Prius Personal Log  #560

March 26, 2012  -  March 30, 2012

Last Updated: Weds. 4/11/2012

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Accepting Change.  This week's online education was witnessing firsthand the fallout which comes from realization that market change has taken place.  In other words, those stilling clinging onto "most is best" mindset struggled with the idea of balance, desperately trying to fight acceptance.  Naturally, I was the scapegoat.  But their reaction to the messenger meant the message had been received.  March is turning out to be a significant month.  Prius c is what started it, based on an initial sales report stating it had surpassed Volt's monthly trend in just 3 days.  On the big GM forum, trouble was expected from that, especially when there is still such a strong effort there to portray PHV as an EV rather than just acknowledging it as a plug-in hybrid.  That's because they focus solely on Volt offering the "most" MPG with no regard for cost.  That's also why Prius c irritates them so much, which had a major priority of low cost.  To make matters worse, their worry of PHV sales is becoming rather blatant.  1,915 were purchased in Japan in February, the first month of sales there.  March is the first for here.  Just half that makes Volt look bad.  But then again, the last of the 2011 Volt were being cleared out with discounts this month and deliveries of the 2012 Volt eligible for HOV access began.  So, Volt should have a temporary surge anyway.  But that puts a heck of a lot of pressure on next month's expectations.  Evidence of change will be difficult to deny then.  Needless to say, I found their comments on the subject matter very informative... especially their arguments in favor of traditional vehicles.


New Signature.  For the first time in a decade, I haven't provided any website updates for an entire month.  PHV ownership has altered the parameters of what to report.  Learning about the affect having a plug has on real-world driving situations takes time.  So, the 3 weeks it took me to recognize some trends from my own observations shouldn't be much of a surprise.  How does one simplify presentation enough to make a large volume of data to be collect easy to understand?  Just following the new concept of tracking electricity consumption is a challenge.  Adding to that the effect it has on MPG under a wide variety of circumstances is enough to make a person go bonkers when you realize engine warm-up and acceleration really mess up the equations.  Just a quick glance at the new graph I composed makes that quite clear.  That graph is quite vindicating too, easily confirming my claims about generalizations would lead to very inaccurate estimates.  Anywho, I finally did come up with a new signature, one that thoroughly conveys my current driving statistics in a plain and easy to understand manner.  That's important when you want to share vitals without overdoing.  Here's how it debuted: "685 miles 8.504 gallons 60.0 kWh 80.6 MPG"


Coolant Temperatures.  Knowing the temperature of the engine coolant is empowering information.  In the Winter, it tells you when warmth is available from the heater.  There's no point in turning the fan up to high if the coolant temperature isn't hot yet.  The reverse is also true; there's no reason to turn down the fan if there's plenty of heat still available.  The other need for heat is to cleanse emissions; too cold won't allow the chemical conversion to occur.  The engine will shut off remain off as until until the temperature of the coolant drops below a particular threshold.  Having an aftermarket gauge connected to the Prius offers an insight to how it operates.  145°F is the standard threshold.  When coolant is at least that warm, the engine will shut off and remain that way until additional heat is needed for cabin warming or battery-pack draw exceeds the "green" level as indicated by the Eco-Meter in the Gen-III Prius.  (Neither the Classic nor Iconic models of Prius provide draw information.)  114°F is the ECO threshold.  This lower temperature tolerance is a feature introduced with the Gen-III Prius.  It allows the heater to extract warmth from coolant much longer than the previous models, which results in the engine remaining off longer.  103°F is the ECO warm-up threshold for Gen-III when the heater is not used and the Prius is not in motion.  This feature is nice if you have to wait for a stoplight after only driving a very short distance.  157°F is the EV threshold for the Gen-III Prius. EV mode (up to 24 mph) is available as long as battery capacity is at least 3 bars on the display and coolant temperature stays at least that hot.  130°F is the engine warm-up threshold for Prius PHV. While driving in EV mode (up to 62 mph), the automatic switch to HV mode will not end until coolant temperature warms up to this point.  As soon as it does, if power demand is within the EV range, the engine will immediately shut off.  Knowing about the 130°F threshold is quite empowering with PHV.  If already close to that or above, you know that engine shutoff after using it for hard acceleration will happen surprisingly quick.


Hold Button.  There's one available on the PHV.  Toyota labels it as "HV/EV".  That ability to toggle on & off driving in EV mode is great.  I've found it very handy driving my PHV.  Why use up the EV capacity available right away, knowing you can better use it later and that you'll get 50 MPG cruising on the highway in the meantime?  Those supporting Volt have been fiercely against it, claiming there's no benefit.  They've worked really hard trying to prevent PHV supporters from drawing attention to that feature missing from Volt.  Some Volt owners have even been down right rude & insulting at times, defending the exclusion... despite the fact that there's a "mountain" mode available, which totally contradicts their argument of simplicity.  Anywho, it hasn't been pretty.  The downplay attempts effectiveness have been mixed, mostly since PHV is still so new.  Turns out, we won't have to wait as long as we thought for that to change.  The European counterpart to Volt now being rolled out, call Ampera, is working against their effort to undermine... since it offers a "hold" button.  Why that's not available here remains a mystery... and many would like an explanation.  The last thing Volt supporters wanted was to draw attention to that difference.  It's quickly becoming a topic of frustration for them.


Just Drive It, revision.  Coming from an owner of two Prius already, reading this give reason for pause: "OK- maybe I'm just naive; maybe I'm a compulsive worrier; but maybe I'm getting in over my head by buying a PiP.  I keep reading posts by new PiP drivers about trying to stay in EV, or the car kicking on the gas in EV or the heater not working right and on and on.  This is all starting to scare me..."  It's the web-effect, when experts get together to discuss rocket-science and newbies have no idea all you actually have to do to fly it is push the launch button.  They just assume everyone else has that level of knowledge, not realizing there countless unheard guest readers observing the few of us extreme to which we analyze the system.  They don't realize that's far from the norm, that you don't have to be an engineer to benefit & enjoy Prius.  And now the PHV.  So, I quickly jumped in with:  This is quite fascinating to hear the same old worries from over a decade ago repeated again.  You read online about the things of us with automotive & engineering background are observing & trying with our cars and become concerned.  Remind yourself that we are the extreme, the few who research every little aspect of the system... quite unlike any ordinary person would do... hence that "Just Drive It" motto we came up with all those years ago.  PHV is no different than the regular Prius when it comes to driving.  You just remove the plug and go.  That's it.  You may toggle out of the default EV if you want, but that's not necessary.  HV will automatically engage when needed, then automatically disengage afterward.  It's great that Toyota enabled owners to take advantage of their high flexible design, but not the just slightest bit necessary.  However, I think a revision to that motto is now worthwhile, something like: "Just Plug, Then Drive"


Political Pawn.  I still shake my head in dismay about how Volt enthusiasts self-inflict problems.  They complain and complain about Volt having become a political pawn, yet continue to draw attention by declaring it as government success which is "far superior technology" to all else.  They learned nothing about the smug attitude and simply don't care about sales.  They just keep saying HSD is struggling to survive and totally obsolete at this point.  Some even make up stuff, things that don't even make sense if you give it a little thought.  The same old propaganda we saw in the past is back.  Remember how the hindered sales of Two-Mode led to the same defiance?  Back then, as it is now, discussions of a political nature are frowned upon in the big forums.  Moderators try to close threads when the topics no longer address the technology or the vehicle itself.  But when there's nothing actually left to say except things political in nature, they become hesitant... not wanting something else to get the attention instead.  That's actually the sign of being obsolete... when nothing else remains.  To think that it all began by focusing on bragging-rights rather than being realistic about expectations.  They shot themselves in the foot way back then and are only realizing the consequences of that choice now.


8 Bars.  It's really an interesting twist how the long-time owners of Prius go out of their way to assure newbies that seeing only 6 bars for battery-pack capacity is normal.  Counting the 8 slots available, the newbies expect all 8 to be filled... like when you recharge your phone.  Of course, they don't take into consideration that only the PHV actually has a plug available.  It makes some new owners really concerned.  Then naturally, they panic when all 8 are actually filled, not understanding the bleed-off behavior.  Why would the system intentionally consume electricity even when the vehicle isn't moving?  It doesn't cross their mind that such an approach is for battery longevity.  They're so use to replacing their phone every 2 to 3 years, owning the same battery for over 10 years is a concept totally new to them.  So, we just provide comfort saying it's ok.  That begs the question of what uninformed PHV owners will think.  Currently, all those newbies have studied plugging in well.  During their long delivery wait, they research extensively.  Someday, that won't happen.  Someday, a consumer will be able to purchase a PHV immediately... right off the dealer's lot.  Then what?  8 bars is a common sight for PHV.  But so it seeing the EV capacity increase while driving.  Will those plug-in owners have the same concern as those not having a plug?  You'd think not.  But predicting consumer responses is a very difficult matter.


PHV Video.  First-time setup for Eco-Meter filming with the PHV was quite a challenge.  I encountered a variety of new problems, like not knowing where the HUD (Heads Up Display) light-sensor was until after laying out all the new glare-mats.  Getting the camera mount to stay stuck to the dashboard didn't go so well either.  As a result, I forgot to dim the display itself to prevent over-exposure... which means extra edit work later to tone down the excessive glow.  The new higher-quality screen with a faster refresh rate left me clueless about what to expect.  Then there was the frustration of using up some of the battery-capacity while setting up... which means less available for the drive itself.  There's wasn't much I could do to prevent that though.  The weather wasn't exactly cooperating either.  Sitting there in the car, I was getting bombed by the tree dropping new spring buds onto the windshield, leaving trails of pollen behind... which I didn't remember to wipe off afterward.  When I finally started the drive, being hot & tired, I forgot that turning on the outside vent would result in a lower EV capacity value being displayed on the Eco-Meter.  Ugh!  It automatically assumes a loss from climate-control usage, revising the estimate shown to a lower value.  So when I got to the halfway point, I turned it off (note the 0.7-mile increase).  Fortunately, there was still plenty remaining to not have confused that information sharing.  Despite the hills, traffic, and not starting with a "full" battery, the drive still resulted in 13.0 miles straight of EV travel.  That was nice to capture on video.  What was odd was the traffic incident at the intersection shortly following the engine start.  Watch for the yellow sports car, then the reaction by the police car.  Overall, it was an enjoyable experience.  It was a casual Summer drive on a beautiful windy day through the suburb to the coffeeshop and back.  With a top speed-limit of 45 mph, it's the slowest by most scenic route.  Notice the bike-trail on the side; I ride that with the bicycle from time to time.  Watching the Eco-Meter, you'll that most of the there's plenty of EV power available.  You'll also see the capacity go up a times from hills and regenerative braking.  When the engine finally starts near the end, you'll see MPG plummet.  That's a strange sensation watch it drop from 999 MPG.  You'd feel disappointed if it wasn't for the absolutely outstanding result for that 15.7-mile drive.  282 MPG is incredible!  Here's a link for it:  Prius PHV - First Eco-Meter


Ever Wonder?  When competitors can no longer compete, what happens?  Well, that's what we just witnessed.  It's not pretty.  The signs of an end drawing near are when they aren't the slightest bit constructive, when posts don't even make an attempt to stay on topic.  You get lots of politics and a complete loss purpose.  They'll never admit defeat either, they just disregard the present and focus entirely on a distant future.  In other words, they accept 32 MPG highway advertisements as sensible and hope that Volt will magically overcome the shortcomings from its first generation.  I'm truly amazed it got so bad. But it does make sense for those who did not study the market to misunderstand its reaction.  After all, we saw nearly the very same thing happen with Two-Mode.  In other words, the change they were hoping for ended up quite different from what actually occurred.


Wow!  It never ceases to amaze me.  The level of rhetoric coming from what was supposed to be a game-changer but ended up being a poor-seller vehicle.  Since I left that discussion, the spin is that PHV simply cannot compete because Volt is generations ahead.  That complete disregard for the "too little, too slowly" concern is remarkable.  They just focus on battery-capacity and pretend price isn't an issue.  To have that much of a disconnect with actual need isn't much of a surprise.  Years ago, the trophy-mentality was already a problem.  So now after rollout and a struggle to keep attention, they focus on those who were clear & concise all along... which is the part I find extraordinary.  Even though I stated very specific goals and pointed out how well the early model Prius plug-in matched them, they just say I said something else.  That detail is noted heavily in the blogs, forum posts, all those photos, and a few videos.  How can they think attempting to say otherwise will work?  Realistically, it doesn't matter.  I've started working on the publishing new photos & video, confirming what I said all along.  It's not even frustrating anymore.  It's more a sense of dismay.  They really don't see the big picture.  I sure am glad those currently awaiting their PHV delivery do.  This very much resembles generation advancements of Prius we've seen in the past.  That's a very good sign.


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