Prius Personal Log  #221

September 16, 2005  -  September 22, 2005

Last Updated: Mon. 9/26/2005

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9-22-2005

Evacuation Gas.  Wow!  The ongoing evacuation of the Texas coastal cities to avoid hurricane Rita is bringing a completely new reason for purchasing a hybrid to light.  Vehicles are running out of gas while trapped in the gridlock conditions on the highways packed with vehicles all moving very slowly.  A full hybrid, like Prius, thrives under those particular driving situations.  So the least of your concerns then would be not having enough gas.  I've felt smug when stuck in heavy traffic, knowing that everyone but me is wasting gas.  That feeling is pretty easy to conceal though, since delays are usually just 30 minutes or so.  But being stuck for 16 hours straight, like many are right now, would be an entirely different situation.  Everyone around you would become well aware of the fact that your engine isn't running.  Oh well.  As long as no one gets hurt while evacuating this time, we should be even better prepared next time... since some will now be interested in this new advantage available from some hybrids.

9-21-2005

E85 Support.  It didn't take long for me to find evidence of change for GM.  It appears as though they are preparing to promote the fact that FFV is available.  That's "Flexible Fuel Vehicle".  The technology been around for quite a few years now and there are 1.5 million of them on the road already.  In fact, that was the source of a major tax-credit fraud in Arizona awhile back... when it was discovered that even though a vehicle was equipped to run with ethanol blends up to 85 percent, the owner didn't ever have to actually use any ethanol to collect the money (half the price of the vehicle) from the government.  The intention was to reduce the consumption of gas.  But so few ever did that, the idea was basically dropped due to all the bad publicity.  It should be interesting to see what happens now.  If people just keep using pure gas in FFVs, what's the point?  Or for that matter, what is the true gain if they did use E85?  Should the point to be use less fuel instead, regardless of what type it is?

9-21-2005

Jumping Ship.  The latest bad news for GM is that some of their employees are inquiring about positions at Hyundai.  Having their talent leave the company is a worst case scenario rarely discussed.  But public radio today, it was a topic that drew interest.  Change is coming, whether they like it or not.  Remember the concerns about SUV safety, or more appropriately, the lack of?  That's the least of their concerns now.  Worrying about how the appeal for a vehicle that guzzles so much gas isn't even the entire issue anymore.  Consumer, employee, and lender confidence are all fading.  That's really bad.  To make matters worse, consideration about emissions is gaining attention.  Their in a lot of trouble if they don't make some serious changes... and quickly.

9-21-2005

Ford 2010.  Interesting.  Ford announced plans today to offer the hybrid option for half of their models by 2010.  That sounds great, until you discover that their planned production volume is only 250,000 vehicles.  Toyota is already past that, and they simply cannot keep up with the demand.  Just imagine how many more people will be interested in hybrids by then, 13 years after the first Prius purchase (back in 1997).  It's definitely a welcome decision.  But for them to survive in this rapidly changing automotive market, even stronger commitments are required.  Remember that over 17,000,000 new vehicles are purchased each year in the United States.  Worldwide, the number is 60,000,000 annually.  And with foreign competition rising, they have to embrace the idea of profound change.

9-20-2005

Preventing Inefficiencies.  Certain anti-hybrid people are becoming absolutely desperate to halt the ever-growing interest in vehicles like Prius.  The latest effort backfired miserably.  He claimed that the conversion of motion to electricity, then later back from electricity to motion, was so inefficient that is simply wasn't worth it.  And rather than the typical approach of stating how it didn't matter, that MPG was much better than a traditional vehicle anyway, I came up with an entirely different response.  It's so simple I wish I would have thought of it years ago.  Oh well.  I can certainly use this now.  I simply replied by saying: "The hybrid system prevents inefficiencies that normally occur with a gas engine."  Forcing a consideration from the engine perspective instead makes it easier for newbies to understand and far more difficult for the anti-hybrid troublemakers to rebuttal.  After all, that is how Prius was first introduced to me... almost 6 years ago, back when there weren't any people fighting intensely against the success of hybrids.

9-19-2005

Unrealistic Expectations.  For years, it has been debated that emission-reduction efforts were be better served by focusing on power plants, rather than vehicles.  That reliance was shot down today.  A federal judge dismissed a suit that 8 states has filed to accomplish that very concept.  It failed.  The case was dismissed on the grounds that setting broad environmental policies was not the role of the judiciary branch... that it should be addressed by legislative branch instead.  But we all know how that has already failed.  The current administration has stood strong about how that type of regulation would harm the economy and that "global warming" is not a threat.  The suit came about since both have been proven incorrect.  Economic gain is in fact possible by establishing new cleaner standards.  And the overwhelming evidence about carbon-dioxide (the major contributor to "global warming") is nearly impossible to deny at this point.  Needless to say, focusing on vehicles is indeed a better choice.  That other emission-reduction expectation is clearly unrealistic.

9-19-2005

$4.39 Jump.  Wow!  The largest oil per-barrel price jump ever happened today.  The entire industry is beginning to understand just how much of a risk sustaining 100 percent capacity actually was... now that some facilities have been destroyed and others continue to be threatened.  They've learned how to deal with the political & economic influences over the decades.  But when it comes to resisting a hurricane, they're pretty much screwed.  That simply isn't possible.  All they can do is prepare for the inevitable problems by raising the price.  Kind of sucks, eh?  They should have been preparing for capacity shortages years ago.  In the computer industry, we become concerned when it remains at 80 percent.  Operating over that, especially when you are attempting to continuously maintain maximum, is a invitation for disaster... which we are now witnessing with these price jumps.

9-18-2005

Volta!  Who would have thought a hybrid to compete with Corvette would become available so soon?  This December, the former concept hybrid from Toyota can be purchased in Europe.  3 months later, it will be for sale in the United States.  The expected MSRP is about $72,000.  It will do 0 to 60 MPH in just 4 seconds.  This will really shake up the industry's definition of what "performance" actually means.  I can't wait!

9-18-2005

All New 50 MPG Civic-Hybrid.  That was the slogan on the new television commercial I saw this evening.  I've been really curious about how & when Honda would begin promoting their newest hybrid.  Now I know.  Of course, many people are already quite well aware of the fact that Prius is both bigger and more efficient.  So the whole situation is rather odd.  It should be very interesting how things proceed, like the way the media will interpret this hybrid.

9-18-2005

User-Guide Updates.  I ended up providing a whole lot more in this newest edition for the 2001-2003 model Prius than I was expecting.  It turns out that at some point in the past, I toggled the case of the "c" in the file name.  My server treated that as an entirely different file.  That meant some downloads would have been of an older copy, rather than the latest updates.  Oops!  Oh well.  There's not much I can do about that now.  And it is a rather interesting twist that some people will actually like having that older copy, for a reflection of what we knew back then.  Anywho, this time they get the latest & greatest... User-Guide  (Classic)

9-18-2005

Objective: Improvement.  The non-hybrid diesel supporters are still at it.  Today, a published white-paper stirred the debate.  It only took me a matter of minutes to notice how all the references were with respect to past diesel performance, rather than actually adhering to the EPA standard.  No where was I able to find a reference to SULEV or PZEV ratings.  That's a bad sign, typically a major clue that no gain beyond what we already have for gas was actually achieved.  What we want is cleaner emissions, hence specifically setting SULEV as a new minimum.  The step dirtier, ULEV, has been common among gas vehicles for years now.  Yet, we still have a growing smog problem... which will only get worse as the increasing population causes longer drive times & distances.  Suggesting that we adopt the new "clean" diesel (both fuel & engine), which apparently doesn't even earn a ULEV rating, is insane.  That's going in the wrong direction, especially when you consider how many vehicles that would be and how long they would remain in service.  Hybrids are undeniably cleaner.  They meet the objective.  How is a substantial expansion of diesel (non-hybrid, of course) suppose to provide an improvement?

9-17-2005

Changing Tides.  It's really getting bizarre now.  To hear the spokesperson for GM saying this is pretty amazing: "I think what happened was the manifest success of the Prius caused a rethink on everybody's part."  This is the same person who said just a few years ago that hybrids were a complete waste of effort.  Of course, with the appeal of monster-size gas-guzzling vehicles quickly fading, it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to figure out that their "beat the farm" approach has failed and they are now scrambling to survive.  It's about time they figured that out.

9-16-2005

Not Looking Ahead.  The arguments for non-hybrid diesel have become a bit silly.  Hybrids will unquestionably be the future.  They simply don't look far enough ahead... and are clearly afraid to embrace change.  With a battery-pack generation or two beyond the impressive 1250 W/kg currently in Prius (same size, same lifetime durability, yet much higher capacity and lower cost) coupled to a tiny diesel engine, you'd have a system that makes a whole lot of sense.  But currently, it quite simply isn't realistic.  Give it time.  How come they resist so much instead of just waiting for that progress to happen?  Why aren't they encouraging it instead?

9-16-2005

After the Hype.  The disappointment from diesel and the less-capable hybrids won't be realized until years from now.  But by then, no one will care that the ideal-condition values from the EPA tests don't reflect real-world driving conditions.  All people will want to know is how the vehicle performs for actual owners.  And that data will be quite abundant.  This thing called "internet" is empowering the little guy on a scale that the media still has yet to take seriously.  That hype will are dealing with now will be overshadowed.  Forums & Blogs, patronized by owners & enthusiasts, are gaining attention on an impressive scale.  Sweet!

9-16-2005

$63.00 per barrel.  Reporting the weekly status of oil prices is something I wish I would have begun doing earlier.  That unexpected spike up to $50 per barrel last Fall had appeared to be just a fluke, since prices dropped well below that afterward.  They stayed low for quite awhile after that too.  But then, as Summer approached, the climb began again.  Only this time, it was slower and gave the impression of a longer-term stay.  Sure enough, that's exactly what has happened.  In fact, it is now looking to become permanent.  Many automakers are still pushing wasteful vehicles.  That will clearly do nothing to reduce demand.  Refining capacity cannot be quickly, easily, or inexpensively be increased.  Driving time & distance continues to grow.  The situation is really ugly.  And no one can use the excuse anymore that they didn't know.  It's pretty obvious at this point.

9-16-2005

It's Gone!  That annoying SUV, complete with the "soccer mom" stickers, was parked next to the light in front of my house countless times over the past year or so.  It was used by the daughter who was visiting her high school girlfriend here on a very regular basis... clearly gross overkill for the design of the SUV.  Why would that tough & powerful of a vehicle be needed for that?  This evening, there was an Aveo there instead.  Seeing a far more fuel efficient vehicle, regardless of the reason, is a welcome sight.  MPG will be recognized as a benefit.  The trend is broken.  Yeah!  Next step, a hybrid.

9-16-2005

Only 28,000.  It's hard to believe what I read about Honda's 2006 model of Civic-Hybrid today.  They (apparently) are planning to offer only 28,000 here.  Could that actually be true?  With a quantity so low and gas prices so high, that doesn't seem like a good business choice.  Wouldn't they want to sell more?  Prius easily sold 100,000 of the 2005 model here, and there are still long delivery waits.  Perhaps Honda wants to stretch that tax credit opportunity as long as possible.  Toyota will consume their allotment in no time flat.  And Honda does tend to ride on reputation.  After all, only 150 of the 2005 Insight were offered here, but they continued to mention it as if it was more than just a rare model.  Next year should be interesting.

 

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