Personal Log  #341

August 1, 2007  -  August 11, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 8/11/2007

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Hybrid Challenges, Plug-In.  Adding a plug to the equation raises expectations even higher.  The want for significantly better efficiency than what a "full" hybrid alone can deliver is what will drive sales... and the almighty hype & marketing efforts.  Most consumers seem to have abandoned the misconceptions involving of battery-life.  That's contributed to the growing talk about plug-in designs and aftermarket augmentation.  Years ago, people didn't care.  Now, they do.  How long it will take to deliver that ability is becoming a hot topic.  Thank goodness.  The result is loss of interest in gas-guzzlers.  Fulfilling primitive desires of size & power are subsiding.  Our teenage society is finally starting to show signs of maturity.  Overcoming this challenge will be proof of success.


Hybrid Challenges, Lithium.  A few days ago, Toyota announced a delay with their rollout plans to adopt lithium-based rechargeable battery-packs.  The hope was to make the move away from Nickel-Metal Hydride with the introduction of the next-generation models.  Safety has begun to dominate attention, growing beyond the concern of expense.  That's a big deal.  Notebook computers have had their share of battery troubles.  Overcoming that has been slow, so you can imagine just how much more of a challenge it is for cars.  Those batteries will work harder, will be exposed to much greater temperature extremes, and will have to last even longer.  The switch over to lithium, which will ultimately deliver larger capacity at a reduced weight, is proving to be quite a challenge for the hybrids.


Gas Prices.  The price of oil has settled at $71.47 per barrel.  Strangely, the price of gas doesn't reflect that.  It's only $2.67 per gallon.  Why?  That really doesn't make much sense.  How come there is such a disconnect?  Have refineries somehow found a way to refine more at lower cost?  If so, what's the tolerance?  Supporting higher capacities had been a struggle.  With an ever-growing demand, the supply will eventually become a problem again.  I suspect a sudden spike will come.  Are you prepared for that?  It shouldn't be a surprise.  The odds are not in our favor.


Crosswalk.  Today was one of those days when crossing a major road downtown wasn't going to be easy.  Traffic simply did not want to yield, despite both sides having pedestrians waiting to cross.  I made a comment to the woman next to me, mentioning out how you never can tell what vehicle will finally decide to give you the right-of-way.  All it takes is one vehicle to slow down for the rest to acknowledge that they are supposed to stop.  And sure enough, we witnessed it.  Of all things, it was a Silver Classic Prius.  Sweet!  Pointing out that it was a hybrid which finally took the initiative didn't appear to be needed either.  She responded with a smile.  Interesting, eh?


Final Slander.  The EPA numbers are about to change.  Those wanting to harm Toyota by making MPG claims are scrambling at this final opportunity.  The report I read today was written by a large SUV owner, who proudly displayed photos of his guzzler at the top of the webpage.  The current Prius window-sticker big numbers were repeatedly used as the source of the supposed controversy, without any mention of the little numbers.  You were just allowed to believe they were intend to represent real-world conditions.  It was the same old focus on those misleading estimates.  What I got a kick out of was how he pointed out that 48 MPG was the average owners were actually getting.  That number is higher than what the EPA will supply as an average for the 2008 model Prius.  But that was never mentioned, nor anything about the tests being ideal-condition measurements or how adjustments are necessary to compensate for that.  It was just a final attempt to slander the automaker reputation.


Never Thought About It.  The well-being is hybrids is very much like other topics of great attention.  I see parallels to politics all the time.  Seemingly situations are often filled with unseen complexities, so conclusions are commonly draw with incorrect or misunderstood information.  The most intriguing example I've come across lately that has nothing to do with either hybrids or politics is HD.  High-Definition is clearly not well understood.  People are get the impression that it simply is just that, seeing greater detail.  The thought never occurs to them that the format will be different too.  In the case of HD, the camera can pull back without sacrifice.  You no longer have to accept close-ups... something you've had to live with for decades from standard television, because they only delivered low-resolution and they were physically very small.  Times change, whether you like it or not.  Mindsets unknowingly get stuck in the past.  Did you realize HD could be fundamentally different like that?  What about politics?  I bet your children have a very different view of the world.  Makes you wonder about hybrids, eh?


Arrogant.  That's the latest personal attack attempt.  It feel on an unreceptive audience though... because the person making the claim is quite guilty of that very thing.  Sound familiar?  To draw attention away from yourself, accuse someone else of the very thing you've been doing.  It doesn't always work, as in this case.  He's strongly against hybrids, posted an ignore-list in his signature, and regularly insults others with words like "idiot".  So his integrity was lacking.  And knowing my credibility includes 7 years of hybrid study, over 142,000 miles of hybrid driving experience, and a large collection of publicly available data, it made me a prime target.  But right away, his attempt was thwarted.  It wouldn't have mattered much anyway.  Being so vague leaves people wondering now.  Unlike the past, they are now beginning to demand detail.  Online participants are growing aware of deception techniques.  Yeah!


More Photos.  They speak for themselves.  Now having exceeded over 300,000 miles with his Prius, we're in uncharted territory.  Even the most stubborn of naysayers are at a loss when it comes to a real-world example of such magnitude.  The "little car that could" is still going and going... owner:  jesse 4


Electric Whir.  There are still a few die-hard enthusiasts that claim there is nothing like the feel of a manual transmission on an open road.  While that literally might be true, it is definitely not the only sensation that will generate enthusiasm   I love to briskly accelerate with the Prius.  That instant response from the electric motor is smooth and delivers an ever-so-subtle whirring sound.  The moment before the engine joins in is definitely unique.  It breaks from the silence of stealth.  And the following sound & feel from two devices each contribute to a behavioral effect that simply can not be described well with words.  You have to experience it.  Some owners don't.  They think being generous with the pedal will result in a efficiency penalty.  Clearly, I haven't observed that.  Averaging over 51 MPG for the past 3 months is on the high side of average.  My desire to not have to drive slow is certainly fulfilled.  Of course, that was true way back with the Classic Prius... which didn't have an electric whir like the HSD Prius does.  Did you know it makes that subtle sound when braking too?


Defecting.  This is the worst fear of certain antagonists.  They realize that the appeal of super-efficient cars will draw appeal away from the already struggling guzzler SUV market.  Obsession with using trucks for non-utility use is quickly wrecking the potential for large SUV hybrids.  Opportunity is fading and their desperation is beginning to show.  The shift from truck to car was inevitable anyway.  That cycle is human nature.  Craving the opposite, going from large & bulky to smooth & sleek, was quite predictable.  How long the shift would take was the only unknown.  The sudden spike in gas prices has revealed that it will happen relatively quick.  Concern for emissions (both types: carbon & smog) is helping to accelerate that.  Rather than just buying a more efficient version of the same vehicle they already had, people are choosing change instead.  They are defecting.  Loyal shifts are the ultimate scorn.  What will they do?  The dinosaurs are dying off.


Some Advice.  Having observed the same pattern on several different forums, I felt very comfortable contributing this advice to a newbie today (who was already feeling the pain which comes from being objective, rather than just agreeing with the masses)...  My first 100 posts were without an avatar.  All was civil.  Then immediately after revealing my identify, the attacks began.  Being straight forward and clearly stating you are in favor of just "full" hybrids but from any automaker has been practically pointless.  Some choose to see only Prius no matter what you post.  It's actually rather amusing, especially when they drop bait and get frustrated when you don't bite.  In other words, watch out for those trolling for trolls. 


New Technology.  On rare occasions, I do actually stubble upon a constructive comment.  That happened today, with this: "I believe that I read somewhere that the Prius will not be using any "new" technology, they are just going to add a larger battery or additional battery and a plug to the Prius."  My response...  That's correct.  The current hardware *ALREADY* supports the ability.  Revised software and additional battery capacity with a plug is all that's different.  Of course, this discussion is rather silly since range is only a matter of battery size.  You add more, you go further.  The penalty is cost.  A "full" hybrid can make due with a smaller battery-pack, which reduces cost significantly.  A "series" hybrid is at the mercy of size, not being able to scale back much for a lower cost.


63 F Degrees.  The much needed rain for us here finally came today.  So rather than the usual temperatures in the upper 80's and lower 90's, it is only 63.  Conditions are no longer optimal for efficiency.  Looks like I'm going to have to settle for just above 50 MPG until the warmer weather returns.  Oh darn.


Bridge Collapse.  Two days ago, the big highway bridge disaster occurred here.  A major corridor through Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi river.  It's absolutely awful.  My take on it is anger.  The governor recently vetoed a bill to increase the gas tax... for you guessed it, highway funding.  I was upset then, knowing that upkeep is essential.  You can only delay routine maintenance for so long, and when that happens the need for replacement comes sooner.  Needless to say, we really need to reevaluate our priorities.  This is proof that the consequences of cheap gas now can require us to pay dearly later.


Pizza Delivery.  I see Prius being used for courier services all the time.  That use makes plenty of sense.  But those are business owned vehicles, part of a small fleet.  Pizza delivery is not.  Personal vehicles are used for that instead.  The driver is the owner.  So, seeing my first today (a White Classic model Prius) was pretty exciting... especially the second time.  Spotting twice while running errands this evening was quite vindicating.  The versatility of the design is being well proven, one owner at a time.  Patience is really paying off.  Thankfully, I realized it would take an entire decade for the mainstream mindset to change.  Now 7 years into it, evidence of that indeed happening is all around us.  Yippee!  Hooray!  Sweeeeet!


Industry Experts.  My personal logs come in really handy when referring to past events in hybrid history.  In the case of today, it's what the experts originally said about the look of Prius verses what they are saying now.  It started with this quote from a Prius owner... "I am so sick of reading article after article from industry 'experts' pontificating about why people buy a Prius." ...because that wasn't the reason he bought the hybrid, despite the expert's claims.  The to-make-a-statement nonsense is really growing on our nerves.  It simply isn't true.  The enthusiasts are well aware of the true efficiency delivered.  The shape of Prius is a genuine design benefit for both that and utility.  But of course, those very same experts were saying the exact opposite 4 years ago, when the HSD Prius was new.  They claimed the distinct look was its greatest weakness, that it needed to look like other vehicles on the road to be a success.  They were obviously dead wrong.  Old school marketing simply doesn't work anymore.  The wants & needs of those in the 21st Century are different... and those "experts" still haven't figured that out yet.


July Sales.  They were great!  16,062 Prius were purchased here in the United States.  That's a little over a 50 percent increase from the same month last year... which is an honest statistic, unlike having to read this today: "Toyota sold 5,562 of the cars in 2000.  Sales tripled the following year."  That's so misleading, I don't even know where to begin.  In 2000, purchases didn't begin until the very end of August.  In other words, Prius were only available for one-third of the year.  So naturally they "tripled" the next.  The writer attempted to lead you to believe that interest grew by a factor of three.  But in reality, there wasn't any purchase-rate change since the delivery-rate remained constant.  Simply dividing the next year into thirds would reveal that.  He didn't though.  I consider that dishonest, lying by omission of facts.  Regardless, the goal to sell 150,000 Prius this year will easily be exceeded at this rate.  Yeah!


Closing Thoughts, part 5.  Sometimes you just need to vent...  It's disturbing reading so much hate.  Many still haven't figured out the irony of the "smug" label.  The reversal is rather vindicating.  Of course, it's not the opinion that matters anyway.  Continued strong sales speak for themselves.  The new lower base price announcement further reinforces the odds of that same trend.  What I do find disturbing though is the recall of history.  Some is just plain incorrect.  Some is a loss of perspective, forgetting how cheap gas used to be and how people couldn't care less about emissions back then.  Some is not realizing the misconceptions that have since been dispelled.  Accounts of hybrid status while the events were actually occurring are very different from those that look back long afterward.


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