Prius Personal Log  #147

September 17, 2004  -  September 20, 2004

Last Updated: Sun. 11/21/2004

    page #146         page #148         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

9-20-2004

Toyota did it right.  Others are starting to chime in on that belief now.  Cool.  I've been saying that for ages.  With a both degree and a career that deals with computer programming, it was blatantly obvious to me from the start that Toyota's approach was (back in early 2000, when I was first researching the design) the only one that could survive long-term.  Updating existing programming is never a good way of planning for the future.  The code becomes more and more specialized to meet user's requests and is totally dependent on the original architecture.  So all you can ever really get away with is tweaking.  It is impossible to fundamentally improve without starting over.  Toyota decided is was well worth the time & money investment to start over.  They knew the chore of debugging hardware & software behavior could potentially become a nightmare.  But they also knew what the benefits could be should they succeed.  Well, that risk they took is really starting to pay off!  They now have a great platform on which to build their future vehicles with.  It doesn't cost more than the competition's, yet it performs better.  I have no idea when the other automakers will figure this out or how they will respond to it.  But it sure is going to be interesting watching from the bleachers of the winning team.

9-20-2004

Faster.  The speed nonsense is back.  Now, 0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds is a selling point for a family car.  Just two years ago, it was 8.5 seconds.  Does that mean that two years from now it will be 6.5 seconds.  Faster is a worthless enhancement.  Yet, it has helped sell vehicles, despite the fact that it is almost never used... and certainly isn't needed.  The 10 seconds in my Prius is more than I need.  Merging onto the highway always takes more than that anyway.  There is simply too much traffic to go that fast.  At some point, the speed obsessed will have to admit to overkill.  When do you think that will happen?  Perhaps it will be when people start to have serious accidents.  Unfortunately, that's how it is commonly decided where stoplights are needed.  Rain, Snow, and Ice make 0 to 60 in 15 seconds extremely dangerous.  Imagine an inattentive driver trying to do that on a slippery road in half that time.  Hmm?  Prius really could be the solution in a way most people still flat out deny.  It offers non-traditional features (convenient new components) inside that have absolutely nothing to do with speed.  It's those creature-comforts that could very well become a major selling point later.  Faster will hopefully lose its appeal... really fast.

9-20-2004

Wheel Spinning.  Some people still think that is the best solution for getting through troublesome snow.  If you live in Minnesota where it can get horribly cold, the spinning of tires actually melts the snow and it freezes into ice within just seconds!  So what could have been just a minor problem quickly becomes a nightmare.  Taking advantage of low-end torque and traction-control is what you really want.  Wiggle your way out slowly, rather than using brut force.

9-20-2004

Having a Transmission.  A common technique when arguing against HSD to distract from the purpose.  They like to get hung up on it not actually having a transmission, changing definition to their advantage.  Too bad, that won't work.  Simply focus on the purpose instead.  But to help out, here's some details...  The PSD (Power Split Device) in Prius never disengages.  It is always engaged.  That fact alone is enough to disqualify it from being called a "transmission" by the automotive industry's definition.  The act of transmitting power alone is not enough.  If it was, the driveshaft & differential could be called a "transmission" too.  But they aren't.  And wouldn't you know it, taking a close look at the PSD you'll discover it is actually nothing more than just a differential.  All it does is transfer power, the very same purpose as a differential.  There is no shifting of any kind either, nothing at all related to gearing... which has been the very purpose of a "transmission" for decades.  Prius doesn't have that.  No part inside adjusts size ratios of any kind, not like a manual, an automatic, or a cone & belt CVT.  Power carriers are all that's literally there, just like in a differential.  Toyota eliminated the transmission, a true overall cost saving strategy... as well as being a way of reducing vehicle complexity & maintenance.

9-20-2004

The Full Type.  To qualify as a "full" hybrid, the vehicle realistically only needs a combination of two propulsion systems.  After all, that is the purpose of a vehicle.  The extra stuff, like A/C, is exactly that: extra... not at all necessary to get from point A to point B.  But having those extras sure is nice.

9-19-2004

Worrying Begins...  Some are already starting to fear the insincere efforts by certain automakers.  They believe some hybrids (that don't improve emissions at all and only deliver a minor MPG increase) will sabotage the market, just like what happened with electric vehicles.  One of the long-term objectives of my website has always been to cushion the negative fallout, an inevitable result of the automakers trying to play catch up after they discover just how impressive Toyota's technology really is.  There quite simply is no way to prevent it.  But at least we can soften the blow by reducing the impact as much as possible.  And with so much real-world data already and so many absolutely delighted Prius owners, it's going to be hard to keep us quiet... on the defense.  On the offense, that's a different story.  I am calling the pitiful attempt at new automotive technology by GM a "mock" hybrid.  The thing doesn't even fit the definition of hybrid.  And since GM had the impressive EV1 and has bragged about their fuel-cell design, there is simply no excuse.  The proof that they know how to work effectively use electric motors for propulsion is quite plentiful.  So why the heck didn't they even try with their hybrid?  No propulsion whatsoever is provided by electricity.  And of course, smog-related emissions are ignored entirely.  It's sad that we have to put up with this crap.  But at least we stand a chance of winning in the end.  This time, they won't be able to ruin the market and force us to believe we need something different.  We've got enough of a head start and a lot of good people already interested in helping out.  We'll tell them what we want instead.

9-19-2004

Any oil overfill is bad.  That fact is being iterated more and more online amongst the Prius owners, something we have become aware of that traditional vehicle owners... even though they are faced with the very same issue.  Our society grew up believing the posted speed LIMIT was actually the required speed to travel, not a maximum.  So naturally, as the decades progressed, more and more people accepted the belief that traveling "a little bit" faster than that was no big deal.  After all, other people were doing it.  Well, now so many people are exceeding the speed LIMIT that other feels a substantial amount above isn't really a safety problem.  No wonder we've lost perspective.  Any overfill is bad, period.  That "full" mark on the dipstick is the upper-limit.  Below that is good.  In fact, in the middle is perfectly fine.  It isn't actually until the level drops close to "add" at the bottom that you should become concerned.  Don't allow oil to be wasted or the potential for engine damage.  Get in the habit of making sure the oil level is a little below the "full" mark, not above.

9-19-2004

When you don't rotate.  I like when owners report needing a entire new set of tires.  Because unfortunately, I've learned firsthand that a couple of the reports we got in the past could very well have been due to negligence, not the tire itself.  On my way to work everyday, I walk by an Aqua Classic Prius.  (It appeared to be a purchase of a used model.)  When it first appeared in that small parking lot late last Winter, I immediately checked out the tires.  They were due for a rotation, since the ones on the rear still looked brand new and the fronts showed wear.  The owner obviously didn't bother... and curiosity got the best of me.  It had become a ritual to routinely check them.  I watched the fronts wear down more and more.  The rear ones barely changed; they still looked new.  If you're familiar with the Classic, you'd know that the driver-side-front tire wears the fastest.  That's why the roll-back, cross-forward rotation method is recommended.  I know that.  So I got to observe that driver-side-front race ahead of the other front tire... to the point of being totally bald on the outer edge.  Surely, I thought the owner would finally notice.  He didn't though!  Then 2 weeks ago, a tear developed.  Just a small opening that revealed the threads within.  Over the course of just 3 days it grew to about 8 inches long and several other small ones appeared.  It was finally time to notify him of the impending blowout... just like some in the past have reported, where they claim no knowledge of any tire damage prior to it happening.  But now we know what to look for, just check the status of the other tires.  Not rotating at all for that long is a clear indication the owner was not attentive of tire status.  That's one of the reasons the Prius veterans started preaching the MPG benefits of routinely checking tire-pressure; it was a sneaky way of getting them to be more observant of their tires.  Anywho, the experience was great for real-world data gathering.  But now I feel bad.  Of all things, last week apparently just happened to be the owner's vacation.  I didn't see the car all week.  So, I couldn't leave a note.  Dang!  Will I be able to on Monday or will I discover a new tire?  ...or could it be that the owner was actually an intern who just returned back to college?  We'll see.  The point is: please routinely rotate your tires.

9-18-2004

Hybrid A/C.  This is interesting.  The upcoming Accord-Hybrid will have a hybrid A/C system, meaning it will be part traditional and part electric.  In other words, there are two air-compressors.  Under low demand, it will be entirely electric.  This will allow the engine to remain off as long as possible.  Then when the battery-pack charge-level gets low or greater cooling is needed, the engine will startup.  That's pretty impressive for a mild hybrid... but it raises a question:  How is the electricity generated?  Since the full hybrid system in Prius uses a constant-recharge strategy, it is no big deal.  Having two electric motors and a power-split device means there is always an ample reserve of electricity available.  IMA only has one electric motor, and it is directly linked to the engine.  So the recharging strategy has always been either passive or aggressive.  That has meant on rare occasions passive wasn't enough and owners would temporarily lose the electric assist, since aggressive was needed (which hurts MPG, so owners try their best to avoid it).  If the A/C will be tapping into the battery-pack pack now, those occasions will become far more frequent.  Is there any information that proves that isn't the case.  Could Honda have found a way to recharge at a moderate rate instead?  And what about the thermal concerns for keeping the battery-pack cool, especially when it's hot and the A/C is needed?  Or will it be that the gasoline engine won't actually be able to remain off for too long?

9-18-2004

Changing Oil.  Every 3,000 miles is too often.  Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.  The oil I've drained out of my 2004 Prius at 5,000 miles is in much better condition (thinner & lighter) than anything I've ever seen come out of a traditional vehicle at 3,000 miles.  Heck, with my 2001 Prius, I could even say that about at 7,500 mile intervals.  See, Prius is no where near as hard on oil as traditional vehicles.  The hybrid system avoids the main factors that cause oil to age.  The engine RPM redline is much lower than usual and engine runs much cooler.  So the oil will naturally last longer.

9-17-2004

If I get only 5 MPG more.  Boy, I've heard comments like that a lot.  Some try to make the decision to purchase a Prius solely on the gas they will save.  My response to that is always the same too... If that is your only reason for buying a Prius, don't.  I bet you didn't think I'd make the decision that simple, did you?  Prius offers far more than people realize.  If they are interested in those other features, great.  If not, no big deal.  HSD will be available in the more common vehicles later anyway, without any of the extras.  So then, justifying the purchase will be quite simple.  Just buy that instead.  You'll save the gas like you wanted.

9-17-2004

No Electric Opportunity.  Reading statements like this posted routinely is rather irritating, "there is no opportunity for the Prius to use it's electric motor on the highway".  It is a very, very common misconception.  In reality, the electric motor gets used quite frequently on the highway.  There is actually no such thing as an absolutely flat highway.  Even the slightest pitch up or down will allow the electric motor to take advantage of the opportunity.  And it does.  The constant electricity generation (yes, 100 percent of the time the engine is providing thrust) eventually builds the stored charge up to the point where the electric motor allow the engine to reduce the RPM to save a bit of gas.  And it does.

9-17-2004

Prius Haters.  That's a discussion thread that emerged today, when a future owner patiently awaiting delivery got frustrated by the number of negative comments he had received from those hearing about his Prius order.  Here's my reply:  Over the past 4 years, not a single anti-hybrid person (trust me, I've encountered a lot) has ever had the impudence to confront me in person.  Every single attack (way too many to count) has been online.  They know quite well that with the Prius right there in front of them, every argument point they've ever attempted push becomes trivial.  Fortunately, those negative comments you get from acquaintances are a bit easier to deal with.  They come from two different sources.  One is the overwhelming number of misconceptions (contributing to the fear of change) about hybrids.  Fortunately, that is easy to overcome once actually get your Prius.  The other isn't quite so simple.  It is jealousy from being loyal to another brand or technology.  That will typically prevent the person from ever wanting to talk about hybrids with you again.  The resistance is simply a fact of life.  Look at it this way, it parallels politics remarkably close.  Take what you've learned from those experiences and apply that to hybrids.

 

back to home page       go to top