Prius Personal Log  #608

February 9, 2013  -  February 17, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 4/03/2013

    page #607         page #609         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 



Warmed Battery.  Cold temperatures reduce efficiency.  People know that.  Most don't actually know why though.  Like many things, it's just accepted without questions.  After all, most people are not engineers or chemists or physicists.  The science is just taken for granted.  Those are usually safe assumptions... unless you're trying something new, like driving a plug-in vehicle.  In the case with Li-Ion batteries currently, the electrical resistance increases as the outside temperature decreases.  That means it requires more electricity to deliver the same power as it does when it's warmer.  Knowing this, you can actually improve EV performance simply by delaying when you electric-only drive.  That works out great when you have a drive further than the capacity available and need to run the engine for heat anyway.  A clue that the battery-pack is happily warmed, through the use of HV mode and the cabin heater, is when the windshield no longer fogs up even when you shut the blower off entirely.  At that point, EV driving is at its most efficient.  Of course, you can drive in EV sooner, but that's consumes more kWh than waiting.  This is why some plug-in vehicles offer a battery pre-warming feature that operates when still plugged in.  Think about MPG.  Results vary with the engine.  Why not results from a battery-pack too?


Idle Workers.  Missing the overall sales goal of 60,000 for Volt last year continues to reveal consequences.  That really angers some of the supporters, one of whom just plain could not resist: "It's just a shame it doesn't have a larger battery so that overall efficiency is as good as the Volt."  He obviously isn't pleased that Prius PHV hasn't shared the same suffering.  I responded with:  It truly boggles the mind that such a basic economic reality is so easily traded for bragging rights.  That quote is a classic example.  Misplaced priorities continue to be a problem.  The point of idle-worker report was to bring attention to the consequences of not meeting sales expectations.  Profit comes from meeting production goals.  Workers get paid whether they build anything or not.  Sitting there playing games and watching movies instead of increasing inventory results in financial losses.  Remember, the automaker chooses what to produce.  Not meeting their own goals results in a profit penalty.  Having a trophy for highest MPG does not pay the bills.  The smaller size of the plug-in Prius battery keeps cost in check, making it a premium package option rather than a substantial price differential.  The 4.4 kWh of capacity is clearly more market-competitive than the 16.5 in Volt.  Reality is, waiting for the next generation of Volt is turning into a costly risk.  Reports like this will continue to point that out.


Problem With Prius, part 2.  Nope, no change.  There were the expected comments, the usual "apples to oranges" dismissal comments... which made sense.  Why in the world would the hybrid model of Prius be compared to Volt?  It was quite obvious they avoiding discussion of the plug-in model like a plague.  Not wanting to even bring up the existence was a dead giveaway they fear it.  After all, I got characterized as a threat last week by a Volt owner on the big Prius forum.  Those sharing real-world data thorough enough to cast doubt on GM's one-size-fits-all approach get cast as wanting Volt to fail.  The idea of a plug-in for the masses is unacceptable.  Appealing to the middle is in direct conflict of having a standout vehicle.  It's always the same old nonsense.  They wave the flag and paint a rosy picture for the future, ignoring what's actually happening.  I had really hoped 2013 would be the wake-up call, such a shock to enthusiasts that the greenwashing would vanish like we've seen in the past for particular misconceptions.  Signs of that not happening are emerging.  They still see a problem with Prius... which means hope of a compromise are unrealistic.  A more affordable model that depends upon blending for high efficiency isn't what enthusiasts are willing to support.  The "no gas" chant continues.


Problem With Prius, part 1.  Reading this on the forum dedicated to Volt caught my attention: "My contention is that, though the Prius is one of the most efficient cars on the road, it still suffers from the same fatal flaw that most vehicles today suffer from: It runs on gas."  Since I have never posted there and am not even a member (despite easy to prove false claims that I am and have), it's a good source for getting perspective from.  What do they have to say?  After all, this is the good that thrives on bragging rights.  Getting constructive posts in response to that new thread would be a sign of change.  After all, they avoided acknowledge that their founder replaced his Volt with a C-Max Energi.  Remember, the original hope was that Volt's engine would only be used as a backup, when unexpected circumstances caught them in depleted state.  Having the engine run routinely for heat certainly was a topic of greenwashing, an attempt to undermine and so favor for Prius.  So naturally, they would portray the plug-in model of Prius as only being able to run exclusively with electricity as a rare situation.  Needless to say, they were wrong on both counts.  That's why I was quite curious to find out what their mindset is now.  Has it actually changed?


We Love Oil.  There was a video circulated online that did an excellent job of using sarcasm to tell the story of oil love.  There were my favorite quotes from it:  "I love how when the oil companies are making more profits than any other industry in history, ever, they still get billions in subsidies every year. I mean, that's awesome!"  and  "I love how oil companies talk about making gas cheaper with more domestic drilling, when gas prices aren't going anywhere, no matter how much we drill. Oh yeah!"  and  "I love how pollution from oil is causing climate change, which is letting oil companies drill in the arctic so we can have, you know, more climate change. I love that!"  and  "I love how you grown ups are so oil crazy. You're going to leave us with nothing but scary weather, no clean energy, and now oil left. Good thinking! I love it!"  and  "I love how having our entire economy dependent on oil leaves us dependent on régimes from all over the world, who don't even like us."  Doesn't knowing that make you feel the love?


Tesla Love.  Today may be Valentine's Day, but love certainly isn't the theme online in the automotive world.  Last week, there was a report published by a journalist who took a long highway trip with the Tesla Model S.  There was 200 miles of road to travel.  With a 265-mile estimated driving range, the trip in that electric-only vehicle should not have been a big deal.  But when it comes to EV understanding, there is reason for concern.  Knowing how some reporters don't take the time and just jump in behind the wheel... as we've seen countless times with hybrids... this experience wasn't likely going to be an accurate portrayal of what owners would actually do.  Sure enough, the actions taken became a bit unusual.  He slowed down to 54 mph in a 65 mph zone, supposedly to conserve power.  There was no mention of the speed he had been traveling at prior to then or if slowing down had any effect though.  Running low on electricity, he stopped to recharge.  That went fine, until a confusing narrative of what happened the next morning.  The trip had started with the temperature just a little below freezing, quite comfortable for us northern folk.  It was now just 10°F outside.  That cold gives the impression of lost EV range, since the distance is represented as if the battery were to never warm up.  It will as you drive, lowering internal resistance, which results in longer range.  But he didn't know that; instead, he ran the heater on low for 30 minutes without driving anywhere or even being plugged in.  That was a huge waste.  He then needed to find an electrical source before using up most of the power remaining.  He did too.  But he only waited for the minimum recharge.  You can guess the outcome too.  He didn't have enough electricity.  It was a strange account with advice not followed and wonder about intent.  Long story short, there has been quite a stir online for the past week.  You'd expect all the resulting controversy to be a big endorsement for Volt, since it eliminates the "range anxiety" fear.  Interestingly, it hasn't.  In fact, quite the opposite as occurred.  Volt isn't getting any attention at all.  More missed opportunity.  I bet the Tesla supporters won't remain silent like that.


Stereotyping.  There is a new initiative.  It's an effort to stereotype Prius drivers.  With so many in traffic now, forcing them into an odious category isn't much of a surprise.  That may seem a little harsh, but we all remember what happened with SUVs.  There's is an undeniable feeling of dislike still.  There's also the faint memory of what happened decades ago with minivans... those who wouldn't be caught dead in one ended up having that as their everyday mode of transportation.  The realities of need always win out over want in the end.  Some have more difficulty accepting that than others.  This effort to label is nothing new.  It's unfortunate, predictable, and unavoidable.  With the internet so prevalent, seeing op-ed attempts to undermine circulate from website to website is no longer a concern.  They all refer back to a source with little to no credibility.  In the past, that didn't matter.  Now, it's easy for readers to figure out what's going on.  Those sources with data to support claims draw attention any from those simply stirring the pot.  Things like stereotyping don't work.  We've all been through that too many times online already.


EV Commute.  Today was an unexpected treat.  I drove using all of the available battery capacity (that's 62%, from 85 to 23 of the entire pack) on my drive home prior to the engine starting.  Usually, it's cold enough to require the engine to start for heat.  Winter is slowly starting to fade away though.  Just below freezing temperatures are far more frequent than the nasty near-zero from recent memory.  That's exciting, since the commute route includes a climb out of the river valley at 55 mph.  Being able to show that someday on video would be nice.  This evening, it was just me alone observing.  It pleases me every time I do that.  Way back before I got my own plug-in Prius, I got to drive an early model for a few days.  Climbing up the steep residential hill in my neighborhood without using the engine was the highlight.  Those trying to undermine continue to claim that isn't possible.  I know it is.  Going up & down is part of the routine.  My commute includes frequent EV use.  This time, it was all in one big chunk.


Inadvertent EV.  All I can say is "ugh".  Several times recently, I've looked at the display on the dashboard and discovered EV range was almost all gone.  Without even realizing, I had driven off without firing up the engine.  EV mode is the default.  So if you're a bit distracted, that can happen.  But when you were planning to use that electricity later, finding it almost all gone is a bit of a mixed-emotion experience.  There's quite a thrill to realize EV works so well, the lack of an engine isn't noticed.  But there's also a bit of a let down that an efficient HV opportunity was missed.  When you inadvertently drive along in EV mode, the endorsement for that design certainly is difficult to argue against.  That's proof of how well thought out the approach actually is.  The needs of real-world driving were clearly taken into consideration, in great depth.  It's a nice balance of priorities.


Annual Report.  I have lots of data now, 11-months of daily & tank real-world data collected so far.  That was enough to reveal the variety of graphs & summaries I plan to present in the form of an annual report in March.  Having a single document highlighting everything we commonly refer to, with actual owner information rather than just generalizations & assumption will be quite handy.  There are things some people haven't ever considered before.  For that matter, I had to make sure my representation wasn't misleading or incorrect.  A good example is the depiction of MPGe.  Since that's a brand new concept, even the formula itself must be very clear.  Anywho, I shared what I had on the big Prius forum hoping for comment, suggestions, and whatever feedback possible to help make the final version realistic to publish shortly after the anniversary itself.  The fact that the plug-in Prius has only been rolled out to 15 states so far makes a resource like this quite timely.  We'll have something available to refer to when interest stirs later in the other states.  I'm excited about the document.  None of the other generations of Prius had anything so comprehensive.  Of course, they didn't have a plug either.  The use of plug-supplied electricity adds a whole new dimension to the purchase decision.


Toyota Hybrid Sales.  I lost track of the file where counts from Japan were saved on.  Oh well.  We know that the C model (known there as "Aqua") and the regular model (often referred to as "liftback") have been holding the first and third spots there for monthly sales.  Here, the regular model is frequently in the top-10.  Stepping back to look at the entire year, an interesting total emerges.  Remember that goal set a few years ago?  Toyota wanted to produce & sale 1,000,000 hybrids starting in 2012.  They did it!  Again, I don't have all the numbers, but the ones available tell the story anyway.  892,519 was the final count for Prius worldwide.  90,569 was the final count for the other Toyota hybrids and all the models from Lexus, here in just the United States.  Only 16,912 would have had to been sold in Japan, Europe, Canada, or anywhere else to bring the total up to 1,000,000.  It's quite clear, the goal was achieved.  Yeah!  The technology is undeniably mainstream now.  That level of annual volume makes that fact undebateable now.


Fundamentals.  Hybrids with plugs.  Electrics with engines.  How are consumers really going to distinguish them?  Volt enthusiasts continue to praise "EREV" as the only solution for the masses, yet cannot actually explain how it differs from the other plug-in vehicles that sometimes use gas.  The label is really just a marketing strategy, since there isn't any criteria defining what it is.  This is just like the lack of goals.  Nothing specific ever stated was an obvious clue that whatever happened next would invite conflict & confusion, as well as impede progress.  You can't be that vague and expect to succeed.  The problems of risk & profit aren't resolved by gimmick.  Yet, attempts continue.  Notice how most comparisons are based solely on specifications, absent of real-world data?  Notice how the specifications don’t address need, simply expressing a "more is better" perspective?  Notice how much emphasis is placed on price after tax-credit, rather than production cost?  Fundamentals are lost in a wash of marketing push.  Are readers taking the time to consider what the differences actually are?  What about levels of importance?  How many?  When?


Insults & Injury.  Advancing beyond the fallout of 2012 is going fairly well.  The only people still stirring the pot are those who were injured then, meaning their expectations had a major disconnect with what ending up happening.  As a result, they feel injured… so they lash out with insults.  After all, attacking someone who represents the triumph you didn't have is a way of getting closure.  It's not a good one.  In fact, it's quite terrible.  Fortunately, they are few… and quickly losing credibility through their own lack of politeness.  It's odd to watch self-deprecation play out.  The temptation to respond to the bait they drop is intense.  Resisting pays off too.  You can even point out the fact that you are ignoring their taunts.  Long story short, 2013 is shaping up to be pretty nice.  Newbies are looking forward.  Everyone else is happy to see progress.  Yeah!


back to home page       go to top