Prius Personal Log  #289

September 9, 2006  -  September 15, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 10/30/2006

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9-15-2006

$63.33 per barrel.  What else can I say about the price of oil?  This topic has been beaten to death.  What the experts never said would happen, did.  That should make you wonder why.  Assuming they were being genuine & honest, the thought of short-sightedness comes to mind.  Not considering long-term consequences of decisions currently being made can lead to a profoundly incorrect conclusion being drawn.  The automotive market certainly is volatile right now, especially when you consider the worldwide market... which some experts clearly do not.  And of course, judging the change in personal wants is a total gamble.  Just look at the SUV demand.  Much of it grew from the belief that they were safer.  But now that it has been revealed that they are actually more dangerous, people began to lose interest.  Then the price of oil began to rapidly climb.  That most definitely helped end the craze.

9-15-2006

Don't Dismiss Ethanol.  GM is beginning to feel the backlash already.  A corporate communication representative for GM had a commentary published in the Detroit News today.  This was my favorite quote: "The mileage I get is a bit
lower than with pure gasoline, the performance a bit higher.
"  Hmm.  So, a 33 percent drop in efficiency is a bit?  That isn't exactly sincere.  In fact, it is somewhat on the dishonest side... or at least, very misleading.  Of course, there was a comparison to Prius.  Driving 15,000 miles in a Yukon would consume 120 fewer gallons of gas.  How is that an appropriate way to compare?  Simply switching to a different fuel (ethanol) alone doesn't justify heavy consumption.  Yet, that is still the way this automaker chooses to portray their efforts.  It's apparently ok to waste as long as the wasted consumable doesn't come from an imported source.

9-15-2006

Matured Enough.  Vice Chairman of General Motors, Bob Lutz, said this today about their latest fuel-cell vehicle: "The technology has absolutely matured enough to go into production."  Was he serious?  How could that be even remotely possible?  Ignoring all the technical problems just last year, what about the price?  True, it is a hybrid (utilizing a powerful lithium-ion battery-pack) rather than just a pure fuel-cell design.  But that still doesn't overcome the winter operation limitations.  The fact that it weighs 1,800 pounds more than Prius doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in the efficiency either.  And if Prius had an all-aluminum body too, that would obviously make Prius even more favorable.  Of course, they made no reference to a MPG equivalent anyway... nor even the price of the hydrogen fuel.  So there is definite reason to be concerned.  And what about reliability?  Being ready for production implies there is so much real-world data gathered that warranty coverage won't cause the business financial hardship afterward.  But then again, they didn't say anything about actually delivering any to consumers.  It was mostly just a presentation to boost their image... which clearly needs some maturing of its own.

9-15-2006

HCCI Obstacles.  Today, the industry got an update on the research & development efforts for HCCI.  It's the technology that will hopefully allow gasoline to be used in an engine the same way diesel is.  So rather than a spark for combustion, it comes from compression instead.  That could increase both power & efficiency, while at the same time being much cleaner than diesel.  (However, you'll still get the clatter sound.)  Anywho, the obstacles currently are... Providing the right temperature and pressure for combustion.  Achieving a high load while avoiding knocking.  Determining the best way to start the engine, especially from cold.  In other words, the hope from years ago continues to be just that.  Overcoming those obstacles anytime soon is not a realistic expectation.

9-15-2006

Ford's "Way Forward" Plan.  It still doesn't say much.  We didn't get any green specifics today.  I was hoping for some hybrid plans, especially now that there is a new CEO.  Instead, the entire topic just got glossed over... barely a mention.  The concern right now is immediate survival only.  That's it.  Commitments to the future are non-existent.  I envision a stifled Escape-Hybrid for awhile.  The next generation along with a hybrid car of some sort will delay until better battery technology is available to them.  Toyota is dramatically further ahead in this respect.  So competing directly right now really wouldn't accomplish much.  In fact, it could tarnish the reputation of their hybrid design... which seems to be holding out quite well.  It's really sad that they invested so much on the bet that gas prices will remain cheap.  They didn't.  Now the automaker is really in trouble.  Their fuel efficient vehicles currently provide too small of a profit margin to feed such a hungry (and now starving) industry giant.  Years from now, they'll emerge as a considerably smaller automaker with a totally different set of objectives.

9-14-2006

Bleeding Money.  It is so far beyond a disaster that there is nothing to deny anymore.  Ford is suffering from history repeating itself.  They, again, got caught not planning for the future.  When it happened 30 years ago, that was a nasty reality shock.  It took many years to recover.  But they did.  Then they got complacent, just like their other business buddies in Detroit.  Now fate is requiring them to pay the price... again.  2 more factories will be closed.  Some of the other 14 closing will happen sooner than originally expected.  All 75,000 current hourly employees have been offered incentive packages to leave.  One third of the 14,000 salaried employees will involuntarily lose their jobs.  It's a very ugly situation, not even taking into account the current inventory oversupply of vehicles people are not interested in buying.  Efficiency is a popular draw now.  Ford has almost nothing to offer consumers.  Almost all of their resources are currently committed to the production of guzzlers.  The automaker is really in trouble.  Too bad they didn't take the complaints from hybrid owners 6 years ago seriously.  We told them to diversify.  They didn't.

9-14-2006

Safety Features.  This was an interesting quote posted today: "And the safety features that seem "optional" today will be "standard" (required) tomorrow."  The message required a prompt response, since that perspective also true when the word "hybrid" is substituted in.  It's not a matter of if.  The only unknown is when... just like with the safety features.  Eventually, all vehicles end up with them.  Things start out optional due to the high initial cost.  But as economies of scale take effect, prices drop.  Technology obviously improves too.  The consumer electronics market will continue to push batteries further and further.  It just plain doesn't make any sense that the automotive market wouldn't be a part of that.  So it only makes sense that tomorrow's nice-to-have eventually become the everyone-has feature.  After all, that's how automakers stay competitive.  Hybrid benefits will be a selling draw, just like safety has been.

9-13-2006

Prius in Monopoly.  There was a new edition of Monopoly released today.  It includes far more realistic monetary prices listed for game play, rather than the grossly outdated originals.  That's helpful... but not as cool as the updated game pieces.  That antique car has been replaced by a Prius!  There's other stuff too, like the Motorola RAZR phone... which coincidently works with Prius quite well.  In fact, that's exactly what I use.  I have one of the other new pieces too... almost everyday, a cup of Starbucks coffee.  It must mean I'm part of the popular culture.  Cool!  I can't wait to play it.  Of course, driving a Prius is like a game anyway.

9-12-2006

Cold Start.  I'm not happy.  Lower temperatures have arrived early this year.  I still cannot park in my garage yet, due to the foundation fixes taking place at my house.  To add to the unpleasantness, the contractor starts work way before I leave for the day.  So I have drive the cold Prius off the driveway onto the street each morning.  That means the toasty warm coolant stored in the thermos is pumped into the engine before it is actually needed.  As a result, warm-up on the drive to work later takes longer.  MPG will be a bit lower from that.  Dang!  To make matters worse, all stages of repair will require another 2 weeks of that cold start routine.  A whole month of that is really a bummer.  Oh well.  At least it looks as though the contractor is doing a really good job.

9-11-2006

Repetition.  Hybrid banter resembles politics in a remarkably close way.  You hear the same old nonsense getting repeated over and over and over again.  This upcoming election has brought out the worse in a certain party.  They just fall back on the same "we are in danger" tactic, hoping to stir reaction through emotion.  Geez!  The sales of SUVs based on a supposed safety benefit went on like that for years.  But then the consumers figured out that wasn't actually true.  Now I'm hoping the political claims being made without any actual merit will end up educating the public that our leaders don't always have our best interest in mind.  Just because an idea sounds good doesn't mean it is.  There are alternatives that sound better than hybrids, like diesel or fuel-cell, but they really are not.  Look at the facts.  What delivers better overall efficiency?  What delivers cleaner overall emissions?  Real-World number contradict what some people claim.

9-11-2006

Movie Trailer.  I wasn't paying close attention.  That's typical when television commercials start.  But this time, I should have... because suddenly I was witnessing a Prius smack into a little tree and I guess some garbage.  I couldn't tell why.  Too much happened too quickly.  But that's how the promotion for an upcoming movie concluded.  I wonder what significance the hybrid plays in the movie.  Hmm?  Was that an important scene?  Or did the fact Prius is popular and easily recognized have anything to do with it?  After all, with only a few seconds to catch your attention, they advertisers have to be clever.  Showing that certainly captured my interest.

9-10-2006

$313 Billion.  Remember when just a puny $2 billion was provided for 10 years hydrogen research and far less toward the support of hybrids.  Well, the government is spending dramatically more on a war in half the time that really doesn't seem to be accomplishing much of anything positive.  That $313 billion is the estimate of how much has been spent so far.  What a waste, consuming so many resources on the now and so little on the future.  After that region (which provides much of our oil) is stabilized, we'll still be dependent on their oil.  Planning ahead seems to be a concept this administration puts little value on.  A more balanced approach is most definitely needed.

9-09-2006

"Payoff" Articles.  They're the latest hybrid hype, and quite misleading.  I haven't seen a single one of them report based on a typical duration.  Each is unique to each vehicle.  How is that helpful?  Wouldn't it make a whole lot more sense to quote numbers with respect to a standard instead?  Telling people how much money they would be behind or ahead after 160,000 miles is far too logical.  (Yes, I'm being sarcastic.)  Doing that would actually make comparisons practical, like laboratory test results.  But rather than a ubiquitous measure, they go for the easy to get numbers.  In this case, it is years.  For Prius, the calculations work out to a "payoff" in 2.1 years.  What purpose does knowing that serve when the value is so small?  Loans are rarely that short, so the person is still making payments anyway.  Mileage is more relevant throughout the entire ownership duration, since warranties and resale value are closer related as well as being fairly universal.  160,000 is currently accepted as "the end" of practical vehicle life.  All miles that follow are just a fortunate financial bonus, something you cannot realistically plan on.  Anywho, the point is that could be a standard many people would agree upon.  The payoff numbers come out quite different though.  Some hybrids just barely break even.  Prius on the other hand, pays off 4 additional times.  That's right!  The premium originally paid is saved at a quintuple factor over 160,000 miles.  But they don't ever mention that.

9-09-2006

Reporting Errors.  I'm really getting tired of them.  The other day, a reporter responded back to my polite private email pointing out that Prius doesn't use a CONE & BELT type of CVT.  He said a correction would be printed after his verification was complete.  It only took me 10 minutes to find 3 different reference materials on Toyota's own website confirming that the PLANETARY type was used instead.  Why couldn't he have done that?  What's with the delay?  How come I'm forced to call these article writers "reporters" rather than genuine "journalists"?  Today, I had to endure an article stating the EPA estimates for Prius are 51 MPG city and 49 MPG highway.  That isn't even remotely close to being correct.  How can they make that gross of an error?  Doesn't anyone confirm facts anymore?  Arrgh!

9-09-2006

52 F Degrees.  Seeing that on the Multi-Display this morning was unpleasant.  Like usual, I'm not ready for Summer to be over yet.  Fall is enjoyable, but the transition to it is rarely without denial.  Wearing a jacket and the increasing likelihood of rain changes my outdoor activities rather substantially.  The opportunity to kayak again this year is pretty slim.  Bummer.  Oh well.  At least the MPG drop from the lower temperatures won't be as noticeable without carrying such a massive object on the roof anymore.  Now I'll have even more to look forward to with the arrival of Spring.

9-09-2006

$66.25 per barrel.  The price of oil has dropped a few dollars (it was above $70), but the price of a gallon of gas has dropped in a much greater proportion (from over $3 down to $2.39).  Industry experts can only provide guesses as to why.  (I'm still suspicious due to the fact that the diesel prices is 50 cents more per gallon.)  They believe it was the fear of change that caused a higher increase than the permanent will.  So now there is a settling down to what the new market will support.  There's a possibility that profits margins have been reduced.  But the most obvious is the fact that people are beginning to consume less and there is an undeniable trend toward smaller vehicles.  It's about dang time!  Of course, the desire for higher MPG still hasn't seemed to have affect the speed at which people drive.  That's too bad.  Slowing down to respect the limit does provide higher efficiency.  I'm very curious what will happen next.

 

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