Prius Personal Log  #61

May 2, 2003  -  May 7, 2003

Last Updated: Sun. 10/26/2003

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5-07-2003

Patience.  I was driving 55 MPH today on a road with a 55 MPH speed limit.  A person suddenly appeared behind me.  He had been driving much faster than the limit.  But his vehicle didn't show him the MPG benefit of obeying the law.  Driving slower yields better MPG than speeding.  Anywho, he accelerated heavily to pass me.  Then the moment he got in front, he had to begin braking since he had already arrived at his turn.  Had he learned patience like my hybrid taught me, he could have just waited the few seconds it took me to drive beyond his turn without the need to pass.  Do you think he will finally get a clue?

5-07-2003

Best Car in the Compact category.  That's the award Prius was given by J.D. Powers for Initial Quality.  Sweet!

5-07-2003

Synthetic Benefit?  The Prius is extremely well broken in.  I'm a very skilled hybrid driver (after 51,600 miles of practicing optimization techniques, which are now second nature).  And I've increased the PSI in the tires to 44/42 a few weeks ago after seeing that the 18,000 miles already driven handled the 42/40 exceptionally well.  So there are simply too many variables at play to quantify the benefit of switching to synthetic oil.  But I can say that I have observed an apparent improvement in my commute results.  And my recent data has been hinting that the above average tank measurements will continue.  So once the Lifetime MPG climbs into record territory for my Prius, there won't be any doubt that it was while worth trying.  After all, it's the end result that counts.  And even if there wasn't a MPG improvement, the engine is still better protected than it would be with real oil anyway.  So there's a net gain somewhere in my logic...  That make me happy.

5-07-2003

EPA estimate of MPG.  It's really becoming a source of frustration reading newspaper articles with comments like this: "The Prius, which uses an electric motor at low speeds, did not live up to the fuel economy promised on the window sticker of 45 miles per gallon on the highway and 52 m.p.g. in the city."  That's not what the window sticker actually claims.  In fact, all types of vehicles get lower than expected MPG.  So this is far from something unique to Prius.  This link provides a scan showing what the EPA provides for MPG information detail: window sticker  And here's what that text, which clearly doesn't match what the reporter attempted to lead you to believe, says: "Actual Mileage will vary with options, driving conditions, driving habits and vehicle's condition. Results reported to EPA indicate that the majority of vehicles with these estimates will achieve between 44 and 60 mpg in the city and between 38 and 52 on the highway."

5-06-2003

22 Year MPG Low.  Seeing that headline in the newspapers today didn't surprise me at all.  I hear comments all the time about how much more beneficial it would be focus efforts on making the large truck-type hybrids instead of a sedan.  Giving a 15 MPG vehicle an increase of 3 MPG would make the world such a better place.  That's the mentality I have to deal with.  Ahh!  If those truck-type vehicles were actually used for what they would designed for (going off-road and hauling large loads), I'd be content with allowing them to continue guzzling gas.  The real problem is that people should be driving sedans instead.  They've been proven safer and (with the advent of the new Prius) can deliver MPG in the 50's.  Then for those few occasions when they actually do need a truck-type vehicle, it's ok to use one.  What's wrong with owning a vehicle for special purposes?  Insurance companies give heavy discounts for coverage of minimal use vehicles.  And the money you save on gas should easily pay for that.  Plus, the special purpose wouldn't age from simple tasks like driving to work or running errands.  You'll be getting your money's worth by using it for what it was actually designed for.  That seems like a good plan to me.  Of course, there's another solution available.  Just buy a smaller truck-type vehicle, one that isn't bigger than what you really need.

5-06-2003

More Voltage.  You know how people are currently obsessed with horsepower.  Have you ever wondered if that mentality could switch to voltage?  The increase from 273.6 to 500 volts (along with a bigger motor) in Prius will result in both faster acceleration and greater efficiency.  The connection that "more is better" could easily be made.  Will that lead to marketing hype that results in hybrids that have unnecessarily high voltages?  Shocking concept, eh?

5-06-2003

First Year Jitters.  Even though Prius has been getting remarkably high reliability ratings and owners sing praise about it, I still hear comments from a variety of people about avoiding the purchase of a vehicle in its first year of production.  Oh well.  You can't please everyone.  Thankfully, Toyota already knows this.  That's why they set their "300,000 hybrid systems per year" goal for the 2005 model, the year following the introduction of the new Prius.  No wonder why the term "genius" is associated with Prius.  Every detail of the technology, including long-term rollout, have been very carefully thought out.

5-06-2003

Watching Hybrid Acceptance.  The hybrid market should be now become quite fascinating to observe (or in my case, be a part of).  Honda raced to be the first to introduce a hybrid in the American market.  Toyota had already beat them by 2 full years in the Japanese market, so they needed something special.  Insight did in fact deliver too.  But with such a minor market for small, 2-seat vehicles, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that only a modest amount sold.  Prius came afterward and did much better.  The entire quota built sold quickly.  (Too bad there weren't more available.)  Then came the Civic-Hybrid.  Even though it wasn't as clean and wasn't quite as efficient, it was genuine competition.  Honda followed up a year later with a version of Civic-Hybrid that was as clean as Prius.  For some "corporate" reason though, they decided not to make it available anyway but California.  That's frustrating, but not as frustrating as the fact that Ford's Escape-Hybrid is delayed yet again.  Now it won't be available for public purchase until late summer 2004.  That's almost a whole year behind their original schedule.  And to make matters worse, Ford rescinded their promise to increase fuel efficiency for their Truck & SUV fleet by 25% rather than extending the deadline.  They did say they would offer a hybrid sedan in 2005 though.  But believing that is kind of difficult now.  Toyota certainly will be delivering this Fall.  It's still amazes me that their investment budget for progressing their hybrid technology is so high.  The new Prius won't have any competition for quite awhile.  It really makes you wonder how the competition will respond.  Keeping watching...

5-05-2003

Missing the Point.  How long is this going to continue?  People have a fixation on MPG.  They are crunching the numbers now to justify the extra cost of the hybrid system.  With the new Prius, based on the numbers in the selling-points document, you'll likely gain another $360 with the improved real-world MPG.  That puts you extremely close to break-even.  But the money is beside the point.  The primary goal is to deliver extraordinarily clean emissions.  The new Prius capable of delivering a PZEV emission rating.  That definitely achieves the goal.  I would hope people begin to recognize that fact, especially since overall t doesn't cost them anything for it.

5-05-2003

Resale Value.  The topic of battery-pack replacement comes up a lot.  The 150,000 to 200,000 mile life-expectancy is becoming common knowledge, but there's still a concern that some people won't recognize that and will under value the car.  (It's nice seeing that a used Prius market is beginning to develop.  That most definitely helps establish acceptance of the technology, by tapping into yet another group of buyers.)  Realistically, how much does it matter?  People seem to forget the fact that an automatic transmission only lasts that long anyway.  So if you own a traditional automatic, you'll have a majority expense later in life even though you don't have a battery-pack.  And with Prius, transmission isn't a problem.  There's nothing to wear out since the CVT is always engaged.  That permanent connection makes a huge difference.  Add that to the fact that the new Prius battery-pack is designed to last the entire life of the vehicle and you've got a winner of a design.  Yeah!

5-04-2003

Oh!  Sexy!  Check out these 5 new promo shots for the upcoming 2004 Prius I scanned from advertisements:   ad scans 2

5-04-2003

No deep discharging.  51,455 miles of driving my Prius so far have never caused the charge level to drop below the 1/2 mark.  The system goes way out of it's way to prevent deep discharging, which is a major contributor of short battery life, from ever happening. So for those of us that almost never climb up a mountain at maximum speed, there just simply isn't an opportunity to stress the battery-pack.  That makes the expectation of very long life much, much better than with the electric-only vehicle that don't have a way of preventing that level from dipping below 1/2, or even 1/4.  That's why replacement was eventually needed for electric-only vehicles, but not with Prius.

5-04-2003

Liftback Excitement.  The memories from owning a hatchback oh-so-many years ago are coming back.  It was the Dodge Omni I had.  Boy was that ever handy.  When I only needed to carry a single back, I just put it inside.  That's much easier than having to secure it to the outside of the car.  And obviously, it was significantly more aerodynamic.  The stuff you could fit inside with the seats down was amazing.  It will provide so much cargo room than my current Prius, there's simply no comparison.  (In fact, it will make the other midsize sedans jealous.)  I'm quite pleased about that improvement to the design.  But don't forget, I've never filled the trunk completely while out running errands.  So it's not like I needed more space.  It's just those rare extremely situations are now covered too.

5-04-2003

Secure in back.  The "no trunk" concern has a solution.  Toyota really did think of everything.  We just discovered that there's hidden storage area in back.  It's a fairly large area in between the spare tire and back floor.  There's an option for a locking device to be added to it too.  So you can secure your stuff.  Cool!

5-03-2003

When you dream it.  Is it like when you are learning a new spoken language and have your first dream in that language?  It seemed so natural for me.  I was at an auto show.  There was a 2004 Prius.  I got in to check out the goodies it offered.  I noticed an indicator light flashing.  The idea hit me that the representative had a proximity transponder in his pocket and was standing close enough or just unknowingly left it somewhere in the car, so the system validated it and allowed me access.  The urge hit me to press the "Start" button.  So I did.  The engine fired up.  Cool!  I quickly pressed it again to avoid getting caught.  But it was rather smooth & quiet, and no one seemed to have noticed I did that.  So I did it again.  Sweet!  After waking up from that dream, I was a bit beside myself.  Apparently, I have already become familiar with that new Prius.

5-03-2003

Tire Switch.  If you look closely at the promo shots for the new Prius, you'll see Goodyear Integrity tires on it.  I wonder how much of an influence owners had with Toyota's decision to switch not only type but also brand of tire.  My decision to go with Goodyear Allegras was an educated gamble.  No one else had ever tried them.  And since reporting great success, I've received quite a bit of confirmation from others that they are also pleased with having given them a shot.  Now I have driven 20,500 miles.  They still look fantastic, significantly better than the originals did at that distance.  And performance has proven quite capable in all weather conditions.  So I'm happy.  I bet owners of the new Prius won't have a clue though.  The tires won't ever come up as an issue.  They just work exactly as they'd hope, despite having to support more weight than with a traditional vehicle.

5-03-2003

Ahh!  The horror!!!  The Multi-Display dropped below 50 MPG.  It was like in the movie "Speed", if you drop below 50 it's all over.  Having seen 40's all Winter, 50's were a pleasant sight.  But now they were gone.  Running quite a few errands, all short trips, lowered the MPG.  Leaving my house with a cold engine, climbing up that large hill to the summit of the valley, then waiting at the stoplight near the top was what it took to drop to 49.  I wasn't pleased.  But then again, I had a long decent down to the bottom on the other side.  And sure enough, the 5 minutes it took to do that resulted in a rise back to 50.  Yeah!  And it didn't stop there.  The remainder of my drive it keep creeping up.  I felt much better after that.

5-03-2003

Short-Term thinking.  Why some people have insisted that the current Prius technology is the end result and that the hybrid system will never be used in a wide variety of platforms like large SUVs is beyond me.  I guess it has to do a lot with short-term thinking.  Prius is the mechanism in which the implementation of the technology is refined.  The tire learning experience is a perfect example.  The original tires are a problem.  They wear out at just 30,000 miles, which is unacceptable for the average driver (sports car drivers are use to shorter tire life though).  Toyota will switch to different ones in the fall and some owners will replace the original tires with ones that last much longer.  The alternate tires I'm using now have over 20,000 miles on them and still look great.  They appear as though they really will deliver the 75,000 mile life they advertise.  And efficiency with them is great.  My most recent tank provided a calculated value of 52.5 MPG.  So in short, tires are not a problem anymore. Remember: long-term.  Environmentally friendly claims are very misleading.  Some base emissions solely on the GLOBAL WARMING type (that's CO2), which is directly related to MPG.  The SMOG type (that's NOx & HC) has absolutely no relation to MPG values.  To achieve this type of clean, automakers have to very carefully control the burn of the fuel as well as use special catalytic-converter and evaporation-prevention devices.  But unfortunately, using them actually causes MPG to drop.  And since lower MPG is rarely sighted as a purchase benefit, you can imagine how low the demand is.  So adding those special devices to a hybrid system not only recovers the lost MPG, but also greatly exceeds previous MPG without sacrificing clean emissions.  Lastly, the $$$$ savings is not limited exclusively to having to spend less on gas.  But short-term observation doesn't reveal that fact.  We have to literally wait for owners to prove that the design really does result in lower cost-of-ownership expenses.  Toyota is now also promoting the fact that the battery-pack will last the entire lifetime of the vehicle.  Owners will prove it as miles add up.  Hybrid technology will continue to improve, purchases will increase, prices will drop, and the variety of vehicles that offer it will expand. Think: long-term.

5-02-2003

No Diesel.  The debut of the new Prius has killed the diesel vs. hybrid debates.  That used to be a very emotional topic.  So you'd get a lot of rather strong rebuttals from each side.  Now, nothing!  The new Prius now equals what a manual transmission diesel could offer for efficiency (an automatic diesel never could compete) and the new Prius is drastically cleaner.  And to pour a little more salt on the wound, the new Prius is also a little bigger too.  All that makes me happy.  The diesel purists, for some reason, frequently dismissed the possibility that it wasn't possible to make a hybrid that used diesel (despite the fact that PNGV actually delivered a prototype).  So I needed something for spite.  Hopefully, they'll realize that the best of both worlds can be taken advantage of years from now and they'll forgive me for being persistent.

 

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