Prius Personal Log  #368

March 10, 2008  -  March 21, 2008

Last Updated: Sun. 3/30/2008

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3-21-2008

Bridge Closure.  Careful inspection upon a bridge here of the same design as the one that fell last Summer revealed buckling of gusset-plates, the very support-component they believed to have caused failure in the other.  Needless to say, officials took the initiative to play it safe.  They closed this one.  Fortunately, the decision came easier due to the fact that money is available for repair or replacement.  That gas tax, which required a veto-override, is helping to fund efforts that were previously hampered... just like this.  It's really sad that it sometimes takes a disaster before proper action is taken.

3-20-2008

7-Speed Double-Clutch.  I stumbled across a diagram of that design employed by Audi & VW to improve efficiency.  It's the most amazing transmission you'll ever see.  The engineers seem to have pulled off a miracle.  To get something that incredibly complex to work so well is quite impressive.  But with that many interacting components, cost & reliability were obviously not high priorities.  That is most definitely a step in the wrong direction if the goal is mainstream penetration.  The "transmission" used by Prius looks like a toy in comparison, as if something was overly simplified or missing.  But in reality, it's all you actually need... as the owners have clearly proved.  I suspect 7-speed double-clutch transmissions will remain a niche offering as a result.

3-20-2008

All About Volt.  The theme of that gathering was "Volt Nation".  It was the launch of a new effort to unite based on a single vehicle.  I pointed out how they were following the history of Insight.  They too had established a group of strong supporters, but showed no interest in spreading the technology to other vehicles.  It was all about Insight.  Only a single person sounded off that focusing on "E-Flex" instead made more sense.  Quite a few others, respectfully, disagreed in a very blunt manner.  It's intriguing watching them back away from the mainstream.  That is very different from Prius supporters.  All the other hybrids that use HSD are treated like family, each contributing their part in changing the market.

3-20-2008

Egg On Face.  Remember that remark from Lutz last November?  He stated the mules (vehicles used for testing new technology) for Volt would be available to prove feasibility by Easter.  Well guess what.  Easter is just 3 days away and we've been told that there would be a delay until July.  That's no be deal.  Delays happen.  But it's hard to forget the attitude, especially with his quote: "Let's wait for the Easter Bunny.  Somebody's going to have egg on their face.  And I don't like having egg on my face."  It's also hard dismissing the big Volt gathering in New York City yesterday, sponsored by GM with executive participation and 300 attendees, as a mere timing coincidence.  Obviously, it served as publicity to distract people from noticing where the egg ended up... and it makes for a great historical footnote in these personal logs.

3-18-2008

FOB Battery.  Mine finally started to wear down.  The Prius would beep when shutting down, the indicator light on the remote wasn't illuminating, and the doors were slow to respond.  It was time to probe inside... documenting my findings with a digital camera, of course.  Now there's new material to add to the User-Guide.  The entire process only took a few minutes... though I had to do it twice to confirm my findings.  The beep ended.  The light illuminates.  Doors unlock quickly.  I was back in business!  4.5 years for that battery is pretty darn good.  At at a cost of only $3.49 to replace, newer owners can now rest assured.  We keep doing our part to share our experiences.  There's little to wonder about anymore.  It's very exciting!  Prius is proving to be extremely well thought out.

3-16-2008

Two-Mode Arrival.  Reports of delivery are finally starting to surface... but strangely, not on the big GM forum.  Posts related to hybrids have been mysteriously absent there lately.  On this other though, a few new owners have chimed in.  It's pretty much as anticipated... except, believe it or not, those massive "HYBRID" decals from the autoshow model actually do come on the production model too.  Needless to say, some are removing them right away.  MPG so far is below the EPA estimates, which is to be expected for a new vehicle in the cold season.  Warmer weather should make things interesting.  It still makes you wonder though.  How will improvement be gauged when real-world data for the non-hybrid model is for the most part non-existent?  People obviously don't share such incriminating information.  After all, it would give monster-size SUVs a bad name!  So... what about the hybrid version?  Efficiency around 21 MPG is still considered guzzling.

3-16-2008

Watching 145F.  When that magic temperature appears on my ScanGuageII, it always heightens interest.  And being so close to Spring, that drop to it was uncommonly slow now.  You are usually sitting at a horribly long stoplight in the frigid cold climate when it does, quickly.  To instead be in motion for over a 1/2 mile while cruising along a flat neighborhood road at 35 MPH in stealth was a great change.  (I love that silence & smoothness of driving without the engine in motion.)  Its passive approach built up the moment.  And sure enough, as soon as the coolant temperature dropped to that threshold, the engine started back up.  I hadn't ever been able to witness that event under such conditions.  It's great getting to confirm expectations like that.

3-16-2008

Pizza Delivery.  I've seen a White Classic Prius delivering pizza around here for ages now.  It's a frequent sight... that thankfully, didn't have an abrupt end.  Today's encounter reveal a very unexpected battle wound.  Both doors on the driver's side had large impact marks.  Something had slammed up against it.  Poor thing.  But that does add to the credibility of the hybrid.  Accidents happen.  Prius is proving to be quite tough.  Owners & Enthusiasts like that a lot.

3-15-2008

Tier-3 Emissions.  Commercial engine emissions are getting the attention already.  I hadn't expected that so soon.  But with many antagonists claiming Tier-2 is good enough, the cleaner standards coming in a few years are definitely worth pointing out now.  2012 is the target.  Locomotive & Marine fuel consumption concerned have gained focus for the very same reason as passenger vehicles, the NOx and PM levels are simply too high.  Smog is a very real problem still.  Thankfully, the EPA is taking this matter seriously.  Carbon emissions have recently caused a diversion, making some forget the importance of what we breath.  It's the reason all along that I have pushed that *BOTH* emissions & efficiency be a requirement for green.  Just one or the other is not enough.  You can't ignore the reality that there are 2 goals... which some hybrids don't actually achieve.

3-14-2008

$110.21 Per Barrel.  That was the closing price for the week.  To my surprise, the price of gas went down here by 7 cents since that spike beginning this week, to $3.05 per gallon.  I wonder why.  Hmm?  Diesel went up though.  It is now 10 cents higher, at $3.89 per gallon.  Needless to say, diesel supporters have grown silent.  Any price advantage they may have been able to convince you of in the past is long gone.  Next week should be interesting.

3-14-2008

Resale.  I had no idea the value of Prius would increase so much over time.  Back when I sold my Classic model to upgrade to the HSD, the technology was not well known yet.  So the price I got was fair.  I was pleased with what the expenses of those first 3 years had come to.  It was a good deal.  But now, things sure have changed.  By just storing it in my garage until, I could have made several thousand dollars.  For a vehicle to appreciate that much is very rare.  Who would have thought the demand could grow that much, especially for an older generation.  But that is indeed what is happening.  Classic Prius (2001-2003) are selling for a surprising amount of money.  How about that!

3-14-2008

Sales.  Prius was deemed worthy of praise in an unexpected report this week.  33 out of the most recent 52 months were record making, where Prius was the "fastest selling" vehicle available in the United States.  I knew overhead had been trivial, from dealers selling them as fast as they could be delivered originally.  But I didn't realize that was still the case, especially with the significant inventory increase over the past year.  No wonder it is a product loved by all.  And now with the oil situation getting so ugly, I am expecting the trend to continue.  It's pretty sweet!

3-14-2008

Stop Gap.  That term continues to resurface.  But have you noticed how no one has actually clearly defined what the heck "stop gap" actually means?  It's a term coined with the specific intend of undermining the progress of hybrids.  But at this point, it's pretty easy to argue that want having backfired.  Using it originally implied a "temporary" solution.  But now, enough time has went by since its origin that people are looking to replace their old hybrid with a new one.  That transition to next generation wrecks the idea of being "temporary".  Look at the economy now.  Prius is already established as a mainstream solution.  Sales will remain strong.  Who's going to accept the idea that it isn't something which will continue to be available?

3-14-2008

Reminder.  Some appear to be forgetting that the efforts behind ethanol production was to continue the advancement of the fuel.  We saw that here in Minnesota for over a decade.  Most was locally produced for local consumption.  Then the craziness of 2005 occurred.  Focus on production from corn for distribution nationwide obscured those earlier efforts.  Measuring actual progress became a confusing mess.  Why worry about gas when you increase fuel supply by adding ethanol?  It was a classic example of exploitation.  Fortunately, the goal of using waste & unneeded biomass instead of corn hasn't been lost entirely.  Some of us remember.  Unfortunately, the reputation of ethanol is now tarnished.

3-13-2008

All Good Things.  The wake, service, and funeral all went well.  I choked up when saying my eulogy, though managed along.  But it wasn't until they fired the guns in his honor (he was a veteran) that it sunk in just how final the situation really was.   Bang!  It's over.  Suffering changed to peace.  Father's Day will be a sad time for me.  Since it was always close to my birthday, he and I used to treat each other to a day out at the State Fair... where there were several hundred classic cars gathered that same time every year.  On the brighter side, it was his influence contributed heavily to my support for hybrids.  So part of him will always live in the legacy I'm helping to build...  Dad, I miss you.

3-12-2008

Car Wash.  The experience was surprisingly refreshing.  Rather than doing it by hand in the driveway, an excuse to enjoy the Spring weather, I drove over to Toyota to use one of my free car wash tokens.  After getting in the long line, I spent much of the wait chatting with a friend about my dad's passing over Bluetooth.  25 minutes later, I was inside the car wash.  That entire stop & slow drive was on electricity.  There were 4 consecutive 100 MPG bars showing on the Multi-Display.  What also showed was 2 pink SOC bars, showing the battery was due (at about 45 percent) for replenish.  Just as I as checking, the engine started up.  That was predictable, right during the high-pressure wash cycle.  But to my delight, it had recharged enough before the conclusion of rinse cycle to allow me to drive out through the dryer in stealth.  Cool!

3-11-2008

Spring.  It has finally arrived.  Yeah!  Unfortunately, this beautiful warm & sunny day was clouded by memories of the past.  The previous year, which came to a sad close a few days ago, was awful.  The recent temperature change from -2F to 52F reflects the mood perfectly.  It's hard to believe just how nice it is now compared to what it just had been.  That will definitely be remembered as a horribly long Winter.  The attitude of cold, gray, and without hope has passed.

3-11-2008

Real-World Data Importance.  I can't stress it enough.  This made me climb up on the soapbox again: "I have to be extremely skeptical that anyone could ever come up with a Volt overall mileage estimate of only 100 MPG."  That got this reply:  Anyone claiming more than 100 MPG deserves the same skepticism.  Only real-world data is acceptable, period.  That's the only way to remain objective.  Like it or not, the history of hybrids so far have proven that all too well.  Those wanting to undermine just get selective about what they quote, sight special circumstance information, and twist what you say... leading to a false impression, and people assume it's true.  They intentionally attempt to create misconceptions.  Real-World data has been the only protection against that.  They have a very, very difficult time disputing actual experiences.  Remember purpose.  100 MPG easily achieves that.  Don't provide antagonists with the opportunity to stir trouble.

3-10-2008

$109.36 Per Barrel.  That's what this morning's market check revealed.  So, it was no surprise that the price of gas here jumped from $2.94 to $3.12 overnight.  Diesel is now at $3.79 per gallon.  The situation is undeniably bad.  In other words, we have arrived.  Cause really doesn't matter at this point.  It's expensive, regardless of what factor you blame.  Change is needed now.

3-10-2008

CAFE Changes.  Those new standards are coming.  They will cause change.  Today, we got a hint of what's to come.  Starting in 2011, that loophole allowing vehicles weighing more than 8,500 pounds to be exempt from MPG fleet averages will be closed.  The Hummer H2 is 8,600 pounds... not by accident.  That was quite intentional... and so was the announcement we just got about production ending in, you guessed it, 2011.  I sure am glad the use of trucks for non-truck purposes is ending along with the obsession with size & power.  It was a chapter in our history we won't be proud of later.

 

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