Prius Personal Log #352
October 17, 2007 - October 24, 2007
Last Updated: Thurs. 11/15/2007
page #351 page #353 BOOK INDEX
Avoiding Hype, assuming design. Clearly, the majority of
consumers have no idea how a hybrid actually works... hence so much hype.
Just ask them for details about an automatic transmission. Even the
concept itself remains a mystery, despite being around for decades. So
expecting much different for hybrids simply isn't realistic. Knowing that,
finding out that a majority of the "series" hybrid enthusiasts are making
incorrect assumptions about the design of "full" hybrids shouldn't be a
surprise... to anyone except themselves. Pointing out errors currently
leaves them dumbfounded. I wonder how long that will last. Hmm?
Avoiding Hype, pure EV. This is among the worst hype lately. Rather than focus on actual efficiency, gallons consumed, arguments are fed with declarations of purity. Why must acceleration and cruising be all electric all the time with no consideration of how much that actually costs to implement? That's what the Volt craze has resulted in. It's somewhat similar to comparing a Corvette to a Camry. Sure, the Corvette scores much higher in some categories. But price shouldn't be one of them. Battery technology simply isn't there yet. And it begs the question, how much is truly needed? What should the upper limits of speed & range actually be for a hybrid?
Avoiding Hype, hybrid type. No matter what those hard-core enthusiasts attempt to sway us with, the popular media simply doesn't care. We keep hearing cries from those hyping Volt that it is not a hybrid, that the proper identifier is an "electric vehicle with range-extender". Today's article proclaimed Volt as a hybrid. Escaping that label is a futile endeavor. When will they learn from the Prius owners that certain things are inevitable. You have to choose your battles. And that one simply isn't worth it. To the typical consumer, any vehicle with both an engine and a battery-pack is a "hybrid" of some type or another.
Avoiding Hype, actual data. Today, the "New York Times" published a top-10 lists of websites you can go to for information about hybrids without hype. Until now, that had always meant sticking to real-world data. Facts about actual vehicles on the road allowed objective sharing. That is apparently no longer the case... since the list included a website about a concept vehicle, a design that will admittedly change by the time production finally begins. So much for the purpose of avoiding propaganda. This very well could stimulate the problem, making the already growing confusion even worse. There's a big difference between what is technically possible and what is practical for a business... something often forgotten.
True Colors, diesel. Delivery as promoted hasn't happened. That reality is a bitter one to accept. In a way though, it is for the better. Rather than just releasing a product that meets only the minimum criteria, waiting for something actually competitive could pay off in the long run. But then again, hybrids are a moving target. As time progresses, hybrid technology improves. The non-hybrids won't fair too well against that. Seeing a tiny diesel engine in "series" hybrid instead become more and more likely. Traditional designs, even much cleaner, won't be able to compete with that eventually. In the meantime, we unfortunately are getting a lot of dismissal toward the importance of smog-related emissions from the diesel supporters.
True Colors, real-world. Sometimes, you have to
explicitly explain purpose. Whether the antagonist accepts it or not is
beside the point. Lurkers will. So, here's what I posted...
The [full-hybrid battery] augmentation is a MPG boost. Stop implying a different purpose. Again, the
point is to sell lots of hybrids. Bragging about "the most" (like fastest or
furthest) doesn't actually make a difference.
Google's mini-fleet of robust upgrades (large Li-Ion battery) boosted the
real-world efficiency by 20 MPG.
The much less expensive upgrade (second NiMH battery) should boost efficiency by
somewhere around 6 to 8 MPG.
What's the problem with an affordable plug-in Prius that delivers a solid annual
real-world average of 55 MPG?
True Colors, choices. There's nothing at all wrong with offering a large electric-only range. But when the promotion of it shuns anything less, then we have a problem. Why the heck can't they just offer it as an option instead? Having a choice like that is well accepted for traditional vehicles. Upgrades of sport or luxury versions has been a business practice for ages. Not also doing that for hybrids simply does not make any sense. Yet, some argue that consumers won't be interested. Do they have any understanding of how the automotive industry operates?
True Colors, purpose. What a plug is suppose to deliver isn't suppose to be a topic of debate. I clearly disagree... Toyota already has a platform available to support plug-in augmentation. For around $3,000 a second battery-pack with plug can be added and the software updated to increase electric-only speed to 62 MPH. The target market for large-scale acceptance is a price in the low 20's. Toyota is working toward reaching that goal soon. Volt will work just fine, but price will be much more due to the battery requirements. Selling many to that market is the true measure of success. Right?
True Colors, emerging. The division among the GM supporters is becoming quite obvious. Some are clearly voicing their opinions against "full" hybrids in strong favor of the "series" hybrid instead. It's putting Two-Mode in an ugly place... something I saw coming, hence trying to abandon those discussions before rollout begins. Well, it turns out the conflicts have already gained quite a bit of traction. Not agreeing upon goals is the problem. The debut of that "full" hybrid design will be soured by some of GM's own fans. What happens next?
Reporters. It's not just me. Now I'm witnessing others sounding off against the old-school reporters. Those that have been in the industry for decades have little credibility now compared to owners of older hybrids. Traditional markets don't resemble the world emerging now. Reducing emissions & consumption weren't much of a priority in the past, back when those reporters were highly regarded. Their loyalties are well documented in their own collection of articles. We aren't seeing them change. More of the same isn't a good thing... which the discussions online are pointing out more and more. Interesting, eh?
Semantics. Whenever talk of a new vehicle technology
emerges online, we get the same old antagonistic posts. Today, I responded
to that with this to-the-point message...
Debate semantics all you want, the typical consumer won't care anyway. The
nonsense around labels makes no difference when people are looking at purchase
price and operating cost.
30 MPG Advertising. The flood of advertisements featuring
vehicles that deliver 30 MPG, highway-only of course, has come to an end.
The new measurement standards effective for 2008 have dropped quite a few of
them below that supposedly magic number. Seeing a real-world average of 48
MPG for Prius is put into a whole new perspective. I like that a lot.
It was very irritating having to deal with all the deception which came from
those grossly outdated EPA estimates. Those tests had lost accuracy well
over a decade ago, not at all a reflective of driving conditions & behaviors
people actually encounter anymore. Thankfully, they are now much closer.
Antagonists and those still against hybrids won't like that at all. Well,
Plug-In Hybrid, option. I absolutely love the approach of offering plug-in augmentation as an option. You produce a large volume of "full" hybrids and allow the consumer to choose whether or not to get the factory upgrade too. As an automaker, that reduces your risk. If the market for plug-in hybrids is soft initially, you aren't stuck with inventory. Too many factors could influence acceptance. In other words, the gamble is only a small part of the vehicle, not the whole thing. Price can also be lower, since it will share virtually all of the same components as the regular "full" hybrid except the battery-pack. It's a good business strategy for quickly spreading new technology to a very big number of consumers.
Plug-In Hybrid, interview. We got to hear 11 minutes of interview with Bob Lutz today. That was interesting. It started with discussion about the design of Volt by absolutely insisting: "The IC engine is simply an emergency generator." I have no idea how to respond to that. Apparently, if you drive further than 35 miles between plugging in while using A/C or the Heater, it's an emergency. Hmm? He belittled the augmented "full" hybrid by claiming they only offer: "8 to 12 miles of range electrically". What the heck is that suppose to mean? Range is a matter of battery-capacity choice. There's no technical limitation. He made no mention of battery price either, but there were plenty of complaints about the cost of raising efficiency standards. Sadly, that reinforces the observations that his solutions aren't going to be offered on the grand scale. Affordable and large volume aren't in the plans. And of course, talk of emissions entirely absent.
Fuel Economy Guide. New for 2008, we get this publication from
It's surprisingly thorough. I'm impressed. We went from living in
the dark ages with very misleading estimates to a genuine attempt to bring some order to
the chaos. I sure hope it does. The first few pages cover the
classes of vehicle, types of fuel, and type of propulsion systems, in addition
to the usual detail about how the measurements are actually taken.
Following that is detail about every vehicle available as 2008 models. I
wonder how much of a difference having that handy of a resource available now
will make. Hmm?
One Year Ago. Remember what was happening then? The
diesel enthusiasts were cheering the nationwide availability of clean diesel
(ULSD) and patiently awaiting the debut of those cleaner new diesel vehicles.
Well, they're still waiting. It looks like an entire year delay.
Turns out, meeting the minimum emission criteria is more difficult than they had
thought. Also one year ago was the hope that talk of Two-Mode rollout to
compete directly with Camry-Hybrid would emerge. Instead, it was just the
opposite. We found out the design is too expensive for that class vehicle,
leaving us with nothing to look forward to. Though, if you are interested
in a smaller vehicle that's extremely efficient but very expensive, there's the
"series" hybrid coming. In other words, quite a bit has happened over the
last year. Makes you wonder what will happen over the next...
EV Limits. Pointing out a double-standard labels me as a troublemaker. Oh well. I suppose that's life. Facts shouldn't be ignored. In this case, certain enthusiasts praise the EV limit of Volt for offering the maximum (fastest legal limit) speed while at the same time scorn the HSD system design for topping out at 62 MPH using only electricity. That sounds reasonable until you discover that those very same people continue to demean by insisting Two-Mode is superior, even though it's upper electric limit is only 32 MPH. They're contradicting themselves... and get very upset when I point out stuff just like that. What the heck! So, I guess it's true. Darned if you do. Danged if you don't.
Hybrid Reliability. Consumer Reports just posted their latest ratings for family cars. Two of them were hybrids. Number one was Prius... of course! Camry-Hybrid came in at number four. The others were Accord, Sonata, and Fusion (respectively). That's pretty cool when a hybrid gets such favorable attention for something that has absolutely nothing to do with emissions or efficiency.
$89.47 Per Barrel. Closing prices for oil continue to climb. Remember $39 per barrel? I do. Back then, the popular enthusiast magazines mocked hybrid technology, stating it simply made no sense with gas being so cheap. Boy, do times ever change quickly! The situation is quite different now. Gas is already expensive and it is about to become even more so. Taking preventative measures and investing in the future is obviously a new concept for some. I sure hope certain automakers get their act together very soon. It's about to get ugly. The market will begin demanding large volume production of super-efficient vehicles.
AdBlue Freezing Point, outcome. If you didn't guess already, they were absolutely furious with me for having discovered and exposed such an ugly shortcoming. What did they expect after so many hostile posts in the past? They fed my determination to research all new technologies. After all, hybrid engines could use diesel for fuel... someday, when battery improvements allow the engine to be downsized quite a bit. But for now, no way. Just barely able to achieve a "Tier-2 Bin-5" emission rating is awful. Where's the SULEV and PZEV diesel systems we have already been shown prototypes of? Why isn't that level of clean being delivered? They can attempt to persuade that cleaner isn't necessary, but who's going to accept that? Air quality continues to grow worse. How is adopting technology dirtier than most of the non-hybrid gas vehicles people already drive going to help? That's a step in the wrong direction.
AdBlue Freezing Point, surprise. Do a search through my
personal log for "AdBlue". You'll find a hint of the nasty
struggle I had with the diesel supporters fiercely defending the use of this
product. It's substance similar to ammonia that's sprayed into diesel
exhaust as a chemical after-treatment to reduce the level of NOx (smog)
pollution. They were very much in favor of it, claiming that was the
practical solution to clean up their preferred technology to make it
competitive. Needless to say, I didn't agree. A whole year later, I
still don't. But now I have new very surprising information, the kind they won't be happy
about. So, I posted it this way...
What is the penalty (cost, space, efficiency) of requiring a heating unit to
warm AdBlue when the temperature drops below -11°C (+12°F)?
The northern states see colder temperatures on a very regular basis.