Prius Personal Log  #490

November 19, 2010  -  November 25, 2010

Last Updated: Sat. 1/01/2011

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11-25-2010

Bashing?  To some on the big Prius forum, it looks as though some of us are bashing Volt.  After all, the efforts by GM appear to look good if you aren't aware of the rest of the market or the need.  To those that are, there is much concern.  So, I responded with there analogy of the situation:  Think of it as a grading system, something like this...  A = no mpg penalty, cleaner emissions, and a profitable price within reach of middle-market.  B = no mpg penalty, cleaner emissions, and a profitable price but a little expensive for middle-market.  C = mpg & emission-rating like a traditional vehicle, and a profitable price within reach of middle-market.  D = mpg & emission-rating like a traditional vehicle, and priced well above middle-market.  F = same as D, but only available in low-volume and select areas.  To quantify, compare to the PHV model Prius.  The design targets are 50 MPG, an emission-rating of AT-PZEV, and a price close to $30,000.  The first two have already been delivered.  The third depends upon lithium battery production and package configuration. In other words, the grade will be at least B.  What are the goals of Volt and how well do they actually match the needs of middle-market?

11-25-2010

Ignoring PHV.  It was a given that enthusiasts would.  The lack of constructive analysis no surprise.  Comparing Volt to the plug-in Prius makes too much sense.  They still just down-vote facts they don't like.  It's why few attempt discussions with them anymore.  But that was expected.  Unfortunately, the model of Prius which also offers the ability the recharge using an external power source is also being ignored by the media too.  Most reports highlighting the new information from the EPA simply referred to Prius as getting 50 MPG, as if there's no way it could ever get higher.  My favorite though was from the Detroit Free Press.  They made no mention of Prius whatsoever.  Their article started with this: "The Chevrolet Volt will get 60 m.p.g. when using both its batteries and gasoline engine, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but 93 m.p.g. when driven in electric-only mode."  Then it went on to point out the 37 MPG combined estimate and made comparisons to Leaf with emphasis on driving range.  Makes you wonder what they'll be saying a few months from now.

11-24-2010

EV Button Threshold.  In the past, many had simply regarded the EV button as an infrequent feature.  That was primarily due to not knowing when it would be available.  Prius places high priority on emission reduction, running the engine more often than expected for the sake of keeping the cleansing system hot.  Since without heat, the catalytic-converter is not effective.  Knowing what the threshold was for the heater gave great insight.  For the Iconic Prius, it was 145°F was the threshold.  For the 2010 Prius, Toyota was able to drop it all the way down to 114°F.  After having discovered the EV button provided more electric power than usual, I was quite curious about its temperature threshold.  During the warm months, you've got lots of heat to spare after initial warm-up.  During the Winter, it's an entirely different matter.  And with the temperature only in the teens here now, opportunities to observe were abundant.  Sure enough, I noticed a pattern.  Watching the ScanGauge, I saw that when the coolant dropped to 155°F the system would automatically disengage EV mode.  The engine stays off if power demand is still in the green zone on the Eco-Meter.  But if it is in the white, the engine will start.  Using this will be quite intriguing the next time I get stuck in traffic jam caused by fresh snow.

11-24-2010

Yup, Over.  At the end of the day, just as people were leaving work and about to start their long holiday weekend, boom!  News that the EPA had just released the window-sticker for Volt spread across the internet like wild fire.  It was amazing how people brought the hype to an abrupt conclusion, simply by seeing those values.  It's safe to say many had certain expectations that were not met.  The overwhelming feeling was disappointment... making the timing seem much more than just coincidence.  Anywho, Volt turns out to be just a little less efficient at 36 kWh/100miles instead of the 34 for Leaf.  The engine efficiency is mighty close to my prediction of 38 MPG.  It's rated at 37 combined.  (That's 35 MPG city and 40 MPG highway.)  In other words, there's no surprise.  We anticipated those numbers already.  What's shocking is the MPGe value.  Volt measures at an energy equivalent of 60.  A compact FULL hybrid without a plug but using a lithium battery could potentially deliver the same efficiency.  Interesting, eh?  The real catcher though is the EV range.  That's listed as only 35.  It wrecks the importance of the 40 they had so heavily promoted.  One other interesting value is 12.9 kWh is listed as the overall electricity consumed.  Knowing that recharging the battery-pack to restore the 10.4 kWh usable capacity results in a 2.5 kWh charging loss will make people think twice about 240-volt connections... since they aren't as efficient as 120.  Needless to say, things are going to be different after the holiday.  The nonsense we've had to endure prior to the official numbers being available is over.

11-24-2010

Still Developing.  Hearing that GM development continues is intended to quiet those questioning the speed of their progression.  I saw the need to point out the "over promise, under deliver" pattern.  And I did... knowing it would torment those trying to downplay the growing feeling of disappointment... those who saw this coming yet hoped the outcome would somehow be different:  While Two-Mode was being developed, we were told it would be widely adaptable, that it would be competitively available in midsize vehicles.  That turned out to be OPUD.  So, hope was shifted over to the Volt platform instead.  Developing something specifically for midsize vehicles made sense.  They'd take what they learned from Two-Mode and optimize accordingly.  Concerns arose as the effort progressed though.  And now as rollout begins, it too turned out to be OPUD.  What's next?  What design criteria should the next development effort strive for?  What price, efficiency, and emission goals should be set?

11-23-2010

Winter Now.  The commute to work was at only 16°F.  The reality of Fall fading away has quickly set in.  With the ground covered by a thick layer of snow, the hope for warmer soon isn't realistic.  Seeing 25°F on the drive how was a good example of normal here.  The forecast is for single-digit temperatures.  I don't suspect that will last long.  In fact, we could still see days above freezing in the upcoming weeks.  Near the end of the year though, not a chance.  That just brings ice and lots more snow, both terrible for commuting.  Thankfully, the design of Prius handles the situation well.  MPG in the low 40's is hardly anything to complain about; however, I certainly do miss driving with the roof open.  That's not going to happen again for a long time.  It's all about heated seats now.

11-22-2010

Deduction Only.  Anyone else sick & tired of the "it took Prius 10 years" excuse?  The Volt enthusiasts absolutely refuse to acknowledge the reality that the first 6 years here were filled with fierce industry resistance, lots of misconceptions, and low gas prices.  Remember all the anti-hybrid campaigning, with Hummer as the king of the guzzlers?  Remember the fear of job loss we were told hybrids would bring?  Remember Fuel-Cell vehicles?  It was utter madness.  What really rubs me the wrong way now is how the tax-credit for Volt is totally taken for granted.  The enthusiasts pretend Prius had the same benefit.  That's not the case.  In reality, the only purchase incentive available was a deduction.  There's a huge difference between $7,500 and $400.  But they pretend the short-lived tax-credit for Prius, that didn't start until 2006, was something we had way back in 2000.  Truth is, Prius achieved mainstream production & sales volume prior to 2006.  The incentive at that point was to reach a wider market, not establish it as with Volt.

11-22-2010

Game Over.  The official EPA estimates are now being finalized.  That draws an end to the market without any plug-in vehicles available.  Not offering anything whatsoever was a very different world from the one we just entered this evening.  Greenwashing will be far more difficult, which is the point of the new measurement system.  Nissan Leaf is the first to exhibit these values.  34 kWh/100miles is the efficiency listed on the new window-sticker.  For perspective, 33.7 kWh is equivalent to the energy from 1 gallon of gas (without any ethanol).  Displayed in as a MPGe value, it's 99 combined (city/highway).  Just missing 100 makes will make interesting historic trivia, especially since the city value was 106.  For highway, it was 92.  Who knows what consumers will make of that MPG equivalent.  But what will be easy to understand is the 73 miles for EV range.  EPA takes the use of A/C and Heater as well as High-Speed travel seriously, quite unlike particular Volt enthusiasts.  Realistic representation of vehicle operation is very important.  Efficiency of motors & accessories vary.  You cannot just base estimates on capacity alone.  Heck, even lithium battery chemistries vary.  So, obviously performance will too.  Anywho, that nonsense of the past is over.  A new game has just begin.  It has different rules.  Sales will play a major role.

11-21-2010

Too Late.  It's been interesting reading daily posts, watching some Volt enthusiasts change their stance as real-world data emerges.  Hearing the message from the market about the need to be affordable is finally sinking in too.  Of course, some are twisting that to seem as though the situation is actually the opposite.  Oddly, that is a good sign, since it is a recognition of change.  Anywho, this really got me: "For some reason, the phrase *Too Little…Too Late* comes to mind when I see what the competition is scrambling to come up with now!"  That's why I document what happens, when it happens.  So they can't make up something different later:  No scramble.  Roughly 2 years after rollout of the third generation hybrids was the plan all along.  Believing that those designs had not been in the works until recently is evidence of greenwashing.  Look back.  Notice how all the automakers have been waiting for the very same thing, high-volume production of lithium based automotive-grade batteries.  Now that they are becoming realistic, those plans can finally be put into motive.  Too late doesn't make sense anyway.  For that to be true, Volt would already have to be a top-seller.  In reality, the "too little, too slowly" is still very much a concern.  The industry leaders will be those automakers which achieve mainstream sales for a profit without relying on a tax credit.  And it's quite likely more than one configuration will achieve that.  Until then, it's just spin.

11-20-2010

Scenic Detour.  The past emerged again, this time in a different season though.  The contrast was dramatic.  Back in 2001 with the Green Classic model Prius, it was harvest time.  The grass was still plush with life & color but the corn next to it was lifeless & dry.  I drove off the road to get close, hoping the farmer off in the background harvesting at that very moment wouldn't mind.  The photos I captured from that experience were quite memorable.  So on the cold January afternoon this year, in the dead of winter, I found myself driving home from a late-season holiday lunch near that same location.  Couldn't resist taking a scenic detour.  Same road.  Same field.  Same hill.  Very different look... which had nothing to do with it being 9 years later.  This was due to the snow.  The fields were now swept with a blanket of white, only hinting at what had been there when it was warm.  The sky was a beautiful blue, complete with wispy clouds to emphasize the rolling hills on the horizon.  The 2010 Prius wasn't Silver though, it was coated with a layer of salt sprayed from the road along with washer-fluid dripping down from the back window.  The moment capture the extremes of the cold-season... when the weather actually cooperates.  See... photo album 158

11-20-2010

Quantity & Speed.  Over and over again, the concern about "too little, too slowly" has been expressed.  A decade ago, there were arguments whether carbon emissions were a problem and if automotive batteries were viable.  Today, some still argue.  Rather than focus on solutions, certain debates still rage on.  Since hybrids like Prius have already proven realistic & affordable, why are some still raising doubt?  Why aren't they doing what needs to be done?  The answer is an unfortunate reality... resistance to change.  Notice how Volt was designed and production planned which will keep it a niche for quite a number of years still?  Toyota continues to push to deliver 1 million high-efficiency vehicles annually starting in 2012.  There will be 11 new hybrids, the PHV model (plug-in) Prius, and all-electric RAV4 & iQ vehicles.  Other automakers, like Ford, Hyundai, and Honda, are all taking the need for quantity & speed seriously too.  How will GM achieve the upcoming CAFE (fuel-efficiency) requirements?  A large chunk of their production must change.  Without a no-plug model of Volt, how will vehicles delivering only 30 MPG combined EPA estimates fulfill the need?

11-19-2010

EPA Estimates.  That label stating standardized fuel-economy measurement results is required to sell a vehicle in the United States, now.  Many years ago, that wasn't the case.  The large guzzlers simply had an empty sticker in the window, no MPG values.  Regulations had turned a blind-eye to efficiency, encouraging consumption by offering tax credits for the largest consumer vehicles.  Back then, guzzling was the thing to do.  Not anymore.  In fact, it would be ideal seeing a zero in place of MPG.  But that's not realistic.  Though, some automakers are striving for it.  Problem is, offsetting emissions doesn't actually solve anything.  If electricity comes from dirty sources, consumers will be quite mislead by thinking they're driving green.  Somehow, the EPA must make this information easy to understand.  But how?  A vehicle like Volt uses both gas & electricity.  Expressing how much in a standardized way is really a challenge... one who's time has run out.  Substituting one fuel for another isn't enough.  It must actually be cleaner and more efficient.  The long-awaited new window stickers featuring EPA estimates are coming soon, very soon.

11-19-2010

Revolutionary.  The tone has really changed.  No more revolutionary rollout for Volt.  It has become an evolutionary outlook, where the expectations are now being set at 5 to 7 years... rather than just 2 as the enthusiasts had absolutely insisted all along.  It's amazing how information like price, efficiency, and emissions can result in so much backpedaling and downplay.  That wouldn't be so bad if it were only the attitude we had to deal with; however, there's the misleading too.  The insinuations that Prius can't ever support a larger motor or battery-pack than what's currently in the PHV model is enough to make a person crazy.  It's that same old "more is better" argument.  Such a familiar problem.  That contributed heavily to the fallout of the past.  Rather than diversifying the product-line, focus was almost entirely on growing large & powerful vehicles.  The motivation was easy profit.  How will it play out this time?  The competition intends to start a revolution, pushing production volume higher & faster than GM is planning.  Remember the "too little, too slowly" concern?

 

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