Prius Personal Log  #522

July 17, 2011  -  July 24, 2011

Last Updated: Sun. 7/31/2011

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7-24-2011

Misconceptions, Assumptions, Unaware.  We're seeing a lot of newbies now, so many it's easy to see interest is rapidly increasing for all efficiency technologies.  This brings about the same old questions we've been answering for years on the big forum for Prius.  The difference now is they're getting asked elsewhere too.  Turns out, those other forums aren't well prepared for that.  Strangely incorrect answers are provided.  Some are so obscure, they go unchallenged.  I wonder where the heck those incorrect ideas came from and how long those providing the responses actually believed that.  It explains why they've argued so intensely in the past.  Not understanding how the technology actually works would obviously lead them to the wrong conclusion.  It's getting worse now though.  Adding a plug to the already confusing hybrid choices definitely complicates matters.  Many simply regurgitate propaganda points without any thought of detail, regard for price, or acknowledgement of business need.  Consumers get hurt when misconceptions, assumptions, and lack of awareness are allowed to carry on.

7-24-2011

New Hype.  Some certainly are trying to stir the pot again.  From the Volt perspective, it's the continued misleading about Prius.  The most blatant example is the troublemaker who continues to claim: "in the winter months here in PA they are getting 26 mpg" when comparing to Volt.  That's a gross generalization based upon a single data-point.  We all know owners average around 40 during the coldest months.  Heck, I get better than that here in Minnesota.  From the Cruze perspective, it's the misleading about efficiency expectations.  The manual transmission ECO model of Cruze can deliver 42 MPG on the highway.  But who do you know that only drives highway miles and prefers to always shift gears themselves?  Of course now, the upcoming diesel model has raised the bragging rights to 50 MPG.  There's nothing to actually support the claim, nor does it take into account the smog-related emissions increase.  Nonetheless, it feeds new hype.  Prius averages 50 MPG.  Prius delivers a PZEV emission rating.  Prius will offer a plug to boost MPG even higher.  That's not hype, it's reality.  And they dislike that so much, they are willing to mislead about it.

7-23-2011

Enthusiasts Reviews.  When has a publication of reviews for enthusiasts ever liked a mainstream family car?  All throughout Prius history, it's been the same old thing.  They highlight Prius simply for the sake of drawing attention to themselves.  Just look for a review of Camry or Accord or Fusion or Malibu.  They don't care.  Those are just transportation for the ordinary.  Niche vehicles are what they're interested in.  So, it's no surprise we're seeing more and more glowing reviews for Volt... contrasted to Prius... which is just another transport vehicle, but for the age of expensive gas and concern for the environment.  To be an enthusiast, you basically cannot praise a vehicle so common it is seen frequently during your daily comment.  In fact, what's the point of reviewing a vehicle already familiar to so many?

7-23-2011

Stirring The Pot.  I got quite a kick out of reading this from a Volt owner today: "Not that I am one to stir the pot. At the Plug-in conference, interest in the PIP was pretty weak compared to the Volt."  That's actually fairly weak spin, and obviously he was stirring.  Since so many people already know Prius, the PIP (plug-in Prius) isn't much of a curiosity.  The plug simply enhances the electric abilities already available.  In fact, few questions to that effect could end up being a great endorsement for it.  Toyota doesn't want the purchase decision to be a big deal.  The plug should ultimately be thought of as a simple package option.  The uniquenesses of Volt will obviously draw a crowd, much like any other show-car does.  That doesn't mean it will draw a lot of sales though.

7-22-2011

Cordless Prius.  Use of that term for Prius is beginning to cause a stir.  Certain individuals just plain don't like it.  Yes, it's the antagonists.  Cordless has always represented a variant of a product that didn't need a cord for operation.  Obviously, even the plug-in Prius won't.  But then again, neither does an EV.  However, both use a plug for recharging.  In other words, cordless actually indicates that a plug option is available.  People understand that.  In fact, some are even amused by that classification category.  Here's how I stated my stance on the issue:  The term "cordless" clearly distinguishes the no-plug model as different from the plug-in model.  Argue semantics all you want, it won't change the reality that it is still an effective identifier.  The computer industry is loaded with labels just like that, not quite fitting the original intent but very useful nonetheless.  Heck, even Volt has that. The term "EREV" was intended to identify an EV with an on-board recharger.  Turns out, Volt is really a hybrid, so the definition no longer fits.  It has morphed from a technology term to a brand label. So, it's still useful.

7-22-2011

Product Void.  The desire for GM to again hold the title of biggest automaker in the world means drawing a lot of attention to themselves.  The recently released sales results certainly did that!  Oddly, that's actually helping matter a little now.  That price/efficiency difference between Cruze & Volt is becoming a huge source of frustration for both sides.  Those on the traditional keep pushing the highway-only estimate for the ECO model of Cruze in addition to pointing out a diesel model will be available in 2013.  Talk of a model offering eAssist continues too.  Those on the plug-in side push the "it's worth it" mentality, depending heavily on the current taxpayer funding and hoping for a miracle breakthrough to dramatically drops prices before it expires.  They continue to downplay the MPG following depletion too.  So within GM, there are those extreme sides and nothing in the middle.  Either you buy a traditional 35 MPG vehicle or one offering +100 MPG that's dependent upon a plug.  Not having anything in between won't be good for business.  How will GM be competitive with such lack of diversity... and when will supporters finally realize this?

7-22-2011

Increased Production.  I saw another Sonata-hybrid. It made me wonder how many are actually available.  Is Hyundai able to significantly increase supply if demand grows?  Supposedly, that's what GM just did for Volt.  It was no surprise though that the actual quantity wasn't revealed.  The capacity was simply stated as "triple" what it had been.  What will Ford do for their upcoming new hybrid?  For that matter, what will it take for interest from Prius v and the PHV before Toyota will be able to respond with big numbers?  It's substantial quantity that's needed for change.  Being able to take advantage of market opportunity speeds up the transition away from traditional vehicles.  That's dependent upon increased production.

7-21-2011

31,000 Registrations.  That's the tally now.  Sometime in early Fall, each will have an opportunity to place an actual order for a PHV model Prius.  With the registration process for Leaf, the percentage of orders which actually translated into was 48.  What will it be for Prius, a hybrid with a strong reputation already?  This particular rollout will be especially exciting too, since it bumps hybrid acceptance up to a whole new level.  The goal has been to offer a battery-capacity well balanced with affordability.  That way, reaching & sustaining high-volume sales will be realistic within a short amount of time.  There's no need to wait for next-generation designs... as we've seen from several other hybrid systems.  In short, it appears that the PHV is already off to a good start.

7-21-2011

Statistic Value.  It's rather fascinating looking back at Volt expectations in contrast to what actually happened.  Today, this statistic was brought up: "Electric, two-thirds of the time; gasoline mode, one-third of the time."  Two years ago when the 230-MPG campaign imploded, there was an effort by enthusiasts to support that with quantitative measure instead.  It seemed sincere, until you looked at the actual detail.  I reminded them of that in response:  Remember those optimistic estimates of the past?  Over and over and over again it was posted that the typical owner would consume 37 gallons over the course of the year driving 11,390 miles total.  50 MPG was the expectation for efficiency after depletion back then.  That would result in just 16% engine usage overall.  That's quite different from the 33% owners are experiencing.  Most of their data doesn't include winter driving either, which will push the engine percentage higher.  Driving more miles annually will too.  Fortunately, statistics like that don't mean much anyway.  What consumers really want to know is how many gallons & kWh will actually be used... especially since the other plug-in hybrids will take advantage of blended mode prior to reaching the depletion point.

7-21-2011

Competition From Within.  A comment like this from a Volt supporter definitely called for a feedback: "The Cruze is doing great. I’m seeing more on the road along with Malibu and other sedans."  It's the competition from within most seem to overlook.  I'm quite curious how they expect mainstream interest to shift from those vehicles now growing in popularity.  This is what I posted:  Strong success in the traditional market is an example of what was meant by the "too little, too slowly" concern.  To progress forward, new technology must be purchased.  With sales of Cruze & Malibu dramatically higher, penetration of Volt is actually impaired.  That's competition from within, an unintended consequence of GM's return to profitably.  Of course, some saw that coming and continue to be concerned.  eAssist is yet another pressure Volt will have to deal with.  Popularity of that, especially being priced so much more affordable, will support the lowering of MPG expectations we've seen as a result of hitting $4 gas.  What will compel consumers to switch buying preference from Cruze & Malibu to Volt?

7-20-2011

PHV Excitement.  It's building intensity as time proceeds.  In one month, the priority ordering opportunity will end.  One month after that, we'll get details about packages to be offered and quite possibly get the opportunity to lock into an actual order then.  That's very exciting... especially for me!  I can't wait!!  The hope is to be among the first to take delivery.  Of course, with the registration tally already at 29,000, that could be a problem if even just half expressing interest now follow through with a purchase.  Only 16,000 are currently planned for the initial rollout markets.  I'll be providing lots of real-world data, photos, and video to stir excitement even more.  2012 is shaping up to be one that I'm really looking forward to.

7-20-2011

119 F Degrees.  Yesterday, we hit the all-time hottest conditions ever recorded in Minnesota.  It wasn't what the thermometer itself said, it was the end result when combined with humidity.  The dewpoint was measured 82 here.  That pushed heat-index to 119°F here.  In the extreme of Minnesota, it was 88 and 134°F.  Sure glad I wasn't there!  I was quite thankful the electric A/C works so well too.  The combustion engine likes that humidity, so efficiency stayed at 55 MPG.  Today, I paid closer attention to detail rather than just drive home quickly.  The ScanGauge told me the air-intake temperature was 119°F.  Though no where near as bad as yesterday, since the storm causing it had long passed, that particular number caught my attention.  It's actually above what the emissions system needs to allow the engine to remain off while driving.  Talking about effortless EV driving conditions!

7-19-2011

EREV Definition.  The distinguishing design feature of Volt, making it unique from any of the other plug-in hybrids coming to market, was never using any direct thrust from the engine to propel the vehicle.  This aspect of purity was how the "EREV" (Extended-Range Electric Vehicle) was to be identified.  Turns out, that isn't actually how Volt ended up.  It does indeed use direct-drive at times.  The definition doesn't fit. Enthusiasts have lost that marketing opportunity.  Needless to say, this has really upset them. Justifying the higher price is becoming increasingly difficult with standout terminology.  Focus will be even more on battery-pack capacity and real-world efficiency now.  Some of us really like that.

7-18-2011

Bold Claims.  Today's topic on the daily blog for Volt was about GM's upcoming small traditional car, Sonic.  That was rather odd.  But when you've got a webhost paid to provide something new each day and there's nothing available for Volt, that's what happens.  However, I caught him making a bold claim and called him on it.  This was his response: "It is a pure guess, so please don’t think much of it.  We will wait till the EPA says something definitive."  This was the claim: "It could well be at 44 mpg or so, and almost knocking on the back door of Prius mpg."  Notice the abrupt change of stance, immediate downplay.  I knew he didn't have anything beyond just highway hype to even say such a thing.  We saw the very same nonsense with Volt claims of the past.  Perhaps he learned from that "nothing to actually support the belief" problem.  After all, what non-hybrid design could allow a 2,900 pound vehicle to achieve such huge efficiency improvement?  Here's was I specifically asked:  Please explain what that 44 represents.  Prius delivers a combined estimate of 50.  The upcoming smaller model, similar to Sonic, is anticipated to deliver around 55.  Cruze ECO 1.4 auto currently 31.  Also, let's not forget about emission rating.

7-18-2011

Old-School Misleading.  That still happens.  This morning, it was an article asking: "Which Is Better?"  Naturally, there was no mention whatsoever about emissions.  It was just a rant about price and extremely vague references about what a hybrid actually is.  Of course, there was a particular quote that really caught my attention: "The fact of the matter, though, is that if I get a Prius, I wouldn't be taking advantage of its hybrid abilities all that much.  My trips would be too long, and its electric capacity is really better suited for short trips or stop-and-go traffic."  Ask yourself if the person was intentionally being dishonest or just totally clueless.  Whatever the case, they did mislead.  There is indeed a benefit for long trips too.  Two days ago was my errand-running day, including 2 highway trips.  I drove 153.5 miles total.  That hot & humid day required use of the A/C the entire time.  The end result was a displayed average of 56.7 MPG.  Being so wrong about hybrid efficiency isn't acceptable anymore.  There's no excuse for this old-school nonsense of assumptions.  Too much real-world data is available now.

7-17-2011

When It Goes Bad.  Sales of Cruze, Leaf and the new hybrid Sonata are likely influencing the attitude of Volt enthusiasts more than any care to admit.  But Prius makes for a much better target.  It is well known and popular enough to provide a source for spinning FUD.  Owner experiences can be used to feed stereotypes & misconceptions too.  All that works great for distracting from very real problems, especially the lack of purpose agreement.  Still not having any clear goals stated contributes to many assumptions.  It was assumed Volt would take the market by storm.  The assumption now is that will simply happen next year instead.  Demand & Affordability are supposedly just a factor of limited production and a misunderstanding of ownership costs.  Explanation without question or consideration of competition become acceptable.  This is what happens when it goes bad.  What's realistic at this point?

 

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