Prius Personal Log  #332

May 31, 2007  -  June 4, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 6/09/2007

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6-04-2007

More Fun Per Gallon.  Speaking of dealing with change.  Ford is having trouble.  Their latest television commercials put down sedans in favor of the SUV.  Their slogans are "More Fun Per Gallon" and "The excitement of a SUV".  I'm very disappointed.  True, it's Escape now.  In the past, focus was on their monster-size SUVs instead.  But emphasizing the smaller one to encourage you to drive it instead of a car for "better fuel economy" is just plain wrong.  What makes it exciting anyway?  For driving enthusiasts, that is usually means either speed, the roar of an engine, or a manual transmission.  But since the commercial draws attention to the hybrid model of Escape, those qualities don't apply.  When will the obsession with trucks end.  Everyone knows those SUVs aren't being used that way (design capability overkill).  They are used as cars instead.  Why can't the family car once again be an actual car?

6-04-2007

Knowing Your Audience.  At least he admitted to not having any idea what the heck I was talking about.  No wonder the success of Prius is not well understood.  It also explains how I get accused of being condescending from time to time.  That's almost impossible to avoid with such a difference in market awareness.  It's that "need verses want" issue again.  Not knowing the difference lead to confusion.  As self-proclaimed experts (very active enthusiasts), they should, since speak out for the masses.  Knowing who you represent and what their needs truly are is the source of trouble.  The satisfaction which comes from the cleaner emissions used to be labeled as "smug".  But now that the topic growing rapidly in popularity, they're are at a complete loss.  It's an unfamiliar topic.  They had assumed not much consideration should be given.  Now that is proving to be a crippling judgment.  The next step is tough.  Dealing with change is difficult.  Some will no doubt find it frustrating.  I hope my efforts are helpful.

6-03-2007

Consider Purpose.  With the exception of Highlander being used to squash the power misconceptions, Toyota stuck to the plan pretty well.  Power for the hatchback (Prius), sedan (Camry), and minivan (Estima) were all around class average.  Emission ratings were at least SULEV.  Engines were a modest sized 4-cylinder.  Pricing, with the exception of Highlander again (but you know how odd the SUV market is anyway), has been fairly competitive.  Those business choices have proven quite wise.  As a result, the expectation is to be getting a hybrid minivan (the new Sienna) here next year.  And of course, the luxury line of hybrid from Lexus continues to do well.  So what will draw consumers to the GM hybrids?  Currently, their emphasis on price savings isn't working for the "assist" hybrid.  Paying more to get higher efficiency and cleaner emissions is drawing some to Toyota instead.  What will the choices available from GM be in a few years?  What will be their hybrid's purpose?

6-03-2007

Starting Over.  Backing all the way up to the asking purpose is the best approach at this point.  Since all the other options have been exhausted already, why not?  The perfect segway to that came in the form of history repeating itself, from a "modular design" comment I couldn't resist responding to...  Those words have a chilling echo.  Honda supporters sang the same song many years ago.  Ease of installation was supposedly their major advantage too.   Turns out that other aspects of the business weighed in much heavier.  Now they are shying away from the very technology they once looked forward to spreading.  But rather than ask you what's different for GM; instead, I would like to know what you think the improvement criteria should be.  Price, Efficiency, Emissions, and Power all influence what technology is the most appropriate business choice.  There is a happy balance.  Too much of one requires some sacrifice of another.  Discontinued hybrids are proof of that.  Tell me some numbers.  What will GM's formula for success be?

6-03-2007

Final Thoughts.  This is what I posted on the big GM forum, remembering that "as soon as 2010" quote from them less than a month ago...  When can we buy them?  That's the primary concern.  In other words... less talk, more action.  Haven't you noticed that I'm not concerned about the engineering?  Their design will work just fine.  It's the timing I have problems with.  Prius will soon be celebrating it's 10th birthday.  At it's debut, the PNGV automakers (which included GM) had already been working on advanced technology efficiency improvements for 4 years.  How much longer must we wait?

6-03-2007

Disappointed.  I knew getting an automaker obsessed with trucks to deliver a major efficiency advancement for a car in a timely way would be a miracle.  So being disappointed after finding out that nothing is coming for years still was, sadly, something I had anticipated as a possible outcome.  Their planned approach leaves them with a competitive disadvantage in the meantime.  And then later, consumers without access to a plug simply won't be interested anyway.  But then again, the claims that their concept "series" hybrid could deliver 50 MPG with the engine alone while also busy recharging makes you wonder.  Why wait then?  Why not just produce that vehicle now using the NiMH battery-pack already available with their "assist" hybrid?  Why the delay for something lithium based?  Would the much shorter electric range even matter when the engine efficiency is so high in the first place?  50 MPG is great!  It doesn't add up... unless it's the fact that a car with MPG like that would draw too much attention away from their hybrid trucks. 

6-02-2007

What Now?  Do I just give up?  Hope for "full" hybrid sedans from GM is lost.  Toyota & Ford will produce them.  It now sure looks like no one else will though.  It's going to be weird basically not having any competition for the next few years.  Volt should be pretty impressive once it finally becomes available.  But the fact that "full" hybrids will also be taking advantage of the same battery advancement to offer a configuration with a plug too should make things very interesting.  Will those plug-ins be what the "series" competes with or will it be just the regular "full" hybrid instead?  And how the heck will they actually compete?  The EPA doesn't have any method of providing efficiency estimates for that type of propulsion system.  Oh well.  At least these personal logs will document the uncertainty of not having any idea what will happen next or what the market will end up demanding.  They are written as the history is unfolding, not a retrospective afterward.

6-02-2007

The Plans.  Even though the big GM forum proved fruitless, the internet in general didn't.  A video shared on You Tube featuring Volt chief engineer Nick Zielinski provided some answers.  I was quite happy with that find... and not at all surprised by what I heard, based on tidbits of information that had already been available.  The video stated the E-Flex platform (specifically a "series" configuration) is their choice for compact and intermediate-size vehicles.  Two-Mode is only planned for the really large vehicles.  I had a feeling that those were their intentions.  It confirms the filler technology currently being rolled out, their "assist" hybrid design.  We are definitely going to have to wait for something competitive with respect to emissions, efficiency, and price.  But when that will become available in large volumes on variety of different vehicles is anyone's guess.  All that is known for sure is that it won't be anytime soon.  That's still many years away.  So I'm pleased by the objectives set, but won't be happy until something this actually delivered.  Talk is great, but not enough... and we have already been waiting almost 10 years.  Remember what happened back in October 1997?  Anywho, my favorite quote was "electrification of the vehicle is critical".  Well, it's about time!  That attitude turnaround is long overdue.

6-02-2007

Inevitable Upset.  Naturally, more attempts to further draw attention away was the response.  A few were clearly upset.  It was inevitable.  The growing divide between those hoping for a "series" hybrid solution alone and those in support of Two-Mode is becoming more pronounced.  Could you imagine having to wait for a platform that relies so heavily on plugging in to become widely available?  Consider the worldwide market.  It simply doesn't make any sense.  That will be a fantastic special segment of vehicle, but not something for the masses... nothing even remotely close to the 60 million new vehicles sold each year.  The best solution from an engineering or prestige perspective doesn't necessarily translate to a good choice for business.  Just look at SUV history for examples of a short-term mindset disaster.  We already need a solution to high gas prices.  The "full" hybrid establishes that path to future advances while at the same time providing a pleasing platform for today too.  Their success is quite sensible.  What's the benefit of waiting for something else instead?

6-02-2007

Downplaying "Full" Hybrids.  The resistance coming exclusively from certain supporters is growing.  Today it was downplaying the upcoming new models of Prius.  Their drivetrain won't be all electric, so supposedly that's a bad thing.  Here's my response, which I know will upset them...  That "interval improvement" equates to a reduced price and an increase in efficiency, as well as continuing to spread the technology across the entire fleet of vehicles.  And with the current Prius selling at the incredible rate of 24,000 last month, how exactly is the "series" hybrid going to be better?  The growing number of posts against "full" hybrids, including Two-Mode, has become quite a point of intrigue.  Those wanting Volt as a spotlight vehicle are failing to look at the big picture.  What vehicle size & model choices will available?  How many will be produced?  What about the effect temperature has on battery use & capacity?  In other words, even with a victory from Volt, that's still only a winning single battle.  The war itself is replacing a large majority of traditional vehicles, not delivering a just one trophy.  Volt alone is not enough.  The "full" hybrid design offers much greater potential for extremely widespread market penetration.

6-02-2007

24,009 Sold in May.  I couldn't believe it.  The Prius enthusiasts were well aware of how Toyota has been preparing for much higher volume sales, but that official number published for sales in the United States is fantastic!  Any original claim that inventory clearance was the reason for Toyota's increase in advertising has been totally debunked.  The reporters & antagonists have abruptly grown silent.  All doubt about sales intentions have been completely squashed.  It's great!  Seeing the quantity nearly triple from what it was the same month last year is quite a thrill.  The technology has obviously overcome most of the misconceptions.  So many casting their vote of confidence with their purses & wallets is truly redeeming.  Yeah!

6-02-2007

From MHz to MPG.  Have you noticed how the once dominant form of performance measure for computers is no longer any sense of draw anymore?  That "MHz" value used to mean everything.  The equipment configuration was based upon that number.  Higher was the dependent factor for sales.  The grade of components were scaled from it.  That's not the case anymore.  The speed of the processor is just a one-of-many criteria now.  In fact, the "MHz" value itself isn't even reported directly now.  In other words, the performance ceiling was reached a number of years ago.  The same is true for 0-60 acceleration rates for vehicles.  People simply don't place much focus on them anymore.  Even a basic family sedan exceeds the standards of a decade ago.  The attention placed on MPG is slipping now too.  The traditional cars deliver a fairly ubiquitous platform.  The "full" hybrids are breaking the pattern of the past.  Beside the higher efficiency, they offer a variety of upscale features not found in their traditional counterparts in addition to the cleaner emission rating.  Things have changed.  MPG alone is clearly not the measure of merit anymore.  A high MPG value often meant it was a cheap economy vehicle.  That no longer is the case.

6-01-2007

From Drilling to Ethanol.  It is interesting how the "why bother conserving" resistance has switched from just drilling for more oil to dramatically increased production of ethanol.  There is still no real effort being lead to use less fuel in the first place.  The underlining message continues to be "keep consuming" and that's exactly what people are doing.  We hear talk of plug-in hybrids, but no promotion for regular hybrids.  You'd think GM & Ford would get an endorsement for what they are planning to deliver soon.  Instead, all we get is mention of on-going research.  We want something to actually buy, not a feel good attitude for an idea that could be many, many years away still.  How's that suppose to help the people suffering already?  A shift from oil to corn as a source for fuel doesn't reduce operating expenses (pain at the pump) in any way.  It only changes the problem.  That's not actually a solution.

6-01-2007

Presidential Undermining.  If you thought I had an attitude, take a gander at the many negative articles published today.  Whoa!  Lots of people are very upset by what Bush said yesterday.  I was definitely not alone.  These quotes were from just one example...  "delay tactic" ... "classic spoiler" ... "transparent attempt to derail".  In other words, the growing expectation is that he doesn't want to hear what the other nations have to say.  Instead, he's going to suggest options of his own.  It's being treated as if this is a brand new topic to be discussed, as if none of the past efforts never occurred.  To those that weren't paying attention, they may actually believe him.  But to those of us who have been begging for regulations for years, each of his prior refusals still sting.  We're not going to forget that resistance he fought back when voters didn't consider carbon emissions an issue.  But now that they are concerned, he suddenly cares.  Well great, forgive & forget.  Right?  That would be fine if legislation was quick.  However, that's not the case... hence him treating this as if it was brand new.  We won't be getting any regulation agreement for 18 months.  They need to "study" the topic first.  What the heck has his administration been doing for that last 6 years!  What kind of research were all those refusals based on?

5-31-2007

Intense Skepticism.  That's putting it lightly.  President Bush made an announcement today providing an overview of what he felt he could contribute to the "climate change" concerned being addressed at the G8 conference in Germany next week.  That's where leaders of the top 8 industrialized nations meet to discuss actions to be taken about global issues.  Concern about carbon emissions is growing rapidly.  For the past 6 years, the Bush administration has been counter-productive.  Rather than committing to a reduction level, they've argued that the government shouldn't get involved and abandoned all efforts... including Kyoto.  The official response has been "Let the market decide."  Apparently, innovation never results from the need to comply.  Since when?  Needless to say, many were unhappy hearing what he said today.

 

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