Prius Personal Log #445
January 13, 2010 - January 22, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #444 page #446 BOOK INDEX
Price Consideration. This is by far the biggest problem
with some hybrid design still. BAS and IMA have demonstrated how much
compromise can result from a system which costs too little. Two-Mode has
demonstrated lack of wide appeal when it costs too much. (Volt is likely
to do the same.) Prius is just right. Ford may also be able to
claim that with Fusion. Why is the importance of price so hard to
understand? Consumers consider current traditional vehicle pricing fair.
So, a modest premium above that for a cleaner and more efficient choice
shouldn't require a rocket-scientist to figure out. They are willing to
spend a little bit more if they get something worthwhile in return. Don't
skimp for the sake of only saving money. Don't try to deliver the absolute
maximum either. That happy balance is what will draw mainstream sales.
After all, that's what makes the top-10 list now. Price is somewhere in
the middle of the purchase priorities.
Halo Benefit. It's quite bizarre to think that a few die-hard Volt enthusiasts still believe the "halo" effect is beneficial. That's where a premiere vehicle draws attention to and raises credibility of an automaker, causing sales of lesser vehicles to rise rather than the vehicle actually responsible for the effect. How is that a good thing now? Back in the day, many years ago, it could have been argued. But now with consumers so empowered by the internet, it's easy to see how shallow that really is. Selling only a small quantity of a fuel-efficiency vehicle simply doesn't make sense anymore. Hybrids are well established. The phase-out transition has already begun. Traditional vehicle sales shouldn't go up as a result of that technology, yet it's the very benefit those certain individuals are hoping for. They've really got priority issues to deal with. Promote the new technology to help sell it, not the older stuff.
Hybrid Subclass, advancement. The next step in automotive evolution is the offering of a plug and greatly increased battery capacity. Consumer curiosity will grow, most likely at a rapid pace. Many of the misconceptions about electric propulsion are long gone and the internet now makes research remarkably easy. With the popularity of Prius, the fact that a plug-in option will simply be offered as a high-end model sure will make rollout easy. Owners like me will pounce at the opportunity to upgrade. Sharing our experiences and real-world data online will help to point out differences. The non-constructive push of a "subclass" will simply vanish. It's a weak argument at best already. Price & MPG will stand out even more than they already do. Greenwashing attempts to categorize will become even more obvious as advancement occurs. At some point, the few remaining Volt enthusiasts still attempting this will have to finally give up. Until then, we have to tolerate the nonsense.
Hybrid Subclass, progress. I'm quite aware of their lack of progress over the past 3 years. It's the same old nonsense, no real change. This is exactly the behavior we witnessed from Two-Mode supporters prior to rollout. They absolutely refused to acknowledge realities of consumer need & understanding, repeating arguments over and over again without substance. That came back to haunt them immediately following rollout. Attempts to prevent the same thing from happening with Volt been in vain. Supposedly, they think people researching a purchase won't ask the same questions Prius owners are now. With the quantity of 2010 on the road already (I saw 4 today), that's a weak argument at best. Hybrids are becoming common. The understanding of how they work is no big deal anymore. Vague superiority claims are drown out by abundant examples of real-world experiences.
Hybrid Subclass, terminology. Well, this is a new twist on an old greenwashing them. Certain Volt enthusiasts are still striving to classify both Prius and Insight in the same category, calling both "parallel" hybrids even though they are well aware of the "split" hybrid advantages over the "assist". The attempt to mislead today was to acknowledge the differences by just saying each was a subclass of the same overall class. Needless to say, I angered them by responding with: Based on that logic, Volt also falls into that same category. Think about the arguments EV supporters will pose… no engine at all. This very topic is why today's discussion (Advertise/Educate) is such a big deal. When you dilute by not pointing out fundamental differences like the number of motors, their sizes, and the ability to operate independently, you're asking for trouble. Vague references don't help anyone in the long term.
Electric Heater Concerns.
Volvo revealed a unique strategy for their anticipated plug-in vehicle.
They stated at the freezing point, you can expect to lose 35 to 40 percent of
electric driving range due to the electricity a heater can consume. That's
quite a bit, especially when you take into account the reality that it gets
considerably colder here in Minnesota. Their proposed solution to prevent
range from shrinking that much was to use a fuel-operated heater. A engine
as small as 6 kW could run using ethanol to provide heat for vehicle occupants.
There's something the purists didn't see coming. That's a highly
specialized adaptation of an engine to provide an extremely efficient solution.
Tiny engines used for generators create a lot of waste in the form of heat.
Why not just use one for heat for that particular situation?
Phase Out. How many times must one point out the purpose?
After 3 years, you'd think those certain few extremely stubborn Volt enthusiasts
would finally acknowledge it. But instead, it is this attitude of not
having any control at all since the automakers only release certain information.
Huh? It brings raising doubt to an entirely new level. Rather than
avoiding conclusion drawing, they don't say anything at all. With concerns
about the environment and oil-dependency, you'd think they'd at least make some
references to purpose. Instead, we get nothing. It's very
frustrating. Volt is very much a niche, yet they portray it as the future
standard without any consideration to what the majority will actually by.
When? Who? Needless to say, now that it's been an entire 3 years,
the time to push has come. The purpose is to phase out traditional vehicle
production. That means quickly selling the new technology in high-volume.
Geez! My guess is they actually know this but fear the pressure pricing
will put on their dream, so they pretend ignorance as an effort to pacify
Marketing Solution. It should be no surprise at all that
the executive vice-president of sales & marketing for Volkswagen made the
following comment today: "Hybrids are often more a marketing solution than
anything else." That automaker has always resented hybrids for taking
away sales from their traditional diesel vehicles. And now that sales of
hybrids are nearly 6 times more than diesels here in the United States, the
denial is growing deep. The so-called diesel "clean" is really just
marketing. Those of us who do the research discover that Tier-2 Bin-5
rating is the opposite extreme of what many of the hybrids offer (SULEV & PZEV).
It is the absolute minimum sales requirement, dirtier than the typical
non-hybrid gas vehicle (ULEV). Interesting that someone who depends so
heavily on marketing would accuse the competitor of doing that very thing, eh?
The temp today hovered around freezing (quite warm by MN standards), so I took
advantage by getting much-needed errands done. 101.8 miles of very mixed driving
(average 32 MPH) resulted in a displayed efficiency of 54.1 MPG. The 2010
Prius sure puts a new perspective on January. The drop isn't as bad.
Of course, that's a matter perspective. Traditional vehicles are always
wasteful, all year long. Their least efficient time of the year is Summer,
rather than Winter like the hybrids with SULEV & PZEV emission ratings.
Heat is required to cleanse emissions. That's abundant when the
temperature is high... but not when the temperature low, hence needing to
consume more fuel to generate it. That's a reality quite unfamiliar to
those driving dirty guzzlers and really appreciated by those who have owned
older hybrids. In other words, I'm really enjoying this newest one.
Fixing Profit. Witnessing the success of Ford's sedan revitalization is something of positive acknowledge coming from GM. It's about time. To think of all those years we pointed out how the neglect of sedans in favor of SUVs... But now that the SUV is rapidly disappearing from roads (where did they go?) and new vehicles like Fusion & Fusion-Hybrid are emerging from Detroit, it's difficult to avoid noticing change. It is no longer a matter of just dealing with the well-earned merit of Camry or Prius. Blatant guzzling has lost its appeal and the profit from such monsters has evaporated. Hearing chairman Ed Whitacre say how Malibu must become a priority is a step in the right direction. Of course, like Volt, good intentions with limited production & sales won't make much profit. Hopefully, pressure from competition should help the situation.
Still No Data. 5 weeks later, nothing. Still no data for comparison, yet his complaints plagued us throughout the entire holiday season. It was maddening. A new Prius owner suffering from buyer's remorse had decided to take out his frustrations on us. The experienced members of the forum knew he hadn't done his homework before purchasing. With so many years of real-world data available, clearly showing the MPG caused by Winter, it was understandably embarrassing that he hadn't seen any of it. The assumption was that efficiency wasn't affected by season. His claims were that the drop was profound compared to his previous vehicles, yet never provided any data to support that. We didn't get anything more than a cherry-picked sample from his Prius either. Nothing to compare to confirmed our suspicions. Just like all those other diesel, hybrid, and traditional vehicle antagonists, real-world data isn't ever provided. They just argue with generalizations. We see right through that greenwashing, regardless of their motivation. No data means no credibility.
Range Questions. This one posted today certainly upset the Volt enthusiasts: "When factoring A/C, heat, and other electronics, what is the real range?" It's quite interesting seeing reactions, now that each message in the blog has a vote tally. I wonder what upset them more... the question itself or the fact that others are now asking the very same thing I had repeated asked in the past. Hmm? Wanting to know that information is quite constructive. After all, the most tenacious of enthusiasts pretend those factors don't actually influence range. They pretend a plug-in vehicle will always get the electric-only driving range estimate under all conditions, that the value is really just a pessimistic value. And now that real-world data from testing vehicles is trickling in, they are having a difficult time accepting the reality that the value was actually optimistic... that range can be significantly reduced by things like the Heater and A/C.
Hypocritical Arguments. How can the identical question be asked, resulting in such dramatically different outcomes, without pointing out hypocrisy of the is situation? In other words, when a Prius owner asks a Volt enthusiast it, they get extremely defensive response and refusal to acknowledge the reality. Yet, now those same enthusiasts are asking the very same thing offensively toward upcoming plug-in competition battery-only vehicles. Here's the question: "When factoring A/C, heat, and other electronics, what is the real range?" For 3 years, I asked that. Most absolutely insisted that was a non-issue and kept pushing the perspective of the engine in Volt only being there only for emergencies to relieve range-anxiety concerns. The few who did reply weren't constructive, claiming those factors were only minimal impact. But now that real-world data is proving that isn't the case, they are using it to show favor for Volt... even though it is unfavorable for competing with the other hybrids. This reveals a big shortcoming with the one-size-fits all approach. No flexibility of battery size or whether or not a plug is including limits market opportunity. Of course, they're still in the trap of focusing solely on engineering anyway. Business reality will come crashing down at some point. Niche vehicles are not enough. What will be the high-volume profit-making offering?
Hill-Assist. I hadn't really ever had the need to use it. But at that particular stoplight on a steep incline, why not? It was an ideal opportunity to try the hill-assist feature. After all, there was a bus close behind the Prius. So, I gave it a try. When the light turned green, I pressed hard on the brake all the way to the floor holding it there for a moment. A light on the instrument display illuminated and a single beep sounded. The brake would now remain engaged for a moment, after removing your foot from the pedal. That allows you to move over to the accelerator pedal without the vehicle rolling back. Sure enough, that worked fantastic, exactly as the feature had been described.
Hummer Dead. This symbol of extreme excess will die early next week. That's when GM will stop producing Hummer. Ownership will transfer over to China then. The best sales year for this incredibly impractical vehicle was 71,524 in 2006. So, even at its peak, there was no real comparison to Prius... though a few greenwashers certainly tried. I still find it hard to believe how insane of a level of hype Hummer escalated to. The way it guzzled gas was horrible. The way it compromised safety of others was truly frightening. But what I find most ironic is how owners claimed the purchase was for their own personal safety... until it was finally pointed out that Hummer's design allowed it to climb over guard-rails... the ultimate safety compromise! Anywho, it's rapidly disappearing from roads here. Once a symbol of pride is now a symbol of excess. Don't you love how the market self-corrects like this?
Mixed Messages. Depending on what you read, you get a different impression of what GM intends to deliver within the next few years. That Cadillac got lots of attention yesterday as an anticipated offering, but today it is just a concept vehicle which may only deliver 10 rather than 20 miles of electric driving capacity may not offer a plug or may not even be available as a hybrid. How could things be so confused after just one day? That sibling of Volt, called Converj, went from production planned back to concept in just one day too. Then of course, there's Volt with efficiency observations all over the place ranging from 28 to over 40 miles capacity and 35 to 50 MPG. What a mess of mixed messages. And that's without even a mention of BAS... which now seems to have vanished from existence, again. Don't even try to figure out sales location or quantities, those change continuously. It's amazing to see GM fall back into the same pattern of problems prior to the bankruptcy.