Prius Personal Log  #606

January 22, 2013  -  February 2, 2013

Last Updated: Thurs. 2/07/2013

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2-02-2013

Decision Making.  We're seeing lots of questions about the plug now.  The increase is a good gauge of growing interest.  I suspect we'll see steady growth as the temperature warms.  In the meantime, it's random queries like this: "I am thinking of purchasing a Prius plug-in and I will be using it to drive within 8 miles of my home.  Since the speed limits in my area range from 20 to 35 mph will I benefit from using the EV mode?  Or am I better off buying a the standard non- plug- in version of the Prius?" After awhile, a pattern will emerge.  That comes about from the basics becoming easier for the curious to find answers too.  I responded with:  Short trips are MPG killers with the regular Prius.  If you had to deal with them and speed limits up to 45 mph, efficiency is heavily in favor of the plug.  That makes the decision easier.  The engine likely wouldn't be needed at all.  8 miles from home (16 round trip) is longer though, but the capacity would actually balance out nice.  You'd still get great MPG overall. In the summer, you'd experience the rapid engine warm-up and not mind much when it runs.  In the winter, you may get annoyed by the engine warm-up taking longer and running for heat, not just providing power after depletion.   The EV experience is complimented nicely by the HV driving.  It's what a plug-in hybrid is all about. Toyota designed a system for the masses, delivering a vehicle that takes advantage of electricity without sacrificing it just for the sake of keeping the engine off even when it's inefficient to do so.  It's a balance some people like and others don't.  Good luck with your decision.

2-02-2013

Challenges.  This summarized the general view pretty well: "In my opinion, the PiP has two major problems, range and cost."  Without history, judging market response is like throwing darts.  For me with extensive experience, I see thoughts about the technology changing rapidly.  By the end of the year, people will be familiar with the basics.  That's a big step.  But the way we spread real-world information now, it's fairly realistic.  I posted this:  The perception of "range" being low isn't a daunting challenge to overcome.  After all, the audience is focused on "performance" numbers related to efficiency, not the old school more-is-better with speed & horsepower.  Fortunately, the test-drive experience can be quite compelling.  When it comes to "cost", there's a big question to ask.  Is the point to entice someone who would otherwise purchase a regular Prius or it is to offer an affordable plug-in hybrid?  There's a big difference.  A larger battery-pack would offer more, but the tradeoff is higher cost.  You also have to sacrifice both internal space and efficiency after depletion.  At least with the plug-in Prius, things the system will be refined over time.  Like with the computer industry, there will be battery & cost improvements.  It's not like the automotive industry a few years ago, where the definition of "improvement" was to just make the vehicle bigger with no concern about efficiency.

2-01-2013

No More.  Sales results for January were published today.  The hybrids are holding ground.  Thank goodness.  Focus is shifting to plug-in models.  We knew January is always a bad month and that the rush to collect 2012 tax-credits would cause counts to be lower.  We also don't want to draw any conclusions on debut offerings, since they typically have a skewed impression of demand at first.  That limits commentary to Toyota & GM still.  874 for Prius was within expectations, since availability was still limited to just the 15 initial rollout states.  Now in its third year, Volt is clearly facing a struggle.  1,140 for sales is so low, there are no more discussions about it.  I was actually shocked to find nothing beyond a brief mention.  Even the spin has evaporated.  Attention has been lost.  No one wants to say anything about Volt sales now.  After the expectation revision last year being way off, what could be said?  Remember how 45,000 was stated?  That meant 3,750 per month.  Without growth, how will it survive?  There is no hybrid counterpart.  It somehow has to find a way to stand on its own, especially with competition growing and incentives later expiring.  That doesn't look promising without some type of major change.  Status quo isn't enough... which is why we aren't hearing anything anymore.

1-31-2013

Heater Greenwashing.  A handful of Volt supporters are attempting to exploit a behavior trait, trying to spin it as disqualification: "PIP doesn't even get any EV only miles if heat is used."  Some still obsess with the absolute.  So any engine run, even if brief, means it doesn't offer EV.  You start by asking them for some detail.  The response to that is usually a fairly solid clue to actual intent.  It's just like when the EPA estimate was released.  They ignore the battery-capacity itself and focus entirely on when the engine is first triggers.  Shutting off shortly afterward doesn't count, despite the fact that Prius is a hybrid and that's the way it is suppose to operate.  Getting a mix of EV & HV is a shortcoming as far as they're concerned, regardless of the resulting MPG.  Whatever.  I responded with:  Who told you that?  It certainly wasn't an owner.  -6°F on this morning's commute was a great example.  Despite using the heater in my PIP this morning, I drove in EV... 4 miles with the engine off, to be precise.  The engine stops once coolant temperature reaches 130°F, then stays off until hitting until hitting the low threshold... typically 114°F, but sometimes lower if speed is really slow.  Also, let's not overlook the reality that the plug-supplied electricity is used even when the engine runs.  That is referred to as EV-BOOST.  It pushes MPG above 100, which you routinely see while traveling faster than 62 mph.

1-31-2013

Deliberate Greenwashing.  You have to wonder what happened to journalism upon reading published statements like this: "How green is it?  In the compact car arena, without the EV mode, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt can get 40 mpg.  That's pretty green in any book."  First, 40 MPG is nothing to be proud of from a compact hybrid when traditional vehicles are able to deliver the same thing.  Second, being green doesn't just mean high efficiency.  That only represents a reduction of carbon emissions.  It says nothing whatsoever about the other kind, smog.  In fact, some high-efficiency vehicles are actually dirtier.  In the case of Volt, the book gives it a ULEV rating.  That's just like most other traditional vehicles on the road, very common.  EPA wrote that book.  They are the Environmental Protection Agency, an official authority when it comes to being green.  Yet, the author omitted any reference to them and deliberated painted a green picture for Volt.  It in fact is not.  A truly clean emission rating is PZEV.  And you guessed it, that's what Prius delivers.  Want to ponder the topic even more, think about how clean electricity from an old coal factory is.  Think about the emissions it creates.  The writer certainly didn't convey any information to that effect... a proper journalist would have.  The article ended up just being a promotion for Volt, despite initially leading you to believe it was an overview of what automakers had to offer.

1-30-2013

Entirely Different.  2013 is a fresh year, a clean page in history.  Consumers now know of Ford's two plug-in hybrids (C-Max & Fusion), Honda's new plug-in hybrid (Accord), and obviously Toyota's (Prius).  So perspective of the past doesn't apply anymore.  In other words, previous excuses aren't valid.  We start with an entirely new market.  The situation emerging poses new questions, now that real-world data is becoming easier to find.  Focus will be on results, not approach.  Only enthusiasts care about system details.  It's very similar to what we saw in the past with the difference between ASSIST and FULL hybrids.  The typical consumer couldn't care less how it operated.  They were interested in how well the vehicle would fit their needs & budget.  I'm thrilled that technical debates are over.  At this point, all comes down to sales.  To specifically address Volt & Ampera, how sales growth will be achieved remains a huge mystery.  Somehow, GM must keep interest from being lost to the other automakers.  What will that do to achieve that, knowing the tax-credit will eventually expire?  It's one thing to deliver the vehicle itself.  It's something entirely different to make it a high-volume profitable seller.

1-30-2013

Inspired.  A thread on the big Prius forum discussing extreme-cold driving results inspired me to try more.  Why not do it again?   Although the temperature is considerably warmer now, a blustery 18°F rather than -2°F as before, it would still be a good example of Winter driving.  I'd run errands all in EV.  With a maximum speed limit of 50 mph and using only the heated-seat, it shouldn't be a big deal. I'd simply crack passenger-front and driver-back windows for air-circulation to prevent condensation instead of using defrost.  The engine should stay off.  I began with a fully recharged battery-pack.  Charging ended 8 hours earlier.  The Prius hadn't been used for 18 hours.  It sat there in the garage overnight.  Leaving mid-afternoon, conditions inside were about 30°F.  That's far from ideal, nothing like the maximum battery performance we experience when no jacket is required.  Anywho, I drove 3 miles to the bank.  From there, it was 2.5 miles to the cable-company.  From there, the drive to mom's was just under 1 mile.  No engine up to that point.  Next stop, the coffeeshop. I traveled a distance of 9.1 miles before running out of EV.  The engine fired up and continued to draw electricity.  The battery-pack was depleted down to 3 bars before the warm-up process began generating electricity instead.  When I arrived at my destination to enjoy a coffee and type this post, the total travel came to 11.9 miles.  The final drive through the parking lot to the spot was in EV, since warm-up had already completed.  The resulting average for that entire drive was 198 MPG.  It was an excellent example of what you could experience given the right conditions, a demonstration of potential... but not necessarily an expectation.  YMMV.

1-30-2013

Late 2013.  That was what Toyota's major website revamp stated in the section for the plug-in Prius.  The wording on the webpage says: "Availability will open up to all other states in late 2013."  That basically just tells us the expansion will be here & there throughout the year, but don't expect availability everywhere until later.  We pretty much already knew that would happen anyway.  Even within the new states could be spotty.  I was told not all dealers around here would get inventory at the same time.  We have also been told that the domestic market (Japan) would get priority as well.  Since the EV market here has been so wishy-washy and loaded with political rhetoric, that isn't much of a surprise.  The market is no longer choiceless like it was when Volt first rolled out.  The this-or-nothing situation no longer exists.  Ford offers a choice of two different plug-in hybrids.  Honda offers one too.  None of them resemble GM or Toyota in operational characteristics.  Confused feedback from consumers already is reason to focus on existing markets more than expanding to new ones.

1-29-2013

Expensive Gas.  It makes you wonder how a comment like this actually derives: "When I bought my first Prius (Oct 2000) everyone was talking about how in ~10 years we'd be paying $10/gal for gas...hasn't happened."  Was that a distorted memory of the past, consensus from a very small group, or some other misrepresentation.  My personal logs certainly don't have any references like that and the forums of the time weren't discussing gas anywhere near that high.  Perhaps it was some totally different venue, something not directly related to vehicles... perhaps related to energy instead.  Whatever the case, I tried my best to prevent that comment from getting any more off track with:  I'd suggest searching for some old comparison analysis reports.  You'll find it was quite a challenge even arguing $4 would happen.  It was actually quite frustrating.  The belief was gas would continue to be cheap.  What's much more interesting is the change that happened when $4 gas really did arrive.  The guzzlers started to disappear, despite the arguments then having shifted to $5 being the tipping point.  Clearly, it wasn't.  Now, we are still looking at $4 being the norm for the next few years.  That's somewhat of an influence, but people are slowing growing use to paying more.  Becoming tolerant of higher prices poses a very real challenge for plug-in growth.

1-29-2013

Misled Purchases.  They happen.  In fact, that's how some owners discover the big Prius forum.  They come there to voice their frustration, then vanish without any further comment.  It's a common occurrence without any certainty of outcome.  Once in a blue moon though, that misled purchase ends up creating an strong advocate rather than the assumed frustrated customer.  This time, it was: "Toyota needs to come clean and make it clear to buyers that the EV plug-in is not truly or exclusively electric... I was assured it was when I bought it."  I did my best to console & advise with:  Sorry to hear you were misled, but please don't blame Toyota corporate.  They delivered model of Prius you purchased to clearly display the "PLUG-IN HYBRID" emblem.  Finding fault with salespeople & dealerships is an entirely different matter.  And by all means, sound off when that happens.  We, as owners & supporters, will help convey the detail needed to make a well-informed purchase decision.  Hybrid means blending of two power sources.  The EV you experience can indeed be with the engine off, but there is no promise of that or even that it will be the first miles driven.  The addition of the plug enhances what Prius already offers, hence being a package option.  The test-drive experience will reveal that, especially when you exceed 62 mph.  The purpose is to provide very high efficiency and very low emissions... which happens regardless of how the electricity from the battery is actually consumed.  Give it time.  Your purchase in the dead of winter means there is much to look forward to. EV range increases as the temperature warms.  The engine runs less often and at shorter intervals once the cold is gone too.  Local errand running becomes a pleasure, rather than a chore, as a result.  Being one of the few who owner a PHV back when there was still snow last year, I can point out how much of a difference it makes.

1-29-2013

Labels & Purpose.  Marketing is intentionally bias.  That's the point.  It's purpose is to convince you their product is the best choice.  Why can't those handful of Volt enthusiasts still convinced purity is the best approach see that?  Needless to say, I didn't say much after reading this from one such person: "...people that don't understand what EREVs are really all about."  The reason was simple, that phrase followed a series of insults for those in favor of a different plug-in hybrid.  He's been quite smug.  I find that a relief.  Thank goodness many owners aren't like that.  Being among the few still holding on to hope of the past, I wonder if there will be a change in attitude following results this month's sales.  In the meantime, I had thoughts of my own to document:  The design is intended to deliver EV by avoiding use of the engine, only starting combustion when absolutely necessary, even if efficiency opportunities are lost.  But since that wasn't even the point of the post, why bother?  GM needs to produce a high-efficiency vehicles that is purchase in high-volume.  No argument about semantics will change that.  They must deliver something for mainstream buyers.  Period.  Volt itself can continue being appreciated by owners.  That's great!  There's nothing wrong with enthusiasts.  They provide ambition & excitement.  But enthusiasts are not middle-market, who don't share the same passion.  They couldn't care less about whether a vehicle is called an EREV or a PHEV.  In fact, most won't have any clue how the system actually works.  They just need a practical & reliable vehicle that's affordable.

 

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