Prius Personal Log  #53

February 3, 2003  -  February 11, 2003

Last Updated: Thurs. 5/15/2003

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2-11-2003

1000 Gallons.  I use low-sulfur gas in my Prius as much as possible, ever since it first became available in Minnesota back in September 1999.  As of today's (not so pleasant) fill up, I've pump a 1000 gallons of the clean stuff in the tank of my Prius.

2-11-2003

My worst fill up.  It had nothing to do with MPG, it was everything else that was unpleasant.  The temperature was just 1 F degree out.  The wind was around 25 MPH with gusts in the 40's.  That made the windchill a nasty -17 F degrees.  All that made it a real pain (literally) but still somewhat tolerable since I've learned to deal with it every year.  This particular experience had a nasty sting added to it though... I had to do it for gas that cost $1.75 per gallon.  That's the highest I've ever had to pay for it!  (Yes, I realize other areas of the country have seen worse. I think part of that has to do with the fact that our gas is a 10% ethanol blend, created locally using crops grown locally.)  So that was officially my worst fill up.  Fortunately, 40.8 MPG is what I calculated.  So the fact that I'm driving a (very salty, frozen) Prius makes me happy.

2-11-2003

Yeah!  I've always made it quite clear that my highest priority was lower emissions.  And I've also stated that my interest is only in those vehicles that deliver BOTH lower emissions and higher efficiency.  A vehicle that improved just one or the other wasn't something I would endorse.  So, I simply haven't been paying much attention to Civic-Hybrid.  It's emissions rating was the same as 90 other popular vehicles... until yesterday, when we got our first report of a SULEV version having been sold.  I kind of had a feeling it wouldn't take long for Honda to catch up.  The rivalry in Japan with Toyota is quite intense.  So now I'm happy.   Delivery of BOTH has finally happened.  Of course, I'm still partial to Prius since it's electric-only abilities can be exploited in future technologies that don't require an engine, like fuel-cells.

2-10-2003

Hybrid Types.  When it comes to the rapidly expanding hybrid market, gimmicks are rampant.  Automakers are calling a whole variety of different engine/motor configurations "hybrids".  They don't provide a clear identification of specific design or category, making the choices for consumers very confusing.  So I created a webpage labeling categories based on specific minimum criteria.  The format and detail will very likely change over time, as the actual hybrids available begin to evolve.  But this is a darn good start to get people thinking about the variety of configurations possible:  hybrid types

2-10-2003

Complexity.  Here's a new misconception: Software Beliefs.  People believe all the computer control in Prius adds to complexity.  In reality, it does exactly the opposite by reducing it.  Instead of complex moving parts that use vacuums and pressure to make control decisions, software is used.  Those parts will wear out causing differing performance and eventual failure.  The software will never change.  It will remain constant the entire life of the vehicle.  There is literally nothing physical to break since there aren't any moving parts.  Every Prius using that software will respond identically regardless of the amount & type of miles driven.  Talking about a resale benefit.

2-09-2003

Pivotal Years.  The future of automobiles is being established now.  The dominance of the combustion engine is ending.  We are redefining transportation.  The history books will state, "Right around the turn of the century, hybrids..."  We're making that history.  No one knows where it will ultimately lead us, but we do know our children will pay the price if we don't do something soon (since the wheels of progress turn so slowly).  Hybrids are a very realistic solution, an excellent step in the right direction. Taking that step, rather than waiting for a magic solution, is the logical choice.  The fact that it doesn't match political agendas or quarterly returns is a sad fact of life.  All this talk about hybrids & fuel-cells will definitely raise awareness.  People will want to know more as time goes on, especially if tax dollars are used in the process.  Hopefully, it won't get ugly.  The less-informed consumers will just see it as a natural step, not even realizing there was an ugly conflict of interest originally.

2-08-2003

Flashbacks.  We (the online forums) keep getting questions about hybrid operation, the very same I sought answers for 3 years ago.  They wonder about reliability.  I'm now very close to 47,000 miles.  I have already determined firsthand that reliability isn't an issue.  The Prius should hold together much better than my Taurus did.  (Thank goodness.  I didn't want to go through the continuous repair routine again.  What a pain.)  They wonder about battery-pack life.  I've observed firsthand that Prius goes way out of its way to protect its life, relying on the engine to prevent excessive drain (deep discharging shortens life) from ever occurring.  They wonder about startup in the cold.  I live in Minnesota, that one took very little to prove it wasn't a problem.  Some owners join the group just for the sake of asking about the tires.  They notice that there's have worn out quickly (30,000 miles) and wonder if there's an alternative available.  I have just about 16,000 miles on my alternative tires.  That's definitely a non-issue at this point.  Some just wonder if you need to drive any differently to improve efficiency.  Our very popular slogan is a great reply to that: "Just Drive It!"  In summary, the Prius is becoming well established.  A few of the senior owners are now approaching the 75,000 mile mark.  One (a Prius cab driver) even exceeded the 200,000 mile mark.  (Then Toyota bought back his Prius for research.  Seeing the effects of that many miles on the original battery-pack, which was still going strong, is priceless.)  If my Prius ever suffers a sudden death from an accident or I need another vehicle in the family, purchasing a Prius is a no-brainer.  "Just Buy It!"

2-08-2003

Do they understand hybrids?  This came from an article about the wild price swings of gasoline lately:  "Unfortunately, he added, there isn't one good answer to what would be the best fuel alternative to gasoline."  We don't actually require an alternate fuel.  In the long-term, that would be great.  But in the short-term, using something else doesn't help the masses.  Simply not consuming as much will bring back stability, so we can keep using gasoline in the meantime.  Hybrids can deliver exactly that.  That will keep those we purchase the crude oil from happy.  It won't be asking for that much of a change from consumers.  And it will give us the time we need to setup the new alternate fuel infrastructure.  Unpredictable resource shifts are what's causing the instability in the first place.  Switching to hybrids is the "one good answer" we need right now.

2-08-2003

Website Upgrade!  The one is major.  I'm quite pleased being able to provide more.  (And I'm very happy about the education I got for learning how to do the new programming).  The navigation-menu on the left (when viewed within the frame layout) now offers mouse-over highlighting, pop-up link information, improved menu open & close behavior, and browser compatibility has been expanded.  Visitors should definitely find all that helpful.

2-07-2003

Emissions Awareness.  Now some prospective buyers are now actually showing interest specifically in the emissions benefit from Prius.  They express concerns about being able to get the SULEV version.  We have to tell them there's no physical difference.  All Prius are the same.  The actual difference is only those states have an emissions scale that goes as high as SULEV.  For the catalytic-converter to make it all the way to the 120,000 mile mark within tolerance still, you must use low-sulfur gas.  That's common in only those specific states, and limited throughout the rest of the United States... for now.  But in just 2 years, low-sulfur gas will be available everywhere (due to a federal requirement).  So all Prius will benefit from having an incredibly clean emissions system too.  Just watch for when your area begins selling low-sulfur gas.  Hopefully, refineries won't all wait until the last minute to meet the regulation.  (Here in Minnesota, the Holiday stations began selling it in all grades at the same price as the competition way back in September 1999.)

2-06-2003

What do you need, not want?  This was the ultimate conclusion of that acceleration debate.  Not only did Prius win, those arguing against stopped participating.  I had pointed out the very fact they were trying to conceal... Owners know the acceleration of Prius is very adequate.  I've certainly never had a problem merging onto a highway or passing someone.  Debating on the non-hybrid friendly forums had a goal.  I wanted them to admit the faster acceleration was a "want" not a "need".  It actually worked too.  They did!  As the years have progressed, each vehicle model upgrade was just a little bit faster.  Now, decades later, we've passed the point of what's truly needed.  But that makes for terrible marketing.  People have grown used to the continued speed improvement, even if they don't ever use it.  Hybrid owners are the first to emerge as a large group that has purchased a "very adequate" vehicle that excels in 2 completely different aspects: emissions & efficiency.  As time goes on, attitudes will change.  Just look at the computer market now.  CPU speed is no longer the major aspect of a purchase.  A mid-range processor now satisfies a much larger percentage of the market than in the past.  Greater acceleration is a want, not a need.

2-05-2003

The Salesperson difference.  I went out shopping for a propane grill today.  My knowledge of what to look for was almost non-existent.  I just happened to choose a store that had an extremely well informed salesperson.  He had answers for every question I could dream up.  Then he provided other facts I needed to know afterward.  I left there armed with all that knowledge.  None of the other stores I stopped at had help anywhere near that good.  It turns out that salesperson had been so thorough that I didn't need any additional information.  I was impressed.  That makes me feel really good about the publications the Prius owners have created.  We strive to make those printables as detailed as possible without being overwhelming.  That seemed to be paying off nicely too.  We help prospective buyers overcome apprehensions about the technology very easily now.  In less than 3 years we've went from intrigued adopters to salespeople really making a difference.  That slogan "Prius Genius" is rather fitting.

2-05-2003

Remember CARB?  It was a requirement that stated 10% of all passenger vehicle sales within California beginning in 2003 need to be Zero-Emission.  That seemed fairly clear cut.  It didn't turn out to be that way though.  Having required a goal to accomplish instead would have been better.  Automakers pushed hard to make that change.  But in the end, everything feel apart.  The 10% and Zero-Emission were far too specific.  It didn't provide any flexibility.  Yes, there are a lot of issues with CAFE requirements (fleet MPG minimums), but at least different methods are available to make it happen.  The recent Bush Administration to move toward hydrogen use is way too specific.  We actually do have oil of our own.  What's wrong with using it responsibly?  Imagine if hybrids were endorsed heavily.  Upper 20's for MPG could ultimately become the new low-end for gas-guzzlers.  That would definitely reduce oil dependence.  And the technology is clean too.  Hybrids aren't zero-emission, but the potential for far more than 10% is very high.

2-05-2003

Acceleration follow-up info.  They're determined to make Prius look bad.  I know for a fact that ultimately isn't possible, because every morning I have to merge onto the highway using a very short (due to construction) on-ramp.  There's very little room available, yet every time I merge in without any difficultly.  If Prius really was inadequate, how come I'm never experiencing the problem they claim will happen?  Anywho, here's the follow-up info...  Acceleration is not actually a constant as you've been implying, especially in a full hybrid.  Just because a Prius doesn't hit 60 MPH within a certain amount of time does not in any way mean it doesn't get damn near close.  And how many times to you really need to accelerate to precisely 60 MPH anyway?  Sometimes the needed speed is slower and other times it's faster.  Remember, Prius actually has an advantage that most of the other vehicles its size don't offer: significant torque, especially at the low-end.  258 lb-ft is nothing to ignore.  That kind of torque provides a substantial kick from a dead stop.

2-04-2003

What is the difference in feet?  A few participants on the Edmunds hybrid group have been absolutely insisting that the acceleration rate of Prius is inadequate.  They've admitted their knowledge comes from on-paper research.  They've never actually tried it, since they feel it simply isn't even worth the effort.  So I came up with a sensible rebuttal, something I would actually like an answer to.  The following is what I posted (comments about this are welcome, just send me an email)...  Realistically, the 0-60 acceleration rate doesn't actually provide any practical information.  It only offers a value for making comparisons with, similar to the EPA measurement of MPG.  When a person wants to pull out onto a 55 MPH country road via a simple perpendicular intersection (that means no ramp whatsoever, just entering point-blank from a dead stop) how many feet do they need available to prevent a vehicle traveling at 60 MPH from striking them?  In other words, if a vehicle has a 0-60 acceleration rate of 12.5 seconds and another 10.5 seconds, what is the difference in feet?  By the way, failure to answer this question means you don't actually have a complete knowledge of acceleration needs.  This is a question that a person would in fact ask in real life, not hypothetical.  Just picture a student in driver's training asking "How much room do I need?"

2-04-2003

The high mileage concern.  I get a kick out of the fact that some people get really worried about the battery-pack replacement when you near 200,000 miles.  All you have to do is ask them if they've ever owned a vehicle that actually made it that far in the first place.  Most people haven't.  So they have no basis of comparison.  In fact, their expenses would be considerably higher, since they ended up replacing their entire vehicle sooner.  That makes replacing only the battery-pack a trivial expense in comparison.  For those that have owned a vehicle past the 200,000 mile mark, most have a true appreciation for the value their investment returned.  So there's not much to actually discuss.

2-03-2003

$1.65 per gallon.  Gas prices are getting wild again.  I wonder how high it will remain at $1.65 now.  I also wonder if it will ever go back down to the low prices we saw last summer.  This upcoming war will likely affect the commerce of that region, possibly causing permanent change.

2-03-2003

A new Prius Photo, Winter Style.  My favorite shot from the most recent batch of photos was placed on my homepage.  That beautiful scene stuck in my mind.  All the fresh new snow this morning made it irresistible.  I had to stop and try to recapture that same scene, winter style.  It was wet & slippery.  The surroundings had changed quite a bit with all that snow.  I had to improvise.  It really paid off, so much so that I now have 2 photos on my homepage.  Side by side, they're really interesting to see.  Here's a link to the recently full-size file:  photo album 44

 

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