Prius Personal Log #380
July 21, 2008 - July 27, 2008
Last Updated: Sun. 8/03/2008
page #379 page #381 BOOK INDEX
ScanGauge Benefit. Having one for my Prius is nice, but certainly not necessary. It's informative to watch how the correlation of factors such as RPM, LOD, and Coolant Temperature influence hybrid operation for maximum MPG and minimum emissions. I like watching those values. With so much happening at once, that provides interesting insight into the design. Whatever the case, there's another use for the gauge which provides a clear benefit... should you ever need it. And today, I did. The engine-light came on in my mom's car. Rather than bother to check out the vehicle itself, I simply plugged the gauge into her car and check for codes. There was a P0442 displayed. A quick search online revealed that was an emission error, there was a vapor leak detected. Sure enough, the gas cap wasn't tight. Imagine if she had brought the car into a mechanic. How much would they have charged for such an easy check & fix?
$4 Average. The national average for the price of gas
just dropped to $3.996 per gallon. Oil is down to $123.26 per barrel.
Raising the federal tax is now a hot topic of discussion for Congress.
Cutting back on funds available meant cutting back on road projects and
mass-transit efforts, in other words, a reduction of work. It's obviously
bad when viewed from that perspective. But how do you think the average
person is going to react to news that gas could cost an additional 10 cents per
gallon? Those things have to be paid for somehow. And a dime isn't
much when considering how much a gallon of gas costs and how far that takes the
typical vehicle. Put another way, our priorities have really been screwed
up. So, getting back to them isn't going to be a transparent shift.
It doesn't have to be painful. But it will get noticed. It's about
time. Proactive was the preferred approach. But it's too late for
that. Reacting is the only option available now.
3-Year Leases. Not much thought had been given to them until recently... since resale value had been quite predictable. But now, rather than the vehicle retaining about 50 percent of its value after 3 years, certain types have unexpectedly plummeted all the way down to 26 percent. And you guessed it, those biggest losers are the guzzling SUVs. Automakers can't afford that much of a loss, around 8 to 10 thousand dollars each. Needless to say, they don't want to offer leases anymore. That makes the already difficult inventory problem even harder to deal with. The market for those oversized vehicles is falling apart fast... which leaves the industry without a popular high-profit product anymore. Didn't they see that coming? The very same thing happened to the computer industry years ago. Now, financial strength depends upon selling a large volume of low-profit products. It's a paradigm-shift that cannot be fought. Those that cannot adjust won't survive. Change is required.
Mississippi Oil Spill. 4 days ago a tanker and barge collided on the Mississippi River near New Orleans. 419,000 gallons of oil was spilled. 200 ships were stranded while 800 workers cleaned up the mess. This was the same day Senator McCain was going to fly out to an oil rig for a photo-op that would help promote the message of drilling for more. Timing doesn't get much worse than that. The dangers of oil were getting attention, not supply changes... but then, things suddenly got silent. Even though traffic on the river was still held up, the media seemed to ignore the situation. I suppose the GOP wanting so much to promote the increase in available oil, that kind of news is something they'd very much like to divert from. It's not a solution if using less and polluting less isn't also made a priority. So far though, even the spill wasn't enough for that. In fact, oil is becoming a major topic for the presidential campaign.
Attention Draw. The popularity of Prius has kept the
growth-rate of the big forum pretty intense. Today's count is now at
41,870 members. That's very interesting when taken into perspective with
the big forum for GM vehicles, who's count is now at 37,466
members. Their entire line-up isn't drawing as much attention as Toyota's
one hybrid. Will that trend continue? I can't imagine why not.
This is the slow time, before talk of the new Prius engages. Just wait,
the end of the year should bring tremendous excitement. That's when we
finally learn details. Until then, 99.9% of the posts are about the
existing models. I love it! New members have a wealth of knowledge
they can tap into just by reading messages. And of course, joining in the
discussion themselves can be very informative. But the question is, what
draws them to the forum in the first place? Is it the reputation of Prius
that gets their attention... a curiosity & hope for something better?
Hummer Status. It's turning into a disaster for GM, the iconic "worst vehicle ever" label. What in the world were they thinking? Not too long ago, we saw dealers thriving from sales. Now, many are closed and the automaker is desperately attempting to sell the line. Smug owners were greenwashing with their Prius comparison analysis. Now, roads once dominated by guzzlers are filled with small cars. Media were praising the massive vehicle and helped to promote the "good for the economy" propaganda. Now, they've turned to captions like this: "It's gone from Hollywood status symbol to the butt of jokes faster than you can say $4 a gallon." Status has taken quite a turn. I never expected the bottom to fall out like this. I thought it would be a slow & subtle end, not this abrupt & painful very obvious death.
4-Cylinder Decision. It has been made. The design
of Volt will include a 4-cylinder 1.4 liter engine. That smaller
3-cylinder 1.0 liter engine didn't cut it. The limited production
obviously made it unappealing. There was rumor to be that its power wasn't
enough either. Now cost & availability will be better, as well as the
ability to supply ample electricity. However, there is now concern among
enthusiasts about what that will do to efficiency. The ability to sip less
gas than Prius after the battery-pack charge drops to the minimum seems much
less likely now. Having to convert mechanical energy to electrical then
back can be less efficient than just using the mechanical directly. Under
what circumstances a particular design does better in will remain a mystery for
awhile. Real-World data from Volt is years away still. That won't
Price Increases. Change has become reality. To alter production in favor of the newly emerging "efficiency" market, all automakers are facing economic considerations. For Ford, that has translated to production halts, plant closures, and employee buyouts. For GM, all that and more. For Toyota, its a shifting of resources and price increases. Prius was not immune. After all, the significant inventory growth plans and the start of United States production has to be paid for somehow. Investing in the next upgrade should be proactive too. And that's just Prius. We want expansion to other vehicle models too. So price increases, with the biggest to Prius, isn't terrible... especially since it will still remain quite competitive. Time will ultimately reveal what's needed. The mindset for dealing with $4 gas is quite new still.
$8.67 Billion Lost. Ford's decision today followed news that second quarter resulted in the loss of 8,670,000,000 dollars. Seeing a number that big for just a 3-month span is just plain scary. It's their biggest quarterly loss ever. The market for guzzlers is falling apart, with no chance of recovery like in prior years. The desire for smaller vehicles is transforming from trend to permanent. The age of dinosaurs is over. It was an age of excess... something to be looked back upon as remarkable. To think that people could have lived that way without concern for the future! Anywho, the "we told you so" isn't necessary. Conversion of 3 production plants from truck to small car will begin in December. That long-awaited change will finally happen. In fact, even gasoline TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injection) is on the way. Too bad they weren't better prepared. Oh well. At least there's some hope.
Ford Closures. It was quite bizarre when Ford announced the plant closing plant here... the one that produces Ranger. Why would a small pickup truck be a financial burden in a market where gas is progressively growing more and more expensive? The choice didn't make much sense. So, hearing the announcement today that it would remain in operation 2 years longer was quite redeeming. That's a step in the right direction. Of course, if you talk to the Two-Mode enthusiasts, they'll still tell you that a towing-capacity of 3,500 pounds simply is not enough. Some never learn that bigger is not always better.
Lurker Observations. I wonder what they think nowadays. Hmm? With 8 years of history under my belt, I could imagine some simply don't question my intent... seeing the support for electrifying vehicles. Some with loyalties to competing automakers obvious aren't as receptive, but to what degree? Staying quiet for how long? And when they do finally respond, how will the post read? I've seen all types over the years. The lesson learned below is a reminder how some long-running grudges emerge from encounters just like that. One thing is for certain, progress takes time. Nothing happens quickly. Even the build up to expensive gas took years, though some refused to acknowledge the upward climb was permanent. There are lots of lurkers, as I have observed from my website usage logs. They are the stealth learners, driven by curiosity for something better. That's a good thing... regardless of whatever propaganda or misleading they may encounter along the way. Too bad they rarely sound off with an opinion, hence the term "lurker".
Lesson Learned. It has become pretty easy to spot when someone is attempting to mislead. Follow their posts. You'll notice a pattern. Then when you call them on it, they change focus hoping others will forget about their original claims. In my most recent encounter, it was that Highland-Hybrid could not tow a trailer, that the maximum electric-only speed of Prius is 30 MPH, and that Toyota hybrids use a belt for the CVT. Those all are incorrect... and normally easy to prove false. They won't let you though. That resistance is your confirmation that intent is not sincere. But I really don't care much anymore. It's not like the old days where it was a matter of hybrid survival. $4 gas and years of real-world data now available support mainstream acceptance. Motive has shifted to making the competition's design sound better. They simply want the spotlight now. Information overload would be a great problem; instead, some websites focus on blogging. That makes enthusiast propaganda abundant and draws in troublemakers... a wasteland, void of detail. Forums with threads that focus on educational material are what to look for. Those genuinely try to help. Forget the others.
Apartment Plugs. Those pushing vehicles that depend heavily on a plug have been dismissing that demographic, just saying apartment owners will provide plugs when needed. Who's going to pay for all that installation? Think about how expensive tearing up ground for wiring will cost. Every other parking stall will need an outlet; otherwise, you'll have people stringing extensions or unplugging other vehicles. It's disheartening when you realize just how long some changes to infrastructure will take. Then there's the issue of how to pay for the electricity being consumed. To make matters worse, there's the issue of receptacle placement on the vehicle itself. Who's liable for an injury or damage caused by someone tripping over a cord? I can't imagine how long it will take for some issues to be dealt with, not to mention a standard being established. Heck, how many plug-in vehicles will have to already be on the road before the topic is even seriously addressed?
50 MPG Tanks. It's about time. Finally! This particular Summer was off to a very cold start. Early June felt like April at times. So naturally, the MPG resembled that. When the warmer weather did eventually arrive, I was in the mist of a construction project at home. That entailed countless short trips to the hardware store and runs for food. That kept efficiency from climbing to the usual seasonal high. But then last week, everything fell into place. Achieving a tank average above 50 MPG became easy. Yeah! I look forward to that transition every year... and this time it took what seemed forever. Of course, now I'll taking the kayak out to play. Carrying that on top the Prius isn't exactly a subtle change, especially if there is two. Oh well. Life is too short to worry about brief opportunities to get out an enjoy warm temperatures.
Challenge Details. We finally got them. Prius won in all of the following categories: CO2 emissions, CO emissions, NOx emissions, NMOG emissions, crude oil consumed, and fuel cost. The only category the Jetta TDI took was MPG. But how is driving almost exclusively on the highway (733 miles) an accurate depiction of real-world expectations? Including city & suburb driving swings the favor heavily to Prius, since efficiency is even better under those conditions. My favorite quotes were: "The Jetta TDI Clean burning diesel is an environmentally conscious vehicle." and "The Jetta TDI has lots of Horsepower and torque (145HP, 247 lb/ft)... The Prius has roughly 70HP and 80 lb/ft torque." Both were obvious attempts to deceive. There's simply no excuse for claiming a vehicle that delivers a Tier-2, Bin-5 emission rating is clean. That's dirtier than the typical gas car and the opposite extreme from the SULEV or PZEV ratings. As for the power comments, he posted only the engine values and rounded them down. How is any of that honest? In a way, it's actually somewhat vindicating to see that genuine competition isn't realistic. The only way to win a challenge... or at least attempt it... is use the old misleading techniques. But the Prius owners knew what was going on right away.
Monitoring LOD. It was one of those rare situations where not having the ScanGauge would have meant not even realizing what was happening. With my Classic Prius, the emission purge (burning of captured pollutants) event didn't happen often. But if you were attentive during that particular moment, you'd notice the RPM of the engine speeding up without any apparent reason. With the HSD Prius, that speed up doesn't seem to ever happen. Instead, the engine simply stays running during a time you'd normally expect it to be off. You know, stealth requires a hot catalytic-converter. Anywho, I detected that circumstance by observing how the LOD value (engine load) climbed up rather than the usual drop in preparation for stealth. Then it stayed high, which confirmed the purge. Cool!