Prius Personal Log  #559

March 21, 2012  -  March 25, 2012

Last Updated: Weds. 4/11/2012

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3-25-2012

This Chapter.  It's coming to an end.  Only a handful of antagonists on the big GM forum remain (and all have grown silent on the Volt website).  So, I decided to end this chapter in hybrid history (the days beyond initial PHV deliveries) with this summarization:  It sure is nice having all those blogs documenting what was actually said and believed.  Volt enthusiasts refused to state goals prior to rollout.  They were always vague or ambiguous with expectations.  But even then, rollout disenchantment was obvious.  Discussion of the 50 MPG after depletion and "nicely under $30,000" hope was fiercely avoided.  Heck, even the "40 mile" range quickly changed upon learning about what happens under real-world conditions.  Then came disappointing sales, along with a long string of excuses.  Whatever. It didn't matter at that point because the answer to the "Who is the market for Volt?" question had already been answered.  This generation was an early-adopter niche.  The next would be for the mainstream, is what they claim now.  The goals for PHV still stand... about 20 km (12.4 miles) of EV capacity, 50 MPG after depletion, and $3-$5k for the package option.  We always knew the engine would run above 100 km/h (62.1 mph).  We always knew using the power-split for hard-acceleration and cabin-heat was more efficient than drawing from the battery-pack only.  We always knew a much larger capacity would significantly increase cost.  To now claim that's not the case is just a waste of time.  No sense arguing what is already confirmed by the blogs.  You desperately want something to directly compete with and are quite disappointed Prius targets a different market.  Oh well.  It's not like you didn't know those consumers in the middle were the one responsible for high-volume business-sustaining purchases.  We'll discuss more in a week when monthly sales results are released.  Later.

3-24-2012

First Tank.  I traveled 685 miles during 2 week of driving.  In those 14 days, I recharged 21 times.  The refill took 8.504 gallons, which was just 3 miles after the blinking began.  That calculated to 80.6 MPG.  The values on the Drive-Ratio screen stated 237 miles EV and 439 miles HV.  The total for electricity usage was 60 kWh.  It will get really interesting later, as the weather warms.  Then, I'll be driving on longer weekend trips to go biking.  HV is remarkably efficient.  You wouldn't have thought there would be a modest improvement over the no-plug model.  But that's what I've observed so far.  It will bring my average down.  I don't care though.  Running around on short-trips is so much more efficient now.  So, it all works out.  That HV/EV toggle button is really nice too.  Getting to choose when to deplete is quite empowering.  The system is extremely well thought out.  Needless to say, I really enjoying the discovery process.

3-24-2012

Mall Recharging.  From my perspective, the Mall Of America is local.  It's only a few minutes away from home.  So, I think nothing of just stopping by... forgetting about all the tourists who also come to shop.  Today was my first opportunity to pick up a DVD that I ordered there.  It hadn't occurred to me that the rest of the world had all decided to stop by too.  Holy crap!  That was quite a surprise.  But for a Saturday afternoon on a nice travel weekend, I should have known better.  Oh well.  Even though everyone else was scrambling to find a parking spot.  I didn't have to.  In fact, those "closed" signs indicating status of each level in the ramp meant nothing to me.  It was my golden opportunity to exploit the plug.  So, I did... driving right through to the EV charging spots, which were there to welcome me.  I flashed my ChargePoint card, grabbed the plug, and promptly connected it to the PHV.  It was pretty sweet!

3-24-2012

EV Capacity.  I don't use "range" anymore to describe the EV available.  If the engine comes on at all, that really confuses matters.  Far too many people assume when the engine starts, no more battery depletion is possible.  Part of that stems from certain Volt supporters intentionally feeding that misconception.  Desperation has made them to mislead... not a good sign, that's for sure.  Anywho, I noticed today that the estimate displayed on the screen and what actually happened on the road was almost dead on.  I'm not sure how Toyota accomplished such accuracy.  But then again, who will notice?  My daily driving takes me all over the place, distracting me from observing that kind of a pattern among the randomness of real-world needs.  Today was running errands first thing in the morning... short-trips, but without any engine penalty whatsoever.  The estimate said 12.8 miles was available.  Just after passing the 12.7-mile mark, sure enough, that was indeed the distance.  (Depletion was a an impressive transition too, so smooth I wouldn't have even noticed if it wasn't for the EV indicator shutting off.)  Will others notice a pattern or even care?  Saying around 13 is plenty good for me, especially since the capacity varies anyway.  At the ramp the other day, I started with 13.1 miles but it had increased to 13.2 miles upon driving out of the lower gate.   Yesterday, 12.9 was displayed. With a commute of 16.7 miles each way, what difference does it make?  I bet stating status in terms of capacity... like half or full... will be what owners say.  The EV number doesn't relate directly to the resulting MPG anyway.

3-24-2012

Timer Setting.  It's surprisingly easy, but not clear in the owner's manual.  I'll have to add information in the User-Guide for it.  The timer is used for setting a recharge time, allowing the battery-pack to rest and for you to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates without any interaction later.  You program in a START time and and END time once, then they retained for future use.  So when you power off the vehicle, it's just a matter of choosing which you want. (I didn't realize the flexibility was available.)  The choice is simply made by pressing the button once for START or twice for END.  That's it.  When you plug in, the system will automatically start based on what time preference you specified.  And of course, if the safety system is enabled, you'll get an email informed you of when charging started & ended.  There's also a notification email if recharging is interrupted.  It's really handy.  I take advantage of the timer setting every evening I plug in at home.

3-24-2012

Inventory & Sales.  I find the spin the die-hard Volt enthusiasts come up with fascinating.  Today, it was this about PHV sales: "You'd think for a car that supposedly has such a high demand there'd not be one available to buy. And yet..."  The topic was actually how Prius c is dramatically outselling Volt.  But the inevitable plug-in comparisons came up, and naturally I was more than happy to contribute to the discussion:  It has been a common practice for Toyota send a demo/rental model and require the dealer to hold onto it from 90 days.  Following that, they are allowed to sell it.  That has worked well for those not already in the pre-order queue still wanting to purchase right away.  It's a win-win-win situation for all involved.  So, seeing 48 PHV currently listed online as available makes sense.  What also makes sense is seeing 4,531 Volt available still.  That totally explains why GM paused production.  The inventory supply is clearly piling up.  21,951 Prius c were sold in Japan last month, along with 35,875 of the regular model.  What are your sales predictions for there and here this month?

3-23-2012

Quiet Recall.  It's been a few days now.  GM is replacing all 120-volt chargers delivered with Volt.  We've known about the overheating issue since last Spring, reading a variety of reports from owners since then.  But replacement was always upon request.  We just figured there were some bad ones, not a big deal.  Though, that is something a test-program like Toyota offered would have revealed... saving GM money and potential reputation harm.  Instead, they just act as if nothing is wrong.  The quote given from a spokesperson today was, the new ones: "offer some more consistency in charging".  What the heck?  That almost makes it sound like a free upgrade.  See how each step along the way distorts the big picture?  Few will recall details like this later.  For someone not in the market for a new vehicle yet, that may not matter.  But for those die-hard supporters who had hoped for game-changer sales are now facing the reality of early adopter, almost as if it was self-fulfilling prophecy.  Of course, even that wouldn't seem to be an issue... until you come across a Prius PHV owner not facing any of that.  Remember, PHV is already in its third generation.  Toyota has had them on the road in the hand of ordinary people for years.  So when the first consumer sales began, they already addressed stuff like what GM is doing now.  This is why it was so easy to express the "too little, too slowly" concern.  Those having studied the need understood the complexities, knowing delivery of something both robust & refined upon initial rollout was virtually impossible.  Yet, the hype was allowed to persist anyway.  In fact, the hype was actually encouraged.  So, now with this recall, you wonder if remaining quiet is even possible.

3-23-2012

Inflated Prices.  The backlash on rising gas prices sure is taking an interesting turn.  The claim by pundants now is that it is intentional, that the prices are being artificially manipulated to encourage the purchase of efficiency vehicles.  Of course, none of those making those claims will address oil subsidies.  They just blame people who support hybrids & plug-ins responsible for the problem.  Those who saw no reason to stop guzzling just a few years ago are not at fault, since their promotion of "Drill. Baby. Drill." supposedly wasn't taken seriously.  Could you imagine just using more gas?  How would that help our children?  Needless to say, some on the big GM forum aren't taking the situation seriously now.  Instead, they are lashing out at the success of the new c model of Prius.  I contributed to that nonsense, having been called out by several awaiting me to inevitably chime in, with this:  Already having a top-selling clean & efficient choice is a good plan for when the oil subsidies are scaled back.  GM's wait for the next generation approach is reason for concern.  Two-Mode basically died in the meantime.  The rebirth of BAS (now eAssist) isn't competitive. And now we wait for an unknown revised Voltec several years from now.  Consumers are left wondering what affordable there is to buy... especially when Toyota is demonstrating that continued improvement from diversifying right away can be very effective.

3-23-2012

Updates?  When?  I posted a note on the homepage of my website 3 weeks ago, stating I had purchase a PHV.  Nothing has been updated since then.  Regular visitors have no idea of the struggle I've been having to finalize the purchase or even of my transport wait.  It's a good thing I'm able to learn new things quickly and take photos every step of the way.  So much of what I've experienced since then is documented... just not shared yet.  Needless to say, I'm getting email now asking what's happening.  One response of reassuring I thought I'd share.  After all, it's rather fun keeping some of these thoughts & feeling to look back upon later too.  These are exciting memories I'm living out right at this very moment.  Anywho:  There are lots of updates on the way.  Totally new material takes time, and I've been quite busy tackling a variety all at once.  It takes forever to use up the first tank of gas with the plug-in too.  Learning about all the different situations having EV capacity available presents has been the most rewarding.  These initial experiences make me feel like a newbie again.  The opportunity be able to check the status of the recharging and interact with the car from your phone is empowering too.  It reminds me of my first Prius, back when we first discovered how informative having a screen on the dashboard was.  Long story short, there's stuff coming fairly soon.  Hang in there.

3-22-2012

That Was Fun!  My first drive-thru experience with the PHV was this morning.  Tired & hungry, there was little interest in bringing attention to the technology.  So, I didn't say anything at the window to pay.  However, I had noticed how being close to the wall and under the awning channeled the oscillating drown of the pedestrian warning sound.  Turns out, the guy taking my money did too... the moment I lifted my foot off the brake.  All of a sudden, he's hanging out the window trying to determine what had just alerted his senses to my vehicle being different.  He peered at me dumbfounded.  I looked back and said, "Plug-In Prius; 100 Miles Per Gallon".  His jawed dropped as I slowly pulled away.  Think I made an impression?

3-22-2012

Recharge Port Location.  That was a hot topic a few months ago.  Then it died entirely.  No one has said anything about it since.  So, I revived the discussion with new information... that from someone with experience, rather than all of us just speculating.  I'm curious what others will have to say about this:  After having plugged in several times now using a public charging-station, the location of the port seems obvious.  You want it as close to the corner of the vehicle as possible, as well as high as possible.  First, in the back corner is more convenient.  That makes it higher than what in front by the door would offer.  So, you don't have to bend down as far.  The corner also means the reach is less of a issue, since cord length and station position are often limited.  Second, that makes it more visible.  You really don't want anyone to ever bump into it.  That back corner reduces that exposure, which you'll notice the first time you park really close to someone else.  Third, plugging & unplugging can actually be done from behind, which could be handy for those of you who have tight garages.  That wouldn't be possible from a front-side location.

3-21-2012

Recharging Twice.  It's already becoming a blur about what I've done when.  Thank goodness I'm scrambling to come up with a standardized way of easily documenting detail.  Some days I get to recharge at work, others not.  It depends upon if I want to and have time to walk over during my lunch.  Session times allowed will be 4 hours, later when demand grows.  So, I'm seeing how well that works when I have the luxury of doing it whenever now.  Also, there's benefit of the "cold soak" wait.  That's when you allow the battery-pack to rest before fully recharging it.  That a good practice for longevity, but by no means necessary for the occasional replenish off right away.  Setting the recharge timer (just pressing the clock button upon powering off the system) makes that easy, as well as letting you take advantage of off-peak electric rates.  Anywho, I've been snapping photos randomly with my phone to note when certain events happened.  It's quite remarkable seeing so many commutes above 100 MPG.  Recharging twice in the same day makes that simple.  You can literally "just drive it" to get that efficiency.  Most owners likely won't have the opportunity to recharge a second time.  But when charger prices finally drop, especially for the 240-volt type, that will change.  Only taking 1.5 hours for a full recharge is really convenient.  That's a visit to the coffeeshop, theater, mall, or restaurant.

 

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