Prius Personal Log  #454

March 26, 2010  -  April 3, 2010

Last Updated: Fri. 4/09/2010

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4-03-2010

Tax Credit Surprise.  The devil really is in the details.  According to an article I just read, the federal incentive money (tax credit) available to plug-in hybrids & electric-only vehicles is limited to 200,000 per automaker and... get this... only applies to the 2012 to 2016 model years.  No wonder Toyota isn't in any particular hurry.  Refining production of the newest Prius and testing the heck out of the plug-in configuration along with the switch to lithium batteries in the meantime could pay off big time.  The worry is that once that $$$ runs out, the market will collapse.  Volt faces the biggest challenge with that, due to having the most expensive design and not having a base product established.  Prius is quite the opposite.  The plug-in model will simply just be a high-end package, taking full advantage of the cost savings from high-volume production of the non-plug model.  That means Toyota will be able to reach a wide market at an incredible speed... hopefully not being affected by the loss of incentive afterward.  How will the other automakers deal with this.  And what the heck do those purchasing 2011 models with plugs get?

4-03-2010

Assist Types.  We are quite familiar with IMA.  That is what Honda offers.  It integrates an electric motor directly to the engine.  It is permanently attached.  Operation coincides with RPM.  That sharing is a limitation.  Flexibility isn't available due to the lack of a power-split-device.  Having a CVT helps though.  Adjustment to operational speed through it provides efficiency gain.  Hyundai took a different approach.  There is still only one motor, but rather than being integrated directly there's a clutch.  Also, it uses 6 gears instead of a CVT.  Being able to disconnect entirely is similar to what GM did.  That added complexity & cost though and the benefit was minor.  Lacking a second motor to supply electricity is the same shortcoming Honda has.  Will they still sell lots of these?  Will consumers notice the difference?  For those who don't place as high of an emphasis on MPG, it may not be much of a concern.  What about the emission rating?  Remember how some hybrids have ended up dirtier than their traditional counterparts?

4-03-2010

Back To EV.  That outcome of that infamous "230 MPG" campaign is now so negative that GM is doing everything it can to re-label Volt again as an EV, even though it has an engine and still uses gas.  Fine.  Whatever.  Arguing semantics & definitions doesn't achieve anything without real-world data anyway.  Of course, when the numbers are finally revealed, that's a different story.  In this case, we still know virtually nothing about CS-mode.  The test-drive reports so far clearly didn't accommodate learning about that feature.  Isn't that strange, a key design feature still remains a mystery despite claims of unparalleled transparency?  Again, whatever.  Changing promotion to focus exclusively on EV driving will likely make consumer perspective easier anyway.  More and more, hybrids about being considered the affordable choice for mainstream consumers.  EV will remain a highly desired niche.  That clears a path for heavy penetration of plug-in packages for the FULL hybrids.  The plug will just be a high-end model rather than an entirely separate vehicles.  That's great for both consumer & automaker.  Wide acceptance quickly is the key.

4-03-2010

Greenwashing Victims.  How do you deal with an enthusiast who doesn't understand that they are using an incorrect definition, one that was intentionally created later to undermine?  They are a victim of greenwashing and don't even know it.  They'll even go as far to argue with you claiming that the definition you recite from many years earlier is really just marketing spin.  The recent example of this is what FULL hybrid means.  Somehow, the ability to generate & consume electricity at the same time is no longer part of the definition.  How can something be missing yet still be deemed as a "full" design?  That's easy, be a supporter of a new hybrid that only has one electric motor.  Dismissing abilities the second motor provides is easy then.  After all, most consumers don't understand detail like that anyway... right?  Turns out, they do.  They see that the designs are not the same through real-world operation.  You notice the supply & use of electricity is considerably less when you have one motor trading off abilities for what two would do simultaneously.  They figure it out.  Too bad the passion runs so high in forums & blogs that the victims don't make the same observation.  Of course, admitting to not being aware of something is very difficult.  My advice: Choose your battles carefully.

4-02-2010

Almost $85.  The upcoming holiday weekend brought a spike to oil prices.  Closing price was $84.87 per barrel.  That caused gas to jump to $2.79 and diesel to $3.05 per gallon.  It's a bad sign.  Imagine what will happen during the travel season, especially when Memorial weekend and the 4th of July take place.  Vanishing SUVs is a fascinating reality.  It makes you wonder where the heck those unnecessarily large & powerful vehicles went.  They have disappeared, far from the dominating the roads here anymore.  Seeing on-going gas prices around $3 will continue to push them out of the spotlight.  Guzzlers have little appeal when it costs so much to keep their tanks filled.  The time for hybrids has arrived.  Which types will be most popular is now the question.

4-02-2010

Terminology Spin.  A few days ago, Hyundai introduced a hybrid Sonata.  It features a 2.4 liter direct-inject 4-cylinder engine along with a 30 kW electric motor.  There is no power-split-device.  There is no second motor.  It uses an automatic-transmission with 6 gears allowing motor interaction via a clutch.  They call it as FULL hybrid, based on the sole ability of being able to operate at 62 MPH.  They also claim no other hybrid can deliver that, despite the fact that the plug-in Prius already does.  The fact that it doesn't offer any serial abilities in itself disqualifies it from being "full", yet a few have claimed it is anyway.  Where the heck will the electricity come from if it only has just one motor?  The ability to generate & consume at the same time is missing.  Being able to sustain long electric-only driving and provide much electric A/C is impaired too.  In other words, this is yet another attempt at misleading marketing.  That's too bad, since it a rather nice ASSIST hybrid configuration.  It even utilizes a lithium battery-pack.

4-02-2010

Volt Test-Drives.  Remember that contest?  Those hoping to get the opportunity were polite at first, then turned nasty after being chosen.  Their defense of Volt, even in the face of obvious business shortcomings, became intense.  So naturally, I was quite curious what kind of reports they'd publish after getting that opportunity to drive it.  No surprise at all was the performance aspects of the electric propulsion.  Supposedly, it's so impressive people will be more than happy to spend lots of extra $$$ to get it.  We all know that is not an economic reality, but they believe it.  No surprise either that GM revealed absolutely nothing about CS-mode MPG.  Making much-desired niche vehicles that sacrifice cost & efficiency for the sake of a very appealing ride is something which they are very good at.  Making vehicles that are affordable & profitable high-efficiency with the same appeal is not something the current executives haven't expressed interest in.  Fortunately, there's an opportunity to change that as the last of the original blockades is about to step down.  So, what happens next?

4-01-2010

11,786 Purchased.  Sales of Prius continue to be stable.  Sales of Camry & Corolla shot through the roof.  The media hysteria certainly didn't have much of an effect on the short-term for consumers.  For the mid-term, I suspect some lofting goals to be scaled back and the bottom line to not be as impressive.  But then again, the economy is still struggling.  The long-term could still be quite strong.  Much of that could be based upon where consumers priorities shift.  With respect to hybrids, Prius is extremely well positioned for that growth... which has pretty much flat lined.  But stable is good.  Another 3,000 per month would be better.  That was the original plan before the bottom dropped out.  We can still call Prius a "runaway success" though!  I certainly like the fact that several 2010 sightings per day are common for me now.  The new model is taking hold.  The economy will recover.  Gas prices will inevitably rise.

4-01-2010

World Green Car?  How does the Volkswagen Polo get named "World Green Car of the Year" when it isn't even available in a major market?  The United States hasn't seen this subcompact, which is even smaller than Golf.  Yet, it is supposedly much more popular than Prius.  How can that claim be made when there is no choice?  It's not available!  And what about the fact that Prius gets a much been emission rating?  Part of the problem stems from diesel-related smog being disregarded as a problem.  Fortunately, change is on the way.  Greater emphasis on all types of emission is coming.  The so-called "clean" diesel is getting revealed as an incomplete solution.  Heck, even electric-only vehicles won't be considered emission-free in a few years.  Having "green" being taken more seriously is long overdue.  Evidence of that is Polo getting this award.  It really makes you wonder who's making decisions and how much effort it takes for genuine improvement to occur.

3-31-2010

59.3 MPG.  Seeing that displayed as a result of my commute to work and back today was quite rewarding.  After enduring low 40's from the dead of Winter here in Minnesota, having the efficiency shot back up from the return of nicer weather sure is nice.  The change of season variety is always refreshing with a Prius, but this year it is especially so.  I can open the moonroof.  At some point, I'll push that button for solar cooling too.  I wonder if there's anything new still to discover.  Hmm?  That went on for over a year following the purchase of the two other generations.  With this one though, we're extremely well informed about.  Heck, we even know a lot about the plug-in performance already.  Being able to so effortlessly cruise along using electricity is what I find most enjoyable.  Of course, the punch from the PWR button is handy.  It doesn't seem to affect MPG either.  Seeing 50's all Summer long is certainly something to look forward to.  The first taste of it today was a great start.

3-30-2010

Snowless March.  2 years ago, we got an absolutely amazing amount of snow in March.  The high-traction tires on the 2004 were overdue for a change.  Climbing up steep hills covered with snow triggered the traction-control repeatedly.  Then I had new tires put on (same type & brand), figuring my timing was terrible and all the opportunity to take advantage of the improved traction had been missed.  To my delight, we ended up getting way more than I had ever imagined.  It was the ideal for comparisons.  Just days later, I was comparing the difference between tires at there wear limit to brand new ones.  Under the same conditions, I could zip the same hill.  What a contrast!  Needless to say, I was intrigued to find out how the 2010 would do with just factory tires that already had about a third of their tread worn down.  No such luck.  We didn't get a single flake of snow all month long.  What is normally the snowiest month turned out to be snowless.  Oh well.  There's always next year.

3-30-2010

Price Importance.  Nissan announced the price of Leaf today.  The plan is $32,780 before the federal credit.  You could imagine the stir it caused.  That's what Volt is expected to be after that credit.  With such extreme pricing differences, what happens next is anyone's guess.  The importance hasn't been taken seriously up to now.  Enthusiasts simply claim it is worth the extra $$$.  It's as if they believe no competitor could ever deliver an equally appealing electric drive.  Why not?  How much more is a consumer really willing to pay?  After all, this topic has been a major priority for the entire decade hybrids have been around.  It certainly is going to be interesting, especially since 5 to 6 times as many Leaf as GM is planning for Volt.  It also begs the question of Volt will qualify for any state incentives, since it still has a gas tank and engine as opposed to Leaf having neither.  Sales are what ultimately make a difference.  How will initial pricing differ from long-term?

3-29-2010

Mazda Deal.  I hadn't expected this, especially since Ford owns 11 percent of the automaker.  Mazda has signed a license deal with Toyota.  That will help increase production of certain components supplied directly (like the ECU, electronic control unit) by Toyota and will obviously hybrids penetrate deeper into the market by reaching Mazda consumers.  It should be good for battery volume too.  This increases the pressure of supply & demand, shifting the market even more toward hybrids.  The thought of them being only a fad is ancient history now.  The technology is well proven.  News like this of expanding commitments to hybrids clearly supports that.

3-28-2010

Blind Hope.  Over the past decade, we've heard a number of wild claims about various new efficiency technologies.  Most fell apart as soon as you started looking into the detail.  When all factors are taken into account... acceleration, emissions, heating, cooling ...the hope falls apart.  And that's without even addressing the topic of cost.  So hearing from the Volt enthusiasts without anything to support their claims, it becomes quite a concern.  They aren't taking the need seriously.  Blind hope doesn't solve problems.  Today, that concern came from Cruze, the car which can be thought of as Volt's non-hybrid counterpart since it shares the same engine and similar body.  It doesn't take much to wonder how some can still hope for a 50 MPG average from Volt when Cruze is only expected to get 40 Highway and low 30's City with the manual transmission.  That simply doesn't make any sense.  So before the discussion topic got too far off-topic, I asked:  Optimized to it finest, that engine delivers 40 MPG.  Running at that same peak performance, Volt has to deal with the conversion loss from mechanical to electrical as well as weighing an extra 1,000 pounds or so.  How could it possibly do any better?

3-26-2010

Purpose?  With the fleet average requirement as of 2015 being raised to 35.5 MPG, a big increase from current 27.5 cars and 23.1 trucks, you'd think sales potential would be taken more seriously.  It was a huge gamble that already failed for the monster-size vehicles.  What about a technology that depends upon a plug?  Why no choice?  How come asking questions about the purpose of Volt is responded to with such resistance?  Frustrated by their complacency, I posted this:  Ran across this [on the big GM forum] yesterday for someone else: "Your post count is relatively low so you might not know how this forum work... People who speak accurately, logically and based on sound business principles and experience are immediately labeled as trolls."  Continue to dismiss constructive questions as just attempts from the competition to undermine.  That choice had dire consequences with Two-Mode, once those who were clearly associated with GM itself started asking the very same thing.

 

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