Prius Personal Log  #179

February 9, 2005  -  February 11, 2005

Last Updated: Mon. 2/14/2005

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2-11-2005

It was the 12-Volt!  A son of an owner posted a message that the battery-pack in his father's brand new Prius (3,000 miles) had abruptly died and a replacement had been ordered.  A few of us got rather excited hearing that.  It just plain didn't make any sense.  No owner had ever reported like that.  The first clue was the "nada, zip, zilch" comment about the attempts to start.  Absolutely nothing happened when he pressed the "Power" button.  Had the battery-pack been dead, the computer would had started right up like normal and told you about it.  But it didn't.  The 12-volt is responsible for the power-up process, which includes booting the computer, pumping stored coolant back into the engine, and reconnecting the battery-pack to the system.  Before pushing the "Power" button, the battery-pack is disconnected via a relay.  So from the start-up perspective, it is always dead.  The next clue is that they had a expressed concern about declining MPG, yet they didn't think it could be due to Winter.  They just assumed the battery-pack was not able to hold a charge.  It's something that would have been very easy to confirm.  The charge-level on the Multi-Display would have shown only a few bars.  That's very hard to miss, especially since new owners are so fascinated with discovering what the various screen tell you.  But the part that ended my investigation was no mention at all of any attempted to jump-start.  Connecting a live jump-wire either the hood or hatch terminal would immediately inform you that the 12-Volt battery was having a problem.  Well, guess what.  After hearing a bunch of us sound-off about this, he pushed the dealer for more info.  They finally reported back that it was in fact that small auxiliary battery, not the big pack.

2-10-2005

Setting the Standard Too Low.  Without any surprise at all, the "hybrid equality" leader attacked my ULEV criticism.  Clearly, those motives are not sincere.  A special interest is obviously being protected.  I'm not happy about that.  There are both hybrids & traditional vehicles that are dramatically cleaner driving on roads all over the country already.  Why in the world would we want to take a step backward by no longer deeming them important?  ULEV is very common today.  That goal is achieved.  Done.  Now let's endorse the next level.  Remember, the vehicle you purchase now will most likely still be on the road 9 years later.  Health related breathing problems will continue to get worse, as the population increases and the resulting driving time increases.  So endorsing a hybrid that only delivers the ULEV is something I just plain will not do.  Too bad if you don't like that.  SULEV is totally realistic.  I starting driving one 4.5 years ago.  What additional evidence is needed to prove that only delivering  ULEV is setting the standard too low, way too low?  Our children certainly won't be pleased if they ever found out we did the absolute minimum possible.  SULEV is something we can actually say we've strived for, since there are so few right now.

2-10-2005

Almost Five and a Half Days.  I've been monitoring that big Escape group with over 9,000 members.  Even though it is very active with posts, not a single one of them involved a hybrid for almost 5 1/2 days.  That's pathetic.  The Escape-Hybrid forum is just 1/75 the size, yet it has around 20 new messages posted every day.  In other words, I was correct by pointing out that the traditional owners were undermining the success of the hybrid.  They were deliberately doing things to prevent interest from growing.  Every new hybrid-related topic quickly found itself plagued with discussions about other stuff, just mindless chatter to distract from the purpose of drawing attention to the hybrid.  That ends up killing the topic thread.  Too bad I didn't publicly predict they would torment the hybrid enthusiasts enough to make them leave, because it now appears as though that is exactly what happened.  It's sad, but not completely unexpected.  After all, the hybrid is a dramatic improvement over the dirty gas-guzzling version.

2-10-2005

Braking Misconception.  It never ends.  Here's a quote from a forum message posted today, "My understanding is that braking recharges the battery, and since they didn't brake while driving uphill, the battery died."  That is a very common misconception, mostly caused by some reporters just assuming that's how Prius works.  It doesn't.  Prius uses a PERSISTENT charging system, which means you can actually end up with more electricity in the battery-pack at the top of a long hill than when you started the climb at the bottom.  (I see that daily when leaving the river valley on my commute home from work.)  So it is no big deal.  PASSIVE charging systems, like that found in the Honda hybrids, don't have the ability to both create & consume electricity simultaneously.  So even a long hill is draining for them.  But it is no big deal for them either.  Mountains, on the other hand, are different.  The steeper climb consumes all of the electricity being created and sometimes requires some from the battery-pack too.  So even with the better system that Prius uses, you can still drain to the "low" level on the way up.  Fortunately, that depletion isn't damaging in any way.  It is definitely nothing to worry about though.  The computer detects the situation and allows the engine to consume more gas than usual to allow you to continue climbing up.  And you'll get there just fine.  Then you can enjoy the recharging ride down, without even needing to step on the brakes. Weeeee!

2-10-2005

Ethanol.  The feasibility studies always worked under the assumption that gas prices would always remain in-check, which means they figured they would remain stable & low.  Well, if they continue to change & climb, that changed everything.  At some level, the price would balance out.  Beyond that, a genuine benefit (besides just cleaner emissions) begins to emerge.  I wonder when that will occur.  Hmm?

2-09-2005

Blogging.  There was news feature on blogging today.  They discussed how popular it has become recently, how it is a concept that the masses haven't ever dealt with.  Now it is rapidly becoming a mainstream culture-forming concept.  It is a genuinely new way of people expressing themselves... which comes to some of the problems I've mentioned about the forums (a blogging place for specific topics).  I discovered this ages ago, hence all these personal log entries.  Thoughts that used to be documented in a private diary are now available for the public to read.  That's a rather intriguing development, an insight previous only possible by writing a book.  Now you don't have to be an author, and nothing has to get published.  All you have to do is logon, type a little bit, then save it for all to read.

2-09-2005

Cleaner than 35 years ago.  Does that phrase impress you?  I find it a lame attempt at promoting air that isn't as clean as it could be.  No, I'm not talking about ULEV this time.  Instead, it was an advertisement for coal I watched on television today.  They claimed it was a great source of energy that didn't harm the environment that much... compared to 1970.  That's just plain sad.  It's like comparing a computer now to a computer in 1970.  It's quite impressive, unless only look a few years back.  Then it isn't anyway near as impressive.  That should be pretty obvious, but apparently people typically don't think that way.  I'm telling them they should.  Yes, coal is in fact cleaner.  But compared to some of the other energy options we have available, no.  And compared to just a few years ago, not really.  Going 35 years back for data is really weak, not a strong argument in any fashion.  It's like comparing computers now to one from just a few years ago; that's no where near as impressive as 35 years ago.

2-09-2005

ULEV, SULEV, AT-PZEV.  It's rather interesting to observe what lengths some people will go to.  Defending ULEV hybrids was today's theme.  Too bad it wasn't honesty.  Oh well.  It's easy enough for those that are concerned to confirm the facts.  Here's what I shared about the hybrids I know quite well...  Every single HSD Prius (2004-2005) sold in the United States is equipped with the AT-PZEV hardware.  The emissions might not last the entire 150,000 mile rating distance, due to some states not having upgraded to the low-sulfur gas yet (a nationwide mandate requiring compliance by the end of this year).  But for those of use that already have the cleaner gas, we will retain the AT-PZEV rating that entire distance.  Every single Classic Prius (2001-2003) sold in the United States is equipped with SULEV hardware.  True, that isn't quite as clean and also requires low-sulfur gas, but it is still starts out 72.8 percent cleaner than the disappointing ULEV rating... which is shared by over 90 models of non-hybrid vehicles.  Again, not all hybrids are created equal.

2-09-2005

HSD Promotion.  Prius enthusiasts are now getting really excited about Toyota's promotion of HSD.  Unfortunately, some think this is new.  In reality, they simply weren't aware of the hybrid market soon enough.  Toyota started to focus on HSD rather than Prius way back in July 2003.  The scanned magazine advertisements on this webpage, ad-scans 3, prove it.  Each of those full-page advertisements for the upcoming HSD Prius were actually two pages.  The photos were accompanied by the text shown on scan #27.  Reading that, you notice just how much HSD really was the strategy all along.  There's even a reference to a SUV using HSD, beside a mention of Prius.  Then take a look at scan #32.  It does an even better job, by combing text & photo onto the same page.  The HSD theme was so well pronounced to those that had been watching Toyota from the beginning here (3 years earlier) that it was a reason to celebrate.  Toyota was finally striving to build brand recognition for their hybrid technology.  That was the very reason I began fighting owners to not refer to the 2004 Prius using a generation number.  Now, it should be obvious why.  Rather than generically referring to each automaker's hybrid system, call it by a name or abbreviation.  That will really help promote them.  HSD = Hybrid Synergy Drive

2-09-2005

$150 per barrel.  Could you imagine that actually happening?  They did on NPR today, because the reality is that prices will continue to climb.  There is literally nothing to stop them from doing that now.  The demand grossly outweighs the supply, as well as the ability to maintain current costs.  New drilling is needed.  Setting up those new sites isn't cheap.  And of course, the growing population will makes the whole situation ever worse.  Oil is definitely becoming more of a problem.  I sure hope that concerns people to actually do something about it.  Buy a hybrid.

2-09-2005

Hooray!  I've been wishing upon a star for a positive article about hybrids.  Well, that dream came true this morning.  There was an absolutely great one today.  And wouldn't you know it, the writer was from Minnesota.  In fact, the paper from St. Could, one of the city's we stopped at on the Hybrid Road Rally.  The topic was how hybrid popularity is on the rise.  Well, I could have told you that.  I see them everywhere now.  It's great!  The article also talked about how the popularity could surge locally, if all goes well in the Minnesota Legislature and with the Governor.  Both are endorsing incentives to increase sales, since our state has demonstrated acceptance to new technologies to solve our energy & air-quality concerns.  (It's a rather high priority here.)  Needless to say, I'm quite pleased.

2-09-2005

Hybrid Equality.  Forums that only support basic text and basic threads and pretty much nothing else are very inviting to two types of troublemakers.  One is the "anti-hybrid" advocate.  They come in a wide variety of flavors, everything from subtle to blatant.  The other is not so obvious... unless you really pay attention, which I did recently on one of those basic forums.  They thrive there.  In fact, the defenseless interface allows them to flourish.  They are those that feel all hybrids should be treated the same way, regardless of what they actually deliver.  They believe in "hybrid equality", doing everything in their power to make sure no particular hybrid shines.  It's sad.  But I gathered so much data on that recently that it shouldn't be a problem anymore, since it is quite easy to spot.  On the intelligent forums, you have the very well laid out threads and posting features that offer all kinds of opportunities (like text formatting, including photos, embedding links, quoting remarks, etc.).  And if that isn't enough, you can always choose to suppress replies (using the ignore feature).  It boils down to the basics after that.  When they simply make replies personal, rather than sticking to the facts, it's pretty obvious.  Another easy to spot clue is when they just don't answer questions, ignoring them completely and responding with other information instead.  In the end, all hybrids are not created equal.  Some don't achieve the purpose of "To significantly reduce emissions & consumption in a reliable & cost-effective manner".  And realistically, all of them don't have to.  But if it is a mainstream vehicle near of the top of the sales chart, then there's a problem.  That automaker should at least offer a choice of configuration.  But if all they offer is a model that doesn't improve MPG that much and doesn't improve NOx (smog) emissions at all, then I'm going to speak out against it anytime someone tries to claim it is as good as the other hybrids... because it's not.  We should be given the choice by automakers and advocates should not try to fool us into thinking they are making that much of a difference.  Hybrid equality doesn't even make sense.  It would be like everyone in school getting a "pass" grade, rather than earning a GPA (a numeric average based on "A", "B", "C", "D" marks).  State the facts.  Face the music.  Don't dance around them like I have recently observed.

 

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