Prius Personal Log  #583

August 27, 2012  -  September 3, 2012

Last Updated: Mon. 10/08/2012

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9-03-2012

Very Very Different.  It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to see what's happening.  Sales pressure continues to build.  Enthusiast of Volt are clearly on edge.  On what's left of that daily blog, I posted:  Facts getting voted down is not a good sign.  That's a dead giveaway something isn't right.  Originating from this statement, "Toyota beat the advertising drum repeatedly for years to build up the image of the Prius and make it more acceptable and desirable.", it's fairly easy to see what the actual story really was.  Misconceptions were abundant then.  "YOU HAVE TO PLUG IT IN" was by far the biggest.  All of the early owners were constantly explaining to people how the system actually worked.  "CAN YOU DRIVE ON THE HIGHWAY" was a close tie with "HOW OFTEN DO YOU HAVE TO REPLACE THE BATTERY" for the most common questions.  Let's not forget how cheap gas was back then and how low of a priority using less was.  What would the point be of heavily promoting the first generation knowing the second generation was already well into development anyway?  Remember, that's when the switch from sedan to hatchback took place.  That change alone would seriously complicate the purchase decision.  The fact that Prius wasn't even available on dealer's lots until 6 months before the rollout of that next generation began was another.  (Prior to that required direct order and delivery wait.)  Why promote something in such limited supply?  Long story short, the situation for Volt is very very different.

9-03-2012

999 Again.  I thought the start of the holiday weekend two days ago presented a rare event, driving the entire day using nothing but electricity.  Turns out, today was the same way... 9 miles before... 10 miles this time.  That's fun to experience.  It's a nice benefit of living in the suburbs.  Most of what you need is only a few minutes away and you usually don't need to jump onto a highway.  That was indeed the case both days for me.  There's no effort to drive with pure EV.  It just happens at times.  Owning a plug-in hybrid means outstanding MPG.  Having an engine that rapidly shuts off is part of that.  But seeing the 999 MPG from time to time is still nice.  Just think if I had a shorter daily commute.  Then I'd see it far more often than an occasional weekend.  My frequent road trips means dropping all the way down into the 50's.  Can you believe I can tolerate such low efficiency?  Imagine if other vehicles had that problem.  Sadly, most don't even achieve 50 at their best.

9-02-2012

i-MiEV Sightings.  I saw my first Mitsubishi EV, called the i-MiEV, a few days ago at the Minnesota State Fair.  Today, we just happened to drive by a dealer.  There were 4 available on the lot.  It was an odd sight, but still not as out of place as a Smart or Fiat dealer.  The radical looking small car isn't what you see on the road around here.  Several other cars have mimicked Prius over the years, confirming the sensible nature of the size & shape even for non-hybrids.  The lack of basically any hood at all is a step beyond that, not something a traditional vehicle could adopt either.  No engine at all and limited range already make selling an EV a big challenge.  Visual appeal adds to that.  I'd be intrigued to find out what others think.  After all, Nissan Leaf much more closely resembles a traditional vehicle.  But even with that, sales have been under expectations.  I obviously reducing the use of an engine rather than eliminating it entirely.  People's needs differ though.  It's good to offer a variety.  Time will tell.

8-31-2012

Two-Mode Discontinued.  Announcements from GM tend to be ambiguous, so you can never really hold them to a particular decision later on.  It's irritating that other automakers are clear about their intent, yet GM still remains as it was in the past.  But with all the spin coming from supporters, it really doesn't matter much anyway.  Sales end up speaking for themselves.  Results of them have been so bad, we get new of Two-Mode being discontinued just before the month comes to a close.  The choice to get ahead of the inevitable bad news seems to be a good one.  We'll find out soon enough.  I'm relieved the nonsense is over.  Once hyped as the solution for their entire line-up, it quickly became something only for the large guzzlers.  Seeing it not catch on after all these years (nearly 6 now), the time had come.  Either we'd see that next generation promised or the program would come to an end.  Looks like it's the latter.  My summary of the situation was in the form of a comparison, since there's an obvious parallel enthusiasts continue to refuse to address:  The Two-Mode aspects of meeting middle-market need closely resemble that of Volt.  Even though both delivered significant efficiency improvement, the cost has made them well out of reach.  Too much sacrifice was made for the sake of capacity & power.  A better balance is required.  Problem is, the vehicle won't stand out then... which is not the type GM has wanted to build & sell.  In other words, a radical approach shift is required.  This decision may be a sign of that actually happening.

8-31-2012

Month End Trouble.  It's getting intense.  The friction Volt continues to cause now is worse than last year.  That's because there's more pressure to deliver now than there was then.  Availability in all 50 states and wide recognition is what makes it different this year.  That should translate to higher sales.  Instead, the outlook look bleak... just bragging rights among other plug-in models rather than taking the market by storm as it had once been hyped.  I tried to injection some realism into the situation, but you know how that usually turns out:  GM's own second-year sales projections is what we should keep focused on.  They were originally 60,000 annual here, which is the mainstream minimum that's been used for ages.  So, it made sense.  Volt's purpose is to become a common vehicle, right?  As this year began, the number got revised to 45,000.  Fine.  The adjustment was reasonable, acknowledging a slow market startup but still pushing to get beyond the tax-credit dependency.  2,500 falls well short of the revision, bringing the rate to 30,000 annual.  What does that mean?  Reading this thread, that s a good question.  Not remembering when things happened and the omission of information is one thing.  But voting down of facts, how is that constructive?  With Ford about to enter the plug-in hybrid market, the mixed messages about Volt will become a liability.  Market need must be addressed.  Want should not dictate approach.

8-31-2012

Efficiency Cost.  That has always been the biggest topic of debate when it comes to hybrids.  That's why the cost of Volt has been such a concern by so many.  Anywho, on the opposite end of the spectrum is eAssist... or so we thought.  The point of that particular technology was making it so inexpensive it would be feasible to make it standard.  That seems to be reasonable too, if it actually delivered a decent MPG bump.  Turns out, the efficiency difference is only modest and the price way more than anticipated.  For Buick Regal, it will indeed be included on all models.  However, the 2012 (with eAssist an option) was $27,055 and the 2013 base (with eAssist standard) will be $29,015.  That's a nearly $2,000 increase.  For a large sedan delivering only 29 MPG combined, that doesn't exactly stir much attention.  The hybrid Camry delivers 41 MPG combined and starts at $25,990.  The hybrid Fusion delivers 47 MPG combined and starts at $27,200.  How exactly is GM's hybrid even remotely competitive with Toyota or Ford?  This is the concern many of us have been really worried about.  Even if things look good at the moment, next year and the following don't appear that way.

8-31-2012

More Stations.  What a pleasant and quite unexpected discovery today.  Within next few months, the plans are to have 2 more charging-stations installed at the ramp where I park for work.  That's exciting.  When rollout of the plug-in Prius finally starts here in Minnesota, there will be more than just a few token spots available.  That's a big plus considering how inconsiderate a few traditional vehicle owners have been in the past.  When there is only a spot or two available, people have been known to park there with a vehicle that can't even be plugged in.  That's referred to as an "ICE'd" spot, since it is used by an Internal Combustion Engine vehicle rather than a plug-in hybrid or EV.  With more spots, that's less likely to happen... since the area set off to the side for plugs will be highly visible rather than something easy enough to claim ignorance to.  The spot situation is difficult enough when you've got a variety of plug-ins all wanting to use them.  After all, who should get priority when availability is limited?  And what is the protocol when your charging has completed but you haven't left yet?  Is it acceptable for the next person to begin using that charger without checking with you first?  For those of us with smart-phones and the connection-service, we'll get notified immediately.  How will we respond?  Then of course, there's the issue of cost?  I have already seen a change from a per-hour to a per-kilowatt approach at one location locally.  How will that change over time based on demand?  There are many questions.  Getting answers starts with having more stations available.

8-30-2012

54 MPG.  That's the new requirement stated in the CAFE rules just revealed.  Seeing a fleet average that high seems a bit of a stretch considering how much automakers other than Toyota still have to strive to increase MPG in their variety of vehicles.  But then you realize those numbers are different from the measurement EPA provides.  The criteria is less stringent.  It's easier to fulfill these.  Nonetheless, it is an improvement to the current situation.  Our fuel efficiency standards are pretty disappointing.  The industry lowered them.  40 had once been the goal.  Now, we see the combined value down in the low to mid 30's.  Considering how long Prius has been available, that's bad.  You'd think an effort would have been made to match that.  Decades from now, they'll look back at what happened with amazement.  Instead, of trying to be competitive, the monster-size guzzlers became popular.  Prius actually had to face Hummer as a mainstream choice.  What the heck!?

8-29-2012

First Sighting.  YES!!!!!!  I saw a new Prius approaching.  He was turning left.  I was turning right.  As I did, the green color stood out.  Could it actually be?  Sure enough, the emblem said "PLUG-IN HYBRID".  My jaw dropped.  With only 2 known PHV in all of Minnesota, what was the story with this third one?  I had to find out.  So, I just stopped along the drive.  Sure enough, he pulled up along side me without concern for blocking traffic.  His was only 2 weeks old, driven all the way from Portland to vacation out here.  Encountering mine (and at that point the wildly excited driver) was quite a surprise for him.  So, we pulled into spots and chatted for a bit.  That was sweet.  The potential for PHV next year when national rollout begins is remarkable.  Just listening to the conversation two owners can stir up is powerful confirmation.  All the rhetoric about the battery-pack being too small will fade away fairly quick.  The simple operation and overall efficiency speaks for itself.  Getting the word out about that is the key... something we as owners are happy to provide.

8-29-2012

Charger Available.  Every now and then, a PHV owner reports getting unplugged before charging is complete.  It was easy to blame Nissan Leaf owners for not understanding the charge indicator-light, since their system illuminates when complete.  That's the opposite of Prius.  Of course, there is the possibility that they felt EV need paramount to a plug-in hybrid and didn't care.  It's hard to tell.  However, that misunderstanding shouldn't last too much longer.  The excuse is weak.  That indicator education is simple.  The charger itself also tells you status of the vehicle plugged into it.  For the public charging-station type I use, the screen clearly says "Available" when draw from the vehicle has ended.  That's important, since usage isn't always free.  If someone pays for service and the cord is removed prior to finish, do you think they will be ok with that happening?

8-28-2012

Surprise Safety Feature.  Normally when you encounter a vehicle stopped ahead, you either lift your foot off the accelerator-pedal or press the brake.  Without anyone approaching, the road was basically just us, I knew that vehicle would be getting out of my path soon.  So, I didn't bother.  If for some bizarre reason it didn't actually move, switching to the other lane on my right was no big deal.  Whoa!  All of sudden the display screen changed to a warning (an exclamation-point with a vehicle image) and an alert sound shrieked.  The radar system on the Prius detected the danger and was attempting to inform me.  I had no idea that safety feature existed, especially without the dynamic cruise-control even on.  Apparently, the radar is always scanning the area in front of the vehicle.  What a surprise.  Sweet!

8-28-2012

First Competition.  To be a "killer" of "Prius" as the article title implies, more criteria would need to be exceeded.  The published claims hover a little too close to cherry-picking, rather than being a slam dunk.  C-Max is well thought out, a very good endorsement to the FULL hybrid design many of us have been endorsing for over a decade now.  So, there's no problem at all acknowledging what Ford has delivered as companion worthy of helping to overcome the reign of traditional vehicles.  What I find fascinating is how the publicity for C-Max focuses on Prius v exclusively with detail but generically refers to Prius.  That will establish a heightened awareness for both the Ford & Toyota products.  It's a subtle approach to build the market rather than just garnish bragging rights.  That's a dramatic difference from what we've seen from a certain other Detroit automaker.  I'm excited to see the field expanding, finally.  The well-established reputation Prius has speaks for itself.  So when offerings expand, consumers will have choices to consider.  Their resulting education is priceless.  In the meantime, I'm quite pleased with my 85 MPG average with the plug-in so far.  More real-world data from owners will help us overcome the terrible rut the industry has been stuck in.

8-27-2012

4 Blocks.  It was late at night.  I had 4 fairly short blocks to go and only 0.1 mile of electricity available for EV.  What the heck!  Why not?  Watching the Eco-Meter, I kept the speed at the lowest possible draw to keep going at a reasonable pace on that lonely neighborhood road.  That ended up being 18 mph.  I made it just fine to the gas station.  The cold engine wouldn't need to start up until after I had documented that current tank's statistics.  It's a bit of a moot point after having driven so far without having plugged in much.  But there's this element of curiosity of wanting to know that you simply cannot resist.  The discovery process is quite compelling when you are already driving what is an excellent fit for being a common vehicle of the future.  Then, no one will care.  Exceeding 75 MPG will be no big deal.  Unfortunately now, we have automakers proudly advertising MPG in the mid-30's.

 

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