Prius Personal Log  #190

April 4, 2005  -  April 8, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 5/01/2005

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4-08-2005

Spring!  Since my last fill-up, the temperatures while driving were mid 50's and upper 60's.  The total of 80 miles so far has resulted in a delightful 52.6 MPG showing on the Multi-Display.  Yeah!  Winter is finally over!!!  Seeing MPG in the low 40's is tolerable, since it is still better than most everyone else gets during the cold season.  But nothing compares to the low 50's instead.  Summer is going to be great this year.  Having to break-in new tires right in the middle of it last year was really disheartening.  It prevented the chance of actually seeing a monthly average of 55 MPG.  I stand a better chance of that this year, though my desire for bike trips does reduce the odds since it requires so much highway driving.  But who cares.  Minnesota has such a short warm season, you have to take full advantage of it while you can.  Of course, if the fuel I was using was 100% gas rather than E10 (90% gas, 10% ethanol), that 55 MPG average would be significantly easier.  But that's a small price to pay for the reduced emissions and reduced dependence on oil.  Anywho, it's Spring now.

4-07-2005

$2.06 per gallon.  I got a really good "deal" on gas today.  I wasn't expecting such a "low" price.  Now no one is going to believe me about how "high" it was the other day.  Seriously though, the $2.35 per gallon I did see recently won't likely be considered anything but "high" in the not-too-distant future anyway.  Expecting gas to get down to where it was a year ago ($1.66) is pretty unrealistic now.  Too much demand and not enough supply is making that pretty obvious.  And worse, expecting to see a lot (more than just 200,000 per year in the United States) of hybrids in the very near future is unlikely.  So we are looking at a really unfortunate short-term shortage.  Bummer.  Oh well.  At least the decision of whether or not to get a hybrid is becoming a no-brainer.

4-07-2005

Tire-Pressure Monitors.  An upcoming national mandate will require all new vehicles to include a tire-pressure monitor by 2008.  That sounds great... until you realize what it is actually meant to do.  The design is suppose to warn you went the PSI has dropped 25 percent below the standard pressure.  That's nasty.  It means the suggested 35 PSI will get all the way down to 26 PSI before a warning will be triggered.  In other words, if you are driving at 27 PSI, you will assume nothing is wrong.  Can you imagine driving with tires that soft?  Due to the pressing need for this mandate, there are apparently quite a few people that do that.  No wonder why vehicle rollovers are common.  High ground-clearance in combination with dangerously low tires is in fact quite dangerous.  I wonder if the percentage will be raised before the mandate takes effect; otherwise, it could backfire.  The warning for the gas tank is certainly misunderstood.  It was suppose to be a "warning" not an "indicator".  This rather fitting quote by the comedian Ron White comes to mind:  "The smoke-detector is not suppose to be used as a cooking timer."

4-07-2005

Smaller than I thought!  That's an exclamation you don't hear everyday.  Someone got to see the power-split-device up close, for real, not just a photo.  I made one heck of an impression.  He had no idea that when I said it was the heart of the hybrid system that you could take it literally, since it is actually the same size as a typical adult human heart.  Perhaps that means I need to put a disclaimer on that PSD document then, about it being larger than actual size.  Though (taking a moment look at a printout right now), it looks as if by amazing coincidence the size on paper is darn close to the real thing.  Now I'm going to have to find out what the actual dimensions really are.  When I saw it in person last year at the Minneapolis Auto Show, I wasn't precise.  I just held my hand next to it and commented about how it was nearly identical to the length & width of my palm.  (And it was roughly twice as thick.)  Little did I know that curiosity would eventually get the best of me...

4-07-2005

Back Home, part 2.  I wrote part 1 a whole month ago... scribbled on notebook paper, while parked on the side of the road.  It was a sudden inspiration, the perfect analogy to what I had just been through.  That morning was the warm welcome I received when I returned back home.  I had been fighting battles online for "full" hybrids, in hostile forums.  Now I was rejoining the friendly forums.  They were happy to see me again, to see 1701-A return.  But I didn't actually publish the personal-log entry.  Something seemed wrong.  And... my gut was right!  That sinking feeling was the discovery that the enemy had penetrated the homeland.  There were only a few, and the fight for them was hopeless.  But vengeance can be ugly.  And it was.  I used the very same technique of drawing attention to them.  It worked.  They retaliated.  Some of the onlookers weren't happy that I launched an offensive right there in front of them, where they once had considered it to be safe & friendly.  It didn't last long though.  The fight was painful & brutal.  But it was over.  So much attention had been draw to them that those wishing to look up details of their past among the various forums now knew what to look for.  And of course, all future activity will be closely watched now.  I can finally stand down now and relax.  I'm home.

4-07-2005

Back Home, part 1.  It was as if I was commanding the lone starship that finally returned home after getting trapped behind enemy lines.  The offensive went bad.  A retreat had been called.  I couldn't break through.  The ship was trapped... for the remainder of the war.  Trying to continue the fight from within was the hard choice I accepted.  Spending the duration looking for allies in that hostile territory was the key.  Taking risks.  Watching for mistakes.  Sometimes winning a battle.  Sometimes losing.  They knew I was there.  But there was nothing they could seem to do to deter me.  Over time, I started to notice patterns.  It was a heightened awareness that not fighting one battle after another wouldn't notice.  I figured out how to defeat them.  It was so obvious too.  All I needed to do was direct attention to the enemy.  They couldn't handle a direct assault.  Being convert had been their key to success.  That advantage was lost when everyone was watching.  Sweet!

4-07-2005

The end of GM's reign.  As far back as I can remember, GM was the leader.  That automaker was so much bigger than everyone else that their fall was never imagined.  Now it is happening, and quite quickly too.  This quote highlighted the situation perfectly.  "GM today remains the industry leader in opposing government efforts to limit heat-trapping gases wafting from its tailpipes.  The company has succeeded not only in sabotaging congressional efforts to significantly improve fuel economy, but it has also led an industry suit to block California from trying to reduce motor vehicle greenhouse gases.  GM has taken that position in order to keep promoting its gas-hogging SUVs.  But GM could become victim of its own success:  In an era of rising gasoline prices..."  Sound familiar?  That's how some of the most sophisticated dinosaurs died out.  Their diet had became so highly specialized (large quantities of a very specific food type), a diminishing supply is what ended up causing their death.  A whole era ended from a simple case of starving.  The mammals, with completely different energy needs, took over in their absence.  It's exactly what's happening to GM.  Their business-model relied on cheap gas being readily available, which is completely unrealistic now.  The "food" supply is rapidly becoming so serious of a problem, their sales are plummeting.  Monster-Size gas-hungry vehicles just don't make any sense.  The age of the far less demanding vehicles (fuel-sipping hybrids) has begun.  GM will just disappear into the crowd of automakers.  The reign of that king is over.

4-07-2005

8 Bars of Green.  Huh?  It isn't everyday that I get surprised by a behavior of Prius.  But today, it happened.  My commute to work involves a very long decent.  It's not steep.  But it does go on for quite way (around 2 miles).  So naturally, I find that parting of the drive quite "electrifying".  I watch the Energy-Monitor on the Multi-Display.  Roughly 50 percent of the time the it pushes the charge-level into the green before reaching the bottom of the hill.  Today, it was already there half way down the hill.  That's 7 bars showing inside the indicator.  How did that happen?  I still quite a bit of hill left to glide down.  And sure enough, right before the bottom I saw that rare sight.  All 8 bars were full (meaning the battery-pack was at "long-life capacity maximum", better known as 80 percent).  The entire indicator was glooming an "electric" green.  Why?  I've driving down that hill countless times now and never saw it.  Hmm.  I guess I'll have to keep watching to see if it ever happens again.  Maybe it was a fluke, the 50F degree temperature could have been the ideal, maybe I just happened to drive at optimum efficiency and slowed for the stoplight and fit within traffic exactly the right way.  I really don't know.  But it certainly was cool to see.

4-06-2005

Canada YES, California NO.  Some of the automakers have a suit filed against the state of California for requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Carbon Dioxide, the type of pollution tied directly to MPG).  Canada demanded that too.  Those same automakers agreed.  What the heck?  How can they sign an agreement with Canada but still fight California?  That's just plain wrong.  Since they will be building the cleaner cars for Canada, why not sell the same ones to California too?  Unfortunately, I know the answer.  The required MPG would greater here than north of the border.  But the automakers argument to that is just plain lame.  They said dealing with a variety of requirements, rather than just a national standard, is too difficult.  My question is, why the half-baked approach?  Why not increase the efficiency and sell only that model?  Selling the dirtier model in places that don't require the cleaner is truly not a sincere effort.  If you have the technology available, use it!

4-06-2005

Deeper Interest.  The posts online are getting deeper.  The basic comments are beginning to fade as Prius becomes more common.  A reason could be the fact that HSD is being taken very seriously now.  In the not-too-distant past, many wondered if it really would expand beyond Prius.  Now that is pretty much blatantly obvious.  The price of gas is rather vindicating too, so not much reason there for wanting to know more.  Saving money makes the justification for such a purchase rather simple.  All that stimulates the desire to learn more, but I think the true underlying cause is that the other automakers have or will be delivering too little too late.  Curiosity about what Toyota actually did (details!) could be quite a draw too.  Then, there is the fact that friends & family are starting to ask well thought out questions of Prius owners.  So learning more to provide those answers is the next logical step.  And of course, researching from behind-the-wheel is a pleasing experience.  So you can't help but to share what you found afterward.  It's good to see this type of progress.  I guess that means I better work on more educational documents.

4-06-2005

Plug-In Civic-Hybrid.  When my comments were read about Civic-Hybrid not having the ability to split power, the response was that (on some undisclosed location which I still haven't been able to find) there was a discussion about adding a clutch to the system.  Whether that's true or not really doesn't matter, since it defeats the objective... which was to simply increase the electrical supply, utilizing the system already available.  Adding a clutch is quite literally changing to a different type of transmission.  That's cost & complexity well beyond the scope of the "plug in" project.  But that doesn't matter anyway, since it still wouldn't work.  The 10kW motor with a 144-volt electrical system in Civic-Hybrid is way too weak to propel the car with all by itself.  But the 50kW motor with the 500-volt electrical system in Prius is much more powerful, and it works too... since the EV-Button (a standard feature in Japan & Europe, and aftermarket in the United States) already proves that.  That's why Prius was used for that project.  By the way, assuming there was a way to install a clutch, how in the world would you control the motor & engine independently?  The throttle (accelerator pedal) currently handles both.  Somehow you'd need a way of telling the motor how much power is needed and a way to tell the engine it isn't needed, without confusing the existing controls.  Since the "full" hybrid design already accommodates all this, why reinvent an "assist" hybrid to do the same thing?

4-05-2005

Fuel-Cell Later.  There is another benefit only to the "full" hybrids: fuel-cells.  Someday when they actually get them working (stand-alone generators, not something actually for the automotive segment), they could work in tandem with the battery-pack as an additional source of electricity.  After all, Toyota already has had something kind of like that on the road for a few years now.  It's called FCHV (Fuel-Cell Hybrid Vehicle).  The battery-pack is required to store that regenerated electricity and to supply power when a burst is needed, since fuel-cells can really only output at a near continuous rate.  It's also needed during the warm-up cycle, since it takes several minutes for fuel-cells to get up to operating temperature before the chemical reaction to extract electricity is possible.

4-04-2005

Plug-In Later.  There is a very exciting aspect of the "plug in" ability that is rarely discussed.  Which is really unfortunate, because it introduces a fascinating new world of opportunity.  The aftermarket upgrade may not make a whole lot of sense, right now.  It is far too expensive and leaves you wondering how long the battery-pack will actually last.  But later, that's an entirely different story.  Imagine how valuable a 2004 Prius with 180,000 miles on it will be in 2012.  Rather that the traditional "can't get squat for the car" situation, you'll be faced with the dilemma of what to do with it.  Battery technology should improve dramatically over the next 8 years.  That means dropping in an aftermarket battery-pack could be no big deal, cheap & easy.  That will really screw up the Blue-Book value system.  Really old Prius would be selling for unusually high prices.   Imagine that.  And of course, just for spite, I can point out that this is an advantage only "full" hybrids offer.

 

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