Prius Personal Log  #239

December 4, 2005  -  December 8, 2005

Last Updated: Sat. 12/10/2005

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12-08-2005

SSC 50P  &  45,000 Mile - Service  As usual, all went well.  The time estimate was for over 3 hours.  It only took 2.  (Since their computer was already loaded with the software update, I didn't have to wait for them to do that part.)  The SSC was the ECM (Electronic Control Module) reprogramming for the "stalling" condition, that entering of "fail safe" mode which a handful of owners had experienced.  It was mostly due to the intrusion of moisture into the inner workings of the electrical system.  But since I had already got that hood seal enhancement, there was little concern in the first place.  They did that update and applied a grease sealant to protect areas on some electrical components.  That didn't cost anything.  The routine "intermediate" service (not including the oil change) did though.  That was the usual topping off of fluid, cleaning & adjusting the brakes, rotating tires, and inspecting a bunch of stuff.  The cost was $149.24 after tax & fees.

12-08-2005

Generations.  This calls for a giant "I told you so" to those that have fought me in the past.  But I settle for just a log entry instead.  Every single news article written recently about the Honda hybrids refer to the newest design in Civic as the "fourth" generation.  Certain troublemakers absolutely insisted that would not be the case; clearly, they were wrong.  And to further make me feel vindicated, only the enthusiasts are referring to the 2006 Civic-Hybrid with "HCH-II".  That identifier of two is totally meaningless to the typical consumer... which doesn't surprise me at all, since that is the case for the first generation Prius too.  Year is unquestionably the officially agreed upon standard.  Those arbitrary categories only serve to undermine.  Look at actual performance enhancements instead.  Needless to say, I'll continue to give this link (which provides specification details) rather than ever getting into a generation number argument again... prius generations

12-08-2005

Full Misconceptions.  I see that some people still don't understand how a "full" hybrid works.  They make claims that the drivetrain isn't actually responsible for the MPG gain.  Prius doesn't have low-rolling-resistance tires.  Prius isn't any lighter than other vehicles of the same size.  Prius doesn't derive much of its electricity supply from braking.  Neither will Camry-Hybrid.  In fact, that upcoming hybrid won't even have a body with an aerodynamic advantage or a smaller than normal engine.  The drivetrain does indeed provide much of the benefit.  It operates the engine using a more efficient pumping-cycle and at a RPM that is more efficient.  That results in a MPG gain as well as excess thrust, which is immediately used to create electricity.  Some of which is sent to the wheels and some the battery-pack.  All that combined provides a gas savings which some people still either don't understand or refuse to acknowledge.  The nonsense about no braking on the highway has to stop.  It's a nasty misconception based on the limitations of the "assist" hybrid design.  That simply doesn't apply to a "full" hybrid.  The Planetary-CVT in Prius causes electricity to be created 100 percent of the time the engine is providing thrust to the wheels... not having to rely on the brakes at all and without an efficiency penalty.  That persistent behavior supplies a gain directly from the drivetrain, having absolutely nothing to do with tires or shape.  Fortunately, these are the only few remaining misconceptions.  Many of the others from the past are dead now.  That's pretty sweet.  In time, these will become just an unpleasant memory too.

12-08-2005

55 MPH.  Today is the 10-year anniversary of when the 55 MPH restriction ended.  People considered that a victory.  In fact some still do, justifying it by saying that increased safety... despite the reality that vehicles on the road now are dramatically more safe than those on the road back then.  Speed has nothing to do with it.  However, increased speed is directly responsible for increased consumption.  Going faster requires more energy.  So those that willing drive even faster than the speed limits well above 55 MPH now are intentionally wasting gas.  How is that helping to reduce our dependence on imported oil?

12-08-2005

Winter Ramblings.  This week included sub 0 F degree temperatures and 3 hours of strain from a very cold photo shot with lots of engine on & off, and a more than usual amount of short trips.  Despite that, the Multi-Display at 289 miles says 40.9 MPG.  I'm really looking forward to the "warm up" this weekend.  The forecast is for close to 30 F.  MPG should be much better then.  Winter is a pain... especially when the artic blast comes so soon ...but Prius brings a whole new perspective to the cold season and a fantastic exhilaration when Spring finally arrives.  I couldn't imagine having to deal with Winter without a Prius.  In fact, I'm trying really hard to forget those awful days from back in the 20th Century with my non-hybrid cars.  In other words, whether you get your Prius tomorrow or have to still wait from awhile, it is definitely worth it.  Just think what Camry-Hybrid owners will experience next Winter.  The first ones will begin driving in the Summer, completely obviously to the changes the cold will later bring.  That brings a whole new level of appreciation for the technology... something definitely not apparent early on.

12-07-2005

Efficiency Habit.  I got a dose of reality today.  Some owners experience the "protect the battery-pack" design feature that I haven't ever even witnessed, not to mention caused.  I wondered why.  It's really cool that Prius goes out of its way to run the engine to ensure that battery-pack doesn't exceed the long-life threshold (just a little over 80 percent).  Some owners find it really disturbing that the engine would cycle on & off like that for no apparent reason though... until it is pointed out that they are at the 8-bar (all green) level.  Then it makes sense... but it baffled me, since I still haven't seen it.  Then one of the other experts pointed out why.  It's because I drive efficiently out of habit, just like you do when you are on a bicycle.  You look ahead, consider your energy reserves, then respond accordingly... all without actually consciously being aware that you did that.  In other words, that engine cycling is only something newbies will experience.  No wonder I haven't.  All that biking paid off more than I ever would have realized... until today.

12-07-2005

Guessing Game.  I find it intriguing how people thrive on speculation... so, I suppose I'll contribute a little toward the cause.  The new 4-cylinder engine for Camry will supposedly add 9 horsepower.  The electric motor will likely add at least 45 horsepower.  That brings the total all the way up to the most powerful 6-cylinder Camry engine currently available.  Of course, the new Camry will be roughly 175 pounds heavier.  But then again, the electric motor in the hybrid version will offer tremendously more torque.  So we can safely say it won't disappoint.  And if we take another step further with the speculating, the assumption that Toyota will choose to make the engine pump using the Atkinson-Miller cycle instead is a logical one.  That reduces emissions and increases efficiency, at the penalty of a power loss.  But with so much to spare in the first place, that pretty much makes it a wash.  It will be regarded as the hybrid Accord should have been, middle offering for power while delivering an impressive MPG increase and emission decrease.

12-07-2005

Restructuring.  That's the spin word being used to refer to Ford's nightmare.  They are almost screwed as bad as GM.  Fortunately, they do have hybrid technology available.  But the sad reality is that they placed far too much emphasis on profits from monster-size gas-guzzlers, forgetting how they were originally used them to avoid the very situation they are in now.  It was inevitable that sales of those beasts would sour someday.  Then what?  Wishful thinking was that it would be many years from later, well after the hybrid technology (and more importantly, the hybrid production capacity) was well established.  Instead, the bottom fell out much sooner.  They need something to sell quickly... but after the required 30,000 hourly job cuts and closure of 10 assembly & component plants needed to survive in the meantime.  On top of that, they are expecting the loss of 4,000 salary jobs too.  It's ugly, not good no matter how you look at it.  They definitely were not taking the future seriously.  Of course, had they actually delivered on their 5-year promise of increasing fuel-efficiency of their fleet made back in 2000, the situation now could have been quite different.  Instead, their overall MPG has decreased.  I sure hope their priorities change.

12-07-2005

Missing the Point.  A small forum not known for troublemakers had this comment posted today: "Many hybrid owners complain that their cars don't get much better mileage on the highway than non-hybrid economy cars."  Before I even had an opportunity to respond, someone else already sounded off asking where those alleged complaints were.  I certainly haven't heard them over the last 5 years of ownership.  And what economy car actually delivers MPG in the mid-40's at 70 MPH like Prius?  I'd like to see that.  Of course, they are missing the point entirely anyway.  Prius is not an economy car.  The upcoming Camry-Hybrid certainly won't be one either.  Yet it will deliver such an efficiency and power improvement that both those considering the 4 & 6 cylinder non-hybrid versions of Camry will give careful thought to the purchase of that one with HSD instead... especially since it also delivers a significant emission reduction too.

12-06-2005

Recirculate = Frost.  I had no idea that equation was totally unknown to some people.  But with the sudden drop in temperature recently, there has been a flood complaints about frost inside the car.  At first, I thought it was a joke.  This is my sixth cold season with a Prius, how come I haven't ever dealt with internal frost?  Fortunately, it didn't take long to figure out why.  Newbies make the assumption that recirculating the warm inside air, rather than pulling in fresh cold air from outside, is the best choice.  After all, that would require the heater to work less... resulting in the engine running less... resulting in higher MPG.  The problem with that is human beings exhale moisture.  Warm air captures that ever increasing moisture.  We like the way that feels as opposed to the normal low humidity of Winter.  So it goes unnoticed, suspended invisibly in the warm tropical-feeling air.  But later when the air cools, that moisture cannot be held anymore.  It adheres to the glass instead.  Oops!  That is their mistake, something I hadn't even realized people didn't know.  In other words, I better add an entry in the User-Guide stating it is a very bad idea to use that recirculate button routinely during the Winter.

12-05-2005

Suckers.  That scornful article from a few days ago has stirred up some backing.  This was published in support of it today: "Hybrid technology is not 'green' technology.  Like heated seats or flashy exterior trim, it's merely an expensive option that generates large markups for the Toyota Corporation and its dealers."  They sure don't like HSD.  The fact that it delivers SULEV (or better) must really makes them crazy.  That reduced emission level is a genuine benefit of the technology, an undeniable green factor.  But that improved efficiency is really the thorn in their side though.  And according to leaked information on the internet about the upcoming 2007 Camry-Hybrid, the MPG increase will be accompanied by a power increase too.  Indications are that Toyota has found a balance which will appeal tremendously to the masses, something that the competition absolutely fears.  To be in a ugly situation already is bad enough.  But to amaze the world by delivering an even better best-selling vehicle marks the end.  Yeah!  I'm so sick of 20th Century technology.  Bring on the hybrids!!!

12-05-2005

Artic Blast.  Temperature is going the opposite direction as oil & gas.  It dropped all the way down to January conditions recently.  Today, my drive home from work showed only 1 F degree on the Multi-Display.  That's nasty.  It caused the efficiency to drop, all the way to 40.1 MPG ...dangerously close to the upper 30's.  Gasp!  It sure is going to be a very looooong winter if it doesn't get warmer soon.

12-05-2005

Climbing Prices.  Gas was $2.09 this morning.  On the drive home, I saw $2.25.  That didn't surprise me at all.  Considering that the price per barrel of oil almost reached $60 again, it only makes sense that  gas should cost more too.  It's that "boil a frog" scenario playing out.  They are doing their best to get us to think of $2 as a bargain.  That same price used to make us panic.  Now we are becoming grateful to see it.  The price will keep climbing up.  Growing demand and no way to easily increase production capacity makes that obvious.

12-04-2005

Sightings.  Wow!  Today was really fun.  I spotted 3 Prius at the same intersection, while on my way to some fun shopping (Best Buy).  When I stepped out of the store, I was surprised to see a Highlander-Hybrid right in front of me... of which I correctly identified by sound.  Pretty sweet, eh!  I can tell if it is a hybrid or not by listening!!  Anywho, I ran to my Prius hoping to be able to jump into it and intercept the hybrid SUV, since it appeared to be looking for a parking spot.  No such luck.  When I pulled out, there was yet another Prius, and in the very place I had just seen the SUV... only it had stopped to wait for someone inside.  Opportunity knocked again!  So I pulled in front, then jumped out and handed the passenger the "care package" I had intended to give to the other hybrid owner.  She was absolutely delighted by the experience, amazed that someone would greet her with gifts.  That felt great.  I also managed to locate the Highlander-Hybrid.  It was too late to catch the owner, but there was plenty of time to just leave a "care package".  Sightings like that give a whole new meaning to the experience.  It's a close encounter of the third-kind!

 

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