Personal Log #360
December 19, 2007 - December 27, 2007
Last Updated: Sun. 1/13/2008
page #359 page #361 BOOK INDEX
90,000 Mile - Service. This was
the "comprehensive" one. They did the usual "check everything"
inspection. I was informed that the tires were down to the "better start
thinking of new ones" level. But I already knew that. In fact, I
didn't rotate last time intentionally so this would be the final until
replacement. Fluids were topped off, which is good because I had a tiny
gurgle from the heater due to the antifreeze being down just a touch. The
rear brakes needed cleaning, but I knew that too. The report on wear was
great. Both sets may actually last the entire lifetime of the vehicle.
That's a nice money saver. Engine, Cabin (Air Conditioner), and Oil filter
were not changed. I do that along with the oil myself at other times.
The wait at the dealer was just an hour. They had wireless internet,
television, and coffee there to keep me entertained. But naturally, I was
most interested in the delivery of 4 new Prius and the other 2 Prius being
serviced at that time. The bill came to $159.97 this time. That's
Snowy. We sure are getting the snow now. Yippee! I enjoy the drastic seasonal changes here in Minnesota. That variety is very refreshing. I certainly enjoy & appreciate the kayak 6 months later a whole lot more. All this fresh snow today obviously makes the driving very different. Look & Feel are quite a change, even in a Prius. For one thing, you drive much slower from all the traffic. That makes up for the drop in efficiency the Winter climate brings. You don't even have to try to keep the car clean either; that's a futile endeavor. It's just what happens every year. I like it!
Garmin. Aftermarket add-on navigation systems are more popular than ever... so much so that they are becoming a common sight. Look back 7 years ago, how conservative of an approach Toyota took to delivering an interface that used a screen. That was unheard back then. There were very real concerns about safety, despite the fact that many premium radio systems actually delivered more complex displays. Now, you don't hear anything of a backlash nature. They are excepted as a normal upgrade feature. It's about time. Seeing dashboards without a screen is so 20th Century.
Hill Climbing. Again with the pickup stuff. This time, it was a personal observation. I was driving next to one towing a large 4-wheel recreational vehicle. There was no indication of trailer burden... until the hill. Whoa! The smoke that suddenly emerged from the tailpipe was amazing. There was a huge plume of black soot. Nasty! Until that moment, I hadn't ever considered how towing could negatively impact emissions of a truck even when a trailer is not connected. Strain from the occasional load obviously wears the seals on the engine. As I had witnessed firsthand, the piston rings allowed lubrication oil to squeeze through into the combustion area. Leaks like that will destroy the emission system, which unfortunately is something the EPA never tests for... and no one ever talks about.
Pickup Purging. Speaking of pickups, that was the big news this morning. GM is looking at a huge inventory problem... again. Next month will bring slowing of production and "fire" sales. Currently, there are $5,000 rebates available. That's what really means makes me curious. Just how drastic will these upcoming changes be? Fortunately, they are not alone. The other automakers are suffering too, just not as bad. The norm is to have a 60-day supply available. Silverado is worse sitting at 153 right now and Sierra at 150. So, they get the "over-produced" label according to the experts, who state this should have been foreseen. But under producing could means giving sales to the competition if predictions were incorrect. Old habits die hard. The market is shrinking. Will that lesson be learned this time?
Rental Pickups. The large hardware stores around here offer rental pickups. The first 75 minutes of use is just $18.95 which includes gas. So the need for a large vehicle where you'd rather do the delivery yourself is no big deal. Today, someone took that rental opportunity to the next level. Rather than seeing lumber or something hardware related in back, there was a new 56-inch television box. It was enormous! With an object that must be transported upright, the solution to get it home was clever. Why pay & wait for the electronic store to deliver when you can just use the truck at the hardware store? That's even cheaper than what the usual moving rental places charge. Having large vehicles available like that is great... when a hatchback won't do. But don't forget, I fit over a dozen large bags of leaves for composting in my Prius.
Calling it "Dual". There are quite a few members of the big GM forum that still don't refer to GM's newest hybrid technology by its official name of "Two-Mode". That makes me wonder what the heck the typical consumer will think. There will obviously be some level of confusion. As a newbie, I would wonder if there was some sort of difference I wasn't aware of. It simply doesn't make any sense to refer to a new product by a different name. That's terrible marketing too. Name recognition is a huge. Advertisers rely on that. So why aren't the supporters understanding that need? It's sloppy if nothing else, because searches won't be as effective. Whatever the case, I sure am glad Toyota promoted "HSD" labeling so heavily. That makes identifying the technology simple. No guessing required.
7-Speed DSG. The arguments from VW supporters (specifically, diesel owners) was that the supposed higher cost & complexity of the system cancelled out any benefit which could be recognized by hybrids. So, I am very curious how this most recent announcement from VW will be responded to. Their DSG (automatic-shift manual transmission) will be offered with a 7-speed transmission. Is paying the extra 1,750 euros for that option really worth it? Hybrids continue to improve. They will become even more competitive. How will a VW compete with efficiency only, especially when you consider coming battery improvements and smog-related emissions?
Winter Humidity. The Prius sure was happy today. MPG was outstanding due to the humidity. It was so thick there was a mist constantly obscuring the windshield. That level of moisture is something I didn't emphasize in the document about Winter misconceptions. Being practically desert-like usually, a commute like this morning is quite an extreme... but not that uncommon in the Summer, hence contributing to much better efficiency then. As I witnessed, the difference is amazing. Too bad all engines are affected the same way. It would be great if somehow a hybrid would be affected less. Oh well. I'll just enjoy occasional thaw and dream about Spring.
Waiting For Details. Finding out what the 35 MPG mandate really entails has been trying. The usual sources simply aren't providing any... except the fact that California was denied their waver request to the EPA, allowing them to regulate emission standards of their own. Ever since 1975, that type of request has been approved But not anymore. Governor Schwarzenegger said he will sue for that right. Shouldn't automakers accept some level of responsibility for contributing to climate change? Expecting improvement should be a given, not something we should have to fight for. How much longer must we continue to accept the status quo? Do we really have to wait until 2020?
The Struggle. I've been watching Volt enthusiasts really start to struggle now. Some are genuinely trying to build credibility with constructive discussions... but are constantly facing misconception, without any strategy for combating them. I see that routinely with differences between the "full" and "series" hybrid types. But what's worse is not understanding the market in general. For example, this summarization comment: "That is, pressure from consumers for affordable to fuel vehicles will be the biggest driver to higher fleet averages, not CAFE mandates." I pointed out how pressure from consumers invokes a REACTIVE response, after the need has already become obvious. Mandates, on the other hand, tell you what's coming and serve as a warning to invest in the need ahead of time. That PROACTIVE approach allows for well thought out plans. There is far less of a rush mentality. That's what Volt is suppose to represent. But few understand that still. Some of us are frustrated with the status quo already, tired of waiting. We at least expect an effort from online discussion participants to be realistic, acknowledging events of the past. Reasonable expectations cannot be formed without that. Take a look at the Prius community for an example of what to do while waiting for delivery of Volt itself. Of course, that means moving beyond the idealistic to become practical for mass acceptance.
Efficiency Estimates. Now that topic is really getting
attention. How will vehicles that take advantage of externally supplied
electricity contribute to the 35 MPG requirement? This is what I posted as
a comment on the Volt website, where they are especially considered but have
little exposure to this topic compared to the long-time hybrid enthusiast...
MPG has always been a misleading measure. The purpose doesn't make sense.
Isn't the intent of a vehicle to get from location to location? How is
that travel need considered? DISTANCE!
That's why most of the rest of the world uses "liters / 100 km" as a basis to
measure efficiency instead.
At first, the two seem to be the same. But when considering how much
easier it is to introduce other forms of energy into the distance equation, like
electricity, it makes more sense. That type of calculation is clearly a
better choice. Future estimates from the EPA will factor consumption that
way, with respect to a standardized distance. After all, the same problem
exists when trying to figure out efficiency rates of various blends of ethanol.
That's the case for cold climate operation too. DISTANCE is the key.
They may translate it into a MPG equivalent for those that don't readily accept
change. But the underlying equation will have a basis centered around the
purpose to travel a specific distance, not gallons.
Do Nothing. Listening to the President's live address to the nation this morning was frustrating, as usual. When he got to the newly signed Energy Bill, there was nothing new. It was the same old set of excuses about Kyoto. Because a large & industrious nation like China wasn't participating, why should the United States agree to anything? Rather than suggesting an alternative, he decided for us to do nothing. That's what really gets me. How is that even the slightest bit constructive? Do nothing? That "why bother" attitude is just plain wrong. Look at how the bill itself came about for some perspective. Suggestions were passed back & forth for a very long time. Ideas emerged. Compromises were made. Eventually, the final strategy came about. It was agreed upon. But with Kyoto, no attempt of that nature was made. He simply wasn't interested in pursuing that. Heck, even antagonists suggest alternatives. Sadly, that has proven an effective way to undermine at times. With this though, the choice was to not acknowledge any effort to reduce carbon emissions... until yesterday. Now... it has become a priority. And frustratingly, the attitude being conveyed is one of starting from the beginning... as if the progress over the past 7 years never happened. Do something. But what?
Doesn't Understand. More from Honda's president were these comments... "I do not understand why people see value in plug-in (hybrids)." and "I cannot understand the rational for (developing) plug-ins." Is that really negative propaganda, attempts to swing favor to "assist" hybrids impractical for electric-only drive? A future where plug-in hybrids become popular would put Honda at a competitive disadvantage. So it is very difficult taking what has said with any sincerity... especially since no reasoning was included. After all, the prototype Prius on the road are proving a very effective MPG BOOST over the factory model. How can he not understand how some would be interested in an augmentation like that?
Real Competition. Honda president Takeo Fukui said this today at a year-end press conference: "Until now, the hybrid vehicle business has been about creating impressions and images among potential buyers, and not about producing profitable vehicles at affordable prices." It's as though he's been reading from the GM playbook. Obviously, it is a stall tactic. The hope is to pretend Toyota hasn't already achieved that level of success with Prius yet. The reason for this denial attitude is simple. Next year will bring the debut of Honda's first mass-production intended hybrid-only (no traditional counterpart) vehicle. Insight never had that purpose. It was indeed just a showcase type effort. This new one will be quite different.
Cold Recharging. My hunt for detail about battery development for the coming plug-in hybrids brought me to an interesting place yesterday. I found myself on Google searching for confirmation of a comment someone had candidly made. Sure enough, a large number of hits came back showing that it was indeed true. No wonder supporters are cautious about what they discuss. Without enough information, the point could be a source of great distress. So, let's see how I do... It turns out that "cell impedance goes up and the acceptance of the ions on the anode is drastically reduced" for Li-Ion batteries when the temperature is below freezing (32 F, 0 C). In other words, someone like me wouldn't be able to recharge the battery-pack from November to March. That is obviously a major stumbling point in the move to replace NiMH batteries. Think about it. When was the last time you plugged in your laptop outside overnight in January? Never! That's why there is no basis of comparison better typical consumer devices and hybrids. And remember, the hybrid battery components must work much longer in an environment with lots of vibration... and hostile temperatures. Needless to say, the plug for recharging will need to include a built-in heater for battery-pack. It is yet another hurdle to overcome, adding to the cost of the very expensive upgrade to Li-Ion.
35 MPG is Official. The House approved the revisions from the Senate and the President signed the bill. It's official. A fleet average of 35 MPG must be achieved by 2020 for each automaker. Details beyond that remain unclear. The effort is to reduce our dependence on oil and finally do something about carbon emissions. For such an industrious nation to take basically no responsibility in the past was embarrassing. We actually slipped backward, making the situation worse instead of better. But how will this "contribution" be received? The obsession with driving grossly oversized & overpowered vehicles on the daily commute to work was just plain wrong. The vehicle should be used for the purpose it was designed, which clearly wasn't happening. Remember the 80's, when people used their car most of the time and saved their truck for only when it was truly needed? Those times will hopefully return. It's too late for that to effect efficiency standards though. Abuse of the past wrecked that. Automaker profit compelled them to focus on size, neglecting efficiency as a result. Now all new vehicles will need to be improved, regardless of how they are used. What will that do to production plans? How will that effect inventory? When will automakers take new technologies seriously?