Prius Personal Log #469
July 24, 2010 - July 28, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #468 page #470 BOOK INDEX
Still Avoiding It. You gotta love when you catch
discussions dancing around a topic. That most definitely was the case
today. Both the big GM forum and that daily blog avoided any mention
of the plug-in Prius. They don't even want to acknowledge it exists.
What kind of constructive approach is that? This has been going on for
quite some time. I can't wait until I get my opportunity to drive the
figment of their imagination. An affordable solution that offers a MPG
boost rather than emphasizing an EV-only range must be too difficult to deal
with. After all, it would require acknowledging that Volt is a
hybrid... since it can use an engine as a power source. You'd think
that would be considered a benefit. Instead, they dismiss it as an
emergency device which will rarely be needed. Anywho, I just plain
couldn't resist pointing out my observation:
Notice the many references there are to Prius?
Notice how none of them mention the plug-in model?
Why is such an obvious comparison consumers will make avoided here?
Sticker Shock, promoted. My patience only lasts so long. I get tired of the lack of constructive discussion. All we are getting now is excuses. One after another. Over and over. Too bad I document what was actually promoted. That tells a very different story from what they are spinning now, as I happily pointed out on the big GM forum: But that's not what GM had promoted. We were clearly told (and many here echoed the sentiment very abrasively) that capacity for YEAR #2 would be for delivering 60,000 and that demand could be met when needed. Then just a few weeks ago, that message changed and production for YEAR #2 was capped at 30,000. Those mainstream intentions changed... hence the task-force assessment of "too little, too slowly" being confirmed. Now, we wait for gen 2 with no target price reduction set, no volume expectation, or even a timeline. Sound familiar? Can you say: Two-Mode?
Sticker Shock, proof. The excuse most commonly being posted now is about getting proof. Frustrated by the pattern of denial, I posted: "Prove the technology first" is the spin I've been hearing since the price reveal. That supposedly was GM's goal all along, with cost-reduction a priority later. Since when? That doesn't make sense anyway. Consumers naturally expect next models to offer increased performance at a similar same price. The size of the battery-pack could easily have been reduced to lower price quite a bit without affecting the proof. In fact, use of the engine more frequently would do a better job demonstrating the integration of multiple electricity sources. Seeing capacity increase over time without much of a price change is a well-proven approach in the computer industry. Why not with a plug-in vehicle too?
Sticker Shock, capacity. The likelihood of good news about CS-mode is causing trepidation. Too bad the Volt enthusiasts were always so insistent upon the "40 mile" range being an absolute minimum. Nothing less was acceptable, regardless of price. Is that still the case now? I asked: The plug-in model Prius offers hard battery-only acceleration using just a 5 kWh battery. Why in the world did Volt absolutely have to use a 16 kWh battery? Why not just 8 instead? If the MPG in CS really is 50, it simply makes no sense not to have offered a more affordable initial configuration. Of course, that doesn't matter anymore. This Volt simply isn't competitive (potential to be a mainstream vehicle) at such a high price. It's the next choice that we want to know about now. So... do we discuss that next generation configuration or just go on cheering for what limited markets will have access to over the next few years? What is the next move for enthusiasts, especially those who have now chosen to delay their purchase?
Sticker Shock, next? The enthusiasts have had their world turned inside out. The reality of $41,000 has stopped them cold. I attempted to ask what was next though: Looks like I'll be the one to point out the differences between Volt now and that which we were told about 3.5 years ago are so great the original "vaporware" claims have indeed been validated. So, what happens next? To improve emissions & efficiency, we can easily see the engine size shrinking and switching to the more efficient Atkinson pumping cycle. To reduce cost, we can easily see the size of the battery-pack getting smaller. The added benefit to that would be increased seating space and less overall weight. The driver interface is far more elaborate (expensive) than it needs to be. That's an obvious target for lowering price too. What else?
Sticker Shock, sugarcoating. The video featuring the price reveal was long and offered almost no detail. In fact, I joked by saying that's what they meant by transparency... we could see right through the lack of substance. The Volt enthusiasts didn't find that amusing. I wasn't in a good mode from having had to listen to all the sugarcoating. The executives speaking just glossed over the premium fuel issue. Attention was diverted to extras instead, unnecessary features like applications to connect your iPhone and control plug-in operations remotely. Think of how much things like that added to the price. The theme was image. Amazing new opportunities awaited. That sounds great until you realize there's a business to run and most profit comes from the vehicles which draw little notice. Mainstream vehicles are mainstream because they are abundant & affordable... not what they were promoting. I injected: The ultimate measure of progress has been sales, since that indicates actual change from traditional to new technology. A vehicles with a $41,000 price is not going to achieve that change. Mainstream volume requires a mainstream price... nicely under $30,000.
Sticker Shock, disappointment. That's been the theme, so far. No argument about the current disposition. What comes next is anyone's guess... though it's pretty easy to sells sales will be so limited at first, we won't hear much from the enthusiasts who were planning to buy a Volt. In fact, several have backed down and want to be taken off the waiting list now. It's too bad that "40-mile range" was made a centerpiece of all the promoting. We knew that wasn't realistic for Winter use anyway. But so emphasis on that made range important, rather than overall efficiency. It soured the appeal of less intentionally, preventing much attention to smaller capacity offerings from competitors. In other words, GM shot itself in the foot... painted itself into a corner... went up the creek without a paddle. You get the idea. Disappointment was predictable. Price concern wasn't taken seriously.
lease. The operating terms of the 36-month lease available
are a mystery, but the $350 monthly payments with $2,500 down are known &
reasonable. Leasing makes sense for a vehicle like Volt. The
mileage limitation will pretty much force the leaser to remain within the
charge-capacity range. Driving to the point of triggering CS-mode
would exceed the distance allowed if you do it more than on a rare occasion.
That would make the ownership perspective a pleasant one though, since you'd take full advantage of being able
to plug-in. It makes you wonder what the value of Volt will be after
the lease expires. Hmm? The end of that term would be around 4
years from now based on the planned market rollout. At that point, the next generation design
would be all the rage.
Sticker Shock, trolls. Send in the trolls is the battle cry now, for both sides. Too bad their had to be sides in the first place. But it was their choosing. Sadly, this stated the perspective on the daily blog well: "Turns out what you thought were trolls were just contributors with an above-average grasp of reality." When you aren't open to any constructive input, for that matter any comments not in a cheerleading fashion, you're pretty much doomed to this outcome. Some of us had been pushing hard for a lower cost model. That was looked upon as an effort to undermine. Now, they have figured out the hard way it wasn't. The $41,000 price will be far more of a sales deterrent than a model with less power and a shorter range. Do you think those contributing ideas now will still be considered foes? Or will some type of ally effort finally emerge?
Sticker Shock, purpose. This had always summed up the situation quite well... my purpose... my agenda, if you will: "To significantly reduce emissions & consumption in a reliable & cost-effective manner." The following is what I posted on the big Prius forum, curious as heck how they'll respond to the news: That has been the purpose stated on my website since way back when I owned a Classic model. It's what I pushed when the Iconic model became available, a solution for mainstream consumers. And of course, the 2010 model is sweet... opening the door for a plug option... something realistically priced. As for Volt, we knew it wouldn't be "nicely under $30,000" as originally hoped. That simply wasn't realistic with such a large battery-pack. But with all the bells & whistled added and so much emphasis on performance, the writing was on the wall. Price wasn't a priority. Now what? The daily blog for Volt is already flooded with disappointment posts. This wasn't exactly what they had hoped for.
$41,000. There's not much more to be said. That's what
it is. The price of Volt is waaaaaaay more than was hoped. How
would 16 kWh along with a combustion engine not be? Of course, that is
the "base" model. Though nicely loaded, the premium package with
leather seats, higher grade paint, etc. brings the price up to $44,600.
Imagine adding state sales tax and financing to that. Even with the
federal credit, that places it well out of range of most consumers.
Even many of the enthusiasts are backing down, not expecting to actually
purchase one until the second generation. See the kind of mess created
by not making price a priority. It was the secret of success for
Prius. We pointed out the importance. The advice fell on deaf
ears. Now they have a mess unfolding. Sure makes you wonder what
the fallout will be, eh?
Useful Information. A truly constructive question was asked about Volt today on the daily blog. That's what I like providing answers for and stimulating more on-topic discussion with. I responded with detail about the Energy-Info screen Leaf offers and mentioned live meters like that could be offered with Volt too. That resulted in this: "Not sure why you're getting negative votes for posting useful information." The reason for that is simple. Tomorrow is when the price announcement occurs. Enthusiasts are quite on the edge right now, very nervous about what the future holds if the price is too far out of reach for mainstream consumers. Anything that makes the competition look better is not welcome at the moment. Choosing superiority over being an ally has placed them in a very awkward position... which is pretty obvious when even useful information gets a negative response.
58.3 MPG. What can you say to that? I went on a bike trip today. There's about 50 miles of highway cruising at 65 MPH, each way. There's around 15 miles of non-highway driving each way too. Seeing that displayed average stay well above 50 MPG the entire time and ultimately ending with 58.3 is incredible. It totally makes those rare opportunities to drive out to a trail quite worthwhile. Having a hybrid that already performs so well at high speeds makes the thought of not using the engine at all when slower even more exciting. Yes, I know all EV all the time would be great, but the point is to offer an affordable solution for the masses. After all, not everyone has access to a plug even if they could pay a hefty premium. The balance of configuration is the essence of being a hybrid anyway. It makes the most of each opportunity it is presented with.
Solar Ventilation. I noticed the behavior was different today. With the sun directly above, glaring down brightly without any cloud interference made the fan more aggressive and longer running than I had expected. In the Spring, I hadn't observed that. The temperature inside and the energy available sure made a difference. Of course, it's too easy to take that for granted. You get into a car that's warm... rather than blazing hot. If it wasn't for the fan, you might overlook the effectiveness entirely. It's a nice perk having that solar panel on top. It's not necessary, but the moonroof that came along with that particular package sure is sweet. I like when the sun comes in from that, especially in the Winter when opening a window is something you avoid an all costs. So now, at the peak of Summer, I'm enjoying it all. The look of the dark glass roof sure is nice too.
$78.98 Per Barrel. The price of gas is $2.75 per gallon. $3 has already become the standard expectation for fuel-economy analysis. It's pretty much what was expected from peak oil becoming a reality. You simply cannot dismiss the expense anymore. Those memories of carefree guzzling and competing with your neighbors to have the biggest vehicle is over. That's now thought of as irresponsible, a terrible legacy to leave for your children. Unfortunately, the ramp up of hybrid availability is going to be a slow journey. Taking production on that scale seriously wasn't a wise business risk. Now, it's becoming a necessity. Isn't it amazing how things are changing? Too bad this was all predicted long ago. Just imagine if the price of gas had went up a decade ago... back when I was impatiently awaiting delivery of my first Prius.