Prius Personal Log  #79

September 23, 2003  -  September 28, 2003

Last Updated: Fri. 4/09/2004

    page #78         page #80         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

9-28-2003

Manufacturer Expectations.  People are asking for solid quotes on life-expectancy of parts and the cost to replace them.  My question is:  How the heck could they supply that?  It is literally impossible.  The only way to provide REAL-WORLD data is to actually do REAL-WORLD driving.  And to get REAL-WORLD data averages, you must gather it for lots of various REAL-WORLD locations and various types of REAL-WORLD drivers.  Realistically, it will take nearly a decade to accomplish that since it takes some owners that long to drive the distance.  And long-term data is widely-variant for traditional vehicles anyway.  So you really can't expect more than that from hybrids.  (Note: long-term study is the very reason Ford claims for the further delay of the Escape-Hybrid debut.)  We now have 3 years of REAL-WORLD data for drivers throughout the United States and 6 years of REAL-WORLD data in Japan.  So we are well on our way already.  Fuel-Cell technology faces an even greater challenge.  Not only aren't they proven yet (unlike hybrids), they are also more profoundly different from traditional vehicles.  But for some reason people are under the impression that they won't face the same scrutiny as hybrids.  Why?  What you should feel good about is that fact that the battery technology is improving at a very rapid speed, and production is increasing on a rapid scale as well.  Both are causing prices to drop.  Predicting what the price will be after +5 years from now is nearly impossible, especially when you factor in the knowledge that new companies are beginning to get into the third-party supply business for large rechargeable batteries.  So, we all just basically either trust the engineering studies or literally just wait for the REAL-WORLD data.

9-28-2003

No Ignition.  If you don't get Smart-Start, the way you start the Prius is to insert the fob.  Think of it as inserting a credit-card into a machine.   Data is exchanged for starting.  There are no moving parts (except the clamp that locks the fob in place).  So it can't really be thought of as an ignition.  And if you do get Smart-Start, there isn't any physical contact ever.  The data is exchanged wirelessly (and securely, of course).

9-27-2003

Stealing a Prius.  How exactly would you do that?  The 2004 doesn't physically have an ignition.  The startup system is software based, so there is literally nothing that can be hot-wired.

9-27-2003

Inconsistent Data.  Someone went to the trouble of looking up the 0-to-60 acceleration times for the Honda Insight.  7 different publications reported these 7 different values: 10.5, 10.7, 11.07, 11.10, 11.20, 12.0, 12.1.  That's pretty darn inconsistent.  None are the same and there's a variance of over 15 percent.  That makes you wonder about other data reported, doesn't it?

9-27-2003

The time has come.  I have begun telling people I casually run into about the 2004 that I'll soon own, rather than first pointing out I own a 2001 with nearly 60,000 miles on it.  I wondered when the switch would occur.

9-27-2003

The Final Hardship.  Crossing the Mississippi River is a bit of a challenge now.  I discovered that the hard way today.  One of the major highways crossing it now only has one lane open, due to construction.  So there was an awful swell of traffic all trying to squeeze through.  The stop & go driving along the flood-plain consumed the entire reserve (the first 40%) in the battery-pack.  That switched the hybrid system from "stealth" to "top-off the battery-pack whenever convenient".  So when I stepped on the pedal to go, the engine restarted.  That's really annoying.  But it is really nice that deep-discharging is carefully avoided.  It insures the battery-pack will last a very long time.  So I put up with that until cresting the top of the bridge.  That emptied out to a short flat area then a steep climb out of the river valley, without any traffic since the other two lanes opened up.  Wow!  That sure was exciting!  I punched it!  Recharging took place while flying up the highway at 60 MPH.  And just moment before I reached the top, the charge indicator changed from the "mid" mark to "full".  The system had completely recovered from that nasty traffic that quickly.  So when I finally got out onto open highway, it was as if none of it had occurred.  Heck, you couldn't even tell from the Multi-Display.  The up & down of the MPG settled to average after all was said & done.  That's cool.  And since it will likely be the final lengthy delay (hardship?) I have to deal with in my 2001 Prius, it will be quite memorable too.

9-27-2003

Herbie, "The Love Bug".  Remember those movies with that VW Bug that was alive?  I obviously didn't.  While flipping channels today, I stumbled across one.  So I watched it for a little while.  I assume that when the car moved, it would be silent, like stealth in a Prius.  Wow!  Was that ever a surprise to hear the engine startup.  I didn't expect that at all.  Viewers back in the 70's did though.  I wonder if they would now.  Hmm?

9-27-2003

Taking Advantage.  Brisk acceleration still surprises new owners.  They instinctively think driving timidly will result in the highest efficiency.  But in reality, that doesn't take advantage of the hybrid system.  Instead, being generous with the pedal, like the way many traditional vehicle owners normally drive is what works best.  And once an owner discovers this, all doubt about the technology being the way of the future rapidly fades away.  It becomes obvious.  Then the real fun begins.  There's just that initial learning curve to get past... if you already have been driving a traditional vehicle for a few years.  If you are just learning to drive, I bet taking advantage of the hybrid system will come naturally.

9-26-2003

Backlash?  Unfortunately, I encounter quite a bit of it still.  There are a lot of people out there the just plain don't understand hybrid technology yet.  They are under the impression that as a Prius owner I'm trying to force them to give up their SUV or pickup.  The fact that hybrid technology can be installed in the vehicle of their choice never occurs to them.  They just assume I'm attempting to make them buy a small car.  This misconception is why Toyota choose to make Prius larger, giving it generous legroom and a ton of cargo space.  This is also why the next to hybrids they will be offering will both be full-size SUVs: the Lexus RX400-Hybrid and the Toyota Highlander-Hybrid.  Once people realize that large vehicles can be clean, efficient, and powerful using HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive), the dam will break.  Consumers by the millions will demand the type of vehicle they drive available as a hybrid.  The negative feelings derive from not understanding the technology.  So if you encounter any, just ignore what you hear.  Hopefully, it won't take too long before they figure out they are basing judgment on incorrect information.  They'll figure out that their SUV or pickup will just become a hybrid later, that they won't have to give up anything.

9-26-2003

Got Mine Today.  No, not the car.  Those that ordered a 2004 Prius as part of the "pioneer" program began getting HSD keychains in the mail today.  That sure is nice.  Many that ordered have not been getting any feedback from their dealer.  So they feel a little left in the dark.  Of course, knowing status doesn't make delivery come any sooner anyway.

9-26-2003

Now, Later.  Why just the hatchback?  With this production cycle volume being so low, Toyota knows quite well that the one choice will completely sell out.  That helps to build market recognition.  A single, recognizable model will do that, too many choices will actually confuse buyers.  (Just look at how many people think Echo is Toyota's hybrid.)  And of course, there are several misconceptions that must be extinguished still.  Patience.  The goal is long-term.  So some of the decisions you are seeing "in the now" may be frustrating.  That's good!  It means you have so much faith in the technology already that you are want it to be available in all types of size & shape vehicles.  Others are still learning what hybrid means.  It shouldn't take too much longer (2 to 3 more years) before everyone starts asking what the big deal was about hybrids, why their was so much apprehension about them initially by consumers.  They'll just think it was a natural transition, that the technology couldn't have possibly had any resistance originally by the other automakers.  Patience... grasshopper.

9-25-2003

Just 100 Years Ago.  Lots of people seriously believed man would not be able to fly, that an airplane was impossible.  Look at how much that has been disproved since then.  Some people for the first time ever are now asking themselves if it's possible to greatly improve the automobile, which uses an engine.  The engine is the very technology the Wright brother's uses to prove powered flight was possible.  So the engine is even older than the airplane.  How could it actually be improved significantly after already a century of reengineering?  Well, it turns out it can't.  But trying something different produced a profound improvement.  Prius owners know this well.  Connecting a powerful motor to the engine using split-power device has created the hybrid they now drive everyday.  That design approach is something which no one even imagined just a few years ago.  Imagine what we'll be able to accomplish, now that doubters have seen how well this dramatic new approach works.  Hmm?

9-25-2003

Visited my Dealer.  I walked in and they said "Hi John!"  That immediately set a rather pleasant & friendly mood.  They told me my 2004 Prius should be among the first that they would be getting... soon!  So needless to say, actually hearing that got me very excited.  They also said a TRAC would be included with that upcoming delivery.  So for those of you in my area (the southern part of the Twin Cities) that have been yearning for the opportunity to check out a 2004, I strongly suggest that you arrange to rent that one.  Lastly, I showed off the classic Prius Info-Sheet.  They were surprised by what we were able to accomplish, it really impressive.  I'm looking forward to building the 2004 version.  Y'all get ready to put your thinking-caps on.  My digital camera and computer are all set to go... Now all I need is a 2004 Prius to take a photos of.  I know.  I know.  Patience.

9-25-2003

A reminder.  Remember how the "American Way" was to do things for the sake of keeping our country something to be proud of?  Those days seem to be gone.  Now a "sacrifice" of any type, even the smallest of things, is asking too much.  The mindset is to consume as we please and figure out how to deal with it later... which unfortunately, it will be our children that have to deal with the problems we created.  In short, we should look closer at what we really NEED.  Fulfilling a WANT occasionally is fine, but even then it shouldn't be to the extreme.  (For example, buy a full-size SUV rather than a monster-size one.  And then of course, use it for the purpose it was actually designed.)

9-24-2003

Prius "Nightfall" Video.  Time-Lapse video is really fun, but always a learning experience.  This hour of footage, condensed down to just 39 seconds, was quite a surprise.  It started with a rush out to the predetermined location, where I thought I could capture a beautiful sunset.  The wind was very harsh though, so harsh that it lifted up the tripod 3 times while I was filming.  I finally ended up adding weight to the front leg.  I thought that had wrecked the first 10 minutes.  Then matters got worse.  The clouds rolled in, blocking the sunset.  I was really disappointed at that point.  But lessons from the past have taught me to never give up.  So I waited in the chilly wind.  And sure enough, the clouds started to break apart.  A beautiful scene emerged.  I was at exactly the right place at exactly the right time, with a digital video camera.  Yeah!  And to top all that, the street lights came on near the end as hoped.  So the Prius disappears in the darkness, then reappears later.  Needless to say, I'm thrilled about how well it worked out.  I hope you will be too...  video files

9-24-2003

Where will Prius take us?  (both figurative and literally)  With the reputation that this next generation Prius will build, the high-demand sales will surprise many.  That will make a huge difference in attitudes & beliefs about hybrids.  Credibility for HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive, the system in Prius) will grow to a very large scale, making it become a sought after design.  Don't believe me?  Just look at the history so far.  Prius sales began in December 1997.  That inspired Honda to create a hybrid of its own to compete with.  The introduction of the next generation Prius in 2000 in the United States sparked a fire in Detroit, stirring the pot enough to get them to go from knocking hybrids to announcing plans of their own.  Now in 2003, another generation Prius is about to debut.  The true demand is beginning to reveal itself.  Next year, HSD will be offered in 2 more vehicles.  I really like where that will take us.

9-24-2003

Great Googly Moogly!  Toyota in Japan received 11,000 orders for the 2004 Prius within 2 weeks of it becoming available at dealers.  Here in the United States where it isn't even available yet, the number is almost at 10,000 (around 3,000 were pre-orders, about 4,000 regular & fleet orders, about 1,200 were TRAC orders, and 1,200 pioneer orders).  So even though most people have only photos to make purchase decisions with, it's selling well anyway.  That's well above the demand Toyota had initially anticipated.  That's almost scary.

9-23-2003

MPG Measurements.  These are the official numbers from the EPA just released for the 2004 Prius:  51 MPG highway  and  60 MPG city  For details on how they determined those numbers, refer to http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/info.shtml

9-23-2003

Making a difference.  Did you know that you could?  Those of us that develop products for customers (in my case, webpages... go figure) want lots open & honest feedback is priceless.  Those Yahoo groups, where Prius enthusiasts share their thoughts, are a dream come true.  All those posted message are with exactly that type of feedback.  Heck, I've even helped to summarize it in the User-Guide.  Market research that you have to pay for can't even compete with the wealth of data we all provide.  So whether you realize it or not, Toyota is paying attention.  Those comments you contribute really can make a difference.  Just participate for awhile, you'll see where some improvement ideas come from.

9-23-2003

Where do I get my info?  Almost all my info comes from the online forums.  The catch is, I get also private emails that help confirm whether what we here is true & accurate or just a rumor.  You'd be amazed at the friendships you can build online, without ever actually meeting the person.  So we try out best to help each other out.  There really isn't anything more formal than that.  Taking advantage of the internet by sharing info about something that will ultimately revolutionize the automotive industry (for that matter, the way people perceive technological advances) is a rather new concept.  I think it is working quite well.  Do you?

 

back to home page       go to top