Prius Personal Log  #251

February 9, 2006  -  February 10, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 2/12/2006

    page #250         page #252         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

2-10-2006

Missing the Point.  Yesterday's story on NPR about plug-in hybrids sure got some people fired up, as noted in a comment section on a popular hybrid new forum.  They're demanding the option immediately, despite the hefty price.  Don't they realize where the electricity that would be used comes from?  Coal is the primary source in the United States, which is neither clean nor renewable.  They are completely missing that point.  It's the very same nonsense with fuel-cell technology... a step in the wrong direction.  We need to establish better electricity first.  Where are the wind turbines?  And what happened to solar?  Reading through the comments posted online, those speaking out don't seem to care, demanding an extreme solution now rather than something that the market can more quickly & easily adopt.  I like the "battery upgrade" idea which requires a little bit of patience still, waiting first for the price of batteries to drop.  The mobile-device industry (computers, music, and phones) is aggressively working to achieve that goal in tandem with the efforts Toyota is pursuing.  So what's the rush?  Isn't another 2 or 3 years acceptable, especially knowing that a Prius sold a few years ago can still take advantage of a battery upgrade opportunity then?  Isn't the point to get the technology to as many people as possible?  A less expensive option would accomplish that... and be less confusing in the hybrid market that is rapidly introducing a wide variety of designs & configurations.

2-10-2006

Ethanol Math.  This isn't rocket science and there is no mystery.  In fact, for Prius the long-term data of E10 is already available (since that is what I have always used).  But for those considering the purchase of a GM vehicle to use E85, there is some math required.  Ethanol has 33 percent less energy than pure gasoline.  That means we can easily figure out what a SUV using E85 will get for MPG.  Say it pulls off an amazing 20 MPG average (he said sarcastically) using gas.  85 percent of that would be 17 MPG.  The energy reduction from that ethanol portion would be 5.6 MPG.  Subtracting that from the original value you get 14.4 MPG.  Interesting, eh?  If you thought the "cost effective" calculations for hybrids were a point of contention, just wait until people try to figure this out.  The price for ethanol can vary too.  It is typically taxed much less than gas, giving a vague basis to work from.  But changes aren't as frequent for ethanol, making inconsistency a real problem.  In Minnesota where E10 is the only type of "gas" available, the price of E85 is usually around 40 to 50 cents less per gallon.  Whatever the case, the numbers are messy.  So you wonder what the heck people will make of the push GM is now making for E85 use in non-hybrid vehicles.  What kind of math will we see in the inevitable media hype?

2-10-2006

Elegantly Simple.  For years, that is how Prius supporters have described the PSD (Power-Split-Device).  Now all of a sudden, GM has taken that "elegantly simple" phrase and worked it into their own promotion for the upcoming "Green Line" hybrids.  It is their upcoming affordable hybrid design, just like what Honda currently uses.  It's what the 2007 Saturn Vue will offer as an option this summer.  And it turns out that Chevrolet Malibu will use it in 2007 too.  In other words, I was right.  They are desperate.  Taking the term we coined is bad enough.  But not offering a car to compete with either Prius or Camry-Hybrid is trouble.  Will people actually be willing to pay less to get less?  That "assist" hybrid design doesn't do well in stop & slow traffic.  So naturally, interest will grow for the "full" hybrid design instead.  Will GM ever offer their full "Two-Mode" system in a car, or will that only be used in the monster-sized vehicles?  Whatever the outcome, they certainly are not making the choices for consumers simple... unless that choice is to just buy a Toyota instead.

2-10-2006

Doing their Homework.  At what point do hybrid enthusiasts turn into "the crowd", just blending into the general population?  The numbers are steady increasing.  So there is a threshold that will eventually be crossed.  When that happens, complaining has to end.  With an overwhelming amount of real-world data available then, the consequence of a new owner having buyer's remorse is no one's fault but their own.  Doing their homework will quickly reveal how the EPA estimates are a joke, nothing but a basis of comparison and definitely not representative of real-world averages.  Could that be the case with Camry-Hybrid?  Is there enough chatter about Prius MPG already to clue in potential purchasers that the window-sticker numbers are not actually an expectation they should have (unless they drive only under ideal conditions)?  Hopefully, people have been paying attention over the past 5 years.  We'll see.

2-10-2006

Forum Practicing.  A benefit of some of the rather pressing posts online is for the enthusiasts to engage in sparring practice, to shake out details and well thought out responses to be used later when confrontations in the wild occur.  The larger Prius forum represents less than one-tenth of one-percent of the Prius owners in the United States... yet its influence has proven to be dramatically more than that.  The biggest widespread problem has always been patience, which is sometimes an issue there too.  I knew it would take a very long time for certain things to happen.  So I taught myself ways of dealing with the wait.  My "Prius for Dummies" book is finally complete.  That took over 4 years to accomplish.  From the very first draft of the User-Guide to the last document detailing the PSD was quite a span of research & revisions.  But it was well worth it.  There is a large collection of illustrated materials available to those wanting to know more about Prius... now.  Still not being able to take full advantage of design in Prius yet is frustrating.  But the wait for a less expensive method of battery upgrade is well worth it.  The pioneers will hopefully prove its worth in the meantime, hence the push to get the data gathering started.  Without them providing an opportunity for us to observe their progress, how are we going to endorse their results?  Testing takes time... and a whole lot of cheerleading along the way.  Once they get there, a strong following would have hopefully emerged to help with that next stage of rollout.  But the current struggle with the forum practicing is reveal the reality that more time is definitely required.

2-10-2006

Spreadsheets.  Today, I got laughed by another Prius owner at when pointing out the value of the spreadsheet data in the past.  That reply couldn't have been more wrong.  It was one element which helped to establish the online presence of Prius owners.  I used my own data to help found the effort we take for granted now.  Being so involved with the way things are currently makes "acceptance" predictions difficult, unless you have a good memory of the past... or just took the time to document them in logs!  Anywho, I remember.  Many people (including some working for Toyota corporate) have used my data as ammunition to fight off the anti-hybrid.  That worked well.  Raw numbers allow disbelievers to draw conclusions of their own too.  Not everyone will care.  In fact, it's only the power people that will actually use it, like the active members of that forum this morning.  But having spreadsheets available is a whole lot more effective than nothing but a distilled result.

2-10-2006

Upgrade Price.  It is the fundamental weakness of current "battery upgrade" effort, making that an unrealistic choice right now.  Very fortunately though, older Prius can be upgraded years after purchase.  So later when the prices do finally come down significantly, a surprising number of owners could take advantage of the opportunity... a brand new concept in the automotive industry.  Never in history would such a substantial improvement be embraced by so many for their used cars.  And just think what that will do for resell value!  There's a lot of potential waiting to be exploited.

2-10-2006

Increased Capacity.  The comments I've heard over the years is that $3,000 is the cutoff for a reasonable battery-pack upgrade price.  Higher than that just causes interest to rapidly fade away.  In fact, how much it costs ranks quite a bit higher than the EV range... which is very misleading in the first place, since EV and Stealth limitations having no baring on the improvement provided for highway efficiency.  From the beginning, Prius was marketed based on a future mass-production price that a majority of consumers would be willing to pay.  Toyota intentionally avoided maximum performance due to the cost factor being too great of a concern.  Those now experimenting with higher capacity battery-packs are not.  They're completely ignoring price and focusing solely on achieving the highest MPG possible.  That is helping to establish a misconception that electric augmentation is only available for a extreme amount of money (half the price of the vehicle itself).  Is that really something we should encourage?

2-09-2006

Show Me The Data.  Over and over again, we keep hearing reports about electric augmentation of Prius... as we did today on NPR (National Public Radio).  You know, replacing the NiMH battery-pack with a Li-Ion to provide significantly higher storage capacity for much greater electric motor use.  It's wonderful hearing about that potential already built into the design, but where's the data to support the MPG claims?  Are they really expecting to convince people that this is the future we should embrace now with nothing but a short test-drive story?  We need real-world numbers spanning long-term ownership experiences.  That is how you generate interest... which I know extraordinarily well from feedback about my website over the past 5.5 years.  To establish the plug-in hybrid market, they must first establish a presence.  It's that simple, yet they still haven't taken that next step.  All we have gotten so far is just the introduction.  When will on-going reports begin?  The brilliant engineering in Prius wasn't a success until owners starting sharing stories about their experiences.  We want to know what that rather expensive investment will actually deliver.  Show me the data!!!

2-09-2006

Ugly.  Isn't it amusing how some people still use that as an excuse to discredit the success of Prius.  They sure are in for a surprise when the popularity of Camry-Hybrid becomes obvious.  Of course, I could use that same excuse myself.  No SUV has ever looked appealing to me.  They're just glorified utility vehicles with pretty much no curves whatsoever.  Remember the "good old days" when the smooth aerodynamic flow was an aspect given strong importance.  SUVs are basically boxes.  But the ultimately, if you really want to find out if a person is being sincere, ask them if they find any hatchback pleasing to the eye.  Perhaps they just don't like hatchbacks.

2-09-2006

$1,000 Discount.  There was an enlightening new perspective declared today.  The person was angry that Toyota had been taking advantage of us, sighting the discounts available for the purchase of a Honda hybrid as his reason.  He figured because they were selling for less than the sticker price, Prius should too.  The thought that it was caused by Civic-Hybrid being smaller, slower, and not providing a folding rear seat never came to mind.  He just assumed the cars were so similar that price should be too.  I wonder how many other people are so poorly informed that they jump to conclusions like that?  Will they ever figure out that even though there are 4 times as many Prius being produced for sale here, people are still willing to wait rather than just get a Honda immediately?  The discount is a direct reflection on the law of supply & demand.  This is basic economics, not rocket science.

2-09-2006

Mega Sighting.  I couldn't believe it.  My Prius was being followed by a Lexus RX400h.  On the other side of the highway, there was a Classic Prius following and being followed by HSD Prius.  Behind all of them was a Civic-Hybrid.  That was on heck of a sighting this morning.  I hadn't ever expected to see so much variety all at once.  The daily sightings of at least two Prius each way on my commute has been pleasing enough.  This was fantastic!

2-09-2006

Engine-Only Operation.  The misconception about Civic-Hybrid being able to operate without its electrical system is unfortunately still around.  I thought that belief had finally been dispelled.  Apparently not.  It got mentioned yet again today.  The reality is that a failure on the electrical side renders the Honda system unusable... but not right away, hence this misconception.  Their 12-volt auxiliary battery is charged through the hybrid system.  Without a proper feed (like that caused by a battery-pack failure) would drain that auxiliary rather quickly.  The hybrid would simply shut off after awhile and not be able to start back up without a jump.  So theoretically, you could continue to push it after discovering a dead battery-pack situation.  But the risk simply isn't worth it.  With a system noticeably slower than Toyota's in the first place, not having the electric motor available would make it even slower.  Honda warns against the strain that would subject the engine to.  And of course, this is where I point out the fact that "full" hybrid systems don't always require the battery-pack to power the thrust motor.  That "not using it" should help to keep the lifespan long.  The fact that the "assist" type can only be supplied with electricity for the thrust motor via the battery-pack is a shortcoming that should not be overlooked... especially that Honda now offers the ability to drive a little bit using electricity alone, working the battery-pack more than before.  In other words, engine-only operation isn't worth talking about compared to the other design aspect that require consideration.

2-09-2006

BlueTec.  We sure have been hearing a lot about that new cleaner technology for diesel lately.  However, details are still scarce.  The best I've been able to find is this quote: "Daimler's exhaust-treatment technology will go a big step further, cleaning up to 80% of the remaining nitrogen-oxide emissions. That, combined with good mileage, will make diesel a truly green U.S. driving alternative for the first time."  So, what the heck does that mean?  To be truly clean for those trying to reach the new realistic standard (for both hybrids & non-hybrids) means earning at least a SULEV emission rating.  80 percent is no where near enough to qualify.  True, it is dramatically cleaner for diesel.  But compared to a gas fueled vehicle, forget it.  And of course, the full hybrids will still rate much more efficient when it comes to stop & slow traffic.  In other words, the best diesel will be able to offer is an automatic that is similar to a gas hybrid with respect to MPG on the highway, but still not as clean.  That's weak.

 

back to home page       go to top