Prius Personal Log  #307

December 27, 2006  -  January 2, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 2/10/2007

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1-02-2007

Beyond Suspicious.  Oh!  I figured it would come to this, but had hoped somehow not.  Reality is hard to avoid though.  The increased supply of oil seems to fit the conspiracy theory all to well.  I heard a great presentation of it on the radio this evening confirms that.  Combined with the acceptance of lower profit, it helped to keep prices reasonable.  But the pressure of maintaining an imbalance like that appears to be building.  What's going to happen?  At some point, the aging infrastructure will emerge as a problem intentions cannot change.  That has to be dealt with eventually.  So I'm suspicious.  We'll find out what's bound to happen soon enough.

1-02-2007

New Opportunities.  Here's an interesting thought for you to ponder...  Fuel-Cells will introduce a whole bunch of new opportunities, of which will be necessary to exploit long before financial justification for putting them in vehicles will be realistic.  The idea that struck me today was using a fuel-cell on camping trips.  Imagine just how bizarre the 21st Century camping trip could be.  Rather that firing up a noisy lantern fed by an ignited liquid.  You could just flip a switch on a silent light that you plug in.  The fuel-cell can become that extremely high capacity portable power-source people have always dreamed of.  Sweet!  Uses like that, and of course for notebook computers, is what will establish confidence in the fuel-cell market.  Until then, don't expect fuel-cell vehicles to be a popular investment.  Starting small is necessary.  Automakers don't really want you to figure that out.  It's knowledge that reveals just how long consumer acceptance will take.  That's way too much money to risk on something as big as a car.  But a small device you can carry on a camping trip, that's far more sensible of a start.

1-02-2007

"Car" Still.  Watching a SUV commercial just now that ended by referring to it as a "car" really frustrated me.  I thought those days were over.  Apparently, not.  Direct competition for a family sedan like Camry from the domestic automakers is far from a reality still.  Some advertisements continue to push the belief that their trucks are actually cars.  Consumers will feel the pain in their wallet eventually.  When will they learn that?  Guzzling has consequences.

1-01-2007

Check Engine.  For the first time ever, the check-engine light came on.  I wondered why.  What could have caused that?  I verified the gas-cap was secured tightly.  That made no difference.  It stayed on throughout my day of running holiday errands.  So when I got home, I popped the hood to begin my investigation.  Oil level was perfect.  The engine air-filter was clean and not blocked.  Next would be to check the coolant level after it cooled down.  But I didn't need to.  Starting up the engine at that point revealed the light had disappeared.  Well, I guess you (like me) will find out if there was really a problem later.  It will be documented in a future entry.  But for now, I'm treating it just like computer problems reported at work.  If you cannot recreate the situation, then there's nothing to fix.  Sometimes, just a bizarre set of highly unusual circumstances will trigger an error-code that doesn't ever repeat again.  We'll see if that's true for this too.

12-31-2006

OOoooo! Shiny grill.  That hysterical comment is how a friend responded to the ridiculous concept car Ford revealed today.  It's called "Interceptor" and appeals to the muscle stereotype all too well.  It's a flashy, powerful vehicle... that's outright brainless when it comes to efficiency.  That large of an engine (5.0 liter, 400 horsepower, 8-cylinder), without even a non-hybrid fuel-saving feature like cylinder-deactivation is pretty dumb in this new world of oil addiction and global warming.  Talking about not even trying.  So much for taking a responsible attitude and embracing change.  But it is shiny.

12-31-2006

Fall Colors.  Seeking out more photo opportunities with the Prius was very rewarding, as you can see by these additions... photo album 113

12-31-2006

Another Hybrid-Only, part 2.  Many posted about the engine emerged.  Many forgot about the electrical side.  Remember that the battery-pack and motors can be different too... so different that coexistence could easily be possible.  It would make a lot of sense to have that alternate configuration sedan in an entirely different body.  That way, there's no confusion about performance abilities.  GM has an interesting situation coming up.  The effort to distinguish their "GreenLine" hybrid from their "Two-Mode" in the same vehicle (Vue) but using a different engine will definitely be a challenge, perhaps more than they anticipate.  But if Toyota has two similar sized sedans with the same engine but different hybrid components (capacity & size), identification would be quite obvious even for the basic consumer just doing simple information searches online.  As we discovered with Prius way back in 2000, the technology plays only a supportive role in the rollout process itself.  A well informed market (consumers, salespeople, mechanics, and reporters) has the biggest influence in the success at that stage.  So diversification on the level of vehicle rather than model could indeed help with the increase of hybrid production.  If nothing else, Toyota certainly will get credit for trying... unlike some of the competition who are having trouble with the initial rollout still.  But the question remains about how long a vehicle would be offered in both hybrid and non-hybrid models.  Beyond a generation (typically 5 years) seems to be pushing it at this point.  The business does have a bottom-line to address eventually.

12-30-2006

Another Hybrid-Only, part 1.  That new hybrid Toyota hinted the other day is causing quite a stir.  Another hybrid vehicle without a traditional counterpart in the works is very exciting to hear about.  It will be designed very specifically for those looking forward, not the slightest bit hesitant when it comes to embracing change.  How it will fit into the product-line is the discussion which surfaced.  That interesting.  It could very well be a pseudo-replacement for Camry.  Think about it.  At some point, it won't be cost-effective to produce non-hybrid Camry anymore.  But stopping production prematurely could be a disaster.  However, if you already have a candidate in place and it just happens to a smash hit, that wouldn't be a problem.  I see this move as Toyota testing the waters for a major step forward.  Imagine the top-selling sedan in the nation only being available as a hybrid.  Pretty sweet, eh?  There actually is quite a bit of potential.  The technology certainly is moving toward a "no non-hybrid counterpart" scenario.  After all, economies of scale would support that.  And the self-destructive actions of the competition are hardly a threat to such a plan.  I'm very excited to see what develops.

12-30-2006

Even more Fall Prius photos.  From the unpublished 2-year old collection, here's some more... photo album 115

12-30-2006

It Worked Again!  Sometimes when dealing with a very stubborn antagonist, you have to discretely provoke them to get the information you require for constructive discussions.  In this case, it was another argument in favor of AdBlue (the chemical exhaust treatment for cleansing diesel emissions).  They proclaimed refill convenience.  I intended to prove otherwise, but did it by instead asking a question.  And the way I asked it frustrated them, because they probably couldn't figure out why I'd ask something so straight forward.  In reality, I was really just playing along with their hypothetic situation.  My continued push in that direction resulted in a real-world reply.  It worked!  The tank size for the AdBlue in the current E-Class diesel is just 4.75 gallons.  At the consumption rate required to meet the most strict European emissions, 6 percent is required.  That works out to 20 gallons for 15,000 miles of driving at 45 MPG.  The diesel supporters claimed an AdBlue refill at 15,000 mile intervals.  Clearly, that's even close to realistic... since the tank is less than a quarter the size needed.  I had a feeling they wouldn't be willing to volunteer that information.

12-30-2006

Micro Fuel-Cells.  Proof that fuel-cell technology has a long way to go still came out today, in the form of a press release for a notebook computer fuel-cell.  Late next year, it should be available.  No price was mentioned, but capacity is expected to be equivalent to running 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, for a whole month.  That's a dramatic improvement over the Li-Ion batteries most use now.  The catch, as expected, is they still don't know what to do with the by-product.  It's water, which obviously has to be collected.  But when the bladder gets full, then what?  Anywho, this will be the very first step into the consumer market.  Vehicles powered by fuel-cells have yet to be proven viable in the long-term.  Durability with respect to vibration and extreme temperatures are very much a mystery still.  How long does the typical consumer expect a fuel-cell vehicle to last... 150,000 miles... 200,000 miles?  It's going to take a tremendous amount of time to gather that much data... many years, just like with Prius.  A notebook computer certainly won't be exposed to the same conditions.  The daily drive to & from work is far more abusive.  Needless to say, hybrids will evolve another generation or two before fuel-cells are even remotely a competitive consideration to what I am already driving.  But since hybrids are a moving target, catch up seems quite unlikely for decades... especially when you consider the fuel needed.

12-29-2006

Backpedaling.  Since this has never been so easily identifiable until today, I can't call it an "anti-hybrid technique".  But it certainly has all the characteristics.  Basically, if your post isn't absolutely complete, any addition of information afterward is supposedly considered "backpedaling".  That's according to the antagonist.  For the rest of the forum community, it's just a normal post.  But those troublemakers like to exploit any opportunity they can.  So when I posted a minor bit of information hoping for someone else to continue that line of thought (which is exactly what happened), they twisted it to make me sound as though I had no idea what I was talking about.  Fortunately, my rebuttal for that type of behavior is proving to be remarkably revealing.  I simply ask them for to state their motive.  They never do, since clearly declaring a purpose would expose what they are actually up to.

12-28-2006

Painful Step Forward.  It's never easy.  Recent message posts definitely confirms that.  The attacks on me are personal.  And that makes sense, since the data is so darn good now.  Rather than acknowledge facts, attempt to discredit the messenger.  Fortunately, more people are now noticing what's happening; so I don't let it bother me anymore.  Resistance to change is to be expected.  But events outside of the Toyota world are what have really captured my interest.  A supporter of GM began a discussion thread about Two-Mode hybrid technology on the Escape-Hybrid forum.  Members weren't happy about that.  I got to observe the very same behavior toward me in an entirely different context, a venue with no relation to the norm.  It was a brand new type of conflict.  Reading responses between hybrid enthusiasts of automakers both from Detroit was most definitely uncharted territory.  Sadly, the attack techniques were not.  It was the same old nonsense you've read about here for years.  What a strange way to repeat history.  Although painful, it is indeed a step forward.

12-28-2006

Misconceptions Thriving.  This one has been quite popular lately: "On the highway, it is actually wasting fuel because of it's needless weight."  I'm really getting tired of that misconception.  The belief that there is loss on the highway couldn't be further from the truth.  And it's pretty easy to prove too.  Just look at the engine on Camry-Hybrid. It's the same size as the traditional vehicle, but the pumping cycle is different.  Using Atkinson-Miller is more efficient than Otto.  The catch is that horsepower is sacrificed for that MPG  benefit. But since there's an electric-motor to compensate, that's a non-issue.  In fact, the overall performance is a horsepower gain.  Another MPG benefit also comes from the fact that there's an electric-motor available.  Having it means the engine can remain at a much more constant RPM than usual, which translates directly to a fuel savings.  Lastly, most people have no idea just how interactive the hybrid system actually is.  Seeing directional changes of the electricity flow 10 to 20 times per minute is totally normal in a "full" hybrid like Camry-Hybrid or Prius.  It's no big deal.  That's dramatically more often than what the misconception leads you to believe.  The fact that the battery-pack in Camry-Hybrid is only 114.6 pounds is another.  Next time your on a highway, notice how it is not absolutely flat or empty.  Opportunities for hybrid system to seek out a brief efficiency moment, even at 70 MPH, are plentiful.

12-27-2006

Coming in 2009.  There was an announcement today from Toyota (specifically, Asahi Shimbun) saying plans are to introduce a midsize hybrid-only model with a 2.5 or 3 liter engine.  Interesting, eh?  It will feature the upcoming new generation of hybrid design which should cost less and be even smaller.  That's great news!  I can't wait to hear more about it.  But like all things in the hybrid market, there is always a lot of waiting required.  This is no different.  Patience.

12-27-2006

Top 10 Words of 2006.  The word I hold near & dear made the list this year: "hybrid"  That really shouldn't be much of a surprise.  It's a popular topic recently.  So it only seems appropriate to officially acknowledge that much used term into the everyday vocabulary.  Becoming mainstream is no longer something off in the future.  That dream has come true.

12-27-2006

Polar Bears Protection.  It happened.  Official talk about putting them on the "Endangered Species" list is now underway.  Their environment is threatened.  Loss of habitat is difficult to deny.  Their survival is in jeopardy.  That's sad.  I sure hope we can prevent further damage.  But with so much working against Global Warming efforts, the outcome they face is not encouraging.  Maybe this new attention will help.

 

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