Prius Personal Log  #588

October 2, 2012  -  October 6, 2012

Last Updated: Mon. 10/08/2012

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10-06-2012

$4.69 Per Gallon.  Why gas is currently that price in San Francisco is a bit of a mystery.  Other cities in California have also seen a sharp rise in price.  It is a bit odd.  Reason isn't getting much attention though, timing is.  There's a major political election rapidly approaching and hybrids are poised to benefit significantly from gas trouble.  When consumer wallets & purses are squeezed, change happens.  Embracing hybrids isn't a big deal anymore either... the affordable models, that is.  But with the price so high, even the expensive ones may see a decent bump in sales.  It's hard to predict how people will react.  After all, the monster-size guzzlers used for commuting have pretty much vanished entirely.  Now, we're seeing a steady growth in small cars and a drop in how much consumers are willing to spend.  It's a thought-provoking new trend.  What will happen?  Some automakers will be well positioned.  Some automakers will struggle to adapt.

10-06-2012

Dang Good.  That was my assessment of the 168 miles of driving I did today.  It started with an ice-scraper.  With the outside temperature at just 34°F, snow from the night before wasn't melting quickly.  There wasn't much, but it certainly was a taste of what's to come.  You sometimes forget about the bliss the warmth of Summer brings.  But then again, the cold-season can be fun too.  It's quite different though.  And with a plug-in hybrid now, it's bound to be exciting.  Anywho, I was up in northern Minnesota without anywhere to plug in.  So, I only had 1.2 miles of electricity available.  With so little remaining, the entire trip would basically be just with the engine supplying the energy.  I had a cargo area stuffed full, a passenger in front, and 2 bikes to carry on the back.  It was a great scenario to see how the Li-Ion battery-pack would perform compared to the NiMH.  Having done that same trip the same way in the past, I was expecting low 40's for the outcome.  Instead, the result was 47 MPG.  That's pretty dang good.  Heck, some hybrids at their best cannot deliver that.  This situation was far from ideal, yet the efficiency was still worthy of celebration.  Yeah!

10-06-2012

New Attack.  Hype about Volt is long gone.  The silence about last month's sales is deafening.  The big GM forum had virtually nothing to say.  Several days later, on a new thread specifically about Volt sales and speculation about a Voltec product-line, a new attack emerged: "Comparing the 2011 4cyl Buick Lacrosse to the 2012 version with eAssist yields an MPG improvement of 31.6% city and 20% highway based on EPA ratings. Not too shabby IHMO yet for whatever reason, the inexpensive and effective eAssist technology continues to get ridiculed and flogged by certain "hybrid snobs"... "  Among those listed as snobs, there was the big Prius forum, which was also called "anti-GM".  There are obvious attempts to build up a new following, since the old has completely fallen apart.  There are many names from the past gone now, enthusiasts disenchanted from the rollout not meeting expectations.  So this outcome really isn't a surprise.  It was inevitable something else would emerge to take the place of Volt's struggle.  Anywho, I had to respond to such a blatant attempt:  Whatever reason?  29 MPG combined is terrible!  Taking about lowering our standards.  Ford's hybrid Fusion delivers 47 MPG combined.  Toyota's hybrid Camry delivers 41 MPG combined.  In GM's own words, it is a "stop gap" technology.  How can it compete?  Unlike the Ford & Toyota designs, adding a higher capacity battery-pack and a plug isn't realistic either.  What's the point?  There's a massive product gap between eAssist & Voltec too.  What more reason do you need?

10-05-2012

Snow.  It snowed this evening.  The heater was running on a low fan-setting & temperature the entire drive.  Just like with the regular Prius, the plug-in kept the engine off until the coolant dropped below 114°F.  Unfortunately, our journey was over 50 miles and the drive through town was really short.  The rest was country highway cruising.  So, I don't really have much else to report yet.  Though, during the brief warm-up period, I did get an opportunity to try out the heated seats.  The effect with the new synthetic leather felt nice.  Anywho, it won't be long before I block the lower grille.  Fall was way too short this year.

10-05-2012

Emergency Stop!  I had to hit the brakes really hard.  It wasn't a case of slamming them and hoping for the best with the anti-locks.  This was a stop as fast as possible while monitoring the obstacle in front and the vehicle following behind.  A very large turkey had wondered onto the road, which I was traveling on at 60 mph.  It took up about half the lane.  That's a big bird.  Hitting it with the Prius was obviously undesirable.  Swerving into the opposing lane wasn't an option.  I had no choice but hope a controlled stop would do the trick.  It did.  Phew!  There was a strange sound though.  Both me and my passenger got pulled tightly back into our seats.  The sound coincided with that.  It was the shoulder strap.  I had no idea that in the event of an emergency, it would tighten up rather than just lock as with vehicles of the past.  That's a new safety feature I was unaware of.  Sweet!  Discovering that made me really happy.  The turkey was pretty happy too.

10-04-2012

Wagon Sightings.  Spending a few days up north sure revealed a surprise.  The wagon model of Prius (known as "v") certainly is popular.  Away from the cities, that tends to make sense.  I can easily see the need for more cargo room out in the country.  There were plenty of regular models.  But the lack of the smallest (known as "c") seemed to confirm that impression.  Routinely sightings of that many of a new offering being chosen is great.  Taping into another consumer demograph is exactly what was hoped for.  Antagonists claimed the other models of Prius would take away sales from the regular liftback.  Clearly, that didn't happen.  Instead, sales have actually increased a little.  Combine that with sales of the new, you've got confirmation of growing demand.  2012 is working out to be a really good year.  That's quite a contrast to the multiple disasters in both 2011 and 2010.  The competition should be pleased that the market itself is expanding.  But in the short-run, I bet they're not feeling that way.

10-04-2012

Jetta Hybrid.  It looks like it finally will actually happen.  With so much being invested in diesel, it made everyone wonder how VW would ultimately compete.  The hybrid will be available the end of this year.  $24,995, plus a $795 destination charge, is the price for the base model.  There will be a 27-horsepower electric motor combined with a 1.4 liter turbocharged gas engine.  They will be connected to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.  Maximum electric-only speed is expected to be 44 mph.  The estimated efficiency is expected to be 45 MPG combined.  Both the automatic & manual diesels only offer an estimate of 34 MPG combined... making the hybrid an obvious efficiency leader for their product-line.  No one has any idea how VW customers will respond.  The hybrid is quite a shift from their approach in the past.  But with the price of both gas & diesel continuing to rise, something needed to happen.

10-04-2012

Understanding Plug-In Hybrids.  The difference between Prius PHV and Volt became confusing when GM revealed thrust from the engine is used directly sometimes.  The purity of electric-only was suppose to set Volt apart, but it ended up not delivering upon its own distinctiveness goal... making an understanding of approach & intent anything but clear.  Soon, Ford will enter the mix.  Their plug-in hybrid blurs the technology promotion further.  That makes sense though.  Each automaker must not impinge upon other patents and each has its own expertise.  Honda makes that point a big one.  The descriptions of their "Hybrid", "Engine", and "EV" drives are destined to be confused with the operational modes their plug-in hybrid will offer.  Fortunately, that's actually a good thing.  Rather than the looks-good-on-paper problem we've had to deal with so far, people will turn to actual real-world data instead.  Yeah!  The fact that Honda's plug-in hybrid doesn't rely on liquid cooling either will just be an important fact for those understanding production costs.  Consumers won't care.  Consumers will care about having a HOLD button though, which Honda offers.  Of course, GM now offers that too.  So, there is hope.  I'm thrilled that those we had viciously fought against it now claim there was never any doubt of its benefit.  PHV supporters remember though, since Toyota offered it from day one.  Long story short, the industry making progress toward identifying standards & expectations for the masses.  The rhetoric & propaganda is being replaced by feature & data.  That sure is a nice change.

10-04-2012

Leader?  Taking some time to enjoy Fall colors, checking the stir from monthly sales have been a low priority.  But now that the weather is blustery (cold, rainy, windy, and overcast), peaking into the online world is actually a nice change of pace.  Kick back and be amused, eh?  Yup.  Volt supporters are up to the same old spin... avoiding mainstream comparisons and failing to mention the plug-in Prius is still only available in 15 states.  Whatever.  The rest of us see what's really happening.  I especially looked forward to reading the comments from Detroit.  With sales of Volt steady, the headline saying "Volt expands its lead among rechargeable cars." had me wondering.  Sales of Volt only increased by 20, from 2,831 to 2,851.  Sales for PHV increased from 1,047 to 1,652.  That's 605 more for Prius, reducing the gap not expanding it.  Turns out, there was almost nothing said online.  People have grown tired of the nonsense.  Even this on the big GM forum didn't get much of a reaction: "Volt is doing well in it's market but that doesn't make it a good car for GM."  The progress is far slower than what's needed.  It's obvious attention has moved elsewhere.  I kept it simple:  The competition for Volt has been and will continue to be GM's own product-line.  Traditional vehicles hold a massive share of the production and clearly remain the business-sustaining revenue source.

10-04-2012

Fall.  It has arrived.  There was much to learn about the plug-in during Summer.  I would have liked to document it more with video.  But I it took all the resources I had available just to get a good jump on discovering what PHV has to offer.  Sadly, the warm-season is all too short here in Minnesota.  Fall is nice, but accepting the transition can be a challenge.  There's a bit of denial that certain outdoor activities just plain aren't realistic now.  Anywho, the dropping temperatures will bring about additional discovery.  The most obvious is the pressing question of blocking the front grille.  Fortunately, the answer is simple.  Yes, I will.  The routine won't change because this Prius has a plug.  The lower part of the grille will be blocked entirely.  The upper part will be exposed entirely.  That worked well in the 2010 model for the past 3 Winters.  The engine still gets the air it needs to operate, but the cooling of the coolant is greatly reduced in favor of retaining that precious heat.  I wait until the daily high no longer exceeds 55°F degrees.  That's when first notice warm-up taking longer.  It's also when you fire up the heater... since morning temperatures routinely are below freezing.  Enjoying Fall colors has been the hope, but the leaves are falling remarkably fast this year.  There aren't any vibrant reds or oranges either.  It's not as exciting as other years.  That's why focus is more on what having a plug is like instead.

10-03-2012

61 MPG.  We took a side-trip today, driving even further north.  There were no bikes this time.  Specifically, we went all the way to the very start of the Mississippi River, the headwaters where it is nothing but a tiny stream emerging from Lake Itasca.  That was a unique experience.  There just happened to be a forest fire in the distance then, which filled the state park with smoke.  That resulted in photos quite unlike what countless others have taken at that same popular location... a strange twist of good fortune.  It was a bit on the cold side.  There was very little wind on the way up, hence the smoke settling.  Later on, it turned into a substantial crosswind... which ended up clearing up the sky, providing a great view of Fall colors.  We drove to and climbed up the (now rather ironic) fire tower.  That consumed 7 miles of EV, which was a true delight.  I thoroughly enjoyed the scenic vista using nothing but electricity.  The drive back home was pleasant, despite the wind.  With a maximum travel speed of 60 mph and use of some plug-supplied electricity, the resulting average from that 198-mile journey was 61 MPG.  I'd say that was great efficiency.

10-03-2012

Efficiency Chatting.  Talk of engine improvement coming from Toyota has stirred again.  Direct-Injection will be introduced next year, first deployed in a hybrid.  Specifically, the Crown hybrid will get it.  In Japan, that's the equivalent of our Camry hybrid here.  What a great way to start.  New engines for the traditional vehicles will shortly follow, using direct-injection as well.  This obviously translates to what we've been hoping for all along, the next generation Prius offering even greater efficiency.  The hints given so far seem to indicate an overall increase of 10 percent.  Talk of even higher MPG from other advances will add to that.  Other automakers have already demonstrated the gains to be achieved.  Toyota's focus on other priorities left them playing a bit of catch up.  Though, the timing now nicely coincidences with the usual upgrade cycle anyway.  That certainly gives us something to look forward to.

10-02-2012

969 Sold.  That's an impressive number for the debut sales-month of C-Max hybrid.  It's well short of Ford's direct competition though, the v model of Prius.  There were 3,088 of them purchased here in September.  But that's ok.  Toyota has more of an ally than a competitor anyway.  Many of us with Prius already see it as a friendly rivalry, helping to accelerate the acceptance of hybrids as the standard market choice.  In short, it's a very good start.  Hopefully, the situation won't get spun into some pointless flag-waving exchange.  That's often the case when it comes to GM.  Thankfully, that usually doesn't happen with Ford.  So, the outlook is a positive one.  This represents genuine progress.  It's what the mainstream needs.

 

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