Prius Personal Log  #542

December 21, 2011  -  December 29, 2011

Last Updated: Sat. 2/25/2012

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12-29-2011

Don't Worry.  Winter has been unusually warm so far.  That makes me happy.  The budget for sanding & salting is limited and I certainly don't want it to be all used up right when my plug-in Prius arrives.  Much colder temperatures are inevitable... and they will make the reality of the season difficult to deny.  Oddly, some are already working to keep the misconceptions in check.  It's so strange having been attacked as a troll pointing out the EV range of Volt will routinely drop below 30 and now reading an owner from Detroit post the following: "Range per charge can easily get below 25 miles in cold weather."  The advice was not to worry, just keep the temporary situation in stride.  Too bad that wasn't taken seriously before.  They kept hearing something different from what I actually said.  My effort to keep the effect of heating demand from being misrepresented was treated as a deliberate attempt to undermine.   Ugh! At least they've finally learned that wasn't the case, that I truly was being constructive.

12-29-2011

Electric Cars, judgment.  They all know the dreaded day is rapidly approaching.  Those first-year excuses don't hold any weight in the second.  Of course, even the original Volt goals for year-two have been abandoned.  Expectations from 2010 now seem like a distant memory with the plug-in Prius so close to arrival.  Even for me, just 3 months away makes that long-await future about to become reality.  Last week I had a chat with the person overseeing the charging-stations at the parking ramp to work.  He too was among those who see any vehicle with a plug as electric.  GM supporters certainly won't like that.  But it should soften the blow for the few still hoping to take the market by storm.  The outcome will be judgment of Volt as a "game player" rather than the "game changer" it was hyped to be.

12-28-2011

Electric Cars, bottom line.  This is how the situation was summed up: "The bottom line on electric cars is this... they will NOT make a dent in the market over a standard car with a 4-cylinder internal combustion engine."  I responded to the individual points as follows:  Are you sure people still want a sedan from the 20th, especially those downsizing from a SUV?  Aerodynamic benefit comes from a tempered slope in front and practical cargo from a raised roof in back.  Calling that a "tree hugger" look doesn't mean much in an era when guzzling is no longer realistic.  Where did the all-condition 300+ mile necessity come from?  Why wouldn't a 200-mile capacity work fine for all but long-distance travel?  Recharging in less than a half hour is far from a proven requirement.  We know that people spend 1.5 hours at restaurants and coffee shops.  Would hanging out there while recharging be far more acceptable than waiting at a fueling location?  After all, when you're on the road you need to stop for food & drink anyway.  As for doing 0-60 in less than 8 seconds, that can't be taken seriously.  10 seconds has been overwhelming confirmed as plenty fast.  Slower vehicles have not been causing accidents or delays.  Of course, what I find intriguing is that you didn't list price as a priority.  Why not?

12-28-2011

Electric Cars, definition.  There was a strange article published the other day.  Coming from Detroit, my interest was peaked.  What were "electric" cars?  Sure enough, both Volt and the plug-in Prius were included.  Apparently, anything with a plug is now "electric" and anything without is a "gas or diesel powered" vehicle.  The identification of "hybrid" has vanished entirely, as far as the writer was concerned.  Turns out, a few readers on the forum shared that perspective.  Knowing how the EREV marketing has fallen apart and how Volt is struggling for recognition, this was an unexpected twist.  The desire for an plug-in ally was what started it all.  Unfortunately, the enthusiasts chose to declare "vastly superior" rather than sharing the crusade against traditional vehicles.  Could that now be changing?

12-28-2011

In A Few Days.  We all knew that sales would be an uphill battle the moment the MSRP was announced back in July 2010.  Some accepted that reality by switching to the "early adopter" mindset instead.  Others started the "it's worth it" campaigning.  The line had been clearly drawn.  Then the numbers actually hitting the road didn't take the market by storm as hoped.  Claims of supply shortages and long wait-lists didn't add up.  Even the online sources for available inventory were disputed.  Excuses were plentiful. It became far from clear.  Thankfully, all that will be moot in a few days.  We are on the verge of the first year concluding.  The second will be different.  Sales expectations are much higher.  Volt is well known and available nationwide.  And the competition is helping to push the acceptance of plugging in hybrids.

12-27-2011

It's a Hybrid.  With such heavy emphasis on gas usage by Volt, it's a difficult argument claiming the typical consumer will think of it as an anything other than being a hybrid with a plug.  Still no quantitative definition of EREV after all this time reinforces that well.  Engineers know each design has tradeoffs.  Marketing doesn't care; they are more interested in attracting attention.  It all boils down to sales in the end regardless.  Approach differences will draw consumers into showrooms.  Too high of a price makes it easy to choose something else instead.  There's always going to be something better anyway.  That's why some people don't even bother with consideration of luxury brands.  There's a balance of priorities... which is what hybrids have been all about, for the most part.  Prius always strived to appeal to a balance, not trading off too much with any particular aspect of design.  That's why gas usage alone isn't a wise way to promote.  People will want to know about electricity usage too, something Volt owners have held back from sharing.  Why?  It's a hybrid.

12-27-2011

The Real Thing.  Arguing in favor of lithium-based batteries is nothing new.  Focus on the latest & greatest in favor of mature technology is a very real problem though.  People rarely buy the showcase vehicle at autoshows.  Their purchases are for the tired & true instead.  When in comes to hybrids, many of us would like the plug-in to become common quickly.  But that's not realistic.  Getting a mainstream consumer to abandon engine-only requires the choice to include very little price difference.  So even though the older NiMH is larger and hold less energy, it is less expensive.  It's extremely well proven too.  That's why I felt quite passionate about posting this today, in response to a claim that Toyota isn't trying by sticking with NiMH for most of their no-plug hybrids:  It would seem that way if you focus only on the biggest tree in the forest.  Looking at the other trees, you'll see that Toyota has pushed NiMH to the point of being so robust & affordable that replacement of traditional vehicles on the grand scale is becoming realistic.  None of this halo nonsense.  It's the real thing, actually phasing out vehicles which don't take advantage of motors & batteries to improve emissions & efficiency.

12-26-2011

Marketing EREV.  The fallout is underway.  We see this term coined to label Volt as superior to plug-in hybrids not being used much anymore.  They did themselves, it was self-defeating to focus on gas consumption exclusively.  It doesn't make sense for an EV.  But that's what happens when implementation falls short of expectation.  Anywho, a discussion today of inefficiencies lead to this sound-off from me:  Blending can offer the best of both worlds, intentionally avoiding it never made any sense.  It was pretty much just a marketing gimmick to appear more advanced.  In reality, advancement comes from tweaks to the components & software.  There's optimization & cost-reduction Toyota has embraced that GM hasn't even addressed yet.  For example, Toyota's use of sub-packs is likely a big contributing factor to how the battery can be air-cooled rather than requiring a fluid.  To accomplish that, there's the obvious need to monitor individual temperatures and adjust draw on-the-fly.  That sophistication takes time to develop & refine.  Simply using one big pack instead is effective, but crude & expensive.  With so much price spin and the omission of electricity usage from owner reports, it will take awhile still for consumers to realize the "superior" technology isn't what it first seems.  The impression is that using electricity as much as possible is the best choice... which isn't always the case... hence the marketing approach for EREV losing effectiveness.

12-26-2011

New Prius.  Sales of the new version have begun in Japan.  This one expected to be an instant hit, since it is even more efficient and has a lower price... perfect for further penetration into the efficiency market.  The expectation there is 12,000 per month.  That should be fairly realistic too, since the regular version is the top-seller.  I particularly like this one since it is the proper size comparison to Volt.  The long-time misrepresentation always irritated me, since Prius midsize offered 2 inches more legroom in back and a lager cargo area.  This compact version of Prius is the better match.  It also screws up the antagonist comparisons, since MPG is higher.  Price for the base model in Japan is 1.69 million yen (that's $21,669 at current exchange rates).  The package may differ here.  Prices are usually a big lower too.  We'll see.  Anything in the low 20's is compelling.  I can't wait to see the first here... especially right next to the big wagon version.  In roughly 3 months, I'll be getting my plug-in.  The Prius family has become a reality.

12-24-2011

Cost Reduction.  It gets tiring hearing claims that GM doesn't need to, since Toyota never did... knowing that isn't true.  Toyota routinely stated goals along the way.  Back in late 2003 when rollout of the newest Prius began, we were told the annual selling rate for the end of 2005 would reach 300,000.  And sure enough, it did.  In late 2007, we were told the rate for late 2012 would reach 1,000,000.  Even with the 2008 collapse and the 2011 disasters, that goal may indeed be reached anyway.  The goal we were told about in 2007 was heavy focus on cost reduction for the next generation model.  The percentage was stated, it was 30 percent for hybrid components... which was meet.  Making Prius more profitable has an obvious benefit with a goal beyond 2012 to offer even more hybrids and fewer traditional vehicles.  This is why there is legitimate reason to be frustrated with Volt.  We have no clue what the intentions are.  The only things we actually do get are ambiguous and end up falling into the "over promise, under deliver" category.

12-23-2011

Final 60 MPG.  I have a feeling this morning's unusually warm December commute, which contributed to a displayed result over 60 MPG, will be the last I'll ever see with the 2010 Prius.  Being 10 degrees above freezing likely won't happen again.  It's over.  That comes with mixed feelings.  Capturing the final moment with a camera would make it easier to accept, but I wasn't prepared for that.  The reality of Winter will push MPG all the way down to the low 40's soon.  The plug-in will hopefully arrive before Spring does.  Of course, we could see temperatures near freezing then.  But mid-to-late March is quite unpredictable.  Lots of snow can keep it from warming much higher.  The cold lingers.  MPG stays down until the snow vanishes.  Then it climbs way up, breaching 60 barriers.  However, with a plug, who knows what the MPG will be.  Waiting to find out sure will make the Winter seem like forever.

12-23-2011

Plug-In Choices.  The one-size-fits-all approach is what I ultimately find the most frustrating.  Since there's only a single configuration available from GM, measure against the competition is always with that mindset.  We already know the larger version of Prius can support a plug, since it shares the same engine, motor, and battery-pack as the regular Prius.  However, it has a larger cargo area.  That means it could be possible to offer more capacity as a plug-in.  Yet, that is consistently ignored.  So, no matter how many times I point out Camry hybrid already provides a more powerful system, none of the Volt enthusiasts ever want to acknowledge the reality of that system also offering a plug... especially if it is to be used in a sleek/sport body rather than a family sedan.  We got a teaser the other day from Toyota of an upcoming "plug-in hybrid concept" referred to as: NS4.  The idea of that actually happening became even harder to deny.  Adding choices shows commitment to plug-in hybrids... something quite valuable in the pursuit of mainstream appeal.

12-22-2011

Argument Points.  It has been interesting to find out what the argument points are, now that sales of Volt have been taking place for a year and PiP deliveries are nearing.  The hype is long gone.  Realities of operational differences are coming to light... some with very emotional responses.  What do you do when an argument point falls apart?  That has played out to a surprising level with the drop of EV range due to heater use in the Winter.  It's hard to believe some wouldn't acknowledge the real-world data until just recently.  That's an interesting lesson learned. Another is the obsession of some with EV purity.  Finding out about the CITY feature Prius supports debunks their claims.  It also blurs the line of what is considered an EV vehicle.  The "all speeds" argument gets very confusing when 0 to 60 acceleration increases to times beyond 15 seconds.  Originally, the focus was on MPH alone.  But now true electric-only vehicles (no engine) that slow are emerging.  Then there's the plug-in hybrid with much higher capacity than PiP.  How exactly are the categories defined with so many varying factors?  Needless to say, the focus on GALLONS and KWH consumption combined with the usual purchase priorities (like vehicle size & price) are ultimately what comparisons will be based upon.

12-22-2011

Uncertainty Factor.  Assumptions are abundant when it comes to plug-in vehicles.  If you own a Prius, no matter what you say about Volt, it sounds condescending.  After all, a GM supporter should know more than someone who purchased a Toyota.  So, how does one even bring up a topic?  I certainly tried a variety of approaches to get information flowing in both directions.  It worked too, but not as painlessly as one would hope.  With every approach imaginable, it was shot the messenger.  Don't actually acknowledge the message.  Well it turns out, some were listening after all... those who hadn't ever considered what was said.  They were genuinely uncertain.  Pride gets in the way though, so there won't be an admission of misunderstanding.  But the nature of the post themselves change.  No more jumping to conclusions.  No more speculation.  No more fear of intent.  The real-world data & experiences being shared, so outcome differs now.  It's far from truly constructive, since what's posted is quite selective.  But progress is usually in small steps anyway.

12-21-2011

Less Gas.  The ongoing problem with promotion of Volt has been the "less gas" cheering.  If you don't acknowledge that, don't expect anything but trouble from the enthusiasts.  You cannot even attempt to point out other priorities without also rubbing their ego.  The trophy-mentality has become really bad, exactly as we first saw and worried about years ago.  They even use the same words to describe the situation... superior technology, anemic power, pathetic design.  It's smug taken to the next level.  Today provided a great example of that.  An owner finished his first tank of gas, something obviously worthy of attention for Volt.  But the way it was portrayed was terrible... no mention of electricity consumed and claiming the reaction from the competition is jealousy.  Funny part is, someone else asked for kWh information, not me.  When rollout began, few knew what I was asking for and why?  They just assumed it was some effort to undermine Volt.  Now, supporters are beginning to realize what's important when it comes to the promotion of a plug-in vehicles.  It's not just using less gas.

 

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