Prius Personal Log  #141

August 23, 2004  -  August 25, 2004

Last Updated: Sun. 11/21/2004

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8-25-2004

Test Drive, part 1.  The reviews of the Silverado "hybrid" are beginning to show up.  Reading the one today was really irritating.  They completely avoided mentioning the fact that the system offers a ZERO percent improvement when cruising on the highway and a ZERO percent improvement when crawling along slowly in heavy commute traffic.  Those of us with hybrids already are well aware of how important this information is.  HSD handles it fantastic.  THS did pretty well.  IMA struggles to re-engage auto-stop if the conditions aren't just right.  How will this new "hybrid" do?  And they totally side-stepped the fact that smaller vehicles don't have actually enough room available under the hood to support the additional battery space required.  Nor did they mention that the system doesn't actually meet the qualification to even be called a hybrid, since all they did was decrease the time that the engine can be started by simply increasing the battery voltage and using a bigger motor.  They did however shovel these quotes at us: "the Silverado is giving us a look at the hybrid in all of our futures" and "we congratulate GM for going at hybrids this way".

8-25-2004

Hybrid Opposition?  We are getting very mixed signals from Ford.  They are strongly opposing the bill promoting limited hybrid use of HOV lanes in California.  This statement by the Ford Chairman & Chief Executive Bill Ford Jr. in a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger sums it up, "This special interest measure is intended for almost exclusive use by Toyota Prius drivers".  He is obviously upset by the 45 MPG requirement.  That really make me wonder when the heck they will finally offer a hybrid car.  Because based on the complaint, it sure sounds like they won't have a vehicle that meets the minimum efficiency criteria for a very long time.  If they did, they'd try to convince the legislation to include that hybrid later on.  But instead, nothing, not a single word about a non-truck-like hybrid.  Originally they were hyping that the Taurus replacement would be available as a hybrid.  But not anymore.  Why?  Wouldn't it be better for them to simply remain quiet rather than drawing attention to themselves?  Of course, that could be the point... to let the world they will be offering a hybrid SUV any way they can.  Oh well.  At least Ford is actually a worthwhile hybrid system, even if it won't be available in a car anytime soon.

8-25-2004

Freezing Temperatures.  Last week's frost damage is becoming apparent.  Sections of corn fields, especially the exposed edges, are now exhibiting damage from having been frozen.  Some trees are already changing to amazing reds & oranges.  Yes, it's quite beautiful... but in a creepy way.  That isn't suppose to happen for 2 months still.  The turbulent weather cycles caused by "global warming" are becoming quite apparent.  Back in the 80's, it was shrugged off as scientific nonsense.  In the 90's, believing it resulted in dismissal as nothing but a tree-hugger's way of invoking change by spreading fear.  In the 00's, the evidence is revealing itself as all too real.  The problem is genuine.  And we are clearly contributing to it.  Now what are we going to do?  Our children will judge us based on what we do now that we know the reality of the situation.  Will we ignore the growing consequences and simply place the repair burden on them?  Or will we implement a practical solution now so the damage doesn't get much worse, so that a swing back toward lower levels of carbon dioxide will already be taking place by the time they are faced with those kinds of decisions.  No one is asking anyone to give up their SUV or drive less, we (as "tree huggers") simply want you to continue your chosen lifestyle using a hybrid instead.  It can be a hybrid SUV if you so desire.  That will reduce emissions and save you some gas money at the same time.  Try it.  You'll like it.

8-25-2004

Interesting.  I'm seeing quite a lot of minivan television advertisements now.  That's a very refreshing change.  I guess the most practical vehicle on the road (and among the safest) is now becoming popular again.

8-25-2004

Get out your calculator.  (The madness continues.)  Crunching the numbers doesn't necessitate rocket science.  It's actually pretty simple... and quite eye-opening.  The argument that HSD provides a gain of 15 MPG for a midsize car doesn't a require much debate.  That fact is fairly solid now, based on data from real-world mixed (that's everything but highway-only) driving.  So... comparing the 150,000 mile difference between Prius at 50 MPG total and a comparable sized traditional vehicle averaging 35 MPG, you get 1,286 gallons.  At $2.10 per gallon, which is likely way too low of a price over the years (roughly 8, which brings us to 2012) it will take to travel that distance, it calculates to a savings of $2,701.  At $2.25 per gallon, a more realistic price based on the way demand continues to grow and the way supply continues to shrink, the savings grows to $2,894.  At $2.50 per gallon, which is likely still too low (especially since it's over $4.00 per gallon already in Europe), the favor swings heavily for HSD in a midsize car, all the way to $3,215.  Considering the fact that an HSD equipped vehicle doesn't actually require a Multi-Display (touch-screen) interface, the numbers become even more appealing.  A traditional interface would lower the cost by around $500.  And of course, no data has been presented that battery-pack replacement will ever be required.  All the data has revealed so far is that the aging process will begin to reduce efficiency after about 150,000 miles.  That's it.  Acceleration power won't even suffer, since there will plenty of capacity remaining to provide short boosts of electricity.  There will just be a drop in MPG.  So there should not be any late-life expenses.  In fact, since the PSD is always engaged and never shifts, it should outlast an automatic transmission and the clutch on a manual.  Therefore, money can actually be saved compared to a traditional vehicle.  If you really want to push the issue, take a look at the $3.00 per gallon savings.  It works out to $3,858.  But that's hardly necessary.

8-25-2004

Prius "HSD", please.  I've mentioned this before.  But now with the 2005 just weeks away, it's time to bring it up again.  Identifying the new model won't be as simple as just saying "2004" anymore.  And I'm strongly against the "2G" term, since the hybrid system is actually on the third generation and the differences are becoming more and more obvious as time goes on.  I'll be using Prius "HSD" instead identify the 2004 & 2005 model to avoid any confusion.  The first generation has been termed "original" (98,99,00, plus 01 in Japan) and the second "classic" (01,02,03).  They still do come up in discussions time to time, especially when it comes to how significant the differences in the battery-packs are.  So we need to be clear about which we are actually taking about.  By the way, here are the details between "original" and "classic":  Besides the battery-pack getting smaller, lighter, and becoming more powerful, the modules themselves were changed from "D" packing to the modules Prius now uses.  This made it more efficient too, by lowering the internal resistance.  Also, keep in mind the fact that the engine in the "original" Prius was less powerful than the engine in the "classic".  Horsepower was increased from 58 to 72.  This contributed to the reduction of 0-60 acceleration time from 14.1 to 12.5 seconds.  The Multi-Display was not touch-sensitive either, you actually had to use external buttons on dashboard to interface with it.  There were cosmetic changes to the car body itself as well.  Anywho, use "HSD" to identify the 2004 & 2005 model.

8-24-2004

Winter Driving.  It's pretty much a dead topic now.  There is simply nothing about it to discuss anymore.  We've experienced every aspect of the cold season several years in a row without disappointment.  Snow is especially fun.  The powerful low-end torque and the computer control make the winter driving pretty routine.  The "B" mode gives you an edge (that traditional vehicles can only dream about, ha!) when you find yourself going a little too fast on a curve (where you want to slow down without risking a skid from using the brakes) by providing deceleration with the engine.  And of course, we've found several choices of high-traction and snow tires for you to choose from too, if you need to regularly climb a steep slippery driveway or hill.  What else is there to comment about?

8-24-2004

Classic Tire Choice.  The Michelin X-One was a heavily recommended alternate tire for the classic Prius.  I didn't want to go that route back when I had my classic since I was looking for a tire that was less expensive (not more) and one that wouldn't sacrifice MPG.  I also wanted to expand the selection of choices available by trying something different.  So I did.  I decided to try out the Goodyear Allegra tires instead.  That worked well.

8-24-2004

Upgraded Tires - 3,650 mile statusI'm at 3,650 miles with the Michelin Hydroedge tires.  They work fantastic on dry & wet roads.  I especially like the feel when it's raining out; the advantage they provide is quite clear.  I obviously haven't had a chance to try them on snow & ice yet, but that will come soon enough... I live in Minnesota.  I'm sure they will do great; the tire stats have been right on so far.  I simply have no reason to ever drive long distances on dirt roads, so don't ask about that.  But I can point out that the tires have much, much harder rubber than the standard tires, the tread is deeper, and the water channels are ideally angled for corning on both wet & dry roads.  That makes it pretty easy to say they are well worth trying if you have to deal with dirt roads regularly.  I don't mind the efficiency trade-off.  For my driving, that has worked out to a 1.5 MPG drop.  These are the tires I'll be recommending to others.  I'm quite pleased with them.  There really isn't much more to report.  Try them.

8-24-2004

Price Increase.  It's amazing how little it takes to create a misconception.  Today, a news story made it sound like the only reason for the price increase was due to production quantity boost.  There was no mention at all that the rear-wiper is now included in the base price, hence over half of the price change difference.  Everyone wanted that wiper in 2004.  So by eliminating that package option in 2005 and simply including it on the base vehicle, it likely saved a little bit of money overall.  It's unfortunate that little details like that commonly get overlooked.

8-24-2004

4 Hour Commutes.  People are clearly driving further no then they did back in the 70's.  So between that and the population increase, the fact that vehicles are now cleaner is a meaningless point.  Between distance & quantity, there is just as much pollution from emissions still.  The same goes for gas mileage.  Place of the blame is on the way our society has developed.  The migration to find homes outside of the metro areas is growing rapidly.  Many state it is more important to provide a good home for the family, rather than worry about the fact that you have to sit in a car for 2 hours both driving to and from work.  Thankfully, hybrids offer a solution to that dilemma.  People can continue to support that choice without having to give up anything, both emissions & consumption will be reduced.

8-23-2004

Finally getting a choice.  This interested quote was posted online today, "Most people don't want to pay more for fuel economy, period."  I don't believe that for a second, since there is absolutely no way to prove that they wouldn't actually do it.  Lots of people don't "want" to pay $2 per gallon, but millions do daily anyway.  Never have people had the option between choosing tradition & hybrid for the very same vehicle.  It was always a compromise in the past.  In order to gain MPG, you were almost always forced to choose an entirely different vehicle.  (In some rare cases, a manual was actually available.  But that clearly required a sacrifice of having to do all the shifting yourself.)  Finally getting the choice changes the purchase decision process entirely.  Will I buy a Toyota Highlander or Ford Escape with a traditional system or a hybrid system?

8-23-2004

Causing a supply shortage.  It's quite irritating that Ford is heavily advertising a limited production vehicle that won't even be delivered until six months later (if you're lucky enough to be among the first in the state).  It really makes me question how the heck they are going to handle all the demand they are creating and cannot possibly fulfill on a timely basis.  That makes the complaints about Toyota's supply trivial in comparison.  I really wonder when it will be before I spot an Escape-Hybrid on the road... and how many frustrated wannabe owners will contact me about deliver delay.

8-23-2004

Gas *OR* Electric.  I hear Ford hybrid advertisements on NPR all the time now.  Unfortunately, they always use the statement "Gas or Electric", with heavy emphasis on the word "or".  That implies their design does either one or the other, not both at the same time.  That's very frustrating to hear... because it is very misleading.  They are unintentionally endorsing the misconception that hybrids switch from engine to motor, rather than working in conjunction with each other.  Arrgh!  I wonder how long it will take them to figure out the problem they are causing, especially since only the premium package in the Escape hybrid offers a Multi-Display.  I can see it already.  Owners won't understand how their own hybrid actually operates.  That's really going to contribute to the already existing confusion, making rollout to the masses even more of a challenge.  But then again, the screwed up motives of some in power are helping to create demand for hybrids.  With gas prices so high and absolutely no sign of relief anytime soon, awareness about efficiency will remain a popular discussion topic.  Hybrids will continue to have the spotlight on them.  And as we all know well from the lessons Microsoft has taught us: even negative publicity is beneficial.  Not getting any attention at all is bad, no matter how you look at it.  Who knows.  Maybe the misleading use of "or" will help in the end.  People tend to remember mistakes anyway... once they finally get pointed out.

 

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