Prius Personal Log  #81

October 4, 2003  -  October 7, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 10/18/2003

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10-07-2003

"Got my 2004 Prius!"  Seeing that message title posted today was perceived as "not amusing", to say the least.  I can't stand it.  I'm really starting to go nuts now.  The fact that I will be able to drive one next Wednesday is beginning to overwhelm me.  The fact that I may very well own one just a few days later is what dreams are made of.  Sweet!  I'm still blown away by the reality that there will soon be a hybrid even better than my 2001 Prius.  Over the last 3 years, I've had a blast driving it.  Now I get to live that "new hybrid" experience again! I had no idea that could be possible.  I'll get to share in the discovery process another time.  We'll find out how new electrical system works.  We'll find out how the improved Stealth works.  We'll find out how the new Electric A/C works.  We'll find out how the Start-Entry & Smart-Start works.  We'll find out how the new "cat warmer" works.  We'll find out how the Voice-Recognition works.  We'll find out how the Bluetooth connectivity works.  We'll find out how efficient this improved design really is.  We'll find out just how much stuff you can pile in through the hatch...  Needless to say, it's a whole new ballgame now.  I can't wait!!!  And I'll try my best to share photos and document my findings as best as possible, just like last time... since I'm well aware of how painful the delivery wait can be and every little bit helps.  And now this time, I can provide video too.  Yeah!

10-07-2003

Fuel-Cells are the technology of the future...?  "Hybrids are a good mid-term solution. We just have to make sure that they don't stay the mid-term solution forever."  That's the kind of comment & attitude I face on a very regular basis.  Some people are simply misled and don't understand, others have something to lose.  Telling which is quite difficult.  So I reply using this logic and asking:  Why?  What are the goals?  Ignoring all specific technologies and identifying what we actually want to accomplish is the only appropriate approach.  So if you say the vehicle must be family sized, must achieve a minimum of 80 MPG, must achieve a PZEV-2 rating, and must use a renewable fuel, then any technology that fulfills those goals should be considered acceptable.  If a future hybrid is big enough, efficient enough, clean enough, and does all that using only ethanol, then it should be accepted as more than a mid-term solution.  Period!  No debate!  Objective achieved!  Don't fall into the trap of requiring a specific technology.  Let the engineers explore their creativity.  You never know what they'll dream up.  Many in Detroit never believe a machine called Prius was actually possible.  But it certainly looks like an extremely realistic solution sitting there in my driveway.

10-07-2003

No more stuff on the windows.  The vanity stickers are gone.  They worked fantastic for getting attention.  2.5 years ago when I first proudly display that "HYBRID ELECTRIC" message on my back windshield, very few people had ever seen a hybrid before.  They had only heard about that technology on the news.  So when they spotted mine on the road, it caused quite a stir.  Countless times at intersections, I would stare into the rear-view mirror waiting for the hybrid recognition.  And sure enough, someone would scream & point.  The window decals on back have been removed too.  The preparation to sell is nearing completion.  Fortunately, I did leave the 2 small decals on the side windows.  So there's at least something remaining.  It's time to move on now.  What a bittersweet experience.

10-06-2003

Officially Certified.  The IRS officially gave the "thumbs up" for the tax deduction on the purchase of a new 2004 Prius.  Cool!

10-06-2003

What will the Electric A/C load feel like?  That question was asked today.  No apparent ulterior motive, just genuine curiosity.  I like that...  The electric feed will be seamless, just like recharging is now.  When greater electricity is needed, the RPM of the engine increases just a little bit.  The power-split device routes that extra thrust to the generator.  There isn't any resulting feel change.  This is yet another benefit of the hybrid design that will reduce the appeal of traditional vehicles even more.  I wonder if that can be understood by written word though, experiencing it firsthand will provide a much more convincing endorsement.

10-06-2003

"Gear".  I try to avoid that terminology like a plague.  Yes, a proper way to identify the CVT is by calling it a "planetary gear set".  But when people hear the word "gear", they assume there is some type of shifting.  But in the Prius CVT, there isn't.  The rotating devices are permanently engaged in a non-adjusting fashion.  Only the rotation changes.  That's it!  So I use the more appropriate words of "power-split device" and "carriers".  You'd be surprised just one simple and unlike conventional designs it really is.  The people that work in transmission shops won't be pleased at all.  They'll have to find some other vehicle part to specialize in repair instead.  Since there aren't any actual gears, there really isn't a whole lot to ever break.  It will quite likely last the entire lifetime of the hybrid without ever being acknowledge, just a few very boring simple carriers rotating around each whenever you drive.

10-06-2003

The final Classic Prius website card.  I need the latest & greatest to pass out at the "Engines of Change" special event next week.  So, I created a new one to reflect the 58,882 miles I've driven which have resulted in a calculated lifetime value of 45.3 MPG.  Here's links for the front, back, and print-page...  website card 5    website card 6    website card PRINT.  Check them out, then let me know what the heck I can do for the 2004 Prius version.  Since I won't have a year's worth of data to put on the back for a whole year, I'm currently lost for ideas about what to do in the meantime.  (By the way, I think another photo would be a bad idea.  The actual real-world data is what has given me credibility.  Without it, convincing people that I don't actually work for Toyota could be very difficult.)

10-06-2003

"Engines of Change" tour.  Sweet!  I got invited to a special event Toyota is having for the introduction of the 2004 Prius.  They are inviting non-automotive media, politicians, local celebrities, local opinion leader, and select Prius customers at each of the 15 cities throughout the United States they are stopping at.  There will be a presentation, then the opportunity to drive a classic and a new Prius.  That sounds great!  I don't think I'll actually do either test-drive though.  The classic wouldn't accomplish anything, unless others there need a demo from a non-Toyota person.  And I'll have my new Prius just a few days after the even anyway.  Then I can drive it all I want.  So at the event itself, I will instead be furiously taking photos & notes.  The opportunity to witness a bunch of people test-driving for the first time is priceless.  No matter what those online disbelievers say about the appeal of hybrids, I know they are wrong.  The instant happiness that results the moment a person sits behind the wheel is amazing.  When they feel the power, that misconception dies.  When they see how smooth engine starting is, that misconception dies too.  When they drive, the desire for purchase begin.  When the engine shuts off and they experience stealth for the very first time, they scream with joy.  It's really fun to watch.  Then they turn to you with a ton of questions.  All the fear about the technology has disappeared at that point.  They now what to find out how they can justify buying one with their spouse.  I just tell them to go for another test-drive later.  Toyota knows exactly what they are doing.  It only takes a few minutes to become rather passionate about the vehicle they call "Prius".

10-06-2003

Why the Prius does not have a manual transmission.  Only 10% of the US population purchase manual transmissions anyway.  And among that 10%, the reason for choosing was to get "great" MPG.  With a MPG rating of 60 City and 51 Highway in a midsize, how can that not be considered "great"?  And the benefit of more power from a manual doesn't exist anymore.  Automatic is actually the better choice for torque nowadays.  So basically, the only selling points for manual is the lower purchase price (durability is the same as Prius CVT) and the feel of it.  That's it.  And when you take into account the fact that a manual is really a pain in stop & slow traffic (many people's daily commute), manual loses its feel appeal.  Offering a manual transmission to such a limited audience doesn't make good business sense.  It doesn't make hybrid sense either.  The ability to achieve optimal clean & efficient performance comes from giving the computer complete control of the system.  Relinquishing some of that control to the driver means sacrificing the clean & efficient performance.  That's why Prius does not have a manual transmission.

10-06-2003

Depleted Battery.  This quote from a review was especially entertaining: "If you've depleted the battery, don't expect full acceleration.  We road testers are still trying to quantify this perishable sort of performance."  HeHeHe!  The reason they still can't figure it out is that this will virtually *NEVER* happen.  In fact, I don't even know how you'd be able get the level that low in non-mountain driving.  Over the past 59,000 miles for me, it certainly hasn't ever happened.  The thing they don't understand is how rigorously the computer works to prevent this very thing from ever happening.  The other aspect they don't understand is how little electricity (in comparison to the entire capacity of the battery-pack, even when depleted) is actually needed for just a few seconds of acceleration.  So in reality, it isn't actually "perishable".  Full acceleration performance isn't affected by the charge-level of the battery-pack.  Even when low, there's still enough kick available for a quick burst.

10-06-2003

An Automotive Review.  They obviously didn't actually test a Prius.  Their comment about the electric-only at low speeds not having any real benefit for suburban & rural driving obviously wasn't researched.  Their assumption can easily be disproved by simply going for a drive.  They'd discover that the 10 kW limitation will deliver up to 42 MPH.  That's not what I call "low speeds", especially since many suburban streets have limits in the 30 to 40 MPH range anyway.  And even at 45 MPH, the engine will still shut off a lot.  (Plus, there is a possibility that the electric-only driving is thought to have a higher maximum speed in the 2004.)  At least the review writers are showing progress.  They now exhibit a better understanding of how the hybrid system in Prius works.  It's just not as thorough as it needs to be for accurate reporting, yet.  Oh well.

10-05-2003

By how it performs.  Judgment based solely on numbers from specification lists is aggravating.  You wouldn't believe how many people I've encountered that have no idea what those numbers they quote actually mean.  That "more is better" mindset has been drilled into their head so well by so many advertisements that they don't even question them.  And some that do end up quibbling over semantics, missing the point entirely.  But soon with my 2004, I won't even bother humoring them.  I'll just suggest going for a test-drive and hand them one of my website cards so they can research Prius further once they figure out they really didn't know what they were talking about.  The technology is simply too different to even guess how it actually works.  You have to try it for yourself... which leads to the fun part.  For friends & family that disagree, I'll just love forcing them behind the wheel of my 2004.  One trip around the block and they'll be hooked.  I can't wait!

10-05-2003

"Prius is definitely not fast."  When will the madness end?  Those same vague, unquantified, unconstructive comments keep reappearing.  But fortunately, over time the rebuttal to comments about acceleration have become more and more refined.  See:  Over the last 3 years, no one has been able to come up with an example where acceleration faster than 12.5 seconds is actually NEEDED.  Pulling out onto a country highway without any ramp at all, just a crossroad, from a dead stop in a classic Prius can be done safely.  It's not a big deal.  That proves the NEED is fulfilled.  The new Prius will be even faster.  That extra speed available isn't NEEDED, it's just nice to have.  The WANT for more is fine. But bare in mind that "fast" is just a relative term, not a reference to NEED.  And more can actually reduce safety.  Accident damage and the ability to recover maneuver becomes worse the faster you drive.

10-05-2003

Reality Check.  By 2006, all gasoline in the United States will be low-sulfur.  Current diesel technology just plain can't compete with that (in respect to SMOG & PM type emissions).  And the effort to expand biodiesel use is moving as slowly as that for ethanol.  Adoption of the clean diesel solutions needs to be kicked into high gear somehow.  By 2006, Toyota plans to be building & selling 300,000 hybrid systems per year for use in a variety of vehicles, including full-size SUVs.  That technology, HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive), is just as efficient as current diesel while also significantly cleaner.  Something will need to be done to keep diesel from losing the spotlight.  What will those that support diesel do?  A new approach will need to be taken to get those that dismissed diesel as a purchase choice previously to now consider it again.  I'm genuinely curious, since the misconceptions about diesel have been around much much longer than those for hybrids.

10-05-2003

Repainting.  Today I gave the receiver-hitch a nice thick layer of glossy black paint.  All the winter sand hitting it over the past few years blasting most of the original stuff off on the forward-facing side.  So I took advantage of the nice weather and played with the Prius for awhile.  I'm sure the new owner will really appreciate it.  Hopefully, the dealer will when coming up with a price too.  And since I was all covered with paint and the theme was "making the Prius look perfect", I decided to put a layer of flat black paint on the back brake drums.  Again, the winter sand had exposed some metal edges.  That worked out nice.  There is absolutely no rust anywhere on the Prius (except the exhaust system now, which is normal here for any vehicle).  So I'm pretty happy.

10-04-2003

When will people learn?  When the light turns green, I leave everyone in the dust.  It's not because Prius is extraordinarily fast (though the 2004 will be rather impressive), it's that the hybrid system makes it so darn easy to rapidly accelerate.  You just drop the pedal to the floor; the computer insures that the wheels don't overspin and the engine is protected from stress.  Traditional vehicles simply can't compete with that simple of an interface.  In a non-hybrid, you have to work the pedal carefully to accomplish the same feat.  It's sad.  (Too bad!)  Next year, the Lexus & Toyota hybrid SUV will confuse the heck out of people.  That is likely when many of the current misconceptions will finally end.  People will wonder how the world a Large & Powerful vehicle could also be a hybrid.  Clean & Efficient is not a trait you normally associate with a SUV.  In fact, that will be kind of weird.  The "economy" cars of yesteryear will be looked upon as wasteful & dirty.  People will begin to understand that the technology opens a whole new world of opportunities.  The way we lived just a few years ago will become nothing but Priustoric memories.

10-04-2003

Gas Prices.  Up.  Down.  Up.  Down.  The days of stable prices are gone.  Seeing the prices of a gallon vary by 15 cents in just one day is common now.  I wonder if that is helping to raise awareness about the importance of fuel efficiency.  Up.  Down.

 

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