Prius Personal Log  #293

October 8, 2006  -  October 12, 2006

Last Updated: Mon. 10/30/2006

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10-12-2006

Disappointed?  If people purchase a vehicle based solely on what the sticker shows them, it's their own loss.  The internet provides countless resources for assisting with expensive purchases, like a vehicle.  Not taking advantage of that is silly when so much money is at stake.  Of course, not even bothering to read the fine-print on the sticker itself is too.  It clearly states: "Actual Mileage will vary with options, driving conditions, driving habits and vehicle's condition.  Results reported to EPA indicate that the majority of vehicles with these estimates will achieve between 51 and 69 mpg in the city and between 43 and 59 on the highway."  So that should at least clue them in that the big numbers are by no means a guarantee of any sort.  I sure try to make sure people understand the shortcomings of the EPA estimates.  But not everyone gets the message.  That was the case today.  And above was my response.  I hope they weren't too disappointed.  Owners usually feel pretty darn good about their purchase after they discover that those estimate values are only ideal condition measurements and traditional vehicles suffer from the shortcomings too.

10-12-2006

Why?  It was a very good question.  I tried my best to answer constructively, despite the fact that I knew it was a trap.  He asked: "I would love to know why you don't like mild hybrids when they also are quite capable of delivering both reduced emissions and consumption."  And I responded this way...  Simple.  They're a dead-end, just like non-hybrid diesels.  Why invest in a technology that cannot be easily be augmented?  Both the Toyota & Ford "full" hybrid designs can easily be upgraded to utilize a better battery and support a plug.  The same (hopefully) will be true of the "full" from GM as well.  That just plain is not the case for "assist" hybrids.  The motor/electrical system was not designed to provide continuous use.  They only briefly assist.  So augmentation cannot be supported.  In other words, they are a short-term solution at best.  They earn a grade of B, because they do indeed achieve reduction goals.  But they are not capable of an A, since the design lacks some abilities that the other design offers.  We all know how painfully slow the automakers accept change.  Being stuck with a design that cannot be upgraded easily is a poor business & economic plan, in addition to being a less desirable consumer product.  Consider the aftermarket & resale values years later.

10-12-2006

Georgetown, Kentucky.  Camry-Hybrid production in the United States began today.  Precisely the opposite of what naysayers claimed would happen actually is.  Jobs are being created by the increase in hybrid popularity.  These are American workers building hybrids in their own country.  Now the other automakers really have to struggle to catch up.  They have officially been caught off guard by Japan for a second time in history.  How's that saying go?  Fool me once...

10-12-2006

Hybrid Premium Cynicism.  The scope of is pretty insignificant now.  A great majority of the population is willing contribute a small amount of money toward the cleaner emission and oil-dependency concerns.  So it isn't really a matter of "if" at all, as the antagonists would lead you to believe.  It is really "how much".  So part of that premium is considered money well spent.  It's much like the supposed "complexity" issue.  In reality, the only people that ever mention it when discussing "full" hybrids are those that endorse "assist" hybrids and diesels.  Everyday consumers simply don't care.  To them, even a traditional vehicle is too complex.  So "more" to them isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Instead, they are interested in whether or not the change will deliver an improvement.  If so, they welcome it.  "Full" hybrids have proven to fulfill that.

10-12-2006

28 F Degrees.  Now it is really getting cold.  Temperatures are well below average.  I'm not thrilled by how rapid the seasons changed.  A more gradual transition would have been nice.  Oh well.  I guess I can say goodbye to the 50's now, both Degrees & MPG.  Next will be when the snow doesn't quickly melt away.  Fortunately for now, it's warm enough to resist still.  In fact, that should last a few more weeks.  But already, I'm seeing that snowflake (ice potential indicator) on my commutes.

10-11-2006

SNOW!  That was amazing how heavy it came down.  Normally, the first snow of the season is just a trace... barely even a flurry.  Not this year though.  Wow!  Just while waiting for a light to turn green, the entire back windshield disappeared.  I had to use the wiper to be able to see anything.  That would have been a fantastic setting for photos... had I known it was going to happen.  Before I could even find a place to pull over to ponder the flash blizzard, it was over.  That was just a wild mini-storm in the dark.  Like a passing summer downpour, it only lasted a few minutes.  Good thing.  I'm not mentally prepared for a multi-hour commute yet.  Even in a Prius, those unexpected traffic jams do make driving a bit of a physiological challenge.  But if you are prepared, it is actually rather pleasant.  The silence from not wasting gas just sitting there at the mercy snow covered roads is somewhat soothing.  (It's a Minnesota thing.)

10-10-2006

552,657 Prius.  That's the quantity sold worldwide as of today.  The 600,000th is suppose to happen later this year.  Sweet!  With that much real-world data being generated, it's becoming increasingly difficult for misconceptions to survive.  There's simply so many Prius that it's easy to prove claims false.  Yeah!  I have really been looking forward to the day that the antagonists can no longer be found.  Right now, their voice is fading.  But unfortunately, they can easily be provoked still.  And their initial retaliation is usually successful on the uninformed, since certain deceptive techniques are easy to conceal.  In our favor though are the other Prius.  Seeing them on the road does make the people question claims of dissatisfaction.  Why would it continue to sell so well if there were problems with the technology?  That just doesn't add up... add those opposing the success fear you will figure that out.  After 123,000 miles of driving my two Prius, I'm still absolutely delighted.  More is a fantastic thing to look forward to.

10-10-2006

Predictions.  People love to bet the farm based on flash-in-the-pan data.  Why?  You'd think the wild prices for oil & gas would provide a clue that market direction is nearly impossible to predict for just the next few years.  But to read one today for the 2025 model-year was totally absurd.  How ridiculous is that?  You shouldn't take it seriously.  I certainly didn't.  No one can even predict what battery technology will be like a few years from now.  So a prediction about hybrids for nearly 20 years in the future is totally unrealistic.  They tried though.  Hmm?  I wonder what their motive was.  Look at it this way:  GM predicted gas would remain cheap for many years to come, basing the entire infrastructure of their business on that.  The prediction turned out to be dead wrong.  No they are desperately struggling to survive due to not having the income they were planning on.  People in general simply aren't interested in guzzling lots of gas anymore.  It's a prediction they will regret for many years to come.

10-10-2006

Urea Argument.  It's weak, at best.  This was a feeble attempt they tried today: "The way I see it, the urea injection system is virtually no different than something that has become so basic to meeting emissions regulations, the catalytic converter."  The catalytic converter doesn't require anything extra to work.  If you don't refill the urea, emissions aren't cleansed.  It's that simple.  PZEV certified vehicles are designed to provide maintenance-free operation for 150,000 miles.  Urea refills will be required about every 7,500 miles.  That's one heck of a difference.  What's the guarantee that urea will actually be refilled?

10-10-2006

KISS Argument.  Other aspects of hybrid ownership refer to KISS, but today as a diesel endorsement simply didn't work.  Support for the new emission reduction method that utilizes urea is anything but simple.  Once the diesel vehicle runs out of urea (a type of ammonia), emissions drop below the minimum criteria for operation in the United States.  That makes it very dependent on user upkeep.  History shows that is unrealistic.  People like to push oil-change intervals.  If a urea refill costs $15, they'll look at it as a $300 expense over 150,000 miles.  On the other extreme, you have the CAT (catalytic converter) in the hybrids.  It is certified to deliver PZEV emissions for 150,000 miles... without the user needing to refill anything.  After that duration, build up of sulfur will reduce cleansing effectiveness, causing emissions to drop into the ULEV zone.  But even then, they'll still be cleaner than the urea system at its best.  In other words, this new cleansing scheme for diesel is a difficult sale.  Why would someone want that extra burden?  It most definitely does not qualify as KISS.

10-10-2006

Understanding KISS.  Attempts to apply old school logic usually work, if you include detail.  Vague references that use assumptions require debunking replies, as in this case: "I�m a firm believer in KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and hybrids don�t meet the criteria for that philosophy."  Not understanding the hybrid system is a problem rapidly being overcome.  People are figuring out that there are transmission repair shops all over the place... since traditional designs simply aren't as robust as they should be.  They wear out.  A "full" hybrid doesn't have anything that ever engages or disengages.  All there is for the transfer of thrust is a power-split-device, which works just like a traditional differential... a device with extraordinarily high reliability.  And brushless electric motors never wear out or even require any routine maintenance.  What is there that isn't simple?  You cannot claim the electronic controls, since there are so many already in traditional vehicles and they have much higher reliability than moving parts anyway.  Consider how often the engine doesn't run in a "full" hybrid.  Not even using it will definitely extend its life.  That sure sounds simple to me.

10-09-2006

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel.  The upcoming nationwide ULSD arrival, in just 6 days, enables automakers to finally include emission cleansing hardware without the worry that it will lose effectiveness quickly due to sulfur build-up.  It also helps to reduce emissions of vehicles already on the road.  It will also provide a means for automakers to now be able to sell new diesel vehicles in CARB states, since meeting minimum criteria has become realistic.  However, it does not mean the emissions will actually be competitive with hybrids.  In fact, the expectation is that they will not.  That's what the SULEV and PZEV ratings are for.  They clearly indicate whether or not the vehicle is truly an improvement.  Otherwise, the new diesel vehicles are just another choice among the standard traditional selection we already have.  And yes, some diesel supporters absolutely hate when I point that out.  Remember, Toyota has stated a major reason (besides cost) for not providing a plug-in option sooner is the fact that electricity production for many of us is from dirty coal sources.  Reduction of smog-related emissions has been declared very important for some.  So those ratings help to identify actual improvement.  So unless you see the SULEV or PZEV label, it isn't actually cleaner.  In short, it's only the first step... a very good one, but not enough alone to compete with yet.  The biggest problem is cost.  That extra cleansing hardware adds to the final price, which basically cancels out any monetary benefit... especially when you consider that it has a minor negative effect on efficiency as well.  Of course, diesels aren't really competitive in stop & slow (daily commute) type traffic anyway... quite different from the MPG benefit of "full" hybrids.  So this arrival of ULSD is far from a complete solution.  Other improvements are also needed.

10-08-2006

The Magic Question.  Here it is: "How will Toyota manage ongoing service on the modified vehicle?"  That's the same thing I had been asking, every time the topic of plug-in hybrids came up.  Now, I no longer have to.  Others are curious about the same thing.  Service concern was a big hold up when Prius was first rolled out in the United States.  Many owners take it for granted now that mechanics have built up the required experience.  They were quite hesitant at first.  Longer labor durations and replacement rather than repair was a common practice originally.  Back then, you wondered about the work itself too.  Things have changed. It isn't that big of a deal getting service from the dealer for a hybrid anymore.  They are familiar with the system now.  Recognizing problems with a modified vehicle is an entirely different matter though.  That is a new frontier, one they simply are not willing to accept due to liability.  How the aftermarket sellers will overcome that remains a very big mystery... a concern that will hold back sales initially, until the magic question finally gets officially answered.

10-08-2006

Offense Payoff.  Well, what do you know!  My offensive play paid off.  I wasn't actually expecting anything new to shake out of the most recent scrimmage.  But something actually did.  Cool!  The major rebuttal point to my "vote with their wallets & purses" comment was that reality didn't actually support the observed intent.  Their claim was that the automaker were promoting hybrids so much that consumers were lured into the purchases which otherwise wouldn't have occurred.  That's absolutely hysterical.  Because the automakers, especially Toyota, are only a soft hum in the concert of support.  The consumers themselves are responsible for a majority of the "so called" hype.  Geez!  Just a quick search online confirms that.  There's a ton of supportive chatter in the forums.  And in the media, it's comments from owners & supporters.  They are the ones contributing, with their own resources no less, to feed the desire for cleaner and reduced guzzling.  They are making a difference on that front too, not just from purchases alone.  It's something I may not have realized for awhile if it wasn't for the nonsense from the antagonists.  How about that?

 

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