Prius Personal Log #447
January 30, 2010 - February 4, 2010
Last Updated: Thurs. 2/11/2010
page #446 page #448 BOOK INDEX
We're All Going To Die, exaggeration. The best example of blowing the situation out of proportion is to report that the braking transition takes long enough to react to it and it can happen at any time. In reality, it's a split-second and will only occur when heavy regen is taking place without any friction braking. In other words, your foot pressure on the pedal must be light and speed cannot be faster than about 30 MPH. If you press down hard, regen is bypassed entirely and the system goes straight to friction-only braking. So, the estimate of a car traveling an extra 90 feet when braking from 60 MPH doesn't even make sense. It's clearly an exaggeration. Any request to stop from a driver going that fast would engage friction braking along with regen... meaning at no time would there be no brakes slowing the vehicle... invalidating that estimate. And of course, the odds of striking a pothole large enough to trigger the "failure" sensation from a highway are quite rare... not impossible, but no where near as often as the hype is leading people to believe.
We're All Going To Die, hysteria. The most effective approach to taking away marketshare from Toyota has been to build up a sense of fear, to make people believe they are in certain danger. Taking advantage of the accelerator & brake post-sales updates (one a recall, the other voluntary) already under way is how the troublemakers have been doing it. They compel owners to think harm will come if they don't speak up... even though action has already been taken. Interestingly, Ford is providing something similar for their hybrid braking system, yet there is no retaliation toward them. In reality, it's primarily media hype. They thrive over stuff like this. Dealers are not getting flooded with owners lining up for the work immediately. Accidents aren't happening either. It's just a hysteria caused by those wanting to cause harm. Reports of brake "failure" haven't reveal any actual danger, only the need for improvement... which is already taking place.
Kick Them Hard.
There's lots of deliberate misleading right now. It's quite irritating
seeing posts coming out of no where that are intended to cause harm. The
hate for Toyota, who planned ahead, has been building for quite awhile.
Even GM once talked about the difficulties the next decade would bring, but they
didn't take that future seriously. Now it has arrived. So those
attempts to level the playing field are understandable, but quite inappropriate.
I'm curious to see how much all this lingers. How long will some continue
to raise doubt? How much will some portray rare circumstances as common?
Will this provide competitors an excuse for emissions & efficiency to be
disregarded? What's next? Raising awareness & expectations could backfire and harm the
entire industry. Sadly, many take what they read at face value. And
with so many vague & misleading reports now, restoring credibility could take a
very long time.
January Sales. The disturbance in the force has made looking back at the past month somewhat meaningless. Toyota halting production to divert resources to recall efforts has never happened before. Outcome in the short-term will be unique, perhaps not even hinting at what the long-term will bring. Whatever the case, there are still some numbers to report. Toyota sold a total of 12,190 hybrids here. 8,484 were Prius. 2,313 were from the Lexus division. What will happen in February is anyone's guess.
Promotional Video. Taking advantage of new mediums to reach consumers is resourceful, especially in this new emerging automotive market. Though, how successful that can be remains to be seen. In this case, it was a new video posted on YouTube by GM. They took the opportunity to push the "not a SERIES hybrid" mindset again. But this time, they went much further than expected. Volt is portrayed as traditional vehicle when not in "EV mode". There is no MPG expectation of any kind anymore. It's gone! The entire "230" escapade is now as if it never happened. They appear to have abandoned that idea of efficiency measure entirely. Instead, focus is exclusively on the electric-only driving with the engine only there for special circumstances. In an ironic twist, it makes the FULL hybrids appear as though they are only ASSIST with respect to a plugging in. That would actually be ok too, if price differences weren't so drastic... quite unlike the nearly identical prices between Prius and Civic-Hybrid. Volt will be considerably more expensive requiring a 16kWh capacity battery-pack rather than the 5.2 kWh planned for Prius. Of course, that wasn't mentioned in the video.
Hybrid Reality. Of all things unexpected, reading a long
article from an automotive publication praising Prius rates as one of the top
shockers. We've waited for an event like this for an entire decade.
This summary was published back in 1999 by Car & Driver about Prius: "A fascinating,
and costly, way to save cheap gas." Remember that? Probably
not. But what you likely do remember is me continuously complaining over
the years that all they focused on was efficiency. We'd get nothing but
MPG information without any mention whatsoever about emissions. That sure
has changed, rather abruptly. Now, they actually point out how much a
dirtier "clean" diesel vehicle is compared to a traditional gasoline vehicle.
They make it abundantly clear that the term is only a relative measure compared
to "old" diesel, with the hybrids like Prius still offering far better emissions
in comparison. Anywho, with this particular comparison performed by Road &
Track, the 2010 Prius absolutely slaughtered the Golf TDI (a diesel smaller than
Jetta) in every single MPG category. It was wonderful to see that.
Here are the numbers... Easy Suburban 57.5/41.1; Suburban Sprawl
66.7/39.0; Mixed Suburban 62.3/43.1; Canyon Carving 40.8/30.9; Freeways
53.8/45.0; Dreaded Commute 57.8/47.4; The LA4 50.5/31.6; Cruise Control (no A/C)
57.3/53.5; Cruise Control (with A/C) 55.8/49.2; Summary (336 miles, 31 MPH
Accord Crosstour. I waited to comment until I actually saw one of these new vehicles in person. I walked up to it in a parking lot today. It's enormous! What in the world is Honda thinking!?! The thing is clearly a guzzler, disguised as something efficient. Sadly, the numbers confirm that. The MPG estimates are 18 City, 27 Highway, 21 Combined. That's terrible. Opinions online agree too. What's the point of creating something like that as the guzzler market rapidly shrinks? My guess is they made the commitment to build it when they thought the market was recovering from $4 gas and never expected the bottom to fall out instead, then consequently got stuck with contracts to expense to back out of. Whatever the circumstances, the impression is that it won't appeal to many. A quick scan of the typical parking lot clearly reveals big change. Where have all the guzzlers disappeared to?
Setting Goals, urgency. The most realistic excuse for those terrible attitudes is looking at the situation from the perspective as if there is no urgency. Why set a goal when 30 MPG is perfectly fine for the next decade still? After all, there's no such thing as "global warming", there isn't a problem with the air we breath, and there's no reason to be concerned about oil dependency... right? Just let the next technology mature in the meantime... right? Consumers will be content waiting, without any desire for a 50 MPG vehicle... even though no goals were ever set for whatever that next technology should actually deliver. When they simply dismiss details, making no effort to be constructive, something is wrong. They are accepting the minimum. Why address the problem now if you can delay answering questions until later... right?
Setting Goals, purchases. Isn't the point of hybrids to replace traditional vehicles? How will a highly-promoted, low-volume vehicle accomplish that? If automaker production remains primarily unchanged with the new hybrid doing little more than just capturing interest, the goal has not been met. Or was there never one set for that? Is the hype really just to generate a "halo" effect? Is concern only for the long-term, sacrificing competitiveness over the next few years for advantage in the following decade? Shouldn't it be about purchases soon to be made? A vehicle now will remain in service for many, many years to come. One that's only ULEV emission rated and delivers only an estimated 30 MPG is a terrible goal. Prius is much cleaner and much more efficient. It doesn't require a plug either; that will be an option. Is a hybrid like Volt with a charge-sustaining efficiency of roughly 40 MPG and a 30-mile Winter range estimate a worthy goal? What about the price? How many will be purchased if those are the goals set?
Setting Goals, keeping up-to-date. A common problem with hybrids is the reliance on outdated information. This morning provided a fantastic example of that. A website known for misleading about hybrids published an article sighting a poll that ranked Fusion as the "favorite" hybrid. I had a difficult hunting down the source. Only percentages were listed. So true participation is unknown. So, there's no way to tell how many people the difference between the 26% for Fusion and the 23% really was. One thing we do know for certain though is the poll was from late last summer. Remember the craziness between waiting-lists and cash-for-clunkers back then? Poll results were published on October 1. Yet, the article today portrayed results as if the poll had just taken place. How many were aware of the difference between the 2009 and 2010 Prius back then? For that matter, how many even knew a new model was available? Keeping up-to-date is vital. Don't rely on information if you don't know when it was gathered. Old facts may no longer be relevant.
Setting Goals, education. The topic of hybrid education is a big one. It has been a huge problem for a whole decade. Consumers typically don't know how traditional vehicles work anyway. So when they encounter all the misleading & greenwashing nonsense I routinely deal with, their searches for information are hit or miss. Yesterday provided a great insight to this. There was a Honda discussion on a green blogging website, which draws a diverse audience, a great place for wide-ranging market feedback. It was pretty astonishing to read posted comments. Differences between Insight and Prius are a huge mystery still. Many have no idea how fundamentally different the design & operation are. The lack of component awareness is frightening. In general, people have absolutely no idea why Prius is so much more efficient. The fact that its larger and more powerful, yet delivers much higher MPG, completely baffles still. That's a sign of trouble. An urgent need for education should be obvious. We don't want people spending their hard-earned money, then being disappointed later after discovering shortcomings of their purchase decision.
Setting Goals, grading system. A very effective technique of measuring hybrids in the past was to grade them. Criteria was identified, making value easy to see based on the gain each feature provided. For example, a hybrid offering electric A/C had a clear advantage over one that relied on an engine running to operate the condenser. Because it was a relative scale, that worked extremely well. Comparisons without technical were easy. The grading system ended many IMA verses THS debates. Later, the same was true for Two-Mode and HSD. In other words, the criteria was the goals. What do you want the hybrid to deliver? If it doesn't and another does, they clearly aren't equal. This is why certain Volt enthusiasts have went to extremes to keep discussions vague. Detail reveals shortcomings. Grades make that simple to see.
Setting Goals, to summarize. They aren't happy with me. In fact, there's anger. They see hybrids like Prius as an obstacle, rather than a vehicle that's aggressively pushing high-volume production of automotives batteries. The mainstream acceptance of non-plug vehicles is considered a wasted effort, rather than a step to help phase out traditional vehicles quickly. Sadly, they never even acknowledge markets outside the United States either. There was some spirit of cooperation in the past, but that has faded away as rollout approaches. The existence of those 80 pre-production models now being real-world tested locked them into a mindset of competition. It's not a matter of hybrid verses traditional anymore. It's not even a matter of accepting other plug-in options. It's a one-size-fits-all approach. How is that a wise decision?
being proactive. Those enthusiasts of Volt who did set goals
originally should be given credit for that effort. Back then, when they
were unaware of how unrealistic 50 MPG and $30,000 was for a SERIES hybrid was,
it was acceptable. But now, after having learned the limitations of the
technology at this point, they have decided not to say anything rather than
adjust accordingly. The education has rendered them silent. We'll never know if it's from disappointment or
the realization that the FULL hybrid supporters did actually have enough
experience with the situation. That's because some of the Prius owners
push. We don't just observe. I posted the following to make that
overwhelming clearly: PROACTIVE = Stating a goal, then actually doing something to make it
happen. REACTIVE = Just watching it happen.
It boggles the mind that such obvious leader & follower outcomes are simply
dismissed. To make a difference, you actually have to do something. And to
achieve the desired outcome, you must state what's needed to fulfill it.
doing the minimum. The mindset of observer makes me crazy. Why
would you just watch history unfold when you have the opportunity to be part of
it? Participation allows you to influence the outcome. Your
contribution helps to push results in the direction and at the speed you
actually need. Hoping that happens is quite a gamble. Yet, the daily
bloggers feel that's all they can do... even when examples of what else is
possible are provided. They just dismiss success of the past. Why?
How are automakers suppose to know what consumers will buy without the consumer
ever making their desires known? It's a guessing game, one doomed to
disappoint. Automakers don't risk profit. Unless we push for change,
it won't happen at an acceptable pace. History clearly shows that doing
the minimum is preferred.
That's the lesson to be learned from the past. You can't just hope for