Personal Log  #22

February 10, 2002  -  March 2, 2002

Last Updated: Weds. 2/11/2004

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Compact Only parking.  With all the giant trucks & SUVs on the road now, I'm finding the really close parking spots open occasionally... because they're small.  Fortunately, the Prius has the same leg-room as my Taurus and even more head-room while being shorter in overall length.  That gives it the ability to maneuver & fit into those small parking spots with the "Compact Only" signs on them.  Cool!


Is that a Prius?  I was at the strip-mall.  On a hill in the big mall parking lot across the street, a familiar shape caught my eye.  I jumped in my Prius to check it out.  Sure enough, there was an Aqua Prius.  That was my fourth sighting this week.  Sweet!


Second Warmest Winter in Minnesota history.  It's official, this was a very mild Winter.  26.9 F degrees was the average daily high temperature throughout the cold season (which ended yesterday with respect to record-keeping).  27.0 F degrees was the warmest ever here; that happened way back in 1931.


Year-2 verses Lifetime MPG.  Whoa!  I just noticed that my Year-2 average (44.9 MPG) is better than my Lifetime (44.3 MPG).  When Year-2 began in September, the ideal MPG weather (60 to 80 F degrees) was nearing an end.  The best months of this year are still on the way.  That means I can expect to watch my Lifetime value climb above the potential last year.  All the hybrid components are now broken in and I've learned to drive more efficiently without requiring much effort.  I wonder how high it will go?  Too bad carrying a bike on back causes a drop.


Frantic Waving.  I saw a White Prius approaching.  I wondered if I could get the attention of the driver.  It quickly became apparent there was no need to.  She was already franticly waving trying to get my attention.  That was great!


E85 Amazement!  When I drove into the gas station this morning, I actually show someone filling their FFV with E85 rather than Gasoline.  I couldn't believe it!  So I parked my Prius on the other side of the pump and ran over there.  After saying "Hi", I told her she was the first person I ever saw doing that.  That excitement got the attention of the guy next to the both of us.  He asked, "Doesn't that stuff gum up your engine?"  (Oh, another misconception!)  I replied stating ethanol of that strength did exactly the opposite; it use to corrode components, but FFV technology solved that problem quite a few years ago.  Then the woman's attention turned to the Prius.  She stated her friend was really interested in one awhile back until she discovered it would take several months for delivery.  (Thank goodness that will change soon.)  Her final comment was that the MPG dropped using E85 making the current price difference a break-even situation; however, she was far better prepared then everyone else (except hybrid owners) for dealing with the price of gasoline suddenly climbing steeply again.


Another 30 minute waste.  This one was worse.  I parked between Menards & Sam's and noticed there was an idling car without anyone in it.  I went in to shop.  After finishing at Menards, I walked back to the Prius to put what I bought in the trunk.  That car was still empty and running.  Returning from shopping at Sam's was a little bit better.  There was at least someone in the car now.  But my trunk was full.  That took 30 minutes to do.  Warming up a car does not take that long (especially with such a mild winter this year).  Anything longer than 10 minutes is a total waste.  In fact, if you drive rather idle it takes even less time to heat up a car toasty warm.


Winter again.  It snowed overnight.  That made it very slippery.  So the road crews were sent out to spray chemicals and spread salt.  It really helped, but you wouldn't believe how white it made the side of my dark Green Prius look afterward.  A clean hybrid is something else to look forward to when it gets warm besides better MPG and Stealth.


Domestic Only Hybrids.  President Bush and top cabinet officials inspected hybrids brought to the south lawn of the White House today.  Bush highlighted $3 billion in proposed tax credits for the purchase of hybrid vehicles.  Toyota and Honda were not invited to participate.  It was apparently an oversight from planning the event quickly; however, they were never even mentioned either.  The hybrids there were only prototypes that won't actually be available to purchase for about 18 months: Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra and Ford Escape.  The Daimler-Chrysler Town & Country which runs on Natrium rather than Gasoline was there too, but it's unknown whether it will ever be available.  Ed Cohen, vice president of Honda North America, summed up the situation:  "It's all well and good to demonstrate concept cars, but we have the cars on the road now.  If the purpose of the event is to demonstrate new technology that has the potential to reduce fuel consumption and pollution, we have the cars now.  This is old thinking. We're all global companies now."


Another Prius Already.  Just a few minutes after finishing with the White Prius.  I pulled out onto the main road and saw a Silver Prius.  It was the same one (in the same spot, no less) I had seen about a month ago.  I honked "Shave And A Hair Cut".  He very happily waved back.  Sweet!  That's 2 sightings (both very exciting) this week already.


Prius Care-Package.  Just 2 hours after creating my first, I already used it!  There was a White Prius parked in the lot for all to see.  And by amazing cosmic coincidence, at that exact moment I was driving by the owner approached it.  So I positioned myself to intercept.  I honked.  He stopped.  (Seeing me in a Prius too made it easy.)  I ran over and handed him the "Prius Care-Package".  It was a large envelope that included 3 high-quality color Info-Sheets, 3 Prius Website Cards, and a colored CD (in this case, vibrant Red) containing a complete copy of my website (for blazing fast offline surfing).  That made he and his wife incredibly excited.  They quickly explained that they were already blown away by the Prius.  They came from Washington state to visit their son, needed a rental car, and were unexpectedly given a Prius.  (Cool!)  Needless to say, they'll likely read every bit of information I provided and end up telling several others about that experience.  The Care-Package was far more effective than I expected.  Seeing the excitement it invoked was great.  Maybe I should increase the sheet & card quantity to 5 so people will have even more to share with others.


63 MPH sweet-spot.  I always wondered if the benefit from that particular speed was a design circumstance or if it was specifically engineered that way.  It turns out that I may have stumbled across the answer.  While driving 63 MPH, I pressed the "km/h" button to switch what the digital speedometer showed.  The result told the story.  I was going exactly 100 KMH, a common speed limit in other countries.  That's a pretty good indication that the sweet-spot was specifically engineered.  It's amazing that I'm still finding surprises that Toyota dreamed up countless years ago.


4 Prius sightings so far this week.  I had gotten use to seeing about 2 Prius per week.  That was much a huge improvement over those rare sightings.  Now it looks like the average may have doubled here.  I wonder what other areas of the country are like?  There's well over 3100 members on the Yahoo Group, but many are just lurkers.  So there isn't a ton of information of that nature shared, except by those in California where "alternate" types of vehicles are far more common.


Speedometer Evolution.  I wonder if "acceleration misunderstanding" was what first gave the Prius interior-layout designers the idea to put the speedometer in an easier-to-see location and use big, clear numbers.  (There's a number of advantages having it there.)  When merging onto a highway, many people sense acceleration on the RPM of the engine.  They get so good at judging the speed using vibration & sound that there's no reason to look down at that tiny speedometer needle behind the steering wheel.  But Prius uses a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).  Acceleration is so smooooooooth that you can't judge based on vibration or sound.  The speedometer really is needed to figure out what speed you're going.  Ya think?


Blue Moon Pearl.  I finally saw my first Prius in that color.  The day was gray and the hybrid was partly covered with fresh snow, but it still looked really nice.


Stealth Stretch.  There was a 40 MPH stretch of road that I always looked forward to driving in stealth.  That sure made the commute fun.  It's gone now.  They raised the speed limit to 45 MPH.  Dang!  I was one of the few that gladly obeyed that old limit.  Having the ability to drive using just electricity changes your priorities. 


14 new Winter Prius Photos.  Two weeks ago, I took a whole bunch of photos.  There was a fresh layer of snow everywhere, it was a beautiful sunny & warm (for Minnesota) day, and I was yearning for an adventure.  Discovering new locations and then putting my creativity to the test is really fun.  So I quickly washed the Prius and started exploring.  The results were great.  (It still takes forever to decide which ones make the cut though.  Having a digital camera means you can continue to take as many photos as your heart desires without incurring any additional cost.  CompactFlash memory-cards are dirt cheap now.  And since they can be reused about 1 million times without requiring any developing, it's a great choice... far better than chemical-based, one-time use film.)  Anywho, I ended up with 14 that really made me proud.  Check'em out:  photo album 28


Happy Valentine's Day.  It was a day late, but it still was nice to hear.  I was silently going through the drive-thru.  After handing the beautiful, young woman my money, I handed her a card saying "You don't hear an engine running, do you?"  She stuck her head out in amazement.  Then I rolled forward a tiny bit and said, "My website listed on the card helps to promote this technology."  She replied with a very excited, "Wow!  I love you!"  That was nice!!  I think I need to go through the drive-thru again.


The lights just flashed on that Prius.  As I was walking through a parking lot, I saw a Silver Prius in the distance.  It's lights suddenly flashed.  I ran toward it, spotted the owner, handed him a card, then pointed to my Green Prius.  That got his attention, especially when he glanced down and noticed my Lifetime MPG of 44.5 since he was only getting about 34.  He asked how I managed that, but was in a hurry.  The first thing that came to my mind was tire pressure.  He was only running about 33 PSI and hadn't checked it in awhile.  Increasing to a least 38/37 (front/back PSI) will definitely help.  The second thing I didn't think of until afterward.  (Too much happened too quickly.  Hopefully, he'll see this and find the tips listed in the user-guide.)  Short trips are another MPG enemy, especially in the Winter.  Both the catalytic-converter (for cleaner emissions) and the interior need to be heated up.  That warmth comes directly from the engine.  A quick 10-minute trip to the store just down the road isn't long enough to take full advantage of the hybrid-system.  The engine has to run at high-idle the entire time to create the needed heat.  That consumes a lot of gas.  You never get an opportunity to drive with the engine off, hence the lower MPG.  So avoid short trips and make sure to use at least 38/37 PSI.


Used Prius.  A message was posted by John (a very helpful Prius salesperson) the other day stating Wilkins Toyota would be getting 16 to 20 rentals Prius.  They'd be available right there on the lot for used purchases.  So I stopped by to chat with him about what would be happening.  I saw one Prius already in the lot and another in back that had leather seating added.  It was a wonderful sight.  People will now be able to buy their Prius quickly and at a reduced price.  That's great, especially when you consider how nice of a warranty is still remains (3years/36,000miles on basic components; 5years/60,000miles on the powertrain; 8years/100,000miles on the hybrid system).


Wild Gas Prices still.  This morning, it was $1.01 per gallon.  By the end of the day, it had climbed to $1.18.  It appears the age of rarely changing prices is long gone.


Ordering Prius Shirts.  After having gazed at the shirt I had professionally made and asking others if they were interested in one of their own, I decided to "go for it".  After all, that's why I took so many photos and created that logo.  If you're interested in getting one rather than making your own (here's how: shirt ), let me know.


What's a "light" truck?  CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) has required the same minimum since the mid-70's.  The average of "light" trucks manufactured by a company must be 20.7 MPG or better.  (The average for "standard" cars must be 27.5 MPG or better.)  That kept automakers in-check until the early-90's when they discovered "utility" vehicles were exempt.  The original intent of "utility" was to allow continued availability of work-horse type trucks for businesses, since they were relied on to provide difficult transport services.  So the automakers build a "utility" vehicle, capable of hauling large cargo loads over rough terrain.  Using it for single-occupant commutes on smooth highways without a payload is the owner's doing, not automaker... hence the birth of the modern SUV (Sport "Utility" Vehicle).  So, CAFE is considering an improved standard.  The proposal being drafted is to require vehicles, including "light" trucks, to get an average of 36 MPG by 2016.  So what the heck is considered a "light" truck?  Will the SUV still be exempt?  Why in the world do we have to wait until 2016?  My Prius has a 44.3 MPG lifetime average.  (It would be even better if it wasn't for Winter.)  That seems to indicate the technology is already available and realistic.  Waiting another 14 years seems absurd.


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