Prius Personal Log  #573

June 9, 2012  -  June 16, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 8/07/2012

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40 MPG Challenge.  This new article was an interesting read.  That perspective is really beginning to be out of touch with the big picture.  This was my favorite quote: "After all, a hybrid might easily get 40 mpg, but it customarily carries a sizable cost mark-up to pay for its exotic technology."  Since when is a well-established hybrid like Prius exotic?  In fact, it's easy to consider the 6-speed, automatic, dual-clutch traditional systems more complex.  And when 5 of the 6 vehicles they tested were in the same price category as Prius c, you have to wonder about the price claim.  Naturally, there wasn't any mention of emission-ratings either.  I was particularly amused by the calling of 40 MPG for fuel-efficiency as "lofty".  With plug-in hybrids entering the market featuring battery-capacities with affordability in mind, you have to wonder how long they'll be able to keep up the avoidance.  I've been averaging 100 MPG over the past 2,000 miles from mine.  How does that influence their challenge?  They asked a final question: "How much money will you save when you pick one of these fuel sippers over another?"  Think about how much pressure the traditional market will put on anything offering a plug, especially with the current disregard for hybrids.  At what point does the reality of diminishing returns come into play?  This is a very important question when it comes to plug-in vehicles offering larger capacity batteries?  People are growing accustom to pay $4 for a gallon of gas.


Greatest of Ease.  Driving the same roads as with my 2010 Prius, which I filmed myself doing not too long ago, brings back incredible memories already.  The engine shuts off sooner with the PHV model.  The power threshold for electric-only is quite a bit higher too.  With the greatest of ease, I travel those driving experiences with a new perspective.  That's exactly what I was hoping for.  My expectation management was well researched.  I knew that the 60 kW traction-motor was being under utilized, that more could be returned from the same system simply by having more electricity available... and the supply the plug-in battery-pack provides certainly does that.  It's great, though odd.  Watching MPG drop below 100 comes with a brief moment of trepidation.  You tend to lose perspective.  That's well above the usual 50 MPG still.  What's interesting is that I find myself using the engine more often now.  Seeing that it adds some EV distance when used and knowing how quickly it shuts back off afterward, why not?  Overall, that works out really well for travel beyond the capacity available.  In short, it's becoming remarkably easy to promote the "Just Drive It" motto.


Pathetic.  Comments like that from the past causing new Volt owners to cringe is quite redeeming.  They wouldn't say anything as offensive as "pathetic", so it's embarrassing to discover such declarations from enthusiasts back then... which is why I included those quotes so often in these personal logs.  Humility can be an effective tool for overcoming major obstacles.  They kept pushing the "vastly superior" attitude, to an extreme which is quite difficult to believe now.  Not having any idea we had to deal with nonsense like that clarifies the stance we took.  I remember having to tolerate the "anemic" claim for years.  There was an intense effort to belittle & mislead about the plug-in Prius, something only now being exposed.  Understanding comes from learning about origins.  More importantly, it prevents those same mistakes from repeating.  The goal is to penetrate the mainstream, not showcase a performance vehicle.  Hype dominated.  Expectation management was a joke.  Attempts to be constructive were labeled as undermining "spin" and the threads either overwhelmed with red-herrings or just outright closed.  It sure is nice to have finally moved beyond all that.


Display Photos.  I've taken quite a few lately.  There's a lot of variety needed for the User-Guide and it isn't easy encountering those situations, especially when there's good lighting and little to no traffic so I can use the camera.  That has limited much of the photo taken to late in the evening.  I'm getting there though.  Enough source material now exists which I can build upon.  After all, the User-Guide is a constant work in progress anyway.  Looking at all those photos, I can't imagine where a newbie would start.  There's just so many different indicators that individual photos don't portray well.  It makes sense in action, watching the changes. But that requires video, which is my next capture challenge.  Here's what I have so far... photo album 176


Any Benefit?  I decided to try something new today.  I modified my commute to work.  Rather than jumping on the 70 mph highway just 3 blocks from my house, I drove roughly 4 miles in EV first.  Would getting on later make a difference?  Turns out, it did.  But rather than being a benefit, the resulting MPG was the same but I completely depleted the battery.  Jumping on the highway right away instead, I typically end up with a little bit over 1 mile of EV capacity still available.  So, it was a net loss.  That tends to make sense, since you only have to get up to speed once.  Maintaining it takes far less electricity than having to deal with frequent stops.  So, I tried another variation on the way home.  I drove 11 miles of my 17 mile trip with EV only, before jumping onto the highway.  That 3 miles of EV capacity I had available for the high-speed travel was consumed quickly.  I watched my average drop slightly below what it would have been if I had just traveled on the highway from the start.  In short, neither of my attempts to use more EV actually resulted in a benefit.  I was better off doing the "just drive it" approach instead.  Isn't it fascinating how counter-intuitive hybrid efficiency can be?  That's why some of those arguments persist for so long.  Assumptions don't match implementation.


Unaware.  It's amazing to witness the turnaround, when someone didn't realize they there was more to the story.  That unaware factor has been a substantial obstacle with advancement of a hybrid like Prius.  In fact, just today there was a renewed effort to keep the old debates from coming to an end.  Some declare their postings as an endeavor to educate.  A growing number of us see it as an intentional holdback.  This is the same "raising doubt" undermining of the past.  Don't let the conclusions from being draw, at all costs.  Remember the argument against collecting that "100 MPG" data recently?  Looking back, it has already becomes clear that was an effort to suppress information.  Geez!  Of course, being so obvious makes that easy to conclude.  Confusing with red-herrings only goes so far.  Focusing on power too much reveals misplaced priorities.  They stall, waiting for the next big news event.  In the meantime, people keeping buying more Prius... and studying the history.  Reading blogs reveals much about what actually happened verses what some claimed happened.


Somehow.  I wonder what will become of these thoughts I posted online today, in that rather abrasive thread:  The post-rollout perspective of PHV is very different from what we had to deal with prior to availability.  There's no reason on anyone's part to feel troubled by that. It's just what happened and there should be an effort to raise awareness showing how different things are already.  It is frustrating though, that some just outright dismissed the early model data we had and intentionally raised concern on operational aspects we already knew were non-issues.  But that's in the past now.  We really are attempting to establish constructive discussion.  It's unfortunate that the ally we sought years ago in the effort to promote plug-in vehicles is only now accepting of that olive branch.  It was misunderstood for far too long.  But hey, gotta start somehow.


Eco-Meter Photos.  Some of us refer to the "Hybrid System Indicator" by that name instead, since it does much more than just indicate.  Though, the newest version does actually have an indicator which is quite informative.  The 2012 model introduced a "stealth" mode indicator.  It's a small EV symbol that illuminates when in HV mode.  That's nice to know with both the regular model and the plug-in.  But I didn't have any photos of it available.  And knowing how much stuff like that gets asked about, it was an essential thing to add to the User-Guide.  Now, I've got a number of samples to work with.  The bigger symbol for EV mode itself was obviously another I needed, especially what it looks like while the engine is warming up or you're traveling at faster than 62.1 mph (100 km/h).  Of course, the part that varies a lot and often is the energy part of the Eco-Meter.  That bar has colored zones.  You can never have enough samples of that.  The battery-capacity is the most intriguing though.  When EV is plentiful, it's solid.  When you get down to about the last mile, it fills up again but has divider-lines, which is something I'll have to explain in detail.  It goes both down & up while you drive.  Anywho, I captured a variety of new photos and just put them on this webpage... photo album 176


Turning Point.  That's what I see this as.  Things look quite different afterward, but are very uncertain right up until the moment they actually happen.  That past is well documented, capturing the feelings & beliefs well enough to provide a basis to look forward with.  Of course, we'll still remember all times EV range and MPG were brought up despite such blatantly obvious battery-capacity differences.  But clarity allows us to finally to a step beyond the discord.  And now that there is an effort taking place to move on, suggestions about what to do next should be the focus.  Not stating goals has always been a major source of contention, so stating them now is my suggestion.  It's really hard to argue particulars when it's clear that purposes aren't the same.


Take Away.  What can we take away from all the craziness?  It stemmed from the setting of unrealistic expectations.  Volt was hyped as the vehicle that would be "vastly superior" to Prius... back in late 2010, not a second-generation design years later.  And now that so many supporters have accepted the "early adopter" perspective, it makes those of us who saw this coming seem like we were on some vengeful quest... rather than pointing out that what's been committed to is far more than just a future upgrade.  The theme has overwhelming been to show some patience, please wait.  That probably wouldn't have been so bad if they didn't continue to imply that other designs couldn't accommodate larger battery-packs or more powerful electric-motors.  They can advance too.  That constant misrepresentation had fed the fire for quite awhile.  But now, even the MPG claims are falling out of favor.  Cost has increasingly drawn attention.  Embracing that shakes off the "niche" label, redefining it as just a delay instead.  This could very well be why the "pathetic" label seems to have recently been abandoned by Volt owners flaunting MPG over Prius.  If they really are willing to stop with the taunting and move on to constructive discussion, we can begin to deal with the big problems... like those against vehicle electrification of any kind.


Finally.  I liked reading this: "You're actually the last person I ever imagined defending the Volt to."  It's confirmation of the paradigm shift.  I responded with:  You should have spoke up a hell a lot sooner.  Having someone like you at my side to work with would have made things much, much easier.  There was no open dialog.  The other forums made outsiders feel very unwelcome.  That allowed the constant comparisons to get way out of hand, since there was no venue available for input.  Volt was promoted very differently until late last year.  We kept hearing sales would pick up significantly in the second.  Now, the perspective has shifted to a wait for it to evolve outlook.  If expectations would have simply been stated like that in the first place, all that previous strife could have been avoided.  Have you noticed how much GM's advertising has recently changed?  The "230 MPG" and "Gas Free" campaigns of the past were very misleading and they did nothing with respect to informing how or when.  Consumers got the impression it was a new revolutionary technology ready for mainstream penetration.  That ended up contributing to the fallout we've been dealing with.  Remember my recent complaints about mixing of present & future?  I was reaching out, hoping for someone to finally step up.  You did.  So, what's next?


Tried Something New.  With EV capacity quickly running out, I wondered.  Hmm?  What would happen if I intentionally accelerated hard at each stoplight, just for a few seconds?  The engine was already warmed up and I had several lights in a row coming up... which almost certainly would all be red.  So, I tried it.  Each time, the engine fired up briefly to assist.  It shut back off just seconds later.  But to my surprise, that short amount of time was enough to bump up the capacity.  At each red light, it had climbed higher... despite the fact that I was still driving in EV between them.  Normally, the stop & go situation is maddening.  Now with the PHV, it becomes a game.  I was taking advantage of the engine to get going and ending up with a little bit more driving with the engine off opportunity.  The thought hadn't occurred to me.  Making the best of limited resources is what Prius has always thrived at.  This is yet another example.  Instinct tells you using the engine is wasteful.  Reality reveals that's not the case.  The flexibility and rapid energy-flow change of the PSD can be utilized to squeeze out efficiency opportunities otherwise missed.


Review Ratings.  They're a mess.  The hullabaloo from a report about Prius c getting a "we cannot recommend" rating has stirred the pot far more than any of my ramblings ever could.  Naturally, their measurement of efficiency was what provoked the outcry more than anything.  Prius is no stranger to this topic.  Remember the nightmare when the Iconic model was rolled out.  All reviews published in the dead of winter reported terrible MPG observations... none of which were ever followed up on when the whether warmed and owners saw their MPG increase dramatically.  It was quite controversy.  They didn't want to admit having made such a terrible mistake.  That's embarrassing and harm's reputation.  Needless to say, we are quite intrigued how this will play out... since the situation is much more complex now.  I contributed to the venting of feelings with:  What else can be said?  The topic of fuel-efficiency measure has been controversial for years, but limited to certain markets.  Now that Toyota has penetrated into the lower-cost realm in large enough numbers to draw attention, the pot is getting stirred even more.  To make matters even more complicated, adding a plug adds an entirely new dimension to the already confused comparison scales.  How will middle-market consumers make sense of so much variety?  Each design differs well beyond the typical understanding of what's under the hood.  Trying to apply that to your own particular driving circumstances is a fruitless effort, even without considering seasonal change.  Automakers will provide specifications.  Publications will state their observations.  But like in the past, it will be owner word-of-mouth endorsements contributing heavily to sales.


Too Little, Too Slowly.  How does one summarize what has happened over the past 3 years, since that concern was first stated?  I've used the grade analogy.  This stresses constructive criticism, allowing you to suggest opportunity for improvement without it being taken as patronizing or condescending.  It seems to be fairly effective too... since their had been many supporting Volt how immediately assumed anything negative was an implication of failure.  Thank goodness that's changing!  They've even accepted the timing some of us struggled to get them to understand from the start.  Expecting all those goals to be achieved by the end of 2010 was absurd, hence the vaporware nonsense.  That's over now.  Phew!  The complexities of delivering so much should not be taken so lightly... especially when the competition (traditional vehicles) continue to improve.  It's a moving target they nonchalantly dismiss.  It doesn't get easier.  New challenges emerge at the entire industry advances.  It's really unfortunate they don't see that yet.  Without a constant push, the pressures of for-profit business gobble up opportunity.  You can't just hope for the best.


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