Prius Personal Log  #126

June 5, 2004  -  June 13, 2004

Last Updated: Tues. 7/20/2004

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6-13-2004

Just like with computers.  The real problem is that our standard is evolving from a single to many.  Remember how CPU speed was the single determining feature for the level of computer you would purchase.  That number meant everything.  It made the choice very easy.  But now, it is one of many very important performance components.  Speed is no longer the sole factor of performance... just like the way hybrids are when it comes to what they offer.  All hybrids are not created equal.  Each type has its own strength.  And within each type, each configuration causes the speed & power & emissions & efficiency values to be different.  In short, the EPA doesn't even have any idea how to inform people of so many different hybrids that will soon be available.  So when you later have conversions about Honda, Toyota, Ford, and GM hybrids, you'll have to take a whole bunch of factors into consideration.  The power of the electric-motor or battery-size alone is no where near enough information to make a proper decision.  The type of engine & transmission they are connected too makes a really big difference, in addition to whether or not there is a secondary electric-motor also available for electricity generation or even a third for providing thrust to the rear wheels.  Then there's the other components within the vehicle.  Is the A/C powered by a belt connected directly to the engine, or is it an electric device powered from the battery-pack instead.  The same goes for the steering too.  It certainly is going to be quite a challenge in the next few years to make sure consumers are properly informed.  There's a lot to be aware of when it comes to hybrids.  But the ultimate outcome is well worth it, consumers get lots of choices.  The selection won't be horribly limited like it is now.  That variety will help provide a better fit for what people really want.

6-13-2004

How Long?  The engine duration question is a popular one on the new "Hybrid verses Diesel" discussion forum (which is silly, since you can actually have both, it doesn't have to be one or the other).  To me, it is totally a non-issue since around 90% of the vehicles in the north are junked by year 10 anyway.  Who cares of the engine still works.  The rest of the vehicle is falling apart at that point.  Rust, corrosion, and a deteriorating interior make vehicles lose their appeal in large numbers, regardless of whether it still runs or not here in Minnesota.  The fact that older vehicles lack many safety features helps make the replacement decision even easier.  And if that isn't enough, the desire for change will finally get the best of you.  So we simply don't have that many really old vehicles on the roads here anymore.  In short, convincing someone to keep a vehicle with more than 200,000 miles is quite a challenge.

6-13-2004

Oil Overfill Misconception.  Apparently we have a misconception emerging, due to owners be so observant now.  The actual problem is with those getting way too much, not just a little.  When they pull their dipstick out, they see that it is 3/8 of an inch past the full mark.  That's 2/3 of a quart beyond what was really should have.  Besides being wasteful, it could potentially damage the engine.  Having just a tiny amount over beyond the maximum most likely won't do any harm, but it does impact efficiency.  Watching the Multi-Display, you'll be able to confirm that.  But in a traditional vehicle, you can't.  Yet the problem exists for their engines too.  You'd be amazed how many problems have went unnoticed for decades.  Oil overfill is clearly one of them.  Hybrids are not as different as you would think, but they certainly raise awareness... making you assume differences.  Prius has a capacity of 3.9 quarts, which doesn't mean you should try to squeeze that much in.  It is a maximum.  For better performance, only use around 3.5 quarts.

6-12-2004

Prius in China?  Even though the amount of Prius available is already spread way too thin, the announcement about the market in China wanting them is actually a very good thing.  It is much easier from just about every perspective to negotiate a high-volume contract with third-party suppliers (like Panasonic, who supplies the battery-pack modules) when the same product can be sold in so many different markets.  In other words, Toyota is gearing up for some truly impressive future sales.  Again with the patience...

6-11-2004

Attitude Change.  You ever wonder how long it will be before we mostly read positive & well-informed articles like the one published today?  The upcoming hybrid SUVs will receive at least as much attention as Prius, quite likely even more.  That will result in significant transformation of attitudes.  Right now, many of the MPG stories I read about don't even mention the fact that hybrid SUVs will soon exist or the fact that a hybrid is capable of out-accelerating a traditional vehicle... supporting the belief that hybrids are apparently just small, slow, powerless vehicles.  And obviously, the other MPG stories that actually do properly highlight hybrid designs misrepresent actual performance by seeking out an owner or tester that experienced much lower-than-average efficiency.  And none of them mention the fact that the data was gathered from Prius that are not broken-in yet and during the worse time of the year (cold kills efficiency).  I know, patience.

6-11-2004

Avoiding Oil Overfill.  If you are not a do-it-yourself person, the best solution is to switch to synthetic oil... since supplying the oil yourself will guarantee they won't use too much and synthetic is clearly superior to regular oil.  Did you know that dealer's will allow you to provide your own oil?  That's a very simple way of saving some money.  Dealer's charge much more for the very same stuff you can buy at your local retail store.  And not only will that prevent overfill from ever happening, it also better protects your engine while at the same time increases your MPG a little bit.  Just purchase 4 quarts of synthetic oil.  At home, pour 1/2 quart into a very clean container and set it aside.  (A simple suggestion is a dry purified-water bottle.)  That way the dealer will only get 3.5 quarts of oil to begin with, making it impossible to overfill.  Remember, it is far easier to add a little bit more oil afterward than to remove it.  At the dealer, make sure to ask for one empty back for the 1/2 quart you saved at home.  That oil can be used next time, which saves you even more money.  Plus, there's one more benefit.  Some dealers only carry 10W-30 in stock, since that can be used in virtually all vehicles.  It's quite common in the southern states too.  However, Prius prefers the other common oil weight: 5W-30.  The heavier 10W-30 will cause MPG to be lower.  So if you bring in your own, you know that it will always be what the Toyota engineers recommend rather than what the dealer has available in bulk.

6-10-2004

Flawed Measurement.  A recent article comparing a diesel car to Prius simply didn't make sense.  We have no idea how "full" the tank was determined either before or after his tests.  But by not realizing there was a bladder in the tank, the reporter so easily could have misrepresented the amount of gas he actually used.  Single-Tank measuring is never a good practice.  That's why the more credible sources install a flow-meter instead.  Quite frankly, I don't believe that report.  Having the Multi-Display show 51.7 MPG, yet it only calculating to 38 MPG is a clear indication that something is wrong... like the way the tank was filled.  With over 74,000 miles of observation, I've never noticed that much of a discrepancy... even when the temperature significantly jumps up & down.  In fact, my average works out to only a 2 MPG optimistic difference.  So it is very likely that his was close to that too.  Realistically, he probably got around 49 MPG.  Whatever the case, that is a huge margin-of-error.  One that completely changes a main point of the report... since the diesel (which he declared more efficient) only got 44 MPG.

6-10-2004

Pocket-Size Promotion.  Created a new one, to show the effect warm weather has...  website cards 9    website cards - print

6-09-2004

Gas Station Sighting!  The odds of encountering another Prius while getting gas is virtually impossible.  We simply don't stop often enough for that to happen.  Yet there was a Salsa Red 2004 heading for the same pumps at the same time.  I couldn't believe it.  In fact, neither could he.  Needless to say, I jumped out of my Prius to walk over and say "Hi!"  I started the introduction by offering a website card.  Seeing that really got him excited.  So I ran over to my Prius and pulled out a stack of Info-Sheets for him.  He was quite pleased to see them, not knowing such a thing existed.  He had been looking for a way of telling people about the hybrid he had.  Glad I could help!

6-09-2004 Emission Ratings.  Not all hybrids are alike.  In other words, some are not as clean as you think.  CARB (California Air Resources Board) defines the following categories to help you identify how clean a vehicle is (2004 Prius is an AT-PZEV):

LEV   (Low Emission Vehicle)
     The least stringent emission standard for all new cars sold in
     California beyond 2004. 

ULEV   (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle)
     50% cleaner than the average new 2003 model year vehicle.

SULEV   (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle)
     90% cleaner than the average new 2003 model year vehicle.

PZEV   (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle)
     Meets SULEV tailpipe emission standards, has a 15-year  /
     150,000 mile warranty, and has zero evaporative emissions.

AT-PZEV   (Advanced Technology PZEV)
     Meets SULEV tailpipe emission standards, has a 15-year  /
     150,000 mile warranty, has zero evaporative emissions and
     includes advanced technology components.

ZEV   (Zero Emission Vehicle)
     Zero tailpipe emissions, and 98% cleaner than the average
     new 2003 model year vehicle.
 

6-09-2004

If you couldn't tell...   I've been playing offense a lot lately.  Defense was a useful position for the past few years, but now is the time for change.  I used to listen to the misconceptions.  Now I intercept them the moment I can confirm there is a lack of understanding.  It's working well too.  The reason for the change is to teach others how to stand up for what they believe in, the technology Prius uses... because I won't be there to help them.  (Fortunately, the website is loaded with material and will remain available for a very, very long time.)  My desire is to enjoy summer to the fullest.  That means greatly reducing the amount of time I spend online and limiting my log entries to just the really important stuff.  I'll still be playing with the Prius, of course.  And there will be some website updates (data & photos).  It won't be like in the past though, but neither is the hybrid market.  Have fun!  I know I will.

6-09-2004

Making Assumptions.  Since I support Prius so strongly, people just assume I'm trying to get as many people as possible to buy hybrids now.  That just plain isn't true.  My goal is and always has been a long-term one.  I too am waiting for that critical-mass to be reached.  It hasn't yet.  So currently, I don't actually recommend buying a hybrid to anyone that isn't dead set on getting one. Waiting is perfectly fine.  Nonetheless, that has absolutely nothing to do with the technology.  It is all a matter of logistics.  Training salespeople, training & tooling mechanics, getting third-party suppliers up to speed, and properly informing consumers (ending the misconceptions) are all independent of the design itself.  So quit trying to make hybrids appear unworthy!  Geez, the things people do when they fear change never ceases to amaze me.  Hybrids are quite practical from an operational point-of-view.  Stop making assumptions that you are being forced to accept them now.  The ownership part will fall right into place as production increases and prices decrease.  It will become a very natural step, nothing traumatic.  By then (the end of the decade) the reputation for hybrids will be well established, so the decision will be easy.  I have the patience for that.  Those that are fighting me need to have some too.  And if they don't like it, just by a traditional vehicle.  They won't disappear any time soon.  The only change will be that the hybrid selection will grow much larger.

6-09-2004

No Proof.  Some people just assume the battery-pack will someday need to be replaced, yet they provide no proof.  The fact that the batteries are not used the same way as in other rechargeable devices doesn't get acknowledged.  And they refuse to accept that the pack in a hybrid is never allowed to be deep-discharged, which is quite different from what routinely happens in laptop-computer, cell-phones, and power-tools.  Avoiding that kind of stress is what allows for much longer battery life.  But they don't care.  They just claim that the battery-pack will need to be replaced before the useful life of the vehicle ends... yet they never provide any proof, nor even any reasoning to support what they say.  Then when I mention the few real-world accounts we have of hybrids exceeding 150,000 miles, all with battery-packs are still working just fine and no evidence of replacement being needed, they just shrug me off.  They also don't believe me when I tell them that the hybrid type of NiMH offers 10,000 recharge cycles, not just 500-1,000 like the household NiMH batteries do.  The fact that after the 10,000 only 20% of the capacity is lost makes no difference to them either.  Not being aware is one thing.  But that behavior is clearly anti-hybrid.  They've found an aspect they can temporarily exploit they make hybrids look bad (due to limited data currently).  I wonder how many will though.  More and more proof from the hybrids owners will help prove their claims false... as well as reveal the fact that they don't have any proof at all of their own, only negative supposition.  Well, too bad.  They are just going to have to learn to accept the fact that hybrids are a realistic option.  Ha!

 

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