   Whatever the case, it is extraordinarily vague.  Thankfully, many with an interest in hybrids actually do their homework.  They figure out that there is something wrong with misleading reports like that.  As the many technologies in Prius continue to evolve, it will hard for even those with the most to lose from hybrids becoming popular to deny that some of those new features lower the appeal for traditional designs.  Change is inevitable.  People simply grow tired of the same old, same old after awhile.  Hybrids like Prius offer a very refreshing change for the better.

6-08-2004

Not Just Hybrids.  Some people are under the impression that you have to go to extraordinary measures to achieve pleasing MPG.  In reality, many people don't care about squeaking out the very highest efficiency.  They are quite content with getting upper 40's for MPG, rather than 54 MPG like I'm getting.  Instead of blasting the Heater or A/C, just use a lower setting.  Comfortable is quite realistic without using the maximum setting.  Instead of driving +75 MPH, drive 70 MPH.  Or even better, take a slower highway, since they usually have less traffic anyway.  Instead of weaving through traffic and always being the first off the mark, just drive along with the rest of the crowd.  And sorry, no offense, I don't believe anyone that claims they properly maintain their tires unless they actually mention detail.  I have even caught other hybrids off guard, by asking to verify by actually checking.  Tires naturally leak, that's a fact.  Plus, temperature changes cause the PSI to drop.  That means unless you are either running above standard pressure or checking them twice a month, you are not maintaining them properly.  The same goes for the oil level.  Change places squirt oil straight from a large barrel into your engine.  There is literally no way to measure without stopping and carefully checking the dipstick.  Most don't bother.  1/2 quart too much is very easy to squirt in.  And that just kills MPG.   (Switching to synthetic oil is a very simple way of increasing MPG.)  And of course, the least obvious but most beneficial tip is to stop taking short trips.  Just a few minutes behind the wheel with a cold engine makes MPG average plummet.  (It's hard on the exhaust system too, no time to purge moisture build up.)   Instead, just combine errand running into a series of short trips.  Many people prefer to get that kind of chore over with anyway, so that tip is a welcome one.  The point is that these tips are common-sense and apply to any type of vehicle.  If you do the same in a traditional vehicle, lower than estimated MPG will be the result with it too.  This is not totally unique to hybrids, as some imply.  It's just that you have a computer informing you of your behavior in a hybrid.  In a traditional vehicle, you have no easy way of knowing.

6-08-2004

SSC-40D.  It's not a recall.  In fact, it doesn't even have anything to do with the Prius itself.  It is an update to the ECU (Prius computer) to allow it to properly communicate with the dealer's diagnostic tool.  Without the update, that tool may not be able to recognize why a warning light was triggered.  In other words, the diagnostic system in the Prius works fine, the tool had issues.  And with warning lights so rare anyway, this really doesn't affect many owners.  It does help the rest of us feel better though, by showing us that Toyota is committed to making the HSD system in Prius a reliable consumer product.

6-07-2004

"Untested"  Whenever someone makes that comment about the technology, I ask them how long they expect it to take.  They never answer.  In fact, they never even hint at the criteria.  They just claim it is still "too new" to be trusted.  The "original" Prius had already been on the road for 3 years by the time the "classic" became available in the United States.  And just 7 weeks now, the 7th year of Prius production will end (totally 250,000 units worldwide).  That means year 8 will soon begin.  At what pointed is the "untested" label no longer relevant?

6-07-2004

Patience.  June, July, and August data will make those less-than-enthusiastic about the technology think twice.  But in the meantime, we have to stall while that data is being collected.  So some of the bickering on the online groups is ok.  If nothing else, it does help to raise awareness.  Anywho, this morning was my warmest ever morning commute with the 2004.  At 77 F degrees with a high humidity, the Prius was in heaven.  The MPG rode delightfully high the whole trip.  Now after 333 miles, this tank is displayed as getting 56.6 MPG.  That's just plain sweet, something the media has claimed impossible.  Over the past 3 years with a Prius... June is typically the worst summer month.  July is better. August is the best.  September can even be impressive too.  This warm season sure is going to be fun!

6-07-2004

No Advantage.  Some are still making the claim that there is no advantage to having a hybrid when you drive on the highway.  Many reports from owners say they get 48 to 52 MPG when cruising at high-speed, including me!  That sure sounds like an advantage.  Think about it.  Hybrids have smaller than average engines.  That aspect alone gives them the potential for efficiency greater than what a large engine can deliver.  And it does!

6-06-2004

Window Conversations.  On the return trip from rollerblading and a photo-shoot, I had my window open.  And sure enough (now that it's finally nice out) someone took full advantage of it.  A man & woman on a motorcycle couldn't resist asking me about the Prius when we both stopped at an intersection.  Hearing that I was getting better MPG than that motorcycle didn't actually surprise them.  Cool!  The light turn green and we parted.  I thought it was over, especially since we were no longer side by side.  Nope.  The next red light revealed something unexpected, another Prius!  It was a classic (Blue).  And that's what the motorcycle ended up next to, with me behind it.  So the guy initiated another conversation.  He pointed in back to my Prius, the driver had already noticed me.  I could even see him saying, "Yup, I know him."  The light turned green and we all ended up going our separate ways.  I thought it was over.  Nope.  Another classic (Silver) pulled in behind me.  So when I got into the next lane at the red light, he took full advantage of that.  I wasn't sure what the heck to say.  This was my first on-the-fly encounter with another owner in the 2004.  He did.  He said, "I'm jealous!"  That was a bit awkward.  So I provided the same info I normally do, by yelling out "I'm getting 56 MPG."  That put a smile on his face.  Hmm.  Seeing so many Prius now is definitely exciting.  Yesterday, I wanted to show off on the way to the getting pie & coffee, just 3 miles away.  On the short drive, we drove right next to 2 other Prius, a 2004 (Blue) and a classic (Green).  That was pretty sweet.  For both, I waved out the window.  One owner happily returned the friendly gesture, the other was rather preoccupied with driving.

6-06-2004

Fob Convenience.  When I go on a biking or rollerblading trip, all my keys get bundled together and placed securely into a pack.  (I certainly don't want to lose them somewhere on the trail.)  Having a fob now sure makes dealing with that a whole lot easier.  No digging anymore or having to wait until I think the car can be locked (because someone always needs one last item from inside afterward).  It remains in the pack from the time I leave the house to the time I get back home, never seeing the light of day.  Being both wireless and touchless sure is convenient.  All I have to do is just get close enough for the car to sense it.

6-06-2004

Depreciation.  Prius is certainly gaining some attention in the used market.  Since demand is so strong, it now (unofficially) holds the all-time highest record for resale value ever!  Just think what will happen a few years from now when more reports come in that the battery-pack is still working perfectly after 150,000 miles of driving.  The end of that misconception will drive interest up ever higher.  Whoa!  That sure will be cool.

6-06-2004

Cold Weather.  I better beef up the misconceptions webpage, now that people are asking more specific questions.  Today, the battery-pack got attack with a claim that performance is reduced, implying less power is available.  That isn't true.  Power is actually increased.  Yes, capacity is reduced.  But since you virtually never dip below 40% anyway, reaching 0% is totally a non-issue.  Remember, deep-discharging shortens the battery-pack life.  So the system will sacrifice gas rather than ever letting that happen.  The benefit of the cold, besides reducing resistance (an efficiency perk), is the fact that cooling is no longer a concern.  So in dead of winter, the electrical abilities are enhanced.  The system actually allows greater AMP draw & charge than it does in warm weather.  That's pretty sweet!

6-06-2004

Not going to happen.  I had a mini-gathering at my house yesterday.   We filmed oil work on two different Prius.  One had overfill that needed to be drained out and the other needed a complete oil & filter change.  Although the footage came out fairly well, lighting was quite a bit more difficult to deal with than with the digital photos (which were a challenge in themselves).   You only get the opportunity for a single take with certain tasks too.  The voice would need to be completely dubbed over too.  In short, it's a heck of a lot of work to create content for a dummies video.  And with a goal to provide something even more informative than the document I already created, it looks very unrealistic.  There's no way I can compete.  There have been over 3,600 downloads of the document in the past two months.  How in the world could I deliver than many DVDs, ever if they were top-notch quality and fulfilled the need perfectly?  And since I have a hard enough just trying to deliver document updates on a timely basis, I'm shelving the idea of creating a collection of video-segments.  Sorry.  Oh well, perhaps someone else will give it a try.

6-05-2004

Oil Overfill.  I had a friend with a Prius stop by today.  The dealer had overfilled her oil and we all know that too much is bad, so I drained some out.  I always wondered how much oil was being wasted whenever they did that.  This was a perfect opportunity to find out.  The level went from 1/4 inch above the full mark to 1/4 inch below.  The excess oil completely filled a 16.9 ounce bottom of Aquafina.  That worked out to exactly what I had always been saying.  The dealer put in a little more than 1/2 quart beyond what was necessary.  This also informs us that the 1/4 below the full mark, the level I strongly recommend, is just a little over 1/4 quart less than maximum.

6-05-2004

T616 vs T610.  I need to play more with those bluetooth phones.  My T610 worked fantastic.  My T616 seems to have issues, where the sound is muffled over the bluetooth connection.  Is that because the two phones work on different types of networks, in which the signal interferes with the bluetooth transmission?  Or is it that I just happened to get a particular phone that doesn't work all that well?  I'll have to run through the setup process again to see if that has any affect, perhaps there are connection variables that didn't get detected correctly.

6-05-2004

Veggie Oil.  The recent obsession with using this as a fuel is getting me rather concerned.  Some people have no concept of scale.  They think you'll be able to just collect the used frying oil from restaurant & fast-food places.  The thought that one business has only enough to keep one vehicle supplied doesn't even seem to cross their mind.  The fact that the veggie oil can only be used when both it and the engine is warm doesn't either.  That means everyone in the north can't use the stuff half the year and you must have a second tank to carry regular fuel, which is required to warm the engine with before switching over to veggie.  The secondary fuel required is diesel, which is so dirty even the limited use of it is still dirtier (smog-related emissions) than a hybrid like Prius.  The problem of price is often forgotten too.  The industry typically quotes the price of a diesel over a traditional gas as $1,200.  A standard conversion kit to adapt a diesel to use veggie oil is about $800.  That works out to a $2,000 premium... which just happens to be what HSD (the system in the Toyota & Lexus hybrids) is expected to cost once high-volume production finally kicks in.  Plus, you must routinely purchase the chemical that reprocesses the veggie oil for use as fuel.  (Sorry, I'm not sure how much that costs.)  And the diesel system doesn't even have a bladder in the tank.  So if you want to reduce evaporative emissions, you must also spend money for that too.  (A bladder is included with those hybrids.)  And to further sour the appeal for veggie oil, or even just straight diesel, is that the HSD system is more efficient.  So regardless of fuel source, you will be using less with a hybrid.  Also, keep in mind that owners (like myself) aren't using 100% gas anyway.  10% is ethanol (US grown fuel).  And the ability to use 85% ethanol in a HSD hybrid is a realistic option too; FFV rollout in traditional vehicles has proven that already.  That means when you step back and look at the big picture, veggie oil isn't a realistic solution at all.  Heck, even biodiesel is a better choice.  Lastly, don't forget that transporting 30 to 40 gallons of veggie oil to your house and storing all that in the garage isn't exactly convenient either.

6-05-2004

Demand Myth.  Some believe hybrids will suffer the same fate as the electric vehicle did back in the 90's.  I know the situation quite well.  They won't.  I really wanted an Saturn EV-1 (a small, pure electric car).  But it never made it beyond just the "test market".  So then I thought I might be able to snag a Ranger-Electric, since Rangers are built locally (St. Paul, Minnesota).  But that obviously never happened either, their availability was even more limited.  Anywho, both vehicles were way too small to ever gain mass-appeal anyway (most people need more than 2 seats).  And even if the price problem for them could be solved, scaling up to a larger vehicle was just way too unrealistic.  That isn't true for HSD, the hybrid system in Prius (and soon, a few other vehicles).  It actually is realistic offering it on vehicles of all shapes & sizes.  Plus (this part is sweet) it can be configured in a variety of ways, offering different degrees of power by altering the engine, motors, battery-pack.  The HSD hybrid has tremendous potential.  Demand will skyrocket once consumers figure that out.

 

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