Prius Personal Log  #586

September 16, 2012  -  September 21, 2012

Last Updated: Mon. 10/08/2012

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9-21-2012

On Paper.  When all else fails, that's how a vehicle is promoted.  Calculations derive from assumptions & generalizations.  The numbers shown are idealizations, not what you should actually expect.  Real-World driving isn't like that.  There are no patterns when it comes to the everyday needs of ordinary consumers.  They don't adhere to any type of routine.  Quite of a bit of variety occurs.  Just between food & entertainment, it doesn't take much to imagine the lack of anything predictable.  Add a child to the equation.  What happens?  You end up running all over the place.  From day to day, results will vary dramatically.  It's simply not realistic to read a review and hope the results are what you'll get.  That's why the rhetoric is able to persist for so long.  Those hoping to undermine just feed you fragments of information that's out of context and not in sequence.  They confuse & mislead.  It's the same old greenwashing we've seen over and over again.  The only difference now is that effort is focused on plug-in vehicles rather than regular hybrids.  It's really unfortunate, but quite predictable.  Avoid on-paper calculations from others.  Watch for detail from owners.

9-21-2012

Battery Questions.  Some do come up still, from time to time.  Fortunately, most are easily answered... like this one: "I have a few cordless tools that the batteries need to be replaced every few years. I guess it is a different technology."  That's quite difference from many years ago, when there were fierce undermining assaults launched by very determined antagonists.  Nowadays, there are innocents queries from those hoping to become Prius owners.  Thank goodness.  The information I posted from seeing that particular comment was:  The hybrid doesn't allow deep discharges, which is what shortens the life of rechargeable batteries.  There isn't any protective mechanism to prevent that on your cordless tools.  They cannot just fire up an engine to continue operating; instead, the battery gets stressed.  After all, think about how often people ignore low indicators... using their phone until the very last moment of electricity is squeezed out.  That just plain won't happen with a regular or plug-in hybrid, since the system automatically controls that for you.

9-21-2012

Done.  The sure sign that discussions are done is when there's nothing constructive posted anymore, when it degenerates to nothing by stirring old history and shooting the messenger.  That's what happened with Volt.  The enthusiasts cherry-pick data, then accuse you of being hypocritical & vague.  It's the same pattern of spin we've seen for years, nothing new.  The response to expectations not being met is textbook, quite familiar & predictable.  It does get messy though, since some of the information they present is misleading due to it not having happened when they imply it did.  That's what makes fact checking so difficult.  Few people have detailed blogs as I do, allowing them to search for a very specific mention of something.  It allows me to ensure the attacks, simply allowing them to fizzle out due to lack of substance.  That made this particular quote an especially appropriate one nice to conclude with: "You have become just as bad as the anti-hybrid anti-prius folks in the early 2000's. Blowing hard with nothing behind your statements."  And I did:  For that to be the case, I'd have to be against plug-in vehicles entirely, just as those opposing hybrids were against any use of battery & motor.  The proper comparison is being just like those who opposed Two-Mode, seeing it as an expensive approach without the ability to reach a wide audience quickly.  And sure enough, that's exactly what became of it.  I see the market for plug-in hybrids being embraced soon, not having to wait for a next generation design or being dependent on tax-credits.  I also own one already, with lots of real-world data to back my statements.

9-20-2012

Middle-Market.  I ultimately asked this in response to the endless spin about target & goals: "What is Volt attempting to achieve now?"  It's an attempt to look ahead, moving beyond those still spinning the past and shooting the messenger.  My question followed yet another attempt to redefine middle-market, which I replied to with this:  No matter how many times I answer the question, it keeps getting asked.  The reason why is simple.  The answer wasn't liked and raising doubt is an effective way to prevent conclusions from being drawn.  That report about plug-in electric vehicles just published highlights the painfully slow progress anticipated for them.  Fortunately, Toyota took the priority of affordability very serious, designing a plug-in system that would significantly improve efficiency without requiring a large battery-pack.  That targets it squarely at mainstream consumers, those who have considered the regular Prius but would like more from the system.  The simplicity of a full recharge from an ordinary household outlet in just 2.5 hours and getting a big MPG boost regardless of driving is compelling.  The fact that the system can be augmented even further simply by increasing battery-capacity makes it a competitive platform.  Unfortunately, that's not what GM delivered.  They're trapped with an inflexible design and the consequences are becoming apparent.

9-19-2012

0.1 EV Miles.  Several times this week alone, I've ended up pulling into the driveway with just 0.1 miles of EV remaining.  It's quite clear that you become familiar with your surroundings after awhile.  I take advantage of that HV/EV button, toggling the engine on when electricity alone is not the most efficient choice.  That is pretty much always when on the highway.  But there are a few times when driving home I see that a long suburb stretch would be better driven in hybrid mode.  It takes surprisingly little thought about when to do that too.  It's to the point of almost being automatic.  I figured that would happen eventually.  This soon was a nice treat.  With the screen right there in front of you, that really doesn't take much effort to contemplate need.  It's like how you estimate arrival time getting home so you don't miss the start of a television show.  No matter where you are, the guestimate is remarkably accurate despite all the factors of influence to consider.

9-19-2012

New Behavior?  It's difficult to answer questions about Prius operation, now that there's a smaller model that uses a different engine & motors.  Assuming behavior isn't new seems reasonable.  Why would tolerances like temperature differ?  And if they did, it wouldn't be but a large amount.  Though, there are modes to choose from.  Fortunately, observations so far have matched postulations.  So, now that daily temperatures are dropping, new questions have been relatively straight-forward to answer.  Asking about the heater is what I can see as a very popular post topic.  Winter performance is often what convinces those toying with the idea of a Prius purchase to take the plunge.  It's nice knowing aspects like reliability and battery-life are no longer top concerns.  In fact, we rarely hear about them anymore.  Simple things like heat availability are the focus now.  Cool.  (pun intended)  Anywho, my response to one of those questions today was this short & sweet reply:  ECO mode reduces the temperature tolerance of the engine coolant in the regular Prius from 145°F to 114°F, meaning the engine will shut off sooner.  I suspect Prius c has the same shut off point.  It's one of the benefits of ECO not realized until the cold season arrives.

9-19-2012

Overkill.  The chapter having closed is obvious.  Even the offense effort on the big Prius forum has fizzled.  We've moved on.  What started as subtle downplay amplified as the time progressed, turned into some rather intense exchanges.  At this point, it's very easy to see that Volt is overkill, the same over-engineering problem we've seen with other consumer products.  A good analogy is trying to sell a SLR camera to someone who is simply looking for a point & shot.  Arguments about value are valid, but they don't actually fit requirements and are more than the budget can afford.  Toyota's priority focus differs significantly from GM, which Volt enthusiasts now see... hence so much of the old propaganda falling on deaf ears.  The mainstream audience simply isn't looking what had been given so much attention.  Reality has set in.

9-18-2012

Roadway Recognition.  It finally happened.  Hooray!  I was at an intersection.  The woman starred over with a look of disbelief, then excitement.  She rolled open her window, pointed to the "Plug-In Hybrid" emblem, then yelled: "I even like the color!"  That was my first roadway recognition.  I wasn't expecting it.  So, the surprise was extra exciting.  Next year, when you can actually purchase a Prius PHV in Minnesota, the story will be different.  Having to buy one now and have it shipped over or flying out to drive it back is highly unlikely... hence her disbelief seeing mine.  Not being alone is what I'm looking forward to.  With so many Prius on the road, mine blends in.  Other owners will notice the subtle differences though.  In the meantime, I'm preparing for the big freeze.  The approaching cold-season brings new opportunity... stuff I'll experience firsthand, but won't be able to share with anyone else in person.  Oh well.  There will be some from other northern states online posting their experiences.  Mine will be about long exposure to very cold conditions.  Other will be more about snowy driving.  They'll have even less of a chance of getting recognized.  Roadway encounters will be quite limited.  I'll relish this first one.  It's a good memory.

9-18-2012

Temperature Dropping.  The days of morning commutes with the temperature in the mid-70's are gone.  That means EV capacity will be somewhat reduced and the engine will run for heat from time to time.  Yesterday's temperature on the way to work was 5F.  First impression was that I could already see a change.  But then again, I was driving a bit faster than usual.  I don't expect to see results above 200 MPG anymore on the fast route.  That was quite normal for the 70 mph route.  In this case, I pulled into the parked spot seeing 168 MPG for the average on the display.  Early this morning I had to run an errand, so I won't have full capacity available for the drive to work in a few minutes.  The temperature was 45°F.  It certainly isn't Summer anymore.  Fall has arrived.  Fortunately, EV power isn't diminished.  My climb up that steep residential hill didn't require the engine.  40 mph uphill with electricity is no big deal with battery-pack delivering 38 kW (51 hp).  That's why cruising at 62 mph without the engine is also routine.  Anywho, it's getting colder.  Discussions about Winter are growing.

9-17-2012

Auto Start-Stop.  12 years ago, Ford boasted about delivering this ability.  It took until now for it to finally happen.  Needless to say, hope differed significantly from reality.  What will consumers think?  If most of your driving is non-stop, benefit of having the engine shut off when not needed won't account for much.  There's the problem of still needing to run the cooling-pump and A/C system too.  Fusion will be the debut vehicle to offer the feature.  It adds $295 to the purchase price.  How will MPG even be interpreted?  The savings is likely less than the margin-of-error a computer estimate could provide.  It's a strange option to sell on a 2013 vehicle, now that plug-in hybrids are available.  It reminds me of FFV sales.  Getting people to spend extra (in that case, the ability to use E85 fuel) on something that should really be standard didn't work well.  Demand was so low, the promotion just fizzled away.  It never became standard either.  The idea just basically died.  This probably will too.  I certainly haven't heard any consumers or even consumer-groups wanting it.

9-16-2012

$3.99 Per Gallon.  Last week closed with oil at $99 per barrel.  That pushed the price of gas here to $3.99 per gallon.  Normally, we're on the lower side.  Now, we're somewhere in the middle.  Living on either coast would be more expensive... hence many of those states targeted first for plug-in rollout.  Of course, that may be one reason why we adopt rather quickly here.  Out wait is longer.  Anticipation can be an effective attracter.  Anywho, seeing gas hit the $4 more often is clearly having an effect.  There's a push for small traditional vehicles.  That puts pressure on the plug-in offerings, making it the priority of cost even more important.  This is a critical time, when opportunity should not be disregarded.  Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happening.  The downplay continues.

9-16-2012

As Winter Approaches.  That rhetoric from others is almost entirely gone now.  Focus has clearly shifted over to Prius, specifically how the plug-in operates as the temperature drops.  The question which really stirred specifically addressed the heater.  I was happy to jump in with:  Heat from the engine does not defeat the purpose of having a plug.  You still get an extremely efficient system even when the engine runs.  Just look at what happens when you accelerate onto a highway when the system is cold.  The result is MPG above 50 during warm-up.  That's a fantastic worst case scenario.  Heat comes from warmed coolant. Once warm, the engine will shut off.  It will remain that way until the coolant temperature drops below a threshold (which is 114°F in ECO mode and 145°F in Normal & Power).  The engine will then start up and run.  It doesn't take long for that threshold to be reached at the engine shut off again.  So while driving in EV, the engine will cycle on & off.  That's actually the same as what happens with the regular model Prius, only you have much more power available when driving with the engine off.  For me, with heavy commute congestion caused by snow, I remember being shut in hopelessly slow traffic watching the engine start up every 8 minutes.  That seems like a surprisingly long time to have the heater running without the engine providing any warmth to the coolant... until you witness it firsthand and think about how Prius was designed specifically with heat creation & retention as a priority.  Remember, heat is also needed for cleansing emissions.  So generating it quickly is very important.

9-16-2012

Potential.  GM's choice to place all it's eggs in one basket with Volt continues to be a problem.  There is no hybrid equivalent to help it advance design quickly, bring production costs down, and assist with reliability reputation building.  Remember, supporters of Prius were stressing the advantage of the power-split approach way back, since the very beginning.  We pointed out how plug augmentation later would allow the same system to deliver much higher efficiency simply through the use of more battery power... which is precisely what ended up happening.  From another perspective, Volt reverts back to tradition vehicle efficiency after depletion.  Prius doesn't.  Prius remains a high-efficiency vehicle even when depleted.  That means a model without a plug is very realistic... which is quite obvious now, but was highly debated ages ago.  The one-size-fits-all promotion is another problem.  Look at Camry.  That hybrid system offers much more power.  Consider the size of Prius v.  Think what would happen if those two vehicles got merged.  Think what would happen with a plug were added.  Think about the all-wheel drive that the Highlander & Estima hybrids already offer.  The potential is very easy to see.  With Volt, what's going to happen?  This topic of production temporarily being halted should have stirred that type of discussion; instead, we get spinning about history & purpose.  That's clearly not a good sign.

 

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