Prius Personal Log  #202

May 31, 2005  -  June 4, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 6/05/2005

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6-04-2005

Past & Future History.  Most have no clue that a 1995 concept Prius existed or that there was a first generation model available 3 years before the United States got the second generation.  For that matter, some don't even realize the 2004 is actually the third generation.   The point is, they will.  The introduction of new hybrids is stirring interest in both the prior history and the history that is yet to come.  Due in part to the unexpected permanent surge in oil/gas prices (for those who were living in denial), it is becoming rather obvious that change is inevitable... without even needing to point out the growing smog-related emission problem.  So I wondered how long it would take before someone would take interest in looking back at the entire impact of Prius on society.  An email today answered that question.  That time is now.  My personal logs are an attempt to document (from an owner's perspective) as much as I could as it was actually happening.  So it's a good source of research to identify how much has changed already, both with respect to acceptance and the perception of what the future might hold.  I wonder what else will turn up as helpful reflections of the past and what is expected to come.  This is turning out to be a very interesting time in history.  It will be fun to read about it afterward too.

6-04-2005

Size Matters.  I'm seeing more formalized documentation on hybrid driving tips now.  Unfortunately, they are very design & configuration specific, not taking into account aspect like motor size at all.  Try driving a Prius with the Civic-Hybrid recommendation of being delicate with the accelerator-pedal.  Rather than improving efficiency, that would actually decrease it.  The 50kW electric motor contradicts the advice given, since the other hybrid uses a considerably smaller motor.  I'm very generous with the pedal in my Prius, taking full advantage of the electricity but not enough to cause the gasoline engine to rev high.  That results is a very pleasing MPG... low 50's for me right now.  Size does matter, especially when you consider what happens after acceleration is complete. Once at city cruising speed (up to 42 MPH), the engine will typically shut off entirely since the Prius motor is big enough to provide enough thrust all by itself.  Regardless of design, that simply is not possible if the electric motor is too small.  Size matters.

6-03-2005

$55.03 per barrel.  Today's approach toward record prices was of no surprise either.  It was inevitable.  The vacation travel has begun.  That increases demand on the already strained supply... in other words, basic economic effects are in play.  Why can't certain people understand that?  It was so predictable.  Now what's going happen?  Will some just stay in denial, paying higher gas prices as if it was part of the plan all along?  Hmm.

6-03-2005

From Drivers Like You.  Well, what do you know!  They government website for fuel economy, http://www.fueleconomy.gov, now has an entirely new section.  It's designed to overcome the very obvious shortcoming of MPG estimates.  The new webpages allow you to enter your own vehicle's data.  The belief is that this will end up serving as a repository for real-world statistics.  That's cool.  Unfortunately, all you get is a summary.  There is no way for you to crunch the numbers yourself.  In fact, there is no accommodation for climate or region either.  But what the heck.  It is certainly much better than the wild numbers people quote today.  That is a welcome improvement.

6-03-2005

Highly Suspicious.  At this point, we are all well aware of how poorly researched those published "stalling" articles were... as if they were rushed out to press for some reason ...or could they have been intentionally vague?  Whatever the case, I find it highly suspicious that this just happened to hit the attention of the media right when the debut of Highlander-Hybrid was taking place, especially since the problem has been around for over a year now.  This new hybrid SUV throws a crushing blow to the dirty, gas-guzzling technology the competition is still using.  So them and their supporters have clear motive to draw attention away from it and at the same time tarnish the reputation of HSD.  Sorry to be the one pointing this out, but it is far from the first anti-hybrid attack we've had to endure.  Unfortunately though, that does make sense in these times of massive profit loss and high gas prices.  And it's not like other vehicles don't have worse issues.  Look up past recalls.  There have been some nasty ones, which affected far more vehicles and had resulted in many accidents.  So the timing of this may not be an amazing coincidence.  It's the fact that obvious questions still aren't being asked, like: "Had the been recently exposed to a lot of water?"  Moisture from heavy rain, dense humidity, and poor quality gasoline have all been known to interfere with the operation of traditional engines, so why not a hybrid too?

6-02-2005

Highlander-Hybrid Commercial.  This evening on the "Tonight Show", I saw a new Toyota commercial for their SUVs.  And sure enough, they mentioned Highlander saying "it's now available with Hybrid Synergy Drive technology".  That was great!

6-02-2005

Spite.  I wondered how long it would take before the Honda hybrid owners tried to exploit the stalling reports.  Here's the quote seemingly innocently attached to the end of a normal post, "Latest reports from today newspapers and NHTSA: 33 cases of Prius completely died on highway and had to be towed away."  Naturally, I called him on it with the following... Please don't twist the facts.  Those Prius continued to drive without the engine, using just the electric motor.  And when they pulled off the road, some were able to restart the engine without needing to be towed.  And in all fairness, you should mention that there were updates already available which those owners did not have yet.

6-02-2005

More Awards for Prius.  It should be to the astonishment of none that the "International Engine of the Year" awards recognized the engineering achievements in Prius again this year.  "Best Fuel Economy" and "Best 1.4 to 1.8 liters Engine" were the categories Prius won.  That's pretty cool.  But what about a electric motor category?  Seriously, when do you think motors will finally compete?  Yes, I realize that right as early this year, the only hybrid in existence to use a Brushless AC electric motor was Prius.  But Ford & Honda both use the Brushless DC type.  So some type of acknowledgement should be given.  Hopefully in a few years, motor size & weight & efficiency will be considered worthy of praise.

6-02-2005

19,000 Miles Later.  Unfortunately, I was only past the point of true break-in with my factory standard Goodyear Integrity tires during warm weather for a couple of weeks.  So I don't have a real good basis of comparison available.  But can I tell you that the Michelin HydroEdges I've been using for the last 19,000 miles delivering a very pleasing mid-50's MPG value on the Multi-Display.  So... I really don't care what those original ones would have ultimately provided.  The ones I upgraded to provide an obvious traction increase without causing the MPG to drop into disappointing territory.  I can definitely "tolerate" with tanks calculating to the low 50's throughout the entire warm season (here in Minnesota), and I feel very comfortable recommending them to my friend's with Prius whose tires they'd like to upgrade.

6-02-2005

Stalling Reports, part 2.  As an owner, why be concerned?  You are more likely to be in an accident caused by someone else than for this to happen.  Just stay alert.  This is still rare and just sounds like the updates weren't applied to all the cars that needed them.  I have driven almost 95,000 miles with my two Prius.  No engine trouble whatsoever.  None of my Prius owning friends have ever had any either.  The real problem is the lack of detail in these reports, causing people to speculate & worry.  If they would report what the month/year their car was built (found on the driver's door-jam) and which updates they've had done (documented using stickers placed inside the hood or door-jam by the mechanic), then we'd have something actually helpful to work with.  It's an unfortunate situation.  But then again, vehicles really aren't expected to be absolutely perfect the first year anyway (though in a way it is nice that Prius is held to a higher standard).  If I got a dollar for every time someone made the comment, "I'll wait a year or two for them to work the bugs out", I'd be quite rich.  The Prius affected use HSD, which is in fact within that "new" time span still.  And as far as we know, the problem is now prevented anyway.  I had the updates done already and never had any trouble.

6-02-2005

Stalling Reports, part 1.  The same old horribly vague nonsense hit the wires again yesterday.  This story is so void of detail, it leaves me wondering if a couple of the reports were actually just a case of running out of gas.  Regardless, they are still not reporting about the updates that are already available (those ECU upgrades and a water-seal under the hood that I already had done to my Prius).  What a pain.  But then again, according to the book of Microsoft, there's no such thing as bad publicity.  All the attention will likely have a positive effect.  After all, there's nothing worse than be ignored entirely.  It really gets me curious though, how the press will respond to the first glitch one of the other automakers have with their new hybrids?  Hybrids will be more common then, so they make not make for as impressive news as they do now.  The fact that Prius gets so much attention is actually rather cool.  And I would doubt this would have any real affect on sales of the 2006 model.  Word of updates already having been available before all the media hype should be common by then.  So I really don't think they'll be that much of a backlash.  We'll see.

6-01-2005

$54.60 per barrel.  Oil prices stayed relatively stable in preparation for approaching the holiday weekend.  But today with that now in the past, the price shot way up.  That didn't surprise me at all.

6-01-2005

Warm April, Cool May.  That makes for a rather boring MPG graph.  Rather than the very pleasant steep efficient climb, it was rather flat over the last two months.  So I was a little bit disappointed when crunching the numbers today... until I realized something.  June is anticipated to be normal.  That means much warmer than May was.  The MPG average will jump way up, making for something even more dramatic than the normal climb in the Spring.  Sweet!

5-31-2005

Gatherings.  They're still a struggle.  I'd like to establish a routine, so we can meet on a regular basis.  Seeking out locations is by-far the hardest part.  Since I don't want to see interest die out as soon as the cold weather returns, the criteria is rather extensive.  I need to find a coffee shop with a decent amount of inside seating, quite a bit of line-of-sight parking space, and not being too close to any other busy stores.  That's quite a challenge when you consider it needs to be easy to get to for a large number of owners spread out all over the place.  The one I just found is brand new, fulfilling the need surprisingly well.  I was absolutely delighted when I saw it.  The entire area was just built, something that simply didn't exist not too long ago.  So hopefully, it will help bring together those that have been craving in-person Prius stuff.  Demand for that is definitely growing.  So I'm hoping to be able to establish something to fulfill that with these gatherings.  Wish me luck.

5-31-2005

I returned.  It was time to return back to that hostile forum.  A lot had changed over those previous 9 months of not participating.  The fact that traditional (engine-only) designs are quickly losing favor was a good reason anyway.  VW had announced the consideration of paring a diesel engine and an electric motor today.  That was the final "nail in the coffin" I had been waiting for.  Those non-constructive arguments of the past will hopefully just be a sour memory now, since many of the negative claims about hybrid technology are proving to be false.  It's an interesting new world, where automakers are facing competition with themselves.  Accord, Civic, Escape, Highlander, and RX400 each have both traditional & hybrid configurations changes everything.  Someday you'll have the choice of engine size for a vehicle model, perhaps battery size/type too.  In the meantime, it's interesting to watch how quiet those with the traditional versions of vehicles are becoming.  They know that their days of being in the spotlight are over.  So naturally, I'm thrilled to hear about a possible hybrid version of Jetta.  That's another automaker joining in on the newer technology.  The upcoming Altima will be yet another.  But the ultimate is the fact that the best-selling car in the US, the Toyota Camry, will be available as a hybrid in a little bit more than a year from now.  It's over.  Gas is expensive and reducing smog-related emissions is becoming a higher priority.  In just a few months, some of us (including me) will be celebrating their fifth anniversary of owning a hybrid.  It will be increasing more difficult to deny the growing reports of positive long-term ownership experiences.  And of course, the supreme spite is pointing out how rapidly improvements are being made to the hybrid models being offered.  It only gets better from here.  Ha!  They thought they could get rid of me.  Instead, I returned better backed than they ever imagined.  Sweet!

5-31-2005

Studying History.  Back in the 50's, the industry thought "turbine" technology was a solution to ending our dependence on the complexity of piston engines.  It turns out that the resulting prototypes share a remarkable similarity to that of the fuel-cell prototypes.  They did in fact satisfy that particular goal, but it required far too many sacrifices.  In other words, focusing solely on a single objective wasn't a good idea back then or now.  Taking the big picture effect into account is very important.  Rather than building off of an existing success, they were trying to completely reinvent without a good reason for doing so.  What purpose would fuel-cell vehicles serve?  Evolving the "full" hybrid makes a whole lot more sense.  Increasing the electrical capacity will allow the engine to progressively get smaller and smaller... to the point where eventually a fuel-cell can simply be used instead.  But if that dependence on hydrogen doesn't deliver, there would be no loss.  Needing only a very small engine will achieve the goal of reducing emissions & consumption anyway.  Heck, the engine will last quite a bit longer too, if it isn't needed as often.  Switching over to something different entirely, whether it be a turbine or fuel-cell, simply doesn't make any sense if it doesn't fulfill all the goals.

 

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