Prius Personal Log #479
September 19, 2010 - September 26, 2010
Last Updated: Mon. 10/04/2010
page #478 page #480 BOOK INDEX
Concern. What it has all boiled down to is lack of choice... same problem as before the bankruptcy. I still can't believe history was able to repeat again. The lesson clearly wasn't learned. The best example was the massive effort to deliver Two-Mode. It turned out to be far more expensive than they expected, wasn't as efficient, and couldn't be scaled as promised. Isn't that the same situation for Volt? The price is well beyond what had been planned and the continued mystery of CS-mode all but confirms MPG not meeting objectives. Those dealing with Winter extremes or driving further than the "typical" distance are in for a surprise. Those who have a very short commute are likely disappointed already. How is so much effort placed on a single configuration going to help with the recovery? For that matter, how is further development going to be funded? Needless to say, I'm frustrated and not looking forward to the fallout.
Obsolete. It's amazing how thick the smug is getting. But then again, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Volt will serve the niche it has attracted quite well. They're willing to pay the premium and greatly desire power & speed in the performance class. Vehicles like Camry & Corolla aren't of any interest to them. That's why the attempts to discuss aspects of business degrade to childish mocking so quickly. They simply don't want anything to do with the sales that come from middle-market, those who provide the sustaining profit automakers require to survive. That's why claims of Prius soon to become obsolete are so prevalent from them now. It's that same old "trophy mentality" I expressed concern about 3 years ago. Those in middle-market will be stuck buying traditional guzzlers for many years to come still. The low priority on price and heavy emphasis on sport traits have resulted in a plug-in that will please the sport's enthusiast... not the mainstream consumer.
28 MPG. That's what the new Highlander-Hybrid will offer, for both city & highway. Makes you wonder how a vehicle with a 3.5 liter engine, 280 horsepower, 3,500 pound towing, seating for 7, and power to all 4 wheels looks in comparison to a vehicle like Cruze. The only thing they have in common is the 28 MPG combined efficiency estimate. But if an automaker like GM disregards price as they have with Volt, the obvious choice of what to buy would be the Highlander. After all, they promoted Tahoe-Hybrid to death with that "better than Camry in the city" nonsense. Omitting the highway values was extremely misleading. At least with this, combined values are the same. With the Tahoe, it was lower. Too bad advertising focuses on just select bits of information rather than telling you the whole story. The devil is in the details.
Fascinating Mess. It's been a plummet to the bottom for some Volt enthusiasts. Comments with respect to business had been disregarded. Now, they are being treated as attacks. Too bad we're seeing history repeat itself like this. Remember Two-Mode? Stuff like this sounds so familiar: "Such delusion and clear disconnect from reality is pathetic." It gets worse from there. The insults & name-calling aren't the slightest bit constructive. Yet, that's on the increase. Remember the smug? It's hard to believe they'd simply ignore all that's needed now for the sake of an uncertain future. Observing the reality of the situation unfold has been fascinating. Blinded by the future, all in the present is sacrificed. With such a large cost and only a single choice, how could it work? What are consumers going to by in the meantime? How will those without an outlet available going to benefit? It's quite a mess.
Ford's Perspective. This one really got me
thinking. Their claim in a report today was that consumer purchase
trends had progressively migrated away from cars and increasingly embraced
trucks instead. Of course, I recognize how they discontinued the once
extremely popular Taurus sedan and pushed the SUV instead. They even
later brought back Taurus as a Crossover vehicle (really a SUV in disguise).
Not offering choice is the problem. Don't think so? Look at the
other automakers. They sold lots of cars as Ford shifted to trucks
instead. So, from Ford's perspective, they saws trucks as the desired
product. But looking at the industry as a whole, many consumers still
wanted cars and ended up purchasing them from someone else instead.
During the SUV craze, there was indeed a temporary surge. That didn't
last though. It was a phenomenon only present within reach of cheap
gas. In other words, it was just here and only within the years
following 9/11 and prior to $4 gas. The situation is very different
depending upon the who's perspective is considered.
More Nonsense. Believe it or not, I actually did get
a response. It wasn't the slightest bit constructive, but at least it
was acknowledgement. Asking why there won't be a no-plug model
resulted in this: "Because they don't have to. They have a plug."
That's enough to make a person crazy. Not wanting to pay as much
and/or not having an outlet available, you have no choice available.
How does that make any sense at all? Lack of diversification was a
problem prior to bankruptcy. Now, they've got that same problem to
deal with combined with the reality that efficiency standards are being
raised. How can a one-size-fits-all approach be a viable solution?
Anywho, I responded with this:
There's a sizeable chunk of market who doesn't want to spend that much
and/or simply doesn't have an outlet available. Why would GM give that business to competitors?
And of course, how is GM going to achieve CAFE requirements without?
Disregarding Business. The engineering arguments are getting annoying. They haven't been constructive for ages. There simply isn't the data for that. Yet, they continue anyway. Regardless of points made, the line is already draw. Some side on electricity flow. Others side on transmission, aerodynamics, regenerating, and software. The latter is the problem. They are the ones still claiming MPG above 50. If GM did actually achieve that for Volt, why won't a smaller battery or no-plug model be offered? It's like talking to a wall at this point. But what the heck, one more post anyway: What about the BUSINESS perspective rather than ENGINEERING only? 50 MPG from the engine equates to missed opportunity. Why would they choose not to also compete in the no-plug market? So... they're intentionally choosing not to compete in the 50 MPG no-plug market?
25 to 50 Miles. That was an interesting & unexpected
bit of information about Volt provided by GM today. 50 miles is for the
hypermilers, who travel in absolutely ideal conditions at the ideal speed. Supposedly, the
25-mile low is the worst-case scenario... aggressive drivers going uphill in
the cold. Apparently, he's never been
stuck in -15°F traffic. Ice from
vehicle exhaust instantly freezes and drops to the road. Friction from
tires add a nice gloss finish to that already slippery surface. It
happens many times every single year here. We call it "black ice", since you
can't see it while driving. Traffic obviously slows to a crawl then.
And since it's so absurdly cold, you've got the heater working very hard
trying to keep you warm. Combine that with the much longer commute
time, you'll see far less than 40 miles for electric-only range. This
is what I posted in response to reading that... which, of course, wasn't
responded to favorably by the enthusiasts:
32 miles for the threshold during a typical Minnesota winter commute appears
to be pretty realistic based upon several sources now, including Nissan's
Greatly Superior Regen. How can a Volt enthusiast claim that in comparison to Prius without any data? To make matters even less sensible, that trait was the argument factor why it would achieve better efficiency on the highway. Talking about greenwashing! While cruising on the highway, you don't ever touch the brakes. So, how could there be regen... especially enough to significantly boost efficiency? Yet, somehow Volt will sustain over 50 MPG that very way. Just making up stuff based on abilities the typical consumer doesn't know much about, like regenerative braking, is a bad sign. What's to come? Will desperation cause a collapse like it did with Two-Mode. In other words, the real-world data wasn't able to draw enough attention for growth and the enthusiast posts dwindled. The next month should be very interesting. Actual observation should help to squash the wild claims.
Plug-In Analysis. Frustrated with wild claims being
made up about how much gas Volt will actually consume, I started collecting
daily-driving data. Estimates about how much a person would drive each
day were far too generic. It was clear even constructive attempts
weren't taking the variety of situations people routinely encounter into
account. That's why I started logging odometer readings each night.
I wanted something genuine to work with. Rather than guessing, I'd end
up with 365 days to run calculations against. I could even apply a
standardization factor to reveal values based on 15,000 miles per year.
All variations would reflect actual deviation. I could even highlight
those months where cold weather would negatively influence efficiency.
I expect the resulting new document to become more and more accurate over
time, as more data becomes available. For now, it's something very
effective to work with in anticipation of growing
At This Point. It about to get messy. Official
EPA Estimates for Cruze are now available. Think of the spin soon to
emerge. 28 Combined from the 6-speed turbo automatic with the 1.4 liter engine isn't
exactly what the Volt enthusiasts wanted to hear. 36 Highway is
disappointing. What had once been hyped to be as much as 45 MPG,
dropped to 40 as time went on. Having it end up even lower officially
puts Cruze in the same category as other vehicles in the subcompact class,
rather than being a new industry leader as hoped. But what really
stings is the 24 City. That's just plain nasty. There's no way
to sugarcoat that. So what in the world does this mean for Volt?
Since it uses the same engine, what should the efficiency expectation be?
MPG should be better for direct-drive, rather than converting energy from
mechanical to electrical than back to mechanical again. What would
make Volt different? You'd expect there to be optimization not
possible from a traditional vehicle, but that could just cancel out the
conversion losses. It sure looks like that
expectation of 38 MPG looks pretty darn realistic at this point.
Nothing 50. Do I really need to keep pointing out the obvious? Each automaker must provide the choice of a high-efficiency vehicle. It has to be something affordable, so they can sell enough to achieve CAFE requirements. Nothing to offset their traditional production spells trouble. Why is that so hard to acknowledge? Small improvements of just a few MPG simply won't be sufficient. Something in the 50 MPG range not requiring a plug seems the only reasonable way. Do they really expect a few really expensive ultra-high MPG vehicles with a plug to compensate for the rest of the fleet? Perhaps the solution will come from profit. As more high-efficiency vehicles are offered, the appeal of guzzlers will drop... making them less profitable. Since 50 MPG without a plug has proven so realistic for Toyota, it stands to reason that may become the benchmark for other automakers. Nothing comparable offered could mean abandoning that market. That's not good for business.
Detecting The End. I found this particular comment
from a constructive discussion about high-efficiency vehicles interesting:
"Before I can get onboard with the idea that automakers realize gas
guzzlers days are numbered, they'll have to show me a greater commitment and
more tangible products." Have you ever asked yourself what the
signs of change would be? Having witnessed many technology transitions
in the past through the eyes of early-adopter participation, I had some
information to share:
You've got it backwards. Because automakers know the days are
numbered, they're going to do exactly the opposite in the meantime.
They'll milk the final opportunity for all it's worth first. Remember
all the "1010", "321", "888" long-distance phone numbers? That was the
phone industry's final fling, well aware of the reality that all domestic
calls would soon be considered local. Their gravy-train was about to
vanish, and they knew it. With vehicles, it's a matter of taking
responsibility for emissions & efficiency. That can only be delayed
for so long. Getting onboard is inevitable. Consumers already
know that boat is sinking. They've witnessed $4 gas already.
They've witnessed the effects of smog. They've witnessed lots about
the problems with getting oil. And of course, Prius has demonstrated
that hybrids are realistic.
Omitting Emissions. Same old story. A seemingly comprehensive new study focusing on the long-term value of hybrids totally ignored emissions. It mentioned new sales, including the bump from Cash-For-Clunkers. It pointed out the contribution higher gas prices made. It talked about annual savings, in detail. It listed upfront & recoup costs, as well as selling later, even used purchases. That all appeared to be quite thorough. Yet, no value whatsoever was placed on emissions. In fact, if it hadn't been for the introduction, they would have been omitted entirely. That's the rub. The initial attention gave the impression emissions had been a consideration in the analysis, but reading the report itself revealed that they weren't actually included in any way. It's quite frustrating to find so many examples like this of greenwashing. You get the impression of importance, but the facts don't demonstrate any support.
More PHV. Reading new reports of PHV testing rollout is exciting. The other day, it was 2 going to a university in the Washington D.C. area. Faculty members will drive them at 3-month intervals. Initial reaction was that 13 miles sounds inefficient. They sure are in for a surprise after finding out how much that boosts efficiency. I'm looking forward to the follow-up reports. Today, we got a report stating 18 would be going to the University of Colorado's Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI). They'll be paying particular close attention to cold-weather and high-altitude performance. They're hoping to stir interest through discussions on a community blog setup to share details of the study as it progresses. With so many different organizations getting the opportunity to drive the PHV prior to high-volume production and consumer availability, I can't image what things will be like when sales begin. Realistic expectations will already be established. People will know what their purchasing. Talking about lowering business risk. Good plan!