Prius Personal Log  #362

January 6, 2008  -  January 18, 2008

Last Updated: Sun. 1/27/2008

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1-18-2008

Plug-In Competition.  It didn't take long for a major publication to step in with more appealing hybrid news.  USA Today started their article with this: "Seventy-one miles per gallon.  That's what the trip computer read after a 4-mile loop through downtown and a short freeway blast in a prototype of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid."  Obviously, the perspective of MPG BOOST is beginning to take hold.  I love it!  The focus on electric-only range was very misleading, not helpful to the general market.  But this new effort is.  It's very exciting!  The prototype is 1 of 8 already being tested in the United States.  Next year, the worldwide count from Toyota will grow to 400.  This modest capacity increase by adding a second NiMH battery-pack is the inexpensive approach is what I've been hoping for.  Those wanting an affordable upgrade choice (much like when you order a premium package for traditional vehicles: leather seats, sunroof, etc.) has the potential to be a very popular choice for a hybrid like Prius.  Yeah!

1-17-2008

Volt Disappointment.  The mood among enthusiasts has changed dramatically.  The ugly reality of battery price simply being way too expensive has finally sunk in.  They just did not want to let go of the ideal.  We tried to point out how expensive that much capacity in sense a dense storage medium would cost.  Not wanting to listen was what set them apart from supporters.  Enthusiasm allowed impractical thoughts to flourish.  Now they are dealing with that disheartening news.  I wonder what will happen now.  The thought of the first "series" hybrid having a price close to $40,000 is a bitter pill to swallow.

1-15-2008

Hybrid Talk, price.  To my surprise, the concern I've had about how much large battery-packs would push the price beyond affordable was confirmed as realistic.  Those Volt enthusiasts arguing direct competition with the standard Prius (starting at $20,900) have little to say now.  That particular hybrid talk is over.  They have to acknowledge what Bob Lutz said.  After pointing out that the development team doesn't feel the $30,000 goal can be met from the first generation design, he provided this: "I don't want to wait for cost optimization.  I'd rather come out in 2010, and if it costs closer to 40 than 30, well, that's too bad."  Thought provoking, eh?

1-15-2008

Hybrid Talk, purpose.  There's a lot of "green" image quarreling.  The fact many of the vehicles being shown are only concepts doesn't seem to matter.  People are bragging anyway.  It's absurd.  Unless consumers are actually driving them, the purpose has not been fulfilled.  To make a difference, change has to occur.  Looking on the road a few years from now, how many plug-in hybrids will we really see?  With annual sales in this country around 17 million, a tiny quantity simply isn't enough.  Sadly, that reality isn't get much attention.  All the hybrid talk focuses on how they will be different.  You don't get any feeling of traditional vehicles being discontinued.

1-15-2008

Hybrid Talk, misleading.  The last two days have been interesting.  Yesterday, the Detroit Auto Show kicked off a flurry of hybrid talk.  The announcements were no surprise... but all the spin certainly gave that impression.  There was quite a bit of misleading, much of which was difficult to tell whether or not it was intentional.  The best example was the number of forum posts that claimed the plug-in Prius would only have an electric-only range of around 10 miles, even though Toyota repeatedly stated that range would be greater with the availability of a Li-Ion battery rather than the NiMH they are currently using for testing.  So if you aren't paying close attention, it's likely you'll get an incorrect impression.

1-13-2008

Impossible Electric-Only, part 3.  Details have been provided.  That strange report makes sense now.  The system in Vue-Hybrid wasn't actually altered; instead, an independent system was added.  Think of it as a separate transmission.  The approach taken for this prototype simply won't work with smaller vehicles, hence the SUV.  It added 1,000 pounds to the weight of that vehicle.  Fortunately, it has the suspension & space available for that.  A compact car won't.  Hopefully, the Volt enthusiasts will realize how important it is to question stuff like this right away.  Prius supporters jump on reports like immediately.  They are already well practiced with identifying solutions practical to the mass-market, those wanting family sedans & hatchbacks.  Nonetheless, this is a curious twist on things.  Success from any aftermarket provider would shake up the industry, even if it supports just a limited number of consumers.  But unless they compete directly, I'm not sure what kind of change that will actually bring.

1-13-2008

Grille Blocking, Photos.  One month later, all is going just fine.  The foam I squished between the slots of the grille hasn't moved.  It's staying in place surprisingly well.  The look is so subtle, it is basically hidden from notice.  So, I took some photos as proof.  The first was during snow flurries in the gray of winter, what it looks like here in Minnesota half the time.  The other half is bright sunlight with a background of baby blue sky.  Both clearly point out how discreet the look is.  The heater cooks and the coolant temperature (monitored using an aftermarket gauge) hasn't ever climbed above the usual level.  Efficiency gain is tough to denote, but what do you have to lose from trying?  I definitely recommend it for those that live in the north like me.  See mine... photo album 122

1-13-2008

New Prius Commercial.  Dang!  I wasn't expecting to see one... so I wasn't paying close attention, or recording.  After hearing the words "Toyota" and "Environment", I quickly changed focus from the computer to the television.  There was a framework shape of a Prius formed from tree branches.  Double Dang!  I obviously missed a great opportunity for digital capture.  It was yet another footnote in history taking place.  Rather than the promotion of efficiency, focus is being placed more and more on emissions.  Yeah!  What was once a characteristic of hybrids not given much credit now becoming a forefront topic.  It's about time.  I was tired of comparisons that neglected mention of pollutants, instead focusing entirely on MPG.  Now we are getting that balance which should have been important to all since the beginning.  "Green" will actually mean green.

1-13-2008

Less Hype.  Toyota's approach is quite different than GM's... so much so that only those seeking out information usually have it.  The perfect example came this morning.  A participant on the big GM forum made a comment that Toyota was planning to make their prototype plug-in Prius available for testing here in the United States.  That already happened 3 months ago... but Toyota didn't make a big deal about it.  The job still gets done, but with less hype.  What purpose does lots of attention serve before product availability anyway?  Too much of a good thing can become bad.  Just think of how long delivery waits could be.

1-11-2008

Impossible Electric-Only, part 2.  I wonder if the report itself will ever get explained.  Void of detail, there's no way of knowing what was truly done to that Vue-Hybrid.  It just sounds totally unrealistic from an engineering point of view.  Something must have been reported incorrectly.  Adding quite a bit more than only a larger capacity battery-pack would be needed.  But then again, why worry about it?  That wasn't a journalist research project.  The report was simply highlights for auto show promotion.

1-11-2008

Impossible Electric-Only, part 1.  There was some strange report yesterday about a Vue-Hybrid being converted to deliver electric-only highway driving via augmentation using currently available battery technology.  That obviously got the Volt enthusiasts all worked up.  They were upset.  I was bewildered.  What was the purpose of reporting such a blatant impossibility?  So rather than point out the fact that electric-only wasn't possible since engine motion is required for movement, I asked how such a tiny motor (actually just a large alternator) without active cooling could accomplish such a task.  Nothing.  No one there seemed to understand any of the problems.  More and more I am coming across evidence of idealism, where they just plain are not interested in studying the challenges involved.  Glossing over highlights is all they do.  We basically only get cheerleading.  Bummer.

1-10-2008

Explorer Sales.  Back in 2000, Ford's premiere SUV reached its height with sales now equal to that of Camry.  But the obsession with size & power brought about its downfall.  Concern about the environment and our dependence on oil started pounding nails into its coffin.  So today's news of Prius now outselling Explorer was a big deal.  The SUV which contributed most to the "pretend this truck is a car" craze has been passed by an "egg-shaped" hybrid.  Things are obviously changing.  The short-sighted madness of the past is slowly being replaced by sensible purchases.  It's about time!  Finally.

1-09-2008

Recession.  That word is getting thrown around quite a bit lately.  Questions about how to identify that unfortunate economic status are being replaced by concerns of regular remedies not being enough.  I can't imagine what GM is thinking.  With an 80% share of the large SUV market, what will they do?  Putting lipstick on a pig won't make it more affordable.  If you truly need a vehicle for work that big, a pickup is a better choice.  They've expended so many resources making those SUVs act more like a car that the image portrayed has led to an actual self-defeating design.  People are becoming keenly aware of that due to these days of growing financial gloom.  Expectations of even higher gas prices are quite realistic.  It has simply become too much of a risk to balance the fate of a business on the profit of such impractical vehicles.  What changes will this new reality bring?

1-09-2008

Best Intentions.  The circumstances influencing implementation & acceptance of advanced battery hybrids is far more complicated the Volt enthusiasts realize.  Will they slowly catch on to that based on the hints I provide or will that fact suddenly come crashing down all at once?  Today's discussion about the "late 2010" no longer being a true drop-dead release date definitely stirred concern.  I wonder if this contribution I posted will make any difference...  Even with well tuned engineering and best of intentions, the challenges remaining are almost overwhelming.  Study hybrid history.  You're in for quite a surprise.  Certain decisions came about for very unexpected reasons.  Concerns about whether or not Volt gets built at all is evidence that mainstream targeting isn't being addressed.  High-Volume sales, what truly supports an automaker's well being, come from those so-called "boring" family vehicles.  It's a fundamental dilemma for Volt.  Some ideals will need to be side aside for the technology to quickly penetrate beyond just a niche.  Remember the competition.  Hybrids are grossly outnumbered by traditional vehicles, which are well proven and less expensive.

1-08-2008

Basically Clueless.  It truly amazes me that there is little interest in Prius coming from Volt enthusiasts.  They apparently assume that their hybrid will be so different that the market influences currently present won't matter then.  Whatever the case, they clearly don't know how Prius actually works or even what components it uses.  So, I finally had it and responded with this...  All the guessing about how Prius works is quite troubling.  If nothing else, for Volt credibility, it would be best to learn the facts, starting with these:  Prius EV mode = 35 MPH.  Prius STEALTH = 42 MPH.  Prius PHEV max = 62 MPH.  Faster than that, the engine can still shut off.  The only requirement is that it spin to balance the RPM of the PSD (Power Split Device).  STEALTH is EV too, but the engine-on threshold is lower.  The big motor is 50kW.  The small motor is 10kW.  Maximum use is not the point, high MPG at the cleanest emissions is.

1-08-2008

Aura-Hybrid.  I saw my first today.  It was big deal, knowing how few there actually are... and may ever be.  Unfortunately, the Prius was filled with my coworker's at the time.  So they couldn't resist mocking me when I got excited by a competitor's hybrid that just shot by at a much faster speed.  The fact that I was preparing to exit the highway didn't matter.  It was getting away and I made no effort to chase it down.  You just can't win sometimes.  Oh well.

1-08-2008

E-Flex Concept.  The fuel-cell promotion continues.  Cadillac Provoq made its debut.  This was a plug-in hybrid that had a hydrogen powered stack for secondary electricity rather than a combustion engine.  Why are they showing it now?  Building a green image is an obvious motive.  But without any plug-in hybrids available yet, this could become a source of confusion or disenchantment.  What will people buy in the meantime and how long are they willing to actually wait?  The cliché label of "all bark and no bite" continues to be appropriate.  People are looking for solutions to embrace now, not something their children might drive.

1-07-2008

Pulsing Discharge.  I witnessed it again.  The first occurrence took years and was intentionally invoked.  So the odds of naturally observing battery-pack charge-level beyond the upper-limit of 80 percent is quite rare here in the flat part of Minnesota.  You may see 8 bars filled (all green on the Energy Screen), but exceeding that pretty much never happens.  Yet, it did twice to my Prius within the same week.  Is it possible that the climb to green (more than 6 bars) from the usual blues wasn't a software update?  Could it have been part of the normal aging process of a hybrid... a type of late-life break-in that no one was aware of?  Today's watching of the engine RPM climb & continue via electricity for the sake lowering charge-level certainly made me ponder that thought.

1-06-2008

Two-Mode Vue, part 4.  Since most of the worldwide population will be buying a car (sedan, wagon, hatchback, or coupe), I'm still waiting for something like that from GM.  Toyota already has both Prius & Camry-Hybrid topping that list for hybrids.  Honda offers Civic-Hybrid with a new hybrid on the way.  Ford will be offering Fusion-Hybrid soon.  Where's the genuine competition from GM?  I'm absolutely thrilled, more like relieved, that the Two-Mode Vue will deliver a PZEV emission rating.  But no 4-cylinder option from any Two-Mode vehicle is troubling.  What will people wanting great efficiency buy?  How will GM reach that 35 MPG requirement?  It sure looks like they are betting the farm on the "series" hybrid to fulfill that need instead of the "full".

1-06-2008

Two-Mode Vue, part 3.  This was my second post...  Highlander-Hybrid offers a similar figuration; however, the vehicle GM will be competing more directly with is from itself.   Once a consumer selects an automaker to buy from, comparing the models they offer is obviously the next step in the purchase decision.  That will lead to intense scrutiny between the traditional 4-cylinder Vue and 6-cylinder Two-Mode hybrid.  The price should make things very interesting.  Of course, that wasn't mentioned either.

 

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