Prius Personal Log  #710

June 24, 2015  -  July 8, 2015

 Last Updated: Tues. 1/12/2016

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Europe Trip.  I will soon be abandoning all I know at home and venturing off to Europe.  That's a place where roads are quite different... busy, narrow, and filled with small cars primarily fueled by diesel.  That should be very interesting.  I'm looking forward to the sight-seeing and trying as many new foods as possible.  We'll be traveling to 3 different countries using a large tour bus which will be towing a large trailer.  That should make the experience especially interesting.  We'll end up on the Autobahn at times.  So, I'm sure there will be many sightings of vehicles flying by us at amazing speeds.  What I'm most curious about is what will stand out... the differences or the similarities?  It's really difficult to imagine or to even set realistic expectations.  I know there will be Prius used as taxis, but I have no idea how many I'll see owned by ordinary consumers.  I also have no idea how many electric-only vehicles I'll encounter.  For that matter, will there be any SUVs there (the smaller type, of course)?  It's exciting to have the opportunity to make those discovers firsthand, in addition to the vacation itself.  Heck, even the long flight from the center of the United States to Iceland to Germany will be an interesting experience.  I certainly cannot drive to this destination.  Watch for blog updates.  I'm not sure how much time I'll actually have to document my observations, but I'm sure there will be a few key things to write about.


New Attacks, Same Desperation.  I wondered how the silence would go before being broken.  With all that rhetoric of the past, the upcoming next-gen Prius is inviting... very inviting to antagonists, especially for the disenchanted Volt enthusiasts.  The pressure to break out beyond niche is hard enough.  But to have a strong mainstream player come along and show an upgrade with even greater potential, it's too much for that particular group to resist.  They have begun their greenwashing again.  Ugh.  Reading this today was both annoying and amusing: "Prius outsells the Volt because people are sheep and think Japanese cars are better than a Chevy.  The Volt is simply a much better car to drive than the Prius and it is more efficient as well.  If you haven't driven a Volt you might not know.  If you have and you think the Prius is still a decent car, you don't know cars."  His explanation of how his Volt saved more gas than a 50 MPG from Prius (complete with a gallons chart) was then followed by saying it was "lame".  Needless to say, I had no interest in biting on that bait.  He was clearly looking for someone to take out his frustration on.  The childish name-calling is bad enough.  But to go out of your way to pretend there isn't a plug-in model available and to completely disregard the cost difference, that's blatant greenwashing.  I do wonder though if people will notice the omission.  Comparing the two as if cost & size was the same is just plain wrong.  It's the same old nonsense as with the previous generation.  Back then, some became absolutely desperate for attention by attacking Prius.  Looks like we'll see that repeating again.  Blah.


Back to Prius.  The dust is beginning to settle.  My drive out to celebrate the holiday weekend with family involves about 150 miles of travel, each way.  The results of the trip there were just like every other long drive during the Summer with no opportunity to recharge.  It was 59 MPG.  That's the basis to which the "60 MPG" expectation has derived.  People see how easy it would be to squeeze out just a little bit more efficiency... even though that is an ideal example, rather than average outcome.  Oh well.  It is still impressive, despite being somewhat misleading.  But then again, that's only using half of the small plug-in battery-pack.  Imagine the results from using more electricity or not driving as far.  Anywho, it's good to finally get out... my independence day!  Having went through all that work to sell the old houses and get settled in this new one really left me drained and with very little free time.  At least I was able to take advantage of the large cargo capacity the Prius offers.  That sure came in handy.


Co-Exist, mixed feelings.  There were some outright attacks.  That's to be expected.  When people don't have all the information or understand intent, they lash out.  What do you think this particular comment was: "The primary advantage of the EREV is the mature gasoline infrastructure.  An FCV would abandon that and would rely on two different inferior refueling infrastructures."  I find it hypocritical how the group on that Volt blog use the word "mature" when it's to their advantage and "obsolete" when it's not.  In this case, the situation is a matter of not seeing the big picture.  That's quite common for enthusiasts, since they tend to focus solely on a particular implementation or approach.  In fact, that's why I had to deal with so much hostility in the past from them.  Their refusal to even accept the idea of a second model of Volt was met with fierce resistance.  Looking at the larger market was beyond their grasp.  Thankfully, there are many who do see much and recognize the greater need.  This is how I responded:  FCV retains the "infrastructure" already in place.  We all know the oil/gas providers won’t go down without an intense fight.  Rather than trying to force them out of business (and at great expense to the electric effort), it makes far more sense to have them become the hydrogen providers.  We can have our plug at home and still have commercial refueling.  Since those markets are for different types of driving/owners anyway, it could work.  Oddly, that plug-at-home and hydrogen-at-station, is a simplified model of what we currently have.  How many stations currently have to deal with gas (3 different octanes) and diesel and E85 pumps?  Offering just hydrogen would be easier and reduce storage variations.


Co-Exist, no free lunch.  That's what hybrid owners were constantly being reminded of.  The electricity being used was ultimately derived from gas.  Antagonists wanted to make that overwhelmingly clear.  Well, having sent that precedent, they now have to deal with the reminder of storage.  Electricity has to be stored somewhere.  EV owners are too use to the idea of the grid always having plenty available for them to recharge with whenever they plug in.  That's not realistic on the massive scale.  Capacity is costly.  It's inefficient & wasteful to always have maximum available.  That's why storing is so important.  Heck, that's the very benefit of hybrids.  The battery is used for opportunistic charging & discharging.  Hydrogen serves a similar purpose.  True, there's a loss from conversion.  But how's that different for an EV.  The electricity must somehow be saved before being delivered to the vehicle.  Needless to say, there's more to the situation than the brief online encounters reveal.  That's why the idea of co-existing is becoming an issue.  People assumed it to be a simple situation.  In reality, it's not.  We will have different approaches to fulfill different needs.  Just look at the computer industry for examples.  Notice how internet access is no longer limited to just desktop computers.  We have notebooks and tablets and cell-phones and smart-tvs and now even cars to connect & interact with.  One size does not fit all.  Each has a cost too.  Price varies.  None are free.


Co-Exist, moving on.  It's going to be a challenge.  Moving on when there is no shared goal is a very real problem.  Lack of clarity from plug-in owners leaves everyone wondering... which is a barrier that holds people back.  Supposedly, the purpose of the EV is to eliminate our dependence on oil.  But with all the domestic drilling taking place right now and the resulting surplus, that priority has essentially been dropped.  Since it is no longer a foreign dependency, the argument for EV becomes a very big challenge.  Gas is cheap and air-quality still isn't important to the majority.  That's where fuel-cell vehicles slip in.  It's a technology able to take advantage of renewable energy on a larger scale.  When the sun isn't shining and the wind not blowing.  Where does the electricity to recharge come from?  For that matter, how is electricity not needed immediately stored?  People just assume the grid is a repository.  It's not.  That's only a means of conveyance.  There is no infrastructure for storage... hence converting that energy into hydrogen.  It's clean and will be available for rapid refueling.  It's not perfect though; however, it does reach an audience EV cannot.  That's where co-exist comes into play.  Rather than one solution for all, consumers will have a choice.  It posted this, knowing the thread was an obvious attempt to stir post activity:  The media treat FCV and EV as mutually exclusive.  That draws lots of attention, which is how they operate.  It's their business.  In reality, automakers will explore both options... since they have very different audiences.  After all, we can already see how different the markets will be.


Conquest, the solution.  There isn't one.  That desire for conquest is a trap.  Enthusiasts of Volt were so obsessed with dethroning Prius that they allowed the sacrifice of GM's own customers.  It didn't matter how much you pointed out the "cannibalization" effect either.  The market wasn't actually expanding.  Instead, it was just a small base of plug-in supporters taking advantage of incredible prices.  When leases expired for those who chose not to buy, many moved onto trying some other plug-in from another automaker.  Yet, there was a solid denial theme, diverting focus to outdated statistics instead.  When details of the new Volt were revealed, many who chose to buy stated they would continue driving their old model.  How will GM draw in their own customer base?  From the "vastly superior" perspective, the desire for conquest cannot be achieved.  Superior compared to what?  Sales of traditional vehicles have been absolutely devastating.  Toyota sees that.  Ford sees that.  Nissan sees that.  Each has acknowledged the challenge by stating intentions to better compete directly against their own traditional offerings.  The purchase-priorities of mainstream buyers are goals the upcoming releases are striving for.  GM, on the other hand, decided to continue on with their approach.  Why?  It makes no sense increasing EV range, knowing that choice requires a cost which pushes much higher than vehicle that will share their showroom floor... especially with so much smaller of an interior.  Becoming larger and achieving a more competitive price was a very big deal for Prius, the key to its success a decade ago.  That level of success was reached without a tax-credit too.  Needless to say, Volt will continue on as a niche.  Malibu hybrid offers a glimmer of hope though.  Larger and without the burden of massive battery-pack, it stands a chance of drawing interest from within, from GM's own loyal customers.  There is finally recognition of business need.  Phew!  It's too bad the remaining enthusiasts don't see that.  Oh well.  Supporters of profitable high-volume sales will.


Conquest, the desire.  That plug-in hybrid topic was started with an article which included this information: "Prius PHEV.  Numbers based on 40 miles per day, 15,000 per year, 15 miles to work, 110-volt charging on both ends of commute.  Eighteen gas stops per year.  Other PHEVs with larger batteries are much fewer.  The Volt would never need to stop for gas and could do much more than this with its superior AER.  Source: EPA."  No link was provided.  No actual data is either.  Notice how the actual consumption value is missing and vague adjectives are used?  My favorite part though is the use of "never" for Volt.  That's an outright lie.  Even if the vehicle's passengers or battery-pack don't ever need the heater, the system will eventually start up the engine anyway.  There's a maintenance mode to prevent the fluids from getting too old.  Running the engine briefly from time to time will happen.  It's part of the design.  EPA knows that; yet, for some reason this misrepresentation took place.  I didn't get to question it though.  The desire for conquest prevented any type of constructive discussion.  Those few remaining regulars just plain don't care anymore.  They are holding onto what's left and pretending the bigger market doesn't matter.  And since they no longer are presenting a barrier to progress, it's best to leave them to their niche.  We see that mainstream consumers will just look elsewhere.  Who knew it would take an entire product-cycle of struggle before change finally happened... the game has changed.


Conquest, the end.  It did finally come:  This all-automaker topic was the ideal opportunity to find out what has changed, what will be different with the rollout of second-generation plug-in vehicles.  It's troubling to find out there’s still an obsession with conquest sales and a lack of understanding who the competition actually is.  I was blown away by the response.  We've watched the market saturate.  With all the early-adopters already driving a plug-in, few else could be encouraged to buy.  Sales opportunity was lost.  The true competition, traditional vehicles, continued on strong.  It's not GM against Nissan or Tesla or Toyota.  It's not EREV against BEV or PHEV or even HV.  It's just old verses new.  GM's own traditional product-line is cannibalizing sales of Volt.  Not drawing customers on the showroom floor, at the dealership, is a very big problem.  Yet, focus has been entirely on conquest sales instead.  How does drawing in potential customers from other automakers change the loyal GM buyer?  Owners of older Malibu will just replace it with a newer Malibu.  It's lost opportunity.  Why isn't anyone else concerned?  The senseless shooting of the messenger may make you feel better, but it doesn't help the situation.  In fact, it's a distraction, allowing the problem to persist.  That's really sad.


Conquest, the facts.  This particular response really got me: "When faced with irrefutable facts presented in a discussion, you will not respond directly to them, conveniently ignoring them to put forth some other not-quite-understandable statements."  The close-minded attitude is a repeated theme that's easy to see.  I get nothing buy talking-points and accusations from certain people.  Oddly, it's a good sign.  The idea of conquest has fallen apart.  That's the proof.  Strong sales are the measure.  They don't like talking about that.  So, I kept on posting:  Haven't you noticed that those facts are repeated?  How many times would you want to answer the same thing?  I bet you too would respond a few times, then ignore when they get asked following that. The topic here is PLUG-IN HYBRIDS.  Why in the world is the non-plug model of Prius being referred to and the plug-in model ignored?  When facts are selective, that’s often called cherry picking.  Toyota offers a PLUG-IN HYBRID.  Ford offers two PLUG-IN HYBRIDs.  Hyundai offers a PLUG-IN HYBRID. Honda (until recently) offered a PLUG-IN HYBRID.  Heck, GM will even be offering a PLUG-IN HYBRID.  There's also BMW i3 and GM Volt, if you want to include them in the category too.  So… why the reference to a non-plug and disregard for the rest?


Conquest, the continuation.  The push went on: "I've suggested to you in the past that you take an extended drive in the Volt.  You might be able to talk a dealer into letting you have one for a day or two.  Please do so so that you can open your eyes and see the dawn breaking.  A new era is upon us."  The same old belief that great engineering will deliver a popular product continues to spell doom.  They truly don't understand the audience.  The reason for asking the "Who?" question was lost on those without any type of business experience or education.  That shortcoming is remarkable.  They truly don't see what is so obvious for others.  Oh well, that means this too will likely fall the poorly informed:  I responded with a compliment of the engineering achievement.  Unfortunately, all people seem to notice is the business concern part.  A well performing design does not mean a well selling vehicle.  That's why the COST, SIZE, WEIGHT aspects are so important.  Having pointed out those concerns early on, then being proven correct, labeled me as a troublemaker and a hater of GM… even though I was actually just pointing out what needed to be addressed sooner (proactively) rather than waiting until sales later (reacting) when it was much harder to change.  In other words, regardless of how impressed a person is with the test-drive experience, that doesn’t mean they'll actually purchase it.


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