Prius Personal Log  #148

September 21, 2004  -  September 23, 2004

Last Updated: Mon. 10/04/2004

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9-23-2004

Biodiesel Again.  Apparently I need to reiterate this information, because a supporter spread a false claim about the reduced emissions... again.  A study available on the EPA website clearly shows that the claims about environmental issues are false.  Just read the executive summary (page 4 of 126) in the PDF on this webpage... http://www.epa.gov/otaq/models/biodsl.htm  Within that paper, you'll discover the NOx (smog related emissions) of biodiesel are actually worse, not better, than regular diesel.  And upon further research, you'll discover biodiesel holds less energy and costs quite a bit more.  To further sour the appeal, the price climbs even higher when you find out mixtures of greater than 20 percent require an additive to prevent the fuel from turning to gel in below freezing temperatures.  In other words, it is the automakers that don't have a viable hybrid available to compete with that are wimping out and choosing to endorse engine-only diesel solutions instead... which makes no sense at all since a hybrid could use diesel.

9-23-2004

Mini-Sheet for the 2004 & 2005 Prius.  Having a half-sheet size handout for the Classic Prius was really handy (a smaller version of the Info-Sheet).  So I finally created one for the newer Prius too.  There's a DOC & PDF available for downloading on my website if you're interested.  You'll find it here... Mini-Sheet  2004+

9-23-2004

Road Damage.  It's getting ugly here.  My state's budget isn't big enough to cover routine maintenance.  That means some damage will be allowed to grow worse, rather than repairs being made.  Those repairs prevent the need for replacement.  But they can't be done.  So will be faced with replacement expenses later, which obvious cost more than just repairs.  In short, we're screwed.  And the worst part is how blame is being placed.  The mention only the continually growing road congestion.  In none of the reports was the fact that vehicles are heavier now mentioned.  That increased weight is clearly contributing to the increasing damage.  How difficult is it going to be to get those making the budget decisions to acknowledge that?  It may help with the funding... like finally increasing the gas tax, which has been the same for the last 16 years despite the fact that inflation has reduced its value by 30 percent.

9-23-2004

$48 per Barrel.  Until today, the price of gas per gallon was awful suspicious.  How could the oil costs keep going up while the gas costs go down.  It just plain didn't make any sense.  Then today, at the near record-high barrel price, gas suddenly jumped up 20 cents to $1.99 per gallon.  And yes, I realize that price is phony.  But usually the government subsidy for gas is consistent with the changes in barrel price.  Too bad more people aren't aware of the game that is taking place.  They have grown complacent with energy being cheap, even at today's price.  Makes you wonder what will happens as it continues to climb up.

9-22-2004

Adventures in Snow.  Now that the people are thinking about the cold season, I'm getting asks questions about driving on snow with a Prius.  So here's my driveway story:  I live in a townhouse.  That means the association takes care of shoveling & plowing for me.  So quite a few times over the past 4 winters I've had to make a run for it across a snow-covered driveway from the short street I live on, climbing my way over the pile up on the end of the driveway (from the plow) and digging a path up to my garage.  Leaving in the morning has been interesting a number of times with the driveway blanketed with fresh snow still.  But fortunately, I've never gotten stuck.  Doing that this year is going to be my ultimate test for the new tires.  I'm curious as heck how much they will improve traction under those conditions.  By the way, the snow street service was quite disappointing last year.  The usual rapid response was critically impaired by (city & state) budget problems.  There were a few days where climbing the steep residential hill I live on (hence many of the beautiful sunset photos) meant plowing through snow.  It slowed the Prius down quite a bit, but I made it just fine to the stop-sign at the top and without sliding into the busy traffic from the adjoining street.  So naturally, I'm quite curious how the new tires will help.  I wasn't ever worried about getting stuck before, but it some extra gripping ability would be nice.

9-22-2004

No Perspective.  Hmm?  I've been thinking.  I wonder if the average person has any idea where HSD sits in the grand scheme of things.  My guess is no, which would actually explain quite a few misunderstandings.  After all, some people still think you have to plug a hybrid in.  So they probably interpret Prius as a massive change in automotive design... not realizing there are far more profound concepts out there.  Here's a few examples... (besides the Toyota, Honda, Ford, and GM varieties currently)...  The obvious one is a hybrid that offers the ability to plug it in.  A not-so-obvious one is a hybrid that adds an ultra-capacitor to the mix, since that would actually compliment the battery-pack rather well, widening the range of electric abilities while also squeezing out a little bit better efficiency.  Then, of course, you've got a hybrid like the train industry uses, a true series design.  Or the other extreme, there's the true parallel design.  You can change the power source too, by replacing the combustion engine with a fuel-cell stack.  That could use just a reformer to convert gasoline or methanol to a fuel or use a form of hydrogen (pressurized gas, liquid, or suspended within a powder).  And what about changing the body shape quite a bit more, or the materials used, or the interior components, etc.  In short, much greater changes are possible.  What's used in Prius is actually rather modest the more you research the potential.

9-22-2004

Do The Minimum.  Some people are under the impression that "do the minimum" is the same as "make it affordable".  It's not, trust me.  Being active in the computer industry for the last 25 years, I know this well.  Sometimes a big step doesn't cost any more than a smaller one.  When technology changes, you have to retool & retrain anyway.  Just compare recordable CDs a few years ago to recordable DVDs now.  The equipment costs the same.  Imagine had we just waiting and took that bigger step.  But don't lose perspective either.  There is a point where it does in fact cost more.  That's when the step is too big.  For example, introducing a full-hybrid like Prius is no more expensive for the consumer than a mild-hybrid like Civic-Hybrid.  But introducing a fuel-cell vehicle is.  There is usually a happy middle.  Look for it.  Don't allow the automaker to make the decision for you.  They have other motives beyond just making the vehicle affordable for you.  Some are sincere efforts to do more than just the minimum.  Some are not.

9-22-2004

Baby Steps.  When in comes to change in the auto industry, taking baby steps is a bad idea.  They resist so much that you really only get a single opportunity for improvement.  Having to continually retool & retrain is something they will not put up with.  They want to build the same thing over and over and over again for many, many, many years.  Implementing nothing but just auto-stop won't accomplish squat (virtually nothing)... especially when consumers find out how annoying it is.  I know this well.  During the winter (colder than 20 F degrees) my Classic Prius would lose the ability to use stealth.  It could not move forward without the engine starting.  That made yearning for Spring to finally arrive all that much more unbearable.  (The HSD Prius doesn't have that limitation.)  Stealth has worked for me at temperatures all the way down to 0 F degrees.  (Yippee!)  At the opposite extremely, people are now discovering how great having the A/C on without requiring the engine on is.  In other words, Prius is raising the bar so high that auto-stop alone won't be enough to satisfy the market.  (And of course, it's engine is cleaner too.)  That's why the long-term plans are deliver HSD in a more basic form, like in Corolla without any of the creature-comforts the Prius has... just the hybrid system itself.  That will make the choice to purchase the HSD option pretty darn easy, even if gas prices don't continue to climb (which appears to be less and less likely as the months drag on).  Anywho, we need to take a bigger step.  After all, we can already see several opportunities beyond the current HSD.  Why not build a better future for our children, rather than always doing just the minimum to get by?

9-21-2004

An Interesting Ride.  I am soooo glad I held out to the bitter end.  Enduring the constant personal attacks on the anti-hybrid forums was well worth it.  They were ruthless, doing everything they could possibly think of to discredit me.  But they were so insistent on making hybrids fail that they would do anything to bring down the leader, me!  They just plain didn't care (or couldn't figure out) that they were loading up my personal logs with great rebuttal material.  I learned so much about the shortcomings of the "solutions" they were promoting as better than a hybrid like Prius.  Pushing me to research so vigorously will really pay off as time goes on.  Rather than having to ever put up with that crap again, I'll have a whole arsenal of shortcomings to point out right away.  Of course, that will naturally enrage them.  But I've had to deal with that too.  The nastiest of the forums had a horrible interface (one that contributed to replies being lost) and an even worse usage policy (one so bad the hosts even had to struggle to do their job).  Yet I still managed to hang in there.  I'm done now.  There literally wasn't any value to staying anymore.  They got to the point where nothing was left but to lie and spread insults.  So I left.  This is when the fun begins.  All along I've been building up and collection of photos to later publish.  Now I can begin doing exactly that, which lots of people love.  Getting new stuff on the website helps them with the painfully long delivery wait.  I'll continue to take new photos too.  Tomorrow I'm planning some night shots.  Two weeks from now I'm hoping to get some photos of what's promising to be a very colorful Fall.  This new ride should be much more interesting.

9-21-2004

The Greater Good.  In a way, I feel vindicated.  But in another way, I still feel a little bad about having turned on some of my friends.  Sometimes, you have to do for their own good though... and I did.  Here's the story:  When the new Prius (the 2004, back on April 16, 2003) was first announced, some people immediately began calling it the second generation.  Clearly it wasn't.  But those reading only the news articles written in the United States and not having any knowledge of the design would easily be lead to that conclusion.  Obviously, I didn't believe it for second.  It was love at first sight with the Original model.  So by the time the specifications for the Classic model were revealed, I was totally obsessed.  Those improvements that were announced amplified the feeling to an impressive level... resulting in creation of the website.  Anywho, not only was I quite familiar the differences, I was also very well informed about how those reporting about it reacted.  So, predicting how they'd react to the HSD design was pretty simple.  The point is, that was correct... even more than I anticipated, in fact.  Ford is now quite adamant about their "first" design.  They want to create an illusion of implied forgiveness for not having a system as well tweaked as the "third" from Toyota.  And I'm happy to oblige.  Their efforts (finally) appear to be sincere.  The interesting new development, though, is from Honda.  They are explicitly & intensely promoting their "third" design.  And wouldn't you know, those improvements are less than that between each of the three Prius designs.  But it's already too late.  The media has overwhelming accepted "third" as the appropriate label.  In short, any remaining dispute about the 2004 Prius not being "third" is dead.  There quite simply is no way to call it anything but that anymore.  It is done.  Yeah!

9-21-2004

TSB for the Fuel-Gauge.  Some owners are waiting for my report on that work before they have it done on their Prius.  I wonder how they react after finding out I won't have that TSB performed.  My Prius simply doesn't need it, even though it is included in the VIN listing.  Only a small percentage of those listed are actually affected (that's why it is a TSB, not a SSC).  Certain types of gas pumps and some types of gas are believed to cause to the problem.  If you don't ever have weird gauge behavior (sudden multi-block drops or triggering of "Add Fuel" way before the 9-gallon tolerance) and you can easily pump 9 gallons of gas into the tank, you simply don't need the TSB.

9-21-2004

Purpose.  Will people ever learn?  The primary purpose of Prius is maximum emissions reduction.  The benefit of increased MPG is secondary.  This is remarkably easy to prove too.  Just observe when the engine starts up.  Clearly, it is for the purpose of heating the emissions system.  Without that heat, the catalytic-converter cannot cleanse effectively.  So sometimes, when you are sitting at an intersection not moving at all and without the heater or A/C on, the engine will run anyway.  If the highest possible MPG were the main concern for Prius, it wouldn't do that.  But it does, because consuming gas just for the sake of emissions reduction achieves its primary purpose.  Later on, other vehicles with HSD may not be configured the same way; some may deem MPG a higher priority. 

 

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