Prius Personal Log  #473

August 17, 2010  -  August 19, 2010

Last Updated: Tues. 9/21/2010

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8-19-2010

PHV - Outlook.  The anticipation has changed.  Since driving the PHV model, waiting for it to become available has become easier.  Confirming what will actually be delivered helped a lot.  I've witnessed so many Volt enthusiasts end their online participation in grave disappointment, I knew my research needed to be exhaustive.  I didn't want to make assumptions like that.  The problem most often comes from getting so caught up in the engineering that the business side is disregarded.  The biggest contributor of past problems was price.  Since high-volume production commonly leads to much lower prices, it was easy for them to not take the initial cost seriously.  And sure enough, that's a big problem now.  In other words, Toyota engineers were given a budget to stay within and GM engineers were allowed to spare no expense.  One will be affordable right away.  The other will remain very expensive for years to come.  I wanted to know how the affordable would perform.  How much of a MPG boost did the sub-packs actually provide.  Turns out, quite a bit is gained from being able to plug in... even with that smaller capacity.  Performance aspects (like handling & acceleration) were not sacrificed either.  That sure make the outlook for 2012 very promising.

8-19-2010

PHV - Engine Power.  The impression I got from the others who have already driven a PHV was that once the EV sub-pack charge-level dropped down to about 1.5 miles the engine trigger would become very sensitive.  I hadn't put that into proper context.  The behavior makes perfect sense.  The system is attempting to preserve EV availability as long as possible... kind of like it does with the current stealth.  Only thing is, I hadn't considered what those others currently drive... not a 2010 like me.  Not being accustom to having an eco-meter available would skew perspective.  It didn't take long with me back in my 2010 to recognize the sensitivity.  EV is far more forgiving than the engine.  That's the purpose of it being a hybrid... to have power available from the most efficient source as quickly as possible.  Readily available is good.  Quick response means more efficiency opportunities taken advantage of.

8-18-2010

PHV - Range.  Much emphasis has been placed on "range" expectations for plug-in vehicles.  With the observations from Leaf so far spanning from 47 to 138 miles, I can't imagine how knowing an estimated value makes much difference.  We now know that Volt efficiency is greatest at 50 MPH.  Was that particular speed how the "40" was derived?  What does it mean for faster and slower speeds then?  And of course, what happens to range when using the heater?  There are many questions like that.  At least, Prius makes looking at the situation easier.  The electricity isn't always used when a more efficient method of propulsion or heating is available... which is often and the PHV model takes advantage of those opportunities.  Instead, it's more a matter of kWh capacity.  How close or how far you are from empty or full is the gauge.  But specifying quantity in those units is somewhat arbitrary.  Even Toyota has decided to indicate the value in terms of "miles" to keep things simple.  Consumers will look at that as "range".  Is that informative enough?  Since results are stated in terms of MPG, my thought is that will work out fine.  We'll see.

8-18-2010

PHV - Goodbye.  It was as surreal of a moment handing the FOB to someone then as it was when handed to me a few days earlier.  I knew that moment in my history would be deeply embedded in my mind and remembered over & over again.  I was saying goodbye to what had been a dream come true... getting to explore the newest model long before it would be rolled out to consumers.  It was an opportunity to play with the advanced technology my own way.  I could choose where to drive, how fast to drive, how far to drive, and how often to plug in.  That's quite an expression of trust for all parties.  I was finally involved on a deep level, gathering real-world data I could share in my contribution to the reduction of emissions & consumption.  Promoting a vehicle you actually get to explore to that depth is easy.  It makes the purchase decision a no-brainer too.  Still, watching it leave your driveway knowing you won't get the chance to play again for quite some time is difficult.  It was totally worth any emotional trauma!  I'm very thankful for the opportunity.

8-18-2010

PHV - Final Drive.  With the clock clicking down to the last 2 hours before Toyota would come to pickup the PHV, my desire was to go on a final drive using nothing but EV.  It would be a practical trip too, since I needed something quick but filling to eat to hold me over in the meantime anyway.  Running around trying to capture last-minute photos takes lots of energy, right?  Good enough excuse for a mini road-trip!  That 6.2 mile journey took over 15 minutes, including the wait in line at the drive-thru.  So naturally, the entire Consumption screen was filled with 100 MPG segments.  I really enjoyed that particular image.  It was a wonderful experience.  Too bad I didn't have more time.  But then again, the urgency of the situation probably pushed me to document more than I would have under normal circumstances... and all those photos will help me to remember detail I may have otherwise forgotten.  But not this final drive.  That will easily be remembered. 

8-18-2010

PHV - Temperature.  Seeing only 93 F degrees as the coolant temperature while driving is something totally new.  With the non-plug Prius, that never happens.  Heat is needed for the emission's system (catalytic convertor) to cleanse exhaust; otherwise, the required chemical reaction cannot take place.  That warmth comes both from the coolant which is heated by the engine and the exhaust itself.  If the coolant is on the cold side (it needs to be 100 degrees warmer), that heat obviously isn't available.  This is why the first few minutes of the non-plug Prius is always lower efficiency than afterward.  An energy exchange from gas to heat takes place then.  The temperature increase doesn't take long, but you certainly notice the MPG impact it makes... with the Prius you don't plug in.  However, the one with the plug is different.  It is well aware of the need.  When there is ample supply of electricity for EV still available, allowing the engine to cool in the meantime is no big deal though.  Firing it up when getting close to both EV sub-packs being depleted would be an indication of effort being made to retain the PZEV emission rating.  Sacrificing gas for the sake of being cleaner overall is nothing new for Prius.  In fact, emissions it has always taken a priority over efficiency.

8-18-2010

PHV - Hill Climbing.  With most of my research complete, it was time to seriously play with the EV.  Not just anything timid either.  I really wanted to push it.  Living near the bottom of a steep valley (great for sunsets, terrible for biking), my location was ideal for this.  Well after midnight, I'd have the roads to myself.  I unplugged the PHV and headed off into the night.  Starting from a dead stop, I squashed the pedal well into what's consider the "white" zone on the regular 2010.  That's when the engine runs but is still within the efficiency range rather than power (the second half of the eco-meter).  On the PHV, that's a greater range of EV available for you.  And it certainly was!  Wow!!  I was shocked.  The Prius shot up the 1/3 mile stretch hitting the 40 MPH limit at a brisk acceleration rate.  That was amazing!  It was the discovery of the magic demonstration to perform for someone "on the fence" about whether or not to purchase the PHV.  I can't wait to show others that.  In fact, I couldn't wait myself.  So, I went around the neighborhood and did it 3 more times!  The experience instantly became a memory I'll cherish for many years to come.  That amount of EV power will really antagonize the antagonists.  They've been claiming hard-acceleration below the 100 km/h (62.1 MPH) threshold isn't possible.  Clearly, they're wrong.

8-18-2010

PHV - Charge Level.  Routinely seeing the charge-level indicator full is quite a sight.  That's incredibly rare with the non-plug model.  What also happens quite infrequently without a plug is the low end.  Since the battery-pack is so much larger in the PHV, only 2 bars when in ECO mode makes sense.  That represents a decent amount of capacity available still.  So, you will only see 3 bars from time to time.  I anticipated that a number of times, surprised not to.  But I hadn't thought of the situation prior to actually getting behind the wheel of one.  It's basically just a programming choice on what to display how much the interface should vary from the other model.  I didn't see 4 bars in ECO, nor expected to.  In my 2010, it's 6 bars that are displayed most of time.  Dropping to 2 is quite predictable.  That happens when trapped in heavy traffic like construction delays or an accident slowdown.  The engine fires up when you move then, in the 2010.  In the PHV, that's not the case for 2 bars.  Electricity propulsion is still readily available.  In short, charge-level differs.

8-18-2010

PHV - System Data.  We have long desired simple, yet informative, values indicating what the engine does while traveling at high speeds in a PHV model Prius.  Unfortunately, to capture those numbers on my aftermarket gauge would be a challenge.  Lighting couldn't be too bright or too dark.  That meant taking photos could only occur precisely at dusk.  To complicate matters, I needed a stretch of highway which was flat, everyone would be traveling at the desired speed (for safety), and it was close enough to reach using the battery-pack power currently available.  With only 11.4 miles of charge at the time and that stretch of highway was almost 10 miles away, it was going to be tight.  Fortunately, getting there required travel at 70 MPH, which provided lots of photography practice opportunity prior to arriving.  I wedged the camera (HD video with the button set to continuous photo capture) between the seat and the center console aimed directly at the gauge.  All I had to do was hold it perfectly still and drive at a steady pace.  Easier said than done.  It worked!  I got a great shot at 70 MPH with the engine at just 992 RPM and the efficiency indicating 233 MPG, a clear indication of the boost you get when driving fast.  Sweet!  The speed limit dropped.  I arrived.  Now was my one & only chance.  60 MPH at 0 RPM.  That's practically perfect.  62 is the maximum.  But since that's a first or its kind photo, I'm pretty darn happy.  Phew!

8-18-2010

PHV - Less Engine.  What an amazing opportunity.  My jump onto the 70 MPH highway with 11 miles of EV still available came at a perfect time.  The sun was on the way down, traffic was very light, and I had taken most all of the photos I wanted already.  So, I perched the camera in a position to snap a photo of the ScanGauge when I encountered something exciting while cruising.  Seeing 233 MPG while at 70 MPH on a flat section of highway was amazing.  RPM was at 992.  That's the lightest load for engine running, consequently the most efficient.  And you got it, I captured nice photo of that moment.  I also reached the highway section where the speed limit drops.  There, I got a great photo of 9999 MPG.  Speed was 60 MPH.  Engine was at 0 RPM.  Gotta love that!  Reducing frequency of engine use a natural progression for Prius.  Witnessing it firsthand in 2010 is fantastic.  Who would have thought precisely 10 years after deliveries began I'd be on the highway using far more electricity than the Classic model offered.

8-17-2010

PHV - Long Drive.  I didn't have enough time to fully recharge.  The final night of PHV opportunity had already arrived and the sun was quickly setting.  Missing that excellent lighting wasn't worth the extra electricity.  Time to start my long drive.  The journey began with a jump onto the 70 MPH highway, allowing me to witness the ultra-high efficiency gained from the sub-packs despite the speed.  I snapped off as many photos as possible than and later when the highway slowed to 60 MPH.  That was close.  Very little EV capacity remained and I really wanted to capture the 0 RPM experience on the my gauge.  Got it!  I first drove to my sister's place.  Visited awhile.  Then jumped in the Prius again to visit my best friend.  32.3 miles at that point.  Only 4% EV and 96% HV.  The drive home changed it to 2% EV and 98% HV for a total of 64.7 miles.  Take a moment to think about the efficiency.  With so much non-EV travel and distance well beyond the "14 mile" range, I bet there are many who won't believe the 69.4 MPG average was actually achieved.  Delivering such high numbers is certainly not what certain people are hoping for from a so much smaller capacity battery-pack.  That should make the automotive industry stand up and take notice!  That entire long drive worked out really well.  Data for the drive back (well after the sub-packs had been totally depleted):  maximum speed 71 MPH, maximum engine 4,474 RPM, maximum temperature 198 F degrees, and 61.2 MPG on the gauge.  Overall distance traveled since I got the PHV at that point was 298.2 mile displaying an average of 79.4 MPG.  Sweet, eh?

8-17-2010

PHV - Price.  Think about the goal for Toyota.  It's to keep price of the plug-in model affordable, configuring it as option you select when choosing a package rather than it being an entirely different vehicle or class.  They don't have to include the NiMH battery-pack, giving them roughly $2,000 more to work with.  To keep the overall price in the affordable range, they said this Prius would be somewhere in the middle when it comes to features.  Figuring the cost of the battery-pack, charger, wiring, socket, and cord comes to around $6,000 or so, that magic "nicely under $30,000" could indeed be realistic.  That's the target GM had set for Volt so it would appeal to a large number of consumers.  Obviously, that didn't work out.  But for Toyota it certainly seems within reach.  With capacity at 5.2 instead of 16 kWh, the design of PHV certainly does seem to keep low price as a priority.  Achieving high-volume sales and becoming part of the mainstream requires that.

8-17-2010

PHV - Winter.  Questions about performance in Winter is the common interest I'm seeing already.  Sure, it works now in the Summer, but what about in January?  Minnesota can be cruel in the cold.  How will that affect the batteries?  What about heat?  Will distance be shorter?  Is acceleration hampered?  The theme is obvious, since that's the same thing I remember 10 years ago.  That first Winter with the 2001 Prius just happened to be a really bad one too.  Seeing photos and reading stories of my travel in those conditions drew a lot of attention.  It was overwhelming proof that the system could handle extremes just fine.  I'd certainly like to do the same again, this time for the PHV model.  I'll suggestion it.  I suspect the demand for them is already scheduled out for quite some time.  Being available nearby will likely be a challenge as well.  But it never hurts to ask.  Another endorsement from me would be a lot of fun.  I'd love to observe the heat-pump in action!  Even getting stuck in the inevitable stop & slow traffic from heavy snow would be enjoyable.  Wish me luck.

 

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