Prius Personal Log  #91

November 29, 2003  -  December 3, 2003

Last Updated: Sun. 5/02/2004

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12-03-2003

Trust.  Would you really trust someone that endorses a product but doesn't actually own one himself?  I think not.  The only way to be able to persuade someone to consider the purchase the newly designed Prius was to actually purchase one myself.  So I did.

12-03-2003

My 2001 Prius didn't have a NAV system, didn't have more & premium speakers, didn't have 6-CD changer, didn't have split-folding rear seats, didn't have SE (Smart Entry), didn't have SS (Smart Start), didn't have side-airbags, didn't have side-curtains, didn't have VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), didn't have Bluetooth, didn't have Homelink, didn't have HID (High Intensity Discharge) self-leveling lights, didn't have secondary lights, didn't have LED brake lights, didn't have voice-recognition, didn't have heated mirrors, didn't have rear wiper, didn't have electric A/C.  Look closely at that list.  None of those extras were available back in 2001.  None of those extras improves acceleration or power of the vehicle.  So anyone that accuses me of selling it because it didn't perform well is intentionally trying to mislead people.  I work hard for my money.  I wanted all of those extras.  So I bought a new Prius that offered them.  The fact that the efficiency is even higher and the emissions are even lower is a very welcome benefit as well.  The fact that acceleration is even better is a just frosting on the cake, unnecessary but very nice to have.

12-03-2003

Do not rely solely on a Warning System.  Toyota is well aware of the fact that some owners rely solely on the warning system as an indicator of when to refuel rather than using the more accurate gauge: the odometer.  So it wouldn't surprise me at all that they made it more difficult to do that with tire pressure.  We've heard a bunch of stories where classic Prius owners didn't even realize that they had a tire worn all the way down to the threads due to under-inflation until a mechanic pointed it out.  The importance of maintaining proper pressure to prevent accelerated wear and for your own safety was not common knowledge.  And of course, those tires with the horribly soft rubber made that fact even more important.  Now Prius comes with a much better tire, one with a treadwear rating triple that of the previous.  That unfortunately means the likelihood of routinely checking tire pressure is lower now, since wear won't occur as quickly anymore.  It basically boils down to the warning system (if there even is one) being only an indicator that your safety is compromised due to critically low tire pressure.  So for us, that means we need to continue to spread the word about the importance of routinely checking the pressure in your tires.  35/33 (that's 35 PSI front & 33 PSI back) is the absolute minimum.  42/40 is what many owners recommend.  44/42 works well for those that want the most from their tires (like me).  Because high PSI not only helps to prevent wear, it also reduces resistance... which equates to higher MPG.  In other words, you can't go wrong with higher PSI.  Temperature causes PSI (tire pressure) to drop.  Driving itself does too.  So unless you are routinely checking, PSI mostly likely won't be as high as you think it is.

12-03-2003

Warmer Months.  You'll be amazed (when they finally arrive)!  My routine driving so far this week has yielded a 49.7 MPG on the Multi-Display, despite the cold and newness of the car still.  That would have been quite impressive in my classic Prius.  I can't wait until the temperature climbs.  At 80 F degrees, the hybrid system rolls like "budder".  The smooooooothness is wonderful.  It's because you get to take full advantage of the electrical system.  MPG will skyrocket!  You'll maintain efficiency in the 50's with the greatest of ease.

12-02-2003

Obsessing with MPG.  Rewind to 9 months ago, before we knew about the upgrade for 2004.  None of the current MPG concerns existed.  What people are hearing about now is simply a phase we are going through due to some much change having occurred recently.  Just wait until the Spring.  Many 2004 owners having driven lots of miles by then will begin reporting amazing MPG results, enough to determine a real-world average for newer owners to expect.  And then they'll focus on that, rather than the EPA numbers... which is all we have to work with currently.

12-02-2003

Getting Strange.  I now have an unusual perspective when it comes to Prius news.  I read the articles looking for mention of me!  Better get my switch for "humble mode" fixed.

12-02-2003

Efficiency Expectations.  This document contains 2 graphs showing the efficiency variances throughout my 3 years of driving a 2001 Prius: 2001 Lifetime Graphs   You can very clearly see how extreme of a dip Winter causes.  You really can't expect much more than 40 MPG, even when after the Prius is broken in, in an extreme environment like Minnesota.  But then in the Summer, efficiency will shot all the way up to 50 MPG.  So I would suspect the same will be true for my 2004 Prius, except the MPG will likely be a few MPG better.  These factors effect cause lower MPG in all types of vehicles, including hybrids: Cold air is more dense, Warm up takes longer, Winter formula gas is less efficient, Traffic conditions are different.  Then of course, you've got these other influencing factors:  Break-In, Oil Level, Oil Type, Tire Pressure, Heater preventing the engine from shutting off.  The equation isn't as simple as most think.  Knowing all that requires a reevaluation of expectations.

12-02-2003

Odometer Accuracy.  Yes, I've verified it.  By monitoring the highway milestone markers, it's pretty simple.  (Each is exactly 1 mile apart.)  But, I've never mentioned it in my logs.  So... that's what I'm doing... now.

12-01-2003

Braking Distance.  A review published braking distance measurements today.  The 2004 Prius could decelerate from 60 MPH to a complete stop in 125 feet.  That news is a devastating blow to those claiming the hybrid is substandard.  That value is right in line with what other common vehicles offer, better than some and not quite as good as others.  It makes braking a non-issue now.  Any claims at this point can be considered an attempt to create a misconception.

12-01-2003

Rear View.  The back window comes down lower than on most cars.  As a result of that design, you can actually see better.  Tailgater headlights don't disappear from view when they get dangerously close, so you can still keep tabs on them.  It also helps a lot when backing into a tight spot.

12-01-2003

5,584.  Sweet!  That's how many 2004 Prius were sold in November here.  Unfortunately, a lot more than that were ordered.  Delivery waits, just like with the classic, are now looking to be a reality.

12-01-2003

Cleaner than I thought !  The veteran members will remember the whole SULEV fiasco we had awhile back, where some claimed Prius wasn't really that clean unless "low sulfur" gas was used.  The assumption was that only the gas that was labeled as true "low sulfur" gas actually was clean (80ppm maximum), that all the rest was similar to the national average (350ppm with a maximum of 500ppm).  It made sense.  Why upgrade the refinery equipment right away?  Save money by just waiting until the 2006 deadline.  So no one ever looked into the details.  Well, guess what.  Even Minnesota's dirty gas is cleaner than I expected.  A white-paper published by the University of North Dakota 2 years ago just happened to find its way to my eyes today.  It revealed that the low-sulfur gas I've been using for the last 4 years (Holiday) rates at 46ppm.  The "dirty" gas from SuperAmerica is actually only 102ppm and the "dirty" gas from Amoco is 157ppm.  How about that?  The other gas available here is cleaner than I thought.

12-01-2003

Think Long-Term.  The current limitation of traditional internal features for Prius is quite intentional.  Toyota did exactly the same thing with the previous generation.  They do that so only the die-hard consumers will purchase the initial allotment.  And not only did that work before, it is also working with the 2004.  Toyota did announcement that more features would become available as time goes on.  This approach helps to keep misconceptions in check (since the consumers ordering & waiting are typically much better informed than those that just stumble across Prius while shopping on the dealer's lot).  You'll also find it interesting to learn that this is how they were able to create a used market; otherwise, some would be unwilling to part with such a well built vehicle that is that is fairly new still.

11-30-2003

MPG tracking.  The Multi-Display now resets automatically after each refill of the tank. I think that's nice.  It helps to provide the greatest feedback experience.  Not resetting for thousands of miles is rather uninformative.  You have to drive quite a distance for even a 0.1 MPG change.  But with only a single tank of data showing, that value changes much more frequently.  As a result, you learn how specific trips influence the running average.  It's fascinating to observe.  And of course, that's much more entertaining than watching a number than may not change at all during an entire drive, the consequence of not resetting.  Anywho, I wanted to witness the reset myself.  So rather than pushing the RESET button on the Multi-Display.  I just waited to see what would happen.  0.4 mile from the gas station, it reset automatically.

11-30-2003

Road Trip.  Today's trip from the Twin Cities to Northern Wisconsin was quite pleasing as well, despite pounding on my poor 2004 Prius.  With 4 adults inside and the cargo area packed, the car was well loaded.  We traveled along country highways.  The speed averaged 60 MPH, with a few short spans at 70 MPH.  Only 10% of the 290 miles driven were at city speeds.  The temperature only averaged 35 F degrees.  The calm morning air turned into a very nasty head wind on the way back.  Regardless of all that, I still managed to average about 42 MPG.  That's not too bad; however, some won't understand that.  Looking at only my raw data, you'd have no clue the driving conditions were so harsh.  And of course, true break-in won't be complete until around 10,000 miles.  Oh well.  At least no one can claim my data isn't real-world.

11-30-2003

Finally, we get to choose.  In the past, the automotive industry told us what our choices were.  (That's a sad reality.)  Now that we finally get to show them that we want a choice they never offered.  I was incredibly frustrated when neither the Saturn EV1, nor the Ford Ranger EV, was offered locally.  Reading about the "disappointing" test markets results triggered the frustration.  They never offered it to me, yet they claimed I had no interest in buying one.  And when I researched online, I discovered there were many like me.  We were all perturbed that we were never given the opportunity to choose.  The conclusion the automakers had drawn based on their testing was obviously incorrect.  They had sabotaged the results, forcing an opinion that better served their interests rather than ours.  Needless to say, I was upset.  Now things are changing.  I can't wait until HSD equipped vehicles start making appearances in people's driveways.  Prius won't be the only player in the Toyota/Lexus game soon.  It will be difficult for those other automakers to ignore the signs at that point.  It's about dang time!

11-30-2003

1984, 1994, 2004.  My classic Prius was obviously a special vehicle, one that fit outside the normal cycle of necessary replacement.  My other vehicles I've owned all have a "4" as the base year.  Interesting, eh?  1984 Dodge Omni.  That was a great little car.  The hatch made it very practical.  My entire senior year of college I stored my bicycle in the back.  That sure was handy.  The manual-transmission was too.  It provided very good MPG for the time and allowed me to compensate for the failing, underpowered engine.  1994 Ford Taurus LX.  It was very pleasant car.  I was quite pleased with it until I ran into troubles and the dealer providing service made a few mistakes at my expense.  I sure learned a lot about automotive design from it.  When it worked, it worked very well.  When it broke, I really struggled.  That set me on my quest for better technology.  I didn't have a grudge against that automaker, it was just that the concept of an engine coupled to an automatic-transmission was inherently complex & unreliable.  Prius taught me that propulsion could be more simple & dependable if I was willing to abandon the traditional restraints, an accept an entirely new design.  And sure enough, it really does deliver!  2004 Toyota Prius.  This one surpasses the very satisfying experiences I had with my classic Prius.  In fact, it is so well designed it will appeal to a very large consumer-base.  I wonder what my 2014 will be like.  Hmm?

11-29-2003

Bought a Bluetooth-enabled Phone.  I now own a Sony Ericsson T610 cell-phone.  Once the service activated (and my previous number is transferred over), I'll be able to use it through the interface built into the Prius.  Excellent!

11-29-2003

"Air Conditioning"  People are now getting a lesson in the proper use of terminology.  "Air Conditioning" has always meant "conditioning of the air".  But at some point though, people starting implying it specifically meant "cold".  Since climate-control systems, like the one in Prius, automatically toggle between the cold & hot for you to achieve the specified conditioning of the air.  The proper terminology is finally coming back.  So now cold is labeled as "A/C" to help avoid long-term confusion.  In the meantime though, try to politely correct others when they don't use it correctly since the label of "Air Conditioning" is what's shown on the Multi-Display.

11-29-2003

Heat Availability.  It's so fast from my Prius (both of them), I haven't really ever measured it.  But I can say that my classic was a little faster than with a traditional vehicle based on distance.  And since the 2004 has that thermal storage system plus an engine tweaked to produce heat quickly, warm-up should really be impressive when measured.  On days when it's around 0 F degrees outside, my garage temperature is just above 30 F degrees.  Driving 3 blocks from it brings me to the highway ramp.  1.5 miles later at 70 MPH, I already had heat coming from the vents with my classic.  That's pretty impressive as far as I'm concerned.

11-29-2003

Cheat Codes.  I was really tempted to actually refer to the "special modification" instructions that way in the 2004 User-Guide.  But then some people would catch on that driving a Prius is much like playing a game, especially when you can see yourself moving along the map on the Navigation System.  It actually does remind me a lot of 2 computer games I played back in the late 70's.  One was "Oregon Trail".  It was a survival game, where you had to carefully plan every move of the trip.  Arriving on the West Coast with as much money & supplies remaining as possible was the goal.  With Prius the measurement of value is MPG.  The other game was "Moon Lander".  The goal for this was to land on the pad using as little fuel as possible.  The goal of using as little fuel as possible is the same with the Prius!

 

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