Personal Log #349
September 21, 2007 - September 30, 2007
Last Updated: Sun. 10/14/2007
page #348 page #350 BOOK INDEX
Northern Minnesota Trip, hypocrites. Sometimes, you just have to call it like you see it. I ended both evenings of my 3-day excursion up north with time online. That's a good way to wind down. If you didn't guess yet, my choice of discussion group to silently observe was the big GM forum. Their propaganda war sure is wrecking their credibility. Watching them do that is rather intriguing. I wonder how far it will go. Hmm? Anyway, they praise GM for the promise of a small number of Two-Mode vehicles and scorn Toyota for the number of HSD vehicles... even though Toyota's is significantly larger. My hunch that they'd attempt a double-standard has been confirmed. The way they misrepresent Prius, everything from size, to price, to actual efficiency is becoming an obvious problem. And the way they simply dismiss Camry-Hybrid is obvious denial. It's taking smug to a whole new level.
Northern Minnesota Trip, MPG. The Prius was very happy with me. We got the opportunity to escape for a few days. Road Trip! The 699 miles of almost entirely highway driving still impressed, despite colder Fall temperatures. The calculated average (weighted, since the first 134 miles on the tank were before leaving) came to 49.5 MPG. That's well above the new "revised" estimate from the EPA of 45 MPG highway. Heck, even the 48 MPG city isn't that high. Needless to say, I was delighted with the results. The trip itself was great too, lots of impressive sights to see along Lake Superior.
$81.66 Per Barrel. Remember when it was only $40? That seems like ancient history now. I wonder what next year will bring. Worry about $60 was intense. Cuts in business where made to compensate. Can they continue to reduce overhead at $80 too? And what about the consumer? Goods & Services are more expensive in addition to paying for gas itself at some point. Change is inevitable, a matter of survival. The good old days of generous profit are gone... unless you are in the oil business.
Two-Mode EPA Estimates. Purchase decision is a factor heavily related to MPG. Two-Mode has been promoted all along as a more efficient solution for highway driving than one-mode hybrids; however, the EPA estimates now available don't actually reflect that for two-wheel drive. How do you think consumers will respond to finding that out? The MPG improvement is just 10 percent, from 20 to 22. Compared to the Camry-Hybrid 18 percent, from 31 to 38, you really have to question what the heck they were considering for competition. The four-wheel drive improvement is much more impression with 30 percent, from 14 to 20. But that wasn't the way the technology had been touted. The number of powered wheels was never mentioned.
Spending Perspective. The DOE (United States Department
of Energy) pledged support of $20 million toward research efforts for plug-in
hybrids. Put bluntly, that's pathetic! 500 times more (yes, $10
billion) is spent on the war each month. And currently, the administration
is requesting $190 billion to continuing funding the fight against terror.
What kind of investment is that? Where's the balance? Winning the
war but not having anything to drive afterward isn't exactly what you declare as
victory. And what about the $45 billion in health care spending for poor
children that has been threatened with a veto? It sure puts the priority
on hybrids in perspective. That $20 million is nothing but a token
gesture, a minimum given with the hope of avoiding further pressure.
Floor Mat Recall. We were correct! On the big Prius forum, we dismissed the odd claims that Prius suddenly surged with acceleration resulting in the two highly publicized crashes. It seemed way too outrageous. How come none of us had never experienced anything even remotely close to what kept getting so much attention by that website sponsored by lawyers? It seemed way to suspicious, with rather transparent motive. Our hunch was that the floor mat simply slipped forward, preventing pedal control. And sure enough, that's exactly what the investigations ended up showing. So this new recall issued through NHTSA (National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration) by Toyota doesn't surprise us at all. It's really unfortunate that any news involving Prius gets the spotlight. When will focus shift to the hybrid technology itself instead?
Spinning the Spin. This comment today really cracked me up: "They normally don't exhibit this type of behavior." It was in response to a Toyota quote in response to the Volt hype. Or as I call it, propaganda. Needless to say, I had to post a comment of my own. So I did, with this... Normally, there's an actual vehicle to compete with. When production rivals current popular vehicles, then merit has been earned. Genuine change requires action. In the automotive world, that means consumer purchases. You can spin the spin all you want. Hype all you want. But when it comes down to making a difference, look in the parking lot. What you see there is what matters.
Climate Change. Wow! The topic sure is getting a lot of
attention now. I wonder why the sudden change. Hmm? Whatever the
case, it's good for everyone. So, why not try? Whether we have
overwhelming evidence or not is beside the point. Our children will be
disappointed with us later learning that we had technology available to overcome
the problem but dismissed it as necessary... so we didn't bother. They'll
wonder why the heck we were so resistant to change. Their generation
embraces it. Those fears the old-school businesses still have simply won't
make any sense in the world they will become part of. Innovation leads to
opportunity. Why do the minimum all the time? After all, that
certainly isn't what the children are taught in school. To get an "A"
grade, you really have to try.
Prius Comedy. It only took 59 seconds in the new Jeff Dunham special for him to mention hybrids... and of course, Prius was the one. Attention from comedians is great. They blow perceptions way out of proportion, stretching reality to silly extents. It's quite humorous. I laughed along with everyone else, despite the fact that he was poking fun at Prius. His comments about Hummer balanced out the act quite nicely. Life isn't fun if you take it too seriously. He certainly doesn't. The audience didn't either. It was very funny... and an interesting insight to our culture, since comedy topics usually reflect what our culture deems important.
Courier Prius. They've upgraded! I wondered when
the local Prius fleet grew old what the owner would decide upon for replacement.
Buying the new model Prius is a fantastic endorsement. They were obviously
positive outcome from the Classic. Now with the HSD, I wonder how the
driver's will respond. It's a pleasing step forward.
Sports Car. For quite some time, I've been curious about how the 21st Century sports car would be defined. With the family car now taking on aerodynamic curves that were once only found on the sports car, something else is needed. What will that look be? Talk online of traits to make it stand out will continue to be a front-seating dominant interior and extremely large wheels. That gives it a bulk type look, resembling a muscular build. Unfortunately, that makes the vehicle somewhat impractical. Cramped back seats are obviously a problem. The weight & circumference of the wheels reduce city efficiency. And large tires can make driving in snow more difficult. That's not too practical. Of course, being practical is what defines a family car. So I guess it all makes sense. Watch for those traits in some concept vehicles.
Growing Problem? Is the continued incorrect use of "parallel"
label a sincere misunderstanding of the technology or yet another example of how
antagonists mislead about hybrids? On the new forum dedicated to Volt, I
posted the following with the hope of the positive & constructive response...
Please correct your labeling!
A parallel hybrid is the "ASSIST" type, where the motor & engine are physically
integrated and operate in parallel fashion.
A series-parallel hybrid is the "FULL" type, where the engine and multiple
motors are not directly connected. Instead, a power-split device is used
to allow for a variety of interactions.
Hybrid Effect. The label of "hybrid" also provides a good
feeling for owners, even if their vehicle isn't actually green. But
instead of advertising, it's just a small badge. People see that on the
vehicle and assume emissions are lower. That's not always the case.
The nature of the "assist" design does nothing to reduce smog-related emissions.
That motor providing thrust at times of inefficiency for the engine only reduces
carbon emissions. For that other type to also be reduced, separate design
features are needed. But the automakers can save money by not including
them. Honda did that at first. Disappointed supporters made it clear
that decision was unacceptable. Thankfully, the outcome was positive.
The same situation is now playing out with GM. Their "assist" vehicles all
only provide an improvement to carbon. The newest are Aura-Hybrid &
Malibu-Hybrid. Both only earn a LEV rating from CARB, the same as the
traditional design. That's very, very disappointing... not at all what
you'd expect from a hybrid. SULEV and PZEV are the truly green ratings.
Don't make the clean assumption.
Halo Effect. That's the official term to what GM is attempting to persuade us with. If they were actually selling those vehicles, some merit would be earned... and in fact, well deserved. But with nothing but concept vehicles still years away from production, it's just the "green" effect. You are made to believe the company is making a difference. That "feel good" attitude leads you to check out their current offering. You purchase one, even though it has absolutely nothing to offer that is actually "green". Needless to say, I am indeed now turning against them. A year ago with Two-Mode offering so much potential, I was thrilled. But as time progressed, they have abandoned those plans. Instead, we get nothing but advertisements for vehicles you can't buy.
Ethanol Advertising. Fortunately, it is settling down. In fact, the new EPA estimates now include sticker values specifically for E85. I wonder how many people were aware that there was an efficiency difference. And of those, I bet very few had a good idea what the real-world MPG actually was. That advertising that mostly served to repair image, rather than promote the actual use of ethanol itself. Buy a vehicle capable of using it doesn't mean you ever will. But the reputation boost results in increased sales, so they consider it well worth the money... whether or not that actually makes any difference. Hopefully it will. But in the land of ethanol (Minnesota), I rarely ever see anyone using the E85 pumps.
Series & Hydrogen Advertising. The big Prius forums is obviously watching the market closely, most noticeably is what we're currently now seeing in print. Here's my sound of to the latest thread... All this recent advertising of concepts, rather than actual vehicles you can buy, isn't just making the Prius supporters crazy. Someone on the big GM forum provided a very fitting summary of the situation, along with some advice: "Another name for "transparent development process" is "engineering by press release." Just shut up and make the car already!" It's propaganda, making vague promises that will be extremely difficult to fulfill. The "series" hybrid will carry a hefty premium compared to the "full" hybrid, similar to the aftermarket augmentation price for Prius. Do those seeing the advertisements really understand that? Do they understand just how complicated making hydrogen readily available and cost-competitive with gas really will be? And what about reliability concerns? The consumer apprehension delay caused by waiting for real-world data impairs large-scale rollout plans for years. Then there's the issue of Two-Mode. Isn't this series & hydrogen advertising wrecking their own emerging market? It seems to sour the appeal of their upcoming plug-in Vue-Hybrid even before it debuts. And it certainly puts the GM community at odds with each other. Oh well. At least it gives us quite a bit to discuss.
$83.32 Per Barrel. That was the all-time highest closing price for oil ever, reached yesterday. Today's end-of-week closing was $81.62. I have a feel the tread of being in the 80's has begun. There doesn't appear to be any economic recovery factor to change that. In fact, the only reason gas is relatively cheap now ($2.79 per gallon) here is that reserves were built up. Apparently those refining it saw these high prices coming. After all, the cold season alters their production. Being prepared helps. Cost is clearly become a concern for everyone involved.
The Prius Look. Now Ford has a concept model that looks like Prius too. The practical nature of the hatchback shape is becoming apparent to others in the automotive industry. Prius used to really stick out in the crowd simply because it was the only midsize hatchback on the market. All the rest were compact wagons. But that vertical window in the rear isn't as appealing as the soft transition from roof to window that the horizontal provides. Also having a look people will desire helps quite a bit. Just look at how the minivan is shunned, despite how incredibly practical it is. And fortunately, the height inside Prius is proving enough for most cargo anyway. So now we have both Ford & GM looking into offering hatchbacks too. Cool!
War About Oil. That has been a underlining motive speculated about since the beginning. Iraq is loaded with a massive quantity of high-grade oil. Losing their contributions to our demanding appetite was a growing concern. Openly accusing those responsible for the war about that hasn't happened much though. Fortunately, Alan Greenspan (chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006) confidently did exactly that in his new book, saying: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." It should be obvious that eventually something would have to be done. Supply is limited. Worldwide consumption is rising rapidly. Change is difficult. Those in the oil industry were never going to give up without a fight. We anticipated the reaction to be figurative, not literal. But we indeed end up with actual fighting rather than a stubborn transition to alternatives. What's next? Ending the war doesn't solve the problem.