Prius Personal Log  #579

July 20, 2012  -  July 27, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 8/07/2012

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7-27-2012

Why Bother?  I wonder how many posts like this will continue: "If you're going to use gas all the time, why bother with a plug? If you're going build a car that can run off battery alone, why limit speed/accel, and use such a small battery the range is meaningless?"  Those individuals just plain don't understand.  The affordable 75-100 MPG market is becoming increasingly more apparent.  The typical consumer certainly doesn't respond to my 83 MPG average as meaningless.  Their reaction is always one of excitement.  They most definitely don't ask those questions.  In fact, it's like the "complexity" arguments of the past.  The only people who cared were those who understood the intricate details of how an engine & transmission actually worked.  Most people in middle-market have no idea how an automatic transmission works.  They don't care either, as long as it is affordable & reliable.  That makes you wonder who the audience will be for the "why bother?" type questions.  Hybrids of the past have taught us a lot about what to expect from hybrids of the future.

7-26-2012

Partial Charges.  What the heck!  Twice today I got to my destination with plug-supplied electricity still available.  That feels like wasted recharges and lost efficiency opportunities.  In reality though, MPG is still outstanding.  That (and reduced emissions) is the point... which is especially redeeming with the knowledge that others will have different driving needs anyway.  Then later when increased capacity becomes affordable, my own results will be different as well.  So, I have partial recharges used from time to time.  I suppose there will be instances when I won't have time to recharge the battery-pack entirely either.  Today, it was a little over a mile on the way there and over two-and-a-half available on the way back.  I bet that will really surprise some who assume the capacity is too small.

7-26-2012

Plug-In Sightings.  My first Nissan Leaf was a week and a half ago.  I was night biking and it passing just happened to catch my eye as I was turning.  So, there simply wasn't enough time or light to confirm what I had actually seen.  The distinct tail-lights were easy to confirm when I had my first proper sighting yesterday, just 3 blocks from my home.  Then today, I saw another.  This time, I was driving side-by-side rather than it just passing by.  I tapped the horn & waved.  Unfortunately, a SUV decided to push its way through immediately after that.  So, the moment was all too brief.  Oh well.  Yesterday brought another surprise.  At lunch, just after having I went out to plug in the Prius, another PHV drove by.  I pursued on foot for a block, enough to confirm I had indeed witnessed what I thought.  Was it the only other known PHV in Minnesota?  The distinct blue makes it a possibility.  I'll have to send an email to him to find out.  Unfortunately, that owner has become very quiet lately.  That's an unfortunate consequence of Prius ownership.  It works so well, online participation is typically short-lived.  They just drive it.  I was quite shocked by that unexpected opportunity and quite surprised by the timing coincidence with Leaf.  It sure will be nice next year when sales begin here.  Being one of so few isn't fun.  It much more fulfilling when you're driving something the masses can purchase.  After all, my career in software development & support depends upon large numbers of users.

7-24-2012

Price = $32,950.  That was unexpected.  Of course, some of that is likely attributed to differences in features the base packages offer.  But nonetheless, the plug-in hybrid from Ford will have a price fairly close to that from Toyota.  Taking the larger tax-credit available due to the larger capacity, the price actually ends up lower.  It will be introduced next year with a sales expectation of 10,000.  That's a bit on the low side, but reasonable considering the circumstances.  Like with Volt... which we were told countless times... it's the second year that matters... even though those same people are now being hypocrites by not following their own progress criteria.  Whatever.  The point is a plug-in with an affordable amount of capacity will be offered.  That's a big difference from the very-large-or-nothing approach we've been dealing with from GM.  That choice from Ford will be 7.5 kWh.  The capacity tested in the Two-Mode plug-in prototype was 8 kWh.  So, it's not like the size hasn't been considered.  Again, whatever.  Consumer purchases will tell the story of acceptance, not an automaker executive decision.  With both Toyota & Ford targeting $30,000 as the price for middle-market, we should see some interesting sales numbers starting next year.

7-24-2012

Tire Rotation.  I didn't have an opportunity to bring the Prius into the dealer until today.  For just a routine tire rotation, there wasn't much of a need.  Nothing else is required during the 5,000-mile service.  Of course, the backup beep was starting to become annoying.  So, I had the rotation done along with getting the beep change from continuous to single.  Both were done quickly and free of charge.  That's always nice.  At 6,687 miles, everything is running absolutely perfect.  Not costing anything wasn't end result either.  I actually got a coffee and a free car-wash out of the visit too.  Certainly no complaints about coming out ahead like that.  Imagine if all visits to the dealer were so positive.  Fortunately, the system doesn't have any belts.  That's great for reliability.  Not having power-steering is a plus too.  And the brakes last a remarkably long time, since most deceleration is achieved using regeneration rather than friction.  In short, things are going well.

7-24-2012

EV Expectations.  The current PHV owners get lots of questions about what to expect for EV driving.  With Prius being a plug-in hybrid, that's really the only way to find out.  It's difficult enough figuring out how an full EV will respond.  With the ability to utilize an engine, that definitely confuses matters.  Hopefully, my contribution will be helpful:  Acceleration from stoplights eats EV range.  So suburb conditions are more efficient than "city" driving.  A/C usage cuts it down too.  Keep that in mind.  Fortunately, once you've went through the warm-up cycle, rapid on & off of the engine really helps out.  People get worked up about using gas until they realize how nice that works out for driving beyond EV capacity.  The more scenic route for my commute takes me through the suburbs, with a variety of speeds from 45 to 55 and the occasional stoplight.  It's 17.2 miles.  The result varies between 400 and 550 MPG will a slight downhill bias.  On the way back, without plugging in again, it drops to the low 100's.  With a fresh recharges, it's in the 200's.  For me taking the fast route, the 70 mph highway, it's 16.6 miles.  The result to work is usually between 225 and 250 MPG.  With a recharge there at work, the overall average is usually around 200 when I reach home.  Also note that I'll take advantage of the HV/EV button on the way home, using the engine to preserve EV for use later in the evening.  Doing that, I end the day somewhere in the 100's.  Long story short, you'll see a substantial MPG boost regardless of your driving situation.

7-22-2012

Different Now.  Reading comments about how much things have changed since PHV pre-orders began gave reason for reflection.  This was my contribution to that growing thread:  Trying to point out that history as it was unfolding didn't make much of an impression for some.  Others got swept up in the moment, not realizing it was about to come to an abrupt end.  Heck, even the quarreling with Volt owners was inevitably short lived.  That's why those of us familiar with such experiences took full advantage of the rare opportunity.  Now PHV is in the hands of owners.  Answers to questions are only a post or two away.  No more wonder.  No more anticipation.  We are participating in a different stage.  Market progress is what we make of it.  Hopefully, we do a good job of sharing our observations, enticing others to join in.  It's a different sort of excitement at this point. Jitters from pre-order uncertainty and the intense anticipation of delivery has been replaced by discovery at the dealer.  Just like in the past, the curious will crunch efficiency numbers and justify the well-balanced offering of features.  But it isn't until they actually sit behind the wheel for a test-drive that the worth is confirmed.  The rapid shut off of the engine and smoothness of the motor simply cannot be conveyed online.  There's that eerie silence too.  Interestingly, the lack of excitement from plugging in at home adds to the well thought out nature of the design.  You don't need to do anything special.  PHV is basically just another portable device to recharge.  You plug-in each evening much like you do with your smart-phone already.  I'm thrilled to be among the early owners, knowing it won't be long for others to join in.  The addition of an affordable plug is a natural next step, something easy to understand the benefits of.  In a market quite finicky when it comes to matters of acceptance, that's a very good thing.

7-22-2012

Motor & Battery Acceptance & Advancement.  Stepping back to consider the big picture, that "has done nothing" is a quite a remarkable statement to make.  Prius advanced the market, fundamentally altering the way people looked up motor & battery usage in passenger vehicles.  Prior to rollout, the majority believed anything electric was so slow it couldn't be driven along with the flow of traffic.  Now we hear complaints of ordinary people driving them the same way they do with other vehicles, weaving in & out of traffic and speeding.  The majority also believed the only way to recharge a battery was with a plug.  They are well aware now that isn't actually the case.  In addition to that, PHV is about to inform people how much more hybrids have to offer.  It's really too bad that acceptance has not been seen by that particular individual.  But it is educational for us to learn that are some who have no appreciation for the market advancements which have already taken place.  What other vehicle has provided such a fundamental shift in acceptance?  In the past, it was always a new technology that was spread to other vehicles without any real attention given to how it was introduced.  Significant improvement to emissions & consumption has clearly identified Prius as the leader.  Know why?  It's because each generation was better than the previous... an aspect the market has come to expect, quite contrary to the "has done nothing" claim.

7-22-2012

Looking For Clues.  It takes a long time to figure out what some people's motives actually are.  Sometimes, they aren't even honest with themselves, making it unwise to accept anything claimed without detail to support it.  Patience is required.  Other influences help a lot, as we are now seeing with the emergence of Energi.  The variety of perspectives provide clues otherwise never revealed.  Looking for then is a challenge, but rewarding when actually found.  Since once found, you can actually communicate constructively rather than just posting facts and hoping for some type of acceptance.  Today, it was this revelation: "The Prius family has done nothing but convince the vast majority of consumers that conventional powertrains are the smart choice and why compromise?"  I had no idea he didn't believe in progressive upgrades.  That's just an inherent part of the younger generations.  They naturally expect each new product replacement to be better than the previous.  Those of us buying MP3 players over the past decade have experienced that firsthand.  That's the case for computers over the past 2 decades as well.  Each new one offered an improved processor, a larger hard-drive, and more memory.  Why is believing the same won't be true for vehicles too?  He obviously doesn't.  Of course, if you read posts from Volt enthusiasts, many don't believe the increased power & speed from PHV is even possible.  Some absolutely insist the engine will start up with anything more than just the lightest touch on the pedal.  And that's exactly what I mean about them not being honest with themselves.  How many times can you be told that's not true before you finally question your own assumption?  Long story short, I now understand why that particular person has always fought so intensely against all hybrids yet heavily endorsed Volt.  His ideal didn't meet business or consumer need.

7-21-2012

Seeing Red.  That caused panic back with the Iconic model.  When the charge-level indicator for the battery dropped to 2 bars, the color within changed from blue to pink.  That was nothing but a driver convenience, so you wouldn't actually have to count the bars.  The color told you at a glance.  But rather than seeing pink, some people interpreted that as a light red and fear set it.  They jumped to the conclusion that something must be wrong... taking drastic measure upon first discovery, some as much as pulling off the road and calling for help.  Thankfully, those extreme over-reactions were rare, but nonetheless an enlightening insight into how some people think.  Something similar is happening with the red zone on the the Eco-Meter now.  But rather than panic, they do their best to never make it happen.  And unlike the Iconic owners in the past learning of their incorrect assumption, some owners now may never find.  I would suspect they are associated that red with the redline on a tachometer, indicating stress on the engine.  That most definitely is not the case for Prius.  But how to you get pass the assumptions some people make.  How would they ever even find out their response is incorrect.  Fortunately, the resulting lower MPG and traffic impairment they clues them in.  I provided this on a thread today about this particular problem:  Keep in mind the purpose of the PWR zone is to inform you that the ideal has been exceeded, so keep it brief.  It is not there to inform that you are requesting too much power or driving in an inefficient way.  Far too many new owners misunderstand that intent and assume it should be avoided entirely.

7-21-2012

Welcome, Energi.  It certainly has been a wild ride lately.  With Volt enthusiasts having run out of excuses for a more affordable model being offered, the turn to attacking those who make any mention of cost or tax-credit dependency revealed how desperate the situation had become.  Shot the messenger and avoid addressing actual need at all costs, that's an undeniable sign of trouble.  Diverting the discussion to Prius hadn't worked, since there's enough real-world data now to question why a 16 kWh battery-pack was deemed absolutely necessary for Volt.  I was always amazed they felt so threatened by a plug-in hybrid offering just 4.4 kWh.  Perhaps they were paying attention after all, quietly accepting the reality that adding capacity is much easier than reducing it.  We already know Prius PHV can utilize sub-packs, switching to another as the other became depleted.  And of course, combining all the cells into a single pack allows for greater discharge rates, which provides more horsepower.  That then exposes the shortcoming of Volt, the loss of power with less battery available.  Anywho, Ford is totally taking advantage of the situation.  It was stated in the press release this way: "The new Ford C-MAX Energi is expected to achieve more than 20 miles of electric-only range – nearly double the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid..."  Knowing that PHV delivers more than the 11-mile rating anyway, that really gives the Volt enthusiasts something to worry about.  Obviously, the price is still a concern and naturally that wasn't provided yet.  But the point is difficult to deny.  This other statement from Ford was a thought-provoker too: "With a maximum electric-only speed projected to top that of Prius plug-in, C-MAX Energi drivers might be able to reach wherever they're going a little faster, too."  It's 62 mph for PHV.  What does that actually mean?  In the end, it doesn't matter.  The point is that choices are expanding.  The new offering is another endorsement of what middle-market is more likely to purchase.  That's an new offensive coming from another front... which they knew was coming, but hoped it wouldn't matter.

7-20-2012

Welcome, Volt.  Being available nationwide since late last year, the situation for Volt is quite different.  We've observed it's turnover rate already.  Specific vehicles sit on the lot for weeks.  Sales are well under expectations.  Some of that is from the concept of plugging in.  Some of it is from uncertain expectations.  Some of that, obviously, is from price.  That last reason irritates the Volt enthusiasts more than anything, as this quote today so expresses: "I wish people would get off the price thing as it makes no sense."  I enjoyed responding to that:  You wish the automotive market made sense! The certainly explains the bewilderment of so many Volt enthusiasts.  Those of us supporting hybrids years ago attempted to convey the illogical decisions being made by business & consumers.  They were always dismissed as an effort to covertly promote Prius.  No matter what we said, the words of warning were always believed to somehow not apply to Volt.  Now those enthusiasts are scratching their heads wondering why the "better" points aren't well accepted.  Turns out, that even a vehicle which performs quite well may not result in many sales.  In other words, the purchase criteria for ordinary mainstream buyers makes no sense.  That's why there are billions of dollars spent on advertisements promoting features of vehicles you'll never actually ever use.  Welcome to the real world.

 

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