Prius Personal Log  #539

November 28, 2011  -  December 5, 2011

Last Updated: Sat. 2/25/2012

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12-05-2011

Single Digits.  It's getting colder.  This evening was the first time I saw the temperature drop to single digits this Winter.  That contributes to the MPG average dropping below 50.  Strangely, I may never see it above that ever again with this Prius.  The plug-in will hopefully arrive as the final snow of season falls.  That means I'll experience the Spring thaw pushing MPG well beyond anything I've ever witnessed.  What a great way to discover the detail of what a plug offers for everyday driving.  I can't wait.  But in the meantime, the temperatures continue to drop.  It's going to get much, much colder before it even begins to feels like 50 MPG weather again.  Ugh!

12-05-2011

Twist of Fate.  I liked like question posed today: "But, is a larger battery capacity always the most logical choice? Carrying around more capacity than you would typically use is a waste of energy (like filling up your trunk with a load of bricks that you never take out)."  I call that situation a twist of fate.  That sometimes happens when those hoping to mislead don't take the big picture into consideration.  Engineering is often a matter of balance, trading one advantage for another.  Not understanding that spells trouble... as we've seen all too clearly with Volt... which of all things, now helps to provide some perspective on the the market... that opposite extreme that only had been theoretical in the past.  Anywho, this was how I answered:  For a decade, that "dead weight" argument was used against Prius.  It was a misconception frequently exploited by those trying to undermine the progress of hybrids.  That was very frustrating.  Ironically, we can now use it against them.  Pointing out how the plug-in model is only 123 pounds heavier than the regular is a strength we can exploit.  Funny how the table turns like that.

12-05-2011

TPS Data.  Coming from someone who typically posts constructive messages, but owns a Volt and belittles Prius any chance he gets, it's intriguing to read a comment like this: "Every article I've read has indicated that with the PIP anything from 33% - 50% throttle engages the engine (depends on various factors, it seems)."  Knowing that he only mentioned gas consumption in the past and still has no intention of tracking electricity use, I wasn't sure what to make of the selective data approach.  It's difficult to have a discussion with someone not interested in the big picture, but well informed about certain particulars.  I thought I'd give it a shot anyway.  First, keep in mind that throttle & pedal positions aren't directly connected as they are with traditional vehicles.  Pushing harder doesn't usually result in engine RPM increasing.  Also, note that throttle sensitivity can be altered by the touch of a button.  That's what the POWER, ECO, EV, and NORMAL modes provide.  They alter how much or how little play is available electronically.  Anywho, I went for a drive, watching what numbers appeared for TPS (throttle position sensor) data.  These are my observations from the 2010 Prius:  15 TPS = engine motionless (0 to 45 mph),  17 TPS = engine warm-up idle,  20-24 TPS = typical driving with engine,  26-31 TPS = suburb acceleration and hill climbing,  33-37 TPS = highway merge acceleration,  82 TPS = full throttle (5200 RPM engine).  And of course, while cruising on the highway the TPS value varies quite a bit; you'll see it ranging from 16 to 29 typically.

12-04-2011

Only Enthusiasts.  Sometimes, debates with those attempting to mislead can be quite productive.  It can help determine what priorities should be.  After all, some misconceptions come from them.  This was the recent fonder I've been dealing with: "You cannot drive it like a normal car and NOT engage the gas engine, not unless you want to totally aggravate everyone else around you."  Which I responded with: That's simply not true... and now I'm so looking forward to taking advantage of my video capture setup and YouTube to put an end to this.  The denial & desperation of a certain few for the sake of bragging rights is even worse than the usual greenwashing hybrids normally have to deal with.  I drove through the suburbs effortlessly with an early model, without the engine ever starting.  There was no impairment of traffic flow.  I moved along with everyone else, but only with electricity.  It will be fascinating to get responses from that footage... though it will be somewhat pointless.  Purity isn't an objective, it's just a side benefit of the design to significantly reduce emissions & consumption.  Only enthusiasts make such a big deal out of using the engine for a few seconds.

12-04-2011

What's Left?  The downplay & delay is amazing.  It keeps going and going.  This morning, it was this about the plug-in Prius: "A lot is left to be seen."  You'd think at some point, they'd realize there are so few unknowns remaining that it's time to move on.  It's not like other approaches aren't available.  Anywho: How much is actually left?  Even if you dismiss all the results of early model testing, we know a ton from the current model of Prius already.  The extra 123 pounds from the plug-in upgrade are barely going to affect the depleted efficiency.  It's the same electric motor, but with a draw of 38 kW from the pack instead of 27 kW.  There's roughly 3 kWh more electricity available too.  Attempt to raise doubt all you want.  Not much time is left before the real-world data starts flowing in.  Years ago, it became quite clear the 40 miles of EV then 50 MPG afterward for nicely under $30,000 wasn't going to happen.  So, the label of vaporware was dropped.  It was obvious, no need to debate anymore.  Now, we're getting owners & enthusiasts calling Volt a halo.  These are the same ones who claim Volt will outsell the plug-in Prius.  Clearly, they haven't thought through the situation.  As stated earlier: "The purpose of a halo car is to bring people into a dealership."  That means consumers coming in to look at Volt will likely just purchase a Cruze or Malibu instead.  So, if the plug-in from Toyota is also called a halo, that means the consumer will end up buying a regular Prius or Prius V or Prius C or hybrid Camry... all of which are cleaner and more efficient than the non-halo choices from GM.  It's a lose-lose situation.  Yet, that's the labeled used anyway.  Go figure.

12-03-2011

Halo Explained.  This set of comments from a post today really got me going: "The purpose of a halo car is to bring people into a dealership. The Volt does that." and "The Volt has changed GM's image for the better. It has taken the green laurel away from Toyota." and "It's all a pathetic display and it should sicken anyone who is a fan of technological advancement."  Who could resist that?  Since the claim is spin anyway, I provided:  That never fit Prius.  When it was given the "halo" label, consumers were already buying Prius in high-volume... double the mainstream minimum of 5,000 per month in this market.  The rate actually tripled at one point, but then dropped when the industry tanked.  Thankfully, it's climbed back up to that again.  Volt was promoted as being a big seller.  Then shortly before rollout, the price and depleted efficiency stirred lots of downplay... transforming it to a "halo" instead.  Focus shifted over to the next generation and those who had anticipated an easy break into the top-seller list mysteriously vanished.  Now, we have new enthusiasts & owners to deal with, those who weren't part of that past.  How does one respond to that?  I say, keeping such advancement out of the hands of mainstream consumers is sickening.  It's fine to offer a choices, but nothing to replace the sale of traditional vehicles for many years to come is pathetic.

12-02-2011

Positive Spin.  It can be quite aggregating dealing with stuff like this: "On the other hand, the first year Prius sales in the US were 5,600 and that turned out pretty good!"  The antagonists attempt to put a positive spin on the information they provide, not giving any clue that they are really greenwashing.  In this case, the person was a well-informed Volt owner who intentionally left out a vital bit of detail.  The first year of Prius sales was actually just 4.5 months long.  Deliveries began in mid-August of 2000.  You get the impression the first year was a full one though.  Some call that lying by omission.  I simply point out how the omission leads you to assume incorrectly.

12-02-2011

Niche Market.  It's good to hear from the sincere every now and then.  Today, it was with this dose of reality to those hell bent on keeping an optimistic outlook on Volt sales: "In 1st Qtr the Prius PHV will begin arriving. That's just more competition in this tiny niche market."  I added to that: The niche is a plug-in that reverts to traditional efficiency after depletion, which is what Volt does.  Prius PHV still delivers the best hybrid efficiency, which has already proven to have mainstream appeal.  Offering increased capacity and a plug is just a package upgrade.  That expands upon the well understood design, rather than being fundamentally new.  It's a formula for much easier acceptance.  In other words, what happens next year for Volt sales will independent of Prius... because they aren't in the same market.  The differences are now much clearer to see.  This is why the question of "Who is the market for Volt?" was asked so many times prior to rollout and all throughout 2011.

12-01-2011

Ouch!  The official tally is in.  It's quite a bit lower than hoped.  Volt supporters are now in a very difficult position.  How can they respond without sounding defensive?  Only 1,139 were sold.  2,029 produced and demo models become available for purchase.  Yet, only 31 more than the month before were sold.  That's not good, no matter how you spin it... and believe me, they'll try.  Up to this point, there were ways of dragging out expectations.  After all, no competition means no direct comparisons.  With Toyota delivery approaching and Ford, Hyundai, Honda stirring interest, the attention Volt had is no longer exclusive.  Even GM itself is toying with the idea of another plug-in hybrid.  That could me even more of a struggle for sales.  What's certain is that pain will linger for a while.  Expect the enthusiasts to be in damage-control mode.

12-01-2011

Predictions.  In a few hours, we'll find out what actually happened in November.  Those certain sales would boom have become dead silent.  The hope for the required minimum doubling is long gone.  It's rather grim of an outlook at this point; to what degree is the question now... especially since we haven't heard from new owners.  There should have been lots of them.  Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to drawing the first year to a close.  The enthusiasts said it should be disregarded, that it's the second year which really matters.  Ok, so be it.  I posted the following on both the big Prius and big GM forum to bump the October sales threads back to active to stir interest prior to the numbers reveal:  November sales will be revealed today.  Place your bets.  With GM allowing demo models to sold, the inventory available was higher than it has ever been.  2,500 are needed to be on target for the year.

11-30-2011

Plug-In Cruze.  There was an executive slip recently, much like the outrageous claims of direct-drive for Volt before that was finally confirmed.  There hasn't been any outright denial, just lots of chatter online from GM supporters.  Remember Two-Mode?  It was intended to squash the technology in Prius.  That obviously didn't happen.  It was extremely expensive and very complex, not as efficient as hyped either.  That complexity did lend it to an easy step for offering a plug though.  Since it had clutches built-in already to disconnect the gas-engine entirely from the electric-motors, the repeated reveals of prototypes which did exactly that while also taking advantage of added battery-capacity made it an obvious next step... for the uniformed.  Fundamentally though, the engineering details revealed system had a shortcoming.  It was designed to fit within the confines of a traditional automatic-transmission housing.  That limited motor size & power.  Top electric-only speed was demonstrated at just 50 mph.  To overcome that, Volt was born.  Eliminating that restriction allowed for greater flexibility.  Of course, that increased system cost even more.  It left those prototypes with an uncertain future too.  But now with GM desperate to offer something potentially competitive with the plug-in Prius, they've been brought back from the dead.  Cruze is the potential candidate for the technology, saving the reputation of Volt by not converting it instead.  Perhaps that is why GM never wanted to offer a hatchback model of Cruze in this market.

11-30-2011

Under The Seat.  Ever wonder where the battery-pack would be placed in the smaller model of Prius?  Having less horizontal floor space available, it makes sense offering more vertical.  After all, that was a strength with the Classic model, which was a sedan rather than a hatchback.  I was amazed how much that trunk could hold due to the height.  It was actually better for cargo storage than my Taurus as a result.  Anywho, to do that, removing the false floor would be required... along with a relocation of the battery-pack.  Sure enough, it ended up exactly where I had pointed out there was opportunity... under the back seat.  Seeing that in a video Toyota just released was quite satisfying.  People will really be surprised when they look in back, wondering where the heck the battery-pack could be with so much room available for cargo.

11-29-2011

New Hype.  Attempts continue to be made about the next generation Volt in desperation to draw attention away from the current struggle and the upcoming plug-in Prius.  This quote provides wonderful evidence of that: "And by 2015 the Volt will come down in price as well, probably $5 - 7k while having improved range, probably 60 - 80 miles."  That's even worse than the original 40-mile, 50 MPG, $30,000 hype for the first generation.  Just think what it things would be like if improvement that significant were actually possible in such a short amount of time.  The purchase of a plug-in Prius would be a no-brainer.  It clearly reinforces the need for a second model of Volt, one that can compete with respect to price as a purchase priority.

11-28-2011

Wait For It.  The other shoe is about to drop.  The worry has been market damage.  It happened with diesel back decades back.  Attempts to offer it to mainstream consumers went horribly bad... from a business point of view, that is; our air-quality was spared.  People wanted nothing to do with them after the terrible experiences they had.  Their return to the market has been impaired due to that ever since.  So, the fear about plug-in introduction is not without good reason to be concerned.  It hasn't been going well up to this point either.  Leaf hasn't stirred that much attention, but it is somewhat comforting seeing efforts to squash misconceptions taken seriously.  In other words, there haven't been excuses as we've seen from Volt.  Each month's sales comes with some type of expectation spin, supposedly a justifiable change from what was said just a few weeks earlier.  That can't happen for November though.  All the excuses have already been exhausted.  We've been waiting for a huge spike in sales, proof that the first year is over and that promise of game-changing has begun.  We'll know in a few days.

 

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