Prius Personal Log #430
August 9, 2009 - August 17, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #429 page #431 BOOK INDEX
Meaningless MPG. Do you think the "230" hype will fade or turn into a meaningless measure to brag about? After all, acceleration & horsepower have become like that. Thankfully, we are seeing a rather surprising death of the size obsession. Vehicles grew so large they no longer fit in garages and they were difficult to park... not to mention how painful their tanks were to fill. Now it almost looks like the opposite extreme is drawing the spotlight. But in this case, rather than actual "size" it is just an estimate which may not reflect real-world results for many owners. Those of us in the north are well aware of the drain the heater will have while sitting in slow moving snow-impaired traffic. We don't see that estimate as a realistic expectation. Makes you wonder what will be the focus on interest. Maybe a more sensible way of conveying MPG will be created. What we have now leaves much to be desired.
For The Record. The always different position of the
antagonists makes what you say appear as though it is spin, since they are
constantly presenting it in a different way. Today it was about the
absolute of using no gas ever. You can't just respond saying that's
unrealistic. You have to explain the situation. So, I did...
GM very clearly stated they will be maintaining an operating temperature of 20°C
(68°F) to 25°C (77°F) for the battery-pack, ending all doubt that the engine
will be used for warm-up in the winter when a plug isn't available.
Li-Ion chemistry becomes less responsive (impedance increases) below 0°C (32°F),
so it makes sense to ensure performance as well as protect longevity by taking
advantage of the engine for heat.
Consider how long a person is willing to wait for heat in a vehicle that's been
sitting outside at -15°C (5°F) all day. It isn't long. People want heat right
away. That's a common event here in Minnesota. In fact, it will stay that cold
for an entire week, with spurts quite a bit colder.
Using a small amount of gas is a sensible choice under those conditions.
MPG Priority. The greenwashing around MPG numbers has been a problem since the very beginning for hybrids. The other reasons consumers purchase a vehicle get ignored & dismissed. The new "230" marketing campaign is making that situation worse. Who will hear my cries of reason? I have no idea, but at least I'm trying... Diminishing returns is already well proven, countless examples are available in the computer industry. 0-60 acceleration times clearly demonstrated that in the automotive industry. For many years, that 10-second ceiling was a threshold long sought after. Then when the mid-size mid-priced finally cracked it as a majority, consumer interest faded. It met the need. They saw that faster really didn't provide enough real-world benefit to justify the extra cost. MPG is the same way. We got our first deep insight into that last year with the $4 gas. This year we are witnessing consumer priority toward efficiency based on the new generation hybrids being offered. There is a threshold. Whether it is 100, 150, or 200 remains a subject of debate. But the opinions collected based on the plug-in research over the past few years indicates that "+100" was what drew the most interest.
230 MPG - How? That estimate is really getting questioned now. Some are taking the time to read through the SAE recommendations & concerns and are becoming concerned themselves. The newest criteria has not been ratified yet. In fact, there are new additional categories never even acknowledged by GM's recent press release. It's easy to see why they rushed the 230 MPG value out. There's nothing binding and it's all subject to change still. Simply shortening or lengthening a distance in one of the cycles changes results significantly. Those new categories consist of a cycle at -7 C degrees (19 F) with the Heater running, a cycle at 35 C degrees (95 F) with the A/C running, and a cycle of highway-only cruising in CS (Charge-Sustaining) mode. Each will have dramatically lower efficiency estimates. SAE also pointed out the difference between the aftermarket augmentation of Prius and the factory demo model offering AER (All-Electric Range), knowing the importance of comparing both to Volt and pure electric vehicles. Long story short, belief is low that the 230 MPG will equate to much more than just marketing hype. New estimates that better reflect what a consumer can actually expect is what will end up getting approved instead.
New Technology. That annoying superiority complex is alive & well. There are a few who prefer a rare trophy vehicle rather than something in everyone's driveway. Today's quote for that ended with this: "...but new technology has passed it by." The concept of technology maturing eludes some; they only care about what's next. I said: So what? Traditional vehicles are a joke in comparison, but that's what a major chunk of the business will be focused on for the next decade anyway. Look at how much is still being invested in 6-speed automatic transmission development. Losing the "new" label is actually a good thing. Being well established is what you want. Having a technology be considered mature is where most profit comes from. The goal is for estimates to be replaced with owner experiences, providing real-world data to confirm the product actually delivers and wasn't just hype.
230 MPG, greenwashed. Whether intent was to mislead or the person was just misinformed, his claim of having done that math for generator-mode efficiency to come to this conclusion was not meant well: "It's about the same as a Prius." Several of us know the background in this situation. I responded with this: GM's own marketing material contradicts that claim. Remember their arguments in favor of Two-Mode? They clearly stated not having to convert motion to electricity then back to motion again was more efficient. Two-Mode can skip it entirely. Prius takes a maximum hit of 28 percent. Volt is always 100 percent. That is not the same. In fact, estimate put it at about 10 MPG less... hence shifting to the full tank average instead.
230 MPG, argued. The number of those defending GM's choice to promote "230" is dwarfed by those arguing against the move. To some, it already looks as detrimental as the now much-regretted "Live Green, Go Yellow" campaign. Consumers know that GM has been struggling just to survive. They are quite familiar with broken promises, the automaker haunted by a reputation for over-promising and under-delivering. So, it's nearly impossible to have a constructive discussion about product planned... especially when that future is still so distant. Volt won't be available in large quantity at a competitive price for many years and some automakers are planning to offer electric-only vehicles instead and Toyota & Ford will be offering a choice of regular hybrid or plug-in upgrade.
230 MPG, squashed. It didn't
take long. Nissan issued a press release in response to the "230" stating
the MPG equivalent of their Leaf electric-only vehicle was 367 MPG.
Needless to say, those in support of Volt were not happy. Only a day into
this new hype and the content has already been perverted. Isn't it great
how fast the nonsense spreads online nowadays? With the greatest of ease,
a new promotion effort can be squashed. I find it amusing. This is
all hype anyway. Only real-world data is what consumers really want.
Paying so much for a new vehicle is nothing to be taken lightly.
Advertisements alone don't account for much of the decision process when
information is so readily available online. Being able to discuss concerns
owners online is priceless. Forums go a very long way, reinforcing that
strongest aspect of debate: owner endorsement. They have firsthand
experience with MPG results, well aware of the influencing factors... many of which are never mentioned in press releases.
230 MPG, concealed. Looking back at yesterday's announcement, it's becoming quite clear that this is the result of GM refusing to answer the generator efficiency question. They absolutely would not provide a MPG value for when the engine provides electricity after the battery-pack is depleted. Heck, they wouldn't even let anyone witness that mode of operation. We all knew it was lower than what Prius delivers due to the extra conversion required and figured they were just stalling. Now it looks like they did indeed find a way to delay us from finding out what it is all the way until rollout begins. Now those previous discussions have all been concealed behind this new promotion effort. Keeping focus on the 230 value will keep people from asking the obvious question: "What MPG will I get if I drive now rather than waiting for the battery-pack to recharge?"
230 MPG, noticed. The result of yesterday's "230" announcement was a noticeable jump in activity on the website. That news from GM obviously drew lots of attention for hybrids, which leads to an interesting conflict for the Volt enthusiasts. They had been pushing the "electric" vehicle mindset. Seeing a MPG value now being heavily promoted counters that, reinforcing the "hybrid" aspect instead. Consumers see the estimate and clearly know without a doubt that the vehicle will consume some gas. How will enthusiasts, who had been fighting this very idea, respond? Remember all the "gas free" hype? That mindset doesn't work anymore. The "save" hype doesn't either. Focus is being should be shifted to how much is actually consumed. That's a point-of-view those pushing MPG differences don't like. This is getting interesting, still 15 months away from the first Volt being delivered.
230 MPG, questioned. The skepticism didn't take long to appear. Using a more realistic measure of efficiency in terms of kilowatt-hours per 100 miles was addressed by GM. But not much emphasis was given, probably because consumers didn't have anything to compare that value to. The price was absent from the press release, leading some to immediately call the announcement misleading. With over a year to wait before limited rollout even begins, wondering what this hype will stir is an intriguing topic. I can see those skeptical revealing it as a diversion tactic. Technology advancement like this is great and will be used in some fashion many years from now, but in the meantime we suffer. GM still has nothing to even remotely compete with. What will people buy as they wait? Being stuck with 30 MPG vehicles to choose from makes the 230 MPG bittersweet. Volt is becoming the high-performance vehicle of the 21st Century. Very few consumer will actually own one. How exactly is that helping our emission & consumption problems?
230 MPG, posted. I could resist chiming in, though I did wait until the end of the day. Here it is... YMMV gets taken to a whole new level. The difference between expectations and real-world results will likely be extreme. Even a small margin-of-error calculates to a large quantity when the number is that big in the first place. Add to that the hard time consumers already have understanding the impact of summer & winter and the role speed plays on efficiency. It's not going to be pretty. The current hybrids and their plug-in upgrades have already demonstrated this. The variance is confusing. It's also far from a guarantee. What purpose does 230 MPG actually serve, rather than just saying +100 MPG? The estimated rating seems to be going in the direction of horsepower & speed, meaningless beyond what the typical consumer actually uses.
230 MPG, announced. Today was the big announcement from GM this morning for Volt. It was an insanely popular discussion topic online. In fact, it ended up causing the dedicated enthusiast site to go down. With an (unofficial) estimated city rating like that, it makes the hype absurd. What does that value really represent? How it was truly derived is a mystery, much more complex than the already confusing measurement. Just think of the openings it leaves for competition & spin. Heck, most people can't even agree upon what "city" driving actually represents. Imagine the mess the plug will introduce. Interesting, it counters the prior promotion of Volt being an "electric" vehicle. Having a MPG estimate puts it firmly back in the "hybrid" category.
Clunker Progress. The effort to replace old guzzlers with new
more efficient vehicles has been a huge success, even approval of the additional
funding from both the House & Senate. There are shortcomings. But
overall, it's been wildly successful. This is the ultimate verification
that change has a price. Consumers are willing to move on when the price
is right. The $4 gas gave us that impression and the 2010 Prius had begun
to confirm it. Now, we know. That staunch resistance of the past has
UK Demand. Rollout of the 2010 Prius has begun in
the United Kingdom. There are already 20,000 orders waiting to be filled.
Hooray! Demand like that is fantastic. It's not overwhelming like
Japan, but that is actually better than the United States considering the
population difference. Also, don't forget that they have more efficient
vehicle choices available than we do. Needless to say, the initial
response is a very good sign. Of course, there are only so many
battery-packs. Supply will be even tighter for us now. Oh well.
That's the burden of success.
Two-Mode 4-Cylinder, strategy. Here's what the GM
spokesperson stirring the topic officially stated on the topic: "Our GM Hybrid system
- the mild hybrid, belt-alternator starter technology - is
our affordable hybrid technology paired with smaller displacement engines.
Our Two-Mode hybrid system is our more capable, premium hybrid technology. It's goal
is to provide significantly higher fuel economy while maintaining the capability
of the non-hybrid vehicle's cargo carrying, towing, etc." In other
words, they are sticking with 6-cylinder engines... meaning no competition with
Prius or Fusion type hybrids for a very long time from GM. They have no
plans to offer something in the 40-50 MPG category.
Two-Mode 4-Cylinder, issues. That topic sure got a lot of
attention today. I immediately sounded off by pointing out these issues...
CYLINDER-DEACTIVATION is not available with a 4-cylinder engine, which
takes away an efficiency advantage of that hybrid design. ELECTRIC MOTOR SIZE is physically limited, since the entire hybrid system
is designed to fit into a traditional transmission housing. SYSTEM COST is not competitive, due to the added complexity for delivery
of towing-capacity beyond Class-II (3,500 pounds).