Prius Personal Log  #92

December 4, 2003  -  December 9, 2003

Last Updated: Sat. 2/21/2009

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12-09-2003

Winter Driving.  This evening definitely qualified.  We got a fresh 4 inch base of the nasty type of snow with some areas an inch or two deeper.  So needless to say, I was cutting a trail of my own at times.  People we had either left work earlier or were simply avoiding driving all together.  I had no choice though.  That made it rather lonely, which turned out to be a good thing.  It was very, very difficult to figure out where the heck the lanes were.  So I just drove down the center, with an equal distance between each ditch on the side.  34 MPH was the top safe speed on the highway.  And to my delight, I was actually able to maintain stealth.  That ended up making what could have been a horrible rather pleasant.  But then when I reached city streets, it was all over.  I had to drive through the messy path others had left, no hint of where the road was it this case.  The tracks weren't straight at all.  So stealth was totally out of the question.  Lots of torque was needed to cut through that.  And the Prius handled the task quite well.  The VSC wasn't even needed the entire time.  Like usual on slippery roads, the Traction-Control kicked in quite a number of times and the ABS a few.  In short, it was a rather uneventful drive.  I got home without any trouble at all.  The Prius handled it fantastic.

12-09-2003

Backward Thinking.  Someone today concluded that Toyota willfully decided to short-change people previously.  In reality, that person had it backwards.  Pushing the earlier version of a product would be short-changing.  Remember, Toyota started working on the 2004 (HSD) several years ago.  They already knew improvement was coming.  So they didn't push the older version.  They just made a modest amount and left it at that.  The people that absolutely wanted one, regardless of what the future held, were the ones that purchased.  Those consumers (like me) didn't feel short-changed in the slightest.  It was a thrill to get a taste of the future years ahead of time.  Look at it from the long-term perspective, then the overall strategy makes sense; short-term analysis doesn't for the average consumer.  Toyota is preparing to build 300,000 HSD systems per year.  I'd say that is more than a few, especially before the competition even has anything comparable.  PZEV will be on roads everywhere.  It will help to prevent smog from getting worse.  That's a rather important achievement, regardless of whether or not less oil is used, needed, or even available.  The point is some of us got to participate directly in that effort.  With all the efforts happening now, HSD is expected to to be available in every passenger vehicle Toyota sells by 2010.  That is in no way backward, it is very forward thinking.

12-08-2003

Driving Style.  I wondered how the average person, someone not particularly an enthusiast, would drive a Prius.  I got confirmation of an unfortunate reality today.  They drive just like they drove a traditional vehicle.  Someone in a Silver Prius aggressively cut me off and several others afterward.  He was weaving through traffic taking advantage of the low-end torque and the classic model's nimble handling.  Bummer, eh?

12-08-2003

Mini Promotional Material.  Finally, I now have enough 2004 data to make a card to share with others... website cards 7

12-07-2003

LED Brake Lights.  I can't believe I forgot to include them in that impressive list of stuff that comes on Prius standard.  LEDs are superior to traditional lights, so they definitely should not be overlooked at a benefit Prius offers.  First and foremost, they are easier to see.  The safety advantage of that should be obvious.  Second is that they use less electricity, a clear perk when you have a vehicle that runs on electricity.  Another point is the fact that they are more durable than a bulb, which should allow them to last the entire lifetime of the vehicle.  Lastly, the fact that many luxury vehicles now offer them is a testament that they are more aesthetically appealing.

12-07-2003

For the speed obsessed.  Motor Trend's testing yielded a 0-to-60 MPH time of 9.8 seconds.  Owners running their tires at 44/42 could likely squeeze out a speed even faster.  Needless to say, it's faster than you'll typically ever need.  I certainly haven't.

12-07-2003

FCV.  Fuel-Cell Vehicle.  In the same magazine as the "Car Of The Year" article for 2004 Prius is a status on the latest generation of FCV.  What a mess.  You wouldn't believe how much work still needs to be done to make that technology practical.  It will take a lot more effort than most people realize.  And that's just to get the system to run under all driving & climate conditions we require.  Also making it affordable & reliable is an entire different matter.  Thank goodness hybrids are coming to the rescue.

12-06-2003

VSC.  "Vehicle Stability Control" is similar to ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) in concept, except it activates while driving rather than while braking.  If you take a slippery corner too hard, it will automatically detect that and counter the slipping by applying the brakes for you (even though you are touching the brake pedal) and only the side that needs it.  It's a assistance response, just enough to help prevent you from slipping into a dangerous skid.  So far this Winter, I have actually only triggered it once.  It was on a hard right turn up hill with heavy traffic behind me, a corner that is difficult even when the road is completely clean & dry.  A light came on and there was a beep. I couldn't even feel what the computer had done for me.  It works so well I actually worry a little bit about people abusing it by intentionally taking risks they normally wouldn't.

12-06-2003

Front Seat.  Does it recline fully?  HA!  That's an understatement!!  It reclines so far back that you can actually get it completely flat.  That allows the back seat to fold down on top of it, which provides over 8 feet storage length.  So yes, it reclines.

12-06-2003

Deer Crossing.  Living in deer country, you learn that they almost always travel in pairs.  So if you see one dash across the street, you better hit the brakes.  That's what I did this morning.  And sure enough, the second one emerged just as I came to a stop.  Then she did too.  After reaching the other side of street, she turned and took a thorough look at the Prius.  Since the engine was off, I imagine it didn't seem too intimidating.  That gave me a nice opportunity to observe myself.  Too bad it wasn't light enough to snap a photo without a tripod.  It's not everyday that you have a chance to get that close.  And thankfully, the brakes worked well so I didn't get to view the deer any closer... if you know what I mean.

12-06-2003

The Not-So-Distant Future.  HSD (the hybrid system in Prius) is scheduled for installation in 2 other vehicles next year.  (Actually, 3 if you count the version Ford will be using.)  And it will be installed in at least 2 more the following year.  Power/Efficiency/Emission ratio levels will vary, as well as the body they'll be installed in.  You can expect a variety of option packages too.  Then in 2006, Nissan will be offering HSD in one of their vehicles.  More Toyota vehicles are expected to offer it too.  And of course, we can expect another IMA equipped vehicle from Honda.  In other words, the market is going to be flooded with choices in the next couple of years.


12-05-2003

2004 Impressions - 6 Weeks.
 

My data gathering (enjoying the Prius) is proceeding well.  The temperature has been around the freezing point lately, yet I see 49.9 MPG on the Multi-Display.  That's absolutely amazing!  With my classic, I'd only expect about 45 MPG.  The return of warmth in the Spring will be a very exciting experience.  I'll witness an almost unbelievable efficiency improvement.  Yeah! 

The cold has revealed yet another improvement in this Prius.  The window fans in non-defrost mode are wonderful, even at the lowest setting.  Without requiring the engine to feed the heater-core the blowers are still able to keep the glass clear of condensation build-up.  I was rather surprised when I first discovered this ability.  The area of coverage was very well cleared, while everywhere looked like Winter had attacked!

The tires have proven themselves worthy on the snow.  I wondered how they performed, since their tread pattern is quite different from what I previously had.

I love the hatchback!  Having such a large, flat, elevated (don't have to bend over to reach) storage area available is great.  No wonder the appeal of SUVs is so strong.  Most owners obviously don't actually use the 4-wheel drive or the heavy-duty suspension.  Instead, the real practical ability is the size of cargo it can carry.  But now with the introduction of vehicles like Matrix & Prius, that ability is not exclusive to SUVs.  Yes, minivans have always been available.  But selling that appeal to certain types of consumers is quite difficult.  Now there are more choices.

Not having the engine start back up when you put the car in park sure is nice.  That was always an annoying part of Winter and having to wait for a train to pass with my classic.  Staying off is wonderful!

That rear wiper has come in handy quite a number of times now.  The mess from snow has never been so easy to deal with.  Just twist the level on.  I'll never be able to own another vehicle without one now.  It's just way too convenient.

I am now able to predict when the 0.1 MPG increment on the Multi-Display will occur.  I am becoming one with the car, kind of like Bluetooth perhaps.  Hmm?

Unfortunately, it has been wild lately.  That unfriendly-element has returned with a vengeance.  I think the "Car Of The Year" honor has instilled a fear of change in them, making it a little too real for their comfort.  To them, I say "too bad".  They are relentless with their spreading of misinformation, because we have so little data to support what we know.  Fortunately, that won't last for long.  By Spring, their claims with have little merit.

Lastly, I've noticed a smoothing of operation.  Between break-in and the synthetic oil, engine starting & stopping has become almost completely unnoticeable, similar to that with my 2001 Prius.

12-05-2003

Still Misunderstanding HSD.  Unfortunately, some people still do.  They assume that the configuration of HSD in Prius is the only one available.  That simply isn't true.  HSD supports a wide range of configuration ratios.  Engine, generator-motor, thrust-motor, and battery-pack can all have larger or smaller sizes.  That flexibility allows it to serve a much wider base of consumers they you'd expect.  A whole variety of vehicles types & sizes will be eventually offer HSD.  Cool, eh?

12-04-2003

Fast Enough.  The computer industry has stalled sales because they have achieved a performance plateau.  The processors keep getting faster & faster, but not many people actually care anymore.  Instead of more speed, consumers now want: portability (smaller & lighter), wireless connections, higher resolution, higher capacity, longer battery life, lower prices, voice-recognition.  Still believing that "improved" means increased speed is old school thinking.  The 21st Century focuses on other aspects of the consumer experience.  Faster doesn't mean much now.  (The same applies to power as well.)  That's why Prius is becoming so popular.  People have decided vehicles are fast enough and now crave other appeal factors.

12-04-2003

The big picture.  Here's an interesting question for discussion..  Why aren't the PZEV Accord, PZEV Camry, PZEV Sentra, and PZEV Civic-Hybrid available anywhere except California?  You can't even special order one if you live in another state.  Why?  My take on it has always been that emissions alone doesn't sell.  The $200 to $300 extra (along with the 1 to 3 MPG drop) just doesn't appeal to most, which means some advertising expenditure is required.  And since automakers can't collect CARB-Credits anywhere but California, that is the only place they'll even offer them.  PZEV Focus broke that concept in October, by becoming available throughout the United States.  How many have been sold since then?  2004 Prius debuted the week afterward.  5,584 of them were sold in November.  Even more were ordered.  Step back from the MPG issue for a moment and ask yourself what is even more important.  Lower emissions is absolutely essential.  Just ask any parent caring for an infant, an elderly person, or someone suffering from asthma.  Prius makes PZEV very appealing, since you also get a significant efficiency improvement too.  When the HSD in Prius is later installed in more common vehicles, like Corolla, it will become an appealing PZEV too.

12-04-2003

Snow Handling.  No, there isn't a better way to drive a Prius on snow than a traditional vehicle.  Just drive slower & cautiously like you would with any other vehicle.  However, Prius does actually offer a benefit traditional vehicles don't.  The "B" mode is wonderful for controlled slowing when you discover you're going a little to fast.  Just last night I found myself going a tad too fast on a turn.  (It was the skid marks in the fresh snow which jumped up off the road that clued me into the danger.)  I wasn't going so fast that I needed to use the brakes, but I did want to slow down a tiny bit just in case.  So I reached down tapped the selector into "B".  That gradual slowing from the engine is easier to control than trying to carefully work a brake pedal.

12-04-2003

Refilling the Gas Tank.  With my 2001 Prius, I refilled at 350 miles in the Winter and 400 miles in the Summer (or the last day of the month to conclude my monthly statistics).  I suppose once my 2004 Prius is broken in, it will be 400 & 450 since efficiency is better.  I simply don't feel the need to push into the 500's, even though I actually could.  Having gas available for play (say a friend calls and wants to do something immediately) is rather handy.  Running the tank to dry doesn't provide that "don't have time to stop for gas" buffer.  By not driving to the point of desperation, you can take advantage of a low price when you find it too.

 

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