Prius Personal Log  #571

May 27, 2012  -  June 1, 2012

Last Updated: Weds. 6/06/2012

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6-01-2012

May Sales, initial counts.  With the price of oil closing this week at $83.23 per barrel, it's interesting to see sales numbers for Prius holding.  Both PHV and the c model have been in very short supply too.  To complicate matters, PHV will only available in the following states this year: California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.  So even though the preorder deliveries were completed this month, there's waiting still.  1,086 PHV were purchased.  So of course, the sales of 1,680 Volt were celebrated as a major victory... even though it is available nationwide and gets an additional $5,000 of federal tax-credits and it is heavily advertised.  That's well short of the revised goal of 45,000 that GM set for the year and a major reason for having stepped away from the rhetoric.  What a mess!  Anywho, the other Prius numbers were 13,053 for the regular model, 3,693 for c, and 3,645 for v.  Those counts can be considered steady and on track for the year.  Camry & Corolla on the other hand, whoa!  They've both taken this market by storm.  An amazing 39,571 for Camry and an impressive 31,847 for Corolla.  The report of that over-shadowed Detroit recovery reports.  Toyota surged way further ahead than had been expected.  That's a head-scratcher for what it means to Prius.  That most definitely reinforces the claim that traditional vehicles are the true competition, not other automakers.  Each will have their own challenges for offering high-efficiency choices.  2012 is becoming quite a year for history books.

6-01-2012

Expectations.  The morning started with this, still hours before May sales numbers would be released:  It's been the same old game ever since Two-Mode was first conceived.  GM says something vague & ambiguous, then allows hope to build without clarifying incorrect expectations.  Then the executive who made the comment moves on, allowing hype to propagate without recourse in blogs & forums.  The most recent example is the mention of a plug-in Equinox.  Who knows what will become of that.  But without accountability, you're fighting an idea, not a promise or actual goal.  To complicate matters, people forget what happened when.  That makes it really easy to be misled, simply by missing vital pieces of detail.  That's why it boils down to sales.  The debates about expectations are over.

5-31-2012

Measured, part 3.  I'm glad it has come to an end.  Setting such high expectations on hope was never a good idea.  Seeing all that former hype gone now is major relief.  Today is the last day of the month.  Sales results for May will provide a big dose of reality.  Major growth had been expected for June, but barely squeaking by up to then won't be a good sign.  Perhaps that will keep things from getting out of hand going forward.  Lessons of the past with Two-Mode clearly weren't recognized as repeatable with Volt.  However, now that the history has indeed repeated, there should be some type of trepidation about what comes next... rather than just accepting hearsay without question.  They didn't believe it could be this bad.  But with oil at just $85.92 per barrel, that certainly isn't providing any encouragement.  Gas staying at $4 wasn't reasonable.  Slow recovery of the economy combined with unwillingness to accept financial risk should have been  sensible consideration too.  That didn't happen though.  There was a very heavy dependency on tax-credits and the belief of rapid acceptance.  The smaller capacity of PHV was just a joke to Volt enthusiasts.  They mocked & taunted.  Looking back, do you think some of them now regret not at least taking the advice of diversification?  They laughed at the idea of a second model offering a smaller capacity.  Violating such a fundamental rule of business doesn't appear to have been a wise decision.  What the heck were they measuring?

5-31-2012

Measured, part 2.  Size difference was an unnoticed issue with Insight all those years back too.  The subject was simply avoided.  Not being mentioned allowed the belief of equal size to persist.  Whatever.  It's pretty easy to notice Prius is larger once you see both.  As for the rest, the debate is over... done... dead.  How they disregarded such an important aspect of vehicle preference is only just a topic of wonder.  Was there such intense dislike for Prius that would endorse anything offering greater EV capacity?  Think about how the "complexity" argument has come full circle.  I can easily imagine frustration arising from seeing Prius in such large quantity now.  They're everywhere!  It's great for someone like me, who has always sought out a solution for middle-market.  Their desire to justify a higher price in favor of raising performance clouded logic.  Simply delivering higher efficiency with a vehicle similar to what people currently drive was a better goal.  The emission & consumption reduction was worth paying a modest amount for, but not a huge premium like Volt requires.  Keeping price in check was what contributed significantly to Prius success.  Engineering for maximum EV isn't enough, as they are now learning the hard way.

5-31-2012

Measured, part 1.  For an entire decade, we were told price was a major purchase priority for any new fuel-efficiency technology to be accepted by the masses.  That's how the $3,000 to $5,000 plug-in premium come about for Toyota and the $30,000 target for GM with Volt.  Then came the fallout, when Lutz started campaigning for heavy government subsidies and the $40,000 base price was finally revealed... which is how I became so outspoken, asking "Who is the market for Volt?"  Then came the range (40 mile, all conditions) and engine (50 MPG, combined rating) expectations not being met.  So, physically checking out the car itself became pointless.  After all, those endorsing the "early adopter" perspective said to just wait anyway.  But today with another long-time Prius owning friend, we stopped at the local Chevy dealer.  A salesperson escorted us over to an open Volt to check it out, though somewhat irked knowing I had absolutely no intention of buying one... since I had come there in my PHV and openly said I was there just to measure the interior.  Wow!  I had no idea Volt was that much smaller inside.  I'm average height for a man (5'8").  So when my head touched the ceiling in back, it only took a moment to realize it would be difficult to remain objective.  In the driver's seat, it was clearly shorter there too.  I measured, though it was obvious just by sight.  There is 2.25 inches less headroom.  The cargo area is smaller too.  The sunken floor would make loading large cargo a pain, not flush as with Prius.  My 3-wheel recumbent bike simply wouldn't fit either.  When I asked about carrying bikes on back, wanting to know if anyone had figured out how to use a strap-on rack even though Volt doesn't have a back bumper for it to rest on, I only got a hitch suggestion... which made me wonder how often that would scrape considering the lower ground clearance.  That salesperson and the other who came to answer questions when we stepped inside were polite & helpful, but clearly didn't like Prius at all.  We already knew legroom in back was less and there wasn't seating for a fifth person.  But now finding out about headroom and confirmation about the cargo area, more than ever I have to wonder who the vehicle was intended for.  With PHV having a base price of $32,000 and offering a larger interior, I see it appealing to a much wider base of consumers.

5-30-2012

Improving EV.  The range estimate value is beginning to make some PHV supporters feel a bit lost.  They aren't sure what to do for newbies who see it abruptly drop.  The obvious suggestion is to provide information about improving EV.  That sounds like a good approach, if the system only had an EV mode and a HV mode.  But it doesn't.  There's that one in between.  So, you cannot easily define EV range or even identify the factors which contribute to the estimate value.  I sounded off with:  "EV-boost" confuses matters though.  Depleting from the battery-pack while the engine is warming up and while cruising at speeds faster than 100 km/h (62 mph) provides remarkable MPG.  That mode is great for efficiency, but doesn't count as EV miles.  It's considered HV, since the engine is running.  The fact that MPG is spiked at +100 on the display shouldn't be excluded from discussions.  It likely will reduce the EV range estimate as well.  New owners will be concerned pretty much no matter what information we post.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing, since knowing there's a lot to observe enhances the ownership experience.  You feel like your purchase is well thought out, when so many factors are already accounted for... and you get incredible results no matter how you drive it.

5-29-2012

Backlash.  Watching new articles pop up about EV sales, it pleases me immensely that Volt wasn't actually marketed as a plug-in hybrid.  Enthusiasts pushed hard to it to make it stand alone.  That contradictory approach of wanting it to be popular selling niche was doomed from the beginning.  How can you have something common yet be uncommon at the same time?  They'd shun Prius, then strive for what it represented.  Ugh!  At least Nissan understood the importance of being affordable.  Unfortunately, the economic realities of delivering a 24 kWh battery-pack caused the price to go up.  Perhaps this is why there's so much emphasis on gas usage now, without mention of plugging in.  It could be a scramble to disassociate, knowing the EV is becoming looked upon as "plaything for rich environmentalists".  Success requires acceptance by the masses.  And that doesn't mean the disingenuous reactions we all see at autoshows, where they love the idea but wouldn't actually purchase it.  This is how PHV differs.  While those enthusiasts mocked, ordinary consumers took notice.  Now just on the verge of a backlash, where traditional vehicles gain attention for fuel-efficiency again, here comes an affordable plug-in choice from Toyota.  Timing is difficult though.  What happens now is critical.  Sharing lots of real-world data will help keep the building of political tension from getting out of hand.

5-28-2012

HWFET.  I never looked closely at the "Highway Fuel Economy Test" procedure.  We just knew there was a hard acceleration involved, that would cause the PHV engine to start.  But we also knew after warming was complete, it could shut off immediately upon speed dropping to 100 km/h (62 mph) or below.  So, there wasn't ever any pressing need to look at the detail.  Today, someone brought up the graph of the speed & duration of that particular EPA test measure.  Sure enough, right around the 6-mile mark was that acceleration.  It visually explained perfectly why the window-sticker states 6 as a point of significance.  Antagonists have used that to mislead, claiming the battery-pack is depleted at that point and totally disregarding the 11-mile rating.  They claimed the remaining drive was in HV mode.  With the speed on the graph clearly showing values in the 50's, arguing the engine doesn't shut off then would be an act of desperation... especially knowing owners like me have reported driving 14 miles before the engine started for the first time.  One individual actually insisted that the battery-pack was totally depleted after 6 miles.  I bet he was frightened by the EV-boost mode.  Driving at 65 mph, I pushed the button.  Switching from HV to EV-boost increased efficiency from 50 to an amazing 150 MPG.  Seeing that was quite vindicating.

5-28-2012

100 MPG, part 4.  Collecting that data could be much more difficult than expected.  In real-world conditions, efficiency simply doesn't drop that low for me.  After 27.1 miles of driving around today, my errand running was done early in the afternoon.  I wouldn't need the car again until sometime in the evening.  There was plenty of opportunity to recharge in the meantime.  The display showed 110 MPG... and I had no interest in driving around just for the sake of seeing how much further it would need to dip below 100 from just that one charge.  It was already enough to support the thought of being able to go well beyond 20 miles.  Will those curious about PHV understand that though?  Without lots of data to illustrate that, greenwashers will just say whatever they want.  There's pressure building.  Other plug-ins struggling for sales will put Prius, which has only been available for a few weeks and only in rollout states, in a position of attention.  When is the question.  Soon is likely the answer.

5-28-2012

Moving On.  This month is coming to an end, the first which Prius PHV is available (in the 14 initial launch states) to consumers who hadn't pre-ordered.  That should make things interesting.  The Volt downplay & denial was beyond agonizing.  Not accepting the reality of price has been a big problem that won't be overcome anytime soon.  So, the results from Toyota will be looked up with great scrutiny... since their plug-in was designed to be affordable.  They targeted middle-market right from the start.  GM won't address those consumers until the next generation, falling well short of expectations.  Remember the ultimate plan for tax-credit money, to have 1 million plug-in vehicles on the road in 2015?  Toyota should be able to meet the mainstream minimum rate of 5,000 per month sometime next year.  Ford may be able to meet that the following year.  Toyota's next generation Prius should be available for that final year.  The new PHV will likely play a major role in the race to fulfilling that goal.  Only a well-established plug-in could accomplish the high-volume numbers hoped for, for that matter, needed.  Production then is expected to be domestic too, which is another intended benefit from the monetary incentive.  What's realistic from the other automakers?  What will Nissan end up doing?  What about plug-in vehicles from Hyundai & Honda?  How will VW react to the changing market?  For that matter, what will Volt end up becoming?  With the only certainty being a growing demand for gas, simply due to population growth and greater congestion on road, how seriously will the efficiency goals be taken with respect to plugging in?  We know hybrids like Prius without a plug will prosper due to the upcoming CAFE requirements.  But what will the reaction be to owners like me reporting an average over 75 MPG from a vehicle with a price of about $30,000?  That's what my thoughts are moving on to.  The crazy hype of the past is quickly fading.  What others had hoped for didn't happen.

5-28-2012

Rewriting History.  Just hours after Toyota presented their vision for the future, some GM supporters began to spread a different interpretation of what was actually said.  So all these years later, trying to convince a Volt owner they were intentionally mislead would be an exercise in futility.  It's really unfortunate when greenwashing is effective.  Toyota stated it wasn't possible to deliver a plug-in vehicle for the masses that was affordable.  Those hoping to rewrite history simply left off the "affordable" part.  Now after all that time, we have Volt owners celebrating with comments like this: "While Toyota said for years that plug-in would not work, GM proved them wrong and now its Toyota's turn to have to catch up."  That cost problem is the very reason why PHV uses a battery with a 4.4 kWh capacity.  And of course, there are now a number of problems arising from the antagonist nonsense.  The "vastly superior" gloating has pretty much faded away, but we do still hear this: "The Volt leap-frogged the basic HSD design.".  The engine in Prius is more efficient already and there are thermal improvements on the way.  The hybrid Camry uses an electric motor very close in power to that of Volt (105 vs. 111) and it's more efficient.  The clincher though, coming from that same individual yesterday, was this: "So you want to invent yet another metric? I think this one is silly."  Recognize that?  We've seen data-withholding efforts before.  When has that ever been helpful?  Providing data to let consumers draw conclusions on their own has always been the better approach.

5-27-2012

100 MPG, part 3.  This morning's errand running was only 18.4 miles of driving, which meant MPG only dropped to 142.  I was back home for lunch.  There wasn't any need to use the Prius until late in the evening.  So, I set the timer and plugged in.  That drive was just 11 miles.  Capturing data-points for when 100 MPG is hit will likely continue to be quite a challenge.  Despite my annual average of 20,000 miles, plugging in is too convenient for me to let the opportunity slip by.  That particular situation doesn't happen often for me.  The thought now is to see if there's some type of normalization available from the daily information I document.  With so much larger of a sampling, the trends would be easier to see.  Remember, we're not looking for any specific value.  We're hoping to identify patterns based on each of the driving scenarios we encounter, especially the routines not well understood... like Winter commuting.  For just 2 months of driving a PHV so far, I'm pleased with the way data-collection has been proceeding.  Real-World reports are very worthwhile, quite a help when conveying expectations to those unfamiliar with efficiency influences.

 

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