Prius Personal Log  #246

January 12, 2006  -  January 17, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 1/23/2006

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1-17-2006

Packed Snow.  This morning's drive to work qualified as the most hazardous non-snow road conditions.  No snow was falling.  No snow to drive through remained.  It had all rapidly melted and refroze.  There was a inch thick layer of snow so dense that is was almost ice... which meant there was absolutely no chance of the tires making contact with the road itself no matter how much salt was on top of it.  That resulted in extremely slippery driving with the ever-present possibility of hitting a rut where the packed snow wasn't as thick.  Bump & Slide makes for one heck of a commute.  But the Prius handled it just fine.  And yes, I did take advantage of "B" mode a few times.

1-16-2006

Two-Mode Illustration.  I've been struggling to figure out how the heck the components for this new type of full hybrid interact.  GM, Daimler-Chrysler, and BMW are taking a very different approach from Toyota & Ford.  But it should deliver system operation similar to that in Prius overall, for the most part.  However, having more components and greater complexity will undoubtedly make it more expensive.  Does anyone have any more detail available?  That sure would be helpful.  Anywho, there is an extra PSD and 3 clutches.  It is a really odd setup.  But it would get them past any patent violation concerns.  It would deliver the electric-only and engine-only modes (hence "two") they've been promoting, and appears to provides the ability to recharge the battery-pack at any time (since there are 2 independent motors).  We'll see.  For now, it's just an educated guess... Two-Mode hybrid

1-16-2006

Opel Astra Diesel Hybrid.  While doing some searches to find out more about the "two-mode" system, I came across a press release from early last year for the European market.  It's a 2-door coupe, rather small but seating for 5 along with a tiny storage area.  Back in late 2004, the non-hybrid version scored a point value of 180 in the European Car-Of-The-Year competition.  Prius got 406.  This concept hybrid model is suppose to deliver an average of roughly 58 MPG (city/highway mix), based on the estimate tests for Europe.  So it appears as though Prius will still score better, since it is most likely cleaner and obviously bigger.  The concept delivers 92kW (125 horsepower) from the diesel engine, and uses 30kW & 40kW electric motors.  The NiMH battery-pack is 22 pounds lighter than the 99-pound one in Prius, but the energy density wasn't specified... though it was mentioned that it is located where the spare-tire would normally be.  I wonder if GM has any plans to introduce this hybrid here?  The only rumor I've heard for two-mode debuts in the United States was the large Tahoe SUV and the midsize Malibu sedan.  Whatever the case, it was nice to finally get a little bit of information about this particular "full" hybrid design.

1-16-2006

Naming Propaganda.  That's what it has boiled down to.  I can find references all over to GM's promotion of "DOD" (Displacement On Demand).  Yet upon its actual debut, it will use the name "AFM" (Active Fuel Management) instead.  I sure wish they'd make up their mind.  But no!  And their much talked about "dual-mode" design is going by a system name of "two-mode" now.  It's like they don't want you to be able to trace the technology's history.  So when propaganda goes sour, they just reintroduce it under a new name.  Arrgh!

1-15-2006

Beijing Prius.  Sales started today.  The first Prius built in China for Chinese consumers are now on the roads of China.  Sweet!  It will be fascinating to find out how this entirely new and quite unique market will accept the technology.  I suspect the response will be a crushing embrace, far outweighing the 3,000 sales expectation Toyota has set for this year.  Of course, what do I know about their misconceptions?  Their perceptions are obviously different too, having such a different history.  But just like here, it is how they overcome those obstacles of the past that really matters.  So I'm in the "wait & see" mode.  Though, I do wonder how the fact that 500,000 Prius are already on roads outside of China, the fact that Prius is now 8 years old, and the fact that their Prius are built locally will influence sales.  They certainly have a much stronger interest in reducing consumption & emission than we do here in the United States.  This new step in hybrid expansion will definitely be interesting to observe.

1-15-2006

Hybrid Types.  The writer sang praise for such an accomplishment, saying the 2008 Tahoe-Hybrid will be an automotive technological wonder, joining the ranks of other "full" hybrids.  In a way, that is actually true.  But the writer clearly had no idea what he was really talking about, since there were no technical details provided.  His reasoning was based solely on the ability to drive using only electricity, hence this grossly incorrect statement: "Hondas change from mild to full hybrid systems is a significant move".  First, that system was never just a mild; it has always been an assist.  Second, it still is.  Simply changing the behavior of the system does not change the type.  Honda's system still only has a single electric motor, preventing it from ever having the ability to create & consume electricity simultaneously and seriously limiting the amount of electricity available for the battery-pack.  There is no larger second motor or a way for engine to remain motionless while driving using only electricity.  Those vague references have to stop.  I love the fact that "full" finally has a significance that people recognize.  But it is now time to take the next step.  They have to learn why it is a better design... and hopefully, I'll be able to help out by provided an illustrated explanation.  Though currently, I'm still waiting for some details to be released.

1-15-2006

Called What?  This comment from an owner of the so-called "hybrid" pickup was rather vindicating: "I do not see any real fuel savings with the hybrid GM from the engine shut off while stopped."  No propulsion at all is ever provided from the electric motor.  There isn't any highway MPG gain.  Smog-Related emissions aren't reduced.  Now it sounds like there is yet another disqualifying feature... the way the engine is started.  Look closely at how the startup actually occurs.  It sure sounds like the GM method is identical to the Ford prototype from back in 2000.  There was no mention of RPM increase.  All it did was make the responsiveness so fast that there was no disruption to normal operation that the driver would notice.  In fact, Ford had even went as far as bragging that it was faster than the Classic Prius.  And now it appears as though we know why they never rolled out.  It doesn't actually save any gas if you don't have a long enough stop.  Simply providing an impressively quick way of performing nothing but a traditional method start is not enough to call the vehicle a "hybrid", since it doesn't actually do anything to reduce the amount of gas needed resulting from the start.  The label of "hybrid" is totally inappropriate.  What to call it is a challenge though, since all they are selling you is a misconception.

1-14-2006

No gas saved.  That fact was referred to from a new article printed in this month's AAA mailing.  They supposedly said it takes more gas to start a car than is burned idling less than 2 minutes.  It was the argument point a well known anti-hybrid person posted today.  At times I still wonder if he is actually technically impaired, clueless about engineering.  Other times, I just figure he is intentionally spreading lies.  Whatever the case, this is yet another example of a fact that is absolutely false for a "full" hybrid.  When starting a traditional vehicle, all you have is a wimpy battery & motor.  They only provide the ability to briefly crank the engine up to a RPM of about 100.  At that point, far more gas than normal is injected with the hope that enough will ignite from the spark to boost the speed of the engine up to idle.  But with a "full" hybrid like Prius, you have a battery & motor so powerful that they can actually propel the entire car.  So rather than the spray & pray method of starting, the engine is easily spun all the way up to idle speed using electricity alone.  Then that
spinning (between 800 & 1000 RPM) is maintained until oil pressure is established.  Finally at that point, just the normal amount of gas is injected... since the engine is already spinning at the needed speed.  So the spark event is rather trivial, as is the amount of gas needed.  In other words, even just shutting off the engine for a few seconds provides an overall efficiency gain.  That claim about gas not being saved has no relevance to a "full" hybrid.

1-14-2006

Editorials.  There was a collection of them published in a Detroit newspaper today, local comments about hybrids.  So naturally, I was very curious what the editor selected to publish.  The first thought they were vehicles that required alternative fuels.  The next thought hybrids were inconvenient and impractical.  Next was that the prices will come down as time progresses.  Next just sounded off for diesel instead.  Next was a Prius owner singing a song of praise.  Following that was someone that had no idea the battery-pack material could be recycled or the fact that the engines could later rely more on ethanol.  Next was a concern about global warming.  Next was a person expressing concern about the price of battery-pack replacement.  After that was price unease and a complete lack of understanding for emission ratings.  And naturally, there was someone reciting the "stop gap" argument, stressing their favor for fuel-cell technology instead.  It was an interesting collection.  I have no idea how representative that was of other demographics.  But reading that some misconceptions remain isn't a surprise.  It will still take some work to overcome time.

1-13-2006

$63.92 per barrel.  It continues.  The price of oil is far higher than the resulting price of gas, which was $2.09 this evening... the same as it was back when oil was much less expensive.  Why?  This difference is really troubling, a definite sign that we haven't been told the whole story.  How can the price of oil fluctuate but the price of gas not?

1-13-2006

Missing the Point.  Hybrid hype emerged on Slashdot today.  Quite a diverse crowd hangs out there.  And they are more than happy to contribute to the hot topic of the day.  The repeating theme I found in many of the posts is that people in this country simply don't care about MPG.  If they did, the choice was to just buy a small & powerless economy vehicle instead.  Why bother with a hybrid?  In other words, they saw absolutely nothing wrong with continuing to drive a gas-guzzlers... without accepting the reality of oil dependence and smog.  Or they just didn't care.  Planning for the future is clearly not a priority.  Even in the mist of ever-increasing gas prices, they don't see the need to be concerned.  Somehow every vehicle will be sprinkled with magic dust and all is going to be just fine.  There won't be any political or economic conflict.  The problems will suddenly be solved themselves.  Is that like planning your future by buying lottery tickets rather than getting a good education?  They are missing the point.  Emissions & Consumption must be dealt with.  Take responsibility by at least acknowledging there is a problem to solve.  This denial "everything will be all right" nonsense is just plain wrong.  Practical solutions are possible if people understand the point of that effort.  Downgrading to a small & powerless economy vehicle isn't it.  Delivering higher efficiency and lower emissions in the vehicle you prefer is.  That's the point!

1-12-2006

Pointless.  The focus of the media for the past 5 years has been drawing attention to the desire people have expressed for increased efficiency and reduced emissions.  And over that time, it has become overwhelming clear that consumers want the solution to be easy, just an option they can choose that provides those upgrades without requiring them to do anything beyond just paying extra.  And we have even seen how some are willing to pay beyond just what the gas savings will yield, revealing support for reducing our dependence on imported oil and reducing smog-related emissions.  But whenever this is mentioned in the presence of diesel supporters, pointless replies fill the discussion threads.  Where is the constructive feedback?  All they do is argue that consumers will just choose a manual transmission instead, despite the fact that consumers have that choice already and a very large majority decide against it.  They also go out of their way to point out how much cleaner diesel is now, despite the fact that still no upcoming diesel vehicle will achieve a clean emission rating like SULEV.  Then it gets personal, where they decide to post negative comments about the hybrid supporter rather than remaining objective.  It's the same old nonsense, accomplishing nothing in the process... with the exception of confirming the actuality that hybrids are indeed fulfilling the desire.

1-12-2006

Gold Standard.  Those recent announcements from the Detroit Auto Show certainly have put Prius in a good place.  Prius is now being regarded as the "gold standard", something no other upcoming hybrid can compete with... in a league all by itself.  Sweet!  Basically, the industry has acknowledged that a vehicle built specifically to be a hybrid will always have an edge over one that just offers the hybrid system as an option.  That makes perfect sense, after all.  For decades, hardware & software replacements have always been better overall than upgrades.  True, they do present new problems at first.  But once you get over that hurdle, just like Toyota is now, you are home free with nothing holding you back from enjoying the fruits of all that labor.  Hooray!  I had always looked forward to all the pieces of the puzzle finally fitting into place.

 

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