Prius Personal Log  #96

December 26, 2003  -  January 1, 2004

Last Updated: Mon. 3/29/2004

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1-01-2004

Priusterical.   Obviously, the definition for this is:  Of, characterized by, or arising from Priusteria.

1-01-2004

Priusteria.   I just coined the word.  What do ya think?  It's a twist on the word "Hysteria".  Here's my definition for it:  Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic, when discussing Prius.

1-01-2004

Above the Back Lights.  Ever wonder what that dark area is?  It's like that until you step on the brakes.  That seemingly useless section is really a very, very impressive red LED cluster.  In fact, it provides such a pleasing cosmetic effect that it can actually compete with some of the best luxury vehicles currently offering LED brake lights.  Have someone demo them to you sometime.  You'll be absolutely delighted when you see it illuminate.

1-01-2004

Typical... still.  It continues.  Whether intentional or not, I get private emails that are can easily be interpreted as discourteous.  Today was one of them.  When I made a comment about Prius being a "midsize" vehicle, saying if you desire "fullsize" headroom in the back seat you'll have to buy a "full size" hybrid, the sender questioned my objectivity.  Normally, I'd just blow off a response like that.  I prefer to spend my time responding to those that ask for information from me.  But this one got to me.  The intent to discredit almost worked too.  Then it hit me.  I was objective!  Not being objective would be trying to make Prius something it isn't.  Accepting the reality of the situation is objective!  I acknowledged the fact that Prius doesn't satisfy the needs of everyone.  A notable percentage is perfectly fine with me.  So to that person, please step back and look at the forest.  The goal is to reduce emissions & consumption.  Yes, there are quite a number of us that thoroughly enjoy doing that with a Prius.  That isn't necessary though.  If you require a larger vehicle, so be it.  HSD will be available in other vehicle types & sizes within the next few years.

1-01-2004

Keep in Mind.  My MPG reports are intended to give new owners an idea of what they may be able to achieve after they've been driving their hybrid for awhile.  Think of it as a word of encouragement, so you don't have to take your initial results so seriously.  Feel assured that the Prius you waited a very, very long time for really will deliver the efficiency performance you were hoping for... eventually.  Remember, I have over 64,000 miles of experience.  So I'm well aware of what to do and what not to do... though, I don't always have control over them.

12-31-2003

December MPG.  MPG was higher than I expected.  In fact, it was so high that it was actually better than November, despite being colder overall.  That's an unexpected treat!  46.5 MPG is what the 1,809 miles averaged to.  That's truly amazing.  The 3 previous Decembers with my classic Prius were 38.2, 43.2, and 43.7 which averaged to 41.5 MPG.  So naturally, I was only expecting about a value around 44.5 MPG this December with the 2004.  I can't wait to find out how high MPG goes when temperatures finally warm up (here in Minnesota).

12-30-2003

Profit.  The profit equation isn't magical.  Here's food for thought...  People are under the assumption that the CVT is more complicated than an automatic transmission.  (That's because it is so different.)  In reality, it is actually quite a bit more simple.  That simplicity costs less, a lot less.  The engine itself is smaller than usual.  That results in a lower cost too.  Also note that there isn't a starter either.  The electric-motor is used instead.  So expense was reduced in that respect too.  The front-end of the car is shorter than usual.  That's an obvious, rather large savings.  The speedometer likely represents a savings as well, believe it of not.  No self-contained high-precision moving parts required like in a traditional design.  It's just a dumb LED (that looks really impressive via so well thought out optical tricks).  The dashboard is an obvious cost reduction.  Eliminating all the mechanical parts and using just by-wire interfaces instead is cheaper.  (You can thank the computer & music industries for that!)  Toyota allowed their engineers to build components from scratch, sparing no expense during the research phase.  That's rarely an option with normal new vehicle design.  Automakers like to reuse parts.  But with HSD intended to replace the current infrastructure, this was a special case.  Creating entirely new parts for reuse later is viewed upon as a way to save money in the long run too.  I wonder what else Toyota did.  Hmm?  Needless to say.  They had lots of opportunities to help them achieve a profit with Prius (and HSD).

12-30-2003

Why not use synthetic oil?  I have clearly seen a minor MPG improvement and read about many other whom have experienced the same (1 to 2 MPG).  That alone is enough to cover the extra cost.  So whether there is also protective benefit or not (I strongly believe there is), you're even anyway.  Then when you take into account the fact that you are consuming less petroleum (both from the synthetic itself and the gas savings), you come out ahead.  So why wouldn't you want to use synthetic?  And for those of you that have the dealer perform the change service, there's yet another benefit.  Most dealers don't carry synthetic.  So the only way for them to put it in is for you to provide the bottles.  Handing them a total of only 3.6 quarts, guarantees they won't overfill since the physically won't have enough to do that.  And as we know well now, overfilling reduces MPG and can potentially harm the engine.

12-30-2003

Predictions.  So do you have a prediction about what the heck the Detroit automakers will say at the Auto Show kickoff this weekend?  Two years ago, they badmouthed hybrids claiming they were a waste of time & resources.  The potential of fuel-cell technology is what they used to divert attention from those interested in what hybrids had to offer.  It was very disappointing to hear.  Then last year, it was as if none of that had ever happened.  A bunch of hybrid announcements were made.  The Detroit Automakers were signing songs of praise for hybrids.  Seeing that drastic of an attitude change was bittersweet.  I had already lost faith in their promises.  11 months later, Ford's hybrid still isn't available and GM's promise to deliver a "full" hybrid in 2005 has been changed to just a "mild" hybrid in 2006.  And now the fuel-cell talk has resurfaced.  But this time, instead of saying hybrids serve no benefit, some are promoting the fact that the evolution of electric components within a "full" hybrid are essential to making a fuel-cell vehicle practical.  To that I say "Duh!" but question what the heck their motives really are.  Will anything even remotely competitive with HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive available in Prius now and RX400 & Highlander in 2004) be announced?  Will they talk down the technology?  Will they ignore it?  Will they try to distract from it?  What the heck will happen?  Toyota has a very huge lead on the Detroit automakers, delivering a significant reduction of emissions & consumption via a competitively priced design that is proving to be reliable and well accepted by consumers. In short, Detroit automakers are really in trouble.  To make matters even more awkward, Honda has been dead-silent lately.  What are their plans?  2004 should definitely be interesting.

12-29-2003

MAINT REQ'D indicator.  It was triggered today.  The indicator is a light that illuminates that message on & off 6 times every time you power up the hybrid system.  The purpose is to inform owners that an oil change will be needed within the next 500 miles.  And it will continue to inform you until you take the Prius to the dealer or cancel the message using the instructions listed in the User Guide  2004+.  Needless to say, this gave me an excuse to stop at a Toyota dealer to purchase an oil filter.  And I did.  It was the location I purchased my 2001 Prius from, only it was under new management now.  That made me a bit curious.  The guy in the Parts department was very accommodating.  I specifically asked for the original filter, the one supposedly only available in Japan.  His interest was peeked when I described the difference and asked how that could affect performance.  So he hunted passionately to find out what the deal was.  (It showed too.  That room originally with just him and I inside, had turned into a line of people waiting to purchase parts.)  In the end, all he could find were "not available" listings for it.  That's 2 local dealers that have confirmed that only the locally available filter is the one to use.  So I will.  I bought one, model number:  90915-YZZA2

12-28-2003

Navigation Options.  I had to wait in line at the carwash today.  So, I played with the Multi-Display to pass the time.  It was a great opportunity to explore.  I know there are a ton of features I haven't discovered yet.  And sure enough, I found one.  The Navigation System offers the ability to customize the display options.  I never cared for the street-name overlay.  And the button for changing views was just in the way, since I never really use it.  What I do use a lot though are the zoom in & out buttons.  Unfortunately, they didn't display automatically... until now!  The street-name and view button are gone too.  There's a selection screen that allows you to specify the default behavior of all the navigation features.  You just press on the screen to make it appear or disappear.  That's really cool.  Now the interface is much more to my liking.

12-28-2003

So that's what it looks like.  With so much salt & sand on the roads now, I've bothered washing my Prius in over a month.  But today, it was nice enough out to wash off that thick layer of Winter filth and apply a fresh layer hot liquid wax.  So I did.  Now I have a beautiful car for the next few hours.  This time tomorrow, it will look terrible again.  Oh well, there's some really impressive technology buried under all that mess.

12-28-2003

Styling.  What I find extremely entertaining is how insincere human nature is.  People say "Wow!" when they see a style at an autoshow.  Then they later say "Ick!" to the same thing years later at a showroom.  The desire for something that stands out in the crowd is what drives that.  For awhile, the fierce rigid look was all the rage in SUV styling.  Now the appealing look is the sleek aerodynamic flow.  The primary reason for this is the market saturation of the old style.  It's everywhere.  So the different look is a welcome change now.  And lucky for Prius, aerodynamic appeal offers more than just a style benefit.  There is a MPG benefit too.  So it only makes sense that other vehicles will begin to look like Prius too.  And despite the distasteful comments, many are purchased anyway.  In other words, be careful what you label as "ugly" since you very well could end up driving something like that years from now.

12-27-2003

It's Mine!  I got the title for the Prius in the mail today.  Hooray!

12-27-2003

First Impressions.  The initial acceleration launch holds a common misunderstanding among those taking test-drives, until they realize the car is in fact moving already.  The dead quiet, vibrationless aspect of the electric drive leaves people wanting more.  Then when the engine kicks in, they get the noise & vibration they were expecting.  So you take a test-drive, use your eyes rather than expecting to experience the response through sound & feel.  Watch the speedometer.  Ignore traditional feedback that the ears & butt usually provide.  You'll quickly realize what you would have missed.

12-26-2003

Understanding the Past.  I love quotes like this posted today, "I guess I don't understand the outburst at President Bush as he is spending $1.2 billion on hydrogen car research.  Haven't seen any other administration do anything like that."  They unknowingly pointed out the birth of Prius.  The Clinton administration provided $170 million annually for the 10 year project (started in 1993) called "PNGV" (Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicle).  The Bush administration renamed the project to "Freedom Car", extended the delivery date (by another 15 years), altered the objective from 80 MPG to Hydrogen, and reworked the funding.  Both projects, unfortunately, only included Detroit automakers.  Toyota was not allowed to participate.  So they set out on their own project with their own money instead.  The end result was HSD, which is currently available in Prius.  "PNGV" actually produced working prototypes.  But due to the abrupt shift to "Freedom Car" and the questionable technology ownership rights, nothing became of that research.  Much of it was simply abandoned.  Bummer, eh?  Now the Detroit automakers are scrambling to figure out how to fix the mess they are in.  The Bush administration shouldn't have the blame put exclusively on them.  But in the same turn, they shouldn't be given credit for improving the situation.  Hopefully with that understanding of what actually happened, we won't repeat the past... or make it any worse.

12-26-2003

What a mess.  Some Detroit automakers are still claiming the merits of hybrid technology.  Why?  Could it be that Toyota filed so many patents that the other automakers are forced to take a different approach?  The others Detroit automakers are saying it is better to concentrate on the biggest gas-guzzlers first.  Duh!  That's because Toyota/Lexus will be offering 2 serious threats to the SUV market, ones that are both clean & efficient.  In short, they're basically screwed.  They have no choice but to also create one; otherwise, they'd have nothing to compete with.  Reality is setting in.  They now realize how many years ago they should have started hybrid R&D, rather than denying it would ever be a practical technology.  After all... Who needs clean air? Who needs to stop relying on imported oil?  Who needs to invest in the future?

12-26-2003

Chicken Little.  Geez!  You mention anything about oil supply and someone ends up calling you that.  My response is:  Please keep in mind that the oil we are currently consuming is the easiest to extract and the easiest to refine.  As time proceeds, it will get progressively more difficult extract & refine.  That means there is absolutely no guarantee that prices will remain constant. In fact, that is likely an indication that prices will increase as difficulty increases.  So it makes sense to support products that use less, like hybrids.

12-26-2003

The Current Situation.  Unfortunately, I've been able to win debates about hybrids recently by just asking the following (after a long string of questions and answers that seemed to accomplish nothing):  "Why are you so afraid of change?"  The response is so abrupt, it's like pushing their "eject" button.  It's a question a person with that attitude had never considered.  Then when they think about it, they realize that might actually be the reason they are arguing against hybrids.  To calm them down after they suddenly raise the white flag to surrender, point out that 3 hybrid SUVs will be available by this time next year, that no one is trying to take a choice away from them.  Instead, all we are trying to do is reduce emissions and consumption in the vehicle of their choosing, with a hybrid system configuration (power fulfillment) appropriate for that vehicle type.

12-26-2003

Warp Stealth.  I needed to point out the difference from "Stealth" today.  This was a technical detail first brought up 3 years ago.  It came right from a Toyota manual, it made sense, we accepted it, and found no reason to further discuss... though I wish I would have save the details on it for later use.  Oh well.  Anywho, it boils down to the need to relieve pressure on the CVT at high speeds, since the electric motor is handling the entire load during "warp-stealth" and those power-carriers are rotating rapidly.  Having that power-carrier for the engine rotating too, rather than stopped dead, accomplishes that.  (I believe that rotation allows the motor power-carrier to spin slower while still delivering the same amount of torque.)  And apparently Toyota found a way to open the engine valves so far that almost no compression occurs even though the pistons are still pumping up & down (the opposite of how "B" mode works).  So yes indeed, there is an physical difference between "stealth" and "warp-stealth".  Fortunately, neither consumes any gas.

12-26-2003

Smooth Splash (part 2).  Two days later, I can't detect any trace of the splash ever having happened.  Unintentionally serving as guinea pig wasn't so bad.  I've helped to prove the high-quality nature of the fabric in Prius, without any aftermarket protective spray added.  Sweet!  Hopefully though, I'll never have to witness that resilience in action again.  Splash!

 

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