Prius Personal Log  #243

December 28, 2005  -  December 31, 2005

Last Updated: Sun. 1/01/2006

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12-31-2005

Remember this time last year?  I was getting severely attacked by the anti-hybrid on that big Ford Escape forum.  It was my fault for pointing out their attempts to undermine the success of the Escape-Hybrid.  But I wanted to make it clear to all those in support of the hybrid what those owning the dirty gas-guzzling version were up to.  Just a few weeks later, I left.  The nonsense continued though.  And now, a whole year later, the evidence is absolutely overwhelming that they are guilty of doing precisely what I accused them of.  Every hybrid-related post was quickly subdued.  They simply did not want the hybrid to gain any attention.  No section, or any resource at all for that matter, ever emerged for the hybrid... making real-world information on it nearly impossible to find... exactly as the anti-hybrid always wanted.  I may be moving on by not fighting that effort anymore, but it continues to frustrate nonetheless.  Fortunately, they'll have a much harder time shutting up the enthusiasts for Camry-Hybrid, since sharing a system very similar to Prius will make sharing of real-world information easier.  Thank goodness!

12-31-2005

Wild Gas Prices.  I could have filled up late last night.  But being end-of-the-month statistics time, I waited.  Gas was $2.29 per gallon when I made that choice.  It was $2.35 this morning.  I wasn't thrilled about the difference.  Then just a few hours after filling up, the price dropped to $2.19.  That really ticked me off.  How the heck could an entire city of gas stations all uniformly have such large swings in such a short span of time?  Well, to really upset, this evening they are now at $2.29 per gallon.  That doesn't make sense.  So much change so quickly is definitely a sign that something is really wrong with the fueling infrastructure.  2006 should be very interesting.

12-31-2005

Mariner-Hybrid.  Ford is making a really big deal about this "new" hybrid from their Mercury division, emphasizing how it is now available a whole year sooner than originally planned.  How can this even be considered another hybrid?  The same 2.3 liter gas engine, 75 kW electric thrust motor, 27 kW electric generator motor, and 300 volt battery-pack are attached to the very same body as Escape-Hybrid.  The only actual difference is the trim-level.  And if that's all it takes to qualify as a "new" hybrid, the various packages of Prius should then count too.  Heck, the Mercury doesn't even upgrade that cheesy "charge/assist" indicator needle.  (Which is really dumb, since it has no way to show both occurring at the same time... a common occurrence for a "full" hybrid.)  But I suppose seeing them call this their second hybrid was to be expected.  The "fourth generation" label for Honda's design doesn't actually qualify, yet that is what the 2006 is called.  The industry is just using terminology whatever way they please, no consistency between automakers.

12-30-2005

Flawed Design.  From the beginning (6 years ago), I was not a fan of the manual transmission hybrid.  Owners praised the very thing I didn't... the ability to push the electric side beyond a suitable tolerance.  It meant working the battery-pack harder than a long-life design could support, not preventing the extremes.  That approach was flawed.  And sure enough, evidence is continually trickling in to support it.  The unfortunate reality was clear, reading posted messages with complaints of how the CVT version gave too much control to the computer.  That was a good thing, but not what sells.  People wanted the control the manual offered... and now they are paying the penalty.  These quotes from a recent message spell that out well: "I have 103,000 miles on my 2000 Citrus Yellow 5-speed Insight."  "I think I am now experiencing full battery failure.  I'd been getting partial assist for the past few months and now none."  "Recalibrations became fairly common at 60,000 miles but I got used to them."  That evidence is hard to dispute.  The fact that Honda doesn't offer Civic-Hybrid with a manual transmission anymore, despite the MPG gain it could offer, reinforces it.  Watching Prius (on the Multi-Display) go out of it's way to protect the battery-pack charge-level from ever getting too high or too low and routinely do seemingly wasteful balancing charges & discharges makes a whole lot of sense to the rest of the hybrid community now.  Neither Honda nor Ford have that level of user feedback.  But with these reports, that isn't necessary at this point.  The design flaw of not allowing the computer to heftily intervene is obvious.

12-30-2005

Clean Diesel Problems, part 2.  As for biodiesel, which isn't actually clean since it increases the NOx emissions, has problems too.  The recent mandate in Minnesota (which is the first in the nation) to require all diesel to be a 2 percent blend of biodiesel was suspended due to fuel lines & filters being clogged by it.  A theory is the glycerin (a saturated fatty acid in the biodiesel) may be turning to a thick waxy substance in the cold temperatures much easier than anyone anticipated... which is pretty bad considering 2 percent is such a tiny amount.  Another theory is poor quality from the refineries, delivering a substandard fuel.  Whatever the case, the status of biodiesel is no where near as far along as ethanol (biogas)... which has been a mandated 10 percent blend in Minnesota year-round since back in the 90's.

12-30-2005

Clean Diesel Problems, part 1.  Looking into the details of the upcoming low-sulfur mandate for diesel (requiring a maximum of only 15ppm), you'll find this very disturbing compliance option: "up to 20 percent of highway diesel fuel produced may continue to meet the current 500ppm sulfur limit through May 2010".  That's one heck of a shortcoming of the mandate not a single supporter has ever mentioned.  The resulting pollution could add up to an enormous amount.  In other words, diesel will basically still be much dirtier than gas overall for many years still.

12-30-2005

$61.04 per barrel.  At this point, it shouldn't surprise anyone that oil is still at a record high level.  Demand is up and supply is down.  Just look at the ugly situation in Iraq.  There are 2 credible threats per week against their supply depots, preventing worker's from doing their jobs... which results in shortages locally and ultimately means some exports simply don't occur.  It's a mess.  Gas is expensive, currently at $2.29 per gallon.  But that's probably regarded as a good thing, since it could definitely be worse.  Diesel is just 10 cents more per gallon.  So that is thought of as "back to normal".  In the end, this will dwarf memories from decades ago.  It's a whole new ballgame now.  We are look at genuine long-term change because of this.

12-30-2005

Hybrid Shopping.  Here's a bit of info to keep in mind when doing comparisons.  The probability of Prius having a much higher resale value than the competition many years from now due to the fact that it already supports an EV mode (beyond stealth) is difficult to argue.  It will.  The used ones will be sought after for aftermarket augmentation (larger capacity battery-pack and a plug).  All it will take is that big drop in prices for rechargeables that several industries are striving for.

12-30-2005

Based on Observation.  I'm really tired of reading articles with quotes like this today: "Civic [Hybrid] shuts off all 4 and relies on battery power between 25 and 35 mph."  Reporters have always just made up the maximum stealth speed from observation alone, based on just their own particular test drive experience.  So we've seen numbers all across the board.  But this for Civic-Hybrid report, it was especially amusing since it gave the impression that electric-drive always happens.  And where the heck they get a range from?  Many owners have even admitted that there is little to establish a pattern with, since the occurrences are so brief and so infrequent.  Has anyone uncovered any actual detail yet?  I certainly haven't seen any, and I've been really looking.  We know that both electric motor is much smaller than Prius and battery-pack cannot hold as much electricity.  So the potential is obviously less.  But I'd like to know how the actual implementation of that design performs.  It sounds mostly like a solution that's just enough for Honda to get away from the "mild" stigma... based on observation.

12-29-2005

Extreme Complexity.  Some people claim they are not anti-hybrid: "I applaud you for being willing to purchase a Prius.  I think it's great, but I wonder if you, and thousands of other hybrid vehicle buyers, really know what you've gotten yourselves into.  The extreme complexity of the vehicle means..."  Then it always ends just like this one did: "I will not buy a hybrid."  It sounds good, but quickly reveals that they have no trust at all that the technology will fit in our complex world.  They typically sight some example of potential problem based on hearsay or vague reports, as this one did with respect to the "stalling".  Here was my response...  As for the extremely complex claim, you clearly have no idea how a modern gas-guzzler is designed.  They have just as many computer modules, only the mechanics are familiar with them already.  And guess what, they still don't always do the repair well... or for that matter, even diagnose the problem correctly.  The "full" hybrid system is just different.  In the long run, the "full" hybrid should actually prove more reliable too.  Designing a system from the ground up does have some advantages.  The comment about "not sure what's going on" is pure nonsense.  Read the SSC notices.  They prove that.  The computer updates are refinements to the existing software to better deal with unusual situations (like when moisture breaches a seal), in other words; it's an upgrade... not reprogramming as you claim.  The original system works just fine under normal operating conditions.  Better error-handling is an improvement.  It's when some owners don't bother to have those SSCs done promptly, which causes problems later on, that the media has a feeding frenzy over afterward.  The media also fails to inform when a update is no longer necessary, allowing people to assume the newer model is still using the old software or component.  That contributes to misconceptions.  Ask how many hybrid owners actually experience any problems.  The internet grossly amplifies the perception, since owners that have pleasant ownership experiences rarely ever report anything.  They just quietly keep driving it.  Those seeking help find their way to online forums, just like this owner did (note the newbie status, only 4 posts).

12-29-2005

Not Actually Sincere.  This comment in the opening of a hybrid article today frustrated me immediately: "But our site is not a cheerleader for anything and it's not our business to promote anyone's products -- it's to help consumers make informed buying decisions.  And right now, in our view, hybrids simply cost too much."  I had good reason to feel that way too.  They called Prius a "little" car several times, despite it being a midsize and clearly larger than of efficiency vehicles.  Then they quoted MPG disappointment from real-world numbers not even being close to the EPA estimates.  Following that were reports of the huge markups beyond the sticker-price that supposedly everyone is paying.  How is that not promotion... for the competition?  There misleading comments and selective data made it hard to deny their insincerity.  That's sad... and witnessed far too often.  But it will likely continue until the competition actually has something to compete with.

12-28-2005

Fool-Cell Facts.  Someone sincerely asked for support of our discontent toward fuel-cell technology in vehicles.  They honestly had not realized how much more of a political game it is as opposed to being an actual solution to our problems.  (In other words, the current administration found another victim.)  So I provided this as feedback:  There are lots of facts available.  Do some searching.  Finding them yourself will give you the sense of frustration some of us here already feel.  Hydrogen is naturally found in many substances.  The most common is water.  The catch is you need an energy source to extract it, like electricity.  That electricity is rarely from a clean or renewable source.  A common one is from oil.  See the problem?  Using oil to create electricity can actually be more polluting than just using it for gas instead.  The resulting hydrogen gallon-per-mile equivalent you get from it isn't anywhere near as high either.  It's a lose-lose situation.  Using coal for the electricity can be even worse in terms of overall emissions.  Some were saying for awhile that natural gas was the key.  Get the hydrogen from that.  But the reduced supply due to the hurricanes and the fact that it isn't renewable pretty much kills that idea.  Wind is a viable solution.  But unfortunately, only one source of wind-to-hydrogen generation exists in the United States (the University of Minnesota began using a research grant for that very purpose recently).  Needless to say, that work is quite a few years away from being to any great numbers.  Far more effort is needed.  The same is true for using water to create the electricity.  Basically, when you look at the costs involved to setup the infrastructure to just create the hydrogen cleanly, you realize how much of a monumental effort it is.  And that doesn't even take into account how to get it to consumers.  Once you get a feel for the magnitude of what's needed just for the fuel, take a look at the technology itself.  The limited range & efficiency is quite disappointing.  Reliability is so low most don't even want to address that yet.  And the coldest operating temperature is 20 F degrees, not even close to what us northern folk require.  The acceleration & handling of the prototypes (since they are so surprisingly heavy) won't impress anyone either.  As for vehicle safety & cost, they are a complete mystery.  None of that is a problem with Prius.

 

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