Prius Personal Log  #603

January 11, 2013  -  January 17, 2013

Last Updated: Sat. 1/19/2013

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1-17-2013

Greenest.  The pressure sure is building.  Seeing that certain groups are making their hate for Prius is overwhelmingly clear confirms it.  The c model was named the greenest car by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.  The regular model Prius took third place.  The plug-in model got fourth.  The v model came in at eleventh.  It's bad enough hearing from people like me (an owner) repeatedly pointing out the importance of offering a choice for mainstream consumers.  But then to hear that some of those popular choices from a competitor are also extremely clean & efficient really burns.  That's why there was always so much rhetoric from Volt enthusiasts.  Now there's a backlash with trucks too.  Ford's F-350 was label the "meanest", which means the dirtiest.  GM has a large inventory of pickups.  SUVs are losing customers, who are now choosing the big wagons instead.  We saw this coming.  They hoped it would somehow not be as intense.  The rest of us see the emotion as validation.  How could we continue to dismiss oil-dependency and climate-change?  At some point, the problems would become obvious.  That time appears to be now.

1-16-2013

Electric Only.  On the simple side, I stopped at the coffeeshop this evening with a toasty warm Prius.  It sat there outside in the 23°F parking lot for 1.5 hours while I relaxed.  The estimated EV distance remaining was 7.7 miles.  My drive home would be with only the heated seat on high.  The heater itself would stay off.  Since the interior was still warm, there wasn't any need for window clearing.  The glass had retained enough energy to resist condensation.  Maximum speed would be 50 mph.  It was a remarkably efficient trip, despite the cold.  The entire drive home was with electricity only.  I arrived home 7.5 miles later.  I even had 0.9 of EV left.

1-16-2013

Heater On, Engine On.  To add to the complex array of parameters we already have, I made yet another discovery.  It was 12°F degrees on the commute to work yesterday.  I set the heater at 65, then watched what happened when I turned it on (pressed the fan button) and off (pressed the off button) while driving.  The hypothesis was the engine would remain off while the coolant temperature was still above the usual 114°F threshold.  After all, it doesn't start when the heater is running.  Why would the engine start up upon starting the heater?  Turns out, it does.  Huh?  I performed the test three times was in motion, at 118°F, at 123°F, and at 128°F.  Each time, the engine fired up and ran until reaching the usual warm-up shutoff temperature of 130°F.  I also tried it once while stopped, at 127°F.  Same response.  Needless to say, we are dealing with a very dynamic system, one that takes a wide variety of conditions into account.  The "set it, then forget it" advice is proving to be an excellent recommendation.  The Prius will figure out how to achieve the best results for you.  It is no longer the early days of hybrid driving, when the suggestions to improve efficiency were so simple you could easily to the same yourself.

1-16-2013

Posted Response.  Also having an upscale vehicle is fine, but we really do need a genuine competing car... something that gets hybrid MPG after depletion, is large enough to be practical for a family, and is reasonably priced.  Remember the "too little, too slowly" concern?  It's the same problem as in the past.  How have things changed?  Money from bailouts & tax-credits is suppose to accelerate progress.  Upscale alone doesn't provide any sense of that.  Rather than getting something for the masses, or even an upgrade to the system itself, we get another trophy vehicle.  What's the point of offering a nice vehicle very few people will actually buy?  It's not even a midsize.  If we also got something that was competitive with offerings coming from other automakers, that would be a different story.  But the deafening silence about plans with Volt is reason for concern.  More is expected.  Faster is expected.

1-15-2013

After Thoughts.  Instead of Voltec 1.5 being revealed, we we're shown a vehicle that's 289 pounds heavier and consequently gets less EV range and lower MPG.  What happened to the anticipated improvements?  No upgrade to the system?  As other automakers rollout their plug-in vehicles, GM decides to offer something even more expensive.  Where is the choice of something affordable?  Why a vehicle for the luxury market?  This makes you wonder what's next.  How long will it take to finally get a vehicle able to take the place of traditional high-volume sellers?  What will ordinary consumers buy?  We are not going to see middle-market buying large quantities of any vehicle that's not competitive; in other words, the vehicle much be share similarities to what people purchase now.  GM clearly does not want to focus on that audience yet.

1-15-2013

Initial Impressions.  Those about the latest from GM are rolling in.  All the enthusiasts were expecting the Cadillac ELR to introduce an upgrade to the plug-in system.  Instead, they get a heavier vehicle with more power.  It uses the same engine & battery and sacrifices range.  Even the look is style over substance.  The situation is so bad, there's nothing we can really post without sounding condescending.  That's taking Volt in the wrong direction.  What a mess!  This should be a clue about setting realistic expectations.  They keep hoping for a miracle and end up getting way less than hoped.  I can't imagine sales for such an expensive plug-in without any efficiency improvements being any more than a trickle.  This is yet another example of GM building what they want to sell... not what they need to.

1-14-2013

Really Cold Driving, part 2.  It's not worth it anyway.  The other day I finally encountered what another owner had complained out, saying window fogging could be dangerous... but never elaborated about the circumstances.  I wondered why anyone would push it... but then again, was well aware of how some owners disregard the refill warning.  So, I kept experimenting.  I refrained from turning on any ventilation, allowing the steam to build up really heavy on the windows.  Then I hit them hard with outside air from the blowers.  The condensation flash-froze to ice.  That was indeed a dangerous situation.  But with the temperature only in the teens, I can't imagine someone not just turning on the heater long before that would ever happen anyway.  Then again, it's a common sight to see people driving around with only minimum snow & ice removed from the outside of the vehicle.  Some take chances more than others.

1-14-2013

Really Cold Driving, part 1.  Last night, the Prius had been sitting outside for about 2.5 hours, it was only 9°F.  Even if the battery hadn't been totally depleted, I would have started the engine immediately anyway.  That's simply too cold to endure... which is why I don't actually start the heater until the coolant reaches about 100°F degrees.  Fortunately, warm-up began with it at 40°F.  It's nice still having a tiny bit of warmth left from the previous drive.  2 minutes into this drive, the benefit of having a heated seat became evident.  It was then that I looked over to see how the coolant was doing.  What the heck?  RPM stated zero!  The coolant was only 101°F, yet the engine was off. I was in Stealth mode (low power & speed EV) already.  How come the usual engine warm-up to 130°F didn't happen?  Needless to say, there are so many variables at play, it would be too much of a chore conveying our findings to those without aftermarket gauges and keen observations skills.  Because even with, it's a challenge.

1-14-2013

Mid-Research.  There are many observations to make & document still when it comes to when the engine runs.  It feels like I'm confusing matters by interjecting seemingly random values.  We may uncover a pattern as some point, ultimately identifying all the parameters used to determine when the engine is used.  But the criteria is so much more complicated than in the past.  Toyota really did their homework... delivering a system able to respond in such a dynamic way, we cannot beat respond in a way to achieve better.  That makes sense.  A computer should be able to take more into account more than a human, especially when it comes to delivering longevity in addition to great emissions & efficiency all at the same time.  It's redeeming to see the flexibility in action.  There are so many fine adjustments continuously at play.  Yet even in the extreme temperatures we're experiencing now, the results are still great.  I do yearn for warmer weather though.  Having already witnessed the increase in capacity from higher temperatures, it certainly is something to look forward to again.  Engine warm-up is so much faster too.

1-14-2013

Outside Temperature.  It clearly is a parameter taken into account for the heater, beside the coolant threshold... which explains why observations have varied so much.  My recent evidence of this was watching the engine shut off when the coolant temperature warmed up to 112°F with the heater set at 70.  What the heck?  That didn't fit in the pattern I had measured a few days earlier.  The obvious difference was it now being a little above freezing outside, rather than well below.  The next observation of not-fitting-the-pattern was when it got even colder outside.  Not using the heater at all, the engine shut off and 105°F and I was able to drive for 4 miles in EV.  In the past, initial warm-up was always to 130°F anytime the engine started.  That didn't seem to matter.  Maybe time is a parameter too.  Yesterday, my cold morning errand running with heater had an engine shut-off at 123°F instead.  That was yet another temperature.  Hmm?  Today, with it 12°F outside and the need to get to work shortly before noon, I set the heater at 70 and jumped on the 70 mph highway with a full battery and a cold engine.  Upon reaching the 55 mph section, there was plenty of reserve heat built up for EV driving... or so I thought.  When the coolant dropped to 136°F, the engine started back up.  Huh?  Of course, in the end, does it really matter?  The point is to deliver a significant MPG boost from plugging in.  That is indeed what I've been getting.  The same advice we gave in the past applies now too: Just Drive It.

1-14-2013

What Can You Say?  Too little, too slowly was the concern stated throughout the development of Volt.  It highlights the very situation being faced now.  Yet, enthusiasts insisted that wouldn't be the case, this couldn't possibly happen.  We're starting the third year of availability and attention is refocused on the next generation, hoping cost & volume will be what was expected back in 2010.  Discussions don't even have Volt as a topic anymore.  It would be nice hearing realistic talk about Volt in 2013 instead.  Will we really just step back and hope for the best?  What should the expectations be?  Just writing off this generation and settling for slow acceptance doesn't give GM any direction or incentive.  We still need a vehicle configured & priced for the masses.  In all seriousness, the lack of diversity is what will end up holding Volt back.  What's so wrong with a second model, something scaled back to resemble a high-volume top-selling middle-market car rather than only offering one that strives to exceed on many levels?  After all, that's the type of vehicle which provide business-sustaining profit, not one that impresses at autoshows.  Wasn't anything learned from Two-Mode's emphasis on want rather than need?

1-13-2013

The Ultimate Quote.  Reading this, I was amazed: "It may be a quality product, but if it doesn't meet the needs of the consumer as well as the competition then it deserves its lackluster sales."  That came from the ultimate antagonist, a person so intensely in favor of Volt and against Prius he argues any criticism… totally unwilling to be constructive, just unfounded hope.  It quite remarkable to encounter anyone so stanch.  But then to read a quote exactly as I would post, how would you respond?  He was making comment about Malibu.  Why wouldn't the same apply to Volt?  I didn't respond.  Why bother?  It's so hypocritical anyway.  At best, you could label that as a double-standard.  If Volt wasn't intended to fill the same role as Malibu, what the heck is its purpose?  Anywho, I find it the refreshing seeing him post what I had been saying all along.  Apparently, he heard & understood the words but couldn't see how they applied to the vehicle he most praised.  Is that progress?

1-12-2013

Lowered Standards.  In a thread on the big GM forum about Equinox not getting eAssist, this was posted: "Our AWD 2.4 gets excellent mileage (about 26 MPG) in suburban/rural driving in Maine."  That's so bad, I don't even know where to begin.  Remember years ago when 40 was the goal?  It has since been lowered to 30.  That's embarrassing.  Once upon a time, we were leaders, we delivered great feats of engineering.  Now, we downplay expectations.  What happened to the 21st Century?  We're going backwards!  We've lowered standards to such a degree, some people are sincerely fooled into believing MPG in the 30's is helping us reduce our dependency on oil.  How could that even make sense?  Population growth alone should be enough of a problem to recognize that more needs to be done.  Have they forgotten what traditional vehicles delivered in the past?  Don't they know what some hybrids actually deliver?  Are they greenwashed to such a degree that they assume what they here isn't actually true or that somehow traditional vehicles will suddenly be replaced entirely.  More and more, I'm thinking it's the latter... that they've convinced themselves what they drive now is fine and sometime in the future hybrids will improve to such a degree they'll never actually have to make a conscious decision about which to purchase next.

1-11-2013

One Million Goal.  That's what Toyota set out to achieve a few years ago for 2012.  Taking sales of the v model in Japan, hybrid sales in Europe & Canada, sales of Lexus hybrids, and sales of Camry/Highlander all into account, combined with the counts we have solid numbers for, it's easy to see Toyota is well on their way.  Here in the United States, all models of Prius purchasing came to a total of 236,659 Prius.  In Japan, the regular (liftback) model accounted for 317,675 Prius.  There, Aqua (known as the c model here) had sales of 266,567.  The numbers look good.  It's a promise of sustainability, which is the point.  Automakers must sell a bulk of their production as hybrids.  There's no argument about that anymore.  Greenwashing efforts of the past, attempting to label cars like Prius a niche, have failed miserably.  That's why the rhetoric now is so intense.  Those fighting change had no option left anymore but to accept it.  Some will still attempt to spin numbers to conceal the reality of the situation.  That does nothing for the business though.  In fact, not facing the need to be competition has dire consequences.  That's why watching Ford embrace this change has put so much pressure on GM.  Seeing C-Max & Fusion plunge into the mainstream leaves Volt behind.  That vehicle was promoted as a car for the everyday commuter, something we'd see as a popular purchase choice.  Instead, it's been downplayed to a hopeful next generation, leaving Toyota in a position to begin reducing production of their popular traditional cars (Camry & Corolla) in favor of Prius here... in Japan, that has already taken place.  We'll see more and more hybrids, so with plugs too.  Eventually, the next goal will be stated.  When should we expect 1.5 million sales annually?

 

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