Prius Personal Log  #238

November 29, 2005  -  December 4, 2005

Last Updated: Sat. 12/10/2005

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12-04-2005

Lots of Winter Driving.  Last year, we had a snow drought and it was rather warm (for Minnesota).  This year, that is most definitely not the case.  We've got a ton of the white stuff this year and it's cold.  I've been driving on that slippery for over a week now.  Prius handles those conditions fantastically, though not quite the way you'd think.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to drive my mother to the Mall of America for holiday shopping in her Corolla.  Unlike my Prius, it doesn't have anti-brakes, vehicle-stability-control, or traction-control.  So I was thrilled to get such a great opportunity to compare handling abilities, since the roads were covered with a thick layer of that nasty snow and fresh stuff was heavily falling.  Taking it slow, driving was fine... just like I remembered from ages ago.  You hit the gas too hard, the wheels spin.  There is no computer to intercept & correct.  The same goes for taking corners to hard and aggressive stopping.  Last night, I went on a Christmas Light quest.  I ended up finding about a dozen absolutely stunning locations where I could park the Prius in front of for a photo.  That seek-and-be-rewarded game came at a cost of having to drive through slippery & hilly residential roads in the dark for 3 hours.  A side benefit of that was discovery the root of a complaint some people have about the traction-control.  If were the type of person that used to just push the pedal down hard and hope for the best, forget it.  You won't go anywhere that way.  It's just like hitting the brake too hard.  The computer has to compensate so much for your overkill request that you barely make any progress.  No wonder I have always taken it slow.  The ability for Prius to turn the wheels at a very slow rate while delivering an extremely impressive amount of torque makes it a natural for computer-assisted winter driving.  Just don't push it.  Seeing that slip indicator flashing frequently means you are giving it way too much power.  In short, I love driving the Prius in Winter.  And there's another benefit!  Despite the temperature being in the teens the last few days and all that start & stop for photo taking, stealth is still readily available and the Multi-Display never dipped below 41 MPG.

12-03-2005

Saw the Tripod.  Curiosity got the best of him.  What in the world was I doing at the end of the church parking lot, in the frozen dark?  As he watched from the park, at the opposite end in an adjacent lot, he finally noticed that tripod.  That invoked the desire to say "Hi!"  And he did.  He drove over and asked why the heck I had just parked the car in front of the monster-size rock garden there, beautifully covered with fresh snow and illuminated perfectly by the overhead light.  I said, "I'm taking photos of the Prius."  Then his curiosity kicked into overdrive.  It was that hybrid he had kept hearing about.  His reaction was a simple and very excited "Cool!" followed by a whole bunch of questions.  The exchange of knowledge was so enriching it actually kept me from thinking about how the 16 F degree temperature was getting to me.  But when you have a 17 year old guy that brings back reminders of yourself at that age asking about the Prius, you can't help but to do your best to make that an inspirational experience for him.  Then it hit me.  Why not give him a "care package" (the goodies inside include a Prius DVD, a complete copy of my website on CD, a whole bunch of high-quality educational printouts, and a couple of my website cards)?  So I did.  That was the first time a non-owner got one.  Up until then, no one had ever expressed that level of interest.  Times are changing though.  Gas will likely never be cheap again.  Global Warming has been proven.  Smog is beginning to be noticed in unexpected areas.  Hybrids are definitely capturing new interest.

12-03-2005

Stopped Engine, part 3.  Did you follow what I was up to?  This was a classic example of an anti-hybrid technique that I now have well documented.  It the past, messages of that nature were extraordinarily difficult to identify.  In this case, the discussion topic was originally about "Traction Control".  Then a tangent erupted about the lag sensation you feel (or more accurately, don't feel) when heavy acceleration is requested.  When the hybrid design itself was addressed, the antagonist started a side argument about the engine not actually being able to stop completely.  I jumped in as soon as the personal insults began.  It was a clear indication that the constructive nature of the discussion had been lost.  He immediately changed his stance when I revealed to everyone what he was up to.  I found it amusing that his response centered around the word "rare"; the use of an adjective is almost always a dead giveaway that the person is intentionally being vague.  Avoiding detail is the key.  That prevents conclusions from ever being drawn.  I called him on it.  That felt good.

12-03-2005

Stopped Engine, part 2.  It didn't take long.  He responded by saying: "The Prius rarely stops spinning the engine during normal driving.  It does throttle down to levels where it's essentially invisible to the driver, and it does go into quiet spin modes where it spins less, but it rarely completely stops."  My reply was... Oh, so you are that interesting type of antagonist, one who acknowledges a design benefit but does their best to de-emphasize its importance.  You may be able to dismiss the technical writings, but you cannot do that with the real-world data... which clearly shows that stopped engine state isn't rare.  That claim has been disproved many, many times already too.  A perk of holding gatherings is that you get to see firsthand what other owners have done with their Prius.  I have seen a few with diagnostic tools connected to display real-time data.  They very clearly show that stealth at zero RPM.  The motionless engine is quite common.  And if you don't believe that, just ask an Escape-Hybrid owner since they have a tachometer built-in.  It's standard equipment, since a Multi-Display is not.  They have reported routine occurrences seeing that RPM at zero while driving down the road.  Whether or not that causes a lag effect when heavy acceleration is requested is just a distraction, a method of drawing focus away from the ability Prius has and some other hybrids don't.  Attention diversion happens far too often.  But in this particular case, it has been identified.  The only course of action now is to create a new topic that specifically addresses stopped engine operation.  Further responses buried within this one would be admitting to the de-emphasizing.

12-02-2005

Stopped Engine, part 1.  After studying Prius for over 5.5 years and driving over 104,000 miles with 2 generations, I find it fascinating that some people still try to apply standard textbook engine & motor operation principles to it.  But as the online enthusiasts witnessed today, it happens.  Those original principles are sound for basic applications, but have little to no relevance for Prius.  The hybrid design does not conform to those outdated concepts.  Which makes sense, since different mechanical components are used.  Many discoveries were made since back then, some so revolutionary that patents have been filed & approved.  Lawsuits have even been fought to protect them.  This definitely falls into the "not the same" category.  The recent exclamation about the engine not being able to stop spinning while the hybrid is moving was without merit.  To have piles of literature and tens of thousands of posts all discussing the design which allows the engine to remain motionless while the electric motor handles the entire propulsion load, a claim out of no where contradicting that is just plain silly.  Sorry to be so blunt, but he needs to face the facts.  Toyota (THS & HSD), Ford (their current hybrid), and even GM (the upcoming "two mode") have touted that ability.  Honda defends their design not being able to do that, clearly acknowledging it as shortcoming by downplaying it is only a minor efficiency difference.  I do wonder if the argument started as a genuine misunderstanding or it was a deliberate attempt to cause trouble.  (The personal attacks, rather than remaining objective, tend to support the theory of that later.)  Whatever the case, it shouldn't take long to find out after posting this as a response.

12-02-2005

$59.32 per barrel.  Gas is just barely above $2 per gallon.  Diesel is still more expensive.  There is no hope in sight.  Luckily, more hybrids are coming to the rescue.

12-02-2005

Prius Eats Tires.  Out of the blue, a rather irritating anti-hybrid person attempted to revive the tire misconception yesterday.  His reaction to my reply was very different from everyone else's in the past, an obvious confirmation that his purpose was malicious.  Countless times before, other people have asked why Prius eats tires.  Someone always replies that the hybrid actually didn't, it was just that the originals on the Classic model were made of rubber so soft that they had an extremely short lifespan.  It was the penalty of the original low-rolling-resistance design... which was abandoned years ago.  But you know how antagonists love to bring up the past and pretend it is still relevant.  They curious & newbies always acknowledge that outdated fact and move on.  The discussion ends for them.  But not this guy.  He was absolutely bent on doing harm.  And I must admit, it was rather remarkable seeing him utilize some many anti-hybrid techniques in just a few message responses.  Fortunately, I can now detect & identify then rather easily now.  That analysis a few months ago has really paid off.  All I have to do is look back at my own documentation to verify the ill intent... anti-hybrid analysis

12-02-2005

25 MPG or better.  The situation is getting ridiculous.  Taking about lowering standards.  Now Ford is advertising that they have offer over 2 dozen models of vehicle that get 25 MPG or better.  Since when is something to be bragging about?  I thought the 30 MPG nonsense was pushing it.  This is now pushing it into the absurd realm.  Though, I will admit that it does make the real-world efficiency of upper 40's for Prius mighty appealing... a rather sizeable improvement over just 25 MPG.

12-02-2005

Green!  The extreme cold causes the engine to run more often.  A by-product of that is a battery-pack with more stored electricity than in the warm season.  The rapidly dropping temperature became evident on the Multi-Display today.  That cold combined with hitting 3 stoplights exactly the right way combined with an ideal down & up hill climb caused all 8 bars to be illuminated, in green.  I wasn't expecting that.  Perhaps the Prius was just excited to get out and play.  Stealth certainly was generous as a result.  I love cruising along using nothing but electricity during the Winter.  It reinforces the brilliance of the design.  The technology truly delivers.

12-02-2005

Touch Screens.  I wondered how long it would take before there was finally a backlash against the Multi-Display.  The less expensive vehicles are now beginning to include touch screens too.  Only because you aren't paying as much for them, you don't get as much.  Rather than also having a full compliment of buttons on the steering-wheel like Prius does, all that's provided is that single interface.  In other words, creation-comfort adjustments cannot be made by touch alone.  You have to take your eyes off the road with those cheaper vehicles.  You don't with Prius, but people don't know that.  So they are lumping all screen types together... just like they do with hybrid types.  It's very frustrating.  People instinctively react to change with fear, basing judgment on frighteningly small amounts of information.  Arrgh!

12-01-2005

Fall & Prius.  What a great combination, photographically.  There was a fantastic photo spot for the Prius in a business's parking lot.  I found an incredibly colorful cluster of tree along the side of a country road.  So I indulged and took a whole bunch of exposures from every angle I could think of.  Then on the way home, I stumbled across a somewhat less pronounced, yet still be captivating location.  You can see it all on this webpage... photo album 106

12-01-2005

Snow Covered Prius.  It was totally unexpected, a great surprise after leaving the theater... photo album 106

11-30-2005

Freaking Out.  Some people are now.  That fact that Toyota is leading the way on two major fronts is just too much for them to handle.  Becoming the largest automaker in the world while also having incredible success with their hybrid technology spells doom for the competition.  Today's evidence was published in the Wall Street Journal, a business article in the fashion of a letter from Toyota to their hybrid consumer.  It was loaded with errors and misconceptions gone wild.  That made me wonder how the heck readers would interpret it, especially since it used the word "sucker" in reference to the consumer.  Naturally, they focused on the newest hybrid, stating it provides no fuel economy gain... only more horsepower, pretending there was no misconception to overcome about power hybrids could provide and that another more efficient version of the same vehicle could never be offered later.  And of course, they completely ignored the PZEV rating, dismissing the significant reduction smog-related emissions as any type of benefit.  It gave me a rather sickened feeling reading it, knowing that the end of the unfortunate "waste" era would cause people to lash out like that, intentionally twisting facts to make Toyota appear to be the bad guy.  But the ending perked me up, since the closing paragraph actually did put things in perspective (though in a rather backward fashion, by replying to responses from two competing CEOs): "These are just two examples of the short-sighted, stick-in-the-mud marketing instincts of our fellow automakers that are helping to make Toyota the largest car company in the world."

11-29-2005

Screwed.  That's basically the best way to describe the rapidly decaying state of GM.  Last week, they announced a major restructuring with the expectation that 1 million fewer vehicles will be produced next year.  And of course, that makes sense.  The inventory reduction discounts last year were the direct result of overproduction, not being willing to slow down any production line since the penalty of that is increased cost.  Now instead, some will be halted entirely.  In fact, industry predictions are too many vehicles will be produced anyway.  But for now, it's all those layoffs they have to deal with.  The union workers are entitled to 95 percent of there salaries plus benefits for almost 2 years.  How is all of that going to be paid for?  In other words, their future looks bad.  Realizing that reality, let's consider how this mess happened in the first place.  The biggest factor was obviously betting the farm on gas remaining cheap.  The next was likely the fact that they didn't take into account how they were going to pay for all the retirement benefits they promised to pay, obligations retirees will be devastating about losing.  Then there's the worn out and outdated equipment being used in facilities with more production capacity than was actually needed.  That combined with the lower quality made competing with the newer automakers extremely difficult.  They offered far too many model choices as well.  And of course, cutting of wages didn't help either.  In other words, they pretty much didn't plan for the future at all.  Now they are paying dearly for that mistake.

 

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