Prius Personal Log  #215

August 12, 2005  -  August 16, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 9/04/2005

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8-16-2005

Prices go up.  Spending goes down.  Need I say more?  The price of oil influences everything.  We've woven it so tightly into the fabric of our society that we are at the mercy of its fluctuations.  And right now, the higher cost is beginning to reveal itself everywhere.  Shipping expenditures are causing prices of consumer goods to increase.  That's using up people's supply of discretionary income, to the point where they are reconsidering some purchases.  The end result will be harm to the economy.  The current administration claimed (during election campaigning) that building hybrids would do that.  Now it turns out that not building hybrids was the problem.  Once again, they are dead wrong.  I'm getting tired of this nonsense.  I sure hope this wake-up call is acknowledged now.

8-16-2005

MPG Obsessed.  Back when I first got my 2004 Prius, that one marathon guy gave me a dreadfully tough time about it (as documented extensively in these logs).  He used the winter-only non-broken-in data to make Prius look bad.  But people eventually caught on to those misleading claims, the warm season arrived, and the car finally started to show signs of break-in.  So he turned to making it personal, insulting me by saying I should get much better MPG.  He exclaimed that I was a "hypermiler" without a clue.  I wasn't.  In fact, I couldn't care less about squeezing out every last bit of efficiency.  I just drive it.  I'm pretty typical.  My lifetime value reflects the average pretty well.  All he cared about was the highest numbers... which is extremely clear now due to the obvious pattern that has emerged.  And after all this time, his draw to find the ultimate vehicle lead him right back to Prius.  The very technology he fought so hard against is now drawing him a bunch of attention.  Interesting, isn't it?

8-16-2005

On-Foot Sightings.  It's amazing how many Prius I spot while walking to work and back to my car.  Today, I saw 4 of them.  Can you believe the sighting increase?  Just think how it will be a few years from now.  Prius will be like an swarm... well actually, more like white blood cells... fighting off the disease we call fear.  Seeing that many hybrids on a regular basis will give people the confidence that we can overcome the oil nightmare.  Phew!  That was just in the nick of time.  Imagine if the skyrocketing price of gas would have begun several years ago.  It would have been very ugly.

8-16-2005

Taboo Topic.  Today's meeting at work was quite amusing.  A bunch of developers (computer programmers) get together once a week to discuss the development & implementation platform.  I leaned over and made a quiet comment about gas prices to the Prius owner sitting next to me.  The one across the table perked up in interest.  The woman sitting next to him got rather excited and blurted out that their "trying to desensitize us to high prices".  Everyone's attention was captivated then.  Encouraging me to talk about Prius was always a taboo topic, until today.  We put the agenda on-hold another minute or two to quick squeeze in a few more comments about the current crisis.  They didn't mind at all.  Attitudes about oil consumption are hastily changing.  I like that.

8-16-2005

Hype & Speculation.  Don't believe it.  Toyota has already designed a system capable of supporting the plug-in ability.  It's what we are driving now.  There's just a couple on add-on components not included yet.  The problem is the battery technology.  It's simply too expensive still.  That cost/duration reality currently makes it impractical.  They're waiting for that final piece to the puzzle.  It just doesn't make any sense taking that next step yet.  Today's market is preoccupied with other matters anyway.  It will come... someday.  Patience.  But until then, we should focus efforts on cleaning up the electricity source.  Just because you can plug-in a Prius doesn't make it a good idea.  Yes, (done properly) it will increase efficiency.  However, the plenty for some is increased pollution.  That's certainly true for me, where my electricity comes from burning coal.

8-15-2005

$2.65 per gallon.  That was the cheap stuff today.  I actually saw a few stations that had it at $2.69 per gallon.  Can you believe that just 2 years ago I had a few Prius owners fighting me, stating $1.65 per gallon was too high of a value for the "Selling Points" document.  They didn't want me to be insincere by quote such an unrealistic price.  Turns out, they were sort of right... but in the wrong direction.  Rather than be much less expensive, it is more... an entire dollar more.  Kind of makes me wonder what it will be 2 years from now.  Hmm?

8-15-2005

Followed to Work.  No, not me.  I was actually the follower.  Two days in a row I drove behind a Prius on the way to work.  I bet that really crept them out.  Rather than a brief sighting, where you pass each other and wave during that brief moment, I am now remaining in close proximity for at least 10 minutes.  Cool!  That should make an interesting sight for onlookers.  Double sightings used to be rare.

8-14-2005

Marathon MPG, part 4.  Turns out that they had special monitoring equipment attached to the system, called a SuperMID.  It's a pretty impressive efficiency feedback device.  Unfortunately, that's something no ordinary owner would possess.  So duplicating what they achieved is even less realistic than originally thought.  Anywho, here's what two of them had to say about it... "I cannot thank you enough for shipping the SuperMID to *** so that all of us could improve segment after segment from what was thought to be an impossible goal just 3 months prior." and "The SuperMID was invaluable. It gave us the feedback to improve our technique. As you can see, after each shift, we shared our experiences and tips and were consistently raising the bar. That would not have happened without the SuperMID."

8-13-2005

Displacement on Demand.  As I was flipping channels this evening, I stumbled across a Denali television commercial featuring this "new" technology.  Now that the time has come to begin promoting the 2006 models, GM is flaunting it.  I wonder what the average consumer will think.  Will they remember the failure of this type of partial engine shutdown from the past?  Will they see that it's still a 8-cylinder gas-guzzler, getting only a modest boost in efficiency?  Will they crunch the numbers to try justifying such a large vehicle, using the percentage of improvement as the factor rather than MPG?  Will they care that smog-related emissions aren't improved at all?  Will they wonder why the smaller vehicles don't offer this technology?

8-13-2005

Warm-Up MPG Influence.  It's hard to believe that after over 5 years of discussing Prius warm-up, no one has ever mentioned this.  (So I guess I get the credit for documenting it first.)  The deceptive methods of that marathon drive got me thinking about MPG influences in a very different way than previously.  They never allowed the Prius cool down.  The engine was warm entire time.  What else was warm?  The tires!  Eureka!!!  The air inside of them was warm, which caused it to expand.  That's why they tell you to never measure PSI then.  It gives you the impression that pressure is higher than it actually is.  See where I'm going with this?  If you start with 42 PSI in your tires when they are cold, it measures at around 46 PSI when they are warm.  That extra pressure directly affects MPG.  Higher PSI equates to higher MPG.  It is an influence on the first 5-minute Consumption screen segment we all see (and dislike) that simply hasn't ever been discussed before.  Imagine if you took warm tires and quickly installed them on a Prius with a cold engine.  I bet that would be quite revealing... something none of the enthusiasts never thought of until now.  Interesting, eh?

8-13-2005

Not The Same.  As you could imagine, I was pleased to find out that each hybrid would be evaluated based on actual merit to determine the credit amount.  I assumed it would be quotient of efficiency alone, since smog-related emissions have been given little attention over the past few years.  But to my delight, that wasn't the case.  No improvement means no money... in all models except one, Accord-Hybrid.  I wonder why it somehow qualified but Civic-Hybrid didn't.  Hmm?  Regardless, the point that not all hybrids are the same is now blatantly obvious.  Hooray!  I was so sick & tired of certain people attempting to make them all appear to be the same, intentionally disregarding smog-related emissions as criteria for a proper hybrid.  Now they have nothing to say, and they reason they are different will be darn near impossible for them to ignore.  Sweet!

8-13-2005 Tax Credits for Hybrids.  Let's face it.  Toyota is likely going to reach that 60,000 hybrid threshold in no time flat, triggering the phaseout process sometime in the second quarter of next year.  That means Toyota hybrid purchases through the end of the third quarter (that's October 31, 2006) will get the full credit amount.  The following two quarters (6 months), only 50 percent of the credit will be available.  The following two quarters (6 months) after that, only 25 percent of the credit will be available.  Then the money is all gone for Toyota.  Honda won't hit that anywhere near as soon, since their hybrids with only ULEV ratings (the ones with lean burn) don't qualify for any credit at all.  GM's mock hybrid, Silverado, doesn't qualify for anything either.  Here's the numbers in descending order (FWD: front-wheel-drive) & (4WD: four-wheel-drive)...

  $3,150  Prius
  $2,600  Escape-Hybrid FWD
  $2,200  Lexus RX-400h
  $2,200  Highlander-Hybrid FWD
  $1,950  Highlander-Hybrid 4WD
  $1,950  Escape-Hybrid 4WD
  $1,950  Mariner-Hybrid 4WD
  $1,700  Civic-Hybrid (SULEV or cleaner)
  $1,450  Insight (SULEV or cleaner)
  $   650  Accord-Hybrid
 

8-13-2005

Ethanol Maximum Confusion.  The owner's manual doesn't specifically state that no more than 10% ethanol can actually be used.  People just assume it does.  Then many of them inadvertently contribute to the misconception that vehicles are designed to only support up to 10% ethanol.  But in reality, only 10% is allowed.  See the difference?  Without a nationwide standard for ethanol blends, this statement in the manual makes a lot of sense: "Toyota allows the use of oxygenate blended gasoline where the oxygenate content is up to 10% ethanol or 15% MTBE."  No where do they say a blend like E20 won't work, they simply say it isn't allowed.  That's warranty jargon, not technical specifications.  Minnesota will be increasing their current 10% ethanol mandate in 7 years to 20%. In order to pass that bill, they did enough initial research to show that E20 is realistic for use in many current vehicles.  The next step is to actually do the certification.  But at least for now, they know that the "allow" statement is not related to a design limitation.

8-12-2005

That Magic Price.  Calculations of the past showed that $2.50 per gallon for gas was the point at which favor would turn toward Prius.  Well believe it or not, that magic price has been reached already.  Whether or not it goes down later doesn't matter either.  That fact that it was their makes discussing the possibility realistic.  In the past, I got laughed at when I suggested that sometime during the lifetime of the vehicle that price would be reached.  Now it has been... and a whole lot sooner than even I was expecting!  $66.56 per barrel was the closing price for oil today.  That's crazy!  And it will only get worse.  There is no solution coming to solve the ever-increasing rise in demand.  That means the price is going to keep climbing up.

8-12-2005

Plug-In Competition.  I was against that plug-in venture from the start.  The founder sent me some private email hoping to convince me to help promote his cause.  But I didn't agree.  Even though the work they did was quite impression (lots of ambition & expertise), the goal wasn't realistic.  Then later when they caught the attention of the media, the data was vague.  I just don't like that.  Being the only choice available, they continued to get press... until now.  Competition has emerged, and they're taking a completely different approach.  This guy has been working with electric propulsion for cars for over 30 years.  He knows that a smaller and more affordable goal will draw far more interest.  Rather than consuming the entire hatch area, there are just 18 brick-size battery modules.  And rather than adding another adding another 50% to the cost of the car, it is expected to be around 7% (that's about $3,000).  So you won't have to give up as much storage or money to get this one.  How about that?  I bet you weren't expecting competition in that arena so soon.

 

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