Prius Personal Log  #189

April 1, 2005  -  April 4, 2005

Last Updated: Sat. 4/09/2005

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4-04-2005

Plug-In Now.  The math is pretty simple.  If Toyota were able to deliver that option at an affordable level (around $2,500), they would.  Imagine the bragging rights that would provide. Even if the real-world improvement just brought the average up to 70 MPG, that would still be pretty impressive.  But it turns out that the prototype featured in the newspapers recently uses Li-Ion batteries, which are far more expensive.  Li-Ion can hold significantly greater capacity than the NiMH type we have, but the number of recharge cycles available is much lower.  Avoiding ever having to replace the battery-pack was a vital requirement for Toyota.  For the "plug in" effort, that doesn't appear to be the case.  The price quite unrealistic for the masses.  However, as an aftermarket option for the truly dedicated, it could catch on.  But if the goal is to make such a feature standard, they have quite a bit more work to do still.  Remember, the computer industry has been struggling to deliver a better battery for a decade now.  They have come a very long way, delivering some impressive improvements (durable, small, lightweight, rapid-charge, safe, recyclable, etc.), but the ultimate goal of being truly inexpensive and never having to be replaced is still unreached.

4-04-2005

H?H.  Having spoken out against the use of acronyms & abbreviations for vehicle names saying they will only lead to confusion, I am totally amused by the latest development in the most recent choice.  People are beginning to refer to the Highlander-Hybrid using "HLH".  That will really screw up the common references for Honda's hybrids: HAH & HCH.  The first letter was suppose to represent the name of the automaker and the last meaning hybrid.  But neither "THH" not "HH" has appealed to anyone.  I told people years back that would happen.  They didn't listen though.  They said they liked it, so they'd keep using it anyway.  Well guess what, the same response will likely be true now for those using "HLH".  Oh well.  All worked out well for the Prius package names in the end too.  I told them the numbers would change the following year.  They used them anyway.  Then the next year they did in fact change.  It forced them to finally begin using the proper identifiers (like "BC") instead, because those constant from year to year.  In other words, call it Civic-Hybrid and Highlander-Hybrid...

4-04-2005

Wow Factor.  Some say that is a draw for purchases right now.  The intriguing aspect is what's thought of as a "wow" factor today will end up being "normal" later.  Consider how odd some thought the Classic model of Prius looked.  Now it blends right into the crowd new vehicles.  So being ahead of its time can be rewarding on several levels.  Even though your Prius has later grown old, it still won't appear that way inside or out.  Interesting, eh?

4-04-2005

$2.35 per gallon.  That is what's being reported in Minnesota right now, where gas is usually pretty cheap.  That's our highest price ever around here.  So I'd like to say thanks to all the Prius owners for helping prove there is a realistic solution available.  Without that glimmer of hope they provided, the situation would really be ugly... because there simply is not any other solution available.  Demand for oil continues to climb.  Squeezing a few MPG more using "mild" enhancements just plain isn't enough.  And of course, the smog pollution continues to be a growing problem too.  Hybrids that only offer ULEV doesn't accomplish anything, since many non-hybrids are already at that level.  Cleaner is needed, like the SULEV the HSD hybrids provide.  This is clearly not a time to settle for "good enough", especially when you consider how horribly difficult it is to get the automotive industry to accept change.

4-03-2005

Sad Reality.  There was a discussion on a Civic-Hybrid forum about the recent national article published on the "plug in" conversion of a Prius.  Talk included everything from conspiracy to envy.  But the thing that caught my was when one of the group leaders made this comment, "I'm hoping they wanna start work on an Civic-Hybrid one day".  Reading that was sad.  She had no idea her favorite hybrid was not capable of supporting such a system (which is why I have been begging for a document for us to refer to that provides details, preventing misunderstandings just like this).  All the plug actually does is increase the range of stealth, enhancing the already existing ability.  Honda's design doesn't offer electric-only driving for a very good reason: It can't!  The engine & motor are connected directly via a shared shaft.  There is no linkage that can be independently controlled like there is in Prius.  (That's what the "split" means in the power-split-device.)  And that is the very reason I say that type of hybrid is only a short-term solution.  The "full" hybrid design in Prius is built as a long-term solution.  That's why I support it.  That reality is a happy one.

4-03-2005

Generation Clarification.  They're at it again.  Now, rather than anti-hybrid problems, we have to deal with "assist" hybrid owners causing confusion.  Today there was a claim that Civic-Hybrid uses the "second" generation design from Honda.  I pointed out that it fails to satisfy one of the criteria to be a generation.  For a design to truly be a next generation, it must be replace its predecessor. 3 years later, Insight still uses that older design.  So that can't be true.  These are the same people trying confuse newbies into believe the current Prius is only a "second" generation too.  See the problem yet?  The advertisements for Accord-Hybrid clearly state "third" generation.  They want you to believe Honda has somehow advanced beyond Toyota.  But it really doesn't matter anyway.  A quick look at these hardware & operational improvements for Prius clearly show there is in fact three already... Generations

4-02-2005

Realistic Expectations.  When someone side-steps details, I wonder what why.  I question why are they being so vague?  That was the case with the discussion about "plug-in hybrids" today.  Here's why...  Vaporware is something I've learn to deal with over the years.  So even a concept that does provide detail is no guarantee it will actually be successful.  A totally different competing product can pass that well thought out technology as if it didn't even exist.  We've seen that happen countless times in the computer industry.  I wish them luck as well.  But they face a serious up-hill battle, well beyond what Toyota is already fighting.  Hybrid vehicles that can travel limited ranges on pure electricity is nothing new.  The concept has been discussed at great lengths for many years now.  Making it affordable has always been the constraint preventing anything beyond just prototypes.  We can deal with misconceptions, even new behaviors.  But when it comes to $$$, that's an entirely different matter.  This is the very reason why I so strongly support "full" hybrids and speak out against the types that lack the ability to drive using only electricity.  It paves the way for both future models with extended abilities and aftermarket opportunities, without requiring you to spend anything extra.  If you want to invest in a "plug-in hybrid", then demand real-world data.  A spreadsheet showing the MPG over the course of a year can be quite revealing.  Then you know what to actually expect.  Lastly, keep in mind that the plug ability is completely meaningless to those that don't have an electric-outlet available where they park.

4-02-2005

Real-World Feedback about Lupo.  That certain anti-hybrid person who has harassed us for years always took advantage of the fact that almost none of the information available online for that "compromise everything for efficiency" Lupo was actually in English.  But today, his greatest fear was recognized.  Ha!  It was incredible to read.  I was absolutely delighted.  An english-speaking person from Europe that had actually driven a Lupo caught wind of the absurd claims he was making, and replied with a vengeance.  It was devastating.  I loved it!  He confirmed that converting a vehicle to US specifications (safety & emission requirements) does in fact reduce the MPG.  But to really pour salt in the wound, he confirmed that Lupo doesn't live up to the hype anyway.  Even by taking extreme steps, like not exceeding 100 km/h (62.4 MPH) on the Autobahn, he still wasn't able to get MPG as good as a Prius.  Hooray!  I always wondered how the real-world performance as was.  Now with this feedback, I can rub it in really hard.  I'm so sick of people making disingenuous statements without any real proof.

4-02-2005

The Whole Story?  We have heard about aftermarket Prius modifications for years now, especially the ability to enhance the battery-only power.  But today's article about simply adding "more sophisticated batteries" to achieve a 30-mile electric range brought about more questions than answers.  Just adding battery-pack capacity alone won't work.  How do they keep the entire electrical system cool for that extended duration?  How do they regulate the higher wattage & voltages?  Are those 30 miles only available at speeds below the 42 MPH Stealth threshold?  Maybe it's even slower, utilizing the EV-Mode programming but having to limit speed to 35 MPH.  Clearly, they're not telling us the whole story, besides the obvious exclusion of expected battery life.  For that matter, they didn't even mention how long the charging takes place or if you are required to have a 220-volt electrical connection.  They didn't say how much space you have to give up for the extra battery-capacity or how that unknown amount of added weight affects suspension, handling, and braking of the vehicle either.  In other words, not providing details allows far too many assumptions to be made... which typically leads to disappointment.  We need the whole story.

4-02-2005

Poorly Written Article.  Apparently, everyone thinks they can write about hybrids now.  This quote was in the opening: "And aside from battery pack replacement every 100,000 miles or so, they are serviced like traditional vehicles."  Where in the world did such grossly incorrect information come from?  Did the writer simply make it up, assuming that the moment the warranty expires the battery-pack is dead.  Of course, the warranty goes to 150,000 miles in some states.  So that would reveal poor research on her part, either that or believing false claims that someone else wrote.  But then, reading on a little further I found that all she cared about was SUV & Pickups, hence this byline I overlooked at first: "SUVs, full-size pickups to dominate new models."  And sure enough, there is no mention of the upcoming Lexus sedan hybrid or the Camry-Hybrid at all.  There is a mention of a car though.  She claimed that the base Corolla (which is a manual transmission with virtually no amenities at all) was comparable to a base Prius (which doesn't require shifting and is very well loaded).  (By the way, the efficiency difference between the manual & automatic Corolla is 3 MPG.)  She also said the price of gas over the entire lifetime of the vehicle would only be $1.99 9/10ths.  We all know how absurd that claim is.  Lastly, the article made it sound like anything called "hybrid" was a good thing.  No distinction about the different types was pointed out.  This is yet another article contributing to the misconceptions that all hybrids are designed equally.  Needless to say, it was one of the most poorly written articles I've read in awhile.  That's sad.

4-01-2005

5 years ago, I took my first photos of a Prius.  You'll find them on the first page of my album.  That long awaited opportunity to finally get to see a Prius in-person was the only time I ever saw the first generation model.  I'm sure glad I had a digital camera to capture the moment.  In other words, I wanted to get proof that way back then I felt strongly about the technology.  That really  paid off.  Each day since then has been "quite a ride" with Prius.

4-01-2005

New Misconception.  I see that Honda's new non-hybrid technology, standard in the Accord-Hybrid, has some assumptions behind it.  People are thinking that all models of the Odyssey minivan include VCM.  But in reality, that ability to switch 3 of the 6 cylinders off is only available on the $30,495 EX with Leather and the $34,695 Touring models.  The $25,195 LX and $28,195 EX models don't offer it.  This is making it appear to be more common than it actually is.  People are also beginning to make another assumption about it too.  Disabling half of 6 cylinders is realistic, since you can space out the cylinder pumping cycle by thirds.  But with only 4 cylinders available, reducing it to just 2 for VCM would mean when one is down all the way the other is up all the way.  Half would not be as smooth as thirds.  The engine could run even rougher & noisier that way.  Overcoming that could be rather expensive, making the already pricey system even less competitive.  That would leave you stuck with an engine much larger than necessary, hardly a good choice for high efficiency.  So we can see a misconception emerging about how & where VCM will actually be used.

4-01-2005

Factless Claims.  I liked today's unsupported (no facts) comment from an anti-hybrid diesel-supporter: "TDI engines will put up with hard driving better than the Prius can."  I responded, of course.  He didn't rebuttal anything.  I got him good with this...  How can you possibly draw that conclusion?  Prius has a 50kW electric motor to protect the gas engine from any stress, allowing all the power burden to be supplied by it rather than the engine.  That motor provides an amazing 295 ft-lb. of torque, completely covering any hard driving demand you could place on a vehicle.  And it gets used that way all the time, since diverting the load onto the motor is how the efficiency is gained.  An engine-only diesel system does not have an electric motor to supplement the work; it has to provide that all by itself.

 

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