Prius Personal Log  #175

January 25, 2005  -  January 28, 2005

Last Updated: Weds. 4/06/2005

    page #174         page #176         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

1-28-2005

Real Competition.  Some fear that it will eventually happen.  Why?  Ultimately, everyone would benefit from that.  For Honda to finally abandon their dead-end "assist" design, which clearly has limited electrical abilities, and to embrace the "full" design would actually be great!  All Prius owner should be well aware of the fact that something better is on the way.  It's a matter of when, not if.  It's called progress, when our society admits there's a problem and endorses the solution we all worked hard to prove realistic (Prius!).  That's just way technology matures.  So naturally, that means a few years from now there will be a fourth generation design that will make our third look less appealing.  I can't think of a better way to spite those still holding onto dirty gas-guzzlers.  For them to see us driving around in older hybrids will give us a warm feeling of vindication.  And of course, at that point, seeing showrooms filled with excitement about the latest hybrid models will give you a pat on the back for having been involved with them in the early years.  Remember, the playing field is much larger than just automakers.  A break-thru in rechargeable battery technology (capacity, size, weight, cost, etc.) could result in a contract with a competitor to Toyota.  That could give the other hybrids an edge, pushing them into the #1 position for a duration.  We cannot control that.  We'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.  Regardless, moving forward is the goal no matter what happens.  Each design will get better over time.  Real competition will emerge.  It's just a matter of time.

1-28-2005

Refinery Settlement.  The nation's larger oil refiner, ConocoPhillips, settled a lawsuit today (the larger refinery settlement ever).  The terms were to spend over $525,000,000 to remove 47,000 tons of pollutant annually from 9 of their locations.  This doesn't surprise me at all.  The local refinery here got fined heavily for pollution violations.  And thankfully, that resulted in a noticeable effort to clean up.  However, there's only so much they can do.  It's up to us to stop using so dang much gas in the first place.  It's sad that people are being mislead about "clean" hydrogen vehicles.  Yes, what comes out of the tailpipes will in fact be extremely clean.  But the process to create the fuel, whether it be hydrogen, methanol, or even gasoline is not clean.  So the efficiency of your vehicle, regardless of what technology it uses, is absolutely essential.

1-28-2005

War Funding.  The request submitted to Congress today asked for another $80 billion.  That's absolutely horrifying.  It even makes the $1.2 billion for fuel-cell research look pretty lame.  The poorly administrated war will end up costing well in excess of 100 times that much.  Imagine if some would have been invested in hybrids.  How about spending some of it on our education system... rather than allowing even more budget cuts to strangle struggling school districts.  Isn't the point to make a better future?  I certainly didn't vote to have the money (which we don't actually even have) spent that way.  They really need to set objectives beyond just trying to fix the mess they caused.  Planning for tomorrow really is a good idea.

1-28-2005

Lexus Hybrid Details.  We got a little bit of the info about the next luxury hybrid from Toyota.  (Lexus is their luxury division.)  Following the RX400h, a hybrid luxury-SUV, will be a hybrid luxury-sedan called GS450h.  It will be the first hybrid in the world to feature rear-wheel drive.  The design will simply be the HSD system incorporated into the already powerful V8 engine.  It will heavily emphasize power, delivering an impressive amount of torque during acceleration.  In other words, the full range of performance will be covered by HSD.  There will be nothing left to prove by Toyota.  Every aspect of market desire will have been addressed at that point.  Rolling out HSD in Camry will be a effortless endeavor at that point.  People will simply expect that hybrid option to be a purchase choice, just like transmission-type is now for some vehicles.  Yeah!  The next few years sure are going to be fun.  It's vindication, luxury style.

1-28-2005

2006 Civic-Hybrid.  The quote given from Honda today about next year's model was "significantly higher fuel economy and performance".  Prius enthusiasts wondered what that meant.  I didn't.  The design change expectation is pretty simple from my point-of-view.  They'll just add VCM (Variable Cylinder Management).  That will improve the MPG.  The real question is how will they do it?  Shutting off half the cylinders when there are 6 is much easier than when there are only 4, since the strokes are 1/3 apart rather than 1/2.  And adding the required anti-vibration engine-mounts, sound-insulation, and sound-canceling, in addition to the engine modifications, isn't cheap.  As for the improved power, that's pretty simple too.  Switching from the Cone & Belt CVT (which has proven to be less than ideal) to a traditional automatic transmission would do the trick.  Unfortunately, emissions seem to be a taboo topic from Honda now.  They have made no mention of delivering a SULEV rating.  How will they compete with Prius?  Overcoming the price & size problem isn't enough to make up for NOx (smog) emissions being no better than a traditional vehicle.

1-27-2005

Misleading Readers, part 2.  A friend of mine sent a carefully worded, well thought out email to the host of that website.  He very specifically pointed out that there is no such button on the American cars and that one isn't required to activate stealth.  They completely ignored his comments & questions and blindly replied by simply forwarding him a copy of the EV button installation document.  In other words, they lied and we caught them.  They mislead their readers about Prius for their own benefit.  That button isn't already there as they claimed; you have to manually (and quite tediously & carefully) have to install it yourself.  I'm not happy.

1-26-2005

Misleading Readers, part 1.  An article today on the "The Christian Science Monitor" website has gone too far.  In fact, you could easily say they were dishonest to serve their own purpose: Promoting All-Electric vehicles.  It begins with this opening sentence about a new Prius owner in the United States "Not long after --- got his new 2004 Toyota Prius, he began to wonder about the mysterious button on the dash. It didn't seem to have any function."  That really intrigued me, just as it was intended.  So I kept reading, wondering if that was describing the "EV" button... which isn't actually there.  That dashboard has nothing but an indentation showing you where it would be.  But the article clearly states: "the button has been disconnected for North America's Prius".  That is just plain not true.  There is no button, so nothing could ever have been connected.  Then it goes on to claim: "It could turn the gasoline-electric hybrid into an all-electric car - for a mile or so on limited battery power.  This *stealth mode* button works fine in Japan and Europe"  Clearly, someone was being deceptive.  "Stealth" is already available in the United States and it is automatic, no button ever.  There is actually an "EV" button available in Japan & Europe, but it actually increases stealth power and lets you drive further in stealth.  In essence, it is an enhancement to stealth, not the creation of it.  Anywho, the article gets worse from there.  The writer blindly quoted that owner saying the following: "One guy I know plugs his Honda hybrid into a windmill for power. It costs him practically nothing to drive."  That's just plain wrong.  There is no way the Honda hybrid can take advantage of electricity like that, its IMA system simply isn't designed that way.  The most you could squeeze out from that is another MPG or two, since the electricity is only used for assist, not regular driving as a full hybrid does.  And of course, the battery-pack is way too small and the energy-density way too low to hold much electricity anyway.  The battery-pack in Prius provides a significantly larger capacity and it doesn't even allow for "practically nothing to driver" abilities.  It's sad to read articles that mislead like that.  I wonder what other deception will follow.  Hmm.

1-26-2005

Car Wash.  Wow!  The Prius looks fantastic.  I had almost forgotten.  Being so dry in Minnesota during the winter (since the temperature is usually too cold for melting), I rarely was the car.  There's simply no need.  The salt encrusted on it remains benign as long as it doesn't get wet.  So I wait until a warm day finally arrives, then I remove all that grim and replace it with a layer of hot sprayed liquid wax.  That has worked great as a protectant in combination with my twice-per-year polishing.  The wash today reminded me of how nice the Prius looks during the Summer.  No wonder I have so much fun showing off the car then.  Apparently, it isn't just the warmth.  There's a (rather obvious now) visual draw too.

1-26-2005

Finding a Hospital.  I had to take a friend to the hospital today.  Even though I knew exactly where it was and how to get to it, the thought occurred to me that I had never actually checked the Navigation System for that.  I had seen the "Emergency" button in the past and pushed it, but never drilled any deeper.  Seeing the "Hospital" option was enough for me.  I assumed it worked exactly like the "Dealer" option, which I had used before.  It worked great.  Well, this one worked even better.  While you're driving, it assumes it is an emergency.  So, only the emergency facilities are displayed.  That's pretty cool!  Because the moment I stopped, the screen filled with pages of clinic listings.  That much would obviously be overwhelming in an actual emergency.  Being shown only the essentials while the vehicle is in motion is pretty smart.

1-26-2005

What If ?  This question gets asked a lot... "Can Prius run using the engine alone?"  Based on the Planetary-CVT design, the vehicle is pretty much not drivable in a problem develops in the electrical system.  The interaction of the 2 motors and the engine is required for full-speed, full-power travel.  So you could potentially still move the car out of harm's way, but don't expect normal operation and you could potentially damage a component if the demand on the system too much (overheat, over-rev, etc.).  Fortunately, electronic components have a significantly higher reliability-rate than gasoline engines do.  So the odds of that happening are notably a less than you would initially think.  You are more likely to have an old-fashion engine problem instead (which is rare for a Toyota).  Basing reliability expectations on the 7 years Prius has already been on the road pretty much proves that this is not something to be concerned about.  Some traditional vehicle don't even have a reliability-rate that high!  Of course, if you want to look at the odds... you are more likely to be involved in an accident.  So "what if" answers really need to be concerned in-context of the complete ownership experience.

1-25-2005

$1.99 per gallon.  As expected, the rise in oil prices has immediately caused the gas prices to rise too.  Remember the old days we there was a lag?  Now, it's like Wall Street.  Price spikes are affected first by non-physical factors now.  We no longer wait for the supply reduction to become apparent.  Someone just pushes the panic-button right away.  The 5-cent jump has been replaced by a 20-cent jump.  And now, we typically don't see 1-cent increases anymore.  The change gas is widening.

1-25-2005

$49.64 per barrel.  The oil prices are nearing that magic $50 mark again.  Only this time, they never really dropped that low in the first place.  The "less than $30" prices, which were the norm just 2 years ago, are now ancient history.  It's as if that was never common, like stories you hear your grandparents tell.  People never believed a permanent increase in price could ever happen so quickly.  In fact, I didn't even think that.  I figured it would be more of a gradual & non-disruptive process, something far less dramatic.  But that's not the way it happened.  Instead, the price climb was rapid & painful.  We knew for a fact that the only reason the Detroit automakers were able to report decent earnings was due to the low oil prices allowing monster-size gas-guzzlers to remain popular, since they provide the highest profit-margin.  Now that has changed, as if overnight.  Those awful SUV commercials are now being quickly replaced by promotion of new, more friendly vehicles.  Yeah!  So it turns out the analysis from when Prius was first introduced in the United States was true.  As long as gas remained cheap, not many would care.  But now that it is expense, we've got their attention.

1-25-2005

No Snowflake!  Believe it or not, I drove for almost 10 minutes today where the snowflake wasn't being displayed.  My Prius was parked down by the river.  That caused the temperature to rise to 39 F degrees, enough to keep that indicator from illuminating when I started the system.  Of course, I soon as I drove away from the water, it got cold... making the snowflake reappear.  Oh well.  It was fun while it latest.  Back to sub-freezing temperatures soon.

1-25-2005

Horsepower.  When trying to figure out the total, some people just add the engine & motor values.  You can't do that.  There is not enough electricity available to fully enable the motor.  You have a finite load that can be delivered from the battery-pack (without overheating it, which shortens its life).  Some electricity comes from the engine too, but that obviously reduces the engine horsepower.  The benefit of that trade-off is increased torque and reduced stress on the engine, so that's ok.  You also get a greater return from brake regeneration by having the extra large motor too.  To top that, your from-a-dead-stop delivers greater takeoff power too.  So that horsepower value (plus torque) really is better than it appears from that "total" value.

 

back to home page       go to top