Prius Personal Log  #319

March 7, 2007  -  March 14, 2007

Last Updated: Sun. 3/25/2007

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3-14-2007

The Greatest Swindle.  There's a new documentary by that name circulating the internet.  It's a 75-minute video pointing out how we'd been made fools of for believe Global Warming.  The basic premise was simple: pretend "warming" actually means warming.  The poorly named weather effect that causes instability in climate resulting in extreme highs & lows as well as more violent and more frequent storms certainly is getting a lot of attention now.  I'm not sure just how much of an impact this attempt to mislead really will have though.  Even if the "warming" is not believed, the fact that new steps like hybrids are helping to revitalize the struggling automotive market as well as reduce our dependence on oil and also reduce pollution to the air we breath cannot be ignored.  So without a concern about carbon emissions, we should take those steps forward anyway.  Resistance to change comes in many forms, but this one really surprised me.  I never expected anything so elaborate to emerge.

3-13-2007

Walk Around The Lake.  Wow!  What a day.  I saw a whole bunch of Prius on the drive over to my girlfriend's house.  Our mission was to take advantage of the wonderful hint of Spring that had arrived today.  And we did.  We walked around a very large lake, watching the sunset and counting Prius.  Believe it or not, 9 drove by!  I've never seen so many while on foot in such a short amount of time (excluding gatherings, of course).  When the weather gets nice, apparently the owners all come out to play.

3-13-2007

Vue-Hybrid Sighting.  On the drive home, I saw my first ever Vue-Hybrid.  Seeing it brought about a mix of emotion.  What did the owner think?  Embracing new hybrid technology like that is great, but were they aware of the emission rating at the time of purchase?  Back with the first Honda hybrids were in the same situation, some owners experienced disappointment after finding out there was no smog-related emission reduction whatsoever.  They just assumed that "hybrid" label meant cleaner in every respect... which definitely wasn't the case.  Fortunately, Honda did end up offering cleaner models later.  Will GM do the same?  Will any of the current owners make the same post-purchase discovery?  I try to properly inform, but the intent of the message is usually consider an anti-GM post rather than a rally call for a model that actually does provide less of an impact on the environment.  Oh well.

3-13-2007

Price Alone.  Sadly, that story on the radio about hybrids was quite disappointing.  It grossly over-generalized.  Treating all hybrid designs as if they operated exactly the same way is just plain wrong.  But coming from a Detroit office making the claim that they were an unrealistic choice, it didn't surprise me.  His entire argument was based on price alone.  There was no mention of oil supply concerns or the quality of the air we breath.  It all came down to the dollar being the only purchase factor to acknowledge.  That figures.

3-13-2007

Surreal Moment.  I'm driving to work.  In one lane of the highway, there's an Escape-Hybrid.  In the other, there's a Lexus 400h.  I'm in the middle with my Prius.  The odds the 3 of us to all be side-by-side like that while a story on the radio about hybrids is taking place was unbelievable.  Yet, it happened.  That was very exciting.

3-12-2007

Subway Commercial.  A new advertisement from Subway shows a Prius in profile both at the beginning and at the end.  It was totally unnecessary for the television commercial to do that, but I sure did like it.  The part about their sandwiches was actually quite amusing too.  They did a humorous spin on how their new sides are so much healthier of a choice than what we are used to from the typical drive-thru places.  But what I like most is how they associated the hybrid and the food together what someone wanting something better would choose.  Clever marketing like that is great.

3-11-2007

Unexpected Research Data.  Discovering this today was quite rewarding.  A study published by the University of Delaware revealed a bunch of numbers comparing emissions between the Shipping & Aviation industries.  Along with that data was Automotive info.  I always knew our vehicles (consumer & commercial combined) contributed heavily, but had no idea exactly how much.  For CO2 (carbon dioxide) the relative unit measures were 5 times higher.  The counters the argument of the antagonists; the hybrids will indeed make a noticeable difference.  For NOx (smog), our vehicles were just one-fifth dirtier than shipping and an amazing 11.7 times dirtier than aviation.  So the difference their is a really big deal.  Whatever the reasoning, the crusade remains the same.  This was yet another source confirming the effort is well worth it.

3-11-2007

Entire Year.  Speaking of MPG data...  Basically, unless it spans an entire year, it is not truly representative of real-world.  It's that simple.  The complete annual cycle must be taken into account.  There are so many factors of influence involved, just a short sampling won't do.  It will inherently have some type of bias... even if the intent was to be objective as possible.  Of course, they could qualify it by stating exactly what the conditions were, but that rarely ever happens.  Most write-ups portray their results as if they were general expectation for everyone all the time.  In other words, unless you are looking at a minimum of 15,000 miles of data, you are probably being misled.  So the question instead becomes, was it from the person being poorly informed?  regrettably, sometimes it is not.

3-11-2007

Omission/Exclusion.  Today there was a discussion that came about from someone saying the frustrating article could just be "sloppy journalism".  My response was that reporters commonly make that error, not journalist.  Someone else pointed out that it was technique often used to mislead.  The most popular term for that is "cherry picking".  It's where you place emphasis on one particular bit of data.  Your information seems complete, but it is actually missing something vital.  Sadly, some reporters are guilty that unbalanced perspective.  The example we see far too frequently, as we did today, was reporting EPA estimates for several vehicles but only mentioning real-world data for Prius.  Regardless of intent, that most definitely paints a misleading picture.  You get a false impression from not having real-world data for the other vehicles as well.  Omitting/Excluding that is bad, period.  There's simply no excuse.  Journalist integrity usually avoids that situation, but not the reporters who quickly write hybrid articles to help sell their publication.  Be aware of this.  It's quite common.

3-11-2007

Interesting Two-Mode Twist.  This morning's batch of hybrid articles included one on the upcoming Durango-Hybrid.  It's the first Daimler-Chrysler to feature Two-Mode.  After describing the vehicle and setting up expectations, there was a surprisingly accurate paragraph about the operation of Prius.  I knew that was too good to be true.  For years, reporters didn't study the design.  They just guessed.  And more often than not, the assumptions made were either incorrect or incomplete.  But this time, no.  Instead, it was a brand new twist.  You were led to believe Prius only has one motor.  Durango-Hybrid will have two motors, hence "two" mode.  It never even dawned on me that anyone would even attempt such a wild claim.  That is a perfect example of verifiable deception.  That absolutely is not true, Prius also has two.

3-10-2007

50 MPG Minimum.  If that is what the concept "series" hybrid Volt is supposed to deliver with a depleted battery while being recharged while you are driving, why isn't the vehicle being planned for production now simply with a smaller or no battery-pack?  Many are asking that question now.  The circumstances of that situation doesn't make an sense.  How come GM has made such an efficiency claim and not followed through with anything?  Could it be that there are "smug" Prius owners (like me, apparently) driving around with 51.6 MPG average on their Multi-Display right now?  I'll admit, seeing that today was pretty fulfilling.  The strange hype for that concept vehicle does leave you wondering.

3-10-2007

Meaningless Modes.  Those three previous entries were all provided by GM itself, in a summary document explaining how Two-Mode works and how it is supposedly better than a single mode hybrid.  Problem is, those descriptions of the modes are ambiguous, too similar to justify a difference other than operational speed.  None of the Prius supporters with detailed knowledge of HSD can figure out what the heck they truly represent.  As far as we can tell, it's just a "full" hybrid design that provides the additional feature we've coined "disable electric".  All the other behaviors resemble what both Ford & Toyota hybrids already do... but in a way different enough to not infringe on any patents.  Otherwise, they are the same.  But the GM enthusiasts certainly don't see in that way.  They are claiming that the design is an improvement "quantum leap" magnitude, a "profound" advancement... yet none of them can actually explain why.  Then they really get frustrated when I mention GM's noted stages.  That pretty much destroys the concept of just "two", making "multi" a far more appropriate identifier.  But from a marketing perspective, being vague pays.  So the "two" is likely going to stick and become a point of lengthy debate.  Ultimately, the winning point will instead be real-world data.  Owner MPG reports cut through the nonsense.  Adding that to price and emission-rating will satisfy hybrid related questions from the typical consumer.  "Two" really doesn't tell them anything.

3-10-2007

Stages.  Input-split EVT range (continuously variable, "mode 1").  Compound-split EVT range (continuously variable, "mode 2").  First fixed gear ratio with electric boost/braking (two motors).  Second fixed gear ratio with electric boost/braking (one motor).  Third fixed gear ratio with electric boost/braking (two motors).  Fourth fixed gear ratio with electric boost/braking (one motor).

3-10-2007

Second Mode.  Used primarily at highway speeds. Full V8 engine power is used when conditions demand it - such as passing, trailer towing, or climbing steep grades. But the electric motors and electronic controls also help reduce fuel consumption even at highway speeds.

3-10-2007

First Mode.  Used at low speeds and light loads. The vehicle operates in three ways: electric power only, engine power only, or a combination of electric and engine power. Fuel consumption is reduced in stop-and-go traffic by shutting off the engine for extended periods and running exclusively under electric power at low speeds.

3-08-2007

Demand Up, Inventory Down.  This shouldn't surprise anyone.  The oil reserves were used in a non-emergency situation.  So allowing gas inventories to slip beyond the comfortable level was almost a given.  And that's exactly what has happened.  In other words, even though the price of oil remained at about the $60 mark, the price of gas is going up anyway.  With demand constantly going up, remaining status quo isn't even a good idea.  Pain at the pump will become more and more of a discussion topic.  How much can people tolerate before this slow trend in the wrong direction builds to an unpleasant pressure.  Hopefully, it will just be a source of frustration.  But then again, it could get ugly.  Let's hope hybrids are embraced in the meantime.  Continued record sales of Prius would be fantastic!

3-07-2007

Plug-In Credit.  A federal bill was filed two days ago to hopefully offer $3,000 to $6,150 in tax credits for those who purchase a plug-in hybrid.  Unfortunately, no details have been circulated yet.  So naturally, I'm curious as heck what the criteria will be.  There has to be some type of speed & distance minimum, as well as something to gauge how much of a credit the design should be given.  That could make things interesting.  Toyota's design already supports plug-in augmentation (which includes a higher capacity battery-pack).  Ford's can too, but the advantage is less due to a lower stealth speed and not offering electric A/C.  Nonetheless, there is still an undeniable benefit from that upgrade.  And GM's design for Two-Mode will in some fashion support the ability to take advantage of a plug too.  The anticipation is great, but that requires quite a bit of patience.  Acceptance to stuff like this hardly ever occurs quickly.

3-07-2007

Looking Back.  I wonder how many more comments like this we'll have to deal with: "There was a Prius before it, but it flopped hard core enough where Toyota thought about ending production till they revamped the hybrid system."  The blogs written during that time record a very different history from the looking back view.  It's normal for people afterward to interpret events of the past differently, since they already know what the outcome was.  But amongst the flurry of unknown forces, event predictions while things are actively unfolding remain a mystery.  And that's for people aware of the situation.  For newbies like the one posting the message today, they have no credibility.  Looking forward is fine.  But just making up stuff like the "flop" comment is just plain wrong.  If you don't believe me, try to predict how the market will change based on Toyota achieving their goal of selling 150,000 Prius annually in the United States.  A prominent hybrid like that remaining on the top-20 list could profoundly affect the current acceptance attitude.  People will later claim it was meant to be, that hybrids were a logical step forward in automotive history.  They'll entirely dismiss the idea that anyone would undermine the belief... since at that point hybrids would be no big deal.  But sadly right now, there are some that still intentionally feed the misconceptions to prevent the resistance to change from dying.

 

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