Prius Personal Log  #300

November 12, 2006  -  November 17, 2006

Last Updated: Sat. 11/18/2006

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11-17-2006

2009 Requirement.  Promotion for the new diesel systems sure make reference to the 2009 requirement a lot.  That's when the current CARB restriction on diesel emissions becomes a standard nationwide.  And you guessed it, all the comparisons to hybrids are in reference to the generation currently available.  The much anticipated next generation of hybrid technology will introduce substantially improved battery-packs, an upgrade from NiMH to Li-Ion.  From that switch comes increased efficiency.  The resulting higher MPG taints their argument point for diesel.  They don't want you to know that, especially since that is what the choice will be then and that will actually be what all comparisons to diesel are made with.  Hope that hype now will conceal the upgrade reality later simply won't work.  There are enough Li-Ion prototypes being tested already to provided enthusiasts with sufficient ammunition to support hybrids.  Yeah!

11-17-2006

Chery A5 ISG.  That's the new Chinese hybrid sedan just unveiled at the 2006 Ninth Beijing International Auto Exhibition.  It appears to be an "assist" type, using a 5-speed manual transmission.  It's not like the Honda design though, since lower speeds (under about 25 MPH) are powered by the electric motor.  And yes, automaker Chery has hopes of bringing this hybrid to the American market in the next few years.  How about that?

11-17-2006

Newbies & Trolls.  It's a strange new outlook now.  The old-school antagonists have almost entirely vanished.  Hooray!  Now, we get the occasional troll.  That's someone who intentionally drops bait (hence "trolling") to cause trouble.   Some crave attention.  Some fear change.  Some just hate.  Fortunately, all are pretty easy to identify.  You don't feed the troll, you'll be just fine.  Along with that comes the opposite extreme... newbies!  They are genuinely new in every respect.  It's really amazing.  They are totally unaware of how hybrid technology works.  They sincerely want to learn all they can too.  It's fantastic... but at the same time odd that the last 6 years of automotive history are completely unknown to them.  I always knew that people generally don't pay attention to the market until they are ready to purchase a new vehicle, but with major gas price spikes you'd think attention to hybrids would be common.  In reality though, that is most definitely not the case.  It's pretty cool too.  Talking about an opportunity to impress the heck out of someone.  Comparing their old car in need of replacement to the generation of hybrid available now is incredible.  Selling that is a snap.  They are hooked by an ordinary test-drive.  And now that the purchase of a Prius generally doesn't involve a delivery wait anymore, the technology practically sells itself.  Yippee!  Concerns of the past are just that.  So bring on the newbies (and unfortunately trolls), since the winner is undeniable.  Electric technology will continue to improve.  Engine-Only is rapidly losing appeal.  Hybrids are here to stay.  Sweet!

11-16-2006

Pathetic Effort.  The outcome of the meeting that took months to finally happen was basically, pathetic.  The "effort" they proclaimed to agree upon was very, very disappointing.  Here's the highlight, stated by GM, Ford, and Diamler-Chrylser: "We told the President we support his and Congress' call for the continued development and use of renewable fuels as part of lessening America's dependence on imported oil.  We said that we are willing to do our part to increase the use of renewable fuels and that we stand ready to make half of our annual vehicle production E85 flexible fuel vehicles or capable of running on bio-diesel by 2012."  Is it possible for them to do any less?  Geez!  It costs less than $200 per vehicle to add the E85 capability.  They've been producing those flex-fuel vehicles for 10 years already.  Why will it take 6 years for them to only deliver 50 percent?  That's awful.  How can their motives possibly be taken seriously when all they do is shift focus?  Using a different fuel is barely a solution, especially when they are making such a weak commitment to it.  Even worse is the reality that the entire 50 percent could choose to just continue using just gas instead of E85.  A far better statement would have been for all involved to say they will follow Minnesota's lead.  The state has mandated the use of E20, where all gas must be a 20 percent blend of ethanol by 2013.  Of course, a guarantee that everyone would be using is much more than just saying "we are willing".  But then again, all those lazy automakers would have to do is certify that their vehicles can using E20, which many are capable of supporting already.  But the ultimate question still remains: What about using less fuel in the first place?

11-15-2006

Plug-In Survey.  People join the big Prius forum, then dump a series of questions will out asking for any feedback beforehand.  The result is a bunch of frustrated participants.  It started with this: "A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid vehicle that operates as a pure battery electric vehicle and has the ability to be recharged from an external electrical outlet. The vehicle can be used for short trips of moderate speed without using gasoline, thereby saving fuel costs."  After reading that, I was so frustrated I didn't know how to respond.  Eventually, I came up with these constructive points to be aware of when it comes to consideration of a plug-in hybrid purchase...  RANGE is a major purchase decision making factor.  Cost between a 10-mile capability and a 60-mile capability is dramatically different.  SPEED is another factor.  At what point the engine starts up will definitely influence appeal of the PHEV feature.  Not as much of a benefit is provided for mostly cruising on the highway.  RECHARGE choice is a plus.  Having the option of using a 220-volt connection when available, since it can be much faster, would be handy.  Otherwise, you use the 110-volt.  HEAT is something no one seems to want to address.  It's a big deal for those of us in the north.  Fully electric heat can be less efficient than just running the engine.  ENGINE contribution, whether it connects to the wheels or only serves as a generator is a deal breaker.  That behavioral difference is quite significant.  WHEN is something very important that is rarely ever asked.  Being able to upgrade to plug-in afterward has a very real marketing draw, especially for those uncomfortable about such an expensive purchase all at once.

11-15-2006

Who Killed The Electric Car?  With that documentary having recently become on DVD, the enthusiasts are really getting stirred up.  For me, it's an excellent summary of what I have been frustrated about for many years now... something that I can show people to make them better understand why I pushed so dang hard to prevent the same nightmare situation from happening with hybrids too.  It's vindication, an inspirational boost to continue the effort.  With so many fighting against the success of the genuine solutions, it seemed pretty discouraging for quite awhile there.  But not anymore.  Word is getting out.  Killing the idea is a whole lot more difficult than crushing the cars.

11-15-2006

Online Attacks.  They are intensifying... but not from the irritating source, as in the past.  Now it is the new member with blatant motives making effort whatsoever to be objective, or even polite.  So naturally, the veterans are chiming in.  A great suggestion is to use the ignore option.  But that only goes so far.  Some groups have shut down simply by being overwhelmed, choked by a flood of content counter to what people want to discuss.  That's appalling.  It's a sad reality.  Even worse though is some newbies getting the impression that I'm hostile, simply by their first impression being one of the few frontal assaults I've been forced to launch in an attempt to restore order to a group that had become chaotic due to intentional undermining.  Fortunately, some figure that out.  The abrasive response typically scares away the troublemakers.  They tend to voice their option and run.  But it's still a pain.  And the frequency is increasing... which I interpret as a good thing, indicating that market penetration of hybrids has progressed deep into resistance territory... causing those that thought they could evade the inevitable to panic.

11-14-2006

Refocus.  Today I watched a surprisingly good interview with Bob Lutz.  On it, he took the time to explain how their hybrid approach was from the business aspect... where basically, they just plain could not justify the endeavor in the past.  But recently, they discovered how truly remarkably the publicity payoff was.  In retrospect, they now look back and say the money for research & development by Toyota was far better spent than the massive advertising expenditure GM has been struggling with.  He admits that they really blew it.  Now, the scramble to catch up is on.  The short-term loss has proven to be well worth the effort in the long-term; so they want in on that market too.  An interesting comment he made was how consumers are now permanently sensitized to gas price fluctuations.  That uncertainty is pushing them to offer their two-mode hybrid design in their large truck based SUVs, like: Tahoe, Yukon, and Escalade.  So is there any real focus on cars, something to compete with Camry?  Supposedly, there eventually will be.  But based on what he actually said, it sounds like all attention now is being placed on gas "saved" rather than actual gas consumed.  In fact, he even went as far as saying, "they don't use that much gas anyway" ...which is true, in a twisted way.  Focus right now is to make the guzzlers more appealing, rather than creating a draw toward more realistic sized vehicles.  I think refocus is needed.  Priorities for them still are not appropriately set, if the majority of their effort really is just trucks.

11-13-2006

The Future?  Hydrogen infrastructure, hydrogen price, hydrogen efficiency, hydrogen storage, and fuel-cell reliability in a vehicle are all factors that Larry Burns (GM's vice president of research, development and strategic planning) seems to be evading.  Lowering production cost of the vehicle itself is really just one of many steps still needed before mass acceptance.  Yet, he is telling us that it will take a build capacity of one million per year to make the technology cost-competitive.  So basically, it's a chicken/egg problem.  Ignoring the fact that fuel-cells will be competing with hybrids doesn't help his credibility either.  Since GM is making big plans for their two hybrid systems, shouldn't he be explaining why a fuel-cell is supposedly better?  What the heck is the benefit of hydrogen?  It makes a whole lot more sense avoiding the hydrogen creation process by leaving the electricity as-is and sending it to consumers over the already existing power lines for use in plug-in hybrids instead.  Promoting fuel-cell vehicles with an unclear purpose is a terrible business endeavor, yet GM continues it anyway.  Why?

11-13-2006

Hybrid Definition.  According to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) the definition is: "A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle with two or more energy storage systems, both of which must provide propulsion power."  That means the so-called hybrid pickup from GM really isn't a hybrid at all.  It doesn't qualify based on the very reason I have sighted from the beginning... no propulsion power whatsoever comes from an electric motor.  Just the engine alone is not enough.  In fact, that pretty much kills the old "series" and "parallel" references as well.  They never made sense, especially since Prius is both.  It's about time that an official industry organization finally chimed in.  I was really getting tired of misleading marketing.

11-13-2006

I Love It!  After 6 years of intellectual combat, there's simply no way the anti-hybrid are going to break me now.  I'm proud as ever that automotive innovation has finally returned.  I so looked forward to experiencing what my father had lived through.  But then when I reached that age... small, weak, and rather dangerous vehicles were the so-called solution to our problem.  That didn't make me happy at all.  I was pretty upset... until I realized that the vehicles replacing them were even more disappointing.  Rather than innovate, all the automakers did was make them bigger.  That's it!  Talking about a big step in the wrong direction.  That made the situation worse.  We were guzzling more... and more... and more.  Fortunately, the hybrid snuck into the scene.  It got mocked.  The proud owners were called "smug", even though is was totally hypocritical coming from those guilty of that very thing.  But I didn't care.  I knew the need for reducing emissions & consumption would eventually overshadowed the denial.  That fact that it came in the form of massive monetary loss made it a very bitter reality to accept.  Some are taking it gracefully.  Others continue to resist the inevitable change.  I find the situation very exciting to participate in.  It's a part of what my dad experienced that he never told me about.  I had no idea that their were also people back then that fought the innovation.

11-12-2006

Hydrogen Prius.  The news today was that 6 converted Prius are now being tested.  Their engines run using hydrogen, rather than gas.  Range is limited to 80 miles.  Refueling takes about 2 hours.  I fail to see the point.  Research is great.  But using the electricity itself, rather than using it to produce hydrogen, makes a whole lot more sense.  Perhaps someday when engines are so tiny they are really only needed as an assist & backup component, the use of hydrogen may reveal itself a feasible option.  But right now, that is most definitely not the case.

11-12-2006

Generations.  Whoa!  Was I ever correct when identifying the HSD model of Prius as the third generation!!  Based on the nonsense Honda was trying to pull years back, drawing the conclusion that the other competitors later would attempt the same or worse was a logical one.  Because sure enough, that's exactly what's happening now.  I've read articles how the Silverado (that rudimentary system which offered only auto-stop) is counted as the first, the belt-starter as the second, and two-mode as the third.  They are attempting to catch GM up (from a publicity perspective) to Toyota as quickly as possible... knowing the next generation Prius is coming quickly.  Objectively, the two-mode hybrid is really a first-generation design... since there is nothing that actually came before it.  Not a single vehicle from GM ever used a PSD.  So how could anyone argue otherwise?  The PSD is the very component at the heart of the "full" hybrid.  Without that, you have an entirely different type.  It's sad that this type of deception is even attempted, but is by no means a surprise.  Some of us saw it coming.

 

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