Prius Personal Log  #295

October 16, 2006  -  October 21, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 12/17/2006

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10-21-2006

Interesting Questions.  I've loved reading this particular post today and was more than happy to simulate responses by chiming in first to these questions: "Do any Prius Owners NOT love their Prius? Does anyone have something bad to say (real, true and valid)?"  Of course there are some, though few.  No car in automotive history has ever been perfect.  This model of Prius just happens to match market expectations unusually well.  Look at it this way, some people haven't ever been passionate about any vehicle.  They look upon them as appliances, transport from A to B.  Yet, they purchase a Prius anyway.  I certainly have run into owners like that.  So their bad comment is all the attention drawn to them.  After all, it is hard to blend into traffic with a vehicle constantly in the spotlight.

10-20-2006

Multi-Facet Solutions.  Slowly, I'm seeing a trend change.  Many still believe a single product will be the ultimate solution... like ethanol, diesel, or fuel-cells.  Others are finally seeing that more is needed.  Ethanol requires a hybrid, so less is consumed.  Diesel requires cleansing hardware & chemicals, so emissions are significantly reduced.  Fuel-Cells require a battery-pack, as well as new infrastructure for hydrogen, so they will stand a chance (though remote) competing with next generation hybrids.  More need to figure this out.  Market hype doesn't solve problems.  The ultimate solution will most definitely be a multi-facet one.

10-20-2006

Just Below $60.  For 3 weeks in a row, that's been the case for the price of a barrel of oil.  It's no surprise to anyone though.  OPEC wants it to stay at this level, to the extent that they announced a reduction of 1,000,000 barrels per day to retain this new found stability.  The market does indeed seem to have accepted the new reality.  Hope for a return to prices below $50 have pretty much been entirely abandoned.  It's what I've been saying all along.  Remember the "boil a frog" analogy?  Now that they've forced us to find a way to deal with the heat, why back off?  Unfortunately, it could kill us in the end, just like the frog when the water gets too hot.  The desire for using less is no longer talk only.  Some are indeed making an effort to change.  Efficiency is definitely a compelling factor now, as clearly indicated by recent purchases.  How long do they think paying $2.19 for a gallon of gas will continue before the dent in the wallet becomes noticeable?  True, it will take much longer than when at $3.  But given enough time, that loss of money will be a very real frustration.  In other words, the $60 barrel price should have an influence on what we see presented at the launch of the 2007 Auto Show.  Guzzling is not fashionable anymore.

10-20-2006

AC Induction.  That was interesting to read about today.  There was a press announcement, vague & brief, but it did at least provide a glimmer of opportunity.  Apparently, a company has invented an electric motor that utilizes induction for power.  It means the permanent magnet within the motor currently in Prius could potentially be eliminated.  That ultimately translates to a price reduction.  Sweet!  Though, I wonder just how long it could take this design to go from prototype to full-blown production model.  Many products never make it to market.  That phase can be disheartening, when discoveries of shortcomings are made.  Hopefully, that won't be the case with this.  Hybrids stand to benefit.

10-20-2006

"Hollow" Hybrids.  My dislike for the "assist" hybrid design is well known.  But at least I label the vehicles with some respect, calling them by their function "assist".  An organization that takes hybrids very serious, wasn't as kind.  For the new hybrid from Saturn, the Vue, they called it "hollow" and didn't even list it among the hybrids currently available.  They said the same about the upcoming hybrid from GM too, the Malibu.  They simply don't like that weak assistance at all.  Using nothing but a larger alternator and larger battery to provide an occasional thrust boost and to capture energy when braking doesn't earn any merit in their book.  Well, what do you know.  I wondered how long it would take for that attitude to emerge.  For years, I've been saying all hybrids are not the same.  But my voice was very much alone.  Now other members of the choir are joining it... and singing even louder than me!

10-20-2006

European Sales Jump.  Here's an interesting twist.  In the land of diesel, where hybrids are still quite rare, sales of Prius hit a monthly record of 2,895 units in September.  Wow!  Regardless of scope relative to overall sales, that's enough of a quantity to sustain interest to the point of expanding HSD rollout.  It's another critical level achieved.  That's great!  Here in the United States, we recently reached a threshold enough to justify domestic production.  So you can see the value of each milestone.  Next for us here is production of Prius.  I highly suspect after the launch of the new model, a domestic location will be pretty darn easy to proceed with.  It all depends on sales... which right now are very encouraging.

10-20-2006

AdBlue.  That's the actual product name of the substance that will be used for the upcoming BlueTec solution to diesel emissions.  It's been available for commercial use in Europe for a few years now.  The price is similar to that of diesel there.  Of course, that is quite a bit more expensive than what we pay for diesel here.  So the price in America remains a big mystery.  Consumption is roughly around 4 percent.  That means for every gallon of diesel, 4 percent of a gallon of AdBlue will be required for emission cleaning.  If refills are required every 7,500 miles and efficiency averages about 45 MPG (yes, I know, that's highly unlikely for an automatic diesel in mixed driving) then about 6.7 gallons would be needed.  A storage tank with a volume of 7 gallons is roughly the size of a full-size spare tire well.  So... is that where they going to put it?  Sacrificing the trunk space isn't something any supporter has ever mentioned.  Interesting, eh?  It gets better.  Additional space is required to make the act of refilling a practical one.  In other words, where will the filler cap be located?  Getting to see one of these systems in a production model at an auto show is something I am really looking forward to.  Finding out price & availability of the AdBlue itself should be informative as well.  By the way, the result of the chemical reaction is a conversion of harmful NOx to harmless nitrogen & water.  I don't think the muffler is going to enjoy the presence of that additional liquid inside.  I bet that will shorten its life.  Moisture is bad normally.  This could be especially bad for an expensive diesel component.

10-19-2006

Who told you that?  Not surprisingly, some people still don't understand how the hybrid system works.  Today's assumption was that speeds below 30 MPH were supposed to be exclusively electric.  Naturally, I wanted to know the source of that misconception.  This person believing that was frustrated that the engine was starting up much sooner.  So in the most basic terms, I attempted (though I'm not sure if it helped at all) to provide clarification... 10kW is the threshold, which has absolutely nothing to do with speed.  There's also a dependency on whether or not heat is needed.  If you accelerate slowly, you keep the draw from the battery-pack low enough to speed up on electricity alone.  If you accelerate quickly, the engine joins in.  But as soon as your speed steadies, the engine will typically shut off.  Of course, it really doesn't matter... since overall MPG is what's important, not momentary spikes & lows.

10-19-2006

Doing all the wrong things.  How many times do you think I've read an article thinking that?  Sadly, it happens far too often.  In today's example, the person was going out of his way to baby the system.  The enthusiasts are well aware that contributes to lower efficiency, hence our motto "Just Drive It!"  Gentle driving is not something a driver normally does.  Brisk acceleration will yield the most efficient results.  When you reach the desired city cruising speed, like 35 MPH, the engine will automatically shut off.  There's no special behavior required.  You'll see it happen just through routine driving... in other words, following the usual flow of traffic.  Too bad he made such a big deal over his 34 MPG average from just a little over 100 miles of driving.  It was a worst-case scenario, an extreme, not an expectation.  Much of it was short trips, within the initial warm-up time.  My worse tank ever, I averaged 36.4 MPG carrying 2 kayaks on the roof on the highway.  My best month, I averaged 55.1 MPG.  So just a tiny sampling, like that reported today, was most definitely not what owners experience normally.  On the other hand, my 62,500 miles resulting in a 3-year average of 48.6 MPG is.  I sure hope estimates and brief tests become a silly historical footnote someday.  Currently, some still take them as gospel... not understanding all the factors that influence efficiency.

10-18-2006

Real-World Data!  Believe it or now, the EPA actually sighted some today (perhaps due to the recent China attention).  In a release that mentioned the upcoming modifications (modest fixes) to the estimate values for the 2008 model year, actual real-world data was included.  It was amazing!  They stated the average from 63 owners of 2006 Prius was 47.2 MPG... the highest among vehicles currently in production.  That was cool.  They also mentioned their overall sampling consisted of 4,000 vehicles.  I wonder if they plan to actually establish this new type of consumer information source as a genuine solution.  There certainly is pressure to final start reporting numbers that consumers can use as an expectation, rather than just a value only intended for the sake of purchase comparison.  We'll see.  That is definitely encouraging.

10-18-2006

China Estimates of MPG.  Did you know that they don't currently have any system in place?  We didn't either, until the mid-1970's.  So that shouldn't be too much of a surprise; their economy is just starting to boom now.  Fortunately, they are well aware of the MPG estimate shortcomings the other countries are now struggling to overcome.  The system of measurement we have here is nothing short of a nightmare.  Speed, Temperature, Fuel, and Driving-Style variations are almost totally ignored by our EPA.  They attempt to overcome that with compensation factors, but they clearly don't help... especially when the values are forced into misrepresentative "city" and "highway" categories.  So naturally, I'm really want to know how China plans to avoid the confusing mess we have.  The solution should be obvious.  Devaluing the estimates is what would really make a difference.  Placing emphasis on the collection of real-world data instead is the key.  Actual long-term results should be all that people really care about.  This current nonsense of relying almost exclusively on misleading estimate values is not helpful to consumers.

10-18-2006

Even Worse.  This pretty much says it all: "The public's short term, blinkered view of gas prices is already taking a toll on hybrids.  Their sales fell last month by 11 percent compared to August."  First, end of model-year time is terrible for statistics.  It's totally dependent on how much stock is available.  If there isn't much, sales will naturally appear to be less.  But what makes this anti-hybrid article even worse than the usual nonsense we get from a Detroit publication is just how much they are intentionally lumping together all hybrids into a single category.  With the new design coming from GM, you'd at least expect them to point out something to make it stand out.  But this time, nothing.  They are trying everything possible to de-emphasize.  I wonder how well that will work.  Hmm?  People are well aware of the emission benefits hybrids offer.  But they aren't so short-term minded that they won't notice gas is still expense.  $2.29 per gallon is still quite a bit higher than the $1.69 we had been paying.  Of course, if writers keep greenwashing by saying "not $3 anymore" there will be some that get complacent.  Wasting gas is a still problem, regardless of price.

10-17-2006

Active Component Diagrams.  I added one for each of the PSD (Power-Split-Device) illustrations.  The hope is that they will assist with the understanding of how the PSD works.  The active components are in color, the inactive faded.  It's quite simplistic, with the hope (as usual) to entice learning in a very non-intimidating way.  Take a look.  The battery-pack, engine, small motor, and large motor are all represented now (in a cool 3D format).  See... PSD (details)

10-16-2006

It's Dead!  I just plain cannot believe it.  The host agreed with me about my declaration of closure being achieved.  So after 17 months and 5,196 posts that horrible thread is dead.  There is now a beautiful "Read Only" note in red next to it.  No new posts are allowed.  The last message is truly final.  Hooray!

10-16-2006

Minutes, not Miles.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing on NPR (National Public Radio) during this morning's commute.  They were discussing the importance of commute time with respect to home location and vehicle purchases.  Miles were basically meaningless.  Taking 30 minutes to travel only 2 miles in heavy highway congestion is a very real problem more and more people are facing now.  That's why the Consumption-Screen has always displayed efficiency with respect to time rather than distance.  In fact, it even displays in 30-minute durations.  Toyota was planning way ahead for us.  Of course, there in Japan they've been dealing with traffic like that much longer.  Anywho, it made the argument for "full" hybrids very compelling and technologies that still depend on continuous engine operation (like diesel) very unappealing.  I sure was glad to hear that!

 

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