Prius Personal Log  #690

December 1, 2014  -  December 7, 2014

Last Updated: Sun. 12/21/2014

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New Technology.  The mentality of "ready" is an interesting one these days.  I remember my neighbor about 12 years ago making comments about not wanting to purchase a hybrid until they were "ready" for everyone.  He had absolutely no idea what that actually meant though.  He couldn't quantify any measure to confirm when that milestone had been reached or even describe how it would be accomplish and by who.  It was the classic "not me" perspective.  People simply didn't care about something until it affected.  But nowadays with the internet such a part of our lives, we hear about those things far in advance.  Notice how virtually no one cared about E85 until that craziness in 2006.  Back in the late 90's, that was a normal part of our lives here.  100% of the Ford Rangers, which were produced just miles up the road from where I live, were flex-fuel.  It was no big deal.  We already saw it as ready... even though the future of ethanol wasn't clear.  So, this comment today stirred me:  "Totally new technology should be adopted when it is clearly a winner.  Hydrogen fuel cells for everyday passenger cars (or as range extenders in ordinary plug-in hybrids) just don't have a compelling case that makes it worth the effort to adopt them."  What was the purpose of that?  For that matter, who will be adopting?  Why does he even care?  I remember the generation-zero data-collection here for Prius back in 1999, prior to the rollout of "first" generation.  How is this any different?  Anywho, the response was:  Drawing a conclusion about new technology shouldn't be made until it is ready for that stage either.  Hydrogen fuel-cells are still only at the "try it in real-world conditions" stage.  There is no effort whatsoever being made to reach anything representing the everyday market yet, not even remotely close.  200 of them will be offered for purchase here the first year.  That's not even enough to qualify as a compliance quantity.  It's nothing but a "collect data from random people" step.  That's what you do to progress forward with development.  Long story short, the "compelling case" consideration is many years away still.


MPGe Issues.  It's not with this method of quantifying efficiency.  That works fine.  The issue is that it doesn't fit into the perception of green verses its reality.  More EV miles is thought of as better, period.  How much electricity is actually consumed is disregarded; instead, there is a stigma made from an engine running.  It's basic greenwashing.  Disregard true performance in favor of large numbers.  Needless to say, that comes up a lot when discussing Volt.  Today, it was a woman getting attacked for pointing out the first one to reach 200,000 miles only delivered 49.64 MPGe.  That's a devastating blow for a vehicle a rating of 94 MPGe.  Right away, the enthusiasts pounced, attempting to discredit any value in that equivalency measure.  Fortunately, the responses on the big Prius forum were more constructive than that on the EV website.  I do wonder what my post will stir in response to this comment though:  "I don't like to confuse things with that horrible MPGe garbage.  It's more accurate to calculate actual costs using the current prices for electricity and gasoline.  So as you can see the actual economics are very dependent on the specific owner.  Some people pay for all of their electricity, some pay for none and others pay for only some."  It started as a constructive discussion.  But leaving out detail is rather frustrating for me, hence:  LOCATION does far more to spread "garbage" in reality.  At least with MPGe, there's a clear understanding that it is just a standardized measurement taking all fuel energies into account.  When a tread like this is starting, it provides a great source of real-world data for readers to analyze and comment about, but it is so far off from reality for those living in the north, there's no benefit from it.  In fact, without a disclaimer of it only be representative of mild-climate driving, the data can be very misleading.  That's why comparisons being the regular model Prius and the plug-in still don't have any generalizations associated with them.  You just plain cannot.  It doesn't set an appropriate expectation.  The fluctuations in temperature make are far too much of an influence.  So comparing to a totally different approach, like Volt, skews outcome even more.  Sorry, but that's the reality of the situation.


Repeating History, cheap gas.  Talking about repeating history.  The price of gas here has dropped to $2.49 per gallon.  Plans for production numbers are getting revised.  We expect interest in hybrids to drop.  People will turn back to guzzling.  It's a sad reality.  That causes problems for plug-in advancement.  Attention will be lost.  It's a simple matter of priorities.  Efficiency falls off the list.  That "good enough" mindset is a barrier we'll have to overcome, yet again.  The cycle is maddening... especially for those who gambled everything on the hope that gas prices would remain high.  We saw $4 gas.  The missed opportunity Volt had to capitalize on that now burns more than ever... which why those enthusiasts get so angry at people like me... who endorsed a flexible platform instead.  They sincerely believed it was unnecessary, that the ability to cope with a changing market was a waste.  They were clearly wrong.  The market is unpredictable & unforgiving.  Being told that before is made no difference.  Hearing it now won't either.  They're lost & desperate... just like we saw happen with the forum.  People will just move on.  Leaf is obvious evidence of that.  Sales are stronger and growing.  The lesson to be learned is a plug-in hybrid much be have both competitive production-cost and competitive depleted-efficiency is a painful one.  You'd think the first time with Two-Mode would have been enough.  This second with Volt should make it obvious.  Not being competitive means major challenges.


Repeating History, thoughts.  They didn't have any.  The usual hungry until the message was suppressed happened.  Again, it was refusal to acknowledge.  The fact that a fuel-cell vehicle is really an enhanced battery-pack vehicle absolutely infuriates them.  By focusing on FCV, they are also delivering a viable EV platform at the same time.  Refinements in design, production, and cost to the electrical system will benefit both.  As for the storage of electricity, that angers some to such a degree, I don't expect that to be taken seriously for years.  We keep hearing that the plug infrastructure is already well established.  That just plain is not true.  Apartment renters and condo owners have major obstacles to overcome still.  Those who actually own their garage don't necessarily have the electrical capacity to plug in.  How many garages are you aware of that can handle two 12-amp draws at the same time?  If you've got 2 cars you want to recharge overnight, how will you accomplish that?  There's the obvious problem of speed too.  Countless vehicles require refueling in 5 minutes or less.  How the electricity is going to be delivered is a big deal.  That's why EV alone isn't enough.  We require a variety of solutions.  Since GM abandoned fuel-cell efforts, it only makes sense that their supporters lash out at anyone endorsing a portfolio of choices which includes fuel-cells.


Repeating History, reply.  This is what I actually posted on that thread today:  There are 2 realities some people continue to refuse to acknowledge.  One is that a FCV is really just an EV with a fuel-cell instead of a battery-pack. S o by taking on FCV so seriously, they're delivering technology for both.  The propulsion system is totally electric, sharing the same traction-motor and controllers.  The comfort system is totally electric, delivering both heating & cooling for the vehicle interior.  There's a fuel-cell stack instead of a battery-pack.  The other is that there is no way to actually store electricity on the grid.  That means solar & wind, both of which are daytime intensive, cannot be used for overnight recharging.  Being able to store that electricity in the form of hydrogen is a effective mean of taking advantage of renewable energy.  Those are attempts to reach wide audiences, delivering a variety of solutions.  Remember, they’re still actively developing improved batteries too.  They just aren't rolling them out yet.


Repeating History, comeback.  I posted a reply.  It was immediately followed by insults, some outright lies, and confirmation of the very refusal response I had pointed out.  Having read their posts over the past few weeks without participation, their hate for the situation Volt was now in had become obvious.  That meant their reaction to my post was very much expected.  No surprises there.  Back in January, they had very high hopes for Cadillac ELR, anticipating a mid-cycle upgrade that would propel Volt into the mainstream.  That fell apart.  The technology didn't advance and sales were disappointing.  Recent reveals about the next-gen upgrade to Volt have made that bad situation worse.  With only a modest increase in engine efficiency and the much hoped for fifth seat not being delivered, there's been a subdued feeling.  The improvements will be incremental... exactly what the word "generation" indicates.  Cost will be reduced, performance will be refined, appeal will grow.  Unfortunately, that also means having to deal with put-down comments about the model they currently own and constant questioning about the spreading of the technology.  In other words, it puts them at a distinct disadvantage and they face having to post comebacks of their own.


Repeating History, taunt.  Watching the big GM forum distance itself from Volt certainly was an interesting chapter in its history.  Two-Mode had become a hype nightmare.  Allowing that to happen again was a terrible embarrassment.  So, those most troubled by having made the same mistake twice lashed out, doing all they could to assign blame rather than accept what happened.  Toyota & Prius were the obvious targets.  Bait would be dropped.  Sometimes that worked.  But attracted little known contributors wasn't satisfying.  That led to outright taunting, desperate attempts to provoke.  Eventually, they satisfied their need and moved on.  Now, Volt rarely ever gets mentioned there anymore.  What was intended to be GM's premiere vehicle turned into a disaster.  Knowing that history, it was only a matter of time the same sequence of events would play out on the daily blog for Volt too... especially since there were so few blogs actually about Volt anymore.  On a regular basis, something about Toyota would be featured.  After all, those articles are just republishes from the parent website... which has a very different audience.  Anywho, with the exception of that solitary post at the very end of the thread at the end of the day, I haven't participated on the blog in weeks.  Today's topic was too good to resist.  I got called out by name... just like on the forum, it was a taunt to get me to sound off.


Semantics & Quotes.  When nothing constructive is left to say, the enthusiasts become antagonists.  For example, last week I made an "infrastructure" comment.  He knew my reference was to the market as a whole, not just the literal hardware-only perspective.  I even pointed that out with a follow-up post.  Yet, he went on and on about it anyway.  Finally I had it and told him off about by saying to actually read what I post rather that fixate on literal.  Those particular individuals like to dominate discussions without actually providing anything useful.  The same thing has been happening with the comment from a Toyota executive about EV offerings.  The people all worked up, believing Toyota is abandoning them in favor of fuel-cell vehicles haven't been listening to the comments about cost.  Heck, they haven't even acknowledged the reality that a FCV uses the very same propulsion & comfort systems as EV.  The difference being just a fuel-cell stack for power rather than a battery-pack is totally disregarded.  It's a dead giveaway that they are responding due to emotion rather than actually thinking through the situation.  Nonetheless, it is still frustrating.  Toyota is responding appropriately to the market.  They had flexibility built into their design.  No one expected gas to actually drop to $2.54 per gallon like it is now, but at least that isn't harming Toyota's profitability.  They held back on further rollout of PHV and delayed the next-gen upgrade.  Like it or not, it's proving to be a wise business decision... which is what the arguing of semantics and quibbles over quotes don't address.  Find what was actually meant.  Terms & Phrases are so easy to misinterpret without context, especially when there are some who don't want mainstream success.  It's much more satisfying to have a standout vehicle rather than one that everyone else has.  Change brings out the worse in some people.


November Sales.  There's not much to say.  They were pretty much all flat.  Virtually no growth with gas prices so low was the expectation.  Nissan stood out with Leaf though.  But being the only competitive EV available, that was expected too.  Even so, the amount was modest.  That was enough to infuriate certain enthusiasts though.  Leaf sales (2,687) were not supposed to be double that of Volt (1,336).  Remember all that "range anxiety" nonsense?  That marketing strategy completely fell apart.  Seeing how uncertain the market can be is good reason for Toyota to wait.  It's too bad antagonists love to spin the delay as a failure.  That's quite hypocritical considering Volt enthusiasts said the very same thing.  However, the difference is Toyota still has something competitive to sell in the meantime.  They're fairly respectable too.  2,493 for Prius V and 2,975 for Prius C last month.  The 8,038 for the regular model is well above the mainstream minimum of 5,000 per month, but we've obviously seen higher in the past.  But then again, gas has dropped below $3 per gallon and continue to fall.  There isn't any tax-credit assistance for regular hybrids either.  Anywho, weren't in a time of no little to no growth.  That fear of the "Osborne" effect is a very real concern too.  So, we continue to limp along with the current situation for now.


Acknowledging Facts.  Some people just plain don't like them.  I kept my added contribution to the on-going discussion brief:  What's comforting is FCV use the same propulsion system (motor & controllers) as EV.  So offering a battery-pack instead of a fuel-stack isn't a big deal.


Needs & Goals.  More of the not liking answers.  It's annoying.  Oh well.  The discussion continues:  "Letting other automakers expand the PHV market is part of the reason that the majority don't understand what Toyota's idea of plug in hybrid is."  At least the active dialog is civil and somewhat thoughtful.  Too bad some don't what to accept the reality of the situation.  Like I said, oh well.  I'll just keep asking:  The true situation is not competition among other plug-in vehicles.  As much as many hope that will be, it simply isn't.  Traditional vehicles will continue to put intense pressure on the plug-in market.  No matter how impressive those vehicles taking advantage of batteries and plug-supplied electricity are, the reality is that gas is dirt cheap.  So, the majority just plain aren't interested.   Reality bites.  Dealing with it first requires acknowledgement of the actual problem.  Start by identifying needs & goals.  What are we trying to accomplish?


Not Liking Answers.  Those certain individuals I keep mentioning share a trait.  They don't like the answers.  So, they keep asking the question over and over again.  Sadly, that behavior rubs off on those who really are making an effort to be constructive.  This particular comment today feel into that category:  "Clean air aside, what is the benefit of a hydrogen car to Joe Public?  None."  That meant it was worth the effort on my part to contribute something, hopefully, helpful to the discussion:  Directly for Joe is the ability to rapidly refuel.  Indirectly for Joe is the ability to store electricity.  Remember that the grid doesn't actually have any batteries.  That means renewable energy generated during the day from solar & wind needs to be held by some means.  Think about how important that is over in Japan, where nuclear (their primary source of electricity) has become a very real concern.  It's too bad here we aren't taking renewables as serious.


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