Prius Personal Log  #309

January 3, 2007  -  January 10, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 2/10/2007

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1-10-2007

Malibu-Hybrid.  It was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show today by the general manager of Chevy, Ed Peper.  The presentation featured the virtues of BAS, the Belt-Alternator-System... an "assist" hybrid.  People found that interesting, but knew it was just another GreenLine product.  They started asking questions about Two-Mode.  Will that type of hybrid also be available for Malibu?  He wouldn't confirm that would later be offered.  Which is suspicious, coming from an automaker that likes to tout products long before they are actually available.  It could be that GM is already beginning to feel the pressure.  Expectations seem to be that people want both options to be available for each vehicle, not just one or the other as GM intended.  Oops!  Now what are they going to do?  Being competitive means making tough choices.  For Honda, it took years before they realized the "assist" wasn't a design that could widespread.  Hopefully, GM won't take anywhere near as long.  Success of their "full" hybrid should reveal the benefit of large-scale adoption.  We'll see.

1-09-2007

Seeking Closure, part 3.  Simply asking "Is it at least SULEV rated?" and "Is there at least a 50% efficiency increase?" is all I desire.  Questions like those make the choice so incredibly clear that there is no need for any of the recent nonsense.  I'm tired of it.  Agreeing upon an acceptable smog-related-emission minimum and efficiency-improvement minimum should be a basic part of the hybrid initiative.  Give me closure.  State your purpose!  It's really hard moving on when you have no idea where the heck you are going.

1-09-2007

Seeking Closure, part 2.  The quest for significantly reduced consumption was always the other goal, besides the want for significantly reduced smog-related emissions.  Timing to push the importance of this couldn't be better.  GM is pushing their upcoming Two-Mode "full" hybrid design, along with a later option to plug-in, as well as their upcoming "serial" hybrid design.  All three heavily endorse what I've been saying all along about "assist" hybrids not being a long-term solution.  Their passive electrical system simply cannot deliver the same results... in other words, compete.  And now that Honda has actually confirmed that grim reality with respect vehicles larger than a compact, the supporters are freaking out... hence, focusing the frustration on me.  Sadly, my reputation acts as a lightening-rod for that.  Oh well.  The point is still the same.  Long-Term business sustainability will be based upon hybrids with "full" abilities.  For years I've been in favor of the Toyota and Ford design for that very reason.  And now that I have declared favor for "full" hybrid from GM as well, feathers have been ruffled.  That confirms what I have been doing for years now.  My purpose helping with the rollout of the truly capable technology.  A step forward is not enough, hence the grade analogy.  Delivering a "B" will not do.  Our dependence on oil and our struggle for cleaner air require an "A" solution... especially when you consider how painfully slow change is for automakers.

1-09-2007

Seeking Closure, part 1.  It's pretty darn easy to be objective, constructive, and impartial having well defined goals.  But those supporting technologies that don't deliver genuine improvement will fight you every step of the way, even if it means being dishonest.  And sure enough, that's what I have been dealing with.  That recommended "SULEV minimum" as the criteria for truly being cleaner than the status quo makes those supporting the new diesel systems and the latest type of "assist" hybrid absolutely furious... since their chosen technology isn't even as clean as just an ordinary traditional gas vehicle (like a Corolla, which is ULEV rated).  But since virtually all the battles had been fought off the homeland (other forums), few Prius enthusiasts cared.  They do now though.  Much of it is simply a matter of not understanding the situation.  To be clich�: they weren't seeing the whole forest.  That's why I patiently waited until an entire year after low-sulfur gas had been available nationwide before intentionally pushing to establish a standard expectation... since at this point, maintaining SULEV emission levels for the whole 120,000 duration is no big deal.  In fact, the 150,000 miles for PZEV is pretty easy to achieve as well.  So why not?  Smog is a very real problem still; it's actually growing worse.  The source of resistance stems simply from them having something to lose.  Their course of attack then is to discredit the messenger by either lying outright or unknowingly contribute to the misleading effort.  That is now happening in abundance, on the homeland.  It's rather disheartening, but an unavoidable side-effect of seeking closure.

1-08-2007

SAAB Plug-In.  Today highlighted the debut of another concept car featuring a plug.  It wasn't really a surprise.  SAAB is a division of GM.  That fact that it could run on E100 was interesting.  With so much hype about E85, you'd think this next step forward would get more attention.  Of course, support for the most practical (E20) for a new standard has been absent.  Anywho, the vehicle itself is an augmented "full" hybrid.  Unfortunately, there was no mention of anticipated availability for either it or a version without a plug.  I guess the attention is a good thing, but it doesn't make much of a difference when being able to purchase one remains just a dream.  After awhile, this scenario will resemble the "crying wolf" situation, where no one cares since it is nothing but a concept.  Please deliver something we can actually buy.

1-08-2007

Progress.  Phew!  Finally a constructive question.  I had almost lost hope.  Someone asked about "the schedule".  You know, Toyota's plan to offer a hybrid option for each of their consumer vehicles.  In 2006, Toyota introduced both Camry-Hybrid, Estima-Hybrid, and GS-450h.  They increased production of Prius and began producing Camry-Hybrid in the United States.  That sure sounds like a decent amount of progress to me.  What comes next really doesn't matter, as long as the movement forward continues at a stead pace.  I'm hoping it will be a hybrid minivan here.  Local production of Prius would be fantastic too.  And of course, sometime in 2009 there's suppose to be that second hybrid-only car.  Toyota is still hard at work... keeping the competition from slacking off.

1-07-2007

150 MPG?  Ever wonder what they mean when claiming that when discussing plug-in hybrids?  I wanted detail immediately after hearing about GM's plans with Volt.  Today, I got my wish.  Reading the specifications I found online answered a few questions...  Under ideal conditions, 60-miles of driving is what will yield the 150 MPG result.  Wind, hills, cold air, wet roads, other traffic, using the heater or A/C, driving at excessive speeds, blended fuel, passenger/cargo weight, etc. all reduce efficiency of any vehicle.  (Reduced capacity for the battery-pack in the winter has an effect on vehicles that rely heavily on electricity, as Volt will.)  For 80 miles, the ideal is 100 MPG.  When constantly charging during sustained operation, 50 MPG is listed.  So if you don't plug-in often, don't expect stellar efficiency.  In other words, how & when you use it has a profound effect on the results.  How in the world would they properly promote this type of vehicle without setting up false expectations?  I think confusion is already growing.

1-07-2007

AdBlue Update.  This was an unexpected treat.  There was a Canadian article published recently that mentioned PZEV certification (yes, the CARB standard in America) for the upcoming diesel systems using AdBlue for emission cleansing would have to comply with the same 150,000 mile duration requirement as the gas vehicles.  Yippee!  I'm so glad to hear that.  Adhering to the standard is fantastic.  I feared some type of exception might be made, since diesel is inherently so much dirtier.  But in this case, the PZEV rating label comes shining through.  Using those simple identifiers like SULEV and PZEV remain the most objective way of pointing out genuine emission improvements.

1-07-2007

Leapfrog.  What makes you think a Volt will consistently deliver higher MPG and lower emissions than an augmented Prius?  That's the only way I could think of replying, bluntly direct.  Sadly, he had no response.  The plug-in Prius currently being demonstrated sure looks like a competitive choice.  Adding $8,000 of battery (factory upgrade price) to an already robust and popular platform makes a compelling business case for automakers.  Do you have any idea what Volt will actually cost?  That question didn't get any reply either.  For that matter, what will the real-world MPG average really be?  Once you exceed that 40-mile EV range, how much does efficiency drop?  Too many questions... without any answers, or even suppositions.  It looks like I had some searching to do.  What is the real story?  Some GM supporters hope the "serial" hybrid will leapfrog the technology used in Prius.  I don't believe that is a cost-effective solution for the masses for many, many years still.

1-07-2007

Thriving Antagonism.  There's been a flood of anti-hybrid activity lately.  It's the same old stuff... battery replacement, no resale value, cannot look normal, profit not being made, etc.  Nothing new, except the audience itself.  We've heard it all before and rebutted with detail proving the claims false.  When will the madness end?  You'd think those misconceptions would be long dead now.  But with an entirely new set of consumers, we basically have to start at the beginning all over again.  The same discussions from over 6 years ago are repeating again.  Dang!  I at least have some encouragement from the fact that so much more real-world data is now available.  Perhaps that will alleviate the conflict sooner.  It better not thrive for too long.  Taking about undermining.  Apparently, no matter how many steps you make forward, you'll eventually have to take one backward too.

1-07-2007

Tribute-Hybrid.  Based upon the Escape-Hybrid, Ford will be offering a Tribute-Hybrid through their Mazda division.  It's the same practice they've been following for years now with the traditional models.  After all, why should hybrids be any different.  So the announcement yesterday from Detroit was no surprise.  Everyone was already expecting that to finally happen.

1-07-2007

Assist Hybrid Death, part 2.  Reading about Honda's recent decision has been very interesting.  When you've got a design that isn't as flexible as the competition, it makes the business realities even more difficult to deal with.  From the beginning, they claimed the simplicity of motor integration would allow for easier expansion across the product-line.  That most definitely is not turning out to be the case.  As a computer programmer, I'm well aware of that sometimes cruel aspect of product economics.  In the long-term, biting the bullet and accepting the massive burden of replacement can turn out to be far less expensive than just an upgrade.  The initial cost is very high, consuming large quantities of resources (money & time).  And the risk can be frightening.  But the reward of taking that chance is sometimes worth it.  In this case, that is proving to be true.  Choosing to only offer IMA in smaller vehicles is a harsh blow.  But that choice has been made.  There will not be a 4-cylinder Accord-Hybrid to compete with Camry-Hybrid.

1-07-2007

Assist Hybrid Death, part 1.  It certainly won't happen anytime soon.  But things are indeed happening.  That long-term perspective I've been harping about for years is now finally being acknowledged, due much to GM joining in.  So... at what point does the term "vaporware" no longer apply?  GM's first attempt won't be anywhere near as lengthy as Honda.  That's growing all too clear, especially based upon the disappointing reviews.  They continue to plague Vue-Hybrid Green-Line.  Consumer Reports is the latest.  The Vue-Hybrid Two-Mode coming later this year could overshadow it so much people won't even realize there was originally a different design available.  GM may quietly let production dwindle in favor of that much more capable model.  Obviously, I'll be hoping that happens.  The pitiful emissions rating of only LEV makes the label of "green" totally inappropriate anyway.  But now that the MPG numbers are rolling in and they look ugly, the party is over.  Let the better design have the spotlight exclusively.  Two hybrid models so different was never a good idea.  Consumers have a hard enough time already making sense of the choices available.  Figuring out how one will perform in real-world driving based on those misleading EPA estimates and considering how important the price tag is, while at the same time watching the volatile cost of gas, is simply too much.  Competition in this market will heat up.  The weak face quite a challenge.

1-06-2007

Chevy Volt, part 3.  It's a concept.  There are no plans to actually produce or offer it.  Battery limitations, primarily price, are a huge barrier that still must be overcome.  The "full" hybrids will reign the market before you see a series design like this even make it to the niche stage for that very reason.  Nonetheless, that shouldn't stop them from proceeding.  Heck, even the fuel-cell vehicles have been involved in public real-world testing for years now.  So not even bothering to build a few token vehicles for some to actually test-drive is pretty pathetic.  You'd think the public relations would at least be taken to that level.  But so far, we haven't heard squat... which is too bad, since the entire automotive world is listening.

1-06-2007

Chevy Volt, part 2.  I suppose if people acknowledge the reality that a concept vehicle rarely ever advances beyond being just a publicity tool, there's not much harm done.  After all, automotive history is loaded with publicity models that never actually make it to production.  But it is still rather annoying hearing people say stuff like they'll wait for a fuel-cell vehicle rather than considering a hybrid.  It's evidence that crucial details are lost in the dazzle of showing off for the press.  In this particular case, the series hybrid sounds great... until that note about no batteries actually being available is read.  It's a vital component that's missing, making mass-production unrealistic anytime soon.

1-06-2007

Chevy Volt, part 1.  GM officially announced this "new" type of hybrid today.  It's a series design, which technically has been around for ages.  But this is kind of a first with respect to a specific vehicle platform (frame, body, configuration, etc.) being built to support it.  Rather than an engine sharing in the provision of thrust, all comes from the motors.  The only purpose of the engine (besides heat) is to generate electricity.  In other words, the operation is very much like a modern diesel-electric train, but with a substantial battery reserve.  So to the surprise of many in the industry, the rumors actually were true.

 

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