Prius Personal Log  #563

April 8, 2012  -  April 12, 2012

Last Updated: Sun. 4/22/2012

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4-12-2012

Argument Points.  Remember them?  Most people won't.  Newbies won't even realize certain things were even an issue.  Antagonists will though.  But there's not much they can do once an exploited misconception has been debunked.  The first one that comes to mind for me is the monotonous "cold engine" claim.  There were some Volt enthusiasts wanting to undermine PHV who went on and on about how once EV capacity was depleted, the switch over to HV would cause the engine to run at a very high RPM.  That's bad when an engine is cold.  Emissions cannot be cleansed thoroughly until heat is available.  Turns out though, they were quite wrong.  PHV always has some reserve electricity stored for warming up.  The transition from EV to HV uses it, allowing to engine to run at a lower RPM at first.  Knowing that now, the claim is now just a memory.  A recent argument point was EV capacity, claiming only 6 miles was available.  That originated from the EPA estimate, not real-world driving.  They ignored 11-mile overall capacity, focusing solely on the first time the engine started up on that particular measurement.  Complete disregard for how the test's purpose was a dead giveaway they weren't being constructive.  But it took real-world data to get them to stop.  They did immediately upon hearing some owners driving 14 miles before the engine started.  Blended efficiency is one more strong argument point that suddenly vanished.  No matter how many times I provided evidence of a MPG boost, they just kept dismissing it as an extreme example.  But then when all of the new PHV owners began reporting the same thing, the false claim instantly stopped.  The experiences reported from ordinary people driving their new plug-in Prius have made a huge difference, bringing many arguments of the past to an end.  That's great!

4-12-2012

11 Mile Range.  When bragging rights dominate discussions, it should be obvious that a deeper look should be taken.  Typically, there's some type of tradeoff involved.  With the case of battery-capacity, that should be obvious... even among the division growing between Volt supporters.  There's some who couldn't care less what the cost is.  With others, they're deeply concerned about the high price and the approaching tax-credit expiration.  What will become of that divide?  Who knows.  History tells us it likely won't be compromise that makes everyone happy.  After all, you cannot have a halo vehicle that's also common.  Those are fundamental opposites.  Either it sells in high-volume or it doesn't.  Prius is targeting at the masses.  It clearly could have offered a larger engine, motor, or battery, but didn't.  It could have been offered in a less practical shape too, but didn't.  There's a balance of priorities which is able to draw sales, despite being portrayed as a negative by the competition.  That's why I especially liked this quote posted today: "Every time the PiP is criticized for its "11 mile range", my response is ..... so what? A regular Prius has a 1 mile EV range, and look at what it can do, the success it is."  That sums up the situation well.

4-11-2012

Buffer Mode.  My conclusion is there's actually another operational state, as I've noted with this:  Buffer mode is turning out to be quite an unexpected bonus.  I drove another 15.5 miles through the suburbs with a variety of power demands.  Nothing caused the system to let go of that final 0.1 mile of EV capacity.  3 times I watched it go from almost gone to 0.9 miles.  The second half of my evening drive yielded an average of 59 MPG.  That's pretty darn good without any electricity from plugging in.  The amount of generated electricity being passed back & forth between engine, motor, battery, and road is impressive.  Following an inevitable depletion, I had anticipated the same behavior my 2010 would have delivered.  Turns out, PHV has been configured to take advantage of the bigger & better battery.  It operates in a way we hadn't considered.  Of course, weren't sure Toyota would even provide a HV/EV toggle option.  Turns out they they did and it's surprisingly easy to take advantage of.

4-11-2012

Big Climb.  Today's commute was just a single charge.  I got to my parking spot with 7.0 miles remaining.  Upon the "big climb" on yet another route home, I had switched to HV and was down to 5.8 miles remaining.  At the top, it had risen to 6.0 miles. And since this particular drive brings me higher than needed, there was rolling regen opportunity on the way down.  6.2 miles was the EV capacity by the time the ground had leveled out.  Then after some suburb driving in EV, it was back to HV for some 55 mph cruising.  Capacity was down to 3.8 miles.  Stoplight a few miles down the road.  Capacity shot up to 4.2 miles from braking regen.  Another stoplight a mile down the road required brakes again.  It grew to 4.4 miles.  The light turned green, I drove a bit, then it was finally HV depleting EV capacity on a long 30 mph stretch.  I thought that would be the end of the story.  I'd leave the store I had just driven to in EV, using up the last of the capacity.  Turns out, the most exciting hadn't happened yet...  Right before I used up those final electrons, I pushed the HV/EV button one last time.  It didn't make any difference.  That 0.1 value vanished and I was back to ordinary hybrid driving... or so I thought.  EV capacity returned and increased as I drove.  Huh?  I certainly wasn't expecting 0.8 miles by the time I had reached my driveway.  Having pushed that button at the last moment had quite an effect.  My 2010 most definitely wouldn't have generated electricity like that.  75 MPG overall from 36.0 miles of driving, with EV still remaining.  That's fantastic from a 4.4 kWh battery-pack without recharging.  Now I'm more curious than ever how the system will perform in the winter.  The interplay between battery, engine, and motors is proving to be extremely well thought out.

4-11-2012

Another Infobit.  Here's another infobit to add to the awareness & understanding.  PHV prefers not to leave EV capacity at full.  So when I left home this morning, the switch to HV depleted a little bit anyway.  To be specific, the "happy state" seems to be around 82%.  Capacity was reduced from 12.1 to 9.9 miles while driving at 70 mph in HV mode.  In other words, it has a battery longevity strategy similar to the regular model Prius.  That's a good approach.  Regen would be wasted if there was no where to store that electricity.  The consumption of a small amount of electricity helps with emission reduction too, by allowing the engine to warm up more gracefully rather than a hard switch over.  You still have an ample amount of electricity remaining anyway.  And of course, normal hybrid system operation results in some recharging.  That works out to a win-win situation, although that certainly isn't the impression newbies will get when they first witness the behavior.

4-10-2012

Repeat Buyers.  There was an article recently published.  Same dance.  Different song.  It was basically a new twist on the old theme that hybrid premium is difficult to justify.  I commented with:  How is this different from the misleading propaganda we've dealt with in the past?  The most obvious repeat is timing.  In this case, the article didn't recognize the fact that Prius choices were just beginning to expand.  Prius v wasn't available until fourth quarter and neither Prius c or Prius PHV were available until 2012.  The next problem is all the Highway MPG advertising, which gives people the impression overall efficiency will be similar.  In reality though, Combined MPG is much lower and City under that.  Word about that deception only now beginning to stir.  Then there's the lack of understanding about plug-in vehicles.  It confuses consumers in a market which, unfortunately, includes some people who intentionally spread vague & outdated information with the hope of incorrect conclusions being drawn.  Lastly, what if there really is a drop in interest for repeat purchases?  There's nothing actually indicating that would be permanent, especially when next generation hybrids are rolled out.  After all, look at how quickly people abandoned big SUVs as soon as gas hit $4.  Remember, with the overall quantity of hybrids being purchased now, each new one on the road changes what's considered the norm... regardless of who.

4-10-2012

HV using EV capacity, documentation.  Inevitably, another one of the well informed had to step in with an explanation of why I would post such information.  It concluded with: "These posts are the documentation of that understanding."  That brings back memories from over a decade, back when I was the newbie.  Things sure have changed over that time.  Here's what I had to say about the situation:  That's it.  Having driven 3 different generations of Prius over the past 11.5 years allows me to provide examples situations that could otherwise go overlooked for many, to appreciate the well thought out design.  You could take advantage, of course.  But that's true with any vehicle.  The fact that Prius differs in subtle ways from other hybrids is extremely difficult to understand without knowing details like this.  You'll also find the knowledge quite comforting later, like when Winter arrives.  So rather than getting worried about the engine running for cabin heat, you'll feel assured that it's using that gas in the most efficient way possible.  That means go ahead and play with the HV/EV button.  You'll confirm that most of the time the system will make the best decision about how to use the resources available.  So, you can try that at home. But the conclusion for many will in the end be what's been said all along: Just Drive It.

4-09-2012

HV using EV capacity, awareness.  An excellent question came about from me posting my observation: "What is the advantage of what you found in your test verses just leaving it in EV?"  Getting to point to aspects of the design, then answer what people ask about it, is quite rewarding.  It's gives a good feeling to have a strong understanding of the system... which why I try to share that knowledge with others:  You quickly develop a heightened awareness of when extra power is needed and prefer to have the engine warmed prior to that, especially when driving well beyond the EV capacity available.  Leaving work, if I drive through the park, there's a very steep climb out of the river valley.  But before it, there's a long stretch that's totally flat and only 30 mph.  Firing up the engine then very efficiently warms it up.  In other words, rather than losing EV from a rapid engine start, you actually end up gaining a little EV.  Always keep the overall outcome in mind.  Immediate power demand with a cold engine will result in EV capacity being used to compensate, since emission reduction is a primary goal of Prius.  With an engine already warmed up, the request for power ends up resulting in a clean & efficient high RPM to both provide thrust and recharge at the same time.  Gotta love that.

4-09-2012

HV using EV capacity, simple.  The request was made for a simple explanation, wanting to know why indentifying various states of operation even matter.  After all, that is counter to the idea of ordinary vehicle ownership... since most people don't have a clue how an engine or transmission actually work.  It is difficult enough trying to understand HV and EV when you look closely at the Eco-Meter and notice a variety of different indicators are presented.  Now, we're pointing out what they mean when other efficiency-influencing factors like charge-level, power-demand, and outside temperature are included.  So, I kept it brief with:  When the engine is off, it depletes regardless of mode.  When the engine is running and warmed up, capacity is retained & replenished.  The term "STEALTH" came about to indicate when the engine is off, even though you aren't actually driving in EV mode, since the speed & power thresholds are different.

4-09-2012

HV using EV capacity, observation.  This weekend was my first opportunity to find out what actually happens over an extended distance over a variety of roads.  60 miles of driving with only a single charge, the first 9 of which were at 70 mph.  That meant using the HV/EV toggle button to preserve EV capacity for use later.  After that initial highway drive, it slowed to 55 mph, then 50, then a very long stretch at 30.  That's when my curiosity peaked.  Would the system automatically take full advantage of the EV capacity available, even though I was still in HV mode?  Turns out, it does... which is a wise design approach, since STEALTH mode is the most efficient use of overall resources.  In other words, you can drive and drive and drive in the Eco-Meter's green zone with a seemingly endless supply of electricity, quite unlike the usual distance limitation of the regular model Prius.

4-08-2012

Brief History.  That thread about the op-ed has become strangely constructive.  That captured my interest.  The history of Prius came up several times.  I provided the following, trying to address a number of the topics they had stirred up with respect to wanting to know more:  Prius wasn't available on dealer's lots until May 2002.  For the 1.5 years prior to that, it was direct-order quoted-limited long-wait sales only.  So, actual demand was pretty much impossible to gauge.  Of course, gas was only a third of the price it is now anyway.  Only a tax-deduction available until 2006.  That worked out to be $300 to $400 for the typical buyer.  Sticker-Price was in the low 20's.  Profit came from creating Echo afterward, a non-hybrid sibling.  The engine was retuned for horsepower instead of emissions & efficiency and the power-split-device replaced with a traditional transmission.  That was cheaper to produce, could easily be sold in high-volume, and would help fund advancements with Prius.  The plan worked out well too. Sometime in the summer of 2003 several economies-of-scale kicked in to return a profit for Prius itself.  Late in 2003, the Iconic model was rolled out and greeted with strong sales immediately, pushing it into the mainstream (60,000 annual) right away.  By the time the first tax-credit was offered in January 2006, the reputation of Prius was well established.  The purpose of that subsidy was to achieve deep market penetration quickly and stimulate the competition to begin offering their own high-efficiency technology.  Toyota's approach was to increase efficiency along the way, keeping it priced for middle-market each step of the way.  GM's approach is quite different, shooting for an ideal capacity immediately upon initial rollout, hoping the premium price will drop quickly.  Needless to say, it will be fascinating to watch how the market responds over the next few years.  Plugging in is new to everyone.  Priorities vary.  Wants influence purchase decisions.  Choices are limited.

4-08-2012

Prius c Sighting.  There was immediate recognition, despite the distance.  The deep orange color (called "Habanero") in the high-contrast lighting from the setting sun is likely what caught my attention.  I looked vigilantly as it approached.  Seeing that the car resembled a Prius and had a seemingly larger than usual blue Toyota emblem in the middle, its identity was easy to confirm.  So, I made an effort to get a good look at it from behind as that smaller Prius passed by.  It was sweet!  I wondered what my first Prius c sighting would be like and when it would be.  That was nice, on my drive home from spending time with the family celebrating Easter.  It sure will be exciting to see them on a regular basis.  Prius v is already becoming like that.  I see them routinely already.

 

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