Prius Personal Log #443
December 28, 2009 - January 6, 2010
Last Updated: Thurs. 2/11/2010
page #442 page #444 BOOK INDEX
Longer Oil-Change Interval.
The rumors were indeed true. It was always suspected that the switch over
to 0W-20 Synthetic oil would easily support changes every 10,000 miles.
Sure enough, we got the official word today. That's great. Of
course, I missed the opportunity to take advantage of that information... having
already passed 5,000 miles twice with this Prius already. Oh well.
That means the next change for me won't be until the snow is long gone.
Gotta love that!
Extreme Winter. The sub-zero morning commutes are already growing tiresome. I miss the warm weather, especially the fact that opening the roof is totally unrealistic now. Fortunately, I get a taste of the higher MPG every morning. The displayed average creeps just above 50 by the time I reach work. But the drive home always pulls it back down to the upper 40's. That's nothing to complain about. But being only the first week of January doesn't exactly inspire hope. How many months of cold still? The 2010 does a remarkable job of handling stop & slow driving. Toyota's promise of improved heat management has indeed been fulfilled. Knowing the horribly congested traffic due to fresh snow won't result in that much of a MPG drop is reassuring. The improvement to traction-control is wonderful. Even with just the factory tires, I'm getting from place to just fine. Unfortunately, despite all the technology, the car itself does have a Winter shortcoming that will never really be improved. My Prius is coated with a nasty layer of salt & dirt. Isn't this time of year fun?
Prius Sales. It won't be until next week that hybrid count detail from all automakers are available. But we do have a few now. The monthly total for Prius was 11,775 in December. All things considered, that's pretty much on target for the short-term. The annual total here was 139,682 for 2009. That puts Prius at the number 4 position within Toyota here, following Camry, Corolla, and RAV4 respectively. This year should be interesting, especially as gas prices rise and the reputation of the 2010 solidifies. Competition should help to interest in the technology too. Just like there was with computers and the internet, there will be a tipping point reached that causes mass acceptance. That could happen this year.
Deep Freeze. Yesterday's morning adventure was at -9 F degrees. This morning's was at -8 F degrees. In both circumstances, I left my insulated garage where the Prius was parked all night. The temperature on the gauge in there read 30 F degrees. I pushed the power button and drove away immediately. My drive into the horribly frigid air requires a climb out of a valley just beyond my mailbox. It becomes fairly steep, a challenge for most cars when we get heavy snow. Anywho, the 2010 Prius went into "winter combat" mode automatically, just like the my Classic & Iconic Prius always did during the deep-freeze of January. The hybrid system favors the electric-motor heavily to ease the burden on the cold engine. Having the ratio of power distribution change like during an extreme (in this case, cold) is fascinating. It both sounded & felt quite different. I knew Toyota had done that to allow the engine a more graceful warming. Why not? You certainly don't have to worry about the battery-pack overheating from high draw in those conditions. It's yet another real-world example of well thought out the design of the hybrid system really is.
Prius Bashing. Sadly, that's what the Volt enthusiasts ended up doing. The thread devolved to simply bashing the competition, despite a few of the better known members attempting to keep the discussion constructive. An interesting aspect of those attempts was a posting of words they've never uttered before... a true indication of their desperation to retain credibility. For 3 years, I've been pointing out how Prius is not a "parallel" hybrid, that it's very different from some others available. One of the most argumentative opponents to that finally acknowledged it is actually a "series-parallel". It took that level of concern for Volt's reputation for it finally to happen. Who knew I've have to wait so darn long. Better late than never, eh? I'm still a bit upset though about all that greenwashing they intentionally did by labeling all non-plug hybrids the "parallel" type. They were well aware of their misleading, contradicting me on countless occasions. But now with the plug-in model of Prius getting so much attention, consumers are beginning to question why only certain hybrids are capable of supporting a plug. So, it makes sense to finally admit there's a difference. I guess that means something good actually did come about as a result of that topic. How about that!
Spreading FUD. That is the topic of discussion for the Volt enthusiasts this morning. It started out about the brake "failure" for Prius and the "risk" to pedestrian lives, then quickly led to reputation attacks. With all the resistance in the past to Prius being an ally in the crusade to change the automotive market, you'd think they'd never acknowledge anything in common. But now they are beginning to realize that undermining takes many different forms and there are many who will fight to keep status quo. The problem with the spread of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) is nothing new. In fact, attacks of that nature to impede the progress of new products is to be expected. Prius supporters are quite familiar with this. Anything that is different from expectations is subject to attack. The antagonists try to build up concern, attempting to blow the situation way out of proportion. And with this particular example, the outcome is still very much unknown. I'm quite curious where the Volt enthusiasts will take it too. They will be have to deal with their own FUD later this year.
Diesel Trouble. Last year wasn't good for diesel. The rise in popularity of gas hybrids (from new models and excitement about plug-in plans) added to the acceptance struggle they were already dealing with. Today, the $1 per gallon tax-credit on biodiesel production ended. So naturally, there was an undermining response. In this case, it was: "Plug-in hybrids may generate more eco-buzz when the calendar flips, but diesels could prove more powerful in revving up the automotive economy." Notice how that article quote attempts to divert attention away from non-plug hybrids, some of which are much cleaner and more efficient than the diesel powered cars. In response, I looked up my real-world data to post showing clear advantage for some non-plug hybrids... Using the 3 years of Classic Prius data I have collected, extracting JUN-DEC spreadsheet entries, the average comes to: 46.4 Overall: 45.4 Using the 5.5 years of Iconic Prius data I have collected, extracting JUN-DEC spreadsheet entries, the average comes to: 49.1 Overall: 47.7 Using the 7 months of 2010 Prius data I have collected so far, also JUN-DEC spreadsheet entries, the average comes to: 51.2
$79.36 Per Barrel. That's what the price of oil closed at for the year. A rise in consumer confidence (economy & employment) combined with holiday travel contributed to the climb. It pushed the price of gas here to $2.65 per gallon. Diesel has been, and continues to be, higher priced. Currently, it's at $2.79 per gallon. Seeing the oil at $80 per barrel is a realistic expectation now. Those who believed these prices could never possibly be the norm for 2010 sure are feeling regret. It's hard to believe Prius owners had to tolerate so many "lifetime" cost analysis that stated $1.50 as the price expectation. We knew back then how unrealistic that was. Yet, those so-called automotive experts insisted we would be incorrect. Who will consumers go to for advice about the future now?
It Gets Better. What a great way to start the new decade! Prius owners and those taking test-drives have been trying to replicate the apparent braking issue... discovering it's considerably harder to trigger than the media has led them to believe. I hadn't even noticed for 7 months, assuming it had disappeared entirely with this generation upgrade. Driving over train-tracks while braking with hard regen, but not enough to require friction, was how I ended up triggering it. Geez! Those circumstances don't come easy. The tracks are on along my daily work commute. So, you'd think I would have encountered the situation long ago. It boils down to not expecting that response to striking something, then over-reacting when it happens. That leaves enough of an impression for an owner to file a complaint. After all, most owners don't participate in online discussions and simply have no where to ask about the experience... leading them to assume something failed. Then the media sees that as ammunition, something providing an opportunity to attack the automaker they don't like. So, they do.
New Twist. The fire of deception continues to grow. Only now, some enthusiasts are starting to catch on... noticing the attack approach. In other words, they see how a "could be better" design improvement is getting blown way out of proportion. Antagonists are playing up the fear factor, screaming for a massive recall and punishment for the automaker who supposedly put so many lives at risk. Anywho, the original description wasn't stirring enough concern, so they changed the story... twisting facts. Now: "When the vehicle hits a bump or pothole the regenerative brakes switch to friction braking. The friction braking slows the vehicle at a lower rate than the regenerative brakes which in turn makes the driver feels as though they are monetarily accelerating. The driver must then apply the brakes more firmly to return to the expected level of deceleration." That doesn't even make any sense, since the switch happens 100 percent of the time for braking, not just when hitting a bump or pothole. In reality, if you don't react at all the braking resumes as before a split-second later, the friction brakes slow at a higher rate, and there is no need to press harder.
Timing. Sometimes we get a constructive question from the Volt enthusiasts. That was the of case today with this: "So while the march toward electrification of the automobile may now be unstoppable, why do people in key position seem to ambivalent about it?" Unfortunately, it turned out to be yet another example of engineering blinders, forgetting about the business aspect of technology rollout. Not all the responses were that way. But the theme was definitely not one that took economic realities into account. Here's what I responded with: How do you pay for an investment that won't deliver profit for almost a decade? For Toyota with Prius, gas was cheap, the automotive market was strong, and there was no urgency to reduce emissions & consumption. Also, the same platform could be offered in both plug & non-plug format. For GM with Volt, gas is a big expense, the automotive market is in the dumps, there is a pressure to deliver solutions now, massive debt must be paid back, the company is government owned, and they don't have an affordable non-plug hybrid to compete with.
HDTV Analogies. This is by far the most commonly used
comparison example when discussing the advancement of rechargeable
automotive traction batteries. Unfortunately, it is also a bad analogy. I'm not
sure why people overlook what seems so obvious of a problem with that.
Perhaps they just don't give it much thought. Each time though, the
reaction is the same. It is later recognized as an entirely different situation.
This is how I responded when the analogy of rapid battery cost dropping similar
to the way cost did for HDTVs was made:
The fatal flaw with that analogy is analog television and computer CRT produced
ended completely. That 100% shift over to the new technology is what caused the
kick. We aren't even remotely close to 100% of new vehicle production including a
battery-pack of some sort.
Also, let's not forget that the 16x9 shape of HDTV corrected a major television
shortcoming. The widescreen view improved computer usability too.
By 2010. That distant future debated about so long ago is about to become the present, just 1 more day. Remember the arguments some made about hybrids way back in 2002? There were intense online battles coming from diesel supporters... which amounted to virtually no market growth at all here since then. There were staunch claims of fuel-cell vehicles and hydrogen becoming available to consumers nationwide by now... which obviously didn't come even remotely close to actually happening. There were fierce exchanges of harsh words for ASSIST hybrids in favor of the FULL type... which clearly hasn't worked out. Then, of course, there was the belief that gas would remain cheap (around $1.59) at least until now. And for the naive hope that size & power would dominate consumer purchase priorities, providing substantial profit well into the next decade, that has become a business nightmare of epic proportions. In short, those who didn't believe Prius would become a vehicle icon of the early 21st Century were dead wrong.
First-Year Attacks. We've seen them before. Competitors
and their supporters desperate to sour the appeal of a new generation Prius
rapidly growing in popularity attempt to amplify an issue and create
disappointment. Here's what I posted to point out this repeat of history:
Remember the credibility attack on Prius when the newest generation became
available, 6 years ago? We were absolutely inundated with claims of MPG
disappointment, none of which took the effects of winter efficiency into
account. They just relentlessly slammed the new Prius as a failure, not
delivering as promised. It was sickening to witness such undermining take place.
It was blatant greenwashing. But back then, few were aware of what factors
affected MPG. Then the warm weather finally arrived... after 6 months of
Prius attacks. MPG shot way up, vindicating our explanations of seasonal
effect. All of those who had made those terrible accusations vanished.
None offered an apology for misleading consumers so much. Annual MPG
averages revealed the efficiency was indeed an improvement over the previous
generation. We'll never know the extent of the damage those attacks
caused... just like the ones taking place now.
850 Pounds Heavier. None of us had really given the topic of weight much consideration. With an EV, it was quite a problem. But now with a vehicle like Volt using a smaller pack with a lighter battery technology, it seemed like a minor matter. Then again, Volt has a traditional engine as well as a high-performance electric propulsion system. That's clearly going to weigh more than the hybrid-optimized engine and smaller motors in Prius. We hadn't anticipated how much of a difference though. The discovery of being 850 pounds heavier sure was a surprise today. That certainly reveals a major contributing factor to low CS-mode efficiency. This doesn't fair well for on-going tire cost either. XL grade would be required to support that extra weight. Makes you wonder what modifications the next generation design will bring, eh?