Prius Personal Log  #311

January 17, 2007  -  January 23, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 2/10/2007

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1-23-2007

State Of Denial Address.  The president's status of our union this evening was... hmm, frustrating seems to be the most appropriate adjective.  And anger is my response.  Without even waiting for the speech to end, I began typing my online rebuttal.  I wanted to provide a forum thread where people could chime in immediately, before any of their passion could subside as well.  So when that topic had concluded, I clicked the back button on my hard-drive recorder... over and over again.  I didn't want to miss any nuance from what he had just said.  We got the token comment about the need to press on with battery research, but that was it for hybrids.  The solution he proposed to reducing our "foreign oil" and "gas usage" problem is to expand the use of biodiesel, improve & increase the production of ethanol, and to step up domestic oil production.  Most disturbing was this: "At the same time, we need to reform and modernize the fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks."  What in the world is that suppose to mean?  It makes the situation sound as though light trucks are no longer contributing to the problem.  How is that teeny, tiny recent MPG increase mandate suppose to do anything but maintain the status quo?  He is most definitely in denial about what the true problem really is.

1-23-2007

Attitude Adjustment.  When a die-hard GM supporter made this statement, I just couldn't resist responding with some attitude of my own: "We all know who would win that battle - boring old hatchback Prius or stylish Volt?!  Gee I wonder who would be selling more?!!"  Prius, obviously.  The so-called "boring" vehicles always enjoy much higher sales count.  Camry, Corolla, and Prius have been the top selling cars from Toyota for years.  None of which are considered "stylish" vehicles, but their purchases equate to genuine popularity... the very definition of mainstream.  The perceived special vehicles don't actually sell in numbers anywhere near as high.  That's just the way the market works.  It's a reality some people simply don't want to face.

1-23-2007

Ford Edge.  This prototype hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle made its debut yesterday.  It comes with enough battery capacity to provide 25 miles of driving.  Now the fact that this type of vehicle is actually a hybrid has become obvious.  In the past, the battery-pack wasn't discussed.  But now due to plug-in attention, its presence gets lots of attention.  The improvements are noteworthy; both efficiency and cold weather operation are reaching the realistic level... a point at which use in Minnesota during the Winter is actually practical.  However, it is far from realistic.  Overlooking the fact that reliability remains a mystery, the price is totally beyond reach for the typical consumer.  And of course, the hydrogen itself remains a problem... it's expensive... it's not available... and it requires more energy than just direct electricity.  So why the heck is Ford showing off this technology?  When will something actually be available for purchase?

1-21-2007

Positive Press.  How bizarre.  I just read a newly published article singing favor to hybrids.  Seeing one so undeniably positive really had me beside myself.  That simply doesn't happen often, it's not what sells newspapers & magazines.  I have no idea why though.  Perhaps most people think the technology is so new that the part about being included in the early controversy is a draw.  You know, they'll say they new hybrids right after the concept stage, back when people were still uncertain what the outcome would be.  It's as if some are in denial about the fate of traditional vehicles, not accepting the reality that guzzling is totally inappropriate in the 21st Century.  Changing the mindset of a carefree, wasteful population is difficult.  Few ever consider what an "energy-neutral society" would be like.  That's our inevitable future.  It's not a matter of if, it is a question of when.  Will we make it happen or our children?

1-21-2007

Funding.  How do you think Toyota will be funding the expansion of their hybrid technology?  For that matter, GM?  Reinvesting profit made in the short-term for survival in the long-term isn't rocket science.  It's good business.  If we continue to see a steady rollout of new & upgraded hybrids, there is still a benefit beyond any of the competition... for Toyota.  Of course, GM could show Toyota up by actually delivering more.  But how will they fund that effort?  And what is the world is Ford going to do?

1-21-2007

Plug-In Misconception.  Well, this is pretty much a dead topic now.  Yeah!  The reveal of Chevy Volt, the very first marketable "series" hybrid, it has become blatantly obvious to even the typical uninformed consumer that the other hybrids don't offer a plug.  Too bad it was only a concept vehicle, not something that will actually be available for purchase anytime soon.  But nonetheless, it does help reinforce the fact that hybrid designs can differ significantly.  That's the ultimate example for my NOT THE SAME arguments.  It pushes the message hard that configuration can vary dramatically, that not all hybrids are created equal.  So, I'm pretty darn happy now.

1-21-2007

Recal Events.  It has been well proven that the "full" hybrids are in a league quite different than the "assist" hybrids.  The design of the two types have little in common; the operation and many components simply don't share any similarities.  But it is still helpful from time to time to report on what those "assist" owners are saying to keep any misconceptions from growing.  And it's good to report new hybrid findings regardless.  In this case, it has to do with recal events.  That's when the computer gets mixed up and discovers the SOC (State-Of-Charge) displayed for the battery-pack isn't correct.  So, the system basically resets itself... without notice, which raises concern for new owners.  Anywho, it now appears as though they only happen in the cold now, based on the online conclusions owners have drawn.  Honda must have provided a software update better track battery activity during the warm season.  Improvements like that often go unappreciated.  But from as a programmer, I'll definitely acknowledge its value.  Making hybrids of all kinds more robust is a big deal.

1-21-2007

This Time Is Different.  The proposal of increased standards in Europe has sparked a revisit of the California Zero-Emission Mandate.  Thankfully, it's not the same this time.  That past effort was too strict, not allowing for any flexibility.  This time, a "fleet level average" is being proposed rather than an "absolute per vehicle".  Also, the technology is significantly more advanced now and the market for such a product has already been proven.  So I'm quite curious what will happen.  Acceptance there could mean something here.

1-20-2007

Reality.  The reality is that augmented Prius are already on the road is difficult for some GM supporters to acknowledge.  Those handful of converted existing vehicles reveal just how urgent the need really is for GM to respond with something more than just a prototype.  Good intentions don't cut it.  The very positive public reaction to Volt is a clear indication that the next step must be taken soon.  But the better scenario looks to be a Two-Mode plug-in model.  Upgrading that platform, which GM itself has confirmed supportive of augmentation, makes a whole lot more business sense than starting from scratch with an entirely new competing design.  It's definitely quicker and less of a risk.

1-20-2007

Europe Proposal.  The level is remarkably strict.  I suspect some type of compromise before ratification.  Setting the mark high is great for feedback.  So it's a good start.  Prius already makes the cut and the new model will be even more efficient.  So resistance will be less from the Toyota crowd, especially due to the fact that Prius is bigger than the typical vehicles people already own there helps too.  So achieving a fleet average could be within their reach.  Of course, there is a bit of silliness.  For crying out loud, the bar should be raised... especially since Prius will be 15 years old the time the proposal becomes effective.  There's simply no excuse.  It is realistic.  After all, automakers are showing off concept models with greatly improved efficiency.  Shouldn't they be held accountable to actually deliver?

1-19-2007

AWD Prius.  Rumor is that the new model will debut in Japan with an AWD (All Wheel Drive) option.  That makes perfect sense.  Adding an electric motor or two for the back wheels is already a reality with both Highlander-Hybrid and Estima-Hybrid.  So why not Prius too?  I wonder if any other market will get that right away as well.  Hmm.  Like usual, patience is required.

1-19-2007

Check Engine, Again.  That light came on again.  But this time, I was ready for it.  I suspected that the cause could be bad gas.  My visit to an unfamiliar, very old gas station along the highway, coincided perfectly.  There was a tanker truck dumping its load at the time too, which still in modern times can stir up sediment & water which could get pumped into your tank.  Maybe that's what happened, because just a minute after driving away an error had been triggered.  I was frustrated by seeing that light return.  But it also provided the opportunity to confirm my other hunch.  Would it shut off after the fourth start?  It had before.  Was it a coincidence or just a software behavior to reminder that a minor error had been detected?  Whatever the case, the light did indeed shut off after the fourth start (a day and a half later).  If it happens again, that may be time to check the code itself.  We'll see.  For now, I'm not worried, since there appears to be no negative effect on performance whatsoever.

1-18-2007

Not Caring.  Telling someone that an effective way to inspire change is a website that shares lots of real-world data & experiences didn't go over too well.  His response was, "I would love to be able to devote that kind of time, but I don't care to."  Of course, I was well aware of how common that attitude was many years ago.  It's what inspired me.  Knowing that few would ever be willing was great encouragement.  The efforts would not go unnoticed. That reality is why the term "Inconvenient Truth" hits home on so many levels.  Change requires action... which is often not what people want to do.  Don't feel guilty.  But don't fight it either.  Acknowledge the need.  Then let those willing contribute.  It's pretty obvious people won't have the time, they have a life to live.  Some of us though, define life as something we do to make a difference.  Care comes from that... and it allows me to climb up on the soapbox from time to time.

1-18-2007

A very constructive question.  Wow!  Too bad that doesn't happen more often.  Oh well.  The question was whether or not my website was just a duplicate effort.  I actually worried about the very thing when the big Prius forum was established, 3 years after my website had become popular.  It turns out that there is very little duplication.  Forums hit an entirely different audience than the random online searcher... whom of which rarely participates in discussions and prefers to remain anonymous.  Of course, that could just be a "right place, right time" circumstance that cannot be duplicated anymore, now that the internet is so much more evolved.  But then again, if the forum doesn't dedicate a section specifically to the effort, contributions will get lost among the chatter.  We've seen that failure already with both Honda & Ford, who still to this day struggle to draw continuous online attention.

1-18-2007

Dashboard Screens.  The discussion today took at interesting turn.  It started with comments about navigation systems.  Some see how obvious of a new standard they will become.  Others haven't even thought of what the change means.  Since the screen also provides a sweet interface for MP3 access, there will be tremendous demand for that... especially when you consider playlists and trying to find a particular song among thousands.  Then there's the benefit of a backup camera, which can use the same screen.  Seeing that blindspot is priceless.  People are just now discovering how incredibly handy a Bluetooth interface on the screen can be.  Your phone-numbers and caller-id have never been so convenient.  And for those that actually care about MPG, the ability to see that data on the screen is quite enlightening.  In other words, at some point, not having a screen in your car will be a very real shortcoming... a factor that will influence resale value.

1-17-2007

I Had No Idea.  It seemed way too weird.  Why was one of the responses last week so extreme?  There was a hostile accusation of me lying.  That totally blew me away.  What in the world could have triggered such a reaction like that, especially after just reciting the same old information that's been discussed for over 5 years?  I finally got my answer today.  By continuing with other discussions there, I was informed by a veteran member that he had no idea how hybrids actually work.  It was that honest & direct reveal which provided the clue I was so desperately wanting.  There was a rather significant misconception at play!  The confusing (and somewhat upsetting) confrontation originated from a statement about highway operation.  It now seems as though the GM supporter genuinely believed there was no benefit of the current hybrid systems on the highway at all, that the upcoming Two-Mode design was finally a solution to fulfill a rather huge shortcoming.  I had no idea the understanding of hybrid operation had become so distorted.  In reality, the implementation of GM's enhancement is an attempt to deliver something that could effectively be called an "overdrive" feature, where there's a measurable gain from locking components during sustained highway cruising... similar in concept to what an automatic transmission does.  He seriously thought I was trying to conceal a flaw.  The thought that "full" hybrids utilize their electric motors often on long highway trips never crossed his mind.  He had assumed the battery-pack would be dead after just a few minutes of driving at fast speeds.  Fortunately, I'll refrain from pointing out his error directly.  Such a mistaken assumption and the resulting terrible behavior could be quite embarrassing for him.  I'd rather not upset anyone in that manner.  Perhaps someone will read this entry and discreetly explain out the actual situation.

1-17-2007

Ford Plug-In.  They debuted a strange, new concept vehicle.  The fact that it was a "series" hybrid using a fuel-cell stack in place of an engine wasn't the strange part though.  In fact, nothing was odd about that at all.  For years, the well-informed have known that would be how the fuel-cell vehicles would be configured.  Just adding a plug to the already available battery-pack isn't a big deal.  It's the vehicle itself.  The thing was one of those "ooh!" and "ahh!" flashy concepts that people absolutely love seeing at auto shows but wouldn't be caught dead in one at home.  That mindset has been around for decades.  It's well proven, yet automakers still take advantage of that misleading hype to draw attention to themselves.  Oh well.  In this case, it was obviously something we still won't be seeing at dealer showrooms for a very, very long time.

 

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