Prius Personal Log  #52

January 26, 2003  -  February 2, 2003

Last Updated: Fri. 4/09/2004

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2-02-2003

Alternate Tires - On Slush.  I got to test the alternate tires (Goodyear Allegras) on a deep, wet, heavy slush today.  That's something we just don't have to deal with often in Minnesota.  It's rarely that warm.  So I was really excited.  I tested the tires on 2 especially difficult turns.  I hit each hard, turning the wheel but neither speeding up nor braking.  That threw the Prius into an angled skid.  Stepping on the accelerator was all it took to recover.  The wheels dug in and the Prius pulled through the turn.  I was quite pleased.  So I tried the same again, but making a left instead of a right.  The same thing happened.  These tires were obviously an excellent choice.

2-02-2003

Performance & Safety will go down.  That's the argument now about a mandated MPG increase.  I hope those saying that enjoy that argument while they still can.  It's weak already.  The next generation of Prius (whenever that becomes available) will squash it.  Toyota is quite serious about advancing the hybrid technology.  They want to gain market-share (from 10% to 15% total sales in the United States by 2010).  Offering a product without any current competition will certainly help accomplish that.  The hybrid invasion has begun!!!  And that's what will ultimately provide the support (business & consumer interest) needed to make fuel-cells a reality.  Throwing some government money at a cause or forcing a regulation doesn't create market-demand.

2-02-2003

"Classic" Prius.  It has begun.  Rumors are growing about the next generation of Prius, the third.  The second generation, which is what I'm driving now, is actually only the first in the United States but the improvements from before have not been forgotten.  Back in Japan in 1997, the original Prius had a smaller engine and a larger battery-pack that wasn't as powerful.  That met the needs for the Japanese roads, but not those here.  The upgrade introduced here has served the needs of many, but not for the masses.  The average consumer wants more reserve power available than what's actually needed.  Even though my Prius handles the high-speed merging just fine, a boost of power will boost consumer interest.  So that's exactly what it seems Toyota will be delivering, along with a minor size increase and a restyling to make the body more traditional looking.  That may occur this year too.  The current stage of rollout here is to establish a reliability reputation while training salespeople & mechanics.  Large volumes wouldn't help with that, so the current model satisfied those like myself just fine.  We'll end up owning the limited "classic" collector's model, everyone else will buy the upgraded-for-mass-production version later... perhaps with the 2004 beginning the fall of this year.  I can envision it now.  That newest generation everywhere.  People get used to seeing that.  Then from time-to-time they'll spot a "classic" model on the road.  I wonder what they'll think of that.  Hmm?  I'll probably get asked constantly how many miles I've driven already and what my Lifetime MPG is.  Naturally, new Prius owners will be extremely curious about the battery-pack then.  I can't wait!

2-02-2003

The Battery Misconception.  A whole new bunch of people are asking the same old questions we've heard before.  It gets easier to answer each time.  It will only take a few more years to finally squash the misconceptions.  This one specifically is about the battery-pack longevity.  Here's may reply...  You really need to study the Multi-Display (the screen on the dashboard) to begin to understand that Prius goes way out of its way to protect the battery-pack.  To make that easy for you, I filmed it in several different driving situations and created downloadable files.  You'll find them here: video filesGas is actually sacrificed to insure deep-discharge (a major factor that shortens battery-life) doesn't ever occur.  So you can go ahead and enjoy those smooth & silent moments of electric-only driving without concern.  You'll notice that when you accelerate onto a highway moderately (for me that's a non-rush-hour merge on an uphill ramp at 70 MPH), the battery-pack isn't even used.  The electricity comes exclusively from the engine itself.  It's generated on-the-fly, rather than drawing from the battery-pack.  Then the fun thing to do is to push the acceleration a little more.  The engine will speed up RPMs and so much electricity is created that the unneeded portion is redirected to the battery-pack for recharging.  That surprises lots of newbies.  They don't expect that behavior at all.  It isn't until you push the pedal down even further that you end up using electricity from the battery-pack.  Longevity is what my website will help prove.  The concerns about replacement after only a few years are just misconceptions.  It won't be necessary.  And with Toyota making a commitment to building & selling 300,000 systems per year beginning in 2005, the expectation of a price-drop due to mass-production volumes is very realistic.  How long does the average vehicle last anyway?

2-01-2003

Columbia.  Take a moment to remember the crew.  The Space-Shuttle program played a large role in my history.  When it first began, I was at a young impressionably age.  Watching that technology emerge as a reality influenced my beliefs, those same beliefs that now guide me with the promotion of the technology in Prius.

1-31-2003

Synthetic Data.  Will I ever be able to get "real" data?  This week had temperatures that matched some parts of December, back before I switched to using synthetic oil.  So, I got really excited when watching the MPG hovering around 45 all week.  That would be an indication that there really was about a 1 MPG gain.  The only true way to know though is to be observant and compare calculated values.  Unfortunately, that's just not going to work.  I figured that out at the gas station.  It was 25 F degrees colder when I filled up last.  The bladder was smaller then.  The warmth now may it expand, so it took more gas to reach full.  Dang!  Oh well. I'll just have to trust what the Multi-Display says. Over the last 46,400 miles it has averaged exactly a 2 MPG optimistic difference anyway.  So my conclusion, using the "synthetic" data instead, is that switching to synthetic provides about a 1 MPG benefit.

1-31-2003

Fool Cells.  The market will demand more efficient cars soon if a war ensues.  The demand will grow for another reason too. Prius owners are helping to end some misconceptions.  After noticing more and more Prius on the road, seeing & reading about them in the media all the time, and maybe even overhearing a story about great ownership experiences, some people will wonder why their favorite SUV isn't available as a hybrid.  And every time they fill their gas tank, it will be a harsh reality to accept.  People will discover the misconception about electric being slow isn't true.  People will discover the misconception about having to replace the battery-pack every few years isn't true.  People will discover the misconception about needing to learn to drive conservatively isn't true.  People will also discover that the EPA rating system for MPG doesn't actually reflect real-world results, it only serves for the sake comparison.  Waiting for fuel-cells to become realistic will frustrate them.  They'll begin demanding results, demanding hybrids. 

1-31-2003

State of the Union.  Our president endorsed vehicles powered by hydrogen today, appointing money to help with research.  The goal was stated by saying, "The first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free".  Unfortunately, that leaves those of us well informed about the technology frustrated.  Will it be like the "Super Car" program 10 years ago, where the automakers don't actually have to deliver a product in the short-term?  We know already that so much work needs to be done already it's just not possible to create anything realistically competitive quickly.  Hybrids are currently grossly superior.  Will reducing our dependence on foreign oil and our need to reduce emissions have to wait until that infant grows up?  Why the heck isn't there also federal support available for hybrid development?  Hybrids have already proven to be an effective step toward fuel-cell vehicles.  All the full-electric components in hybrids can be used in them too.

1-30-2003

A misconception in our favor!  "will rely far less on electricity and therefore save less fuel"  That quote is something I never expected to read!  It makes a lot of sense when you look at the design of the "mild" hybrids GM is planning to offer.  They'll only provide an improvement of about 10%.  Prius on the other hand is regarded as a "full" hybrid.  It offers an improvement of around 50% (much more if your previous vehicle of similar seating size wasn't designed for efficiency).  That of course puts Honda in an awkward position with their "assist" hybrids.  I wonder (a common thing for me to do) what they'll do to raise consumer awareness.  Hmm?

1-30-2003

More on that MPG discovery.  The roads I've been driving on recently are "moist" not "wet".  There's no real water to push, hence no increased drag.  It's like trying to ring-out a towelette.  You can't even produce a single drop of liquid.  So if anything, it provides a reduction in rolling resistance.  But now that it's warmer out than when I first made that discovery (20 F degrees more), I've noticed that MPG has not increased.  So whatever happened was very temperature specific and barely noticeable without a device like the Multi-Display.  But I noticed it.  And I'm still convinced it was the difference between an almost immeasurably tiny amount of moisture verses none whatsoever that did it.  You agree?  If nothing else, this is definite proof that owning a Prius will raise your MPG awareness.  Those 5-minute summary segments can be very revealing, something you simply wouldn't notice with just an immediate readout.

1-29-2003

IMPORTANT PRIUS FACT.  Oops!  I haven't ever had to deal with an audience like that on the new forum I recently joined. So there's something I simply never thought of mentioning until just now.  It happens so often that it's understandable that I overlooked its importance.  Nonetheless, it's so significant it needs to be said.  It could very well change the understanding of how some of the member their interpret full-hybrid operation.  Anywho, remember how I've mentioned on several instances how Prius generates electricity on-the-fly?  What slipped my mind was saying how often it happens.  It's 100 PERCENT OF THE TIME the engine is providing thrust to the wheels.  That means when the engine is working it is always generating electricity!  (I bet some people never expected that behavior.)  So what the computer actually handles is how much it should create and where that electricity is directed.  Sometimes all of it goes to the other motor for thrust.  Sometimes all of it goes to the battery-pack for recharging.  Sometimes it goes to both.  The point is that there is always fresh electricity available from the engine when thrust is provided.  That's what makes Prius so different from the "assist" hybrids currently available.  Their use of electricity is only occasional, not nearly constant.  Does knowing that now change your impression of Prius?

1-29-2003

PZEV Camry.  There's a brand new rating category in the California emissions tests.  It's a little bit higher than the SULEV rating that Prius offers.  But since a special Camry is now capable of a type of extremely clean emissions, it only makes sense that Toyota will later use similar components (if the evaporative emissions canister already in Prius isn't clean enough) to cleanse what comes out of the Prius tailpipe too.  I can't imagine what it's like for other automakers to be developing their first-generation hybrids.  They're competing with a moving target.  That forces them to set their goals incredibly high.  Accomplishing that in a short amount of time is going to be incredibly challenging.  Good luck!

1-29-2003

MPG discovery confirmed!  It was colder this morning than the previous two days, but still quite wet.  The salt on the roads was melting the remaining snow making streets watery.  That created enough humidity to improve my MPG despite the fact that it only 5 F degrees.  I started with 45.2 MPG at 119 miles on the Multi-Display.  When I arrived at work 20 miles later, it ended up at 45.2 MPG.  Having a net result of "no change" is obviously much better than the 40 MPG average showing on the Multi-Display last week with similar temperatures but much drier air.  Since the storm is long since passed, I think that's enough evidence now to rule out the low-pressure theory a few had suggested as the primary contributor to the pleasing MPG.  I wonder if I'll be able to identify more of a pattern now that I'm aware of the effect.  Hmm?

1-28-2003

21 new Fall Prius Photos.  2 months ago, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November, I went on another adventure with the digital camera and Prius.  I went on Safari, or more precise: Safari Drive, a picturesque road that provided an incredible backdrop for Fall photos with trees that never did change to a vibrant, just brown.  But when you place that brown against a brilliant blue sky with numerous turbulent puffy clouds and a Prius of shiny Electric Green Mica, you get one heck of a photo opportunity.  Need I say more...  photo album 43   photo album 44

1-27-2003

It's true!  The presence of moisture really does increase MPG.  Several well-informed group members replied stating greater compression from super-heated water-vapor in the engine cylinders actually does occur.  That means a fuel efficiency gain.

1-27-2003

From Carson Toyota in California.  Thanks Dianne!  I drove my friend Mary over to the delivery service here in Minnesota today to pick up the brand new Prius she remotely purchased from her.  Some of beautiful Blue Moon Pearl paint was buried under a light layer of snow.  That's a rude awakening for a Prius that was enjoying the warm life just a few days ago.  Oh well.  Now that Prius is filthy.  Washing is a futile effort here in the Winter.  There's sand & salt all over.  But the new owner is all smiles anyway.  (For those of you that don't realize this, Dianne will sell you a Prius long-distance style.  She packages all the papers and sends them through the mail.  Then when all that's returned and finalized, she'll arrange to have it delivered if flying out there and driving back isn't realistic.  Mary watched the good deals Dianne had on her website and ended up buying one that way.)

1-27-2003

MPG discovery!  I unexpectedly made a MPG discovery this morning.  Gotta love that Multi-Display!  It was 12 F degrees on my commute... same old low-traffic route with a familiar winter temperature... except one thing was different today.  The air wasn't bone-dry, zero-humidity anymore.  The virtually snowless winter had produced a layer of the really wet, heavy stuff this morning.  All that melting added MOISTURE to the air.  My MPG shot up.  Whoa!  I figure I gained 2-3 MPG from that air quality change.  Anyone know what actually happened on the molecular level?

1-26-2003

Happy Prius Day!  It certainly was for me.  I drove to the Post Office today to mail the final payment check.  1701-A is (unofficially) all mine now.  Yeah!!!  Then taking the loooong way home (I had several errands to run), I saw 4 other Prius.  2 of them were within less than a minute of each other too.  That was pretty sweet!

 

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