Prius Personal Log #399
January 2, 2009 - January 12, 2009
Last Updated: Mon. 3/23/2009
page #398 page #400 BOOK INDEX
Detroit: time to go. We assembled by the doors waiting
for the bus, anxiously waiting for the opportunity to touch. It was a
collection of people like no other. This was new, uncharted territory.
Internet leaders gathering with full endorsement and encouragement to do even
more. They were empowering us. Automaker reacting out to the loudest
group of consumers. The product they built & sold was about to get even
better and there we were being provided the opportunity to indulge.
Detroit: anticipation. Hanging out in the conference hall... So much to talk about... The evening would bring even more. We saw the new model... Heard of many compelling features... Yearned to see it up close... Hours from then, we would. Much had been done to the design. Those responsible for it would be there to answer our questions. It was a fantastic opportunity about to come soon...
Detroit: what came next. The discussions changed from past & present to future. Lights dimmed. Silence set. It was time. We watched a screen of a live broadcast from a location just a short distance away. The moment we had long anticipated was now happening. We watched with great anticipation. Then suddenly, there it was. The new Prius appeared. We cheered. You couldn't get much more receptive of an audience. That was our dream. The 2010 introduced improvements and new features to the hybrid we loved. Our efforts to promote contributed to that. Yeah!
Detroit: chatting in-person. There's a sense of respect that comes from face-to-face encounters. One like this blows your mind. We were the group of supporters that helped make this history unfold. Now a new chapter was beginning, sharing stories in an actual room rather than a forum... a level of interactivity that simply isn't possible online. You get to know why they post what they do. Learning about the person in a new way makes you wonder what comes next.
Detroit: meeting them. Some of us go back many years, online friends and combatants that never expected to actually meet. But there we were, a large group of us (about 50) in the motor city. Yup, a gathering of the most outspoken Prius supporters in Detroit. Toyota invited us to see the unveiling of the new Prius. It was a surreal experience. Together for a unified purpose.
Lexus HS250h. This new hybrid was revealed today. It's the first ever dedicated luxury hybrid, where there is not a traditional counterpart. Reaction online was mixed. With no basis of comparison, there's really no way to measure interest... especially with a market struggling for sales now. Who knows? It could be another perfect placement situation. After all, people are looking for an alternative to the monstrous guzzlers now. A luxury model that's unique could very well be exactly what they will be looking for. If not, it's still an advancement in design implementation. Committing to production is a big deal, way beyond all the concepts we've been seeing lately.
Cadillac Converj. I wondered what the competition would do to draw attention to them. With the reveal of Prius imminent, squandering for the spotlight was inevitable. But this? It seems rather desperate. GM announced this vehicle, a luxury version of Volt... which still isn't available yet and won't be for about 2 years still. For crying out loud. It's the fuel-cell nonsense all over again. Whether or not it becomes available is beside the point. You can't buy it still. And when something finally rolls out, it won't resemble that concept anyway. In fact, even the intended market could have changed by then. Strangely, this type of promotion distracts from their current product. Remember advertising? With the market turned upside-down and interest in MPG, there's a definite struggle for attention now.
Endless Misleading. You'd think they would eventually
give up. Instead, we continue to get misleading about FULL hybrids.
Today it was how fast the Toyota hybrids can travel using only electricity.
Random published articles from various non-credible sources were provided.
None were correct... obviously. Quick checks from test-drives don't reveal
much... but some believe what they read without question. I tried to
interject with this, though likely won't make any difference:
Look closer at your own links. The variations noted are just based on casual
observation, not a measure of electrical draw. When the kW threshold is
exceeded, the engine will start up. This happens during acceleration... but not
during sustained cruising.
In other words, with a Toyota hybrid, accelerate up to 40'ish then ease up on
the peddle. The following 2 to 3 miles of up to 42 MPH on flat terrain can all
be with the engine stopped.
Also, with the EV-button (aftermarket in the US, standard elsewhere) you can
accelerate more aggressively up to 35 MPH using only electricity.
Numbering. It's amazing how some hold on to the past and still refuse to look at the big picture now. We got quite the post today, attempting to defend a "choice" from long ago... generation numbering of Prius. Remember the greenwashing nonsense that took place all those years ago? Anywho, I couldn't resist responding with this: Never been responsible for a first ever upgrade/update, eh? With nothing as a basis of comparison (no competition) and a conservative approach (under promise, over deliver), they naturally chose a minor unit. Then got stuck with it. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the competition later (both Honda & Ford) decided not to use subversion numbers and to not even use criteria as strict to increment. So, it appears to consumers like they already passed the competitor (Toyota). That inconsistency is the problem. Call it what you want. It is still the 4th version.
Assumptions. Jumping to conclusions about an increase in engine size was the hot topic today. It's an interesting one, since some countries actually penalize for larger (emission restrictions). And of course, what's wrong with offering multiple configurations for a hybrid? After all, traditional vehicles have done it for decades. This was my contribution to that, to help stimulate thought and to keep the assumption of MPG penalty from getting out of hand: Engineering is always a balance of design. Bumping the engine size up to appeal to a much wider consumer base could have easily introduced the opportunity to get away with operational aspects that weren't previously available. For example, the larger gas engine could require an increase to the cooling system. That same cooling could be used for the electric motor too... allowing it to output more power than we saw in the past... which seems to coincide with the rumor rather nicely. Hmm? Faster and longer stealth as a result of a larger engine. Very interesting... It could also mean more aggressive battery-pack recharging, another benefit to stealth.
Gas Prices. I was quite curious what would happen after the holidays concluded. Turns out, gas prices shot up 20 cents per gallon to $1.89 here. Oil seemed to recover at $48.58 per barrel, which is better than the obviously unsustainable low of under 40. To no surprise, the price of diesel remained at $2.39 per gallon. Hybrid owners doubt that the lifetime estimates published recently (anti-hybrid articles) using $1.66 will be acknowledged. That type of narrow scope greenwashing tends to hype then disappear... probably so consumers can't place blame later when they figure out they had been mislead. The upward climb has begun again.
Totals & December Sales. The Prius official tally for the year, brought to a conclusion with 7,859 for the month, was 158,884 here in the United States. Spin of that number will be intense. Naysayers will see a fantastic opportunity to claim expectations were not met, even though the industry as a whole is down anyway. I ask how almost 160,000 hybrids of one specific model can be a bad thing? I also ask, where the heck are the GM totals? They concealed the Two-Mode total by combining them with BAS, giving an overall of 14,439. But you can approximate by taking the December values of 981, 442, and 306 for Tahoe, Yukon, and Escalade, the total for the year is 6,874... excluding the mysterious missing April values. Saying 7,000 is realistic... and way off of original projections (half, in fact). Of course, the automaker hybrid total of 14,439 isn't much to tout regardless. I suppose supporters will attempt it anyway. But then again, how will that look in comparison to the hybrid total of 16,858 for Lexus? As for other numbers, Toyota's total (excluding Lexus) was 224,457. December BAS sales were 454, 338, and 34 for Malibu, Vue, and Aura. The total annual count from Ford was 19,522 hybrids and Honda sold 31,297 hybrids here.
Frozen Operation, reply. These were the key quotes in the
info provided that I was most interested in:
"The engine will start and condition the battery for a few minutes."
and "It will propel the car and it will condition the battery. The moment you are
running the engine you have the electric heater running in the battery."
Which resulted in the following reply being posted...
That matches reports of the chemistry itself, which clearly state 32 F degrees is the
threshold. In other words, the engine will run for warm-up throughout the entire
winter in Minnesota when leaving work each day.
Frozen Operation, info. This topic is fascinating. Years ago, those familiar with the challenges of Li-Ion battery adoption started asking "how" questions about promises being made. Finally, they are being answered. Turns out that Volt will use heat-elements embedded in the battery case for warming (in addition to the coolant-lines for cooling). When this hybrid is started after sitting for awhile unplugged during the winter (like in the parking lot while you work), the engine will run to provide electricity for the traction-motor, the heat-elements, and the heater for the cabin. Once the battery is properly warmed up enough for normal operation, it will take over and the engine shut off. That's a sensible approach, but it really hurts those purists insisting "40-miles before using any gas" will be how the vehicle actually works. Obviously, that's not the case. And it begs the question how emission-rating criteria will be met. Running a cold engine does has pollution consequences. How will that be dealt with?
Plug-In Attention. All the commotion on the Volt blogging website had an interesting side-effect. It brought quite a bit of attention to the Prius augmentation now available. I hadn't expected that, especially with so much time still before competition emerges. To hear enthusiasts there discuss merits of it actually is constructive. Of course, they still express no interest in mainstream appeal. The lower price seems to make no difference. Cost just gets brushed aside still. Arrgh! Of course, just raising awareness of other designs & configurations was the point. That actually was accomplished. Getting as far as discussing aftermarket options wasn't actually expected. So, I guess it went pretty well.
Still Stuck. Some still haven't figured it out yet. They struggle with hybrid discussion, remaining on the newbie perspective. That is quite non-constructive. In fact, it can sometimes even be damaging to support efforts. So, some type of response was required. Will it help? Who knows. But, at least I tried: Asking about electric-only range for a FULL hybrid is pointless, like the commonly asked question of top-speed for traditional vehicles. When the FULL hybrid engine runs, battery-pack recharging occurs. So the concept of "range" is skewed anyway. After 2 years of daily blogs here, expecting constructive questions like battery-pack capacity, consumption-rate, and depth-of-discharge is reasonable. Instead, we're still stuck on just the basics... despite so much time and the urgency for promoting hybrids.
SUV Payback. Ever wonder why payback articles are only published for hybrids? How come traditional SUVs don't get that same attention? In this market, more than ever needed in the past, that should happen. When not used for the purpose they are designed (utility), they are extremely wasteful and clearly don't return any type of "payback" as the hybrids required. Of course, the waste of using it for single-occupant, no-cargo commutes to work is rather blatant. Publishing articles about that would be a bit like beating a dead horse. But then again, what's wrong with finally taking responsibility by bringing attention to the quality of the air we breathe and our dependence on oil?
Strong & Mild. Those were among the generic terms used to identify the hybrids that weren't Volt. I guess many assumed the difference was just a matter of motor & battery size. They apparently never paid attention enough to understand that the existence of a second motor wasn't just to add more power. Too bad the term "strong" implies that. Of course, if the enthusiasts would have been taking notes over the past 2 years from the daily blogs, they would have assembled quite a technical resource to share with others... rather than claiming that information isn't available. Oh well. It's ultimately their loss. Sharing of that nature is how you attract newbies to expand the market. Their own lack of interest in what makes one hybrid "mild" and the other not keeps they from reaching out. Other hybrids will attract the mainstream. Strongest will win (pun intended).