Prius Personal Log  #248

January 21, 2006  -  January 25, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 2/06/2006

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1-25-2006

The Biggest Loser.  Toyota reported profits for 2005.  GM lost a mind-boggling $8,600,000,000 during that same year.  That's not a typo, it was 8.6 Billion!!!  They haven't been in this much trouble since 1992.  And do you remember what happened then?  SUV came to the rescue.  The high profits they provided saved that automaker.  Ford used the SUV to solve their financial problems then too.  Now what?  I highly suspect demand for their small vehicles will rather dramatically rise.  That's sad.  It's the 80's all over again.  Remember those vehicles, cramped & powerless?  I certainly do.  But I was much younger.  Having anything to drive was a privilege, then.  Now, I want much more.  Prius delivers it.  I have a feeling lots of people are quickly going to figure out that same thing too.  What will it do to GM?

1-25-2006

Highway Misconception.  It's getting worse.  I'm seeing an increase in mention of how hybrids switch to engine-only on the highway.  That's really frustrating to hear.  True, the "assist" type hardly ever uses the electric motor then.  But it still does sometimes.  And the "full" type uses it quite a bit.  The generator is continuously creating electricity while you cruise.  Some is consumed immediately.  Some is used for recharging.  It sometimes even combines with electricity being drawn from the battery-pack.  The point is having a system that takes full advantage of any efficiency opportunity, even though that will sometimes be very brief (last less than a second)... which you can witness routinely on the Multi-Display.  Remember, there is no such thing as a perfectly flat highway.  And that minor back & forth activity does actually help to maintain a strong battery-pack, a cleverly programmed usage algorithm to delay aging (think of it as exercise).  So even something that quick really does contribute to a noticeable savings in the end... making the talk of how the "two-mode" system will actually offer engine-only on the highway is rather baffling, especially since we have already been informed that it won't be as efficient.  Whatever the case, lumping all hybrids together into a single category is never a good thing.  Properly identifying and understanding how each works and what strengths each offers is very important.  Some do utilize the electric abilities surprisingly a lot while on the highway.

1-24-2006

2006 Sighting.  It was a magnificent!  My first 2006 sighting.  I exclaimed with joy when I spotted that new color red Prius with the new style lights right there in front of me.  It even proudly displayed the new "hybrid" emblem on the side.  My sister just shook her head, knowing there was no way to calm me down... choosing to watch me celebrate that instant joyous occasion rather than try to stop it.  I likely even did a "happy dance" without realizing it.  That was quite fulfilling.  I just wanted to get lunch.  Unexpectedly getting entertainment too was fantastic!  Of course, I almost always see Prius on that particular walk anyway.  It's just a good thing we didn't drive to the other fun place to eat.  Last time I went with some friends, there were somewhere between 10 and 12 Prius within just a few block span... so many I was having a hard time keeping up with the counting while fending off the snide remarks of me being delusional by seeing Prius everywhere now.  I really am seeing quite a few these days.  Really.  In fact, not spotting at least 2 each way of my commute would be disappointing.  I've grown used to them being a common sight.  Sweet!

1-24-2006

No Resistance.  Remember 4 years ago?  That was back when Prius first captured the hearts of Americans.  The overseas success was easy for those resisting to dismiss.  But after a successful year here in the United States too, it was a crushing blow.  So the competition started publicly announcing their own intentions.  Keep in mind that this was after the PNGV prototypes had faded into history and the internet was still young, meaning people wouldn't realize the Detroit automakers already made an effort to deliver hybrids.  This was actually their second attempt.  It seemed worth some interest.  I quickly turned on them though.  The most likely candidate was the "through the road" concept, where it was just a traditional vehicle powering one set of wheels and the other using an electric motor.  There was no connection at all.  The entire electrical part was self-contained.  It was simple & cheap, but failed miserably anyway.  Nothing beyond concept made progress.  In fact, we don't even hear talk of that anymore.  Now, the fade-into-history effect seems to be occurring with "assist" hybrids.  GM is touting the appeal of their upcoming "assist" model as simple & cheap, which makes sense because Honda has been doing the same thing for years.  But due to the success of Toyota & Ford with their "full" hybrid design and the fact that GM, Daimler-Chrysler, and BMW along with Nissan are all announcing their plans for that type, the "assist" is losing attention... so much so that their is no resistance online anymore.  When someone makes a negative comment about a shortcoming of the "assist" hybrid design, no rebuttal is posted.  Those supporters have given up.  I hadn't expected that attitude shift so soon.  I figured it would still be another 2 years or so before the electrical potential "full" has to offer would be realized.  Sweet!  Faster acknowledgement is better.  In these days of uncertain oil supply & prices, we need to be working on the best solution possible for the masses.

1-24-2006

Sawdust.  Energy consumption reports about ethanol production don't take this into account, because it is a brand new idea.  So always verify how old the data is when someone claims ethanol is not a good choice.  Of course, the whole energy consumption and actual cost argument is a bit of a farce anyway.  Exactly how much does oil cost to extract from the ground and ship it half way across the world while protecting the political powers that provide it with massive amounts of military power?  Anywho, the plant here in Little Falls is switching from natural gas to leftover sawdust as their primary source of energy for ethanol production.  That sawdust is a waste product.  This puts it to very effective use.  I think that is a great idea, a win-win situation.  Cool!

1-23-2006

Ford Changes.  Plant closure and layoff detail was provided today.  It's ugly.  The assembly plant here in St. Paul got spared though, despite the fact that it is where the no-longer-popular Ranger pickup is made.  The obsession with larger more powerful vehicles basically killed it, even though it has now grown to the size the bigger pickup was when this whole wasteful mess began in the first place.  A redeeming factor was that Ranger at one time was entirely FFV.  Having all of them with the ability to use up to 85 percent ethanol as a standard had been a sign of hope in the past, and that's what they are now hoping will contribute to their future.  Revitalization in the form of FFV and/or hybrid production is what the governor has been pushing for, with tax incentives (of course).  It's weird watching Ford struggle in the United States, because they aren't elsewhere.  Non-Domestic sales for them are actually pretty good.  The major reason they are bad here is due to the push of monster-size gas-guzzlers.  They were an easy sale when gas was cheap and the safety compromises weren't understood.  The domestic market attitude has changed now, but they haven't yet.  Change is coming though.  Denial that those dinosaurs are becoming extinct cannot go on for too much longer.  Workers losing their jobs is a very obvious sign that change is necessary.

1-22-2006

More Negative Backlash.  Now authoritative figures are stepping up to speak out against hybrids.  Supposedly these people, like a university professor today, know what they're talking about.  But I see right through their words, because it is so darn easy for me to point out their misinformation.  For example: "if you bear in mind the limited life of the huge battery pack, plus the complicated electronic switching gear, and what seems to be discrepancies between (gas) mileage claims and reality, it's not really much of a proposition".  First, notice how vague the points are.  Avoiding numerical data is big clue, like what limited actually means.  Of course the battery-pack will eventually wear out.  No engine will last forever either.  Owners are driving beyond 200,000 miles without having any sign of degradation.  Isn't that enough?  What exactly is that "limited" with respect to?  And what's with the "huge" claim?  The battery-pack is only 99 pounds and doesn't take much more physical space than the spare tire.  Since when is that considered very large?  As for the "switching", that is just plain wrong... obvious evidence that the person has no clue how the system actually works.  The power-carriers never shift, never switch, and aren't really even gears.  They are part of the Planetary-CVT that is permanently engaged.  So when the flow of electricity changes direction or stops, nothing physical actually changes.  It cannot get a whole lot more simple than that.  The word "complicated" is definitely inaccurate.  Lastly, the "discrepancies" comment is a sign of being disingenuous.  Why focus on an estimate system that has already been revealed to be significantly flawed?  Why not just place attention on the real-world data instead... especially since that shows just how much of an actual efficiency gain there really is.  This last stand some are now taking as a final effort to impede the success of hybrids is very frustrating.  Thank goodness Camry is joining the hybrid family soon.

1-22-2006

Instruments.  More accurately, it's the lack of.  Trying to hunt down information on the new hybrid system, I naturally came across a few interesting photos of the vehicle that will us it (Tahoe).  The best was of the speedometer cluster.  All it provided for the hybrid interface was a crude needle mode-indicator and two level-meters.  That was it, pretty sad for a concept vehicle.  I wonder if the production model will be any better.  Hmm?  Camry-Hybrid has already hinted at being even more impressive than Prius (at least for this year).  So it makes you wonder what the heck the competition will do to be competitive.  Will they offer something elaborate as an option?  Or will they stick with the most basic interface only?  There's more to a hybrid than just a seamless market acceptance.  True, people can drive it without caring about what the vehicle is doing, as they do now with automatic transmissions.  But not even offering something similar to a Multi-Display in a 2008 model would be pretty disappointing.  Just look at how so many other products are being upgraded to be part of the 21st Century.  It should be an expectation that the vehicle's instruments match this age of devices which include color digital displays, especially considering how affordable they have recently become.

1-22-2006

Certain Publications.  You know which ones they are.  You can tell just from the title of the organization that provides the articles.  Regardless, I keep giving them the opportunity to redeem themselves.  Today, that certainly didn't happen.  They published a report stating how hybrids were just hype.  The main reason was that Prius simply cost too much.  They claimed paying $9,500 more than a comparably-equipped vehicle was outrageous.  Yet, they didn't even mention what that comparison vehicle was.  It was so horribly vague of a reference, the disingenuous nature of the article revealed itself right away.  I didn't need to read any further.  I did though, since I figured they wouldn't mention anything about reduced emissions.  And as expected, they didn't.  The reality is that Prius costs only about $3,000 more than a comparably-equipped vehicle (not taking into account the current markups from some dealers or the federal tax credit now available).  In the end, you come fairly close to breaking even.  The remainder is enough to justify as a worthwhile way of reducing our dependence on imported oil and reducing smog-related emissions.  Of course, if the price of oil keeps going up, the articles will disappear anyway and cost will become a complete non-issue.  Gas is still relatively cheap now, at about $2.19 per gallon.  Higher prices will skew support very much in favor of hybrids.

1-21-2006

February 13, 2006.  That upcoming Monday, just a little over 3 weeks from now, is when the new Camry begins production in Georgetown, Kentucky.  And you guessed it, that's where the hybrid will be coming from.  Yippee!  The outcry about not buying American will confuse they heck out of people.  The Camry-Hybrid will be built by American workers in an American city.  That excuse they used about Prius will not apply.  In fact, it won't apply to Prius much longer anyway.  Toyota is planning to use the result of the domestic Camry-Hybrid effort to justify opening another hybrid production facility in America.  And you guessed it, that's where our Prius will be coming from.  Excellent!  Hybrids are on their way to doing exactly the opposite of what the current administration claimed they wouldn't.  They are providing employment opportunities for American workers.

1-21-2006

Getting Worse.  If you thought yesterday's closing price for oil futures was bad, you don't want to know what was in the news today.  The belief has been that Kuwait has about 99 billion barrels of oil left, one-tenth of the worldwide supply.  It turns out their estimate was grossly incorrect.  The actual quantity is around 50 billion barrels.  How could that extreme of an error have occurred?  And what if estimates from the other suppliers are also off by that much?  Imagine how high oil prices will rise.  This struggle with supply is turning into a nightmare, making the demand problem far more serious than anyone cares to acknowledge.  It makes me wonder what kind of effect this will have on hybrid rollout and production volumes.  The need for faster and more is growing at a startling rate.

 

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