Prius Personal Log #555
March 3, 2012 - March 6, 2012
Last Updated: Weds. 4/11/2012
page #554 page #556 BOOK INDEX
Without History. From the perspective of someone new to hybrids, saying this is reasonable: "My perception: so far, the Plug-In Prius is still a cobbled together prototype." I understand why they'd get that impression too, but I certainly don't see things the same way: The 100 km/h speed ability was available way back in 2003. The system was designed with support for a plug all along. But at that point, battery cost & capacity made that ability totally unrealistic. Now, there's the 2012 PHV rolling out to consumers. It's actually the third generation plug-in, improved upon the two previous we saw in the past. Toyota started with the Iconic model, simply by adding a second NiMH battery-pack. Then came the Gen-III model, which introduced a Li-Ion battery-pack. Since then, the battery-pack has been reduced in size while achieving the initial target price (roughly $5,000 for the option) and capacity (at least 20km, that's 12.4 miles). It's easy to see how some people perceive PHV as an adaptation to the original intent rather than being part of the plan all along. After all, that's exactly what the other automaker supporters want you to believe. But to those of us who have been supporting Prius for years, we see the situation different though. Being able to add kWh without loss of efficiency after depletion on a platform which doesn't require a plug is a brilliant design for business & consumer. PHV doesn't require a paradigm shift. All you need is everyday household outlet from time to time. If you don't plug in, no big deal. When you do plug, the system automatically squeezes out much higher efficiency. You even get the option of choosing when to deplete. What wouldn't be considered a "cobbled together prototype" from your point of view?
To The Mall, Again. The much warmer temperature made it feel like the first day of spring. The snow was melting, the clouds had rolled away, and the sun was about to set. So, I setup the filming equipment. Despite the 2010 Prius having sat out in the driveway for a few hours, that cold engine warmed up in only about 90 seconds. No wonder I hadn't considered coolant temperature that big of a deal prior to winter setting in. Anywho, this particular drive serves as a great example of the variety encountered while driving through the suburbs. My timing was perfect too, rush hour at 5:30 PM. So, I had more traffic & stops to deal with. Driving to the that mall area is a usual thing for me to do. The drive afterward is the back way home, a common route for me to take when having driven further south for other shopping and from visits to my mom. I bike through that area a lot too. Watch the numbers on gauge. It's always pleasing to see such great efficiency like that. The engine shuts off frequently while you drive along those suburb roads. With a 2012 Prius PHV on the way, I'm especially excited to film that same route. 56.3 MPG from the 2010 will pale in comparison to what that plug-in model will deliver. This is what I ended up capturing: Prius - To The Mall 2
Sales In Japan. Whoa! Now things are really taken on a thrill aspect. 21,951 Aquas (Prius c) were sold in Japan in February. That made it the fourth best seller for the month. Guess what was first. Yup, another model of Prius. The "regular" one was purchased by 35,875 consumers there, making in the top-seller... number one again, for the ninth month in a row! The reality of such success hasn't been felt here, yet. There's certainly the potential though. But we haven't had a series of disasters resulting in a large number of vehicles to be replaced like them. Of course, the price of gas is pushing efficiency up the priority list. So interest is growing. A few months after Prius c is available here, combined with PHV owner reports, certainly should stir interest. With all the "40 MPG Highway" advertising now, it shouldn't take too long for people to realize the overall MPG falls way short for those vehicles... but not for Prius. But then again, being at the top isn't necessary. The point is to replace traditional vehicles. That could happen at a slower rate. Keeping Prius in the top-20 list is quite acceptable. It certainly will keep the competition on alert. They have to respond with something somewhat competitive.
Uncomfortable. They couldn't see it until now. I was under the impression they simply didn't care. Those die-hard enthusiasts of Volt were dealing with attacks from every angle. It was getting ugly, really ugly. There was the far-right hitting them with everything they could from the political standpoint. That in itself made me uncomfortable. But I was rather surprised too. Why would an enthusiast allow so much attention to be draw to that? Why not just focus on other aspects like they had in the past? Then it hit me, those other aspects were based on expectations instead of real-world result... and they suddenly became aware of that. It was like a wounded animal realizing it had been backed into a corner. That made me feel even more uncomfortable, even that analogy is unsettling. No wonder their online posts had become hostile. They were just trying to survive, lashing out at anything that appeared unfriendly. And here's me, although never having actually stating I would be getting a PHV myself, they probably figured out from the confidence that I was. After all, they knew I had data to back claims of the past.
Absolutes. I don't believe in them. When it
comes to fuel consumption, I don't see why there's a principle of only using
electricity still giving people an excuse to guzzle. They just plain
aren't interested in any type of hybrid, but aren't interested in an EV
either. Living in a state where corn & sugar-beets have been the
laboratory product for advancing ethanol production, it's easy to see how it
where it could later replace gas for those who only use a small quantity in
the first place. I've also witnessed the destruction a coal-burning
electricity facility being replaced by natural gas. Seeing a large
solar-array at the ramp where I park, which also now has two
charging-stations, adds even more to my perspective. The building
across the street from it has a massive array on its roof too.
Needless to say, that continuous-usage information is being mocked now.
You know, it's the same old "why even bother" comment without any
reference to actual data. Thank goodness I'll be able to provide lots
of the real-world stuff very soon. In the meantime:
I see the greenwashing is already taking hold. Reading reaction that effort
to mislead is an interesting measure on how worried others actually are
about PHV capturing marketshare.
On both the big GM forum and the Volt forum & blog that distortion of what
the "6 mile" value actually represents has been actively churning. Those
attempting to undermine PHV are trying to give the impression the pack is
depleted entirely after just 6 miles of travel.
The EPA testing-cycle triggers the engine to run briefly at the 6-mile mark. That's it. No big deal. There's still plenty of plug-in capacity remaining
after that. You can continue driving in EV for several miles.
The Question. It has been this for a long time and likely will continue to be: "How much gas can the Volt save under similar circumstances?" Making a proper comparison is a huge challenge. The standardized testing for EPA is misleading, since people don't always drive exactly that way every time. There's the usual influences of temperature & traffic you just plain don't have any control over. Destinations vary tremendously too. So, that problem we've dealt with for decades will continue to be one for many years to come. But at least now, having displays in vehicles slowly becoming standard, awareness of influencing factors is being learned. It's empowering when real-world data like that is so readily available. Anywho, my response to that question was frustration. I knew it was a blatant attempt to distract from price. Some figure focus exclusively on MPG is enough to win people over and result in purchases. I pointed out what should be obvious: It's not similar circumstances! Production cost is a major issue you absolutely refuse to address. How is the business going to achieve & sustain high-volume profitable sales with such a high MSRP?
Leaf. It was always portrayed differently, no hype or colossal promises. It's a great compliment to a 2-car family, as any EV likely would. Those with limited driving needs would enjoy it too, though they'd be less inclined to spend a lot on transportation. Seeing sales of Leaf way down could be an indication of saturation, where all those interested in being the first to own one now do. It was introduced to a market not ready for plugging in yet. Just listening to the in-person feedback I get about my PHV soon to be delivered makes that overwhelmingly clear. There's quite a few misconceptions to deal with still. That's why I don't focus on it much. Perhaps later when choices from other automakers become available, but in the meantime, the focus on my own plug-in will be getting lots of attention. It's hard to believe my interest started in the late 90's but took until now to finally become a reality.
Resale Value. It seems like an odd thing to bring up before the first week of rollout even concludes. But it is an intriguing topic. The resale value for PHV will likely be unusually high. Think about the upgrade possibilities later. Imagine what a few years of aftermarket product refinement will bring, how adding capacity will entice those who's warranty has already expired. Electric motors last an extremely long time and the engine in Prius is protected from stress traditional vehicles have to endure. There is one aftermarket provider already looking into an option to sell later. But I didn't like the approach they took today. A thread was started to request a tester to help out. Why would a new PHV owner want to volunteer for that? And why wouldn't the company simply buy their own, then use it for gathering extensive real-world data they could promote the results of? Perhaps they are willing to offer a significant discount. It's a system that works independently of the factory-pack anyway. You basically just switch from one to another after depletion. But even so, I'm not interested... though I do find the topic intriguing.
Detail. It feel on deaf ears. GM was quite ambiguous along the way too, always leaving aspects a bit unclear or incomplete. You could find some stuff in fine print if you hunted for it, like the 230 MPG only representing city estimate, but there wasn't actually anything provided for highway. In other words, they had horrible expectation management and allowed the hype to get way out of control. Then when you attempted to point out the information being misinterpreted, enthusiasts would shot the messenger claiming they're really just implying that Prius is superior... which is how their stance of Volt being "vastly superior" came about. It was quite a saga, where hope clouded logic. The best example of the reality denial was when I provided display samples from Leaf pointing out the range reduction caused by heater use. They simply dismissed it and called me a troll trying to harm Volt. I was astonished by their reaction. So... the excuses being posted now about sales trouble are no surprise.
Business Priorities. I wondered if this would be my concluding post on the big GM forum for awhile. The posture there is quite odd at this point. Production of Volt temporarily coming to a stop means leaving workers on the line wondering what comes next. They feel the pain of struggling sales more than anyone else. Fortunately, there are now some who want to face the reality of the situation. I choose to respond to this particular comment: "It's a tough decision, GM has to run a business, good businesses are run by wise decision making not emotions." I'm not sure how they'll take it though: Emotion heavily influenced Volt design decisions, resulting in a vehicle with big showroom appeal and little purchase draw. Now the business is stuck trying to figure out how to reconfigure that design to achieve better sales without tarnishing the current praise factors. There's also the significant problem of Cruze luring consumers away from Volt once they start looking around at the dealership. Change must come in the form of clearly stating goals, then sticking to them. The first generation of Volt resulted in disenchantment when challenges were faced and goals weren't taken seriously. Clearly, production cost wasn't given high enough priority. The option of a smaller capacity battery-pack should be on the list of offerings too. Many still mock Toyota's decision to start with a goal of just 20km (12.4 miles), but it provides a purchase option for middle-market which establishes a base for high-volume production quickly. What happens with Volt in the next few months should be quite interesting.
Production Idle. From March 19 to April 23 the production of Volt will be idle. It was halted once already, from December 23 to February 6. That was for the NHTSA updates, but it didn't seem to affect demand at all. This is most definitely is not what supporters were hoping for. In fact, it's quite a change of events from what they were just celebrating two days ago. My comments online were: Remember when the very same thing happened with Two-Mode rollout? Sales in the second year didn't pick up. They just dragged along under expectations and inventory began to pile up. It was the undeniable sign of trouble to come, something that there simply wasn't any excuse to satisfy. Nothing could hide the fact that things weren't proceeding as planned. Now with Volt, there are 154 days of inventory available. That's 6,300 unsold vehicles just sitting there, preventing workers from building more. It's an ugly business reality to face. To make matters worse, Volt sales were in a market without competition. Soon, consumers will be hearing about Prius PHV ownership experiences... and its much lower MSRP. There are plug-in hybrids from Ford on the way too. How will GM respond to the ever increasing pressure to deliver a high-efficiency vehicle for large numbers of people to buy?
Check Delivered. That concludes the purchase. The dealer has money from my bank. I can now take possession of the PHV on their lot any time I want. Unfortunately, it's a bit crazy here at work & home. Jumping on an airplane immediately, then driving that new Prius from California to Minnesota isn't realistic. Why have to rush back? I'd rather take a longer round trip later. After all, it will cost less overall to have it transported by truck and I can avoid putting lots of no-plug miles. I can use the vacation days for play around here. So, the next step is to finalize shipping details. That means one more payment to tend to. That will likely be another check I'll have to send overnight. But it's so easy to do. The wait afterward is the difficult part... knowing it's on the way, but nothing you do will make it arrive any faster. But then again, those on the East Coast are still waiting anyway. I got lucky choosing a dealer on the West Coast who just happened to be the very first to get PHV. My salesperson was a dream come true to work with too. She made quite a few new owners very happy, very quickly... including me. (Thanks Dianne!)