Prius Personal Log  #86

October 29, 2003  -  November 2, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 2/21/2009

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Cargo In Back.  I measured the cargo area.  2 sets of golf clubs fit nicely in the hatch area with the cover drawn and the seats up.  I really wondered about that, since it isn't as wide where the wheels are.  And by retracting the smaller seat, you'd easily be able to fit another set plus a bunch of cargo without even needing to stack anything above the seat height.  That means 3 people could easily go on a golfing trip in a Prius.  I'm putting that on my wish-list for next Summer!


Rear Wiper.  I got the full demonstration this morning.  It snowed.  Wet & Heavy snow builds up quickly on that upper portion of the back window, since it is so flat.  (Dry & Light snow will just blow right off.  And the bottom portion is well protected from snow.)  The wiper did a great job of clearing it.  Toyota went to the trouble of wiring the defroster in back to include the entire wiper area, even the part you can't see.  So you don't need to worry about it freezing.  They also left some room on the bottom of the wiper stroke so buildup will have a chance to melt and slide off, rather than just clump.  The smooth design of the hatch will allow the snow to just simply get pushed right off the back of the hybrid by the wiper.  (Prius genius! Gotta love it.)  I definitely like this setup better than the traditional back window, where you had to rely exclusively on the defroster.  Having that wiper is really nice.


Upcoming Photos.  Living in Minnesota will provide lots of winter photo opportunities.  I'm really looking forward to trying to capture some tonight.  The snow is coming down pretty heavy right now (lunch time).  Yesterday, there's was about 3 hours of actual sun & blue sky.  That was literally the only chance I've had since getting my 2004 to take photos.  So I snuck out of the house right after lunch to snap a few shots of fall colors.  Driving all over the place I managed to find 4 trees that actually had leaves and color.  Yeah!  The day before I drove around in the gloom & gray and managed to find a few night outback settings to capture a few pre-snow photos too.  So eventually, I'll have a nice variety to share with y'all.  In the meantime, I'm still scrambling to learn all I can about the 2004 while also updating my logs and creating the new User-Guide.  Stay tuned.


Measuring Demand.  The word "hybrid" was unknown to a majority of the market back when Prius was first introduced here.  And of those that knew what it meant, only a few of them really understood how the technology actually worked.  So a demand comparison is like still comparing an apple to a screwdriver, completely unrelated.  The automotive world has changed quite drastically since then.  Heck, even fuel-cell technology was unknown to most just a few years ago.  But we have a long way to go before the "unproven" label can be officially removed.  But then when it is, that's like signing a death warrant for traditional systems.  So I would suspect some automakers will fight that from happening for awhile.  Fortunately though, owners are causing quite a stir all by themselves.


Highway Cruise.  There were 4 of us inside, plus some cargo.  We had an hour each way of pure highway.  Speed averaged 67 MPH.  Temperature averaged 42 F degrees.  The result was 46 MPG on the Multi-Display.  That's not too bad at all.  Next Summer when the car is finally well broken-in and it is warmer.  I should see 50 MPG.  And an added perk is the cruise-control.  Wow!  It was so amazingly smooth you couldn't believe it.  The 50kW motor is so powerful that high revving of the engine to climb a hill, even with a full load and at fast speeds, is unnecessary.  Just a nice soft glide on the way up.


2004 Impressions - Day Nine.

I've read a whole bunch of test-drive reports now, they all pretty much say the same thing: Nothing!  (That's a good thing.)  HSD rarely even gets a mention.  The hybrid system is so well accepted now, focus is placed elsewhere.  The sports-car enthusiasts have even stopped bugging us online.  They kept trying to put the Prius into a specialty category, now they realized it's just a 21st Century family vehicle.  Too bad for them.  Yeah for the typical family.

Cost-Effectiveness and Interior-Layout are the subject of discussion now.  Both are silly, since in a few years costs will be lower and a variety of layout will be available.  But I suppose people need something to talk about in the meantime.

As for my own report, break-in is complete.  So I dropped the pedal to the floor to see what happened.  (No wonder the enthusiasts disappeared, there's more than enough pep now.  They have nothing to complain about.)  Efficiency has been amazing.  For a cleaner, bigger, faster car to get even better MPG is great.  The October average (749 miles of driving) calculated to 49.7 MPG.  That's quite impressive for cold weather.  Later when the Minnesota winter machine kicks in and everything freezes solid, I'll be very watchful of what happens.  The classic Prius was quite impressive under those conditions.  The new Prius, with its special thermal system for retaining heat, should really dazzle then.

I'll look forward to Spring like I never have before.  Last year, I set a personal record achieving a 50 MPG tank in late February.  This year, I potentially could do that even earlier.  And of course later, Summer will be a blast.  All last year I maintained a 50 MPG average.  At that point, the 2004 would have really loosened up.  And I'll have switched to synthetic oil then too.  So the efficiency will climb.  Close to 60 MPG at times, I'd imagine.  An average in the mid-50's will be a great way of promoting the AT-PZEV aspect.

The hybrid itself fits like a glove.  I'm actually a bit surprised how rapidly acclimated to the new one.  But then again, I missed the hatchback I used to own 10 years ago.  Getting one back, hybrid style, is wonderful.  You'd be amazed how practical that is.  I have already tossed the bike in back.  Just lower the back seats, lay down a blanket, and unclip the front bike-tire.  The rest of the bike fit back there without any need to wiggle.  It set right down with room to spare.  The tie-down locations are well placed.  That will allow the placement of a second bike.  Not having to accept a MPG penalty from carrying 2 bikes now will be very nice.

I played with the Navigation System the other day... or my sister did.  She really enjoyed being able to look up a location and request the "Nav Lady" to instruct us how to get there as we drive.  I hadn't realized just how well thought out that system was.  As you get close to the next turn, an imagine it the corner will point which way to turn and how far you are from it.  And when you do get close, a secondary map pops up and shows you a close-up.

The Voice-Recognition work surprisingly well.  I can easily see that becoming quite popular as the list of commands expands and its ability to understand even the most difficult speaking grows.  We really will be speaking to a computer like on Star Trek some day.  Just speaking a command rather than having to reach for a button is obviously safer.

Shifting is sweet.  It's quite apparent now why Toyota abandoned the traditional mechanical shifter.  Because when you shift into Drive or Reverse, the typical behavior is that nothing but the indicator changes.  No other activity takes place.  The engine will commonly remain off, just like when you first power-up (all it does is boot the computer).

The brakes are completely "normal" now.  Toyota's scheme for simulating the traditional response people expect is well implemented.  Heck, even the "bounce" is gone.  When you hit a bump while decelerating hard, the brief disabling of the regen system (to prevent potential damage to it) isn't apparent anymore.

At night, the HID headlight as shockingly bright.  It's like having the high-beams on without blinding anyone, since they are aimed down like traditional lights.  And the light distribution on the road is so clean that you can easily see every bump & crack.

The ride at 42/40 (that's tire-pressure at 42 PSI front, 40 PSI back) is pleasing.  I figured that would be the case.  But you never know until you try.  This will allow the tires to last longer, improve MPG, and help improve handling... which is great.  The larger tires and the longer wheelbase deliver as expected.  There's a long, narrow, steep, curvy hill that I used to test it.  My classic Prius was on the edge of losing it at 38 MPH (the recommend safe speed was 30 MPH).  The new Prius clearly holds to the road better.  There wasn't much of any lean on the tight turns.  Of course, that introduces a new problem.  Some people will likely take advantage of that ability.

I suppose that's enough detail for now.  The next report will include the results of a highway cruise with the hybrid interior loaded.  Stay tuned.


Break-In Complete.  So I dropped the pedal, all the way to the floor.  Zooooooom!  It was remarkably smoooooth.  The pep is quite impressive.  I can't imagine anyone ever complaining about the Prius, unless they had the same problem as me... The speed limit was only 65 MPH.  At 70 MPH it was still accelerating really well.  The desire to find out at what point it would tamper off was overwhelming.  But since I've passed people at number of times at +80 MPH in my classic, common sense kicked in and told me that was fast enough.  Oh well... back to enjoy high MPG numbers instead.


Tracking Data.  It's the temperature at the exact moment I was driving that counts, not whatever the average was.  But none of that data is truly informative either.  What this really boils down to is the same driver, similar commute conditions, and similar relative temperatures.  And that's pretty much the best you'll ever get for real-world consistency.  So that's what we'll work with.  The real-world lifetime average for me is absolutely dead on, since it takes every real-world situation I actually ever encountered into account.  And that's what really matter.  So that's what I'll be tracking over the next few years.  The comparisons should be fun... knowing that the new Prius will always win, since it is even better than the already impressive numbers from the classic.


Monthly MPG Averages.  Driving my 2001 Prius 59,827 MILES over the past 3 YEARS in Minnesota produced a wealth of data.  Using it, I crunched the numbers to come up with the following monthly averages:  Jan 40.9,  Feb 41.0,  Mar 43.2,  Apr 46.1,  May 47.1,  Jun 47.5,  Jul 47.8,  Aug 48.2,  Sep 48.6,  Oct 46.5,  Nov 44.6,  Dec 41.5.  Using that, I'll be making comparisons to my 2004 Prius (which is cleaner, bigger, and faster) to prove that the best got even better.  The October average for my 2004 Prius calculated to an average of 49.7 MPG.  So despite not even being broken in yet, the improvement is rather obvious.  Any predictions for November?


Cold Reality.  If you live in an area that drops to 20 F degrees or colder, say goodbye to stealth.  It was virtually impossible to even creep forward a little without the engine restarting, in my classic.  The tolerance for the 2004 might be greater.  But then again, that's only if you have the heater on low.  If you have it on high, the engine might not shut off until spring.  Winter is tough to except when you have the Multi-Display reminding you of the efficiency loss.  But then again, it does inform you that you are still getting MPG better than everyone driving traditional vehicles.


Making it up as I go.  It's official.  The paperwork is complete.  I transferred the "1701-A" license plates from my 2001 Prius to the 2004 today.  The weather has been absolutely horrible, not even worth attempting photos in.  But tomorrow, I finally get the very first opportunity to actually take some.  They won't be what I had originally planned though.  I had always hoped to get some great shots with beautiful fall color backgrounds.  That didn't work.  Delivery took longer than anticipated and there wasn't any color this year, not much more than shades of brown.  Despite that, timing couldn't have been better.  The forecast for tomorrow is possible snow.  And with the temperature at 34 F degrees this evening, that could end up happening.  That white stuff does make for very nice photos.  Wish me luck.  And if it doesn't work out, I'll try something else later.


Prius Acceptance.  I see several Prius (all classics, except mine) per day here.  Some of them have even noticed my 2004 already.  We don't get any state benefit whatsoever for buying Prius (money or commuter-lane privileges), yet we buy them anyway.  For some reason certain areas of the country seem to be more resolute toward influencing change.  The devotion to our local farmers has lead to the requirement of 10% ethanol mix in our gas.  We have the low-sulfur gas available from one of the main distributors here too.  I'm not sure what the influencing factors actually are or how they came to be in the first place, but I wish other areas had similar environmental support.  If they could only see what I experience daily.  Of course, it could just the extreme cold that forces us to research more than most, gotta do something advantageous during the Winter.  It also pushes us to take full advantage of the outdoor environment when the weather actually does get warm.


AT-PZEV.  Just like SULEV and the classic Prius, the same emission design is delivered throughout the United States.  However, low-sulfur gas is likely needed to make it all the way to rating distance that way.  In this case, that's 150,000 miles.  Eventually, high-sulfur build-up would cause the emission system to become less effective.  Fortunately, an upcoming federal regulation requires all gas to be low-sulfur by the end of 2005.  And even better, some areas have it already.  Here in Minnesota, the "Blue Planet" gas sold at Holiday stations (since September 1999) is low-sulfur.  So my Prius is pleased that it will remain clean its entire life.  Excellent!


MPG, so far.  Convincing someone to pay about $300 more for a car that gets 2 MPG less for the sake of PZEV (amazingly clean emissions) is a very difficult task.  Convincing someone to purchase a car with HSD, which not only provides PZEV but also offers a +20 MPG improvement, is an entirely different matter... much easier.  HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) is currently available in the 2004 Prius.  And I just happen to own one!  Anywho, I filled up the tank yesterday after having driven 420 miles.  The calculated result was 49.0 MPG.  That's amazing considering the hybrid isn't even broken in yet and that the average driving temperature was only 39F degrees.  (Cold causes MPG to drop quite a bit in all vehicle types.)  And now, 85 miles later, the Multi-Display show 51.7 MPG (which should calculate to about 50).  I'm quite pleased, so far.  Stay tuned for updates as I continue to add miles and as the temperature drops much lower... I live in Minnesota!


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