Prius Personal Log  #282

July 24, 2006  -  July 31, 2006

Last Updated: Sat. 8/05/2006

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7-31-2006

Not Alone Anymore.  My years ago, when I first starting hanging out at the coffee shops to write about Prius stuff, I was very much alone... the only person there with a computer.  Fortunately, that has dramatically changed recently.  This morning, there were 4 other people there with computers!  It was quite amusing.  I went from being unique to being part of the majority.  How the heck do that happen so quickly?  Apparently, it is just like hybrid technology.  There is heavy resistance right up to a break pointing.  Then when the threshold is exceeded, it rapidly becomes a standard as if there was never any doubt that would happen.  Whatever.  Despite the haphazard way change ends up occurring, at least it is genuine progress.  Mobile computing opens up a whole new world of opportunity... especially if the top speed of your computer is 100 MPH and it averages 50 MPG.

7-31-2006

Arnold's Choice.  His loyalty certainly isn't for the current federal administration anymore.  Being the governor of California, he sure is getting a lot of pressure now to do something about global warming.  None of the prior efforts yielded much help for him going forward from here.  The "hydrogen highway" clearly won't accomplish much either.  And the top countries around the world have plans underway already.  Losing that leadership role isn't appealing... especially with elections approaching.  Brand new initiatives are needed.  So of all things, he started talks with the UK.  Taking his state back to the "leading by example" position is the hope.  With that foreign assistance, he figure out how to meet the carbon-dioxide reduction goals, anticipating that other states will recognize the effort as worthy and join in... rather than waiting for the White House hopelessly.  Hearing that Arnold is now doing the right thing rather than just being loyal is gratifying.  It's a very good choice.

7-30-2006

Resale Value.  That has been a complete non-issue for Prius.  Well, kind of.  The resale value of the used ones has increased so much that there is a bit of disappointment that I wasn't able to sell mine later.  I could have actually got more money by waiting!  But it was worth the opportunity to get the new model right away.  Needless to say, Prius holds its value remarkably well.  The concerns about the technology are dropping.  There is obviously a future for the "full" hybrids.  But what about the "assist" hybrids?  Their resale value obviously won't be as high, knowing that they cannot be electricity augmented.  But will that really matter?  The used ones could still sell for more than traditional vehicles years from now.  Right?  Unfortunately, I have no basis to make a solid prediction from.  If quantity remains low, that would likely push the prices to an extreme.  But which direction?  There are so few used diesels that they sell for very high prices, currently.  Later on, when the much stricter emission regulations take effect, the demand for those used polluters could quickly fall out of favor.  There's no way to accurately determine that though.  The automotive market is known for surprises too, successes and failures that mysteriously happen.  So I'm quite curious about future demand for used hybrids.

7-29-2006

No Actual Improvement.  Those in favor of the "Smart" cars sure are touchy.  Defense of the really slow acceleration speed (0-60 from 13 to 18 seconds depending on the model) is always abrasive, since people love pointing that out as a weakness.  Their rebuttal is to draw attention to seating comfort and crash safety.  Neither has been sacrificed for the sake of efficiency.  There really isn't any actual improvement though.  True, the significant reduction of weight and engine size makes a big difference.  So you do indeed get higher MPG than usual.  But that isn't the result of any technological advance whatsoever.  In other words, if you did the same thing to a Prius, you'd get the same type of efficiency gain in addition to what the hybrid system already provides.  Perhaps we'll see that someday.  But right now, that kind of sacrifice is not embraced by many.  They'd rather keep driving their vehicle of choice with a hybrid system.

7-29-2006

Declaring Victory.  I think I can now.  That nasty forum is no longer supportive of anti-hybrid behavior.  The threads are listed in such a diluted manner that topics of the past are simply lost among the other chatter.  And that's online, the most convenient of information sharing methods... but not the most powerful.  Proof of that became all too clear at the gas station this evening.  The guy filling his pickup on the other side of the pump from me made eye contact.  Out of curiosity, I non-verbally invited his request to say something.  He wanted someone to share his pain.  But the complaint about the gas prices from him resulted in this surprising response from me, "You're telling that to the wrong person."  He obviously hadn't ever met a hybrid owner before.  He immediately started questioning me about performance (efficiency, power, and speed), then about Winter driving.  It got him very excited.  That type of encounter makes far more of an impression than any of the nonsense those antagonists attempt to spread.  So... I'm declaring victory.

7-29-2006

What The Heck?  An article with a mysterious purpose caught my attention today.  It started by mentioning how a hybrid model had been added to the "popular Escape gang".  That made me suspicious.  Escape sales were always weak.  Demand for a small SUV simply wasn't big.  People were far more interested in the monster-size variety instead.  So reading this article's claim of disappointment didn't hold much merit.  Soft hybrid sales should have been expected.  But the positive spin was how EPA estimates were indeed met, and sometimes even exceeded.  There was mention of an upgrade on the way, improvements to the electric motors and the battery-pack.  Unfortunately, there nothing was said about hybrids planned from Ford other than Escape.  Confusingly, it was stated that the Escape-Hybrid was capable of using E85.  Since when?  It certainly wasn't originally.  So I guess purpose of the article was a fictional report with the intent of drawing some attention to that hybrid.

7-29-2006

Nissan CVT.  It looks like they've jumped on board now too.  The automakers are catching on.  Continuously Variable Transmissions are both more efficient and more smooth.  The Cone & Belt type is proving to work well in non-hybrid vehicles.  (Hybrids use the Planetary type.)  So a CVT instead of a traditional automatic transmission is a good choice.  But what feels luxurious to some, feels weak to others.  Without the thumping like that from an automatic, you get the impression that the vehicle isn't accelerating quickly.  Prius owners are very familiar with this.  But all of them prefer distancing themselves from that crude measurement of performance.  The vibration from a vehicle shouldn't be something to be proud of.  So seeing the attention given to smoothness in Nissan's newest television commercial and reading that they have set an annual production goal of 1 million is fantastic.  It's a definite step, though small, in the right direction.

7-28-2006

$73.24 per barrel.  It's hard to believe the price of oil was once below $30 while I owned a Prius.  Those days are long gone now.  Gas is still above $3 here.  Consumer attitudes about consumption are most definitely changing.  The market experts were wrong.  But despite the obvious evidence of change, they still haven't revised their estimates about the hybrid market.  I wonder why.  Hmm?  Could it be pride?  Could it be that too many unknowns prevent any level of accuracy?  Could it be that they don't want to upset people?  Could it be that they simply haven't figured out what's happening yet?  Could it be mean accepting defeat, the end to a wasteful way of life?  Whatever the case, I welcome the change even if they don't.

7-28-2006

Undermining the Underminers.  It's about dang time.  That nasty online haven for the anti-hybrid has finally changed, and it looks like it will stay that way.  The interface has been altered in such a way that ambushes are no longer proving as effective.  For a service that caters specifically to automotive discussions, the fact they have come to realize the importance of hybrids is a very big deal.  I absolutely love how subtle the new environment favors hybrids.  At first, it didn't appear that way.  But finding the threads where the fighting had occurred is very difficult now.  Then when you do stumble across one, the significance is less.  It's a (long overdue) push of resistance against the resistors themselves.  Their undermining simply doesn't draw as much attention anymore.  Cool!

7-27-2006

Engine Weight.  It continues to get worse.  Now, I'm seeing quite a few "economic" analysis reports based on energy content within the fuel itself, especially since ethanol is such a hot topic.  No where do they mention that because diesel ignition is based on compression rather than a spark, it requires a heavier engine.  The weight is totally ignored.  It's bad enough that they intentionally ignore data from stop & slow commute type traffic.  But now, they are misleading by excluding information that very few consumers are aware of.  People simply assume that all else is equal, that the fuel alone is the only influence of fuel economy.  That's definitely not appropriate.  They are concealing a not-so-trivial fact.

7-27-2006

Detroit Spin.  The article about hybrids today included this in the introduction: "Losing steam in the market?  With sales of the Toyota Prius off by 12 percent so far this year and the Honda Accord hybrid down by 58 percent, it's looking that way."  And it had this in the conclusion: "The early mania, stirred up by the general media and zealous early Prius owners, has dissipated, as the public discovered that the economic reality of hybrid purchase was less attractive than anticipated."  In between was the same old nonsense.  It discussed how Ford tried, but discovered efforts in other aspects of fuel economy were needed... despite the fact that only a single vehicle style of hybrid was ever offered, a SUV.  Perhaps that is why the article never even mention the existence of Camry-Hybrid.  That would be bad, since it would reveal the true reason Prius sales are down.  People would then discover that the entire allotment of Prius will be delivered this year, just later than originally expected.  They'd also find out that the waiting lists for Prius are still several months long.  So taking advantage of the temporary supply shortage to distort & mislead is just plain wrong!  Yes, I'm pretty upset!!  Arrgh!!!

7-27-2006

GM Profit.  That report today was rather amusing.  They just glossed over the massive losses, dismissing them as one-time expenses.  Focus instead was on the difference, which was actually positive.  What they didn't even remotely mention though was there was no aspect of long-term survival.  It was literally just a status of the previous quarter (the last 3 months of sales).  Gas was cheaper, prior to that.  Following, it is very likely to be more expensive.  That will definitely continue to harm their earn potential from the high-profit gas-guzzlers.  Their more efficient vehicles don't deliver anywhere near as much of a monetary return.  So depending on them is not at all realistic for an automaker who continues to loss market-share.  Tough times still lay ahead for GM.

7-26-2006

SULEV or ULEV?  Reading this comment in a post on the big Prius forum today was saddening... "I could've sworn it was SULEV but my brochure says ULEV."  Errors in documents live on for years.  Corrections & Retractions rarely get noticed.  So inaccurate sources still get quoted.  Problems like that plague the scientific community.  So be thankful don't have to deal with it more often.  Unfortunately, we do still have some antagonists that intentionally exploit this situation.  Prius was SULEV.  That fact absolutely infuriated certain Honda hybrid owners, since they only had ULEV originally.  There is a wealth of supporting evidence available in old forum posts from the "classic" era.  The history is pretty interesting.  Without low-sulfur gas, maintaining SULEV for the entire required 120,000 duration is somewhat of a challenge.  Levels of sulfur varied too much throughout the country for any guarantee to be made.  So when Honda finally started to build a SULEV version, they abruptly decided against making it available anywhere except the five CARB states.  Toyota didn't care.  ULEV was so much dirtier and only had a rating duration of 100,000 miles.  So the special cleansing equipment and system operation was available to everyone nationwide from day one for Prius.  I was delighted, since the gas I use had been low-sulfur (despite not living in a CARB state) since way back in 1999.  I wonder what other hybrid history will be obscured & distorted as time proceeds.  Hmm?

7-25-2006

Light Bulb Replacement.  I wonder how long it had been like that.  It's not something easy to notice.  As I was driving away from having just met with a friend, the bluetooth system in the Prius activated.  Why was I getting a call only moments after leaving?  It was to be told that the entire right side of the car was dark.  That didn't make sense, but it raised considerable concern immediately.  Within a minute though, the answer would be revealed.  For so much to not be illuminating, there would have to be a significant electric problem.  Fortunately, pulling over to a strip-mall and backing up to a store-front with a large window revealed what the situation actually was.  Somehow, he hadn't noticed the brake lights still working.  All that had broke was just the driving light in the rear, as I could clearly see in the reflection.  That only took a minute to replace (without any tools) and $1.03 after tax.  Phew!

7-25-2006

79 F in the Morning.  What a fantastic example of engine protection!  The hybrid system in Prius does this exceptionally well.  Witnessing it in the Winter is very easy.  In the Summer though, it is usually far more subtle.  But yesterday afternoon, I pulled out of the garage into an 80 F degree day.  And since the engine was very hot still, from a trip just 15 minutes earlier, the system ran with the usual balance of engine & motor as I climbed the steep hill out of the valley.  This afternoon was quite different.  The engine was cold from having remained parked there overnight.  So even though I was pulling out of the garage into a 79 F degree environment, the motor was heavily favored.  It was remarkable to see.  The Multi-Display very clearly showed a 2-bar drop in the battery-pack charge-level without any recharging activity at all from the engine.  I could even tell that the RPM was lower than usual for that climb.  It was the perfect warm-weather demonstration, a benefit of the hybrid system most people would never imagine.  You have to experience it to truly understand that not-at-all-obvious reduction of strain benefit.

7-24-2006

Sanctuary.  Well, how about that!  It appears as though the antagonists are actually getting squeezed out.  The layout of discussions on a particular forum is no longer familiar.  The format has been rather significantly reorganized.  The safe place they used to unite at now appears to be for the lack of a better term, all stirred up.  Metaphorically, exposing that shadowed sanctuary to the bright sunlight is causing enough damage to impair their very survival.  Sweet!  It was the uniqueness of that format which allowed them to thrive.  Now it looks like efforts to make hybrids seem unappealing simply won't work.  The layout encourages activity in new threads, those favorable to hybrids.  This is great!!

 

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