Personal Log  #474

August 19, 2010  -  August 27, 2010

Last Updated: Tues. 4/05/2011

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Clear As Mud.  The uncertainty from Volt continues.  Much of it has to do with the significant unknowns still associated with CS-mode.  What it will actually deliver and how it will go about achieving that is still a complete mystery.  Since there is so much attention being put on its efficiency, both to stress and to downplay its importance, the topic is really showing emotional attachment with regard to how people understand the system.  It's as clear as mud, resulting in rather expressive & terse posts lately.  I even responded with a "BS" mode comment at one point.  Comparisons to the PHV model Prius just plain don't work.  The enthusiasts don't want a level playing field either, another plug-in to help the progress of electricity use.  They proclaim "better" constantly, yet have virtually nothing to support that.  Isn't the point to quantify the amount of "fuel" likely to be consumed over an entire year?  The kWh of electricity could be determined without too much effort.  But for the gallons of gasoline, that's an entirely different matter.  The purists want Volt to be an EV.  That means no direct-drive; however, there have been many hints to the contrary.  The existence of a feature allowing the engine to power the wheels directly would indeed help to deliver the high MPG eluded to... but at the penalty of high cost.  That would also redeem GM's broken promise of adapting Two-Mode for small cars... but would reveal Volt to be a hybrid instead.  Whatever the case, it sure would be nice to see an end to all the marketing hype and support spin.  The wait until rollout for needed detail is pretty much inevitable.  Clarity doesn't seem to be achievable until then.


Creating Misconceptions.  A select few of the Volt enthusiasts certainly are trying hard.  Originally, I posted on that daily blog to clarify genuine misunderstandings about Prius.  Many hadn't paid attention to the hybrid market at all prior to joining there.  So, it made sense that incorrect assumptions would be made.  But all these years later, there's no excuse.  The purpose for Toyota sharing the PHV model Prius with supporters is crystal clear.  They were well aware of the possibility that undermining attempts would occur.  And sure enough, we are indeed seeing it now.  The veterans hope newbies will just accept their false claims at face value, without question.  Now, my posting is to keep that effort (often referred to as "greenwashing") from getting out of hand.  Having real-world experience behind the wheel of a PHV (completely uninhibited, with the freedom to drive & plug as I desired) provides strong purpose to squash any misconception creation attempt.  Today, it was the same old claim that acceleration when merging and on hills "Only if driven gingerly." was available in EV.  I know that just plain is not true.  Frustrated, I posted:  No, the EV hill climbing is surprisingly powerful.  That ability to accelerate up a steep suburb escape out of the valley where I live (1/3 mile at 40 MPH from a dead stop) turned out to be no big deal.  The electric motor offers quite a bit more punch from that configuration than the one without a plug.


The Switch.  Did you notice how the Volt distance statistic have switched from the original "78% drive less than 40 miles per day" to the new statistic of "75% commute less than 40 miles".  That's an interesting change in promotion.  Perhaps GM shouldn't have committed so heavily in the per-day expectation.  You think?  I knew that old survey with so small of a sampling was trouble.  Proper demographic representation is a challenge.  You want lots of input prior to such heavy investment.  Oh well.  At least  their moving of the goal posts after the game has begun is documented.  Now, it is just per-commute.  The same thing has happened with charge time too.  It originally was 8 hours for 110-volt and 3 hours for 220-volt.  Now, it is "10 to 12" and "like 4".  Again, perhaps they should have waited until later rather than make such bold claims right away.  Of course, this is how they got their "over promise, under deliver" reputation.  So, it's not like they don't bring it on themselves.  Other automakers intentionally refrain (don't hype) to avoid this very predicament.  Makes you wonder what consumers think when they discover the switch.


Aging Technology.  Don't you love when those supporting new technology in the "early adopter" phase attempt to dismiss that in the "mature" phase as outdated?  That's what Prius is facing now.  Attempts to accelerate aging aren't seeing too much success, thankfully.  Just becoming established in the minds of consumers takes a long time.  So the idea of obsolescence is rather absurd.  Just look how long small electronic devices intended for replacement after just a few years take to cycle through enough generations before the technology is deemed uncompetitive.  It takes considerably longer when dealing with vehicles.  In other words, this is the latest spin intended to undermine Prius.  Whatever.  Sales are the ultimate gauge of status, not proclamations from supporters.  Anywho, here's what I posted today in response to the latest attempt:  Every other technology in automotive history has struggled to reach the stage of mainstream acceptance.  It takes time for it to become well proven, affordable, and profitable.  Once there, they enjoy ubiquitous status and high-volume sales for decades.


Peugeot 3008 Hybrid.  Remember the proposal from Dodge in response to Prius almost a decade ago?  They were making plans to offer a "thru-the-road" type hybrid.  That design would take a traditional front-wheel drive vehicle, then be enhanced by adding an electric motor to the rear axle.  The idea faded into history... or so we all thought.  Peugeot apparently thinks they can deliver the idea Dodge had abandoned.  Two entirely independent systems like that presents a challenge.  Literally, there only connection is via the wheels touching the road.  As you could imagine, not much power can be provided that way without compromising vehicle stability.  That means only assist is practical, hence a 37-horsepower electric motor assisting a 163 horsepower 2.0 liter diesel engine.  It certainly sounds like an expensive way to save a small amount of fuel.  But the desperation the meet efficiency standards is forcing automakers to finally deliver something.


Still Amazed.  That hill climbing in EV was quite an experience.  I tried the same thing this evening with the 2010.  I couldn't keep it from entering the PWR zone on the eco-meter.  With the PHV model, it was no big deal.  There was plenty of power without even needing to push the pedal that hard.  Acceleration where lots of torque is needed, like climbing a steep incline like that, is something the large motor feed by just electricity handles surprisingly well.  It's so exciting knowing there's a landmark nearby that I can refer to.  Too bad I didn't catch that particular situation on video.  Of course, really late at night like that there wouldn't have been anything other than the screen to see anyway.  Nonetheless, I know I did that same climb 4 times.  Each was a pure delight.  The plug-in advantage was quite obvious.  I was amazed then... and still am now.  You always hope the design is that well thought out.  But to witness that it is firsthand, there's a feeling of vindication.


6 More PHV.  Today it was the city of Syracuse, New York getting attention for taking delivery of 6 plug-in models from Toyota.  3 different organizations will be using them for 12 to 24 months.  It's the longest duration I've heard of for collecting PHV data.  Getting a variety of driving from a variety of sources over such a time-span is great.  Data will be uploaded to a website Toyota will be providing.  People will be able to lookup up usage information and the kind of real-world efficiency they're getting.  This should help to paint a clear picture of what consumers will actually encounter in the real-world.  It's the next step to take beyond estimates & testing.  After all, just because it works well doesn't mean expectations will be met.  What are consumers willing to pay for?  What do they want in return for plugging in?  What stands out as strengths & weaknesses?


Still Frustrated.  Watching RPM on the aftermarket gauge, my frustration is still quite potent.  Slow RPM like that (idle rate) is the lightest load from the spinning engine, consequently the most efficient state.  With the 2010, observations of 145 MPG then are common, though brief due to it being an "in between" phase.  When that happens, the engine warm-up will be complete soon.  That means it will either take over as primary power source then or shut off.  That's not the case with the PHV model.  If you're traveling at speeds above the EV threshold, the engine will stay that way as long as it can... until you either need more power (for a hill or passing), slow down, or the sub-packs become depleted.  The 233 MPG witnessed at 70 MPH was fantastic.  The 315 MPG at 63 MPH was truly remarkable.  That contribution to efficiency through the use of electricity to reduce load on the engine is obvious.  It now changes those comments from the Volt enthusiasts to acts of antagonism, if they chose to continue to make those claims.  So, I really should relax at this point.  There are even photos to support the reality that more than a single technology can answer our calls for reduced emissions & consumption.  Of course, whether or not each is affordable is an entirely different matter.


Fourth Oil-Change All seemed to be going perfectly.  Getting the Prius up on the ramps has actually become fun.  With it still new, thoughts of using the jack had crossed my mind last time.  After all, that would provide more height to work.  But the torque of the electric-motor makes climbing up no big deal, even at a snail's pace.  So this time, the choice was the ramps.  The work itself is somewhat of a treat regardless of whether or not there's extra room underneath, since everything's so clean.  Having the engine compartment sealed off by plastic is definitely something I wish automakers had introduced ages ago.  Oh well.  I've got it now.  I've got a filter canister instead too.  Only having a paper insert as waster rather than a metal casing is nice in several respects.  Though, getting it off is a different matter.  I was always a bit apprehensive about putting the wrench on too tight.  What if it got stuck?  The canister housing rotates so nice, but that first crank to loosen it isn't easy.  Fortunately, this time it wasn't a chore at all.  Oh! Oh!  Too easy.  Sure enough, I wasn't as timid as I had hoped.  It was stuck, really stuck.  The thought crossed my mind to tap it with a hammer, figuring the act of straightening it would cause it to just pop off.  Instead, just the opposite happened.  It appeared to slip into a permanent bond position.  Bad?  Good?  I couldn't tell.  With such a perfect fit, it would never be a problem ever again.  The plastic now had a snug metal harness over it, the complete socket attachment.  Well... I'm thinking that's ok.  How bizarre of a "mistake" is that?  10,000 miles later, I may actually be suggesting others try the same thing.  Good thing too.  Turns out, the Prius wasn't actually due for a change yet.  Ugh!  That switch to 10,000-mile intervals, those recent adventures with the PHV, the tire rotation, along with the illuminated indicator were enough of a distraction to cause me to think being at 25,252 miles meant it was time.  Oh well.  Cost was only $33.84 and the unintended wrench "discovery" could turn out to be priceless.


Tires Rotated Actually, it happened 3 days ago.  But I didn't want to mess up the flow of the PHV entries.  So, you get the information here instead.  It was back to the reality of the 2010... only getting MPG in the low 50's.  That takes a bit of time to readjust to, right?  25,073 miles on them at this rotation.  It will be the last.  The previous rotation lasted 15,000 miles and brought the fronts up to the final stage.  Now in back and the deeper tread in front, the Prius should be sitting good all the way until replacement.  I expect both to be fairly even by the depths of Winter and enough rubber left overall to make it all the way through.  Wear itself is even.  Checking tire-pressure weekly ensures I'd notice one out of balance or alignment before the tire got damaged too bad.  Fortunately, all is well.  There's very few potholes around here and I'm lucky enough to not smack into curbs.  All is routine.  No excitement is a good thing.  $21.28 was the cost for this rotation.


PHV - Memories Already.  The first of the photos are now available.  Knowing it would take forever for me to sort through and make selections, I pulled out the first five that really jumped out at me to share right away.  This particular location has served as a wonderful backdrop in quite a few of my Prius photos over the year.  When I take the back way home, I drive right by it.  So catching clouds & lighting at just the right time isn't quite so difficult.  Still on this particular day, I really lucked out.  The clouds were spectacular.  I needed somewhere with shade to pull over and take display photos anyway.  Pulling out from the trees after and diving right into the scenery with the camera afterward worked out great.  Of course, during the height of growing season out there in the depth of green country, I had to sweep off the grasshoppers.  For some reason, they enjoyed jumping up onto the Prius at each stop.  Oh shiny!  It was an amazing Summer day and spending it with a PHV made it even better... photo album 152


PHV - Looking Back.  It's a bit early for that.  I'm in awe still.  To have had the opportunity to plug & drive as I desired, getting to test out various aspects of the design I have long been curious about, was incredible.  Study of the engineering only takes you so far.  Elements of reality sink in quick when you pull out into the daily commute.  Those on-paper scribbles many often try to pass as an expectation often fall way short by the exclusion of factors to complicated to take into account... like the influences of traffic, weather, hills, wind, time, etc.  Seeing how often the flow of energy changes in the non-plug models of Prius, I really wanted to know how much the plug-provided electricity would contribute to MPG.  That boost should be significant, but by how much.  We already knew that the liquid-cooled traction motor could be used continuously.  Owners who descend mountains already see this routinely.  This was my chance to do it from my own garage, driving on roads I have to deal with everyday... with a whole lot more electricity than usual and a hybrid configured to take advantage of that.  It was pretty sweet!


PHV - Photos & Video.  There certainly was a lot of camera activity when I had possession of the PHV.  The video I took was crude and mostly just for reference later, when I need to verify behavior.  Bouncing around and concentrating on the driving, that footage will just serve as a second set of eyes.  It may prove helpful for the timing of events too, since I often just left the camera recording non-stop in the passenger seat... readily available should I need to document something.  The photos are what I'll be concentrating on.  That camera got quite the workout... 2,806 moments captured to be precise.  Digital sure makes it easy.  With so much storage-space available, batteries lasting so long, and quality so high, the digital camera is a miracle.  10 years ago it was too, but documenting experiences with the 2001 Prius presented challenges back then.  Then technology certainly has come a long way since then.  Using it to share information about what the future will offer is wonderful.  Thinking about how many times I'll refer back to what I did the previous few days over the next year boggles the mind.  Having actual real-world data available is fantastic!


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