Prius Personal Log  #218

August 29, 2005  -  September 3, 2005

Last Updated: Mon. 9/05/2005

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9-03-2005

Competition.  As long as a hybrid delivers a genuine benefit, I'm all for it regardless of brand... which is why I fought so hard against those hybrids that only delivered a ULEV emission rating.  Now, Honda has finally got its act together and will be offering SULEV (or cleaner) nationwide like Toyota has been doing all along.  So focus can now be placed on other characteristics.  But at this point, improving the design of Prius should not be a primary priority.  Instead, it should spreading that same technology to other platforms.  Not everyone wants a hatchback.  The engineering effort to install it with sizeable gains into other vehicles, like sedans & minivans, will in itself inspire improvements anyway.  In other words, to achieve proper competition, we have to be very careful about what we actually promote.  Keep attention focused on the benefits, with the intent of attracting the widest audience possible.  Remember, increasing production volume will help reduce prices... a competitive gain that is often overlooked.

9-03-2005

"Electric-Only"  This quote published today got me thinking: "Honda claims this [new] IMA system can motor along just on the batteries under certain low-load, steady state cruise conditions.  But try as we might, we couldn�t detect the engine shutting down at any time during our test drive."  I take that to mean one of two things...  Either the engine never did stop using gas anytime during their driving or the engine pumping (but not actually running) is so apparent that this mode lacks a "stealth" quality.  Hopefully, someone will be able to provide actual specifications soon.  This new electric-only mode needs to be objectively quantified.  The fact that it is cannot separate itself from motion of the engine is already stretching the definition a bit; lack of detail is a misconception just waiting to happen.

9-02-2005

Prius Memories.  I have fond memories from the digital photos over a year old now that I am just now getting to finally publish.  These are from the middle of Summer, a great time for a drive through corn country... photo album 100

9-01-2005

Full Capacity.  Since way before the presidential elections last year, back when gas & oil price increases were only minor, our gas refineries were already running at full capacity.  So I got ticked off when you-know-who kept promoting the drilling for more oil up in Alaska.  It simply made no sense, since we lacked the ability to actually use any additional oil.  Being a programmer, I know the concept of operating capacity all too well.  When a computer is consuming 100 percent of the resources, there is absolutely nothing you can do to increase the output.  The machine is maxed out, just like the refineries.  And now with the increasing need for more gas and less refineries to actually produce it (due to the hurricane), we're facing a crisis.  The consequences of not planning for the future are beginning to make themselves evident, far sooner than expected (again, due to the hurricane).  The buy a gas-guzzler since it is "good for the economy" philosophy promoted heavily by you-know-who immediately after 9/11 was dead wrong.  All it did was mask the actual problem, delaying it from becoming evident until now.  Perhaps the gamble was that a break-thru solution would be discovered in the meantime.  Clearly, that was a risk that should not have been taken.  What do we do now?  How can more gas be created when full capacity is already unrealistic?  The situation is going to continue to get worse too, as the population grows and road congestion continues to increase.  "Full" hybrids have demonstrated a solution, but certain politicians & automakers have not taken that seriously... yet.

8-31-2005

2006 Civic-Hybrid.  Some details were released today.  Here's my take on them...  On the inside, there's a digital speedometer above the steering-wheel and a navigation screen to the right of it.  So to all of those current Honda hybrid owners that criticized Prius for doing that, you can now take one step closer to outdated.  On the outside, it looks remarkably similar to a Saturn.  It will basically blend into the crowd of moderate styling for newer family sedans.  It will have an AT-PZEV emission rating.  Hooray!  The transmission will still be a Cone & Belt type CVT, to my surprise.  There will not be a manual transmission available.  Energy density of the battery-pack will be 25 percent greater than previously, and it will be smaller.  But since the electrical system is only passive, I wonder how the benefit from that will actually be obtained.  There was no mention of partial electric A/C or partial engine shut off, features Accord-Hybrid has.  Rumors about the 56/54 MPG rating have been totally squashed.  The preliminary estimates are listed as 50/50 MPG.  And since we all know that EPA values don't reflect real-world efficiency anyway, this topic is dead.  We will have to wait for actual owners to post actual data after both break-in and Winter is complete.  That means an absolute minimum of 9 months before even making decent guesstimates.  And no conclusions can be drawn until an entire year has passed, to be truly objective.  Pricing is a complete mystery.  What Honda will call it isn't though, they clearly stated "fourth generation".  I knew that would happen, despite all the supposedly sincere arguments that calling Toyota's current in Prius "second" actually made sense.  It doesn't.  In fact, it puts Prius at a (now obvious) disadvantage.  No worry, this competition will need some serious promotion to compete directly with both of Toyota's extremely popular hybrids next year: Prius & Camry-Hybrid.

8-30-2005

Forgotten Already.  It's almost unbelievable that some have already forgotten that MPG wasn't important to the typical person just a few months ago.  Someone on a forum today drew that conclusion that since Highlander-Hybrid wasn't available with a 4-cylinder engine, that it must not have been worth offering one with that configuration.  Remember late last year when most thought a hybrid simply couldn't ever be large & fast?  It appears as though that misconception has already been forgotten.  Although frustrating, that does provide a sign of hope.  That fact that some have already come to accept that reality that a price like $2.25 for a gallon of gas helps too.  People simply won't remember what the big deal was about wanting to own a monster-size guzzler.  Why bother when there's a very satisfying hybrid available instead?  After all, the misconception about the need for battery-pack replacement is finally fading too.  Or look at it this way, I simply cannot imagine not owning a hybrid... since it just a little over a week from now I'll be celebrating my 5-year anniversary for owning a Prius.

8-30-2005

Overlook the Necessary.  I just got done reading a remarkably thorough article about why electricity should be used to power vehicles, rather than oil.  It went into surprising details about electricity capacities & costs too.  It made a convincing case... for the electricity.  However, not a single word was mentioned about the electric vehicle itself, namely the necessary battery-pack.  It's really hard to believe such a seemingly well thought out article could overlook something like that.  Yet, it did.  That component is the fundamental flaw of electric vehicles.  With absolutely no way to make it last the entire lifetime of the vehicle (no on-board charger to prevent deep-discharges, like Prius has) and such a massive size (dramatically larger than the 99 pound pack used in Prius), there's simply no way to make a vehicle like that realistic.  It's far too expensive.  But the writer simply "forgot" to mention that part.

8-30-2005

Out of Control Prices.  The more gradual (and unstoppable) climb of oil & gas prices over the last few months made a mess of things.  At the beginning of the year a little before that, the domestic automakers were reporting alarming drops in SUV purchases.  It was followed by panic pricing, because sales across their entire line (which are basically all gas-guzzlers) were rapidly dropping.  So the arrival of this hurricane nightmare complicated an already complex situation.  Now we are dealing with a per barrel price of $69.81 for oil and a per gallon price of $2.79 for gas.  Both are expected to keep climbing in the short-term too.  No one knows what will happen in the long-term.  The much-overdue push to increase efficiency will likely finally gain more attention.  Currently, advertising of highway MPG is a popular way to market vehicles.  But those millions & millions of daily commuters having to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic routinely are well aware of how meaningless highway MPG actually is.  Stop & Slow traffic is horribly inefficient for any vehicle without stealth (the ability to drive without the engine, using only electricity).  More and more people will discover this advantage that Prius offers.  These out of control prices will accelerate the spread of that knowledge.  Sweet!

8-30-2005

Being Dishonest, part 2.  The same is true for the hybrid antagonist.  They simply can no longer claim the misinformation in their posted messages was accidental... especially this guy claiming "The current [battery] pack of the HSD Prius is worth approximately 2 miles in the real world from my understanding."  I've given up trying correct him whenever he repeats that same statement, and all but newbies know that he despises Prius anyway.  No matter how many times I'd point out that during the Summer under ideal conditions I can drive 3 miles in stealth (which allows a discharge to about 45 percent the total capacity), he ignores it.  And then when I provide evidence of owners countless drivers having run out of gas, yet still drove 6 to 8 miles using only electricity, he ignores that too.  He simply doesn't care, pretending what he understands has never been disputed.

8-30-2005

Being Dishonest, part 1.  At this point, the reporters can no longer claim the misinformation in their articles was accidental.  For example, "A Prius owner would have to drive at least 66,500 miles annually for five straight years, or gasoline would have to soar to 10 bucks a gallon, to equal the cost of operating a cheaper, conventional Corolla  (which costs $3,000 less)."  First, we all know that Corolla isn't in the same league as Prius.  Second, what's up with the $10 per gallon?  My calculations clearly show $2.50 is all that's needed.  And that's only over the course of 150,000 miles, not 332,500 like this absurd quote claims.  This is just plain wrong, "real-world driving results in lower mileage than the window sticker suggests".  No where does the sticker ever claim real-world expectations.  It is and always has been only for the sake of comparison between other vehicles in the same class.  Read the fine print on the sticker itself; it clearly states a wide range, not specific values.  And this, following an implication that battery-pack replacement will be needed, "That's not including disposal fees."  In Toyota's owner documentation, it clearly points out that they will pay you $200 to recycle a old battery-pack.  But with so many Prius owners now exceeding 150,000 miles still without any hint that replacement is required, this should be a dead issue at this point.  Of course, if you read between the lines, the closing paragraph of this particular article reveals it was actually written for spite rather than accuracy... "spare us the preachy attitude that makes everyone else feel like social outcasts whose cars belong in the highway smoking section".

8-29-2005

Smart?  A dealer in New Hampshire has begun selling them... for $28,000 each.  Whoa!  That's far more expensive than a Prius ($7,000 more, to be specific).  How can that possibly considered a smart fuel efficiency choice?  The car is much smaller (seats only 2 people) and that is no real-world MPG data available at all.  Without the ability to shut off the engine in heavy traffic or even just when you stop, it doesn't really convey any sense of competition.  And that should be the conditions in which you be more likely to attract consumers, because it certainly doesn't present itself to be a highway cruiser in any respect.  The bullet shape of Prius gives it a clear sense of built for high-speed driving.  And the advantage stealth provides for roaming around in city conditions should be obvious.  I wonder if anyone will find this vehicle smart.  Hmm?  Perhaps it's like the "SmartMedia" memory for digital cameras.  That was the dumbest of them ever available.  The creators thought not including an internal controller would make it a design with a clear pricing advantage.  It would simply use the controller in the device it was plugged into instead.  But that turned out to be a horrible mistake.  It made the memory agonizingly slow and didn't end up reducing cost much.  Smart uses a small body, small engine, and plastic to reduce cost and contribute to higher efficiency.  That approach certainly hasn't reduced the price.  It made the vehicle terribly slow and too small for use beyond just commuting and errand running.  It doesn't seem like a smart idea.  We'll see.

8-29-2005

$3.00 Expected.  Yup, that's the predicted per gallon price of gas... expected by the end of this week!  Hurricane Katrina made a mess of the oil supply.  The damage felt most quickly to those not in the direct path of the storm will be by us in the Midwest, since they shut down their pipeline that provides our supply here.  Not good.

8-29-2005

Like our test fleet in DC.  The television commercials from GM have changed.  (Perhaps they are reading my personal logs.)  The comment about building fuel-cell vehicles is now followed by "like our test fleet in Washington, DC".  How many vehicles is in a fleet?  At 1,000,000 dollar per vehicle, I don't suspect too many.  And since when is that a good place to test a vehicle?  It sounds more like a stunt to influence politicians.  If they really wanted to test the technology, they'd do it here in a northern state... where it actually gets cold.  Snow is rare in DC.  And what about the heat?  DC is far from representative of what the southern states have to deal with.  Of course, I know why.  It's because the technology isn't mature enough to deal with those conditions yet.  But GM doesn't mention that part.

8-29-2005

Hurricane Problems.  Exactly as anticipated, the oil supply situation will be getting even worse.  1.5 million barrels per day comes from the Gulf of Mexico.  All 4,000 oil rigs there have been evacuated, because hurricane Katrina is expected to wreak havoc.  In fact, it has been forecast to be among of the 3 worst to ever hit the United States.  We'll find out very soon.

 

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