Prius Personal Log  #291

September 23, 2006  -  September 28, 2006

Last Updated: Tues. 5/01/2007

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9-28-2006

Imitation.  Unfortunately, a financial publication I held in high regard let me down today.  They were discussing business practices, pointing out that sincerest form of competition is imitation.  Sadly, this bit of fiction was printed as an example: "In the car world, the success of Honda's Insight hybrid car helped spur Toyota to sell its Prius in the United States".  How could they even think that, let alone actually claim it?  In Japan, Prius was available for purchase 2 full years before Insight.  In the United States, talk of availability began just 2 months after sales of Insight began anywhere.  So what "success" were they referring to?  Even more sad, I read further and encountered this: "Toyota's Prius conducted a corporate hit-and-run on Honda, quickly knocking the leader off stride and making Toyota king of the hybrid hill."  Since Prius came first, that simply doesn't make any sense from this source.  The worldwide perspective is their gig.  But if they were looking at only the American perspective, taking the throne away from someone who barely had a chance to wear it doesn't account for much.  Oh well.  At least the topic of hybrids is still popular, even if it isn't accurate.

9-28-2006

Whatever that means.  It was a subtle reminder, included in a response about a "full" hybrid supposedly being developed by Saab.  The person was excited about the prospect, but clearly had no idea what it actually meant.  Now I'm curious as heck what the reply will be to this comment I couldn't help but to interject to the whatever...  If you don't know, you could be easily mislead.  Some people already have been, believing all hybrids operate the same way when that most definitely is not true.  A "full" hybrid is a design that delivers the ability to utilize electricity in wide variety of ways, most notably being able to create & consume at the same time.  The reason is simple, having more than one motor.  That ability contributes to another, being able to drive using only electricity.  Persistent recharging along with a power-split-device are the key elements.  Hybrids with one motor provide assistance only.  They provide just passive recharging and have no way to for the motor operate independently from the engine.

9-28-2006

Why Hydrogen?  This was a great way to begin the interview: "Since electricity is needed to produce hydrogen, wouldn't it be a better model to put the electricity directly into the car and skip the fuel-cell process?"  The GM executive for their fuel-cell activities responded with comments about battery technology.  Their fuel-cell vehicles use batteries, making them hybrids rather than a single power design.  So when the end of the answer included this, I wasn't surprised: "As batteries come along, the ability to put more batteries in there will make it a plug-in."  Others have responded in a different way, saying that was the goal all along.  Building an electric platform makes sense.  Abandoning the fuel-cell entirely doesn't.  Of course, using it in the first place doesn't either... hence the question.  But that is an exit strategy.  Those that expect delivery of a fuel-cell product will feel short-changed.  Toyota's electric augmentation is far more straight-forward, each hybrid generation takes them a solid step forward.  They will already have built up a strong reputation for large-scale consumer acceptance for each advancement.  That's a business model you can bet the farm on.  Heck, the same would have been true for Ford too, had they not recently scaled back their hybrid rollout.  Suggesting GM is promising to deliver more than it actually plans makes sense, but it is high risk and delivers little in the meantime. That's not good for a company struggling to survive.  I cannot imagine how the expect hydrogen to not only be commonly available, but for it to be competitively priced too.  It is not the slightest bit realistic.  Just look at the logistical challenges ethanol has faced.  Overcoming that is a timely process.

9-28-2006

Diesel Purpose.  Which is worse, NOx emissions or CO2 emissions?  That's the question being asked quite a bit now.  It's a trap though... which unfortunately, many people are falling for.  They want you to consider the cleaner goal, choosing one or the other for support.  That establishes a situation where getting the reduction of both isn't addressed anymore.  Why must we decide?  Hybrids (like Prius & Camry) offer reduction of both CO2 and NOx.  Diesel increases emissions of NOx.  Not getting an improvement is one thing.  But to allow NOx to be worse (than current gas non-hybrids) is bad idea, a step in the wrong direction... hence the benefit of the SULEV & PZEV ratings.  That is proof of improvement.  Diesel supporters hate that.  And now they are even more upset about me pointing it out so often.  Toyota's chief executive in Europe, Tasdashi Arashima, recently stated combining clean diesel technology with electric motors would push costs up too far, beyond a level that consumers would be interested.  That placed gas-hybrids and diesels on the same playing field for the first time.  The hope of a diesel-hybrid died, especially since the clean diesels without any hybrid technology are emerging as very expensive.  The purpose of reducing both the type of emission which contributes to smog and the type of emission that leads to global warming is proving to be best fulfilled using a hybrid that runs on gas (or ethanol-blend), not any type of system that uses diesel.

9-27-2006

Suzuki Hybrid.  Today there was a brief comment from Suzuki, stating they would be bring a hybrid to the US market in the 2011-2012 timeframe.  It would be in a new vehicle, a mid-size or premium sedan.  That was intriguing.  Too bad that's all we were told.  What kind of hybrid would it be?  Why the heck will it take so long?  How many do they plan to build?  By then, Toyota is expecting to produce 1 million hybrids annually.  So, competition will be fierce.  But then again, only offering a few is better than none.  It's a odd situation.  For Toyota to have a 15-year lead on some of the competitors is bizarre.  You wouldn't think something like that could be possible.  But that's what we are witnessing.

9-27-2006

In The News.  With over a quarter-million Prius on the road here now, reading about them in the news routinely is somewhat disturbing.  Previously, it was just pro & anti hybrid stuff.  Presently, it is incidents & accidents making the headlines.  That's completely normal for traditional vehicles... so much so that most people never give it a second thought.  But for a vehicle like Prius, which has a spotlight shined brightly upon, it is somewhat of a reality shock.  Some are involved in accidents.  Some are part of bad things that happen.  I guess this means Prius truly has become mainstream.  What a bizarre justification for celebration.

9-26-2006

Light Bulb Replacement.  The same one died again.  But at a cost of only $1.03 after tax and a replacement time of just a minute without any tools, there isn't much incentive to research the problem.  If a pattern emerges, fine.  Otherwise, I'm ok with the simple replace.  So, that's what I did today.

9-26-2006

DOS.  It finally happened.  Someone intentionally brought down the big Prius forum, launching a successful "Denial Of Service" attack that crippled it for days.  Not too long ago, the attempt yielded an outage for just few hours.  This time, the damage was far more significant.  There was simply nothing... just a server error.  Strangely, from this came a benefit that's difficult to appreciate until it actually happens.  Some have expressed separation anxiety.  That daily flow of information was abruptly halted.  It brought about the same state of loneliness I experiences many years ago.  I had no way of sharing my passion for the technology.  I felt very much alone.  Back then, it was because nothing was available to share.  Now, it was cruel intent.  Certainly people are fighting change, this is undisputable evidence of that.  It's a sad reality.

9-26-2006

Foreign Production.  Increasing volume outside of the United States could have a very interesting effect.  The 39 other countries outside of Japan now buying Prius will benefit anyway.  But the big deal is giving the automakers here plenty of opportunity to catch up before the high-volume domestic production does begin.  Starting with Camry-Hybrid soon should be their wake-up call.  Maybe they'll take that hint.  Maybe they won't.  It's pretty much inevitable that Toyota's effort spreads to other vehicles here too.  Seeing domestic production of Prius eventually shouldn't be a surprise either.  Using the "caught off guard" excuse won't work anymore.  Oil prices are on the rise again.  Change should be very obvious at this point.  Consumers want clean & efficiency choices.  No more marketing spin.  Foreign competition is a reality to deal with, not ignore or dismiss.

9-25-2006

Prius Themes (webpage).  There's a brand new illustrated index for the Prius photo album.  Rather than the randomness from the consecutive webpages, based solely on when I published each photo, you get stuff organized by theme.  Cool, eh?  It's actually about time.  But being so far behind with selections to add still, I'm pleased to offer this new method of browsing already.  Like all stuff Prius related, there's usual a wait involved.  Fortunately for this, the wait is over.  See... Site Map 9

9-25-2006

Vague Facts.  That's an oxymoron, hybrid style.  I was very frustrated after reading this: "The technology marks a big step forward for Honda at a time when rivals are racing to come up with ways to clear the world's strictest emissions regulations, called Tier II Bin 5, that the United States will usher in next year."  Talking about misleading.  The fact gives you the impression of being specific.  But in reality, it couldn't have been any more vague.  "Tier II Bin 5" is simply the new measurement standard beginning in 2007.  That's it!  This was just more diesel propaganda.  In other words, they will be offering technology that allows diesel to be clean enough to meet minimum criteria, so they can be sold in all 50 states.  The LEV emission rating (buried later in the article, far from that introductory statement about regulations) is much dirtier than the PZEV that Prius delivers.  So it really isn't competitive at all.  But you get an entirely different impression.  Carefully question what you read.  If they never mention SULEV or PZEV, the technology being touted probably isn't actually a clean choice... or even an improvement, which certainly was the case this time.

9-25-2006

Assumptions and Acquired Technology.  Some articles are sloppy... guessing about designs and assuming facts.  A particular publication could have easily fallen into that category today... if it wasn't for their history of spin.  They routinely attempt to cast a shadow on hybrids.  Though frustrating, I can deal with that.  But this specific quote really bothered me: "As for Mr. Kramer, who is apparently the first of about a dozen people nationwide to have acquired a plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius..."   He didn't acquire it; his group built it!  The article made it sound as though there is a production design already available from Toyota now being offered to a select few for testing & promotion.  That's not the case at all.  The aftermarket pioneers are totally on their own, with no cooperation from the automaker.  The design supports it, but the effort (including all expenses) is something those like Mr. Kramer have done on their own... so they should be properly credited... even though they are the ones responsible for spreading the "100+ MPG" misconception.  In short, assumptions are bad and there are multiple sources contributing to them.

9-24-2006

Best Case Scenario.  So, what is it for fuel-cell vehicles?  I was provided with a link that claims GM has finally overcome the extreme cold weather startup problem.  Knowing that, the next question to ask is about reliability.  How does it compare?  The stacks have a thin membrane that was would end up failing long before an traditional engine even shows any signs of age.  They are very expensive, since the material is a precious metal (platinum).  But is that recyclable and it is easy to replace?  Realistically, the only way to inform consumers of that important data is to rollout the vehicles to typical consumers.  The earliest stage of that is just about to begin.  That means we have quite a few years to wait.  Prius consumer adventures began in 1997.  Popularity skyrocketed in 2003.  It was a natural process, and no new fueling infrastructure was required.  So the expectation of at least that long for this first "absolutely matured" technology should take at least as long.  Prius had an advantage too, no competition.  The fuel-cell will have to compete directly with the newest generation of hybrid.  How will it do that, especially with a significantly higher cost and a very uncertain resale value?  Whatever the case, the best case scenario won't be all that good for quite a few years still.

9-23-2006

Daily Sightings, part 3.  Next was a trip to the mall.  That's 12 minutes away.  During that drive there, I spotted 3 Prius and 1 Highlander-Hybrid.  It's like an invasion of hybrids.  Numbers are starting to reach the point of enough to use the label of mainstream without getting a whole lot of argument.  Seeing so many in just a short span of distance denotes an undeniable presence.  And it's not just a metro area effect either.  I see locals driving hybrids up north too.  It's just a matter of time now.  The population will grow.  Penetration will continue.  The product line will expand.  Sweet!

9-23-2006

Daily Sightings, part 2.  The return trip home from the coffee shop didn't reveal any Prius; however, I did come across a Camry-Hybrid.  They're the rare find nowadays, having only been available since May.  Despite that, I still end up seeing about 1 per week.  The specific market that hybrid has tapped into seems very receptive.  Cool!

9-23-2006

Daily Sightings, part 1.  I asked the "how many" question earlier this year on the big Prius forum.  That topic has risen to the top, now among the most discussed... for an obvious reason.  People are seeing a lot daily.  Heck, just the 10-minute drive to the coffee shop to type up these log entries stirred up 3.  And the other day out on my bike, for just a little over an hour, I spotted 7.  It's pretty vindicating seeing so many nowadays.  The misconceptions that caused so much trouble in the past have clearly been overcome.  Time did indeed quiet those with cruel intentions too.  So, mow many sightings do you have daily?

 

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