Prius Personal Log  #157

October 29, 2004  -  November 1, 2004

Last Updated: Sat. 11/20/2004

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11-01-2004

Camry-Hybrid.  It's official.  Toyota is targeting 2006 for a hybrid version of Camry.  Yeah!  That should compliment Prius wonderfully.  Mid-Size cars are an excellent market.  Having a hybrid hatchback & sedan available will be fantastic.  And of course, they will be configured differently, favoring emissions & power uniquely to give you choices that are not currently available.  That expansion into a wider market will be great.  I can't wait!

11-01-2004

Resisting Change.  More and more, I'm seeing how people resist change.  In subtle ways, they push it aside.  I suspect the hope is that somehow doing that will make the inevitable easier later, like not dealing with it right away will better prepare them for when it finally comes.  Then you've got a few that are in total denial, flat out not accepting the reality of the situation.  Hybrids are a perfect example for how our world is changing.  How long the supply of oil will last really makes no difference at all.  We are now faced with much higher than expected prices, far too much dependence on those supplying it, and breathing-related health problems growing at an alarming rate.  We must reduce our emissions & consumption.  President Bush endorsed fuel-cells, clearly stating it was a solution for our children... which is great, but leaves you wondering how in the world people are going to make the change.  We have already witnessed the initial resistance to hybrids.  Misconceptions take time to clear up.  Reliability takes a long time to prove.  And where the heck is the hydrogen going to come from?  Currently, the only sources large enough to fulfill that demand are dirty: oil & coal.  Senator Kerry's plan is to instead embrace hybrids now and establish clean sources for that hydrogen, so they'll be operating at a large-scale capacity later when we need them.  He knows quite well that taking many small steps will be much more readily accepted than one massive step later.  And I agree, since I know that it is also a better way of succeeding.  Being a computer programmer, I am well aware of how technological advances significantly affect plans for the future.  We have obvious evidence already that the technology in Prius surprises many.  They simply had no idea an electric platform could be so well blended into a seemingly traditional vehicle.  Knowing that opens up new opportunities.  Look at how Prius has evolved.  The pioneer acceptance of the propulsion technology was proof that interface enhancements could also be introduced, without scaring away potential buyers.  Rather than some fearing the change, they embraced it.  That smaller step has proven to be just right... very little resistance to that, while still being able to realistically reach the goal.

10-31-2004

Year #2 Begins.  Actually, it did for me last week.  But extending the first year by another, to 53, will help make the calculations easier to deal with later.  So tomorrow, the start of a new month, will also be the start of new data spreadsheets & webpages.  Here's the final webpages for year #1...  personal data 9   personal data 10   personal data 11

10-31-2004

10 years away.  That's what the prediction for fuel-cell vehicles now.  I feel that is actually quite optimistic, even if the hydrogen is available then... as well as being clean & affordable.  Fuel-Cells themselves are horribly expensive.  Fuel-Cells have a very short life-expectancy.  Fuel-Cells don't work in temperatures colder than 20 F degrees.  Fuel-Cells are less inefficient than hybrids.  Fuel-Cells require all of the electric components already in Prius, including the battery-pack.  (Remember, fuel-cells must be hot before the chemical reaction can occur and they lack the ability to provide bursts of electricity.)  So what exactly is the benefit?  And even if all the problems were worked out and delivery really did occur in 10 years, what the heck are we suppose to do in the meantime?  600 million new vehicles will be needed worldwide between now and then.  We cannot just wait.  And we certainly cannot continue to use dirty gas-guzzlers until then either.

10-31-2004

Divided.  Why is our country so divided?  The president is suppose to be our leader.  How come so many people are opposed to following him?  Discussions about what the future holds are very important, but let's not forget about the unsuccessful efforts of the current administration.  Unemployment, Health-Care, Budget, and Debt are all in a much worse states than 4 years ago.  The war is far from a conclusion.  In fact, fighting has increased since the change of power in Iraq back in June.  And of course, their environmental record is horrible.  Hybrids haven't received any push.  All we have is what was already in place and a huge endorsement for fuel-cells instead.  Throughout this term, drilling & pumping more oil has been the theme, not finding ways to take advantage of hybrid technology.  So reducing consumption is clearly of no interest.  And talk of reducing smog-related emissions is non-existent.  That's sad.  I'm upset... and needed to vent.  It makes you think.  Some still feel strongly that a larger vehicle is safer, others don't.  How did that division come about?  Why are we opposed about what the "better" means?

10-30-2004

Frustrated.  I'm really getting tired of the certain hybrid owners unintentionally misleading people.  Most have don't mean to setup false expectations; nonetheless, they're doing it.  Watching that happen is very frustrating.  Message after message in the online forums I read posts stating how pleased owners are with the MPG they are getting.  That's the source of the problem.  They fail mention that the value is displayed (since Lifetime MPG is available on the dashboard), not calculated.  And since displayed is pretty much always too high (due to optimistic rounding error), that misleads.  But the real catch is the lack of transmission information.  The manual transmission clearly gets higher MPG than the CVT.  That is still not a well known fact.  To avoid mistakenly deceiving people, you have to explicitly point what you are actually driving.  They don't.  So how the heck do I get them to improve their way of sharing information?

10-30-2004

Should you complain?  That's the overall question of the day.  It started with this, "What do you do when the mechanic overfills your oil?"  Some owners just don't feel comfortable complaining.  Some feel they might establish themselves as a trouble-maker.  But other Prius owners will be truly grateful to you for having kicked the dealer in the butt for not pulling the same old crap.  Someone finally has to do it.  For years, many dealers have gotten away with just doing what they believed best.  Prius owners are a different breed though.  We are extremely well informed and demand high quality work.  So now, they are facing customer satisfaction issues.  Hold them to their promise of making sure you are happy.  Once we establish the fact that we want them to follow what Toyota recommendations, not their own, every one will be better off.  A few small waves in the early years will prevent a huge backlash later.  Just look at the mess the EPA is facing now.  People are just now (even though they've misleading for decades) figuring out that their stated MPG values are only estimations for the sake of standardized vehicle comparisons, not actual real-world efficiency you can expect to receive.  And guess who forced that problem to be finally be addressed... Prius owners!  We were the one (most likely due to all the "Car of the Year" attention) that were able to push the complaint amount over the threshold, enough to get them to acknowledge the problem publicly and state they would work to create a better measurement system.  In other words, it sometimes really pays off to complain.

10-30-2004

Battery-Pack Replacement.  This topic resurfacing was inevitable.  Fortunately, we now have a handful of reports from owners having exceeded 150,000 miles with the battery-pack still going strong.  There just haven't been reports about replacement being needed.  It is definitely safe to say the occurrence will fall into the rare category, not something common like brakes eventually wearing out.  The design very carefully monitors charging & discharging, never allowing the charge-level to waiver much beyond the middle.  In fact, when you look at the Multi-Display, all you are seeing is the middle.  The "too low" and "too high" ranges are not shown for that very reason.  You simply don't ever use them.  The battery-pack is very carefully maintain to never allow those extremes.  That is not true of the original model, manual transmission Honda though.  It actually does allow you to deep-discharge.  So naturally, reports are now coming in of Honda having to replace those packs.  Fortunately, Honda is paying for it.  And thankfully, not a single Honda CVT owner has ever reported having that problem.  Their charge-level is carefully controlled by the computer instead, like Prius, preventing stress that the manual transmission actually allows.  It was pretty obvious from the start that careful system monitoring of the battery-pack would ensure long life.  But without data, we couldn't prove it.  A few years from now, we'll have so much it won't even be a concern anymore.  The misconception about replacement will simply be a memory from the past and people will take it for granted that the design works.  Think about it.  Back when automatic transmissions were first introduced to mid-priced cars, people wondered about performance & reliability.  That was in the 60's for cars and the 80's for trucks.  Now, 90% of the US population prefers automatics.  Things have changed a lot.  In fact, when you start digging, you'll find similar concerns about things like front-wheel-drive too.  Many thought there was no way all that could be squashed into the front-end of a vehicle and still perform competitively with the traditional design.  That obviously wasn't true.  It worked.

10-29-2004

Acronym Rebuttal.  Clearly, a Ford supporter didn't like my previous entry.  He obviously didn't think it was necessary and ultimately just called anyone that uses one "lazy".  In other words, he got defensive from having lost and turned the debate into a personal attack.  I can see that behavior a mile away now.  It's pretty easy to deal with too.  In fact, I was even able to be creative about the reply (rather than getting upset).  Here it is...  It's not being lazy.  It's a good marketing practice, building awareness & loyalty.  Can you say Hemi?  If not, check out the computer industry.  They are also loaded with "standard, but not ubiquitous" acronyms used heavily for product promotion.  Then take a look at the paper hybrid advertisements from Toyota over the last year.  They all heavily promote HSD, with only a mention of Prius.  It is what they are pushing as the industry standard term for their design, which will later be available in every passenger vehicle Toyota offers along with select Lexus vehicles and the Nissan Altima.  In short, I'm encouraging you to take the initiative.  You have nothing to lose from trying.  And I can prove it. Look up the hybrid term "stealth mode".  It is widely accepted as the identifying phrase for electric-only driving by both owners and Toyota.  You'll eventually discover the origin of it.  Back in August 2000, I collaborated with a friend in Japan.  She presented the idea and I coined it.  The term stuck.  Everyone started using it.  That was pretty cool.  Anywho, you have the chance to make history.  Take advantage of the opportunity.  Just start referring to Ford's design with a specific identifier.  It very well catch on.  Heck, I'll even help you promote it.  Go for it!  After all, someone's going to do it.  People won't be willing to refer to the design as "Ford's hybrid system" forever.

10-29-2004

Acronyms.  They do help sell vehicles, even if people don't entirely understand what they mean.  In other words, the fact that Ford doesn't have one to identify their hybrid technology is troubling.  How will they market it?  Read the news.  HSD & IMA are specifically mentioned all the time.  Heck, even VCM gets a plug now.  And CVT is obviously quite common.  Acronyms are a very effective marketing tools.  They nicely package a technology into the simplest of terms, very easy to promote.  After all, everyone now understands what ABS & SRS mean.  The terms HID, LED, VSC are rapidly catching on too.  Then there's hybrid related terms like MPG, PSI, NiMH, PZEV, NOx, and CO2.  And let's not forget the popular extras that people desire for their vehicles: DVD, GPS, and SE/SS.  Here's what they actually mean...  HSD: Hybrid Synergy Drive,  IMA: Integrated Motor Assist,  VCM: Variable Cylinder Management,  CVT: Continuously Variable Transmission,  ABS: Anti-Lock Braking System,  SRS: Supplemental Restraint System,  HID: High Intensity Discharge (lights),  LED: Light Emitting Diode (lights),  VSC: Vehicle Stability Control,  MPG: Miles Per Gallon,  PSI: Pounds per Square Inch,  NiMH: Nickel Metal Hydride (battery),  PZEV: Partial Zero Emission Vehicle,  NOx: Nitrogen Oxide,  CO2: Carbon Dioxide,  DVD: Digital Versatile Disc,  GPS: Global Positioning System,  SE/SS: Smart-Entry/Smart-Start.  Not having a catchy identifier is an unnecessary marketing shortcoming.  Acronyms can be a good thing.

10-29-2004

Desperate to Reduce Inventory.  I heard an advertisement the other day for a $7,000 rebate on monster-size vehicles.  Whoa!  That means they were either making an insane profit from those vehicles or they are so desperate to unload them that they are selling at a loss.  Both are a very bad way to manage inventory of an already saturated Truck & SUV market.  I saw this coming 5 years ago, when gas was only $1 per gallon and people were making fun of me for so passionately wanting a better technology.  It scares me when I'm right... because last year when gas prices hit $2 per gallon, I stated the next time they did the prices would probably never recover.  And that's exactly what appears to be happening.  It looks like $1.89 will actually be considered a bargain from this point on.  That reality will destroy the gas-guzzler market... which appears to be what we are now witnessing!

 

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