Prius Personal Log  #500

February 3, 2011  -  February 7, 2011

Last Updated: Sat. 2/12/2011

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2-07-2011

Purpose, image.  It's quite intriguing to hear some GM supporters point out how Volt is mostly just to improve image for now, a "halo" vehicle to stir interest in GM vehicles.  They certainly have a different attitude than the Volt enthusiasts.  That could be due to actually caring about the well-being of the business.  For example, Cruze is finally starting to catch on.  Last month, there were 13,631 purchased.  Talk of second-generation BAS (renamed to "eAssist") available later this year is also stirring some hope.  They really like the idea of that being spread across the entire product-line.  In other words, it's what they hope will keep GM competitive.  Of course, there's still no mention of price or emissions.  The television commercial for Volt during the Super-Bowl yesterday seemed to support the image feeling well too, frustration from spending lots of money to advertise a vehicle with this notice at the end: "Available only in select states. Quantities limited."

2-06-2011

Purpose, big picture.  Stepping back from the obvious current struggles, we have to ask what the overall purpose is... look at the big picture.  Oil will still be used for commercial & industrial needs.  So, elimination on that scale isn't realistic.  Is it for consumer use?  Is there really a problem using a small amount, especially if it becomes so small we can substitute something like cellulous ethanol instead?  Isn't this the purpose of Volt to reduce gas usage to the point of it being a neutral energy & emission concern?  If so, why couldn't a plug-in like Prius also have the same purpose?  I witnessed an excess of 200 MPG when on the highway in the PHV traveling at speeds above the EV threshold.  Isn't that efficient enough to achieve the goal?  What about a future model using a larger traction-motor for faster EV?  People get so hung up with particulars of a technology that they forget to (or sometimes refuse to) reflect upon its purpose.

2-06-2011

Purpose, approach.  Delay tactics are a given.  It's easy to see how Volt will settle into a state of uncertainty, the same way Two-Mode has.  You hear about a next generation coming, but there isn't any detail whatsoever available.  The "over promise, under deliver" lesson seems to have been learned in that case.  But then again, any talk of pushing monster-size guzzlers which deliver MPG in the low 20's falls on deaf ears now.  Consumer interest has shifted to non-hybrid SUVs that deliver 30 MPG instead.  Toyota's approach to offering a plug-in is to provide a model of Prius much like a package option.  You want a big boost to MPG and the ability to run errands using only electricity, that's the choice for you.  It's the Prius everyone is already familiar with that enhances the EV ability already available.  Since Volt is unique, saying we must wait several years before consumers will understand it seems sensible... until you ask what the purpose of "it" actually is compared to the other plug-in hybrids.

2-06-2011

Purpose, questions.  It probably isn't any surprise that also asking that same question on the big GM forum resulted in nothing but a sarcastic response.  The thread was a discussion about GM looking into cutting the price of Volt.  That cannot be done without careful consideration of purpose... which should be well known at this point.  That daily blog always used the excuse of not knowing anything for certain until rollout.  Well, now that rollout is underway, where is that information?  In other words, what kind of marketing are we going to see?  Which aspects will advertising draw attention to?  Who will the consumers that will be targeted?  How many do they expect to sell after it is established?  When should we expect the first design revisions?

2-05-2011

Purpose, expectations.  This is what I ended up posting:  We've been through this already, with Two-Mode, and have been expressing the same concerns ever since.  How much longer must we continue to wait... and for what?  Giving us a choice would be an entirely different matter.  Then we actually could choose.  Instead, all we get is a single Volt configuration that GM wants to sell us.  There isn't a second being planned, only different body styles.  Imagine a model offering a smaller battery-capacity, an engine that's cleaner and more efficient, a modest interior & dash, with a much lower price.  How come GM continues to extremely vague about intentions, yet knows the clock is ticking with the tax-credit and the CAFE requirements?  They still also have more money to pay back.  What should our expectations be?

2-05-2011

Purpose, asking.  I asked the following question today on the big Prius forum: "Wasn't the purpose of Volt to be a clean, efficient, affordable alternative for vehicles like Cruze & Malibu?"  It was in response to yet another endorsement for the drive experience.  How are the upcoming CAFE requirements going to be met, not to mention remaining competitive?  When the tax-credit expires, what changes would have been made to reduce the price?  Techniques like drawing a deeper discharge to shrink the battery without losing range is what other automakers could also do.  Enhancements to the engine for greater efficiency are as well.  Power will likely be reduced as a consequence.  That will take away from the drive experience, the only thing which currently makes Volt stand out.  Being told "Keep an open mind." and hearing "I see no point to disparaging it yet." totally overlooks the fact that we've been expressing these very concerns for years already.  Remember what the auto task-force stated upon seeing the bankruptcy recovery plans?

2-05-2011

Summer Cooling.  Looking ahead, what will Summer bring?  Remember how Ford had circulated liquid through their hybrid battery-pack to keep it cool?  We know for a fact that Volt has a liquid cooling system for its battery-pack and that it will get considerably warmer due to being using more extensively.  Also, let's not forget how much more lithium-based batteries are to heat than NiMH.  Will pumping coolant through the battery-pack and radiator be enough?  Will the condenser ever be involved?  If so, will it be powered by the battery-pack or the engine?  And of course, how much will that reduce EV driving range.  Or will there be a temperature threshold which will cause the engine to run, regardless of what capacity the battery-pack is at?  Think about how the engine already does that for Winter warming.  Will Summer cooling be any different?

2-05-2011

Intentional Greenwashing.  This new article published today promoted Volt.  It was from an online source which specializes in reporting GM technology.  So, it's safe to think they are well informed.  Yet, there were two blatantly incorrect statements used to summarize the design: "The 2011 Chevrolet Volt is powered by 16-kWh, T-shaped lithium-ion battery that powers the electric drive unit, which allows it to drive 40 miles on battery power alone." and "The Chevrolet Volt also carries an 84-hp 1.4 4-clyinder engine that allows the five-door, FWD sedan to travel additional miles while averaging a fuel-economy of 50 mpg."  The 40 miles is just plain not true.  The EPA states 35 miles.  Owners experiencing the extremes of Winter have been pointing out their observations of 25 miles.  What possible excuse could their be for 40?  As for efficiency of 50 MPG, where the heck did that come from?  The combined estimate is 37.  City is 35.  Highway is 40.  Seeing values so wrong is an indication of greenwashing.  And considering the source, it certainly looks intentional.

2-05-2011

Reality.  It's finally sinking in.  True, the Volt enthusiasts are in such denial about the "direct" drive design they are now calling it "mechanical" to disassociate themselves from previous claims.  Not meeting the qualifications to be a SERIES hybrid (the engine can assist at any speed above 30 MPH) means it falls into the same plug-in hybrid category as Toyota & Ford.  They don't like that at all.  But what can they do now?  Enough reports have come in about 25 miles being the common observation for the Winter EV driving threshold to invalidate those previous claims too.  To think it was just a few months ago some were absolutely insisting (to the point of hostility) that 40 miles was a realistic expectation year-round.  They were quite incorrect about engine efficiency expectations as well.  The cold temperatures have resulted in averages just above 30 MPG.  That is so far below what they had been claiming, the only exoneration available is to point out how frequently the engine runs for the sake of generating heat.  In other words, the so-called "trolls" were right all along.  The hype didn't make sense... and there is now confirmation of that.  Reality is quite different from what many had hoped for.

2-04-2011

Prius+ In Europe.  Rumor now is that Toyota will soon reveal this new hybrid at the Geneva autoshow in Europe.  It is thought to be the Prius-V with a 3rd row of seats.  That configuration for a vehicle of that size is common there.  Here in America, even minivans are looked down upon by many.  In fact, SUV sales are again on the rise, with interior space as the excuse.  How this will be accepted is anyone's guess.  Efficiency is looked upon differently in other markets.  Gas isn't quite expensive enough here and unfortunately the "boil a frog" situation is playing out.  (Consumers here are getting used to paying more for a gallon of gas, rather than changing their vehicle preference.)  Perhaps it will become an option here later.  For now, the Prius-V is a response to the request for an interior larger than Prius.  And for a market where 30 MPG is hyped as impressive, the jump to 40 MPG will certainly stand out for a car seating 5.

2-04-2011

How Will It Be Better?  Asking what will make Volt a better plug-in hybrid than the PHV sure makes discussions interesting, especially on the big Prius forum.  It's hard to tell how constructive the posts are though.  But at least we're trying.  Having some participating who never believed there was any Volt hype makes it quite compelling.  It's hard to imagine someone owning a Prius who never paid any attention to Volt until now.  They certainly have a thought-provoking perspective.  Anywho, I couldn't resist this particular comment in that discussion from such an owner: "Sometimes the thing that costs more is better."  Since I think trying to convince someone to spend that much more is quite unrealistic, this response shouldn't be much of a surprise:  The fact that Volt reverts down to the same emission & efficiency level as other traditional vehicles after depletion means being "better" is limited exclusively to the EV range.  Automaker brands like Toyota, Ford, and Chevy are in the business of selling lots of vehicles for a profit.  Consumers are well aware that if you pay more, you'll get a nicer vehicle. That's what the luxury-market has been all about for decades, selling far fewer vehicles.  Prius targets middle-market instead, where high-volume sales come from.  Adding capacity and a plug to Prius package-3 makes a model within the usual spending range for them.  It's affordable.  It offers an undeniable boost to MPG.  It doesn't require anything beyond a 110-volt outlet.  It still delivers emissions & efficiency much higher than traditional vehicles after depletion.  That makes it good business.  What are the specific points which will make Volt a "better" plug-in hybrid?

2-04-2011

Hybrid Sales.  They were pretty much down across the board, for all models.  January isn't usually a good month anyway.  The turbulent Winter weather likely contributed to purchase hesitation too.  But with the price of a barrel of oil around $90 and a gallon of gas above $3, you'd think sales would at least remain stable.  Instead, it really looks like people are getting use to paying more.  Just tolerating higher prices isn't a good sign.  Whatever the case, here's the totals for the top-10 sellers: Prius 10653, Insight 1554, Fusion 969, RX450h 912, CR-Z 894, Camry 860, Highlander 689, Civic 653, Escape 520, MKZ 370.  The total of all 5 models of Two-Mode combined only came to 430.  We also know that Volt was 321 and Leaf 87.  So how the market will grow is quite unclear.  Even the future of diesel for passenger vehicle is uncertain.  The top-seller is still Jetta TDI.  But with only 2938 purchased last month, that's not exactly a popular alternative to hybrids.  As gas prices rise and the old guzzlers get replaced, hopefully a threshold will be hit where the market suddenly booms.  At least Prius remains on the top-20 overall (all vehicle types) sales chart.  For January, it was in position 19.

2-04-2011

Understanding Hype.  Trying to explain to someone how an idea can be more powerful than a fact is like beating a dead horse (pardon the expression).  Some just plain don't believe you.  When the evidence is right there for all to see, how could it still be denied?  Ugh.  Needless to say, that's what I've been dealing with for years.  In fact, that's where the "halo effect" term came from.  The claim was made that all Prius did was make consumers believe Toyota was a greener automaker, resulting in more sales of dirty vehicles.  They simply dismissed Prius as an image builder, rather than a mainstream seller... despite the actual sales numbers to prove it!  Denial on that scale is truly amazing.  Having Prius outsell so many traditional vehicles, yet still be accused of not accomplishing anything beyond deceive consumers, was a great example of resisting change.  People with something to lose greenwash, telling you what you want to hear rather than just sticking to facts.  It's quite frustrating.  I summed up the situation we currently dealing with for Volt with the following:  That is how hype works.  Comments are made which are somewhat vague & ambiguous.  You end up competing against a hope, rather than a reality.

2-03-2011

Volt Sighting.  I walked out the door and there it was, the very same block I had seen both my first Two-Mode vehicle and a Tesla Roadster.  First thought was it would be just about as rare too.  How many years did we hear that it would deliver 50 MPG after depletion?  What about all the nonsense about the 40-mile EV range being just a minimum?  And for the absurd price hopes, I can't help but to shake my head in disbelief.  Studying the technologies involved, all that simply wasn't realistic.  Heck, it's even quite a stretch for the second generation model.  But they didn't listen.  So, now my thoughts center around how to deal with the fallout.  Volt will clearly be a popular vehicle for enthusiasts.  For the mainstream consumers who I have consulted with about their needs over the past decade, only a curiosity.  Price has always been heavily stressed in importance from them.  Once the battery-pack is drained, Volt reverts to the same efficiency & emissions as traditional vehicles.  That means reducing the battery-pack to lower the price reduces the most appealing aspect of the vehicle.  Still getting 50 MPG from the PHV after depletion won me over.  That makes it really easy to sell.  What will draw sales to Volt?  The one I saw today had a commercial plate on it, indicating a business or government office.  When will sightings of them owned by consumers become routine?

 

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