Prius Personal Log  #245

January 7, 2006  -  January 11, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 1/23/2006

    page #244         page #246         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

1-11-2006

Hybrid Types.  The nightmare of people being completely clueless to the fact that hybrids can be configured in a wide variety of ways is quickly turning into a manageable problem.  I always feared that it would become a huge misconception, presenting a major problem to overcome.  But GM's desperate attempt to join the hybrid revolution has actually alleviated that.  Phew!  There upcoming "mild" hybrid is only a half-hearted attempt to improve efficiency, with no emission benefit at all.  But rather than proclaiming it to be competitive with the "full" hybrid, they are actually being surprisingly straight-forward about it.  The reason why should be obvious.  They are planning to offer a "full" hybrid of their own 2 years later.  And being that big of an automaker, you do not what to create confusion within your own selection.  So people will know up front that the higher price for the "full" will provide more of a benefit.  Whether or not they understand what that benefit actually is will be an entirely different matter... one we can deal with later.  After all, the difference between "full" and "assist" hybrids seems to be working out rather nicely.  Almost immediately after the debut of the new Civic-Hybrid, average consumers acknowledged that the electric-only drive paled in comparison to Prius's stealth mode.

1-11-2006

Gas Prices?  If when the price of oil per barrel was just above $50 it resulted in a price per gallon of gas to be just over $2, how come the price of gas is so low right now?  Since a barrel of oil yields about 40 gallons of gas, wouldn't the fact that oil is about $12 more now mean that gas should be at least 30 cents higher?  Instead, it is only a few cents more.  Why?  I realize that gas is heavily subsidized anyway.  But if that amount just went up that much recently to compensate, how come no one has pointed it out?  The economics cannot hold out forever.  At some point, this delay of facing the reality will become a problem.  And the longer we wait, the uglier it will be.  Fortunately, the automakers aren't fighting hybrids anymore.  So there is some hope, despite it coming so late.

1-11-2006

Destined to Fail.  The upcoming proposed changes for the EPA was big news today, which spawned lots of online discussions.  It quickly became obvious that in the end there is nothing they can do to fix estimates.  The concept of only reporting just two approximated numbers, City & Highway, is a fatal flaw.  The fact that Suburb type driving isn't represented causes major confusion.  Then when you add in major influences, like the difference between the A/C season and the Heater season, it becomes a nightmare.  Realistically, the only way to properly represent the vehicle is to use actual data.  Reporting real-world numbers captured over the course of time is the only way not to mislead.  It's that ongoing average that really makes a difference.  But very few people have the patience to wait for that.  They take only a spot check from a tank or two, then freak out because it didn't mean the unrealistic expectations they were given the impression they should have... from the automakers, who never really wanted you to know what the actual MPG was.  That's why Prius has captured so much attention.  Having that Multi-Display always present empowers the consumer for the first time.  As a result, they are learning that the estimate system has always been flawed.  Soon, they will realize the grossly oversimplified proposed revision will be too.  Unless actual owner statistics become the new way of informing prospective buyers what to expect for MPG, it is destined to fail.

1-10-2006

Homepage Enhancement!  I was inspired this evening.  That list of helpful materials had grown to the point of becoming clutter, too many links without an easy way of identifying which provided what.  It just suddenly hit me that miniature thumbnails would do a much better job.  So that's what I provided.  The homepage of my webpage now shows tiny illustrations for each document, just enough of a glimpse to serve as a reminder of what that link points to.  That's a very exciting enhancement.  I love when I can use images to replace or enhance text.

1-10-2006

Untold Facts.  This makes me wonder what other important information hasn't been uncovered yet.  It turns out that the CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) vehicle from Honda, Civic GX, requires two filters to be routinely changed every 10,000 miles.  One of them is $120.75 from the dealer.  That's very expensive.  Do you think that is included in ownership estimates?  I couldn't even figure out what it was for, since it was just referred to as filter "B".  Another untold fact is that some states require you to pay tax on any CNG used for powering a vehicle.  So don't forget to add that into the list of routine expenses either.

1-09-2006

By the way...  The benefit of PZEV (besides the longer warranty) is the rating scale distance... which is 150,000 miles; for SULEV it is 120,000 miles; for ULEV it is only 100,000 miles ...and the presence of hardware to almost completely eliminate evaporative emissions.  Too bad there isn't a clearer way of stating that.  Oh well.  At least the labels are class specific, which eliminates confusion caused by vehicles of very different types & sizes.

1-09-2006

Pointless.  What exactly is the point of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)?  Back in the 90's, it was the cleanest automotive technology available.  Unfortunately, all it provides now is a cleaner fuel for combustion engines... but only SULEV.  A "full" hybrid is as clean (some are even cleaner) and quite a bit more efficient.  The "full" hybrid technology can evolve to take advantage of renewable electricity from clean sources too, and already supports at least a 10 percent blend of ethanol.  CNG is a non-renewable fuel... and rather expensive at the moment (plus you still have to pay state fuel taxes for it).  The range per fillup is disappointing as well, only half that of a "full" hybrid.  Using CNG just for the sake of not using oil isn't much of an improvement.  It basically only gives the automaker something to brag about... which is exactly what happened today.

1-09-2006

Pathetic.  It's difficult to tolerate this diesel announcement from the Detroit Auto Show today: "Both V8 comply with stringent US LEV II emission standards".  That was the praise given for two new vehicles!  Can you believe it?  I find it amazing that an EPA (or CARB) category was even mentioned.  But for it to be such low one is just plain pathetic.  LEV hasn't been used for cars since the 90's.  It's very dirty by today's standards.  ULEV exceeded it years ago.  SULEV, which is significantly better, has been the goal for ages... which the minimum hybrids all deliver now.  The disingenuous nature of the statements coming from certain people are so frustrating.  They pretend to be providing something impressive, hoping to fool the uninformed into believing they are.  In reality, they are not.  But it doesn't surprise me.  Setting the bar that low is a pretty common theme lately.  Getting caught so far behind is a tough thing to deal with.  They had no idea people would start caring about the smog problem.

1-09-2006

Camry-Hybrid Details, part 4.  Pay close attention.  The system announced today for Camry-Hybrid could very easily be used in a second version of Highlander-Hybrid.  Pretty cool, eh?  It's only a matter of time.  Watch for speculation.  It shouldn't take long for people to begin wondering, especially since that inexpensive mild hybrid SUV from GM is on the way.

1-09-2006

Camry-Hybrid Details, part 3.  I wonder how much the tax credit influenced that date.  Hmm?  Waiting until the middle of Summer as originally planned would have meant no Camry-Hybrid owner qualifying for the full amount... only getting half, since 60,000 hybrid sales from Toyota/Lexus before July is quite realistic.  Seeing that phase-out process begin so quickly is very frustrating.  Other automakers will be milking the publicity from their benefit for a substantially longer time.  Meanwhile, the ability for Toyota/Lexus to help establish the hybrid market will be impaired.  Which appears to defeat the whole purpose of the credit.  I thought the point was to get as many people driving (real) hybrids as quickly as possible, to help use break our dependence on imported oil (and hopefully to reduce emissions too)... resulting in a market that can later sustain itself without any monetary incentive... because those early owners would have helped to eliminate the current misconceptions.  Arrgh!

1-09-2006

Camry-Hybrid Details, part 2.  I got to see a teaser photo of the Multi-Display.  Not only is it that higher resolution, it also provides greater detail.  Rather than 6 segments for the 30-minute summary on the Consumption screen, you get a bar for each minute individually.  You get a resetable "best" counter.  Of course with stealth, I'm not sure if it would be that informative.  But then again, the Camry-Hybrid scale only goes up to 60 MPG.  Prius provides 100 MPG, which can be taken advantage of with the instant MPG bar when the engine is just barely running.  Regardless, we'll have enthusiasts emerging from a very diverse crowd soon.  I can't wait!

1-09-2006

Camry-Hybrid Details, part 1.  There were not a lot of details.  But what we were told today certainly was exciting!!!  The anticipated MPG is 43 city and 37 highway.  That puts the estimate average at 40 MPG... exactly the mass-market target for Camry-Hybrid we've been hoping for.  Those heavily endorsing the technology (like me) felt that would be needed to complement the expectations of non-hybrid features... a configuration that offered the best overall balance.  Camry offers a pleasing complete package already.  Which is why it is the number one seller.  So adding the hybrid choice had to be extremely well thought out.  So naturally, the engine will use the Atkinson-Miller pumping cycle to deliver the cleanest emissions.  Yeah!  That means PZEV will indeed be a reality.  It sure looks like Toyota fulfilled the dream.  Consumers will get emissions & efficiency without any sacrifice whatsoever.  Yes, from my point-of-view, Prius doesn't either.  But I'm obviously a person of high technical caliber understand that others have other priorities.  Anyone, it's fantastic getting some details.

1-08-2006

Detroit Auto Show.  The news this morning had a live spot from the show.  They said muscle cars are making a huge comeback.  Right away, the topic of efficiency came up... since decades ago when the muscles were in their prime, they had a reputation for guzzling gas.  But in comparison to driving a monster-size SUV, these vehicles obviously get better MPG.  The topic of "performance" was also emphasized, with the meaning being that of handling... which is a category the SUV does quite poorly in comparison to just about any car.  Next was talk about hybrids.  The vehicle featured was the 5,000 pound concept Tahoe with the "two-mode" design.  They said it works "like a Prius around town" and on the highway half the cylinders shut down, with the point being that you still get to have an 8-cylinder engine without making any sacrifices.  All that is definitely a step in the right direction, but talking about making the step a small one.  Why isn't an ordinary family vehicle getting improved?  Where is the competition for Camry-Hybrid?  How come there is no attention put on minivans?  In other words, the theme is basically still one of power.  The muscle car is fast.  The concept hybrid is massive.

1-07-2006

Happy Prius.  My Prius got to see sunlight for the first time in 3 weeks.  It's been overcast since the middle of last month.  It was getting pretty depressing.  All that changed today.  It was warm enough (just above freezing) to comfortably hand wash the Prius too.  So I did.  That was the first time the paint had seen anything since early last Fall.  I literally haven't washed the car in months, back when I added that layer of protective polish.  It's futile.  Just minutes afterward, the thing is covered in sand & salt anyway.  So the only reason to wash is to cover it with a thin layer of hot wax immediately before drying.  And I did.  That made the Prius very happy, performing well above normal.  I couldn't believe it.  Two drives totaling 65 miles with a cold start in between resulted in 51.3 MPG showing on the Multi-Display.  That's absolutely amazing in the Winter.

1-07-2006

Don't Listen.  That's the advice Prius owners give those thinking about taking a test-drive.  Instinct compels you to judge acceleration while merging onto a highway based on sound, since for decades you could.  But with a "full" hybrid, you cannot.  The electric motor is totally silent.  So there is quite simply no way to know how much it is contributing to power based on what you hear.  And since it is the component responsible for a majority of the torque, listening is a poor choice.  Today, I tried doing exactly that.  While merging onto a rather busy highway from a very short entrance ramp, I dropped the pedal almost all the way down.  The engine revved up to the 5,000 RPM maximum (rather low in comparison to some traditional vehicles), giving the impression it was struggling.  Looking at the Multi-Display and seeing the instantaneous MPG bar almost gone, I could have easily come to the same conclusion.  Attempting to base acceleration on feel provided the same incorrect judgment.  The catch was when I looked at the speedometer.  It was already at 63 MPH and was continuing to rapidly climb.  Needless to say, don't listen.  For that matter, don't trust any instinct other than your eyes using the speedometer for verification.  The hybrid system is a whole lot faster than the way it initially appears.

 

back to home page       go to top