Prius Personal Log  #45

November 27, 2002  -  December 8, 2002

Last Updated: Fri. 4/09/2004

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12-08-2002

Fuel-Cell Vehicles Leases.  Both Toyota & Honda officially provided fuel-cell vehicles for lease this week.  Two universities in California will each be leasing a RAV-4 fuel-cell SUV from Toyota for $10,000 per month.  Ouch!  That really makes you wonder how much that hand-built, very rare vehicle actually cost to build.  But that doesn't matter, the inspiration it will provide for the countless students that will get to study it is priceless.  The technology itself is still about a decade away from being practical, but you just never know what innovations may be dreamt up by getting to observe something like that first-hand.  There's a definite possibility that hybrids could benefit from it.

12-08-2002

Squeezing at Intersections.  When I first learned to drive, it was very common practice for people to squeeze through to make a right turn (since right-turn-on-red is allowed in Minnesota).  Now you don't see anywhere near as much of that now.  Could it be that there are a lot more turn-lanes available now or just the fact that there are significantly more vehicles that are too large to even attempt a squeeze?

12-08-2002

His Jaw Dropped.  I needed to mail a bill.  The boxes at the Post Office were overflowing (with holiday cards, I bet).  The box at the nearby grocery store probably still had room.  When I got to it, I had that intersection to myself.  So I made the Prius do a quick, very tight U-turn.  A moment later, a man drove by with his jaw dropped.  His head turned, watching the Prius the whole time.  Was it that he witnessed me doing something with the Prius that most vehicles aren't capable of, or was it that he hadn't even seen a hybrid before.  Hmm?

12-08-2002

New Promotional Technique for Prius.  I inadvertently discovered a new way to promote Prius.  Yesterday evening, I was doing my routine log updates at the coffee shop.  While using my webpage editing software and watching a DVD (the movie "Ice Age") at the same time on the notebook computer, a crowd gathered behind me.  And with a full display resolution of 1600x1200, it's not much of a surprise that I attracted some attention.  The quality is shocking.  Knowing that I had a captive audience, I thought what the heck.  So I mentioned I was also typing up logs at the same time and handed out Prius Website Card.  That resulted in a few questions.  Too bad I didn't have any other printed Prius materials with me.  Now I do though.  Next week should be fun.

12-07-2002

Fuel-Cells Concerns.  Betting the ranch exclusively on fuel-cells is becoming to look like a very risky plan.  (Thank goodness Toyota didn't take that approach.)  The MPG isn't any better than hybrids and the process to create the fuel is actually dirtier.  And based on current mass-production volume estimations, the best case scenario for price is "two to three times that of a standard vehicle".  To make matters worse, the range is expected to be a maximum of 180 miles.  In other words, fuel-cell vehicles won't be common for quite a long time.

12-07-2002

GW = GW.  Here's the latest: "The Bush administration's proposed four-year plan to study global warming is unlikely to clear up uncertainties."  That quote doesn't make me happy.  George W. still doesn't understand Global Warming.  Ahhhh!  It's so simple: Our machines create Carbon Dioxide.  Whether that is bad or not really shouldn't make a difference.  We already have realistic/affordable/proven technology to reduce that type of emission.  So why not use it?  We're the leading nation in the world in many respects.  Not even trying sets a horrible example.  And what happened to the previous study completed earlier this year which already showed that Global Warming is in fact a real problem?  Even if Global Warming isn't really a problem, there are still benefits from trying.  The effort does have it's rewards.  Not only does Prius reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions, it also reduces SMOG related emissions (that's NOx & HC) and reduces consumption.  Both are worth the attempt in itself.

12-07-2002

A date that will live in infamy.  This day in 1941 was much different than it is today.  We now have friends in Japan trying to save us from ourselves.  Isn't it amazing how things can change?

12-06-2002

Cold Weather Mileage.  45.4 MPG is what it now says on my Multi-Display after 270 miles on this tank, and the average driving temperature has only been 18 F degrees!  A combination of several performance influences has yielded those great results.  Things like tire-pressure and oil-level are easy to control.  The now habitual driving techniques (learned by watching the Multi-Display) are not.  I wish I could observe another Prius driver to identify differences.  Road trip anyone?

12-06-2002

Hybrid Fact #2.  It's one of the new Prius advertisements from Toyota.  This is the quote on it: "In the race for greener cars, Prius is leading by more than 800 million miles."  The photo is actually from the same shot as the GREEN advertisement, but the view is much wider and in color.  See for yourself: ad scans 2

12-05-2002

Fortune Cookie.  The message inside today said, "You are always welcome at all gatherings".  That's just the kind of thing a hybrid owner wants to read.  Excellent!

12-06-2002

Fuel-Cell Whine.  I was always under the impression fuel-cells vehicles were quiet.  Text articles never mentioned sound.  In fact, they only offered vague facts, no real detail.  So it was assumed that with electric-drive, there wasn't any noise.  Wrong!  On the radio today, I got to hear a recording from sitting inside one while driving.  There was a whining sound, similar to a kitchen blender with the level about as loud as a traditional engine.  That was caused by the air being forced through the stacks to cause an oxidation reaction.  So "stealth" in Prius is actually quieter.

12-04-2002

Winter Driving.  The temperature on the Multi-Display was only 7 F degrees this morning.  When I pulled up onto the hill this morning, just one block from my home so the engine was still very cold, the hybrid system provided more thrust from the motor than usual.  It was allowing the engine an opportunity to warm up gradually.  So I ended up getting an smoother climb, and the engine got an extra bit of protection from the elements.  I bet the traditional vehicles would be jealous if they realized how capable Prius really is.

12-03-2002

Record Sales.  Toyota celebrated its best-ever sales of 1,956 Prius last month.  That's up 19 percent from last year's sales in November, which also had record sales.  Sweet!

12-03-2002

Trust.  As one of the head cheerleaders for Prius, I encounter resistance constantly.  In fact, I witness many more negative attitudes than I do positive when it car to those well informed about cars.  But I know I'm right.  I don't let it bother me.  I just keep quiet if they keep pushing.  After 175,000 miles of driving (and countless repairs) in several different traditional vehicles (plus being "chief" mechanic in the family) then driving 43,500 miles in a Prius, it's so obvious the hybrid technology is a huge improvement.  So my solution is build up such a massive arsenal of proof on my website that after a few years they won't have anything to argue about... except perhaps being angry that I didn't work harder to convince them to switch to a Prius sooner.  (Oh well.  Some lessons are best learned the hard way.)  Owners have already proven winter isn't the slightest bit of a threat to the hybrid system.  (In fact, it works a little better than traditional vehicles in the extreme cold.)  Owners have already proven the technology really does deliver high MPG in real-world driving situations.  Owners have already proven it can climb mountains  without struggling.  We're doing everything we can to show this is the way of the future.  After all, leading by example is almost always the best way to teach.

12-02-2002

Unexpected Help.  The former CEO of GM believes strongly in hybrid technology, so strongly that he just founded a company that will be able to build 50,000 to 60,000 battery-packs per year.  Having another supply source for hybrids is great news.  That unexpected help.  I hadn't planned on support of that nature so soon.  Cool!

11-30-2002

An artificial Prius feature... small steps.  The creep forward effect you get when you lift your foot from the brake is actually fake.  There's no mechanical reason for that to happen.  But Toyota thought it would be too much of a difference from what people are used to, so they programmed in that "feature".  That has proven to be a wise choice.  The gear-selector orientation still bothers some people.  I can't imagine what General Motors is thinking by proposing their "Hy-Wire" fuel-cell vehicle as a single step solution.  That profound of a change won't readily be accepted by the masses.  Too many times I've witnessed new computer technologies fail due to acceptance reasons.  Imagine if Ford decides to implement the idea of combining the accelerator & brake pedals into one.  That's a huge change people haven't been asking for.  Smaller steps are better.  A lot will need to be done to disguise what's actually happening under the hood.  Then as times goes on, they can be made more obvious.  I'd love to have a much more detailed Multi-Display, but having a screen on the dashboard is already a bit too much for some people right now.

11-30-2002

Spare Location.  I tried to help someone with a flat tire today.  Their spare was located under the back of the vehicle, a common location nowadays.  We absolutely could not lower it from its bracket.  Even after crawling underneath and pounding on it, the thing wouldn't jar free.  We ended up having to call a tow-truck.  Imagine if it was really cold out or the ground was wet.  The attempt would have been completely unrealistic to even try.  Thankfully, not only does the Prius have a well for the spare in the trunk, but it is also deep enough to hold a full-size spare.  Cool!  And because of the extremely awkward location in some vehicles, how many spares do you think go flat just because the owner can't conveniently reach it to routinely top-off the air-pressure?

11-30-2002

Questionable Statistics.  On a regular basis I encounter people who recite statistics that don't even sound correct, but they stand firmly behind them in an attempt to justify their purchase decision.  The classic is: "bigger doesn't impair handling".  I question how those statistics are actually determined.  For example, I see a noticeably higher number of trucks & SUVs in the ditch during snowstorms than I do cars, yet the number of cars on the road doesn't seem lower than normal usual.  I also notice the fact that the cars drive slower and more cautiously.  That fact isn't typically considered when crash tests are performed.  So how do you know the real-world statistics took all the same factors into account?  Another thing I've observed is how people like to lump things into categories, so the practical-sized SUVs get thought of the same way the monster-sized ones do?  Since when does that make sense?

11-30-2002

More Hummers.  I'm starting to see them all over the place on almost a daily basis.  What in the world do people need something that massive for?  I've never seen one with a payload, inside or out.  And there's never more than 2 occupants.  Gross overkill is almost an understatement.  What ever happened to "realistic" sized vehicles?  You know, the kind that actually fit in parking spots & garages and got close to 20 MPG.

11-29-2002

8 new Video-Clips.  Prius is a full-hybrid.  That makes it very different from both hybrid-assist vehicles and traditional vehicles.  So it is quite common for people to misunderstand how Prius actually works.  I created 8 new video-clips of the Speedometer & Multi-Display to help explain what really occurs while you're driving a Prius.  The system under the hood is eloquently simple.  It's not an independent gasoline engine connected to an independent electric motor, which would add complexity compared to a traditional vehicle.  Instead, there is a single system combining the features of two propulsion devices at the deepest possible level.  That allows Prius to turn the wheels with only the engine, only the motor, or both the engine & motor at the same time.  This ability provides the opportunity for the most efficient device (or combination) to always be used based on the specific conditions of that moment.  And based on this collection of long, uncut video-clips, it's easy to see how often and how quickly those devices switches occur.  Here's the titles of them: "Energy Monitor Close-Up", "Suburb Driving", "More Suburb Driving", "Acceleration: 0 to 60", "Acceleration: 0 to 85", "Highway Cruising", "Highway to Home Driving", "Battery Drain & Recharge".  All together, they total over 19 minutes of footage.  Detailed descriptions of each particular driving situation along with downloads links are available on the following page:  video files

11-28-2002

Happy Thanksgiving.  There are lots of things to be thankful for today too.  One of those is that I'm working on drastically increasing our arsenal of information that explains how Prius works.  Video taken from inside is by far the best way to illustrate what actually happens with real-world driving.  Last night, I drove around with a friend capturing video segments of the Multi-Display with the Speedometer in action.  It gives you an opportunity to witness stealth draining the battery-pack to half then seeing how quickly it recovers back to "full".  We played around and did a 0-85 MPH acceleration.  You also get to watch all the activity that actually occurs while you cruise along the highway at a constant speed.  Plus, there's a few other tidbits that we found interesting.  There's over 19 minutes of video spread across 8 files for a total size of 35.7 MB.  So as you can imagine, with a modem it's going to take an eternity to upload.  I'll create some webpages with thorough explanations, so those of you (also) with slow connections can plan downloads strategically.  Stay tuned.

 

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