Prius Personal Log  #55

February 28, 2003  -  March 7, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 3/08/2003

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3-07-2003

Hybrid Sales.  They're climbing rapidly.  February was a record-breaking month for Prius.  1,968 new owners.  The large vehicle market is collapsing based on the way the monthly figures are dropping.  Did those sales shift to smaller SUVs or cars?  There are a bunch of remodeled cars being introduced in 2004.  Is that another sign of growing efficiency concerns?

3-07-2003

Lawmakers Question Fuel-Cell Vehicle Details.  I like how things are quickly turning in favor of hybrids.  This quote came from an enlightening article today: "Assistant Energy Secretary David Garman told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that hydrogen will be available for $1.50 per gallon by 2010."  I wonder how in the world he could support a statement like that.  Hmm?  We don't even have a clue how much gas will cost just a few months from now, and it is a well established market.  The hydrogen infrastructure is several years from any type of rollout plans still.  He also didn't mention how far a "gallon" of hydrogen would likely propel a fuel-cell vehicle.  In gaseous measurement, what is the storage PSI?  Quantities vary significantly based on that.  And the current gasoline-equivalent is only 15 MPG.  So the "gallon" reference is very misleading.  Could it mean that operating a Prius (which is far more efficient) will only be a 1/3 that of a fuel-cell vehicle?

3-07-2003

Prius makes it so easy.  On paper, without difficulty you can find faster accelerating vehicles than Prius.  On the road, it's an entirely different story.  Traditional vehicles rumble & roar when aggressively speeding up, so they typically don't do it.  In fact, it's fairly uncommon in everyday traffic.  But with Prius, the process is smooth and much quieter.  That tends to make it far more appealing for the owner to take advantage of.  So they do, especially after they discover that brisk acceleration actually yields higher MPG.  Take a test-drive sometime.  You'll discover how easy it is too.

3-07-2003

Encouragement.  I've been receiving private encouragement comments about what certain people on the non-hybrid-friendly forums continue to say.  Certain people have been pushing the acceleration argument.  I actually find that beneficial.  They are helping hybrid owners to refine their responses to divert focus toward what people actually need in a vehicle.  We know faster is starting to lose its appeal, since all vehicles are pretty fast nowadays.  The fact that the vehicles certain people really like are horribly dirty and wasteful puts them in a very awkward position.  So they claim SMOG isn't really a problem anymore and that there's more than enough oil available for us to continue consumption at this rate for decades to come.  But you know darn well their attitude about hybrids will change the moment their favorite gas-guzzling vehicle becomes available as a hybrid.  They'll accept it with open arms (especially with gas currently at $2 per gallon in some places) and act as if they never fought against the advancement of hybrids.  Consider yourself well informed if you have noticed that fact already.  The resistance we are feeling now is only temporary.

3-07-2003

Diminishing Returns.  If every vehicle on the road could accelerate to 60 MPH in less than 8 seconds (ignoring the fact that a loaded truck couldn't), the traffic speed on the highways wouldn't be any faster.  The flow is already maximized (above the legal limit).  Having the ability accelerate faster really doesn't accomplish anything.  Plus, there are the laws of nature that will insure cruising speeds won't increase.  Snow, Ice, Rain, Fog, and how far your lights illuminate at night requires slower speeds regardless of how quickly a vehicle can accelerate.  We have reached (or are very close to) the point of diminishing returns after over 40 years of continuous improvement, where more powerful vehicles don't provide any benefit (other than marketing appeal).  It's pretty obvious too.  How many times do you get stuck behind a slow merging vehicle that could easily accelerate faster, but the driver simply doesn't push down more on the pedal?  I see it all the time when driving my Prius.  Even though their vehicle is capable of more, they don't use that power already available.

3-06-2003

Hybrid Appeal.  The new Saturn Ion comes with a CVT and Electric-Steering, plus the advertisement slogan is "specifically designed for whatever is next".  When a traditional vehicle starts to mimic aspects of a hybrid, it's a really good sign that appeal is growing.  Cool!

3-06-2003

$1.76 per gallon.  The price of gas is climbing and there's no expectation of it dropping any time soon.  That's a great opportunity for hybrids to get noticed.  Gas-Guzzlers lose their appeal quickly when it costs a lot more to fill the tank.

3-05-2003

Acceleration Argument... Again.  Those that don't like hybrids have very little to complain about, so over and over again they focus on the acceleration aspect.  Fortunately, we've disproved that as a problem awhile ago.  So all I have to do is point out the conclusion... again.  And that's exactly what I did today on a new hybrid forum that hadn't dealt with this yet.  Those against hybrids weren't too thrilled.  They didn't have a rebuttal.  That'll teach them.  Here's my response:  We've been through this already and the hybrids won that debate.  It started with a comment about hybrids not being able to handle the extremely short highway ramps unique to the LA area.  It ended when it was pointed out that merging with no ramp whatsoever was completely realistic with a hybrid.  People do it everyday without any problem on country highways that require point-blank merging, just a perpendicular turn directly onto the highway itself with heavy acceleration to 60 MPH.  That proved the "substantially greater" performance was actually a WANT not NEED.  And there's nothing wrong with having a WANT  for more.  But stating that's a requirement to be a competitive is just plain not true.  After all, hybrids have "substantially greater" performance in reference to emissions & efficiency.  Greater MPG is a WANT not a NEED ...for now, once gas climbs above $2 per gallon and stays there it's a whole new ballgame.  Clean emissions, on the other hand, is an unconditional NEED.  The SMOG problems we have won't be solved if we remain status quo.  In fact, they'll get worse as the population grows causing road congestion slowdowns to increase... without hybrids.

3-05-2003

Is Stealth Dangerous?  Children will step out in front of a vehicle even if it does have a noisy engine.  Stealth provides us with an improved opportunity to hear them.  That's a nice trade-off for an adult that blindly steps out in front of a vehicle, who should know better.  All vehicles will be extremely quiet in the future anyway.  Learning to look now is a good habit.  Owners can do their part by driving with their lights on to be easier to notice.

3-03-2003

What would draw consumer interest?  (This gets debated a lot, so I finally needed to toss in my 2 cents worth.)  Gas-Guzzlers are extremely popular.  The average US consumer simply isn't overly concerned about conserving fuel.  Buying a diesel would deliver great MPG, but that engine is both noisier and dirtier.  Diesel power & reliability is well proven and commonly available, yet large numbers aren't purchased for non-commercial use.  There's no real draw.  Something needs to be done for diesel to become a preferred choice.  Hybrids deliver something uncommon, an important marketing factor.  Prius offers incredibly clean emissions, a remarkably smooth drive (that's dead quiet at times), and an interior that's completely unique... besides delivering great MPG.

3-03-2003

No 4WD Advantage.  Today's slippery Winter drive was all able being able to stop.  Acceleration traction was a non-issue.  Prius has more than enough gripping power.  My drive this morning was on snow that was the nasty "moist, not wet" and "substantial, but not heavy" type.  So it was slick and layered the road thickly.  Yet, I made it to work effortlessly.  The worst part was a steep & bumpy hill with a sharp curve the whole way and a busy highway at the base.  As I was driving down, I saw tracks where a vehicle has lost control, spun around, smacked into the curb, then jumped up off the road.  To add to my excitement, I had a tailgater following.  It was a classic example of how 4-Wheel-Drive vehicle wouldn't provide any benefit whatsoever.  Good brakes & tires are what you need.  Prius delivered.  I managed the curve without incident and stopped at the bottom without sliding.  What exactly is the advantage of owning a 4WD vehicle?

3-03-2003

Sweet!  This quote from a Toyota February news release sums things up rather nicely: "The popularity of the Prius electric-gas hybrid sedan continues to grow, recording its best-ever sales month with 1,968 units sold, an increase of 32.9 percent."

3-02-2003

Dirty Photos.  My digital photo taking adventure was well worth it (despite the ice).  I captured 113 day and 96 night shots.  They all show my Prius as it normally is, not showroom perfect like it most of my collection.  The hybrid is devastated by sand & salt (aka: "dirty").  But to those that seek the beautiful, the spray pattern over the paint will stimulate some interest.  And the great woodland backgrounds I sought out will captivate.  These photos help to depict the true ownership experience, not the kind of fluff advertisers usually push for cars.  You'll definitely get variety when paging through my album.  Anywho, I have no clue when I'll be able to publish these photos.  Lots of other website work needs to be done first.  Stay tuned.

3-02-2003

Oops!  The lure of the digital camera got the best of me today.  I went off-roading with the Prius in search of photo locations.  I've done that countless times in the Summer.  Climbing a grass or dirt embankment is no big deal.  The low-speed high-torque from the electric motor is great for that.  This time though, the seemingly innocent thin layer of snow I drove over to get down there... wasn't.  It was actually an icy crust over the ground.  The tires couldn't climb that.  I got out and looked after having spun the wheels a few times.  Chiseling with my handy fold-up shovel and spreading some loose dirt didn't help at all.  It was pretty obvious that no front-wheel drive vehicle could handle that chore.  So I did what any desperate person would do.  I backed up about 15 feet and dropped the pedal to the floor.  The smoooooooth take-off propelled the Prius up the embankment and onto the road as if it was a trivial feat.  Oh well.  Lesson learned.  I'll take photos from afar instead now and leave off-road driving to the 4x4's.

3-02-2003

Insincere Effort.  Now it is getting frustrating.  The California 10% zero-emission mandate got deferred because automakers filed a law-suit.  Established back in 1990, enforcement was supposed to begin this year.  Instead, it is now delayed until 2012 with the rate gradually increasing to 16% by 2018.  In other words, only 16% of the vehicles will be zero-emission 15 years from now in California.  That's the compromise automakers would settle on.  The state's argument for allowing hybrids to offset the quantity was of no interest.  Those particular automakers still ultimately feel hybrids are a waste of time & money.  Hybrid owners don't though.  We know we can make a significant difference now, rather than waiting for something that's not guaranteed to be any cleaner or any more efficient.  In fact, there's no proof they'll be cost-effective either.  Waiting 15 years for just a small percentage of the vehicles to be clean and in only California is absurd.  What do the rest of us do in the meantime?  Do we have to wait 20 or more years before the solution becomes available in our own cities?  What will the price of gas be in those years while we cling to that hope of product delivery?  How much worse would the SMOG problems have become with all the gas-guzzlers that continue to be built and with the population increasing?  And how will our children think of us knowing we had a solution available decades earlier but choose not to bother?  Fortunately, that scenario won't ever actually happen.  It will only take a few years for hybrids to become an undeniable reality, when the technology is considered "tried & true".  People will notice them everywhere.  With millions of hybrids on the road and millions of happy owners (laughing at gas prices), the domestic automakers will obviously join in.  It simply wouldn't make any sense for gas-guzzlers to compete with hybrids.  Choosing between a SUV that gets about 20 MPG and one that gets 40 MPG is a no-brainer.  And since Americans have an insatiable appetite for more, making those hybrids even more clean & efficient is a given.  Public support for fuel-cell development will be a snap then.  Lots of venture capital will be available since people will have developed a strong belief that automakers really can deliver, having finally eliminated their poor reputation from the gas-guzzler era.  There's no need to wait 15 years.  Taking smalls steps along the way, instead of one giant one, really will yield a greater return.

3-01-2003

Taste of Spring.  It tasted pretty sweet today.  I drove 55 miles with the temperature averaging 35 F degrees.  That resulted in a astounding 48.1 MPG on the Multi-Display.  Too bad Winter is far from over still.

3-01-2003

Another owner webpage.  Mary bought her Blue-Moon-Pearl Prius (named "Yoda") from Dianne in California and had it shipped to Minnesota.  I had my digital camera when we went to pick it up at the delivery shop.  Photos from that experience are now on this owner webpage:  owner:  Mary

2-28-2003

After-Market Modifications.  I saw photos of a Prius will low-profile tires on rims 3 inches larger than the standard.  It was an intriguing modification that made me even more curious about the upcoming new Prius.  I've seen countless other vehicles receive a body restyling.  Now the anticipation is growing to see what they will do to Prius.  We've seen how Toyota changed the back-end of Camry (the #1 selling sedan in the US) rather significantly to give it a Prius resemblance.  So my guess is they will alter to front-end Prius to resemble the new Camry on the exterior.  And since the dimensions of the interior are virtually identical to the new Corolla (which is also a very popular vehicle from Toyota), they would definitely have added a new draw factor toward Prius.  Good times are coming.  Prius will be everywhere.  The automakers that have snubbed Prius will be dumbfounded.  Too bad!  They should have been paying closer attention to what the market really wanted.

2-28-2003

Snow & Ice Misconception.  Here's a outlandish quote I read in a recent article mentioning snow & ice driving slow downs: "I wish more people had been driving SUVs today.  It would have moved things along a little faster."  The better slippery acceleration abilities SUVs offer would not increase the speed of traffic.  I live in Minnesota, that has provided literally thousands of opportunities observe the real reason people drive slow on snow & ice.  It's because drivers fear not being able to stop fast enough if the vehicle in front of them loses control.  That's why they drive slower.  Most people rarely drive in heavy traffic on slippery roads so fast that their tires continually lose traction.  But that's what the quote seems to imply.  The stopping concern is very real.  SUVs don't offer any advantage in that respect whatsoever.  In fact, the extra weight could likely be proven to make braking conditions worse the than average car (or an above average car like Prius).

 

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