Prius Personal Log  #76

September 4, 2003  -  September 13, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 10/04/2003

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9-13-2003

22 Year Low.  The U.S. market-share of the "Big Three" has dropped to a 22-year low of 57.9% in August.  That means they are once again in financial hardship.  The high-profit margin from SUV sales bailed them out last time.  Developing hybrid technology is enormously expensive.  So I really wonder what they'll do this time.  Hmm?

9-13-2003

Newspaper Delivery.  The person I saw delivering newspapers this morning sure could have used a hybrid today.  The engine in her Ford Explorer ran the whole time.  Having the ability to shut off the engine and automatically start back up on-demand would be nice.

9-12-2003

In Pure Dollars & Cents.  People are willing to pay for piece-of-mind.  There is absolutely no guarantee that the price of gas will remain at reasonable levels.  It could jump to $4 per gallon, just like it is in Europe now.  That would push the benefit of high MPG significantly in favor of a hybrid.  And remember, a hybrid doesn't have to be well loaded like a Prius.  Corolla as a hybrid wouldn't have the extras that come standard on Prius, like the Multi-Display or Aluminum Rims or Automatic Climate-Control. That would easily drop the price by over $1,000.  People are also willing to spend a little bit on the environment.  That amount, even if small, shouldn't be ignored.  So don't just crunch numbers to get a pure dollars & cents value, remember the intangibles too.

9-11-2003

Battery-Pack Strength.  Don't forget that the concept of "strong" is almost meaningless for acceleration.  Very little of the total overall capacity of the pack is needed for a quick burst of speed.  So even with a diminished supply as the result of extreme age, you won't even notice a difference.  And since recharging at 45 MPH or faster only takes 2 minutes, the need for heavy acceleration more than once within that small window of time is quite slim.  Normal acceleration uses electricity generated on-the-fly by taking advantage of optimum engine RPM efficiency, so that's entirely a non-issue.  Lastly, the 2004 voltage from the pack is 207 volts.  That DC power is converted to AC, then stepped up to 500 volts.  If the pack is old and weaker, it will feed a lower voltage to the inverter.  That just results in a loss of efficiency, the output will always be 500 volts regardless.  So whatever may have been an strength concern there may have been with the classic Prius, simply doesn't apply to the 2004.  Pretty cool design, eh?

9-11-2003

New Hybrids.  Today, the Wall Street Journal stated the new Prius will be followed by the Lexus RX400-Hybrid with a hybrid version of the Toyota Highlander very close behind.  Sweet!  Keep'em coming Toyota.

9-11-2003

Ultra-Capacitors.  An interesting twist of fate is that ultra-capacitors can't hold there charge for long.  So a fuel-cell vehicle wishing to store power for longer durations, like for the startup process needed in cold climates after hours of being exposed to the elements, would need a battery-pack like a hybrid.  (By the way, fuel-cell vehicles are currently useless here in Minnesota during the winter.  Automakers have not figured out how to deal with the insides of the stacks freezing yet.)  And a high-performance hybrid wishing to take advantage of robust high-load electric capture & transfer abilities would add an ultra-capacitor to the system, making a hybrid-hybrid of sorts... or even closer to a fuel-cell, depending on your perspective.  In short, all vehicles in the future that will electric-drive are benefiting from the ground-work being laid by Prius now.

9-10-2003

Brewing a new Misconception.  Fuel-Cell technology is not mutually exclusive to hybrid technology.  Many people think it is, even though one of the most advanced fuel-cell vehicles currently available to testers is a hybrid.  In fact, the name calls it that: Toyota FCHV (Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle).  The electric propulsion system in a fuel-cell vehicle is nearly identical to that in a full hybrid like Prius, only it's bigger.  The steering is electric, like Prius, and so is the A/C.  It also uses regenerative brakes to capture energy then stores it for use later, just like a Prius.  Full hybrids like Prius are not a "stop gap" as the automakers (that don't have a hybrid available to sell yet) want you to believe.  They are just stalling for time by misleading your expectations.  In reality, full hybrids are an important step toward making fuel-cell technology in vehicles a reality.  All the electric powered parts you find in Prius are also in fuel-cell vehicles.  The acceptance of hybrids is helping push the electric technology to make those components more efficient, lighter weight, and more affordable... all benefits that fuel-cell vehicles need.

9-10-2003

Winter Concerns... Again.  Look back in the archives of the big group from 3 years ago.  Lots of people were concerned about the ability for Prius to handle the cold and the snow, so much so that it impaired sales in the northern states.  But by spring, I had published a ton of "Winter in Minnesota with a Prius" photos and a bunch of other owners chimed in all praising how well their Prius handled the winter conditions.  That's all it took for the concern to end.  The same will happen with the 2004 too.  6 months from now, no one will need to ask the "cold" question again.

9-10-2003

Brisk.  The benefit from brisk acceleration tends to surprise new Prius owners.  They expect speeding up slowly to save gas.  So they try and try with disappointing results.  In reality, it's exactly the opposite that they should be doing.  In other words, they should drive like they normally would.  Pushing the pedal down rather generously is actually more efficient.  Engines run better when maintaining a constant RPM near the high end.  Prius will accommodate that quite nicely, if you let it.  Just drive like you want to drive, the way you did with a traditional vehicle.  When the light turns green, I'm almost always the leader of the pack.  That doesn't harm my 50 MPG average at all; instead, it actually contributes to it.  How about that?  I bet you didn't think that was a benefit the hybrid offered.

9-10-2003

Media Blitz Planned.  I was right.  Toyota does have an impressive battle plan.  Today they announced several upcoming magazine advertisements and a few really creative television commercials.  Things are about to get really interesting!

9-09-2003

No Moisture.  It didn't dawn on me until just today that the bladder in the fuel tank offers another advantage.  The lack of air space inside means there is no where for water to accumulate.  There literally is no where for condensation to form.  The problem of the gas line freezing up on those few dangerously cold days in the year can't occur.

9-09-2003

Extra!  Extra!  "...cuts an engine's average fuel consumption by 8%"  Ohhh!  "...cuts a vehicle's fuel consumption by up to 5%"  Ahhh!  "...new technology can cut average fuel consumption by one-third by 2020 and half by 2030"  Whoa!  Yes, I was being sarcastic.  That newspaper I read was quite disappointing.  It's too late for minor improvements like that.  Prius achieves a 100% improvement already.  That's one heck of a better return on just efficiency.  Prius reduces emissions by 90% too.  Waiting 17 years for just 33% is just plain pathetic.  Waiting 10 additional years beyond that to gain just another 17% is horrifying.  I didn't realize it was even possible to make "progress" move so slowly.  Fortunately, Toyota will be filling the roads with that technology in just a few years.  If the other automakers are so anti-advancement, then perhaps they do deserve to lose market share.

9-09-2003

A strange beginning.  40.5 was the startup MPG this morning.  That's rather low.  The drive home from the gas station last night was quite unfriendly.  50.3 is what it had climbed up to by time I exited the highway.  I was quite pleased by that recovery.  The drive through the city streets was even better; in fact, the results were quite surprising.  55.8 was the final tally at my parking spot.  Cool!

9-09-2003 Year 4 Begins Today!  It's true.  Time flies when you're having fun... in a Prius!
9-08-2003

WOW!  Last week I calculated the overall results of my Summer driving.  It was amazing to see that the average was above 50 MPG.  So I wasn't really expecting anything special for this week's tank, just another really impressive one.  It was unusually high the whole time.  But when I approached the end of it, I got really excited.  Traffic this morning was very heavy, so heavy that I watched it climb to record level as I slowly progressed down the crowded highway.  Just as I was exciting, the Multi-Display revealed 55 MPG.  Only one other time have I seen it that high.  But that was the beginning of a tank, not the end.  I rolled up to the first stoplight in stealth.  Traffic was so heavy that the engine stayed off up to the next red light.  Then the next and the next.  All 5 keep the engine off.  The 3 following stops were that way too.  So as I approached the parking ramp, I saw it creep up to 55.1 MPG.  Whoa!  Very excitedly, I entered and drove (using just electricity) to dark area where I could snap a few photos.  Putting the Prius into Park caused me to scream.  The engine started!  Ahh!!!  Prepping the emissions system for restart later was not what I had in mind, but the hybrid system did.  Thankfully, it shut off quickly.  55.1 MPG still showed.  I quickly took a bunch of digital photos.  Then I pulled into a parking spot, just a few car-lengths forward.  The odometer rolled over from 408 to 409 miles.  Ahh!!!  My all time best efficiency could have been even better had I known only a few more feet had to be driven to achieve it.  Oh well.  That's pretty darn impressive for my 2001 Prius anyway.  I wonder what that's like for other owners that actually routinely get performance so get.  Hmm?  Anywho, here's what I saw...  photo album 55

9-07-2003

All Seats Down.  Someone provided a photo showing all the seats laid down, including the driver.  That looks kind of silly, totally impractical, until you get stuck in a storm while camping.  Being able to save a vacation by seeking refuge in the car is priceless... and you could even leave it running the whole night!  Prius would just fire up the engine every 10 to 20 minutes for about a minute to keep the system maintained.  That would be handy if you needed to listen to the radio for storm details or needed to keep the air circulating.  I bet my dad & brother would have liked that.  Back in the 80's they actually did get caught off guard by a storm while camping.  Only that hatchback was a Dodge Omni, a traditional car much smaller than the 2004 Prius.

9-07-2003

My view on SUV use.  Having a SUV for recreational & workhorse purposes is perfectly acceptable as far as I'm concerned.  After all, that is what it was designed for.  When it comes to recreation, pretty much none of that is economical.  I live in the land of 10,000 lakes (Minnesota).  All the motorized craft I see on the water is exclusively for recreation, serving no real purpose beyond your own entertainment.  And there's nothing wrong with that (other than their emissions should be cleaned up too).  So using a SUV for its actual intended purpose, and only that purpose, shouldn't really be an issue.  You could even change the insurance for coverage that for limited use to drop the premium some.

9-06-2003

Transfer Complete.  When I ping the domain name, it now responds with the numeric IP address for the new server.  So it looks like the DNS has been switched over.  (In plain English, the upgrade is complete.)  I think I'm going to drop the counter.  (That makes 170,479 the official final tally.)  At first, it was nice to see the hits on the homepage.  But that provided no real indication of actual activity, since some people use the indexes, maps, or offline books instead and others read from local server cache rather than pulling from mine every time.  And of course, people are now aware of the intent of the website.  So that's gone.  The point is, I now have more space & transfer to offer.  That makes me feel good.

9-05-2003

Clean Enough.  Someone used the "it is much better than it use to be" excuse today.  As usual, I replied "IT IS STILL POISON!!!"  Whether we are harmed from a large dosage or a small dosage doesn't matter.  The point is that it's still harmful.  Making excuses about quantity is wrong, especially when you take into account how long a vehicle can remain in service.  So not even trying to improve emissions is cruel.  You ignore the problem now and force your children to deal with it later.  That's pretty bad when a solution is already available.  And of course, a very positive side of effect of choosing to support hybrids is the fact they also reduce our dependence on oil at the same time.

9-05-2003

Almost Ready.  I've been preparing for the onslaught of new Prius stuff about to be created as a result of the 2004 debut.  The biggest part of it is what took place today.  I transferred the website to another server.  This will significantly increase capacity of both server space and the amount of transfer allowed.  Those 2 factors have always been a big concern.  Several times over the last 3 years I've come dangerously close to tolerance.  Each have required an upgrade.  None of which have been as big as this one.  So, I'm pretty excited.  The process itself, though quite involved, wasn't horribly difficult.  Now I just have to wait for the name servers to catch up to reassign the domain.  Right now, the only way to access it is by using this numeric IP address... http://65.18.201.68

9-04-2003

What about the Multi-Display?  A 7-inch wide, color, durable, touch-sensitive screen isn't cheap.  Just look at how expensive the portable DVD players with built-in screens cost.  The difference between a 5-inch and 8-inch is about $450 currently.  And they aren't even touch-sensitive.  So it's pretty safe to say the Multi-Display and associated CPU in Prius adds at least $500 to the cost of the vehicle.  And since it is included in the base price of $20,000, it really shouldn't just be ignored as a benefit when you purchase a Prius.  (Though some people repeatedly try.)

9-04-2003

Cold Mornings.  It has begun.  The season change is beginning to show.  Now the temperature during my morning commute is around 55 F degrees.  The common sight of 68 F is gone.  That means the days of always getting 50 MPG are gone too.  Oh well.  Of course, I'll briefly get to enjoy some high MPG right before the really cold weather sets in.  My 2004 will actually become a reality.  With it comes greater efficiency.  Yeah!

 

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