Prius Personal Log  #127

June 14, 2004  -  June 18, 2004

Last Updated: Weds. 1/05/2005

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6-18-2004

IMA technology.  I've always used the word "limited" when describing Honda's approach from an engineering perspective.  IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) provides no way to take a next step.  There isn't any method of extending the electric abilities of a system that is designed to only assist.  Honda sincerely thought sales of IMA equipped systems for years, in a country obsessed with consumption, would be a natural fit.  (So give them credit for what they've accomplished.)  They simply didn't realize the automotive evolution would actually turn into a revolution.  The need to take the next step is approaching much faster than they planned on.  Who would have ever thought a hybrid would be deemed "Car of the Year" so soon?  (Well... I did. But you get the point.)  Honda will obviously want to remain competitive.  Being willing to change is a good thing.  And being upfront about the need to change is even better.  So I am quite pleased about their announcement today to do exactly that.  They plan to reevaluate the market need following the Accord-Hybrid rollout.  The fact that HSD has all kinds of potential already built into the design is great.  It "inspired" Ford.  Perhaps Honda will go down the same path.  If not, as long as they keep trying all is fine.  I'm quite curious what the next few years will bring.  The remaining hybrid misconceptions will be proven false, just by current Prius owner continuing to drive.  Then everyone will begin demanding hybrids, not just the elite few like now.  Change is the only thing you can really plan on.

6-18-2004

An outside perspective.  Perhaps it would be best if I filled those not directly involved what's been happening.  There have been enough pro-diesel/anti-hybrid articles recently for Edmunds to open up a discussion topic that is usually considered taboo, due to how hostile the posts became in the past.  And sure enough, that's what happened again.  (So the topic was very active on my mind at the time.)  The idea of a diesel-hybrid totally throws them too.  It's like they can't accept that as ever being a possibility... even when I pointed out that the PNGV prototypes actually were.  Realistically, it doesn't matter.  They twist your words and veer off topic so bad that they end up losing the little bit of credibility they had in the first place.  The easiest way to avoid any hurt feelings or ill intent is to keep the discussion aimed at the future and avoiding mentioning specific vehicles.  Talk about stuff like: the potential HSD offers, the configurations possible (many) and the vehicle models that could use it (all).

6-18-2004

Prius drivers only get 44 MPG.  I am so sick of hearing that misleading statistic being exploited by the diesel-supporters.  But it is certainly not unexpected.  I knew they'd get upset when I pointed out the HSD technology in Prius is both cleaner and more efficient that diesel.  That particular group is really frustrating.  A few have even openly made the statement "I don't care about emissions".  And then when I pointed out the fact that the biodiesel they've blessed emits even higher levels of NOx
(smog) pollution, they couldn't care less.  So they started ignored emission comments entirely and focused on costs instead, using data from the classic model Prius and the undeveloped hybrid market to help prove their case.  That's just plain wrong, especially since summer data (which averages higher MPG overall) for the 2004 isn't even available yet.  My estimates place the real-world average for the 2004 at 49 MPG, which is a devastating blow for the diesel-supporters.  Their comparison vehicle with a transmission that "doesn't require shifting" simply can't compete.  Another aspect they have been exploiting is the misconception that the battery-pack will need to be replaced.  Our limited real-world data and the extensive NiMH research clearly states that is not the case.  After 10,000 full charging cycles, the battery-pack will still provide 80% power capacity.  (In terms of miles, that is well beyond 150,000.)  And even then, only the capacity is reduced.  It's not like the vehicle will stop working.  Geez!  Needless to say, I'm not going to humor them anymore by providing rebuttal comments.  Instead, real-world Prius data collection will continue.  That's what really hurts them!  Not a single TDI owner was doing that.  They're entire argument relied around random spot-checks, not continuous MPG tracking like many of us do.  In short, they now feel the threat of hybrids like Prius.  Oh darn.  By the way... another thing they will force to make their case is only focusing on the short-term.  They are well aware of the fact that production costs will drop over time.  And they fear when misconceptions like that come to an end.  And since someone researching a Prius purchase will likely have to wait a long time for delivery anyway, you have a strong case for arguing what the market will be rather than it is in the short-term.

6-17-2004

Spotted 5.  Seeing five different 2004 on the road today was a very fulfilling experience.  I can't wait until there are so many I have a hard time counting them all.

6-17-2004

Morning Wave.  I routinely spot a Silver 2004 on my daily commute.  We have begun exchanging waves to each other.  That's cool.  I like that kind of friendly exchange.  It is a much welcome improvement over road-rage non-hybrid owners experience.

6-17-2004

"Hybrid" Misconception.  Some are clearly not aware of the design differences between a FULL hybrid, an ASSIST hybrid, and a MILD hybrid yet.  Don't worry, it's a very common misconception.  There are 3 distinct types of hybrids now, each works quite different from the other.  The FULL hybrid enjoys slow steady cruises, exactly like those in the suburbs... generous stretches of 35 to 50 MPH road.  Did you know that a FULL hybrid can be driven using only electricity, allowing it to handle stop & slow traffic without using any gas at all?  The other types can't.  Did you know that a FULL hybrid can create & consume electricity on-the-fly, allowing it to use the electric motor without needing to use the battery-pack at all?  The other types can't.  Did you know that a FULL hybrid can charge the battery-pack while climbing up a steep hill, allowing it to have a greater charge-level after reaching the top than it did when it started at the bottom?  The other types can't.

6-17-2004

Realistic Amortization.  No one has ever proven to me that expecting a vehicle to last longer than 8 years or 150,000 miles (whichever comes first) is a wise financial decision.  Realistically, it is a big risk planning on more.  Some vehicles do exceed that, but certainly not a majority of them.  Accountants call extra that a "gain", not something you should actually "bet the farm" on.  So if you want your number-crunching results to be sincere, you must acknowledge the reality of 8 years or 150,000 miles.

6-16-2004

Doesn't Require Shifting.  Using that term irritates the heck out of the diesel-supporters.  They like confusing arguments by pointing out that a traditional automatic transmission is not the same as a CVT, distracting you from the actual point... which is that only 10% of the population actually desires a manual transmission, one that does require shifting.  And since manuals are more efficient that automatics, they want to claim MPG superiority over the CVT (planetary type) by quoting manual statistics as the representative for diesel vehicles.  They do not want you to know that automatics make diesel much less appealing.  Too bad!  I'm telling everyone I can!

6-16-2004

2 new Multi-Display photos.  Both showing great MPG!  Check'em out... photo album 75

6-16-2004

Biodiesel Truths.  Sorry, but in an honest attempt to quantify how much cleaner biodiesel actually was, I made a discovery some are not going to like.  My research revealed the NOx (smog) emissions are actually worse than regular diesel, not better as many supporters have implied.  This report is an EPA document titled "A Comprehensive Analysis of Biodiesel Impacts on Exhaust Emissions" from October 2002.  In the executive summary (on page 4), it very clearly shows an increase in NOx emissions as a higher ratio of biodiesel is used in blended diesel fuel.  And at 100% biodiesel (no blending), the emission increase reaches 10%.  That's nasty!  So, the reality is that the fuel change alone will not be enough to solve the smog pollution problem.  Cleaning hardware will also be required.  That will add to the cost of diesel systems, making an even greater challenge to compete with gas-hybrids.  To make matters even worse, reducing emissions commonly has a side-effect of reducing efficiency.  So the fact that biodiesel is less efficient in the first place makes and that its exhaust must be cleansed means the outlook is far from ideal.  Lastly, did I mention how much more expensive it is compared to regular diesel?

6-16-2004

Ground Clearance.  This comment got sent my way this morning, "It doesn't look to me like it's got much clearance."  Since over 50% of the new vehicles (until the gas price skyrocketed, anyway) are high ground clearance, it makes a lot of sense that the 2004 Prius would seem rather low.  In reality, it's not.  Only once did I ever get stuck in the snow with my 2001 Prius, which was even lower.  And that was basically an act of pure stupidity.  For the sake of capturing great photos, I went off-roading... something you should never do with any Non-4WD vehicle.  Needless to say, I had to dig myself out after finished taking photos.  Had I not been alone, I probably could have just driven out by getting pushed.  Getting stuck isn't a concern at all for me.  I haven't ever had a lick of trouble driving around (on roads) in Minnesota during the last 4 winters.  Ground clearance is not a limited as it would appear.

6-15-2004

When Oil is "Too Full".  It continues.  Some "overfill" aware owners are having arguments with dealer about how much oil should be added.  To that I say, just show them the picture on page 282 of the owner's manual.  That will quickly put the subject to rest.  It clearly indicates that above the top mark is "too full".  It also says "Avoid overfilling, or the hybrid-system could be damaged."  I'm not sure what excuse a dealer can come up with to claim that Toyota's own documentation is wrong.  But armed with that kind of information, it sure would be interesting finding out.

6-15-2004

Escape-Hybrid Price.  It was announced today.  Sticker prices will start at $26,380, excluding destination charges.  That price is around $3,375 higher than a comparably equipped V6 Escape XLT.  Having something directly to compare to, unlike Prius, should make things interesting.  SUVs have far more market interest (though that is rapidly changing) than cars do.  So the attention from this new hybrid is definitely welcome.

6-15-2004

"Switchover" Misunderstanding.  People often wonder when this happens.  They think there is a finite point where propulsion switches from engine to motor.  And they figure if they can identify it, they can better understand the nature of the EPA estimates.  What they don't realize (or even have a clue about) is that the switch doesn't just happen once.  In reality, function is routinely altered UP TO 30 TIMES PER MINUTE!  That changing is so often and so rapid there is absolutely, positively no way to quantify it.  There is a specific cutoff for the electric-only in Prius, but relating it to real-world driving conditions is totally impossible.  When you exceed 42 MPH or a 10kW draw from the battery-pack (including A/C use), the engine will restart.  But the engine won't shut off until the it is hot, so drive duration and temperature are a huge influencing factor.  So basically, there is no "switchover".

6-15-2004

Price Comparisons.  People seem to either forget (or intentionally ignore) the fact that Prius is loaded with unnecessarily expensive components that other vehicles don't offer... like the digital-speedometer, the Multi-Display, the LED tail-lights, and push-button start.  Replacing them with traditional components would slash at least a $1,000 off the price.  But Toyota doesn't want their first hybrid to be a vehicle just like everyone else's, except with a hybrid system.  But they will someday.  How will the competition handle a that price reduction?  Hybrids are hard enough to compete with already.

6-14-2004

Diesel Nonsense.  Geez!  Supporters of diesel are either incredibly stubborn or poorly informed.  Today I got accused of supporting a dead fuel, gas.  They claimed when the oil supply dries up there will be nothing for the hybrids to run on.  In their minds, biodiesel is the only vegetable-grown fuel.  Do they even know about ethanol?  I'm using a 10% mix in my hybrid now and have been for years.  85% is even available locally too.  FFV technology is quite common in traditional vehicle.  A hybrid could easily be adapted to use that mixture as well.  Heck, even 100% is a realistic option later on down the road.  The diesel folk really don't have much of an argument.  In fact, their engine-only attitude will be their ultimate downfall.  Vehicles like Prius will become more and more electric over time.  Eventually, the engine could even be entirely replaced by a fuel-cell.  Why can't they see that?  Is it the fact that they always imagine a diesel future, never realizing that something entirely new called a "hybrid" would force them to step down?  The 2004 Prius is clearly more efficient and dramatically cleaner than a diesel car of equal size.  HSD has lots of potential, being so new still.  Engine-Only diesel technology has been evolving for decades, so how much better do they think it can become?

6-14-2004

The Awareness Factor.  I love hearing this comment, "Most people just jump into their car and drive."  That's because, until now, that's all they could do.  But once you have a Multi-Display on your dashboard, things change.  Those that do become dramatically more aware, which is basically 99.9% of all Prius drivers... hence the "attitude" owners are often attributed to having.  That's a massive cultural difference compared to the traditional view.  The convenience of having a touch-sensitive computer screen right there in front of you is amazing.  Awareness is heightened to an extreme without requiring anything more than just an occasional glance.  Plain, old, routine observation opens up a whole new world.

 

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