Prius Personal Log  #654

January 17, 2014  -  January 23, 2014

Last Updated: Tues. 5/27/2014

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1-23-2014

New Topic.  This was posted on the parent website: "Is the Chevy Volt Destined To Remain GM's Niche Product?"  That one is constructive and openly welcomes a diverse group of posters.  It's quite a contrast to the child website, the one specifically for Volt; that daily blog.  We've seen many topics start on the parent, then move to the child later.  The contrast in attitudes is stark.  It's remarkable to see such differences.  I'm curious as ever what the other will bring.  This is what I posted to start things out:  "Who is the market for Volt?" was the question asked countless times prior to and following the rollout.  It was quite clear the target audience was not mainstream consumers, those who would otherwise purchase a popular GM vehicle... like Malibu, Impala or Cruze.  "What will the next Volt offer?" has become the new question.  Goals of the first did not match up with purchase criteria of the masses.  Agreement of it remaining a niche until their are major changes is easy to get now.  Expectations are better now that there's an understanding of the market.  The key is being able to compete head on (be profitable & high-volume), without the help of a tax-credit.  That's been a fundamental strength of Prius which has irritated GM for a very long time.  Adding a plug complicates matters, making sales growth an even greater challenge.

1-23-2014

Understanding the Plug.  Most people have no idea how the transmission works in their own vehicle, the one they've been driving for years.  So how do you answer a question like this: "Does anyone know how the plugin transmission works?"  Pointing out the differences between a what they own and a hybrid system is quite difficult.  You lose attention and are open to misinterpretation if words aren't chosen carefully.  Think about how many problems understanding the difference between ASSIST and FULL along the years.  That was quite a challenge to deal with.  And of course now, there's difference between FULL hybrids with a plug and whatever the heck EREV supposedly is.  Remember, we have to deal with intentional misleading too.  That makes the situation quite a mess when you are genuinely trying to be helpful and guessing at what the person's background may be.  I gave it a shot today with:  The lack of gears & shifting prevents it from being called a "transmission" as most people know them.  There are power carriers permanently connected which transfer energy in a variety of ways.  It connects the gas engine and two electric motors to the wheels.  They rotate at different speeds & directions to optimize efficiency.  The plug-in model takes advantage of that by powering the traction motor more than with the regular model.

1-21-2014

14 Minutes.  My driving results were skewed somewhat.  It was the first day of the second half of winter.  I started the cold season with the bottom grille blocked entirely  The top was open entirely, until yesterday... which I switched to 50% blocked.  The real-world results were compelling right away.  To my surprise, there was a quite noticeable improvement in heat retention.  I had thought it would be modest.  But driving alone in EV with the heater still pulling warmth from the coolant, I could easily tell it was lasting longer.  I also got an opportunity to try the "wait" test.  After leaving the highway, with the engine toasty warm, there was a 1/2 mile drive that brought to a restaurant.  I arrived really early.  So, I turned down the heater temp to 65 and the fan down to the slowest setting, then sat there.  The coolant temp dropped from 188°F to 123°F.  I was kept warm for 14 minutes before the engine started.

1-20-2014

Focus Energi.  An interesting rumor emerged today.  It was that Ford is actively working to deliver a third plug-in hybrid option.  That obviously really irritated the Volt enthusiasts, who had fought the one-size-fits-all problem for years and was only made worse by GM rolling out ELR.  Offering several different size hybrids and some with different size battery-packs is exactly what needs to happen for the business to be viable.  We see that happening with both Ford and Toyota.  The benefits of a having the goal to offer a diverse set of choices are undeniable.  Yet, some still fight the idea.  Ask yourself:  Why?  The answer to that question should be easy to figure out at this point.  They hope the market won't accept anything less than what Volt offers.  They want that to be the minimum.  They are learning the hard way that hasn't been a wise path to follow.  The realities of business simply don't support such a paradigm shift.  Over and over again we get examples confirming the differences between how the market works and how some want it to work.  Ugh.

1-19-2014

70 Cents.  The price of a barrel of oil has been in the 90's for quite a long time now.  That has settled the price of gas at $3.19 and diesel at $3.89 per gallon.  With an on-going difference of 70 cents, how do certain automakers expect their plans to significantly increase the market-share of diesel passenger cars to succeed?  Beside the higher fuel cost, there is an obvious noise increase (the clutter from the engine) and fewer refilling locations.  Add to that the higher price of the vehicle itself, the numbers just plain don't add up.  No amount of spin will overcome that.  It makes competing with the gas counterparts a heck of a challenge and regular hybrids a source of endless debate.  Fortunately, it's basicall impossible for traditional diesel vehicles to compete in any way against plug-in hybrids... and that's without even having to point out the need for diesel emissions to be cleansed with urea.  The on-going cost of refilling that reservoir and the trunk space it consumes is a real issue to content with regardless of what the competition is.

1-19-2014

Shopping.  I went to the mall today.  It's been awhile.  In fact, I've been avoiding it since the lead up to the gift-buying last year.  Parking was still on the crazy side, even though the holidays are long over.  My guess is that this was the first nice weekend we've had for awhile.  That made it a good time to go out.  Anywho, I took advantage of being able to plug in again.  That meant an hour and a half for me to roam around in the meantime.  I made the best of that, even though I didn't need to.  The charging price is $0.49 per kWh.  There's no time restriction.  I could stop whenever I wanted.  I could stay as long as I wanted to as well... but didn't want to.  After all, there's only 2 spots in that ramp and 2 in the other.  4 for an entire mall makes them rather scarce.  When I did leave, there was a Leaf parked next to me charging up.  I bet seeing a plug-in Prius in a state not selling them yet took the owner by surprise.  Whatever the case, the people watching me unplug sure were surprised.  My activity in the side-corner of the car obviously caught their attention.  Long story short, I enjoyed the experience, got the stuff in the mall I had stopped there for and purchased $1.29 worth of electricity.

1-19-2014

Third Time.  I hadn't posted anything on that daily blog for ages.  Content didn't have anything to do with Volt anymore.  All the rhetoric & spin are just a bad memory now.  In fact, I can't even remember the final attack.  You know, when they down-voted a fact because they didn't like the way it portrayed the situation at hand.  Gotta like that.  So, I've moved on.  Today though, it was ok to join in.  After, many of the once die-hard supporters are now speaking their mind on how to clean up the mess.  I ended up posting:  After years of it being said, the concern is finally recognized & understood.  Strong beliefs in the engineering allowed business aspects to be neglected.  Now, consequences of that are playing out.  Focus was misplaced.  Hype got out of control.  Consumers lost interest.  That can't be allowed to happen again.  Those countless posts of the past speak for themselves, confirming the required change of priorities.  Do they need to be reiterated or is it enough to just state "too little, too slowly" one last time?  At least there won't be arguments about goals anymore.  The strategy tried clearly didn't produce the results expected.  Both Two-Mode and Voltec were heavily promoted and neither was able to demonstrate sustainability after 3 years of sales.  The conclusion for both was that redesign would be required.  Is third time a charm?  Don't allow history to repeat.

1-19-2014

Increased Capacity.  That topic comes up often.  There's a wide variety of opinions on what Toyota should do next.  I put it this way:  Since a major priority of the design was to keep PHV competitive with the true competition... tradition vehicles ...it's not realistic to expect a major increase in battery-pack capacity.  Too much would easily push the cost out of reach for mainstream consumers.  That would sacrifice both cargo-space and depleted-efficiency too.  Toyota could offer an additional model with higher specifications, but that's clearly not what the masses have been asking for.  I drive close to 20,000 miles per year.  Being able to recharge at work is nice.  It doesn't cover my entire day though, not even close.  I also take frequent trips well out of that doubled capacity's range.  There isn't even a pattern.  Each day is different, as my daily driving graphs clearly show.  Fortunately, the demands of real-world are well suited for the Prius design.  Lifetime MPG is above 75.  That makes the benefits of the plug, despite lots of miles per year, very easy to see. Toyota delivered a system available as an affordable choice without having to give up the aspects of Prius which made it a popular.  The next generation will build upon that.  We'll see improved engine efficiency and refinements to EV mode.  A modest capacity increase is realistic too.  But don't forget about the importance of keeping it competitive with the true competition.

1-18-2014

Dealing With The Mess, part 4.  The price of gas is considered affordable.  Efficiency in the low 30's is considered acceptable.  Climate change is thought of as a political game.  How do you deal with that?  Sighting the problems of Volt doesn't address those bigger problems.  The issue of how Prius sales will increase is a concern.  Will people care that the next generation delivers MPG in the 50's?  Will they be drawn to refinements the next plug-in model will offer?  Will they become complacent as a result of the economy having recovered?  Just because a choice is affordable and proven reliable does not mean it will be purchased in growing quantity.  So even with taking design into careful consideration, expending a great deal of effort trying to match consumer priorities, success is not guaranteed.  Increasing purchases is the goal.  Traditional vehicles must be replaced.

1-18-2014

Dealing With The Mess, part 3.  What happens next?  The mess is bad, really bad.  Other automakers are pushing forward, with clear strategies.  Supporters of GM don't have a clue.  The next generation of Volt is a complete mystery.  No goal of any sort has been set.  It's a disheartening silence.  Not having any idea, nothing whatsoever, to even provide direction leads to abandonment... making us wonder who will deal with the mess.  We watched Two-Mode sink to an unimaginable low.  Volt didn't do so bad, but being unprofitable comes with consequences, which ultimately could lead to the same outcome... especially with this highly competitive market now emerging.  Designing to be cost-effective is much different from the bragging-rights approach taken for the first generation.  Rollout proved that was an unwise choice.  That makes designing the next even more difficult.  It's challenge enough to optimize.  Changing direction at the same time presents some very real problems.  The new CEO has some serious decisions to make, very quickly.

1-18-2014

Dealing With The Mess, part 2.  This was the ultimate find, that statement which seemed an impossibility: "GM is sounding more and more like they are going to slow-foot the Voltec technology.  Pity.  I really like my Volt, but back in 2007 when this site started up, there was a feeling that it was going to be so much more.  Then the price went up, followed by the lowered bar on the CS mpg, and finally they fell way short of 40 miles of AER that they had predicted.  Then they decided not to build as many cars as would be needed to allow for sales to expand."  He watched expectations evaporate.  Posts which seemed to disparage Volt turned out to be constructive criticism.  The experience has been a rude awaking for many of the enthusiasts.  Hope was based on hype, not supported by either engineering or history.  It was the "moonshot" effort botched in several respects.  When leases expire, more and more just end up moving on to something else instead.   So many of them assumed Prius was the enemy.  They learned the hard way it wasn't.

1-18-2014

Dealing With The Mess, part 1.  There aren't daily topics on the Volt blog about Volt anymore.  In fact, they are quite rare... few and far between.  It's just industry news about electrification at this point.  The enthusiasts are speaking out, finally.  Now into the 4th year of availability, that's long overdue.  This series of favorite quotes, in order as they were posted by various discussion participants, provided a summary of the situation as they see it:  "GM sure seems to be sitting on its ass watching the competitors fly by in terms of electrification." and "All I know is that the lease on my Volt is up in May and GM has made only minor tweaks with nothing new available." and "I think that there is no point in GM introducing a Volt 2 without a radically improved battery." and "After seeing all the truck and muscle cars at the auto show, I do wonder if they have fallen off the wagon and into their old ways again." and "I didn't overestimate the Volt, but I have apparently overestimated GM."  They never believed this situation could happen.  They thought engineering alone would triumph.  They now know that isn't the case... and never was.

1-18-2014

Obsessed?  This quote made me pause:  "Let's be honest here, most hybrid owners are a little obsessive regarding mpg."  There were many ways to respond.  I chose:  Have you noticed how most of the rest of the population is totally disengaged, not even aware of what MPG their vehicle actually delivers?  From their perspective, it would indeed be reasonable to use an "obsessive" label for our awareness.  From our perspective, we show a respective disappointment for their lack of concern.  I am left in dismay seeing such a large quantity of people simply not interested, claiming MPG in the 30's is good progress.  That makes it even more refreshing when new hybrid owners seek out information, asking questions to learn about what actually affects fuel efficiency.  That active participation may be interpreted by some as being a little obsessed.  We don't see it that way.  As for identifying "hybrid owners" based on some thread samples and perhaps some random in-person encounters, think about how many their actually are.  Of the 102,284 members on this forum, how many actually exhibit the obsession?  Most are just quiet owners reading posts.  Toyota has sold over 6,000,000 hybrids.  How many of them?

1-17-2014

Change.  What can I say about it?  The difference is blatant.  2014 bares little in resemblance to 2013.  Remember the big news exactly one year ago?  The expectation was a major announcement from GM, an upgrade to their plug-in platform.  Enthusiasts were very excited about what they had coined as "Voltec 1.5"  The reveal of Cadillac ELR would provide detail.  The system was hoped to be much improved; instead, it turned into a marketing mess.  The hype had no substance.  It was a collection of vehicle refinements.  Nothing was really done to the engine, motor, or battery.  There were only adjustments to deliver a smoother, quieter, more powerful drive.  The result was a backfire.  The very aspects Volt enthusiasts had praised were now looked upon as less.  All those remarks about being a top-class ride were suddenly usurped by GM itself.  Now, a full year later, they even want to talk about it.  The field has finally been leveled.  That ally I looked for all those years ago is slowly becoming a reality.  As a Prius owner, they thought my effort to befriend was actually a clever scheme to make Volt fail.  They were blinded by fear and enchanted by hope.  The result was learning the lesson in a painful way.  Thank goodness that is over.  Change is obvious.  Hooray!

 

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