Prius Personal Log  #376

June 5, 2008  -  June 13, 2008

Last Updated: Sun. 7/06/2008

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6-13-2008

Reality Crashing Down.  Volt enthusiasts pushing the purist mentality at not happy now.  They were the ones who believed the "no gas" objective, regardless of cost, was the only development path to pursue.  They were also the ones that ignored & dismissed any perspective which addressed the well-being of the automaker.  They wanted a trophy vehicle, not a ubiquitous technology spread across millions of vehicles.  So, today's look at the big picture really upset them... when the executive engineer at GM mentioned offering a reduced-range option to lower cost.  In other words, concern is emerging about not having anything available to compete directly with Prius based on price.  It's about time!  That original one-size-fits all approach simply didn't make any sense for those with a very short commute.  Such a large battery-pack was overkill, an unnecessary expense.  And of course, it addresses the capacity & material problem the battery industry is currently facing.

6-11-2008

GreenLine is Dead.  What that name stirred was maddening.  All of GM's hybrids under the Saturn brand were to carry that label.  It didn't make any sense.  The difference between their "assist" and their "full" hybrids were profound.  Yet, that convention for identification did nothing to distinguish.  So, reporters were constantly getting the two designs mixed up.  To make matters worse, the current BAS offerings were not actually "green".  To be called that, it implies the smog-related emissions are reduced.  But in reality, there was no improvement over the traditional counterpart.  The upcoming Two-Mode may in fact be dirtier too, since the current one is.  In short, GM has announced they will badge their hybrid vehicles in a new manner.  I'm quite curious what that will be.  They didn't provide any hints, only stating that "GreenLine" will no longer be used.

6-11-2008

Sales History.  My response to the Volt questions was a brief overview mentioning the Japan start back in December 1997 and the hybrid minivan (Estima) evolution we have yet to see any part of here, followed by these statistics for the US...  2007 Prius = 181,221;  2006 Prius = 106,971;  2005 Prius = 107,897;  2004 Prius = 53,991;  2003 Prius = 24,627;  2002 Prius = 20,119;  2001 Prius = 15,556;  2000 Prius = 5,562 (launched July);  2007 Camry-Hybrid = 54,477;  2006 Camry-Hybrid = 31,341 (launched April);  2007 Highlander-Hybrid = 23,621;  2006 Highlander-Hybrid = 31,485;  2005 Highlander-Hybrid = 17,954 (launched June);  2007 RX-400h = 17,291;  2006 RX-400h = 12,779;  2005 RX-400h = 11,774 (launched April);  2007 GS-450h = 1,695;  2006 GS-450h = 1,784 (launched April);  2007 LS-600h = 937 (launched August)

6-11-2008

Drawing Attention.  Nothing has changed.  It was just another article restating the same information we read last year, but written recently.  Yet, the Volt spin had this response: "This is a radical departure from Toyotas previous statements..."  In other words, they've completely run out of new stuff to chat about and needed something to draw attention with... which works great for newbies.  Unfortunately, the incorrect facts about Prius continue to be spread as a result.  Some is quite intentional.  Many just don't have any background.  You can tell, because some actually ask questions.  For example: "How long has Toyota had the Synergy drive and how many vehicles is it in?  Just the Prius and maybe one other model later this year correct?"  Needless to say, I was frustrated.  Not understanding operational detail is to be expected.  When no one tries to stop the misconceptions, my attention is raised.  But not having any idea what's available or the history is troubling.  No wonder mistakes get repeated.

6-10-2008

Electro-Shock Therapy.  Reading that article was fascinating.  The point which peaked my interest was that even in the best-case scenario, an attempt by GM to deliver a hybrid like Prius would amount to no more than a "mere me-too" outcome.  A result like that is like being given an participation award, not actually winning anything.  To gain green favor, gas would need to be replaced rather than just substantially saved.  In other words, the conclusion was that no other choice was available; GM had to develop Volt.  But even then, it only establishes the perception of being green.  And that reality shocks both automaker and enthusiasts, hence the title.  Coming to the realization of just how much is needed right away will either cure or kill.  I responded to the online discussion about this by posting...  2% is the optimistic inventory projection for 4 years from now.  98% of their production (all the other vehicles) will be what?

6-09-2008

Naming Consequences.  The nonsense of not calling Volt a "series" hybrid seems to have backfired already.  Avoiding embarrassment from all the "stop gap" banter in the past is the reason for this attempt.  GM was boasting that fuel-cell vehicles were the solution, not hybrids.  So the hypocrisy of now planning to offer exactly that hurts.  I don't think they thought out this choice either, as was well stated in this discussion comment: "GM calls the Volt an electric vehicle.  So, naturally, people want to know the range."  GM didn't realize a naming consequence could come from other automakers announcing plans for offering pure electric vehicles.  The assurance of having an engine is suppose to bring pales in comparison to range available in the first place.  I guess they figured no one would ever attempt to deliver a vehicle like EV1.  Looks like they were wrong again.  Someday a turn-around for them will come, but certainly not in the near future.

6-09-2008

$4.09 Per Gallon.  That first occurrence above $4 here sure was obvious.  I wondered how long it would take and if there would be a sudden spike as a result.  They try to avoid exceeding that threshold as long as possible.  And since this area (Minnesota) gets their oil Canada rather than overseas, our prices tend to be lower than the national average anyway.  We are far from immune though.  Fortunately, we've been pushing ethanol production advancements hard here.  Using waste energy for heat (like burning mill sawdust) and progress with non-corn sources helps.  The fact that hybrids are so popular here is a big deal too.  I'm thrilled by how many Prius and Camry-Hybrid sightings I have every single day here.  But it's scary how quickly the pressure can build.  Even with multiple solutions being exploited, progress still isn't fast enough.  Good intentions only get you so far.  $4 gas is here now.

6-08-2008

SUV Trade-In Value.  That's the hot topic now, both in discussion groups and the popular media.  Dealers really don't want them.  So people that are trading them in for more efficient vehicles are losing a lot of money.  It's great if you are looking for a bargain though.  The SUV is rapidly becoming a vehicle for recreation only, not a daily commuter as it once had been promoted.  Thankfully, all the false information about them being safer has been dispelled.  They are absolutely terrible at accident avoidance.  And of course, the people you squash don't care for them either.  The message coming from pain at the pump is loud & clear.  That type of guzzling just plain is not worth it.  A car can be used in most cases instead.  Save the SUV for recreation purposes only.

6-08-2008

Forgetting Emissions.  When considering solutions to our fuel problems, carbon emissions are at least acknowledged now due to climate change issues.  Smog isn't often though.  That type of emission is still neglected.  In fact, anything that makes more oil available will likely make that situation worse.  Reducing impact on the air we breathe is a challenge that complicates efficiency technologies.  That's why Prius has become the poster-child for green initiatives.  Its design places a very high priority on reduction of smog-emissions, even above efficiency improvement it certain driving conditions.  Don't forget.

6-08-2008

One More Cent.  Reaching the national average of $3.99 per gallon for gas a few days ago was an event many hoped to avoid.  It came way sooner than those with guzzlers had anticipated.  And of course, those fighting against hybrids had always refused to ever acknowledge the possibility.  Now, we have exceeded it.  That additional cent puts us at $4.  What will a single penny stir when the markets opens tomorrow?  That should be interesting.  Even fixes like drilling in Alaska never took conditions this bad, this soon into account.  So many were in denial about the potential.  Heck, that's why some "full" hybrid owners were so against "mild" designs.  Why take such a small step when the exposure is so large, especially when better technology is already available?  A vehicle put in service today will quite likely still be on the road in 2017.  Imagine how much gas could cost by then!

6-07-2008

Another Chapter, part 5.  In the end, being constructive & polite didn't happen.  Common undermining techniques, like arguing semantics and making it personal, prevented genuine discussion.  My curiosity to learn more about what will happen certainly won't transpire from that venue.  Of course, the biggest problem I had with this troublemaker was the misleading about Prius.  Then there was the addressing factors of market need (efficiency, emissions, volume, cost) and system design, which was always met with fierce resistance.  It was a struggle every step of the way... but not anymore.  Others are beginning to ask the same questions.  Though now, there is history to compare with.

6-07-2008

Another Chapter, part 4.  Avoidance & Denial were his responses.  Facing sales dramatically below anything considered practical for on-going business, it's a harsh reality to face.  Of course, those of us looking for more than just a minimal effort have been prepared to deal with this all along.  It's not a surprise.  With annual production volume from the two automotive giants both at 9,000,000 vehicles each, it was quite obvious that monthly sales of only a few hundred would be a big problem.  Economic longevity requires a sizeable chunk of the existing business to be converted over.  And with such turmoil in the market now, not taking an aggressive stance makes investors wonder.  Consumers need efficiency choices.  What will they buy if so few are produced?

6-06-2008

Another Chapter, part 3.  Tolerant of the many insults, the false accusations, and patient enough to wait, the time has come to reply...  Figures are now available and they are beyond disappointing (missing goals by quite a bit).  Vue-Hybrid sales dropped significantly; April last year was 2,683; April this year only 326.  Neither Aura-Hybrid nor Malibu-Hybrid ever took off.  In fact, the entire GreenLine production has only seen 9,000 purchases since debut in early 2007.  True, the recall just issued will basically halt both production & sales now.  But shouldn't the sales have increased up to that point?  Or could it be that we ("full" hybrid owners) were right about consumer acceptance of this "mild" hybrid approach?  Can we finally get a constructive response instead of an emotional defense of GM products?  That would be a great change.  Goals usually placed upon hybrids are:  Significantly better MPG than its traditional counterpart - Significantly better EMISSIONS than its traditional counterpart - Price competitive based on anticipated gas expenses - Price competitive based on other technologies available.

6-06-2008

Another Chapter, part 2.  The log entry that follows this is what I posted online.  How he replies means little.  His reputation for twisting the words of others is well known at this point.  What I'm most curious about is how newbies will respond to reading all that.  My guess is they'll just shrug it off as a stubborn loyalist resistant to change and move on.  Closing that same chapter in history shouldn't be that big of a deal for them as for me.  They didn't have to deal with trouble stirred from someone unwilling to have constructive discussions.  Fortunately, I don't have to anymore either.  With gas averaging $4.00 per gallon, the differences between "mild" and "full" hybrids is much better known now than it was 3 years ago.  The advantage of electric-only propulsion opportunities has a popular topic on forums lately.

6-06-2008

Another Chapter, part 1.  Closing this one too would be great.  So, I tried today.  It was once again the "playing offense" approach.  Staunch supporters of Two-Mode hybrids backed off (to the pointing of basically surrender) when sales didn't pick up.  Would the same be true for BAS hybrids?  The biggest troublemaking voice was deemed as optimistic 3 years ago.  But as details emerged over time, the design simply didn't hold up to expectations.  Yet, he still touted the system as if it had.  Forum members noticed that lack of objectivity over time.  I was no longer alone in my battle against his blind promotion.  11 months ago, a number of new bold comments about BAS were made by this same individual.  So today, I called him on them... since the outcome was no longer speculation.  That time for those events had occurred.  It was appropriate to analyze results.

6-06-2008

$138.99 Per Barrel.  That's the record high oil price I witnessed this afternoon.  We have definitely entered a new realm, one where justifying the purchase of a hybrid takes little effort.  People have seen Prius on roads around here for 8 years now.  People hear about records being broken, like today's jump up of almost $11.  It an existence where stability of the past is far from realistic anymore.  Expecting gas prices to be higher later is a good bet.  Most of the experts have been proven incorrect.  Change is happen far faster than they predicted.  The world as we knew it is fading to memory.  What do you think the situation will be by the end of this year?  A lot can happen in 6 months.

6-05-2008

Fool Me Thrice.  The mid-morning show on NPR (National Public Radio) featured the future of our automotive market here in the United States.  It started with a look back at history of the first time Detroit was taken completely off-guard, embarrassed by the foreign competitors being so much better prepared for changing times.  The result was a reckless major adoption of small efficiency vehicles... followed by forgetfulness... allowing the same mistake to repeat.  And sure enough, Detroit was taken completely off-guard again.  Fooled twice is really, really, really bad.  It's a sign that the move toward small efficiency vehicles this time will not lead to re-growth of vehicle size.  No one is going to fall for that same trap a third time.  We have all learned that lessons of history should not be ignored.  Disregarding a error in judgment can easily lead to falling in that same trap, again.  The dinosaurs are destined for extinction now.

 

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