Prius Personal Log  #134

July 19, 2004  -  July 25, 2004

Last Updated: Tues. 9/14/2004

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7-25-2004

Uphill Climbs.  The recharging misconception is getting out of hand, this time in the fashion of problems being caused by uphill climbing.  A writer claimed that the only way a battery-pack can receive electricity for charging is through braking.  That isn't even true for a "mild" hybrid.  Alright, here's a rundown:  A mild hybrid design, like the Honda IMA, provides "assist" abilities only.  This due mostly to the fact that it only has one small electric-motor.  That means when extra power is required and electricity isn't available, there is an exposure that power will be less.  But it in no way means the electricity can only be created by regenerative means.  In reality, when the charge-level drops too low, the engine simply providing charging instead.  This "forced" mode isn't an efficient feature, but it certainly is possible.  And in real-world driving, the odds of getting stuck without that "assist" power are pretty rare with the CVT ("Cone & Belt" type) design, since the computer has full control of power management.  With the manual transmission, that's a different story.  An inattentive driver could cause the exposure to be frequent.  But if you pay attention and simply shift down when the charge-level gets low, that can be avoided.  A full hybrid design, like the Toyota HSD, provides electric abilities almost constantly.  There are two motors (one of which is very large), permanently connected to the engine by a power-split device (called a "Planetary-CVT", which has nothing in common with the "Cone & Belt" type of CVT).  This allows for a variety of options that a mild hybrid isn't capable of.  At times, the motor will join in with the engine to assist, just like a mild hybrid does.  At other times, the full design will shut off the engine entirely while driving, leaving the motor to provide all of the thrust that's needed.  And 100 percent (yes, always) of the time the engine is providing thrust, it is also powering the generator.  Sometimes that resulting electricity is consumed immediately.  Sometimes it is used for recharging the battery-pack.  Sometimes both consuming & recharging occur at the same time.  That means the odds of ever having a problem during uphill climbing is practically never.  In fact, the only known real-world slow downs (reported by owners) is when climbing the Eisenhower Tunnel.  That's it!  The climb up Pike's Peak and up Mount Washington aren't even a problem.  It's too bad the writers speculate so much, rather than actually observing real-world driving.

7-25-2004

Phew!  Finally had an opportunity to completely rewrite this webpage... misconceptions

7-24-2004

Inner-Wheel Balance-Weights.  When looking closely at the new tires today, I glanced a little further to the inside of the aluminum rims.  A balance-weight caught my eye.  That's the first time I have ever seen one of that type.  All the places I have ever taken a car to have balanced the wheels using weights that clamp onto the edge of the rim... which is a bad practice since it encourages corrosion.  In fact, that is likely why the 2004 Prius has out plastic rims that attach to the aluminum.  They do a fantastic job of concealing the weights and any cosmetic damage they cause.  But with the weights I have now, that is completely a non-issue.  They are adhered to the inner part of the rim, an area you wouldn't ever see from the outside of the vehicle.  That's cool.  I wonder why more other places haven't switched over to this better type of weight.  Hmm?  I bet it has to do with their suppliers.

7-24-2004

What do people really want?  I'd like to finally get answers to those questions too.  Most people have no idea, since they aren't even aware of everything that's possible in the first place.  So I've been working over the past 4 years to demonstrate a totally new approach to significantly reducing emissions & consumption.  And that has already proven very effective.  In fact, it is much better than the hydrogen mystery... who's goals are still not defined.  What the heck is that benefit.  They are neither cleaner nor more efficient than HSD overall.  In short, without well defined goals, it's really hard to come up with a proper solution.  I'm a programmer.  So the perfect analogy to this is to create software for a not-well-known audience that will run on a not-well-known platform to solve a not-well-known problem.  You've got a rough idea what should be accomplished, but you are bound to fail since you really have no clue how it will truly be needed or how it will actually be used.  Clearly, daily commute congestion is a serious problem.  That eliminates the non-hybrid diesel solution for a very large number of people.  A gas "full" hybrid, like HSD which can be driven without the engine running at all, easily surpasses engine-only diesel in that situation.  So that means there is the potential for multiple solutions, which is a mindset most people have a very difficult time accepting... but it is reality we must face.  Different vehicles for different purposes.  Hmm.  What a concept. Remember when SUV was for "driving off-road with cargo" not "driving alone to the office"?  Longevity is another very real problem, for all models & technologies of vehicles.  There is a significant absence of data, nothing solid to draw firm conclusions with beyond the 150,000 mile mark... especially since some people simply desire change at that point, whether the vehicle still runs fine or not.  The appeal of improved safety is a very strong vehicle replacement factor too.  And of course, there is always a possibility of an accident damaging/destroying the vehicle and a possibility of unacceptably low resale value.  How much oil there really is available and how much of an impact vehicle emissions has is a subject of strong debate.  So expecting everyone to agree on the problems is a tremendous challenge.  That means taking a large step will be next to impossible.  Fortunately, "full" hybrids a big enough step for a large & diverse market to be interested it.  So even without agreeing, progress can still be made.  With all the money & politics involved, I sincerely don't expect thorough answers.  The solution will emerge from the chaos, simply by observing actual purchases.  Yeah!  It will happen, but not in the ideal fashion.  Oh well.  As long as the goal is achieved.  And right now HSD is, by far, the current solution with the greatest potential.

7-24-2004

Judgment Already.  Some have begun to proclaim judgment on the hybrids that haven't even been introduced yet, like the hybrid Camry.  Without configuration & pricing detail, that's hardly objective.  It also seems to imply that our society's goal has now been identified, even though no clear solution has ever been stated.  Is it to reduce imported oil?  Or is it to totally eliminate it?  And does that mean we'll still be using our own?  What about emissions?  To what degree do they need to be reduced?  SULEV?  PZEV?  ZEV?  And what the concept hybrids, those that also have ultra-capacitors and those with the ability to be recharged via a plug?  Lastly, what the heck is the time-scale?  How long should a design remain in production before the next generation is introduced?  Don't believe anyone that claims hybrids are just a "band aid" approach.  Instead, ask them what the heck the approach is to.  Judgment is clearly premature until all those questions are first answered.

7-23-2004

Recharging Methods.  The Honda design is quite different.  Many realize that, but not to the extent necessary to distinguish how they will actually respond.  And the upcoming introduction of the Ford design is really going to confuse.  So let's see if I can provide a summary...  Honda's charge-level for IMA is not tightly regulated with their manual transmission.  This provides for the freedom those shifting themselves desire; however, that comes with a consequence.  It allows for deep-discharging, the very thing that shortens the battery-life.  Fortunately, Honda's CVT does a better job, since the computer has much more control over system operation.  Both rely on regenerative braking as the primary source of charging.  See the problem?  If you don't brake, you don't recharge.  That means the charge-level will get lower and lower until the engine finally has to provide charging.  So in rare circumstances, you can find yourself without IMA available.  The cause of this limitation is that "mild" hybrids only have a single motor.  So they try hard to put as much of the electricity replenishing load as possible onto the brakes, rather than consuming gas for a "forced" charge.  Since "full" hybrids, like Ford's design and Toyota's HSD, have a second motor creating electricity 100% of the time the engine is providing thrust to the tires, charge-level is totally a non-issue.  The odds of a deep-discharge are reduced to virtually never.  In fact, there is so much more electricity available that way that the contribution from braking is quite minor in comparison.  You'll also discover that much of the electricity consumed during routine driving comes directly from the engine, not the battery-pack.  This creation of electricity on-the-fly was intentionally built into the design, so there is no concept of "forced" charging.  It is a passive process instead.  Understand the differences?  Hmm.  I think we are going to eventually need some type of photos-series or animation to better explain the process.  People need to study the various types of hybrids to make sure they fit their particular needs.  The designs are far more different than most realize and may not actually fit how they intended to use it.  In other words, to put it as delicately as possible without offending anyone, "mild" hybrids have a limited audience.  Not everyone will benefit from the design, due to it's limited nature.  Others will be absolutely delighted.  If you need a hybrid that will accommodate every possible scenario you can expose it too, buy a "full" hybrid instead.

7-22-2004

Replacement Misconception.  On what basis do people believe the battery-pack will ever need to be replaced?  Answers to that question have all been the same over the past few years: "based on observation of traditional rechargeable batteries".  In reality, they have little in common with the battery-pack in Prius, since the recharging method is so different.  Prius never allows the pack to get deep discharged.  Cell phones, notebook computers, digital cameras, handheld devices, MP3 players, children's toys, etc. are all commonly allowed to be drained completely dead.  That's a significant and very important difference from the way a hybrid like Prius works.  Deep-Discharging isn't allowed by the HSD system.  And since it is the very thing that shortens the life of a rechargeable battery, not doing that will help insure life remains much longer than the other rechargeable products you've used.

7-21-2004

Sweet!  This sunset is the best I have ever been able capture... photo album 79

7-21-2004

Expectations.  The initial hybrid version of Corolla is expected to conceal all aspects of technology.  The interior will likely look exactly like the traditional model.  No push-button start, no Multi-Display, no digital speedometer, nothing... except a tiny readout showing MPG.  That would make the mainstream transition to HSD totally seamless, to the point where the "average joe" wouldn't hesitate at all about buying a hybrid... kind of like the automatic-transmission, fuel-injection, and front-wheel-drive are now... so common, no one gives it a second thought.  The catch is all misconceptions must end first.  Gathering proof to do that takes time, a minimum of 7 years.  Expect that in just 3 years, since we are 4 years into Prius being available here already.  Yeah!  That type of speculation is fairly easy.  It follows a natural rollout to increasing grow market appeal.  What is less obvious  is how much the desire for the blatant appeal will be, where the aspects of technology are rather obvious.  Any thoughts on what to expect for that?

7-20-2004

Hands-Free Phone Connection.  The plug-in systems for cars are making the news again, pronouncing the claims that holding the phone while driving is very dangerous.  Is that true?  I wouldn't have any clue, since my system doesn't use wires.  Some Prius come with the "Bluetooth" option, like mine.  That means the car will automatically search for your phone the moment you start the car and will wirelessly establish a connection... which completely eliminates the need to plug-in.  Too bad most news reporters are not even aware of the existence of this ability.  Just wait until they figure out some of us have had it for awhile now.

7-20-2004

Upgraded Tires:  1254 Miles  Sorry to blow your mind.  But hey, summer doesn't last long here.  The first 54 miles of this most recent tank have been in extreme humidity (a dew point of 83F) and temperatures in the 80's both on my morning commute and in the evening.  That warm, moist air is wonderful combustion enhance... which contributes significantly to great efficiency.  The driving today has yielded an amazing Multi-Display value of 56.7 MPG!  I never expected to see anything that high with these new tires.  But there it is.  Looking at the tread now, I can clearly see it is a lighter color than the rubber that doesn't ever make contact with the road.  That, along with the obvious MPG increase, seems to indicate break-in has completed.  By the way, knowing that tires really do require break-in is proof that some news reports are flawed (not representative of what can owners expect), since there measurements were done with brand new tires.  Interesting, eh?

7-19-2004

Hydrogen Nonsense.  Tired of hearing about diesel?  How about a switch to hydrogen?  There was an article published today that mentioned the effort Ford is currently demonstrating to portray a "clean" image over in Europe (where diesel is dominant).  And despite the ill-fated effort, I do celebrate their emphasis on reduced emissions.  (Always look for the good; otherwise, the bad will get the best of you.)  The vehicle was a modified 2005 Focus, adapted to combust gaseous hydrogen in the engine instead of liquid gasoline.  Anywho, there were 3 tanks inside that could hold 31.4 gallons (5.5 lbs) of hydrogen at 5,076 PSI each.  In other words, you lose a lot of storage space to hold fuel that will take quite a bit longer to pump that ordinary gas.  And to make matters worse, the expected range is only 155-200 miles.  (Pretty nasty in comparison to Prius, eh?)  It really, really makes me wonder where the heck that hydrogen will come from and how much it will end up costing.

7-19-2004

Upgraded Tires:  1200 Miles  Data collection is a mess.  I started this most recent tank with a highway trip.  There was no wind on the way there, but the way back provided a nasty headwind.  And since I was hot from the 26 miles of biking, I desired the A/C.  The result after the total 112 miles (70 of which were at 65 MPH) was 48.7 MPG on the Multi-Display.  Eeek!  Fortunately, the temperature is ideal (low 80's).  So the remainder of the tank, consisting of the usual driving mix, I got to watch the MPG slowly climb.  And to my surprise, it made it all the way up to 54.1 MPG.  Yeah!  Unfortunately, I didn't stop at the usual gas station.  So the odds of the pump not stopping at the same time the normal one I use does was quite high.  Being off by just a 0.25 gallon results in a 1.5 MPG error.  That means I am basing this report solely on instinct in combination with what I observed as the miles went by.  The verdict is that break-in has finally occurred.  The ultra-thin initial layer of rubber has now worn off, both on the surface and along the edges of the tread.  That means this next tank should reveal a sense of what the increased traction from these tires really does to efficiency.  My guess is that a 2.5 MPG loss is a realistic expectation... and a fair price to pay for such an improvement on wet & dry roads.

 

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