Prius Personal Log  #516

May 30, 2011  -  June 7, 2011

Last Updated: Sun. 7/17/2011

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6-07-2011

Video - First Drive.  This was my very first drive attempt to capture scenery & display video from my 2010 Prius.  Little did I know my late start that particular day, with clouds rolling in and the sun just having dipped below the horizon, provided the perfect lighting conditions.  Differences between the roads outside and the refresh-rate of the screen part of the display present exposure challenges.  Reflection of light itself can too.  Then of course, there's issues with that wide of a lens as well as unexpected detail that gets picked up when filming in HD.  The ultimate goal was to capture all the action a Prius driver normally observes, then speed it up 500% for more entertaining yet informative playback.  It worked out really nice.  You can see the video on YouTube, just follow this.

6-07-2011

Blazing Hot.  You know when the morning commute is 81°F that the drive home later will really be a scorcher.  Sure enough, seeing 97°F when pulling out of the "cool" parking ramp meant the A/C most definitely would be needed.  And within moments, I watched the influence of road-heat push that thermometer up to 100°F.  To make matters worse, I was cruising at 65 MPH into a headwind that was gusting beyond 40 MPH at times.  It was truly amazing not seeing the MPG drop below 50.  Talking about a hybrid designed for a wide variety of driving conditions.  We rarely get that hot here.  But it does happen from time to time.  So the electric A/C comes in rather handy.  What's routine here are temperatures below 0°F each year.  For that, you're better off extracting heat from the engine running rather than using electricity.  Overall, it's more efficient.  I look forward to witnessing that firsthand with the PHV at some point.  But right now, I'm enjoying the warm months.  Time to put the kayaks up on the Prius.

6-06-2011

Today's Commute.  I was running late this morning.  The temperature & humidity were way higher than usual... a well deserved break from the recent cold.  The Prius loved it.  The average was 66.9 MPG, despite the 70 MPH travel half the way (16.5 miles).  On the return trip, I took the 55 MPH route, since traffic was so heavy.  The steady pace it offers is nicer drive, scenic too.  And at 93°F outside, it was well worth the efficiency sacrifice for comfort.  MPG dropped to 60.2 by the time I had pulled into the garage.  Nasty, eh?  Just kidding!  Those new LRR (Low Rolling Resistance) tires are broken-in now and seem to like the heat as well.  The average for the tank (using E10 for fuel) is currently 56.8 MPG after 370 miles.  No complaints here.  Sure glad there's no hint of snow anymore.  Winter dragged on and on and on this year.

6-05-2011

Remembering The Past.  The ever-changing story with Volt is very much like we've seen with other "efficiency" technologies from GM.  So, there's good reason to document what's said along the way.  The most fundamental was the intent to deliver 60,000 the second year if there's strong demand.  Supposedly, there is.  But now it looks like our market will only get 45,000 next year.  But then again, the current sales & price do make many suspicious what the demand truly is.  After all, that "Freedom Drive" is very much just a publicity stunt looking back at it 11 months later.  We suspected it was a distraction to prevent revealing the engine-only MPG shortcoming.  Now, we know it.  One of my favorite quotes from a die-hard Volt enthusiast fiercely against Prius back in late 2009 was: "Series hybrids tend to do a little better in the city and slightly worse on the freeway than parallels."  That didn't make any sense, there was no data to support the claim, and it contradicted GM's own statements from Two-Mode promotion.  Now, we know the true situation.  Using direct-drive is more efficient, not the extra conversion series hybrids require.  Of course, that leads to the other quote from that same post in 2009: "Once a parallel tries to act like a series, then it's no contest."  He knew Prius already did.  He knew the plug-in model would take advantage of that ability.  He knew it was only a matter of time before proof would become available to expose his misleading.  Remembering the past explains a lot about the trepidation we are witnessing now.

6-04-2011

Still Trying.  The attempts to capture both the view in front of the Prius and all the action on the display in HD from two different cameras at the same time has presented quite a number of challenges.  The vibration and constantly shifting lighting conditions has made the effort exhausting.  The scenery video is difficult to align and keep in that position... not to mention the problems with bugs, rain, dust, and lens flare.  The video from both screens, one with a refresh rate not well suited for cameras and the other brighter, reflect outside light.  So, that's been a bit of a nightmare to deal with.  But now, I have 4 complete round-trips and 1 shorter run captured.  Don't ask how many failed attempts there were.  Running out of memory, the battery dying, a camera slipping out of place, the sun totally washing out a display, complications rendering on the computer afterward, not to mention traffic, have all contributed to the need to rest now.  I sure am glad I did it though.  Trying the same in the past holding a larger & older camera and trying to secure a tripod was even harder, limiting that content to just a few brief moments from long ago.  With this footage, I'll have a solid basis of comparison available for use with the PHV model next year.  Perhaps I'll even be able to get some winter video.  I almost did once, but ran into even more trouble than I did recently.

6-03-2011

Open Minds.  Since newbies aren't familiar with the antagonists or their agenda, it's easy to get them to share their thoughts.  This includes some Volt owners on the big Prius forum.  Their open minds allow for constructive questions & feedback.  On that long-running "success of failure" thread about Volt, I summed up the situation with this:  All the goals set for 2010 clearly did not get achieved.  That's the measure in question.  Volt owners here understand what they bought and are happy with the currently available model... but also recognize what the next model will be striving to deliver.  Reality is, Volt loses a lot of sales to Cruze.  There were 47 Cruze purchased for every 1 Volt in May.  So no matter what the spin is about inventory or demand, the opportunity to capitalize on high gas prices for product advancement is being lost.  This a situation the auto task-force was worried about when the expressed the "too little, too slowly" concern.  The reason for asking to failure or success question is help better understand the situation now being faced.  The label itself doesn't matter when the true effort is to change production.  What needs to be done to shift sales from traditional to plug-in?

6-02-2011

Outcome Spin.  None of the nonsense coming from the most stubborn Volt enthusiasts is having much of an influence anymore.  The reason is that hype doesn't work once real-world data is available.  We have the numbers, so there's no reason to speculate.  That means they try to spin the outcome instead.  This is specifically why I pushed so hard for goals prior to rollout.  With them, there's no way to deny the results.  They knew that... which is why the question of goals was evaded each time it was asked.  In other words, we get this gibberish now: "The GM engineers completely nailed the drive train."  Then when you call shenanigans, this is the reply from another enthusiast: "It's called continuous improvement."  The few of them still being disingenuous try to help each other out.  Fortunately, their spin falls on deaf ears... only heard by the few documenting the outcome following the 6-month mark.  And yes, that daily blog has shrunk to almost an article source with random comments rather than the information source it has once been.  Even the founder is long gone.  Anywho, this was my response:  And that's called downplay... quite a contrast to what was expected a year ago.  Remember how it was all going to be delivered by November 2010?  Again, it's nice that progress has been made, but the "too little, too slowly" is clearly playing out now.  Good reviews like this should be complimented by strong demand.

6-02-2011

Losing Sales.  These are strange times.  People are waving the flag, celebrating how much sales of American vehicles have risen.  Have they really forgotten the disasters over in Japan?  Production is impaired, which is clearly limiting their inventory available here.  So, of course there's a shift.  Nonetheless, seeing Cruze & Focus sell at very high volumes (22,711 & 22,303) is something to recognize... regardless of the circumstances.  It clearly indicates an increase in interest for better efficiency.  Will that trend continue?  Will consumers find overall averages in the low to mid 30's acceptable?  The 40 MPG highway looks good in an advertisement, but typically doesn't play out that well for real-world driving.  Meanwhile, there's Volt offering tremendously higher efficiency but at an ultra-high price.  The 481 sold last month didn't at all measure up to GM's promise back in March to increase production for May either.  In other words, GM is losing Volt sales to Cruze.

6-01-2011

3-Cylinders, 8-Speeds.  It sounds like Ford really is going to offer a vehicle here using a 3-cylinder engine connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission.  No detail was provided on the anticipated efficiency though.  It's just expected to be the most frugal of the fleet.  Price should be interesting.  Any system with that much gearing won't be cheap.  The complexity makes you wonder about warranty cost too.  This is definitely a step in a counter-productive direction.  It will keep some from taking a closer look at hybrids.  It likely is taking some resources away from hybrid advancement as well.  Pushing traditional technology to squeeze out better efficiency doesn't seem sensible in a time when battery & motor technology is taking the step from cordless to plug-in.  Fortunately, Ford does seem to still be on-track for delivering their next-generation hybrid in 2012 here.  So, we can probably just look at this is product diversity... as long as it doesn't end up stealing away customers who would have otherwise considered a hybrid.

6-01-2011

Prius C.  Purchase choices still seem to be expanding.  Despite the disasters, we had a glimpse of hope today.  The smaller concept model of Prius was caught on "film" recently.  We know nothing about the hybrid system, but it very well could bring back the previous 1.4 liter engine found in all but the current generation.  Why not?  After all, the Classic Prius was that size anyway.  Needless to say, there was quite a bit of excitement online from seeing the camouflaged model being tested.  It had a front similar to what we are currently familiar with and a back reminding you of Matrix.  Of course, with the hidden parts uncertain and the visible parts possibly taken from existing parts, there's no way to really know.  Odds are, it was hand assembled to test out a variety of things.  So, we'll just have to wait.  But at least we know that effort is still underway.

6-01-2011

Classic Recall.  It was quite unusual hearing about a "recall" of the 2001-2003 model Prius today.  But then again, the idea of a recall being a bad thing is a modern development.  Many years ago, it was part of the process to keep consumers safe... not a conspiracy cover-up.  If a defect was discovered, an update would be performed at the automaker's expense.  It was good for their reputation and it provided nice extra income for the service workers.  But now, the media has sensationalized the "recall" to make it sound like any type of update is necessary to prevent imminent death.  That's really sad.  Anywho, only a single minor accident was reported.  It has to do with the nuts connecting the steering.  Over time, they can loosen.  That will be fixed by replacing the nuts with better ones.  It's nice never having heard of the situation prior to this, not even a peep on the forums.  So, it's not a huge problem we've been dealing with and that action will be taken despite how long it has been.

5-30-2011

Pleasant Distraction.  Not caring much anymore about the humbling of Volt or yet another cancellation of a plug-in Two-Mode vehicle, I really did move on.  The desire to better capture Prius in action on video compelled me to experiment with a new type of camera.  It worked so well, I wish that full setup had been available last Summer when I had the PHV.  Capturing that posed quite a challenge.  Now, it's a matter of using a special suction-cup mount & tripod, along with this an extreme wide-angle lens on a second camera.  By strategically covering the dashboard for optimum lighting (to prevent picking up refresh flicker from the display), I'm now able to capture both screen information and what's happening on the road in high-definition at the same time.  Then using video-editing software, I can combined the two.  Although a complete render using my notebook computer takes about 12 hours and recording the video itself still poses complications (like traffic issues and bugs hitting the windshield directly in front of the camera), I ended up with two exciting videos to share online.  Next is figuring out how to do that, since the files are very large.

5-30-2011

Advertisements.  When I did finally respond, it was to those actually attempting to be constructive:  It's nice to see a few voices of reason speaking out against the usual propaganda.  Negative advertising against Leaf in favor of Volt will harm GM's own effort with the Cruze EV currently being tested.  The new BAS system about to be released completely contradicts all the "stop gap" claims we heard from GM in the past.  And the continuously changing messages about Two-Mode leave everyone guessing.  Reality is, some Volt owners are embracing the hybrid aspect of the system, intentionally taking advantage of the engine by engaging Mountain-Mode to preserve EV range.  They speculate about its benefit for heating during the winter too.  The purist attitude doesn't make sense when we get "1,000 miles per tank" reports anyway.  Ultimately, efficiency is balanced among many purchase decision factors, not suddenly the highest priority.  That's why Leaf and the upcoming plug-in Prius are sighted as Volt rivals.  Their designs don't postpone cost-reduction to a future generation.  Affordable pricing was acknowledged as a need, rather than justifying an "it's worth it" premium.  How much do advertisements really sway sales?  They certainly influence opinion.  But we've all seen the big difference between comments made at autoshows verses comments made about a vehicle purchase.  It's the endorsements which come from an owners who share something in common with the potential buyer that really count... not paid promotion.

5-30-2011

5 Days Later.  Watching Volt emerge as a "game player" rather than the "game changer" it was hyped to be certainly has been interesting.  A new television commercial promoting Nissan's Leaf poked fun at Volt, ever so briefly showing one at a gas station getting the tank refilled.  The usual GM fans chimed in on the big GM forum.  One even pulled Prius into the mix and called me out personally with mainstream spin, despite the fact that I hadn't participated on that thread or anywhere on the forum for 5 days.  It was the usual "need someone to blame" situation when things don't go as anticipated.  There is obvious worry about how upcoming results of the first six months of sales will be interpreted.  Selling far fewer than bragged about is humbling.  But having to share that "new tech" stage with Leaf really stings.  Adding to the urgency for something to help Volt stand out is the reality that the plug-in Prius will draw consumer attention too.  The enthusiasts clearly didn't understand the market, despite having consumer priorities & need pointed out countless times.

 

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