Prius Personal Log  #592

October 19, 2012  -  October 26, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 1/08/2013

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10-26-2012

Grille Blocked.  It's the same routine for the plug-in I've been doing for the other Prius over the years.  I block a majority of the radiator opening to reduce the amount of cold air being forced through the vehicle.  It takes 20 minutes to do and costs $2 to do it.  The purpose is heat-retention.  Though, there is a small aerodynamic benefit as well.  When heat runs out sooner, the engine has to run more often.  The temperature of the air used for combustion makes a difference too.  Warmer results in more power.  The actual difference made from the effort is difficult to quantify.  But considering how little effort it takes for an entire season of efficiency gain, why not?  After all, the new Ford hybrid actually includes motorized grille blocking.  That's rather obvious automaker recognition.  Anywho, I did it manually this evening.  Taking half-inch foam pipe-insulation, I just squeezed strips of it between the openings in the lower grille, sealing it up completely until Spring.  No maintenance of any kind is needed in the meantime.  That simple step is all it takes.  Now, I'm ready for the cold season.

10-25-2012

Misrepresented Consequences.  They become obvious as time progresses.  New owners posts threads about confusion you aren't certain how they could have such as impression.  Regardless of source, you're stuck trying to figure out how to overcome that hurdle those wanting to undermine actually had some success in.  Today, there was this attempt to clarify:  Prius is a plug-in hybrid.  The misdirection of purpose by focusing on EV rather than the resulting MPG is understandable.  It's quite enjoyable driving through the suburbs using nothing but electricity... but all that is about to change.  Last year's unusually mild Winter prevented the word from spreading about the realities of driving in the cold.  This year could be quite different.  Consumption of battery-capacity for the sake of cabin-warming is a rude awaking for EV drivers.  Having a gas engine available means being able to save electricity for propulsion instead.  It also means the act of running the engine for heat will recharge the battery a little too.  In other words, beliefs & expectations of how the system operates were overly simplified... resulting in the discussions we are engaging in now, as aspects of it are revealed.  It's complex.  The interplay of HV and EV are difficult enough to understand even without buttons allowing you to toggle modes.

10-25-2012

Getting Colder.  It snowed over lunch today.  By the time I left work this evening, the temperature had risen to a balmy 39°F but was windy as heck.  I needed to use the heater at some point, since the windows would eventually fog up.  With the weather front that had just passed through, the forecast for the next two weeks was for temperatures mostly in the 40's.  Time to block the lower-grille.  That meant this commute from work was my one opportunity to observe the system still exposed in action.  As expected, it automatically bounced between the coolant levels we've become quite familiar with.  The engine started, then ran until it hit 130°F.  Driving proceeded as usual in EV, with the heater set to 76°F and the fan on low.  I had the seat-warmer set to low too.  When the coolant dropped below 114°F, the engine fired up again.  That cycle happened 3 times along my 17.5 mile drive home.  The end result was 127 MPG.  That's quite good.  I'm really curious about the heat-retention the lower-grille now blocked will provide, especially when the real cold arrives here in Minnesota.

10-24-2012

$4.29 Per Gallon.  That was the price for diesel today.  The price of gas has dropped to $3.37 per gallon.  Needless to say, that positions VW well for the debut of their soon-to-be-rolled-out gas hybrid.  It will deliver an undebatable efficiency benefit over the diesel, pretty much killing any argument we've had to deal with in the past.  The fact that it will also cost more to fill the tank makes it a futile endeavor to do anything other than acknowledge the market acceptance of hybrids.  For a diesel-favoring automaker to embrace change at a time when the choice seems so obvious, I cannot imagine constructive arguments against them.

10-24-2012

10,000-Mile Service.  It went well, though a bit late.  My vacation, the lack of engine use, and me getting sick delayed the routine maintenance.  I enjoyed getting to chat with the head mechanic there, as he was pleased to speak with on of the very few plug-in Prius owners in Minnesota.  They basically just checked fluids & brakes, rotated tires, and changed the oil & filter.  That's all quite routine.  The not-so-routine part was connecting the car to their system for a complete status dump.  Toyota benefits from collecting detail like that, as do owners.  No software updates were needed.  Of course, having an advanced model, I get them via bluetooth connection to my phone which downloads via Wi-Fi at home.  It's totally automatic.  What isn't automatic though is the darn oil-level check at the dealer.  Arrgh!  It's the same old problem countless thousands of owners have experienced around the country over the past decade.  They overfill the oil by pumping it directly from bulk barrels.  I should have complained then, despite the service itself being free.  But I really wanted to know by how much.  Turns out, I ended up draining 24 ounces out to get the level about 1/8 inch below the "full" mark.  It had been 1/2 inch above.  That's 2/3 quart too much!  I'll end up sending a reply to their customer-satisfaction email about that.  What a waste.  Good thing oil is the only trouble I've ever experienced there.  All else is great, especially the complimentary cookies & coffee.

10-24-2012

Consumer Reaction.  Times are changing... by how much is the question now.  Ford's plug-in choice is difficult to gauge.  That 694-pound difference resembles what I see in my career as a software engineer.  As time progresses, the application becomes more and more refined.  Ford is well on its way, making a genuine effort to achieve a nice balance of priorities.  Toyota has a lead of about 7 years and 2 large markets to work with though.  It will be interesting to see how people react to the differences.  Realistically, there is room for the diversity.  Choice among shared goals helps all involved.  Next year will be very interesting.

10-24-2012

New Owners.  Avoiding full is for battery longevity.  That's why the display typically hovers around 6 bars and the entire capacity isn't actually displayed.  Assumptions about charge-level and EV driving are common... and growing, due to the number of older Prius becoming used purchases.  You'll enjoy 100 MPG from time to time, but the point is to significantly improve emissions & efficiency... not electric only.  In fact, that's true of even the plug-in model.  The engine will run when it makes sense.  The system seeks out opportunities for optimal conditions and takes advantage of them.  New owners sometimes unknowingly fight the system, cancelling out the benefit.  For example, as the system runs to warm the coolant, it is also recharging the battery-pack... a benefit very easy to overlook.  Keep your eyes & ears attentive.  You'll be impressed how well thought out the approach really is.

10-24-2012

Outdated Surveys.  Sadly, the presumed latest & greatest information now being conveyed about the plug-in market is already outdated.  The report I came across today didn't include the plug-in Prius, yet it gave the impression it was representative of all vehicles using plug-supplied electricity.  How can they even attempt to provide credible data without providing a disclaimer about it not being representative of the current choices?  There should be a concise statement about limited availability and the upcoming expansion of configurations.  How are readers supposed to know about changes if they aren’t explicitly stated?  Leaving that out allows them to make assumptions.  Surveys related to the vehicles can't possibly be accurate without a basic understanding.  What kind of perspective comes from an unclear market.

10-23-2012

Ugh.  When they accuse you of being loyal, being paid, or just lying, you know all has been lost.  There's no chance of constructive discussion at that point.  Heck, you can't even get useful observations or opinions anymore.  They stopped trying.  We all knew the inability to grow sales would result in some type of fallout.  Apparently, that's how the most hopeful of enthusiasts are expressing their assessment of the situation.  Reaction manifesting in the form of unsupported & unrealistic claims is quite understandable, predictable even.  Too bad it came to this.  Needless to say, the topic is Volt.  With the industry setting their sights on what the other automakers will be doing next year, lack of substance from GM just doesn't cut it.  Change only comes from the market actually embracing something... not endless hope that someday something will be realistic.  Think about what consumers currently shopping for a new vehicle will consider.  They're not going to care either way about rhetoric online.  What's important to them is what they'll be able to purchase.

10-22-2012

Software Updates.  Remember when there was one for the 2004 Prius?  There were cries of owner's lives being at risk.  It was like the world was coming to an end.  More recently, the word "recall" was given a stigma to represent something exclusively to deal with a serious problem and not include improvements & preventative measures.  So now when there’s a similar software update needed for Volt, what do you think happened?  Nothing… a reaction like we should have had all along.  It's too bad GM had invested in and depended upon guzzlers so heavily back then.  The enthusiasts have transformed from favoring large SUVs to expensive plug-in hybrids.  That's a definite change for the better.

10-21-2012

Standard Household Outlet.  A plug-in sale was lost today.  The cause was a salesperson misleading the person into thinking a charging-station was required to recharge the Prius PHV.  We don’t know whether or not that was unintentional or a misunderstanding.  You could see how an informed salesperson would want to convey the steps required to have the high-speed recharge ability at home.  But in that same process, it would be very easy to skip over the basics… failing to mention that the installation isn’t necessary.  Just an ordinary standard household outlet is all that’s actually needed.  The 120-volt connection already in your garage is what the included charger uses.  Long story short, this person today ended purchasing a 2012 instead… not finding out he didn’t have all the information he needed to properly make the decision until after it was too late.  Needless to say, this will now be an important detail mentioned often when discussing the plug-in model.  We don’t want to hear of buyer’s remorse caused by a salesperson’s inattentiveness.

10-20-2012

Rebuttal Material.  That was requested today.  It was nothing we haven't dealt with countless times already.  I provided:  Who is considered a hater?  In the past, it was anyone who felt threaten that they'd somehow be forced out of their guzzler.  Thankfully, it's not that bad anymore.  Arguments focusing on the battery are dying fading too.  Of course, the rebuttal to that is just pointing out what actually happens with the acquisition of oil.  People really don't want to acknowledge that situation.  My guess is those opposing hybrids stems from two sources.  First, they really don't understand how the technology works.  They make assumptions, which is easy to do considering how much incorrect, outdated, and misleading information there is still.  Change is very difficult when there's uncertainty.  Second, they have strong loyalty to an automaker or the domestic market.  In that case, they'll say just about anything.  Excuses are frequent & abundant.  We've heard it all.  Ultimately, the real-world data speaks for itself.  Experiences shared by owners is what gets people to take another look, to overcome what they had previously thought or felt.

10-20-2012

New Fallout.  An article yesterday revealed the growing problem GM is facing, something few typical enthusiasts have considered... consequences supporters have been avoiding.  So, I posted the following on the big GM forum, where Volt discussion has pretty much grow silent lately... likely due to the lack of good news and attention having shifted over to Ford's upcoming plug-in hybrid:  Production goals are set for good reason.  An automaker must match supply with demand.  Underestimating means paying a premium for extra parts and overtime for the workers, which cuts into profit.  Overestimating means having to slash prices to reduce inventory but continue to pay worker while production is idle, which cuts into profit.  In other words, not meeting expectations has consequences.  Decisions eventually must be made as a result.  This thread celebrates Volt leading September sales among plug-in vehicles, but does not address supply/demand issues.  In the past, we've heard every excuse imaginable.  It didn't matter much though.  There was time to resolve still.  That time is running out now.  An article published yesterday points out how the production of battery cells for Volt never transferred from South Korea to Michigan.  What does that mean for Volt next year?  In the case of plug-in hybrids like Prius PHV and C-Max Energi, the only real difference between them and the no-plug model is basically just the battery-pack.  That design approach provides flexibility to sell more or less of the plug-in model, allowing it to adjust supply based on demand with less overhead than the one-size-fits-all Volt.  Reducing exposure is very important for business-sustaining profit.  Not having any alternative available, like a second model of Volt with a smaller battery-pack, leaves it very exposed.  Every aspect of production relies entirely upon sales of a single configuration.  What will GM do?  We're seeing sales of Cruze (25,787), Sonic (7,525), and Spark (2,223) rise significantly.  That puts the record high of 2,851 for Volt with heavy incentives (price discounts & tax-credits, plus lots of advertising) into perspective.  So even without considering the plug-in choices from other automakers, the problem within GM itself should be clear.  The monthly counts favor emphasis on traditional vehicles, not setting large production goals for Volt.

10-19-2012

$3.32 Per Gallon.  The price of oil is staying around $90 per barrel now.  Having settled there means the price of gas has dropped to where you'd expect, somewhere around $3.29 per gallon.  The recent spike sure caused some excitement.  It's nice to see lower.  A docile rollout of the plug-in hybrids is the preferred approach.  I couldn't imagine how we'd handle a crazed demand crunch.  That's when expectations get out of hand.  People tend to panic rather easy.  Of course, they fall for hype rather easy too.  High ticket purchases aren't something you just want to jump into blindly.  The real-world experiences early owners share really make a difference.  We don't even have Winter data yet.  It won't take long to get annual results though.  Then we can begin to establish realistic expectations.  I'm 7 months into ownership already.  Gas prices staying relatively low in the meantime will help matters.  After all, supply is quite limited and will remain that way for awhile.

10-19-2012

Maximum Capacity.  Did you know that hybrids don't drain their batteries entirely?  Avoiding deep-discharges is how they achieve longevity to match the lifetime of the vehicle.  People often allow their portable devices to exceed the safe tolerance.  That reduces the battery's total capacity... eventually taking it to the point of basically being worthless... hence having to replace the battery.  Hybrids prevent that by running their gas engine to power a generator for electricity when the battery gets low.  The plug-in variety offers a plug to supplement that.  Both types strive for the same goal, but not all automakers choose the same depletion point.  They make assumptions about vehicle usage, environmental conditions, and battery chemistries.  Toyota plays it safe, cutting off Prius PHV at 63%.  That means the engine unconditionally fires up when reaching the point of only having 37% of the overall capacity remaining.  You aren't allowed more.  Stopping sooner means less electricity is available, but it helps to guarantee ample battery performance later in life.  Is that too conservative?  Ford seems to think so, stopping with their Energi system at 75% instead.  Allowing a draw down to 25% may be fine or may turn out to be a damaging idea.  We truly won't know for many years.  The things people will do to their plug-in is still very much unknown.  The market is quite diverse.

 

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