Prius Personal Log  #98

January 8, 2004  -  January 13, 2004

Last Updated: Sat. 11/01/2008

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1-13-2004

The other hidden area.  In the center of the hatch area is another recessed compartment.  It provides a little over 6 more inches of height when you remove the cover, and it spans the entire width of the hatch area.  That's a huge benefit I bet many people just taking a quick look at Prius completely overlook.  Did you notice that top pulls off?  For that matter, did you even know that storage area was there.  It provides 2.3 cubic feet more storage space, besides providing extra height when needed.  Cool, eh?

1-13-2004

The ultimate "cupholder".  That small hidden recessed compartment in back to the left of the hatch is absolutely priceless.  I've never had such a nice place to put my "beverage".  A whole gallon bottle of milk fits in there perfectly.  (All right, that's actually not a cupholder.  But I thought it was funny way to make you remember it's there.)  Seriously though, there's no chance whatsoever of it tipping inside.  So it is very, very practical for the trip back from the store.

1-13-2004

Frustrating.  Arrgh!  To avoid efficiency requirements, the Subaru Outback is going to be reclassified as a "Light Truck".  By just raising the ground clearance a little and repositioning the back bumper, the vehicle will fall into the 21.2 MPG class average category for trucks rather than the 27.5 MPG for cars.  Taking advantage of that classification loop-hole doesn't demonstrate a sincere effort.  In fact, it is just plain frustrating that an automaker can even do that.

1-12-2004

A bit of history.  Back in 1999, a few of the Pre-Classic models were shipped over to the United States for evaluation.  Toyota changed quite a bit as a result of the feedback that provided.  A whole collection of tweaks in addition to improvement in the hybrid system itself (engine, motors, and battery-pack).  Anywho, the public in general wasn't involved with any of that, just selected tester families and automotive experts.  The intentions were to make it as acceptable as possible for "joe consumer".  So things like "should the gear-selector be mechanical or by-wire" had to be considered and "how detailed should the information on the Multi-Display be" are what had to be considered.  And now, it's little things like that they are re-evaluating again, since hybrids are now becoming a realistic replacement technology.  Prius broke that ground further back in 1997 when the first Japan sales began, and it has provided the real-world data ever since... especially from the very picky owners here in the United States.  Estima (still only available in Japan) was introduced in 2002 to provide real-world data about hybrid implementation for 4-wheel drive.  So all the system operational aspects are totally covered.  HSD is well established.  Yeah!  All that remains now is the just interface research, the interior feature aspect.  What do SUV owners expect from a hybrid?   What do LUXURY owners expect from a hybrid?  What do owners that want all the technology HIDDEN expect from a hybrid?  It basically is just plain old marketing to deal with now, how to configure each model.

1-11-2004

Traditional Desires.  That want for a tachometer continues.  A device like that is pretty much useless in a HSD system though, since there is nothing you can do with the data it would provide.  It would only serve to entertain, no practical purpose.  Since there aren't any gears and electric motors are at peak power no matter what the RPM.  You get the idea.  Prius is quite different from the traditional.  The gauge on the Consumption screen is far more informative.  Examine how it works, if you ever feel the need to comment about no tachometer.  But if you absolutely must have one, you could actually connect a notebook computer to the ODB-II terminal.  A bunch of data, including engine RPM, is available that way.

1-11-2004

More on Battery-Pack Aging.  This topic obviously keeps getting asked about by new online discussion participants.  But since full capacity is rarely ever used and most of the electricity needed during cold weather operation for Prius is supplied by the engine anyway, it is of no real concern to me.  The concern I actually do have is that people will generically label all vehicles that use an electric motor as a "hybrid", not realizing that there are different type which vary significantly in design.  Prius is a "full" hybrid (since it uses HSD), meaning it has a generator-motor that allows it to create electricity on-the-fly via the engine rather than always having to draw from the battery-pack to feed the propulsion-motor.  (It also offers the ability to drive using electricity only.)  Other hybrids on the market now and more on the way are the "mild" type.  They have just one motor, used for both generating electricity and propulsion.  That means the system can either create or consume, not both at the same time.  So eventually when their battery-pack capacity begins to drop, who knows what will happen.  Maybe it is a non-issue and the pack will last a heck of a lot longer than people expect.  Maybe it really will impact some aspect of performance.  We really don't know, because only a handful of Prius owners have already driven beyond that life expectancy (150,000 to 200,000 miles).  And none of them have reported any problems.  More data is needed still to draw a realistic expectation... for "full" hybrids.  Drawing an expectation for "mild" hybrids requires entirely different data, since they are fundamentally different.  So keep that in mind when pondering what the future holds.  Then, make note that cold temperatures aren't the problem.  It is actually the hot extremes.  NiMH batteries actually like being cool.  Warm temperatures cause aging to accelerate, the chemicals inside react differently.  So the best real-world battery-pack data will actually come from a state like Arizona, rather than one like Minnesota.

1-11-2004

Decades Ago.  I carried a 16 foot (72 pound) aluminum canoe on top of my Omni.  It was no big deal.  So I have to respond with a grin any time someone asks about carrying a canoe or kayak on the 2004.  This Prius is clearly a bigger hatchback.  And those boats now weigh less too.  That load on top would carry nicely.  It would likely tie down well too.  You'd be able to take advantage of the connectors on the Prius underside, used for securing the car in the boat for the trip over from Japan.

1-11-2004

It feels different.  Can you feel that subtle lurching while stopped at a intersection during warm-up?  It's something that wasn't there with my classic.  The 2004 is doing more than simply just moving pistons.  I believe, it is related to the secondary coolant circulation.  The pump that does that must be responsible.  After the head of the engine is warmed, the remaining hot stuff if flushed to the lower part.  Turn off the stereo system (since the sound from bass music can mask the effect), then feel for it.  I find differences like that fascinating.  You might not ever realize that was happening if someone doesn't point it out.  Of course, some people don't want to know or don't care.  They just want a vehicle that always works.  Prius does that too.

1-11-2004

In the Sunday Newspaper.  They hired a photographer, had me sign a release, and then didn't use any of those photos.  They used what appears to be just promo shots.  Does that mean some other Sunday months from now I'll open the paper and see a photo of myself?  Ahh!  I can't handle that kind of pressure!!!  Just kidding.  It's actually kind of cool.  They used a few of my quotes in the closing paragraph of the article.  And the article is something I don't mind being associated with, a positive and fairly accurate take on the current market situation.  "Parade", the color newspaper magazine include in many Sunday newspapers across the country, on page 13 of the January 11, 2004 issue is where you'll find info about me and what I said.

1-10-2004

PR nonsense.  I found this quote from GM representative today rather amusing:  "They're finally realizing our strategy of going (hybrid) on pickup trucks first is probably the right one".  That's just plain lame.  He was implying GM had it right from the start.  In reality GM dissed hybrids entirely 2 years ago, claiming they were nothing but a waste of development effort & resources.  Back then, GM was actually trying to push fuel-cells in a desperate attempt to distract attention from the obvious hybrid success Toyota & Honda were having.  But now that they actually have a hybrid (though it wouldn't be available to the public for another 9 months), they are claiming they were in support of the technology all along.  I bet they really don't like people like me that notice how their story keeps changing.  Last year, they said their first hybrid SUV would be a "full" design.  Now they've scaled it back to an "assist" design.  Kind of makes you wonder what will actually end up happening with the rest of their vehicles.

1-10-2004

Throttle Rumor.  It just seemed too darn weird.  A new owner started making claims about how dangerous Prius was, how the throttle had locked up on him while accelerating.  How could a problem like that show up out of the blue?  But he was quite persistent.  What the heck?  Well, guess what.  We finally found out what had happened.  He protected the carpet of his new hybrid with an improperly secured mat.  So when he tromped down on the pedal, the mat slipped and bunch up underneath.  And in his panic, he didn't realize that the repeated kicks of hit foot to stop moved the mat out of the way.  I bet he'll never make that mistake again!

1-09-2004

Taste.  My Prius has that.  I don't know how good it would be.  But if you ever have a craving for salt, just give it a lick.  That stuff they drop on the road to melt snow & ice coats the hybrid pretty much all Winter.  Consider yourself warned though, if it's too cold you'll be in for quite a surprise.  Tongues tend to stick to frozen metal, ya know.

1-09-2004

Smell.  There isn't any.  The PZEV engine/emission system along with the low-sulfur gas I buy pretty much completely eliminates any odor. 

1-09-2004

Sight.  I've grown used to the electrochromic (self-dimming) mirror too.  Between that expectation for it to darken on it's own and the fact that the window-separator in back blocks close headlights anyway, night driving is quite pleasant.

1-09-2004

Feel.  The buttons on the steering-wheel are becoming second nature already.  My thumbs have instinctively responded to commands now, simply by reaching & pressing accordingly.  I figured that would happen over time.  No need to look down anymore.

1-09-2004

Sound.  The noise intentionally coming from the tailpipes of the truck next to me today sure was annoying.  Why anyone would put devices on to increase the engine sound is beyond me.  I just plain don't find that appealing.  My desires are more luxury oriented.  The routine dead-silence Prius provides is much more to my liking.

1-09-2004

Internal Hatch Release.  There really isn't a need for one, but you never know.  Someone mentioned there was one today, but didn't include any specifics.  That was no big deal for me.  I just started taking apart the back of the Prius until I finally found something that looked like it could be a release.  I shut the hatch, crawled inside from the front, and pushed it.  Yup!  That was it.  From inside the hidden storage area, remove the tiny black panel on it's side near the hatch, and poke your finger through that into the metal casing.  There's a smooth tiny metal latch.  (Toyota definitely wanted to make that inaccessible from outside.)  Pulling up on it pops the hatch open.

1-09-2004

Fantastic Sighting!  I was amazed.  It couldn't have been much better.  Standing there on the skyway with a group of friends, I saw a Driftwood 2004 driving towards us.  I pointed & yelled.  They gave me hard time about it, but I knew they understood what I was feeling.  It drove underneath.  I twisted around and admired it as it drove away.  Then the LED brake lights illuminated.  They looked great even from a distance.  Sweet!  I sure hope that happens again, and again, and again...

1-08-2004

The proper approach to hydrogen.  An article was published today highlighting how the Minnesota Legislature is taking a serious interest in figuring out how to realistically produce hydrogen.  They're not falling for the hype by using coal or oil to do it.  They are instead investing in research efforts to find a clean & renewable method of production.  Reading that pointed out the fact to me that I don't often share the aspect of my background.  Growing up in Minnesota, I was constantly exposed to that forward thinking attitude.  Improvements were a must.  Period.  You did it for the sake of making the world better.  The political conflicts about what was best to do simply didn't happen.  In fact, the only real arguments was method to do it, not if it should be done.  We knew it did and gave it our best shot.  The initial investment was always worth the effort, because sometimes it really pays off.  I've been using E10 (that's 10% Ethanol, 90% Gas) since the early 90's.  At first, Minnesota law required during the winters.  Then later, it changed to year-round.  We invested in the new refineries to help out our local farmers, reduce our dependence on the imported stuff, and obviously to reduce emissions.  (So I find it really troubling that some states are still trying to determine if Ethanol is a good & safe choice, since we've proven it.)  Then a number of years ago, E85 made it's debut along with a bunch of FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicles) here.  Minnesota became the national testing area.  That helped formulate my inspiration for Prius.  But the real kicker was in September 1999.  I was so excited to discover we now had low-sulfur gas available, aka "Blue Planet" gas.  Yeah!  I've been using it ever since.  Finding out Prius could take even greater advantage of that clean gas really put me over the top.  Then just a few months ago, I discovered that research paper the University of North Dakota had done on the gas in the Twin Cities.  It turns out the non-Blue-Planet gas has much less sulfur than the national average anyway.  So we are even cleaner than I thought.  Anywho, you can see how we are now trying to make hydrogen a realistic option too.  Who knows how long that will actually take.  But heck, at least we're giving it a shot.

1-08-2004

Perspective Change.  I've found it very informative observing where people's thoughts wander now verses where they did 3 years ago.  The mention of "optimum high speed" in the User-Guide, in reference to the efficiency gain at exactly 62.14 MPH, has really confused newbies lately.  The answer to what that means is really quite simple.  If you have the choice between 60, 65, or faster, you should actually choose none of those. 62.14 is the ideal.  55 MPH didn't fall into Prius enthusiast's definition of "high speed" 3 years ago.  They considered it slower, suburb type driving rather than having the throttle open like you'd do in open country.  But now that Prius has become more mainstream, so I need to provide some clarification... specifically what "high speed" means.

1-08-2004

U-Turn.  I tried one today.  This Prius definitely can't compete with the classic.  It simply doesn't have the ridiculously tight turning radius.  The 2004 is like a traditional vehicle.  Eeek!

1-08-2004

Multiple Highlander Hybrids.  I wondered if people would quickly figure it out.  Apparently not.  Toyota just left the engine as-is.  So the 3.3 liter gets a huge boost of power from the electric system.  What's to stop Toyota from also offering a 2.4 liter version, just like the Highlander offers now?  The reality is, nothing!  There eventually could be more than one configuration of hybrid that uses the same body.  Every now and then, you really need to step back.  Looking at one tree rather than the whole forest will skew your view.  And guess what, when you do you'll notice that the frame & engine used in one of the Highlanders is just like the one used in Camry.  Interesting, eh?  That means the steps needing to go from hybrid SUV to hybrid car are rather minor.  Toyota sure has their strategy well thought out.

1-08-2004

Warm-Up Time.  Prius stores 3 liters of hot coolant in a thermos every time you power off.  Then when you power back on, it pumps that hot coolant into the head of the engine.  After that is complete, the rest of the engine has that coolant pumped through it.  So without actually even starting the engine, it is already partially warmed up.  The coolant will remain hot overnight, and warm for up to 3 days.  The thermal storage device is rather impressive.  I know this now from actually experiencing it.  No more just reading about it.  That nasty cold the other day proved it.  And unfortunately, the forecast states I'll get to try it out again next week.  That means leaving my Prius outside all day in temperatures around just 0 F.  It's a good thing the warm-up time is so quick.  I don't miss the those memories from the 20th Century about having to struggle to start the engine and wait for heat to finally appear.  Heck, with those traditional cars back then their were other cold weather problems too.  Power-steering fluid would get thick, making the wheel hard to turn.  That's not the case for Prius.  Having electric steering instead means there's no fluid.  Pretty "cool", eh?

 

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