Prius Personal Log  #207

June 30, 2005  -  July 5, 2005

Last Updated: Mon. 7/11/2005

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7-05-2005

We Waited.  How much do you want to bet that GM will make a pitiful excuse like "we waited" for their extremely late arrivals of real hybrids.  They'll place the delay blame on battery technology, claiming it wasn't good enough until a few years from now to build a practical system with.  In a way, that is somewhat true.  Ford is in fact limited by their battery-pack, since it is very much like the first-generation for Prius (large, heavy, limited capacity, and heat restricted).  But then again, the significantly improved third-generation in Prius is already being used.  It's really just a matter of cost, patents, and production capacity... but they won't tell you that part.

7-05-2005

Employee Discounts.  GM renewed their extreme price-slashing program, which was scheduled to end this past weekend.  Ford quickly followed with the same.  Both enjoyed massive marketshare surges last month, but I have heard no word at all about what the resulting money was.  Knowing that they have reported huge losses in the past, I can't imagine them making a profit even buy this increased volume.  The discounts are just too radical.  What follows will make a difference too.  It's the long-term results that count.  This short-lived inventory dumping is clearly just temporary.  Though, wouldn't it be interesting if the razor-thin profit margins of the computer industry emerged as a theme in the automotive industry?  The incentive to offer excessive size & power diminishes to just specialty stock, far from what you'll find as the popular choice.  In other words, goodbye to the massive gas-guzzlers.

7-05-2005

Net-Loss.  Why can't an ethanol hybrid be used to plant, harvest, and transport the corn and the final product?  Why can't renewable electricity used to operate the refinery equipment?  Why it is always assumed that oil will be used for production?  Those are questions that arguments against ethanol refuse to answer.  What if plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles are used for the farming & production process?  They are more efficient.  They provide a higher yield.  That changes the energy-use calculations, since the loss would be less.  And what if yields of corn are increased, where the farmer is able to produce more through technology-improved farming innovations?  The same could be true for the refining process too.  That would reduce the loss as well.  Oil refining will never get any better than it already is.  Every last trick in the book has been used to squeeze out the most efficient process already.  Decades of research and trillions of dollars have exhausted those efforts.  Ethanol is still growing.  There is potential for an even better product.  Regardless, it is undeniably cleaner to use and safer (political dependencies & ocean wildlife).  So what if we are forced to improve the creation process.  Hydrogen still faces an even greater challenge.  Even just buying ourselves some more time and reducing the pressure on the oil supply is a good thing.  Loss or not, we should at least try.  Far more resources are being spent on less certain initiatives... like Iraq.

7-05-2005

Honda Improvements.  Details on their upcoming new model Civic-Hybrid were released today.  They reduced the weight of the engine, which decreased the cost and increased the efficiency.  The motor muscle got increased by 50%, raising the power to 15kW.  They also enabled an electric-only drive.  I'm not sure what kind of gain that will actually translate to, but the limited amount of electricity available from the "assist" system (single-motor, share-the-same-shaft arrangement with the engine) simply cannot deliver as much as a "full" system (dual-motor, split-power-device configuration).  So the expected benefit will likely come only from stop & slow conditions, no stealth like Prius.  No mention of emissions improvement was made.  It was interesting that nothing about the transmission was included either.

7-04-2005

Economic Sense.  This statement about hybrids came from GM today, "Whether the cars economically make sense or not, we cannot not be in that market".  The interesting twist is the same could have been true about the SUV market a number of years ago too.  Demand doesn't always coincide with what makes sense.  But from a business point-of-view, it is quite a risk developing your own hybrid... especially now that Toyota has set consumer expectations so high.  Even Honda had to re-evaluate their own design.  Then they discovered not having an electric-only ability was beginning to hurt their sales, so they had to add it despite the extra cost.  Economics is a tricking subject.  However, there's some simple fundamental rules that shouldn't be overlooked...  Diversify (don't put all your eggs in one basket).  Pay Attention (don't ignore what the competition is trying).  Anticipate Change (don't expect the market to remain constant for too long).  Needless to say, GM and several other automakers didn't follow those rules.  Now they are paying the consequences.  This will make a fantastic real-world analysis project for an economics class!  Apparently, I got more out of mine college studies than I realized.

7-04-2005

SUV Promotion.  Have you noticed how drastically the advertisements recently dropped off?  Their numbers have fallen significantly recently and are almost non-existent compared to a year ago.  Between the reality of both a domestic and foreign hybrid SUV being available and the high price of gas, they would be fighting a losing battle.  So they don't bother.  I only here mention of the small models now, mixed in with promotions for other vehicles from the same automaker.  The "good old days" are over, putting the monster-size gas-guzzler into the dinosaur category.  Good!  It's about dang time the more practical vehicles get the attention... which will very nicely welcome HSD as a purchase option.

7-04-2005

Counting Game.  For the holiday, my family got together with some other relatives.  We drove my parent's full-size conversion van around the cities picking others up.  I was the driver.  Being behind the wheel of a large traditional vehicle often provokes me to sing praise about hybrids.  But not today.  Instead, I decided to play the counting game.  Every time a Prius drove by, I shouted out the next consecutive number.  My dad started to grumble by the time I reached 9.  It was a refreshing reminder of the way the children used to past time on a long drive 20 years ago, but with a 21st Century twist.

7-04-2005

Fortunately.  All the easy stuff is handled well online.  None of the basics are a problem anymore.  Oil changes, tire pressure, filling the tank, stealth, and even "brisk" acceleration are all understood in detail now.  So I hardly have anything to be disappointed about.  Even the anti-hybrid attacks have significantly diminished.  The only real issues at this point are those relating to how to proceed from here.  Newbies have no history of their own to leverage from.  Having only owned a hybrid for just a year does make things tough; they very little personal data to work with and no background knowledge of previous actions.  Of course, the upcoming market is quite different anyway.  So the concern isn't huge.  It consists of people that never gave much or any thought to emissions or efficiency.  Their purchases are based a lot on observation, hearing good things from family & friends.  They typically don't research a purchase based on studies, like those first buying Prius did.  Heck, some don't even look up specifications online.  Showroom comparisons and short test-drives are often the extent of their decision making process.  Fortunately, Prius does well in that respect too.  But it creates a completely different perspective to the purchase experience.  Fortunately, tapping into that type of diversification is exactly what's needed to expand the market... though it does make relating to the past a challenge.  And fortunately, the "hybrid option" will become a simple choice, rather than now with Prius where you have to buy a unique vehicle to get HSD.

7-03-2005

Changing Times.  There is a new problem emerging.  The hybrid veterans are not participating much online anymore; we've heard anything & everything you can possibly imagine at this point.  You can only take that kind of repetition so much.  Which means when newbies join in discussions, their comments are being interpreted differently now.  There simply aren't enough with experience remaining who can answer tough questions well and rebuttal misinformed claims.  Many of those occurrences I've recently witnessed fall into the very same category as that from the anti-hybrid people: VAGUE.  What they post is so ambiguous that it is very easily misunderstood.  It was only a matter of time before Prius became so popular that it appealed to so many of the less informed that the harmony of the past cannot be regained.  Oh well.  We watched the big group divide into smaller one when the newest generation was released.  This change was anticipated too.  I'm glad I was able to contribute along the way. 

7-03-2005

EPA verses Actual.  That's the battle which ensues.  Media comments about Prius are always with respect to the actual MPG.  Everything mentioned about traditional efficiency is in reference to the EPA values.  That's not objective in the slightest.  The same standard of measurement should always be used.  And of course, I always choose actual MPG.  The real-world numbers tell the true story.  Values derived controlled laboratory conditions do not.  EPA generalization shouldn't be used anymore, since no one ever reads the detail anymore.  They just assume the big numbers relate to actual driving, even though the testing conditions don't.  That's sad.  Of course, a majority of the public make the assumption that all hybrids reduce pollution too.  They don't bother with that detail either.

7-02-2005

Defeat Auto-Stop.  A post today about Accord-Hybrid was rather amusing.  Someone asked if there was a way to defeat that feature, preventing the engine from shutting off when you stop.  They claimed this is what the "ECON" button in Civic-Hybrid is for.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  "ECON" is short for "economy", which means pressing it will instruct the system to stop the engine as quickly as possible.  In other words, the A/C will automatically be stopped to allow the engine to shut off to save gas... hence the economy.  It is not to defeat, it is to encourage.  But all that owner understood was that the on & off cycling of the engine in heavy commute traffic was really annoying.  Too bad.  He should have studied the difference between "assist" and "full" hybrids more carefully before making a purchase decision.  After all, I clearly can't be blamed for not pointing out that shortcoming.  I want all automakers to embrace the "full" design.  So I'm doing the best I can to spread the word without (hopefully) upsetting existing owners.  Those still faced with a purchase decision should be told how each design will respond in real-world conditions... like stop & slow traffic.

7-01-2005

$58.75 per barrel.  The price of oil shot up again.  I wonder what will happen on Tuesday, after the upcoming holiday when the second half of the year begins.  Hmm?  That should be interesting.

7-01-2005

5,000 Miles More.  Just a little shy of 21,000 miles now, the HydroEdge tires are well into uncharted territory.  I have 5,000 miles more on them than I did when the originals were replaced.  In other words, I have run out of comparison data.  All of last month was an exploration of the unknown.  It was great!  The overall average calculated to 55.1 MPG.  Pretty sweet, eh?  Those tires are well worth it, simply by the improved traction qualities alone.  But the fact that MPG can still be impressive is a definite bonus.  The really hard rubber on those tires should pay off in the end too.  Since they'll last so much longer than the originals, I won't have to endure the MPG drop caused break-in again for quite a number of years now.  I'm quite happy with my purchase decision.  It's nice to be able to have such a well-tested upgrade suggestion already.

6-30-2005

Monthly Average.  55.1 MPG is what the numbers calculated to.  Wow!  That's a pretty cool average for 1,869 miles of mixed driving.  I wonder how long it will be before I see anything that high again.  August is typically the best month of the year.  Will it be better than June or will I have to wait a whole year for the next June?

6-30-2005

Going Down.  I wonder why the per barrel price of oil dropped to $56.50 today.  That was unexpected... and without any particular reason either.

 

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