Prius Personal Log  #305

December 9, 2006  -  December 15, 2006

Last Updated: Sun. 12/17/2006

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12-15-2006

Not Quite Winter.  The week started with an amazing 50.7 MPG on the Multi-Display.  Now during the holiday craziness, it has dropped to 48.7 MPG.  That's still one heck of a good average for this time of year.  I'm pretty happy.

12-15-2006

$63.43 per barrel.  Prices seem to be creeping up now.  I wonder if this is another upward trend that could become permanent.  Without people complaining, the lack of resistance almost could be interpreted as acceptance.  After all, SUV sales continue.  True, they are smaller.  But still, they are not being used as their design supports.  The high ground-clearance and heavy-duty suspension is completely worthless for the daily commute and trips to the mall.

12-15-2006

Another Biodiesel Disaster.  It happened again.  This time, it was in Virginia.  A school district decided to endorse biodiesel use for their buses.  When the temperature dropped into the 20's, the fuel-filters started to clog.  There were 4 buses that stalled in one day.  At that point, the transportation director suspended the program.  There was obviously a problem... just like we saw last year here in Minnesota.  Production and distribution controls combined with complications from the cold make biodiesel a complicated home-grown fuel difficult to work with.  Fortunately, we have ethanol.  It is both cleaner and impervious to the cold.  Heck, it's even drinkable.  There is no fatty substance to contribute to clogging, as with biodiesel.  So... once the address the problem, how do they overcome the bad press and loss of confidence?  The worry that all alternative fuels will suffer is much like that for all hybrids, even though types differ significantly.

12-14-2006

The Pledge.  Their was some extreme activist that jumped on stage to convince GM to actually make a pledge.  Obviously, that didn't work.  He was quickly taken away by security.  Someone joked today asking if that was me.  I accepted that in good humor and used it as an opportunity to climb up on the forum soapbox with this...  That is rather tempting... isn't it?  That pledge "to make a plug-in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue SUV" was so horribly vague, you do wonder how many they will actually deliver.  Based upon the past, we really may only get just a few.  The fact that smog-related emissions aren't ever discussion and the fact that "Green Line" isn't actually green (only LEV), the sincerity of their intentions should be questioned.  I for one am not going to award any merit until it is actually earned.  So right now, all this talk without any action is just hype.  Show me the vehicles!

12-14-2006

Mind Changer.  Really?  Supposedly, the monster-size Escalade as a hybrid could be the "hybrid SUV that might change treehuggers minds".  I replied with the following, which no one countered (interesting, eh?)...  The true problem is when a SUV is used for non-Utility purposes.  It's gross overkill for the daily commute to work, with just a driver, no cargo, and all the roads smooth.  Remember the old days, when trucks were trucks... when they were actually pushed to design potential rather than most of the features rarely ever being used?  Also, don't forget that the other purpose of hybrids is suppose to be the significant reduction of smog-related emissions.  MPG improvement isn't the only benefit.

12-14-2006

Baby Steps.  Don't you love how people take credit for steps forward?  Even though it is clearly not enough, certainly nothing even remotely considered a sacrifice, the feel good attitude is shared.  That was what a silly article today tried.  It's just like slapping a bumper-sticker on your vehicle.  Not doing anything else but that doesn't seem to make.  Your cheer in the crowd somehow makes you part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem.  Arrgh!  Oh well.  At least I can laugh at the absurdity which comes from statements like this: "Chevy Suburban with eight passengers is far more efficient per passenger mile than a Toyota Prius with only one or two.  Baby steps are great, let's recycle all the recyclables...".  When has a Suburban ever been that full?  For that matter, why wouldn't driving a minivan with eight people be better instead.  And since when is a Suburban cleaner?  Efficiency isn't the only goal.  Of course, we all know that several hybrids will still do better than just one Suburban in daily commute traffic.  Too bad the article wasn't about a hybrid Suburban.  It was just more propaganda against reaching the actual goal, comforting us by saying a little is all that's necessary. 

12-13-2006

Safer Than Oil.  Wow!  Someone responded in a brilliant way this morning.  I was impressed... and a bit bothered that I hadn't thought of it.  Oh well.  It's something I can share nonetheless.  When the argument came up about hybrid battery production potentially being hard on the environment, rather than forcing focus (keeping blinders on), true perspective was provided by simply asking how that was any different from oil.  Questioning the safety of gas & diesel really does make you think.  It is well understood how that interferes with the environment, causing all kinds of problems that we've learned to disregard as a problem... but shouldn't.

12-13-2006

Making Sense.  Quantity consumed per standard distance unit is indeed the better method for reporting efficiency.  Hearing that being discussed online was great.  Our European and Canadian friends are more than happy to point out that they have been using that method of measure for decades now.  The perverse system here in the United States is obviously not as forthcoming.  My guess is that was created for the sake of better business economy rather than actually helping consumers make the most informed purchase decision.  Our twisted system focuses on perceived savings rather than how much fuel was actually required.  That most definitely favors a wasteful mindset.  You believe less is being used.  But in reality, how much was needed in the first place is completely overlooked.  How is one suppose to make sense of that?  It's senseless.  The impression that a large vehicle is making less of an environmental impact is too easy to make... which is exactly how those vehicles are being promoted.  I sure wish the update to the EPA estimates would have been an overhaul instead.  Simply tweaking the calculation algorithms don't actually fix the problem.

12-12-2006

Victims.  Newbies can be so innocent sometimes.  Unfortunately, that naive nature can (and often does) lead to trouble.  This statement invited that: "I do remember when the Accord V6 hybrid was initially tested and returned very poor mileage.  But that was only one review and other reviews of it's mileage were much more favorable."  Sadly, those against hybrids exploit the bad reports, only quoting from them as if they were gospel.  It happens all the time.  We are most definitely victims.  Of course, if a person believes there is a proper testing method, I'd sure like to hear about... as well as everyone else that has been complaining that the new EPA estimate revisions still aren't representative of what an owner can actually expect.  Realistically, long-term (a full year) data collection is the only hint of how the vehicle truly performs.  So basically, no short review is ever accurate.  Just a spot measurement doesn't really tell you anything.  But some believe it, and supporters seeing that misrepresentation are helpless to prevent the false belief it leads to.  So, many are victims.  That's very unfortunate.

12-12-2006

Quote Battles.  Again with the media nonsense.  This time, the opening sentence read: "Monthly sales of the Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid car are down 28% since August."  That's called selective data, one of the oldest misrepresentation tricks in the book.  Here's the actual monthly sales numbers from November 2006 back to January 2005:  8008, 8733, 10492, 11177, 11114, 9696, 8103, 8234, 7922, 6547, 7654, 9027, 7889, 9939, 8193, 9850, 9691, 9622, 9461, 11345, 10236, 7078, 5566.  Notice any patterns?  There really aren't any.  It's quite random.  Selective data like that makes a great headline, but doesn't actually tell you the true story.  In reality, Prius sales remain strong for the year overall... just like year before, when there was also a multi-month high for no apparent reason.  Sales go up and down throughout the course of the annual production cycle.  But in the end, sales goals have always been met without any trouble.  Factors like third-party suppliers and the logistics of oversea shipping makes analysis of monthly sales figures unrealistic.  But perceived trends is what gets people to read your publication.  So naturally, a quote battle is inevitable.  They'll print something without merit and the supporters have no choice but to chime in with actual data to point out how their observation really doesn't equate to anything overall.  Oh well.  That's how the game is played.

12-11-2006

Upset.  This quote printed today was great: "GM says the perception that its cars are gas-guzzlers is unfair and inaccurate.  The Detroit-based automaker, which has begun an ad campaign to fight that perception, has its own share of fuel-efficient models, such as the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid."  And since it was posted on the big GM forum, I felt free to respond with this...  Why is that inaccurate?  Toyota already has 600,000 hybrids on the road.  GM just started selling their first true hybrid a few months ago.  If GM continues, they'll get acknowledged as having regained lost ground.  In other words, perception doesn't mean squat.  It's sales of vehicles that actually make a difference.  As for the purpose of hybrids, there is still a problem.  The need is to reduce both emissions & consumption.  Fuel-Efficiency alone is not enough.  Some hybrids don't improve smog-related emissions at all.  Two-Mode is suppose to, Green-Line doesn't.  So we have to be realistic about when merit is truly earned.

12-10-2006

Hydrogen Non-Hybrid V12.  What's the point of that vehicle?  Will an efficient & affordable model ever be prototyped?  And how practical would it actually be?  A tiny hydrogen fueled combustion-engine may make sense on a hybrid many years from now, but the non-electric hybrid 12-cylinder vehicle featured today certainly doesn't.  Of course, what do you expect from the kick off of the Auto Show circuit for 2007.  Traditional technology isn't what grabs attention anymore.  Being new & different is a big deal now.  Sadly, whether or not that results in any sales isn't a factor.  Good press for an automaker's image still goes a long way.  Actually delivering that new & different product isn't necessary.  These are prototypes without any expectation... just the idea of hope for a better future, not the reality of change.

12-10-2006

Downfalls.  Today there was much speculation of reason, why automakers suffer downfalls.  I chimed in with this:  The underlying cause of downfalls is how they use their profit.  Paradigm shifts are bigger that any one automaker... and inevitable.  Being prepared to deal with it is the key.  That's where profit reinvestment comes in.  Using it proactively prevents the downfall.  Waiting to react, as GM and Ford have, contributes heavily to market share loss.  They didn't have a product available to deal with efficiency issues.  Diversification is a basic economics principle that they ignored.  Now the pain of paying for pensions and rising healthcare costs really hurts because they don't have anything to fill that new need.  They knew it was coming too!  Quality falls can emerge simply from making production cuts.  Reducing cost comes in all kinds of forms, from personnel skill, to equipment upkeep, to the materials themselves.  Having money available makes a difference.  Disproportionate compensation and the obsession with quarterly returns exacerbates the situation.  It's ugly.  Sacrifices must be made to recover.  Reluctance to do enough is becoming obvious.

12-09-2006

Style, Shape, Silly.  Isn't it funny how wishy-washy some people can be.  They say the extreme aerodynamic styling of Prius cries out that it is a hybrid, a deliberate effort to make the vehicle stand out and make a statement.  However, none acknowledge the reality that shape was once a statement of a different kind, what only the really expensive sports cars featured.  The passage of time has changed our perception, allowing the smooth to be transferred from a muscle vehicle to one intended for families.  That's silly.  Didn't they realize the laws of physics would eventually force all vehicles to conform to improve the air flow.

12-09-2006

Chilling Advice.  I had to tell an expected owner to chill.  He was very, very exciting about delivery soon to become a reality for him.  The wait was almost over.  Anticipation had been amplified by the test-drive experience.  He dropped me an email to share his story.  So I said:  You�ll quickly find out that every minute of waiting was well worth it.  Thank goodness... since my 2009 upgrade is quite some time off still.  I never get tired of hearing stories of how �one short drive� is all it took to get hooked.  That experience inevitably seals the deal.  Anxiety quickly fades away after discovering that it isn�t really hype, that the drive really is as owners describe.  Confidence in the technology solidifies in no time too.  Have fun.  There�s a lot to look forward to.

12-09-2006

Oil Prices.  It's been the same old story for weeks now.  The price per barrel is just above $60.  That keeps the price of gas per gallon just above $2 and diesel hovers around 40 cents higher.  That's it.  Nothing new.  The attempt to get the market used to paying those prices has worked.  We've accepted this new reality.  Bummer.

 

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