Prius Personal Log #361
December 27, 2007 - January 6, 2008
Last Updated: Mon. 1/21/2008
page #360 page #362 BOOK INDEX
Two-Mode Vue, part 2. This was my first post in reaction to reading the article... It's about dang time they take smog-related emissions seriously. BAS did nothing to improve them and the first Two-Mode vehicle actually made them worse. Finally hearing about something better than the traditional design is long overdue, especially since GM loves to promote so far in advance of the vehicle actually being available. Unfortunately, the article only made a vague reference to efficiency without actual comparison to the competition or even itself with a smaller engine. And since the title states "World's Most Fuel-Efficient V6 SUV", that lack of detail is reason to be concerned. How can they make that claim with only an "up to" percentage value? Why no MPG estimate of any kind? After all, that is the very thing consumers expect to be provided.
Two-Mode Vue, part 1. In an interesting twist, today brought an announcement about the hybrid model Vue offering Two-Mode. It sure was good to hear about a more practical-sized vehicle getting the technology. But it is difficult to say good things about it when the target market still isn't being addressed. Efficiency has been what people have been begging for. If better MPG can be achieved from a non-hybrid model, convincing them to purchase the hybrid instead will be quite challenge... one that GM has just accepted. Their primary argument is emissions (including smog reduction, believe it or not!) and power. I'm very curious what the reaction to this will be.
Gas Price Surges. Last night, it jumped to $3.05 per gallon. Early this morning, it was back down to $2.99 per gallon. Why such a brief surge? Is this something new we will now have to deal with? If so, predicting it won't be too hard since yesterday was Friday. The sudden change seemed to be a maneuver to discourage the usual pre-weekend-travel fill up, as if supply was to small to handle the temporary jump in demand. Whatever the case, it seemed very odd for it to climb & drop in such a short amount of time. Of course, it could be that the impact of seeing a "3" on the sign is more frightening to people than is generally acknowledged.
Two-Mode Confusion. There hasn't been a review published for awhile. Today brought a new one. That fresh look didn't make the supporters happy. With this sentence in the concluding paragraph, I don't blame them: "For now, we have this paradox, a fantastically fuel-efficient vehicle that's still a gas hog." But I do blame them for not being sincere. Tahoe-Hybrid consumes a lot of gas. Delivering better MPG shouldn't hide that fact. Supporters certainly try though. Remember back when trucks didn't pretend to be cars? They don't. So, I'm curious as heck how those buying Two-Mode pickups will react to this conflict with Two-Mode SUVs. The pickups are far more likely to be used for the purpose they were designed, things only trucks can do. Anywho, I got a kick out of reading this quote too: "GM has made a fair amount of bubbles calling it a "two-mode" system, though I'm not clear even now what the two modes are. I count three: electric only; gas only; and/or gas-electric..."
Market Penetration. Hybrids have quite a challenge. The need is to get a majority of the market buying a particular type of new technology. Brand and design particulars can vary, but operation must resemble a common goal. Without that, the market gets stuck in a chaotic state. History of the automobile shows that to be a fundamental of how success for the industry as a whole was achieved. In other words, there has to be some level of agreement. The computer industry has struggled with this. There are many examples of failed attempts to achieve a new standard. Eventually, something emerges. It has to. The entertainment industry faced that in a big way. For the high-definition disc market to advance beyond niche, a single format must be chosen. The battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray was seemingly won today when the biggest product division of Warner selected the latter for their exclusive support. Supporters declared the war over. People like me are responding by stating a harsh reality of the situation. The war is to replace DVD as the mainstream choice for consumers, not just studios siding with any particular format. Imagine if automakers all agreed about what hybrid type to favor. It wouldn't make any difference if only a small audience was served. Success is measured in terms of market penetration. When a large chunk of the population abandons an old technology adopting the newer as a replacement, then you know it is a true winner.
Small Pickups. That market has been abandoned here. There is only one compact-size currently available, and it has already been declared dead. So the debut appearance of a concept model using HSD really had reporters at a loss. Predicting how consumers would react is anyone's guess. The obsession with massive & powerful made the once popular small pickup a product no automaker wanted to offer anymore. A comeback in the form of a hybrid seems like an incredible opportunity to me. What a great method of swaying people back to something more practical, not to mention affordable. It will be interesting to see what happens. Toyota's more robust hybrid (the two-stage design) currently available in a very expensive Lexus sedan is the likely candidate for large heavy-duty truck implementation. This 4-cylinder concept model would be the perfect for "good fuel economy, advanced functionality, maneuverability, unique styling... and a durable package", as the development team stated. We'll see. There's hope now.
$100 Per Barrel. During trading yesterday, the price of oil finally hit that magic mark. I sure am glad that's over, but the nonsense about "highest" certainly isn't. The obsession with that is amazing. Some people just can't get over the fact that it has little actual meaning. It's like reporting the highest MPG you've ever achieved with a Prius. That value means practically nothing compared to the lifetime average. And when you take the time to consider how much gas costs over any lengthy duration of time, it's the same situation. A spike really doesn't equate to much. On-Going activity is what truly matters... which paints a very troubling picture. The price of oil is experiencing an upward trend. Remember how seeing $2 per gallon used to scare people? Now $3 doesn't even have that shock effect. That's quite disturbing.
2007 Sales. Thank goodness the silliness of last year didn't repeat again. The popular media claimed sales were down, even though the difference was only a statistical anomaly caused by normal inventory handling. This time, Prius were being delivered based on demand rather than a fixed quota. That amounted to a very large increase in sales. That total was 181,221 for the year here in the United States. It officially earns this hybrid the title of "mainstream" no matter how the numbers are considered. Sales of Camry-Hybrid aren't being listed anymore. Toyota appears to be taking the "just another model" approach now. But by subtracting total monthly sales from that of Prius, the result reveals that sales of Camry-Hybrid and Highlander-Hybrid come to 10,057 combined. I don't see how that can be interpreted as bad, but I'm sure someone will figure out how to spin that. From my viewpoint, it was a very good year. I can't wait to witness what 2008 brings.
Still No Two-Mode. So where the heck is it? The "late 2007" delivery opportunity is gone. It's a different year now and still no sign of the hybrid for purchase. What happened? You'd think with the auto shows now taking place it would be the perfect time to have it available; instead, there's nothing but a growing bitter attitude against hybrids on the big GM forum. I wondered if things would get ugly as the urgency to take efficiency needs serious grew. The situation isn't looking good. Waiting 3 more years for the first major MPG advancement for cars from this automaker isn't going to fly well. People want that choice already. Focusing on a truck first was bad enough. But even that hasn't appeared yet. Why is there a delay?
Grille Blocking, first month. December is over. The results are in. They were quite unspectacular. But then
again, the holiday, vacation days, and temperature swings make it a month of
The prior 4 years yielded December monthly averages of 46.5, 44.2, 43.7, 45.5
respectively. With a total of 6,948 miles, the resulting 45.0 MPG overall
average should be representative of what to expect.
So with grille blocking, I was hoping for more. Instead, it came to 44.1 MPG.
The Multi-Display gives the impression that efficiency has been improved. But
with so many variables at play, it sure is proving difficult to verify. I guess January will keep me quite curious.
Dwelling on Trivia. Some are compelled to, forgetting what the word "trivia" actually means. The record highest price for gas is trivial. When the value of the dollar changes, so do the statistics. How is that helpful? Each article's so-called facts are totally dependent upon when you read it. Taken out of context, the numbers are worthless. Yet, the dwelling continues. I attempted to interject, but am not certain how that advice will be taken... "Adjusted for Inflation" is a red herring. What difference does that value from 1981 really make in 2008? It was a temporary spike, quite different from on-going high prices we are experiencing now. The supply & demand problem we face today has a permanent nature to it. Expecting a 50% drop afterward, like what happened back then, simply isn't realistic. So why waste time on the topic? Focus on the solutions instead.
Fines. Figures were released today stating what the fines were for 2006 model year CAFE violations. DaimlerChrysler was fined $30 million, almost double that of prior year. That beat the previous record of $28 million by BMW in 2001. The upcoming new efficiency standards are expected to bring more frequent & larger fines. How much do you think some automakers care? I'm will to bet a few seriously consider just paying the fine rather than having to modify what they sell. That's a bad attitude toward change. Too bad status quo remains the production theme. Popularity is turning green, but that's only with respect to attention... not actual inventory.
Reality. The Volt enthusiasts are at a lost about how to promote. Approach varies quite a bit still. Naturally, there are some that bash Prius. Others, as in this case, just want to ignore that past and start fresh. Stating battery-pack life in terms of years only is what prompted this response from me... Study hybrid history. You're in for quite a surprise. Like it or not, miles will be required as a measure of lifetime expectation. The number of years or charging cycles is simply not enough. Volt will exist in a world dominated by non-hybrids for a very long time. You will have no choice but to convey information in terms that can be directly related. Achieving mainstream sales volume will require some ideals to be set aside until later. Reality is that emphasis of similarities to the traditional will accelerate acceptance. It's counter-intuitive to the enthusiast, but already well proven by Prius. Ask yourself what you truly want to promote... a vehicle that stands out or one that will be purchased in quantities so great it will just become a common sight?
Battery Differences. This dilemma has been getting a lot
of attention lately. Can a single provider produce enough battery-packs to
satisfy demand? For Volt, there are two large companies striving to win a
contract to do exactly that. If one gets it, what about the other?
An automaker would introduce serious risk if they award contracts to both.
Buyers may insist upon one or the other for their purchase... based on hearsay
from other consumers, just like the computer industry has faced for years.
Wanting an Intel or AMD processor is a great example of that. People don't
care about the various minor components. But the heart of the product is
an entirely different matter. And if the other provider doesn't get that
contract, they will likely make an offer to the competition. An automaker could end up
really regretting that prior decision to choose the other. So, what is GM
going to do?
|12-29-2007||90,000 Mile - Oil Change. Same old routine... other than it was cold this time, so I fired up the propane heater in the garage. The change was quick & easy. It's an opportunity to inspect the underneath of the car and get a very close look at the tires. All looked good... which is quite different from the experiences with my first car decades back. Things sure have improved since then. It was $26.13 for the oil, filter, and gasket.|
Green Pulsing. I've driven the same commute route over the past four Winters, plus this one, several hundred times now. So the fact that I experienced something new today was quite a surprise. Normally, the charge-level is at the top of blue (6 bars). On occasion, it will climb up a single bar to green. But that doesn't happen often. So the fact that this time it exceeded the highest level, all green (8 bars), and began the pulsing discharge caught me totally off guard. Being just a block from the parking ramp, I shut off the heater at the stoplight. The engine immediately shut off by doing that. But then, I saw the RPM go up... then down... then up. Huh? Not ever having witnessed that with a scan-tool, I had to step my mind back to just listening as in the past. Sure enough, it was pulsing to bleed off the excess electricity to ensure maximum battery-pack. (The motor revs the revs up to start speed, allows it to slow, then repeats the process until the charge-level gets below the optimal high of 80 percent.) That was pretty cool to see.
$96.60 Per Barrel. Oil is high. That puts gas
(well, E10 actually) prices here at $2.99 per gallon. Diesel (which is
actually B2) has been selling for $3.39 per gallon. Those days of cheap
fuel are obviously gone. I simply can't imagine seeing much lower than
$2.97 anymore... especially since this is as far from travel season as possible.
Just imagine what the situation could be like by late May. Scary, eh?
Prius Bashing. The cheerleading mentally is starting to
overtake constructive discussion. The webmaster of the website devoted to
Volt enthusiasts sounded off today with hopes of circumventing that undesirable
trend. He knows quite well how credibility is lost if that type of online
activity gets out of hand. Discouragement was blunt, but kind. With
so much time to wait still, I can't imagine how keeping focus on the ultimate
goal can be achieved without embracing Prius. Mainstream success means
years of appealing to the non-enthusiast... just like what Toyota has done.
Look at how many Camry-Hybrid have been purchased, despite so little attention
given to it. That's proof of new technology acceptance. You can't
just have a single product. Volt can be a vehicle that draws the
spotlight, but alone it won't be able to achieve widespread change.
Something else has to be included. The bashers, those speaking ill of
Prius, haven't accepted that reality yet.
Oil Scare. The assassination of the Pakistan leader, Benazir Bhutto,
shook up the political world today. How much of that was genuine fear?
The stimulus certainly wasn't entirely. It was one of those eye-opening
experiences. For me, it was in the form of a national news network
reporting financial reaction to the situation in the form of a 70-cent jump in
the price of oil. I absolutely could not figure out how they could claim
that. Nothing only was even remotely close. The source I check,
Bloomberg Energy Prices, is refreshed every few minutes. They
were reporting a 13-cent drop. It sure gave me the impression the news was
not being honest. What do you think?