Prius Personal Log  #75

August 30, 2003  -  September 3, 2003

Last Updated: Thurs. 9/11/2003

    page #74         page #76         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

9-03-2003

Charging.  This same comment keeps popping up in the media: "charged using the energy from braking".  I wonder how long that misconception will continue.  Hmm?  At least it's better than most incorrect understandings about how the hybrid technology really works.  In reality, braking only contributes a small part for charging.  The engine is actually the primary source of electricity.  The Planetary-CVT, with its wide range of power flexibility, takes full advantage of efficiency gains based on certain engine RPMs under certain conditions.  Running the engine faster does actually result in less gas being used, but those opportunities are brief and the excess thrust has be used somewhere.  Well, the genius of the Prius design knows how to take advantage of that!  The hybrid system diverts the excess thrust to the small motor to generate electricity.  Some is consumed immediately by the big motor for thrust, and the remaining is used for charging.  Watching the Multi-Display, you'll observe that it happens quite often... more often than charging from using the brakes.

9-03-2003

Saving.  Time to crunch the numbers...  The price difference between a 2004 Prius and a comparably equipped traditional vehicle of similar size (in other words, right between a Camry & Corolla, termed "Camrolla" for easier comparisons) is about $3000.  All summer long (4,741 miles of driving in June, July, August), my classic Prius (a 2001) delivered a average of 50 MPG.  My lifetime calculation after driving 57,350 miles in Minnesota (where the cold absolutely kills efficiency) over the last 3 years has yielded an average of 45.2 MPG.  The 2004 is much improved in efficiency design (it's bigger & cleaner too).  So we can guesstimate that it will deliver a real-world average (in the hostile conditions of Minnesota) of about 49 MPG.  In the same conditions, a "Camrolla" could only deliver a real-world average of 28 MPG.  (Remember, Prius shuts off its engine when dealing with extra heavy winter traffic caused by fresh snow on the roads.  Traditional vehicles just keep running, which kills their efficiency.)  4,286 gallons is how much gas the "Camrolla" would consume for 120,000 miles of driving.  At $1.65 per gallon, it would calculate to a total cost of $7,072.  2,449 gallons is how much a 2004 Prius would consume in the same 120,000 miles.  At $1.65 per gallon, that comes to $4,041.  There's the $3,000 difference, plus a little.  And that's just in respect to gas savings, at what might become an unrealistically low price.  At $1.85 per gallon, the difference grows to $3,398.  At $2.00, it's $3,674.  At $2.25, it's $4,133.  And if you drive further than 120,000 miles, which almost certainly you will, the difference grows even greater.  The battery-pack has proven to make it past 200,000 miles for one owner already.  At that point, the ownership costs of traditional vehicles has added up.  The Planetary-CVT design (and simplicity) should help to avoid the costs traditional automatic transmission usually incur at that price.  And the motor goes way out of its way to protect the engine from ever getting overworked.  So basically, when all up all the costs, the difference between hybrid & traditional is a wash... for now.  With spikes in gas prices and the expected lower costs of rechargeable battery technology, hybrids will eventually show an economical advantage.  And that's completely ignoring the fact that they also reduce SMOG related emissions and our dependency on oil, which has to be worth something.  (In fact, right now you get a tax deduction.)  It also ignores the pleasure many have expressed from the sensation of driving using only electricity.  The smooth & quiet nature is a benefit that warrants acknowledgement.  Arguments about "saving" are becoming weak now.  Hybrids will win.  Just wait until you see the first hybrid SUV owners celebrating about the incredible MPG they get.  The appeal will attract many.

9-03-2003

"EV button"  Since the Japanese version of the 2004 Prius offers this, I better explain what it is.  How about this:  Prius offers an EV mode called "STEALTH", the ability to drive up to 42 MPH without the engine running (this speed is expected to be faster in the 2004).  The engine will restart when the electrical draw becomes high and the battery-pack desires (but does not need) to be recharged.  The system then takes advantage of the engine to both provide thrust and electricity at the same time.  So of that electricity is immediately consumed by the motor for additional thrust, the rest is used for recharging.  The end result is an efficiency gain.  In some cases, drivers would like to prevent the engine from restarting, since they can predict what the driving needs will be.  The hybrid system can't, it only knows what conditions are at that moment.  An EV button would allow owners to inform the system that it is ok to leave the engine off for awhile.  Then you can enjoy the pleasure from "stealth" a little longer.

9-02-2003

Hydrogen Hydride.  Another fuel-cell prototype was exhibited today.  Focus was based on the hydrogen storage method.  Gas requires tremendous pressure, and liquid requires extreme cold.  So neither are truly practical.  A more promising form is solid storage.  Hydrogen can be held within a hybrid, similar to how the electricity is stored in the battery-pack today.  It looked to be the most practical method yet, but it still can't even remotely compete with Prius... because it was a Prius!  The engineers just filled the trunk of the Prius with the prototype tank & equipment and used that as the source of electricity.  Since Prius was designed to run on electricity anyway (owners called that ability "stealth"), it was an excellent choice.  That made comparisons much easier.  Unfortunately, it was too easy.  That added over 400 pounds to the system.  To make matters worse, heat was needed for the extraction to take place.  That heat was provided by the engine running.  The capacity of the tank limited range to about 150 miles.  The cost per mile made gasoline as a power source far more appealing too.  Needless to say, fuel-cells have a long development road to follow still.  And that doesn't even take into where the hydrogen comes from in the first place.  Those problems won't be solved anytime soon.  Thank goodness Prius is already available... and helping to pave the way too!

9-02-2003

Love at first sight.  Through the iron bar fence at the parking ramp, I noticed a Silver Prius approaching the exit.  Since I was walking, I could get up close.  So I did.  And as the Prius rounded the corner, I got a good look at the driver.  Wow!  It was a beautiful young woman.  Even though I wasn't with my Prius, I thought I'd try getting her attention anyway.  I waved.  She smiled and waved back.  I think I'm in love!  Do you think I'll ever see her again?

9-01-2003

Pushing the Technology.  This applies on several levels, actually.  Toyota would like to both promote the technology as we know it and introduce different configurations of it into new markets.  So, they have a concept hybrid they will soon be showing off.  And just like another other concept vehicle, they will gain valuable feedback from it.  This will help them better gauge what consumers will really want from a vehicle of that type, in this case a "sports" car... which also happens to be a hybrid.  And in this particular situation, not only will it offer greater speed & handling performance, it's also helping to eliminate the misconceptions about hybrid technology being limited to just "economy" cars at the same time.  Many people would be under the impression that the new Prius is just a bigger version of the original if it wasn't for this extra effort on Toyota's part.  Some will make the connection that the new Prius also provides increased performance too (just not to that extreme).  And of course, it will make the other automakers take the technology far more seriously.  The engineers will see the flexibility that design has to offer and the suits will realize the monetary potential it can provide.  It will just take a push on Toyota's part for that to finally happen.

9-01-2003

Missing Data.  Don't you find it intriguing how no one can produce even a rough statistic about how many traditional vehicles actually make it past the 150,000 mile mark?  Most everyone can remember one or two that has made it that far.  But among those, none have any details about actual upkeep expenses.  I've always wondered how much it costs to do accomplish such a feat, especially since I know of many more that don't make it.  And I'm well aware of the fact that the typical person does not want to know how much money they actually have to spend on unexpected vehicle bills.  They prefer to pay then forget about it, which much less stressful than dealing with the reality of the situation.  That makes data quite difficult to come by.  (It's no different than filling the tank.  People don't really want to know how much that costs over time either.)  So, with such a lack of numeric information to work with, people should plan to recover their entire investment before reaching that distance.  Then anything beyond that is a benefit.  Hopefully, you'll get another 50,000 to 100,000 miles from the vehicle.  But there's no way of knowing how much it will cost to do that.  And fortunately, missing data isn't as much of an issue for Prius owners.  Due to the increased awareness the Multi-Display teaches, some have taken the effort to document their expenses as the hybrid ages.

9-01-2003

Sales began in Japan today.  Yeah!  The 2004 Prius are showing up in dealer's lots now overseas.  That means about 6 weeks from now they be arriving here.  I wonder how long it will take before I actually see one for sale.  Right now, it looks like there are enough ordered already to keep stock backlogged until December.  Oh well.  I'd rather see them on the road anyway.

8-31-2003

Using the key.  It was asked if you could to start a 2004 Prius.  The answer is no.  There is literally no where to insert the key in the car for starting.  The key only interacts with the fob itself (which is a big step toward of making vehicles even more difficult to steal).  Without Smart-Start, you insert the fob into the dashboard.  With Smart-Start, you leave the fob in your pocket or purse.

8-31-2003

Assurance.  Those that provide cost analysis overlook that important aspect.  Some people want to feel protected from future events.  Even if they'll never use the equipment purchased, they still want to spend the money.  That's obvious the way side airbags have sold.  It's an option that people seek out.  Now the same thing is happening with side curtains.  Most never even get used.  And in my area, where E85 is available, people pay extra for the ability to use it even though they almost never do.  But if gas ever spikes in price and stays there, they can use that ethanol-blend instead.  How's that any different paying extra for a hybrid?  And now with the 2004 Prius, in time you can actually break even on cost.  Plus, you get the incredibly clean emissions.  So paying a modest premium for assurance that you'll be able to continue filling the tank regardless of how high prices climb in the future is quite reasonable for some.  So the question of how much should be asked, rather than assuming people won't be willing to spend anything at all for that.

8-31-2003

50 MPG Real-World Summer Average.  I drove 4,741 miles total in June, July, and August.  That consumed 94.908 gallons of gas.  All of it was E10 (90% gasoline, 10% ethanol) and Low-Sulfur.  That calculates to 49.953 MPG, which rounds evenly to 50 MPG.  Yeah!  This is real-world data.  Which includes 70 MPH highway driving, having the A/C on high, and (my favorite) cruising with the front windows all the way open.  Most vehicles can't even claim achieving a single tank that good.  My Prius delivered that performance all summer long. Hooray!!  I can't imagine what it's going to be like next summer.  The improved drag-coefficient, the electric A/C, the new warming design for the emissions system, the alterations to the engine & electrical system, and the larger tires should really impress.  Mid-50's will be realistic.  Wow!!!

8-31-2003

Showing a Bias.  That comes from having such high confidence in Toyota.  Some of us have witnessed firsthand how Prius went from a money loser to achieving profit in just a few years.  We've discovered how the seemingly terrible tires on the classic were actually an attempt to make them much more environmentally friendly.  It didn't work.  But the effort does count.  The more friendly plastic used in 2004 is another example of how they are really trying their best.  For that matter, the fact that the battery-pack will use 10 less modules without sacrificing power is too.  Prius is contains more recyclable material than the average similar-size vehicle as well.  As for increased particulates caused by the factory, most of us are well aware of the fact that diesel engines have had this problem for decades, but that's on a worse scale since that type comes out of the tailpipe instead.  So we don't worry about the effects of the manufacturing process in the short-term.  We feel Toyota will find a solution in the near future.  They've done well to improve other aspects in the past, so we tend to show a bias to that effect.

8-30-2003

How Long?  What I can't wait to find out (but will have to) is how long an individual Prius will ultimately last, since delaying replacement obviously outweighs the production costs.  Heck, continued use is even better than recycling!  Toyota builds long-lasting vehicles in the first place.  And now with the robust & simple design of the Planetary-CVT, the fact that motors can deliver service for an extremely long time, and the engine is protected from any stress (unlike traditional vehicles), hybrids should reveal themselves as a great long-term investment.

8-30-2003

I had almost forgotten.  Speed limits on highways were slower in the past (before Prius).  That means MPG data from then can be misleading, since slower results in greater efficiency.  I'll have to try and remember that when people quote values from their experiences.  Of course, those values are almost always occurrence based rather than a cumulative average.

8-30-2003

Huh?  Someone made this comment today: "Prius is compromised towards economy".  I found it confusing.  This was may response:  Remember, the original cost to build Prius back in 1997 was around $37,000.  So careful consideration to every detail was needed.  The fact that the same frame & body design from 1995 was able to earn an average rating crash rating in 2003 is actually pretty impressive.  And for accident avoidance at city speeds, the design is still a little above average.  That's impressive as well.  The design was so well thought out that cost of components and the manufacturing processes were reduced to the current level where profit is now obtained.  So, what part of that was a compromise?

8-30-2003

Tires.  Similar thinking as Toyota itself or just plain old fate lead me to a tire surprisingly similar in characteristic, to what will be on the 2004 Prius.  Back then, it was literally just taking an educated risk and observing what happened.  I was the first that we know of attempt the use of a tire from Goodyear.  Boy, did that ever pay off!  The thing that I'm becoming fascinated with now is how much advance knowledge we already have.  It's like when Windows 95 debuted.  I had grown up using DOS then moved on to Window 3.1, which I utilized to its fullest capability... out of necessity.  So very shortly after upgrading to 95, I was already an expert.  People were amazed at how much I knew so quickly.  What they didn't realize was that all my experience from the predecessors translated over almost perfectly to the new product.  The same should be true for Prius too.  We already know quite well that higher PSI offers a benefit.  That knowledge came from desperately searching for a solution to the apparent XL limitation though... something a 2004 owner won't have to deal with.  But they will use higher PSI anyway, based on knowledge from experience classic owners share with them.  Everyone wins.  That's pretty sweet!

 

back to home page       go to top