Prius Personal Log  #297

October 28, 2006  -  November 1, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 11/05/2006

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11-01-2006

Prius Line of Hybrids.  That's the latest concept being toyed with by Toyota.  (No pun intended, though that does make you think.)  Anywho, offering a wagon, sedan, and compact based on Prius isn't that wild of an idea anymore.  The name "Prius" pulls a tremendous amount of weight now.  It has become a branding term for advanced hybrid technology.  In other words, the reputation building has went so remarkably well that Toyota is considering expanding upon it.  Taking advantage of the circumstances sounds good to me.  After all, look at how incredibly Scion has been... which utilizes a similar platform commonality.  Why not?

11-01-2006

History Now.  It's hard to believe so much quarreling recently ended.  In fact, the closure is so complete it's difficult to even convince someone that it even existed.  The ship has sunk.  Lots of water is concealing it well.  They can dive down and see it (posts & blogs) easy enough, but that's all history at this point.  The presence is most definitely not obvious anymore.  The person has be willing to explore for that past.  Telling them about it doesn't seem to hold much significance.  How about that!  The nonsense about diesel being a direct competitor seems unreasonable now... a very different perspective from what supporters had you thinking a year ago.  It rarely even gets talked about anymore.  I had no idea the dead would be so abrupt.  Those final battles were literally the last stand.  It's over now... so much so that even the value of "assist" hybrids is getting questioned.  Market outlook is rapidly changing.  Resistance has faded.  We have closed a chapter in history.  Sweet!

11-01-2006

Remaining Inventory.  Now that October is over and the previous model-year inventory is supposed to be sold out, talk of new vehicles is supposed to be all we hear.  That's certainly not the case this time though.  Some automakers are really hurting, desperate to get rid of the old stuff.  How are they going to survive with production & sales miscalculations like that?  Daimler-Chrysler is in the worse situation, having almost a half-million still left to sell.  At major clearance prices, financial gain isn't a realistic hope.  I wonder how investors will respond.  Hmm?  Don't expect great strides from those unable to deal with this market change.  The old-school rules of diversity and planning ahead certainly apply now, great examples of what not to do.

10-31-2006

Floored It.  Sometimes, you can't resist.  Sometimes, the situation seeks you out.  The latter happened this morning.  A cab driver talking on his cell-phone not paying attention at all suddenly hit the brakes when I approached for my highway merge.  He just assumed he had made a mistake, seeing me directly at his side also going just a little under the speed limit.  I guess he thought I was struggling to get in front.  I wasn't at all.  In fact, I was at his side waiting for him to take the right away he was entitled to.  Instead, with no one in front, he decided to make the line of cars behind him all brake too.  So I dropped the pedal to the floor.  The Prius shot off, with its usual favor-the-motor style.  A moment later, I had left that traffic in the distance and found myself at 76 MPH with acceleration still coming.  That was fun!

10-31-2006

Upgrade Strategy.  There was an active thread today providing lots of suggestions for upgrades to Prius.  It was interesting... an quite predictable, coming from newbies.  I chimed in with this veteran's point-of-view:  Sorry, but I only skimmed through the suggestions.  Being so familiar with Toyota's approach and after having lived through a much anticipated Prius generational upgrade myself already, my opinion is different.  Based on that history, especially if you recall the Prius debut back in 1997, you'll likely agree with my prediction that many of the features you'd like to see added or upgraded will be saved for the 2009.  I expect that new model to absolutely crush the competition.  Toyota has given them plenty of warning that they are very serious about hybrid technology becoming a fundamental offering from them.  So including a whole mess of irresistible goodies is something they should have seen coming.  It will cause enthusiasts to crave that newest Prius, especially current owners yearning to upgrade (like me).  And flooding the market with used older models works out fantastic for everyone, as some of us have already witnessed.  I'm excited, so much so that the wait is no big deal... knowing it will be well worth every minute.

10-31-2006

Let Down?  A whole day later, still no rebuttal... despite several other posts from him on other threads.  This was a disenchanted Prius owner hoping to purchase a hybrid using the BAS design.  I bet he was pretty excited last year when the Vue-Hybrid brochure was updated from the original efficiency estimate value of 10 to 20 percent.  That's quite a difference!  He stressed that new estimate whenever the opportunity presented itself, which would seem to confirm being pleased by it.  Bragging that emissions were expected to be more than just a small improvement had been repeated many times too.  So when I pointed out how disappointing those smog-related emissions actually ended up, he could have let down.  That wasn't a reaction I had anticipated.  Maybe there was a lot more at stake than revealed.  That would explain always being so vague.  You think?  After all, one of the troublemakers many years ago originally bought a Prius simply because Civic-Hybrid wasn't available yet.

10-30-2006

No Rebuttal.  I waited two full days.  Then I finally stated my case... by replying to the message that started it all 11 weeks ago.  He had used this weak claim "it may in fact be a SULEV" when the efficiency argument started to go sour.  So true to my quest for the reduction of both emissions & efficiency (and not seeing any way that could actually be technically possible), I couldn't let the misleading continue.  No actual data means no praise.  Now that topic is finally dead.  That hybrid ended up being remarkably dirty, only LEV.  That's even worse than that ULEV rating the hybrids like Prius and Camry-Hybrid have been striving to replace.  It's bad, no matter how you consider it.  Seen from an entirely different perspective, it paves the way for the other hybrid design GM plans to offer... so much better than they really won't ever compete with one and other.  Only offering a few MPG doesn't make for a strong business case.  What is there to entice purchases?

10-30-2006

Do the Math... using estimated MPG.  Over the years, those against Prius have used the EPA estimates of MPG as if they were actual expectations, rather than the ideal-condition comparison measure they were intended to be.  That's just plain wrong, definitely not a sincere effort in any respect.  But if they want to play the game that way... what the heck.  Vue-Hybrid combined MPG estimate: 29  Vue combined MPG estimate: 24  Vue-Hybrid offers an estimated improvement of: 20.8%  Prius combined MPG estimate: 55  Corolla combined MPG estimate: 33  Camry combined MPG estimate: 27  Camry-Hybrid combined MPG estimate: 39  Prius offers an estimated improvement over Corolla of: 66.7%  Prius offers an estimated improvement over Camry of: 103.7%  Camry-Hybrid offers an estimated improvement over Camry of: 44.4%  The estimates clearly show at least twice the efficiency gain from the "full" hybrid technology over that version of "assist" hybrid.  In other words, if Saturn/GM supporters are going to continue to push numbers from the EPA rather than what real-world data actually reveals, shouldn't we?  Of course, we know quite well that the "full" hybrids thrive in real-world conditions, since that often includes lots of suburb and stop & slow driving.  It's where we have a distinct advantage that the competition tries to avoid discussions about.  So odds are we'll have to put up with the MPG estimates for a very long time still.  (Note that all the non-hybrid combined estimate values listed were from the smallest size engine available for that vehicle with an automatic transmission.)

10-29-2006

Approach Method.  The need came again, time to reiterate my take on the situation.  The approach for my profession as a computer programmer has been to follow the "90/10" rule.  Satisfying 90% of the requirements consumes 10% of the overall resources available.  Providing that final 10% is absolutely awful.  Striving to deliver the remaining chunk really does burn up 90%.  It's a harsh reality.  So at work, we typically don't promise that up front.  Our milestones are set for the 90% fulfillment.  Then after delivering that, we re-evaluate.  Is the next step really worth the cost?  If so, we plan & budget accordingly.  If not, we move on to another project.  I strongly believe the same approach should be taken for electric propulsion adoption.  Plug-In hybrids makes a whole lot more sense than battery-only designs, for now.  Later on, the story could change (and hopefully will).  A technological advancement, or just greater support from the market, would allow the next step to be realistically taken.  This approach method would recognize the 90% need quickly with only minimal risk.  The plug-in feature could be offered as a special option, much like any other limited-time factory upgrade you can order.  Then based on its acceptance, you decide what step to take next.  Why eliminate the engine entirely?  They are cheap, reliable, and the size can be reduced.  Using it less and less with each generational advance makes a whole lot more sense... especially if each generation is delivered quickly, on the same 5-year cycle as most automaker new models... which has already proven a well accepted industry practice.  You agree?

10-29-2006

Talking About Hybrids.  It was the new topic of interest today on the big Prius forum, started by a newbie sharing his experience.  He found it very interesting how conversations can be steered to talking about what he now drives.  So, I shared some insight of my own... I freak out the people I routinely hang out with when someone new joins in and I don't segway the discussion to hybrids.  They've discovered through me just how easy it is to bring up that topic, especially with gas price instability.  So you actually have to go out of your way to prevent it.  Our society is built upon the very consumption we are struggling with now.  So aspects of that can be found just about everywhere.  It's like trying to avoid any discussion that mentions money.  That's surprisingly difficult.  It turns into a game sometimes.  One of your friends will finally cave, knowing the hybrid discussion was inevitable anyway.  So you have to be tactful with your response.  When they provide the opportunity, choose your words wisely.  If done well, you'll be allowed to indulge.

10-29-2006

Emissions & Efficiency.  Ever since the beginning, when I first got my first Prius, certain people absolutely hated that I said improvements to both are required.  Settling for just one or the other was totally unacceptable.  I'm well aware of the reality that one can be sacrificed for the benefit of the other.  That is very obvious driving a Prius.  Just seconds after the starting the hybrid system, you wonder why the heck the engine is running even though the car isn't moving and the heater is off.  Yet, gas is being consumed.  Why?  That's the most frequently asked newbie question.  Answering it is simple... to heat up the catalytic-converter for emission cleansing.  The gas really isn't being wasted; it is put to very good use: emission reduction.  Prius wouldn't have to bother if being clean wasn't so important.  That purpose alteration would result in even higher efficiency.  Imagine if certain other hybrid designs, like the recently revealed BAS in Vue-Hybrid, were to place greater priority on emissions.  MPG would be lower.  Well, tough!  That's the way it should be.  Marketing a technology as "green" yet not delivering improvements to both emissions & efficiency is very deceptive.  People will assume the vehicle is cleaner... even though smog-related emissions are no better than its traditional counterpart.

10-29-2006

No Improvement!  What a fantastic way start to a new day, complete with an extra hour of sleep due to the change from daylight savings time.  Anywho, my hunch was right!  Now it's time to fulfill that reputation for supposedly being smug.  The new "green" technology from Saturn (GM) isn't actually green.  It's like GM's first "hybrid" that wasn't actually a hybrid.  True, the Vue-Hybrid does indeed offer improved efficiency.  But when you look at the EPA listed "Air Pollution Score" detail, which someone kindly provided a link to late last night, you discover there is no improvement to smog-related emissions whatsoever!  Comparing hybrid to non-hybrid of the very same vehicle, there most definitely is not a reduction from the hybrid technology.  Both the manual & automatic transmissions using a similar size engine get the same LEV rating.  The non-hybrid automatic with a much larger engine actually achieves the cleaner rating of ULEV, just like a run-of-the-mill traditional Corolla.  The hybrid technologies from Toyota, Ford, and Honda all offer at least SULEV, which is significantly cleaner.  Some even offer PZEV, which extends the SULEV distance requirement.  How exactly can this so-called "Green Line" hybrid be called "green" with such a dirty rating?  I'm not at all happy about this discovery, but I sure am glad to have found out already.  No wonder that antagonist eluded the emission rating question recently.  He discovered this too... and hoped I wouldn't find out... because he knows how important that is to me.

10-28-2006

Winter's Approach.  Aren't you glad your previous vehicle didn't have a Multi-Display?  Not knowing (ignorance) really is bliss, but not something I'll accept.  This evening I enjoyed what will likely be my very last sighting of super-sweet efficiency.  Despite having the snowflake illuminated (indicating it's cold enough that there could be ice on the road), the average after the first 104 miles on that tank was 50.1 MPG.  That won't happen again anytime soon.  Here in Minnesota, above freezing temperatures will become just a memory for a few months.  Winter is definitely approaching.  The Multi-Display makes that obvious.  MPG averages drop into the 40's, which some people think is disappointing.  But not having screen continuously feeding you data makes seasonal cycles easy to not be acutely aware of.  Few ever crunch the numbers of their own vehicle's Winter drop like the hoards of people who put Prius under a microscope.  There is definitely a heightened awareness associated from having a Multi-Display.  It's a mixed blessing... one I gladly welcome.  Driving a vehicle without a screen seems rather silly now.  Children will look back at history, noting how primitive the technology was to not even include a visual interface like that.  They'll be well aware of effect the cold season brings.

 

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