Prius Personal Log  #49

January 1, 2003  -  January 7, 2003

Last Updated: Mon. 5/26/2003

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1-07-2003

Newer = Better.  This new misconception is forming.  People have finally figured out that Prius first became available in 1997, not 2000.  That's great.  It makes them feel much more confident about the technology, since it's been in real-world service longer.  But now that new hybrids are being developed, they're incorrectly making the assessment that Prius is uses old technology.  They have no idea that the quality & abilities of the product are a direct result of the components used.  An automaker designing a hybrid now may decide a simpler design will sell better, be easier to provide warranty services for, and at the same time generate a higher profit.  So they'll take that approach.  The actual cost ends up about the same as a full-hybrid in the end.  But the design may confuse or scare away consumers, requires thorough mechanic training, and won't even provide any profit for a few years.  That's all short-term thinking.  Stockholders & Boardmembers certainly like that plan though.  The risk is lower and it puts money in their pocket sooner.  Thankfully, Toyota set long-term goals instead.  And since they began rollout 5 years ago, the risk is considerably lower now.  The opportunity for more than just a modest profit will soon be possible too.  Lastly, the concept of "new" is obscure anyway.  The combustion engine is over 100 years old.  Talking about using ancient technology!  It makes those 5 years seem almost trivial.

1-07-2003

Passing while Climbing.  I had a bit of fun today.  While climbing out of the river valley, I encountered a car only going 43 MPH.  So I found an opening in the upcoming traffic in the other lane, waited, then punched it.  The Prius shot up to 65 MPH.  The fact that I was going up a steep include at that moment didn't matter.  I had power available to pass.  Those that claim Prius isn't capable obviously haven't actually tried it.  Go for a test-drive.  You'd be surprised.  The 0-to-60 rate really doesn't reflect how much passing power you have available.

1-06-2003

Prius: a cure for the Hiccups.  I rushed out of the house this morning for work.  I had been fighting the hiccups for 10 minutes already.  It was starting to hurt.  After about 5 minutes of driving I encountered a stoplight, one that usually makes me wait for awhile.  A soothing song just happen to come on the radio.  The engine shut off, no noise or vibration.  My wait was off to a good start.  I was able to completely relax.  That stopped that the hiccups.  I hadn't realize Prius came with a relaxation feature standard.

1-06-2003

1000 HP.  That's "One Thousand Horse Power".  Talking about gross overkill!  What in the world would you ever need that kind of power for?  And having 16 cylinders to accomplish that can't possibly be a good thing for maintenance concerns; that's 4 times as many engine parts moving at high speed than in a Prius.  It was the beefiest of the 5 muscle vehicles premiered at the 2003 North American International Auto Show today.  What a waste.

1-06-2003

"Like the rest of us"  It has begun.  Hybrid owners are starting to get segregated.  They are being labeled as different, not "like the rest of us".  I hope it's just a phase that doesn't last long.  When the next generation of hybrids finally become available, the people saying that are going to be outnumbered.  Greater variety, including increased power, will be offered.  I don't think they realize that.

1-05-2003

How will they measure a 1.5 MPG improvement?  GM's announcement of an upcoming "soft" hybrid will provide a 1.5 MPG improvement.  How in the world are they going to measure that.  The EPA ratings have a much bigger variance with just traditional vehicles.  And since hybrid performance differs based on real-world driving conditions, how would anyone even know if the system makes any difference.  We already know for a fact that the auto-stop only hybrid doesn't provide any benefit for those that only cruise on the highway.  In fact, the added weight might actually cause a minor decrease in MPG.  Automakers are really going to have promote the technology if they want people to understand what they will be offering.  Without doing that, they could end up with a PR nightmare just from the misconceptions getting blown out of proportion.

1-04-2003

Finally getting the message.  Thank goodness.  (Phew!)  It's finally beginning to happen.  Hints about upcoming hybrid announcements from Detroit automakers are hitting the media.  Chevrolet Silverado-Hybrid & GMC Sierra-Hybrid pickups will be available to fleet customers in 2003 and to consumers in 2004.  GM says it will be able to sell up to 1 million hybrids by 2007, including a Suburban-Hybrid & Tahoe-Hybrid plus a GMC Yukon-Hybrid.  An Equinox-Hybrid (successor to the Tracker) is expected in 2006.  And a Vue-Hybrid in 2005.  Ford Escape-Hybrid was originally announced for the end of 2003, but now it looks like it will be available the summer of 2004.  Toyota Highland-Hybrid and Lexus (who's owned by Toyota) RX330-Hybrid SUVs are expected by 2005.  And DaimlerChrysler is expected to offer a hybrid pickup as a 2003 model.  Needless to say, the "wheels of progress" (quite literally) are turning now.  But bare in mind, many of this are only assist-hybrids & mild-hybrids.  The aren't as fuel-efficient or as clean as a full-hybrid, like Prius.  It's a good step in the right direction though.

1-04-2003

Prius Website Card update.  People have specifically requested to see my real-world data.  That's why I created the mini spreadsheet & graph to print on the back.  They've also expressed pleasure from seeing the photo and getting to keep the card after the encounter with me.  So last night, after having reached 45,000 miles and concluded gathering another quarter-year of data, I revised the design yet again.  Over the last 2.5 years, it has been improved a number of times.  Each attempt is to add appeal to the photo of the Prius.  This time it got even bigger so I could include a decent amount of creative background too.  Wanna see or print it?  Click here:  website card   website card print

1-04-2003

A long-time conspiracy?  If there was ever a super-engine that got purchased from an inventor by a Detroit automaker then buried so no one could use it, now would be the time to dig it up.  The competition has a huge lead already.  Worries about the reduced consumption affected the economy have actually reversed.  The need has arrived.  But even if an unknown technology did deliver superior MPG, ask yourself if it was also reliable, affordable, and clean.  I bet it wasn't.  Fuel-Cell technology is currently fighting those very barriers (plus some others).  Engines are quite a bit more robust still.  Engines are drastically less expensive.  And there isn't a clean source of hydrogen available on the mass-production scale yet.  Reality is setting in for developers.  Thank goodness Prius is proving a viable solution.

1-03-2003

Making a Difference.  It's starting to happen.  Today, more than 70 hybrid cars parked outside the Los Angeles Convention Center for the launch of the 2003 Auto Show to send a message to Detroit automakers: There is a demand for fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles.  Hybrid owners, including several celebrities, spoke up.  I really liked this quote from Donna Mills: "Enough already with being dependent on foreign countries for oil or drilling in the Arctic for oil. People want these cars. People love them. Make them."  My comment to add is "Duh!"  Based on everything I've experienced over the last 3 years, the desire for hybrids is so obvious.

1-03-2003

Synthetic Effect.  I'm so glad I didn't give into temptation.  9 months ago I really wanted to switch to synthetic oil.  Instead I waited.  That resulted in 14,000 miles of data being gathered from the Non-LRR tires.  So now I have something solid to make comparisons against.  Today's commute hinted that I'll be able to squeeze out another MPG, but the Winter cold is going to skew the short-term data.  I'm very curious if that effect will actually continue, especially when it warms up a little.  I'm fairly good now at predicting what the Multi-Display will show.  Today's commute was a little bit higher than I would have expected with real oil.

1-03-2003

2002 Sales Results.  The numbers continue to climb.  After 2.5 years, it's not just early adopters buying Prius anymore.  Family, friends, neighbors, coworkers have all been exposed to the countless "happy owner" stories many times now... enough to make them purchase one of their own.  The wheels of progress (literally) are turning.  20,119 were sold in 2002.  Toyota made the quota they set with very little effort.  Imagine what will happen when they dramatically increase production in 2 years and follow-up with an advertising blitz.  Prius (and other hybrids) will surge.  I can't wait!

1-03-2003

2004 Prius.  Toyota will use a more eco-friendly plastic beginning with next year's model, something they developed specifically to lower environmental impact.  Prius is cleaner than just what comes out of the tailpipe.  I wonder how many people will ever find out about those efforts Toyota invests in to make things as green as possible.  EPA rating never take into account what materials & compounds were used in the product itself.

1-03-2003

Synthetic Commute.  My routine commute to work was far from routine.  I think it was actually the highest MPG since winter began.  Was that dumb luck or did the synthetic cause that?  We won't know until I've driven several tanks with it.  But others have reported improvements with their particular driving patterns.  It would be nice if that applied to mine too.  Time will tell.

1-03-2003

EPA emissions ratings.  Did you know the SULEV tests are based on a 120,000 mile calculation and the ULEV only 100,000 miles for most vehicles?  The addition of that extra 20,000 miles makes the rating much more difficult to achieve, since those are the dirtiest miles.  Sulfur build-ups occur in the catalytic-converter making it less effective.  That's why the preference is to include the use of low-sulfur gas.  It guarantees that the system will be exposed to less sulfur.  Of course, when a Prius is brand new, that isn't an issue at all.  Even with the standard dirty gas, it can still easily achieve SULEV early in it's life.  So be happy and breath easy.  Low-Sulfur gas for everyone is less than 3 years away now.

1-02-2003

Synthetic Now.  The oil switch is complete.  Doing it was an incredible experience.  I've changed a lot of oil in my time.  Never have I seen such a convenient layout.  After jacking up the Prius, which involves just a simple hydraulic-jack behind the right-wheel, reaching the drain is trivial.  The oil pan is right there near the right-corner.  Crawling under the car isn't needed.  Just lay down and there it is.  I was actually shocked when I realized just how close it actually was.  The filter location is great too.  It's even further forward and the angle completely vertical.  No chance of spilling.  (That helps, I do tend to spill from time to time when they are tipped.)  Anywho, I have no plans to ever use real oil again.  Hopefully, there will be a MPG gain from switching to synthetic.  But even if there isn't, the engine is well protected and I learned it takes very little effort to repeat the process.  The more I discover about Prius, the more the term "genius" really does apply.  Wow!

1-02-2003

St. Paul Smog.  My drive today was very disappointing.  From the top of the river valley, I got a good look at the metro area.  The cold winter temperatures (14 F degrees) prevented the smog from dispersing.  There was a very easy-to-see layer of orange-yellow haze over the city and surrounding area.  I can't even begin to fathom what the much dirtier metro areas are like.  Ick!  No wonder I have sensitive sinuses.

1-02-2003

Prius Sacrifices Gas.  That's a aspect people simply don't realize.  In order to achieve SULEV cleanness, the emissions system must be hot.  That heat comes directly from the gasoline engine.  So if the engine stays off for too long, exhaust wouldn't be cleansed properly.  So after awhile, the engine starts running again whether it's needed or not.  That just-in-case behavior guarantees SULEV, but sacrifices some gas.  Imagine if Prius was allowed to be as dirty as traditional vehicles (or even some other hybrids), it would be able to get several MPG better performance.  Interesting, eh?

1-02-2003

45,000 mile service.  With the exception of the paperwork problem, it was a fairly routine experience.  They labeled this interval as an "Intermediate Service".  So inspections are performed, fluids are topped-off, change an air-filter, and the tires are rotated.  I was asked if I really wanted the tire-pressure set that high.  They gladly accepted my reply of "Yup, I prefer 42/40!"  I got to take a short drive with the master-tech too.  The electric-steering is now making a very faint clicking sound when the wheel is turned, similar to the sound made when an electric-rely makes (like the rear-defroster switch).  There's no affect on operation whatsoever, just sound that can't even be heard with the radio on.  But with stealth and a keen sense of hearing, I picked up on it.  The conclusion was that it's normal and probably only happens during the Winter.  That's good.  At least I'm thorough.  It provided a brief opportunity to chat with a well informed (and very user-friendly!) mechanic, so it was worthwhile venture.  The final cost for the service, subtracting the oil filter & crush-washer, was $155.50 after tax.

1-02-2003

 

"Less Oil Change"  If you are going to change the oil yourself, make sure they include a "less oil change" note on the work-order when you bring your Prius in for routine servicing.  Today, the master-tech at my Toyota dealer kindly pointed out to the service-writer that it clearly stated "45K service less oil change" in the appointment book and she neglected to include that special instruction.  Needless to say, the charge was removed for the service they did that I did not ask for.  The downside is I will now end up throwing away (by that I mean reusing or recycling, just not using it in the Prius anymore) the brand new oil they gave me and I lost the opportunity to closely inspect the condition of real oil at 7,500 miles.  But I've been really, really looking forward to switching to synthetic.  And it should ultimately end up improving MPG ever-so-slightly.  So I'll be consuming even less oil overall would anyway.  Stay tuned for a report on my observations from switching.

1-02-2003

Why didn't I get one of those?  While waiting for my Prius service to get finished, I worked on my notebook computer.  The background photo (the one with the bee pollinating the purple flower on this page: gallery 6) caught someone's eye.  She asked me about it.  I said I took that photo myself.  She mentioned her daughter right there was into photography.  Her daughter jumped into the conversion asking about other things I had done.  I handed her a Prius website card.  Staring at the extreme detail and vibrant colors got her to ask about the car.  Within just a few minutes of explaining how a Prius works, her mother blurted out "Why didn't I get one of those?"  Hearing that was pretty cool.  The idea of hybrids is definitely catching on.

1-01-2003

Synthetic Oil.  Tomorrow I'm going in for the routine 45,000 mile maintenance service, but without the oil change.  I'll be doing that myself afterward.  The freebies (which included real oil) are all used up now and Prius is the easiest vehicle I've ever encountered for oil changing.  Because of my very thorough MPG record keeping, seeing whether or not switching to synthetic makes a difference should be fairly obvious.  Stay tuned.

1-01-2003

MPG made simple.  45,000 miles. 1,000 gallons of gas.  I certainly don't need a calculator to figure what my average was.

 

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