Prius Personal Log #343
August 14, 2007 - August 20, 2007
Last Updated: Sun. 8/26/2007
page #342 page #344 BOOK INDEX
Incorrect Info. Now things are getting interesting. The creation of a new thread today on the big GM forum opened with this: "Since I am SICK of all the incorrect info about Two-Mode..." That was followed by a complete scan of a German pamphlet about Two-Mode with English translations included. In other words, it appeared to be a genuinely sincere effort to help clarify. A better understanding of how the hybrid actually works is helpful to all. But do you think questions that follow will be answered too? The brevity of the post message and the emphasis on the word "sick" made me wonder. So, I started out with this note of encouragement to find out... Just wait, those intentionally attempting to mislead haven't joined in yet. So far, it's only been those sincerely trying to understand but are confused by the numerous new concepts. I've been dealing with incorrect info for 7 years already. It's quite frustrating. The therapeutic response I've taken is to compose illustrated documents that explain how the hybrid system actually works. Good luck.
Ignoring Emissions. It's the same old drivel we've heard in the past... new technologies are promoted based on a single factor, like MPG alone. That's very frustrating. Concept vehicles offering significant efficiency improvements only are not worthy of such praise. Emissions are important too. What comes out of the tailpipe and how the electricity is supplied simply isn't getting any attention. That's wrong. I want to see mention of the emission rating. Including that in the list of things we should consider would be a great improvement. That would give some credibility to the hybrid hype currently being published. Because without that, it's basically just propaganda pushing a product not actually earning the credit it was given.
Sales Numbers. Well, what do you know! GM is now publishing sales numbers specifically for BAS. I wasn't expecting that. I figured they'd would be the same as Honda, where monthly statistics were never divided between traditional & hybrid. Getting only a sum of the two is worthless. So getting specific counts is great. And for July, we actually did. There were 177 Vue-Hybrid purchased and 133 Aura-Hybrid. Those are obviously extremely disappointing amounts. But that type of disclosure does earn credibility for the automaker. Hopefully, it's an indication that consumers are waiting for the better hybrids instead. They're worth it.
Discussion Observations. The GM enthusiasts certainly provide entertaining reading. There are actually a small number of them who attempt to make the discussions worthwhile, but that effort immediately gets mocked & dismissed. It boils down to being too vague and not understanding how the various hybrid types & configurations actually work. Those design differences are simply too confusing to easily explain within the context of a brief message post. It's a shortcoming of the forum structure. A great example of the problem came today from the repeated claim that Two-Mode was "less complex" than HSD. Even the simplest of diagrams confirm that isn't true. But how would a typical forum member provide that information? The scariest example today was this: "They should make the BAS system standard on all 4-cylinder cars if they can do it without raising the price as compared to a regular 4-cylinder." That doesn't make any sense at all. Upgrading the alternator and adding a battery-pack most definitely raises the price. Why is that so difficult for them to figure out? Needless to say, I don't have high hopes for a quick epiphany. Change will take quite a bit of time still.
63 F Degrees. That was the daytime high temperature this weekend. Too cold for August is putting it mildly. What the heck happened to the Summer? It's gone already! Fortunately, the weather hasn't actually affected efficiency much. Here in Minnesota, that's still quite pleasant compared to what will come a few months from now. So I can hardly complain. But then again, there isn't much to complain about in January... other than it is basically impossible to keep the Prius clean then. Winter performance is fantastic, especially when it comes to starting the engine after sitting in the frigid climate for hours. But there's no need to rush. I can wait for that. Being able to Rollerblade outside is my priority now.
Hydrogen Fantasy. Ever wonder what happened? With all the anti-hybrid propaganda we had to endure years ago, you wouldn't have expected it to fade away almost entirely already. But that's exactly what's happening... before any delivery date arrived. I believe it's the outcome of ethanol & biodiesel rollout that has lead to the growing silence. If neither of them (which have both been around for quite awhile now) have shown mainstream success nationwide, how in the world would hydrogen do better? Remember, it has to be pure. Blending isn't an option like the other two. It has to be affordable and conveniently available too. We'll still get the platform itself, a "series" hybrid. But a combustion engine will be substituted for the fuel-cell and there will be much more emphasis on battery use. In other words, hydrogen is a whole lot further away than what they were convincing us to hope for. It's one of those fantasies that has the potential of becoming reality, but will take waaaaay longer than what anyone wanted.
Nothing Left. It looks like I've milked the other forums for all their worth. There doesn't appear to be any constructive information left anymore. Too much speculation without supportive data makes being objective pretty much hopeless. Waiting to hear about real-world experiences is what remains. That's going to take awhile. In the meantime, there are some that sincerely believe a battery break-thru is near. Wouldn't that be amazing! Someday, the miracle solution will happen... where price, power, size, weight, durability, and safety criteria are all met. In the near future, that's not realistic. We can hope though. Bet don't bet the farm on it. The pursuit of the perfect chemistry has been going on for decades already. Patience. Current discussions about technologies that won't be available for awhile border on greenwashing... which I don't want any part of. There's too much troll & flame activity with that anyway.
GM's Surprise, part 4. The problem should be obvious. Those enthusiasts don't find the ubiquitous family car exciting. They want something big & powerful to stand out, not anything that could potentially be labeled as ordinary. And as we all know, that most certainly isn't Camry or Fusion or Malibu or Aura... See the point? The article put it best: "What a better way to assuage SUV guilt?" Some will use the new technology as excuse to continue using a vehicle not being used for the purpose it was designed. Driving a large SUV on your commute to work is absurd. That's what those family cars are for. Practical isn't sexy, but it sure is a whole lot more affordable. Having a requirement of price in the low 20's shouldn't be a surprise. Why do some continue to refuse acknowledging what the market actually needs?
GM's Surprise, part 3. My post resulted in this rather brash comment: "In 2010 you will have the Volt which is better than an Hybrid." Thankfully, what followed was an attempt to acknowledge market need. But it wasn't constructive. Maybe this will invoke that... During my 7 years of online discussions about hybrids, I've observed price as being the foremost purchase factor. The typical joe-consumer only wants to pay a small premium for a hybrid above what they already pay for a traditional vehicle. That's where the bulk of the market is. Volt does not fit into that category. It is simply too expensive in the configuration proposed. A target price of low 20's is a reality some enthusiasts just don't want to face. True, GM could scale back battery dependence, relying more on the engine and still deliver greatly improved efficiency. But that would be totally counter to the current promotion of electric-only range. It would lower the price to meet that target though. The full-hybrid, like Two-Mode, can easily get by on a small battery: the most expensive component. Being affordable is a really big deal for the vehicle to be able to sell in large quantities. Again, this is an economic issue, not engineering. So what is considered "better" won't be something those interested in the highest MPG and those interested in mass penetration will agree upon.
GM's Surprise, part 2. This was the response I chose to
chime in about: "Actually, it's smart of GM to sell the SUVs with the
hybrids systems first..." Notice how the enthusiasts never look
beyond the debut? Too bad, I'm going to start forcing this to finally
consider the big picture. Success of Two-Mode in large guzzlers should
lead to rollout in more practical-sized vehicles too. Here's my input to
that comment above...
Ok. That's fine, now in 2007. But what about 2010?
There is growing market for a car priced in the low 20's that delivers around 50
MPG, especially when you look outside the United States. What will those
consumers be offered?
GM's Surprise, part 1. Was it? For me, no. A new review of Two-Mode was published this evening. Opinions were mixed. The technology itself was labeled as having the potential to be a "game changer". I most certainly agree with that. But what the outcome actually will be remains a big question. Sadly, the writer didn't have a clue how the hybrid system worked. His description of motor & engine relation were quite incorrect. Closing the article was a comment how GM doesn't plan to deploy Two-Mode into any sedans, just SUVs and trucks. Needless to say, there were lots of responses to that.
Flamers! I discovered that internet term today. It's what online dwellers call those that intentionally stir discussion trouble. They are basically bullies, preying on those that can easily be made into victims. Being an outspoken Toyota hybrid owner passively participating on a GM forums paints a rather large target on me. Excitement comes from them getting people to respond to their flame bait. It's like the polar opposite of a troll, where they are on the side of the majority. Their posts are carefully constructed to provoke you into taking a stance that pushes you into the minority, causing you to unintentionally single yourself out. Avoiding those traps are difficult. The thrill they get from catching you is a delight to them. They crave it. But unlike trolls, they are not outsiders. So dealing with them is next to impossible, especially since some are extremely active message posters. Whatever the case, I am pleased that identification of this newer type of online troublemaker exists. That will make it harder for them to conceal their activities, knowing the behavior pattern.
Understanding Need. It's really hard sometimes to tell
from some what their intent really is. So when I come across a question
like this, determining whether it is just a setup or actually sincere is a
challenge: "Why so negative about the Volt?" Hopefully,
starting my response with as blunt of an answer as possible make the point
painfully clear. Here's my attempt... COST!
Prototypes of "series" hybrids have been around for decades. None ever
progressed beyond just an engineering dream simply due to the battery cost being
so prohibitive. This isn't rocket science, it's economics.
The "full" hybrid (aka: parallel) advanced to a mainstream vehicle because it
can get by with a much smaller battery. That dramatic reduction of price for the
consumer makes a dramatic difference.
At some point, an affordable threshold will be reached. But with a projected
debut price of $30,000 plus battery rental, Volt won't be the solution to our
emission & consumption problems for quite awhile still.
Only Some Symptoms. The ridiculous argument of smog
or carbon emissions makes me crazy. Why must we chose between one
or the other? I want both types of emission to be reduced.
It's an easy idea to prove absurd too, just use the analogy of a doctor not
treating all of your problems. You're brought into the hospital after
experiencing an accident. They stop your bleeding. Then you are
released. The fact that you also have broken bones isn't their concern.
Losing blood was a major problem, which they fixed. Considering that
enough is what they are attempting... just like the automakers. Also
fixing the other problem requires more resources. They don't want to
bother. You'll just have to accept the choice they made for you.
Treating only some symptoms isn't a proper solution. It's totally
inappropriate to pretend a need doesn't exist. Life is complicated.
That means the steps you must take won't always be simple.
Renting the Battery. What a truly bizarre concept. Yet, that is what GM has suggested doing for Volt to get the "consumer cost" down to under $30,000. The devil is most definitely in the details with this situation. What happens if you miss a rent payment? Will the rent ever increase? How would you go about selling the car later? Under what circumstances would battery replacement occur? And most importantly, how would this business-model earn a profit for the automaker? It sounds fishy, like those "free" computers people used to get tricked into by making an internet service commitment.
Strange Sign of Hope. When they attempt the same old deceptive tricks with a new audience, it's a strange sign of hope. The antagonists have run out of ideas. So to cause trouble, repetition is all that's available. Fortunately, posts like that are easy to detect and fewer are mislead nowadays. Today, it was clean with no regard to efficiency. Remember that same nonsense 4 years ago? Anywho, it was a lame attempt to brand PZEV traditional vehicles as an option environmentally minded people should endorse. I sounded off my lack of acceptance and disapproval with this: Better for the environment doesn't mean being selective, which that very misleading previous post attempted... but failed. PZEV rating = smog reduction. MPG improved = carbon reduction. In other words, whatever the new technology is *BOTH* criteria must be satisfied to be a valid solution.
Winning The Race. The Volt enthusiasts certainly keep
pushing the propaganda. This was the quote that most captured my
attention: "GM could win this race after all." The context
presented a sincere tone, but there simply wasn't anything to actually support
it. Makes you wonder what the next few years of promotion-without-product
will bring. This is how I sounded off:
Which one... to claim the title of highest MPG or to sell more hybrids? There's
a huge difference (as proven by Insight).
Comparing a plug-in Prius to Volt should be interesting, since prices could be
similar. Real-World MPG is what will likely drive consumer interest, though
interior-space & reputation will obviously be influences. Advertised MPG will
pretty much be worthless. Factors like heater use and driving beyond the charge
range will skew efficiency so much that it cannot be realistically estimated.
Comparing Volt to the non-plug Prius is absurd. Yet, some are trying anyway. With such a drastic price difference (roughly $9,000 expected) and the fact that
plug access & frequency will play a big role, the appeal obviously won't be the
In other words, this is a multi-tiered race.