Prius Personal Log  #156

October 26, 2004  -  October 28, 2004

Last Updated: Sat. 11/20/2004

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10-28-2004

Political Deception.  This right-before-the-election change and the commentary that followed doesn't surprise me at all.  Instead, it really ticks me off.  Here's the quote, "Incentives to buy hybrids have received help from Congress, which recently extended and increased tax deductions for hybrid cars from $1,500 to $2,000."  It was $2,000 in the first place.  But then when the expiration time for the deduction approached, this administration simply allowed it to happen... while at the same time creating a credit (better than a deduction) for monster-size gas-guzzlers like Hummer.  In other words, they completely ignored hybrids again (the first time was the endorsement for fuel-cells instead).  So for over a year, people buying hybrids knew the deduction had dropped to $1,500.  All purchases in 2004 would receive less back than those in 2003.  Then suddenly, right before the election, they changed in back to $2,000.  But that isn't the way the quote is written.  It makes it sound like it was always $1,500 and they are doing us a favor by increasing it.  Instead, the quote should say they restored it.  That's deceptive.  A practice which is just plain wrong.  I hope people figure that out.

10-28-2004

More Lifetime MPG Data.  That previous entry got me thinking about my year #2 data (56 fill ups; 18,821 miles; from 19,665 to 38,486).  You'd expect it to have a larger variance.  And it does... but just barely, only 0.8 MPG.  Here's the numbers: 44.1, 44.2, 44.2, 44.3, 44.3, 44.3, 44.3, 44.3, 44.4, 44.4, 44.4, 44.5, 44.5, 44.5, 44.6, 44.5, 44.5, 44.4, 44.4, 44.4, 44.4, 44.3, 44.3, 44.3, 44.2, 44.2, 44.2, 44.1, 44.1, 44.2, 44.2, 44.2, 44.3, 44.3, 44.3, 44.3, 44.4, 44.4, 44.4, 44.4, 44.4, 44.5, 44.5, 44.5, 44.6, 44.5, 44.6, 44.6, 44.7, 44.7, 44.7, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.9   Notice how every single one of them starts with a 44.

10-28-2004

Does Prius have a Lifetime MPG indicator?  That was the hot question today.  The answer is, it does not.  And if you have high mileage on your vehicle, you'll understand why.  The value almost never moves.  Seeing a near constant number doesn't give you much.  The following 54 values are the calculated Lifetime MPG values of each fill up from 38,486 to 57,802 on the odometer (my year #3 data): 44.9, 44.9, 44.9, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.1, 45.1, 45.1, 45.0, 45.1, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 44.9, 44.9, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.7, 44.8, 44.8, 44.7, 44.7, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.7, 44.7, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.8, 44.9, 44.9, 44.9, 45.0, 45.0, 45.0, 45.1, 45.1, 45.1, 45.2, 45.2, 45.3   In other words, only a 0.6 MPG fluctuation over 19,316 miles.  And as the mileage grows higher, the variation decreases.  Even if you live in Minnesota (like me), where MPG takes a huge hit due to winter.  An indicator that displays Lifetime MPG would be pretty much worthless.  And that isn't even taking into account that it would only be an approximation like the MPG value currently shown on the Multi-Display.  It wouldn't be precise, so why bother?

10-28-2004

Approach.  Rather than just promoting your vehicle and/or technology of choice, some negative comments are now appearing.  That's not a good sign.  Things are changing.  That game is not for me.  I'm going to stick to emissions & efficiency/cost requirements.  If a vehicle meets that criteria, it is welcomed.  If not, I simply won't pay it any attention.  No need to say something unpleasant.

10-28-2004

Winter Expectations.  This year is the 5th Winter from me driving a hybrid in Minnesota.  The first December was both the 2nd coldest & 2nd snowiest in our 110 year recorded history.  My hybrid did fine.  Not a lick of trouble, in fact.  And I got a bunch of really sweet photos from it too.  Last year, the temperature got down to -18F (-28C).  My battery-pack enjoyed the cold.  It was no big deal. NiMH prefers to be cool.  Getting hot is a problem.  So when the system detects that it can effortlessly keep the pack temperature low, it will actually allow me to use it more than usual.  I suspect the same is true for the Ford system as well.  My home is near the bottom of a valley.  That means with a cold engine & pack, I have to climb up it almost immediately on the way to work.  It is blatantly obvious that the electric motor is allowed to provide more thrust for that climb in the winter than it is in the summer.  It's pretty cool (bad pun) that the load is intentionally offset like that.  By allowing the engine to work less while still warming up, it is keeping emissions lower while also reducing the strain to extend engine life.  There is a catch though.  Overall capacity of the pack is reduced due to the cold.  But since it is extremely rare to ever see it below 45% anyway, that is a non-issue.  There is always an ample supply of electricity available during the Winter.  You just can't drive as far in stealth.  Have fun during the cold season.  I do.  That annual cycle sure can be refreshing.  It brings a whole new desire for the arrival of Spring too.

10-27-2004

Seeing Red.  Why do so many interpret the bottom two bars for the battery-pack status shown on the Multi-Display to be red?  It is really pink, see... battery-pack charge-level.  Look closely at that photo and note that pink is by far the most soothing of all colors, then ask yourself what other color could have been used.  No other basic color would have contrasted with blue & green as well as pink.  In fact, even red wouldn't.  So consider it a passive warning.  The car is hinting to you to reduce the electric A/C use if you are trapped in heavy traffic; otherwise, the engine will have to start back up.  It is also telling you that while cruising you are better of MPG-wise to allow the engine to run briefly.  Without that color, you may not make an effort to find out what it means.  Clearly, you did what you were suppose to.  Now you're awareness will be higher, which will hopefully make your MPG higher too.

10-26-2004

Lonely.  For someone involved in hybrid vehicles for as long as I have been (I first heard about Prius on October 3, 1999), playing in that field has been pretty lonely.  So my desire to seek out other "full" hybrid friends is quite strong, hence joining the Escape-Hybrid forum.  There are only few Prius owners that still very diligently help out, and they began about a year afterward I got involved.  To all of them, I will always be very grateful.  They do/did an absolutely fantastic job of answering questions for newbies and researching how to deal with unusual circumstances.  But we can't expect them to do that forever.  Realistically though, the average hybrid ownership experience is rather uneventful anyway (if you factor out the personal excitement involved).  The technology works well. It is clearly the way of the future, quite feasible once you study it.  So after the miles add up, participation online ends for many.  They simply don't see the need anymore.  It becomes a normal vehicle for them, what you'd naturally expect from the 21st century.

10-26-2004

The Bladder Question.  You cannot squeeze gas into a tank with a bladder.  Doing that causes pressure, so when you remove the pump it relieves the pressure and the gas squirts out.  Also note that you are defeating the emissions system by overfilling.  Besides the obvious spill on the ground, the not-so-obvious is that you filled the charcoal canister within full of gas.  That makes the capture of evaporates the bladder couldn't prevent impossible, since it is now totally saturated with gas.  So, don't ever top off after the pump automatically stops.  Just put it on the slowest setting and let it determine where full is.  And remember, there is always the possibility that you will pick a pump with a broken sensor.  So keep an eye on how much is pumped.  If it goes beyond what you were expecting (yet another benefit of the Multi-Display), just stop the pump yourself.

10-26-2004

The effect of Winter on MPG.  Will Escape-Hybrid suffer the same unfortunate "first year" fate as Prius did last year?  A debut in the cold season is really bad for MPG.  The air is denser, making it harder to push through, which is less efficient.  The gas is winter-formula, holding less energy, which is less efficient.  Traffic is far more congested, due to snow & ice, which is less efficient.  Heat is required for both you and the emissions system, preventing the engine from shutting off sometimes, which is obviously less efficient.  And the vehicle (engine, bearings, tires) isn't broken-in yet, which is...  You get the point.  The media at large didn't though.  So consumers were inundated with extremely misleading reports, claiming Prius didn't deliver MPG as expected.  No where did they say that in the warm season, efficiency would climb about 20% higher.  And when Summer arrived and that actually happen, not a single apology was published about all the incorrect accusations.  Fortunately, the Ford Escape already exists in non-hybrid form.  If some northern owners actually took the time to document their MPG in detail, having that data available could help to prevent bad press from occurring again.  Though, it may not help anyway.  The 3 years of spreadsheets from my Classic Prius only served to comfort new HSD Prius owners.  Most reporters either didn't care or didn't know they were available online.  Whatever the case, I'd like to help make sure the Escape-Hybrid reputation isn't tarnished by people making false MPG assumptions.

10-26-2004

Brisk Acceleration.  The time came to enlighten the Escape-Hybrid owners.  I revealed the benefits of "brisk" acceleration.  Naturally of course, some didn't believe me.  After all, it is counter-intuitive.  You'd expect to have to drive different to gain efficiency.  So many have been accelerating slowly away from a stop.  Accelerating slowly actually harms MPG with HSD.  You are definitely better off to use "brisk" acceleration instead.  Don't back down when you see that MPG drop.  An engine is more efficient when a majority of it is being used.  That means you should shot for around 70% capacity.  By doing this you are also saving & creating electricity for use later.  So, using the engine less is actually wasteful for acceleration.  That finite (limited) amount of stored electricity available should not be wasted on getting the vehicle moving.  Instead, use it for city-speed cruising later.  So choose "brisk", which is a fairly generous amount of gas without being aggressive.  In other words, it is probably much like the way you use to drive before getting a hybrid.  There is no need to be timid.  Remember, when the engine is providing thrust to the wheels, it is also creating electricity... which you'll be able to take advantage of later.

10-26-2004

Engine Starting.  Today's quote: "I wonder how long I can drive on electricity before the engine kicks in?"  Battery-pack charge-level, outside temperature, road terrain, tire pressure, and other traffic all influence the distance you can drive using only the electricity, none of which you can really influence on-the-fly.  So it is better to focus on keeping the electric draw below the threshold (which is 10kW for Prius) when you do get the opportunity, rather than how far you can go... since quite often an unexpected element (like a red light) abruptly changes your electric cruising.  In other words, practice a lot.  Enjoy what you can.  As a newbie, don't worry about it.  After awhile, it will become second nature and you'll be able to squeeze out a greater distance with very little effort.  Keeping the engine off will be no big deal.

10-26-2004

Better.  In the past, it was in vogue to surpass your neighbors by purchasing a larger SUV than what they had.  Bigger was better.  So each model over the past decade has grown, to the point where they no longer fit in your garage.  How dumb is that?  Now, smarter is becoming better.  Thank goodness.  To be part of the "in crowd", your SUV will have to be practical sized, clean, and efficient.  That's pretty cool, and a great way to spite those that fought me along the way.  However, I'd really like to tell them to "kiss my gas".  But I'll refrain.  They'll figure out that size isn't everything.  Other things are important too.

10-26-2004

SUV interest is fading.  It's becoming more and more obvious that the reign of the dinosaurs is coming to a close.  Overwhelming demand for those vehicles is finally over.  The market is totally saturated with choices.  We've even seen how the shape is transforming from fierce & rigid to smooth & sleek to help keep the interest going.  But ironically, the perpetuator of that original mindset is the same one that's pushing harder than others to redefine it: Ford.  The Escape-Hybrid is proof.  The traditional Escape had a very difficult time competing with it's bigger brothers, so much so Ford really had a hard time deciding which plant to build the hybrid in.  Now, the hybrid is already drawing so much attention that the tables are quickly turning.  And to further sweeten the deal, Ford has begun promotion of Freestyle.  It's their new vehicle that looks remarkably like a SUV, especially the front (which looks virtually identical to the one).  It isn't a SUV though, it's actually a fat wagon.  So the inherent problems with instability due to height is reduced significantly.  That, along with the cone & belt CVT, will help to improve efficiency... which just happens to help promote the both the smooth CVT feel and interest in MPG.  It's about dang time!

10-26-2004

Interesting.  Ford decided to use DC motors for their hybrid.  That keeps the design simple, but it makes no real difference with price or reliability.  AC motors are smaller, more powerful, and more efficient.  The catch is you need an inverter.  Fortunately, the cost for that is offset by the motor being so much less expensive than DC.  Do you think that difference will matter to the market as a whole, mid & long term?  Toyota has used AC in all 3 generations of Prius, so they are sticking to their choice.  What will the other automakers do as the years roll by?  Automotive history is introducing new twists.  Distinct fundamental designs could catch on.  That's something that hasn't really ever happened before.  Will consumers care?  Perhaps not.  After all, our society is far more diverse & complex than it was back in the 20th.

 

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