Prius Personal Log  #600

December 23, 2012  -  December 29, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 1/08/2013

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12-29-2012

Fire Spin.  One of the most annoying things about Volt in 2012 was the about reputation.  The supporters were continuously spinning the fire report from 2011 into a conspiracy to cause harm.  A great example was from an article published yesterday, with this opening paragraph: "Try typing "Chevy Volt" into Google, and chances are that the word "fire" will appear near the top of the suggestion list."  I did exactly that.  In the news section, only the word "sales" appeared.  That's it.  Nothing else.  So, I tried the general web section instead.  It came back with the following choices: "Review, MPG, Lease, Sales, Range, Specs, Gas-Mileage, Tax-Credit, Forum".  There was no mention about "fire" or anything even related.  It's a good example of greenwashing easily accepted.  People just believe what they read, without actually checking.  I did.  The hope was that I wouldn't.  What the writer claimed was quickly proven false.  How many reader will do the same thing?  My guess is very few, if any.  The article itself was how Volt became a target for "political discourse".  Ironically, it was the enthusiasts themselves who fed that particular fire.  (Yes, pun intended.)  Rather than focusing on real-world data, they chose to fight those battles instead.  What would winning the arguments even accomplish?  Wasn't the point to draw attention to "saved gas"?  Why didn't they keep that goal in the spotlight?  Why did they allow pundit bait to be bitten?  For that matter, why are they still doing it?  What a massive waste of time staying focused on something everyone else moved beyond an entire year ago.

12-29-2012

Heater Struggle.  Just like with the regular Prius, the plug-in has a similar new owner struggle… they want maximum EV but don't acknowledge/understand/support the tradeoff.  We'd constantly be hearing reports of people attempting to keep the engine off as long as possible, then complaining about the results.  They'd fight the system, rather than "Just Drive It".  Addressing the same questions & comments over and over and over again is a test of patience.  We're trying though.  In this case, there's a phobia about heater use.  Triggering the engine to start is bad, period.  That absolute is frustrating.  Prius is a plug-in hybrid, not an EV.  There isn't battery-capacity to support an electric-heater anyway.  We hear requests to allow just the defroster to use that heat for keeping the window clear, but it's difficult to claim there won't be complaints about that not being used to warm the cabin too.  You still get outstanding overall efficiency.  Winter doesn't last that long anyway.  What other vehicle provides over 50 MPG during its warm-up cycle?

12-29-2012

Predictions.  We know how unrealistic those for Volt were.  It was as if there was no consideration of the rest of the market at all.  Those supporting it figured the engineering alone would stimulate sales.  Now, we know even with the tax-credit that didn't happen.  There are many other aspects of appeal. Ford, Honda, and Toyota are all choosing to rollout plug-in hybrids with smaller battery- capacities.  You still get a substantial MPG boost, but don't have to sacrifice interior-space, production-cost, or HV-efficiency to such an extent.  Toyota strived hard with Prius to offer a plug-in that offered the same cargo area and great MPG after depletion.  The similarity to the regular hybrid is quite obvious.  Ford's approach was to make a tradeoff with C-Max, hoping it would be minor enough to easily justify.  As for Ford's Fusion and Honda's Accord, we simply don't know yet.  Both setups appear to be well thought out, with the exception of the small trunks.  Time will tell.  2013 is the year for that.  I predict a slow & steady growth for Prius PHV and C-Max Energi as rollout continues (once Spring arrives).  For the sedan plug-in hybrids, we have no idea what market potential there is.  For Volt, the struggle for sales will become even more difficult.

12-29-2012

Hold Button.  One of the earliest efforts to educate labeled as "propaganda" was the benefit of having a hold button, a feature allowing a plug-in hybrid driver to specify when to heavily draw electricity from the battery-pack.  Since Prius offered it and Volt didn't, all comments were perceived as an attempt to undermine… instead of the overall purpose of persuading GM to offer it too.  For some bizarre reason, Volt enthusiasts didn't follow the example Toyota provided: enhancements to Prius based on owner feedback.  Needless to say, the arguments against a hold button seriously backfired.  Those enthusiasts proclaimed there was no benefit, it was just a ploy to make Prius appear better.  Then came the 2013 model, which included a hold button… and owners started to praise it.  You could imagine how that made those of the past feel now.  They became extremely frustrated.  Some denied ever arguing against it.  Some worked hard to discredit the Prius owners who originally suggested GM offer it too.  Some new Volt owners kept making it worse by pointing out the benefits.  It turned into a messy situation with no chance of resolution.  Apologies rarely happen online.

12-28-2012

Now That It's Over.  Uncertainty isn't helpful to anyone.  GM's belief that simply getting rid of legacy financial obligations and consolidating resources would be enough was a lesson in blind hope.  Not dealing with all the issues, thinking enough money will somehow solve the rest, was futile.  But what else could be done with such an unreceptive set of executives?  Old habits die hard.  Recent news that Toyota is again the world leader really hurts.  In fact, you cannot even report it as a Prius owner without sounding smug.  Of course, no matter how much praise I gave Ford, the Volt enthusiasts didn't hear that anyway.  It was always looked upon as an endorsement for Prius.  But the ultimate was being unwilling to address the buildup of traditional vehicle inventory.  Pretending the rest of GM was doing fine was a red flag, a clear warning that further development of Volt would be a difficult investment to fund.  Fortunately, those questions will soon be asked… now that it's over.  No more excuses.  The end of the year brings the opportunity to set more proper goals for the next.

12-28-2012

Realistic Expectations.  Vehicles for middle-market are rarely thought of as exciting.  Choices for the masses rarely are.  That's why there are car enthusiasts.  They are the ones seeking something that stands out.  It's also why Prius constantly gets mocked by them.  They want no association with a hybrid configured specifically for mainstream consumers.  It's the very reason "Volt" was doomed from the start… since it targeted those enthusiasts, not everyday drivers.  But rather than consider realistic expectations, what the market actually needs, they focused on want instead.  Prius constantly reminded them of the difference.  That's why it became such an irritant.  Hearing owners find it rewarding is the last thing they wanted to hear.  To make matters worse, it was just awarded the "best value" title by Consumer Reports.  Winter driving with the plug-in is proving worthwhile too… not amazing, just a decent MPG boost… none of the "purity" nonsense.  We had realistic expectations.  GM will obviously have to scramble to redefine "Volt" now, giving the next generation design a configuration that's actually capable of high-volume profitable sales.

12-28-2012

They Could Win.  That was the thought.  It's why debates were allowed to get so intense, why forum members were allowed to so blatantly drop bait.  With the belief of victory just beyond the horizon, added attention was welcomed.  That all just changed.  The attitude of hope abruptly transmuted to hopelessness.  GM's own words are coming back to haunt.  There are so many goals still not achieved… and time has run out.  Volt was one of many coming up short.  By the time the third year began, the "little system that could" was supposed to have been squashed.  Winning has become a matter of survival instead.  The lesson about Two-Mode is only now being taken seriously.  They finally recognize the pattern those labeled as "Prius trolls" had pointed out ages ago.  It didn't win.  The owners of Prius really were trying to help.  Admitting that isn't an option though… not after what they said.  Their own words are already making them look hypocritical.  They wanted to be "vastly superior" rather than being part of the effort to replace traditional vehicles.  Instead, the very "failure" they feared is unfolding right before their eyes.

12-27-2012

Last December.  Remember all the nonsense back then?  When the excuses were exhausted, it turned to personal attacks.  They'd just make stuff up too, attempting to invite & provoke.  Then when things didn't go their way, the thread would simply be closed.  That year didn't end well.  This year appears to be much worse.  Instead of just Volt struggling, all of GM is.  But rather than just being able to use Toyota & Prius as a scapegoat, there's the advancement made by Ford with both C-Max & Fusion.  The hope had been that the needed steps to recover had already been taken and it was only a matter of patience.  With the growing economy, it would be business as usual resuming.  Trouble was, that trimming of excess & overhead alone wouldn't be enough... but they didn't want to hear that.  They didn't want to acknowledge how much the market itself was changing.  They didn't want to recognize history in other industries.  Now they know.  Now they cannot deny.  That's why the rhetoric is much more intense.  This December doesn't offer a hopeful outlook.  2013 will bring some serious decisions.  Supporters don't want to discuss expectations.  There's a clear effort to ignore matters related to sales.  Hype allowed them to be unrealistic.  This is why we worried.

12-27-2012

Disaster Recognized.  This was the start of the new thread on the big GM forum that marked the beginning of the end: "GM got bailed out in 2009, they reorganized, got rid of toxic assets, they were afforded bankruptcy procedures no other business in over 200 years of bankruptcy precedent was afforded, all in the name of saving the General. At the time we were told the money being "given" to GM was not a gift but a loan and would be paid back and most likely Treasury would come out ahead getting more from GM than they were given. 2013, where are we at? Sure GM is buying back stock, but by the time it is all done and GM is a private company again Treasury will have lost between $12-20 billion dollars. Far from that profit we were practically assured. What has GM learned from all this, apparently not much..."  To prevent a repeat of the recent outcry that happened when the stock buyback was announced, those who had spoken out with discontent then were prevented from doing it again, banned from posting (including me).  I found that very telling of the situation, especially since many of the posts had nothing to do with Prius or even hybrids.  In other words, the loyalists saw the unsold inventory piling up and saw some major objectives not being achieved.  That same post also included this: "On top of that, where is the profit from the Volt, you know the car that was going to save GM? A product so good they were going to sell 40,000 a year..."  It's pretty obvious at this point, the upcoming disaster is being recognized.  There's going to be an onslaught of fallout when the year comes to a close.  Goals were not met.  Recovery was indeed "too little, too slowly".  Expectations for 2013 certainly won't be filled with hype, which was the purpose of the posts in the first place... being realistic, what a concept.

12-26-2012

Coiled Recharger Cord.  What a pain.  I'm sure the person thought they were doing the right thing.  Clearly, they hadn't considered the consequences though.  With small cords, like adapters for portable rechargeable devices, it was never wise to tightly coil them after use.  Eventually, the braided wires within with twist, resulting in a permanently tangled cored.  Sadly, people continue to do.  Apparently, some don't figure out they are the cause of the problem.  They must just assume that's a normal part of cord aging.  It's not.  That can easily be prevented by loosely draping the cord instead.  I wonder if they same thing will happen with charging-stations.  The cords there are in near perfect condition still.  What happens in a few years?  Will they routinely be replaced, like hoses & nozzles at gas stations?  Anywho, there's an added complication.  Maybe that will help.  The cords get very stiff in the extreme cold.  When temperatures are well below zero, a tightly coiled cord poses a difficult challenge.  The one I had to deal with today required rather serious pulling to straighten out.  Fortunately, the reach needed is short for Prius, since the port is located in the back corner of the vehicle.  For those with the port near the driver's door, good luck.  That may pose to be a problem at times during Winter.  The cold season can be cruel.  Thank goodness we still see a substantial benefit from the electricity even in those conditions.

12-24-2012

Warm-Up MPG-Boost.  There are a few PHV owners who really get worked up when the engine runs.  They want the most EV possible, rather than focusing on the overall efficiency results.  That's understandable.  But when they don't mention the MPG boost during warm-up, you have to wonder if they are seeing that big picture.  When the engine starts up for the primary purpose of generating heat, electricity is used to minimize the impact.  Gasoline consumption is kept to a minimum by using the motor to allow the engine run at a much lower RPM.  That's more efficiency.  Waste comes from high demand.  The hybrid system makes sure it stays low.  A resulting benefit of that is the engine is able to run at an optimum speed.  That results in electricity being generated.  Some is used to feed the motor, rather than drawing from the battery-pack.  Excess is used to replenish the battery-pack, of which was drawn from originally to help with the initial warm-up process.  It's a wild dance.  You can witness it too.  The multi-display offers a screen showing energy flow.  Arrows branch and change direction every few seconds.  Managing electricity and the speed at with the carriers in the power-split-device spin is what Toyota refined many years ago.  Now they take advantage of the mini opportunities that emerge while encountering real-world conditions.  You can see that too.  The dynamic nature of the system delivers MPG surprisingly high, an accomplishment other automakers have struggled to also achieve.  Long story short, the boost is really nice but often overlooked.

12-24-2012

Darn Good.  Today's driving was more of a "normal" circumstance than the chaos recently with weather issues and running around to shop.  I drove to mom's, back home, to work, then home again.  The total distance was 45 miles.  The resulting average was 63 MPG.  Considering that included 3 cold starts (18°F from mom's, 10°F from work) and just a single charge, I'd say it was darn good.  The outcome of that same situation with my 2010 would have been about 20 MPG less.  The plug is definitely providing an unmistakable boost.  Having real-world data available makes greenwashing considerably harder.  It's difficult to mislead when examples become easier to find.  That's darn good too.

12-23-2012

Heater Drain.  Living in Minnesota, what it does to battery-capacity is among my favorite plug-in topics.  A year before Volt was rolled out, the winter data was always extremely vague.  I pointed out how Leaf's range estimator took climate-control into account, even including a photo in some posts.  Those enthusiasts got angry, claiming my actual intent was to undermine to make the plug-in Prius appear better.  They knew even back then taking advantage of the engine for heat would be an overall benefit.  Sure enough, today's running around (starting with a stop at the coffee-shop) provided the proof they didn't want to acknowledge.  14°F outside. 9.0 miles. 55 mph maximum.  I certainly wasn't going to be cold.  The heater was turned on the moment I left the driveway.  It took 9 minutes for the coolant to reach the initial shutoff point for the 75°F setting.  With all the up & down from hills and stoplights to contend with, seeing 53 MPG for the average at that point was quite redeeming.  I was at precisely the halfway point.  From there on would be mostly EV.  The engine only briefly came on then.  I accelerated briskly to trigger it, since the result in replenishing of both heat & electricity.  Upon reaching the coffee-shop, there was still 5.9 estimated miles of EV range remaining.  The overall average displayed was 86 MPG.  Long story short, they apparently were right.  That does indeed cast a better light on Prius.  But then again, the intent was always full disclosure.  Leaving out detail is not constructive.  They were providing annual consumption estimates not taking effects of the heater into account.  Prius PHV is a plug-in hybrid.  The purpose is to boost MPG, not to be an EV.  With my efficiency averaging in the 70's here in Minnesota, that most definitely is a MPG boost from the 40's I saw with the 2010.  So what if the engine runs from time to time for heat.  Purpose fulfilled.

 

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