Prius Personal Log  #135

July 26, 2004  -  July 27, 2004

Last Updated: Sun. 9/05/2004

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7-27-2004

Biodiesel turns to gel.  Not a single one of those biodiesel-supports ever divulged the shortcoming that biodiesel turns to gel at 20 F degrees.  That's a serious problem for those of us in the north.  Almost every single night during the cold season the temperature drops below that.  (Heck, last week it dropped to 27 F degrees in one spot in Minnesota... in July!)  Because of this problem, blends of diesel can be no more than 20 percent biodiesel unless an additive is added.  But apparently, that additive is expensive and makes NOx emissions even worse.  However, none of those supporters will provide the exact detail.  (They fight you every step of the way.  Arrgh!)  Needless to say, the more I study alternatives, the more HSD in Prius shines.  Yeah!

7-27-2004

Choices.  I wonder how quickly the misconception of "one size fits all" will end.  Its persistence is why I have primarily focused on promoting the "full" hybrid technology, like HSD.  It can be configured to serve a wide range of needs and placed into a variety of different bodies.  Far too many people jump to conclusions, thinking Prius represents all that hybrids have to offer.  That it is not the only configuration that will ever be available... far from it, in fact.  This is the very reason Toyota is releasing the "power" hybrid version of Highlander first.  Did any of you know there will be a second version later?  It will be an "efficiency" version... same body, but lower price (smaller engine & battery-pack) and greater savings on gas.  That concept of "one body with multiple engines to choose from" exists already.  (In fact, it does on Highlander.)  The same will be true for hybrids too.

7-27-2004

"Switch Over" Misconception.  This one seems to be growing in popularity.  Unfortunately, the awareness of mild hybrids is contributing strongly to it.  People just assume the same behavior is true for full hybrids, but it is definitely not.  In fact, it isn't even true for all types of mild hybrids either.  The belief is that the battery-pack will be used as much as possible, then the system will switch over to the gasoline engine.  The assumption is that will then place the hybrid in a forced charging mode, where power will drop significantly as a result.  HSD in Prius clearly does not function like that.  Creation of electricity occurs far more often, 100% of the time the engine is providing thrust to the wheels, in fact.  So the battery-pack is actually only used minimally, and charging takes place so frequently that a drop in the level would go completely unnoticed if it wasn't for the indicator on the Multi-Display.  There's a secondary part to this misconception too.  The "switch" of modes in Prius (for example, from recharging to consuming) happens far more frequently than most people realize.  Seeing it switch 10 times per minute is actually quite common, a very normal part of the routine drive.  So the sense that an abrupt change occurs is just a thought from someone's imagination, not what actually happens.

7-27-2004

Gotta have a sense of humor.  Right after I proclaimed my new slogan, someone did exactly that.  They showed me a picture of "Data" from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  (Well, actually it was Lore, since that was a rather dramatic photo that took advantage of the opportunity.  But it looked just like Data.  And I did get a good chuckle from seeing it.)  That wasn't what I meant.

7-27-2004

Show Me The Data!  It has become my slogan now.  I've always wanted data available so people can make decisions for themselves.  Now I'm demanding it too.  People are able to perpetuate the misconceptions by just eluding to them through some undisclosed sampling & methods.  How the heck is that objective?  And after 4 years of working through Prius rollout issues, I'll admit I'm abrupt now when someone motions toward that panic-button... because over all at that time, we have yet to encounter anything that wasn't able to be resolved.  Everything has worked out fine in the end.  Misconceptions are squashed and misunderstandings are clarified.  Facts from dealers & corporate informs us.  Real-World data empowers us.  The emotion just makes the facts & data harder to retrieve.  Don't fight me when I ask for detail.  That resistance doesn't accomplish anything.  SHOW ME THE DATA!

7-27-2004

Repair Nonsense.  On the front page of a national newspaper today was an article on hybrid reliability.  They provided a statistics state 8.7 percent of Toyota's hybrids required repairs within the first 3 years.  To that I ask, what the heck does "repair" actually mean?  Could it be something as trivial as needed to tighten the gas-cap because it was loose and triggered the warning light?  If so, that is a clear attempt to mislead.  Most people would hardly call that a problem.  In fact, some dealers wouldn't even bother charging you for doing that.  And of course, they could count the replacement of a cheap in the same category as replacing the entire engine.  For that matter, adding a weight to balance a tire could ever be counted as a "repair".  The total absence of detail really makes me wonder.  Where are the numbers?  Was any attention given to the part costs & labor?  Was any visit at all to the dealer counted.  Was everything generically lumped together into a single category?  Why do they dance around facts and leave us with a mystery?  Arrgh!

7-27-2004

A bit of background info.  My approach has always been focused on data gathering.  Then once I have enough, the hope is that a pattern will naturally emerge.  The most important info basically rises to the top all by itself.  It's like not laying any sidewalks at a new park.  Just let them establish themselves.  Allow the people to walk where they please.  Eventually, the wear pattern in the grass will reveal where the sidewalk should be.  And it will obviously appeal to many, since that is the path they have been walking all along.  As for the website, it was blatantly obvious that people enjoy a variety of photos.  So that's what I have strived to deliver.  The "blog" phenomenon really caught me off guard.  I had no idea so many would care about details like that.  But they do.  So I have done my best to fulfill that need too.  The Info-Sheet and User Guide were my attempts to summarize, to take the best info our combined minds had come up with and put it into a pleasing format that could be used offline.  That non-web (printout) format was very important.  It is a tool we can you to stimulate interest, to draw people online... enough to get them to try out an online discussion group.  I'm constantly filling a notebook with topics of hot items, things that require more attention than just an few updates.  My latest effort was completely rewriting my misconceptions page.  The week before, I finally did a large set of updates to the User-Guide.  Another on the way (eventually) is a brand new summary document, called "Owner Expectations".  But the catch with this is lack of data still, I can't really proceed much yet.  I try to be as proactive as I can, to keep ahead of the need wave.  So I really appreciate the assistance some offer toward that... like with alternate tires.  The discussion here revealed the desire for a better choice. Now I am 1,701 miles into testing.  As a result, a few others will likely try them later too.  So by the time that data is requested by the masses, we'll have a bunch available.  If a new tool emerges that will help with that purpose, keep us informed.  It may later be added as a resource... but not necessarily right away.  I fought pretty hard against the PDF format back when version 3.0 was still ubiquitous.  It had a number of technical problems that would have impaired our efforts.  But then when the much improved 5.0 version finally became available, I jumped on board and took full advantage of PDF.  And by the time 6.0 was released, I had already prepared to take advantage of it.  The format had proven quite valuable.  In summary, I'm going with the flow, building upon what we come up to help solve our emission & consumption problem.

7-27-2004

Discovering the potential of technology.  I just got done watching "The Making of Jurassic Park" from back in 1993.  Throughout the special, Spielberg made comments about the whole new world of opportunity the animation technology he just discovered had introduced... how 10 years from then that technology would evolve to such an amazing level that people's imaginations would thrive... how movies would never be the same... how new stories would be told... how new jobs would be created... how accepting the new ground he was breaking would become.  Needless to say, all that became very true.  The technology of movie making is an expectation now, a new standard we now adhere too.  It sure sounds like the very same discovery process is at play with the technology showing up in hybrids.  Prius is breaking ground by introducing a whole new level of expectations.  Common vehicles will no longer be limited just power & size appeal.  The convenience of SE/SS will take the masses by storm.  No more fumbling for a key to get in.  No more squeeze & twist required for starting.  No more reaching for a remote to lock the vehicle.  The digital speedometer is a given.  It works so amazingly well, absolutely no comments about washout from the sun or inconvenient location surface any more.  That idea is set firm, well accepted.  A new one that's formulating is the Multi-Display.  Years from now, people will have no clue how they could ever tolerate not having one.  The potential of information that device can provide has barely begun to be tapped. Imagine the Navigation System being updated through a bluetooth connection on your cell-phone from a local Department of Transportation data feed of traffic congestion, accidents, construction, and weather information... all live and seamlessly displayed on the touch-screen.  Heck, it could even provide a visual of what the highway camera near by is currently seeing.  And the amount of performance data the car could collect & display boggles the mind.  Then there is the hybrid technology itself. Just try to imagine how far that will evolve over the next 10 years.  People are just beginning to discover now.  Be thankful you had the opportunity to participate in the early stages.  The potential is enormous.  Vehicles will never be thought of the same why again.  You'll look at a traditional vehicle and exclaim, "Oh! That's so 20th Century."

7-26-2004

Economic Sense.  What does "economic sense" mean?  Some insist it really only means "economic cents".  But for many, it actually means preparing for the future.  And in that case, paying a little more up-front (which isn't true either, since you usually take out a loan and make payments) to protect yourself against ever-climbing fuel prices is a wise choice.  If you need more, try this:  You won't ever "save", so don't fall for that argument logic... since the money you pay for the vehicle won't ever decrease.  But you can actually "break even".  The anti-hybrid folk don't want you to know that though.  Still not enough?  Try this:  Contributing a little to the cleaner environment cause is easier than they'll let you believe too.  Take a simple object, like a DVD movie.  Say you are willing to give 3 per year worth for the cause, over the 8-year ownership expectation.  That's a fair amount that your wallet likely won't ever even miss.  The sale price of a new release is about $17.50 after tax.  Multiple that out and you get $420.  That money alone is enough to totally offset any debate you get about the "economic sense" of the vehicle.  It covers any gas price and MPG variance those against you can realistically use.  You're covered.  That's the "cents" you were looking for... that they hoped you would never find.  Cool, eh?

7-26-2004

Upgraded Tires:  Photos   Wonder what they actually look like?  The tread pattern is definitely not conventional, not by any means.  Here's two photos to finally satisfy your curiosity... photo album 79

7-26-2004

Upgraded Tires:  Primary Break-In   The effects became apparent for me at about 1,300 miles.  The MPG began an impressive climb right around then.  So based on the data I have gathered up to this point, it appears as though I might be able to later say these high-traction tires only reduce efficiency by 1 MPG... thought that may be pushing it.  Right now though, I'm sticking with the 1.5 MPG estimate.  Regardless, it's hardly anything to complain about.  The corning ability of the car has definitely been improved. (Now I can really take them tight.)  And the gripping ability on rain is amazing.  I'm curious as heck about snow, but that (gladly) will have to wait.  The literature on them state the traction will be impressive.  Stay tuned for updates.

7-26-2004

Charge-Level... explained.  I don't think I've pointed out how the charge-level of the battery-pack is indicated with both the Prius now on the roads around here.  The classic does tell you, contrary to what you may have heard.  See, I didn't discover until the Hybrid Road Rally that some owners hadn't realized that there even was an indicator.  It's subtle and doesn't change much, so that could go unnoticed for those that don't frequent the Energy-Monitor screen.  It's the green inside the battery shown there.  The amount goes up & down.  But since Prius goes to great extremes to prevent the charge-level from ever wandering much beyond the ideal level (to ensure very long battery-pack life), you will rarely ever actually see it change.  I never saw 1/4 or "empty".  I only saw "full" 3 times over 60,000 miles of driving.  I saw 1/2 from time to time after long stealth drives, but it didn't remain that way for long.  For the most part, it was 3/4 almost constantly.  The 2004 both looks and operates different.  Toyota doubled the sensitivity along with adding color.  That gives it greater precision and makes it much easier to notice changes.  And due to the larger electric-motor and the higher RPM on the smaller electric-motor, the level itself fluctuates more often.  So considerably more dynamic.  That's great, but I do still get a bit nostalgic watching the classic.

7-26-2004

All Green.  Captured my first full battery-pack moment (8 of 8 bars)... photo album 78

7-26-2004

Action, Not Words.  How many times do we need to point out that lavish speeches don't accomplish really much?  The quotes that you read in articles can be just as bad.  Neither provides actual detail.  But imagine if they did... Yes, I know.  I'm dreaming.  Heck, asking some to maintain a spreadsheet documenting their MPG to support their outlandish claims is next to impossible.  But that's what I want.  It's the actions that I place judgment on, not the words.  When a politician makes a promise, I expect them to deliver it.  The same applies to automakers too.  It's what they actually do that really counts, not what they say.  Toyota has produced a product that delivers an emission & consumption improvement.  What about the others?

 

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