Prius Personal Log  #244

January 1, 2006  -  January 6, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 1/21/2006

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1-06-2006

Green Line.  That so-called pickup "hybrid" from GM is suppose to be joined by another "hybrid" this year, a SUV from their Saturn division.  The insurance discount qualification vagueness got me curious.  So I searched to see if I could find any further detail on this new "hybrid".  There wasn't much.  It will use a 42-volt battery (likely just 3 traditional batteries connected in a series) to power a super-starter which will actually somehow be able to contribute to propulsion a little bit too.  However, I also found this quote from a GM spokesperson: "We�ve chosen purposely not to downsize the gasoline engine.  The power assist is to improve the performance of the vehicle."  In other words, the system is just a minor step better... a small MPG gain at best.  There basically won't be any emission improvement (with respect to the smog-related kind).  That's sad.  It won't cost much.  But the saying "you get what you pay for" definitely applies.  Being willing to spend more means you'll get more in return.  This cheap approach may attract buyers, which GM desperately needs right now, but will it actually help in the long run?  It's bad enough offering so little in terms of trying something new, but to not even reduce the size of the engine (which is far from a new concept) is awful.  Using the electric motor to keep the power the same, even though the engine is smaller, makes way to much sense for this senseless automaker to consider.  Of course, you can have your cake and eat it too with a better design.  Camry-Hybrid will start out with the same size engine (the smaller model, naturally), yet it will offer a substantial MPG gain due to the amount of technology change it will exploit.  The emission reduction will be significant too.  So much for their "Green Line" actually being green.

1-06-2006

10 Percent Discount.  Yesterday, an insurance company announced they would be offering a 10 percent discount to hybrid owners.  The reasoning behind that makes sense, since a heightened awareness has been demonstrated.  When in the driver's seat, you pay more attention to traffic & road conditions to achieve a higher MPG.  That attentiveness does translate directly into a safety benefit.  The same is true for not speeding.  The resulting MPG gain is safer too.  Anywho, this isn't true for all hybrid types though.  And unfortunately, the press release made no mention whatsoever about that.  The so-called pickup "hybrid" from GM does not utilize an electric motor at all when driving, so that reason to pay closer attention won't provide any gain.  The results from cruising on the highway would be absolutely identical to that of a traditional pickup.  The same is true for the speed difference as well.  So that tendency that comes naturally from a Prius owner with a Multi-Display providing constant feedback about how the electric motor is contributing for an efficiency gain is nonexistent from that pickup with a "hybrid" label on it.  So why should it qualify for a discount?

1-06-2006

Highest Price.  Back in September, the price of oil per barrel reached a record high closing.  Today, it climbed up near that again, to $64.21 ...yet gas prices here aren't as high.  Why?  In Iraq where a lot of the oil is, they are outrageous.  So basically, the whole system is a mess.  It is now extremely volatile, without any chance for a permanent return to the sub-50's anymore.  What kind of an effect to you think that will ultimately have on vehicle purchase trends?  Hybrids could become far more popular than anyone (except me) has imagined.  That will certainly show those experts, who still think hybrids will only capture a tiny marketshare.

1-05-2006

Alternative Minimum Tax.  The deception with the tax credits is really making the news now.  Quite a few new Prius owners are going to make that horrible discovery next year on their returns.  The money they are expecting to get back from their hybrid purchase won't actually be provided... because they don't really qualify.  There's this nasty thing called ATM, the alternative minimum tax.  It was created decades ago to make sure the rich paid their fair share.  Unfortunately, the rated index was not adjusted for inflation.  So as the years progressed, people making less money ended up having to pay this too.  And with a tax credit so large, they'll have to pay... meaning they'll get less than they were expecting as a refund.  Some may not get anything at all.  In other words, one hand give'th and the other hand take'th away.

1-05-2006

Ethanol Threat.  Who knew that the recent biodiesel problem would freak out the diesel supporters.  They responded by spreading lies about ethanol, realizing it was a renewable fuel source the hybrid owners could immediately capitalize on.  First was to claim that clogging of the filters in the diesel systems using biodiesel for the first time was no different than when a gas engine uses ethanol for the first time.  Only thing is, there's an overwhelming amount of proof showing that isn't true.  Last year, states replaced the MTBE additive in gas with ethanol.  No reports of clogging resulted from that.  The reality is that gas is a more refined fuel.  It doesn't have the impurities that diesel has (a reason for being so much cleaner).  So the introduction of ethanol (an alcohol which in it's pure form is actually a beverage) causes cleansing, but there isn't any type of build up remove in the first place.  Keep in mind that it's a well documented fact how biodiesel blends of more than 20 percent turn to gel in the cold... but no one ever mentioned if it turned back to a liquid once the temperature got warmer.  Perhaps that 2 percent caused the build up over time.  The next was to claim that a 10 percent blend of ethanol with gas causes a 20 percent drop in fuel efficiency.  I know for a fact that is pure nonsense.  My 5 years of data using it clearly show that the studies stating it is really about 3.4 percent is indeed the true difference.  Could you imagine 20 percent?  People would be furious.  The best response though was the attack on switchgrass.  That's the wild grass that grows along the side of highways and in farmed fields that are left to rest.  It is natural, found commonly in the wild, requiring no chemicals whatsoever to grow.  It's the stuff animals feed on.  In fact, one year Minnesota actually harvested it from highway ditches for livestock due to a hay shortage.  The sugar stored within that type of grass can be used for more than just a food; allowed to ferment it will turn into ethanol.  And of course, the point of their argument facts was that biodiesel is a better choice as an "alternate fuel", that hybrids offer so little potential being able to use ethanol.  In other words, they see this as something else significant to fear... since they are already well aware of the fact that a "full" hybrid can be easily adapted to support a plug, allowing electricity from a variety a different sources to be used as yet another "alternative fuel".  Being threatened on multiple fronts really has them in a panic now.

1-04-2006

Repeat Questions.  They are starting to get agonizing.  How many years of answering the same question over and over and over again can a person take?  For me, it's 5.  That frustration of wanting to help but not having the energy to fulfill the queries of each individually is growing.  Fortunately, that has stimulated inspiration.  Yeah!  Something new after all this time!!  Why not create a one-page document highlighting personal experiences of mine?  Just because all the other documents I've created are detached educational materials doesn't mean there cannot be any that are written in first-person for the sake of expressing my own feelings & observations.  So, I've give it a shot.  Wish me luck!

1-04-2006

Lexus Commercials.  The television budget for Lexus has always been considerably higher than that of Toyota.  So I shouldn't be jealous seeing so many more unique commercials for the Lexus hybrid.  Well, I am anyway.  Imagine if Prius had that much promotion?  Of course, Prius didn't have an image to up hold.  It was unique, craving out an identity of its own.  Advertisements beyond the mere identification could have been counterproductive.  Toyota allowed the online activity of owners to establish a reputation.  And we did... creating a method of self-advertising so effective, there's no need for commercials.  Dang!  We are victims of our own success.  Oh well.

1-03-2006

Unexpected Confirmation.  I was listening to the state public news radio channel today (like I do everyday).  There was an interview with one of the justices on our state supreme court.  He said something that made me feel great: "When you write, you test the soundness of your opinion."  That was with respect to the decisions he makes, in response to a question asking about how he finally feels comfortable each the outcome.  Writing forces you to think through all aspects of the situation, resulting in a concise explanation on paper... something you can show others later to confirm your choice was a sound one.  My personal logs are much the same way.  Often a great deal of thought is given to them before the final typing is complete.  I'll think about exactly what I want to say while out rollerblading or biking.  (By the way, that recreation is sometimes the direct result of having to step back from a heated hybrid argument.)  And inevitably, it never seems to come out the same way once I start typing as in my head.  That act of writing is a method of sounding off that really does make you test yourself.  Needless to say, hearing that was a great confirmation that these personal logs do in fact provide value for me to, rather than just documenting history for others to read later.  After all, they are in the perspective of first-person.  So I better make sure my beliefs are well thought out.

1-03-2006

Screen-Saver.  Constructing an executable slide-show intended for use as a screen-saver is as simple as dragging & dropping those new wallpaper image files into a special assembly application.  And I did exactly, using some software I bought back in 1999.  Who knew that shareware purchase would still come in handy so many years later.  Now you have even more Prius stuff resulting from the new calendar pages to download... screen-savers 5

1-02-2006

Wallpapers.  By converting the background of the 12 pages created for the new calendar, you'd end up with 12 new images for your computer desktop.  And I'd like to say that's what I did.  But in reality, it was the other direction.  They started with black in back.  That looks great on the screen when you are arranging photos, but terrible later on paper.  So I had to create the white for printing.  Anywho, you get the ones for the computer too... wallpapers 3

1-02-2006

2006 Calendar.  There's a brand new one this year, featuring 12 new pages all with the HSD model.  The other 2 from the past are still available, with the date-grids updated for 2006.  But they simply weren't enough, especially since I was able to fill gaps in the photo album since they were created.  That makes 3, each of which can be downloaded for free.  You have to print & assemble them yourself.  But heck, being part of the process is how Prius owners have grown to become enthusiasts.  Take a look at this newest one... calendar: C

1-01-2006

Bluetooth Kits.  Today's newspaper advertisements brought an unexpected treat.  Aftermarket Bluetooth kits are now available.  They enable you to make your old gas-guzzler work like a Prius, allowing cell-phone conversations through the vehicle's built-in stereo system.  I was hoping that would become a reality fairly quick.  The handsfree devices of the past were rather crude in comparison.  The Bluetooth approach makes a whole lot more sense.  Now when legislation comes about to properly enforce safe driving, the people in power will have a new option available... especially when you look at the details and see that voice-dialing and verbal caller-id are included as part of the kit.  Not having to hold anything or to take your eyes off the road to fumble with buttons makes all the difference.  Go Bluetooth!

1-01-2006

Tax Credits.  They are clearly bias to the automakers that don't offer hybrids yet, and I'm thankful that some of the news media are pointing that out.  Toyota gets hurt by this.  The phasing out process begins the quarter after the hybrid sold count reaches 60,000.  That very likely means just 6 months from now, then only 50 percent of the credit will be available.  The point was suppose to have been to help establish the hybrid market.  Instead, each automaker gets the same quantity of support... which sounds fair, until you look at what's available.  Each Silverado (which isn't even a real hybrid, since no thrust ever comes from the electric motor and there is no MPG improvement on the highway; it only provides an idle stop feature) is included in the count.  How exactly is that helping?  Making genuine hybrids common as quickly as possible is what we really need.  That will make the effort of automakers trying to catch up less of a risk, since consumers would have already embraced the technology.  Instead, we get this credit limitation that attempts to spread the incentives to vehicles that don't deserve it.  Imagine if they would have based quantity on the type of hybrid instead.  The race to be the automaker to sell the most of that type would be intense.  What sense of competition does this existing approach inspire?

1-01-2006

It's the Emissions.  The tax credits for hybrids begin today.  So naturally, there is a flood of articles highlighting that.  And as expected, the very first one I read ticked me off.  The reporter was complaining about the hybrids getting money but not other vehicles delivering similar MPG.  It's the emissions they are totally overlooking.  Neither the economy cars nor the diesels deliver a rating of SULEV.  In fact, some are so dirty they don't even get the LEV rating.  Why should a vehicle spitting out that much pollution be rewarded?  Too bad those reporters aren't asking that.  Of course, the whole point was to provide support for the new technology, to help it gain acceptance.  But they overlooked that entirely too.

1-01-2006

Low-Sulfur Gas.  Today is the day the ULEV hybrid owners have dreaded.  It's when the mandate for low-sulfur gas takes effect.  Having that means the exhaust cleansing components within new SULEV hybrids will have no trouble at all operating at full effectiveness to at least 120,000 miles, regardless of where they are in the country.  This is yet another reason Honda stopped offering the manual transmission.  That dirtier emission rating was tolerable, until today.  Now it is unacceptable, since that's what sets apart the hybrids from the true economy cars.  Being super clean is a must with the hybrids now.

 

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