Prius Personal Log  #501

February 8, 2011  -  February 13, 2011

Last Updated: Sat. 2/19/2011

    page #500         page #502         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

2-13-2011

Spring Arrived!  Well, not really.  But it certainly felt like it.  Our taste of warm weather had finally arrived.  It happens every February.  We get a break from the severe cold.  Sometimes, it returns afterwards.  Other times, it ushers in the heavy & wet snow storms.  This far north (Minnesota), we typically have the light & dry snow.  It's great for
Winter recreation.  You rarely ever have to worry about rain.  It's simply too cold for that.  Well today, it was actually warm.  I saw 42°F on the display.  That meant time to open the roof... let the sunshine in and crack the tunes.  Ahhh!  That was absolutely wonderful.  To think that it was actually 50 degrees colder last week.  Supposedly, we'll be getting a few more days above freezing.  Not a near record-high like today, but it's always nice getting to wash the crust of salt & sand off the Prius.

2-13-2011

The Situation.  Here's what I posted today as a summary of what's been happening:  Reading comments like "cannot compete" and "old technology" on this daily blog for Volt further reinforce the fact that enthusiasts are proud of the vehicle delivered.  They are obviously quite pleased with how it works and simply don't share the concerns of others about price.  We just keep getting "it's worth the price" comments.  However, some of those others are regulars on the big GM forum, who currently see Volt as a niche and the need for scaling back the current design to bring price down enough to appeal to mainstream buyers.  They want GM to move Volt beyond the halo status and aren't concerned about how it will affect the drive experience.  In other words, while the enthusiasts are busy challenging posts from Prius owners, they have failed to notice GM supporters posting the very same thing.  It's a repeat of problems from within we've seen before... the lack of agreement about goals.  So, what happens now?

2-12-2011

Consumer Questions.  It's intriguing to read questions regular consumers are beginning to ask about plug-ins now.  It's evidence we are finally beyond the hype.  We're back to the most basic things, like: "How easy is it to plug this into a standard wall outlet and is there an included accessory to do so?"  That begs the question of how long it will be before some start asking about electricity.  For example, how come Volt uses a 16 kWh battery-pack to deliver 35 miles of EV yet there's just 3.5 kWh for EV from the PHV to deliver 14 miles?  People like me are well aware of the HV requirements batteries must still fulfill after depletion and know that the approach is very different for those two plug-in hybrids.  Volt shares the same pack for HV.  Prius has another providing 1.6 kWh for just HV.  Which is more efficient?  Which will cost less?  Which will last longer?  It obviously gets very complicated trying to do comparisons, especially online where debates are vague & brief.  There's new concepts to learn with too, like preconditioning.  Questions are good.  In the past, the enthusiasts drown out attempts at constructive discussion.  Now, the real-world information is overwhelming their hype... leaving them with very little to respond with anymore.  In fact, this is an entire post on the big GM forum today: "Volt > Prius.  End of story.  Thank you for playing."

2-12-2011

Plug-In Decision.  We already know that Volt enthusiasts sway whichever way the wind blows, rather than standing firm with specific goals.  The result is already mixed messages to consumers.  Who exactly is that plug-in suppose to appeal to?  It's quite clear who the market is for Prius; that's already well established.  In fact, that's why a larger & smaller version are being planned.  This should make the step up to the plug-in model just a matter of it being another package to choose from.  Some of the misconceptions about EV now being dealt with should have settled down by then too.  The heart of Prius is being a hybrid.  Each generation uses electricity more than the prior.  Seeing the advantage a plug offers shouldn't be that big of a deal... MPG will be higher.  Of course, you know the competition will push the range as a shortcoming, despite the fact that it profoundly improves the current shortcoming of Prius now... efficiency of very short trips.  What will the decision to purchase really be based upon?

2-11-2011

Rollout Timing.  Looking at the schedule Toyota has, it's going to be quite a ride.  Here, the price of gas is $3.19 and diesel $3.54 with the expectation to be much higher in the coming months.  Fuel efficiency isn't being ignored as it had been in the past.  How high of a priority it will become is the question.  Prius-V will be rolled out this Summer.  Prius-C should be next Spring.  PHV will follow in the Summer.  Consumers will see that as a consistent push for more efficient choices.  It also sets up the timing of the next generation Prius well, giving the PHV an opportunity to become established prior to that next upgrade.  Toyota stated other hybrids are on the way too.  What will that do for the competition?  Depending upon their stance, it could either open up opportunity for them to introduce their own models or feel like they are being forced to change.

2-10-2011

Hybrid Trucks.  Sales of Two-Mode never took off.  In fact, the 2010 total for all 5 models from GM (Escalade, Tahoe, Yukon, Silverado, Sierra) was only 6,250 for the entire year.  That's way under the margin of being profitable and far from revolutionizing the truck market... especially since 10,627 of Sierra and 28,172 of Silverado were sold in just January 2011.  The Dodge Durango was dead on arrival.  It was a terrible time for Chrysler/Dodge anyway.  But since the United States government was offering $48 million of funding and the Canadian government $5 million to develop a plug-in model, the effort continued even though a non-plug version wasn't planned for production.  The design ended up with a 12 kWh lithium-polymer battery capable of delivering up to 20 miles of EV.  That's not too bad for a truck with a 5.7 liter 8-cylinder engine.  But imagine the price for that!  Needless to say, we got this message from the CEO of that division today: "Truckers don’t want to buy hybrids."  So the best we'll ever see from that money is some prototypes.  They don't have any intention of producing them for consumers.  All along, we always knew the preference for trucks actually being used for utility are diesel.  What could either a gas hybrid or a plug-in offer that would be both more appealing and cost-competitive?

2-10-2011

Autoshow Coverage.  This week, the big one is Chicago.  Like most of the others, we get articles written by reporters... not journalists.  When it comes to Prius, that's quite obvious.  They spend a few minutes observing, then write about it.  No research beyond that takes place.  Because after 13 years... supposed experts in this field... since have no idea how the hybrid actually works.  This time, it was: "The Prius runs on electricity until it hits 18 mph, at which time an internal combustion engine kicks in."  I know the observation was arbitrary.  But I doubt any readers will question it.  In fact, most will likely assume that cutover point, where all travel slower than 18 is always electric.  In reality, it has been a mix of gas & electric or just electric alone all the way up to 42 MPH until 2009, when the threshold was then increased to 46 MPH.  But it varies based on driving & vehicle conditions.  It also varies by automaker.  So, you'd think with the complexities & differences there would at least be a little bit of research.  Nope.  And sadly, there are some online who quote those articles as credible sources.  Remember all the trouble we had in the past from that?  It's what feeds greenwashing, providing the opportunity to mislead without drawing suspicion.  To make matters worse,  reporters are just reusing old reports about Volt now that it's available.  And you guessed it, they state you'll get 40 miles per charge.

2-10-2011

Getting Closure, part 3.  I also responded to a newbie starting to ask the who's and what's about that rather heated exchange:  I’m a frequent poster on record for stating concerns that the price, efficiency, and range targets were unrealistic for initial rollout… too little, too slowly… over-promise, under-deliver.  Being vindicated comes with intense emotion… from those who disagreed with me in the past.  $30,000 was a big hope.  With a price like that, or even a few thousand more, it could reach a wide market.  I argued for years saying that wasn’t realistic.  Finding out the initial price was significantly higher really upset those who had argued that wouldn’t happen.  50 MPG after depletion never made any sense.  If that could actually be delivered by the end of 2010, it would be a competitive choice by offering a second model with a tiny battery-pack.  I stated it would actually be about 38 MPG.  Sure enough, the EPA confirmed it.  40 MILE range year-round was the claim.  I repeatedly stated how that couldn't be possible, pointing out how demanding use of the heater is.  And we all know how that played out.  Owners have overwhelming confirmed a range reduction from cold weather driving.  In short, we're in an awkward position now. Frustration of having learned the hard way must be vented before being able to move on.  And of course, shooting the messenger is often an effective release.

2-10-2011

Getting Closure, part 2.  Here's what I had to say in response to him, purposely sticking to facts and avoiding any expression of emotion myself:   If that makes the situation easier to deal with, go ahead.  Now being aware of the complexities from efficiency & emissions, that’s probably the fastest way to get over the past anyway.  SALES are what measure progress.  That's what makes a difference.  All of the plug-in vehicles will be judged that same way, especially since most automakers already had extensive motor & battery expertise prior to the recent rollouts.  And there is work remaining still… 2013 a model of Volt with a PZEV emission-rating is expected to be available.  2015 the next generation of Volt featuring a more efficient engine and a much lower price is expected to be available.

2-10-2011

Getting Closure, part 1.  There are lots of newbies joining discussions now, most whom are completely unaware of anything that happened prior to 2011.  So, there expectations are to find cheerleading.  You know, the do-no-wrong & nothing-but-praise kind of posts.  Instead, they see get some against-the-grain posts from people like me attempting to retain a constructive focus... which of course is followed by a few hostile responses.  They find that bewildering.  I find it a relief.  Just like with previous fumbled rollouts of the past, those most upset feel the need to vent their frustration on an easy target before finally accepting their disappointment.  It's pretty obvious too, since so much of those responses are filled with insulting language and personal attacks, along with some downplaying of outcome.  That's a good sign.  Let it out.  Get it over with.  Interesting part is, one such individual stated this before launching spewing his feelings: "I know it won’t do a thing for you, but it might make me feel better."  And yes, this was the same person who had hoped for 60 MPG.  So, you could imagine he had a lot to say about the situation.

2-09-2011

Mechanical, not Electrical.  Yesterday brought the conclusion of the research performed by NASA, attempting to find out the true source of those sudden-acceleration cases for Toyota.  It was no surprise that they confirmed it was not an electrical issue.  That would have been truly bizarre.  For us to drive all those years without any trouble whatsoever, then getting a bunch of claims all at once from such a wide variety of vehicles.  That goes way beyond coincidence.  Of course, listening to the crazy 911 call of the most famous incident revealed how easy it would be to stage an event for attention or to redirect fault.  Driver error is realistic.  Physical involvement of the pedal is realistic too.  Electrical was unlikely, since circuits are shielded and standards have been in place for decades.  It's reasonable to think some type of power surge could have been the cause, but no evidence was found to support that.  Experts from NASA performed many tests over the 10 months.  They didn't find anything electrical.  How do you think those who insisted that was the problem will respond to this news?

2-09-2011

Purpose, discovery.  Design detail will continue to change the perception of new efficiency approaches, like Volt, over time.  Though as we've seen so far, some enthusiasts will deny certain aspirations ever existed upon being proven incorrect.  The latest example is discovering that the engine will start up repeatedly throughout the duration of your drive when the temperature is well below freezing.  The assumption was that it would only happen once, then the waste heat from usage of the battery-pack would keep itself warm.  That isn't the case... which messes up their "no gas" bragging rights even more... since preconditioning runs the engine too.  Knowing that and the reality that both time & distance have a major impact on vehicle operation too, the hype completely falls apart.  To further stress the discovery process, it's fascinating to point out that the PHV being tested now is actually the first generation rollout.  What will end up being offered to the general public will be the second.  Remember back in 1999?  Toyota did the same thing with the "Original" model of Prius.  What most people think of as the first was actually the second, now often referred to as the "Classic" model.  Feedback from those first drivers provided valuable information about what would be beneficial to improve prior to the second phase of rollout.  That's why the suggestion to study history is so important.  You may discover something important sooner than others.

2-09-2011

Purpose, replacement.  There's only so much of that nonsense you can actually take.  I waited though, hoping for an idea of the most elegant way to remind them of purpose... and the opportunity to use it in reply to an exceptionally desperate post.  Sure enough, that patience worked out really nice:  Do whatever it takes to distract from purpose, eh?  Whatever.  I've developed a tolerance for the spin & insults.  They confirm expectations are not being met; otherwise, the response would be about them instead.  Purpose for the new technologies is to replace traditional vehicles with something cleaner and more efficient.  And there's only one way to fulfill that purpose: SALES.  You can point out whatever fancy feature you want.  In the end though, if it doesn't result in a sale, what difference does it actually make?

2-08-2011

Purpose, worth.  The more you push, the more they push back about Volt being superior.  Much of the talk today on that daily blog was about being better than Leaf.  But then I finally interjected when Prius got dragged into it, responding to the usual greenwashing attempts.  That only made it worse; however, it all had a point.  The question of who is being answered.  Each encounter repeats the "worth its price" argument.  That pattern is quite easy to see now.  Disregarding practical needs of a family doesn't matter.  That isn't who's going to buy one anyway.  The approach Prius took to winning over middle-market consumers is of no interest.  Volt really isn't intended to appeal to potential Cruze & Malibu buyers.  A future generation may... and likely will due to the need to offer something mainstream.  But that's not what this current one is all about.  There is very much a sense of pride with the 2011, which isn't something logic can overcome.  Passion for a vehicle is what enthusiasts are all about.

 

back to home page       go to top