Prius Personal Log  #89

November 17, 2003  -  November 23, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 2/21/2009

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11-23-2003

2004 Impressions - 1 Month.

Rather than finishing up my personal logs as many people have requested, I've been playing with my new Prius.  (Sorry.)  Time sure flies when you're having fun!

Winter officially began yesterday.  Lots of slippery snow fell with no chance of it melting.  It's here to stay.  (The honeymoon is over.  It looks like I've taken the Prius into battle now with all the road spray covering it.)  Needless to say, that gave me a great opportunity to check out the handling.  The traction-control kicked in a few times.  The ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) and VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) were never needed, probably because the feel behind the wheel tuned so well.  I'm still looking forward to Spring though, which will bring much higher MPG.

The sound system is wonderful.  It is a definite, though not necessary, perk from having upgraded to the 2004.

Aggressive stopping results in an unexpected (at first) clunk, which makes it surprisingly responsive.  I believe the system bypasses regeneration completely and goes straight to traditional brakes. 

Warm up still amazes me.  The thermal storage of hot coolant definitely works as promised.  The engine shuts off much quicker than with the classic did.

The rear wiper is fantastic.  Never have I been able to keep a back window so clean.  This is a very real safety benefit for those of us that have to deal with snow & ice.

I love the new "defrost" mode!  Now you have the ability to blow air onto the front windshield without having the actual defrost system on.  That enables you to keep the window clear without using as much gas overall.  Yeah!  Of course, only the classic owners will really understand the magnitude of the improvement.  New owners will just see the two separate buttons.

The new gas-cap is really nice too, yet another improvement that may go unnoticed.  Rather than actually screwing it on or off, you just twist halfway and slide it.  That sounds similar, but it really isn't.  The change will make traditional screw gas-caps jealous.

The use of color to show battery-charge is really nice.  But combine it with the gray background color-scheme, and it becomes very easy to see.  The energy flows do too.  That would work well as a "learner's mode" for new owners.

I can't get enough of the lock button.  Pushing the black feel-sensor on the two front doors and on the hatch after exiting locks the car.  So at no time do I ever need to dig in my pocket for the remote.  That sure is handy in the Winter when wearing gloves and a long coat.

Gliding is rather common with this Prius.  It was rare with the previous.  When on an absolutely flat stretch while maintaining a constant speed, nothing in the hybrid system will happen at all.  (You can see it on the Multi-Display.)  The entire propulsion system takes a break for a moment.  Being able to take advantage of opportunities like that really shows the intelligence of the HSD system.

Rapid off of the engine is sweet.  Stopping for a second to inform the system you desire stealth even though the conditions are less than ideal isn't necessary.  The engine shuts off by simply slowing down to almost a stop.  Cool!  That means more electric-only opportunities.

In summary, hybrids are here to stay.  The system is remarkably well tuned for dealing with real-world situations.  I know that already.  Just wait until everyone sees photos of what Winter requires of a vehicle here in Minnesota.  That should really impress the skeptics.

11-22-2003

Full-Size Spare.  Since the 2004 uses everyday, run-of-the-mill, inexpensive, common-size, available-everywhere tires, having a full-size spare just isn't necessary for my needs.  I'd rather do without the extra 8 pounds and save the money by sticking with the donut.

11-21-2003

Prius Galore!  A nearby dealer has begun offering discounted 2004 Prius prices for those willing to get on their order list and endure the wait.  My dealer sold quite a few classic Prius in the past and their prices were reduced from the MSRP as well. So With 2 dealers so close, both heavily endorsing Prius (and both expanding their physical location size), we are going to see lots of them all over the place here by the time the snow finally melts away.  Yeah!

11-21-2003

Echo Again.  (That's a bit redundant!)  With the introduction of the 2004 model, it is now totally absurd to compare to an Echo.  They don't have anything in common at all.  They don't look even remotely alike and every single feature on Prius is a cut above, except price.  Anyone that chooses Echo for a basis of comparison now obviously either hasn't done their homework or they want to make hybrids look bad.  They are many other vehicles far my appropriate to compare to.

11-21-2003

Those other hybrids.  I think of them as younger siblings.  They are perfectly fine in their own right and you never want anything bad to happen to them, despite their differences.  But Prius will always be a step ahead.  And because I am the oldest in my generation of grandchildren, I know this topic extraordinarily well.  Rather than being lonely and isolated at the top, welcome them.  After all, those other hybrids offer another choice.  And not everyone wants the same thing.  That being said, PRIUS ROCKS!

11-21-2003

Need verses Want.  The topic has resurfaced.  But this time, I already have a clear view of the situation.  NEED is an exact measurement.  Sit down at the entrance ramp of a highway and record traffic speeds.  You'll eventually derive a minimum safe acceleration speed necessary to avoid a collision when merging.  That is the NEED.  Anything beyond that is a WANT, since the speed requirement has already been satisfied.  Desiring more is perfectly acceptable.  How much cannot be measured though.  That variable is a personal preference, different for each buyer.  The problem comes from when NEED and WANT aren't appropriately labeled.  There's been a lot of conflict in the past where it was said that more was necessary, when it actually wasn't.  Being objective starts by separating those 2 types of criteria.

11-21-2003

Up to the chore.  Once again, the WANT verses NEED has returned to the online discussions.  With tire-pressure at 44/42, my 2004 Prius accelerates 0-60 in just 9.9 seconds.  That is overkill.  I merge onto the highway effortlessly, with power to spare.  The NEED is easily satisfied.  Do people WANT more?  Of course.  But they don't NEED it.  Heck, my classic Prius clearly proved that, since it was slower and never had a problem merging either.  And the 0-30 in my 2004 Prius is fantastic.  The 295 ft-lb of torque makes the off-the-line-from-a-dead-stop acceleration well above average.  Lastly, not a single technology satisfies the 17 million sales in the United States currently, expecting hybrids to be able to do that isn't realistic.  A majority will do just fine.

11-20-2003

12.5 regen-stars in 30 minutes!  That amazed me.  I never imagined so much electricity could be recaptured just from my routine commute.  But it happened!  So naturally, I had to take a digital photo of it... photo album 60

11-20-2003

Any PR is beneficial.  That's the Microsoft way!  It works really well, good or bad.  And all the vague discussing (attempts to confuse & mislead) will ultimately backfire and help raise awareness too.  Whether those against hybrids like it or not, they are helping to promote them.  Ha!

11-20-2003

Intent.  The intent of hybrids is to decrease emissions and increase the efficiency in the vehicle of your choice.  What you see now isn't everything that the future has to offer.  Starting next year, you should find hybrid systems available in 3 already available vehicles.  The following year, you should find another 2 or 3.  These are traditional vehicles, not custom designed hybrids like Prius.  HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) is a propulsion system, not a vehicle.  Did you realize that?

11-20-2003

Oil Type.  Synthetic is clearly better in every way, except price.  But it's not that much more anyway.  In fact, if you change the oil (and filter) yourself, you'll still end up saving money compared to the standard price of a quick-change service with dino-oil (the regular stuff).  And since the unique design of Prius contributes to surprisingly easy changes (since the engine is small and offset to the side), it's definitely worth a try.  You will see an efficiency improvement.  It's only about 1 MPG, but who's complaining since you also get superior engine protection.

11-19-2003

The Oil Change Saga.  Last week, I stopped by the dealer to purchase an oil-filter and crush-washer from the dealer.  That was quick & easy.  Last night at 1,999 miles, I jacked up the Prius and drained the dino-oil out.  Then I proceeded to remove the filter.  The top of it was showing.  Toyota made it extremely easy to reach, but impossible to read the side from underneath.  So it wasn't until I had it in my hand that I noticed the model number didn't match.  (After 13 years of changing oil for all my family's vehicles, you get in the habit making sure you really do have the correct one.)  It was actually the type I had used for my classic Prius.  That really upset me, especially since I specifically requested one for a 2004.  I was screwed.  There was no vehicle available for me to drive to the dealer to get a matching filter.  And worse, it was too late in the evening to get there vehicle someone else's vehicle.  So I had to endure that frustration over night.  The next morning at the dealer, I asked (again) for a "2004 Prius" filter.  He recited the number for the incorrect one.  I replied with the number from the one I had removed.  He went in back to confirm his information with mine from their paper sources.  He came and walked through the whole computer search process again.  The facts revealed a reality most owners aren't aware of, I certainly wasn't.  It turns out that filters are supplied domestically.  So the Toyota vehicles built in Japan have filters from suppliers in Japan and the Toyota vehicles built in the US have filters from suppliers in the US.  That means some replacement parts for the US come from the US, even if the vehicle was originally built in Japan.  That explains the model number difference.  The design of the filter itself is different, though.  So that still leaves a bit of mystery.  Why does one filter have a flat intake surface and the other is sunken?  I assumed that even though the engine is the same, the fact that the maximum RPM is higher that the flow of the oil would be altered.  Apparently not.  And realistically, I really don't see why it would need to be different anyway, since the oil is pumped.  In the end, I really did have the correct filter.  Too bad they hadn't share that information with me in the first place.  Oh well.  That's why I bought a Prius in the first place, to help other owners out.  So I guess I'll be the one to spread the word and relieve the concerns on this one.

11-19-2003

Time Savings.  I wonder how much time over the lifetime of my Prius that SE/SS will end up saving.  Hmm?

11-19-2003

Toyota Prius best car for 2004!  That is what Motor Trend named the car I so strongly believe in.  With attention like that, I'm obviously feeling pretty darn good right now.  Go Prius!

11-18-2003

Now That's Entertainment!  The light unexpectedly turned red.  I came to a quick stop.  The engine was still running.  A person at the crosswalk began to cross.  The moment she got in front of the Prius, the engine shut off.  That resulted in a bizarre look at me and the car.  She was totally mystified why in the world the engine would suddenly stop like and not invoke some type of reaction from me.  I just kept my poker face and continued to look forward.  She kept walking, but her head turned with extreme curiosity.  Then finally when she got to the sidewalk, she stopped, turned around, then starred.  The light turned green.  I effortlessly drove away.  When I turned to see her reaction, I saw a very confused look on her face.  That was great!  I wonder if she'll figure out that she had witnessed a hybrid.  Hmm?

11-18-2003

Warmest.  I'm really, really looking forward to this Thursday.  The temperature is supposed to climb all the way up to 60 F degrees.  Yeah!  My Prius will have 2000 miles on it by then and I would have switched to synthetic oil.  That will give me a taste of what warm weather performance will be like before the harsh reality of Minnesota Winter kicks in.

11-17-2003

Warmer.  Today's temperature was warmer than I had ever got to drive my 2004 Prius in so far.  It was 54 F degrees.  Warm up was rapid.  You can actually see it on the Multi-Display too.  The first segment (from the left) on the "Consumption", which visually illustrates the average MPG you achieved during those 5 minutes, was higher than I normally see.  The reason for this is the engine was able to shut off sooner.  The second segment went all the way up to 80 MPG.  That's the result of driving 35 & 40 MPH roads through the suburbs.  The third segment is the amazing one.  It even surprised me.  The Prius achieved 3.5 stars (little leaf cars).  Each represents 50Wh of electricity regenerated, for a total of 175Wh in this case.  In my classic Prius, I was always pleased when I saw 2 stars.  So, you can understand why I had to pull over today and take a photo when 3.5 appeared.  Wow!  That was just my routine driving route.  Why the heck did I regen so much?  Was in the warmer temperature outside contributing to increased efficiency for both driving & braking?  I honestly don't know.

11-17-2003

SOC level... Pink?  I briefly looked at the "Energy" screen when I first drove my 2004 Prius from the dealer's lot, but then switched to the "Consumption" screen and left it there.  I was far too preoccupied with observing the efficiency and trying to reach a station that sold low-sulfur gas before running the tank dry.  If I recall correctly, the only 3 bars within the battery indicating the SOC (state of charge) level were pink.  But since then, I haven't ever seen that.  The SOC simply hasn't dropped that low.  It might not ever either.  Factory delivery SOC might be rather low.  I certainly never saw the 1/4 mark on my classic Prius.  And since the 2004 regenerates even more, I don't even see 1/2 as much.  Were those bars really pink?  I've noticed that medium level is indicated by blue and the high level is indicated by green, so pink for low does make sense.

11-17-2003

As Promised?  The automakers never promised anything.  They have been kicking & screaming about CARB since the beginning, fighting every requirement with their lawyers.  They did brag about their prototypes, though.  But never did they reveal details explaining how they could actually deliver what you saw at shows.  EV1 wasn't ever practical.  Beside being only a 2-seater, the short-range model (Lead-Acid) started at $30,000 and the extended-range model (NiMH) was $40,000.  RAV4-Electric demonstrated great improvements in the technology.  It was much bigger and used NiMH, without exceeding $40,000.  Unfortunately, neither of those vehicles were even remotely close what the average person could afford.  The battery size is the problem.  And that's where hybrids step in.  They use much smaller batteries.  That drops the price all the way down to what the average person now spends on a new vehicle.

 

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