Prius Personal Log  #139

August 13, 2004  -  August 16, 2004

Last Updated: Sun. 8/29/2004

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8-16-2004

A/C in the South.  A journalist slammed hybrids today.  He claimed they were totally useless in states like Texas where you have to run the A/C all the time.  Clearly, he didn't understand how a hybrid is designed.  His reasoning was that since the engine had to continuously run to power the A/C there would be no benefit.  That is extraordinarily simple to disprove.  All you have to do is point out that the engine is smaller than average, because a motor contributes toward propulsion too.  That fact alone makes it easy to see that less gas will be used.  You don't even have to point out that some hybrids use an Atkinson-Miller cycle, which makes their engine more efficient as well.  Nor do you need to mention that the A/C in Prius is totally electric, running entirely from the battery-pack, allowing the engine to remain off for extended amounts of time.  But you could, just to make sure he realizes his claim was based on assumptions rather than actual research.

8-15-2004

"Prius HSD"  That is the official label we will be using to identify the 2004 & 2005 Prius models now.  When the 2004 was first announced back in April of 2003, some people immediately started calling it the second generation.  They were mistaken.  Judging solely on the body type, it did appear that way.  But looking closely at the engineering difference, it was not.  Way too much changed between the "original" model and the "classic".  That introduction to the United States brought some pretty darn impressive improvements to the hybrid system... which are now finally getting realized.  Clearly, the newest should be considered a third generation.  It took the debut of competing systems to finally bring attention to that.  Previous, they had been totally ignored since the changes didn't our within the United States.  But now with the worldwide economy really making an impression and the fact that hybrids so mild they really shouldn't even be allowed to be called "hybrid" becoming an unfortunate reality, the tables are turning.  Thank goodness!

8-14-2004

The downside of bike trips.  That hour long drive each way (gotta enjoy the all-too-brief summer) takes me through some rather hilly rural stretches of highway... which just kills the efficiency.  My average drops below 50 MPG.  That's nasty!  I've grown use to seeing numbers double what similar-sized traditional vehicles are capable of under the same conditions.  So to me, it's like the movie "Speed".  As long as it stays above 50, all is fine.  Today, it got all the way down to 49.2 MPG!  Isn't that awful?

8-14-2004

Bike Inside.  The conclusion of my 26-mile bike trip, on an absolutely fabulous summer day, was quite fulfilling.  There I was, at the park with 3 other sets of bikers completing their ride at the same time.  They all had racks on the back of their vehicles.  I didn't.  All I did was pop the hatch open, unclip the front tire of the bike, and toss both pieces inside.  It only takes me a few seconds to do that now.  I usually don't give it much thought.  I just jump in the Prius and drive away.  But this time, the sight in the rear-view mirror really caught me off guard.  As I was backing up, I saw a biker standing their with his jaw hanging down.  And his head followed the Prius as I drove around the corner to exit the park.  What the heck was he amazed at?  Was it the incredible convenience a hatchback provides?  Was it the fact that the car was a hybrid?  Or was it both?  I will likely never find out.  But it sure was intriguing seeing him stare like that.  Something obviously caught his interest.

8-14-2004

3 Hybrid Types.  An article published on hybrids today was just plain weird.  It did an impressive job of identifying the hybrids available now, but the labeling was strange.  Prius got called a "full", as it should.  Honda's design wasn't called anything, but the functionality described was clear & accurate.  The "mild" label was used for the GM design, currently in Silverado.  Why?  Even the explanation provided seemed to contradict itself.  The writer stated to be a hybrid, the vehicle must consume electricity for power.  But that was it.  Traditional vehicles do that anyway.  So the fact that GM just has a exotic starter and the ability to auto-stop really doesn't add up to much.  And the writer pointed that out too.  It was like he couldn't make up his mind what the point was.  I certainly couldn't figure it out.  The title seemed to argue with the closing paragraph.  I couldn't figure out what he was actually trying to say.  I wonder what someone just learning about hybrids now thought of it.  Hmm?  Perhaps just learning there are 3 different types of hybrids was the point, and the details shouldn't be analyzed as deeply as I'm doing...

8-14-2004

Ultimate Purpose.  It's to help promote HSD (and full hybrids in general), not just Prius.  Some readily acknowledge that, others absolutely insist I'm trying to somehow get everyone to start driving Prius.  I wonder why.  They can see that I get really defensive, but cannot figure out it's because they insist Prius is representative of all vehicles that will be equipped with HSD.  That seems like such a simple differentiation, but they refuse to acknowledge that when I repeatedly point that fact out.  Is the engineering well beyond what the typical consumer is capable of grasping?  Maybe they simply don't understand what the heck I'm talking about.  I'll admit with the heavy emphasis on hardware & software my education provided, as well as my childhood interests, could be the cause of confusion.  After all, when I graduated from college, I felt really dumb.  It made me aware of all the other aspects of life I knew very little about.  There were so many other majors people studied there that I simply had no knowledge of, only a minor awareness.  Perhaps that is the case here.  I know of many that have no idea what actually occurs under their vehicle's hood, but they'll argue they do... until you confront them with detailed questions.  Hmm?  I believe the act of typing this answered my own question.  They don't realize my ultimate purpose until later on it the discussions, when greater detail is revealed!  That explains a lot.  Cool!

8-14-2004

Professional Training.  There are times when I have no choice but to flash my credentials.  I understand the points doubters are trying to make, but they just can't seem to grasp mine sometimes.  They assume I'm simply an over-zealous Prius owner with a passion for helping keep the environment from getting any worse.  They have no idea that I was trained to professionally do exactly what I'm doing.  Quite frankly, I didn't realize this is where my college degree would take me... but I'm sure glad it did.  From a very young age, I was always the one to teach friends & family about new technology.  I loved doing it.  So going to school for a career like that was the plan.  It worked too.  Ten years into that career, Prius came along.  With so much experience already acquired, I knew it would be fun, that I could take it on as a challenge.  And I did.  But the methods I had learned were a mystery to many.  (In fact, they still are to some.)  Most people haven't ever been through a full product cycle for a new technology, from idea to maturity.  I have, several times now in fact.  So there really is a method to my madness.  I can see the road ahead quite clearly.  Those system analysis & design classes really paid off.  Without them, the programming skills wouldn't have added up to as much.  And the user-support I've had to provide has been priceless.  All that knowledge & experience transfer over to the efforts with Prius perfectly.  It's a hobby I can use my professional training on.  Sweet!  That makes it both fun and rewarding, since I'm helping others in the process.  I know, some doubters will continue doubting since they rarely pay attention to detail posted in the forums anyway.  But at least I get to point out my background here.

8-13-2004

Bluetooth Clarity.  Sometimes it is absolutely fantastic.  Other times, it sounds terrible.  Today that happened with only a few seconds between two phone calls.  My conclusion is that the cell service is to blame, because when you dial it gives you a different chunk of frequency use each time.  The bluetooth doesn't.  And the GSM network that I'm using was created just this year.  So getting a little bit of crackle over the line is a possibility.  Perhaps it's that and the system unintentionally amplifies for the speakers.  Whatever the case, it sure is handy and is clearly the safest way to talk.  And like with all new technology, it will continue to improve over time.

8-13-2004

Still in Denial.  I'll admit, I do find the attitude of the anti-hybrid folk rather amusing sometimes.  Once supply caught up with demand, the classic model Prius could easily be found at base model (which was rather well loaded) with the regular price $500 below sticker.  They fear the day when that happens with the HSD version (2004 and beyond).  It will end all the purchase debates.  Seeing a Prius with a price of $19,999 readily available on the lot is what they fear most.  Too bad!  They better enjoy the high prices now while they still can, because there are far more people that are waiting for the upcoming supply improvements.

8-13-2004

Diesel Reality.  The supporters continue to withhold information.  So I have to hunt it down myself.  Yesterday, I discovered that the diesel sales in the United States of Volkswagen Golf, Jetta, Bettle, Passat, and Touareg combined in 2004 only add up to 34,000.  That's it!  No wonder the resale value for diesels is higher than the reliability reputation alone justifies.  The shortage of available old used ones helps to keep the price high.  No wonder they didn't want to reveal that data.  As for Prius, there were 47,000 built this year for the United States.  Next year's anticipated 80,000 production will alter reality for everyone.  The diesel supporters will finally have to admit to their current efforts to paint a misleading picture; and the future sales of used Prius will have to rely on the merit of reputation alone, since there will ultimately be many available based on the continued production growth rate. 

8-13-2004

Did you know?  ...that Echo wasn't first.  Many people still think it was.  Prius sales began in Japan back in 1997.  Echo didn't become available until 2 years after that.  Toyota reused the engine built for Prius by changing it to stroke with the Otto cycle instead of Atkinson-Miller (which yes, I realize is a "hybrid" design in itself of two preexisting cycles and hardware configurations) and allowed it to run at a much higher RPM, then attached it to an automatic transmission rather than a PSD (the Planetary-CVT).  It was the birth of Echo.  That strategy worked out fantastic.  It was a very cost-effective strategy, just alter an engine that already fit the proper size & weight requirements to function in a different way.  An interesting twist is that Toyota created a "Prius GT" by simply placing that more powerful (but less efficient & clean) engine from Echo back into a Prius.  Without having to alter the hybrid system at all, they created a hybrid capable of competition-racing.  And that's exactly what they've been doing with it too.  Isn't knowing how an automaker handles their business far more informative than just analyzing a single vehicle.  The understanding of the enormous potential becomes rather obvious once you know details like the relation between Prius & Echo.

8-13-2004

What's happening.  There really isn't that much to comment on the owner front anymore.  Prius is clearly leading the hybrid r/evolution.  We finally have enough data to show the "around 50 MPG" expectation is realistic for normal driving.  I've got almost 3,000 miles on my high-traction tires, so we have a already have an upgrade recommendation available.  The 2005 packages have been announced.  They are simply the 6 most popular of the 2004 choices.  We know the allocation for the United States will be increased from 47,000 to 80,000.  So even though there will be more Prius, the demand will still be struggling with supply.  The wheels are in motion now.  It just a matter of waiting for the momentum to grow. HSD is destined for mainstream acceptance in the vehicle of your choice.  In the meantime, local mass-production needs to be established to make that happen and drive the costs down.  Long-Term data must be collected too; that requires time (and patience).  We can find entertainment in the panic to catch up, from those automakers totally caught off guard by the success hybrids have been demonstrating.  The anti-hybrid articles do have that aspect of "history in the making", where we will later look back and chuckle at the comments some people made.  Prius is just about to begin production year 8.  At this point, it should be rather obvious that Toyota's commitment to HSD is quite serious.

8-13-2004

Again with the Reliability.  That dang report sure is irritating.  It paints a very misleading picture of Prius by indicating it has a higher than average problem rate.  But what they don't explain at all is what the heck a problem is or how much it cost to fix.  Of course, had they done that the numbers will be very much in favor of Prius.  Most of the "problems" really were not, nothing needed to be "fixed", and they didn't even cost anything to find that out either.  So, I will help explain...  Large numbers of new Prius owners report the engine warning light coming, due to excess sealant in the exhaust system that burns off during the first few hundreds miles.  That report didn't realize it is a normal process that requires no maintenance at all, though.  A number of new Prius owners also report the engine warning that gets triggered when the gas cap is not twisted on tight enough.  Again, no actual maintenance is needed.  No repair was necessary for that either, yet they are still counted as something the service people had to respond to.  That's wrong.  And to make matters even worse, a significant number of Prius owners (old & new) are complaining to their dealers about oil overfill.  This is a problem in all vehicles and has been for decades.  But since Prius is the only car with a Multi-Display screen informing you that performance is degraded, it gets noticed.  It doesn't in any other vehicle.  So naturally, when the owner complains it gets tallied as a "problem" with the engine, even though it really shouldn't be.  Obviously, these factors are grossly inflating the statistics, making them appear far more numerous than they actually are.  In reality, the reliability is Prius ranks right up near the top.  Very few have genuine problems.

 

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