Prius Personal Log  #199

May 18, 2005  -  May 22, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 11/27/2005

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5-22-2005

13 Stars.  Wow!  I think that is a personal record... and an odd way to get it too.  You'd think that getting that many "regen symbols" (which are also just referred to as "stars") would be the result of some unusual driving circumstances.  But that actually wasn't the case.  On my routine drive to work, I got 2 for the 5 first 5-minute segments.  Seeing that type of consistency on the Multi-Display was really odd.  Too bad the sixth only had one.  But at that point, I wasn't in a position to be able to pull over and take a photo of it anyway.  Oh well.  I'll remember that 2,2,2,2,2,1 pattern without any trouble.  I wonder how long it will be before I come close to regenerated that much electricity again.  Hmm.

5-22-2005

Best in class for "gas powered" vehicles.  I love that discreet disclaimer in the television advertisement I saw today.  Automakers have no choice but to include that, now that hybrids have made their MPG claims rather embarrassing.  Sweet!

5-22-2005

Why Rush?  Toyota didn't want to build obscene quantities of hybrids initially.  They wanted to do extensive real-world research first, then follow-up with engineering tweaks before reaching the masses... as well as set realistic price expectations (since making a profit later on is very important).  That's why they started with the from-the-ground-up-hybrid Prius in Japan, then released an upgrade in limited quantities to the United States afterward.  After each successful milestone, they increased the production volume.  At the same time, they were also testing other hybrid designs in Japan in existing vehicles, like the 4-wheel drive minivan Estima and the full-size sedan Crown.  That extended research made a lot of sense too, since the original prototype of Prius was never put into production.  (It used a Cone & Belt CVT rather than the Planetary type and an Ultra-Capacitor rather than a Battery-Pack.)  At the same time, they were also improving battery technology while also trying to increase supplier contract quantities while also trying to fight a patent-infringement lawsuit.  At the same time, they were also attempting to establish a market for hybrids in a marketplace that simply wasn't interested.  In other words, why rush?  There is absolutely no reason to move quickly when you are pursuing such an enormous goal.  Remember, their goal is to change their entire infrastructure to support hybrids in every aspect of their business.  That's a risk you should not rush into.  It turns out, taking the time to ensure long-term success is really going to pay off.  The very first Camry-Hybrid sold will be remarkably well refined, already matching the desires of the masses due to the extensive research done before that.  They'll still be years ahead of the competition too.  The patience will really pay off.  Also, don't forget while all that was happening, hybrid supporters were struggling to dispel all the misconceptions... which were much worse than they are now.

5-21-2005

Focus on the Battery-Pack.  It's a trap far too many people make.  That's because it is the component most obviously different from a traditional vehicle, yet still a familiar component.  Rechargeable batteries are everywhere, why would one in a hybrid be any different?  See how easy it is to get sucked into a discussion like that?  Instead, you should force people to look at the big picture.  Then it becomes simple to prevent misunderstandings from formulating.  Prius has a smaller-than-average engine.  That alone is all that is really needed for a rebuttal when it comes to why efficiency is better.  Focus on the battery-pack makes that difficult to see though.  Today's modern gas engine is grossly oversized for the amount of horsepower actually required to propel you down the road.  The HSD design simply takes advantage of that fact, by having an engine closer to the size that is actually needed for sustained cruises.  Extra power comes from the electric motor, used only at times when it is more efficient than the engine can deliver.  That size difference and offloading to the motor results in a very noticeable gas savings.  See what I mean about what focus should be on?

5-21-2005

Liberal People Suck.  I have mixed feelings about seeing that bumper-sticker everyday.  It's on the back of a vehicle sitting in a driveway that I go by on a very regular basis.  The owner obviously isn't thrill that people have reservations about what he drives.  That sticker is attached to a monster-size pickup... on that never gets used for what it was designed for.  To make matters worse, it doesn't actually fit in the garage... hence being out in the driveway all the time.  So I suppose, from his perspective, everyone is liberal compared to the extreme point-of-view he has.  It's that "waste because I can" attitude that I think sucks.  Why does anyone need that massive of a vehicle for just running around town in?

5-21-2005

Fuel-Cell vehicles are hybrids.  I just plain couldn't resist.  It had been 5 months since participating on that (now very obviously anti-hybrid) Escape hybrid.  The thread that caught my attention today was yet another hybrid topic that had been undermined.  Only this time, the discussion was actually worthwhile.  They were talking about how fuel-cell vehicles would be so much better than hybrids.  I could help but to finally jump in and point out that fuel-cell vehicles are hybrids.  Needless to say, they shut up after than.  Here's what I posted...  Hi. It's been almost 5 months since I've replied to anything, even though I've been routinely reading posts.  The pendulum is undeniably swinging the other way now.  Monster-Size vehicles have lost their "ultimate" status.  Hybrids are getting quite a bit more attention. And fuel-cells have fallen by the wayside... which leads me to the reason to reply.  FUEL-CELL VEHICLES ARE HYBRIDS!!!  Years back, it was believed that a fuel-cell alone could be practical.  But a shortcoming became apparent.  Fuel-Cells are steady-state devices.  They cannot respond rapidly to provide the surge of electricity necessary to fulfill normal driving needs.  In other words, quick acceleration is not realistic without some type of secondary power-supply... hence the use of a battery-pack, as in Toyota's RAV-4 fuel-cell vehicle.  The battery-pack is also necessary for startup, since most people will want to drive away immediately rather than waiting the few minutes it takes for the stack to heat up to the temperature necessary for the chemical reaction to begin.  (Of course, it will take even longer in the winter.  And you'll also need electricity at the same time to power the heater too.)  Stated another way, fuel-cell vehicles will work in a way similar to a "full" hybrid.  They will strive to operate at a constant rate, just like the gas engine does.  The resulting electricity flow will fluctuate to both the thrust-motor & battery-pack (and A/C), as we see in the Ford & Toyota/Lexus hybrids.  So... you can add the "fuel-cells not needing batteries" belief to the pile of misconceptions.  It will take a minimum of 10 years hard work for the first fuel-cell vehicle to be cost-competitive with the ever-improving "full" hybrid.  (And that's just the vehicle itself!  The cost of hydrogen is compared to efficiency-equivalent of gas/ethanol then is a complete mystery.)  What isn't in question is how long it will take people to adopt that technology once it starts showing up in dealer's showrooms.  We know for a fact that mainstream acceptance will take around 5 years.  That puts it somewhere in the early 2020's.  In the meantime, nearly 1,000,000,000 (yes, BILLION!) new vehicles will be built & sold worldwide.  For them to be all dirty-guzzlers would mean our doom, especially since a new vehicle purchased in 2020 is expected to remain in use until 2030.  Hybrids will obviously become the norm long before a fuel-cell vehicle becomes feasible.

5-20-2005

Lots of Data.  Did you know I have a collection of over 1,000 music videos on my computer, all digitized before my Prius became a reality?  Back then (5 years ago), most people hadn't ever heard of MP3.  And here's John, with 75GB of MPEG-1 files.  How about that?  I absolutely did not want to lose that aspect of my past.  So I preserved it on the computer.  Needless to say, it was a great thing to do.  It was proof for myself that I was strong-willed (stubborn/anal) and organized and patient enough to do the same Prius in the early years.  So I did.  Interesting, eh?  Sometimes, you just need to let a passion flourish.  You have no idea where it will take you.  But later on when you let your mind reflect back on the past (like I'm doing at this very moment), you end up really surprised by how much you accomplished.

5-20-2005

57.1 MPG at 51 Miles.  Yippee!  This tank of gas is off to a fantastic start.  I knew someday that the Winter would finally become just a memory.  Now, it is!  Summer sure is going to be fun.

5-20-2005

"Fee" not "Tax".  Like many states, mine has been struggling to find a way of funding the ever-growing road-repair problem.  It's way under budget in the first place.  Delaying fixes means replacement will likely be needed sooner instead.  That's even more expensive.  So the problem compounds itself by not addressing it soon enough.  But since our governor signed a pledge for no new taxes, he vetoed the 10-cent gas tax increase that would have filled that budget shortcoming.  That belief in absolutes is nasty, preventing you from doing the right thing because you made a promise not realizing a special circumstance later on would cause a nasty conflict.  Needless to say, I wasn't happy.  But then, just a few hours after that veto, the governor proposed a 75-cent cigarette "fee" to help pay for the medical budget shortcoming.  He claimed it wasn't a "tax".  He said this didn't violate his pledge.  He insisted this was different... though no of us can figure out how.  Don't you love some politicians will twist the definition of words to fulfill their need?  Arrgh!

5-20-2005

Up, Down, Up, Down.  We've been through this before.  I really lucked out by filling up with gas last night.  The price was 20 cents more per gallon than it was this morning.  Then later in the evening, the price went down 10 cents.  I sure hope people are paying attention.  That volatile nature is a sure sign that their are infrastructure problems.  No industry so well established should have such instability.  The problem is much more serious than they are telling us... kind of like the war.  2 years ago, victory was declared.  Since then, lots of people have died and the region has become a mess.  There is no end in sight.  In fact, there isn't clear course of action to be taken anymore.  The auto industry (except Toyota) is now facing a similar situation.  Not having success (steady profit) in the present means the near-future won't look any better.

5-20-2005

"Safety" Utility Vehicle.  Apparently, that's the name now being promoted to identify the new "fat wagon" vehicles.  The reduction of ground-clearance on SUVs to improve their safety gives the makes them look like that, but obviously they don't want a name like that to stick.  So they just changed the "S" for "Sport" to now mean "Safety" instead.  In a way, that's a good move since almost no one used a SUV for sport-type driving anyway.  In other words, they never drove off-road.  The catch with vehicles is that although they are somewhat safer, they now eliminate one of the very features some people bought a SUV for in the first place... sitting up high.  Oh well.  It was a dumb reason to buy such a heavy vehicle in the first place.  Now if we can only put the fat wagons on a diet, we'll be set.  There's no reason a vehicle of that size has to be so heavy.  Of course, if you make it too practical it becomes a minivan.

5-19-2005

70's... Finally.  It has been 11 F degrees colder than normal.  Fortunately my average so far this month is 50.4 MPG.  So the efficiency penalty wasn't anything to complain about.  But there's no guarantee at all the the temperature will remain warm.  In fact, it seems quite likely that it will get cold again.  Dang.

5-18-2005

Not the Final Answer.  Have you noticed how some people that claim hybrids aren't ultimate solution we've always been searching for?  They love to knock hybrids, acting as if the next step will actually be the final answer.  We'll I've got news for them, that's not going to happen.  There will be improvements beyond that too.  Of course hybrids are just a step along the evolutionary path.  But to imply that the next one is perfection, forget it.  Remember the early history of the US Patent Office?  Back before the turn of the previous century (110 years ago), they wanted to close it... because they believed everything that could be invented already had been.  Boy, were they ever wrong about that!

5-18-2005

$4,000 Tax Credit.  We sure have heard this a number of times now... "To help more consumers conserve gas and protect the environment, my budget next year proposes that every American who purchases a hybrid vehicle receive a tax credit of up to $4,000."  That's what the president said today.  We've heard that same credit story before.  3 years ago at a national address in St. Paul, Minnesota similar words were spoken by him.  Nothing became of it... until that frustrating promotional stunt immediately before the election.  They lead us to believe the soon-to-expire $2,000 deduction was going to be kept alive. Instead, all we got was an extension for one year and just a $500 deduction for the following year.  However, they didn't provide those details until after the election.  So don't believe anything until it's actually official, especially since the definition is "hybrid" is still a mystery.  What is really meant by "up to" is very unclear too.  Needless to say, the automakers begging for a credit will continue dragging their feet (using that as an excuse) until some type of federal subsidy is provided.  It's a sad reality that they wait for outside help rather than planning for the future themselves.  I honestly don't think we'll get anything, especially since I have no idea where in the world the funding for such a credit would come from.

5-18-2005

30 MPG Highway.  That value sure is becoming a "must have" now.  A whole bunch of television advertisements praise that as a great achievement.  It's like we've traveled back in time several decades.  Rather than giving us ever-improving economy, they instead divert our attention from it then return telling us to be impressed.  They hope no one will notice, that none of us remember the slow creep up to the 40's just a few years ago.

 

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