Prius Personal Log  #276

June 23, 2006  -  June 30, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 7/23/2006

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6-30-2006

Battery-Pack Differences.  It's been quite awhile since I had to point out the actual differences in battery-packs.  So when confusion surfaced in the large Prius forum today, I sounded off.  A major chunk of the reasoning for calling the upgrade from the Original model Prius to the Classic a "generation" was the fact that the brand new rectangular packaging allowed for much better heat management, as well as significantly tighter layout.  It was a really big deal, even though virtually none of the newbies in the United States understood that... but they are beginning to figure it out now.  Ford and Honda still use that original design, just off-the-shelf industrial batteries rechargeable "D" cells.  So they are struggling with the problems and limitations Toyota (along with Panasonic) overcame many years ago.  It was a definite risk enhancing the design and chemistry, then committing to the high-volume production.  It required a massive financial investment.  The result was a lawsuit with monetary penalties and use restrictions.  But nonetheless, there was overwhelming evidence proving their commitment to the technology.  And ultimately, the success so far simply cannot be denied.  So despite the roundabout way of achieving the goal, it will be achieved.  The current battery-pack is purposely different.  Did you know that?  And did you know why?

6-29-2006

Another Broken Promise.  Think about the serious problem Ford has been quietly dealing with.  The hybrid batteries they use are 2 generations behind what Toyota already uses.  They are the "D" cells, which offer less than half the power and have some rather significant thermal limitations.  They are what was available in the Original Prius back in 1997.  Toyota overcame those issues by developing the modules and enhancing the energy-density characteristics.  Ford is stuck with their current Sanyo supply contract, who is focused on just increasing current production.  No enhancements have been announced.  That means they'll slip another generation behind when the new Prius comes out with the new generation of battery in 2 years.  In other words, the Escape-Hybrid is all Ford can offer.  Fitting enough battery capacity into a Fusion sedan to make it competitive with Camry-Hybrid is totally unrealistic.  Between all the cells and the required liquid cooling system, almost the entire trunk would be consumed.  That is very unappealing.  So the announcement today that they will not deliver on the "250,000 hybrids per year by 2010" promise isn't a surprise.  After all, their 5-year promise back in 2000 to "increase efficiency by 25 percent" was a total disappointment, broken just 3 years into the effort.

6-29-2006

Duh, you plug it in.  This absolutely astonishingly quote came from a post on a random money forum this morning...  "I posted a question about the recharging of the batteries, and wondered how it was done.  This was a legitimate query on my part.  I immediately was hit with ridicule and mocking from the sanctimonious amongst us, pointing out it was obvious, even to a half brained person how this was done.  I was called a moron for not realizing the obvious.  Duh, you plug it in.  Yes, I realize you plug in the car to an outlet... but I for one, do not have off the street parking with access to an outlet."  Talking about a misconception being taken advantage of to the extreme.  I had no idea some of the anti-hybrid efforts were that effective.

6-29-2006

That's it!  Ford, GM, and DC combined sell about 10 millions vehicle in the United States each year.  They've been building E85 systems since the late 90's... so you'd expect them to be able to deliver a large volume of them, especially since they are promoting the use of E85 so extensively and the upgrade itself is pretty cheap (less than $200).  But Ford & DC only anticipate being able to deliver 250,000 each, GM 400,000.  That's it!  The number is very disappointing.  You'd expect a much higher quantity with all the hype.  But no.  In fact, isn't that roughly what they were already delivering anyway?  There doesn't appear to be any volume increase at all.  I think that is just the same amount as each of the previous few years.  What the heck?  It doesn't appear as though we get anything more than just new advertisements.

6-28-2006

Legit or Rumor?  A newbie innocently asked that question.  I crashed reality down upon them.  Usually, that stimulates the desire to do something about what they heard.  In this case, it was a fairly basic example of a number-crunching effort to sour the appeal of hybrids.  It used a very common undermining tactic.  The anti-hybrid force you to consider analysis with the perspective of "today" only, persisting the false belief that there will never be a technological or production improvement later on.  A disturbing number of people actually fall for that trap, getting stuck in the mindset that nothing will ever change.  We saw countless of examples in the past with hybrid expense articles, where they mislead you into believing gas would never cost more than $2 per gallon for the entire lifetime of the vehicle.  Obviously, they were grossly incorrect.  The price is quite a bit now more than that just a few years later.  And we already know for a fact that a next generation Prius is on the way.  So how can any "today" analysis possibly be objective?  True, the current numbers are indeed legit in many cases.  But their use is an attempt to mislead.  I suppose that means we could call that a rumor then.

6-27-2006

Hybrid Cabs.  I sure wish the hybrid cars from Ford were finally available.  The push to increase sales of their current offering has lead them to cab companies.  Ford wants to see their hybrid SUVs purchased for use as cabs.  Since when does using a sport-utility-vehicle in a downtown metropolis make any sense whatsoever?  What a complete waste!  Using a car instead is far more practical.  But since their current selection is limited to only a SUV, the choice is rather silly... since there isn't one.  Eventually there should be.  But waiting for the right thing to finally happen is very frustrating.  The mindset of only doing the absolute minimum, since doing more would provide less for the executives & stockholders, is a one that's very difficult overcome.  Don't expect a lot of change soon.

6-27-2006

Another Kayak.  Well, what do you know!  I bought a second kayak today.  Having so much fun with the first left me with no option.  In order to get a friend or family member to join my fun, they need something to do that with.  So, I was compelled to respond right away... since it was already late in the season for that.  An owner from California who drove his Prius all the way to Minnesota dropped me an email, asking if I would happen to have any reason to visit the area he was staying.  It was north of the Twin Cities, where a very large new sporting good store had just opened.  What a fantastic coincidence.  I got to visit with a very well informed owner, then end the trip with a shopping adventure.  It was fulfilling in both respects.  I got a mess of Prius materials from him and ended up buying another kayak.  This one is 14 feet long.  It only adds 4 more pounds, compared to the 12 foot, but the extra length makes leverage quite a bit more difficult.  I hadn't realized that.  It made getting the kayak on top significantly harder... until I finally realized that moving the rollers & saddles from the middle to the side would make the loading process easier than ever.  Doing that means I can set the kayak down in place, just leaning against the Prius from the side, then walk around to the back for the final lift.  It is no longer a one-step process that required a fair amount of strength to avoid scraping the spoiler or bumping the wiper.  I was very pleased after learning that.  Then I was thrilled by what came next.  There were 40 miles of highway driving between the store and my home.  I hadn't ever ventured onto a highway with a kayak on top.  It was an immediate jump to 70 MPH, then a short distance later I would end up traveling on 60 & 65 MPH roads the rest of the way.  To my delight, the kayak sat on top perfectly fine and barely even affected the MPG.  It stayed above 50 the entire time!  I guess the hydrodynamic nature of the haul translates extremely well to aerodynamics.  Sweet!  Now the fun can really begin.

6-27-2006

Tiny Dents.  I guess I can't say much more than... Oops!  Assembling the roof-rack to carry the kayak on top of my Prius required quite a bit of measuring and adjusting.  I tried to do most of it on the garage floor.  But the final steps needed to be performed on the car itself.  Being in bright sunlight, I wasn't aware of what the heavy components were doing to the hot metal.  And because the full-assembled and properly-adjusted final product fits so well and attaches easily, it took until now to discover the damage.  In just the right shadowed environment, I can see quite a few tiny dents.  Bummer.  Fortunately, their location makes it very obvious that they happened during assembly.  Actual use doesn't put the rack anywhere near them.  So I feel pretty confident that no more will be created.  But I'm not too thrilled about the ones that are there... even though they are nearly invisible.  Oh well.

6-26-2006

Filling the Trunk.  I wonder how often this topic will be discussed.  Numerous times, people have pointed out that reduced size of the Camry-Hybrid trunk... obviously caused by the addition of the battery-pack.  But not a single person has ever pointed out an actual inconvenience caused by it.  That is likely due to there no actually being one.  After all, that trunk is a little bigger than the one for the Classic Prius and it includes a seat that folds down.  Anywho, that is the Toyota design.  It uses a very high-density battery-pack.  The energy storage abilities of the one used by Ford are significantly less... so much so that it is conceivable that the size required to compete is so large that most of the trunk would be consumed.  That's not good.  It does reveal some light though on why a hybrid car from Ford still hasn't been delivered.  I bet they have absolutely no choice but to wait for a practical & affordable newer technology instead.  A lithium battery is likely the solution... since I simply cannot imagine that anyone would find filling the trunk appealing.  So we have to wait.  This is yet another example of the consequences caused by them not taking hybrids seriously for so long.

6-26-2006

Yellowwashing.  I thought greenwashing was bad.  Now we have another "anti" term.  Yellow identifies it as being associated with a bio-fuel, rather than just something in general intended to help the environment.  Anywho, the scam now is the spread of the belief that the goal is to replace all of the imported oil.  In reality, that isn't true.  Rather than putting all the risk on a single product, we can spread the load by using ethanol when it is available.  That combined with hybrids, would indeed reduce the risk we are currently struggling to deal with.  But the yellowwashers don't want you to know that.  They want you to think differently.  That makes their argument against ethanol easy.  Today, the nonsensical statistic they used was that it was take an additional 341 million acres of corn to produce enough oil for complete replacement.  Obviously, that isn't a good use of our land.  But since that isn't the goal anyway, there statistic has little merit.

6-25-2006

Kayak on Top.  I finally bought a personal watercraft to help enjoy the Summer with.  Yeah!  It's the recreational style, wider & shorter than the stereotypical kind you've probably seen on film.  So, I'll fun without killing myself... though getting it on top of the Prius will take a bit of practice.  Fortunately, I got a really nice roof-rack to carry it with, complete with rollers & saddles.  See... photo album 109

6-25-2006

Global Warming.  All of a sudden, this topic is getting quite a bit more attention.  The collaborative efforts appear to have really paid off.  The evidence is absolutely overwhelming now.  So many different disciplines have contributed data that the debate is finally over.  Discussions about what to do and what to expect are now being taken seriously.  No more research is necessary.  We clearly have a problem to deal with.  That's good news for hybrids.  Not only do they contribute less carbon dioxide emissions, they (well most anyway) also reduce smog-related emissions as well as the dependence we have on imported oil.  Too bad we had to wait until the evidence of a crisis began to emerge.  Being proactive instead would have been a much smarter choice.  Better late than never?

6-24-2006

Hydraulic Fluid Hybrid.  Wow!  The antagonists sure had fun today.  Upon hearing about the tests UPS is conducting on this new type of hybrid, they immediately declared the Toyota design obsolete and a colossal waste of money.  Geez!  A hydraulic system utilized to capture kinetic energy is just a low-end "assist" design, so its abilities are quite limited.  For a purpose like delivery trucks, that could translate to a decent benefit.  But what if you require A/C in that traffic with frequent stops?  You're basically screwed.  The engine must be run for that hydraulic-equipped system to keep you cool.  In a "full" hybrid, that isn't the case since the A/C can be entirely electric.  And what about cruising, how long do you actually believe the hydraulic pressure will last?  The "full" hybrid persistently recharges, so there is always an ample supply of electricity available.  That allows the electric motor to be taken advantage of, even when on the highway.  When will the hydraulic pressure be recovered and when/how can it be used?  Then there's the consideration of size.  A big truck has areas available to hide away the large hydraulic fluid tanks.  A car doesn't have that much room to spare.  So this really isn't an enhancement that will be available for consumer vehicles.

6-23-2006

$70.87 per barrel.  Oil is still expensive.  That has pushed gas prices to $2.95 per gallon.  None of that is surprising.  But later it may be.  What if oil prices keep going up but the price of gas doesn't?  We've see that weirdness before.  Will we again?

6-23-2006

Leaves Me Wondering.  We (the Toyota hybrid owners) have been expecting a panic response for quite awhile now.  But keep in mind how many statements automakers have made in the past that were never delivered or eventually abandoned.  So suddenly hearing that GM is making plans to not only deliver a hybrid car, but for it to also include a plug, leaves me wondering.  Of course, without any important details revealed yet, this definitely contributes to the "wait until they actually deliver something" attitude.  What are they really planning?  The nature of this claim fits the definition of "vaporware" all too well.  It would be fantastic to finally have something competitive.  But like usual, it all comes down to timing.  We know it will someday happen anyway, but on-paper ideas are far different from on-road implementation.  How much will it cost?  How long will the battery-pack last?  What will be the maximum electric speed?  What will be the acceleration characteristics?  Will it be comfortable for a family?  How many will they be producing per year?  How long before the first one is delivered?  Will it be designed to cope with the extreme heat of Arizona or the extreme cold of Minnesota?  There are lots of real-world questions to be answered first.  The market in general will delay before responding, just like it did when the hybrids were brand new.  That could take several years... depending on the price of gas.  We'll see.  For now, all we get is vague proclamations.  I won't believe that until I actually see it.

 

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