Prius Personal Log  #23

March 3, 2002  -  March 16, 2002

Last Updated: Mon. 11/11/2002

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3-16-2002

Now that was funny!  I finally made it up to the window at the drive-thru.  As the guy reached out, I handed him a twenty along with a website card while saying "You know, waiting in a long line like that is actually kind of fun when driving with only electricity."  He took the money & card, then shut the window.  When he opened it again, he exclaimed "I wondered where that electrical interference was coming from."  A bit confused, I looked at him for more.  A big smile grew on his face.  He was giving me a hard time.  He understood right away I was driving a hybrid.  That was great!  No one has ever been so quick that they could make up a joke for a response.

3-16-2002

The true sign of Spring.  It's when the MPG finally starts to climb.  The fact that we just got 11 inches of new snow yesterday and the temperature is only in the mid-30's doesn't matter; the multi-display now says 46.0 MPG after driving 71 miles.  That makes me very happy!

3-15-2002

6 so far this week.  There's still a day left and I've already seen 6 hybrids: 4 Prius & 2 Insight.  Cool!

3-15-2002

It's going up again.  The price of gas is at $1.38 per gallon.  That's good news for Prius & Insight owners.  We may finally get the attention of those that still refuse to admit hybrids are a realistic solution.

3-14-2002

Noticed by a FFV.  The guy in the other lane kept changing his speed.  He ended up passing me twice.  It was pretty obvious my hybrid-electric caught his eye.  I wonder if he was trying to get a closer look the second time or if he wanted me to notice that his Ford Ranger pickup was a FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle)?  He could have been one of those rare individuals that actually uses E85.

3-14-2002

Mileage Booster Derailed.  That was the title of the article published in the Washington Post.  I�m not pleased.  The Senate voted against increasing the MPG standard.  The intent was to raise the fuel efficiency for cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks by 50 percent within the next 13 years.  That�s terrible.  The technology in Prius has already proven that we can do much better a lot sooner.  And it gets worse.  They passed an exemption for pickup trucks from any new fuel economy standards.  There is already one very large pickup truck on the road today that converts to a SUV, this blatant �loop hole� will allow many more to be made without any need to make MPG improvements.  I'm not against allowing people to drive the large vehicles (though it is quite wasteful, since something that large is rarely ever needed; also, it's becoming apparent statistically that they aren't as safe as everyone thought).  If we're going to keep building them, let�s do it right by adding hybrid technology.  Aren�t we trying to reduce our dependence on foreign oil?  It�s quite obvious now that reducing emissions is beneficial too.  Imagine how far the advancements could go within the next 13 years if we started seriously investing in hybrids now.  After all, personal computer & digital camera hardware (which both include battery technology) evolved with incredible success in less time.  Instead, we have to wait another 2 years for another decision from above.  Hopefully, the efforts of the current hybrid owners will convince domestic manufacturers to adopt the technology before it�s required.  They�ll probably end up with greater flexibility that way too.

3-12-2002

Winter Conditioning.  When Spring finally arrives in Minnesota, temperatures around 35 F degrees are quite comfortable.  I go outside and hand-wash the Prius without even wearing a jacket.  Then when it finally warms up to 50 F degrees, I go biking for several hours at a time without feeling cold.  We northern folk call that �winter blood�.  It takes an entire season to develop.  (Fall feels much less appealing for that very reason.)  I wonder if any of the hybrid technology (like the battery-pack) in Prius is affected the same way?

3-11-2002

4-Wheel-Drive sliding.  I enjoyed hearing this comment today when a news reporter was walking around asking people about all the fresh new snow:  �My SUV is great for traction, but there�s no benefit when it comes to sliding.�  Hybrids are different.  The regenerator allows you to slow the vehicle down without even needing to use the wheels, like the way traditional brakes do.  That raises the odds significantly that you�ll be able to prevent a slide caused by wheel locking.  Anti-Lock brakes are great, but they don�t kick in until after you�ve pushed the brake-pedal too hard.  Regen slowing starts without even touching the brake-pedal, all you have to do is ease up on the accelerator-pedal.

3-11-2002

Winter strikes again.  A couple of inches of fresh snow melting on the road made everything wet & slippery.  That made everyone slow down.  So today I got to enjoy "stealth stretch" again.  40 MPH silently using just electricity is wonderful.

3-11-2002

The "Electric" Misconception.  Are Electric Vehicles really non-polluting?  They don't have a tailpipe, so nothing is being emitted... right?  That isn't actually the case; however, that's what some people believe.  The electricity has to come from somewhere.  In certain areas of the country, electricity is generated very cleanly.  So electric vehicles are an ideal option there.  In other areas though, emissions from burning coal or oil to make electricity is actually slightly dirtier than a Prius burning low sulfur gasoline.  So believe it or not, a hybrid can actually be better.  Confused?  Just wait.  The situation will get even more complicated once fuel-cell technology hits prime-time.  Hydrogen, the preferred fuel for fuel-cells, is a carrier of energy.  Ultra-Clean electricity can very easily (though quite expensively) be generated from it.  The problem is how do you create the hydrogen in the first place.  One method is to use electricity.  See the paradox?  It gets worse too!!  An alternative to using hydrogen is to use gasoline.  A reformers makes it possible to generate electricity without igniting the gasoline, but unfortunately the emissions aren't as clean.  So even though you have a fuel-cell vehicle, it will still be polluting at rates similar to some hybrids.  Understand?  Let's try our best to avoid these misconceptions about the all "electric" technologies.

3-11-2002

High-End Acceleration.  I commonly get asked about the 0-60 acceleration of Prius.  That's fine.  Unfortunately, the other question doesn't get asked much: How well is the high-end acceleration?  You know, when you need a bit of zip once you're already cruising on the highway.  Today I was approaching a dangerous curve.  The road wasn't the problem, it's the fact that during evening rush-hour you drive straight at the sun.  The glare is awful.  So everyone slows way down.  On this occasion, I was driving next to a very large truck and saw that it would be much safer further up the highway where there was a pocket without any traffic.  So I punched the pedal (not even all the way to the floor) to reach it before the curve.  The Prius shot up from 70 to 77 MPH within just a few seconds.  I wish more people would ask about that ability.

3-10-2002

I finally found it!!  There was a printed spreadsheet (7 pages) hidden somewhere in a box buried in a closet.  It reveals the MPG data I collected from 1990 to 1993.  Back then I had a 1984 Dodge Omni.  It was the most fuel-efficient, 5-person domestic vehicle model available at that time.  The light-weight body (compared to other vehicles that size) with a 5-speed manual transmission and lack of an air-conditioner made for great mileage (back then).  It simply can't compete with Prius now though.  (And Prius is a significantly nicer car too).  The Lifetime MPG on my Prius as of 27,639 miles is 44.2.  In the Omni, 41,151 miles of driving produced a Lifetime MPG value of only 30.7.  I'll do my best to share the data from the spreadsheet as quickly as possible.  But there's a ton of data to enter.  Not being able to drive as far between fill-ups means there's quite a few more entries to deal with.

3-09-2002

Auto Show Preview.  What the heck?  The news special covered newest & classic, biggest & smallest, most & least expensive, fastest, and most sought after vehicles.  Then at the very end the spent 30 seconds of the half-hour special to mention a concept car there.  It was a usable prototype of a hybrid-electric sports car.  That was it!  They completely ignored the fact that both Toyota & Honda has hybrids on the road already that could be seen right there at the show.  It's really frustrating when time after time the hybrids are not considered.

3-09-2002

Can you see the whole forest?  Focusing on a single tree is an easy trap to fall into.  Working with computers, I run into the CPU comparison all the time.  People forget the speed of the system is affected by other components too.  Well, I got a few emails lately from people pointing out how common trucks & SUVs were in their area of the country.  I said I was pleased at a recent article stating: "A hybrid option in the high-volume midsize car segment would provide manufacturers a broad-based growth path to the mainstream market".  Knowing that monster-size vehicles are rare in the European countries & Japan and seeing a number of midsize cars here in the Midwest still, I wasn't aware that some areas of the United States actually have mostly large vehicles.  (That's a scary thought.)  So Prius won't appeal to many there, in size.  In technology, it's a winner though.  That's why Toyota is now considering the possibility of making the next hybrid a SUV.  Later in the article this was mentioned: "The lack of consumer understanding underscores the challenges automakers face in gaining acceptance of hybrid technology".  That's where this website comes in handy; there's a bunch of "real world" information available.  So I may not have seen the whole forest, but I've made note of the many trees I have encountered along the journey so far.  (Thanks to those of you that provided the emails.)

3-08-2002

55 miles.  I drove to & from work, then ran errands afterward, using the Taurus.  Its lack of a regenerator caught me off guard while slowing down on thick, slippery slush.  Having only brakes to reduce speed seems rather primitive now.  And the endless vibration of the engine is irritating.  You really notice it at stoplights.  But despite the fact that it emits lots of harmful exhaust and consumes quite a bit of gas, that engine-only technology is considered reliable.  So I can understand how some people fear new technology when it comes to large investments like a vehicle, even if electric motors have proven even more reliable for other uses.  It's up to the hybrid owners now to provide the proof that the same holds true for vehicles too.  Then all those other hybrid benefits will easily be accepted.

3-07-2002

Scare Tactics.  Congressional leaders are currently arguing an increase in fuel economy standards.  Back in the 80's, the only way to meet a new minimum was to reduce the size & weight of vehicles.  In some cases, that did in fact compromise safety.  Now in the 21st century, it doesn't.  But some are still using old school reasoning: If you choose to conserve resources, you are putting your well-being at risk.  They don't even acknowledge the new technology exists.  Prius is actually heavier that a traditional vehicle of the same size, yet it is significantly cleaner and gets much better gas mileage.  How long do they think those "scare tactics" will last?  We now have a very resourceful online discussion group with about 3,400 members, there's large websites like this one, and some of our leaders are embracing the new ideas.  The innovative technology is gaining a lot of support.  Ignorance will not win anymore.

3-06-2002

100,000 Toyota hybrids now.  That's how many Prius & Estima there are on roads around the world.  With the numbers growing like that along with help from Honda, everyone will soon understand what a "hybrid" is.

3-05-2002

No!!!  That cold snap pushed the MPG down.  Today's fill up resulted in a 39.9 calculated value.  It dipped below 40.0 MPG for the first time this Winter.  Bummer.

3-04-2002

Stealthing.  That 2 mile, straight, almost flat, 30 MPH stretch of road was irresistible.  The engine shut off shortly after leaving the highway.  I drove silently up to the first stop sign.  Then I pressed hard on the accelerator-pedal to get up to 30 MPH quickly.  Once at that speed, I released to shut off the engine again.  Silence took over until I reached the next stop.  I repeated the process, then again 2 more times.  That was almost enough.  The Prius desired electricity at 1.9 miles.  Warmer conditions would have helped (it was only 19 F degrees).  I bet with practice I could traverse that entire stretch.  Doing that sure adds a new twist to driving the same old route all the time.

3-04-2002

Good Intentions.  The next few years will be filled with lots of mixed feelings.  There will be a variety of different hybrids becoming available for a variety of different purposes.  Ford will be offering a small SUV hybrid.  If that causes the number of monster-size SUV purchases to decrease, that would be great.  If that causes the number of sedan purchases to decrease even further, that could be bad.  GM will sell a 5.3 liter V8 truck in hybrid form.  It will only increase MPG by 15 percent.  So they figure they'll make it up in volume.  Does that mean sales of such powerful vehicles will have to increase, or do they expect to reduce the number of the non-hybrids built?  Dodge plans to sell a "contractor special" truck.  That's great for contractors, but what about the typical person driving the typical commute in a car?  Will not producing hybrid versions of more common vehicles hurt us in the long run, or will proving to everyone that even monster vehicles can benefit actually help?  My thoughts are that they aren't moving fast enough.  When those other hybrids do become available in 18 to 24 months, will there really be enough made to fill the need (to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and protect the environment)?  Thank goodness Honda has the Civic coming out in about a month.  Of course, the design is significantly different from Prius.  That could cause a lot of confusion.

3-03-2002

That Aqua Prius.  I saw a friend pull out onto the road.  (It's really nice now that I recognize a few Prius owners.)  So I slowed down a bit to insure both of us would get caught by the next red light.  When her Prius stopped behind mine, she started waving very excitedly.  I waved back the same way!

3-03-2002

Coldest Morning this Winter.  At 8:20 AM this morning it said 0 F degrees on the multi-display.  My Prius wasn't interested in stealth on the way to the grocery store until I reached the parking lot.  On the way back, both the engine and the interior were warm & toasty.  I was able to drive the last 2 blocks to my house, which included a small upward hill, in stealth.  That was nice.

 

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