Prius Personal Log  #193

April 22, 2005  -  April 27, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 5/01/2005

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4-27-2005

Powerless.  The president is now admitting that he is powerless to bring down high gas prices.  Isn't it interesting how keeping prices low was a trademark part of his original campaign and a reducing them was recently a routine reassurance.  Now it has suddenly becoming obvious that something needs to be done to reduce demand instead.  So, he's turning to "fuel-efficient hybrids and clean-diesels" ...which is what we've been saying to do for years now.  Finally!  But instead of doing something preventative, this is an act of recovery after the crisis has already begun.  That forces us to wonder what the proposal actually means.  Will those vehicles claiming to be hybrids (that don't provide any electric assist at all) be included?  Will those hybrids that offer a negligible MPG improvement qualify?  And what exactly does "clean" diesel actually mean?  In other words, vague comments aren't helping.  We need detail.

4-27-2005

Steering Wheel.  Did you catch the photo on the front page of USA Today?  It featured a Prius steering wheel, because it is loaded with buttons.  They're an incredible convenience, as well as a safety benefit.  By location, shape, and/or feel you can make adjustments to a variety of creature comforts (like the radio and air-conditioner) without having to take your eyes of the road.  And of course, Prius has other buttons on the steering wheel too, like answering & ending bluetooth phone-calls and activating the voice-recognition features.  So once again, Prius is providing a glimpse into the future about what the typical 21st Century vehicle will have as a standard.

4-26-2005

GM's Fall.  First quarter of last year brought them a $1.3 billion earning.  This year's first quarter revealed a horrible reality, a $1.1 billion loss.  GM is now losing so much money so fast that the experts are now beginning to make predictions when they will lose their position on top.  2008 is when they expect Toyota to become number 1, which makes sense since they are already the leader in drawing new interest.  This fall, GM is expected to introduce an entirely new lineup of full-size SUVs and Pickup.  The type of vehicle that's rapidly losing marketshare is what they are still investing heavily in.  That's sad.  It's a self-inflicted wound that is unlikely to ever heal.  Vehicles that massive have lost the interest of the masses.  More practical sized trucks is what consumers desire now.  So when a Motley Fool article today asked this question, "Where's the hybrid vehicle?", it didn't surprise me at all.  A well respected financial publication asking the obvious.  The diversification advice has been around for decades.  Don't bet the farm on a single product, yet that is exactly what GM is doing... which is consequently causing them to lose obscene amounts of money.  Oh wait, supposedly that is what the fuel-cell project was intended to deliver.  But that wasn't until the start of the next decade.  They were hoping gas prices would remain cheap in the meantime.  It was a risky gamble that clearly didn't pay off.  Now they are desperate to somehow survive.  What will they do?

4-25-2005

960 Percent Increase.  Talking about manipulating the interpretation of data!  A newspaper article today used sales totals of hybrids from 2000 in comparison to the amount being sold now.  It implied that the first year sales were for the entire year.  But in reality, sales of Prius didn't begin until late August 2000.  So rather than 12 months being represented, there were really only 4.5 months.  So of course, the following years would naturally look better.  They were longer!  Don't believe what those unfamiliar with hybrids tell you.  Some try to figure out what happened in the past just by looking at summarized numbers, having no idea what they actually represent.  After all, when someone says "hybrid", what do they really mean?

4-25-2005

Analysis?  Here's an awful misleading quote of the day: "A recent drive of a Honda Accord Hybrid forced us again to examine our relationship with the Prius: The Honda not only delivers decent fuel mileage, but is the most powerful Accord in the lineup."  Notice how there is no detail.  What does "decent" actually mean?  Why wasn't emissions mentioned (anywhere in the article)?  How come the base prices weren't provided (a $9100 difference is way too much to be overlooked)?  And of course, the lineup comment is quite deceptive (since Prius could be offered in different configurations too, as demonstrated by the Rally & Drag prototypes).  So when I point out that the quote came from Autoweek's long term analysis, it really shouldn't surprise anyone.  Their writers aren't too thrilled about having to drive a family car like Prius for a whole year.  That's not the type of vehicle they typically want to do analysis of, especially for so long.

4-24-2005

Prius on Family Guy.  Hooray!  One of my all-time favorite television shows will soon include a Prius.  This new season about to begin features Brian driving his new hybrid.  It's a statement against the current administration, letting the well-educated talking dog choose a Prius as his vehicle.  That political jab will naturally be laced with humor.  I can't wait!  It will be really interesting to see how they address the technology too.  The catch phrase for Stewie (the child prodigy with an attitude) seems rather fitting my effort to bring Prius into the mainstream and its upcoming appearance on Family Guy:  "Victory is mine!"

4-24-2005

Emissions.  This was another topic that no one mentioned at the Earth Day events.  Why?  It is just assumed that hybrids are always cleaner?  Not all of them are.  But I didn't get any opportunity to point that out, even parked right next to the Civic-Hybrid.

4-24-2005

Acceleration.  It was rather remarkable to find that not a single person at either of those Earth Day events ever asked about acceleration.  The 0-60 time use to be concerned absolutely vital information, asked & argued on a regular basis.  Now, no one seems to care.  Interesting, eh?

4-23-2005

Earth Day, again.  I got to provide another educational opportunity today.  This time it was in the Quarry Hills Nature Center in Rochester.  This setup was very different.  People of all ages attended.  Hybrids of all types did too.  There was a Ford Escape-Hybrid, provided by an owner who unfortunately left long before the crowd around my Prius subsided enough for me to check it out.  There was a Honda Insight and a Civic-Hybrid, provided by a dealer who was actually trying to sell the cars.  And of course, there were 4 Prius.  3 were Classic models, all provided by owners; and there was my HSD.  I got to park right next to the Civic-Hybrid.  That was cool.  They salesperson for Honda gave the pitch, then people wandered over to my Prius.  So naturally, the most common question was "Does it work the same as the Honda?"  My reply was, "They are as different as night & day."  That really surprised them.  But I was ready for that.  I had the Power-Split-Device document taped to one of the windows of my Prius.  The explanation began with describing how Honda just extended the engine's crankshaft, adding a motor to it to relieve some of the burden on the engine.  Everyone easily understood stood how the more efficient electric assist could reduce the need for the engine to have to increase RPM as much... which wastes gas.  Then I pointed out how the Honda system had just that one motor.  It is used for either consuming electricity or creating it, but not both at the same time.  Toyota on the other hand, has 2 motors.  That system can both consume & create simultaneously.  Then I described how the PSD wasn't part of a shared crankshaft, which allows it to independently move the individual part.  That's where the diagram came in extremely handy.  I simply placed my hand on it and motioned how the outer ring could rotate without the other pieces needing to, allowing for electric-only propulsion.  That worked absolutely fantastic.  They understood what I was describing, all through that very simply illustration.  Yeah!  In fact, I was even able to go as far as describe how the Prius drives backward using electricity and starts the engine at the same time.  The fact that there was 3 different components all rotating their own way made sense.  Hooray!  That type of comprehension is what I have trying to provide newbies for years.  Phew!  The required detail is now available in terms simple enough for the novice to readily understand with just a minute or two of explanation... and it was really fun providing it too.

4-23-2005

Snowflake.  It was only 37 F degrees when I left for Rochester this morning.  Where did Spring go?  I only saw a 2 degree increase the entire drive.  So that dang snowflake (an orange light next to the headlight indicator) stayed illuminated the whole time.  What a pain.  It didn't do any good for my MPG either.  Fortunately, I was dressed warm enough to stand outside by the Prius for 5 hours without freezing.  But the temperature only climbed to 48 F degrees.  And the gusts of wind in the 30's drained my personal battery.  I needed recharging (food!) quickly afterward.  As for the Prius, turning it on quite a few times to show the system active made the battery-pack happy.  Since the engine was running to create heat anyway, it used that energy to create electricity as well.  That bumped the charge-level up to 8 green bars, something I don't often see.  Too bad it required a MPG penalty to do that.  The MPG was already below average due the very cold weather.

4-23-2005

"2G" History.  The question about the term "2G" comes up from time to time.  Those attempting to stifle the success of Prius love to exploit this by claiming it means "second generation"... yet, they never explain what "generation" actually means.  So I respond by pointing out that there are 3 distinct models of Prius.  They rebuttal by drawing you into an argument that has no substance, avoiding detail at all cost.  We've heard this nonsense before.  But what you probably haven't heard is how "2G" was coined in the first place.  It's pretty simple.  The very active Yahoo group for the HSD model of Prius was abandoned by the moderator.  He just disappeared.  That left it wide open to spam attacks.  And sure enough, unwanted messages that had absolutely nothing to do with Prius (in fact, some were quite offensive) began to dominate the new posts.  It was nasty.  So out of desperation to rescue the members from that nightmare, someone just created another group called "2G" without consulting the rest of us.  And out of desperation to get away from all that spam, many just flocked to the new group not caring about the new term.  After all, when "second generation" was mentioned, it made sense.  From their point of view, the HSD was.  In fact, even the original documentation for the design had a 2 in it.  The problem is that they hadn't considered the consequences that arbitrary label would actually cause.  Some have no idea what the heck "generation" means... because some don't want you to, since that makes the competitors look bad.  But innocent Prius newbies have no idea that's the case.  They stumble across a "generation" reference and simply assume it's correct, not being aware the history.  It's lack of detail.  Vague references cause trouble.  This is a perfect example of that.

4-23-2005

Fuel-Cell Mystery.  For fuel-cells to be successful, the goal(s) it intends to fulfill must be clearly defined.  Currently, the purpose of fuel-cells is still a complete mystery.  Some goals of the "full" hybrid that Toyota/Lexus offers is to reduce overall consumption (that amount varies, but the benefit is enough to be obvious) and to significantly reduce emissions (to a SULEV rating or cleaner).  The process of producing the hydrogen for the fuel-cells is currently dirtier than the drilling, refining, and combustion of gasoline.  A "full" hybrid is cleaner overall.  The efficiency (gallon-equivalent measurement) of hydrogen is very low and the cost of production is rather high (hydrogen is a energy-carrier, not an energy-source), making it a very expensive choice.  A "full" hybrid is less expensive to operate.  So forgetting all the other current problems with fuel-cell feasibility, those 2 major problems alone make the technology quite unrealistic.  No mystery about that.

4-22-2005

Not Actually Dead.  An owner made a comment today about his experience with draining the battery-pack.  He had to carry a load of band equipment up a mountain for a performance.  All 8 bars on the Multi-Display disappeared.  But to his surprise, the battery-pack kept providing electricity.  That didn't make any sense to him.  He was under the assumption that seeing nothing for a charge-level meant "empty".  That's not the case.  (In fact, that isn't for the gas gauge either.)  There is actually some electricity remaining, quite a lot actually.  It's just under 40 percent.  The reason for not showing you is that it is rarely ever used.  Deep-Discharging is what shortens the life of rechargeable batteries.  So, the engine goes out of it's way to prevent that from ever happening.  So unless you are climbing a mountain with a full load inside, you might not ever encounter that situation.  I certainly haven't after 92,000 miles of Prius driving.

4-22-2005

$55.39 per barrel.  Once again, the price of oil is approaching record levels.  A strange proposal about some federal assistance (most likely tax cuts & subsidies for providers) was made recently.  Supposedly up to $12,000,000,000 (twelve billion) could be used to somehow help the situation.  What exactly are they going to do?  How long will it take?  The money certainly won't reduce the demand if is isn't used for improving vehicle efficiency... which sounds highly unlikely.  And what is the deal with the amount.  Only a sixth that amount was provided for hydrogen fuel-cell development.  Sixteen times that amount is being spent on our mess in Iraq.  Who determines the budget?  Are they aware that the money will likely only temporarily mask the problem, delaying the inevitable need to actually reduce demand rather than just increasing supply?

 

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