Prius Personal Log  #495

December 23, 2010  -  January 1, 2011

Last Updated: Sat. 1/01/2011

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1-01-2011

Speed of Change.  It's remarkable sometimes.  People resist intensely.  But when fighting it begins to look silly, they finally give in.  Denial only works as long as misconceptions exist.  Greenwashing only works when facts aren't readily available.  We've heard about the EV for years, but the reality that they won't be realistic for the majority is still all too clear.  Hybrids offering a plug are different.  Now that price, engine efficiency, and driving range are all known for Volt, decisions about what the future will start to formulate.  It represents an extreme, but still a technology with the potential to reach the mainstream and become common... eventually.  The PHV model Prius is must easier to imagine as a choice... soon, since it basically just builds upon the electric abilities already present.  Speed of change is impaired when education is required.  That's not the case anymore.  The benefit of adding a plug is something the typical consumer can figure out on their own.  And seeing how easy that next step is, change can come about quickly.

1-01-2011

New Expectations.  What should this year bring?  Expecting sales to replace hype is good for everyone.  Which technologies will get those sales though?  Slow rollout of all plug-in choices combined with the introduction of new hybrids during a time of $3 gas following a deep recession is much to consider.  Making the new technology profitable should be an expectation.  Without that, using it to replace traditional vehicle production is a long-term struggle rather than the industry change long overdue.  Expecting consumer awareness is quite realistic.  How they'll respond to learning about the various choices is far from certain though.  In the past, there was heavy emphasis on price.  It's importance was abundantly stressed... but that was when the determination of efficiency was rather basic... just an increase in MPG.  The introduction of electricity from a plug complicates matter significantly.  Conveying what to expect for efficiency from each new technology depends heavily upon the availability of real-world data.  Will that happen or will a whole new greenwashing approach emerge?  This year definitely ushers in new expectations, but what are they?

1-01-2011

Looking Back.  How many totally unrealistic Volt estimates did we have to tolerate last year?  Over and over it was the same 40-miles by 365-days calculation.  Every knew the 40 was only a crude estimate for city driving in warm temperatures.  Any travel at high-speeds or in the winter would result in low EV capacity/range.  The denial ran deep.  The response was always negative... sometimes even hostile.  Enthusiasts were angered by the voice of reality.  It was very frustrating!  Thankfully, that year has come to an end.  We begin the new one with a new perspective.  Efficiency is undeniably lower than hoped, price is considerably higher, and the promise of increasing production to meet demand uncertain.  A barrel of oil has averaged over $90 for a week, pushing the average for a gallon of gas to over $3.  In short, times have changed.  Looking back tells quite a different story than what we see looking forward.

12-31-2010

Focus Change.  This particular attention shift is what I've been looking forward to for a very long time.  Now that hype & speculation is over and the many shortcomings (over promise, under deliver) of Volt are confirmed, we can change focus back to Prius.  Phew!  Rollout is just a milestone along a lengthy journey.  The realities of delivering a profitable plug-in vehicle at high-volume before the tax-credits expire should sink in.  For Toyota with the PHV, that effort is well underway.  They've got 600 of them collecting real-world driving data from ordinary consumers.  Efficiency & Emissions are goals already achieved.  Reduction of cost and best use of capacity available is the challenge now.  Optimization without limiting opportunity is a balance between business & engineering.  I especially like the system in Prius due to the flexibility of offering the choice of a plug.  Let's change focus to that now.

12-31-2010

MPG Reports.  They're emerging now.  Two owners who both purchased a Volt in Washington D.C. then drove back to homes in Florida shared their experiences.  Both reports are as expected... verifying what we expected ever since that horrible publicity stunt GM pulled in July.  Remember how they drove 1776 miles yet never revealed what the resulting MPG was?  It was so obvious they'd delay telling us what to expect for CS-mode efficiency until after the EPA estimates were released.  Sure enough and they're just as low as predicted.  The conversion loss is too great.  One owner reported 37 MPG and the other 35 MPG.  For GM to tell us over and over how Two-Mode was more efficient due to its ability to avoid mechanical to electrical back to mechanical conversion, then have Volt enthusiasts argue against that in support of the original 50 MPG target, simply made no sense.  To look back at all the arguing they did, only to find out they had embraced an unrealistic hope.  More than ever, we all wonder what 2011 will bring.

12-30-2010

The Data.  We finally found out why there has been a deafening silence about Volt efficiency in real-world driving from new owners.  Back when the evaluation vehicle reports were being posted, it was still Fall.  The season was pleasant & comfortable.  Heck, the east coast didn't even have any snow until just a few days ago... then it changed, dramatically.  It's much colder now.  Temperatures below freezing are significantly reducing EV range... since the heater is needed.  Vindication!  All those posts over the years warning them about the effect Winter will have.  They just blew me off, labeled me a troll.  Now they're faced with "I told you so" entitlement.  But instead, I've been quite polite when several "25 mile" observations were professed.  Interestingly, they responded with far more positive votes than I've ever received.  What an odd twist of fate!  Needless to say, the hope of 40 or even 35 all year long has vanished.  Reality has come crashing down.

12-30-2010

Typical Greenwashing.  When a vehicle transforms from long-anticipated to finally-arrived, the debates change too.  But just like in the past, it's the same old stuff.  That response was quite predictable.  The typical greenwashing we've seen before is back again.  What a nuisance!  They... who are now antagonists rather than enthusiasts ...will hunt out an extreme example an portray it as if that was the norm.  Fortunately, that's fairly easy to discredit though.  What's more of a challenge is when they find numbers that represent some type of credible average, but don't reveal the data is outdated.  Unfortunately, that happens quite a bit too.  Blog readers aren't always aware of generational improvements.  And if the antagonist ever gets caught misleading like that, they just claim innocence of not knowing that information was no longer relevant.  Sadly, even after "correcting" them several times, they still continue.  That's when you know they are intentionally greenwashing.  Watch for it.  We are now seeing that activity in discussions about Volt.

12-30-2010

Stealth.  It's interesting reading the various definitions from the variety of owner perspectives.  Here's the official one: Electric-Only driving (up to 42 MPH for Classic & Iconic Prius, 46 MPH for 2010) without the engine in motion.  It's easier to understand why the term came about if you know when it happened: August 1, 2000.  The automotive world was quite different way back then.  Very few even knew what a hybrid was.  That new category of vehicle needed new design identifiers to keep misconceptions from overwhelming the rollout effort and supporters embraced the fact that most people wouldn't realize "stealth" was actually a double entendre.  They'd just assume it was meant to point out the smooth & silent mode.  The second meaning took stealth to a higher level, where Prius would push it's way into the mainstream catching many totally off guard.  And sure enough, the second generation model ended up causing the industry to panic.  They had no idea a hybrid would stir so much interest or that the technology would prove both reliable & profitable.  Pretty sweet, eh?

12-29-2010

Scratched.  In other words, oops!  With the abundance of sand (from local glacier deposits) used on our roads here, it's no surprise that some gets splashed up onto the windshield.  It ends up on the floormat too, where the ice-scraper is kept.  I got stuck in a surprise ice storm the other day, where the snow suddenly changed to rain and I was inside the mall oblivious to it.  That was a rude awakening... entertaining though, watching other shoppers trying to escape the parking lot while I scraped off the thick layer of ice.  Unfortunately, I must have encountered a bit of tough sand combined with a little to much power scrapping.  Needless to say, I put a very fine scratch in the glass about 4 inches long right at eye-level.  Oh well.  Thankfully, that's all.  It could have been worse.

12-28-2010

Missing Reports.  It's seems quite odd that deliveries of Volt have begun, yet those owners aren't saying anything about their efficiency observations.  You get other information about the experiences so far, but nothing about EV range or MPG.  Even the daily log we once had no longer provides updates.  Real-World data is absent.  Why are reports missing what many want to know more about?  It's like that "Freedom Drive" all over again, where we were given everything but the most requested information.  Knowing that what actual owners get says much more than template type reviews.  Prius owners do that all the time.  In fact, most introductions include personal efficiency data information with detail.  For Volt, nothing so far... not even a vague summary.  It makes you wonder how long it will take to finally get something.  Stay tuned.

12-26-2010

Start-Stop.  Remember when Prius first rolled out here?  Ford bragged that they had a system capable of starting the engine faster.  That was of course greenwashing, since faster isn't necessarily a good thing for emissions.  That idea never really gained much attention either.  The technology itself has aspect of greenwashing as well, since consumers typically don't understand the criteria which allows stopping & starting.  For example, if you have the A/C running, when the engine shuts off it does too.  Traditional vehicles share a belt, so the best they can offer with the engine off is continue to run the blower but not the condenser.  There's also a timer.  You don't want the engine to stop & start too often.  Honda owners found this frustrating, where start-stop would not re-engage during their commute unless they accelerated above 10 MPH.  This was to prevent the on, off, on, off, on, off you'd otherwise encounter in slow traffic.  How much of an overall efficiency benefit the feature varies too, which is a big deal if the added cost is too high.  A special 12-volt battery and a bigger starter is required.  An electric coolant pump is also needed.  It should be interesting to see where this idea goes now.

12-24-2010

Substitute.  That's the spin which surfaced today.  It was a great example of greenwashing... where so-called facts were presented that were confusing to follow and really didn't have much to do with the issue at hand anyway.  They love to debate architecture rather than address what consumers actually need.  The supposed best design is superior, regardless of whether or not it can be sold in high-volume and at a profit.  With this particular claim, Prius isn't a proper "substitute" since it doesn't abide by the absolute of never needing any gas... disregarding Volt's winter warm-up and periodic maintenance-cycle, of course.  Efficiency in CS-mode is "irrelevant" as far as they're concerned too.  I just posted this, amazed that being constructive is of no concern to them still:  Good thing all it takes is just a simple test-drive puts that spin to rest.  Hills and acceleration for all suburb driving is totally realistic without ever firing up the engine.  The test-drive experience clearly demonstrates that. Cruising at 60 MPH with the engine off does too.  The design has always been with the intent to ultimately support EV drive.  The proof is the ability to operate the motor with the engine in motion.  Battery limitations are the obvious hold up.  It simply doesn't make any sense to use bigger than a 60kW motor without the power to fully utilize it.  Semantics are of no interest to consumers.  We've been through this already with Two-Mode.

12-23-2010

Upcoming Spin.  Now that real-world numbers are becoming available, it's a good bet that spin is on the way.  As we've seen with other efficiency technologies coming up short in the past, those wanting to support the one at a disadvantage will focus on semantics rather than address actual data.  The measure of EV efficiency is a great example already.  Volt uses a different type of electric-motor than Prius, so there's no reason to expect them to operate the same anyway.  But with two independent reports already pointing out that Toyota's design is quite a bit more efficient (roughly 40 percent), it's a topic GM backers are now avoiding.  Spin will come from the "purist" perspective too, where even just using the gas-engine for 10 seconds of acceleration is a horrible thing.  It's back to Volt having an engine for emergency situations only, rather than using it several times a week as many actually will from exceeding the EV capacity (especially during the winter).  In the end, it really doesn't matter what they spin anyway.  Progress is determined the same way:  SALES

12-23-2010

Game Player.  More than anything, that label really irritates the Volt enthusiasts.  They simply don't have a comeback.  There's nothing constructive as a rebuttal.  The responses just end up pointless.  Needless to say, I'm enjoy smiting their smug with such tenacity & brevity.  Getting from that "superiority" attitude down to something actually beneficial to middle-market consumers has been a challenge.  They didn't want to be part of the next generation of vehicles.  No partnership from them.  It was only king of the hill... for nearly 4 years.  Thank goodness the long-awaited rollout is bringing about a long-overdue attitude adjustment.  Vehicles like Camry & Corolla have never been head-turners.  Those are the ubiquitous cars that bring in profit, quietly & steadily.  They co-exist among many other choices, yet sell well despite not drawing much attention.  They focus on delivering a pleasant & reliable ownership experience at an affordable price.  Prius adds efficiency & emissions to that purpose; later a plug will be available too.  All those priorities have been well balanced.  Volt emphasizes extremes at the sacrifice of engine-emissions, engine-efficiency, and an affordable price.  There isn't a no-plug option either.  In other words, it's a tough sell.  Rather than changing the game as hoped, it must play with others.

 

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