Prius Personal Log  #71

July 30, 2003  -  August 6, 2003

Last Updated: Fri. 4/09/2004

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8-06-2003

Expectations.  I grew up in the Apollo era, where promises made were unrealistic based on the technology & budgets available at that time.  I see the same happening with fuel-cells.  Yes, fuel-cell technology will eventually be practical & affordable... but not anytime soon.  We have severe pollution problems to deal with today.  Comments (that I read in an article today) against hybrids like "Technology might pass them by as soon as seven years from now" set up misleading expectations and do nothing to help our immediate needs.  Over 400 million new vehicles will be built in the next seven years.  They could contribute significantly toward reducing emissions & consumption.  They could also contribute significantly toward the improvement of electrical propulsion, since the same technology needed to propel a fuel-cell vehicle.  Comments like "A key to the car's success, along with the direct hydrogen fuel cell, is the carbon-fiber material that makes the body light but also provides structural stiffness" is also quite misleading... because the very same improvement could be used in a hybrid too.  Hybrids can also use renewable energy sources, not just fuel-cell vehicles.  FFV technology could easily be implemented, giving Prius the ability to run with corn-based ethanol.  Hybrids could be enhanced to take advantage of grid recharging too.  The point is, we shouldn't focus solely on the end goal.  That will result in disappointment along the development path, since we will have so far to go still.  Instead, we should rejoice each step of the way.  After all, that's the only way the market will be able to fund such a huge research endeavor.  The rewards from each step will provide the much needed cash to continue.  It's a well known fact that most long-term projects don't live up to expectations.  Some even disappear entirely.  Some simply stop at some point and never find a way to start up again.  Aspects of that are based on the way our economic & political environments are structured.  People expect results from a person holding a position of power, not a promise that years from now a product will be delivered.  In short, we need to set realistic milestones to achieve rather than betting the farm on a long-term expectation.  Hybrids fulfill that need perfectly... especially since fuel-cell vehicles will most likely be hybrids anyway.  (Didn't see that one coming, did you?)  Think about it.  Being able to recapture energy from braking is a great way to improve efficiency.  A pure fuel-cell vehicle wouldn't do that, since fuel-cells are really just a source of electricity creation.  Adding a battery-pack to store electricity would make that vehicle a hybrid.  How about that!

8-05-2003

Marketing.  Prius clearly handles what real-world encounters have required from owners.  Whether that achieves high ratings in a controlled lab test really doesn't have that much relevance, since those tests exceed requirements (but look great on advertisements).  In other words, don't fall victim to marketing.  Each year automakers tell you "more is better".  Well after decades of doing that, you've come to expect it even though road conditions have changed very little (if at all).  In my area, road conditions are actually better than they were in the past.  Now the speed limit matches what people actually attempted to drive in the first place, highways have been expanded (both lanes and alternate routes) to handle the growing population, and the roads themselves are better cared for.  An assault vehicle is not needed, even though advertisements on television say otherwise.  They aren't going to tell you the product they made years ago satisfy your actual needs, they will force the "more is better" belief to get you to buy the newer product.  It's all a marketing game.  Think about what is really needed.  The gimmicks to make their product appear better than the competition is just fluff, providing no actual benefit for real-world encounters.

8-04-2003

Electrochromic mirror included?  The latest rumor is that it will be.  Some think it might be included within the "Homelink" option.  We'll see... eventually.  (Delivery seems like it is taking forever.)

8-02-2003

1 hour of time-lapse DAYTIME video... with a Prius!  For one whole hour I sat next to the video camera and starred up at the sky wondering what the heck I was digitally capturing.  I imagined what all that time, which seemed like forever, would look like condensed down to just 39 seconds was quite a challenge.  From my perspective, it appeared as though the clouds weren't really changing much.  But then when you speed it up, WOW!  Watch all the clouds pass by like water boiling, puffy clouds growing & disappearing wildly.  It's quite a sight.  Occasionally, a cloud above will cast a shadow.  You'll see it off in the distance, at the edge of the valley.  It will crawl closer and closer, then suddenly blanket everything.  Light will then emerge far in the background, promising to eventually illumination the foreground too.  You'll find it very entertaining.  And to add to the experience, put your video player on repeat.  Check it out...  video files

8-02-2003

An amazing moment captured.  It still boggles my mind that I was actually able to achieve a long-distance (more than 100 miles) average of 55.1 MPG.  And fortunately, I had my digital camera with me at the time.  Now you can see that incredible Multi-Display screen I did...  photo album 54

8-01-2003

Another Sunset Video.  I have obviously discovered a new passion: Time-Lapse Photography.  This sunset was quite different from the previous too.  There was less color and a lot more thick, dark cloud activity.  Parked on the side of a road with light traffic, you get to see a vehicle quickly pass by while illuminating the thin layer of fog as it drives.  In the distance, you'll along see hints of traffic on the nearby highway.  I really had fun creating this one.  Wish me luck on future filming endeavors.  And take a look at what I just created...  video files

8-01-2003

Objectivity.  I got accused of not being objective when discussing the 2004 Prius today.  That's interesting.  In an industry where not using good judgment thrives, how can a well researched comment be questioned?  Anyway, the accuser's point was an attempt to discredit me.  He knows the new model offers a bunch of improvements, but doesn't want to acknowledge them until actual owners are behind the wheel.  I responded by asking "What more do you want?"  The acceleration increase is already documented.  It achieves what others have desired: less than 11 seconds 0-60.  (10.7 seconds to be precise.)  The size increase is already documented too.  People wanted a midsize with a large trunk.  That's exactly what the new model delivers.  No testing is needed.  Just look at the measurements & photos.  The performance increase doesn't need to be measured beyond the EPA numbers, which are now also documented.  The new model will deliver MPG above 50.  That's enough to fulfill requirements too.  Whether it really does achieve a 55 MPG average (50 highway, 60 city) doesn't matter.  It's already high enough to clearly outperform all other midsize vehicles by a noticeable margin.  Heck, it even competes head-on with diesels of that size.  The price is also documented already.  The "no more than $3,000 of a price difference" is satisfied.  There's not any part of that in question.  He can't honestly need more than that, but there is actually more still anyway.  The engineering details clearly show the system has been modified to increase efficiency.  Aspects like making the body shape more aerodynamic is a no-brainer.  That will obviously help.  Changing the A/C to electric is another.  The engine is gross overkill to power nothing but the A/C pump when stopped at a light.  Using the battery-pack instead is quite a bit more efficient, since only the actual needed power will be drawn instead.  The thermal retention system for artificially keeping the CAT (catalytic-converter) warm (by using already heated liquid) is a bit more complicated, but still easy to understand.  As long as the CAT stays warm, the engine doesn't have to start back up (which again is overkill, since just a little heat is needed).  Certain components within the engine have been changed to reduce friction & weight, that will help too.  And the voltage has been nearly double, which lowers resistance allowing for greater efficiency.  Now what more could he want?  Do you think he will actually magically change his attitude when the above are all confirmed by real-world data rather than just the testing results?  My bet is no, he will simply just disappear into the online wilderness where we will never hear from him again.

7-31-2003

"Great Family Vehicle"  That's what it actually said on a "for sale" sign on a monster SUV.  It was a statement that really bothered me, even more so than the fact that it was taking two parking spots.  We already know the accident potential (rollout & avoidance) is big problem.  We also know that wasting so much gas is a problem.  And of course we know small children have quite a bit of difficulty climbing in & out of such a high vehicle.  But the "family" part really got me.  That money wasted on a such a massive vehicle could be so much better spent elsewhere, like earning interest in a college fund, rather than helping to pollute the air making the future even less certain.  Big vehicles of that nature are not for families, period.  They were designed to be workhorses, tough & powerful.  For safety and spacious comfort, everyone should accept the reality that minivans fulfill the need dramatically better.  The fact that they have a "family" stigma that turns off some people that want to purchase a vehicle for their "family" is absurd.  Isn't that exactly what they need?  Some people really need to reevaluate their priorities.

7-31-2003

50.2 MPG month average!!!  Whoa!  What more can I say?  1,682 miles calculated to an incredible 50.2 MPG average.  That's higher than I ever expected to see with this Prius, especially since I use Non-LRR tires.  Needless to say, this hybrid technology never ceases to amaze.

7-31-2003

Alright... Which owner was that?  I saw what was shaping up to be a really nice sunset through my dining room window.  I quickly ran into the other room to get my digital camera and miniDV.  Seconds later I'm in the Prius driving to one of my predetermined sunset locations, one up on a hill looking over the valley.  Upon arrival there, I discover someone already in that spot taking photos of that beautiful sunset... by leaning out the window of his car... and you guessed it... the car was a Prius!  Unfortunately, he just finished as I was still approaching.  Oh well.  I changed my mind about what to capture anyway.  There was more cloud than color.  That makes for nice video capturing instead.  So I disappeared too, off to another predetermined location for that.  Anywho, I'm quite curious if that owner was someone from the Yahoo group.  Was it?

7-31-2003

Slow Approach.  Some people wonder why Toyota is taking the slow approach.  Some will even try to make it seem as though Toyota has doubts about the hybrid technology.  We (Prius owners) know differently.  It's a sad fact of life that we have to educate the mechanics with certain details ourselves, but it's true.  Thank goodness we have the Yahoo group to share experiences with.  I do my best to summarize our findings and put them on page on my website, but it all boils down to where I get the data from in the first place.  So "thank you" to all of you for helping to educate each other.  It is likely quite a frustrating struggle to prove you are in fact correct, but it does feel provide a little bit of joy from the whole experience afterward.  Never in many people's lives have they been armed with such well researched data, info so good you can stand confident and argue with someone who is suppose to be an "expert" (like a mechanic).  So we can all give ourselves a pat on the back.  But then, keep in mind that it shouldn't take too much longer for those still learning to catch on.  They'll figure out what we already know.  The situation will become much better as the next few years go by.  All aspects of hybrid ownership, from the initial sale to having the inverter fluid changed, will be no big deal.  Progress is slow.  Patience.

7-31-2003

Gross Overkill.  I was flipping the channels this morning and discovered an infomercial by GM for their monster Pickup & SUV.  It showed aspects that most consumers would never encounter, like traversing a ravine.  The quadra-steering seemed impressive at first.  But then it became clear that this was mostly an option to compensate for the massive size of the vehicle, since parking would be nearly impossible for some people without it.  That's sad.  When they talked about available power, it almost made me sick.  Why in the world would the average person (the audience of the channel I was watching) need that much?  For professional use, I understand the need.  But that's not who they were marketing to.  This was a very consumer-friendly advertisement, lacking numerical detail that the pros would insist on.  At some point, won't people figure all out that size, power, braking, and handling needs have already been very well satisfied, that having even more doesn't accomplish anything?  I hope so, especially since that more comes with an efficiency penalty.  (Industry MPG averages have been dropping.  This is a very real problem.)  And to really ruffle my feathers, they mentioned a hybrid version coming next year.  Literally, that's all they said, only a single sentence.  No details whatsoever about what benefit would actually be were included, just the fact that a hybrid was coming.

7-30-2003

NEW energy-flow on the Multi-Display!  I saw it today for the first time ever.  It really caught me by surprise.  In fact, for a fraction-of-a-second I thought something was wrong seeing something so unfamiliar like that.  As far as I know of, no one has ever mentioned this particular configuration.  And this page how it works hasn't ever shown it.  In fact, I doubt I'll ever be able to get a photo of it being so rare.  But at least I know it is in fact yet another propulsion opportunity this very flexible design offers.  I encountered this while reversing quickly with the battery-pack just barely at half:  "Flow from ENGINE to MOTOR.  Flow from BATTERY to MOTOR.  Flow from MOTOR to TIRES."  Cool, eh?  Changing the second to "Flow from MOTOR to BATTERY" would describe what used to be the most rare configuration.  But now there's an even more rare one, kind of stealth like.

7-30-2003

Fearing Change.  Wow!  This one really caught me off guard.  I had always assumed that people purchasing hybrids were accepting of change, that they had no fear of the future.  It turns out, that's not completely true in every case.  I discovered a Civic-Hybrid owner friend whom is well informed about Prius (knowing me, who wouldn't?) that actually doesn't want progress to proceed any further.  Her "assist" hybrid is plenty.  She feels it gets good enough MPG and is clean enough.  She claims that she receives no pleasure from Stealth and thinks the Multi-Display doesn't serve any practical purpose.  It took me awhile to place many of the pieces of the puzzle together to draw that conclusion.  But later when further looking into the matter, the subject of complexity really made her uncomfortable.  She didn't want to accept the fact that Prius simplifies a little bit (because it is a "full" hybrid which actually eliminates a few components), rather than adding like her "assist" hybrid does.  She just plain did not want to hear it.  Another clue was her absolute refusal to try anything not listed in the owner's manual, like increasing tire-pressure, even though the benefit extremely well proven.  Wow!  I didn't realize I would end up having to deal with a problem like this.  Oh well.  I will just be polite and try to avoid the subject with her if I can.  As the years go by, she'll get to witness first hand that me information was genuine and that the change really is for the better.

7-30-2003

Those Tires.   The OEM tire choice is quite frustrating.  I hope the end of classic model production allows Toyota to reveal the fact that other tires really can be used on a classic Prius.  (We know this quite well from having tried them ourselves and noticing that the Canadian and European versions are different from the start.)  I also hope contracts with suppliers in the future don't include exclusive endorsement type clauses.  Arrgh!  Anywho, the alternate tires I'm using are holding up remarkably well.  At 24,900 miles, they look incredible still.  It's quite clear that they will easily reach 40,000 miles, which is a distance many people will likely accept as reasonable.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to provide tire data much longer.  I'm trading up for a heavily loaded 2004.  (It has all goodies.)  Yeah!  That Prius uses larger tires, so weight support is a non-issue.  It appears as though Toyota will be using better tires too.

 

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