Prius Personal Log  #264

April 29, 2006  -  April 30, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 5/21/2006

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4-30-2006

Hybrid Outlook.  It's been interesting watching the nightmare unfold, made much worse by the recent oil & gas problems.  Blatant lies continue to be spread, like biodiesel being the only renewable fuel available.  Misleading facts are plentiful, like how much better of a "full" hybrid the two-mode system will be.  And of course, you have the "assist" supporters preparing for the upcoming "better choice because it costs less" battle.  At the same time, the anti-hybrid are scrambling to take advantage of outdated hybrid information before it becomes obvious what they are up to.  All that just represents the consumer side.  On the political front, the situation is a disaster.  The "Energy Policy" was troublesome when it was first signed last summer.  Since then, some fears have actually materialized.  An infrastructure needed to support those "good" intentions didn't exist then and have not materialized in the meantime.  Changes of that magnitude don't happen that quickly, regardless of how much politicians claim they can.  Looking to the automakers, that is very disappointing (with the exception of Toyota).  Honda is planning to discontinue both Insight and Accord-Hybrid.  Supposedly, there will be a Fit-Hybrid later.  But that's apparently all that we get new.  Ford's plans are a complete mystery.  Talk of a Fusion-Hybrid have completely disappeared.  So we cannot expect to get anything new from them.  GM, DiamlerChrysler, and BMW are taking the backward-compatible mechanical approach, avoiding software and new hardware as much as possible.  Their intentions are to deliver the absolute minimum, just enough to keep attention of the media.  Nissan will be using HSD systems built by Toyota, with no cited intentions beyond that.  How in the world are these automakers going to survive?  What will they sell in this new market struggling with much higher gas prices?  As for me, I keep getting pushed to do things to highlight the special nature of hybrids... which is precisely what I don't want to do.  My goal is to help make hybrids the new standard, for them to be so common they are simply viewed upon as the next step in the natural automotive evolutionary history.  That means no special treatment, no privileges, no gatherings, no events.  It's an attitude that has put me in conflict with others, a counter-productive force to deal with.  But for hybrids to become ubiquitous (affordable & plentiful), you have to let go of the emotion.  It's necessary for hybrids to eventually gain that status of "ordinary".  Long-Term success is my focus, not short-term gains.  In other words, the hybrid outlook is far from predictable and much more complicated than it first appears.

4-30-2006

Credibility.  I'm not sure exactly when or how this happened, but I am no longer getting accused of working for Toyota or protecting a hidden interest.  My guess is that reading enough of my personal logs will eventually draw a fairly clear picture of who I really am.  Perhaps it may just be the fact that "blogs" are now common.  Back when I first started documenting my feelings & observations, there was no such thing... hence calling them "personal logs" (an undeniable tie to my Star Trek history).  The fact that there are now so many vague & misleading articles being published, leaving you with a frustrating want to find out more, probably had a lot to do with it too.  Whatever the case, I have finally earned that credibility I always sought to achieve.  And it certainly is nice being a member of the highest ranks.  I don't plan on doing anything differently.  You'll just get more of the same, doing my best to share my experiences via the website.  I'm really looking forward to that too.  The ever-changing environment certainly keeps things from getting boring.

4-30-2006

150 Million.  I watched a television special today about the problems with current gas prices.  It was "Meet The Press", a program I hold in high regard.  Today was no exception.  Tim Russert immediately questioned our Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman, when he said the current administration had the situation under control by researching ethanol production, that the 150 million dollars they allocated would be enough.  We were both thinking the same thing.  Why can't we seriously invest in a solution like we did with the Manhattan Project, after all Brazil has already had success with their ethanol program?  He said throwing money at the problem wasn't helpful.  I strongly disagree, calling that money nothing but a token effort, and would very much like to slap some perspective into this administration.  The biggest oil company (Exxon Mobil) spent 10 times that much in the first 3 months of 2005 just to explore for new oil sources.  This year during the first 3 months, they spent 30 times that much.  That's just one oil company (GM) alone.  Looking at the biggest automaker, you see that in 2005 they lost 70 times that much money.  How come our government, which is dramatically larger and supposedly planning for our future, is putting such a tiny amount of money toward the effort to come up with a lower cost method of producing ethanol?  After all, by the end of 2006 the Iraq War would have cost us 3,067 times more!!!

4-30-2006

Breaking Point.  For production of ethanol to be affordable, the per-barrel price of oil would have to climb all the way up to $60.  Anyone claiming that would ever actually happen was faced with the possibility of being burned at the stake, causing panic for no justifiable reason.  Needless to say, those absurd concerns from just a few years ago are now complete nonsense.  The market is quite a bit different today.  We have broken beyond that point with the likelihood of ever returning being rather slim.  That's why the talk of ethanol has recently blossomed.  Next is $80.  That's the point at which biodiesel becomes affordable.  But with so much emphasis currently being placed on ethanol being produced from waste organic material, it seems that the requirement of biodiesel production to use a food product would prevent it from gaining widespread acceptance.  We shall see... since the continued reliance on non-renewable sources is unrealistic.

4-30-2006

Progress?  For the first 5 years that hybrids were available in the United States, several automakers made fun of them.  Calling hybrids a "stop gap" was the theme agonizingly repeated over and over and over again.  I was so frustrated that they would choose to shun the technology rather than just keeping quiet and competing some other way.  Now, they are touting that they will be offering a better hybrid system.  But if you look for details, you won't find much.  They are quite vague.  Of course, even with only those hints it's undeniable that they are contradicting the very statement they themselves made just a few years ago.  Then, they were against hybrids.  Now, they are proud to be offering them.  I guess they hope consumers weren't paying attention close enough to notice that complete attitude reversal.  Whatever the effectiveness of their technology, it won't actually make much of a difference anyway.  This phrase in the concluding paragraph of an article I came across today points out why: "the three automakers' two-mode production could reach 83,000 by 2010".  So much for competing.  Toyota is striving for 1,000,000 per year, a quantity 12 times greater and with a worldwide distribution.  Could those automakers move any slower?  Imagine what the market will be like then with the reality that high gas prices are here to stay.  Lots of attention will be placed on hybrids in the next few years, yet production from these competitors will be so small that barely anyone will have an opportunity to actually buy one from them.  I guess we'll continue to be entertained by their stories of efforts to deliver, then be amused by seeing so few.  Just think about how many Prius I see daily already.

4-29-2006

Sincere Intent.  It's nearly impossible to find an article that really has sincere intent.  After all, that would probably be rather boring.  They always have something to motivate people to read them.  In the case today, it was to focus on efficiency cost.  And as usual, the assertion was that gas prices will never be any higher than they are now... which is totally pointless, since virtually every article written in the past is now incorrect due to them believing gas prices wouldn't ever get this high.  Interestingly though, this article actually discussed resale values.  Most avoid that, because it invalidates their advice to just buy a small, powerless, featureless vehicle instead of a hybrid.  In the end, hybrid technology will be accepted as a valid solution.  We have already witnessed this "size change" history.  The early 80's brought widespread adoption of small vehicles.  A decade later, people were sick of them and craved the opposite extreme.  That lead to the widespread adoption of large vehicles.  The same thing will happen again.  Only this time, on the return swing, the reality that there is far less oil available and it is considerably more expensive will force change... like finally accepting hybrids.  Can imagine when that happens?  Many of us would have been driving hybrids for so long they can tell countless stories of what their first one was like, fascinating those that hadn't participated in that long ago history.  Of course, a few of us can do that already!

4-29-2006

Another "Full" Hybrid.  I wish it was that simple.  Unfortunately, the competition's promotion is taking a troubling turn.  In the article I read today about the announcements made on Friday, this line highlighted my concern: "Because the two-mode design uses some off-the-shelf components and spreads costs across three companies, it should be less expensive."  That is most definitely not long-term thinking, especially with 3 automakers involved.  The upgrade approach should work fine for awhile, but they will inevitably be faced with the need to completely replace obsolete technology later.  I've been witnessing that reality with the computer industry for decades.  You can only get so much of a return from outdated hardware & software for so long.  Eventually, you have to start over with everything new.  It's well proven that those painful, risky, and costly investments in entirely new architectures pay off big time in the end.  Toyota was willing.  GM, DaimlerChrysler, and BMW are not still.  Of course, how many reusable components are taking about anyway?  The electric motors, battery-pack cells, and power-split-devices are obviously completely unique to hybrids... of which compose a majority of the cost.  So that "less expensive" claim probably doesn't actually amount to much.  Do the minimum is definitely a recurring theme from them that I bet quite a few consumers are now beginning to notice.  And if not now, just wait.  Those 3 automakers are planning to only deliver 83,000 vehicles using the two-mode system per year by 2010, with a production capacity potential of 300,000.  That is so few, it's rather difficult to actually call it "another".

4-29-2006

16 Prius.  They are doing things you most likely never imagined.  I have truly gone where no where has gone before with this one!  It's the newest flash animation I have created.  There's 57 seconds of action featuring 8 Classic Prius and 8 HSD Prius that you'll hopefully find very entertaining.  Some of the scenarios caused me to burst out loudly with laughter when I final got to view what the rendering had produced.  That's what makes learning this new visual programming tool so fun.  I get to watch a storyline come to life.  Anywho, I hope you enjoy it too...  flash: Gathering

4-29-2006

Gasoline Engines Can't.  Whoa!  The dishonesty has become rather disturbing, so blatantly obvious that I really have to wonder what the heck they are thinking.  Perhaps they aren't.  Maybe they are so desperate now that they'll try just about anything.  Anywho, this is what got me all worked up today: "Diesel engines can run on home-grown low-CO2 biodiesel - gasoline engines can't."  It blows my mind how diesel supporters continue to pretend that ethanol doesn't exist.  You'd think with the fact that MTBE is being replaced around the country by ethanol and the recent heavy promotion of flex-fuel vehicles by GM would get those trying to mislead to finally stop.  Yet, they haven't.  In other words, gasoline engines can indeed use a home-grown fuel.  That was a lie.  Heck, I've already used a total of 240 gallons of ethanol in my 2 Prius.  So there is nothing to prove.  All doubt has long since been eliminated.  Makes you wonder what they'll claim next, eh?

4-29-2006

Pulse & Glide.  It's something that I have never endorsed and choose to discourage.  JUST DRIVE IT!  That's the motto I've followed for years, and I get very similar MPG to those that go to great lengths to exploit the hybrid design.  After enough miles, you naturally become in tune with the system anyway and end up responding most efficiently to hills, stops, and traffic due to a heightened awareness.  In other words, as time proceeds you'll approach that same glide point automatically and unnoticed by simply watching the consumption bar climb.  There's no reason to impair the traffic behind you with the pronounced motion caused by that pedal-working technique.  Put another way, I rarely use the Energy Monitor.  The Consumption Screen is what taught me to achieve the higher efficiency... without any pulsing, and no disruption to other vehicles sharing the same road.  The consumption way takes longer to become habit, but it is much closer to the way people normally drive.  So when I see newbies asking about the best way to drive their new Prius, I feel the need to reiterate what I do.

4-29-2006

The Same!?!  This is a new one.  Rather than hybrid design being the topic of dispute, today's senseless comparison involved diesel.  Those supporters tried to convince the uninformed that gas is the opposite extreme, as stated: "Gasoline exhaust treatment is a mature technology, the auto-makers have been throwing billions at it for decades - diesel is only now receiving attention for the same".  That's interesting.  Normally, being "the same already" has been what they tried to convince us of.  Fortunately, it made no difference anyway.  It was rather obvious that the reply which it was part of completely avoided answering this question that followed: "Until a diesel earns an emission rating of at least SULEV, how can it actually be considered clean?"  Diesel supporters love to point out that there is technology to make diesel vehicles achieve a SULEV emission rating, even though there are no plans to actually make it available.  And note that hybrids like Prius and Camry-Hybrid are even cleaner than SULEV; their rating is for 30,000 miles further plus take into account evaporative emissions.  So how could those new diesels, comparable to on a traditional gas vehicle, be considered competition?  My response to all this diesel greenwashing will be to continue to educate others about the emission ratings.  Telling people that diesel is much improved is indeed true, but that still doesn't actually make it clean.  Yet, antagonists keep singing their deceptive songs anyway.  The truth is that diesel is just better than it was in the past.  Until it actually delivers a minimum of SULEV, the gas hybrids have an undeniable advantage.  Using "the same" or "not the same" isn't enough anymore.  We have to heavily promote the use of the emission rating itself now.

 

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