Prius Personal Log #478
September 14, 2010 - September 19, 2010
Last Updated: Tues. 9/21/2010
page #477 page #479 BOOK INDEX
Selling Hybrids. This was the statement from Ford's global marketing VP: "You can't sell a hybrid in today's market." A comment about that which particularly caught my interest was: "10 years ago I wouldn't have touched a Hybrid with a 10 foot pole..." from a new Prius owner, who expressed concern about the emphasis on today rather than what's to come. I chimed in with: 10 years plus 10 days ago, I did. It proved to be a remarkably wise decision, well ahead of the emission & consumption problems to come. We're in a state of change now, where one hybrid has become part of the mainstream and others are struggling to achieve the same success. Misconceptions from 10 years ago are just a faded memory now. Automakers know the days of traditional guzzlers are numbered. As the economy recovers, the draw to easy profit will make the challenge of delivery a competitive even less appealing... especially if gas prices don't go up. They'll attempt to squeeze out every last opportunity as long as they possibly can before committing to significant production changes. Resistance is futile. Yet, they make excuses not to anyway.
Cruze EV. Recognizable traits of the old GM are emerging with the new GM. We're seeing the same mixing of messages as before. This time, it's their change of stance for EV. Remember with Volt, there was absolutely nothing realistic about offering a model without an engine. In fact, they even went as far as stating intentions to trademark the phrase "range anxiety" to stress that point. The EV has shortcomings and Volt is supposedly the solution. Of course, that was over 2 weeks ago. Today, we got a press release from GM stating their plans to begin testing a Cruze equipped with a 31 kWh battery-pack next month. It will be capable of up to 100 miles of travel per charge. What the heck! Can't they make up their mind? Is "range anxiety" a problem or isn't it? And what about all that electric-only testing they already did with Volt?
Start-Stop. Remember 10 years ago when this was promoted as the low-cost solution to Prius? Ford even went as far as bragging how much quicker their system would be. Nothing ever became of it though. GM did actually rollout BAS, which provided some assist too. But that was a huge flop. Perhaps it was antagonist "golf cart" insults intended for Prius that backfired. Regardless, real-world problems like Heater & A/C use make the idea of stopping the engine when the vehicle isn't in motion a problem. How long to wait before stopping complicates matters. There's no benefit whatsoever for those who avoid stopping at lights, from slow traffic, and highway cruising. Sad part is, the stir now is that this will somehow provide a 15 percent efficiency gain... so compelling, this will be available soon. What about the past 10 years? Didn't we learn anything?
AER. That's the term coined by the Volt enthusiasts to stand for "All Electric Range", so they'd have something to easily brag about. Even though Prius is a hybrid and its purpose is to deliver improved emissions & efficiency, they keep trying to force it into comparisons of absolutes. "Gas Free" is what it had been originally, but that feel apart when the reality of maintenance-mode and Winter warm-up became impossible to disregard... though they still try. So, now we get AER references on a very regular basis, comparing the 40 from Volt to the 14 of Prius. All they care about is that their battery capacity is bigger and their EV is the fastest. Rather children, eh? The huge difference in price is no concern. In other words, reaching mainstream consumers isn't a concern. Ego is really getting in the way now. Constructive discussion is gone. The outlook is a picture with Volt painted into a niche.
Leg & Head Room. I stumbled across
something worthwhile from my online searches today. Who would have
expected that! A variety of dimension information was provided about
Volt. Actual detail about common comparisons! I was delighted... and quite pleased by the
numbers themselves too. It was somewhat bold that Volt had been
claimed to be as big as Prius, on several occasions from several sources.
But without any detail, doing that could simply be dismissed as a mistake or
an innocent error if caught later. Getting tired of the greenwashing yet? Even
GM itself didn't go that far. Yet, certain supporters did.
Of course, they argument about the not having seating for 5 as no big deal
either. Anywho, front/rear leg room was listed as 42.05/33.94 inches. Compare that to
the Prius 42.5/36.0 measurements. The same? Most definitely not!
I bet the extra 2 inches in back are easy to notice too. That's a
common difference between compact & midsize. Measurement of front/rear
head room was certainly not the same either. 37.80/36.02 for Volt and
38.6/37.6 for Prius. It's another undisputable difference... well now
anyway. No more speculation or vague hearsay anymore.
Cruze Importance. We're hearing more and more about how important Cruze will be for GM's return from bankruptcy. So much so, the attention to Volt is fading. That de-emphasis on the first-generation design has become obvious, surprisingly quick. Prior to the "Freedom Drive" publicity stunt and the price announcement just 3 months ago, the attitude was quite positive. Volt would change the world in November. Already, the excitement as faded and Volt is becoming thought of as the premiere of great things to come... later, when the second-generation is rolled out. Cruze won't be an industry leader for efficiency as hoped. But the design is supposedly worthy of competing directly with popular compacts like Civic, Corolla, and Focus. That's actually good for an automaker looking for a steady-selling base product... especially with an IPO in the not-too-distant future.
Awareness Greenwashing. All you have to do is make
something up, then follow the statement with a qualifier of "to my
knowledge" or "I believe". A post today
actually had both in it. He claimed the ideal efficiency for Prius was
speeds up to 35 MPH. Where the heck did that come from? How
could an ideal be a range anyway? Reading further, the reason
supposedly was because he thought the engine started up at that point.
How many times must the maximum for Stealth and EV be posted? Over and
over and over, the Prius owners mention that information. Yet,
somehow, that regular poster missed every single one of them. It was
obvious that was a sad attempt to greenwash. That maximum speed was
just a random value intended to appear innocent. Anywho, it was part
of their on-going effort to make it look like Toyota is promoting an EV similar to Volt but
with less capacity at a lower price. Their hope is to discredit.
I responded with this: Fuel-Cut occurs at speeds faster than 100 km/h
(62.1 mph), but it's not constant. There is a power/recharge benefit
from firing up the engine from time to time... hence the "blended"
label. When you drop below the speed threshold, the engine will
physically come to a stop and stay that way until a particular kW demand is
exceeded. For most driving below 62, it pretty much stays at 0 RPM.
CS-mode. The efficiency of Charge-Sustaining mode (driving after EV capacity has been depleted) is a hot topic for both Volt and the PHV model Prius. For the latter, Volt enthusiasts like to keep doubt alive, even though we already have real-world data collected showing the MPG to be within the margin-of-error for the Prius without a plug. The debate for Volt though, it quite strong still. There are some stubborn minds insisting MPG will be superior to Prius. If that were the case, why in the world wouldn't GM offer a non-plug model of Volt? Of course, today's reveal of a new Volt screen may put that question to rest. In big numbers, it showed "250+" for the MPG average. In smaller numbers, it showed "190" for the Lifetime value. You needed to break out your calculator for the smallest. 40 miles for EV. 6.8 miles for gas. 46.8 miles total. 0.18 gallons used. Doing the math, you get 37.8 MPG. Were those numbers genuine? If not, why were those particular ones chosen? Whatever the case, it is yet another example of CS-mode efficiency just under 40 MPG... exactly what some of us have been predicting all along.
Purpose, blended. Heavy promotion of "all electric range" from Volt enthusiasts makes any comparison to a Prius with a plug pointless. Yet, they are constantly doing it. No matter how much you try to make it clear that purpose of Prius is different, their desire to claim superiority cancels out any logic you present. Market need clearly isn't being addressed. That balance of physical & performance features consumers seek from a purchase works well with a "blended" vehicle. Purpose takes all aspects into account, not focusing on one extreme at the penalty of others. They make the blending appear to be a weakness, an issue which must be addressed. I kept trying to point out the reality of the situation with responses like this: It's a hybrid. Using the engine at times is part of the design. EPA identifies it as the BLENDED type of plug-in. The plug/battery option will simply be a package available, enhancing the electric-only ability that's been present for the past 10 years. The real-world data collection taking place now will establish a baseline for expectations. What is the issue?
Purpose, up to. It's not like there wasn't an effort to prevent this mess. Some just plain aren't trying. They'll complain about Toyota not being transparent about how their EV works, despite the examples of how it currently works in the 2010 or the press releases which clearly state an "up to" speed for the PHV model. Then when you point out how GM does the very same with their "up to" distance for Volt, it falls on deaf ears. That's so hypocritical, it's terrible. With such loss of constructive discussion, it's no surprise why some have left. My posts have dwindled down to almost nothing on that daily blog. At this point, the finish line is in sight. That second generation model will be the one configured for the mainstream. This one clearly doesn't meet the needs of middle-market. The next will actually strive to achieve the purpose of being clean, efficient, and affordable.
Purpose, bragging. Certain enthusiasts simply came out and declared "bragging rights" as the purpose. One even went as far as saying the "Prius driver will bow his head in shame" once they see Volt. The fact that there's a profound difference in price and that one requires a plug is totally disregarded. Those select few are pushing reputation deep into smug territory, yet the rest are showing no resistance to that idea anymore. Prior to the price announcement, there was balance. Not anymore. Things certainly have changed. They group obviously wasn't paying attention either... or the greenwashing is truly getting out of hand... because some of the claims about how the PHV model Prius works are way off... despite being repeatedly corrected. I figured such blatant disregard for market need would lead to this mess.
Purpose, when. This particular point really angered the Volt enthusiasts. Why must a Prius supporter be the voice of reality? Arrgh! Waiting until the next generation has become an excuse for much of the behavior now. So, I mentioned the purpose of the federal money being provided for the sales of each automakers new efficiency technology. Delay could end up being an opportunity lost. Why can't they see that? Penetration of that new into this market is quite a bit more of a challenge than they realize. Be proactive, not reactive. Don't take consumer acceptance for granted. Oh well. Again, I try: Purpose of the credit is to establish a high-volume mainstream product that will continue strong sales AFTER IT EXPIRES. That means proving the technology in the meantime. Leveraging off of an existing green vehicle by simply offering a plug-in package overcomes quite a number of barriers immediately... allowing for lots of sales... leading to owner endorsements... which contribute to new sales. The step up from 1.3 to 5.2 kWh is significant enough to draw interest without being too expensive. Price will be well within the usual package choices. Range will naturally increase over time anyway, perhaps just as the credit expires... due to such high-volume production in the meantime.
Purpose, comparisons. Stepping back from the direct comparisons to look at the big picture rarely happens. Heck, getting Volt enthusiasts to consider business need rather than focusing entirely on the engineering is a challenge. Even consequences of things like disregarding the impact of CS-mode efficiency don't phase them. That's why I keep asking the question of purpose. What are the goals? Sadly, it's always back to direct comparisons. Still, I try: Volt is a vehicle, not a technology. It depends upon a plug for efficiency, doesn't appear to be a design practical for upscaling, and doesn't fit well for routine long-distance travel. On the other hand, you've got HSD which has been implemented in everything from a compact car to a 4-wheel drive truck offering 3,500 pounds of towing capacity. It doesn't require a plug, but can be enhanced with the addition of one. Issues like price and winter performance continue to be avoided for Volt too. Whether or not it is a good technology dodges the real issue of sustainable business in this changing market.
Purpose, priority. For Volt enthusiasts, it's range above all else. They are happy to compromise on price & emission-rating for the sake of that one particular bragging point. That priority is quite different from the mainstream. It's a niche desire... which there's nothing wrong with. But some absolutely refuse to acknowledge the difference. Thankfully, a few actually do by focusing on the second-generation instead. This particularly smug comment "13 MPC is a bit anemic" today really got me fired up. Changing from AER (All Electric Range) to MPC (Miles Per Charge) doesn't change the fact that it's still intended as a superiority insult. I replied with: Middle-Market has voiced price as their highest purchase priority. In fact, that requirement is so well established we've seen the "$3,000 to $5,000" premium noted in a variety of different studies from different sources. The desired benefit is a significant efficiency BOOST at an affordable price. Consumers will be paying for an increase from 1.3 to 5.2 kWh. The result will be a reduction in engine use. The EPA has proposed the "blended" category for plug-in vehicles like that, keeping it separate from the "series" type. Those attempting to force an EV perspective on a hybrid are missing the point and causing confusion.
Purpose, who. The previous entry was my response, after waiting 5 hours for others to sound off first. The topic on the daily blog for Volt was Toyota's plans revealed yesterday. Much attention was placed on the PHV model Prius. It was important to remain silent to find out how well they understood the purpose. Over time, range would increase anyway. We all expect energy-density to increase and price to decrease as the years progress. So, just like battery-capacity with portable electronic devices, the same will happen with plug-in hybrids too. Why is that so hard to accept? They've got the "40 miles" propaganda so deeply embedded in their thinking, it apparently is difficult to acknowledge anything else as beneficial. Remember who the consumers are. People who purchase Camry & Corolla aren't enthusiasts like they are. The purpose they seek is a vehicle that's reliable, comfortable, practical, and affordable.