Prius Personal Log  #536

November 3, 2011  -  November 10, 2011

Last Updated: Mon. 11/28/2011

    page #535         page #537         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 

 

11-10-2011

Dual-Clutch.  There was an interesting article published today about dual-clutch issues.  This was supposed to be the magic solution for traditional vehicles, boosting efficiency by 10-percent going from a 4-speed transmission to 6-speeds.  The catch is, it requires a dual-clutch to achieve that... which owners have been complaining about.  The technology works fine (though complex & expensive); however, it feels unnatural.  Ford has sent out service bulletins to provide "smoother acceleration, reduced hesitation, better low-speed drivability, and improved shift scheduling".  But it was too late for Consumer Reports, who dropped the Fiesta & Focus ratings as a result.  Chrysler has put their own dual-clutch rollout plans on hold in response to this as well.  That's what happens when tradeoffs are made. In this case, owners weren't happy with the attempt to improve efficiency.

11-10-2011

Getting Colder.  It was in the upper 30's for today commute, both directions.  Next week could easily be in the 20's.  All it takes is snow covering the ground for the temperature to drop and stay there.  This is fairly typical for late Fall weather here in Minnesota.  The leaves are gone.  It's now windy & gloomy.  Having the grille blocked already is a plus.  The lights for aren't hung on the house yet though.  That recognition of Christmas approaching doesn't get acknowledged until after Thanksgiving has passed, despite the unpleasant conditions for climbing up on a ladder.  Once going through the seasonal acclamation, it's not so bad.  That transition is the problem.  From the Prius point of view, it's when MPG drops below 50.  That marks the end of warm weather and the start of heated seats.  Every year is quite refreshing.  I enjoy the change.  Having a car that makes the seasons so much easier to bare is nice.  I couldn't imagine being stuck in heavy commute traffic slowed by snow without a hybrid like Prius.  Constant running of an engine would be maddening.  All that waste.  Instead, I just sit there in silence for minutes at a time before the engine briefly fires up again to do some battery recharging while heating coolant to keep me warm.

11-10-2011

The Challenge.  We know it's sales.  But getting acknowledgement on the big GM forum is the ultimate exercise is dealing with the realities of business, especially in our floundering economy.  My soapbox sermon was this today:  You hope for a thread where there's an honest exchange of information?  That's going to be a challenge.  We have some here recommending the ignore feature and some are pointing out how others have their head in the sand.  It can't be both.  The same goes for market.  Either Volt was configured to appeal to the middle or it wasn't.  Make up your minds!  Who is the market for Volt?  That question keeps getting asked over and over again.  We keep getting "it's worth it" comments as an answer.  That isn't how mainstream consumers purchase vehicles.  Look at the cars listed in the top-20 here for last month: Accord, Camry, Altima, Sonata, Fusion, Corolla, Civic, Cruze, Jetta, and Focus.  Consider their prices and drive quality.  They all do an excellent job of appealing to the middle.  With Volt's base price currently near $40k, its target clearly isn't middle-market.  With PIP's base price set at $32k, the middle-market intent is difficult to deny.  And of course, no matter how many times I point out the nicer ride PIP offers, most here conveniently forget that.  There will be real-world data shared for PIP.  It will point out how much of a MPG boost the plug provides, not how far it will travel in EV.  The electric-only driving in the suburbs is a side benefit, an extension of what's already available as a full hybrid.

11-09-2011

Inferior Fear.  We got another real-world data report.  Same thing, only gas consumed was mentioned.  This time, it was 12,400 miles traveled using 100 gallons of gas.  That's remarkably close to the other.  This owner didn't include electricity consumption either.  Like we've seen all too many times already, those owners simply dismiss the relevancy of it.  So, tonight I read through that entire thread that started the most recent upset.  The provoking there to get someone to question Volt's superiority was shocking.  They crave the opportunity to gloat by dropping bait, then accuse anyone who responds of being a troll.  That's sad; however, I made an fascinating observation as a result of their nonsense.  I was going to post it too, but decided why provide them with any insight.  So, it just gets noted here, to share with a more receptive audience:  I'm more intrigued than ever.  When the message wasn't liked, the original response was to shoot the messenger.  Now, there's a growing effort to disparage competing technology.  Each is becoming a rather obvious attempt to prevent the message itself from being repeated again.  In other words, the real-world data is intentionally being avoided.  Not wanting details to actually reveal shortcomings, we get posts about "huge flaws inherent in the Prius".  It's quite fascinating how Volt enthusiasts undermine a thread about Volt performance.  Should I mention the fear of inferior emission-rating, inferior depleted efficiency, or inferior price?  Who is the market for Volt?

11-07-2011

40,640 Sold.  Prius was the top-seller in Japan again.  The 29,632 sold in October easily reinforced the leading position, keeping it there for 5 consecutive months.  The prior purchase streak was at least 20 months straight, ending in February this year.  Sadly, some of that detail is hard to come by... since the news is almost entirely in Japanese.  I believe it was the Honda Fit which dethroned Prius in the meantime.  With the larger model Prius now available and the smaller coming, sales should hold strong.  Adding a plug-in model to the mix adds an entirely new dimension to the situation.  When plugging in becomes recognized as a possibility beyond just a niche... from seeing charging-stations appear at local venues... people will seek affordable choices.  Thankfully, keeping price with-in reach of the mainstream has always been a priority for all Prius.  Next year certainly is going to be a pivotal one for the market.  The price of gas is slowly climbing to $100 per barrel again and hybrids are well proven at this point.  Even the mindset of technology acceptance has changed.  Remember all those years ago when there was concern about having a display?  Now, not having newer interfaces available makes the dashboard appear outdated... so 20th Century.  Judging by the sales numbers in Japan, embracing the 21st sure doesn't seem to be an issue.  Now if we can only get beyond the 11,008 sales here.  That's not bad for a monthly total, but more would be nice.

11-07-2011

Real-World Data.  It's the same thing over and over again.  We get reports from Volt owners stating how much gas they've been using, but no mention about electricity quantity.  The kWh consumed isn't included.  This evening's example was 100 gallons from driving 12,540 miles.  When vital information like that is missing, it's really frustrating.  Simple things, like frequency of plugging, not being known reduces the value of that real-world data.  Sadly, most owners don't mention when they took possession of the vehicle either.  In general though, it does confirm that repeated past estimate of only consuming 37 gallons for 11,390 miles of driving were way off.  So, there should be a strong desire to find out what the true situation is.  Unfortunately, an online database growing with the same exclusion problem.  All 164 vehicles only list calculated values... EV miles, Total Miles, EV%, MPG, MPGe, and MPGcs.  That's it.  Neither gas gallons nor electricity kWh are available.  Lacking that detail, what do those numbers tell you?  They vary so much, how will people looking at just those summaries interpret expectations?  Since that real-world data also lacks duration, even an overall average isn't realistic due to seasonal efficiency fluctuation.  Don't they see how being so vague is going to become a big problem when the plug-in Prius data is reported?  In short, it's quite a mess.

11-06-2011

Vastly Superior.  It just won't die, despite how incredibly vague claims continue to be: "The 'leap frogging' of Prius happened already. Voltec is vastly superior to the Synergy system in the Prius.  It was always about leap-frogging in terms of technology.  Voltec is the future."  What the heck is Voltec?  There is nothing to explain what actually makes it superior.  This is what I ended up posting:  Realistically, it doesn't matter what the development and executives of the past actually said.  They're long gone anyway.  But I can still point out that there was far more information available for Volt from the daily blog than there ever was on the forum here.  So, it's better for all to just focus on sales & expectations going forward.  After all, I'm tired of comparisons to the past, where Prius did not have a credit available for the first 5.5 years it was available here and guzzlers were still all the rage.  As for the plug-in model Prius being an afterthought, that just plain is not true.  The very first year of Prius actually came with a plug.  But back then, using D-cell format NiMH batteries was far from practical for automotive plugging, so it was dropped the following year.  The plug didn't reemerge until the end of the second generation's lifecycle.  By then, the prismatic format was well proven.  But even with the addition of a second pack, capacity was still too limited to be compelling.  The aftermarket providers of much larger Li-Ion packs had already confirmed that.  The 62.1 mph (100 km/h) electric-only threshold got a shakeout in the meantime and plans were well underway to exploit that with the next generation, once a pack could be affordably offered.  That brings us to now, where enhancing the current EV abilities using a plug makes perfect sense.  Consumers won't have any trouble understanding how or what the benefits will be.  It's a design able to grow as battery technology advances... as each previous Prius already has.

11-05-2011

Conveniently Forgetting.  You know the debates have become futile when references to disprove downplay are articles written after the downplay already began.  The veterans doing that are conveniently forgetting the history you attempt to point out.  Those who didn't begin paying attention to Volt until shortly before rollout simply have no idea.  Goals currently being discussed have been in place for over a year now, making it quite a challenge to convince others how much they've changed... or that they ever were different.  They basically just claim whatever they want.  My favorite is how some absolutely insist the plug-in Prius is really just an "afterthought" by Toyota to make something quick to compete with Volt.  That's so easy to disprove, it's almost a red herring.  We all know that years before the latest generation was even revealed, there were already organizations pushing both automakers & politicians to support plug-in hybrids... using aftermarket conversions of Prius as their example of how simple that can be.  Toyota itself had their own tests with NiMH years back too.  So, claims that the design was never intended to support a better battery when it finally became affordably available are nothing but spin.  Those of us who haven't forgotten know that all too well.  This is what happens when things don't go as planned, especially following a bankruptcy and the struggle to recover after having lost the executives & developers who stated those original goals.  It's another example of what happens when "over promise, under deliver" becomes a reality.

11-05-2011

Ironic Claims.  I find it quite vindicating when antagonists say the very opposite of what the situation actually is.  Today was: "HSD is a dying technology with an inferior configuration.  GM patented the preferred approach."  Substitute SERIES hybrid for the technology and Toyota for the automaker.  Ironically, I was even able to use their own quote to conclude my response too:   That's a pretty weak sales pitch.  Considering what others have claimed as appealing, it has become difficult to deny that the plug-in model is carefully being avoided.  Those who have already driven it are well aware of how much more the electric motor is used.  That smooth & quiet will be quite a draw.  Volt supporters are well aware of that... and fear how much less it costs to obtain.  What you call "dying" is what Prius supporters call "maturing".  Being able to take the existing model and basically just add capacity plus a plug offers a tremendous amount of sales potential right away.  Another thing being avoided are the goals for last year.  They've been downplayed to the point of setting an expectation for the second generation instead.  Originally, it was all about sales.  That's how Volt was going to be a game changer.  Now it's about what the technology will eventually offer.  That would be like me talking up the 2016 Prius and just saying the current plug-in does what was just stated a few posts back about Volt: "It proves the technology works and shows promise."

11-04-2011

$94.26 Per Barrel.  The price for oil is remaining above $90.  This is the second week in a row it closed so high.  The 80's seem to be long gone.  The result is the price of gas bouncing between $3.45 and $3.55 here.  For diesel, it's been between $4.04 and $4.09 per gallon.  There is an obvious appeal growing for smaller vehicles.  Their growth rate is so fast, the guzzlers aren't getting much attention anymore.  There seems to be a quiet shift toward accepting public charging-stations too.  They're just popping up around town with little fanfare or resistance.  It's just thought of as something that would inevitable happen... initially, anyway.  Once people start routinely seeing those parking spots filled, we may here something.  My guess is the shift to electricity will be subtle.  That makes the configuration of the upcoming Prius perfectly timed.  It's a modest sized battery-pack offering an efficiency improvement so large, there should be little misunderstanding about intent.  Understanding the technology shouldn't be that big of a deal either.  The plug simply enhances the design already well accepted.  The hardest part about promoted it could be convincing people that charging using nothing but a household outlet is all that's actually needed.

11-04-2011

Technology Advances.  When there's competition & loyalty involved, don't always expect the open & honest approach.  We're certainly see that play out with Volt.  It's called an EV, but promoted as a hybrid.  We get lots of references to MPG.  The enthusiasts love pointing out fuel usage in terms of gallons.  The quantity of electricity isn't mentioned.  When confronted by a request for kWh consumption information, the response is to just shrug it off with a comment about owners recharging during off-peak hours using electricity that would otherwise be wasted.  Yet, on the Volt forum there are more and more posts about owners finding charging-stations, then taking advantage of the opportunity to recharge during the day.  To further add to the insincere promotion, none even want to touch the idea of a plug-in Prius offering a battery-pack similar in size to Volt.  Then there's the reality that Toyota is pursuing thermal efficiency advances for their next generation hybrid engine, with two concepts already that look promising.  All that makes understanding technology advances very confusing.  I can't imagine what the typical consumer thinks when attempting to research the choices.  What's really important to them?

11-03-2011

Cheerleading.  It gets really annoying, since it's so unproductive.  Anything that causes ripples, like wanting information, is considered negative.  In the situation with Volt, anything with potential to interfere with the little momentum it has is quickly dealt with.  In my case, I get this: "For some reason only you seem to get the hate?  Hmm I wonder why."  The term hate means not positive.  If you're not cheerleading, you're posts are consider negative & harmful.  That's what happens when sales aren't as good as planned.  Anywho, my response was the following:  That's because my questions are ordinary, the same thing mainstream consumers will ask.  Spin would be pointing out an extreme.  That wasn't.  I don't want to know about -25°F conditions.  I want to know what the typical commutes will be like during the usual temperatures in the north.  It's reasonable wanting to know about routine conditions in snow-covered states.  Show me real-world data from daily driving when it's 10 to 15 degrees below freezing, a very normal day for many of us.

 

back to home page       go to top