Prius Personal Log  #173

January 16, 2005  -  January 21, 2005

Last Updated: Mon. 2/14/2005

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1-21-2005

Winter Storm Driving.  It was inevitable.  The snow finally came... all at once, 6 inches in just a few hours.  Needless to say, it took awhile to drive home from work.  But knowing that it will take 3 times longer than usual when your driving a Prius and packing a MP3 player, it isn't all that bad.  In fact, by the time the usual 2-minute but now 25-minute drive out of the city concluded, I was pumped and ready to go.  The poor saps all around me (except the other Prius that passed by) were all wasting a ton of gas.  I wasn't.  Instead, I was just listening to music with the engine off most of the time.  Anywho, with open road in front of me (finally), I was ready to take on all that new snow.  So I did, in predictable testosterone style.  I could take the highway or the steep & twisting road to get out of the river valley.  Obviously, I took the latter.  It was one for the team, to gather data... right?  The need to try out the HydroEdge tires for myself under extreme conditions was just way too tempting to resist.  So I began the climb.  The steepness wasn't all that much of a problem, to my surprise.  I had enough road in front of me to keep the momentum going.  Then came the switch-back.  (Yes, it was so steep the road required that.)  Naturally, I got stuck.  But it was all in good humor.  Coming to a complete stop when rounding the turn, I was treated to the scene of a SUV pushing a stuck pickup.  Clearly, I wasn't in car territory anymore.  Going any further was totally out of the question.  Hey, I made it halfway up.  That's not too bad.  And me ride down was fun.  It was so steep that I didn't have a lick of trouble going that direction, or even turning around.  Anywho, I made it just fine.  The remainder of the drive home was a slow one.  The traction-control routine kicked in.  The anti-lock brakes did a few times too.  The VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) didn't though; that's a feature you'll only utilize when a tire has grip of clear road and another slips on snow or ice.  Anywho, I did get stuck.  The piles of snow at the intersections were never a problem to get through.  It's curiosity that got me.  I was intrigued (having stopped at the grocery store) by a driver apparently stopping for no reason at all in a parking lot that caught my attention.  Rather than just zipping around, I slowed down.  Noticing she was stuck (I had already forgotten how much snow the Prius was driving through at that moment), I stopped to get out and offer a push.  Oops!  I was now stuck too.  But I just put in in reverse, backed up a little bit while turning the wheel, switched to drive, moved forward a little bit, then repeated that two more times.  Then, I drove to a place where I could safely stop.  By at that point, she had already attracted another helper.  So I kept going.  The remaining drive was pretty fun.  Part of my neighborhood hadn't been visited by the plow for hours.  That left a mess everywhere, especially in front of my house.  But I said what the heck and gave it a shot.  The Prius got me about 2 feet pass the end of my driveway before all the snow underneath grabbed tight.  Not bad.  I got home safe, with the hybrid unharmed.  And a few minutes of shoveling later, we were both in the comfort of my garage.

1-20-2005

Confirmed the 12-volt is dead.  There's a very, very simple way of confirming you have a dead 12-volt auxiliary-battery: Just check the interior ceiling light.  It really is that simple.  You don't need to even turn the key.  With its switch in the "ON" position, a dim glow is a dead giveaway that the auxiliary battery has only little power left.  Confirming a jump will do the trick, without actually doing it, is pretty simple too: Just connect the cables from the donor vehicle.  Once connected, if the ceiling light suddenly changes to a bright illumination, you know that turning the key will in fact fire up the engine.  So, go for it.

1-21-2005

What is the 12-volt?  It's a small lead-acid auxiliary-battery similar to what you find in a traditional vehicle, only it's used for a different purpose.  For startup, it is used to power the computer, to pump stored coolant back into the engine, and to reconnect the battery-pack to the rest of the hybrid system.  For shutdown, it is used to power the pump to fill the 3-liter thermal storage device with hot coolant from the engine and to disconnect the battery-pack from the rest of the hybrid system.  When parked, it powers the SE/SS (Smart-Entry, Smart-Start) and alarm systems.  The primary-battery is the large 201.6-volt NiMH battery-pack used for collecting electricity and powering the electric motors, which includes the power used for starting the gasoline engine.  Did you know that?

1-20-2005

Time to replace the 12-volt?  The constant drain from the alarm system along with the annual cold & hot extremes are beginning to reveal the age of the 12-volt battery for some now.  This Summer is when I expect to here more reports of Classic owners both needing to and wanting to replace them.  The time has come for the oldest of them (the Prius, not the people).  That little auxiliary-battery won't last forever.  So don't be surprised.  After all, the larger 12-volt batteries don't last that much longer either.  The one in my Taurus lasted 5 years.  The Prius that are now 4.5 years old are approaching replacement time.  Plan on having to replace it at least once (which is true for any type of vehicle).  And because of that, people take the initiative rather than waiting for a failure.  How long will you wait?  For that matter, how long have you waited with your current vehicle? 

1-20-2005

Ha Ha Ha.  I couldn't help but to be amused today.  Seeing a "welcome" message on a certain forum meant one of two extremes... either they were up to the same old anti-hybrid tricks or they realized that their actions simply just drove people over to a competing forum.  Both are bad.  Oh well.  Newbies aren't that dumb, they'll figure out what's going on.  The opposite front was pretty darn amusing too.  The fighting over there between hybrid & diesel got so nasty the host finally put an end to it, by closing the discussion permanently.  Ha!  That is absolute proof that it isn't me stirring trouble.  That thread wasn't even created until after I stopped participating there.

1-20-2005

Temperatures.  It's getting "nice" now... from a Minnesota perspective.  The daytime temperature was forecasted for around the low 20's all this week.  And that's exactly the way it has been working out.  Next, the forecast is for low 30's.  This is great.  Now when the next artic-blast comes, it will be brief and "nice" weather will follow.  The hopeless feeling you get as Winter approaches is fading.  We'll just get the endless teasing that Spring will eventually arrive instead.  Anywho, that means MPG will slowly improve.

1-19-2005

Seeing Green.  A by-product of the cold in a HSD Prius is a higher battery-pack charge-level, so you see the green level (more than 6 bars) more often.  I've heard speculation of this being an intentional behavior, but I disagree.  My Classic Prius certainly didn't appear do that.  So I can't imagine a need.  It is simply just the result of the engine running more often.  You need the heater to run.  That means you won't get to use stealth as often, which is what brings down the charge-level in warmer weather.  Without that, it just continues to climb up into the green.  Then when it does get high, the system uses it up while the engine is running rather than during stealth.  So you are still utilizing the electricity, but the Winter way isn't as obvious as during the Summer.

1-19-2005

Trouble Free?  You can pretty much count on the battery-pack making it to 150,000 miles.  The data is coming in to support that original claim now.  After that, we don't have a whole lot of real-world experiences to reports to share yet.  But the ones we do have are great.  A couple of owners have passed the 200,000 mile mark just fine.  A friend of mine is at 142,000 now.  His reports confirm what we've heard from others.  Prius goes out of its way to protect the battery-pack, avoiding heavy drain and over-charging as much as possible, even using gas to help avoid stressing it.  That makes a huge difference, a protective measure you'll be quite pleased with years from now.  You have very little to worry about.  And likely within the next few years, we can actually say "trouble free" with strong conviction.

1-18-2005

Rescued Tank.  Today's experience was quite unexpected... and uncertain right up to the very end.  I got a last-minute rescue to my efficiency data.  It has been around 0 F degrees all of the last week.  That pushed the MPG tank-average dangerously close to the 40 mark.  (Dipping into the 30's is not something I'd like to ever have to endure!)  Well wouldn't you know it, the "warm" weather finally kicked in this evening.  (That's 50 degrees warmer, from -14 F to 36 F degrees.)  So when I filled up the tank, I was scared that reverse bladder-effect would cause the more gas to fit in the tank than last time... artificially deflating the MPG calculated.  Phew!  The value calculated to 40.1 MPG.  That was close.

1-18-2005

Progress.  I told the big Escape forum (with over 9,000 members) that if they didn't create a section specifically for hybrids one of the small devoted forums would pass them like they were sitting still.  They didn't believe me when I pointed out the desire for owners to want to share stuff like we do on the big Prius forum.  All I got was replies using every resistance-to-change technique in the book.  Well guess what, that's exactly what has begun to happen.  Someone today announced that a domain-name had been registered and he was now researching software intended to establish a forum dedicated to serving the very needs that had been pointed out.  Sweet!

1-17-2005

Safety Options.  The first time you slam on the brakes at 55 MPH on snow (when some idiot cuts you off, merging in without looking at all), you know those rarely used safety option are well worth it.  That actually happened to me years ago.  The ABS kicked in and allowed the car to remain in my lane and keep control.  Everyone else nearby was sliding all over.  That type of "insurance" seems like a waste of money, until you actually need it.  The same goes for VSC.  I have ever needed it to prevent an accident, but I have felt what it does when 3 tires slip and 1 suddenly grabs the road hard.  It's pretty obvious that you'd have far more control in that situation with the computer helping you out... especially since it is impossible for you to control just a single wheel, even if you did have split-second reflexes.  So when people ask me why I upgraded from a Classic to HSD Prius, the first thing I say is for the safety options.  Hopefully, I'll never find out how the airbags actually work... but you never know.

1-16-2005

German Prius.  It's Arctic Blue, the Executive version with Navigation... owner: Victor

1-16-2005

Summer!  Prius Photos showing the true sign that Winter really is over... photo album 91

1-16-2005

No Wonder.  I made a discovery today about the nature of the resistance on the big Escape forum.  The person holding the highest message post record there was also the hybrid troublemaker.  No wonder he put up such a fight against change.  He didn't want to lose the attention on him.

1-16-2005

Salted Prius.  It's an unfortunate, but necessary, evil every Winter.  The Prius is covered with it most of the time.  But what are you going to do?  Sand is completely worthless for keeping roads clear of snow & ice, especially since we literally go for weeks at a time between days where it's warm enough to melt anything.  So here in Minnesota, sand is pretty much used only when traction is needed on clear roads and when it is too late to to wait for the salt to work (an instant solution for ice).  In most all other cases, salt is used.  Thankfully, the type with the lowest impact to the environment is what they spread.  But that's because Minnesota has a massive budget for keeping roads in top condition... hence the law prohibiting studs.  I'm not sure what is done elsewhere.  Before winter storms here, the roads are pre-salted to ensure traction before the nasty stuff even has a chance to affect the roads.  That makes the Prius salty too.

1-16-2005

Voice-Activated Technology.  Lately, I've been seeing quite a few television commercials that make a point of emphasizing a vehicle's recognition abilities.  That's something which was unheard of just a few years ago.  Now it has become a special feature worthy of promoting sales.  Cool!  Of course, I've had the ability in my Prius since October 2003.

1-16-2005

Postponing a Disaster.  Some people believe that about hybrids.  It's a misconception that stems from the "assist" type, since they are in fact a dead-end technology.  There is simply no way to "assist" much more than they already do.  Fortunately, "full" hybrids do not have that shortcoming.  They can & will become more and more and more dependent on electricity.  The proof of this is rather obvious too.  Just look at Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle.  It is called FCHV, which stands for "Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle".  The components within are similar to that in Prius.  They both have electric motors, electric steering, electric A/C, a storage device for electricity, and the ability to capture electricity from braking.  Further proof of this is the fact there are already at least two prototypes of Prius having been converted to use power from fuel-cells.  Trying to force a specific technology simply doesn't make sense.  Prius will naturally become that ultimate solution we wish to achieve.  That may or may not include the use of fuel-cells.  The better way of establishing a market presence for fuel-cells is to focus on the micro type first, especially since there is a dramatically larger audience & product-base for that technology... just look at all the portable devices which currently use batteries that could significantly benefit from a fuel-cell.  Notebook computers could be used dramatically longer and be instantly "recharging" by simply swapping the empty methanol canister with a full one.  After all, the success of NiMH came about that way... by using it in small, portable devices first.  That's how you prevent a disaster.  The HSD Prius I drive now is an obvious milestone toward that ultimate goal, whatever it may be.  Progress is the key, as demonstrated by the improvements beyond what the Classic Prius offered.  Each new model is a step in the right direction.

 

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