Prius Personal Log  #369

March 22, 2008  -  March 30, 2008

Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010

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3-30-2008

Long-Ago Interview, questions 3.  "What was the biggest surprise about the car?  What kind of problems did you run into?"  I was quite surprised to discover how soft the rubber was on the OEM tires.  "160" is significantly below what people expect for a family car, since that treadwear rating is almost always something for the high-performance vehicles... which have their tires replaced far more frequently.  Fortunately the "classic" owners quickly discovered alternate tires were available.  Personally, I ended up replacing those OEM tires with ones that offered a "560" treadwear rating instead.  That resulted in tires that lasted significantly longer, didn't compromise MPG, improved handling, and even cost less than the OEMs!  And fortunately again, Toyota stopped using those tires.  The 2004 comes with tires quite similar to the alternates I bought for my "classic".

3-30-2008

Long-Ago Interview, questions 2.  "Did it live up to your expectations?  Did it live up to the specs provided by Toyota?"  I studied Prius heavily for 8 months before taking delivery of my 2001 (coined "classic").  So my expectations were dead on with what the engineering taught me and what the comments from Japanese owners of the previous model (coined "original") had made.

3-30-2008

Long-Ago Interview, question 1.  "Why did you decide to buy your first Prius?"  Back in the late 90's, I experienced lots of engine & transmission repair headaches... and two nightmares.  That frustration sent me on a quest to find something better.  As a result, I discovered Prius.  It was a design that took a totally different approach propulsion, which as a result delivered cleaner emissions and greater efficiency in addition to the impressive engineering.

3-30-2008

Long-Ago Interview, introduction.  Years before the invasion of blogs, reporters were the on-going source of hybrid information.  That meant I was often contacted as a part of their research... having one of the few hybrid websites available (and was fortunate enough to upgrade to the next generation model right away).  It was a very different time back then.  Consumer voices are much louder now and much further reaching.  The market itself has changed quite a bit too.  Anywho, I stumbled across one that had been conducted with me via email and found the answers an interesting look into the past (July 2004).  So, I thought I'd share them here.

3-29-2008

Softened Sales.  Those publishing articles which contribute to undermining Prius are at it again.  Production capacity grew last year, so sales increased then.  This year, there is no opportunity for further growth... because battery-packs cannot be supplied any faster.  That capacity will be limited until next year when the maximum expands.  Until then, we're stuck.  But rather than tell people that, certain writers give the impression that consumers are making the choice by sighting flat purchase statistics.  Not seeing any growth portrays the illusion of softened sales.  It's yet another example of greenwashing.  I'm not happy that this nonsense lives on.  But then again, it isn't a surprise.  Until there is a direct competitor to Prius available in similar volume, this type of resistance will continue.  Oh well.

3-29-2008

Greenwashing Terms.  The misleading continues.  Newest among those false impression attempts is identifying a "series" hybrid as one without a plug and the "extended-range electric vehicle" as one with.  It's a marketing twist, changing well established terms with no apparent benefit other than product promotion.  "Plug-In" has always been the term for that.  There is no need for the change.  But then again, actual change doesn't always result in a properly informative term anyway.  "Clean" diesel is the obvious recent example.  True, it is clean compared to diesel of the past.  But when consumed, the resulting emissions are still worse than clean gasoline.  It's a misleading term that promotes incorrect assumptions.  That's why diesel supporters absolutely hate using emission ratings, since they leave no doubt.  "T2B5" is dirty and "SULEV" is what is genuinely clean, regardless of the fuel being used.  "Plug-In" eliminates any possible confusion too; you know with absolute certainty that the term indicates the ability to connect to the electric grid for recharging.

3-29-2008

Misrepresentation, part 3.  The 100 responses to the topic didn't result in much.  That gathering didn't seem to generate any type of bonding effect.  In fact, it may have served more to divide instead.  So, my guess is the intended outcome from this was quite different to what he had hoped for.  Price, Time, and Location concerns have made Volt rather chaotic discussion subject matter.  I figured that would happen.  The question was really only a matter of when.  How could a new concept be promoted for 4 years and still meet every expectation from every enthusiast?  Normally, excitement begins at product rollout and promotion builds throughout the lifecycle of that first generation.  That way, consumers are yearning for the second with a solid idea of what it will deliver.  But with this, there isn't even a market established yet and the attitude toward emissions & consumption is very much in a state of flux.

3-28-2008

Misrepresentation, part 2.  His other choice may end up stirring the pot quite a bit too: "Volt is not a hybrid, it is an electric car with a gas range extender.  If one drives 40 miles or less per day, no fuel will be used."  Do you really think the EPA is going to buy that line of reasoning?  If you've read all 8 years of these personal logs, you're well aware of how strict emission regulations are.  No use whatsoever during the entire 100,000 mile minimum is quite unrealistic.  Vapor components and fluids age whether they are used or not too.  There will be some type of routine housekeeping operation.  Forcing the engine to run from time to time isn't the end of the world, but it does wreck the justification for calling it an electric car.  The label of "series" hybrid cannot be shaken.  He'll continue to try though.  I'm saying that's misrepresentation.

3-28-2008

Misrepresentation, part 1.  Instead of the webmaster of the Volt blog using that "95-year payoff" data as it was originally published, he ignored their observed 44.6 MPG fleet average to 40 MPG... for the sake of argument.  Needless to say, he got an argument back.  With my calculated average currently at 48.0 MPG and the big online database at 47.5 MPG, the efficiency of a standard Prius in 2011 when Volt is available will clearly not be anywhere near that low.  50 MPG would have been a more objective value.  But he didn't choose that.  His decision was to misrepresent.  I wonder how many others will be upset by this interesting turn of events.  Hmm?

3-27-2008

Spring hasn't Sprung.  Temperatures are still below normal.  30's this week and 40's expected next week aren't exactly encouraging.  Snow is still a very real possibility too.  My thirst for the return of warmer weather will continue to go unquenched awhile longer.  I am so looking forward to higher MPG.  Between the seemingly endless Winter and the break-in of the new tires, it will be a very welcome change.  That magic efficiency I remember from the past isn't too far away now.  And I will admit, I do enjoy the seasonal cycle.  But this year especially, I would have preferred it being shorter.  Oh well.  That's Minnesota for you.

3-26-2008

Limiting Rollout.  A new interview with Lutz provided new information about Volt rollout strategy.  It will begin in California exclusively.  That will later be followed by Washington D.C. rollout.  After that, it will be made available in Florida.  This news was a disheartening blow to many enthusiasts... hoping for nationwide sales from the start.  They seem to have forgotten entirely about the problem Li-Ion batteries have with cold temperatures.  Remember how lower than 32 F degrees brought about significant recharging limitations?  It's one of the major hurdles preventing the switch over from NiMH batteries.  Seeing it used in genuine Winter conditions, basically any northern state, is a really big deal.  Limiting rollout to climates that stay warm means one more original expectation not being met.  Makes you wonder what the efficiency will actually be when parked in a Minnesota parking lot all day during the worst part of January, eh?

3-26-2008

Payoff in 95 Years.  I wondered how long it would take before someone finally tried to undermine plug-in hybrids using actual data.  Doing that gives the impression of credibility, but in reality is just misleading.  Being selective & vague about what's included is how.  In the case today using Prius data, they started by only including the price of an aftermarket conversion.  Factory delivery would be cheaper, and that doesn't even include the fact that the original battery cost can be excluded too.  In other words, the quoted price of $15,000 was way too high.  I suspect a maximum of $8,000 is what the target would actually be set at by an automaker.  Next was the fact that the upcoming generation design was never mentioned.  Excluding those improvements, like the increase of electric-only speed to 62 MPH, allows for assumption.  Following that came a blatantly incorrect price expectation for Volt.  You guessed it, they quoted "around $30,000", which has been unrealistic for quite some time and highly publicized as such.  Yet, that's what they used anyway.  The most obvious misleading though was forcing the idea that a plug-in must pay off.  Since when should the reduction of emissions & consumption be totally cost free?

3-26-2008

Hybrid News.  The last few days have been odd.  Volt didn't make that Easter milestone, but the media didn't care.  My guess is that it wasn't newsworthy since there isn't a production vehicle involved.  Concepts typically don't hold much interest beyond their debut anyway... which explains the lack of attention with Two-Mode too.  Since initial sales are stalled for some reason (perhaps a supplier problem), there's really nothing to report yet.  At some point, we'll hear something.  But when is anyone's guess.  Meanwhile, interest in Prius is skyrocketing.  The big forum is struggling with response time and User-Guide downloads have surged to record levels.  The price of gas exceeding all-time highs is obviously a major contributor to that.

3-23-2008

Hybrid Supporters.  Speaking of hybrid history, there is an interesting perspective emerging from those who participated in periods of the past.  It's like a "class of" for owners who helped establish the discussion groups & forums when the HSD model debuted.  These are the supporters that newbies turn to for information & advice.  Those well informed owners are happy to provide that type of support.  It's great!  There is very much a community online for anyone wanting to know more about HSD.  Then there's me.  My history goes even further back, all the way to before the THS model rollout in the United States.  The term accepted for my particular role is "founder".  Now I'm looking forward to purchasing my next Prius, taking a third step in the generational history.  I can't wait to provide support for that, but even more exciting is that I won't be so alone anymore.  There is the potential for many supportive owners to also take a generational step.  Yippee!

3-23-2008

Hybrid History.  Remember that "up to the chore" online debate that dragged on for about 2 years?  Most don't, especially since it was removed from the discussion forum afterward.  It got really ugly at times.  Some participants were down right hostile trying to convince us that hybrids weren't.  There were countless examples of misleading... and sadly, some dishonesty too.  The moderators allowed it to continue though, since it made the topic a top attraction on the forum.  But in the end, the conclusion they tried to avoid was finally drawn.  Hybrids were.  Debate over.  However, the legacy still lives on.  Recently, there was a question about "hypermiling".  I provided a definition most we're even aware of.  They had just assumed it originated from hybrid drivers, having no idea there was a history from non-hybrids before that.  Needless to say, their definition was quite different.  I hadn't realized so much history with hybrids has taken place that we now need to qualify a terms.  Interesting, eh?

3-22-2008

Addressing Purpose, part 3.  The idea of a single vehicle taking a drastic leap forward has always been a compelling draw.  That's why concept models have been such a big deal at auto shows.  But how many of them actually deliver mainstream change?  The thought is an oxymoron.  If something stands out, then it cannot be in the majority.  Sure, a vehicle can invoke the desired change.  But it alone cannot achieve the purpose of moving the entire industry forward.  Accomplishing that requires spreading the technology across a wide variety of vehicles.  How come so few Volt enthusiasts address that?  Waiting until after rollout begins is way too late.  We already have emission & consumption problems.

3-22-2008

Addressing Purpose, part 2.  On the forum dedicated to Volt, this comment came from the topic of anticipated sales: "Yeah, well it is pretty discouraging.  Even so, the trajectory of the Prius is instructive…"  There was no need to read any further.  2011 will bring increased demand for hybrids.  But how will Volt alone compete with several those other systems, each available in a variety of vehicle size & type?  Really wanting to know what their thoughts on purpose are, I provoked feedback with this...  54,492 sales of Camry-Hybrid here last year should make you wonder if the big picture is truly being acknowledged.  It's not all about Prius as countless posts here imply.  E-Flex, not Volt only.

3-22-2008

Addressing Purpose, part 1.  On the big Prius forum today, this exclamation from Lutz caught some attention: He claims GM may have underestimated the popularity of plug-in hybrids and that sales of the Volt could top 500,000 units annually.  That was stated in a Detroit published article, which didn't offer the exact text for me to quote.  But you get the idea.  My response was...  Camry is the top-seller here, topping 473,000 last year.  How could beating it, along with all the other competing vehicles, be accomplished?  What about spreading the technology to other vehicles?  Isn't betting the farm on just one choice, especially it being compact sized, rather risky?

 

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