Prius Personal Log  #672

June 12, 2014  -  June 17, 2014

Last Updated: Weds. 9/10/2014

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Desperation.  I still remember a post from well over a decade ago.  You simply cannot ever forget one titled: "Die Hybrid Die".  The moderator quickly took it down.  But in that brief time it was up, the poster was ranting about some senseless pointless babble that didn't actually mean anything.  He was just plain angry and wanted to vent.  That's what I feel is happening again here.  But now with internet etiquette, there's an effort to at least appear to be civil: "But when you get into PHEV's, such as the PiP, those numbers ignore electric costs and are therefore BO GUS.  You can not compare "Blending" numbers on Fuelly.  It doesn't track blending amounts."  His loathe for Prius is quite obvious.  A mix of electricity & gas isn't suppose to deliver such competitive results.  The plug-in Prius defies what he was taught to believe.  So, he's taking out his feeling on us.  It's coming out as desperation.  I'm growing very curious how it will play out too.  In fact, the time has probably come to take action.  For the moment, I'm posting this:  The numbers are genuine.  You cannot just dismiss what you don't like.  True, they don't represent cost-per-mile, since electricity isn't included.  But when people simply want to know what a large quantity of owners have been seeing for gas consumption, the numbers are quite real.  The purpose of Prius PHV is to reduce gas consumption.  That's exactly what it does, in a clean manner without compromising affordability or practicality.


Speculation.  There is a very, very, very long thread on the big Prius forum discussing people's thoughts on what the next generation of Prius will bring, and when.  Realistically, we have no real idea of what to expect... since the market is always changing.  Fortunately, most of the chance is for the better.  The latest to stir the post was that mention of super-capacitor use.  There's potential some are quite curious about.  I know Toyota will deliver a nice upgrade, even if our guesses aren't correct.  At least what we do know is they'll stay true to goals.  That important of reducing emissions & consumption without compromise to other purchase-priorities has been the ultimate goal since the very beginning.  Planning ahead has been too.  I pointed that out with:  That brief high-discharge [from a super-capacitor] ability would allow PIP gain the ability to exploit the unused capacity of the traction motor.  It's rated at 60 kW.  The current battery-pack delivers 38 kW.  In other words, there would be increased opportunity to take advantage of the electric system already in place.  You could get more power without starting up the engine.  That would raise the bar for what the plug-in model delivers.


Outstanding Efficiency.  57 MPG.  123 miles.  0 kWh.  That was the result of running around today, many Father's Day destinations and no opportunity to plug in.  HV efficiency is outstanding.  You can unmatched hybrid performance when the battery-pack is depleted.  What else can be said.  The system delivers regardless of how you use it.  Sweet!


Super-Capacitors.  The idea of adding a super-capacitor to the hybrid system is getting attention again.  This time it was from the Le Mans prototype Toyota is racing this year.  The benefit is easy to understand: it provides power, a lot of it very fast.  That's something batteries don't.  They deliver power better than an engine, but at no where near the level possible with a super-capacitor.  That gives reason for pause when considering the plug-in Prius.  Having the engine fire up for brief high-demand events, like merging into fast traffic, wouldn't be necessary with a device able to supply that power.  Those arguments about the small battery-pack would finally come to an end too.  It was irritating having to deal with the lies about the engine being required for hill climbing, when that certainly isn't true.  I routinely drive up out of the river valley at 55 mph without ever requiring any power other than that from the battery-pack.  It's long and fairly steep.  So, that need is clearly covered.  A hard acceleration into a busy road will fire up the engine though.  But then again, that's an excellent use of the power-sources currently available.  Adding a super-capacitor into the system changes the equation... a design approach few have considered up to this point.  It could be less expensive than adding more battery-capacity too.  Due to its solid-state design, it's much more robust option.  So, there's potential to explore... which is exactly what this prototype being raced is doing.


EPA Advertised MPG.  How many people still don't understand the numbers?  It continues.  I posted:  People seem to forget that the so-called advertised MPG is not a promise, of any sort.  The measurement was originally created to provide a standardized basis of comparison.  It's actually just a number for rating, not an expectation.  Reading the information provided on the window-sticker, you'll see there's a range stated, that the big number is really just an average.  So, things like short trips are not necessarily accounted for.  Efficiency will be much lower if driving just within the warm-up time.  It will be lower in extreme temperatures and at very high-speeds too.  There are also circumstances when efficiency is much higher, like suburb driving with few stops.  To complicate matters, many new Prius owners have no idea what their previous vehicle actually delivered.  There was no MPG display available, so the ups & downs were never known.  Things like that contributed heavily to the slow growth of hybrids.  Then EPA made adjustments to their measurement process, taking better into account the circumstances not originally considered when the standards were first established.  Now, we're finding out the values themselves aren't being properly reported.  Ugh.


Balance.  That discussion continues.  Getting people to look beyond just the efficiency of electric-drive is really difficult.  Sadly, not considering infrastructure is part of our culture.  A great example is with trash.  Many think throwing it away is all that's necessary.  They have no clue what actually happens to it later or how much waste that really amounts to.  It being "away" is all they understand.  So when it comes to electricity, the "clean" aspect is all they understand... since the consumption aspect is all they've ever considered.  How that electricity is derived is often disregarded entirely.  I added:  The belief that "more electricity is better" will continue to be a challenge to deal with for years to come.  People just assume that's true and don't give it another thought.  They have no idea what emissions come from electricity creation or transmission.  Some who do recognize smog-related emission simply state they've been reduced dramatically over the past few decades, thinking all is well now.  Many still don't believe carbon emissions are any type of problem either.  It's a greenwashed mess.  Oddly, it is rather fortunate that traditional vehicles continue to advance.  That engine-efficiency technology will pay off later.  We're seeing that from Toyota already.  Being able to take advantage of the engine by being able to run it briefly and at highly optimized rates makes the balance with electricity is what makes it better.  The idea of sacrificing electricity for the sake of never starting the engine is a mindset that's counter-productive.  It doesn't actually help us overcome all the problems we face.  It only looks better when you choose not to consider the big picture.  Balance is very important.


Prius Numbers.  On an automotive blog about the Ford MPG mess, a comment was posted that Toyota should now fix their numbers for Prius.  I was a bit annoyed, since it was so horribly vague and provided no suggestion or detail whatsoever.  Generic complaints without data doesn't help anyone.  So, my response provided lots of data:  I owned a 2010 and drove it for almost 3 years before replacing it with the 2012 PHV.  That's 55,835 miles in Minnesota, the land of harsh winters.  Despite that, the overall average delivered was exactly 50.0 MPG.  Now at 42,356 miles with the plug-in model, I'm watching my overall average climb above 73 MPG.  When I drive with the plug-supplied electricity totally depleted this time of year, I easily see 60 MPG for the trip.  So, I'm not seeing any reason for an adjustment.  And yes, the display shows an optimistic value.  But all my numbers are from detailed spreadsheets, using calculations based on measurements taken at the pump & plug.  Not including my current tank, these are my totals for the PHV: 40,971 miles, 563.149 gallons, 3,712.8 kWh.  (Note that 3 kWh is the value used to represent a full-recharge, which includes both the usable capacity replenished as well as the losses incurred while charging.)


More Is Better?  The assumption is getting questioned more and more.  It reminds me of the "not enough" arguments when Prius first rolled out.  Some claimed 50 MPG simply was not enough for anyone to care.  Now, we're seeing the same with that magic 75 MPG from plugging in.  The reality of diminishing returns has been so easily dismissed in the past.  Antagonists insisted the capacity PHV offers is not enough.  The claim more is better... even though the data doesn't actually support it.  So naturally, there's a lot of discussion about what the next generation will bring.  I added this to the online chatting:  Toyota established the approach, keeping physical size small enough to prevent a large cargo-carrying capacity sacrifice while at the same time keeping it affordable.  Lithium chemistry will improve, as will the software controlling usage & longevity.  The result will in a bump up range.  It will fit Prius PHV well.  That's how it will be able to penetrate deep into the mainstream.  Whether or not Toyota will also offer some type of higher capacity choice is another topic.  Successfully achieving high-volume sales with Prius PHV opens the door for that opportunity.  Remember, we've seen that priority has been given to delivering a solution for the masses, rather than catering to a niche audience as with other automakers.  Notice how important production-cost has been?  There's no reason to believe that intent has changed.  In fact, things like pursuing wireless recharging helps to confirm ordinary consumers are being targeted.  My 73 MPG average is double the efficiency an equal-sized traditional automatic gas vehicle could deliver and quite a bit cleaner.  How much more is really needed to achieve high-volume sales?


Fallout.  To no surprise, the problem with MPG for Ford stirred the pot: "My Volt is rated at 38 mpg.  I normally get 40 mpg or higher.  The only time my mileage drops to 38 mpg is when I'm driving faster than 75 mph.  I'm very pleasantly surprised.  Ford could learn from GM's example of under promise, over deliver."  I remember the craziness that emerged from the original "230 MPG" campaign.  People were all over the place with that.  The well informed knew that was horribly misleading.  The naive believed it was the long-awaited efficiency miracle the industry had been waiting for.  But that was back in 2009, shortly after bankruptcy had been declared.  There was much hope without any substance.  Reality eventually set in.  That's how the 50 MPG expectation came about.  It became the realistic prospect.  People believed it too... until the "Freedom Drive".  Remember that 1776-mile trip ending on July 4, 2010?  It was incredibly suspicious.  GM said ordinary consumers could ask anything they wanted while the event was taking place.  It was supposedly an educational opportunity, telling people all about how their upcoming plug-in vehicle could run on gas after electricity ran out.  More and more kept asking the same question: What is the MPG at that point?  GM absolutely refused to provide an answer.  Why would they have led us to believe 50 MPG was being delivered, then not confirm it with such an event?  It was the perfect endorsement opportunity, lost.  Nonetheless, the die-hard supporters kept the dream alive anyway.  Things didn't add up.  Then the EPA results were revealed, just a few weeks prior to rollout.  Seeing 37 MPG for that first-year model was horribly disappointing.  There was an incredible feeling of disenchantment expressed online... which no one seemed to remember anymore.  In fact, that quote expresses being pleased with an improved 38 MPG rating for the newer model, despite it still falling well short.  That number didn't seem correct either.  So, I looked it up.  It's actually 37 MPG.  I wonder why he'd claim 38.  Strange.  Anywho, the promise of 50 MPG never happened as far as supporters are concerned.  In fact, hope of hybrid efficiency following depletion is flat-out denied.  Don't you love how history changes as shortcomings are exposed?  They spin things to appear positive, regardless of how bad the fallout become.  Ugh.


The Right Decision.  Seeing Ford take a big reputation hit for having embraced erroneous MPG figures rather than investigating why real-world results were so different makes you wonder.  If anything, lack of clarity is misleading.  They should have dug deeper into the problem far sooner.  Know, it's much too late.  They are trapped into a damage-control stance now.  How will they recover?  Comments like this are emerging: "We are seeing Toyota made the right decision to make a plugin that they should instead of what they could.  More EV miles does not mean better.  A balanced design that gets the most out of both fuel is better, never mind when or not the gas engine fire up.  There is a very good reason why looking at the results."  That's not a result Ford will like from any perspective.  The values for C-Max Energi are now: 40 city, 36 highway, 38 combined.  That's quite a bit lower than Prius PHV: 51 city, 49 highway, 50 combined.  To make matters worse, the MPGe value dropped to 88.  That's quite a bit lower than the 95 MPGe from Toyota's plug-in hybrid.  And for those who doesn't understand the MPGe value, representing the overall energy consumption, there's the EV range.  It got reduced from 21 to 19 miles.  When we were discussing Toyota's wisdom of delay to avoid fallout, who knew it would be more than just from GM.


MPG Revisions.  That look back at the big picture helps.  Focusing exclusively on a specific vehicle is far too easy of a trap to fall into.  It makes people defensive, since they tend to filter out considerations that would otherwise be a necessary consideration... like the need for profit.  Engineering praise is great, but it doesn't pay the bills.  That's why not drawing too much attention can be a good thing at times.  Toyota gets grief for that.  But staying out of the spotlight can be a very good thing at times.  Ford's latest "oops" a perfect example.  They heavily promoted (more like advertised to death) their outstanding MPG ratings.  Turns out though, they weren't accurate.  We know that well with C-Max.  It hurt to find out efficiency wasn't as good as hoped.  Today, we found out the Fusion & MKZ hybrids were also misrepresented.  Those were inaccurate too.  That means a revision to their official MPG estimates, including Energi (the plug-in model).  Turns out, 4 models of Fiesta were overstated as well.  Seeing that many MPG values go down after-the-fact is sad.  Fusion hybrid got hit the hardest, watching the combined estimate go from 47 to 42.  Both of the Energi offering now rate at 38 MPG combined.  That's far from the hope of being hybrid following depletion.  But then again, the 40 & 42 MPG combined ratings for C-Max & Fusion (respectively) aren't exactly competitive anyway.  In fact, the 42 MPG combined from Prius V gives a whole new perspective on Ford's advertising campaign.  They misled thousands of people, stating their hybrid delivered better efficient.  Turns out, it doesn't.  Toyota was in the right all along.  Now, Ford is having to apologize.  Just imagine the potential discourse that could cause in online forums.


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