Prius Personal Log #348
September 12, 2007 - September 20, 2007
Last Updated: Sat. 9/22/2007
page #347 page #349 BOOK INDEX
One Speed Transmission. Questions about Two-Mode came up
on the big Prius forum. I was quite curious how that would turn out.
It ended up being much more civil that those on the big GM forum would lead you
to believe. I wonder how much this contribution I provided to the thread
Some of the discussions turn pointless debates with the greatest of ease. Sticking to the real-world data really ticks some enthusiasts off, but it is the
obvious best approach. So semantic issues like "speed" and "mode" don't hold
MPG, PRICE, and SALES are what ultimately matter. That's genuine merit earned.
Stating Goals, part 10. Another thing those new to the business of hybrids need to know is how crazy the monetary discussions will become once sales begin. The price paid and real-world MPG will overwhelm threads, making the big picture extremely difficult to see. It's quite an unfortunate step backward that will occur due to the lack awareness. That thread made it overwhelmingly clear. Way too much assuming takes place. They jump to conclusions without having a good understanding how the market responds to things. Studying hybrid history is very important. Stating goals is basically like providing a hypothesis. Making a well-educated prediction is quite different from the passionate cheerleading I've been tolerating. How long will it take those economic realities to finally be realized? Seeing that abrupt change in discussions should be a wake up call.
Stating Goals, part 9.
The Two-Mode supporters here didn't realize there was a dependency relationship
with the battery supplier. That explains the impracticable responses.
Deep down I was hoping we'd undercover a fundamental misunderstanding.
(Perhaps discussions can finally be constructive!)
Ford, Honda, and Toyota have all been tied to third-party contracts for
batteries, only able to offer a fixed number of hybrids as a result. It
simply didn't make any sense that GM wouldn't be in the same situation.
That's why when I asked for a goal to be stated, it shouldn't have been a big
deal. The automaker doesn't have the option of quickly responding to
demand change. It's a harsh economic reality those that studied hybrid
history would already be aware of. Now those new to the business of
hybrids are too.
Stating Goals, part 8. So, what is the goal for E-Flex? We are once again going in circles. Focus got changed and the same question remains. What are we to expect? The intent should be stated... but still none. Waiting for the unknown inspires little hope. Will GM supporters be content traditional vehicles until... when? How will success (progress) be measured?
Stating Goals, part 7. Nope, it fell apart surprisingly quick. The response was: "Two-Mode is not going to widely used...ever." I guess that declaration pretty much negates the mainstream hope and invites niche status. Makes me wonder how the press is going to react. Anywho, an expectation was provided too: "E-Flex will be more widely used, and it will be that "all out" effort you are looking for." So I posted... You support the "niche" category for Two-Mode. Ok. Effort will be on the "series" hybrid instead. But what does "all out" actually mean? How many after how many years? What percentage of overall production? Isn't the point to move away from 20th Century technology? If so, what will the replacement be?
Stating Goals, part 6. How about that! The push for constructive comment offered a glimmer of hope. Someone asked why the push. That's progress, though barely. But I took it. Here was the response... How many times has an automaker come to the conclusion that their was too little demand to continue or even start production? After 7 years and over 144,000 miles of driving a hybrid, how would you expect me to react? The technology obviously works. Why the must we tolerate a minimal amount? A tiny percentage of overall production is just a token gesture. We want serious commitment. Where is it? A true hybrid fan wants the majority of vehicles to use the technology... and apparently I'm the only one here because no one else is pushing for more. Status quo is unacceptable. Genuine competition is a must.
Stating Goals, part 5. With all the experience that automaker (GM) already has from Two-Mode being available on the commercial-scale for buses since 2003, you'd think this debut of the consumer version would be at least somewhat competitive. Hybrid volume from Toyota is already over 30 times greater. So it isn't absurd to expect more. Remember all the arguments about Prius sales compared to the 16.7 million new vehicle annual market here in the United States? Stating a goal that will actually make a difference should be considered sensible. It's not unreasonable for hybrids capture a majority over time, right? After all, oil is now over $82 per barrel. The need should be obvious. 10,000 is the slowest possible start I can imagine. What should are expectation be?
Stating Goals, part 4. Betting on a horse after the race has begun isn't allowed, since it's unfair. The same is true for changing rules after game play has begun. Yet, those particular Two-Mode supporters are taking that inappropriate action to a whole new level... by declaring a winner already. All the "superior" claims most definitely put them in the smug category, since sales haven't even started. So this attempt to get them to try to be objective is a genuine effort to get lurkers to take them seriously. Because right now, forget it. Stating goals will provide that turn around. Knowing what's realistic for an expectation is not unreasonable. But they still refuse to contribute.
Stating Goals, part 3. A day later, still nothing. So... How will "success" be judged? If only 10,000 are going to be produced initially, is that a lot? People have been trying to discredit Prius for years because only 60,000 of the new model were initially being sold here annually. The older model was limited to 20,000 and fierce arguments about "niche" status ensued as a result. It wasn't until recently when the 150,000 rate was achieved that serious acceptance of "mainstream" status occurred. Again, what is the goal? History has already labeled 10,000 as too few. Are the supporters of Two-Mode going to label that same outcome for their preferred technology differently? Knowing what the expectation is before sales begin is the key, as we have already seen in the past.
Stating Goals, part 2. The next morning, nothing
Setting annual sales expectations has been the norm for ages. You judge results
on whether or not that target was met. But no one here has been willing to even
propose a generic platform benchmark without a timeline. Nothing.
That means interpretation afterward is an invitation for spin, since no basis of
measure was established beforehand. Genuine change doesn't come from be
unwilling to take a chance. To reach beyond just the immediate cheering
audience, you actually have to accept some risk.
Study hybrid history so far. Specific annual sales goals of 60,000 Prius here
and 300,000 hybrid worldwide were set and clearly achieved by the stated date. That's basic economics, not rocket science. Now the bar has been raised. The
short-term (this year) 150,000 Prius sales goal here will easily be met and the
long-term (within 5 years) 1,000,000 worldwide is well on its way.
At least with the Volt enthusiasts, we get a vague 60,000. But from Two-Mode
supporters, just mocking. So much for taking the effort to make a difference
Stating Goals, part 1. Being clear about intent is vital,
yet some still refuse to. Here's my last effort to raise awareness for Two-Mode
supporters, providing one last opportunity
for someone to finally speak out before sales begin...
The subjective measure of "better" gets thrown around a lot around here
and the effort to avoid quoting any actual number has become quite obvious. Taking discussions seriously is difficult with such lack of devotedness. Without
setting a goal, it's basically pointless.
Vehicles [specifically SUVs] as large & powerful as Tahoe simply won't sell in the same volume as a
family sedan or hatchback anyway. So you really need to say what the expectation
for the hybrid ahead of time. It's easy to prevent spin when you are extremely
clear about intent beforehand.
Facing A Problem. It's like that Opel Flextreme concept vehicle has disappeared from existence. The fact that it looks so similar to Prius must be a devastating reality. Of course, most of the Prius enthusiasts have known for many years that any other extremely aerodynamic hatchback with a second row of seats would share the resemblance. So, we aren't surprised in the least that Volt enthusiasts are now facing a problem. What do they truly support, the vehicle or the technology? I hear claims that it is the technology, but have yet to find even a single example of wanting it in an vehicle body other than Volt's. Imagine Malibu available as a "series" hybrid. That's not the slightest bit unrealistic. The very same thought was posed years ago about Camry being available as a "full" hybrid. Now it is, and the success of the platform extends well beyond the debut vehicle. They have a very real problem to deal with. What will their choice be?
Advertising Volt. It's still 3 years away, how is a person suppose to interpret seeing television, magazine, and banner advertisements for it already? The enthusiasts have very opposing opinions. Some love it. Some hate it. The expectation being built up is intense. GM is setting themselves up for a either a huge success or a huge failure. There won't be any in-between with so much time before delivery. Of course the problem of price still isn't being addressed directly, only vague mention with a "wait & see" attitude. Not targeting it to share a similar base as the popular midsize sedans is a big mistake from my experience. After all, that is what Volt will be competing against. Whatever the case, advertising green solutions has clearly become good publicity.
Liquid Cooling. That's what both the upcoming electric-only Tesla will use and it's already what Escape-Hybrid uses. Keeping the battery-pack from getting hot is a very big deal, since that's what helps ensure its long life. Toyota found a way of doing that without liquid cooling. Ford basically had no choice but to provide it (even without offering electric A/C), since the D-Cell inherently has thermal issues compared to the modular designs. As for Tesla, the engineers have flexibility since the extra cost wasn't a concern. Volt won't have that luxury though, but such heavy dependence on the battery-pack requires something. What does GM have planned?
Biodiesel Problems. I haven't mentioned diesel for quite awhile. Enough in general had been said already. But now, there's a specific update to point out. The city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain had been using B20 (that's a 20-percent biodiesel blend) for most of their bus fleet starting in 2005. That caused engine problems... just like we saw here in Minnesota. So they switched to B12 instead. The very same problems continued to plague them, even in new buses purchased in 2006. Now they are downgrading again, to just B5. I wonder what the outcome will be. Hmm? Biodiesel is inherently problematic due to the fatty substance from its vegetable source, having the potential to clog lines & filters. Ethanol is precisely the opposite. The fermentation process creates an alcohol, which is corrosive. In other words, blends of ethanol will clean out lines & filters.
Assist Status. Have you noticed how references to hybrids don't include "assist" anymore? All this recent attention given to electric-only propulsion has pushed them out of the spotlight entirely. Sales aren't making much of a difference anyway. I wonder what the business strategy will be for them going forward. Hmm? Honda seems to be refocusing on specialization for IMA, rather than rolling it out as a fleet-wide option like a transmission choice. GM hasn't seen any real success with BAS, especially since there are people like me who continue to point out the very disappointing emission rating. Directing funds elsewhere makes sense. Too much diversification can be a bad thing, hence the cliché: Spreading yourself too thin. So I think this new status a step in the right direction.
First To Market. Today came a reminder that first to
market doesn't necessarily mean much. It came in the form of an article
describing Insight, its introduction, and the quick fade to obscurity that
followed. Better packaging of Prius was the primary reason given.
How do you think Volt will compete? The only model expected is a sedan
with 5 less inches in back for seating than the current Prius. That's
different enough. But the whole plug requirement (for touted efficiency)
puts it in a unique category. Even the plug-in "full" hybrids won't stand
out in consumer choice that much. So I'm curious as heck what a
retrospective article like the one today will say about the debut of the
"series" hybrid later.
Progress. There is some aspect of hope coming from our government. No, not the federal level. They've been counter-productive or status-quo for years, depending upon the particular emission or efficiency problem. It's the individual states. More and more of them are challenging the powers that be. They want to establish their own standards for greenhouse gas emissions... which translates directly to MPG improvement. Today, it was Vermont winning the challenge. Automaker claims that their 30-percent by 2016 reduction requirement wasn't possible got rejected. Knowing the success of Prius wrecks the argument that it is unrealistic. Yeah!
Plug-In Vue-Hybrid. Unexpectedly today, we got a new details about this forthcoming hybrid. Now they're saying 2009'ish, which isn't a surprise to anyone. What's new is hearing that the hybrid using the Two-Mode system will offer an electric-only "10-mile" range. With all the hype about "40-mile" for Volt and the negative banter that came from supporters about the plug-in Prius prototype being road-tested, how will the news of this be received? I bet it will drive the wedge between "series" and "full" hybrids even deeper. The degree of dependency on a plug is the key operational difference, but obviously price is going to be the most noticed. The reduced expense from not using as large of a battery-pack will end up influencing market penetration rather significantly. Things are definitely getting interesting now.