Prius Personal Log  #77

September 14, 2003  -  September 18, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 10/04/2003

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9-18-2003

Why 36,000?  Have you wondered why Toyota decided that would be the allocation for the United States this year?  It's because not all salespeople & mechanics are well informed yet.  That could hurt sales.  Quite a number of consumers still believe the misconceptions, others don't understand aspects of efficiency (just look at the MPG discussion threads online).  That could hurt sales too.  We still have to wait for those aspects to be resolved before the now proven technology can move on to the high-volume stage.  The consumers certainly appear to be embracing Prius now.  Hopefully, the other pieces fall into place soon.

9-18-2003

Oh! Oh!  The popularity of Prius is catching on a lot faster than was anticipated.  After being available in Japan for just 2 weeks, 11,000 orders have already be placed.  Excellent!  Having been an owner for so long now, I am well aware of how powerful the test-drive experience is.  I've witness it several times myself and read about countless encounters others have had.  But with so many being impressed in such a short amount of time, I wonder what's going to happen.  The affect is greater than what it was previously.  The entire quota Toyota intended to build will be accounted for in no time flat.  "Sold Out" will be a bitter-sweet reality.  I wonder if Toyota's second production cycle this year (the model year is split into two parts) has a contingency plan for just such an occasion.  Kind of makes you wonder what the heck the competition will do, eh?

9-18-2003

Affordable.  Prius was intentionally designed to fit between Corolla & Camry.  The reason is because Toyota wants to increase market share, which means not competing with itself.  A hybrid Corolla would take away from regular Corolla sales, at first.  (Remember, think long-term and large volume production.)  But since Prius is a little better in basically every respect (except emissions & efficiency, which is a much better), there is no way to directly compare them.  Also, many people are still under the impression that because a hybrid gets fantastic MPG that it must be an "economy" car.  And that's just plain not true, Prius is very nicely loaded.  Toyota's strategy forces people to check their facts.  In time, there really will be a hybrid Corolla and a hybrid Camry available too.  But not yet, and they most likely won't be as well loaded..  So only the more expensive option is currently available.  Affordable takes time.  Just look at the competition, they don't even have an expensive hybrid available yet.

9-18-2003

Skipped.  Dealing with short-term thinkers is an irritation, but in no way a surprise.  I get asked why Corolla wasn't just made into a hybrid instead, rather than spending all that money creating the new Prius.  In reality, Toyota didn't "skip" Corolla.  Long-Term planning includes Corolla.  Focusing solely on short-term doesn't accomplish much.  The point that seems to be overlooked is that Toyota is selling ever single one of the Prius they make.  That extra money for them is helping pave the way towards high-volume production and the lower cost many desire.  As always, patience.  You'll end up seeing popular existing models with hybrid systems too.  But for now, Toyota is doing just like Intel has done.  "Pentium" is the flagship processor for Intel.  All the most impressive computer configurations include it.  The "Prius" name is being marketed the same way.  To get the latest & greatest most elaborate hybrid setup, you buy a Prius.  In the future, you just buy a hybrid Corolla if you want the basics.  That's no different that the way Intel sells the "Celeron" processor.  It's a proven marketing technique that works very well.  So Toyota uses it too.  And don't forget that Toyota will eventually have competition.  So the variety of efforts they pursue now, like creating an entirely new type of vehicle call Prius (a large hatchback with all the tech goodies), will payoff later.  Focusing only on the economy aspect, like a hybrid Corolla would offer, limits opportunities.  Nothing has been skipped.  It's just a long-term rollout strategy.

9-17-2003

One Month from now.  The 6 month wait is nearing a end.  The final one begins today.  Those first 5 seems to last forever, this 1 will likely fly by now that I have this almost overwhelming feeling that it will actually happen.  No more dreaming.  I really will get to experience the new hybrid feeling... again!  Being in the pioneer position again is quite invigorating.

9-17-2003

Interpreting Efficiency.  Last night I got a 21 MPG segment, despite having a hot engine and not using either A/C or the heater.  Those 5 minutes consisted of a few feet of stealth driving and about a 100 feet of heavy acceleration.  That's it!  I was waiting at a drive-thru, then made a left turn out onto the busy main road.  It basically had no impact on my overall MPG whatsoever.  But if I was a new Prius owner, seeing that on the Multi-Display could give me cause for concern.  Looking at the end result, not just a particular segment, is an important thing that the Prius gurus need to make sure the newbies are aware of.

9-17-2003

Bluetooth.  My cell phone is pushing 3 years now.  It is definitely time for a new battery.  But with on-going promotions, it's actually a better deal to simply just replace the whole phone.  Cool!  I'll be able to get one that will interact with my new Prius.  The "Bluetooth" technology will allow the phone and Multi-Display and speakers to wirelessly send data to each other.  Seeing caller info and my stored numbers on the big screen along with hearing through the audio system and even answering via a button on the steering-wheel sure sounds nice.

9-16-2003

Sunset Photo.  Wow!  I hadn't realized it was almost 2 years since the last sunset photo with the Prius.  (I guess I got preoccupied with creating videos.)  So I sure am glad I caught this one.  The Prius was freshly washed and I had the old digital camera with me.  When I saw those great colors starting to emerge, I kicked the brain into warp.  It was a struggle against time to find a hill or large open area to park and setup the tripod at.  I eventually found a location.  Phew!  It just in the nick of time too.  Check it out... photo album 55

9-16-2003

Real-World Data.  Having this website, I encounter all types of people.  Today, someone sent me an email stating it was inappropriate to ever make reference to real-world data, only data from controlled test situations should be used.  It's nice that people feel comfortable enough with me to speak their mind, but I'm not sure it they want me to do the same with them.  Personally, I don't know how real-world data can just be ignored.  It is what owners really experience.  True, it may not be the same as anyone else's results, but neither are tests.  I think real-world data is great, it depicts what actually happens.  No lab environment can ever duplicate all the real-world variables, only fundamental simulations can be provided.  As I computer program, I'm quite aware of the fact that software can never be tested thoroughly enough in the lab.  Actual users always seem to find some odd quirk.  That's why I rollout to a group of pilot users first.  The results of their testing is priceless...  Hmm?  That sounds quite a bit like what Toyota is doing with Prius.

9-16-2003

Firmware.  I bought a DVD-burner late last year.  It said it was a 2.4X speed (that's about 22X on the CD scale), on the box.  In the box, it was actually a 4.0X speed (that's about 37X on the CD scale).  But when I plugged it in, the fastest speed I could squeeze out of it was 2.4X speed, just like the label stated.  However, I know how the market works.  At that time, people could only purchase blank DVD discs that were rated for 2.4X speed.  Only a few knew about the 4X ability.  The manufacturers wanted to keep it that way for awhile.  They needed to first clear out their "label the old way" burner inventory.  They also needed to wait for the disc suppliers to begin making the faster speed.  Not waiting would be very bad.  People not realizing the disc they purchased was only 2.4X (since manufacturers didn't have the foresight to name it that way) would attempt to burn it a 4X speed.  That would cause a very expensive mistake.  It would destroy the disc and make the customer so made after several failed attempts that they would ultimately end up returning the burner.  Everyone loses.  But instead, I ended up buying a burner better than what I would have thought based on the label.  It reality, all I needed to do (which I just did this evening, in fact) was update the firmware.  Running software to instruct the hardware run faster was literally all it took for it to happen.  Everyone is happy.  (By the way, this worked well for the rollout of faster modem protocols too.)  Timing can really mess up a great product.  Toyota has been forced to very carefully plan its deployment strategy based on the valuable lessens learned by the computer industry's use of firmware.  Keeping a low key, almost hidden approach, with the advanced technology that provides a big improvement over traditional designs has proven very effective so far.

9-16-2003

It's all over!!!  6 tanks that calculated over 50 MPG each was the best it could get.  Summer is over.  Temperatures dropped recently.  So as a result, efficiency did too.  48.9 MPG was what today's fill up measured at.  Oh well.

9-16-2003

Hybrid impair Fuel-Cell development.  WRONG!  Hybrids require motor & battery improvements of size, weight, power, and efficiency.  All of which are direct benefits to fuel-cell vehicles.  The motor will be used to propel the fuel-cell vehicle.  The battery will be used for the startup process and long-term storage of recaptured energy.  That sure sounds like time well spent to me, especially since funding for the next step will come from consumers rather than a "donation" from the government.  The 2004 Prius uses electric air-conditioning.  It's the first of the hybrids to do that.  All fuel-cell vehicle will need it.  So that change is an obvious move in the right direction, not an impairment.

9-16-2003

Even Better.  There is yet another benefit of the transmission in Prius.  Unlike traditional vehicles, it doesn't need any extra parts to support reverse.  The backward power is provided by simply running the motor backward.  That's it!

9-16-2003

Another Benefit.  Did you know another purpose of the entirely new design is to increase reliability?  The Planetary-CVT is a significant improvement over the traditional automatic transmission.  It is more robust and actually a more simple design, not just the other type of CVT.  And the electric motor doesn't require any maintenance... ever!  Brushless AC motors are an engineering marvel.  All you have to do is routinely (every 30,000 miles) change the coolant, just like you do with antifreeze.  That's it!  The engine itself is similar to other engines, other than it doesn't get used as much.  Since Prius drives with the engine off sometimes, and the startup process is quite a bit more gentle than traditional starters can deliver, and the engine doesn't have to pump the A/C system (since it's electric), maintenance should be less often.  As a result, the hybrid engine should last longer than traditional engines.

9-16-2003

Electric on the Highway.  Did you know the electric system is active while on the highway?  That Planetary-CVT takes advantage of certain RPM efficiencies, which eliminates any loss from momentum to electricity conversion.  So you end up with stored-energy to consume afterward.  100% of the time you are on the highway using the engine, this electricity creation occurs.  Yup, one hundred percent!  So whenever extra thrust is needed, the motor is used instead, which is much more efficient than the engine.  And when the battery-pack is topped-off, the engine throttles down automatically and the motor takes over for a little bit.  All of that is impossible with just an engine-only system.  Traditional vehicle simply can't compete with that.

9-16-2003

CVT type.  Did you know that the CVT in Prius isn't the "Belt & Cone" type?  Some people are totally surprised when I mention that the transmission is actually the "Planetary" type.  They don't even realize there is more than one CVT type.  So the misconception they had brewing abruptly ends.  It's pretty sweet.  The design uses a power-split device that is permanently engaged, nice heavy connectors that rotate around each other in various ways based on power distribution needs.  In other words, there's no transmission belt to ever worry about having to eventually change.

9-16-2003

3 years ago.  I find it rather fascinating that people are once again asking questions I haven't heard in over 3 years.  Tapping a brand new audience of online forum participants quite refreshing.  We all are officially taking the next big step in hybrid rollout now.  Yeah!

9-15-2003

Warming the Cat.  I used that particular phrase to describe the new heating system that is suppose to warm the intake manifold and head, not necessarily the catalytic-converter.  But since there isn't a proper term available yet, this phrase may stick.  After all, that's how we came up with "stealth".

9-14-2003

"It's not more than you need."  That's the new GM slogan for one of their trucks.  Hearing that on the television commercial amazed me.  We've been saying all along, except we like to use the word "overkill".  Just watch a few advertisements GM created a couple of years ago.  Their truck was the best, because it fulfilled all your needs.  Now this new one is even better.  That doesn't even make any sense.  They are contradicting themselves.

9-14-2003

Why include electric-drive?  Since fewer & fewer people are actually able to use highways at highway speeds, that's why.  Gas wasted by commutes delays is a very real problem that shouldn't be ignored.  Priustoric engine-only systems do very poorly under those conditions.  Heck, even on my way up to northern Minnesota the cruise can't be set until about an hour of driving after leaving the cities.  Traffic is so heavy that constant just plain speed isn't possible.  Fortunately, every slow down and speed up results in a benefit provided by the electric-drive.

9-14-2003

Misconceptions.  Here's an interesting quote published today: "The high cost of hybrid development may be the reason behind Toyota�s decision to offer just 36,000 of the new model Prius, a number that�s unlikely to meet demand, said Parker.  They have achieved their political statement and their technology statement; to go beyond those costs becomes uneconomic.�  In reality, misconceptions are the issue to deal with now.  The technology has already proven to be both reliable & cost-effective.  Large volume sales can't be achieved by those facts alone though.  There's a ton of incorrect information being circulated still.  That could ultimately lead to a bad reputation for hybrids, making expanded sales an even greater uphill battle.  At least the negative publicity from the other automakers has ceased (now that they've announced they'll be offering hybrids of their own), it is a little easier.  But hybrid owners face the bitter reality of the current market status on a regular basis (that's why they've combined our efforts to help groups like the one on Yahoo and created offline materials like the Info-Sheet & User-Guide).  Toyota's battle is even harder, since they have an even broader audience to deal with.  That's why I fully support their decision to take the slow approach.  It's a little irritating not getting to see more hybrids right away (of course), but in the end we will be much better off.

 

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