Prius Personal Log  #210

July 17, 2005  -  July 20, 2005

Last Updated: Sat. 8/13/2005

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7-20-2005

Emission Clarification, part 1.  CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is a harmless to humans.  We can breath it into our bodies without any negative effect.  The atmosphere, on the other hand, is harmed.  CO2 traps warm air, so more adds to that.  The warmth affects the long-term climate, resulting in record-setting summer & winter temperatures and increased storm activity.  Engine combustion creates CO2 as a by-product.  Higher MPG is the direct result of using less fuel.  So using less means less CO2 in the exhaust.

7-20-2005

Promised Mileage, part 2.  Advertisements are contributing heavily to the misconception too.  All they do now is quote highway efficiency now.  The favorite number is 30 MPG.  Paying attention, you'll hear that it's specifically for the highway.  But not having any readily available source to find out what the city efficiency is setting up a false expectation.  MPG will be drastically lower for those on the highway but stuck in a daily commute daily.  They aren't cruising as the quoted number implies.  They are experiencing stop & slow traffic, just like you would in city driving.  So naturally, city driving is what the MPG will be too.  But they don't tell you that.  In fact, they don't tell you that cruising too fast will yield the same results.  But guess what, everyone does.  Speeds above 60 MPH are not represented in the EPA estimates.  You'll end up getting much lower MPG at 70 MPH.  But they don't tell you that either.  So technically, they aren't promising it.  People sure are going to expect it though.  At some point, there's going to be a huge backlash from this too.

7-20-2005

Promised Mileage, part 1.  Reporters go way out of their way to avoid the actual issue sometimes, which was definitely the case today.  People lack the understanding that the EPA estimates are intended only as a basis of comparison.  Those numbers make no actual promise.  Avoiding detail is what we most coming see as a contribution to the misconception.  The reporter today pushed the "dissatisfaction attitude" by claiming 40 MPG for a consumer that couldn't care less about driving efficiently is bad without providing any basis of comparison at all.  That's just plain not objective.  There's no proof about that being "typical" either.  In fact, we don't even know when or where his data was gathered.  An average of 40 MPG during the Winter in the north is actually pretty good.  That's what I get then.  Of course, I averaged 55 MPG last month (June, which is much warmer).  It also conflicts with our reports from newbies that state they "only" average around 45 MPG.  The same people that don't pay attention to efficiency with their traditional will not pay attention with a hybrid either.  But if they do begin to take notice, they will complain and will quickly be provided with facts they've never known... like the importance of maintaining a minimum PSI.  And that simple act of making sure the tire pressure isn't too low will result in a MPG increase.  Remember, in 2008 a federal mandate will require all vehicles to flash a warning light when the PSI drops below 25% of the minimum.  So many people allow that to happen currently, a mandate was necessary.

7-20-2005

Time to be serious.  That's what a Prius owner exclaimed online recently.  They want Toyota to show the world they are serious about hybrid technology.  I questioned that.  My comments that followed were not responded to.  I think they understood the point of taking slower...  What would the benefit be of rushing?  There is an absolutely overwhelming amount of proof that taking it slower by sticking to the current schedule is more likely to yield a higher rate of success.  My personal logs are loaded with comments over the past 5 years of people wanting to speed up the rollout process but not seeing all the fine little details that would impair those good intentions.  Remember, we are still fighting dealer markups and mechanic overfills, not to mention a bunch of misconceptions and some anti-hybrid arguing.  Plus, the automotive industry is facing a serious production & inventory shakeup right now due to gas prices.  Maintaining the pace currently established seems like the most sensible approach.  Patience, grasshopper.

7-19-2005

It gets worse.  Accord-Hybrid is really taking a beating for being a hybrid that barely delivers any benefit.  And of course, while discussing the pitiful MPG improvement they made this snide remark: "And even though the Prius a five-seater, it's still a small car."  Are the people writing comments like that totally clueless or intentionally being dishonest?  I've caught people lying in the past, so I know it's not beyond a possibility.  But while driving down the road today with an Accord on my side, it was very obvious that there is very little in size difference... certainly nothing like these articles are claiming.  This is becoming the new anti-hybrid attack plan, claiming the powerful ones provide no benefit and the ones that are clean & efficient are too small to be practical.  I'm getting tired of this.  The vague articles and lack of traditional data really makes it difficult for people to understand what's really going on.  The resistance to change is pretty obvious.

7-19-2005

Plus $3,500.  Can you believe it?  Chrysler's employee discount now includes that too.  Wow!  Talking about desperate to unload the inventory for this model-year.  Never in automotive history have prices been slashed so heavily or for so early or for so long.  The collapse of the current automotive infrastructure is clearly taking place.  Things are going to be very different a couple of years from now.  The reign of the dinosaur is rapidly coming to a close.  It's over.  Monster-Size is no longer an appeal factor.  We'll likely see some fairly clear evidence of that when inventories are replenish later with next year's models.

7-19-2005

No more quarterly predictions!  I can't believe it.  Ford officially announced today that they will no longer being providing quarterly predictions.  Thank goodness.  That "living only for the short-term" attitude was a major problem with the market.  Being far too occupied with immediate returns on investments was preventing long-term commitments.  It resulted in Ford losing $907 million last quarter.  So they finally decided to do something about it.  I wonder if GM will finally.  The quarter before, which didn't include any of this "employee discount" nonsense, they lost $1.1 billion.  Ford stated the reason for this change was having too much production capacity and internal competition.  Those are problems that cannot be resolved quickly.  Long-Term planning is a must now.  Of course, that requirement is rather obvious now.  Too bad they didn't listen sooner.  I kept complaining about putting so much emphasis on only large SUVs and basically ignoring cars, saying that lack of diversification would become a problem.  I also said they should have committed to hybrid technology much sooner.  Oh well.  At least they are changing their attitude now.

7-19-2005

"Folks like performance"  That argument by a reporter today was great.  It wasn't part of the original article either.  This guy was willing to respond to the personal email the upset Prius owners sent him.  What the heck was he talking about?  What does "performance" actually mean?  If it means neck-breaking 0-60 speeds of being able to drive faster than 85 MPH, we know that's a total farce.  You simply cannot drop the pedal without driving unsafely.  Traffic conditions (and legal limits) simply don't accommodate speeds that fast.  If it means the feel of the vehicle must be rough and the sound of the vehicle must be loud, we know that type of feedback not what people buying quality vehicles prefer.  They have no appreciation for a smooth & quiet ride.  So does it mean that to get performance you must sacrifice safety and comfort?  I don't think to many folk will actually like that.

7-18-2005

Bad News for Accord-Hybrid.  Wow!  The car is really getting hammered for not delivering much.  It has been selected by the media to be the poster-child for what a hybrid shouldn't be.  I'm even surprised by the amount of negative attention it's getting.  Honda is really in trouble for not having just waited and rolled out the new design instead.  And later they are going to get criticized for delivered "too little, too late".  Over the course of the next 6 months while we wait for that in Civic-Hybrid, there will inevitably be a lot of press about how the hybrid types differ.  Making people understand more about the designs will help clear up the misconceptions that are brewing now.  That will bring to the forefront how SULEV emissions (or cleaner!) is emphasized and the benefits having a power-split-device provides... which reinforces the fact that not all hybrids are created equal.

7-18-2005

Only One.  This was an interesting quote today, "consumers and the press will ultimately decide one is a good buy and the other is for suckers".  If that were true, there would not be a choice of engine size.  But there has been for countless years.  The choice between 4 & 6 cylinders is still a common practice, as is transmission type for some vehicles.  Having the choice of HSD configuration is a logical step forward.  Some will desire more than others.  There is no ultimate solution for such a diverse market.  After awhile, HSD will become standard.  Then you'll end up with a choice of a version that emphasizes power and a version that emphasizes efficiency.  Thankfully, all will be clean: SULEV or better.  The point is that the design delivers a genuine improvement.  Each will still deliver better efficiency than the traditional counterpart, but one will be more so than the other.  The reality is that one size does not fit all.

7-17-2005

Blazing Hot.  A/C was definitely needed today.  Usually, I'm quite comfortable with just the vent blowing in outside air.  Summer is far too short here in Minnesota to not enjoy the brief heat spell.  But when the Prius gets parked out in it for a few hours, everything becomes blazing hot inside.  Just plain old vent air on high wouldn't do the trick this time.  So, I treated myself to the cold stuff on the drive home.  That system sure does creep you out, working perfectly without the engine running to retain the silent as stealth.  Electric A/C is really sweet!

7-17-2005

Warp-Stealth.  The upcoming 2006 Civic-Hybrid will feature this ability, rather than the stealth they've been implying in the generic press releases.  Digging for details provided by Honda, you'll find this description: "The valves of all four of the engine's cylinders are closed and combustion halted.  The motor alone powers the vehicle."  Interesting, eh?  That halting of combustion even though the engine is still pumping pistons is the same thing Prius does at high speeds, hence warp-stealth.  Only with the Toyota design, the valves are opened all the way rather than closed.  Keeping them closed is how "B" mode operates.  It intentionally creates internal pressure, which is what provides the slowing effect from the engine.  How come it doesn't with the Honda design?  Too bad they can't just shut the engine off entirely to achieve true stealth at slow speeds.

7-17-2005

PHEV Backlash.  The disingenuous nature of the PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) claims are beginning to stir the market.  The fact that they don't tell you that the life of the battery-pack they use is substantially shorter is the biggest issue.  (Li-Ion offers far fewer recharging cycles than NiMH, roughly a tenth in comparison.  And normal operation wouldn't allow as deep of a discharge.)  That makes the initial-price & factory-warranty concerns pale in comparison.  Then there's the issue that a dirtier source of energy could be used instead.  In my case, that's definitely true.  I'm better off using low-sulfur E10 in my tank than plugging the car in and using electricity created by burning coal.  My biggest gripe though is the fact that they are misrepresenting stealth.  This quote published today is a prime example: "Prius owners soon learned that cars sold in Japan and Europe had an electric-only "stealth" mode activated by a button that was omitted in U.S.-market cars. Within weeks, technically savvy Prius owners were installing their own EV buttons to access the stealth mode."  They give the impression that stealth doesn't exist until you have that button, which just plain isn't true.  What the button actually does is invoke maximum-stealth, which informs the computer that you want to use the already available electric-only mode as much as possible.  The result is an increase in power and a decrease in the fastest electric-only speed.  (It drops from 42 to 35 MPH).  The trade-off is that the engine will remain off longer than usual.  Another thing that really irritates is that no real-world data has been published yet.  I want to see what that alteration to the system will actually deliver over the course of a year.  They are definitely not forthcoming with respect to sharing information about what consumers can expect for an efficiency average.  I really wish they would wait until battery technology improves before taking this next step, the backlash could have an unfortunate negative outcome.

 

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