Prius Personal Log  #322

March 27, 2007  -  April 3, 2007

Last Updated: Tues. 5/01/2007

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4-03-2007

Committed.  This quote from Lutz two weeks ago... "We are 100 percent committed to making this happen." ...hasn't faded yet.  In fact, some Volt enthusiasts interpreted that as a declaration of high-volume production intentions.  How?  That isn't realistic.  Remember the Honda Insight?  One year, only 250 of them were produced for the United States.  That certainly qualifies it as being "available" to consumers.  But with so few, it could only be considered a token effort.  Does GM intend to make Volt a mainstream vehicle?  Making the commitment happen doesn't implicitly mean large quantities will immediately be available.  Even traditional vehicles have a first-year consumer hesitation reality to deal with, and that doesn't even include any new technology support.  Think about the training mechanics require.  All that took time for Prius.  And won't they already be preoccupied with education needs for BAS and Two-Mode support?  Just how many new hybrid types can quickly be thought?  In other words, don't expect it soon.

4-03-2007

Curious.  On the drive home last night, the check engine came on again.  So, I swung by Toyota to arrange an appointment for tomorrow morning.  Then of course, when I did get home, there was a confirmation email that my ScanGaugeII had been shipped.  To make not knowing what the actual code is even more of a curiosity, the light shut off during this evening's drive home.  Timing is everything.  I'm clearly going to just barely miss this opportunity to find out on my own.  Oh well.  It's the actual need that has me more curious than anything.  Remembering back when a mysterious check-engine light came on for my Taurus, it turned out to be just the PCV value needed replacement.  That was no big deal.  I wonder what this will end up being, especially since the Prius doesn't exhibit any operational signs of distress.  Hmm.

4-02-2007

Supreme Decision.  In the past, the EPA claimed they lacked the authority to regulate emissions from new cars & trucks.  The state of Massachusetts disputed that, in court.  Today, the Supreme Court ruled in their favor.  The EPA was told to reconsider regulation, since they do indeed have that needed authority.  Now what?  The Bush administration used that unknown as an excuse to not do anything on the federal level, leaving that task to the less power state governments instead.  Now a nationwide objective can be established, but will that actually happen?  Doing the minimum has been their motto for the past 6 years.  Expecting significant change, even though there is a clear need, is a bit of a dream.  The push for lower carbon emissions means improvement to MPG standards.  Wasteful guzzlers was advertised as good for the economy.  Now we know the opposite was true.  Investing in new technologies to reduce emissions & consumption is a far more effective business plan... which Toyota has clearly demonstrated.  Will the EPA finally acknowledge that?  What about the Bush administration?  Pressure to do something is building.

4-01-2007

Makes You Wonder.  When a message like this is posted... "How many years old is the OLDEST hybrid? Is the answer 3 perhaps? Maybe 4!" ...how would you respond?  I pointed out that my first hybrid purchase was 6.5 years ago and the very first Prius was sold over 9 years ago.  But I couldn't tell if the person was intentionally attempting to mislead or he was so poorly informed that he has been unknowingly contributing to misconceptions for awhile.  Admitting either afterward takes strong character, something you rarely see online.  So, I'll probably never find out.  But at least he knows the data about battery-pack life is far more extensive that was being portrayed in that discussion thread.

4-01-2007

Vehicle Compliance.  Posted in a brand new document on the EPA website for emission criteria is the following: "For diesel-cycle light-duty vehicles and light-duty trucks, emission-related maintenance, such as the adjustment, cleaning, repair or replacement of the catalytic converter can not occur before 100,000 miles of use or before 100,000 mile intervals thereafter."  That's not actually different from gas vehicles.  Consumers shouldn't have to do anything before 100,000 miles.  But with the urea solution (a chemical sprayed into the exhaust fumes) for diesel, carrying enough to last that entire duration is totally impractical, to the point of being absurd.  So instead, there is a set of alternative criteria available for automakers to meet vehicle compliance with:  1. Driver warning system;  2. Driver inducement;  3. Identification of incorrect reducing agent;  4. Tamper resistant design;  5. Durable design.  They present an interesting set of challenges though.  It is definitely sufficient to disqualify non-hybrid diesel supporters from ever using the KISS argument anymore.  I like that.  Their system-complexity arguments were never sincere.  The compliance requirements will act as an equalizing agent, so we can finally focus on what really counts, vehicle cost & emissions & efficiency.

4-01-2007

ScanGaugeII.  Well, I finally caved and ordered one.  It's a scan-tool that provides live data via the standard ODB-II connector found in virtually every car now on the road.  That data-port is the same one the mechanics use to attach their very expensive diagnostic equipment.  When Prius was new here, there were no affordable offerings for a device of this sort.  You could buy some at less than professional prices though.  They came handmade from engineers looking for a way of sharing data with others.  (You know, get them excited about something the typical consumer is totally unaware of.)  I've seen a few of those custom tools.  Most used a simple output screen, but one that actually took advantage of the Multi-Display in the Prius itself.  Whatever the type, the purpose was the same.  First, it provided codes... something I could have taken advantage of last week.  That "check engine" light came on again.  This time, I waited an extra long time, then tested the theory that somehow it was just the emission system.  And sure enough, taking the fuel cap off then putting it back on with several extra clicks made the light immediately shut off.  If I would have known the code being thrown, no guessing would have been needed.  What that just a coincidence?  But I didn't have a scan-tool.  Soon though, I will.  Saving the trip and cost to the dealer is a big plus; however, that's not the compelling reason for it.  The scan-tool is very much a toy for the big kids... like me!  Operational data is displayed too.  You have the choice of viewing 4 things (on its backlit text interface) at once.  RPM is among them.  Knowing precisely what the engine is doing would be both entertaining & informative.  That's something I could most definitely entice enthusiasts with.  Anywho, it's yet another component to add to the excitement of the hybrid ownership experience.

4-01-2007

Biofuel Argument.  The ethanol backlash is growing.  Of all things, Castro (long-time dictator of communist Cuba) finally broke his silence with a cry against the hype in the United States for ethanol.  Starving people by using corn for fuel instead doesn't make any sense.  I agree.  That's why hybrids are required too.  Using less fuel in the first place is a must.  Diesel supporters aren't thrilled about that.  Just the switch to biodiesel alone was supposed to be their ultimate answer to our fuel problems.  But now with all ethanol attention, that appeal is souring... especially since non-corn sources of are getting more focus.  I sure hope the waste matter from routine harvests and the waste energy from routine industrial processes quickly becomes what supports ethanol production.  Combined with really efficient hybrids, we're looking at solutions are children will be pleased with.

4-01-2007

Fear Of Change.  Sometimes, the resistance really is that simple.  In today's case, it came in the form of this quote from a die-hard diesel supporter: "Barely enough works for me."  Naturally, that was in response to me pointing out how the newest diesel vehicles now using ULSD (Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel) only deliver a emission rating of Tier-2 Bin-5.  That's the absolute minimum required level for 50-state sales qualification.  Gas vehicles have met that for years, so it is most definitely not helpful for those wanting a smog-related emission improvement.  Only vehicles delivering a SULEV or the even better PZEV do that.  A few limited availability non-hybrid gas vehicles do that.  All of the Toyota hybrids are at least SULEV rated.  Whatever the case, it was yet another example of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) because the reply posted following that from another non-hybrid diesel supporter was how owners will be in for quite a shock when battery-packs need replacement.  I followed by pointing out how an owner is now approaching 300,000 miles using his original and the fact that automatic transmissions may have faced similar FUD at first too... which is clearly no longer an concern of any kind anymore.

3-31-2007

Hybrid Components.  This is good news.  Toyota announced an upcoming plant in Fukuoka, Kyushu for hybrid components.  It should join into the production process in 2009, contributing to the other two plants already in use in Japan.  That news should add to the growing speculation of just how serious Toyota really is about large-scale hybrid intentions.  This definitely puts them on track for offering a wide variety of hybrids at quantities to support the ever-increasing concern about the environment and dependence on oil.  Sweet!

3-31-2007

Series verses Plug-In Full.  Those excited about Volt can't seem to acknowledge that topic with any logical reasoning.  In fact, most avoid responding entirely.  Too bad.  They are going to have to face reality soon.  GM's intent to deliver a "full" hybrid with plug-in support will make others address that issue of what would make a "series" hybrid a better purchase.  From most already driving a "full" hybrid, simply upgrading to a higher capacity battery-pack with a plug is a logical choice.  The benefit of an engine optimized for nothing but generating electricity is somewhat elusive.  So much depends on the actual configuration & price of the vehicle delivering that design.  Concept alone is clearly not enough, despite what the supporters vaguely claim.  Data is what will reveal the answer.  Too bad they are unwilling to wait.  Those wanting a plug upgrade have learned that patience is required.

3-30-2007

$66.66 Per Barrel.  Seeing a sudden jump to $2.69 per gallon for regular gas and hearing about near record highs for oil prices has caught people's attention here.  Elsewhere, the price of gas is well over $3 already.  So all the news about hybrids being the victim of cheap gas sure seem silly now.  Even that spin about Toyota being desperate to unload inventory doesn't make sense anymore.  It was a sound business plan.  Increase stock, then promote.  Sales last month were record breaking.  I can't wait for the results of this month's sales to be published.  I bet they were equally as impressive.

3-30-2007

Hydrogen Hype.  It continues... for fuel-cell use.  Why?  Since there are several Prius (11 more delivered today in Norway from Quantum) that have already been converted to use hydrogen in their combustion engine, the argument for a fuel-cell becomes even more difficult.  What's the point?  Driving the hydrogen highway with a Prius makes a whole lot more sense.  Fuel-Cells are still way too costly and are still nowhere near robust enough for long-life automotive use.  It will take quite awhile before they become practical enough as an engine replacement.  In the meantime, battery technology continues to improve, which makes the plug-in hybrid the solution appealing for quite some time now.  Expecting a fuel-cell anytime soon is totally unrealistic.  Of course, using the electricity for charging a battery-pack rather than for converting hydrogen makes more sense.  But if you are going to use hydrogen, why not in a super-clean combustion engine?  What's the gain from using a fuel-cell instead?

3-28-2007

One Size Fits All.  This antagonist technique isn't explicitly identified in my anti-hybrid analysis.  I think I'll need to do something about that.  After all, there are some fiercely resisting change still.  Anywho, the argument was presented in the context of support for GM's Two-Mode hybrid design... but it seemed as though the underlining overall intent was to undermine hybrids entirely.  Presenting hybrids in a fashion of making them appear too complex and too confusing can deter interest.  But not everyone falls for that.  And I'll help by pointing out that one size does not fit all.  Configuration can be different, despite what they lead you to believe.  The example today was how Prius loses power after a very long climb up a mountain.  After the battery-pack is depleted, all energy comes exclusively from the engine.  The antagonists didn't care that energy normally directed to the battery-pack for recharging was sent to the electric motor instead for contributing thrust to the wheels.  I simply didn't care.  That stubborn attitude didn't bother me in the slightest.  Experience from my parent's Corolla clearly demonstrated that Prius handles those climbs just fine.  It's not a power demon, as the antagonist argued you'd need.  Some people do need.  But most don't.  (It's actually a want.)  They accept objective-satisfying behavior, much like other similar performing non-hybrids.  Yes, that's boring.  But it makes sense.  Why would everyone need a hybrid system designed to deliver very large & heavy payload capacity?  That much power is gross overkill.  It's that same mindset that convinced many they needed a SUV, even though a car had been just fine for them for decades.  More isn't necessary.  The "one size fits all" message is an attempt to deceive.

3-28-2007

Two Prius.  Well, how about that!  For ages, there has been a Prius parked in a driveway of a house that I often drive by.  One day last Summer with a kayak loaded on top, I stopped to say high.  The owner suspended his lawn-mowing chore to visit with me.  After all, seeing a Prius being used that way is a rather enticing sight.  He had exciting news to share with me.  They were planning to add another Prius to their family soon.  And sure enough, that finally happened.  Now there are two Prius sitting in that driveway.  Cool!

3-27-2007

Forgotten.  Now I'm really frustrated.  A point as important as this shouldn't be so easily forgotten, yet that's what exactly happened.  Just because an automaker produces a lot of vehicles that run on E85 doesn't mean owners will actually put E85 in the tank.  That non-use reality is quite obvious here in Minnesota where E85 is abundant.  I almost never see anyone at a E85 pump.  So I should be the first to point out that the president's goal of reducing gas consumption cannot be accomplished without consumer participation.  They must use E85.  It's the very reason why I always mention E10, and in yesterday's case E20.  Forgetting why is a problem, but only when it comes to the initial legislation.  Once a mandate takes effect, everyone will use some ethanol... which would have far more of an impact than a smaller number with the option to use a higher blend.  And of course, don't forget that less is needed in the first place if you drive a hybrid.

 

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