Prius Personal Log  #314

February 7, 2007  -  February 11, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 3/03/2007

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2-11-2007

Nothing New, part 2.  Volt is only a concept vehicle, using extremely expensive components and not ready for consumer production.  Yet, a number of GM supporters (despite several press-releases stating the contrary) are beginning to treat it as if that was the solution was almost at hand.  Some have even went as far as starting to use the "stop gap" claim again.  Apparently, Toyota is on the verge of falling behind.  Those supporters "all talk and nothing to show for it" attitude is a whole new level above smug.  There isn't even an actual product in their possession like with Prius owners.  It's just an idea that is growing way out of hand.  Fortunately, I do find objectivity in the whole situation quite reassuring.  The simple act of asking for detail causes of flurry of passionate vague responses.  In other words, nothing new.

2-11-2007

Nothing New, part 1.  This provoked a summary: "A "series" hybrid will run the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) in a more efficient mode than that of a plug-in Two-Mode.  Plus the drive train is much more simple in a series hybrid (more reliable) and fewer components (probably cheaper too)."  There have been Prius on the road in the United States since the second half of 2000.  Reliability has proven to be above average compared to the non-hybrid. So that is already a weak point.  And by the time a "series" hybrid is commonly available, the point will be moot.  As for the "probably cheaper" thought, how much are we truly taking about?  Only a few hundred dollars won't be enough to convince people.  That too has been proven, as we've seen with the price swings for gas.  Efficiency is mystery.  Real-World conditions differ significantly from on-paper calculations.  So we'll definitely need to wait for actual data.  Currently, I'm experiencing my 7th Winter with a "full" hybrid.  Listening to comments from "assist" hybrid owners and diesel enthusiasts over the years has been interesting.  They felt strongly about what they support, but it didn't transfer well to the general market.  Prius, on the other hand, did.  Now I'm starting to see the same pattern emerge for the "series" hybrid.  The comments are interesting, but there is no compelling force in that direction.  A "full" hybrid upgraded with greater batter-capacity and a plug delivers a much better business & consumer argument.  I'm not hearing anything new.

2-11-2007

Other Recalls.  They happen.  But when it's a hybrid that isn't Prius, not much attention is given.  That's not what sells newspapers.  Anywho, Civic-Hybrid is the victim this time.  45,335 of them have potential voltage-converter problem.  The faulty design could cause a short-circuit and stop the engine.  Sound familiar?  Makes you wonder what the online responses to this will be.  Fortunately, it's an inexpensive repair.  So it won't cost Honda much or the owners anything.  Sadly, I bet that part won't be mentioned.  This is the kind of stuff those darn anti-hybrid thrive on.

2-11-2007

Australian Camry-Hybrid.  That's the plan for 2011.  Rather than importing, they hope to begin local production then.  I enjoy hearing about long-term strategies like that.  Domestic production of Camry-Hybrid in the United States became a reality late last year.  Hopefully, the same will be happening with Prius on a similar schedule.  When a new model is introduced, a local plant is equipped.  After all, it's worldwide market helping to deal with a global problem.  Having that kind of reach does have advantages.

2-11-2007

70,000 Mile - Oil Change.  This was the second change now on the 7,500 mile interval.  The oil was in the exact condition I expected... dark & thick, but still less aged than in a traditional vehicle.  With an engine that has a low redline (5,000 RPM) and never gets excessively hot anyway, it should last longer.  And it does, as more and more HSD owners are proving.  Of course, using synthetic adds to the protective & longevity nature of the oil too.  The fact that the Classic used that longer interval from the beginning helped with the decision.  The only operational difference in the model's engines was a 500 RPM lower redline.  Anywho, the change itself was a snap.  The process was quick & easy, even in a bitter cold garage like I experienced this evening.  There was no reason to bother firing up the propane heater.  It was all inside of the usual 30 minutes I take from setting up work area to washing my hands upon completion.  No big deal.  The price remains quite reasonable too, just $20.22 for the supplies (oil, filter, crush-washer) I had purchased ahead of time.

2-10-2007

Polo BlueMotion.  Remember that totally unrealistic supposed competition with Prius 6 years ago?  It was a non-hybrid diesel from VW.  The car was dirty, slow, and dangerous.  There's a replacement on the way, called Polo.  It's much more refined, not as slow, and not as dangerous.  That's enough to gain attention here... but probably not for the reason the automaker wants.  I'm seeing a new trend emerge.  New technologies that deliver high efficiency are being held to a higher standard.  They must also be clean.  No where in any press release could I find mention of smog-related emission levels.  Vital information like that missing is not a good sign.  Of course, only a single value was listed for MPG without any explanation of the driving conditions it represented.  That's not good either.

2-10-2007

The Arizona Mess.  A few years ago, that state had a disaster.  New vehicle purchases were 50 percent reimbursed if they had the ability to run using an alternative fuel, like ethanol.  Needless to say, quite a number of people took advantage of that.  They got lots of money back from their purchase and were never required to actually ever use the alternative fuel.  They could fill the tank with gas its entire life if they wanted.  And most did.  To make matters worse, they were also given the privilege of driving in the HOV without any passengers.  Talking about a lawmaker blunder!  Those are major embarrassing mistakes.  Fortunately, they are now recovering from that damage.  The reimbursing ended awhile ago.  The HOV privilege will soon.  Phew!  In an interesting twist, the current Prius and Civic-Hybrid registered in the state as well as purchases in the short-term will be given that HOV privilege... since capacity will soon be available.

2-09-2007

Freezing.  All week the high temperature has been only in the single digits.  It's freezing cold here, especially seeing that minus-sign on the Multi-Display every evening.  To make matters worse, the MPG had dropped all the way down to a 36.1 average.  Driving nothing but very short trips, not commuting, and keeping the heater busy really has an deflating effect on efficiency.  Of course, even at its worse, Prius is still better than the majority at its best.  Thankfully, I got back to the routine near the end of the week.  The MPG climbed.  Now I'm seeing a 41.4 average.  That's much better.  I can't wait until Winter is finally over.  You know that has happened once 50 MPG returns.

2-09-2007

Hearsay.  This is typical... "From everything I've heard, they really don't get any better mileage than most compact cars."  Who told you?  How much of a data sampling did you actually get to see?  Why would you compare a compact to midsize?  What was the emission rating?  Simple questions like that often wreck the credibility of those claims very quickly.  Don't take comments at face-value.  Ask for detail.  You'll often find the person is either poorly informed or protecting their own interest by being vague.

2-08-2007

Newsworthy.  Apparently, anything Prius will attract the attention of the media these days... even offering reduced financing to increase annual sales by another 50,000 per year.  We sure saw a lot of articles and heard a lot of reports about that today.  Phew!  Reaching for a wider market and customers not having to wait anymore is a good thing.  But with all the spin they give a move like that, you have a hard time figuring that out.  For example, the title descriptor used in one of the more confusing articles was "tough sell".  It mentioned sales had "flattened".  Since when is 100,000 vehicles per year (actually 106,971 in 2006) a bad thing?  That has always been enough to qualify a vehicle as mainstream.  Now Prius gets the occasional incentive just like other mainstream vehicles.  Geez!  There's nothing out of the ordinary about that.  It's perfectly normal.  Suppose they'll end up making a big deal out of not having to pay MSRP anymore too?

2-08-2007

$81 Million.  That's how much was proposed in the federal budget for research on advanced hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.  It's a very small amount of money compared to how much money automakers routinely spend.  Heck, just advertising alone could equate to more than that.  (Remember, one 30-second commercial spot during this year's SuperBowl cost $2.6 Million.)  So it begs me to ask the question... what the heck will the money actually be used for?  Is this the same almost pointless research like the we saw from the PNGV replacement, where all they did essentially was just study the hybrids already available?  And who will the results be shared with?  Technological advances always include a patent, so someone would control access and collect royalties.  I sure wish the purpose would be revealed.  But that makes far too much sense.  No wonder new programs featuring satire have become so popular.

2-07-2007

Misconception Alert!  I wondered how long it would take... "With a range of 1 mile, that means that the useful life of this battery in full electric mode is 500-1000 miles."  That isn't even remotely close to how the system actually works.  The "EV button" basically encourages the engine to remain off longer (up to 35 MPH).  This feature has been available in Japan and Europe since HSD debuted over 3 years ago.  It's an additional behavior available, different from stealth mode (up to 42 MPH) which under ideal conditions provides a 3-mile range.  To cycle the battery, you'd have to deeply discharge it.  That would require driving at least 6 more miles, something the system simply doesn't allow.  So the 1 mile you get is rather trivial.  In fact, it's quite normal.  Only normally, the computer decides when.  With the "EV button", you can request it.  Most people have no idea just how much electricity is utilized by the "full" hybrids already on the road today.  So I expect this misconception to temporarily flourish until those with the technical knowledge can spread the understanding and prevent the assumptions.

2-07-2007

Still Misleading.  When will the madness end?  A well known troublemaker is exploiting the recent Highlander-Hybrid announcement for the upcoming 2008 model to intentionally reinforce the false belief that a 4-cylinder version of the hybrid isn't possible.  I wonder how many people will actually fall for that.  Hmm?  With Camry so similar underneath, you'd think this wouldn't even be a problem.  After all, it was very well publicized originally that they were developed from the same platform.  Yet, he keeps feeding the misconception anyway.  How dumb does he think Toyota is?  Would they really design an entirely new model that couldn't support a second configuration?  That doesn't even make any sense.  They offer more than one engine size for the non-hybrid already.  The difference internally for the hybrid is relatively minor.  I'm tired of this.  But with his loyalty firmed placed elsewhere, I have no choice but to tolerate him still misleading.  Arrgh!

2-07-2007

Ugly As Sin.  Now it's the new Highlander (the 2008 model) they can't stand.  Geez!  One person even went as far as saying he threw up a little when he saw it.  There was post after post repeating the ugly theme over and over again.  In other words, because the newest model looks even more like a car and less like a truck, there's no way it can possibly be appealing.  It was either that or the fact that the "EV button" will now be available in North America.  That's a feature already built into HSD hybrids but not enabled here.  Japan and Europe have had it for years.  But not us.  For owners here, we have to purchase a momentary-switch ourselves and manually wire the connection.  It's pretty handy in certain circumstances... so handy, I bet the competition fears it.  I sure would like that button.  And perhaps I'll add one this Summer.  But for now, that special feature would taint my real-world data.  So, I have to continue using the factory configuration a little bit longer.  Once others can conveniently upgrade (perhaps a dealer service, just like with cruise-control for the Classic model), widespread promotion of the benefit may begin.  I think that's what certain people really find ugly.  Rather than hype that you'll get something years from now, people with hybrids already several years old will be able to take advantage of a currently "hidden" feature.  Sweet!

2-07-2007

1,000 New Pumps by 2008.  That was pledged in the "State of the State" address for Michigan last night.  Those pumps would be new sources of ethanol & biodiesel for consumers.  But how many filling stations is that?  I can easily imagine several pumps at each.  And how widespread will they be?  For many years, E85 could only be found in the metro-area of Minnesota.  Of course, when is the true deadline?  Is it really less than 11 months away or does that actually mean by the end of that year?  Also, why no mention of a mandated blend?

2-07-2007

Funding Problems.  The last two days have been a mess if you are driving around here.  Last year, the governor refused to approve the gas tax for road maintenance funding, and now it appears the suffering from that has begun.  Yesterday's snow resulted in an unusually high amount of accidents during the routine commute.  Today's tragedy is from black ice, that nasty slippery build-up on roads from vehicle exhaust in the extreme cold.  Later it will be the all-too-clear reminder that the Crosstown (a heavily used junction of major metro highways) reconstruction is still on hold due to money shortages.  For crying out loud, adding a few cents to the price of gas for use to make roads better is a perfectly logical thing to do.  Yet instead, we get a veto on the idea.  Arrgh!  To make it more infuriating is the fact that gas costs quite a bit less now than it did when the bill was originally introduced.  So today, people wouldn't even notice that tax.  Of course, it's just delaying the inevitable.  Why wait?  The highway reconstruction is absolutely necessary and the bills incurred from accident repairs continue to add up.  But calling the funding a "tax" makes some politicians uncomfortable, so we continue to wait for an alternative money solution to emerge.  In the meantime, the problems continue.

 

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