Prius Personal Log  #308

January 3, 2007  -  January 6, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 2/10/2007

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1-06-2007

Remarkably Negative.  Publications based in Detroit have always had a negative bias against hybrids.  But lately, that attitude has become remarkable.  You'd expect a change for the better, not even more resistance.  The opposite is happening.  That figures.  They're going in the wrong direction.  Strangely though, Two-Mode was described as the upcoming "gold standard technology for hybrids".  However, the writer had an obvious misunderstanding of how that design actually worked, thinking one motor was for low speeds and the other for high.  You'd think, especially since this was supposedly an automotive expert, the nature of "full" hybrid operation was finally comprehended.  Obviously, he didn't have a clue... as confirmed with his comment that Green-Line would later offer a plug-in option, something an "assist" hybrid simply cannot support.  Anywho, this was my favorite quote: "While automakers will dazzle Detroit auto show visitors with futuristic visions of alternative technologies, some of their biggest gains in fuel economy reflect steady improvements in conventional gas-powered cars."  It's basically a statement of being screwed, so far behind that traditional vehicles are all they really have to offer still.  But of course, it's the closing sentence that I got a chuckle from.  Silverado now delivers 22 MPG on the highway, a significant increase of 10 MPG from that of 20 years ago.  However, consumers aren't being receptive to that.  The pickup is still considered a guzzler.

1-06-2007

No Competition.  Now that we know there will not be an Accord-Hybrid from Honda configured to compete directly with Camry-Hybrid, the IMA supporters are speaking out.  They focus entirely on comparing Civic-Hybrid to Prius, based on good solid real-world data.  I respect that a lot.  But the question still has to be asked:  What do you tell someone that wants an Accord sized high-mileage super-clean vehicle?  The fact that Honda doesn't currently have something to compete with Camry-Hybrid is disheartening in itself.  But hearing that they have no plans to deliver anything at all until 2009 is another entirely.  And even then, their decision to deliver a non-hybrid diesel Accord is problematic.  We know for a fact that "assist" hybrids aren't as efficient as "full" hybrids in stop & slow traffic, like many of us experience on our daily commute.  Having an engine that never shuts off is even worse.  How in the world are they going to compete?

1-06-2007

GM Hopefuls.  The rally cry can now be heard.  It's loud & clear.  Sadly though, many have no idea what they are facing.  The hope is that GM will beat Toyota to market with a plug-in hybrid.  They forget though just how far of a head start Toyota already has in the plug-in "after" market.  There are several providers hoping to jump on the opportunity to upgrade the Toyota hybrids now on the road.  So even if GM could achieve a jump ahead in the new purchase arena, they don't even remotely stand a chance when it comes to the Toyota potential already has built up.  In other words, the effort from GM would have to be incredibly aggressive to be able to share the spotlight.  The 2004 model-year is when the Toyota hybrid design began to support a plug-in upgrade, something just waiting to be taken advantage of.  Cost & Warranty are issues that need to be deal with regardless of source.  It won't be easy.  But the numbers strongly favor Toyota for now.

1-06-2007

Helpful Endorsements.  A friend who battled with me on the dark side (that nasty forum that allowed antagonists to thrive) chimed in with this today: "With a good hybrid design like HSD, owners don't have to compromise on size, power, time and patience to achieve good MPG and low emission.  Let the technology take care of it man!"  So I responded with this...  Yup!  That's where the JUST DRIVE IT motto came from.  Regardless of what your personal purchase preference is or your particular driving habits are, you'll still get the benefits.  Going beyond that is great, but it's a distraction from the point... sadly, an effective greenwashing technique the casual reader isn't typically aware of.  When your goal is to get that technology to the majority, you want to focus resources on doing exactly that.  All along, there were certain people who absolutely refused to look at the long-term mass-market perspective... dismissing the potential based on numbers & configurations exclusively from today only, rather than acknowledging the benefits that result from increased production.  Given time, prices drops, choices increase, and the technology improves.  Read my blogs from several years ago.  That counter-productive activity was very common.  Absolutely refusing to even address the potential spreading that technology across the fleet had was the theme.  Nowadays that stubborn attitude is translating to a sense of denial.  Toyota's success is revealing itself to be more than just a trend, a genuine industry-changing large step forward.  Why are some still fighting that?  Check out the attitude on the big GM forum.  They are becoming quite polarized, either upset that GM took so darn long to finally invest in hybrids or still totally against change.  That's very different from the "small step" some here are in support of, basically a quick fix.  What is your purpose?

1-05-2007

Frustrated.  I'm tired of those claiming to be "green" without fully qualifying.  True, they get some credit for either the MPG improvement or the SULEV/PZEV emissions.  But unless both are achieved, their choice is not worthy of the label.  Merit must actually be earned.  Our air-quality problems and oil-dependency won't be solved by a feel-good attitude.  Engine-Only designs are not a long-term solution.  A hybrid of some sort is what will support the automakers going forward.  This resistance to change by endorsing a design that doesn't provide for an improvement to both emissions & efficiency is counterproductive.  The industry is horribly slow to respond.  Giving them an excuse to not implement anything new is most definitely something we should not have to tolerate, especially since unwillingness to respond to need is revealing itself to be an economic disaster.

1-05-2007

The Rebuttal.  My former nemesis was given an opportunity to move forward, choosing to disassociate activities of the past with those now.  His response wasn't encouraging: "If you did not care about FE, I do not believe you would be driving a Prius II?  As for SMOG forming or GHG emissions, the Accord I drive daily is a Tier II - Bin2 rated PZEV."  It's was an attitude similar to years back, a little too familiar.  My reply was too...  There are vehicles that support one or the other really well, which you endorse heavily.  And that's the problem.  Improvements to BOTH emissions & efficiency at the SAME time from the SAME vehicle is something you still don't fully embrace.  Long ago, Prius proved you could get BOTH, revealing efforts to favor only one an incomplete solution.  Now we have more choices, all confirming the same thing. Camry-Hybrid is the prime example.  It is America's best selling car now available in a configuration that clearly delivers higher MPG and lower smog-related emission... at the at the SAME time.  That's why I started referring to those supposedly better choices by grade.  A vehicle with only one or the other improved can never earn an "A".  Homework incomplete.  All goals not achieved.  It's that simple.  The grade of "B" should not be acceptable when it so darn easy to get an "A" instead.  Some have called that knowledge like that inconvenient, to which I strongly agree.  Accept the reality that BOTH must be delivered.

1-04-2007

Politics, not Supply.  The situation in Iran is starting to reveal itself as some have feared.  They have a supply of high-grade oil to sustain them and their economic viability for decades still.  However, they're political environment is collapsing.  The government itself is more complicated than what we have here, and even less partisan.  Heavy oil subsidizing is spurring out-of-control growth.  Pressure is building.  The aging equipment infrastructure is crumbling.  Addressing these problems is slow, and many don't want to invest much.  In other words, estimations of oil availability are proving to have a rather noticeable disconnect from actual supply.  Factors like politics are playing a much larger role than the businesses relying on that supply expected.  More economic hardship is on the way.  I sure hope we are ready to deal with it.  Continued resistance to change is slowing progress to a crawl.  But fortunately, we are still at least moving forward.

1-04-2007

More Anti-Campaigning.  We sure are seeing a lot of "interest waning" articles about hybrids now, ever since that very misleading report a few weeks ago on the apparent drop in sales.  You know, the one that only looked at the past few months rather than the year as a whole.  Anywho, this was the closing paragraph in the latest frustrating article: "There's been a lot of publicity that hybrids don't get the mileage they're supposed to.  If you drive it out in the country all the time, you're going to be disappointed.  I think the word's getting around on that."

1-03-2007

163,269 Siennas.  That's how many Toyota sold in the United States for 2006.  Some automakers are using that as an excuse to discontinue sales of their minivans entirely.  How can they do that?  The sliding-doors and fold-away seats give minivans a distinct appeal over SUVs.  And since when isn't that enough to keep a product profitable?  Of course, looking at the big picture you see that Toyota already offers a hybrid minivan (called "Estima", available in Japan, uses HSD technology).  Honda's already offers a minivan with cylinder-deactivation.  How can the other automakers compete with Toyota & Honda continuing to push that particular market segment?  The smaller audience does provide unique opportunities, like quicker acceptance to innovative solutions.  Just think if Sienna became a hybrid-only vehicle.  Not having to produce & support the old technology anymore and having a distinct product advantage over the competition is a compelling business situation.

1-03-2007

General Market by 2018.  That was the announcement my by Honda today about their fuel-cell cars.  What the heck?  Why would anyone care?  Just about every consumer vehicle on the road today will be replaced in the meantime.  At least two generations of hybrid system will be delivered during those 11 years leading up to that.  How can this supposed news-worthy fact make any difference?  Knowing this doesn't seem to affect anything.  Where's the benefit?  Are they aware that new market segments, like plug-in hybrids, will change the industry direction before then?  2018 is a very long time from now.  Just look 11 years in the other direction.  1996 was an entirely different era in automotive history.  It's path was not made by good intentions.  Economic survival had a potent influence... of which certain automakers are now suffering from.  Predictions were far from accurate.

1-03-2007

Casting Doubt.  It's becoming more apparent each day that the tactic of "casting doubt" is being used again.  On NPR today, it was actually described as obvious.  Just like with Smoking years ago, the topic of Global Warming has some people intentionally confusing matters.  They just keep re-interjecting questionable facts to undermine, preventing closure from ever being achieved.  It's so simple.  Tell people that a consensus has not been achieved yet.  Most don't have the ability to verify if that is actually true, or even their is a statistical significance.  Sometimes, it is indeed true... but there isn't relevance to the topic at hand.  Sound familiar?  That's the same old nonsense I've been dealing with for years.  And sadly, I'm much better equipped to deal with it yet still cannot achieve closure.  They do everything in their power to prevent a conclusion from being drawn.  Arrgh!

1-03-2007

Automaker Mistakes.  Today, someone started a new thread on the big GM forum to discuss the biggest failures GM has ever made.  Hybrids was number four according to this very upset GM enthusiast, as stated this way: "Ignoring the hybrid market to concentrate on the hydrogen fuel cell tech which may or may not work out sometime in the distant future which will be too late to save GM."  Obviously, I couldn't resist chiming in with this...  I wish they had ignored the hybrid market.  Instead, they mocked it.  Do searches on "stop gap".  You'll see just how negative GM really was, speaking openly against hybrids by claiming the effort was a waste.  That's quite different than just ignoring... and now they have their own words coming back to haunt them.  Hopefully, that will translate to a sincere production effort.  It should be very obvious too.  Small quantities from such a large automaker, especially when in alliance with two others, simply isn't acceptable.  Scrambling to fill high demand, will confirm a genuine attitude change.  Of course, the catch is those hybrids actually have to be competitive.  Not offering something to compete directly with Camry-Hybrid or Prius wouldn't make any sense.  Only "full" hybrids that are SUVs isn't enough.  Diversification is a business fundamental... that shouldn't be ignored.

1-03-2007

Again with the misleading.  Dealing with those dang antagonists in the forums is one things, but when the quote under a photo on a published hybrid article reads this... "She plans to keep the car at least until the warranty expires on its large battery-pack." ...you know that not much good can be expected from the reading the detail.  And sure enough, the writer did what he could to feed misleading beliefs about hybrids.  For crying out loud.  Reports of real-world experience from battery-pack aging are very positive.  Owners are surpassing the 100,000 mile warranty limitation without any trouble.  In fact, for those in California that get the longer 150,000 mile warranty, they are sighting the same thing.  So even raising the concern (in this case, the woman lived in Michigan) was rather disingenuous.  That distance has already proven to be quite trivial, not something worthy of emphasis as the article gave it.

 

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