Prius Personal Log  #284

August 5, 2006  -  August 11, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 9/03/2006

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Save More.  It's a popular theme.  That promotion is working.  Propaganda in action.  Rather than using less gas in the first place, you can feel good about saving.  Fortunately, it's a mindset change that's pretty much inevitable anyway.  As much nonsense as they can spew out about practical-size hybrids not being able to offset their initial price later at the pump won't change the reality that the monster-size vehicle drains your wallet at a noticeably faster rate.  Saving $150 from a annual bill of $3,000 simply doesn't compare to one where you only pay $1,200 total.  And once the technology upgrades reach that magic point of no return, where the benefit is blatantly obvious, the resistance will just vanish as if it never existed.  There's no admission of defeat.  They just accept change.  It's the bittersweet measure of success... which evidence of is finally starting to emerge. Yippee!  In the meantime, we have to deal with "save more" misleading.


2009 Model.  The next generation rumors are making me crazy.  First, it almost certainly will be a 2009 model... since Toyota said it would be available sometime in 2008.  That would resemble the rollout of the 2007 Camry.  So not saying "2009" is definitely contributing to confusion.  Yet, that's what I see on a very regular basis.  Second, the hints from Toyota are very much in line with that we saw for the HSD model.  The upgrade was an undeniable improvement, even if you knew little about the older technology.  (My hunch is that it will deliver a solid 60 MPG during the pleasant months, using non-blended gas and the standard tires.)  Third, people are blowing the plug-in hope way out of proportion.  It will indeed be a wonderful thing.  But certainly not for everyone anytime soon.  It quite simply is way too expensive right now.  We have to wait for battery costs to drop.  Mass acceptance is a number of years away still, especially since misconceptions about electric propulsion continue to thrive.  Patience.  Enjoy the current generation in the meantime.  I most certainly am.


Hybrid Depreciation.  The bizarre belief that they don't hold value as well as traditional vehicles is really starting to get out of hand.  It has no reflection on reality for Prius.  Value has held remarkably high, near record levels for any mass-produced car in fact.  Meanwhile, guzzlers are losing value so fast that owners are trapped between the extra expense for gas and the loss incurred from selling it.  Are people being mislead by anti-hybrid people?  It's not too hard to find examples to form false generalization with.  But even standard measurements like Blue Book are starting to support the fact that they don't actually depreciate quickly.  So I'm looking for to the day when that knowledge becomes common.  Right now, that is definitely not the case.


Cost Of Living.  That topic is becoming a hot one.  Businesses are coming to the realization that they cannot hide the additional expense from rising fuel costs for too much longer.  Permanent profit reductions are a very real problem.  The temporary buffer is being used up.  The time has arrived to consider raising prices, passing the burden down to the consumer.  The poor economic & political choices that were made in the past are now emerging as a problem so large that the small businesses are not expected to survive.  This is a repeating theme I'm hearing more and more.  It's the direct consequence of being too dependent.  When oil was cheap, there was little concern of the risk they were taking.  This is especially true for the automakers themselves.  But now those that depend on vehicles for transport are feeling the sting.  There obviously should have been a push for technologies that increase efficiency a long time ago... before the need arose.  When Prius first debuted in the United States, the need to patience was painfully evident.  Now the cost of living is going up, and it hurts even more due to not having that technology readily available yet.  But being proactive is not part of the general business mentality; unfortunately, the focus is still primarily on profit.  I wonder how long that will last.  Hmm?


Analysis Afterward.  People love to provide opinions after an event has taken place.  We are seeing a lot more of that recently, since the price of gas makes the benefit of hybrids very easy to accept now.  But during the time when choices hadn't been made yet, the point of view is very different.  It's what inspires me to type logs while the history is actually taking place, not afterward.  That type of analysis lacks the passion too.  I get to vent my frustration during the stupidity itself.  Ahh!  Anywho, this was a reply I posted today in response to a comment about the original version of Estima (a 4-wheel drive hybrid from Toyota, that was not the "full" design)...  Don't remember what the hybrid market was like not too long ago, eh?  How about the price of gas?  When HSD was introduced, the dinosaurs ruled.  The roads were dominated by fast & powerful vehicles guzzling cheap gas.  It was very obvious to those of us already driving Classic Prius that the perception of "overnight success" still meant several years of strong sales and media attention.  Evidence of that is finally starting to reveal itself.  So now we are at the point when people question the wisdom of choices in the past.  In other words, they're looking backward instead of forward.  Shouldn't we be asking about what the next step should be?  It is very clear that people simply weren't paying attention until recently.  After all, why would you if it wasn't time to purchase a new vehicle?  Hopefully, those documents I created to explain how the various hybrid systems work will help.  Got any other suggestions to help, now that people are actually thinking about hybrids?


Sixth Edition.  The User-Guide certainly has become a document packed with good stuff.  I'm thrilled that the ideas continue to pour it.  This time, there were lots of updates and a bunch of new photos.  I added a couple of new sections, like one for strap-on racks and another roof-racks.  Both are options those unfamiliar with Prius often wonder about.  As for me, I wonder how long it will take those that downloaded a prior edition to discover this new one is available.  Whatever the case, I'm thankful for the ability to share it... User-Guide  (HSD)


SSC-60C.  This is that recall which affected 8 other Toyota vehicles.  But since news about Prius draws lots of attention, that fact was often overlooked.  It's what I brought my Prius into the dealer for today.  They replaced (at no charge) the steering intermediate shaft.  Essentially, it makes the assembly more resistant to forceful turning and curb collisions.  Anywho, the work under the car seemed to go just fine.  I've come to expect that from this dealer.  There past service has been great and other owners seem to concur; however, all was not well this time.  The mechanic obviously wasn't thorough.  I wasn't happy.  But fortunately, the service writer responded to my concern immediately.  The steering wheel wasn't straight.  I couldn't believe that got overlooked, especially being off by so much.  It quickly got adjusted, but it's not perfect now.  To do the job right, an alignment is required.  You'd think they would have prevented that need.  They didn't though.  I'll live.  The difference now is less than the width of my smallest finger.  But still, the steering-wheel used to be dead-on.  I know that for a fact, since I checked before the service.  We Prius owners have a great online network, sharing information among each other about what to watch out for.  So I knew to check immediately.  Of course, with this instance it was very difficult to not notice.  That experience was unfortunate.  It tarnished their outstanding record.


Who's Laughing Now!?  There have been a number of people recently that have begun conversations with me that way.  They assume that I'm really enjoying my choice of vehicle now.  Then they are surprised to hear that I'm actually feeling something very different instead.  I was always hoping that the rollout of each generation of hybrid system from Toyota would proceed at this pace.  It is a very happy balance for a society accepting change in a permanent fashion.  People embrace it as the next natural step in automotive evolution that way.  History of fuel-injection, front-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, and airbags have all demonstrated how well the approach works.  We were on schedule for that graceful transition becoming a reality.  Then politics pushed beyond the sane approach, embracing greed in the name of prosperity.  The money flooding the automotive industry was not the result of innovation; instead, it was a textbook example of appealing to emotion.  People felt better about what they choose to buy... even though it was a step backward... compromising safety, increasing emissions, and wasting resources.  That's nothing to laugh about.  I'm saddened that hybrids have been a need rather than a want and frustrated that support from the other automakers is still not there to satisfy that need.


Can't Afford.  Listening to a popular morning show on the radio during this morning's commute was filled with a mix of emotion.  A woman was complaining about gas prices, in turmoil about what to do since her commute had become so expensive.  The large SUV, which she bought at an amazing bargain discount price last Summer, is killing her now.  Should I feel sympathy for such a stupid choice?  Her reasoning for getting it was "the safe feeling it gives me when driving in the winter".  That is just an illusion.  You are actually worse off in a large SUV.  They're absolutely horrible on ice.  Stopping is a nightmare with so much weight.  Evidence of that is overwhelming too, just by observing who ends up in the ditch.  True, the 4-wheel drive does help keep you get out of tough situations.  But those of us driving front-wheel drive cars rarely get in tough situations anyway and it certainly doesn't justify a SUV that large.  Why not a smaller one instead?  Of course, a 4-wheel drive minivan provides even more seating & cargo room with no where near the MPG penalty.  The safety rating is significantly higher too.  She can't afford what she's driving now.  Makes you wonder how many other people are in the very same situation.  Their choice of replacement vehicle will most certainly be more sensible.  Thank goodness!


Department of Health.  Wow!  Hearing about the Department of Health getting involved was quite a surprise.  Those stories about people using old restaurant frying oil to power their diesel vehicle were always frustrating.  None ever mentioned what was done with the waste product after separating out the portion that could be used as fuel.  Very little attention was given to the expense of the chemicals needed to accomplish that separation either.  But it turns out that part is not the only concern.  The oil they use is actually stolen.  Restaurants are required to safely dispose of their oil.  The easiest way to do that is signing a contract with a disposal company.  And once they do, that company is entitled to all of the oil.  Having some of it fall into the hands of someone else is a breach of contract.  So... a company decided to blame the consumer of that oil by notifying the Department of Health.  The chemicals being used for separation are toxic.  There are large quantities involved.  Waste is not accounted for.  In other words, those consumers are in legal trouble now.  I wonder how the diesel supporters will respond to news of this.


Another Disaster.  This one wasn't even natural.  It was a predictable manmade disaster.  Time was the enemy.  The pipeline was designed for about 20 years of service.  30 years later, a nasty leak developed.  That was in March.  It was quite bad.  The event was curiously absent from the news though.  I was frustrated by that and voiced it here.  So now, I'll do it again.  But this time, I don't have to worry about much about the attention it will get.  Heck, the prior event doesn't really even matter anymore.  Rather than a partial shut down.  Production will be stopped entirely this time.  Reducing the flow of oil down to zero barrels per day is bad no matter how you look at it.  And you guessed it, the market didn't take kindly to that kinds of news.  In other words, BP in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska has got a big problem to deal with.  Severe corrosion has made the pipeline basically useless.  Repair isn't possible.  Replacement is required.  They say that will take only a month or two to accomplish.  I don't believe that for a moment.  The post-hurricane estimates were grossly underestimated, and that they have much more experience with.  The extreme remote northern location will obviously affect progress.  How will they get all the needed pipe up there quickly?  Tundra transport happens during the winter, when the ground is frozen.  In short, don't expect price relief anytime soon.


Electric A/C.  Now I'm really upset!  I can understand (and possibly even forgive) reporters for misleading consumers.  Their research is limited and schedules are tight.  Fortunately, true journalism is different.  They actually do take the time & care.  Yet, they still end up feeding misconceptions sometimes.  But for a formal study coming from the United States Department of Energy to do that, there is simply no excuse.  And you guessed it, that's exactly what happened today.  I became frustrated the moment I heard the guy's first comment.  Without any explanation of how A/C systems work in general, he just dove deep into the discussion about the efficiency effect on hybrids.  The type of hybrid wasn't mentioned.  That is just plain wrong on so many levels, I was fuming.  Even among "full" hybrids there are differences.  So to lump all the "full", "assist", and "mild" together into a single category was to completely invalidate any credibility he may have had.  Talking about misleading people!  Did he even have a clue what he was actually suppose to be talking about?  The only determining factor he pointed out was engine size.  That was it!  There wasn't even a hint that some still us a traditional belt powered directly from the engine and tat some are pure electric with the ability to run entirely from the battery-pack.  That makes a huge difference!  I have owned both a Classic Prius and the newer HSD model.  The later has Electric A/C... which has proven to deliver a rather noticeable MPG improvement.  Yet, there was never any mention of that.  These so-called experts are doing more harm than good.  It's very frustrating.


492 Infringements.  When you stumble across an article that catches your interest, the standard protocol for sharing it with others is to quote from it.  Sometimes that consists of just pointing out a favorite sentence or two (which I quite often do in these personal logs).  More commonly in forums, you'll be provided with the first one or two paragraphs then a link to the original source to continue reading.  That's an acceptable practice, not considered infringing.  What I saw today went well beyond that, to the point of blatant copyright violations.  In other words, curiosity lead me to finally check out the contents of that now 6-month old hybrid forum founded by a former anti-hybrid foe... since he obviously has a unique perspective.  Unfortunately, that doesn't actually equate to much.  There I found a collection of 492 complete articles, including photos.  A large portion of the forum was dedicated to being a repository of hybrid-related articles that people could add comments to.  No wonder it is drawing attention from the hybrid community.  This is the second online resource I have now found that simply doesn't care.  There is no indication whatsoever that he is actually getting permission to republish, especially from such a wide variety of sources.  It appears to be copy & paste gone wild.  That's definitely not appropriate.


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