Prius Personal Log  #288

September 3, 2006  -  September 8, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 9/10/2006

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9-08-2006

The Discovery Process.  It's really bizarre witnessing the discovery process others experience when researching hybrids.  They are literally still at the very beginning, back where I was 6.5 years ago.  A whole new world suddenly opens up in front of them, as if they had absolutely now idea so much was actually there until that very minute.  To them, a vehicle called "hybrid" was just something experimental still.  Until their discovery, they thought the technology had the potential to fail and disappear from the market as nothing but a footnote in a history book.  Finding out that there are already several hundred thousand owners absolutely amazes them.  Then hearing that some have exceeded 150,000 miles without any trouble at all totally blows them away.  It's like a volcanic eruption, nothing from that moment on is ever the same.  Cool!  I hadn't anticipated reactions such as that.  I had assumed most people had be aware of hybrid progress over the past few years.  Apparently, that's not the case.  They see a brand new opportunity ready for the mainstream market, just a matter of time before everyone is driving one.  I wonder how much of that has to do with the remarkable availability timing that corresponds so well with the rapid climb of gas prices.  Hmm?

9-07-2006

With Bluetooth.  Not too many years back, if you wanted anything beyond basic features, you had to purchase a more expensive vehicle.  Options were very, very limited for the economy class.  That's changing though... finally!  Now a very popular feature is being heavily promoted for the subcompact Nissan Versa, which sells for just $12,550.  It's Bluetooth!  That is definitive proof that speed & power are losing their ability to draw consumer interest.  Occupant conveniences are gaining attention.  Sweet!  I was tired of that nonsense.  Leg room was that way for decades.  Getting more required the purchase of a larger vehicle, even though automakers could have easily provided that in a smaller vehicle.  That's not always true anymore.  Our choices are expanding.  That introduces a far more complex market, making inventory management a much more risky endeavor.  Certain automakers don't like that at all.  They were use to limiting selection for greater control... in other words, bigger profit potential.  Those days have ended.  Times are changing.

9-07-2006

He Fueled Me!  I checked up on that anti-hybrid haven which is now in ruin.  The pro-hybrid discussions are thriving there now.  That makes me very happy.  But I was a bit baffled when I came across this today: "I would not even consider a hybrid after knowing what I now know."  Upon seeing that, I furiously traced backward through the discussion thread trying to figure out what the heck that person what talking about.  But to my surprise, there was absolutely nothing to be found.  Not a single complaint or problem was included in any message.  Huh?  How could anyone draw such a decisive conclusion without providing any facts whatsoever?  Then it hit me.  Check to see who posted that exclamation.  Sure enough, it was an extremely stubborn diesel supporter.  No wonder!  With the price of gas dropping, but diesel not, along with the appeal of hybrids rising, it shouldn't surprise me at all that such bold tactics are now being used.  Vague statements like that are pointless, since avoiding detail is required.  People want to know more.  More is what reveals their disingenuous intent.  So all you get is just that lone sentence.  But I did fall for it momentarily.

9-07-2006

60,000 Mile - Service.  To my surprise, this one was very simple.  I remembered the Classic maintenance schedule at this point, but hadn't actually checked the one for the HSD until the morning of the service itself (today).  This Prius doesn't require a coolant change, engine or inverter, until 100,000 miles.  Sweet!  That's money still in the bank for me.  All that was needed was just a full inspection.  Oil & Tires are on a different cycle now.  Both the engine and the air-conditioner filter were changed not too long ago.  So, after 1.2 hours of thoroughly measuring and checking stuff, I got a bill for $114.08 saying all was well.  That's no too bad.  But I do question the $12.22 of that for hazardous waste fees.  What was there to dispose of?

9-06-2006

How Often?  When changing oil in on my Classic Prius, I was always impressed by how good condition it was still after 7,500 miles.  My pre-hybrid car certainly wasn't that easy on oil; in fact, it looked & felt terrible after just 3,000 miles.  So, I wasn't exactly receptive to the idea of a 5,000 mile change interval for my HSD Prius.  But now that I'm at 60,000 miles and currently have no garage (the foundation is being rebuilt), the consideration of waiting longer is no foremost in my mind... especially since I've been religiously using synthetic.  What are other owners thoughts on this?  How often are they choosing to do changes and when are they breaking from the standard routine?

9-05-2006

Major Oil Supply.  Extreme deep ocean drilling has never been a smart option.  It is far too expensive and very dangerous.  But it has actually taken the next step forward to at least being practical.  Chevron announced today that they were able to sustain an extraction flow-rate of more than 6,000 barrels per day from a 20,000 foot drilled hole with 8,000 feet of water above it.  That has been to great of a challenge until recently.  Unfortunately, being able to tap into supply that was previously inaccessible means we'll just be delaying the inevitable.  The potential yield from those locations only adds up to enough oil to maintain status quo.  So as demand increases due to population, we'll be able to just barely keep fulfilling it... and that has no reflection on cost, since new infrastructure is required.  That will likely cause noticeable gas price increases.  It does absolutely nothing to address emissions either.

9-05-2006

Use Less.  It's a goal our President simply doesn't place any value on.  The diversion a few years ago was hydrogen.  That was actually a step backward, even less efficient that gas for automotive use.  Yet, there was quite a bit of fanfare about it since that was a way of being less dependent on imported oil.  Now attention is shifting, as if the original effort never existed.  The speech he gave yesterday for Labor Day focused on ethanol instead, making no mention at all about hydrogen.  He ended the fuel topic with this: "In order to become less dependent on foreign oil, why don't we become more reliant upon America's farmers to produce energy for our automobiles?"  Shifting from one dependency to another is rather senseless.  Why is using less dismissed as an option?  I like ethanol, but I certainly don't want people guzzling that instead.  Hybrids use less, regardless of what fuel you put in the tank.  Reducing consumption should be acknowledged as a goal, not reliance on a different source of energy alone.

9-05-2006

Ford.  The great-great grandson of Henry Ford will no longer be President and CEO anymore of the struggling automaker baring his name.  He is stepping down from those roles to only the Chairman position, which he also currently holds.  It's a long overdue change.  The company has had nothing but trouble since he took on those roles in the first place.  (To refresh your memory, that was one month after the 9/11 attacks.)  Pushing monster-size guzzlers was his plan.  That failed to produce a long-term sustainability solution.  In the meantime, he allowed the attention on cars to dwindle.  Not retaining a diverse product-line was a huge mistake, a basic rule of business totally disregarded.  Now the consequences of placing focus almost entirely on trucks are revealing themselves, proving to have been a very bad choice.  Hopefully his replacement will be able to rescue the company.  Personally, I'm hoping that means proper resources will finally be devoted to their hybrid rollout.  Development went well, then the effort died once it came to actually using that technology in more than just a single product.  Delivering just one vehicle type (especially being a SUV) was just plain dumb, something the new guy can easily rectify.  I sure hope he does.

9-04-2006

GM Forum.  It had been 8 months since I visited it.  Curiosity really had me yearning to discover what had happened in the meantime.  Back then, GM had just abruptly changed their attitude toward hybrids.  Now the reality that they are actually taking them fairly seriously (compared to the past, anyway) is becoming apparent, what is the attitude of GM supporters?  The answer was provided in a rather profound why.  By amazing coincidence, someone had just posted a 1 year progress report of Prius ownership.  What are the odds of that?  My timing (more like pure luck) was truly remarkable.  Reading the responses were fascinating.  They were subdued anti-hybrid comments, where each was attempting to downplay importance without actually dismissing.  After all, that makes sense.  GM is now in favor of hybrids.  So I chimed it with this: "3 years of driving using E10 for fuel (10 percent ethanol blend) with high-traction tires in Minnesota my average after 60,116 miles calculated to 48.7 MPG.  I am disappointed that GM won't be offering their competing hybrid design in a sedan or hatchback for a number of years still."  The response to that was quite predictable.  The word "competing" was ignored entirely.  It was pointed out that the hybrid version of Malibu would be available next Spring.  That won't be even close to competitive, since that system provides only mild assist abilities.  Oh well.  At least they aren't resisting change anymore.

9-03-2006

The Wrong Fuel.  The nonsense about hydrogen is now receiving increased attention, as a recent survey has revealed.  More are questioning what the heck the benefit actually is supposed to be.  Back when it was first used as a diversion from hybrids, people just accepted it because gas was cheap.  But now that they desire a genuine solution quickly (wallets being emptied by high prices is a great incentive), comments made in speeches about the future simply aren't enough anymore.  Why in the world would anyone adopt hydrogen just for the sake of it not being a fossil fuel?  In other words, plug-in hybrids using a biofuel (like ethanol) make a whole lot more sense.  Creating an entirely new infrastructure for a technology that won't be practical or even affordable for well over a decade seems like quite a waste to many more people now.  After all, how much will that hydrogen cost?  Electricity will almost certainly cost less and will most definitely be more convenient.  Just imagine what a plug-in hybrid will be like after a decade.  Why bother using hydrogen when so little ethanol would be required?  And how could a fuel-cell vehicle using hydrogen compete?  It's not just the wrong fuel, it's the wrong approach.  Focus should be on goals instead.  The plug-in hybrid shows potential to improve the already impressive emissions & efficiency of the "full" hybrids.  Why is that still being ignored by some?

9-03-2006

Toyota not Prius.  Confusion about the tax credits continues.  I bet some people are really going to be upset next year, when they find out what the details really are.  In just 4 weeks, the federal incentive for all Toyota hybrids (as well as their luxury brand Lexus) will drop by 50 percent.  It's not just Prius, as some articles are currently claiming.  When an automaker reaches 60,000 qualifying hybrids, one complete quarter following that marks the beginning of the phase-out process.  For Toyota, that was the second quarter of 2006, which means third quarter is the final for those to claim 100 percent of the credit.  Starting fourth quarter (October 1, 2006) is when the disappointment begins.  Unfortunately, even then owners could end up getting a whole lot less than they expect, since the "alternative minimum" criteria for personal income tax will prevent some from collecting the full amount anyway.  It's a legal trick that this administration has failed to make the typical consumer aware of.  Whatever the case, keep in mind that all the other hybrids built by Toyota are affected by this quickly approaching deadline.  I can imagine how nervous those people anxiously awaiting delivery soon will become.  Good luck if you are one of them.

9-03-2006

"Now" you're right.  Today, a reporter changed his stance about hybrids.  He said that "last year" his negative report of worth was valid, especially since Consumer Reports came to the same conclusion afterward "in April" of this year.  So when Consumer Reports changed their stance "last week", he felt it was ok to change his now... to avoid accepting any more criticism from Prius owners.  In other words, this is yet another example of a reporter taking advantage of that same old misprint, making no mention of the correction that immediately followed.  His use of "Now" is quite inappropriate, since that was actually the case 5 months ago.  We were right back then.

9-03-2006

Actual Improvement?  On paper, the argument for eliminating electric draw during times of steady-state highway cruising is compelling.  But how much of a benefit will owners really get?  For that matter, will some see any actual improvement at all?  Those are the types of questions now being asked about the upcoming (since a year away) "full" hybrid system from GM, DC, and BMW.  On the Multi-Display in Prius, I witness far more electric activity than most people ever imagine.  Roads are not flat, straight, and without traffic as the analysis on paper often portrays.  It's a feature that introduces complexity that won't be utilized by the plug-in option or even higher capacity battery-packs, both of which are expectations of hybrids as they continue to evolve.  In other words, I want to see real-world data support the claim that the extra design components are worth it.  Right now, they are making claims to that effect without anyone demanding that they actually prove it.  Why?  A concept isn't enough to sell the product.  This is just like politics, where ideology sometimes gets more attention than actual event outcomes.  Geez!  By the way, their arguments don't include any reference to smog-related emission reduction.  That absence concerns me.  Is their goal efficiency improvement only?

9-03-2006

Plug-In Demand.  Hmm?  An electricity provider on the West Coast is attempting to rally its 5.1 million customers to sign a petition requesting automakers to build plug-in hybrids.  The hope is to show that there is demand for such a product.  The logic is that production will begin soon as a result.  How the heck is that even the slightest bit realistic?  The two-mode hybrid should be capable of supporting the plug-in ability.  It is still a year away from initial consumer rollout, and then it is not expected to offer that feature... even as an expensive add-on option.  Skipping the step of "full" hybrid introduction and going straight to plug-in simply doesn't make any business sense.  Just 3 years ago, GM considered the whole concept hybrids a high-risk, no-return, resource-wasting venture.  For them to suddenly embrace all aspects of hybrid design by producing plug-ins quickly, especially as they struggle just to survive financially, is absurd.  DC is in a similar position.  Ford has scaled back their hybrid plans.  Honda doesn't even have a platform that can support a plug.  Toyota is already fighting to meet the current demand, as well as introduce new models at the same time.  How does this electricity provider expect their proposal to actually be fulfilled?

 

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