Prius Personal Log  #213

August 2, 2005  -  August 5, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 8/14/2005

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8-05-2005

All Green.  That was fun!  I down drove to Welch, Minnesota to enjoy a day of biking on the Cannon Valley Trail.  That includes a substantial elevation drop, to the town at the base of the skiing hills.  It provided lots of opportunity to generate electricity.  I watched the charge-level on the Energy Monitor climb to green (7 bars), which I see from time to time.  But what I rarely ever see is all green, where all 8 bars are filled.  And sure enough, I saw it then.  In fact, I even got to drive to the parking spot then back to the base of the incline before that top bar disappeared.  Too bad I wasn't playing with the Consumption screen.  The drive down takes long enough to fit at least 4 regen-symbols (green, of course) into a 5-minute segment, if I begin the decline just seconds after the next time-interval starts.  It's good to see green.

8-05-2005

Fuel-Cell Support.  Ballard, one of the largest developers of fuel-cell stacks for automotive applications called it quits this week.  They are getting out of that type of use, claiming their simply isn't a business to support it... or them.  And of course, that makes perfect sense.  No one is planning to mass-produce fuel-cell vehicles for at least a decade still.  Who would they sell their technology to in the meantime?  You can't just wait 10 years.  To survive in a market, you must make money.  Research & Development can only go so far before you finally move to production.  Their technology was nearing that phase, but the automotive industry clearly isn't ready for it.

8-04-2005

35 MPG Mystery.  Every now and then, a newbie posts a message saying they are very disappointed with their mileage.  That number is typically in the 42 to 46 range.  This time, it was only 35.  But unlike in the past, this new owner and online participant actually took the time to answer questions (rather than just vent).  To him, I give a big "thank you".  We always wondered how it was possible to have an average that low.  Now, we know.  His routine drive is only 2 miles.  That's it!  To make matters worse, he frequently makes stops leaving his wife in the car with the A/C running while he goes into the building for a little bit.  I wonder how many other people do things like that, but not quite often enough to notice the pattern or realize those are the two worse things you could possibly do.  Short trips are hard are all types of vehicles, since they don't get an opportunity to warm up to full operating temperature.  Leaving the vehicle running while stopped, with the A/C or Heater on, results in zero MPG since the vehicle doesn't move at all.  Too bad people don't discover this until after they buy a hybrid.  Fortunately, 35 MPG (and SULEV) being the worst is hardly something to complain about.  Most non-hybrids the size of Prius cannot even claim that as their best.

8-04-2005

Marathon MPG, part 1.  I'm not pleased.  A whole new twist has emerged.  One of the most intense hybrid opposers, is at it again.  Years ago, he did everything in his power to misrepresent Prius... of which you'll find heavily documented in these personal logs.  Among many things, he was the one that used to pump up his 44 max PSI tires to 50 PSI in his Corolla and drive only highway miles with it.  That made his MPG abnormally high, in no way representative of what the typical person would actually get.  That went on for months... until I finally revealed that my sister owned one too; then he immediately switched to using Focus as a comparison vehicle instead.  Anywho, he's pulling the same thing in a Prius now.  Only with this, the 44 max PSI tires are pumped all the way 60 PSI... which is horribly dangerous and not at all recommended.  The oil got switched to 0W-20... which is much thinner than the recommended 5W-30.  The plan is to perform a publicity stunt, using the pulse technique (which isn't recommended either, since it will interfere with traffic behind the vehicle) he and 3 other people are going to drive a 15-mile loop over and over and over again until they use an entire tank of gas... which is yet another problem, because the tank will be overfilled too (almost 1 gallon over capacity, filling the emissions canister with gas).  That route just happens to be ideal conditions for unbelievably high MPG.  Talking about giving people a false impression of what they'll get from a Prius.  But that's what they're doing.  The short-term outcome will be an impressive media blitz.  The long-term outcome will be disappointment.  An expectation well beyond the realistic range will be established, leading to a definite letdown when new owners later discover they cannot even get remotely close to the same MPG.  In other words, this is not real-world data.  But the thing is, people won't realize it... and this guy is intentionally exploiting that.  However, there is a slim possibility that this could backfire and have a really positive outcome.  Nonetheless, I'm still not pleased about the potential this has to misrepresent.  And worse, I haven't even mentioned the fact that the marathon drive will be all at once.  The engine will never have a chance to cool down.  Remaining hot during the entire consumption of that tank will greatly amplify MPG.  It's the warm-up time that owners detest, since it has such a big negative impact on efficiency.  They eliminate that... which is in no way an accurate portrayal of what an owner will actually experience.  I'm not pleased.

8-04-2005

Desperation.  It has pushed a few to do everything they can to create vague labels.  Those are desperate attempts to level the hybrid playing field, doing everything that can be done to avoid drawing attention to actual specifications.  Why not discuss electric motors or operating voltage or battery-pack capacity?  What purpose does a label serve?  Not surprisingly, I know.  It's pretty obvious.  Awareness that not all hybrids are created equal is beginning to be understood by more consumers, and at a rapid rate too.  Hiding behind the generic "hybrid" label simply doesn't work anymore.  Yeah!  It's about time.

8-04-2005

Had a Feeling.  It appears as though those buying a Silverado "hybrid" will get a $1,000 tax credit.  Why?  All it does is shut off the engine when you come to a stop.  So if you don't stop, like when you're on the highway, there is no improvement whatsoever.  There is neither an efficiency gain nor decreased emissions.  There is no electric motor to even provide assist.  It is literally just a truck with a bigger battery & starter.  That's it.  To make matters worse, all GM has to do to keep benefiting from the credit for years to come is simply sell less than 60,000 annually.  I had a feeling the provisions in the Energy Bill would somehow protect the guilty.  That doesn't make me happy.  Why should people be rewarded just because an automaker decided to put a "hybrid" label on a vehicle, even though there's no reason it should actually qualify as one?  Arrgh!

8-03-2005

CVT Dropped.  Turns out that GM never did find a good way to fix the problems they were having with their "Cone & Belt" type CVT.  They don't offer it anymore on their Saturns.  How about that?  Ford's Freestyle & 500 use that type and there hasn't been a single word about reliability.  I wonder what was different.  Honda seems to be shying away from that type too.  I like that.  It will reduce the confusion caused the other type of CVT, "Plantery", which is what the Escape-Hybrid and all the Toyota & Lexus hybrids use.

8-03-2005

Rumors.  Were they trying to start a rumor?  Or was that supposedly trusted information source poorly informed?  I couldn't tell.  But the article they published today clearly raised a cloud of mystery over the upcoming Camry-Hybrid.  It wondered if the design would place emphasis on power, rather than efficiency.  They even reasoned that since the non-hybrid Camry shared the same frame & engine as the non-hybrid Highlander, the hybrid version could do the same by using the same hybrid system currently in Highlander-Hybrid.  They frowned upon the idea, almost to the point of shaming Toyota for allowing such a configuration to be possible.  In other words, it was fuel for a controversy that never existed.  There is no need to speculate, because Toyota already answered the question before it was even asked.  Toyota already announced that the first Camry-Hybrid will indeed place emphasis on efficiency.  It will use a modest 4-cylinder engine.  So wondering if a 6-cylinder will be used is a complete non-issue.  There is no rumor, despite the propaganda in that article.

8-03-2005

Hear that?  The odd behavior of the SUV hiding by far corner caught my attention.  For no apparent reason, the driver lowered their window at the intersection.  It seemed out of place.  Why do that in such hot & humid weather?  Then I noticed the extreme look of concentration on her face.  She appeared to be listening, attempting to confirm that my car was totally silent... running on nothing but electricity while waiting for the light to turn green.  When it did, I accelerated slowly so see would have to pass by.  I made direct eye-contact.  She quickly looked away.  I bet she was intrigued by the technology.  Sweet!

8-03-2005

Enough?  Here we go again.  Someone is trying to push for more without any explanation why more is better.  In this case, greater acceptance for high MPG.  We've encountered extreme resistance to change over the past 5 years, the most intense actually from certain automakers rather than consumers.  And some politicians figure change isn't even necessary, that we can just drill our way out of the problem instead.  How could more be accomplished?  It will still take time for people to finally figure out what MPG their current vehicle actually delivers, since most only have a vague idea right now.  So even if there was a sudden jump to high-mileage vehicles, how would they know that's what they were?  And what about the dirty solutions?  If we simply abandoned our efforts to reduce smog and breath-related health problems, we could easily adopt diesel.  But why would anyone want to make a tradeoff like that?  The less approach doesn't make any sense either.  It's easy though.  All automakers have to do is reduce the size of the vehicle, replace metal with plastic, and use a really small engine.  I simply don't see how more could be realistic.

8-02-2005

Credit Phaseout.  This upcoming federal hybrid credit seems to make sense now, despite the odd quantity approach.  But how exactly will each automaker convey to each buyer what credit they are eligible for?  Dealer's certainly don't exactly have a trustworthy reputation.  I bet there will be a number of new hybrid owners that get screwed come tax time as a result, discovering they don't actually get the amount they were originally promised.  The phaseout method will require a matrix, where you look up the hybrid model in the quarter you purchased it to find out what you get.  We (Prius enthusiasts) will find that fairly simple and will know shortly after the 60,000 threshold is exceeded to identify when the phaseout begins.  In fact, we'll likely setup webpages to make it easier for the less-informed.  But that won't help those that don't research online.  The reality that reporters still publish hybrid articles with errors is an ugly one too, which will inevitably cause confusion.  Things will definitely get interesting.  Today, I saw my highest gas price ever here: $2.35 per gallon.  And oil closed at an all-time high of $61.89 per barrel.  Hybrids are clearly going to capture more interest as the ever-increasing demand continues to make the situation worse.  Will this credit actually help those automakers that have been in denial about the need for improved efficiency?

8-02-2005

APB for a Prius.  The police APB (all-point-bulletin) today stated a female bank robber drove away in a silver or gray Prius.  Once their search concludes, I hope they don't have to wait until it runs out of gas.  What's next?  Will we see a high-speed chase?  I like hearing about Prius in the news (pretty much on a daily basis now), but not this way.  Think happy thoughts, not robbing a bank... especially since you aren't getting robbed at the pump.

8-02-2005

Black or White.  Why do so many people think in absolute terms?  They figure ethanol is intended replace gas entirely, rather than supplement it.  Could it be that they don't realize mixing the two isn't possible, despite being mentioned in the news for over a decade now?  The same is true for the assumptions they make about hybrid operation, thinking there is an abrupt switch over from electricity to gas.  How come they jump to the conclusion that it must be one or the other?  Is it just some primal instinct to create harmony in a world of chaos by oversimplifying?  I don't know.  But I do know that it is a barrier to overcome.  Think about it.  How many people would really feel comfortable if each automaker has a completely unique hybrid design?  The traditional world is almost entirely ubiquitous, where parts are different but they all behave the same way.  That is already not true in the world of hybrids... and it promises to get far more diverse.  There will be many shades of gray.

 

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