Prius Personal Log  #546

January 16, 2012  -  January 22, 2012

Last Updated: Fri. 2/17/2012

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1-22-2012

61 Minutes.  Warming up your vehicle in Winter is understandable.  But knowing that parked takes longer than when the engine is under a load, it's best just to drive immediately.  For me, having my car parked outside all day while at work, the distance and cold walk to reach it doesn't leave any choice.  Once I get to the Prius, it's buckle the seatbelt and drive away without delay.  The heated seat provides heat within just a minute or so anyway.  Some people can just poke out their house, start, then comfortably wait.  When that option is available, you can't blame them... but within reason.  The neighbor continues to push it.  Today, it was 61 minutes.  I couldn't believe he'd leave it running in the driveway like that for over an hour, especially a gas big pickup.  It really makes a person wonder how much gas was consumed... especially from a traditional vehicle.  At least with a hybrid like Prius, it will shut itself off once the interior is warmed.  His truck just keep running and running and running...

1-21-2012

Measuring Distance.  Most everyone quotes driving distance as the number of miles away the destination is.  It looks like I have already developed a "round trip" mentality.  That means when I quote a distance, it's with respect to total driving distance instead.  Before even getting my plug-in Prius, I'm already taking into account available capacity... since in most cases there won't be an opportunity to plug when you arrive at where you needed to drive to.  Not measuring with respect to the entire journey would mean disappointment somewhere along the way.  Taking all into account (to & from), you can take advantage of toggling the system into HV mode to preserve EV for when it can be better used.  For most people, it's likely going to be common to take advantage of 50 MPG on any highway portion of a long drive.  I certainly will on my trips up north.

1-21-2012

Actual Competition.  For years, the idea of Volt becoming a mainstream replacement wasn't taken seriously.  It started with the "vastly superior" chanting.  Supposedly, Volt would be so much better than what Toyota or Ford had planned, there was no reason to call Volt a plug-in hybrid.  Enthusiasts considered being in the same category an insult.  So, whenever the topic of capacity was brought up, it looked upon as an attempt to undermine.  Mention of Winter driving made them especially irritated.  They absolutely insisted their 40-mile range would not be impacted.  So now that they see values below 30 routinely and below 20 in the most extreme cold, there's growing resentment for the "naysayers" being correct all along.  But since offering a EV/HV toggle button would wreck the marketing image of being EV, they're stuck.  Just 2 weeks from now, the first purchases of plug-in Prius will be a reality in Japan.  It's still about 2 months away for us here.  But that's enough to stir the market even more.  Enthusiast obsession with power & range isn't a priority for the typical consumer who's looking for something affordable.  Sales comes from having realistic choices.  Volt as we know it will become a memory, being replaced by something (likely with a different name to preserve image) actually competitive.

1-21-2012

Trolling & Defending.  It's a strange turn of events when a Volt owner on the big Prius forum asks for perception of himself.  That's an attempt to be constructive.  Yeah!  He recognized how myself and a few others were looked upon as trolling & defending when doing the reverse in the past.  Any association to Prius were immediately considered a threat, regardless of what you said.  Some has changed since then, but not much:  Sadly, if you support a competitor's vehicle, you automatically get put into that trolling category.  Guilty until proven innocent is really a pain to overcome.  It can be done, of course.  But try correcting misinformation along the way, you're doomed.  And those in favor of Volt dropped so much bait, it was impossible to resist.  I was hosed right from the start anyway, questioning how such a system could deliver 50 MPG after depletion with a 40-mile range all for under $30,000.  It didn't make any sense, especially having already studied all the hybrid designs so extensively.  No matter what you said, it was spun to sound like you were defending Prius.  Then when I asked about the effects of winter, it really hit the fan.  They believed there was simply no way the cold would drop efficiency that much... yet, that's exactly what happened.  Efficiency competition should be traditional vehicles.  But with such a high base price on Volt, it's easy to see promotion of Prius PHV as negative for Volt.  So, what should we do now?

1-20-2012

Lowering Expectations.  An article was published yesterday, essentially nailing the coffin shut for Volt as the mainstream vehicle it had long been hyped.  The title said it all: "Toyota Prius Wagon Sales in 10 Weeks Top GM Volt’s 2011 Total".  Enthusiasts had already downplayed an outcome like this ever since the EPA estimates were revealed, shortly before rollout began.  Then throughout 2011, we heard "it's worth it" so often the vehicle had transformed into a prize for the upper-class.  The idea of it being a car for the typical consumer was fading away.  Poor monthly sales kept reminding them of that, despite hope of an year-end miracle... which never happened.  Then, came that comment of production possibly being scaled back.  Lowering expectations paves the way for something actually competitive instead.  Beginning the transition now makes sense.  So later, when Toyota & Ford success from their split-power plug-in hybrids cause a market shift, the reclassification of Volt would already be well accepted.

1-20-2012

The Point.  When dealing with enthusiasts, thought of exaggeration isn't often considered.  They just quote extremes as if they will soon be inevitable.  $5 gas and a 20% price-drop for Volt are common examples of that.  So when I read this today, it was a struggle to remain constructive: "I don't we are yet to the point of killing the ICE."  Naturally, that statement came from a Volt owner, who's embraced the early-adopter mentality and doesn't see much of a need for hybrids without a plug.  I have a very different mindset, and responded this way:  Winding down means significantly reducing quantity, so it will no longer be the majority choice.  Hybrids will become dominant.  They will be the source of business-sustaining profit... and ICE (internal combustion engine only) become an "alternative" vehicle.  There will continue to be demand, but guzzlers like big trucks will only be used when needed.  Expensive gas will do that.  Not being the daily driver means they'll last quite a bit longer.  The market would become saturated if new production wasn't reduced. Inventory piles up when demand shifts.  We've already seen that happen with GM several times now.  Idling production becomes a big problem if it happens too often.  That's a sign we've arrived at a point of change.

1-20-2012

Video - Extreme Cold Commute.  I was really looking forward to capturing this particular experience on video and was quite thrilled that I had figured out how to present the real-world data in an entirely new way... with a ScanGauge.  -9°F meant having the defroster (both Heater & A/C) blasting to keep the windshield clear.  I frosted it up quite a bit while setting up the cameras with the system still off.  After about 4 minutes of engine warm-up, I set out on my commute to work.  It was a great example of what we routinely encounter during January, here in Minnesota.  At the end of the video, you'll see an efficiency summary of drive, including the warm-up.  47.4 MPG is certainly nothing to complain about considering the extreme cold.  And yes, the lower-grille of the Prius was blocked entirely.  It all worked out really nice, despite such extreme cold.  Now you can see what I routinely see... winter

1-19-2012

Energi Detail.  The plug-in hybrid C-Max from Ford will be 300 pounds heavier than the regular hybrid, putting it at 3,986 pounds.  That makes it over 700 pounds heavier than the plug-in Prius.  It will have a larger battery too.  20 miles is the expected "range" estimate.  But with all that extra weight, the expectation is a pack capacity more than just 25% additional.  It's very easy to imagine 6 kWh, especially since that's what the Accord plug-in will have despite offering a "range" shorter than Prius.  It begs the question of price.  Being competitive with MSRP will be a big deal... since consumers won't understand many other details when it comes to plug-in hybrids.  Today's detail was nice to get regardless.  We probably won't hear much more until the approach of Earth Day.

1-19-2012

Higher Expectations.  Reading this was a little bittersweet: "I expected a higher number from the posted order numbers."  Those new to the hybrid market don't have any basis of comparison available, especially with respect to preorders.  My long history & experience will hopefully contribute to a clearer perspective:  It's quite remarkable to order a vehicle prior to rollout with so little detail.  Only a few will actually take the plunge.  That's where we come in.  As the first owners, we'll be sharing experiences and real-world data.  More sales will result, convincing those still interested but a bit apprehensive.  The system is a nice balance of priorities.  So, it won't take much to stir excitement.  Then it happens.  They'll go from curious to obsessed.  We'll hit a tipping point, when those who just placed an order start to go nuts waiting.  I remember the same situation as clear as day... 11.5 years ago.  From January 2000 to early September 2000, all was rather serene.  Then when deliveries transformed to daily stories, people started to freak out.  The wait suddenly became intolerable.  So... I shared a few photos online.  Whoa!  They were gobbled up.  I hadn't expected that.  This time, I'm preparing for it.  Today, it was more practice with HD video... attempting to capture the ScanGauge in action, providing real-world detail on my morning commute at -9°F.  Just think how it will differ with a plug.  I'm ready!  Bring on the PHV.

1-18-2012

Gauging Demand.  There are always unavoidable bias.  Heck, even those who attend autoshows aren't representative of the typical person on the street.  So, a poll on a forum really wouldn't tell much unless you could get significant participation.  To know what people truly pick, you have to see how they vote with their wallet/purse.  That exchange of money (action) says far more than the just messages (words) posted here.  That makes parking lots a far better opinion source.  That being said, it will be interesting to see how the sub/compact market develops.  As we move away from the guzzlers, replacing both the SUV and the land-yacht, something is going to draw interest.  What will make those smaller vehicles appealing?  Prius c appears to be extremely popular in Japan (where it's known as "Aqua").  Having 60,000 orders when rollout began,  Toyota will be increasing production this month to 20,000 and for the following two months 30,000.  With such a rapid penetration into the mainstream, sustaining even just half that demand after orders are filled would make it a top-seller.  That's a stark contrast from Volt, where a few dealers have begun reducing price, a clear sign there isn't a wait-list anymore.

1-17-2012

Electric or Gas?  How to promote Volt seems to be the biggest problem for Volt now.  Owners have been advertising their "gas saved" numbers and GM has focused on being electric.  They are increasingly at odds with each other.  It's actually quite amusing from a lurker point of view.  They cannot make of their mind.  When each tries the other aspect, their distaste for it ends the effort.  The desire for purity is preventing them from embracing the reality of Volt actually being a hybrid.  After all, we know it has direct-drive.  That makes it a power-split hybrid rather than a series... putting it even closer to the plug-in Prius than they'd ever care to admit.  So, the struggle goes on to figure out how to market it.  And that's just with respect to efficiency!  Think about the problem the high base price causes.  That puts it in luxury territory, far from what's expected from a mainstream vehicle.

1-17-2012

Good, Better, Best.  There has been an expectation of the Prius models being distinct, with one clearly better than the other.  That's not what actually happened.  The variety was configured to appeal to different buyers... not with those of a "good, better, best" purchase approach.  The efficiency estimates have made this especially clear.  Prius v delivering lower MPG made sense; it's larger & heavier.  Prius c delivering less on the highway is mind blogging for some.  How can a smaller & lighter car have lower MPG?  They didn't realize aerodynamic benefit is greater with longer vehicles.  They didn't realize how little of an effect weight has while high-speed cruising either.  So naturally, the idea of a larger engine being able to use less gas then is a head-scratcher.  The thought of lower RPM hadn't ever been considered.  All that makes sense, from those without an engineering background.  They aren't familiar with design tradeoffs.  This is their first exposure.

1-16-2012

Nothing, new.  He actually meant C not V.  He still missed the point though.  We got this as a reply instead: "But this Prius isn't that much to write home about.  Its a forgettable vehicle regardless of the "new ground" it breaks for the type of vehicle it is."  The same old problem, focus on a trophy rather than something of substance.  I know, it's like talking to a wall.  Some will never be interested in business-sustaining needs; they prefer bragging rights instead.  For me, new isn't necessary.  Accounting doesn't require that.  I stressed that point with:  That's exactly what happens when mainstream ubiquity is achieved.  Becoming a common, everyday product means enthusiasts couldn't care less.  The ironic nature of widespread acceptance is the loss of attention.  People just buy it without much consideration anymore.  It simply becomes a default choice... which if you're looking for business-sustaining profit, is the holy grail of milestones.

1-16-2012

Nothing, sales.  I've been waiting to read something like this on the big GM forum: "All this Prius V does is expand the line up of the Prius range, nothing more."  They like to downplay and make generalizations.  I posted:  I wonder how many others will mix up models like that.  V is the new larger Prius that's already available.  C is the one just revealed in Detroit this week, breaking new ground... far from nothing.  Remember all those arguments over the years about how important offering a 50 MPG vehicle is, but that it wouldn't make a huge difference until price was lower?  Prius was written off by many saying $23,000 was simply too expensive.  Now there's one for $19,000.  This newest model will penetrate into market previously unreachable.  C is designed to become common, an everyday choice for typical consumer needs.  The point is high-volume sales, not autoshow praise.

 

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