Personal Log #342
August 11, 2007 - August 14, 2007
Last Updated: Weds. 8/15/2007
page #341 page #343 BOOK INDEX
Makes No Sense. I really enjoyed reading the following
today: "this sort of reply makes no sense if you're really concerned about
the environment". It was posted in a message directly responding to
my "Actual Sales" comment. Clearly, some haven't considered the entire
situation. A few token vehicles won't make a difference. You have to
consider the whole picture. Looking at the entire market reveals a very
different situation... especially when you consider how long that new purchase
will remain on the road. A solution offering "most efficient" or
"cleanest" isn't necessarily the best choice... because there is usually some
type of catch. Cost is a big problem for plug-in hybrids of all types.
That much battery is very expense. Access to a plug is obviously a problem
for some too. But rather than mentioning that or placing emphasis on
efficiency, I chose to focus entirely on smog-related emissions for my short
What don't you understand?
Selling 1,000,000 SULEV & PZEV hybrids will make more of an impact than just
10,000 of the plug-in type and 990,000 LEV & ULEV vehicles.
I think you may be forgetting about what is purchased if the plug-in isn't
Actual sales is how success will be measured. That
comment is really upsetting certain people. It's extremely objective and
unbiased. It's clear and to the point. It's concise. It leaves
antagonists with nothing to spin. So, they absolutely hate it. No
amount of hype can hide limited sales. Volume is obvious. Seeing
several Prius on your daily commute is a great example. The numbers have
grown so large there nothing is left to debate. That hybrid has become
mainstream. Only purchases can achieve that status. Actual sales for
Volt won't begin for years still. They have nothing to compete with.
Do you think they'll learn some maturity in the meantime?
Green Driving. The traffic and stoplight activity was perfect for generating electricity today. I got onto the lonely country highway with the charge-level in the green (7 of 8 bars). It was a great opportunity to observe what driving with a plug-in hybrid would be like at fast speeds. Rather than the usual contribution from the battery-pack dropping off to numerous brief moments after acceleration, there was a steady stream of electricity. That, combined with the electricity generated on-the-fly directly from the engine, provided a glimpse of remarkably high MPG those driving augmented models have reported. It was pretty sweet seeing that coming from my Prius which is already 4 years old. Talking about a designed well suited for future needs. No wonder some find me frustrating. Toyota really did plan ahead. That's proof.
Mature Attitude. It is rather enticing to watch the smug
label lose its relevance. But with the hybrid ownership base rapidly
expanding and the incidents of that old attitude declining, the emergence of the
new becomes obvious. In other words, the silence is vindicating. So
now I find myself seeking out new examples. But sadly, there aren't many.
Few consumers ever participate in an online forum to discuss their vehicle.
It just works. They're happy. From their point of view, the
technology is already well proven. Why spend time restating the obvious?
So the scope of troublemakers really doesn't reach far, even when they focus
entirely on Prius. Ignoring the success of Camry-Hybrid actually makes the
situation even worse. But they won't admit it. Resistance to the
very end. Never admit defeat. Keep fighting change. That's not
a response which reflects a mature attitude. Perhaps, given enough time,
they'll figure it out. Then again, maybe not.
Mature Status. Reading the never-ending hype from GM enthusiasts supporting
Volt, which is still just a concept vehicle, has grown tiring. It's
the same old spin. But this particular time, clarity finally hit me.
My response to their latest attempt to degrade Prius...
I've read so many posts at this point declaring "obsolete" status that they have
Pushing a conclusion prematurely is usually a sign of attempting to conceal or
mislead. And sure enough, I finally uncovered the true word those claiming
"obsolete" are hoping to avoid: "MATURE".
That's a bitter pill to swallow. When a technology reaches a point where it is
proven robust, affordable, and popular, the technology that came before it is
actually what becomes obsolete. In other words, non-hybrids.
Put another way, those who cried "obsolete" did it one too many times. Now I'm
going to respond with "MATURE" every opportunity they provide.
Assist Silence. Have you noticed how the "assist" hybrid
supporters are now totally silent? Heck, even reporters aren't writing
about them anymore. You'd think that since GM just expanded their
GreenLine offering, more would be heard. Instead, just the opposite
happened. It kind of looks like they shot themselves in the foot. By
placing so much attention on the upcoming "series" hybrid, allowing claims that
it is superior to the "full" hybrid (with no regard to cost), the "assist"
slipped into a grave surprisingly quick. That was quite unexpected.
With such a minor MPG improvement and no smog-related improvement at all, I
figured we were going to have to deal with lots of disingenuous supporters.
Turns out, no new battle needed to be fought. Back when Honda first
offered them, it was too little too late. Now, many years later, the
writing was already on the tombstone. Motor & Battery technology has moved
beyond just the occasional assist. Much more electricity emphasis has
become the expectation.
53 Cents. I enjoy watching reruns of the television show
CHiPs. It was a very different time back then. The cars & highways
were very different. So it's rather entertaining observing history from
that perspective. Popular culture's documentation presents the past in a
manner prior generations simply didn't have the opportunity to experience.
But this one can... and I take full advantage of it. Today, as I was
indulging, I couldn't help but to be amused by seeing "53" on a gas station
sign. There in big numbers, the price of a gallon of gas back in 1978 was
proudly displayed. Just imagine what that would have been like. Only
a few years later, the price nearly tripled briefly and never returned that low.
Of course, seeing it just under $1 per gallon was what I got use to paying in my
early days of driving. Those days are long gone too.
Hybrid Challenges, Market. Ignoring the rest of the world is a frightening reality. Far too many never consider the worldwide market, placing focus entirely on their country only. In other words, those American blinders once again are leading to trouble. Being proud of one's own country is great, but at the expense of workers losing jobs isn't. No where else is there such an obsession with the SUV and massive Pickups. Here alone we make up excuses for driving such large & powerful vehicles, gross overkill for the tasks they are actually used. It's perfectly fine when you have the need. But a great majority don't; instead, it is a want. There's a big difference. To survive in the worldwide marketplace, too much emphasis on that comes with severe penalty... not having anything for consumers to buy. And now that gas is getting expensive here, fewer here still have the want. They admit to not having the need. That means offering hybrid cars... a product that can be sold around the world in large quantities. It's what an automaker must do to survive... whether they like it or not.
Hybrid Challenges, Generations. There's this strange mentality that a hybrid technology must be replaced with each new model, that multi-generational existence wouldn't make any sense. Since when? The manual transmission still exists to this day. Why can't various degrees of electricity use be offered? Some offer plugs with high-capacity packs, some don't. Traditional vehicles come in different packages, so what would make that inappropriate for hybrids? It basically boils down to not understanding how the hybrid works in the first place. Spreading that knowledge is the challenge. Confusion is obvious from posts on forums. Not even being aware of what there is to learn is a big problem. Far too many simply make assumptions and jump to conclusions. So naturally, the arguments about next generation designs get blown way out of proportion... some of which comes from dismissing facts about the current generation, since they figure it will be discontinued soon anyway.
Hybrid Challenges, Type. It's quite obvious that the midsize-car has been neglected by the domestic automakers. Family sedans simply aren't sexy. They are all over the place, practical above all else. Making them affordable means small profit-margins. So their mentality has been: Why bother? That's sad and quite disappointing. Nonetheless, that has been the world we had to cope with. They didn't invest much. As a result, little has come in return. Now many are suffering... and that doesn't look to change anytime soon. Toyota will continue expand HSD, which is well suited to serve the midsize-car market. Ford could do the same with their design, but plans to do so are very uncertain. GM is basically up a creek without a paddle. Their "series" hybrid is simply too expensive, especially if the vehicle is larger than a compact. Their "full" hybrid design (called Two-Mode) is too expensive also, which makes scaling it down from large truck-based vehicles a daunting challenge. So what will they do? They bulk of the need comes from low-profit, regular looking cars. A paradigm shift in the market is inevitable.
Hybrid Challenges, Size. Just like with Insight, attention on the concept vehicle Volt focuses almost entirely on efficiency. Size somehow isn't addressed. The fact that the expectation of Volt to deliver 5 inches less legroom in the backseat doesn't seem to be a problem. How come? That prevents if from competing directly with Prius. Too small for to be practical for a family with children older than elementary school age cancels out the MPG benefit. After all, wasn't the purchase excuse for some SUV owners seating room for a family? Not being big enough can be even more of a problem than being excessively large. The efficiency numbers aren't as impressive from a very comfortable seating vehicle like Camry-Hybrid, but that size vehicle certainly eliminates an argument for anything bigger in terms of passenger accommodations. Too bad so much attention is placed on other factors of a vehicle, ignoring the role that sitting inside plays.
Hybrid Challenges, Demand. The obsession with size, speed, and power we had to endure is coming to an end. The fact that those vehicles guzzle so much gas is a reality that's very difficult to ignore. Pain in the wallet really hurts. Facing that fact is a challenge for some. Hybrids deliver a solution. Those resisting change simply cannot afford to pretend that isn't true anymore. With Prius now celebrating its 7th anniversary since debuting in the United States, proof of worth is becoming absolutely overwhelming. Doubt of its ability to be considered a "normal" vehicle of the 21st Century is fading away. The choice to purchase a hybrid is becoming a natural one. Why not? Owners are reaching 150,000 miles with higher overall reliability than traditional vehicles deliver. So, what is there to be concerned about? The increase in new purchases seems to indicate the lack of concern. As a result, demand is growing. Yeah!
Hybrid Challenges, Emissions. Thankfully, the carbon type
is getting decent attention. In the past, talk of "global warming" was
often just dismissed as treehugger gibberish. Now, evidence of the
consequences from non-action is starting to become apparent. Ignoring a
potential problem is morally inappropriate. We must at least address it.
But the fact that we have reasonable solutions available that are being
dismissed is something our children won't be proud of. When they later
learn that we chose to delay acknowledgement of need as long as possible will
really upset them. The challenge is to finally get beyond that.
Action won't happen until then. And that's just for one type of emission.
The other is smog. To also deliver a solution for that, the beauty of the
"full" hybrid becomes obvious. That's a reality the "clean" diesel
supporters absolutely hate. Even if new diesel vehicles compete with
respect to MPG improvement, the fact that emissions are a step in the wrong
direction (only a Tier-2 Bin-5 rating) hurts. Dirtier emissions is
Hybrid Challenges, Volume. The true winner won't be identified as the one that looks best on paper. No matter what the MPG numbers come to, impact on our consumption isn't affected much by something that makes people excited at an auto show. The true winner will be identified as the one that can be seen everywhere on the road. It's volume that will stand out, not any attention to the vehicle or technology. You know, that boring family car that you'll find very common in neighborhood driveways is what will use the hybrid system. That's the challenge. Change has to occur on the grand scale. The product basically has to become ubiquitous to achieve success on the scale that we need. Oil is already becoming expensive. Running out will eventually become a reality, but in the meantime emissions are quite literally killing us.
Hybrid Challenges, Price. How come so many don't understand just how much of a challenge making hybrids affordable really is? They expect some type of magic break-thru to suddenly deliver a solution. The computer industry has been struggling with battery development since the early 90's. Advancement has always been in small steps, despite such a heavy investment in research efforts. Progress has been slow. How is that abruptly going to change? Just coming up with a robust, long-lasting battery that delivers a dense energy capacity is hard enough. Making it affordable too really is asking for miracle. Expectations are not realistic.
Hybrid Challenges, Bragging. This is by far the biggest problem. Some believe the challenge is to simply deliver a technically better product. Whether or not it can be produced or sold in massive quantities gets dismissed. All certain enthusiasts care about is saying their engineering is the "best" to hit the market. They don't care whether or not the technology actually makes a difference. The just want bragging rights to spite competitor supporters with. That's pathetic. Concerns about our dependence on oil are the very thing they center arguments on, but the thought of a hybrid that everyone could own repulses them. It's that niche mentality. To be special, the vehicle must remain rare. How does that actually help?