Prius Personal Log  #254

February 28, 2006  -  March 5, 2006

Last Updated: Sat. 4/01/2006

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3-05-2006

Quoting Dates.  People don't.  That is now becoming problem.  In the past, it was the anti-hybrid people intentionally quoting things out of context.  That was fairly easy to point out, though still quite irritating.  But now, it's an entirely different situation.  Those that are in favor of hybrids are not checking the dates of when the quote was made.  That innocent mistake can lead to incorrect conclusions.  Market conditions as well as the technology itself have changed over the years.  So things that were relevant in the past may not be anymore... yet they are still being treated as if they were.  That could result in some rather ugly misunderstandings and feeling possibly being hurt.  It's a reality those of us that have been involved with hybrids for a long time are now starting to worry about.  That is a genuine concern, since misconceptions emerge from incomplete information.  Dates need to be included in quotes.  Stuff from years ago should not be allowed to be mixed up with stuff from today.

3-05-2006

Strange Commercial.  Were they not paying attention?  Was this a sneak that no one caught?  I'm not sure what the heck.  But during a television commercial featuring GM vehicles that a rental company offers, you clearly see a Prius.  It's very hard to miss if you aren't watching the action taking place with the GM vehicle in that scene.  There is absolutely no doubt with that obvious side-profile shape filling half the screen.  You'd think they would go out of their way to avoid having such well known competition so obviously displayed like that.  But they didn't.  Why?

3-04-2006

Hybrid Types?  Some people simply have no idea that they are several different types of hybrids.  So today, I responded to an incorrectly drawn conclusion based on that missing knowledge this way...  The error that was just made is quite common.  A person provides an explanation and assumes it is true for all hybrids.  But in reality, the operational description only fits the hybrid type called "assist".  The type of hybrid called "full" works in a very different manner... so different that it has virtually nothing in common with the other.  The creation & consumption of electricity is not at all intuitive, hence so many people not understanding the MPG discussions.  A "full" hybrid has the ability to propel the vehicle entirely with electricity, without any interaction from the engine.  It also has the ability to create & consume electricity at the same time.  Neither of which is possible with an "assist" hybrid.  That is where the misconceptions come from, another is not realizing that "full" hybrids routinely have far more electricity available.  I strongly encourage anyone reading this to do some studying.  With a third type of hybrid (called "two-mode") about to become available, there is bound to be quite a bit of confusion unless explicit action is taken to prevent it.

3-04-2006

Revolutionary?  Someone asked a "what if" question.  It would have been interesting for others had I not immediately squashed it with real-world observations.  The idea was a simple one, what if the competition did indeed invent a new revolutionary technology?  For example, what if the anticipated fuel-cell vehicles actually did meet the necessary criteria to compete with "full" hybrids?  Achieving the cost, reliability, emissions, and efficiency would be absolutely amazing.  But if that happened, the automaker would still have a major factor to deal with: Time.  Consumer acceptance doesn't occur overnight.  It takes several years, especially for a profound new design.  People take the "wait & see" approach when it comes to spending that much money.  So a new automotive propulsion technology debuting 3 or 4 years from now would likely take another 3 to 4 years to become a hot product, one with enough demand to reduce the business risk in the now highly volatile new vehicle market.  Just imagine how advanced Prius will be in that 6 to 8 years.  It's a moving target will quite a bit of potential that has yet to be exploited (hence my excitement about the "full" hybrid type).  Remember, Prius was introduced way back in 1997 and my comments are based on observation of its acceptance over the years that followed.

3-03-2006

Increased Competition.  That new PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) company is really starting to make the original one look bad.  They will soon be offering upgrade kits for Prius and Escape-Hybrid.  Plans are in the works for the rest of the "full" hybrid vehicles too: RX400h, Highlander-Hybrid, and Camry-Hybrid.  For the first year (while prices are still rather expensive), the kits will only be offered to government & fleet purchasers.  That after about a year or so, they are hoping to make them available to the public.  And here's the part I really like... they are striving for a target price of $5,000.  So rather than the maximum efficiency strategy the other company is offering, their focus is on making it an affordable choice instead.  That should really make things interesting!  I'm very excited about the potential competition like this will exploit.  Aftermarket upgrades like this is an entirely new revenue source for automakers & suppliers.

3-02-2006

Feeling Left Out.  I've witnessed this quite a few times now.  A magazine that specializes in sports cars does an article about hybrids.  Their review is a disappointing one... naturally.  How could they ever be satisfied with a family car instead?  Just do a simple search of their website.  If you cannot find any review of Camry ever, they obviously never cared about that type of vehicle.  But now that hybrids (especially Prius, a family car) are hot and stealing any some of their audience, it is in their best interest to write about them.  So they do.  But that only results in a temporary increase in attention for them.  Ultimately, that ends in disappoint too.  People wanting to find out more about hybrids quickly grow tired of the same old basic review.  After all these years, it's really only owner experiences and long-term testing reports that most people care about now.  But that won't stop other publications from trying.  After all, the hybrid audience is definitely expanding into new territory.  I still wonder what their loyal readers think.  Reviews of that nature could actually convey a sense of betrayal, straying away from what attracted them in the first place.  Hmm?

3-02-2006

First-Day Reports.  I absolutely love reading the first-day reports for my website.  It's a statistical dump that captures monthly data.  The reason it is so appealing at this particular time of the month is that the other countries appear well pronounced then, due to time-zone differences and the fact that large count of sources within the United States haven't grossly outnumber them yet.  So today was my next opportunity to see who else is interested in the content on my website.  After all, none of the photos or illustrations require the ability to understand the language I speak.  That makes them truly a worldwide draw, content that even crosses cultures.  And it does!  These are the country-codes that were listed as referrers on this morning's report: CA, DE, FI, FR, IN, IT, GR, HU, NL, PH, RO, RU, SE, UK.  Pretty sweet, eh?

3-01-2006

Saving Money.  There is yet another flood of articles being published about hybrids not saving money, all stemming from a single misleading study with a flawed intent.  Since when do hybrids need to "save" money?  What's wrong with just breaking even instead?  For that matter, what's wrong with spending a little more for the benefit of reducing our dependence on oil and not polluting as much.  Why is the "give me something for nothing" attitude considered acceptable?  Regardless, it's the same old inaccurate data.  They used a Corolla as the comparison vehicle to Prius.  My parents and sister have Corollas.  Trust me, they are not the same.  Prius is loaded with a whole bunch of small refinements and a few rather big ones, definitely worth paying some more for.  Their data was from the first 15,000 miles of the vehicle.  With so much of that during the break-in period, the data is clearly tainted.  MPG improves as the vehicle components loosens up.  MPG also improves as the owner becomes familiar with operating vehicle.  So those early experiences do not reflect what follows, yet they implied it does.  I can't stand that, besides the whole saving money nonsense.  And let's not forget how they presume the price of gas will never go up throughout the lifetime of the vehicle.  How is that even the slightest bit realistic?  But the thing that irritated me more than anything was their claim that maintenance would be higher.  How the heck can they say that?  The real-world data from owners clearly contradicts their claim, which makes sense with an engine that doesn't get used as much or as hard.  Of course, they didn't actually say how much... perhaps with the hope that you'll assume it is a lot.  I sure hope people don't accept what they read without question.

3-01-2006

Not Paying Attention.  Either the writer of this comment wasn't or he was hoping that readers weren't: "The fact that Toyota is the only manufacturer in the world that can (or would) sell a vehicle for no profit is an indicator of how tough the hybrid market is."  That simply isn't true.  Honda has never made any money on Insight; the aluminum body alone makes that an unrealistic expectation.  And Ford has clearly stated how getting a return from their hybrid development investment will take quite awhile.  Of course, that comment was from an automotive website which specializes in soliciting comments from readers.  And those readers have proven to be extremely anti-hybrid, among the worst I've ever encountered.  So naturally, acknowledging the massive profit losses from GM, Ford, and Daimler-Chrysler last year is impossible.  They pretend that never happened.  They also completely dismiss the reality that Toyota is planning to offer a hybrid option across their entire passenger-vehicle fleet within just a few years, as well as the 400,000 hybrids they'll be producing this year.  Whatever the case, if you've been paying attention, you'd be well aware of how Toyota's long-term goals are proving to be excellent decisions.  Hybrids will indeed be a solid product to base a business model upon.

2-28-2006

Not Ready Yet.  A school district in Colorado received a grant from the EPA to allow them to take advantage of biodiesel.  But they suspended their use of it after just a few months.  There were too many complaints from taxpayers about the increased smoke and the mechanics were getting tired of replacing fuel filters, far more often than normal.  They had the same clogging problem we had here in Minnesota.  Clearly, that oil alternative is not market-ready yet.  I don't doubt that someday it will be.  And I welcome it, if it can compete.  Increased smog-forming emissions for the sake of using a substitute is not acceptable.  Ethanol does not have anything within it to form into clogs.  Biodiesel does.  So additives and a more refined production process is (obviously) needed still.  That adds to the cost.  At the same time, the reality of plug-in upgrades for "full" hybrids with larger capacity battery-packs is coming.  Will diesel be able to compete with all that?  I personally doubt it, since stop & slow traffic (which is becoming much more common) is something that system handles poorly.  Prius, on the other hand, handles it superbly.  Whatever the case, supporters of diesel will see to it that these early testing shortcomings don't sour the appeal for the changes that may come in the next few years.

2-28-2006

Bluetooth Popularity.  Did you know that even though the Bluetooth connection document I created for the Motorola RAZR phone is not listed on my homepage it is among the top downloads anyway?  That fact continues to please me.  I'm delighted that features of that nature are drawing so much attention.  The "more" attitude was making me crazy.  For far too long people were obsessed with the "bigger" and "stronger" mentality, where that increase was a major reason to purchase that vehicle.  Now the blinders are coming off and people are beginning to realize there are other aspects of appeal.  In this particular case, it is especially important too.  Seeing people drive one-handed for the sake of holding a phone to engage in a conversation is troubling.  It reduces their ability to respond to a sudden traffic problem.  There are not going to drop their phone; instead, they'll react with that impairment.  But using Bluetooth, you don't have that problem.  The built-in wireless system allows you to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.  Answering and hanging up the phone is better too.  You push the easy-to-identify-by-feel buttons with your thumb.  No reaching or looking is required, which is not true for phones that you have to hold in your hand.

2-28-2006

$2.19 Average.  That was a very interesting statistic which just emerged on my spreadsheets this evening.  It explains a lot.  That was what the experts have been basing consumer demand on.  It is what the price of gas has been for the last 3 months, as an average.  So if you were crunching overall numbers, you'd get the amount you could have anticipated to pay to fuel your vehicle.  That seems quite helpful.  But in reality, it doesn't take in account the mindset of the market at all.  So you get an extremely misleading impression of what is to come.  You'd think people would just rearrange budgets to deal with that higher price.  That isn't the case.  What is actually happening is that some in the market for the purchase of a new vehicle are noticing how volatile prices are.  When you look at the average listed on paper, it appears stable.  But when you drive down the street and observe what the stations show for daily values, you get an entirely different story.  Price has been swinging wildly within the last 3 months by a variance of 40 cents.  That's far too large to dismiss.  And it takes very little imagination to see it climb another 40 cents, just like it did last Summer.  That magnitude of fluctuation is what drives people to reevaluate their purchase decision, not what the average has been.  This is a major factor that the experts hadn't anticipated.  The once dependable oil supply is now a mess, causing a strong influence to change.  It's about time.  This is the attention boost hybrids have been waiting for.

 

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