Prius Personal Log  #491

November 25, 2010  -  November 30, 2010

Last Updated: Sat. 1/01/2011

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11-30-2010

Declaring Victory.  This was easy to predict.  You could see it coming... all that hype with so little substance.  Now, there actually is a vehicle consumers now have access to.  It's not the Volt originally promised.  Nonetheless, something is actually getting delivered.  But how will these initial impressions influence rollout?  Some are started to become worried, clearly expressed by this from a devote GM supporter: "Why can't people wait until there are actual stats??!?!?!"  Also easy to predict is my urge to respond to that.  And I did:  Because some want to declare victory already.  In reality, there are aspects of GM's own past fighting against itself... like the complexity argument.  Ironically, the "range anxiety" problem applies too... not running out of electricity, it's running out of miles on a lease.  Financing charges are going to be an issue too.  It's too bad the rollout is so slow.  Waiting is better for everyone.  But that's going to be tough.  You know how people draw conclusions right away.  We've seen it before, many times.

11-30-2010

Production Begins, Volt.  It became official today.  No more demo units.  Actual production models are what will be coming out of the facility now.  Interestingly, this is one of the first comments about this milestone I stumbled across: "I don't see the Volt and Prius competing with each other."  That's what I said all along.  There isn't a no-plug model and price difference aims it at totally dissimilar consumers.  Of course, it doesn't matter.  Here's what I stated as why:  Volt won't be competition until price is competitive and quantity is increased.  And even then, the fact that it depends upon a plug keeps it in a different category.  Consumers will be hesitant to vote with their wallet until enough real-world data emerges to make the choice worthwhile.  Since their requirements for a high-efficiency vehicle are far from certain, engineering achievement doesn't necessarily equate to high-volume sales.  This market here doesn't represent the rest of the world either.  As much as Detroit yearns to declare victory, the production that starts today is really just a milestone along a long road to success.

11-29-2010

Production Begins, Prius.  Thailand was focus of Prius attention today.  It's where production outside of Japan began, a first for the third-generation model.  It was supposed to be here.  Too bad that effort is still delayed .  But then again, reaching into the market in Thailand for Toyota is much more difficult than it is in the United States.  The expectation is to produce up to 12,000 annually there.  Let's hope that effort goes well.  Predicting demand is hard enough here.  Designing a product diverse enough to appeal to a variety of different markets is a challenge.  Sales speak volumes.  Time will time.

11-28-2010

Liquid Cooled.  That interesting bit of information which emerged today.  Even though the upcoming hybrid from Hyundai will only be the ASSIST type, the automaker is still making big claims about its abilities.  Having a clutch to disconnect the 15 kW electric-motor from the gas-engine for independent operation will give it an advantage over the design from Honda, but there was still the heat concern.  You can only run an air-cooled motor for so long before it becomes too hot.  Being liquid cooled allows for sustained operation.  Of course, that is still a rather small amount of power available, roughly 20 horsepower.  So the extent of independent operation benefit remains an unknown, but it will be able to provide more assist.  That's something a hybrid with a plug will be able to take advantage of... though the simplicity of a FULL hybrid and the much larger electric-motor (Prius is 60 kW, 80 hp) will still be difficult to compete with.

11-28-2010

30,585 Maintenance.  Not much to actually report.  Though, it was a bit late for the 30,000-mile service schedule.  Of course, the oil still wasn't due for a change yet.  The engine air-filter was and got replaced even though it looked surprisingly good.  The cabin air-filter was actually long overdue, since I have the solar system in my Prius.  That was about in the condition I'd expect it to be at the normal interval.  It got replaced too.  There wasn't really much else needed at that point.  The next oil change, I'll inspect the underneath of the car thoroughly.  The tires will require replacement in the Spring, so the brakes will get inspected at the same time.  Since this newest Prius doesn't have any belts, that's a nice perk.  For this particular maintenance effort, it only took about 10 minutes and didn't cost too much.  It's nice not having to pay for labor.  Changing both air-filters yourself without tools was no big deal.  $26.21 was the price for the engine (part: 17801-37020).  $24.28 was the price for the cabin (part: 87139-YZZ08).  That's $54.02 total after tax.

11-28-2010

Being Called Out, 60 MPG.  That's the biggest point of contention.  When it comes to how much impact each Volt makes toward CAFE requirements, the MPG estimate was anyone's guess.  How do you account for a vehicle with uncertain plug-in intervals?  For that matter, what about the reality that EV range varies based upon the speed & temperature?  Turns out, the equivalent measure officially given is 60.  In other words, if Toyota were to design a sub-compact FULL hybrid that achieved 60 MPG even without a plug, it would be counted the same way as Volt.  It's the maximum for the new "Dual Fuel Vehicle: Electric-Gasoline" category.  And since the PHV model Prius will be in that same category, it's a fair expectation it too will be given a 60.  After all, a depleted efficiency of 50 is quite a bit close to 60 than just 35.  Makes you wonder how many will have to be sold to achieve required fleet efficiency, eh?

11-28-2010

Being Called Out, models.  When you push for more than a single model of Volt, back while it was still being developed, you got called a troll.  The enthusiasts saw that effort to diversify as an attempt to undermine.  They didn't trust those already having extensive experience with the hybrid market.  Some even got hostile when you pointed out that one size does not fit all.  Up until this weekend, hope had been placed on the second-generation design fulfilling the obvious market gaps the first does not address.  All of a sudden, they've decided another model is a good idea after all.  Should I call them out as hypocrites?  They're guilty of now endorsing the very idea we suggested over and over again in the past, but was accused of trying to harm Volt.  Do you think it has anything to with the EPA estimates?  Of course it does!  Now a model with a more efficient engine and smaller battery-pack makes perfect sense.  Too bad they didn't listen to those of us trying to convey that need in the past... those of us deeply concerned about "too little, too slowly".

11-27-2010

Being Called Out, success.  Regardless of what any enthusiast or media source says, it's ultimately up to the consumer.  Their decision of what to purchase is what defines success.  Automakers are business which seek profit.  Interest & Recognition don't pay the bills; sales do.  In the past, consumers have been unwilling to pay much of a premium for helping to reduce emissions & consumption.  How quickly will that actually come?  History, the idea of "leap-frogging" or a "game-changer" is nonsense, since progress has always been too slow for that.  It takes an entire lifetime of a vehicle (8 years minimum) to even stir more than just curiosity.  After all, if it's not time to vehicle replacement yet, it will still remain in service.  Selling it used means one less new purchase.   It isn't until the vehicle is sent to the recycler that progress occurs... earning merit through change... which is what success is measured by, not by bragging about a performance statistic.

11-27-2010

Being Called Out, attitude.  With rapidly declining interest in Volt due to price and delivery-wait, it was inevitable that I'd become a target for enthusiasts.  After all, they need someone to blame for the state of uncertainty they face now in.  It will take at least 6 months before enough real-world data emerges to establish a pattern.  In the meantime, they poke at Prius owners, some in a very condescending way.  Even other enthusiasts are getting upset by the attitude.  Though, it still doesn't stop them from calling me out.  What I get a kick out of is the sales mocking, where they assert many Prius purchases will be stolen by Volt.  Since when have Prius owners been interested in that level of performance?  In fact, I know quite a few who stepped down from that for the balance Prius offers.  I know many others who have been won over by the test-drive experience, not realizing how enjoyable the electric propulsion could be from an affordable vehicle like that.  Anywho, the sales references are always with reference to this market only.  They don't want to acknowledge the reality of the situation in Japan, where there won't be a Volt and Prius has been the top-seller for 1.5 years now.  Oh well.  Emotion about vehicles isn't what middle-market buyers aren't known for anyway.

11-27-2010

Being Called Out, trouble.  Watching Volt follow the history of Two-Mode has been an intriguing experience.  The same trophy-mentality in the beginning was a sign of trouble to come.  Some had no interest in the business.  Their focus was entirely on engineering.  They defined success exclusively on aspects of performance.  It became an obsession.  That's pretty easy to see now too, as enthusiasts have already declared Prius obsolete even before the first Volt has been sold.  That's why they call supporters of Prius like me out now.  Being vague is practical still.  They just claim you are wrong without any explanation.  No detail is expected by readers yet, since those lurkers just assume there are facts to support it.  They don't though... since technical achievement doesn't pay the bills.  Consumers actually have to purchase it.

11-26-2010

Being Called Out, questions.  It all comes back to sales in the end.  Saying that makes them crazy.  They attempt to divert attention and score bragging points by asking unrelated questions.  I keep bringing the discussion back to the purpose of selling high-efficiency vehicles.  From their perspective, it appears as though I avoiding their questions, changing the topic rather than answering.  Eventually, they'll notice the pattern.  The same thing happened with Two-Mode.  They called me a broken record for always focusing on sales.  Concern for sustaining the business through the new technology was taken for granted, just assumed an effortless success.  Two-Mode was also declared superior with no regard to price.  It's the same old engineering-only problem we've seen all along.  They want nothing to do with the business aspect.  In fact, the response to my "it all comes back to sales in the end" comment was this so eloquently word statement: "Stop the stupid stuff will you."

11-26-2010

Being Called Out, dead.  Don't you love how some attempt to draw a conclusion for you?  In this case, seeing that data meant absolutely nothing.  The person just raised doubt about how efficiency is measured, made reference to smaller range, and then concluded: "In other words, the Prius plug-in looks pretty dead even before it goes on sale."  I saw it as an opportunity to point out aspects of the new window-sticker with:  The purpose of the new EPA information is to stop greenwashing, just like that.  What does dead even mean?  Look close at the new window-sticker.  Notice the "gallons per 100 miles" values?  Consumers will see the 3.6 for Cruze, 2.7 for Volt, 2.0 for Prius, and 1.3 for the PHV.  That makes understanding how the technology affects gas consumption very easy.  The same is true for the the consumption of electricity, through the new "kW-hrs per 100 miles" values.  Consumers can already see the 34 for Leaf and 36 for Volt.  Isn't the point to inform about the efficiency of each vehicle?

11-26-2010

Being Called Out, data.  It's like they don't study the competition at all.  The previous generation Prius offers many augmentation options.  Some owners have chosen to go with battery-pack upgrades as large as what Volt uses.  With a more efficient engine, even with the slower EV threshold you'll still get an impressive MPG boost.  And of course, I had real-world data at the ready... which really upset them.  The numbers from this particular Prius owner make you take notice.  They tell quite a story.  Here's the detail from his 2 years of driving that aftermarket conversion:  Total miles: 18,685.6;  Total gas used: 131.39 gallons;  Total gas cost: $334.24;  Total kWh used: 2,737.8;  Total kWh cost: $219.02;  Total fuel cost: $553.26;  Average MPG: 142.2;  Average MPGe: 86.9;  Average cost per mile: 3.0 cents per mile;  Best Tank 3,536 Miles 314 MPG 115.43 MPGe;  Approximately 550-600 charge/discharge cycles total.

11-26-2010

Being Called Out, taunt.  I'm back and active on both the big GM forum and the daily blog for Volt.  The first thousand miles of real-world data are available... and they're gloating already.  Specifically, it was 16 days, totaling 1,005.7 miles driven, using 5.87 gallons of gas (displayed, not measured at the pump).  That comes to 171.33 MPG overall.  They don't focus on CS-mode miles.  Fortunately, the driver is honest & forthcoming about that particular information.  218.6 miles were driven using engine-generated power, resulting in a 37.24 MPG average.  It's still Fall there, so temperatures are quite comfortable... quite different from here.  Anywho, both venues taunted me.  I particularly liked this: "Can anyone prove me wrong? Go ahead, Prius aficionados - see if you can even come close to this with a Plug-in Prius prototype!"  Needless to say, I gladly responded to the opportunity.

11-25-2010

$83.99 Per Barrel.  Watching the price of oil continue to climb has been the ultimate validation of "too little, too slowly", especially with the price of fuel listed at $3.20 per gallon by the EPA.  Diesel is already that price.  Volt requires premium gas, which is $3 here.  How many more years before something affordable delivering more than 35 MPG combined is available from GM?  That's the concern.  Nothing for middle-market in the meantime sends a lot of business to competitors.  Having kept the initial design of Volt with a more efficient engine and reduced the EV range would have targeted the mainstream and left great opportunity for a higher-capacity option later.  Instead, there's now a configuration which will attract far fewer than hoped.  It's not like we all didn't see this coming either.  But the complaints fell on deaf ears back when there was time to change.  Now, they're stuck with a niche.

 

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