Prius Personal Log  #227

October 9, 2005  -  October 14, 2005

Last Updated: Sat. 10/15/2005

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10-14-2005

$62.63 per barrel.  I've watched that value go up & down over the past two weeks.  Today's closing price for oil just happened to be the average.  I wonder if that's a sign of what the price will actually settle down to after the market shakeup has caused the idea of change to finally be accepted.  It's a good factor to judge by.  I certainly cannot use the price of gas.  We get our gas here in Minnesota from oil pumped through a pipeline in Canada.  That makes it abnormally less expensive, for the most part immune from the nightmare caused in the south from hurricanes Katrina & Rita.  However, gas-guzzler's still grossly outnumber hybrids and the growing population continues to make commutes even worse.  Remember last year when the per barrel price for oil was only in the 40's?  Will that be considered the "good old days" now?

10-14-2005

MPG Beliefs.  It is rapidly become apparent just how many people think their MPG is much higher than it actually is.  The belief starts with the extremely misleading EPA estimates.  Then it is reinforced by only taking a spot measurement or two.  Real on-going averages would reveal their error.  But that pretty much never happens.  So if one were to unknowingly choose a situation that isn't representative of average driving conditions, they would think their MPG is something it really isn't.  Gas pumps differ.  Driving speeds differ.  Fuels differ.  Temperature differ.  There are all kinds of factors that will contribute to a misleading measurement.  And that's not all.  Some people are dishonest.  They'll lie.  We are seeing more of that now.  Owning a gas-guzzler is no longer a materialistic symbol of status.  Instead, it is a sign of waste.  So figuring out what MPG reports to believe is extraordinarily difficult.  Basically, if they aren't willing to share detail, don't believe them.

10-13-2005

Accord-Hybrid.  I saw my very first one today.  It was a rather quaint sighting that would have gone completely unnoticed had it not been for the lack of a license-plate.  The tiny hybrid label in the upper-right corner of the back is the only clue as to it's true identity.  But then again, what's the point?  Simply buying a 4-cylinder traditional Accord instead is much less expensive, uses pretty close to the same amount of gas, and is just as clean.

10-12-2005

Cold Hill Climb.  I live near the bottom of a large valley (great for watching sunsets).  That means the start of my commute every day involves a rather abrupt & steep climb.  That's not a good thing for any type of cold engine.  Fortunately, Prius has the ability to reduce the stress that would normally cause.  It uses the motor more generously than usual.  This utilization becomes increasingly obvious as the temperatures drop, since a cold battery-pack is actually a good thing (no worries about keeping it from getting too hot).  So of course, I'm seeing that now.  There's a plateau in the middle of the climb.  When it's warm, the motor typically doesn't draw from the battery-pack.  But now with Fall having arrived, it does.  The Multi-Display makes witnessing this simple.  I absolutely love how smart the system is, taking advantage of every opportunity to use the features that it has but traditional vehicles don't.

10-11-2005

Powerful Hybrids.  Some people don't realize just how important the RX400h & Highlander hybrids were to the developing market.  We need to continue to point out how prevalent the anti-hybrid talk was less than a year ago about how the system could never be capable of rapid acceleration or massive horsepower or acceptable 4-wheel drive.  Toyota totally crushed those claims to such an extreme degree that some people now deny ever having said that.  That kind of misconception annihilation isn't easy.  But it did in fact happen.  The next step to take will be to tone down the power in favor of efficiency instead.  The current configuration is overkill for the daily commute on clean, dry roads which many owners use their hybrid SUV for.  That little bit of waste was well worth it though.  That magnitude of proof opens up the opportunity for practical hybrid pickups... something that the competition quite simply is not ready to deal with.  Heck, they have a hard enough time just trying to sell their well-established traditional pickups now.  Imagine how much their appeal will sour when the first hybrid pickup becomes available.  It won't be long before some consumers are eagerly awaiting that day.  It will come.  And there will be little hesitation to buy one based on the fact that the RX400h & Highlander hybrids have already demonstrated that additional power is realistic.

10-10-2005

Prices Might Come Down.  That's what the experts are predicting now... the same ones that didn't see these high prices coming in the first place.  Anywho, they make no mention, not even a hint, that prices will ever return back to where they were before this historical year began.  Just coming down a little is the best they can hope for now.  I wonder what kind of effect news like that has on the typical person.  Hmm?

10-10-2005

Early Adopters.  I'm so sick of hearing that claim as the audience for Prius.  How many years must pass before the "early" label no longer applies?  Of course, I look at it this way... Prius is marketed to people that are tired of the same old 20th Century nonsense.  Size & Power are no longer the highest priorities.  In fact, the rank of that appeal was dropping quickly based on the sales slump early this year, before the gas prices even started to rise.  Then the employee discounts pretty much nailed that coffin shut.  People want more from their vehicle now.  Of course, this spring when HSD becomes available in Camry, that "early adopter" argument will reveal itself as meaningless anyway.  So many people are already familiar with Prius, it will be hard to argue against the technology it will share with Camry-Hybrid.  And in the meantime, it is rather entertaining reading those final desperate anti-hybrid messages before that happens.

10-09-2005

Why are they so anti-hybrid?  That was a question I was asked today, one that I haven't ever really directly addressed.  So, here's a try...  Some just crave attention.  Some have blind loyalty to a certain automaker or fuel or technology.  Others simply have no concern for the long-term, environmental or financial or political.  Then there are the few that are too proud to admit they made a judgment error.  The most intriguing though are the ones that actually do have good intentions, but they don't possess the engineering background to properly endorse a specific design.  Yet, they do it anyway and don't understand why their comments cause conflict.

10-09-2005

DVD or Video.  Hearing that routinely on television commercials now is driving me crazy.  My family bought our first VCR back in 1979.  Since then, we referred to those things that movies come on as "tape".  When required to provide specific identification, we'd call in "VHS".  Never was the term "video" used.  The same is true for all those years I worked in the electronics section of a department store too.  But now, the industry has decided that DVD isn't actually video.  Instead, they want "video" to mean "tape".  They have used an anti-hybrid technique to fulfill their own mysterious purpose, by changing a definition.  Why the heck did they make such a bizarre decision?  I cannot imagine anyone not understanding what "tape" is.  Arrgh!  So... my point is that if they can get away with it for that, there's nothing stopping the automotive marketing powers from altering the meaning of terminology when it comes to hybrids too.  It's bad enough that we already have that pickup called a "hybrid", when it most definitely does not fit the definition.  And what about the absurd way people call their SUV a "car", even though it is actually a truck?  Now I'm just waiting to see what other nonsense will come about.  It's inevitable.  Change always encounters some resistance.

10-09-2005

Fuel-Cell Vehicles.  They're dead!  The topic is pretty much nonexistent now, simply not discussed anymore.  The surge in gas prices and concern about energy needs has focused all attention on our current need for hybrids.  The plans for delivering a vehicle that depended on hydrogen a decade from now have soured.  People are no longer interested.  Yeah!  The push from the Bush administration was weak, at best.  It didn't set any definitive goals.  For all we knew, oil could have been used to create that hydrogen.  What would the benefit be from that?  Adopting an entirely new technology is a poor idea if you cannot clearly justify a reason why.  A hybrid like Prius, on the other hand, does provide a solid reason.  I already have 5 years of data clearly showing that emissions & consumption have been significantly reduced.  I didn't need to wait for fuel-cell technology to achieve that.  It's available now.  So it makes no sense waiting for fuel-cells.  And discussing them is a waste of effort.  After all, a fuel-cell vehicle is a hybrid anyway.  Put simply, the stack will eventually end up replacing the engine.

10-09-2005

Ready for Winter.  Today was wash & polish day.  The temperature got up to almost 60 F degrees.  I figured it was likely the one of the very last opportunities for the next 6 months to do that.  It's a reality this far up north that people in the south just don't seem think about when recommending what polish to protect the paint with.  There simply is no opportunity to apply a new coat again until Spring.  That means something strong enough to repeal salt & acidic snow for at least 6 months is needed.  Nu Finish seems to do the job.  Good thing, since it's too cold to do anything but wash and use that hot spray wax (which provides only minor protection) once Winter begins.  Of course, the car washes have to close during the closest weeks of the year.  So you can't even do that sometimes.  I think I'm ready to deal with that now.

10-09-2005

Distraction, part 3.  An easy way to win the "much simpler" debate, if you must, is to ask what it would take to add 4-wheel drive to each hybrid system.  For Toyota, implementation of 4-wheel drive is basically just a matter of telling the computer to feed another device with electricity.  No physical connection at all to the existing mechanical components is needed, only a wire.  There's no driveshaft running from the front to back.  That third motor is totally independent... which makes it rather simple.  Honda doesn't have enough electricity available for motor 4-wheel drive.  Proof is the fact that full power A/C requires the engine to run, even if the battery-pack charge-level is completely full.  More proof is the limited speed & distance of the electric drive... which makes adding another motor unrealistic.  And if that charge-level is too low, there is no alternative source of electricity available like with the Toyota design.  The only thing you could do is wait for the "forced-charge" mode to replenish the battery-pack enough for 4-wheel drive to be used again.  In other words, you could end up stuck for awhile in the Honda.  But with the Toyota, the engine would create electricity on-the-fly to power the 4-wheel drive immediately, regardless of what level the battery-pack is at.

10-09-2005

Distraction, part 2.  The response to that was absolutely perfect.  Someone proclaimed, "I hadn't thought of it that way."  Rather than that distraction working, causing the debate thread to be overcome by messages that weren't actually on-topic, I had successful pointed out what was really being attempted.  Sweet!  Needless to say, the troublemaker didn't bother to rebuttal.  He knew I had revealed to everyone what he was up to.

10-09-2005

Distraction, part 1.  This snippet was interjected into an online message today... "a system that's so much simpler and less complex than" ...when debate the difference between the Honda & Toyota hybrids.  Here's my response...  That argument is a common distraction technique.  Perhaps a claim could be argued about being a little bit simpler.  Honda takes a complete engine & transmission then tacks on an electric motor.  Toyota replaces the transmission with a PSD and two electric motors.  But arguing those details alters your thinking away from the actual point.  That point is to establish a platform onto which enhancements can take advantage of.  EV mode is the prime example.  We know that an improvement in battery technology and/or a plug-in option and/or an ultra-capacitor and/or a fuel-cell stack can utilize the already existing EV mode, providing amazing city MPG and an impressive improvement to highway MPG.  Enhancements to A/C and Heater operation is possible as well.  This is due to Prius being the "full" hybrid design, which is intended to support heavy electrical activity.  That is not the case for the Honda hybrid, since it is only an "assist".  The electrical activity is inherently limited.  Lacking a second motor and the ability to halt the engine during electric propulsion prevents major advancements.  Don't fall for the distraction.  Look forward instead.

10-09-2005

Even More Summer Photos.  These are from August last year, right when the sun was setting.  I got that great soft yellowish lighting.  A big batch of clouds were approaching.  The corn was at its tallest.  I had my digital camera.  And the Prius was yearning to pose for a few shots.  See... photo album 102

 

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