Prius Personal Log  #177

February 1, 2005  -  February 4, 2005

Last Updated: Mon. 7/11/2005

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2-04-2005

Prius Nirvana!  Someone went to the trouble to define stages of Prius ownership, the awareness factor as your experience builds.  I began ownership of my HSD already at that final stage, an interesting perspective... to say the least.  That newer Prius (obviously) introduced refinements to the hybrid system beyond that of Classic.  In other words, you could feel what was happening under the hood better with the older version.  Combined with the challenge 3 Minnesota Winters brought, I got a ton of practice refining my driving.  Having switched from LRR tires, to just standards helped raised awareness too.  The fact that my previous vehicles educated well about traditional systems (from routinely breaking down, arrrgh!) didn't hurt either.  And my first car was a manual transmission, so I was trained from the start to squeeze out optimum performance.  So now, rapidly approaching that 90,000 combined-mile mark, I use the Multi-Display Consumption Screen to see just how accurate my internal measurement is.  I can predict fairly well when the 0.1 MPG change will occur on the tank average, regardless of the number of miles on it.  That's pretty cool, and rather rewarding.  Unfortunately, I still haven't mastered being able to keep out of the killer MPG situations.  Real-World demands supercede the desire to avoid them.  Dang!  Oh well.

2-04-2005

Warm Weather.  Seeing temperatures briefly up in the 40's is fantastic.  Winter isn't so bad when you get a break like that every now and then.  And watching the MPG climb as a result is great!

2-04-2005

Confusing Consumers (part 2).  Prius owners have discovered just how effective editorial replies can be.  I was encouraged to write one for this article.  So I did.  Here it is...  Today's article was less than sincere.  All vehicles suffer when the Defroster or A/C is used, but that wasn't mentioned.  Instead, we were lead to believe the "loophole" was only something that affects hybrids.  Also, it was implied that the "advertised" fuel economy figures were exact values.  But in reality, they are actually a range.  The text printed on the 2004 Prius window-sticker states the following: "Actual Mileage will vary with options, driving conditions, driving habits and vehicle's condition. Results reported to EPA indicate that the majority of vehicles with these estimates will achieve between 51 and 69 mpg in the city and between 43 and 59 on the highway."  Knowing that efficiency is actually a range changes everything.  Then, being informed that vehicles are tested at 68 F to 86 F ambient temperature without the Defroster or A/C, you begin to discover just how misleading those big numbers on the window-sticker really are.  Having driven a Classic Prius (2001) for 59,827 miles and a HSD Prius (2004) for 28,188 miles through 4.5 years of harsh Minnesota weather, I know the data included in that article was very misleading.  In fact, I have no idea how it was even possible to get MPG so low... and I am a stickler for detail.  My records clearly show the lowest monthly average for my Classic was 38.2 MPG (December 2000).  The highest was a very pleasing 50.6 MPG (September 2003).  The numbers for my HSD were 42.1 MPG (January 2005) lowest and 54.4 MPG (June 2004) highest.  I sure would like to see a non-hybrid vehicle that size with a PZEV emissions rating come even close to those real-world MPG numbers.  I'd also like to see data showing how much their efficiency actually drops when running the Defroster or A/C.  It's not hype.  A "full" hybrid like Prius delivers greater efficiency than most people want to admit.

2-03-2005

Confusing Consumers (part 1).  An article published this morning discussed the impact of Defroster & A/C use on efficiency, claiming "Even some very enthusiastic hybrid owners have become frustrated by the cars' failure to delivery fuel economy matching the EPA numbers."  To that, I say "Duh!"  People have misunderstood the EPA numbers for countless years now.  This is nothing new.  But the writer sure made it sound that way, by providing a wide variety of operational descriptions... so much so that I was even confused.  Having to re-read the same sentences repeatedly to figure out what the heck his was saying is clearly not a good thing.  One point was well understood though, this quote buried in the center of the article "this is just the latest example of hybrids falling short of the hype that surrounds them".  No wonder.  It was a well-constructed report intended to downplay the benefits of hybrids.  I should have known better than to optimistically read anything hybrid related from the Detroit Free Press.  Confusion is an excellent way to deter interest.  (By the way, there was no mention at all about reduced emissions.  That is a topic that continues to get ignored.)

2-02-2005

Remember NiCd.  What a nasty rechargeable battery type.  They weren't exactly environmentally-friendly, there energy density was quite low, and they had that horribly "memory" problem... hence the misconception that a "full" hybrid uses that battery-pack that same way.  Thank goodness the NiMH battery-pack in Prius doesn't require a full-discharge before recharging should begin.  Unfortunately, some people still don't know that.  In fact, they have even went as far as engaging in hostile arguments that there's no way Prius can possibly maintain a near-constant level of charge.  But it does.  In fact, that rigid computer-control used to guarantee the deep-discharge doesn't occur (even at the cost of wasting gas) is how the duration of the battery-pack being the lifetime of the vehicle was established (and later proven).  Unfortunately, we now have an example of what happens when you actually do run the battery-pack to that full-discharge state.  Some of the oldest manual transmission Insights are requiring battery-pack replacements.  They have virtually nothing to prevent them from avoiding that discharging trap, since charge-level is primarily user-controlled.  Fortunately, the CVT version of Insight is computer-controlled instead.  It works hard to prevent that type of battery abuse by doing all the "shifting" for you.  And sure enough the evidence is coming in to confirm that their battery-packs continue to operate just fine.  Too bad more people are better informed about how the various rechargeable batteries actually work.

2-02-2005

Highway Congestion.  The Minnesota legislator today proposed a 5-cent increase in gas tax and a one-time surcharge of $75 on both new & used vehicle purchases to help pay for our highway congestion crisis.  Traffic here is getting awful.  Something drastic needs to be done to pay for the much needed road improvements.  Increasing tax on gas is the most fair way I can think of to guarantee that the money is used for its intended purpose as well as collected with respect closest to the way it is needed in the first place.  And yes, those of us with a Prius will benefit from paying less.  But hey, many agree that a discount of that nature is more fair than a tax deduction or credit anyway.  Regardless, the issue will "fuel" interest in hybrids.

2-02-2005

The Button.  Some have figured out how to get me riled up, pushing my button.  They just post a diesel-only article that slams hybrids, then wait for me to climb up onto the soapbox.  And of course, I simply couldn't resist this opportunity today...  A common deception technique that pro-diesel (non-hybrid) supporters use is to ignore the automatic transmission.  They know quite well it simply cannot compete with a Planetary-CVT.  So they quote MPG averages from the manual transmission and just happen to "forget" to note that vital piece of information.  Another thing they typically do is never refer to actual EPA rating, like SULEV.  Instead, they dance around details and just make the vague "cleaner" claim.  I'm pretty tired of that nonsense at this point.  SHOW ME THE DATA!  Then we can draw conclusions of our own by digging through the detail ourselves.  By the way, I especially liked this deceptive quote, "But on the highway, they use substantially more fuel than modern diesels, and they cost more to produce."  Beginning with the 2007 model year, no modern diesel will be allowed to be sold anywhere in the United States.  The upcoming EPA changes require all diesel vehicles to be upgraded to comply with the reduced NOx (smog) & particulate restrictions.  That means the price of the vehicle will increase, making the extraordinarily vague "substantially" & "more" claims even less meaningful, while at the same time causing MPG to drop a little bit.  In other words, the non-hybrid diesel will have an even harder time competing with hybrids... and I'll be more than happy to tell you all about that again and again.  Just push the button.

2-02-2005

State of the Union Address.  I noticed today how the President opened the topic of reducing our "dependence on foreign energy" by emphasizing the importance of hydrogen vehicles.  Then he proceeded onto other concerns, making no mention whatsoever about hybrids.  Nothing at all!  He is still completely ignoring them.  That is a blatantly obvious sign that he really isn't sincere.  If he was, hybrids would have at a minimum been mentioned.  Those reading these log entries are well aware of the fact that "full" hybrids offer a very natural bridge to increased electrical use in a vehicle, something a fuel-cell vehicle absolutely requires.  Why isn't that being acknowledged?  How are prices of those electric components going to be reduced if production of "full" hybrids isn't increased?  How is the efficiency of them going to be improved?  What about the weight & size?  And what about the storage device, like a battery-pack?  Fuel-Cell vehicles also need one.  Why is all of that being dismissed as not important now?  This lack of support is definitely not reducing our dependence.  An already viable solution is being disregarded.  Our state is now one of concern.

2-02-2005

Better, but still not correct.  An article published today on hybrids describe the "full" types as "ones that can run on electricity alone".  Though that incomplete, it is correct.  However, they used that definition to describe a Honda Insight, claiming it's system worked the same as Toyota Prius.  Where do reporters come up with information so grossly in error?  How could they even consider Insight being so different from Civic-Hybrid, even though both use the "IMA" system?  That's just plain bad reporting, as if they didn't actually research what they were writing about.  The reality is that all 3 hybrids now available from Honda are the "assist" type, sharing virtually nothing in common.  Oh well.  At least they are aware of the fact that there is more than one type of hybrid.

2-02-2005

Looked Unusual.  That's how the Classic Prius was described today.  What the heck is that suppose to mean?  Vehicles like Scion are an entire magnitude more usual than anything else on the road just 2 years ago, including the Classic Prius.  How does that fit into today's picture?  I think that person is simply living in the past.  As time goes on, more and more vehicles resemble the Classic Prius.  I see the curved hood, the triangular headlights & taillights, and the tall profile in quite a number of new vehicles now.  Unusual is an outdated opinion.  People desire change.  It's a fundamental of human nature.  We find differences a draw after awhile.  Try to deny that!

2-02-2005

Overfilling Oil.  It's the topic that never seems to stop getting discussed.  I wonder why.  Hmm?  Besides it being an obvious waste of oil, it's also a waste of gas.  I have already proven that MPG is impaired by that unnecessary oil.  In fact, that's why I pushed to raise awareness.  Even a minor efficiency improvement is still a benefit.  It's no different that the tire PSI problem.  When you raise awareness, the extremes are far less likely to happen.  Rather than the potential for tire & engine damage, you get a little bit of a MPG gain.  That sounds like a good reason to not overfill.  What the heck else is there to discuss?

2-01-2005

Harmful to All.  It got worse.  For the first time in decades here, everyone is being told to avoid going outside.  That's really bad.  No wonder my lungs hurt.  Now I'm more frustrated than ever about certain hybrids that do nothing but increase efficiency.  That's just plain wrong.  The reduction of smog-forming emissions is obviously a very important goal that should not be ignored.  Hybrids that are not at least SULEV rated are simply not clean, no matter how much gas they save.

2-01-2005

Motivation.  If you haven't figured it out yet, the reason I've been pushing to get the Escape-Hybrid enthusiasts to establish a strong web presence rapidly is because the competition is approaching at a rate faster than most realize (or some care to admit).  Today, further details about the hybrid SUV going on sale less than 3 months from now.  Hopefully, it will be considered a fellow "full" hybrid, rather than an actual competitor.  This new one will offer a third electric motor that provides 650 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.  (No, that isn't a typo.  Six-Hundred-Fifty is correct!)  And it uses a battery-pack with much higher energy-density than the current hybrid SUV does.  So... it's time to kick the online efforts into high gear (bad pun).  Setup Escape-Hybrid so it can enjoy the interest that will rapidly grow in the very near future.  There's nothing worse than not even getting mentioned in a news report or printed article (like a certain hybrid does now).  I hope they don't miss the opportunity to promote Ford's hybrid system.  There's no reason the "full" hybrids can't help each other out in the early years.  We'll make those dirty gas-guzzlers lose their appeal in no time!

 

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