Prius Personal Log  #465

July 1, 2010  -  July 5, 2010

Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010

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7-05-2010

Freedom Drive, support.  The reason I enjoy documenting rare opportunities like this is to capture the abrupt nature of change.  Support suddenly shifts focus when something goes bad.  They try to pretend it never happened or downplay as much as possible.  But it's too late.  That was definitely the case with this publicity stunt.  There was high hopes some numbers would finally be shared to shut the naysayers up.  Good old real-world data to the rescue!  Many of the enthusiasts looked forward to seeing the results of this trip.  It was symbolic of their effort and the timing, they could legitimately declare independence.  Instead, just the opposite happened.  Now they have to come up with excuses justifying why nothing was shared.  Funny how none of them were mentioned a few days ago.  More interesting is how that never applied to Toyota last year with the 2010 Prius.  Remember the "Beat The Chief" challenge back in March 2009?  The results from that were shared prior to rollout and finalized EPA estimates.  Why can we get numbers from that but not from this?

7-05-2010

Freedom Drive, competition.  Seeing real-world annual results revealing a solid 50 MPG from Prius is likely at the heart of the frustration.  That, combined with the upcoming plug-in model, makes competing a major challenge.  A more aggressive approach could compensate for that.  But none of the enthusiasts wanted acknowledge the "too little, too slowly" assessment by the auto task-force over a year ago.  Now, some are realizing how accurately that applied to the nature of the competition about to unfold.  GM couldn't deal with that much change that quickly, even though it was necessary.  It means a struggle to catch up is coming again.  Will management choose a stance requiring tough choices?  What is the long-term strategy for Volt?  We have no clue what the target-price, overall-efficiency, or production-volume goals are.  Meanwhile, there are 600 plug-in Prius being delivered to industry & education centers throughout the world gathering valuable data to help ensure a very competitive design.

7-05-2010

Freedom Drive, predictions.  Using an efficiency estimate of 40 MPG is looking more and more on the generous side.  GM itself stated direct-drive is more efficient than converting mechanical motion to electricity then back to mechanical again.  Hearing nothing about CS-mode, despite continuous requests for it from a variety of sources, paints a picture of disappointment.  Sadly, that disappointment could have easily be avoided by being up-front about the design in the first place.  Some still hope for that original goal of 50 MPG being met with this upcoming first generation.  How?  And if so, why not promote that?  The facts make it far easier to predict 35 MPG.  After all, that makes Volt very much like a traditional vehicle that offers a "40-mile" capacity for EV.  Isn't that a good thing?  Predicting that answer to now be "no" looks like a good bet.  How about predicting an increase in frustration leading to further division of the enthusiasts?

7-05-2010

Freedom Drive, squandered.  Road trip complete.  Volt operated well.  Of course, no one ever doubted any of the engineering.  There was nothing remaining to prove.  We already knew that.  What we didn't know was CS-mode efficiency.  Guess what, we still don't.  GM didn't share any MPG data at all.  In fact, the only information shared was just a repeat that it would deliver "best in class" efficiency, which currently is 26/35 from Corolla.  It was an opportunity squandered.  They had the chance to show some real-world data that could be applied to educational materials.  Instead, we got nothing.  This exactly the behavior predicted.  GM would keep us hanging with vague references as long as they possibly could.  Consumers are allowed to assume and antagonists are allowed to mislead.  Why in the world won't they share anything?

7-04-2010

Freedom Drive, detail.  The anxiety of getting detail from GM about this road trip is building.  There's genuine fear that it could become just another publicity stunt.  There's also fear that it will reveal a weakness for the competition to exploit.  Fortunately, not everyone is fearful.  There are some with anticipation that this will represent change.  We'll find out soon enough.  Here's my contribution to the developing situation:  Seeing today as a turning point is everyone's hope.  Revealing trip detail is a great opportunity for them to break free from the past.  Being straight-forward about results of this particular drive would go a long way to establish credibility.  Information prior to this has been so vague, it was easy to simply dismiss as hype.  Something real-world is a necessary next step.

7-04-2010

Think Different.  Remember that marketing motto?  Apple used it for years, hoping to convince consumers to break away from the ubiquitous PC and give MAC a try instead.  Ultimately, it was self-defeating though.  If too many people began to "think different", the computer from Apple would become mainstream.  Their motto would then end up encouraging them to try PC after awhile.  So, they had to drop it.  That's what I say happening with EREV.  Of course, we all knew avoidance of the word "hybrid" was part of GM's history they were desperately trying to make people forget.  All the anti-hybrid marketing they had done years ago was now coming back to haunt them... another case of self-defeating short-sightedness.  Anywho, the official decision by SAE to classify Volt as a PHEV is wonderful vindication.  I sure hope the enthusiasts see it as an opportunity for reconciliation.  Isn't the point of a PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) to reduce emissions & consumption more than a non-plug hybrid can?  Isn't that the goal GM had for Volt anyway?

7-04-2010

PHEV Classification.  It's intriguing to witness GM fight the system.  That absolutely insist "Crossover" vehicles are different from SUVs.  Do they think any consumer actually believes that?  The EPA certainly doesn't.  They still place them in the SUV category.  Now we hear that the SAE J1711 (Society of Automotive Engineers' Standard Testing Procedure) just got approved.  That dismissed GM's attempt to classify Volt as a EREV.  Their official classification is PHEV.  In other words, it's looked upon the same as a plug-in Prius.  Both will be PHEV, because both utilize combustion engines.  The difference will be one testing in the "full performance" category and the other using the standard UDDS (Urban Dynamometer Drive Cycle).  In other words, technical design triumphed over marketing spin.  Yeah!

7-04-2010

Independence Day.  The day sure started out on an impressive note.  Too bad I wasn't able to film what I saw.  There it was, a massive brown bird with a white head sitting on top of a power pole.  It jumped off, spread its majestic wings, and swooped down right in front of the Prius.  What are the odds that I'd experience a rare bald eagle sighting like that on the 4th of July?  The most amazing part was when it landed across the street.  To see those large talons reach out to grab a large tree limb was quite a sight.  That's when I caught the best view of the wingspan too.  The bird sure was big.  The timing was remarkable.  I so easily could have missed seeing that, being too far away or dealing with traffic at that moment.

7-03-2010

Winter Recharging.  I purchased a handheld rechargeable tool last week.  Looking at the instruction booklet today, I was intrigued to see Li-Ion recharging temperature listed so prominently.  3 times it clearly pointed out the battery must be at least 32F (0C) for the charger to operate.  Makes you wonder about the requirements for automotive recharging, eh?  I'm quite curious how the automakers will deal with that.  For Volt, how long will it take to warm the battery prior to the 10 hours (from fully-depleted using a 120-volt plug) of recharging itself?  With a single battery-pack and wanting to take advantage of off-peak charging, that necessity of warming the entire thing prior to starting adds an interesting twist to the equation.  For Prius, the battery-pack is divided into small sections.  The warming & recharging each individually is something which the design could take advantage of.

7-03-2010

$2.59 Per Gallon.  That average price for gas has been slowly creeping up over the past month.  A barrel of oil is still priced around $75 though.  But it makes sense with the oil spill disaster getting worse and worse that the futures market for oil is looking pretty grim.  Summer travel is a guarantee that price won't go down.  I can't imagine what will happen if later a hurricane causes long drilling platform shutdowns.  Remember in the past when that happened... prior to us learning about the risk & neglect contributing to the spill, of course.  We are becoming accustom to paying more.  It's the "boil a frog" scenario playing out, exactly as predicted.  Concern about liability will add to the mess.  Damage claims are only now trickling in.  Expect a flood of them later to really stir the industry.  Predicting higher gas prices in the future is very easy to do.  Uncertainty is gone.  We know change is here.

7-03-2010

Price Priority.  For many years now, throughout the development & rollout of aftermarket enhancements for Prius, the desired plug-in price premium was always in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.  Surveys & Posts pointed that out time and time again.  Of course, that takes into account factory savings, something an aftermarket offering simply cannot take advantage of... like not having to purchase an original battery first.  They don't have the ability to alter software or operating voltage either.  That means what comes from Toyota will be more refined and more affordable.  That also means Toyota has the ability to make price a priority and engineer a system to fit the requirement... which is precisely what they did.  They set a target premium of $4,000... exactly in the middle of what consumers had said all along they'd be willing to pay.  After all, that's pretty much what really nice upgrade packages cost anyway.  It's too bad GM abandoned their target, allowing Volt to become so expensive.

7-03-2010

Like Toyota Did.  The build up to Volt rollout making you crazy yet?  It's just like what GM did with Two-Mode.  I don't recognize it to Prius like Toyota did no matter how many times the enthusiasts claim that.  They say it's new technology and pretend GM doesn't have any electric-propulsion or battery-pack experience already.  It's clearly not 1997 anymore.  We've had EV1, a number of Fuel-Cell prototypes, and Two-Mode all since then from GM.  So, claims of new are quite disingenuous... especially when you take into account all the electric-propulsion misconceptions of the past.  The point they cannot argue and get rather angry about when I rebuttal with it is the fact that what Toyota did was price Prius at target-market value right way.  The hope was they'd later be able to make a profit at that price.  That's obviously not what GM is doing.  They are heavily dependent upon taxpayer assistance (the federal credit) and even then it won't achieve the original goal of "nicely under $30,000".  The price will be well out of the reach of the mainstream consumer's budget.

7-03-2010

Freedom Drive, promise.  The reputation of the past comes to mind: "over promise, under deliver".  This is why I repeatedly bring up Two-Mode.  That's recent history which offers a remarkably similar parallel.  Concern about price was abandoned.  Talk about cost-reduction was simply pushed to a future generation issue.  Volt have already done both.  So... it's boasting about superior efficiency that's the topic at hand now.  Remember how MPG was supposed to be compared to the competition?  That didn't work out.  The improvement was negligible.  What does that mean for Volt?  Dreams of 50 MPG will likely be crushed.  Prior to rollout could be a good thing though.  Setting of realistic expectations was not part of the Two-Mode drama.  It could be for Volt though.  But will the enthusiasts actually embrace the reality of a 40 MPG average in CS mode?  Hopefully, we'll find out soon.

7-03-2010

Freedom Drive, efficiency.  This part of the announcement caught my attention: "When the Volt's battery runs low, a sophisticated engine-generator seamlessly engages to extend the driving range to about 300 miles on a full tank of gas."  We've also heard and seen the following many times now: "total driving range of 340 miles".  Knowing that the tank capacity is 9 gallons, the math is pretty easy to do.  CS mode efficiency won't be anywhere near the 50 MPG enthusiasts have been wanting.  I posted this in response to the event unfolding at this very moment...  Volt's strength is remaining within the usable kWh capacity of the battery-pack to take advantage of electricity as much as possible.  The "Freedom Drive" will clearly point out the benefit when exceeding it.  Question is, how forthcoming will GM be about the efficiency in CS mode?  This is a fantastic opportunity to upfront about the design, something we still haven't seen yet.  It would be great for this to be a turning point for GM, a big chance for them to break away from practices of the past.  What detail do you think will be shared about the drive?

7-03-2010

Freedom Drive, overall.  Those obsessed with the engineering of Volt often does see the business realities.  The fact that is will cost far more than the targeted $4,000 premium for the plug-in model of Prius is usually the reason they try to avoid ever discussing it.  Those wanting far fewer traditional vehicle being produced see the situation entirely different.  They consider the big picture.  For example: 30,000 Volts + 970,000 guzzlers is still a problem due to overall consumption.  With respect to the impact those 1 million vehicles will have, it's easier to see why price is a really important factor.  Take this other example: 180,000 Prius + 20,000 plug-in + 800,000 guzzlers results in a greater reduction.  That's why I've been pushing so hard for GM to offer more... higher Volt production volume along with a second model that's more affordable.

7-02-2010

Freedom Drive, pointless.  That was the sound off about CS mode, as a result of some Volt enthusiasts actually trying to be constructive.  One even posted some calculations, showing how overall efficiency of that trip would roughly equal that of what Prius delivers.  Like usual, the plug-in model was excluded.  It's amazing how they make sure to never mention it.  Of course, I did... pointing out how overall MPG would actually be better than Volt.  After all, long-distance travel is not deemed as a strength as it is with the regular Prius or the plug-in.  Think about the 3.56 kWh of electricity available.  Whether or not the engine runs during a trip longer than 40 miles doesn't matter... so... I guess it really is pointless.  But that wasn't the point they were trying to make.  It's always an effort to make Volt look better rather than it being an ally in the crusade against guzzling.

7-01-2010

Freedom Drive, announced.  During a press conference today, GM announced a rather blatant publicity stunt.  To coincide with the our celebration of Independence Day, they will be driving a Volt from Austin, Texas to New York City.  That just happens to be 1,776 miles.  What real-world data from that drive do you think they'll actually share?  Remember a certain VW dealer that did a cross-country drive?  That turned out to be extremely bias, very misleading, and data was intentionally withheld.  An automaker shouldn't be anywhere near as bad.  In fact, they'll probably be straight forward about the experience.  My guess, though, is that it will be so vague you won't be able to apply that information to any other situation... for example, detail like what CS mode efficiency at a particular speed.  Stay tuned.

 

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