Prius Personal Log  #241

December 14, 2005  -  December 19, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 1/01/2006

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12-19-2005

Worst Feature.  A new review today comparing the new Civic-Hybrid to the current Prius listed this as the worst feature in Prius: "Lack of physical buttons to control radio presets and CD changer."  I couldn't believe I had just read that.  The reviewer must not have had a left thumb (yes, I'm being sarcastic), because I do and I use that physical button it touches to jump from radio preset to preset and to change CDs.  Makes you wonder what else they missed.  But by this coming Summer, it won't matter anyway.  Camry-Hybrid will over Civic-Hybrid by such an extreme that talk of Prius won't even be necessary.  How the heck will Honda compete with that?

12-19-2005

Drilling Desperation.  In an act of pure desperation and blatant selfishness, the must-pass defense bill had a last-minute addition attached to it.  The response from some senators was to call the maneuver "disgusting".  I totally agree.  The bill didn't pass as a result.  And if you hadn't guessed why yet, I'll point out that the addition was to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic Refuge.  Isn't that sick?  Of course, it is rather profound.  They have been claiming all along that oil has absolutely nothing to do with the war or our national defense.  Now all of a sudden, we have overwhelming proof to the contrary.  Whatever the case, they removed the addition and the defense bill passed without it.

12-18-2005

HP over MPG.  When will the madness end!?!  Some people are still sounding off about how the emphasis on horsepower rather than efficiency is a mistake.  They still haven't figured out what the hybrid market used to be like just a little over a year ago.  Most weren't paying close enough attention back then.  That's too bad.  Many were under the impression that it was only a niche technology like electric-only vehicles had been, not an entire infrastructure improvement as HSD is intended.  Fortunately, quite a bit has changed in the last year.  That step to end the power misconception made a lot of sense, despite some backlash.  If nothing else, it shut up the dang anti-hybrid people... once and for all ending their power arguments.  Now it will be more easy (less business risk) for Toyota to offer a version that favors efficiency, since acceleration has obviously become a non-issue.  You wouldn't believe how sick I was of answering that "can you drive it on the highway" question.  Thank goodness that is over.  Now a variety of configurations can be sold on a variety of different vehicle sizes & shapes.

12-18-2005

Bluetooth Handoff.  My first cell-phone that supported Bluetooth was among the first available.  So it worked, but not as well as it could.  This new one is definitely better.  The sound quality is improved and the handoff actually works.  I can start a conversion when I'm out-and-about, then start the Prius... as I discovered today.  It will automatically transfer the conversation over to the system in the car without disconnecting.  That's pretty sweet!  That other direction works too, so I can keep right on talking once I reach my destination without being stuck in the car.  Just think what the new version of Bluetooth will be like.  It is suppose to be more power efficient and support a larger data bandwidth.  We'll see all kinds of Bluetooth devices then.  But still, the most beneficial will be the handsfree ability Prius already offers.  That is an obvious safety improvement, allowing conversations without requiring any devices to be held or even manually attached.  It's all wireless & automatic.  Sweet!

12-17-2005

New Civic.  I saw my first 2006 model today, the non-hybrid version of course.  I cannot imagine seeing a hybrid version until after the end of the month, due to the upcoming tax credit.  Anywho, it closely resembles a Saturn as I had anticipated... but with one exception.  Looking at it closely from the front corner, it gives you the impression that's it's a small Prius with that elongated aerodynamic windshield & hood.  The size is compact, without question.  (There's 4 fewer inches available for legroom in the back and the car is several inches shorter in exterior height.)  The split dashboard is exactly as had been eluded to, a clear conflict with opinions of the past.  There's a digital speedometer above the steering wheel, the very thing Civic-Hybrid owners claimed was a bad thing.  It is rather redeeming seeing some aspects of appeal from Prius now present in this new model.  However, they are available on the non-hybrid version too.  That may have a negative affect on their hybrid sales.  Oh well.  The "full" hybrid technology in Prius is still better overall than the "assist" anyway.

12-17-2005

Professional Driver.  How come that disclaimer on television advertisements is so readily accepted?  What you see is something that virtually no owner will ever actually do with their vehicle.  Shouldn't MPG get the same type of acceptance?  The efficiency values listed are indeed possible, but unlikely... just like when you see a car sliding sideways in the dirt or a SUV climbing up a steep embankment or a pickup towing 32 refrigerators.  In other words, they are allowed to depict unrealistic scenarios as if every owner will do it too.  Why is MPG expected to be stated only as a real-world expectation but the other aspects are not held to that same standard?  I would love to see an advertisement for Prius with a professional driver, complete with that "closed course" note in fine print on the bottom of the screen.  Imagine the uproar that would be caused by seeing an average well above 60 MPG.  That efficiency can easily be achieved under the right circumstances.  But how many owners are actually going to ever to that?  Of course, seeing a Prius sliding through the dirt would be rather exciting...

12-16-2005

Making Up History.  Wearisome is a feeling that has emerged lately.  Every now and then a newbie jumps online and recites their interpretation of hybrid history.  The stories described will sometimes have portions that are totally made up, so far off that I can't even determine where they got that idea from.  Thank goodness I have these personal logs, all written during that time the event was actually occurring.  Looking back afterward is error prone and often incomplete.  Already knowing what will happen gives it an unavoidable bias too.  I gain an advantage by seeing from the perspective of a participant as well, wondering how the unfolding of upcoming events will directly affect me.  Looking back as an observer afterward is fine, in fact encouraged, but only if that point-of-view is disclosed.  Allowing the impression that you were part of that is inappropriate... and much too often the way history is portrayed.  The point is, I hope having a source of the history documented as it actually happened by someone involved will be helpful later on.

12-15-2005

48.4 MPG.  Wow!  These warm (around 45 F degrees, way above normal for Minnesota) driving conditions have been absolutely wonderful.  After the first 50 miles on this new tank, the Multi-Display shows an average of 48.4 MPG.  That's great for December.  I hope the trend continues for a little bit longer.  The inevitable artic weather that blasts in and stays for awhile isn't my favorite time of the year.  It sure is pretty.  But the problem comes when it overstays it's welcome.  A person can only take so much of low efficiency the frigid climate causes.  Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to still be without a Multi-Display, having no idea how various conditions affect MPG.  That's why gas-guzzlers still don't have them.  Automakers prefer you don't find out what Winter does.

12-15-2005

Reality Check.  Disturbance erupts online from time to time.  This was my response to one such event today:  Check out the wide-audience forums.  Because the spreading of misconceptions and false information draws lots of attention & participation, they allow the anti-hybrid people to continue their harmful posts.  Keeping popular topics lively is their goal, hence having hosts rather than members that moderate.  There are a few forums specifically for hybrids that can actually be worse at times.  Since their goal is promote a wide variety of types & brands, they allow some undermining for the sake of keeping the peace.  Having one specific hybrid emerge as a clear winner would cause an imbalance, making the website appear to have a bias rather than being impartial.  That would conflict with the goal of serving all hybrids.  Dedicated forums (like those only for Prius) are unquestionably the most productive & informative, despite the occasional misunderstanding originating from a newbie or someone intentionally causing trouble.

12-15-2005

Preventative Maintenance.  It looks like we found out today what happens when a Prius owner doesn't have it done.  The Classic model Prius required a sealant to be applied to the battery-pack modules awhile back.  The purpose was to prevent a leak that could harm the module later in life.  Needless to say, that work didn't happen with this particular Prius.  And now a module is going bad, causing the system to misbehave.  So at only 107,000 miles, the owner is faced with the reality that replacement is needed (hopefully, just that one module rather than the whole pack).  Since Toyota did provide the opportunity to have that preventative work done for free and did send out notices (SSC-50P), at least some of the financial liability now should be the responsibility of the owner.  To makes this matter tough to deal with, we'll probably never find out if this 2001 Prius was one that had been driven after running out of gas.  That was an unfortunate case of battery abuse which happened far too often back then that some owners won't admit to.  That leads to shortened life, not evident until years afterward... like now, 5 years later.  Whatever the case, preventative maintenance should always be done... and right away too.

12-15-2005

Hypocrite.  When the HSD Prius first became available, I found an enemy.  This guy was awful.  The only data available for the new model was from the worst time of the year: Winter.  That's when efficiency is at its lowest.  He knew it too.  Yet, he pushed the false impression about year-round low MPG to everyone he could.  The timing was perfect for him.  I despised that.  It was a significant source of frustration, to witness someone intentionally trying to create a misconception.  Well guess what, he's doing exactly the opposite now... having developed into a strong supporter of Honda.  He's spreading the word that the new Civic-Hybrid MPG values currently being reported reflect performance during the worst time of the year... so we should expect higher efficiency once the warm temperatures return.  That sounds like the definition of a hypocrite to me.  He simply hated Prius and did what he could to stifle its success.

12-15-2005

Active Fuel Management.  In January, GM is planning to launch this "new" technology, making an 8-cylinder engine operate using just 4 of the cylinders to save fuel when that extra power isn't needed.  This will increase the efficiency of the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe from 15 to 16 MPG.  (Do you think they'll call this a hybrid too?)  16 MPG with no emission improvement whatsoever is pathetic.  Where is the benefit for cars?  Why must only the monster-size SUVs and Pickups consume all the engineering resources.  What the heck are they going to have that will compete with Camry-Hybrid?  Focusing entirely on vehicles that are wasteful even after the technology upgrade is just plain wrong.  How will they survive if the only choice they offer to consumers is one that isn't appealing to someone wanting a more practical size vehicle, especially when their cars and smaller trucks don't sell well in the first place.  They have no sense of balance.  Emphasis on size & power is an obsession causing them to lose marketshare.  When will they learn that consumers want a choice?  The AFM system will not work in a 4-cylinder vehicle, since 2 is not enough for smooth engine operation.  So this design doesn't appear to have any way of being scaled down to fit small engines.  What a waste.

12-14-2005

Evading Answers.  There is simply no reason to rehash the same old anti-hybrid debates, so most of the bait still being dropped by the antagonists doesn't get much attention anymore.  New topics are an entirely different matter though.  I jumped at this opportunity.  Someone accused Nissan's purchase of Toyota hybrid technology just a maneuver to easily meet fleet emission requirements.  So I asked how that was different what Honda was doing, since overall production volume will be similar.  His praise of Honda and negative look at Nissan sure sounded like a double-standard.  Asking how that could be resulted with an insult, rather than answering the question.  Asking again just enflamed the personal attack.  No matter how I posed the question, he evaded it.  Those lame attempts to draw attention away didn't work.  Yet, they try anyway.  Watch for it.  You'll find examples frequently.

12-14-2005

Traction-Control Test.  We got quite a bit of snow last night.  So when leaving for work, I decided to try out the traction-control behavior I had been hearing about.  Climbing up a road that causes tire slipping for all vehicles with just a hint of snow was perfect for the test, with so much snow that it was too deep for Prius.  Sure enough, I quickly got stuck.  But rather than following the usual advice of letting up on the pedal so the car could slowly crawl through, I floored it.  That instructed the hybrid system to invoke a traction algorithm I wasn't even aware of.  It alternately spun each front tire in a rather strange way.  And it did indeed result in forward movement.  How about that?  And to my surprise, a friend of mine tried the same thing with his Prius but backward.  He was late dropping off his children for school, deciding to attempt a climb over the big pile of snow at the end of his driveway in reverse.  That worked too.  Cool!

 

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