Battery Fail – Garmin ecoroute HD

ScanGauge II
ScanGauge II (Photo credit: bikesandwich)

After being in denial for several months, I’ve finally bothered to check if the devices attached to the OBDC-II port affect battery life.  They do.

I have a Scangauge-e and a Garmin ecoroute HD attached by double adapter to the OBDC-II port.

The Scangauge sleeps when the car is turned off and wakes when the car wakes to pump up the brake pressure when the driver’s door is opened before being started.

The Garmin ecoroute HD is always thinking, according to the Garmin Knowledge Base.

Question:  Will the ecoRoute HD drain power from the car’s battery when not in use?
Answer:
The ecoRoute HD accessory only draws small amounts of the car’s battery power. There should never be any instances of the accessory causing the battery in the car not to function correctly.Note that ecoRoute HD will be powered and working even when not connected to a compatible Garmin device or application.
Last modified on:  10/10/2011

Well… small amounts of the car’s battery is significant when the battery is very small, as it is in the Prius.  At least the article points out that power is drawn at all times.

Last weekend I was staying in Sydney and I made a point of unplugging the OBDC adapter each time I handed the car over to the valet.  Even with using the car every day I didn’t want the risk of flattening the battery.

Only problem with unplugging each time is that the ecoroute HD has to reconnect to the GPS, a ritual that can only be completed when standing perfectly still.

So I’m trying with just the Scangauge attached to see what drain occurs overnight with a full battery…

The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide To Knife Fighting – a complaint on behalf of Prius Owners everywhere

I have just sent the following letter of complaint to ABC-TV.  Since it is riven with left-wing bias and post-modern wankery I don’t expect a reasoned response of even a response.  Therefore I post this to my blog in the hope to raise awareness of this insidious attack on our society.

UPDATE: 9/04/2013 10:51. My complaint has been received by Audience & Consumer Affairs and been allocated a reference number.  “The ABC endeavours to respond to complaints within 30 days of receipt. However, please be aware that due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, and the complex nature of some matters, responses may at times take longer than this.”

Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to register a complaint about “The Elegant Gentleman’s Guide To Knife Fighting” episode 1 as shown on ABC 1 on Wednesday 3 April 2013 (not including subsequent re-broadcasts or iView). While I appreciate that the show does as it says in its promotional material and has saved me the time of watching two separate programs for the guidance of elegant gentlemen and knife fighting, it has failed me terribly in another respect. I refer of course to the recurring sketch of the dinner party guest who owns a Prius.  He is depicted as a sociopath who forces the other guests to live out his sick fantasies, powerless to resist his urges.  He is shown bullying the guests, forcing two females to kiss in a provocatively sexual manner, emasculating the males and humiliating the guests to perform “Scarborough Fair” as various states of undress and bondage.  As a Prius owner myself I must naturally object in the strongest possible terms to a characterisation of a Prius owner as one who is ignorant of the specifications and capabilities of his Prius.

EV Mode or EV mode?

The Prius Owner (PO) arrives unannounced to the surprise of the Dinner Party Guests (DPG) by virtue of running his car silently in EV mode.  However, he wrongly suggests that 24km/h is the maximum speed that can be attained in this mode.  If PO were a real Prius owner he would have known that Stealth Mode can be maintained at 66km/h in the NHW11* (2001 – 2003) and NHW20 (2004 – 04/2009) and 74km/h in the current ZVW30 (05/2009- ).  And even if he meant EV Mode (not EV mode) by pressing the EV button, this Mode is disabled at 40km/h, as long as the car in in Stage 3 or Stage 4.  That is a schoolboy error.

* Note: I’m ignoring the NHW10 Japan-only model (1997-2000) that may have been obtained by grey import for reasons that, if not already obvious, soon will be.

What is the sound of shaking Prius car keys?

Secondly, PO goads the DPG by shaking his car keys.  This is particularly puzzling since neither the NHW20 nor the ZVW30 have keys in the normal sense as all Australian-delivered Prii have the Smart Key System.  Any metal key would have been concealed within the black, plastic keyfob, which was clearly not present. Perhaps he was referring to the NHW11 model, which did have keys but also had a keyfob.  However this is obviously not an explanation as PO declares that he obtains a fuel consumption figure of 3.7 litres per 100km, which corresponds to the ADR 81/02 extra-urban cycle figure for the ZVW30, which busts the myth of the rattling keys.

“Because I get 3.7l/100km.”  Oh really?

Thirdly, PO stated that he gets 3.7l/100km, not merely that its ADR81/02 figure obtained under laboratory conditions is 3.7l/100km.  Here’s where the mystery deepens further.  Under real-world conditions, the average fuel consumption for the ZVW30 Prius is 5.0l/100km when the variety of driving conditions, techniques and climates are taken into account. It should be obvious to the even casual observer that PO must be intimately aware of the capabilities of his Prius and hypermiling techniques such as Stealth, Pulse and Glide, Warp Stealth, Super Highway Mode and Driving Without Brakes (notice that I have not mentioned drafting) to achieve the ADR81/02 figure.  That is not to say that such a feat is impossible; there is a 1000 mile club for Prius drivers, which corresponds to slightly better than 2.8l/100km for some 1609 km.  However, it is clear that PO’s poor knowledge of his own vehicle and, we can safely assume, poor knowledge of driving technique would make his claim of 3.7l/100km impossible to sustain.

Naturally, I can also dismiss the notion that his Prius has a plug-in conversion (See EV Mode or EV mode).    In short, I bet the character doesn’t even own one.

It is just this sort of misrepresentation of the Prius and their owners that I have sadly come to expect.  Should PO be a  regular character I can’t imagine what ignorance he will display next.  ABC has probably bought the series so there’s probably little you could be bothered to do about any future episodes.

BTW, I have owned a Prius for just over 1 year, so I am eminently qualified to comment.

Good day to you… I said GOOD DAY!

Prius tank-by-tank and year-on-year

My fuel consumption is much better than last year.  My first few fuel ups from January to March 2012 were:

  1. 5.3l/100km (estimated)
  2. 5.4
  3. 4.9
  4. 4.9
  5. 5.3
  6. 4.8

By comparison, this year to March my numbers are:

  1. 4.1
  2. 4.0
  3. 4.2

Yes, 1 fillup per month in 2013.

In 2012 from the end of January to mid-March we travelled 3661.9 km using 185.79 litres at 5.07 l/100km.  In 2013 from mid-January to early March we travelled 3001.9 km using 123.25 litres at 4.10 l/100km.  That’s like improving from 46.4 to 57.4 mpg (US), 55.7 to 68.9 mpg (Imp) or 21.2 to 24.4 km/l.

Why the big difference?

There’s a number of things that have changed from when I first bought the car:

  1. Driving technique.  I am much more conscious of how to get the best from the car, specifically Pulse and Glide, Driving without Brakes (not literally) and maximising regenerative braking.  Super Highway Mode is still a bit elusive for me, but I achieved a very high level of right-foot mastery.*
  2. Engine heater and grill block.  Together these get the engine up to temperature and keep it there.  The Prius’ startup modes respond to coolant temperature; the hotter it is the more EV and power you have access to.
  3. Tyres.  I had 3 Ovation ecovision VI-682 and a slowly-leaking Bridgestone B205 at 34psi.  Now I have 2 Bridgestone ecopia PZ-X and 2 Ovations at 47 psi front and 45 psi rear.   I know that the Ovations were an end-of-lease quick-fix to having 3 bald tyres, but why doesn’t Toyota fit low rolling resistance tyres from the factory?
  4. I replaced a dead 12 volt battery in late March 2012.  This could have caused poor fuel economy by requiring more from the HV battery and therefore engine to recharge the 12 v.
  5. No cruise control on the highway.  CC doesn’t know when the accelerate except to keep the speed constant.  This includes a very handy feature of using regenerative braking on downhills.  But it is nowhere near as good as a well-placed right-foot.
  6. I ignore Distance to Empty = 0 km.  You have about 9 litres of fuel left when that warning
  7. Major Service in July.  If anything has been lurking, it will probably be found and fixed.  Improvement in fuel consumption should be obvious… unless everything was perfect beforehand.
  8. LED lights, shark fin antenna and subtle aero tweaks.  These are minor changes.  Indeed some in the eco-modder community wonder if the OEM antenna is even long enough to be affected by the air streaming over the car.  But since they make the car pretty and don’t take away efficiency, they can stay.
  9. I use 91 RON instead of the “recommended” 95 RON.  The user manual says that fuel of 90 RON or higher should be used.  However, the fuel flap “recommends” 95 RON.  Research from PriusChatters shows that 87 AKI (91 RON) produces better fuel economy than 91 AKI (95 RON) in the Gen III at least.  Particularly if you very rarely rev the engine beyond the Eco zone, the extra energy in 95 RON is not put to any use.
  10. It is dryer and probably warmer this year.  Temperature has a big effect on fuel consumption and the hot weather has helped.

The real test will be to see how much of this I can maintain during a Canberra winter.  I suspect that I won’t be much better if at all because I had already adopted a lot of fuel-saving measure before last winter.

* I drove my Citroën C5 for the first time in a year yesterday.  The steering is very heavy (but good heavy), the throttle is so quick to respond compared to ECO mode on the Prius and the brakes are very strong; a Citroën trait.  And I can’t believe how low I could have my seat and how high I could have the wheel.  I only used the wipers instead of the indicators once, but I kept trying to engage the parking brake with my foot!

 

12 Volt battery woes – Part 2

Having an indicator to show the charge level of the battery has been a boon.  However, its location is not very convenient.  In order to charge the battery I had to open the hatch and keep it from closing while the charger was plugged in.  It was not easy to position the charger.

Another trip to Battery World at Phillip to pick up a CTEK COMFORT INDICATOR PANEL M8.  I chose the model with the 3.3m leads so that I could fit it into the dashboard near the steering wheel.  Convenient to see the charge level and convenient to plug in the charger.

The battery is on the right rear behind the back wheel.  So it was a straight and fairly easy run along the sill to the dash.  Using my Kinchrome Panel Removal levers I popped off the plastic sill covers; from the front, the driver’s side kick panel (held to the firewall with a plastic nut), the front and rear sills and the B pillar cover.  I lifted the panel that includes the HV battery vent, but I didn’t have to remove it; it was sufficient to see where the metal clip for the rear seat was.

Note: The B pillar cover is a bit tricky.  Tip: Remove the cover from the seat belt bolt and then push the seat belt down until the bolt fitting is pointing to the floor.  Then you can pull out the B pillar cover over the bolt.

The sills on the right hand side contain the 12 volt battery cables in one clip and the rear window washer fluid pipe in another.  There’s enough room between those clips for the cable to sit snugly.  The cable routing from the rear door sill to the battery takes some trial and error, but there is a safe path.

First problem – the panel

The panel is larger than the Toyota standard.  There’s a 1.5 mm ridge around the opening and the CTEK panel would not fit.  And I had to fit it first before I could run the cable.

There wasn’t much in it.  I took a sharp hacksaw and cut into the corners.  Then I cut away only the bottom and left ridges.  This was enough to allow a tight fit and avoid more cuts that could have damaged wires behind the dash.

With a bit of fettling I found a cable path that was neat.

Second problem – not enough cable

Too short, very annoying
3.3 m is not enough

Annoying.  3.3 m should have been plenty, but it was 10 cm short.  No amount of fiddling would make it reach.  I had an idea to retain the original cable intact and create 2 cables to join it to the battery.  However, I didn’t want the fuse holder to be inaccessible under a panel.

So I spliced some heavy gauge wire into the cable.  And then connected the eyelets to the battery terminals.

Crimped, not spliced, strictly-speaking
Crimped, not spliced, strictly-speaking

Replacing the panels was straightforward.

The Comfort Indicator Panel’s traffic light system differs slightly from the Comfort Indicator Eyelet as green is 100%-90%, yellow from 90%-40%  and red for below 40% charge.

The beauty is that I can plug in the battery charger much easier.

You couldn't tell that it wasn't original
You couldn’t tell that it wasn’t original
IMG_1036
CTEK charger plugged in securely through the driver’s window.
Ridge in the panel openings visible in the upper left

Very convenient and easy to use and only slightly more effort than I had hoped.

And I still haven’t found (or looked for) the drain.

1132.5km on 45.17L – But is it enough?

1132.5km at 44km/h.  A shame that the 3.7 l/100km figure is so unreliable.
1132.5km at 44km/h. A shame that the 3.7 l/100km figure is so unreliable.

I should be very happy.

  • I’ve just registered my best fuel consumption result of 3.99L/100km.  That’s 70.8 mpg Imp, 58.9 mpg US and 25.06 km/L.
  • First dot lasted 177 km
  • Fuel warning beep at 903.3 km
  • DTE = 0 at c. 960 km, driving another 170 km.
  • My last 553.7 km was at 3.5 L/100km (3.7 corrected 63.5 mpg US) and 45 km/h

I’m sad because I was aiming to drive 700 miles (1126.5 km) on a single 45 L tank and I’m not sure if I made it within any margin of error.

Continue reading “1132.5km on 45.17L – But is it enough?”

12 Volt battery woes – Part 1

Two weekends in a row I had to get a jump-start from the Allianz roadside assist.  Either the less-than-1-year-old battery is on its last legs or the something is quickly draining the battery.

Unfortunately it is not easy to analyse the battery using the otherwise sophisticated piece of kit because it isn’t easy to rev or idle in a Prius.  The results of the test were inconclusive.  The Prius does not have an alternator to charge the battery, it uses the HV battery to do that with the HV battery in turn being charged by the small Motor/Generator (MG1).  So the fact that the battery is charging when the car is running doesn’t tell you anything.

So, out to Battery World at Phillip for a battery check and to discuss options.  Their testing suggested that the battery was in very good shape.  So rather than buy a new Optima Yellow Top for $385, I purchased a spiffy CTEK MXS 5.0 battery charger and because the battery is tucked away a bit, I bought a delightfully-named Comfort Indicator Eyelet M6.  Once again Scandinavia comes to the rescue.

The CTEK MXS 5.0 has 4 programs and 8 phases to cover small, large and almost dead batteries.  There’s a special setting for very cold conditions, which I might have to use in Winter.

CTEK MXS 5.0 battery charger.  Does your battery charger have that many lights?  Didn’t think so.

Since the charging current doesn’t get above 4 amps on the normal program, I could charge the battery in-situ without worrying about creating gas or excessive heat.

Since access to the battery terminals involves the removal of several panels, the Comfort Indicator socket provides easy access and it’s traffic light system shows when the battery is at 100%-80%, 80%-40% or below 40% charge.

CTEK Comfort Connector with indicator
CTEK Comfort Connector with indicator and masking tape solution.  I can see the flashing light through the back window, even with the tonneau cover on

So, before I need to use the car, I check the indicator.  If it’s red, I charge the battery.

Now to find what’s draining the battery…

Prius fail – dead 12 volt battery

Once again I find myself with a flat 12 volt battery standing athwart billions of Yen of research and development… a flat battery has rendered my car inert.

Could have been a light left on, a door left ajar or just a crappy battery.  Sad face.

UPDATE 10:00: Nice man from Allianz Roadside Assist got me started.  The battery analyser said that the battery was charging just fine when the car was on but not running, this was probably the HV battery topping up the 12 volt battery.  The analyser then wanted me to rev the engine and then idle; tricky on both counts.  While in Park I had to press the brake and the accelerator together to force the engine to turn.

Is there a battery analyser for hybrid cars?

I think that I’ll invest in a jump starter, as a simple battery charger won’t start the car in that state.

Prius 90,000km service

$187.04.  Actually, $170.04 because my leasing company will be able to claim the GST.  Actually, a bit less, because I’ll pay for that from pre-tax (I think?).  After a servicing few European cars it’s nice to have one that’s cheap to service.

I turned up to pick up my car at 16:30.  There was a waiting room full customers, so I had a quick look at the Prius V i-Tech (finally!) in the showroom.  Walked back to the service reception as several people asked the whereabouts of their cars.  (It had been a busy day and still was.)  Smiling woman told me that mine was the one car that was finished.  Despite the 3 engines, 2 batteries and all those gubbins mine was the only one ready.  Cop that!

The 90,000km / 54 month service is the first one after the first major service, so it would have been a surprise if there was any drama.  I had added a check-list of my own, namely:

  • I would prefer the lightest oil you can reasonably put in.
  • Please check suspension components for wear and recommend.
  • When you rotate the tyres please use 47 psi front, 45 psi rear.
  • Please adjust fog lamps down to correct level.  I fixed them as they were far too low, but I may have gone too high.
  • And  BTW, I fitted a DEFA Engine Block Heater, so don’t panic when you see it.

I should have been more specific about the oil as I was given 10W-30, which is practically treacle.  Sure, 10W-30 has a working range from -18°c to over 38°c and recently we’ve had a lot more of the latter than the former.  But a 0W-20 oil will still work at 38°c but be lighter at normal temperatures.  Why bother?  There are fuel consumption savings in lighter oil.  My old Rover P6B 3500 got better fuel consumption with Penrite 40W-70 than lighter oils but that was because the engine was so worn.  A modern car with 90,000km (much less on the engine, when you think about it) should be just worn-in, not worn-out.

Suspension tested good.  I’m considering some stiffening plates so I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t make things worse.

I had my good Bridgestone ecopia PZ-X tyres on the front but rotation means that the Ovation ecovision VI-682 get a go.  Fortunately, by the time it gets cold (25 April on the dot) I should have done 5000km and I’ll be able to rotate them back before the tricky road conditions start.  I just noticed that the Chinese tyres have a maximum pressure of 44 psi.  Too bad, there’s 47 psi in there now.  (The ecopias will take 60 psi or more if you’re mad.)

Fog lamps were adjusted down.  You may remember that I adjusted my fog lamps when I fitted the DEFA EBH.  The lamps might have well pointed backwards for all the light they produced.  However, I adjusted them far too high.  Now they seem very low, but better.

I got to talk to the Scottish mechanic when I picked up the car and showed him the DEFA EBH.  He was impressed.

Oh, and it does look like they replaced the air conditioning filter but didn’t charge me for it.  They’re about $50 each.

And special mention to the mechanic who discovered that the left-hand-side rear body support was loose and the bolt was cross-threaded.  Now I don’t hear a rattle when I go over a bump, something I was blaming on the loose rear spoiler.  Nice work!

No doubt I’ll be contacted by Canberra Toyota to see how my service experience was.  I’ll have to tell them about the oil, the rear body support… and the A/C filter.

Prius mods 5 – a few bits and pieces

The latest round of mods comes from the Prius Club of Queensland from where you can buy some of those spiffy accessories you’ve only seen on the PriusChat Shop.  Parcel arrived on Saturday (well, this is Canberra) so I was able to get started in the afternoon.

Cam you spot all four mods?
Can you spot all four mods?

Front weather shields – ClimAir Profi

It’s been so hot the past few weeks that I’ve left a gap in the front windows whenever I parked the car.  However, this can allow rain (what rain?) and dust to get in.  The ClimAir Profi weather shields are very slender and are made in Germany where, as Vince reminds us, they always make good stuff.  On days when it’s not too hot or there’s a nice breeze, opening the windows a crack can be more pleasant than A/C.

Fitting was straightforward and without clips.  The weather shield bends just enough to allow fitting without fixtures.  Getting the rubber on the right side of the shield is a bit tricky.  Don’t be tempted to remove the clear sticker at the bottom; it protects the lower window rubber from direct contact.

The instructions advise closing the window 5 times to seat them.  John advised me to manually lift the windows until they are fully raised (the AUTO function will bounce back) and leave them for a few days.  Perhaps because of the hot weather, after just one day the AUTO function was mostly working without resistance.

Since I am aiming for an aerodynamic package, why would I fit something to spoil the clean lines.  There are conditions where an open window is more efficient than using A/C, as long as the HV battery remains cool.  (Yes, A/C in a Prius is for more than just personal comfort.)  Any concern I had disappeared when I noticed that the AeroPrius YuraStyle NEO sports similar weather shields front and rear.  Good enough for him to do 1000 miles with, good enough for me.

Thin weather shield on the front window
Thin weather shield on the front window

Rear bumper protector

My bumper is already scratched.  Getting a protector is as much to hide the scratches as to protect from more.  But there is something to be said about the way that the black sets off nicely with the black window and spoiler and the red.  (Should I get smoked tail-light lens covers to complete the look?)

Alignment is easy since the centre ridge aligns to the door strike.  There’s also a tiny mark that seems to be a moulding point for the bumper.

The mistake I made at first was to place it hard against the panel under the tailgate.  Some persuasion later (that stuff is sticky!) I was able to reposition the protector back 10mm so that the curve in the protector matched the curve in the bumper.

Spider web on fuel tank cap

Prius joke.  Some might say it looks funnier on a Landcruiser.  You be the judge.

After washing the area with standard car shampoo, I prepared the surface with Repco Wax and Grease Remover, or “panel wipe” as television’s Edd China would say.  This really cleans the surface and gets rid of anything that might affect the adhesion.  Forget glass cleaner, this stuff gets it clean.

Pulling the decal off its backing was fun, as the thin sticker stretched and stuck to itself; a bit like the real thing.  After I’d placed it on car I had to lift some ends to remove kinks (boy it stretches!).  I used a sharp blade to cut the web and wrapped those bits into the gap.  Zoom in on the photo above for detail.

Shark-fin antenna

Shark fin is a literally tasteless ingredient of expensive soup in Asia.  You can get the same texture from gelatin or vermicelli at a fraction of the cost.

By contrast, a shark fin antenna is so cool.  Again I washed and then cleaned with panel wipe to get a good surface.  Fitting is a bit of a chore; it is easy to get it all out of whack.  I used a long rule across the back to check the alignment against the tailgate window gap.  The rear window washer jet was a reference point for the centre.  Once the antenna is positioned, use masking tape at the front edge and then the sides; when the antenna is stuck down within these guides it should be in perfect alignment.

Attaching the cable to the antenna socket required a washer (not provided) to give a tight connection.

Sticking the antenna while checking the alignment was a little fiddly, but worth it; it is much smaller than the standard whip.  There is some debate over whether the original antenna is within the surface layer of air and therefore changing to a flatter antenna has no effect.  It sure looks cooler and reception is fine.

The only problem is that the new 3R3 Wildfire Red Mica paint on the antenna is much more vibrant than the rest of the paint.  That will buff out.

Thanks to John from the Prius Club of Queensland for the goods and good advice.