Prius Personal Log  #217

August 23, 2005  -  August 28, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 8/05/2007

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8-28-2005

Nonsense Continues.  The anti-hybrid attacks on that massive Escape group were growing ugly.  Their attempts to derail by filling the hybrid topics with meaningless chatter had failed.  And exactly like the behavior I've seen many times on other forums, they switched to insulting the leader personally.  So, I decided to speak up today with this (rather than just silently lurk like I usually do):  The anti-hybrid attacks are getting pretty nasty.  That figures.  With gas prices soaring and the appeal of guzzlers souring, it was inevitable.  Face it.  The reign of the dinosaur is over.  Engine-Only technology simply isn't enough anymore.  Greater improvements of emissions & efficiency are needed.  Grow up.  The fact that Escape-Hybrid makes the non-hybrid version look outdated shouldn't be thought of as a problem.  It's just the next step forward.  Don't be afraid to accept it.  Change happens.

8-27-2005

Kia Hybrid.  The chief executive for Kia in the United States just announced that their development of a hybrid has recently been accelerated, due to the blatantly obvious market appeal caused by higher gas prices.  They are hoping to deliver a model by the end of next year or shortly after that.  I'm hoping it actually delivers a notable improvement in efficiency.  For a Korean automaker to produce a real hybrid before the "they're just a stop-gap" bad attitude against hybrids GM would be great.  Rather than having to hear anymore nonsense about people not wanting that technology or it not being practical, they'll have to quietly accept their error and move on.  I would definitely prefer avoiding any battles.  Being peacefully encouraged to quickly change that bad attitude would be great.

8-27-2005

CNG Civic.  The new Civic that runs on Compressed-Natural-Gas is much cleaner now.  Once the cleanest vehicle available, it was surpassed by the SULEV & AT-PZEV hybrids.  Now it is also AT-PZEV.  Unfortunately, it has a driving range of less than 200 miles and refilling at home takes almost 12 hours.  The price is $5,100 more than a Civic LX too.  And the engine output is 10 horsepower less.  As if that wasn't enough for shortcomings, it doesn't actually do anything to reduce consumption.  All it does is offset the fuel source, using CNG rather than oil.  So what is the benefit?  You can save $1,200 by just buying a Prius instead.  Or buy a 2006 Civic-Hybrid, which is expected be priced about $800 less.  It simply doesn't make any sense in the long-term to help solve our consumption problem.

8-27-2005

Multi-Display Video.  I was long overdue and the warm season was showing the first signs of ending.  So I started experimenting, committing a long weekend to the effort.  I wanted to capture video of the Multi-Display in action, a very long & detailed sampling of what owners will actually witness while driving their own Prius.  That required a well thought out way of securing both a tripod and the camera itself.  I ended up with a net of rope & string pulling in various directions to keep everything suspended tightly.  It worked surprisingly well too, greatly reducing bumps while I drove.  Anywho, it took 3 takes on 2 different days.  The end result was a single hour long drive (of which all will end up on the next Prius DVD).  For online downloadable version, I selected my favorite 14.5 minute of continuous filming... video:  Multi-Display ...and here's the introduction I included:

I left my house with a cold engine, drove through the suburbs, then followed a 55 MPH highway for a couple of miles.  The video file begins just after turning onto a quiet paved country road, where there was ample opportunity to drive a variety of speeds less than 45 MPH.  After a few minutes, I made a U-turn to drive back the same way and get back onto the 55 MPH highway.  That ends with a decent down a long hill to the base of an uphill ramp onto a very busy 65 MPH highway.

Throughout the video, you'll see the Multi-Display being switched between the two common modes.  On "Energy Monitor", watch the many flows of energy. Pay close attention to how frequently the flow changes and to how often electricity is sent to the battery-pack.  On "Consumption", notice how the MPG regularly fluctuates when the engine is running.  When only electricity is being used for propulsion, observe how it influences overall efficiency.

Adding significantly to the value of what's shown on the Multi-Display is the Speedometer.  Knowing the speed Prius is traveling is a very important part of understanding how the hybrid system works.  It takes advantage of many brief opportunities to save gas while at the same time not allowing the charge-level of the battery-pack to drop much below the middle (to ensure maximum life).

Lastly, before educating yourself by watching the real-time 14.5 minute version of the video, consider the two overview versions available.  The "faster" file is increased to a speed 5 times faster than the actual filmed rate, allowing you view the entire duration in a little less than 3 minutes.  The "fastest" file speeds up the complete video to just 52 seconds. 

8-27-2005

Consider Yourself Lucky.  That's what someone in England said to an American reporter today.  They've been paying much higher gas prices there for years now.  So seeing our price climb up only makes sense.  We should have been paying more all along anyway.  It would have prevented the whole monster-size gas-guzzler invasion.  But instead, it was cheap... allowing us to guiltlessly waste it.  And we did.  Now we'll be lucky if we get out of this mess.

8-27-2005

Use Less.  Do you think anyone will?  All you have to do is quit speeding.  Obeying the limit saves gas.  Needlessly leaving the engine is a silly thing to do too, yet I still see it happening.  People wait outside the building I work at, waiting to pick someone up, without bothering to shut the car off.  I see tires with bulges all the time, some quite extreme.  That underinflation is a clear waste.  Why would you allow harming of efficiency when just a simple squirt of air can prevent it?  Maybe someday people will figure out these simple tips.  Right now, some obviously haven't.

8-27-2005

Gas Tax.  Many politicians have been ousted at the very suggestion of raising the tax on gas, regardless of how bad the money is needed.  Countless times we've heard about budget shortfalls for roads.  Not being able to do preventative maintenance inevitably leads to greater expenses later, when replacement is needed instead since the damage was allowed to become so bad.  So naturally, money to begin new road projects is virtually non-existent, allows a struggle to object.  A tax on gas, which is undeniably directly related to road use, should make sense.  But people fight against it anyway.  And we all know that higher gas prices have a link to usage reduction.  That encourages conversation and the purchase of more efficient vehicles.  Yet, raising gas tax know is still criticized... even when you point out that it could help fund increased refining capacity.  It is shortsightedness, plain & simple.  Tax is necessary, and it can be quite beneficial if used wisely.  I hope some will finally figure that out rather than fighting it just out of principal.

8-26-2005

Even Lamer.  For crying out loud.  That pitiful 2.8 MPG efficiency equates to only a saving of 25 days worth of gas over the course of the next 20 years.  It's pathetic!  The population increase alone will overshadow that, making it a "keep from getting any worse" effort at best.  Taking about doing the very least possible.  That's not a genuine attempt to reduce consumption in any respect.  It's basically just a token effort, requiring automakers to do only a minimum.  Where's the "we can do it" sense of American ingenuity that we had decades ago?  Remember how we got to the moon by sheer persistence, never giving up.  Now it's like we never even try.  Geez!  There's a lot of smart & willing people here that would be happy to contribute if we only had some leadership to encourage that.

8-26-2005

Doing it right.  GM's belief is if they build a hybrid system that doesn't cost much (just an add-on to their existing system), consumers will want to buy it.  In other words, they're assuming the market isn't actually interested in significant efficiency improvements.  But in reality, settling for just a minor MPG gain isn't going to work.  With competition like HSD being extremely well known by the time their newest scheme ("alternator starter") becomes available, what would compel someone to purchase less?  Though, it is somewhat entertaining watching an automaker propose one half-baked solution after another, rather than just doing it right in the first place.  This is the classic computer programmer dilemma.  Upgrades to existing code will only deliver minor improvements.  To achieve a level of magnitude better, you have no choice but to abandon the old stuff and start all over again.  That introduces bugs and requires quite a bit more resources initially, but in the long-run you're better off but not having to deal with legacy components anymore.

8-25-2005

Gas Prices: An Unexpected Victory.  For years I fought battles in support of "full" hybrids.  Throughout all that time, the mention of gas prices was only minor.  I pointed out that they would rise during the life of the vehicle, so basing calculations on the present was unrealistic.  I also stated that the threshold was $2.50 per gallon.  That was it.  Even the Prius supporters believed focusing on other aspects made for stronger arguments.  So I did.  After all, lower emissions is the key anyway.  But with skyrocketing oil prices, closing at an all-time high of $67.49 per barrel today, priorities have changed.  The reign of the monster-size vehicle is over.  Certain automakers are starting to panic because they have almost nothing efficient to sell instead.  Gas cost more than that threshold already.  Dependence on imported oil has become a difficult to conceal liability now.  The appeal of hybrids is growing quite a bit faster than I ever expected.  A victory for them (the clean & efficient one, anyway) is becoming unmistakable.  Wow!  I wasn't expecting the current infrastructure to collapse so quickly.  Not only did a repeat of the "caught off guard" history occur, it is now appearing to be even worse.  The shortcomings of the alternatives are failures that will be extremely difficult to deny.  And to add to insult, the federal government continues to claim that only negligible efficiency improvements are needed to get us out of this mess.  People aren't stupid.  Their wallet speaks louder than anything a politician or an automaker can say.  The pain routinely felt at the pump is already changing attitudes.

8-24-2005

Out-of-State Prius.  I see Prius everywhere, several every time I go out for a drive now.  Despite so many, they are almost all from Minnesota.  So seeing one from Massachusetts today was quite a treat.  Too bad it just zipped by.  I would have loved to chat (in person) with those inside.

8-23-2005

It had a Trunk!  We've officially surpassed the "just enthusiast" level.  An owner followed a car that caught his attention, being totally amazed that the nameplate on it said "Prius".  He asked online if the 2006 was suppose to be available with a trunk.  Some of us were amazed to hear that.  I wasn't.  It's clear proof that some people simply were not paying attention to the market.  That's normal.  If you aren't close to replacement time, you typically don't look.  In other words, we have some history to teach.  What he saw was a classic model.  Not even being aware of its existence is a pretty darn good indication that there was no knowledge about its configuration either.  Knowing how a vehicle came to be is very important.  I wondered how long it would take before we'd have to begin explanations from the very beginning.  That should make gatherings really fun.  Sharing of past events is a great way to add depth to an already enriched experience... making them feel even better about being part of such a significant change in automotive evolution.

8-23-2005

Gas Prices.  Curiosity got the best of me today.  I sat down for a few hours and struggled with my Prius spreadsheet data to somehow figure out a simplistic (and cosmetically appealing) way of showing the trend of gas prices over the past 5 years.  I managed to come up with a really cool new graph.  See...  Lifetime Spreadsheet   personal data 11

8-23-2005

Lame Efforts.  The current administration just approved legislation to improve the average efficiency of the "light truck" category a mind-boggling 2.8 MPG by 2011.  That isn't even enough to call it a half-hearted attempted.  No technological propulsion leaps will be required to achieve that.  All they have to do is rework the existing design vehicles.  Imagine what the improvement would be simply by rounding the body more and replacing the side-mirrors with cameras.  That and eliminating the spare tire (which is rather heavy on such a large vehicle) would get it close.  Swapping in some plastic siding in the place of some sheet metal could likely do the rest.  Why bother changing the engine at all?  With such a pitiful requirement, there is no need.

8-23-2005

A/C Cooling.  Toyota's hybrid system was enhanced to deal with heat years ago.  By switching from the D-Cell battery design to the prismatic modules, passive cooling is all that's usually needed.  There's a fan available, but it's rarely ever used.  (Here in Minnesota, my Prius hasn't ever used that fan.)  That isn't true for the Escape-Hybrid.  Ford still uses the D-Cell design.  Their configuration is setup to have a fan routinely running, and it does. That seems to do the job well; however, they have a "just in case" feature.  Should the batteries need extra cooling, they system can actually pump A/C coolant through that pack.  How about that?  Upgrading to modules will be an improvement Ford could definitely benefit from.  Beside not having to include the piping & complexity for that A/C cooling, the size & weight reduction would be a welcome gain too.  Those modules offer a higher capacity and greater discharge rate as well.

 

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