Prius Personal Log  #47

December 22, 2002  -  December 26, 2002

Last Updated: Sun. 9/14/2003

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12-26-2002

Winter Conditions.  There's barely any snow here.  We didn't get buried like the East Coast just did.  Temperatures are just a bit about normal too.  So winter conditions are relatively favorable.  Too bad I've made quite a few short trips and high-speed cruises on the highway lately.  My average is falling.  That's going to pull the Lifetime MPG value below 45, making my upcoming 45,000 mile Prius Website Card less than ideal.  Oh well.  Winter doesn't last for ever here in Minnesota.  It finally gets warm in July!  Seriously though, I should see decent MPG again once the mercury climbs above 40 F degrees in March from time to time.

12-26-2002

Hybrids Win!  Over the last few weeks I've been debating hybrids (mostly Prius) over on the Edmunds website.  They have a hard time dealing with me there.  They like to focus on specific aspects of design.  I deal with the vehicle as a whole.  (After all, that is what you buy... all the pieces, not just some.)  They like to make extreme situations the requirement for purchase.  I deal with what drivers routinely encounter.  (You know, what you actually need... not what you might want to do with it someday.)  They like to make "more is better" statements.  I deal with what the needs really are.  (Everything beyond that is just overkill, an expense many people can do without.)  They like to argue academic semantics.  I deal with real-world experiences.  (Having detailed data available online is great.  They simply can't compete with that.)  They like to satisfy the wants of everyone.  I deal with only 90 percent.  (When you're a computer-programmer, you quickly discover that writing software to satisfy the demands of 90 percent of the users is a very realistic goal to shoot for.  Satisfying that final 10 percent requires a massive demand on resources, which you typically can't get funding for.  So you learn to come up with creative ways of to help out those remaining users.)  The people debating me simply don't know how to deal with my perspective.  I win arguments because the requirements Prius owners have sighted as essential aren't completely contradictory to theirs.  I win arguments because they don't have data available.  I win arguments because the technology I believe in doesn't have to satisfy everyone.  So basically, hybrids are winning just because I'm not playing the game the way they want me to.  Ha! Ha!  The world doesn't have to be black & white.  Shades of gray here & there are perfectly acceptable.  Hybrids are the gray.

12-25-2002

0% Financing Scan.  The 2003 Nationwide Toyotathon advertisement I got in the mail recently marked the first occurrence of zero percent available for Prius I've noticed.  Little by little the hybrid we've grown to love is becoming treated of as just another choice available on the dealers lots.  The fact that it's extraordinarily clean and fuel consumption is greatly reduced could become all that many think about (well, stealth too).  What goes on under the hood could be limited to the knowledge gained from the Multi-Display for the average consumer.  I think that's another step toward mainstream acceptance.  So I scanned the advertisement to allow others to see what I saw: ad scans 2

12-24-2002

Grabby Brakes.  It has probably been a whole year now since someone mentioned the brakes on Prius as being non-typical.  That's the simple way of saying, "they feel grabby when I press them as hard as I would on a traditional vehicle rather than only using the same amount of pressure that the accelerator-pedal uses".  After driving just a day or two, you break that unnecessary habit.  They after extended driving like myself, you completely forget what it was like the traditional way.  I like the way the brakes work in the Prius.  It's the way brakes should have always been designed in the first place.  Too bad the technology wasn't available way back then.  Oh well.  Those few teenagers that now have the special privilege of learning to drive on a hybrid will never know how unfortunate it was for the rest of us having to live with traditional brakes.  To that I say, "Good for you!"  It about dang time our children get something better than we had.

12-24-2002

GM makes odd decisions.  Over the years, I've heard quite a few stories about the General Motors EV1 (the electric car they built & leased for public use beginning in 1997, the final remaining ones will be destroyed when those leases soon expire).  It was more than enough to perk my interest.  I looked forward to the extended rollout, hoping for the opportunity to buy or lease myself. It never happened; instead, they killed the project (or should I say, pulled the plug).  To make that much of an investment and produce such a heralded product as a result, then to claim failure, is bizarre.  Until recently, they've been saying hybrids are a wasted effort.  They will skip them entirely and move straight to their "hy-wire" fuel-cell design instead, a concept so revolutionary it made me wonder if people would accept it all in a single step.  Going directly from a internal combustion engine to a chemically based energy exchange system with a pure electric drive seemed to be way too profound.  Never in life have I witnessed society in general to take a single step so huge.  Now, we're hearing that smaller steps will take place in the meantime.  They really will build & sell hybrids while we wait for fuel-cell technology to continue to evolve.  That approach makes a whole lot more sense.   What will that really mean though?  The difference between the Honda IMA and Toyota THS are rather significant.  Will GM offer something entirely different and also label that as "hybrid"?  Things could get very confusing for consumers.

12-24-2002

Poison is still Poison.  Today someone tried to convince me that smog-related emissions (HC & NOx) have been reduced so greatly over the last few decades that the level now causes no need for concern.  He was quite right about the "improvement".  Amounts have significantly been lowered; however, they still exist.  Even in a trace amount, the poison continues to be expelled.  And with 17 million new vehicles being purchased in the United States alone each year, the total effect is enormous.  That's quite a bit of poison.  Then when you add the other 43 million new vehicles purchased in the rest of the world each year, the grand total becomes a terrifying concept.  Poison is bad.  Anything we can do to reduce the amount found in emissions is step in the right direction.  We have to continue to try.  Clean air is good.

12-24-2002

Once the Novelty wears off...  I've heard that comment on a few occasions.  Then I try to respond explaining I'm actually more excited about my Prius now than I was when I first got it.  With all the constant reminders of the technology, I could I not?  When I stop at an intersection now, the engine shuts off.  In the Summer, it shuts off long before I reach the intersection.  Then of course, the smoothness & quietness of stealth is appreciated even more in parking lots.  At work, people commonly greet me by asking how the hybrid is doing.  At the gas, it doesn't surprise me at all when a total stranger try to get my attention hoping for an opportunity to ask about the Prius.  Then there's the fact that I simply don't have to stop for gas as often.  Smog alerts on the news obviously peak my attention.  And the "lots of talk, but no action" about fuel-cell vehicles being first introduced to consumers for purchase sometime early in the next decade makes you feel really glad you already own a product that delivers.  Then when you find out rollout penetration to the point of fuel-cells becoming dominate isn't even expected until 2020, you kind of wonder why in the world people are willing to wait that long.  Don't they care about the well-being of their children?  Or for that matter, don't they want the great country to have clean air and not be dependent on foreign oil?  Until things really begin to change, the "novelty" will remain a strong feeling.  Then when it does actually wear off, you'll gain a sense of community, a bond with all the other hybrid drivers trying to share the road with the remaining smog-forming gas-guzzling vehicles.

12-23-2002

What's the big deal?  Some people are actually getting used to the idea of hybrids already.  They've been exposed to so many other advanced new technologies (like DVD recorders and digital cameras that are higher-quality than film) that have been recently dropping in price down to the affordable level, they accept hybrids without question.  It's the 21st Century after all.  Vehicles were always expected to be improved significantly by then.  Prius is that improvement.

12-23-2002

Now I've heard everything.  Some Civic-Hybrid owners are actually stating that the 0.1 MPG accuracy of the Prius Multi-Display is annoying, claiming the value changes too often.  They prefer the (approximate) 0.35 MPG accuracy on their FCD.  I don't know how they can say that.  When I have 100 miles on the tank, the variance is usually less than 2 MPG per trip.  When I have 300 miles on the tank, it's less than 0.35 MPG.  Driving an entire trip without the chance of seeing it change would be annoying.  And if you're the type that prefers to not press the reset button every time you refill the tank (because you'd like to track the lifetime value) you're rarely ever going to see that MPG readout change.  What's the fun in that?  I enjoy the detailed feedback, informing me how the road & driving conditions affected performance.  It's also a reminder that I'm helping to make a difference.  You'd be amazed at how that subtle "good for you" helps improve your attitude when behind the wheel; delays from construction, accidents, and weather just don't seem to sour the experience as much.

12-23-2002

Prius does BOTH.  Examples of MPG just as good as Prius and examples of emissions just as good as Prius come up in discussions from time to time.  That tends to make people question what the benefit of Prius is.  Fortunately, that answer is simple: Prius does both.  Those examples can't claim that.  The vehicle either specializes in conserving fuel or being clean, just one or the other.  With Prius, you get to have your cake and eat it too!

12-23-2002

How Fast?  I'm told every now & then that the acceleration-rate of Prius is not fast enough.  I question why, since my previous vehicle was the same speed (0-to-60 in 12.5 seconds) and it took me 106,000 miles without any concern.  They don't have an answer for that.  So they I ask what rate they do find necessary.  They can't answer that either.  How can they say it isn't fast enough if they don't know what's needed in the first place?  Even an answer like "a little bit more" would be better than nothing.  I personally think that the vehicles capable of 0-to-60 in only 8 seconds are overkill, the larger engine just wastes fuel and causes greater emissions.  Why isn't 10 or even 11 seconds good enough anymore for higher performance, especially when putting the pedal to the floor rarely ever happens?  With heavier traffic nowadays, you can't safely go as fast as you used to anyway.  Of course, that's like asking why you need a vehicle that can go 150 MPH.  There's no where in the United States to go even close to that speed legally.  And why do speedometers commonly go to 120 MPH when the vehicle isn't even capable of going that fast?  The "more is better" philosophy can't continue indefinitely.

12-22-2002

Long Life Benefit.  Prius is designed for very long life.  The motor (which is an extremely low maintenance component in itself) goes way out of it's way to protect the engine from torque stress.  The engine goes way out of it's way to protect the battery-pack from deep discharges.  And the "CVT" is built tougher than traditional transmissions.  All that could lead to less repairs, which would lower the overall cost of ownership.  Determining final cost-per-mile is still a bit premature.  But in 2005 when Toyota plans to be able to offer 300,000 hybrid systems (in various vehicle models) per year, it won't be.  Proof of the long-life design could really be a positive influence on sales.

12-22-2002

Unanswered Questions.  People like making comparisons when discussing Prius.  They don't answer questions though.  How long does it actually take to merge onto a highway?  In other words, at what rate is additional speed just overkill?  How often do you actually use full-capacity of the engine?  In other words, how much reserve power is really needed?  How big does a vehicle need to be for it to be considered safe?  Answering questions like that would be more helpful than making comparisons.  But people seem to side-step them when I ask.  They don't want to actually quantify what they feel is really needed.  Hmmm.

12-22-2002

Attitudes.  I've found the discussions on some of the smaller, less hybrid-friendly online groups fascinating.  Seeing the same attitude with each new technology makes it kind of fun.  The outcome is fairly predictable.  We will run out of oil.  Whether it's 30 years from now or +50 doesn't matter.  There's only a finite amount, and our children life-spans are long enough for them to experience it happening first-hand.  Working toward a better goal makes sense.  The discussions about whether digital was better than film went on for years.  Now digital is blatantly better for about 90 percent of the market needs.  Print detail and color accuracy is amazing.  Printers are well within the affordable range.  Storage is dirt cheap.  And the high-resolution cameras have just now dropped to the overall price competitive with film.  Just think what things will be like a few years from now.  On the automotive side, look at how airbags have progressed.  Deployment is now staged and based on sensors that weren't previously available.  Those improvements didn't happen overnight, but they did happen over time.  People are treating the current generation of hybrids as the final product.  Between now and when the very first fuel-cell vehicles become available to the general consumer 600 million new vehicles will be built & sold.  Imagine what would happen to hybrid technology if a decent percentage of those vehicles were hybrids.  Improvements would occur.  So by about 2015, when fuel-cell vehicles hopefully become a realistic choice, hybrid technology would have went through several generational upgrades... some of which would even directly benefit fuel-cell vehicles (like the reduction of power needs for electric steering, heating, and A/C along with efficiency increases in electric motors; and if fuel-cell vehicles end up deploying electric startups (for quicker warm-up during the winter) improvements in battery technology would be a direct benefit too).  We need to reduce both emissions & consumption.  The current ice-only technologies don't offer both, and there's nothing significant expected on the horizon.  SULEV hybrids do already though.  And when new hybrids are created, the newest technology will be employed.  That will increase performance.  They will continue to get better and better.  Why people think what's available now the best it will get is beyond me.

12-22-2002

51 rolls.  Some of you may have noticed my website updates & additions have trickled down to almost a stop lately.  That�s because I wanted to invest the month before the holidays to my family instead.  My intent was to digitize as many of the moments throughout our history as possible.  And as you know, I find ways to accomplish seemingly unrealistic goals.  I started with the most recent photo album.  There I began selecting which photos would get scanned from film to computer.  Those newest photos include the first great-grandchild in the family.  I worked backward, watching the each of the family�s children become younger and younger, observing the special moments of their childhood as I progressed� until I reached my own first birthday.  (I�m the oldest of all the grandchildren, hence my roll as a leader from day one [quite literally].)  There I was.  The same age as the children I had watched grow up from their first birthdays.  My aunts & uncles in the photos were at the age I am now.  The well being of the children was foremost on their mind, the same way I feel now.  That scanning exploration resulted in 1,224 digital photos.  It�s the equivalent of 51 rolls of film.  After completing such an involved task, the reason for us to reduce emissions & consumption NOW is even more obvious.  How could we possibly explain to the children decades from now that their reserves are all gone and the air they breathe is dirty because we had the technology available to prevent that, but chose not to use it?  Hybrid technology works.  It�s here today.  It�s realistically affordable with mass-production.  It can be built into other vehicles with varied configurations based on power needed.  Why wait?  Let�s do it now so our children can have a better future to look forward to.

 

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