Prius Personal Log #493
December 10, 2010 - December 17, 2010
Last Updated: Sat. 1/01/2011
page #492 page #494 BOOK INDEX
First Sonata Hybrids. They are expected in January. The price is set now. It will be $25,795 plus $750 destination. In this market where Volt is still an unknown for most consumers, this rollout should be interesting. Seeing a MPG of 35 city and 40 highway can be attractive for that size & price for those wanting better efficiency without any noticeable deviation from the traditional model. The use of a lithium polymer battery is an industry first. How this particular configuration will sell is anyone's guess. How it will affect a later plug-in option is a big unknown too. Whatever the case, we are clearly beyond the question of whether or not hybrids will become a common choice. The message of one-size-fits-all should be crushed as well. Hopefully, consumers will finally start looking closer... at details like motor-power and battery-capacity... to figure out why hybrids differ so much... then perhaps the influence of A/C powered by electricity rather than the engine.
NiMH. That's the type of battery used in Prius now and has been all along. It's actually what the current PHV model uses for HV driving too (hence the reason EV speed lowers to 46 MPH after the sub-packs are depleted). The thought always has been that there will be a switch over Li-Ion in the near future, possibly being introduced with the upcoming larger Prius. But unless you plug in, there isn't much to be gained from the switch. Cost is still an inhibitor... so much so, Toyota has decided to continue using NiMH for all its no-plug hybrids. Production capacity is the business reason which comes to mind after taking cost into consideration. Why wouldn't you want to focus Li-Ion where its use would be most effective? Since the goal is maximum market penetration, to replace traditional vehicles with hybrids, this decision makes sense. Remember the target set for the early part of this decade? Toyota wants to production 1 million hybrids annually.
Ambiguous Hope. How do you interpret this statement:
"I'm convinced that cars like the Volt are destined to take over the world."?
Ever since the vaporware comments all those years ago, we've never really
known what car like Volt would be. The abandonment of those original
goals ushered in uncertainty. GM clearly built a high-efficiency
vehicle they wanted to sell, not one that consumers actually needed.
Now they have the challenge of convincing consumers that it's worth the
premium. Price is currently well out of range of middle-market and the
design is heavily dependent upon plugging in. There's nothing to compete
directly with Prius or the new larger version being revealed next month.
GM is betting the farm on the ability to plug. Meanwhile, Toyota is
refining the PHV model of Prius to deliver an affordable plug-in option
which will appeal to middle-market consumers. At the same time,
they're planning a full-electric vehicle too. That in itself leaves GM
poorly positioned for competition. To make matters worse, other
automakers are pursuing plug-in choices for middle-market as well.
So... how exactly will the "take over the world" happen?
Beyond The Hype, change. Think about employment situation now. It's quite different than when those statistics about daily driving first promoting Volt were collected. Many jobs close to home have vanished. People are quite willing to drive further for a steady paycheck now. People have also seen gas prices shoot to $4 per gallon. Reality is that gas has steadily climbed to a permanent $3 average and talk of plugging in has become common enough to reduce concerns caused by misconceptions. Monster-Size vehicles no longer dominate the roads anymore either. All that is helping to push the hype aside, but it's not the biggest influence for those who express interest for having their next purchase not be a traditional vehicle. Those consumers want actual detail, not the generic propaganda often associated with hype. They don't want to know "up to" values. They want true representations of what they'll experience owning each specific type of high-efficiency technology. We've progressed from simple engine & transmission configurations which all deliver relatively similar performance to vehicles taking advantage of batteries & electric motors which profoundly affect performance. Change is in the form of much greater variety than the market has ever offered.
Beyond The Hype, rollout. It's going to take right up until the time the PHV model Prius becomes available before GM will offer Volt in all 50 states. That's an unusually long rollout plan. In the meantime, Toyota continues to push HSD penetration. Seeing it in new dedicated vehicles is very exciting. Some simply won't stir much interest. But the potential is there for a real winner. The new bigger Prius could take the market by storm. Using the latest & greatest technology, including a better battery-pack, makes you think. Whatever the case, the rollout of the current Prius continues. Imagine the platform that will provide for the aftermarket suppliers years from now. Its larger electric-motor, the greater speed & temperature tolerances, and consumer confidence of plugging in will usher in opportunity that has only been a shot-in-the-dark so far. Many approaches for dealing with ever-increasing gas prices, along with energy & environmental concerns, are being addressed. Understand the "too little, too slowly" concern? Much needs to be done in the near future.
Beyond The Hype, data. After a little over a month, there's been 2,100 miles documented by an early Volt rollout recipient. To summarize the engine use, 498 miles / 14.9 gallons (displayed) = 33.4 MPG. That real-world data we now have is somewhat informative. We still don't have any idea what the actual MPG difference between computer-displayed and measured-at-the-pump is, nor do we know how often/long it gets plugged in at work either. The data is also a bit misleading since the engine starts up to warm the battery-pack in sub-freezing temperatures. But it does still confirm that Volt is far from the "game changer" it was hyped to be. With efficiency that low, it struggles to even compete with the no-plug Prius. Just think what the perspective will be about Volt when the PHV model Prius is finally delivered. GM has quite a challenge to face still, reconfiguring Volt to cost far less while also trying to improve both efficiency & emissions.
Beyond The Hype, remember. Much of the Volt propaganda is fading as rollout progresses, though a few recent reviews still tout overly optimistic expectations. The first deliveries to regular consumers are expected today. What I focus on is the actual experiences now being documented, not test-drive exploits. Remember all the bragging about Volt using a better type of electric motor than Prius? Easily forgotten detail of the past like that is now easy to dismiss upon seeing real-world data. The hype didn't live up to expectations. In fact, what was delivered is actually less efficient. They don't want you to remember any of that hype. So, getting beyond it is in the interest of enthusiasts anyway. It's like all the promotion of getting better MPG than Prius in CS-mode. That never made any sense, since an extra conversion step will obviously come with an efficiency penalty. The EPA estimate solidly confirmed it too. But the claim they want us to forgot more than anything is price. They don't want anyone to remember the "nicely under $30,000" importance. Reminders of abandoned priorities brings up uncertainty of the second generation, a good example of how hype can backfire later on.
Last Of The Greenwashers? I'm talking about the Volt enthusiasts. Those resisting change entirely will still try to undermine, of course. This particular individual continues to attempt to make Volt look better by misleading about Prius. His latest attempt is to repeatedly post information about the previous generation as if it also applied to the 2010. When it's pointed out that the information is outdated, he simply ignores it... pretending as though you never provided a correction. In this particular case, he's trying to portray the catalytic-converter warm-up cycle as a weakness. That sacrifice of gas allows Prius to earn a PZEV emission-rating. Since Volt doesn't to that, it's a big reason why it only get an emission-rating of ULEV. Saving gas has a penalty of being dirtier. But his focus solely on MPG allows him to overlook that reality. Anywho, it boils down to the improvement the 2010 offers; Toyota went to a great deal of effort optimizing the emission-system for rapid warm-up. He doesn't want you to know that. So, he continues to post outdated information hoping you won't discover it doesn't actually apply to the newest model. He absolutely insisted: "it gets single-digit MPG during the first mile". That just plain is not true for the 2010. I even provided real-world data from my drive to the grocery store this morning, after not having driven for a day and half due to the snow storm: The temperature outside was 14°F. It was a 10-minute, 3-mile drive. The first mile (4 minutes of driving) resulted in the following displayed for MPG: 10, 20, 25, 50. That just plain is not single-digit, no matter how you spin it. The drive resulted in a displayed average of 31.7 MPG.
Even More Snow. I've haven't heard the official total yet, but it's easy to see we got well over a foot of the white stuff yesterday. Needless to say, I didn't touch the Prius. Being a Saturday, it was easy enough to just avoid going anywhere... though, I am yearning for photo opportunities now. A fresh layer of snow blanketing everything usually looks really good at night illuminated by Christmas lights. But with many people switching to LED instead (which I think look much better, since the colors can be much deeper), there's barely any heat emitted to melt snow covering them. So, running around with the camera this time could be a whole new experience for me. I'm not sure what to expect... other than the extreme cold which follows a storm front like this. Right now, the temperature is below zero and the forecasted high is only 3°F. It most definitely is Winter now!
Northern Minnesota. It looks great there in the Fall, even if your timing is off. That was the case last year. We arrived up there too early for the colors. Only a hint of them were revealed so far. That meant fantastic weather for photo taking though, in between the gloomy cold showers which roll during the season. And sure enough, I had an opportunity to escape into the woods with a camera and the Prius. Exploring those back roads is fun. You never know what you'll encounter. I especially like finding shots where I can climb back to include a tree in the foreground. Seeing all that green now, this time of the year when everything has turned white, is quite refreshing too. It gives you something to look forward to as the days grow shorter and the temperatures continue to drop. Here's what I captured, for reminiscing about later... photo album 160 photo album 161
Geek-Mobile. The anti-Prius sentiment is spreading... all the way up to the CEO of GM. Of course, you wouldn't expect him to give praise for anything but a GM vehicle anyway. But making this comment upset some Volt supporters: "I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius." The reason is simple, they don't want direct comparisons. Rather than just ignoring Prius and establishing a new category of efficiency technology, more and more Volt is being considered an advanced hybrid... exactly want they've been trying to avoid. What I particularly liked was his other comment: "We commonly refer to the geek-mobile as the Prius". Isn't that the honor enthusiasts had always hoped for Volt? I certainly remember all the applause for new interface & operational aspects of Volt, the very thing that a geek would truly appreciate. In the light of the hypocrisy they now face, I posted this in response: What will consumers think after seeing the displays in Volt and hearing about the smart-phone abilities?
Cruze Sales. These quotes really compelled me to respond: "Why the panic sounding headline?" and "What's the problem here?" Needless to say, sales are below expectations and the media is taking a different stance on the situation than GM supporters. I sounded off with: Some of it has to do with the fear of getting caught up in a double-standard, the rest is just plain old profit earning. Critics have been reaming on Prius for supposedly "poor" sales lately. 10,224 were purchased here in November. That's clearly higher that the 8,066 for Cruze, which was intended to take the industry by storm. Instead, the most directly competing vehicles are still holding their own. 16,202 Corolla were purchased then. That's twice as many. GM's next step is quite uncertain. How is anyone's guess. But with production well under the capacity planned, something needs to be done in the short-term (next year) to increase sales.
Camry #1, later. This topic drew interest on the big GM forum. None had considered the big picture though. And of course, me pointing it out typically upsets the delicate balance there... especially since offering choice messes up their one-size-fits-all approach. But with the daily blog for Volt, they prefer cheerleading rather than in-depth discussion. Oh well. I posted this anyway: Since Toyota is planning to debut a new hybrid next month thought to compete directly with its own Camry & Camry-Hybrid, the topic is a bit moot anyway. Prius "V" is expected to offer a hybrid system with a 2.4 liter engine along with seating for 7... think a larger version of Prius in wagon form. Optimized for better efficiency with the latest HSD design (including a lithium battery-pack) using a dedicated body, it tends to make sense that sales will go to it instead. The ultimate goal is to phase out traditional vehicles in favor of those that are much cleaner and more efficient. So, this move really isn't a surprise. Overall sales are what to watch. The new hybrid should help Toyota retain or gain marketshare.
Camry #1, now. It's
been the top-seller in this country for quite a number of years now.
That position seems threatened as time progresses though. Of course,
there are some who spin the situation... both intentionally and unknowingly.
438,270 Prius have been sold worldwide this year through October. It
seems quite likely that the final two months will push that total above the
half-million mark. That's a long sought after milestone. It
represents the reality that mainstream acceptance is so strong that phasing
out of traditional vehicles is possible. That's a long process, taking
many years. But starting that process is realistic, based on sales.
Camry is the target. Prius has established enough of a reputation for
hybrids at this point to allow a successor to be introduced and be sold
side-by-side with an HSD variant of the traditional. Why not?
Rather than expend a lot of resources concealing what's under the hood, take
advantage of the emerging market where gas is $3 per gallon and plug-ins are
also available. Offer a new vehicle large & powerful enough to appeal
to consumers who desire more than Prius provides without the need to