Prius Personal Log  #83

October 15, 2003  -  October 20, 2003

Last Updated: Weds. 11/26/2003

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10-20-2003

Subtle Improvements.  Have you noticed how Toyota has replaced the "hold & twist" interfaces (ignition & climate-controls) with "push" buttons?  I didn't actually realize the ergonomics benefit of this until someone trying to make Prius look bad inadvertently pointed it out.  Needless to say, his argument backfired.

10-20-2003

It's not the same now.  Yes, I remember my grandfather's Sable with the digital readouts.  But Multi-Display interfaces are brand new, something those vehicles could only dream about.  And the ability to interact with it via Voice-Recognition is something that will amaze many people, even today.  Also, a button on the dashboard for starting didn't exist in the 80's vehicles, since it wasn't until now that they could be secure.  In other words, it goes beyond just the LED speedometer... which is much, much improved in the 2004 Prius than way back then.  It is now dramatically easier to see, even in bright daylight.

10-20-2003

EV Button.  It sure looks like this button was excluded from Prius delivered in the United States due to legal complications.  Pushing the button forces as much electric drive as realistically possible.  The EPA doesn't have a category for a "hybrid hybrid".  The countries in Europe don't care.  Clean & Efficient by any means is acceptable for them over there.  I wonder long it will take us over here to get it.  I also wonder if a retrofit upgrade will be available for my 2004.  Hmm?

10-20-2003

Who your friends are.  I'm not alone in certain online discussion groups anymore.  Yeah!  When a negative comment about Prius surfaces now, a number of people chime in to correct the misinformation.  That makes me feel good and informs me who my friends really are.  It's a bummer that we have to learn that way though.  Oh well.

10-19-2003

Data accumulation, details.   Calculated Lifetime for my 2001 is 45.3 MPG.  The fact that my 2004 will maintain about that average during the winter will give people a false impression that it isn't any better.  But when summer finally arrives, the MPG will skyrocket past anything I've ever experienced.  In general, people don't have any idea how much MPG drops during the cold season when you live in a place like Minnesota.  After all, how could they?  Without a Multi-Display, there's now way of knowing unless they went to the trouble of documenting fill ups on paper.  And obviously, most people don't.  The last 4 months of my Prius year just happen to be the ones that yield the highest MPG.  That means I'm going to have to wait awhile before finding out just how fantastic the design really is... especially for a bigger, more powerful vehicle.

10-19-2003

Data accumulation, how long?  What are people's opinions on how much data is needed before a proper efficiency average can be obtained?  In my case, I literally have to wait an entire year.  Living in Minnesota, my 2004 tank calculations will likely not even be able to exceed my 2001 lifetime average until the warm weather returns.  And then, it will get very exciting.  By this Spring, I would have driven at least 6,000 miles.  That means the bearings in the wheels and components within the engine & motors would have all loosened up some.  I would have switched to synthetic oil by then too.  Even that initial thin rough layer rubber on the tires would have worn off.  MPG should climb through the roof by then, exceeding my all time best record.  I can't wait!  But in the meantime, the MPG will appear disappointing, no better than my what my 2001 was able to achieve... I think.  That "cat warmer" and the faster engine warm-up design may surprise us all.  We are all about to "boldly go" again.  Fasten your seatbelts.

10-19-2003

Early MPG Data.  If you look closely at the graphs showing my 3 years of MPG data, you'll clearly see a gradual lifetime climb and smaller seasonal climbs (each getting better as the years went on).  So a break-in allowance is definitely warranted with my 2004.  In other words, this is yet another thing to be patient about.

10-18-2003

Prius or Mini.  It's hard to believe that a few people are choosing between those two.  Isn't that comparison kind of absurd?  I thought it was odd 3 years ago when people had a hard time choosing between an Insight and a Prius.  The only thing they had in common was that they were both called "hybrid".  The technology between the two was (and still is) totally different.  The only thing I can think of that Prius even remotely has in common with a Mini is that both currently are rare vehicles.  But based on the 2004 Prius sales & orders so far, that won't last long.

10-18-2003

"B" the same in 2004.  Toyota didn't change how it works, but they did make it easier to invoke.  Just downward tap the shift-lever anytime you need it.  "B" stands for ENGINE BRAKING.  It works much like a Jake-Brake on a big rig.  The engine is forced to spin even though fuel isn't being fed to it anymore.  That causes drag, which results in deceleration assistance.  It does not change the gearing in any way.  So it doesn't work like 1 or 2 in an automatic.  And it does not increase battery recharging.  In fact, it slightly reduces it.  So don't let the misconception of "B" standing for "battery" spread.

10-18-2003

Deliveries.  They began, exactly as expected.  On the 15th, reports about sightings flew in from every direction.  On the 17th, the first deliveries in my area occurred.  My 2004 Prius was not among them.  The anxiety is making me crazy, especially since a non-pioneer order placed long after mine is already in the hands of it owner.  (Even those dealers that didn't offer Prius in the past are now getting a small allocation.  So people that are fortunate enough to find them can drive away with one right away.  Oh well.  Their stock will be eliminated in no time flat with the demand so high now.  Then they'll be in the same position as all the other dealers.)  That leaves me making finishing touches on my classic website material and reading first-impression post in preparation to provide detail & photos once I get mine.  That should be early next week, likely exactly 2 weeks like regional told me.  I can hardly wait.  Ahhh!

10-17-2003

Playing with the big guys now.  People are comparing the new Prius with popular more expensive vehicles, ones that definitely don't fit the traditional "economy" class.  Many of the comments are actually "not quite as good as".  I take it as a compliment.  Prius is priced at exactly average for this market.  Even just being compared against some of the best is great.  That didn't happen previously.

10-17-2003

Similar Hood.  Just like the classic, the new Prius has a hood low & short enough to not be visible to the driver.  I love that.  When your commute drive is east in the morning and west in the evening, not having to deal with a sun glare from the hood is a true blessing (and safety advantage).

10-17-2003

Fear of Change.  The latest attempt to discredit those that support Prius is to claim that their understanding of how the efficiency is achieved is flawed.  One person even said we believe Prius is a perpetual machine.  That's just silly.  If it were, it would get 999999999999 MPG rather than 55 MPG.  So I just chuckle when I hear things like that.  Arguments like that don't hold much weight in the end, since there aren't any facts to support it.  In reality, the efficiency is greatly improved over traditional designs.  The power-split device allows the engine to run at an optimum RPM (which saves gas) then uses the remaining thrust to turn the generator (to create electricity for use later, which also saves gas).  The end result is quite a savings, but it still required the use of some gas to achieve that.  And that's a fact!  There's nothing to fear.  The technology that some don't understand isn't that complicated, it's just different.

10-16-2003

Perceptions... again.  Now that we have a whole new Prius to play with, the same old comments are resurfacing.  The most common is that it is slow.  Well, we know for a fact the classic is already fast enough.  And now that the new one has an electrical system and motor that's quite a bit more powerful, it goes without saying that it is notably faster.  But people don't think that... again.  The reason is they base that assessment on what they feel, not what the speedometer actually says.  Without sound or vibration, Prius is perceived as weak.  The engine doesn't kick in until later.  It simply is not needed right away.  Some people don't understand that.  It is not something they have ever encountered.  But I have.  And I'm seeing the same power comments... again.  Oh well.  The better informed know that looking at the speedometer to base judgment is all they need to do instead.

10-16-2003

Battery-Pack Modules.  Did you know that it wasn't one big battery?  That's why it's called a pack.  There are 28 in the new Prius.  The upcoming hybrids from Toyota & Lexus will use a different amount, but essentially they will be the same module.  That kind of flexibility will benefit everyone.  Very large volumes can be produced.  The result of quantity on that scale is decreased price.  Excellent!

10-16-2003

2010 now.  Originally (the year after Prius debuted in the United States), Toyota announced they would like to offer a hybrid option for every vehicle they sell by 2012.  Today they said it would be by 2010.  Cool!  Some automakers are still telling us what we want.  That won't be true for Toyota in 6 years.  Having the choice will make all the difference.

10-16-2003

Luxury Features.  To my delight, I encountered a very pleasing word when scanning radio stations this morning.  It was "key-fob".  Needless to say, I stopped the scan and listened attentively.  Having experienced using that Prius feature for the first time just yesterday, hearing about it on a radio advertisement already was quite exciting.  They described the way Smart-Entry & Smart-Start worked exactly the way I had hope they would.  Then I heard something unexpected.  It was actually an Infiniti commercial, not one for Prius.  That now makes a second strong unique tie to luxury vehicles.  The first is the taillights.  The LED and reflector arrangement for the brake lights on the 2004 Prius is spectacular, just like on the Infiniti.  And... you know... there are others we could count as luxury-only feature, like the Navigation System since having a built-in display (rather than an add-on) is limited to just a few plush vehicles.  And... of course... you can't get any more of a quiet & smooth drive as what stealth offers.  So to those people that only understand horsepower & speed, you have no clue what you are missing. 

10-15-2003

"This isn't a foreign car - it's from another planet!"  That great line was provided by a brand new 2004 owner, one of the first to take delivery in the United States.  Naturally, this makes me even more wanting for mine.  I know, patience.  It's definitely worth the wait.

10-15-2003

2004 First Impressions. 

We got to play with it today at the "Engines of Change" event.  It was quite impressive.  The presentation consisted of a few presenters interacting with flat panel displays in front and wireless interactive tablet PC for every two people attending.  That in itself was an impressive the technological demonstration. 

The back of the big room was filled with display stuff promoting Prius.  The one that I liked the best there was the engine.  Looking at it up close, I was very pleased with the layout.  The thing most people will be interested in is the oil filter.  It's been moved to beside the oil pan.  Changes will be even easier now.  There was also a plastic model of the Planetary-CVT that you could play with.  Having that opportunity to interact with it really helps people understand the elegantly simple design. 

The test-drive organization at the event was really slick.  They had the rotation of driving opportunities operating like a clock.  There was very little waiting.  They just told you when a Prius was ready and you took off. 

The 2004 itself is absolutely amazing.  The amount of leg room available in back could almost be considered wasteful.  It is enormous!  And the front was very comfortable as well.  Heck, even your cup will be pleased.  I was surprised to see how much they improved the cupholders.  As for the drive itself, the comments coming from everyone is how "normal" it felt.  The engineers went all out to make the wire drive act just like everyone is used to.  This fact alone will generate sales so strong that the other automakers won't know what hit them.  Overnight hybrid interest will explode.  People, in large numbers will begin demanding the technology once they discover how incredible the HSD system is.  I even heard one comment saying it was "Lexus Quality".  So fasten your seatbelts, Prius is about to take the whole world for a ride. 

Stay tuned for photos.  I only took a handful since the city setting wasn't all that special, I prefer nature backgrounds.  But it sure was sweet seeing so many all in one place.  And I did get a nice shot of the (yet unseen so far) Consumption Screen.  The little regeneration stars have been replaced with mini Leaf-Prius symbols.  That's rather amusing.  The Energy Display has a great improvement, the current MPG (not the average like I had assumed) gets shown there.  So you now get the best of both worlds on just the one.  The detail on that screen is improved too.  It is more 3D like and the battery-pack charge-level will now show more than just the normal & low that we commonly see in the classic.  The reflective design makes it appear to sit really, really deep into a dark area. With that setup, there's quite simply no way anyone could ever question if bright sunlight would ever make it hard to see.  There's simply no way it could. And appearing that far away from the steering-wheel also makes it remarkably easy to see.  The eyes don't need to refocus much at all.   A step even better than what we have in our classic Prius now. 

I got so busy, I totally forgot to open the hatch.  Oh well.  I'll have plenty of time to play with that in a few days anyway... when I finally get my own 2004. 

10-15-2003

Highway Misconception.  It's still alive & well.  Some people are under the impression that battery-pack recharging is only possible when braking, so they think think hybrid will become underpowered if you drive on the highway long enough.  That is not how a Prius works.  100% of the time the engine is providing thrust to the wheel, it is also creating electricity.  Sometimes the electricity is used for recharging.  Sometimes it is used for thrust.  Sometimes it is used for both recharging & thrust.  That's 100 percent of the time!  There clearly is not a "consequent power deficit" as some believe.  In fact, just the opposite happens.  You end up leaving the highway with a greater supply of stored electricity than you do when you get on it.

 

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