Prius Personal Log  #589

October 7, 2012  -  October 10, 2012

Last Updated: Mon. 10/15/2012

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10-10-2012

Sunset Photos.  I was running an errand after work, driving along the river valley.  The sun was setting.  With the ceiling of clouds opened up just enough on the horizon for the sun to peak out, I was starting to get excited... and a bit concerned.  I had my new camera along with me.  I had studied the settings and felt confident I could take sunset photos at a moment's notice.  That time had arrived... but where?  I needed an open area with nothing but trees in the background and enough length to allow the capture of a wide cloudscape.  Could I find such a location within the next few minutes?  There was a park down in the valley itself.  I wondered... then took the chance.  Yeah!  It appeared to be a good choice.  But dang, there was someone right behind me appearing to be concerned I had the same idea.  Sure enough.  Fortunately, she didn't want her vehicle in her photos and wanted close-ups instead.  Stopping at the location I abruptly chose made us both quite happy.  We both snapped up a bunch of photos.  It just a few minutes, the dazzling array of rapidly changing colors was just a memory.  Phew!  I actually got a bunch of nice sunset photos, the first with my Prius PHV.  And to my delight, the special LED lights on my advanced model look stunning in that particular situation.  See... photo album 178

10-10-2012

Coolant Temperature.  This is the first of my observations, research prior to blocking the grille:  My commute (fast route) to work is 3 blocks of suburb driving, 9 miles of 70 mph highway, then the remaining 6.5 miles at speeds below 60 mph.  I trigger the engine at the second block by toggling the HV/EV button.  Entry onto the highway and the entire distance in the fast section in EV-BOOST mode, which usually delivers an average of 115 MPG.  At the slowdown point, I noted the coolant temperature had risen to 172°F with the outside temperature at 34°F and the grille not blocked yet.  Unfortunately, I didn't note what the coolant high-temperature was back when it was still summer while driving that same route.  Oh well.  34°F is quite warm for winter in Minnesota anyway.  It will get much, much colder.  Anywho, the next 5.5 miles of driving were all in EV mode, with the engine off.  That meant the coolant would cool fairly quick without any of the grille blocked.  To my delight, it didn't too much.  When the engine did eventually start back up, the temperature was 118°F.  While driving that final stretch, I watch the temperature rise to 132°F and the overall efficiency drop to 155 MPG.

10-10-2012

Grille Blocking.  I started another new thread on the big Prius forum.  That's something I normally don't do, since it's usually better to let the new owners take charge.  Then owners with lots of experience & knowledge help by providing information for them.  In this case, it wasn't realistic.  There are too few plug-in Prius owners in the north to make that effective... and essentially, we're all basically new still.  I'm aware of what to look for though.  So, I got us going with this:  The practice of grille-blocking for Prius dates back a number of years now.  It is done to reduce warm-up time and to extend heat-retention time.  Both result in the improvement of efficiency & emissions during the winter months.  Lots of real-world data exists for the second & third generation liftback models of Prius, but there isn't anything yet for the first plug-in.  This new thread was created to collect that information.

10-10-2012

Misrepresentation.  Now that the situation & audiences changed, it was time to start a new thread on the big Prius forum.  It could serve as a venue to share observations.  The hope is to provide an opportunity to step back, no longer tying events of the past to anything or anyone specific... a stab at starting fresh.  Titled "Plug-In Prius misrepresentation", I quite curious how members will respond.  If nothing else, it is a constructive endeavor to raise awareness.  This is what I posted to get things going:  I started participating on other forums & blogs upon discovering incorrect information about the upcoming Prius PHV (plug-in model) was being posted.  That activity still continues... even though owners are now providing real-world driving data to contradict their claims.  Worse yet, attempts to clarify are perceived by some as an effort to undermine the competition.  They use vague references to make your posts appear to portray PHV as superior... even though the detail provided was simply clarification to show misrepresentation.  This thread was started to compile a list of common problems those particular enthusiasts of the competition refuse to be constructive about.  Feel free to post your encounters.

10-09-2012

Steady Rain.  It was a uncommon event.  Rain like that has been infrequent, especially on my daily morning commute.  Conditions have been near the drought level, in fact.  So today when rain fell steady onto the highway, we all slowed down and got trapped in our own congestion.  It was a taste of what's to come this Winter, since even just a trace of snow will cause slow commutes.  Needless to say, I was excited.  That was an opportunity to observe a situation hypothesized countless times.  How would the PHV handle it?  There's much more battery-capacity available than the regular model Prius.  Running out of electricity is quite typical when trapped in heavy traffic... especially when you have to run the defroster to keep condensation from building up on the windshield inside.  Now, I had an ample supply available.  The benefits of a plug were about to reveal themselves.  Guess what?  They did.  I happily drove along in that stop & slow traffic without any worry of the engine starting from the demands of the morning mess.  Heck, I could even be quite generous with the accelerator-pedal.  There was still 4.2 miles of EV estimated.  That was plenty to get be well beyond the chaos of those vehicles.  In fact, that would likely be enough to get me all the way to my parking spot.  Guess what?  It did.  The 16.7 mile journey ended with 0.3 EV miles remaining and an average of 166 MPG.  With results like that in those conditions, you don't mind the traffic.

10-09-2012

Need verses Want, part 3.  When posts now contradict posts of the past, it's obvious something isn't going as planned.  Consider what changed.  Finding that Volt enthusiasts (those few remaining stubborn die-hards quoted many times here, not excited new owners) have become hypocritical leaves you in a difficult position.  The ideal is to simply keep the discussion going in that direction.  It sure it tempting though to point out how what you supported years ago is the same as what they are now saying.  In fact, I even got a quote today to that effect: "Why doesn't anyone at GM listen?"  It confirms the same thoughts are being shared.  Of course, I wondered that 5 years ago when details of the Volt development didn't correspond with actual need.  The executives & management were setting goals based on what they wanted to deliver, not what mainstream consumers had as purchase priorities.  They weren't listening when we pointed the decision factors considered by middle-market.  It was as if nothing at all had been learned from Two-Mode.  Unfortunately, the enthusiasts liked what they were hearing and willingly accepted promises at face value, without merit or even bothering to ask for detail.  It was terrible to watch.  As it unfolded, more and more became disenchanted until there were only niche buyers remaining.  They called themselves "early adopters" but didn't recognize how they differed from those who bought Prius in the early years.  When rollout finally did happen, things were a mess and rapidly got worse.  Within a month, the situation got really bad... so much so, that founder became curiously quiet.  Then he sold the website and basically disappeared.  This was a person held in high respect by many, including me.  Then we got the news yesterday.  That marked the end.  Even those Volt enthusiasts are now seeing what's really needed, how different that is from what they wanted.

10-08-2012

Need verses Want, part 2.  This was my follow up, after reading some not-so-kind posts about the decision to sell:  It's the classic want verses need situation.  We've seen it before.  We'll see it again.  We'd all like more power & capacity.  But in the real-world, there are other priorities.  Volt enthusiasts were lured by the purity of EV and the belief it could be affordable.  That didn't happen though.  It turned out to be an ideal not realistic for the masses yet.  The vehicle rolled out has disenchanted many.  The technology will take time to adapt, straying from what had been hoped for to a more practical design.  Mainstream consumers don't make purchases based on desire anymore.  They did, but that world has faded away as lessons from the past are learned.  The market is different now.  This is the other shoe dropping. Gas is quickly getting very expensive and other automakers are beginning to offer their designs.  Remember, traditional vehicles continue to be the true competitor.  For a hybrid or plug-in hybrid to become a replacement for the masses, it must fulfill the requirements those traditional vehicles do as well as offer much improved emissions & efficiency.

10-08-2012

Need verses Want, part 1.  The final page in the last chapter of a very long saga was presented today.  The founder of that daily blog for Volt is selling his Volt.  He'll be getting a C-Max Energi as a replacement.  This upcoming plug-in hybrid from Ford shares many design aspects in common with Prius PHV.  We saw many signs leading up to this, so there's no reason to dwell or even emphasize his particulars.  It's frustrating to know antagonists will make the decision personal anyway.  We all knew something would happen when his lease expired.  But the assumption was that he'd simply upgrade to a newer model then, not get a different plug-in.  Needless to say, I had thoughts to share on the big GM forum:  I'm intrigued to see how the reaction to this plays out.  Those once very passionate enthusiasts frustrated with the struggle of Volt are having their comments drown out by others now.  They no longer have the voice they once enjoyed.  Those others see what Toyota has delivered and what Ford is about to, wondering why Volt is supposedly "vastly superior" when evidence to the contrary is becoming easy to find.  Each time new information about Volt came out that revealed another goal had not been achieved, they made up excuses.  Who did they think would be convinced it was still a design with high-volume potential?  Sales have confirmed their worse fears too.  Acceptance is far slower than they even imagined.  The demand isn't there to break out beyond a niche.  Ordinary buyers simply aren't interested.  And how does attacking Prius help?  Geez!  That's when you know things aren't going as planned.

10-08-2012

Great Commute.  The morning drive to work today sure was exciting.  I hadn't taken the route along the river for quite awhile... mostly due to road construction.  That's over now.  Yeah!  I now had the opportunity to indulge, enjoying a maximum speed of 55 instead of 70 mph.  The slower roads usually mean a more relaxing flow, rather than speed variance being all over the place.  To my surprise, all but the final few lights were green too.  It sure was nice.  Too bad I wasn't filming that particular experience.  Oh well.  I did get photos.  A stoplight caught me with just 0.8 miles of EV remaining.  At that point, I had already traveled 15.5 miles using only electricity.  The quality my new camera can deliver for screen captures is stunning too.  A faster processor, extremely high resolution, and a very large sensor really make a difference.  The engine didn't start until traveling 16.1 miles.  When I finally parked, the total distance was 16.6 miles.  The average displayed was 999 MPG.  Is that a great commute or what?

10-07-2012

Repeating History.  We've heard this countless times before: "When you are above 40mpg, you are using little enough gas that another 10mpg, or even 20mpg increase becomes insignificant."  This part is new though, now that plug-ins are available: "Above 40~50mpg, the next step is to just go gas free, ala the Volt."  That's what the attack mutated into.  It's hard to believe such an argument would even be attempted.  But with so much pressure now, the willingness to try isn't a surprise.  My feedback was:  I went from 50 MPG to 85 MPG.  That means my annual 20,000 miles of travel will use roughly 165 gallons less gas.  At $3.89 per gallons, that's $642 each year.  From 40 MPG, that would be around 265 gallons, about $1,031.  Who will be convinced that's insignificant?  Consumers will see the difference, taking the cost of electricity and time to plug into account.  They'll wonder why GM doesn't offer a "Volt lite" model, an affordable choice, then purchase one from another automaker.  The next step is clearly not the current configuration of Volt.

10-07-2012

Future Mandates.  I tossed this thought into the mix, quite curious what discussion it will invite:  Pre-Collision will likely become a safety mandate someday too.  Having a vehicle with short-range radar (a component of dynamic cruise-control) respond with an sound & visual alert when it detects danger in front of the vehicle is an obvious improvement.  Mine has been triggered twice already over the past 6 months.  In both cases, I saw the danger at that same moment.  But the heads up was really nice to have.  Another benefit is that it gives passengers, who are obviously less attentive, a notice... since the driver will be too preoccupied to do so.  Envisioning delay in widespread offering of that feature is easy.  Change for the better is usually met with lots of resistance.  Fortunately, resistance is futile.

10-07-2012

Backup Cameras.  It looks like NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) will be enforcing an improvement to passenger vehicles starting with 2014 model years.  Comments about that have been mixed.  I think it is a move long overdue.  This is the comment I posted:  Prius has had a dashboard screen since 2000.  It seemed a no-brainer for other vehicles to also offer a visual interface, yet they didn't.  There's a large variety of feature which could be offered.  Why the heck has it taken so long?  The fact that it took an act of Congress to finally issue a federal, mandate based on a safety benefit goes to show how painfully slow the automotive industry is to accept change... even something so obvious.  Parking lots are filled with hazards a back-up camera could easily reveal.  Why didn't this happen much sooner?  Think about our younger generations.  How many of them already carry a portable device with a screen, many with a camera too.  It's absurd that vehicles don't have that standard.  Heck, screens are ubiquitous with mp3-players and cell-phones.  Look at how many aftermarket navigation systems were sold because there wasn't a screen available in the dashboard already to offer that option.  But like other safety features of the past, it isn't much of a surprise that the automotive industry was finally pushed to deliver this.  They resist right up to the bitter end rather than embracing improvement technology as it emerges.

10-07-2012

Attack Escalation.  Sure enough, the effort to divert rapidly degenerated into a full blown attack.  That was very easy to see coming.  With so must being driven by emotion, you cannot expect a constructive response.  Rather than just answer the "What about the product gap?" question asked, the focus shifted to Prius reliability, specifically the transaxle.  That's quite desperate considering how well proven it is.  Ford uses a similar approach too.  But it's what happens when no other rebuttal is available.  I found the remark quite telling, especially since product offering was the topic.  There was a discussion about what GM's high-efficiency plans could be.  Why not address the issue?  That seems quite appropriate.  Needless to say, I didn't fall for it.  My response was to point out the situation and ask again:  Red Herring responses to distract from the question being asked say a lot about the situation.  There is nothing available or even planned between a 40 MPG traditional vehicle and a +100 MPG plug-in.  We see the other automakers revealing their designs to address the need with both advanced hybrids and plug augmentation.  From GM, there's eAssist and Voltec, nothing in between.  The lack of choice is missed opportunity.  Asking again, what will GM do about that product gap?

 

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