Prius Personal Log  #143

September 1, 2004  -  September 4, 2004

Last Updated: Weds. 9/08/2004

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9-04-2004

Switching.  Most people are still under the impression that there is a "switch over" of some kind.  There isn't.  Even in stealth, you'll see momentary recharging without stepping on the brakes and no-arrow gliding.  And the motor itself doesn't need to physically do anything to go from consuming to becoming a generator.  It's spins the same, the flow of electricity simply changes.  Just yesterday I was talking to a person looking at the Prius at the Minnesota State Fair.  He was totally baffled when I replied to his "switch over" question.  I said seeing the modes change 10 times per minute, even on the highway, was a common occurrence.  And in a heavy commute, it will change even more.  That pretty much ended the conversation.  He simply had no idea the system was so dynamic.  That rapid responsiveness is why Toyota's system is causing the competition to really struggle.  Ford's system is the only one that may be close, but that potential is unlikely fully exploited with this initial release.  The other designs don't even have the ability to take advantage of those minor efficiency opportunities like HSD does.

9-03-2004

TH!NK returns from the dead.  Ford killed their newest electric vehicle even before the test-marketing of it could be completed.  There was a huge order-list and a bunch of people frustrated that the quantity would be extremely limited and only in the New York City area.  Then people all over the world freaked out when Ford said their was simply no market for a vehicle like that.  The catch is that rather than destroying all their work (rather than GM did with theirs), they abruptly sold the production rights to a Norwegian group, totally abandoning any commitment to that technology.  That backfired on them horribly.  Demand has significantly increased since then... to the point where it looks like Ford will once again announce official plans for offering this electric vehicle in the United States and abroad.  Sweet!  It sure looks like when their is money to be made and reputations to save, an automaker can swallow its pride and take the needed step.

9-03-2004

Upgraded Tires:  Secondary Break-In  The MPG hit with those high-traction tires has been interesting.  At first it was nasty, but then after about 1,500 miles it settled down to about 1.5 MPG lower than with the OEM tires (for me anyway).  Then when you rotate the tires , you take another minor MPG hit again.  Just yesterday, I did that.  Having the tires, now at 4,100 miles, moved from the back to the front clearly introduced a drag that my 80,000 miles of Prius driving experience could detect.  There is obviously a secondary break-in.  This is the isn't the first time I've noted this effect.  The very same thing happened on my Classic Prius too.  That makes a lot of sense.  The front wheels turn, that obviously causes accelerated wear than the wheels in back that only roll forward & backward.  My hypothesis after 100 miles of observation is that will cause about 1 MPG loss for about 500 miles.

9-03-2004

Classic & HSD tires.  Time for an updated summary.  That rubber on the OEM tires for the Classic Prius was awful. With a treadwear rating of only 160, that so dang soft that you could leave marks on the road simply by making a sharp turn at a slow speed (like when parking).  photo album 22 shows photos of those tires after about 20,000 miles of use.  photo album 50 shows photos of the alternate tires I selected after about 20,000 miles of use. Clearly, the 560 treadwear rating on those proved much better of a choice than the OEM tires.   When I traded the 2001 for the 2004, the alternates still looked great with 30,000 miles on them.  And MPG didn't even take a hit (for me) either.  The 2004 is a totally different situation.  Those tires have a treadwear rating of 460.  So they will obviously last longer.  However, we do have some recommendations for better ones already.  I ran over someone's tool and punched an unrepairable hole through one.  Now I am 4,200 miles into researching high-traction tires with a treadwear rating of 760.  photo album 79 shows photos of those alternate tires I selected for my 2004 Prius.  By the time other owners are in need new tires, I should have gathering lots & lots of real-world data for these.

9-03-2004

"Prius Preachers"  That's yet another tactic for those that try to discredit me.  They simply state that I am blindly devoted to Prius.  But looking through my posts, over and over and over and over again you'll find endorsements for HSD not Prius.  Prius is just a single implementation of HSD.  But if a person wants to mislead discussions, they can just imply that isn't true. Giving an impression that HSD isn't flexible dismissing the reality that the "Prius GT" actually exists.  It's a more powerful version of HSD in a Prius body that is used for racing (and showing off).  HSD will also be used in the upcoming Highlander & RX400 hybrids.  Both of which will use a much more beefy version HSD, allowing for faster acceleration times and the ability to tow a trailer.  Toyota plans to offer HSD in all of their passengers vehicles by 2010.  HSD will be available in several Lexus vehicles too. Nissan has signed a deal to put HSD in 20,000 of their vehicles (possibly the 2007 Maxima).  So discussions about HSD is what it's all about.  Then once they accept that (as if), do comparisons to the design from Ford... which is also a full hybrid system, intended to be used in several of their vehicles... including the upcoming Fusion sedan.  It's pretty clear that preaching is all about the technology, not any specific vehicle.

9-02-2004

Reduced Production.  Last night's news came as no surprise.  All it really did was just make the belief an official fact now.  The foreign automakers have now caught Detroit off guard again.  We are now witnessing the shake up from the 70's all over again... though many won't realize it for awhile.  The news report announced that production from the "Big 3" will all be reduced for the 2005 model year.  Hearing that, you'd think the entire automotive industry was in trouble, struggling to survive.  In reality, sales are growing.  More vehicles will be produced for 2005.  The catch is, foreign automakers will be providing those vehicles.  So exactly as planned, Toyota is expanding their marketshare.  The sweet part is, Prius has contributed to that.  All the attention the hybrid has claimed is making people consider buying a Toyota for the very first time.  After all, if they can build an extremely popular hybrid, why not a popular traditional vehicle too?  And to pour some salt on that wound, Toyota is now exploring options for the location to begin domestic production of HSD hybrids.  That's right, Prius will be built in the US in about a year or two.  Yeah!

9-02-2004

Terminology.  Placing all the new technologies into a single category is extraordinarily misleading, yet you'll find vague references like that in many online messages.  Avoid using the label of "hybrid" to identify all the designs if you want to keep discussions constructive.  To clarify, there are 5 system designs currently available.  You'll find them in: Silverado-Hybrid, Insight, Civic-Hybrid, Escape-Hybrid, and Prius.  All use different "hybrid" technology.  Each has distinct advantages over the other.  None offer the same efficiency & emissions.  The source of confusion is each design has been placed into a different size & type of vehicle.  So people often think they work the same and it is just the vehicle itself that makes them different.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  Unfortunately, it will take years for people to learn the actual differences.  I wish there was a way of rapidly educating about the various designs.  All too often, discussions come to the wrong conclusion due to misunderstanding of how a particular hybrid actually works.  Bummer.

9-02-2004

Cold Weather Mystery.  The quote in a news article today was a complete mystery (so bad I don't even want to include it here).  It's like they made up a reason and statistic to explain why MPG drops as the temperature drops.  No matter.  They didn't include the essentials anyway.  Failing to mention that both traffic conditions and heater use change significantly when it's that cold is just plain wrong, because that's where a lot of the MPG loss comes from.  The rest is from the fact that winter-formula fuel holds less energy and colder air is denser.  So naturally efficient will be lower during the cold season.  The battery-pack is actually quite responsive during the cold season, it's really just the capacity that gets reduced.  You'll actually observe increased electrical activity then, not less, since keeping the battery-pack cool is much less of an issue.  Too bad most reports about hybrid MPG don't include details on the actual performance of traditional vehicles.  Cold weather is hard on them as well, in fact, more so.  But if they want to make hybrids look bad or they just don't bother to be objective, that's the data to exclude.

9-02-2004

A plug for Winter.  Naturally, that question is being asked now.  The end of Summer is making people wonder about cold Winter starting.  Prius doesn't need it a plug-in heating device.  With a battery-pack & motor enormously more powerful than a traditional battery & starter and a smaller than average engine designed for low-resistance starting, the process is trivial even at sub-zero (F) temperatures.  And to make starting even easier, a thermal storage device (referred to as the "thermos") gets 3 liters of hot coolant pumped into it when you shut off the vehicle.  During the Summer, it will stay hot overnight and warm for 3 days.  So there is definitely enough warmth left even during the cold season to give the engine some help before starting.  When press the power button, that coolant is pumped into the head of the engine.  Then it waits a moment for that flush of life to spread.  It's a feature making the hybrid clearly superior to traditional gas vehicles.  Don't you wish they would have invented something like that decades ago?  The reason they didn't is that isn't what it is actually for.  The thermos is there to speed the warm-up process, so emission reduction can begin as quickly as possible.  It's just a fortunate benefit for those of us living in the north.

9-02-2004

MAINT REQD indicator.  I originally thought that light on the instrument panel may be triggered at the 5,000 mile intervals, based literally on the odometer reading not distance.  But I had enough of a gut feeling to delay the reset last time.  That confirmed my suspicion the next time.  The light came back on (flashes 6 times each time you start the Prius, then shuts off) after 4,500 miles since I had last disabled it.  So if you were to wait until 11,000 miles.  It wouldn't illuminate again until 15,500 miles.

9-02-2004

20,000 Mile - Oil Change.  It was the same old routine.  No surprises... pretty darn easy with a Prius.  That offset engine makes access simple.  And of course, since the system doesn't work that hard, the oil comes out rather clean (not like the nasty stuff that comes out of a traditional vehicle).  I don't think the 2004 here could do a 7,500 mile interval like my 2001, especially without synthetic oil.  But I could easily see some people trying it.  I won't because I'm well aware that thinner oil contributes to better MPG.  And doing changes diligently is a simple thing you can do to keep the engine running well.

9-02-2004

20,000 Mile - Service.  This was a very simple one.  All they needed to do was rotate the tires.  Though, I asked for a replacement air-conditioning filter also... which lead me to the discovery that they charge $19.78 for the labor to change it.  Obviously, I going to end up creating an illustrated how-to document so owners can do it themselves.  Since it is in your better interest to check it from time to time anyway, you might as well just change too.  The first time you do it, you'll end up having problems.  The steps are not obvious and the hinges slip out easily.  But after you've done it a few times, it's a snap.  And saving that money is always nice.  Anywho, the rotating & filter was $38.99.

9-02-2004

LSC-40E.  Toyota issued this Limited Service Campaign since there was the potential that water could seep into the engine compartment from the area at the top of the hood near the cowl.  So I had that service performed today.  For me, it was a preventative, since I never experienced a leak.  What they did was reinforce the seal that was already on the base of the engine compartment by adding one onto the hood.  It's an elegantly simple solution, just a special sponge-like tape to compliment the rubber one it presses against.  Unfortunately, it consumes the location my dealer was using to post the SSC info stickers.  Now they are underneath it.  Oh well.  There's a redundant copy on the door-jam anyway.  And none of those services costs me anything.  So I'm happy.

9-01-2004

53.9 MPG Average.  That's better than I expected for the month of August, considering how cold it has been.  But then again, there was likely a little bit of pump error on that last fill.  It seemed like it shut off too soon.  Of course, even an average of 53.7 MPG would be nothing to complain about.

 

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