Prius Personal Log  #292

September 29, 2006  -  October 8, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 10/30/2006

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Bluetec Criticism.  As usual, my cards are showing.  I play with all to see.  Intent should be obvious.  If not, here's what I posted as points (which have been twisted ruthlessly already) against the Bluetec solution for cleaning diesel emissions, nicely summarized since I'm sure they'll be referred back to many times:  First, the scope will be tiny.  Mercedes has only a very small share of the market.  There simply won't be enough diesel vehicles for sale with Bluetec to make any impact for quite awhile.  So the impression that this will be an overnight success has no merit.  It will take many years.  Second, the Bluetec technology only provides the minimum step forward... enough to barely qualify the vehicles for legal sale.  That doesn't provide any smog-related emission benefit whatsoever.  All it does is clean up diesel enough to compete with the dirty gas vehicles.  How are they going to compete with the dramatically cleaner gas vehicles, the ones earning SULEV and PZEV ratings?  Third, pretending that the improved diesel systems won't be competing with the next generation of hybrid is disingenuous, at best.  Toyota will already builds a Hatchback, Sedan, SUV, and a Minivan with HSD.  They say that reduced prices and increased models to choose from are on the way.  GM, DC, and BMW will be offering two "full" hybrids of there own.  Ford already does offer a "full" hybrid and there are rumors of another in the works.  Nissan will join in next year, initially with HSD then switching to their own design later on.  Honda obviously has hybrids too.  What would compel someone to purchase a diesel with so many hybrid choices available?  Fourth, next year Prius will be celebrating its 10th birthday.  The misconceptions about component failure and replacement need don't hold much weight anymore.  There are so many owners now exceeding the disbelief threshold that additional proof isn't wondered about anymore.  Those questions have been answered.  Doubt is rapidly fading.  So... The hype about Bluetec is currently just that, hype.  When you go for a drive, you spot hybrids sharing the roads already.  Whether or not the clean diesel becomes a reality or vaporware depends on its ability to compete, not just meet minimum criteria.  So, say what you want.  It's how consumers vote with their wallets & purses that actually makes a difference.


Transparent & Comical.  It's not just me.  Others find the desperation amusing too.  This reply had me rolling with laughter: "At one time I was somewhat interested in hybrids.  Then I found this board.  Now I would not touch one.  It seems the pro hybrid folks here just refuse to acknowledge anything favorable about diesels.  They spin like politicians, seemingly unaware how transparent they are.  Really quite comical."  It was sarcasm elegantly delivered.  I knew that because the same person pulled an April Fool joke the same way, at the diesel supporters expense.  Just swap the words "hybrid" and "diesel" to see what I mean.  Their transparency has become rather blatant lately.  Pretty much everyone can see they are not being sincere.  So... I drop them some bait every now and then.  You never know how they'll respond.  But since I was given the label of smug, why not enjoy it?


The Were Not Happy.  Needless to say, that was their feeling about my post.  Nothing new was in their replies though.  It was the same old excuses.  True, we all know that diesel can be clean.  But it still isn't yet.  That's the point.  For ages, it was low-sulfur to the rescue in 2006.  Just be patient, they said.  But now that it's here, we don't get the clean diesel systems.  Heck, they don't even meet minimum requirements for the CARB states yet.  Supporters are now saying "proof will arrive in 2008 and 2009".  What does that actually mean?  The next generation hybrid system from Toyota will be available then.  Prices are expected to drop while at the same time efficiency improve.  How will the upcoming diesels be able to compete with that?  If you couldn't guess, my replies weren't well received either.  But I certainly enjoyed sharing those thoughts.


Phew!  Got It!  That didn't take long to record the other new HSD television commercial.  Now I can breathe a sigh of relief.  Only a few have ever missed my grasp.  The most unfortunate was my own error.  Who would have thought Toyota would debut 2 entirely different Prius commercials during the same program?  I certainly didn't.  So I pressed stop after getting the first.  Devastation quickly set in when the second showed.  I missed recording it entirely.  Fortunately, in one other circumstance I was able get a little over half of a 60-second commercial.  That particular one was good enough, since the content itself was nothing but a bunch of random clips with a Prius at the very end.  Anywho, I'm pretty darn happy now.  The thrill of the hunt can sometimes be very rewarding... as it was today.  Phew!


Another HSD Commercial!  While attempting to finally capture a digital recording of the one I had seen the other day, a different one aired.  No one online mentioned a second.  What a shock!  So now I'm still on the quest to capture the original, but it felt great to have got this one immediately.  It will make a great introduction for the third DVD for hybrids I plan to make.  Who knew my videos would be intermixed with stuff that Toyota shares with the devoted (of in my case, you could say obsessed).  But many years later, looking back at this history will be really fun.  Can you imagine the perspective then?  People will be amazed how understanding the benefits of hybrid technology weren't readily recognized in the early days.  Of course, today we are still fighting certain designs that don't offer reduced smog-related emissions.  So the commercials now serve a very important purpose.  Later is when the fun begins.


The Diesels Are Coming!  The Diesels Are Coming!  The forum that used to cater to anti-hybrid activity is dead.  There simply are no threads discussing hybrids anymore.  So today when I checked in, I saw a post with that on the diesel thread and couldn't help but to laugh.  There's a handful of supporters remaining there attempting to keep their interests from disappearing.  But it's futile.  Their desired audience has already migrated elsewhere.  Other resources are just a click away on the internet.  Why bother hanging around there... except for entertainment, which is clearly what it has become.  So I humored that backward declaration about diesels coming with this... which immediately set off a flurry of pointless replies:  NOx and Particulate emissions are a very big deal.  Diesels are very dirty.  (Biodiesel is even worse.)  Gas vehicles emit significantly less.  SULEV and PZEV emission ratings make identification of the truly clean very easy.  (These are what the hybrids offer.)  None of the diesels available now offer SULEV or PZEV.  In fact, they don't even deliver the lower rating of ULEV.  Currently, diesel is a step backward when it comes to smog-related emissions.


Minnesota Wins!  This shouldn't be much of a surprise.  It certainly wasn't for me, living in one of the most progressive states in the country.  We don't see a whole lot of resistance here.  In fact, observing infrastructure improvements locally have been a part of my life for decades.  Anywho, there are 1,000 gas stations in the United States now selling E85.  Of them, 300 are located here in Minnesota.  That puts the E85 effort in perspective with respect to state concentration.  But once you consider that there are a total of 167,500 stations selling unleaded gas, you see a very different availability picture.  How in the world would hydrogen ever become a standard with such slow acceptance of ethanol?  Up until recently, it was only the metro area here that offered E85.  Driving up north away from the cities, you could clearly see the drop off in numbers of stations that offered it.  In fact, I remember hearing complaints while on the Hybrid-Road-Rally from FFV owners about how after years of promises they still didn't have anywhere to buy E85 from.  Now the tables have turned.  With so many rural ethanol plants popping up in farm country, buying E85 has very much become an endorsement for the local economy.  So now, you see photos like the one below.  They really make the fact that they offer E85 stand out.  And of course, the lower price will promote people to think about the efficiency trade-off... hopefully enough to raise awareness enough to get some to actually track MPG and crunch numbers.  Anywho, the efforts to increase the production yields and decrease the energy required for the production itself are well underway.  Heck, there's even one plant here that uses waste sawdust as a power source.  And all of the gas here has been E10 for many years already (since the late 90's).  We're helping to build a future that is truly viable.  It's pretty obvious too, just by the count of all the Prius on the road here.  Our local population definitely supports change.


New HSD Television Commercial!  It was fantastic!!  While I was watching "Gilmore Girls" (which features a Classic Prius routinely) this evening, I got one heck of a surprise.  Toyota was making a very obvious effort to promote the technology.  All 3 of the current hybrid vehicle were featured.  It's good to see the HSD recognition being promoted... emphasizing higher efficiency and cleaner emissions.  I love it!  Sadly, I wasn't recording it.  Even worse, I won't be able to attempt to for the next few days either.  Dang!  I sure hope that opportunity isn't missed.  Toyota doesn't air the HSD commercials often.  They are very selective about the programming during which they appear too.  Wish me luck.


Particulates.  NOx emissions are really bad.  The equipment required to reduce them is expensive.  So let's not forget that.  I got reminded today that diesel vehicles also have another fundamental problem to overcome: particulates.  Those are teeny, tiny solid substances that are part of the exhaust (something you don't want to breath in).  Filters are required to capture this type emission.  This is a burdensome extra to deal with... which is why diesel is known for not bothering.  Too bad I keep forgetting that.  It makes the emission argument against diesel so much easier.  That type of combustion (from pressure, rather than a spark) causes them.  It's a costly by-product that we simply don't have to struggle with from gas or ethanol.  Particulates are nasty.  Try to remember that... so you can remind me.


Better.  Discussions online about a better solution has revealed something quite unexpected.  One of the antagonists in strong support of "assist" hybrids, or so I thought, really is fighting the success of "full" hybrids.  This revelation came from his bizarre support for fuel-cell vehicles.  He was insisting they offered a better solution.  But when pressed for details to explain why, he turned to the efforts to personally discredit instead.  That's a dead giveaway of motive beyond the immediate topic.  Naturally, I noticed what was going on.  Since a fuel-cell vehicle is an electric-hybrid, replacing the engine with a stack simply doesn't make any sense.  A future generation Prius with just a tiny 0.8 liter engine and a beefy battery-pack would be a much better choice.  That would take no infrastructure change to implement.  It's just a reconfiguration of the Prius we already drive.  Why would anyone choose to purchase an entirely new technology instead, when it doesn't even offer anything better... and cost more... and reliability is uncertain... and refueling locations are few ...and driving range is shorter ...and the price of hydrogen is a complete mystery.  So there is simply no reason to even consider the fuel-cell vehicle better.


$62.91 per barrel.  The price of oil went up a little bit this week.  So did gas.  I wonder if there is any significance.  My guess is things won't stable down for awhile, especially not before the upcoming elections.  Whatever the case, the uncertainty is enough to influence the initial advertisements of the 2007 vehicles.


Tired Of Waiting!  That was a potent exclamation posted online today.  He wanted 100 MPG today.  Patience.  I've been waiting for years... yet some fundamental questions still have not been answered.  Those conversion kits currently being promoted have failed to provide enthusiasts with actual data.  That's a big deal.  We want to properly justify the cost.  Vague promotional materials that state "100+ MPG" is unfortunately just hype.  What has the average MPG been for real-world testing, which includes a daily commute and use of the heater?  We have absolutely no information about routine service either.  Who's going to provide it?  Will a dealer touch a hybrid that's been converted?  If not, where the heck do you go?  Regrettably, we really do need to wait for answers before proceeding.


Market Penetration.  I was actually somewhat pleased by this particular comment made today: "To get significant market penetration of hybrids, you need all the manufactures making them, not just one or two."  It was at least somewhat thoughtful, rather than the usual terse remarks.  But that's not what will actually happen.  17 million new vehicles are sold here in this country every year.  A pitiful 60,000 from each automaker (the tax credit threshold) is so small of a quantity, it is basically just a token gesture... a reputation booster.  It doesn't actually foster a long-term commitment in any way.  That's a tiny quantity, just like when a specialty traditional vehicle is offered.  To penetrate the market, large quantities are required.  In the computer industry, it is typically a single company that leads the way.  Those that help to force ahead with the new technology get rewarded.  Everyone else follows in the wake of their success, without the need for any assistance.  Getting a tax credit long after hybrids become common doesn't really contribute to penetration.  That work is already complete at that point.  It is actually a subsidy to assist the automakers that didn't take the goal to reduce consumption seriously.  Those that come first should reap the benefit, not those that drag their feet.  Reward proactive efforts.  Don't give money to those that finally react after the fact.  At that point, the establishment of the new technology is already complete.  Market Penetration won't be even.  Specific success stories, like Prius, will be what builds that acceptance momentum.


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