Prius Personal Log  #247

January 18, 2006  -  January 20, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 10/01/2007

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1-20-2006

25 Percent.  I'm impressed.  When researching the "Two-Mode" hybrid system, I found quite a few articles all stating that the design was 25 percent more efficient than traditional vehicles.  They all also stated how the other full hybrid was 33 percent more efficient.  Seeing it over and over again was rather surprising.  To openly admit that their more complex design (as initially implemented) wouldn't yield MPG as high as Toyota or Ford was definitely redeeming.  I'm impressed.  Their reasoning is that their design is easier to implement.  So I'm going to hold them to that, no excuses for not being able to at least keep up with the competition will be accepted.  They established that precedent.  In return, I will point out how their design appears to live up to the full hybrid requirement, allowing for electric augmentation after the fact.  That's an ability which impresses those endorsing long-term solutions.  Traditional vehicles have never been able to support an enhancement of that magnitude afterward.  For that matter, "assist" type hybrids do not either.  Only the "full" allow for that as part of their design.  It's a benefit which won't be widely exploited initially.  But later on when battery technology improves, owners will already have a platform that allows for that to be taken advantage of.  Cool!

1-20-2006

Bluetooth 2.0  Sweet!  I saw my first device supporting this upgraded protocol today.  It advertised on the package that it uses 20 percent less electricity.  That's great!  Along with that, you also get increased bandwidth ...which translates to higher sound quality.  I sure am looking forward to how this will expand the use of Bluetooth.  Prius owners already enjoy the benefits the older protocol supplied, by providing the ability to wirelessly interface their cell-phone with the Multi-Display and Stereo System.  No other vehicles will adopt the same thing.  It's about time.  We'll see a whole lot more use of the Bluetooth headsets now too.  Those are what you wear outside of the car.  The cell-phone stays safely packed away in your pocket or purse while you interface with the headset instead.  That comes in surprisingly handy sometimes.

1-20-2006

$68.35 per barrel.  Notice anything?  The closing price today is very close to the highest ever.  Only problem is, this time there is no distinct reason.  The record previously was caused by Hurricane Katrina.  This time, there is just stability concerns about supply.  So far, it hasn't been disrupted.  The oil is actually flowing strong right now.  But despite that, we are seeing a permanent rise in price.  If you step back, you'll see that it is above what the "really bad" scenarios had addressed.  And if they stay this high for more than 6 months, we could be looking at the worst-case scenario... since at that point the effects on the economy start to become rather obvious.  When it is no longer considered temporary, people stop fighting change.  That's good.  But when they start demanding it and those responsible for delivering don't, it gets ugly.  What are people going ask from from automakers?  And how will they respond if they don't get it quickly?

1-20-2006

Gas Hybrid verses Diesel.   I'm really getting frustrated by that flawed newspaper story from 2 years ago.  A reporter drove from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Washington DC and back.  One direction he drove a Prius.  The other direction he drove a Jetta TDI diesel.  How is that even the slightest bit objective?  There's no way the highway could have been perfectly flat and windless the entire way.  So at a minimum, to fairly perform an efficiency measurement, he should have driven both directions with each vehicle.  To be as accurate as possible, you have to drive both vehicles at the same time right next to each other.  That eliminates pretty much all speed, wind, and even traffic variations.  But he didn't do that.  To make matters worse, he only took a single tank measurement... which Prius owners know all too well is extremely prone to misrepresentation (caused by the bladder, which the reporter didn't seem to even be aware of).  And sure enough, when he filled the Prius he noted that the calculated value was off by over 10 MPG from what was shown on the Multi-Display.  Yet, he didn't question it.  No consideration about an error at the pump was given.  That's a massive difference, one which owners have well proven doesn't exist.  After 47,000 miles on my HSD, the data shows there is only a 1.4 MPG variance.  For my Classic after 59,000 miles, the variance came to 2.1 MPG.  That isn't even remotely close to what the reporter claimed to have happened.  Arrgh!  Anywho, the whole point of this ranting is the fact that reporters continue to refer back to that flawed test as if it was the final definitive word.  The Jetta did not bet the Prius... as we proved on the Hybrid Road Rally in Minnesota in the summer of 2002.  We followed each other over the course of 4 days, driving 1,200 miles.  Owners were driving.  Owners were filling their own tanks, several times.  Owners understood how to drive their own vehicles.  We did everything we could to avoid the problems poorly informed reporters encounter.  Our data was carefully gathered.  That clearly showed Prius kicked butt.  The two 2001 Prius averaged 48.5 MPG.  The Civic-Hybrid got 46 MPG.  And the Jetta TDI Automatic only got 42 MPG.  This nonsense about diesel being more efficient has got to stop, and we can do that by demanding more thorough measurements.  One tank calculations simply are not accurate.

1-19-2006

Great Timing.  My website statistic report revealed something new this morning, a sudden surge of references from a very unexpected place.  It was an online forum devoted to GM vehicles.  That's great timing!  I've been hoping to stumble across an information resource to help me figure out exactly how the upcoming "two-mode" system from GM works.  Who knew it would be pointed out in such a bizarre way.  Of course, now the question is "How helpful will they be?"  I'm thinking optimistically.  Searching for recent posts, I found their hybrid discussions involving comparisons with Toyota were fairly direct & honest.  Perhaps acceptance that "full" hybrids are indeed a wise choice has finally sunk into mindset of the competition.  Cool!  Someday we may even have a good old-fashion rivalry.  Unfortunately, that still isn't realistic for a few years.  But at least there is some hope now.

1-19-2006

210,000 Miles.  I'm looking at a photo of a Prius odometer which says exactly that.  Amazing technology, what else can I say?  Remember how the Original model Prius had a production cost of about $37,000?  People were so worried about what battery-pack replacement would cost.  But now, a handful of Classic model Prius in North America have already exceeded 200,000 miles with same battery-pack they started with.  So the worries stemming from experiences with deep-discharge rechargeable devices are proving to have absolutely no merit when it comes to a hybrid that prevents the deep-discharges.  In short, the need for replacement is unlikely.  (Also note now the "full" hybrid systems routinely power their electric motors without even using the battery-pack.  Electricity is generated for immediate use by the gas engine.)  So I guess I may be just wasting your time by making you read this.  Not much else needs to be said at this point.  The long-awaited proof we've patiently anticipated has finally arrived.  Yeah!

1-18-2006

FreedomCAR Summary.  That document provided a great summary (Table II.A-2) of the results from the FreedomCAR study.  It's a great source for objective long-term hybrid data.  There's just a bunch of people that randomly drive the pool of hybrids and carefully document their activity.  The six 2001 Honda Insights averaged 45.2 MPG over 417,000 miles.  The two 2004 Toyota Prius averaged 44.4 MPG over 102,000 miles.  The six 2002 Toyota Prius averaged 41.0 MPG over 458,000 miles.  The four 2003 Honda Civic-Hybrids averaged 37.6 MPG over 378,000 miles.

1-18-2006

Ethanol Effects.  The revised EPA testing procedures will be a big improvement, but they'll still lack in ways that consumers probably won't be aware of... like the effect of ethanol.  For my Prius, it drops the efficiency by about 1.7 MPG.  That's a bittersweet reality of using a renewable fuel.  My lifetime average could have been 50.6 MPG, if I would have been using pure gasoline.  But instead, it's 48.9 MPG using a 10 percent blend of ethanol... which has been mandatory in Minnesota since the late 90's.  Many other states will be dealing with this as the years proceed too.  The Energy Policy passed last summer required 5.4 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be the standard by 2008.  Then by 2012, that standard would have increased to 7.5 billion gallons.  In other words, quite a few people are going to be effected.  That's a whole lot of ethanol.  Will the MPG effects be understood?

1-18-2006

1984 EPA Analysis Factors.  I found the impact factors information (Table III.A-28) from that EPA document especially interesting.  They listed a bunch of testing influences that they will be addressing with the proposed "5-Cycle" fuel economy procedures, to correct some of the numerous shortcomings from the 1984 rules.  The top 6 factors and their impact were "Acceleration Intensity" at 11.8%, "Average Vehicle Speed" at 10.6%, "Ambient Temperature" at 5.3%, "Tire Effects" at 5.1%, "Road Surface" at 4.2%, and "Tire Pressure" at 3.3%.  Needless to say, this was no surprise.  Prius owners identified the same thing on their own using the Multi-Display.  The really enlightening tidbit of information was the sum, all 21 factors combined added up to 30%.  That's a rather drastic influence.  No wonder estimates were so far off.  Using the proposal, that influence should be reduced to 12% to 15%.  That's considerably closer, but still far from precise.

1-18-2006

EPA Proposals on MPG Estimates.  I skimmed through the 178 page draft (EPA420-D-06-002) this evening.  That document is a treasure chest of facts, all kinds of stuff I'll be able to take advantage later.  For example, they said: "Ethanol contains roughly 33% less energy per gallon [than gasoline]".  For years now, I've been referring to data from a study that stated 34 percent.  So seeing a confirmation from their numbers that my numbers were indeed remarkably close is fantastic.  Anywho, it's just nice being able to look at the source itself... rather than the nonsense the popular media spews out.  I was very irritated that each article stated different expected ranges for the effect the new more accurate tests should provide.  The document states how they'll be taking many more factors into account, making the resulting estimates closer to real-world data.  However, they'll definitely still only be estimates... far from what to actually expect, as they explained in great detail.  They boiled down the numbers to hybrids & non-hybrids throughout the document.  The generalized result of the revised formula (Table III.E-3) is anticipated to be a 18% drop City and a 10% drop Highway for hybrid MPG, and a 13% drop City and a 9% drop Highway for non-hybrid (conventional) MPG.

1-18-2006

Dual Stealth.  Based on the limited info available, I think I have figured out how the Two-Mode hybrid design works.  It appears as though the purpose of the second PSD is to allow motor "A" (the red one on my illustration, which I think is the smaller of the two) to have dual mechanical outputs... that in turn requires two clutches, so only one PSD is powered directly by it at any specific moment.  With such a setup you could possibly have the ability to use both motors to provide thrust to the wheels at the same time while in stealth... something the system in Prius doesn't do (though I don't remember why).  Interesting, eh?  Of course, on-paper analysis doesn't always match what real-world conditions require.

1-18-2006

Blatant Greenwashing.  Wow!  You cannot ask for much more of an extreme example of greenwashing as this response: "Performance does not include pink foofoos, green content, or mpg."  Most obsessed with speed & power simply just work to de-emphasize the importance of emissions & consumption.  To outright dismiss them entirely is rare... because it reveals how intense the fear of change really is.  Acknowledging those aspects of how a vehicle performs means the end of the speed & power era.

1-18-2006

Greenwashing.  Their goal is to convince you that the definition of "performance" does not include emissions or consumption.  Because when you look at what they are driving, those aspects are not anything to be proud of.  In fact, their pollution & waste is down right embarrassing.  Just look at the 0-60 acceleration speeds.  Every few years, the acceptable rate changes... despite the fact that road conditions haven't.  What has happened is the ceiling was exceeded awhile ago, but they had no other benefit to sell you... so they kept changing the acceleration even though an improvement was completely unnecessary.  Reducing smog-related emissions is an aspect performance.  Reducing fuel consumption is an aspect performance.  Don't let the antagonists persuade you to believe they aren't.

1-18-2006

Learning from History.  Sometimes the point is missed entirely.  This is definitely the case.  The state of Illinois is considering a $500 sales tax exemption for the purchase of a FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle).  Sound familiar?  Years ago Arizona tried something like that, and it was a nightmare on the colossal scale.  They were actually dumb enough to offer a 50 percent discount on the purchase of the vehicle.  This is only $500, so it isn't anywhere near as bad... right?  The problem is the fine print.  There isn't any!  That means the purpose of the purchase will be completely lost.  It is suppose to promote the use of alternative fuels like ethanol.  But to get the money, you don't ever actually have to use the fuel.  Here in Minnesota, there are FFVs all over the place: small pickups, sedans, and minivans.  It's no big deal.  But in Illinois, that is clearly a different story.  There the most efficient model only delivers 16 MPG.  And you guessed it, that vehicle is eligible for the sales tax exemption... whether it ever uses any ethanol or not.

 

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