Prius Personal Log  #648

November 20, 2013  -  November 26, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 12/18/2013

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11-26-2013

Failure Fallout, good.  Thankfully, there is a bit of redemption.  When one of the biggest troublemakers ends up posting this, you can breath a sign of relief:  "BTW, one thing that irks me is that GM should have built the Volt on Epsilon II instead of Delta.  Had they done that they'd have easily convinced people the price was acceptable.  A car the size of a Regal or Malibu would more easily justify in everyone's eyes the $40k price tag.  And, it would have much more room.  I doubt there'd have been that big an impact on range, either."  He has posted over and over again how the current compact size was just fine.  Clearly, there's been a major change of heart.  Over and over again I pushed the importance of appealing to the Malibu buyers... getting shunned & ridiculed each time.  Now, he acknowledges it was a good idea after all.  Remember all that concern about "too little, too slowly" we repeatedly warned about?  Not understanding audience until well after rollout is costly & unfortunate.  It will end up being an extra 7 years.  Talking about lost opportunity.  Oh well... better late, than never.  But then again, competition is increasing and tax-credits won't last forever.

11-26-2013

Failure Fallout, bad.  Unfortunately, there is some hate still.  That's happens when what you devoted a great deal of effort toward ends up failing.  Not everyone moves on as quickly as others.  Some people need more time.  Some people need to say their piece.  Some just want to go down fighting.  Some choose to outright lie, to spread misinformation, to greenwash.  This example makes that point all too well: "Either way you compare, the Volt currently has about 6 times the range of the Plug-in Prius."  I was amazed that anyone would be so bold to post a claim so easy to disprove.  But when you are truly desperate and have nothing to lose, I suppose he figured what the heck.  I posted the following, then waited 2 days and followed up.  Here's both:  Adding that information after I posted a response was quite a surprise to see.  It's neither constructive nor accurate.  Volt offers about 62% usable capacity from its 16.5 kWh battery-pack.  Prius PHV offers the same, about 62%.  But taking that value from the 4.4 kWh battery-pack is not even close to 6 times.  It's only 3.75 times... (16.5 * 0.62) / (4.4 * 0.62).  2 days later, still no acknowledgement of the blatantly incorrect claim.  That's unfortunate.  But it does serve as yet another example of the greenwashing we've had to deal with.  Looking at facts, things just plain don't add up.  Comparing another way... (38 miles / 11 miles = 3.45)  That isn't close to 6 times either.

11-24-2013

Failure Fallout, summary.  These are strange times.  Volt, as it currently exists, is pretty much dead.  Niche purchases will continue, but expectations of mainstream acceptance are long gone.  Supporters are finding ways deal with the wait for the next generation.  Enthusiasts have basically vanished.  The rest of the online community have moved on.  The auto show season has begun.  Posts are on other offerings from other automakers.  ELR, the Cadillac enhancement of Chevy's Volt, is stirring nothing but negative criticism.  So, focus on that is unwelcome.  Disappointment is unanimous.  Fortunately, that doesn't mean the idea of plugging in a hybrid has been abandoned.  It just means the expectations are growing more realistic.  The timing works out well for Toyota.  Their decision to wait seems to be getting some vindication now.  GM took a risk and failed.  There's nothing stopping them from trying again.  But next time, they'll need to join the rest of the industry rather than burning bridges... again.  I'm looking forward the changes 2014 brings.

11-24-2013

Intentional Confusion.  The level of greenwashing we witness at times is truly remarkable: "By the way, there seems to be some confusion about the range of the Plug-in Prius."  That statement seems innocent enough.  To the casual reader, they have no clue it was an intentional effort to confuse.  It's the same nonsense by the same few individuals over and over again.  No matter how much detail you provide as a rebuttal, even video of an entire drive, they continue to flat out deny the information.  Some just plain don't care.  This is nothing new.  We've heard many, many, many stories over the decades of salespeople saying whatever they want to prove a point.  But online, there's accountability.  It's easy to reference and follow up.  So, you'd think they'd be more careful.  They try, by being excessively vague.  You know they got the message.  You know they've seen the facts,  You know they decided not to accept them.  The only recourse is to posts a response.  I did to that today:  We've been through this countless times already.  By not explaining what is actually meant, posts just like that add to the confusion.  No definition of what "all-electric" or "blended" refer to makes the situation worse.  The plug-in Prius offers a battery-pack with capacity of 4.4 kWh.  That allows owners to drive around 11 miles total.  Sometimes the engine starts.  Sometime it doesn't.  You still get the benefit of the electricity regardless of whether or not those miles are continuous.  It amazes me to no end that no matter how many times onstructive information is provided to end the confusion, the spreading of misleading content persists.  The plug improves emissions & efficiency.  What the miles are labeled as makes no difference.  That goal is still achieved.

11-24-2013

Rewriting History.  Here is yet another attempt: "Notice how long it took the Prius to catch on.  Our resident Prius blabbers conveniently forget how long it took for hybrids to be a common sight on our roads.  It wasn't until the 2nd gen Prius ( 2004 ) that hybrids took off in popularity."  You have to wonder how much of that they now believe.  After all, if you repeat a lie often enough...  Needless to say, I wasn't about to allow such obvious greenwashing to take place... especially when it's just an effort to defend struggling sales and falling short of several design goals.  There's no excuse for misrepresenting competition anyway.  Doing it by rewriting history is pretty desperate too.  They only do that when nothing else works, when all other options have been exhausted.  My reply to that was:  There's nothing to forget.  That isn't what happened.  Toyota strictly limited availability.  They only planned production of 15,000 in 2001 and 20,000 in 2002 for our market.  There was never any intent to provide more.  The high-volume wouldn't come until the next generation.  People ended up on long lists waiting for delivery as a result.  The 2004 model (delivered late 2003) was quite different.  Right from the very start, the plan was to remove the limitation and deliver as many as the market demanded.  There wasn't a generous tax-credit either.  For that matter, there wasn't even any competition.  Gas was cheap too.  Of course, knowing the true history doesn't really matter. Claiming Volt will take off when the next generation is delivered provides confirmation that the expectation in the meantime is continued weak sales. It's by no means a guarantee of high-volume later either.

11-23-2013

Expiring Leases.  Many have wondered what would happen when those first drivers of Volt had their leases expire.  The 3-year option back then was a steal of a deal.  GM celebrated conquest sales, not taking into consideration what would happen afterward.  The gamble was the market would be so good and resale value so high, the choice to purchase or lease again would be a no-brainer.  They allowed sales opportunity to slip away in favor of pushing that particular configuration.  It didn't work out.  Now we are getting reports of some of them switching over to C-Max Energi.  It works out to a reasonable balance of power, range, efficiency, and size... which is why Ford has always been considered an ally rather than a foe.  They didn't make sacrifices as much as GM.  It's sad that extremes were used for promoting Volt.  The cost of that is not making itself apparent.  Not being able to keep consumers from leaving is a very real problem.  Volt retention was assumed.  The same is actually expected for the plug-in Prius, but purchases were focused on instead and the timing is much better.  After all, national rollout hasn't begun yet and the next generation will be available prior to expiration for those who actually do lease.  Anywho, GM wasn't able to attract many who were replacing an old GM vehicle.  That hasn't been the case for Toyota.  We've seen that former Toyota owners switch over to Prius.  That transition from traditional to hybrid is a big deal.  Offering a hybrid with a plug helps further the reach, reducing market size of choices we want to phase out.  I'm intrigued to read about more lease expiration choices.  Deciding what to get is a big deal.  That's why consideration of more than just the here & now has been an on-going theme.  Whether enthusiasts like it or not, winning battles doesn't mean you'll win the war.

11-23-2013

Engine Use.  When you first get a plug-in hybrid, you are overcome by the insistence too avoid engine use.  It's a natural response.  The smooooooth silence of just gliding along on electrons is quite fulfilling.  But when the vehicle as has an engine and battery-capacity is limited, you know that gas will inevitably be used at some point.  Understanding when become a question frequently pondered.  Eventually, you end up making a comment just like this one in a post today: "My view, now, is that we spend more energy than is deserved worrying about the ICE starting."  I replied with: That sums up the situation well.  The point of being a PLUG-IN HYBRID is often lost to the perception of EV being the ultimate goal.  The point is to deliver the best balance of features, not to maximize electricity use.  My commute home this evening started with 7.7 miles of EV, despite the temperature only being 28°F outside.  So what if the I was able to climb to steep hills and drive along at 50 mph without the engine starting.  That's nice, but the entire trip was 17 miles long and I needed heat after awhile.  So, I fired up the engine on the 55 mph portion.  When I got home, the average for the day (recharging both at home and at work) was 118 MPG.  What reason is there to be disappointed about that?  Heck, it was only 19°F on the commute to work this morning.  What other vehicle the same size & cost could deliver that under those conditions?  Let's not forget about overall emissions either.  Engine heat is also used to cleanse what comes out of the tailpipe.

11-21-2013

31.1 Million Shares.  There was much celebrating today.  First quarter next year was the expectation for the final sale of the last remaining share of GM still in possession of the federal government.  No one really knew how long the selling process would actually take.  So, it was quite a surprise finding out there was only that many left and they would be sold soon.  Of course, put in perspective, that's still a lot... but no where near as much as the 500 Million originally purchased.  GM supporters hated the stigma those shares caused.  It was this dark storm cloud reminding everyone of their unfortunate past.  I didn't care for them either, but my perspective was that of a reminder to the desperate measures the pursuit of profit caused.  The bankruptcy was ugly.  So, the shares were necessary.  Sadly, we are seeing some of the same problem emerge again.  Heavy emphasis on money from Pickup & SUV sales is the worry.  It's a red-flag, a behavior matching the past all too well.  Lack of balance is the heart of the issue.  Not offering a diverse product-line should be concern for a major business.  Being able to self-sustain depends upon that; otherwise, it won't be protected from market shift.  In this case, it's the focus to fuel efficiency.  What choices are available?  GM has a massive gap between their traditional vehicles and Volt.  That continues to be a very real exposure.  At least the burden of being partially owned by the government is no longer an issue.

11-21-2013

Stalled Interest.  The blog has been dead, nothing seems to stir any movement... even a provoke.  No one knows where Volt stands anymore.  It has befallen to silence.  Today, there was a new article about ELR, the Cadillac variant.  The topic was it offering a "smart-grid ready" feature.  Being so far removed from want ordinary consumers seek, it was no surprise this popped up in the discussion: "Too bad GM didn't give the ELR more battery range than the Volt instead of all the stuff that doesn’t really matter.  For the price they want a bigger battery should have been part of the package."  That peaked my interest.  Would responding result in anything constructive?  That's unlikely, since the blog is known for down-voting facts.  Who knows how or even if anything will come.  Heck, even on the big Prius forum the discussions of Volt have stalled.  Pretty much everyone has given up.  So, I posted:  With such heavy promotion of the "40 mile" range importance, offering more would undermine the technology.  After all, there were quite a few mixed messages and a serious lack of clarity in the past.  The last thing GM wants to do is contribute to that again.  Put another way, they've backed themselves into a corner with respect to perception of the technology.  Advertised as an EV with engine backup and falling short of the growing 50 MPG expectation, options are limited.  So, we are left waiting for the next generation, an uncertainty period which contributes to other automakers building recognition of their own offerings in the meantime.  Volt was a rollout with lots of risk, depending upon a quick market shift to electric.  That hope didn't pan out.  The concerns of cost & acceptance were proven to be factors which should have been given much higher priority.  GM is stuck having to backtrack and offer creature-comforts while we wait.

11-20-2013

Morning Commute Video, appdata.  Prius uses a power-split-device to allow the interaction of 2 electric motors and a gas engine.  Each operates independently to take advantage of efficiency opportunities.  Some are quite brief, a few seconds.  Others can last much longer.  Being able to adjust RPM is how the system achieves improved use of the energy available.  With the regular Prius, that means all energy is ultimately derived from gas.  Yet, much improved MPG is delivered anyway.  Having the ability to quickly adjust is the key.  Adding a plug, like the PHV model of Prius offers, further expands upon those opportunities.  Most people have no what actually occurs when that happens.  This video will help to reveal what those motors and the engine actually do.  At times, you'll see the engine off while the MG2 (the large traction motor) provides propulsion.  Other times, you'll see the engine provide some power.  That power is directed to both the vehicles wheels and to MG1 (the smaller motor, which operates as a generator).  When coming to a stop, MG2 becomes a generator to capture the unneeded kinetic energy.  It's all an interesting dance of energy flow, continuously changing.  It's also important to keep in mind that the primary purpose of Prius is to deliver cleaner emissions.  The system will sacrifice some MPG for the sake of reducing pollutants from the engine.  This is achieved by cleansing, using heat.  That's what makes knowing the coolant temperature so important.  Engine heat is used by the emission system.  When it is cold outside, engine heat captured by the coolant is what warms the interior of the Prius too.  SOC is the battery-pack's State of Charge. 85% represents "full" and 23.5% represents "empty".  Not actually recharging the battery-pack to 100% or ever depleted to 0% helps to prolong its life.  Either extreme is stressful on the chemicals within.  So, the system goes out if its way to avoid that.  Watch the video of my commute to work, presented at 5 times normal speed.  Note the outside temperature of 25°F, which marks the early signs of Winter here in Minnesota.  Parked in an unheated, but insolated, garage overnight is why the coolant shows a little bit of warmth.  The engine is still ice cold when I enter the ramp for the highway.  Fortunately, it warms up fairly quick.  At the end, you'll photos of the dashboard displays in the Prius.  They show a summary of the drive. In this case, the 16.8-mile trip resulted in an overall efficiency of 128 MPG.  That works out to about 0.13 gallons of gas and 3 kWh of electricity (including charging losses).  Note that the average-speed value measurement includes the time while the Prius is stopped, waiting for a light to turn green.  Lastly, that screen showing the on-going data while I drive is video of an application running on my phone.  It's connected to the Prius ODB-II port using Bluetooth.  I setup a camera to capture that information, then just combined it with the video of the scenery from a second camera afterward... video:  Morning Commute (appdata)

 

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