Prius Personal Log  #80

September 28, 2003  -  October 3, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 10/04/2003

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10-03-2003 90% Reduction.  As a computer programmer, I am very aware of how incredibly resource intensive it is to create a product that meets 100% of the requirements.  Detailed analysis reveals that the most difficult 10% of those requirements actually requires 90% of the resources available.  So as a general rule, you don't even try to achieve more than 90% the first attempt.  It just plain isn't worth it, especially if the environment continuously changes or the customer wasn't entirely sure of what was needed in the first place.  That approach works extremely well.  And wouldn't you know it, Prius reduces emissions by 90%.  Hmm?  Coincidence?  Whatever the case, I totally endorse that.  So I do my best to deliver 90% as well.  That sounds a bit half-hearted at first, but you quickly realize you can maintain a fairly accurate objective schedule that way.  Try it sometime.  You'll discover the benefits are much more realistic than trying to change or improve everything all in a single step.
10-03-2003 "Would you buy a hybrid?"  That was the entire question!  Arrgh!!  It's like the poll was rigged, destined from the start to mislead.  Many people are still under the assumption that a "hybrid" is always a small car, having no clue that a large SUV can (and will) also be available as a hybrid.  And of course, those of us that own a hybrid know there are different types.  Some are more appealing than others, especially when price is factored in.  I bet if people were informed about how the HSD system works and what Toyota plans to do with it before that same question was asked, you'd get a different answer... one that was far more supportive of hybrids.
10-03-2003

The "Group" on Yahoo.  For over 3 years, it was a generic group for Toyota Prius.  Then someone created this one specifically for the 2004 Prius.  Now many members have simply just switched to posting there instead.  I wonder what the heck will happen next year for the 2005? 

10-02-2003

HOV for Hybrids.  Allowing hybrids to drive in the "carpool" lane with only 1 person in the car is a topic that comes up from time to time.  Here's my take on it...  First, we should all be careful about how the term "hybrid" is used.  Certain configurations really shouldn't qualify, since some barely provide any MPG benefit and some don't reduce smog-related emissions at all.  Quantitative minimum emission & efficiency levels should be required.  Second, I want hybrids to be so successful on such a large scale in such a short time that any effort to allow them to use the HOV lane would be a waste.  There will be so many hybrids that HOV lanes will be crowded with clean & efficient vehicles.  I personally don't feel an incentive to sell hybrids is necessary; the orders are piling up already and almost all states prohibit HOV lane use for single-occupant hybrids.

10-02-2003

Electric A/C (again).  Now that it is cold out, this subject is naturally keeps popping up.  That figures.  Oh well, I can still answer questions about it.  The 2001-2003 Prius continues to run the A/C after you stop.  The engine will remain off for a short amount of time.  Then it will start up automatically, sacrificing gas to insure you stay cool.  2004 Prius has A/C that's ELECTRIC.  You'll get cool air without the engine restarting for a very long time.  Being able to run the A/C from the battery-pack gives it a big efficiency advantage, something none of the previous hybrids can compete with.  (Note: The recharging of the battery-pack requires less energy overall than running the engine for the sole purpose of just powering a traditional A/C pump.  So you end up with higher MPG when the A/C is electric.)

10-02-2003

Patience.  Some people wonder how I can enjoy creating time-lapse video.  They don't see how I can just sit there watching the clouds slowly crawl by.  Obviously, they haven't ever waited for the delivery of a Prius.  I have though.  Twice!  January 2000 to September 2000 seemed to last forever.  But my 2001 Prius finally arrived.  April 2003 to October 2003 doesn't seem all that long now.  I'll actually be getting my 2004 Prius fairly soon.  Yeah!  That's 8 + 6 months for me, and there was almost no detailed new Prius content during either of those waits.  How long have the rest of you been waiting?  And how often are you going to check my website for new 2004 stuff, eh?

10-01-2003

Buy a TRAC.  The 2004 Prius TRAC models (Toyota Rent A Car) will be for sale in a few months.  It's standard practice for dealers to sell them before too many miles accumulate.  So a few times a year they start again with new ones.  That opens up a market for used 2004 models.  Keep that in mind if you can't wait for a regular order delivery or you're looking for a discount.

10-01-2003

The madness continues.  The credit available for a small business purchasing any fully-loaded vehicle weighing 6,000 pounds or more has increased from $75,000 to $100,000.  All hybrid owners get is a $2,000 deduction, which only equates to a few hundred dollars.  And to makes matters worse, the deduction is being phased out beginning next year.  How can those incentives differ so greatly?  No wonder Detroit has shown little interest in hybrids and continues to build large quantities of monster-sized vehicles.  That's sad.

10-01-2003

17,500 orders in Japan already.  That's the official order tally for the first month.  Sweet!  I wonder what next month's will be like here in the United States.  Hmm?

9-30-2003

When?  I genuinely wonder when other automakers will have a product good enough to compete with the HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive, the hybrid system in the 2004 Prius that will also be used in 2 other vehicles next year).  Configuration analysis is extremely time-consuming.  Lab testing is just as lengthy.  Warranty & Reputation concerns necessitate no shortcuts.  How long does all that take?  Toyota had the luxury of time.  Everyone else has to race to catch up.  When will there be competition on that level?

9-30-2003

Genuine Profit.  As mentioned previously, some people expect the entire development cost of Prius to be applied to only Prius.  What they don't realize is that HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) is what Toyota ultimately developed, not just the new Prius.  Applying the total development cost of that to just a single vehicle is inappropriate, since it will actually be used in several vehicles.  Next year, HSD will be available in the Lexus RX400-Hybrid and the Toyota Highlander-Hybrid.  The following year it is expected in the Lexus LS430-Hybrid and the Toyota Sienna-Hybrid.  Spreading the costs to all those other vehicles suddenly makes all the money "apparently" spent only on Prius a very wise investment, which makes genuine profit something all those new hybrids can achieve much sooner as a result.

9-30-2003

Misleading Definitions.  I've encountered definition conflicts.  Some define "profitable" in different ways, so it makes sense how written articles can unintentionally mislead.  With my accounting practices, I place research & development costs into a separate budget category.  Since all vehicles require this anyway, I don't see why Prius should be treated different.  So given the production of a 2004 Prius today, it doesn't actually lose any money.  It results in a small monetary gain.  That's what I call "profitable".  In other words, it's the cost "to build now" not the cost "to develop before".

9-30-2003

Double Whammy.  Topping off the gas tank is always inaccurate.  Every single time I drive up to Northern Minnesota, I top off by adding just a few gallons (since low-sulfur gas isn't available at my destination).  And every single time the pump shuts off way too soon, making the MPG look abnormally fantastic (as opposed to normally fantastic).  But for this particular end-of-month fill up, the effect was amplified.  The temperature dropped significantly since the previous.  It's down to the upper 30's in the morning.  That causes the bladder in the gas tank (which is used to significantly reduce evaporative emissions) to shrink a little.  Even less gas will fit now, making the "full" mark misplaced.  That made the pump shut off way too soon.  So when it did, I squeezed in another half gallon of gas to at least compensate for the topping off error.  The result was a calculated value of 61.5 MPG rather than 72.6 MPG.  Both are obviously inflated heavily.  But there just plain wasn't anything more I could do.  The tank is physically smaller now.  Oh well.  I can deal with that just fine.  But it ended up inflating the month average though.  So now the statistics for this new year look wild, way down then way up.  I think people are really going to wonder when they see that.

9-30-2003

Trading in my Classic.  Hey!  Now people are giving me swill for upgrading.  But how can I resist?  It's the draw toward all the techno-goodies!!!  Going from a base Prius to one with every single option available is pretty sweet.  It's really fun having the latest & greatest.  And my friends & family benefit by following my lead anyway.  They watch me "test" (play is more accurate) before making a purchase of their own.  Financially, it's a good time for me.  Plus, selling any car at 60,000 miles is a lot more economically sound than waiting until it has a lot more on it, especially since that's such a common sell mileage (right when the traditional drivetrain warranty expires).  Lastly, I used to own a hatchback.  It was great!  You'd be amazed how big of and item you can squash in back with the seats down and the hatch open.  And I'll really like not having to take a MPG hit, being able to put my bike inside rather than on a rack.  Of course, it would be really difficult for me to provide support for the 2004 when I don't even own one.  I create all those Prius documents based on using the info shared here that I am able to confirm myself.  That would be really hard without one.  Taking all the photos would be impossible.  So... darn (wink!), I have to upgrade.  That means years from now I will kick myself for not having enough money to keep the classic, it's destined to become a collector's item.  Oh well.  I've got tons of photos to prove I owned a Classic, once upon a time.

9-29-2003

Smart-Entry & Smart-Start.  Questions about these features sure get asked a lot now.  So, here's an attempt to define terms for use later in the glossary & user-guide.  "Keyless" entry is standard on Prius.  The remote works exactly like the option you'd get on any other vehicle offering keyless entry.  "Smart-Entry" introduces a whole new level of convenience.  You don't even have to touch the transmitter.  You just leave it in your pocket or purse and the system automatically senses it as you approach.  Then when you lift the door-handle to get in or push the button on the door to unlock the other doors.  (For me in Minnesota during the winter, not having to take the gloves off or lift my heavy jacket in the freezing cold to dig for keys is a very welcome improvement.)  "Smart-Start" works just like Smart-Entry.  The car talks to the transmitter for you automatically.  You just sit down in the driver's seat and push the power button on the dashboard.  That's it!  No key.  No digging for the transmitter.  The system just detects it in your pocket or purse.

9-29-2003

Electric A/C.  We are expecting the first freeze in the next few days.  Early morning temperatures that cold means no need for A/C for a very long time.  A/C kills MPG in slower driving conditions.  The switch to electric should be a very pleasant overall efficiency improvement.  There's nothing like sitting at an intersection listening to the engine run just for the sake of powering the A/C, which is a rather inefficient use of the engine.  Now the engine will remain off, and the replacement of the consumed electricity should take at place while efficiently cruising.  That benefit should be obvious.  What still remains a mystery is how much I'll notice an improvement in the Winter.  The defroster uses the A/C condenser too.  It removes the water vapor to keep the windows clear.  Do you think I'll notice a difference in MPG (besides the obvious increase due to the 2004 upgrade)?

9-29-2003

Ignoring Warnings.  The makers of Segway are discovering what we all learned about from the Prius online discussions: some people don't use warning lights for the purpose they were designed.  They drive until the battery is so dangerously low that the Segway loses its ability to balance itself.  Then they fall over.  It's not like they weren't warned.  They just chose to ignore the warning light when it illuminated.  I had absolutely no idea that some people drive their car until the low-gas warning light illuminates, then refill their tank after they've driven that way for awhile.  Growing up in Minnesota, I heard stories every Winter about people dying by freezing to death after running out of gas.  So hearing that other people didn't regard the warning light the same way came as quite a surprise to me.  Observing the rollout of hybrids sure as been an education.  Unexpected aspects of market acceptance have revealed themselves over the years.

9-28-2003

Cold Weather Behavior.  Did you know that the motor is favored when you startup in the Winter?  That actually provides more electric propulsion than what you get in the Summer.  It's great!  And the fact that the 2004 Prius will be like that all the time makes me so excited I can stand it!  The delivery of mine is less than 3 weeks away now.  Ahhh!!  The benefit of this behavior is that the engine is protected.  Stress that it would normally have to be endure is avoided.  So just an ordinary warm up takes place.

9-28-2003

Way off topic... well, kind of.  Whoa!  Last night I bought the new 8-color HP printer that debuted today.  (I obviously thrive on new technology.)  So naturally, I had to test it by printing up some website cards.  Using only 6-colors, the quality is so amazing it makes my previous printouts on the old printer with 6-colors look dull.  That's truly something to be in awe about, since that old printer debuted just a year and a half ago.  The technology has already been improved.  Yeah!  Being able to pass out those cards to people interested in Prius sure is going to be fun now.  And of all things, I ordered a Silver 2004.  The two additional printer colors are shade of gray, which should make the silver look even better.  That will make quite an impression when they see that hybrid surrounded by a colorful scene.  Now all I need is the new Prius.  I can't wait!

9-28-2003

Prius Production Increase (part 2).  Don't forget how reporters have played the numbers game.  They made the classic Prius look bad by highlighting sales percentages and ignoring the fact that 100% of the quota was sold.  So more couldn't have been purchased, regardless of actual demand.  This time Toyota likely just increased the quota by a modest amount and figured anything they built & sold beyond that would be gravy, making the reporters who didn't feel they could even meet the planned quota eat crow.  Also, it is rather difficult to predict demand on a first-year model.  And with Prius having such a huge spotlight shining on it, being conservative is wise approach... which should really make the 2005 model interesting.  I wonder what will happen then.  Hmm?  By the way, I knew from the start that it would take at least 4 years to establish the hybrid reputation with Prius.  That's why I decided to invest so heavily in the website.  It's been a really fun journey so far.  It reminds me of college a lot, which makes the fact that I'm about to start my "senior" year with Prius very, very exciting.  Yeah!

9-28-2003

Prius Production Increase (part 1).  That the rumor going around now.  It makes sense too, with all the orders already.  It's in Toyota's best interest to get as many 2004 Prius out the door before the 2004 Auto Show kickoff as possible.  The great PR they will get about the strong sales will be a true blessing.  That kind of hybrid endorsement will benefit the entire automotive industry.  We are about to kick the new era into high gear (CVT pun intended).  Are you ready?

 

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