Prius Personal Log  #50

January 8, 2003  -  January 14, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 3/08/2003

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1-14-2003

Raised Awareness.  That Multi-Display certainly does a great job of educating.  It really provokes deep thought.  Now on the group we are getting really impressive questions, not just the basics anymore.  Cool!

1-13-2003

What happened to CARB?  The very long awaited CARB enforcement for 2003 is now delayed a decade (a proposed new "ZEV" requirement for 2012), with only a few modest steps in the meantime.  In short, this is a perfect example how politics and the market can screw up the best interests of our society.  (Yes, I'm a bit upset by this.)  Blame can be placed on a variety of different factors, but the point still remains that there just isn't strong interest in significantly lowering emissions alone.  Another draw, like improved MPG, is also needed.  Thankfully Prius delivers exactly that... TODAY! 

1-12-2003

Prius Sightings.  On that cold, inefficient (for a Prius, much better than traditional vehicles thankfully) drive down, I was spotted by the occupants of a Blue Moon Prius.  They pulled up along side and waved wildly!  Then on the drive up, I saw a Silver Prius.  I waved and tapped the horn, but it was too dark to tell if the driver noticed.

1-12-2003

A cold reality.  2 hours of driving at an average of 65 MPH with the temperature at the freezing-point and a very fierce crosswind just killed my MPG today.  The Multi-Display now says 39.5 after 194 miles.  Ouch!  I yearn for warmer weather.  50 MPG seems so far away now.

1-12-2003

Another Owner Page.  We have our first contribution from outside the United States.  Ming is from Canada.  At times, his weather closely resembles what I experience in Minnesota.  In fact, the Winter photos he provided look just like those I would expect to see... cold and the snow isn't ever gone for long, it kind of gives you the hopeless feeling that Spring will never come.  Nonetheless, the shots of his Aqua Prius are very nice.  See them on this webpage:  owner:  Ming

1-12-2003

Emergency Swerve.  Accident-Avoidance is a Prius strength the larger vehicles simply can't compete with.  Today, I took advantage of that design benefit (again unfortunately, but the first time with these particular tires).  While cruising down the highway at 60 MPH with my lights on (even though it was the afternoon), a driver merged onto the highway and obviously didn't notice me... at first.  When she finally did, she hesitated momentarily, then panicked and slammed on the brakes.  I couldn't believe I was actually seeing brake lights.  It left me no choice but to make an emergency decision.  With a minivan closely following behind me, slamming on the brakes myself didn't seem too smart.  Swerving into the emergency lane didn't seem safe either, there was still a possibility she'd maneuver that way and it would force me to cross over leaving my body in the danger-zone longer.  The semi on my left and slightly behind was traveling a constant speed and there was enough room.  So I punched it.  Pedal to the floor, the Prius shot off.  I swerved out of the way of the stopping car, making the tires squeak slightly as I did that.  I was safe!  The minivan didn't get a choice like I did.  The driver was forced to try an abrupt stop.  I noticed there wasn't enough room for the Prius.  I would have gotten rear-ended.  Whoa!  Thank goodness I wasn't driving a larger vehicle not capable of aggressive steering like that.

1-12-2003

Diesel Market-Share.  The way diesel vehicle owners talk up their engine technology, you'd think it was somewhat common here.  I had no idea it wasn't until I read an online article this morning.  The entire diesel market-share for the United States is just 1 percent.  That's only 168,000 new vehicles sold per year!  With Toyota planning to sell 300,000 hybrid systems beginning in 2005, hybrids could pass up diesels in short time.  That makes me wonder if diesel related emissions will be cleaned up to compete with hybrids.  The technology is available and the European regulations will begin requiring it in a few years.

1-11-2003

What kind of impression?  What kind of impression do the senior owners make when they respond to a misconception inquiry directly without a lot of detail?  Many of those misconceptions were disproved a long time ago for them.  They have an overwhelming amount of proof showing that the traditional answers simply don't apply or were never well understood in the first place.  And since Prius was built from the ground up with the expectation of it being a hybrid from day one, being different should be given.  How do those new people reading replies actually feel with they get an answer like that?

1-11-2003

They're bound to get better.  Remember how just a few years ago some people wondered if digital could ever compete with 35mm film?  Now with a 3-megapixel digital camera for $299 and a $149 printer, you can create digital photos with more vibrant colors and greater detail.  Prices continue to drop too.  In fact, with the reusable digital "film" so cheap (128 MB memory for $39, which will hold about 120 photos), it's hardly even worth mentioning anymore.  The price is completely realistic.  Imagine the day when that happens with the battery-pack in a hybrid.  Cheap and long-lasting will someday be possible with so many people researching how to make it happen.  It's only a matter of time.

1-11-2003

It only averages 45 MPG?  I get that comment all the time.  So naturally, my response is to ask what that person actually gets.  They reply with a value that sounds unrealistic.  I ask how they determined it.  They reply with a "I measured it once".  Then of course, that inevitably brings the conversation to winter performance when you mention the variation possible with outside temperature and A/C use.  At that point, some admit they really don't know and others insist that they get the same MPG year-round.  It was a rather frustrating reality to deal with... until all the other automakers announced they would also be offering hybrids a few years from now and the EPA stated they will be taking measures to make their ratings more realistic.  That means real-world MPG will actually get the attention it deserves.  Averaging 45 MPG (while also reducing emissions significantly) is quite nice.

1-11-2003

Low Profit-Margin a deterrent?   The current impression is that as long as the Prius has a lower profit margin than other cars, it will be slighted by the sales force.  That might be true... unless the entire market changes, just like the computer industry experienced.  Computer-makers had no choice but to accept that new reality.  Just a few years ago, there was only one choice factor for a new computer purchase: speed.  You simply bought the fastest processor you could afford.  All the other components were matched in proportion to that amount.  It was a simple purchase decision.  Now there's a whole variety of computer configurations.  Speed is no longer the dominate factor.  Other aspects now draw attention.  The auto industry is on that same path.  Buying the most powerful engine (in the body of your choice) will no longer mean you are getting the best.  Aspects like high MPG and super clean will become a draw.  There's no association between that an engine power.  The other reality the computer industry faced that's now becoming clear in the minds of automakers is that profit-margin is expected to drop.  The computer industry dealt with this by pushing volume instead.  And since hybrids are destined to become vastly superior, people (in general) will abandon the traditional technology (higher profit vehicles).  That means a surge in hybrid purchases.  Toyota is preparing for exactly that.  They keep reaffirming the commitment to sell 300,000 hybrids per year beginning in 2005.  Salespeople that are prepared for that will welcome the volume sales, despite the lower profit margin.  Pretty cool, eh?

1-10-2003

Synthetic Driving.  It appears as though I'm starting to see the benefits of having switched to synthetic oil.  Last weekend's driving was horribly inefficient.  I did a bunch of post-holiday catch up, which involved quite a few short trips with a cold engine.  So I started the work-week with the Multi-Display stating 41.2 MPG after 82 miles of driving.  Fortunately, we had a brief warm-spell that allowed me to do a little bit of driving with the temperature in the mid-40's.  That brought the MPG back up to "typical".  Now the reality of winter has set in.  This morning's commute it was only 14 F degrees.  The Multi-Display made me very happy though.  It now shows 45.6 MPG after driving 286 miles.  That's higher than I would have expected it to be.  The synthetic oil appears to be helping a little bit.  But... I did make the mistake of topping off the tank immediately after changing the oil.  That caused an over-inflated MPG value, so the next should be under.  And since it will likely be colder, that will add bladder-effect too.  In other words, we'll have to wait to see what the next few tanks reveal.

1-10-2003

SUV appeal.  Part of the reason automakers are showing signs of panic is the fact that SUVs in general are starting to lose their appeal.  That's going to make the monster-size ones more difficult to sell.  A since those were their highest profit product, a strong financial future isn't guaranteed anymore.  (Hey, we all new that would happen someday.)  Now that all automakers offer a wide selection of SUVs, the uniqueness has been lost.  The size simply doesn't stand out in the crowd now.  And since hybrids are so dramatically different, focusing on a performance aspect most hadn't ever considered (like efficiency or emissions), there's a spark of interest.  Having a few practical-size SUV full-hybrids announced is all it would take.  That actually happened this week.  Change is coming.

1-10-2003

Yet another feather added to Toyota's cap.  Now DaimlerChrysler is considering using a hybrid system from Toyota for one of their hybrids.  (Ford & Nissan have already signed agreements.)  It's reassuring hearing that the other automakers are starting to panic now.  The appeal of hybrids is growing so fast they realize creating a system of their own from scratch within just a few years is unrealistic.  Buying the technology that's already well-proven is a good plan.  It will provide them with an opportunity to at least have some type of hybrid to sell while they do development of their own.  Everyone wins again.

1-09-2003

Not just Monster-Size SUVs.  All SUVs have become a target by some organizations now.  The practical-size SUVs were always fine as far as I was concerned.  I could accept them even knowing they were rarely actually used for what they were designed for.  We all know a minivan offers a larger cargo area, and the extra set of seats (7 instead of 5) is an obvious advantage.  The safety factor is what really gets me.  Minivans get incredibly high ratings for safety, SUVs get just the opposite.  Isn't safety what the SUV advertisements promote?  Well now, counter-advertisements are becoming popular, and of course, controversial as a result.  Automakers don't like when the SUV rollover aspect is pointed-out, since there's no way to argue that a higher center-of-gravity is better.  Satirical comic artists have went wild making SUVs the butt of jokes lately.  The "everyone has one" mentality is wrecking the "mine is bigger" reality; the vehicles just don't stand out anymore.  Fear works well as a deterrent, so now we are seeing "I'm helping to fund terrorism" campaigns.  (That makes SUV owners furious.)  And the obvious design problem is the waste & pollution.  So what we are seeing is the automakers quietly introducing crossover vehicles.  Essentially, these are practical-size SUVs that are built based on a car/minivan frame rather than one from a truck.  That seems to be drawing attention too.  If all goes well, making them into hybrids makes a lot of sense.  Everyone wins.  I like that plan.  I wonder if that's what those organizations targeting SUVs are ultimately (and secretly) hoping for too.  Hmm?

1-08-2003

Prius 2003 Calendar.  I'm just putting the finishing touches on my "Family 2003 Calendar" now.  (Yes, I actually have a life apart from the Prius.)  That means I'll be able to start the Prius one soon.  It shouldn't take that long either, since the Prius photos are already digital & optimized.  I'll be choosing a theme for each month, then assembling a collage with Prius photos to fit that.  Once I made the selections, it's just a matter of pasting them into the template I already created.  I'd like to deliver both a DOC & PDF format.  It will then be just a matter of downloading & printing at home and binding at print-service (like Office Max, who can also have the print-service create the calendar directly from the files if you prefer.)  Total price works out to about $10 for everything, on heavy paper in photo-quality.  Watch for it.  (I have to invest a lot of time into this quickly; otherwise, you'll end up with just an 11-month calendar.  Wish me luck.)

1-08-2003

"Full" hybrid.  Explaining to people that the difference between the Toyota and Honda designs are very significant has been a horrible chore.  And that's just to explain the design.  (You'd be amazed at the questions you get in response.  Most people have simply never given a design beyond just an engine any thought before now.  So they just assume variety isn't possible, you just add a motor... right?)  Then when the concept finally does sink in, they ask which is better.  That's even more difficult to deal with.  Fortunately, the situation is rapidly getting easier.  GM's announcement to introduce 7 hybrids of various designs over the next few years has got everyone's attention.  They have clearly stated that there will be one "full" hybrid, a few "assist" hybrids, and a few "soft" hybrids.  So naturally, people have become curious about hybrids already available.  So instead of surprising someone when I point out there's a significant difference, they already have a fundamental grasp of what the variations could deliver.  Cool!

1-08-2003

A moment of indulgence.  I've been told over & over that it's ok not to be modest, being proud of helping out is a good thing.  So, I will briefly now...  From time to time an email will appear in my inbox that starts out by saying, "I was searching the internet looking for Prius information and discovered your website.  Whoa! "  The person ends up finding a resource much bigger than they ever anticipated.  Just like with Prius itself, they weren't expecting to find so much.  That's pretty cool!  Being able to so easily reach such a massive, diverse, and widespread audience is great!!!  I'm glad I could help out.

1-08-2003

That Gear-Select Lever.  What a genius design.  Toyota knew if it pushed too far with the introduction of new technologies that they could potentially scare away some buyers.  They refrained from adding too many advanced interface features, even though they would be fairly inexpensive since the Multi-Display is already included.  Features like an engine run indicator, a tachometer, a regeneration level meter, a brake indicator, charge level, and all kind of summarized statistics could be added.  But then people would think (or fear) the computer-interface is just too confusing or distracting.  So instead, Toyota changed the shape & action of the gear-select level to help test the waters of acceptance.  And sure enough, that has freaked out some people.  They find it "too different" from what they are use to.  That's a pretty clear sign that going from a no-user-feedback traditional design to a full-blown you-get-everything interface is more than mainstream buyers can handle right now.  Bummer.  I'd like those extra features.  Oh well.  Patience.  It will eventually happen.

 

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