Prius Personal Log #511
April 16, 2011 - April 22, 2011
Last Updated: Mon. 4/25/2011
page #510 page #512 BOOK INDEX
Looking Back. Remember the craze for Hummer? It was astonishing just how bad that greenwashing actually got. To think that so much effort was expended to defend a monster-sized guzzler. It's amazing how resistance to change plays out. At least now, we're instead dealing with an overpriced plug-in with an engine in need of improvement. Unfortunately, time isn't available. $4 gas has already returned. What does that mean for mainstream consumers, those middle-market buyers hoping to purchase an affordable high-efficiency vehicle? How much cost-reduction can be achieved in just a few years? Will the revisions divide supporters like we've seen in the past with other significant generation differences? Who will even set goals now that such many of the primary decision-makers have left? Looking back doesn't seem to teach us much... or does it?
Keeping Focus. It's not like there haven't been many attempts. Today, I asked this in response to the warm-up misleading: "The reason for the engine starting just prior to EV depletion is to deliver a PZEV emission rating. How will Volt accomplish that?" Overwhelmed with emotion still, I don't expect much cooperation. But watching intentional misleading is difficult to not respond. Fortunately, it's great evidence of how truly desperate a few have become. The one who posted all that personal info about me was the same individual who believed sincerely Volt would deliver 60 MPG after depletion... right up until that historic day exactly 5 months ago. Getting over that type of disappointment isn't easy. Finding someone to blame is a textbook response... and I am a very big target. That's ok though. It allows others to speak out, knowing I'll get blamed regardless of reason anyway. I have a good sense of humor about the situation. Owners wanting the technology to succeed will eventually drown out the antagonists. That requires keeping focus on goals, not personal attacks.
Forgetting Goals. A big part of the problem we currently face is how far from the product delivered is from the need and what was originally hyped. Vindication of the vaporware claim is so overwhelming, none of the enthusiasts want to address anything in the past. That's how the divergence comes about. Those disenchanted become antagonists, seeking out opportunities to provoke & mislead. It's what happens when hoped is crushed. We saw this occur in the past with both Two-Mode and BAS. So, expecting it from Volt was quite realistic. The opposite extreme is those few who seek the same alliance I attempted to establish 4 years ago. They desire constructive discussion to find ways of dealing with the somewhat daunting list of shortcomings. After all, cooperation could help the second-generation design reach the intended mainstream consumers the first could not. They become supporters. These are the few who see the plug-in Prius as an aide to help bring about an end to the true enemy... traditional vehicles. Unfortunately, forgetting goals by lashing out at those who never lost focus is what we witnessed on this particular Earth Day.
Earth Day Attacks. The price of gas is around $4 everywhere in the country now. Here, it jumped from $3.77 to $3.95 overnight. Time is up! Coincidentally, today just happens to be exactly 6 months after the EPA estimates for Volt were finalized. That ended the hype. It was real-world data from that point. Sales & MPG would tell the story, not hope. Today is Earth Day. No new thread on the daily blog for Volt sure was an unexpected surprise. Nothing! What the heck? No more propaganda, despite the opportunity. Whoa! So... what do you think happened? The first post of the day on the old thread was intentional greenwashing about Prius. This was posted: "FYI, because the (plug-in) Prius can never know when the engine will have to engage because of a hard acceleration, it has to start the engine whenever the car is turned on to avoid a cold start, which would produce a lot of pollution." That has been proven false several times. Even video was provided to show that. It's that same old absolute being pushed. He simply didn't care. Just keep repeating incorrect information until people believe it. Ugh! So... when I called him on it, the attacks quickly shifted from Prius to me. Despite the interjection from a regular poster to point out that my remarks are "positively civil" in compared to others, a cry to ban me was shouted out and personal info about me from online searches was posted. They were blatant attempts to discredit, embarrass, and offend. Since I don't respond with anything personal, sticking to facts, all that was ignored and just replied to with this: Resorting to a personal attack rather than simply acknowledge the benefit of having a second more affordable model of Volt. That's pretty sad. Happy Earth Day!
1000-Mile Fillups. That's an interesting & strange topic to praise Volt for. Yet, that's what was started today. A quick search online revealed a video of a Prius owner with an aftermarket plug-in upgrade driving over 1,000 miles before refilling the tank 4 years ago. And just yesterday, another owner reported 1,146.7 miles since his last fillup. The intent of the topic was to emphasis uniqueness of Volt, much like the EREV marketing label. Problem is, it's not unique. In fact, that could become a common expectation for some plug-in hybrid owners. For my particular driving with the PHV, it's likely going to be every 750 miles, since I drive about 20,000 miles annually. Those who drive less will see more. Whatever the case, they weren't happy seeing real-world data from Prius upgrades. It's too bad bragging-rights continue to hamper the effort to promote plug-in hybrids. Of course, I do still clearly remember the repeated claims of only 37 gallons per year. Filling up the 9-gallon tank every 1,000 miles sure is going to consume a lot more gas than that.
User-Guide. The first edition for the 2010-2011 model is
now available. Not wanting to just revise the Iconic (2004-2009) User-Guide
for the newest generation Prius, time was taken to come up with an entirely
new approach. That process took way longer than expected, but it certainly
was a good experience getting deeply engrossed with what this design has to
offer... especially knowing it will be offered as a plug-in. Hopefully, it
does an even better job of helping out newbies and enticing those just
curious about Prius to pursue more. This version puts the focus on photos.
That should make organization & understanding easier for everyone. With
such a variety of topics to cover and such a diverse audience, illustrations
tend to convey the message better than words. Anywho, here's the first
edition, with the expectation of my revisions to come...
Plug-In Registration. It began this evening.
Toyota is now providing the opportunity for you to express your interest in
purchasing their newest technology. In this case, it was registering
for a PHV model. Reports of doing exactly that started trickling in.
I jumped on the chance. 11 years ago, I registered the same way... for that very first Prius
available here. 3 years later, I was waiting for delivery of the next. 5.5
years later, waiting again. Just moments ago, the wait officially began yet
again. And since I live in the Midwest, looks like delivery will
include a road trip to a coast where rollout begins.
It's been an exciting journey, totally worth the wait! There's
much to keep me busy in the meantime. Good thing too, I know the
anticipation will get quite intense later... when they send you an email
stating it's time to choose options and specify a dealer.
eAssist Price? Despite all the attention, price is
still a major unknown. Sound familiar? We now have detail for
the upcoming version of Malibu using this hybrid system. With a 2.4 liter
4-cylinder gas-engine and a 15 kW electric-motor power by a 0.5 kWh 115-volt
battery-pack, the efficiency estimate expected is 26 MPG city and 38 MPG
highway. The history of hybrids has made it extremely clear how
important price is when it comes to competing, especially when there's a
popular traditional counterpart available. If this vehicle is expected
to fill the void Volt isn't able to fill, sales is the eAssist Malibu
(second-generation BAS) are going to be really important. How much do
you think people will be willing to pay for what's expected to be a combined
4 MPG increase in efficiency.
One Million. Toyota have recently celebrated the sale of its millionth Prius hybrid vehicle, marking an incredibly important and significant milestone for a concept originally believed to be somewhat ahead of its time. That sums up the situation now. There's a lot of Prius here. There's another million elsewhere in the world too. Debates about viability are long over. Acceptance as a mainstream vehicle is complete. Next comes expansion of the technology into new dedicated vehicles while also increasing efficiency through the use of larger-capacity battery-packs and a plug. It's difficult to predict how consumers will respond. One thing we do know is that high gas prices will compel them to take action. Not having an affordable high-volume choice available is a big concern. With 10 to 12 million new vehicles purchase in the United States alone each year, it sure would be nice seeing a big chunk of that hybrids in the not-too-distant future.
Green Claims. With the approach of Earth Day comes
crazy stories about green successes & failures. My favorite today was
on the radio. It was a report about the success of Prius.
Supposedly it's totally the result of people wanting to make a statement.
The unique look is the sole reason for that purchase. Never once
throughout the entire story was it mentioned that Prius gets the best MPG
than any other choice, by an large margin. There was nothing said
about the practical nature of Prius being a hatchback or complaints about
lost truck space from the hybrid sedans either. But the worst of all
was the omission of Insight, currently the second-best selling hybrid here.
To the typical consumer, it looks pretty much exactly like a Prius.
How come there was nothing at all said about it?
More Snow. A few days ago, waking up to the discovery of almost 3 inches of snow blanketing my Prius wasn't exactly what I was expecting so late in the year. Unfortunately, the season called "Spring" has been rather elusive. Of course, it did provide another opportunity for me to drive through fresh, heavy, wet snow with the new tires. This morning emphasized that reality of a lingering Winter even further. The green grass was coated with a surprisingly thick later of new snow. Fortunately, this time the roads had already melted it. I sure hope that was the final snow. More is most definitely not what I've been looking forward to.
Production Expectations. Remember a little over 3
months ago? The CEO of GM stated his expectation for 2011 production
of Volt to top 25,000. It was the comment made right after the reveal
of the Prius v.
The mainstream minimum of 60,000 per year (5,000 per month) was boasted
about relentlessly for second year expectations. Then talk began of doubling
that. Then we dropped to 25,000. Now it's just 10,000.
With such a slow start, despite so much hype, what will drive such a
dramatic increase? What should the expectation be? It sure will
be nice when things settle down. This transition is a bit on the
tormenting side. I wonder how long it will take? Perhaps the
results of this month's sales will help. Sadly, this comes at a
time when the Japanese are struggling. The disaster there is expected
to impair production until about September. What does that mean for
automakers here? Could the reduced competition be helpful?
Production & Supply. What we are witnessing now with
Volt fits a pattern remarkably close to Two-Mode history. The thread
on the big Prius forum discussing whether or not Volt will be a failure or
success has reached 41 pages without agreement. We certainly get a lot
of spin. Preventing a conclusion from being drawn was the key.
Remember how that same thing was done with Prius all those years ago with
the "up to the chore" debates? Antagonists just kept
interjecting off-topic clutter to distract & confuse. Needless to say,
I saw that coming and circumvented with this today:
Prior to rollout, a few of us asked over and over and over again what the
goals were. That way, we could avoid the endless debates afterward.
It all came down to sales. Demand would be so strong, there would be no
question of success. That didn't happen. Failure loomed immediately from
enthusiasts disappointed with the price.
Remember how GM selected the rollout locations so they could serve the
highest demand markets first? They claimed a huge wait-list; what happened
to it? How come Volt are now available on (some) dealer's lots for immediate
purchase? How is this any different from what we saw with Two-Mode, which also won
praise and many awards upon rollout? It too had a prohibitively high price
and very low initial sales, despite so much hype during development.
Early Stages. How much more of this Volt downplay can
we tolerate? It's bad enough when they call Prius outdated or
antiquated as a sad attempt to avoid admitting it was actually ahead of it's
time. But to constantly deal with stuff like this is really annoying:
"The Volt is in the early stages of market acceptance much like how the
Gen-I (Prius) was when first released." Coming from a Volt owner
on the big Prius forum who admitted he hadn't paid much attention to the
market prior to his purchase, there's no reason to take his own comment too
seriously. But how many times much the history be pointed out before
it's clear that the situation isn't the same now? This was my response
this time: No, not even remotely close. Read the blogs from back then. The market was
very, very different. There were a ton of misconceptions to deal with and every other automaker
except Honda was fighting against hybrids.
Guzzling was an American way of life. Oil dependency wasn't a concern. Emissions were dismissed as a non-issue.
Volt Road Trip. You can see the storm brewing. An automotive publication recently drove a Volt and a plug-in Prius from lower Michigan to the upper-peninsula and back. It was a 600-mile road trip, with the only recharge at the beginning and the temperature at 45 F degrees. The test was to find out just how far a Volt actually could travel before running out of gas and then what would happen when it did. The engine cut out at 326 miles then limped along progressively slower and slower using reserve electricity from the battery-pack to drive a little further. When it stopped entirely, they pushed the Volt to the side of the road and the PHV became a rescue vehicle to get gas for it. As you can imagine, the Volt enthusiasts are not at all pleased about that. I'm curious what will follow. Will we be told what that plug-in Prius delivered for overall MPG on the same trip? That Volt only delivered an overall average of 36 MPG. I see this as pointing out how those with longer distant commutes will favor Prius (either plug or cordless) instead. Engine efficiency from Volt is clearly not a competitive trait.