Prius Personal Log  #275

June 15, 2006  -  June 18, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 6/26/2006

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6-18-2006

Painfully Slow.  This statement was made from someone reading about the upcoming "two-mode" hybrid system: "It is nice to see GM getting into the action."  My response was rather blunt, hopefully forcing the need to step back and look at the big picture...  Sadly, you've been greenwashed.  They certainly do give the impression that they are joining the hybrid effort.  But in reality, they aren't actually delivering much.  That technology is currently only planned for use in their monster-size vehicles.  And the production capacity until 2010 for GM, BMW, and DC combined is only 83,000 hybrid systems.  Meanwhile, Toyota will be getting their capacity up to 1,000,000 and will be offering their hybrid technology on vehicles that are far more friendly in the first place.  So whether or not the propaganda about their system being more efficient in certain conditions is true, very few would get to benefit from it anyway.  Remember, the point of their design was supposedly the fact that it is very easy to incorporate into an already existing vehicle, by simply swapping out the
transmission.  That being the case, you'd think they'd be able to pass Toyota in no time flat.  But in reality, actual progress is turning out to be painfully slow.

6-18-2006

Strange Situation.  Remember that troublemaker from a few years ago, the one who later admitted he had misunderstood Prius?  I was pleased by the change, but still frustrated that his attacks were laced with personal insults, extremely misleading statements, and a rather blatant disregard for the objective of reducing both emissions and consumption.  (Yes, he's the guy that is absolutely obsessed with MPG.)  Fortunately, moving on was easy for me.  So I did.  Now he has resurfaced, crossing my path again.  I'm very curious what his intentions are.  The internet is very different now.  Setting up a forum of your own is as simple as finding a server and choosing a software package to install.  So he did.  It's been around for 4 months now.  There are a handful of active participants, having contributed around 200 messages each so far.  He has posted over 1,400.  In other words, that forum is very much his realm... and he is preparing to exploit that in about a month.  He'll have exclusive rights to an upcoming hybrid event.  Unfortunately, it's one of those that welcomes all types of hybrids and treats them as if they are the same.  It's that "vague" approach that caused problems years ago.  I have a bad feeling that is about to happen again.  We'll see.  For now, I'm quietly observing what this strange situation will actually bring.

6-18-2006

Sudden Attention.  Now certain automakers are making a big deal about ethanol, even though they've been selling flex-fuel vehicles for years now.  I complained this before, but very few cared.  Perhaps that is finally changing now.  In the past, there was absolutely no promotion from the automakers to actually use ethanol.  The automakers just collected emission credits for each sale.  Most owners never even realized they had the ability to use E85, since the vehicles had nothing but a note on the gas door.  That was it.  Some vehicles did have the "FFV" emblem, but all those I was able to ask (except one!) had absolutely no idea what that meant.  It was sad.  But there was no requirement to promote the use.  Automakers could just quietly collect credits.  Heck, even the state of Arizona got screwed by a "no need to actually use" loophole.  They lost millions to people who purchased duel fuel systems but never used anything but gas.  It was a terrible situation.  But now, how are things any better?  GM is very heavily promoting their flex-fuel vehicles, even to the point of providing $1,000 debit cards for E85.  But at $3 per gallon and 15 MPG using E85 (figure the same vehicle normally gets around 18 MPG using pure gas), that only works out to 4,000 miles of driving.  What happens after that first 4,000 miles?  This sudden attention is an excellent promotional gain, but how far will it really go?  I have a feeling owners will immediately switch back to just using gas afterward.  It's the very reason I go out of my way to point out that the state of Minnesota mandated a 10 percent ethanol blend back in the 90's.  That way, use was guaranteed.  And coming by 2013, that mandate will increase to 20 percent.  It is a genuine reduction of reliance on oil, while at the same time building up infrastructure through volume... which is how further investments toward research & development are funded.  Limited use of E85 for only a few doesn't guarantee a better future.  So this sudden attention is with mixed feelings.

6-18-2006

Entertainment Value.  Listening to the ethanol supports quarrel with the diesel supporters definitely does provide entertainment value.  Today, I got to read this: "The diesel arguments are just the old "wait and see, but do nothing" attitude of many of the obstructionists for real change."  That was great!  Not only did it say the same thing I have been dealing with for ages, it also provided me with a new term.  Most of the "anti" arguments have been of the undermining nature, where they inject subtle attempts to impede progress.  Sometimes, they far more abrupt though, an obvious effort to prevent any progress whatsoever.  Identifying those specific messages as "obstructions" may be helpful.  We'll see.

6-18-2006

Using Less.  This morning's "Meet the Press" television show was fantastic.  3 oil company executives were the featured guests.  All of them had the same message: "increase supply".  They focused on how to do that.  There was quite a bit of discussion around ethanol, so much so that biodiesel got nothing but a quick mention.  Using less oil in the first place was of no interest to them.  Exploring for new supplies, like sand & shale sources as well as coastal drilling, got them really excited.  Providing more fuel is their goal.  That was really sad hear.  They see growth opportunities.  The concept of conservation is a taboo topic.  They obviously want demand to remain high.  Using less of the product they provide simply doesn't make any sense.  In other words, don't expect any help from them.  They are quite happy keeping consumption at this level.

6-18-2006

Lifetime MPG.  It's pretty amazing to see how many newbies still get really excited by the thought of having an ongoing MPG value.  The thought of a computer keeping the average for them inevitably ends in disappoint though.  Because they have never done the calculations themselves, their expectation quite different from reality.  Starting with the beginning of year #2 for me with my HSD Prius, here's the Lifetime MPG calculated at each fill up:  49.4, 49.4, 49.5, 49.4, 49.4, 49.3, 49.2, 49.1, 49.1, 49.0, 48.9, 48.8, 48.7, 48.6, 48.6, 48.6, 48.5, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.3, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.4, 48.5, 48.6, 48.6, 48.7, 48.8, 48.8, 48.9, 48.9, 48.9, 49.0, 49.0, 49.0, 49.2, 49.2, 49.2, 49.2, 49.2, 49.2, 49.3, 49.3, 49.3, 49.3, 49.3, 49.2, 49.1, 49.1, 49.0, 49.0, 49.0, 48.9, 48.9, 48.9, 48.8, 48.8, 48.7, 48.7, 48.7, 48.6, 48.6, 48.6, 48.6, 48.6, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5, 48.5  In that long stream of numbers, did you see a pattern?  Notice how the range is limited to a only 1.2 MPG.  With a fluctuation so small, it can take months for a change of just one-tenth, seeing it constant would be rather boring... and would cause alarm, giving owners the impression it is broken.  Even worse, when you realize that the margin-of-error between display and calculated is actually 1.3 MPG, that value on a display is basically worthless anyway.  Toyota decided that there are better things to show an owner instead.  Per-Tank MPG is there.  It actually does change a lot, since the span of data is so much smaller.

6-17-2006

Around 30 MPG.  On one of those random hybrid article webpages where you can post comments, an owner sounded off... saying how disappointed she was with only getting around 30 MPG and expressed concern that the charge-level was for the battery-pack, only 2 bars pretty much the entire 6 hour trip.  Prius tries hard to maintain a medium level.  Seeing it low for so long was a bit odd.  I certainly haven't.  A number of very confused people responded asking what the heck the problem could be.  Unfortunately, it took several responses from her before the actual source of the problem was revealed.  She neglected to point out the vital information that she was traveling at 85 MPH.  For crying out loud!  Prius wasn't optimized for continuous use well beyond the legal speed limit.  So naturally it won't run at its most efficient then.  But around 30 MPG is hardly anything to complain about going that fast.  How many other vehicles can accomplish the same thing, especially while also delivering PZEV at the same time.

6-17-2006

No Plan.  I'm not the only one asking questions like this anymore: "None of you have shared with us your great plan for getting Americans to change their habits."  The poster was growing very frustrated with the diesel supporters causing trouble on the ethanol discussion topic.  So I responded with this...  That is the grim reality diesel supporters are very much in denial about.  Even the domestic automakers aren't that stubborn.  They recognize that lack of willingness to change, which is a strong reason for pushing ethanol.  The switch to diesel won't gain the typical American driver all that much, since the ones with automatic transmissions (which this population undeniably prefers) don't offer than big of a MPG gain, especially when dealing with daily stop & slow commute traffic.  In fact, the benefit is pitiful compared to what a Prius using E10 (10% ethanol) delivers already.  And the next generation is promising to deliver even higher efficiency.  I've pushed them on many occasions, asking what the heck they intend to do to draw new interest for diesel.  The response was the tranquil sound of crickets in a lonely field on a summer evening.  In other words, nothing!  They have no plan.

6-17-2006

His Bet.  This is how ridiculous the situation has become: "My bet is hybrids never catch up with diesel sales in the USA."  I couldn't help but to laugh at his bet.  That's hysterical!  Who does he think he's fooling?  Prius sales surpassed Volkswagen TDI (combined total of all diesel models) back in 2004.  Trying to create a perception that hybrids aren't popular is yet another example of the desperate attempts to undermine have become.  That's sad... but I suppose it does explain the smug attitude some owners are accused of having.  How could we resist such absurd statements?

6-16-2006

$69.88 per barrel.  Do you even remember when it was that people were hoping for the price of oil finally dropping back below $50?  That now seems so long ago, making the days of the 30's ancient history.  Around $70 is clearly becoming the norm.  That should make you wonder what mindset changes that will solidify.  Permanent gas prices above $2.50 is pretty darn easy to agree upon now.  Heck, even $3 is becoming a realistic expectation.  Those days of carefree waste are over.  It's time to start building that energy-neutral society we've read about for decades in science-fiction writings.  After all, it is the 21st Century.  The industry age is history.  We are now in the information age... or I more eloquently call it the "Age of Awareness".  Taking responsibility for our energy consumption, rather than just using up the supply that cannot be renewed without concern about how to replace it.

6-16-2006

Gas Tax Problem.  The most troubling highway conjunction in the entire metro area was scheduled to begin a redesign this Summer.  But funding fell short.  All we would have needed to do is raise the gas tax a few cents.  But the certain people in the state government here believe in absolutes, no tax increases under any conditions.  That's just plain wrong.  Certain situations should be given special consideration, rather than a blanket "no" response to any request.  The whole situation is absurd anyway.  What's the big deal about a few cents more, now that gas cost well over 100 cents than it was just last year?  Geez!  Just imagine how much gas is being wasted at the busy spot alone.  People would gladly pay to avoid that nightmare.  This tax theology is very troubling.  History has shown it to be counterproductive, yet many continue to support it.  We really are doomed to repeat what we haven't learned from.

6-16-2006

Cell-Phone Photos.  I found something new to do with both the Cell-Phone and the Prius... snapping a photo from time to time, then displaying it as the phone's wallpaper.  Now if anyone asks me "how's it going", I can actually show them.  Seeing that MPG is something that people are growing more and more interested in for some reason.

6-16-2006

Gold Emblems.  It was just a fluke sighting, no opportunity to do anything but enjoy the moment.  There was a White Prius... with the HSD symbol in gold.  So was the Toyota emblem.  I hadn't even given it any thought that gold trim could be available.  12 years ago, I ordered a Ford with that.  Why not the other automakers?  It looked really too.  With my color, it would look awful though.  In fact, that would actually wreck the whole point of Silver.  But I digress.  The thing that stirred me was how fantastic of a photo opportunity that could be, if I ever catch it at a convenient time.  That's something no one has ever mentioned.  So capturing it digitally would definitely be sweet.

6-15-2006

Using Fiction.  It's hard to believe that some people simply make up information to defend their losing battle, yet it happens.  That was today's misadventure.  An absolutely desperate supporter of diesel replied this way when the topic of how clean ethanol was came up: "I see the American Lung Association is distancing themselves from ethanol."  Reading such a bizarre claim was quite a surprise.  He provided absolutely no proof either.  But only a minute of searching their own website revealed why.  It simply wasn't true.  It was complete fiction.  In fact, the actual situation was quite the opposite.  They provided this positive statement: "Ethanol produces lower emissions of ozone-forming compounds and toxic air pollutants."  That sure looks like a sign of acceptance to me, nothing to indicate they don't approve.  Ethanol is the bio-equivalent (farmer grown renewable fuel) to gas.  It provides an obvious emission reduction.  It's the fact that the bio-equivalent to diesel actually increases emissions (NOx levels are higher) that makes this particular antagonist absolutely furious... so, he has resorted to using fiction.  That's sad, as well as being very frustrating... an intentional attempt to mislead.

 

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