Prius Personal Log  #692

December 13, 2014  -  December 18, 2014

Last Updated: Sun. 12/21/2014

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12-18-2014

Fuel Saved, part 1.  Tired of the continuing nonsense, I let them have it tonight:  When will the misleading finally end?  The fact that the "fuel saved" value is so vague tells the story in itself.  Rather than stand up to the true competition... similar size & shape vehicles... it resorts to an overall average.  Following that same percent, overall sales for GM should be used for compares then.  How do the 17,315 Volts and 1,192 ELRs measure up against the other 2,642,018 GM vehicles sold here so far this year?  Making excuses.  Placing blame.  Criticizing automakers.  None of that will change those sales results.  Reality hurts.   Want some perspective?  Take the claimed 36,367,716 gallons of fuel saved (total for all 4 years) and compare it to those others.  If each new GM drove the industry standard of 15,000 miles per year, for just 1 year using that 19.2 MPG average, would come to 2,064,076,562 gallons.  That reveals Volt's portion is tiny compared to how much is actually consumed.  In short, 36 million sounds impressive.  But in reality, it's a small amount.  Using a single-year approach for Toyota, we see that their 1,965,756 non-Prius sales would come to 1,535,746,875 gallons consumed.  The 192,958 Prius (using a weighted-average of 48 MPG for the Liftback, Plug-In, V, and C combined) would have saved 100,498,958.  Still, not that much.  However, that 6.5% is quite a bit more than the 1.8%.  And if the goal is indeed to have a greater impact on consumption, the winner is clear to see.  It's too bad the "fuel saved" promotion doesn't inform people about what really makes a difference.  EV purity sounds better.  But a combination of battery & engine is what truly saves more.

12-17-2014

Often Overlooked.  People tend to forget about charging-loss.  They often convey the message that capacity of the battery-pack is only electricity used to replenish the charge-level to full.  The extra electricity consumed as part of the conversion process isn't mentioned.  For the lithium batteries currently being used, that comes to roughly 15% additional.  To make matters worse, there's also a self-discharge loss.  When discussed, it is referred to as "vampire drain".  With Tesla, that can be as high as 4 kWh per day... which is well over the entire recharge usage (2.75 kWh) for Prius PHV.  Now that fuel-cell energy consumption has become a hot topic, things like that are important bits of information.  Knowing that the compression energy required to refill the 10,000 psi tanks takes less than 5% and there is virtually no drain afterward is a big deal.  How often do you think that will actually be brought up in discussions though?  Sadly, it will likely be quite infrequent.  It's just another fact often overlooked.

12-17-2014

$2.25 Per Gallon.  I remember how traumatic that was over 9 years ago, when it first climbed to that height.  No one ever imagined it would drop back down to that level once we hit the end-of-the-world price of $4 per gallon.  That's where we find ourselves now though.  What a bizarre situation.  The growing expectation is a big step backward in terms of vehicle efficiency.  There will undoubtedly be lots of great year-end sales to dump guzzlers.  I can't imagine what that will mean for hybrid & plug-in vehicles.  We'll likely find out within just a month.  The debut of ELR back in January hit the market with a thud.  The disappointment was so obvious, it faded away from interest almost overnight.  Price was the major deterrent.  With gas being at such a low price now, how will the next-gen Volt fair?  If the "who" is ordinary consumers, what would compel them to purchase?  There will be obvious cost-reductions helping out, but that appeal factor is a tough one even when gas is expensive.  At least with Toyota, there hasn't been a dependency on tax-credits to sell Prius.  There hasn't been as lofty of a cost-reduction goal either.  Think about all those EV supporters who anxiously awaited rollout, now faced successful technology not stirring much interest.  Needless to say, this is an interesting time in automotive history.  No one knows how the market will actually react as the next year progresses.

12-16-2014

Engine-Braking On Ice.  Talk to someone who's driven a vehicle with a manual transmission.  Down-Shifting when you have the need to slow down but don't want to use the brakes for risk of them slipping from pressing the pedal too hard.  It's what they naturally do.  It's no big deal.  Mention doing that same thing with a Prius, some owners go nuts.  They're passionate expressions of how terrible of a choice that is makes you wonder if they've ever had any training on how to drive on slippery roads.  I still cannot figure out if they don't understand the concept or simply haven't ever actually tried it.  Needless to say, with 14 Winters of driving a Prius in Minnesota, I have... and think it's a great idea.  Today's experience provided a wonderful example of the behavior too.  I was doing 65 mph in the left lane of a 3-lane highway.  The temperature was just a little above freezing.  There much have been a wind funneling through a tight area, since all of a sudden there was ice and brake-lights.  Someone had an accident there too, so the backup was widespread.  I pawed the dashboard.  Toyota's well thought out design allows you to shift to "B" mode for engine-braking without having to look.  All you have to do is make contact with the shifter in a downward motion.  It's position makes that simple.  The Prius quickly slowed... without ever having to touch the brake pedal.  That was great!  It's a smoooooth deceleration, not harsh like hard braking, especially if you overdo and the anti-locks having to compensate after slip has been detected.  Remember, you don't want to contribute to panic in the vehicle behind you.  Being able to prevent potential slipping helps.  It's as simple as using the hybrid version of down-shifting.

12-16-2014

Know Your Audience.  Invited to participate, I went back to that blog to post this:  4 years ago, GM rolled out Volt.  The design focused on want, following the "if you build it, they will buy it" approach.  Consumers were purchasing cars based on need though.  The result was far fewer sales than planned.  That's why asking the "who?" question about gen-2 stirs such responses now.  There's concern that the same priority mismatch could happen again.  In one month, we'll get the answer, we'll find out about the audience.  Will out be ordinary mainstream consumers, those set a high priority on vehicle price and interior space?  Or will there be an emphasis on performance instead?

12-15-2014

Mirai Sales.  They began today.  That's why there was so much of an outcry.  Rather than hype for years and years, Toyota simply showed the world and said they'd begin offering it for sales shortly.  That's exactly what happened with Prius many years ago too.  Of course, back then (in 1997), the Big 3 were scrambling to deliver high-efficiency vehicles of their own.  In this case, there is no race.  However, there are 16 other hydrogen vehicle which have all be revealed in some fashion by the others over the years.  It's just that this is a more ambitious plan than just limited quantity leases.  An interesting point though is that the "anti" crowd made such big deal out of the situation, attempting to amply expectations to such an extreme, the outcome has been attention which otherwise wouldn't have happened.  Negative publicity having a positive effect is nothing new.  The worse that can happen with a rollout is no one caring.  To go completely unnoticed is worse than backlash.  Of course, there won't be much backlash anyway.  Toyota clearly stated this is a long-term effort with very limited quantities for the next few years.  It's been a multi-generation effort, where major improvements are delivered along the way.  They made major progress since the previous generation in 2008.  Refinement will continue.  The next will bring more improvements.  Point being, this isn't one isn't targeted for mainstream consumers.  It is for the niche buyers though, those who are willing to pay for premiere technology.

12-14-2014

Air Quality Advisory.  It's been unusually warm here lately.  The result has been thick fog overnight and dense wet air during the day.  As a result, we've been seeing air quality advisory notices on the flexible-text highway signs.  While driving home today, I saw "Reduce Trips" and "Avoid Idling" notices.  It makes you wonder how effective advice like that really is.  For me, driving a plug-in hybrid, it made no difference at all... since my contributions to emissions are much, much lower than just about everyone I see on the roads everyday.  The idling aspect brings up an interesting thought.  Hybrids like Prius keep that to a minimum, especially in stop & slow conditions.  What to people do when in a drive-thru with a traditional vehicle on a day like today?  Do they shut off there engine manually in the meantime?  Do they go inside instead?  Do they even give a thought about their emissions?

12-14-2014

Long-Term.  My issue with Volt, besides the obvious cost problem, has always been the self-deprecating nature of its approach.  There was a huge campaign promoting the importance of offering a "40-mile" range.  Now, 4 years after rollout, absolutely everyone has abandoned that.  Even the enthusiasts are clamoring for more.  But as the increase becomes affordable, the point of also including an engine drops.  That's why Toyota's modest approach still worked.  It was small enough to augment the hybrid without requiring a huge premium.  That's great for short-term and reaching the masses.  Long-Term, we're looking at EV and FCV offerings as the solution.  Both work for the age when oil is extremely expensive and when smog-related emissions are terrible.  Ever notice how the only shortcoming fuel-cell opponents can come up with is carbon-emissions and cost?  The reduction of cost seems realistic, especially since we are well over a decade away still before any significant infrastructure will be in place for distribution anyway.  As for carbon, that's where the renewable sources for electricity come into play.  They also contribute heavily to no longer needing centralized production.  All that is a big deal for Japan too, a country without any natural resources.  Sadly, we feel it isn't an priority due to the abundance of oil & natural-gas.  The dual benefit from pursuing fuel-cell advancement is a win as well, but share propulsion & comfort components.

12-14-2014

Tax Credits.  With the count of Leaf sales now exceeding 70,000 and 200,000 being the expiration trigger for the credit, talk of the "imperfect" nature of how the money was allocated is becoming a popular topic.  Each of the next-gen offerings will have to deal with that loss of incentives.  Without that subsidy available, competing will be quite a challenge.  Just imagine how Nissan will have to deal with that when GM still has a large amount still.  That imbalance will be a very real problem.  There's always been the complaint about the amount itself too.  Setting the value based on capacity disincentive a push to reach more consumers.  There was no choice about how the money could be allocated.  The big issue I've been focused on though is the lack of any time duration limit.  When assigning homework, there's always a due date.  Why wasn't there one with this?  After all, there was a quantity goal of 1,000,000 by the end of 2015 set for the country as a whole.  Why didn't the credit coincide with that?  I find it quite reasonable to specify a time-period, allowing it to expire for everyone on the same day.  After all, the other incentives (like home charging-stations) had a specific ending.  Otherwise, automakers will just drag on for years and years, milking their niche offering for sake of a green imagine without actually needing to sell many.  There's less to encourage competition otherwise.  Having set an across-the-board expiration would achieve that.

12-14-2014

Old Arguments.  We've heard the same old nonsense over and over and over again.  Each ends with a statement similar to this one yesterday: "Yet, plugins are being adopted at a much faster rate than hybrid ICE’s were."  Back then, each automaker wasn't striving to deliver a hybrid of some sort as we see with the plug-in choices now.  That sense of collaboration simply didn't exist, in any fashion.  The market was very anti-efficiency.  Remember the wide variety of SUVs being offered and the push to consume cheap gas for the betterment of our economy?  That in itself makes such statements disingenuous.  The fact that there was only a $2,000 tax DEDUCTION available back then (which amounted to between $300 to $400 back on your taxes) was no where near as generous as the $7,500 tax CREDIT available now makes any claim of being the same a desperate effort to mislead.  That's one of those bits of detail they very much try to avoid.  It never ceases to amaze me how some people believe that deception is acceptable.  Whatever the case, it's now an old argument.  By the end of the 4th year of sales, which is what Volt enthusiasts are comparing to now, Prius was rapidly approaching the mainstream minimum of 5,000 sales per month.  The total for the year was 53,991 here in North America... which is amazing considering Camry was at 426,990 and Corolla 331,161.  Volt is only at 17,315 for the year, so far through November.  Add in 27,098 for Leaf and 14,650 for Tesla Model S, you get a number not big enough to call "much faster".  That's with a tax CREDIT and not taking into account that Prius was profitable at that point too.  The fifth year really made things interesting.  When the price of oil & gas shot up, so did the sales of Prius.  The expected low prices for next year certainly won't boost plug-in sales.

12-14-2014

Avoiding Detail.  This is a favorite recent greenwashing quote I had to deal with: "To rebut such statements unfortunately gives them some measurable status and so I don't even feel it otherwise needs to be rebutted, as it should be evident as meaningless to most everyone here following this greater discussion."  When they don't like what you have to say, the typical response is to shot the messenger.  They do everything they can to discredit the person, rather than actually address whatever statement had been made.  That's typical it though.  Rarely ever is there any type of acknowledgement of claim itself.  That's why I liked that one so much.  The matter would have been over with a simple provision of detail.  But it wasn't.  The greenwashing comes about from the effort to avoid detail.  Even with trolling, at response with detail is what brings that to an end.  He didn't, since he'd knew it would reveal his true intentions.  Aren't these online games fun?  What a pain.  I found it amusing how lengthy his response was.  That in itself served to provide some measurable status.  Ironic, eh?

12-13-2014

One Month From Now.  We'll have the long-awaited details for the next-gen Volt then.  That's been holding up the rest of industry mainstream rollout announcements.  Other automakers are delaying until GM takes the stage, though we have been getting hints from Nissan.  Nothing has come from Ford.  Their heavy anti-Prius campaign claiming C-Max efficiency was better than Prius-V has turned into a major setback.  There's a lot of disappointment from having discovered it wasn't.  Fortunately, they still have the plug-in models to draw upon.  Toyota has done as the usually do, waiting until the fallout before making announcements of their own.  Expectations for GM have already been lowered from colossal to incremental.  Hope of major engine MPG improvement is gone, as is the hope for a fifth seat.  No word on legroom in back already has some worried too.  Capacity from the battery is expected to fulfill the hope of many; however, that is presenting concern about vehicle cost remaining high as a result.  That's a very big deal for a vehicle needing to sustain high-volume sales without subsidies.  There's wonder who the audience will be as well.  With gas prices continuing to drop, it's very reasonable to see the spotlight cast on small SUVs and Pickups instead.

 

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