Personal Log #365
February 11, 2008 - February 20, 2008
Last Updated: Mon. 3/10/2008
page #364 page #366 BOOK INDEX
Welcome. I love how some
newbies flip out when they discover what's actually going on. Today
provided a great example with this: "The Detroit News should go back
and reports news not fiction. They are not in the business of judging
technologies which they know nothing about." Hopefully they found a
bit of relief in this reply: Welcome to the hybrid world. We've been
dealing with that nonsense for many years now. Being so against hybrids
for so long appears to have become a genuine problem. Old habits die hard.
They really need to study the changes taking place. New technology does
not fit the traditional mindset. It's not the same world they were used to
anymore. Far too many make assumptions... that simply are not correct.
Gas Tax. It's a hot topic now. A bill, much like we've seen in the past, is being discussed to raise much needed funds for upkeep on roads around here. As before, the governor is the source of resistance. He believes in absolutely no tax increases. So regardless of the situation, the answer is always the same. Only this attempt, party lines may actually be crossed. That's rarely done. In this case though, we pay less for gas than most everyone else in the country anyway. And the increase only 5 cents. Some claim this is a terrible time for that, I couldn't disagree more. How much longer can the inevitable be delayed? Routine maintenance is a whole lot less expensive than replacement. And obviously, gas will cost more later. Do the right thing now while it's reasonable.
$100.01 Per Barrel. The closing price of oil broke that magic barrier today. That situation years ago experts never said could happen did. Now what? We have entered territory only those silly made-for-television movies dared to toy with. Remember awhile back? That one showed chaos over the course of a year... with a happy ending, life was restored to the status quo. Reality is, that's totally dreaming. It takes a whole lot longer to deal with and the solution doesn't come without change. When are some going to finally face the music. Oil is peaking.
Winter Blues. Last week, it warmed up to 10 F degrees below normal. This week, we'd be lucky if it got that nice. The temperature average for the month is way down... and so is MPG in the Prius. That sure makes Spring seem a long time from now. I remember two February 29s ago (8 years) wearing shorts. That's likely not going to happen this leap year. Tonight's low is forecast to be -11 F degrees. Winter here has its challenges. Oh well. Summer sure makes the times like this well worth it.
Hybrid Future. It's becoming quite obvious that the status quo will no longer work. This line on the cover of a financial magazine summed up the situation rather well: "Scarce crude and global warming force carmakers to change course." Knowing how long change actually takes, that synopsis makes sense. Investors simply can't afford to delay anymore. Waiting to react is a big financial mistake. After all, the error in judgment about market acceptance of Prius is pretty much impossible to dismiss at this point. You can see that in the online forums. Discussions of feasibility have vanished. Unfortunately, that absence hasn't been replaced by anything. On the big GM forum, there is little said about hybrids anymore. And now on the big Prius forum, we are getting inundated by newbies... some having no idea how the hybrid actually works. That future many of us had hoped for has arrived.
Another Aftermarket Augmenter. This one enhances Prius with a 200-pound lithium-phosphate battery-pack. That delivers 9kW for the price of $12,500. Makes you wonder how much Volt will end up costing, eh? Anywho, their claim is just like that others... it gives you the potential to achieve over 100 MPG. Expanding new opportunities like this should be a wake up call to those supporting hybrids no capable of electric-only drive and those trying to avoid hybrids entirely. The automotive market is obviously changing.
So Shiny! Sometimes, it's the simplest of things that please. The Prius had been covered with a layer of salt which recently developed into a crust. Not having washed it for well over a month will do that. What's the point other than to apply a fresh layer of wax? It's dirty again shortly after anyway. Well, yesterday was that day to finally wash. No more instant-freeze weather. So, I joined in with the rest of the population here to rid the paint of filth. That made this morning's sight in the garage quite a surprise. I wasn't expecting to see something so shiny! The day was definitely off to a good start.
More Greenwashing. The article was titled "Green goes mainstream." That seemed innocent enough; however, the disappointment began in the very first sentence. The claim was that automakers are now getting serious about hybrids... because Pickups & SUVs are now getting attention. Naturally, there was no mention that smog-related emissions aren't reduced at all by the newest hybrids. It progressively got worse, like with this quote: "There are a lot of choices out there now." How do they figure? There is not a single hybrid car (sedan) available from a domestic automaker that offers a green solution... no substantial MPG increase and emission decrease. It then moved on to the "series" hybrid, which served only as a topic lead in to hydrogen. Yes, it was just propaganda for fuel-cells. The writer even went as far as saying it was the "Holy Grail of automotive research and development". I was quite upset. This constant downplaying of the importance of "full" hybrids is very frustrating. They are the answer to our affordable & abundant need we have now. Isn't that the point of mainstream?
Infiniti Brand Hybrids. Remember how Nissan leased HSD technology from Toyota, saying they would be developing their own later? Well, that now appears to be precisely what they are doing for 2010. Unfortunately, it will primarily be used for their premium brand. So rather than seeing a Altima or Maxima like we had hoped, it is more likely to be in expensive luxury models. Why is it that affordable vehicles are not being targeted? Do we really have to endure the usual product-cycle delay before any chance of lower cost? I wish an aggressive attitude would be taken. The selection of really efficient hybrid cars priced in the mid-20's is going to be quite slim for the next 5 or 6 years still. Give people something to purchase. Stop focusing exclusively on just stuff outside of the typical budget.
"Parallel" Greenwashing. It continues! Some are lumping all hybrids currently available into a newly coined category called "conventional". The attempt to undermine is quite obvious to those of us that have been paying attention to the market. The most recent example came from a GM publication comparing the efficiency of E-Flex design to everything else. How is that even the slightest bit objective? Those mild "assist" hybrids are no where near as efficient as a "full" hybrid. They bring the average down, making the data appear to be less than was it really possible. And since when is comparing the 2011 Volt to a 2004 Prius proper anyway? Again, those of us paying attention to the market know that the 2011 Prius will deliver greater efficiency. But no, their selective & vague presentation never acknowledges any of that. It's greenwashing and I'm not at all pleased to have to deal with such nonsense.
Keeping Focus. It's surprisingly difficult sometimes. The battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is drawing to a conclusion... so some people are declaring the war over. Have they forgotten entirely that the point was to replace DVD with a HD format? It sure seems that way... despite the fact that prices aren't even remotely competitive. At double the cost, people will continue buying DVDs instead. Sound familiar? Some configurations of hybrid have the same problem. Price is a big deal. Until that is addressed too, it remains a battle yet to be won. The war isn't over until the purpose is fulfilled. Niche products aren't enough. Mainstream acceptance is required.
7-Year Loans. This new trend is truly frightening. I was amazed when some people began purchasing vehicles with payment expectations 5 years long. But now with the economy struggling to keep momentum, dealers are pushing the idea of a loan for 7 years. It makes payments lower. That appeal may lure some to purchase more of a vehicle than they really need. Scary, eh? All that interest to pay owning a vehicle that offers little opportunity to sell means you're essentially stuck. It could make the current situation even worse over time. After all, isn't that similar to the mess the housing industry is now in?
Development Cost. That was the Volt discussion topic
today. There was nothing new. It was the same old stuff Prius
supporters heard many years ago. Sadly, that was lots of resistance and
distraction from the ultimate purpose. Oh well. I'm chimed in with
Hybrids “make no economic sense” right? That's the nonsense we
had to tolerate for years. At what point do we know they are finally being
taken seriously? Refusal to call Volt by the official term used for
decades to identify that design certainly makes you wonder. For me,
achievement is measured by what you see on the road. Large volume
production will be proof that change is indeed our future; otherwise, it's just
good intentions without reaching the actual goal.
Ford Hybrid Improvements. It was an exciting read. We got some details on the upcoming Fusion-Hybrid along with the upgrade to Escape-Hybrid. I love how Ford gives it to you straight, without any of the hype typical from GM. They stated their "series-parallel" platform for both will use a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine. Yeah! That works out for Fusion to an estimated city efficiency improvement of 60 percent compared to the non-hybrid 4-cylinder model and 80 percent to the 6-cylinder. The electric motors are switching to AC, including stepped up voltage. The Fusion NiMH battery-pack will be 275 volts, 5.5Ah, with 27kW of peak. Their battery-pack will switch to air-cooling now, rather than dedicated A/C like before. There are a bunch of various smaller tweaks to the system hardware & software too. In other words, they are very much following the track of Toyota. Heck, even the maximum RPM for the motors were increased. Put another way, GM will have a lot more to worry about.
Climate Change. The silliest arguments are with reference to "warming". They point out how some areas have grown colder, hoping you know nothing about how weather systems are influenced by warmer temperatures elsewhere. More storms and greater magnitude is the real problem... and we are definitely seeing that. But it's all beside the point. The automotive industry is so slow to change, waiting to react is far too late. People will continue buying dirty gas guzzlers for years still, expecting to use them for the decade that follows. We need to welcome the new technology, embracing it like the computer industry did... before they were desperate for it.
Pure Insanity. Happy Valentine's Day! It's hard to believe just how bad things have got. That's no my idea of love. Lutz stuck his other foot into his mouth this time by calling global warming a "total crock of @#$%". Naturally of course, that news caused an internet explosion. The numerous places to discuss this latest development had quite a bit to say. Posts were flying. What I found most interesting from that was how many are still making excuses. The implication is that if our influence on climate change cannot be proven, there's no reason to bother with any solution. It's the classic resistance to change, alive & well. That's really sad. Remember, this is the same automotive executive that repeated claimed hybrids "make no economic sense". So you can imagine how some latch onto his views to help slow the pace of progress. It's quite frustrating.
Prius Bashing. That website for Volt enthusiasts attracts
all types. Some welcome other hybrids. Others are purists. The
kind I prefer spoke up with this today: "Is there some kind of prerequisite that we have to bash the Prius here?"
The hope was to be objective. So my contribution was...
Notice how they avoid looking at the big picture. Not wanting to accept
the reality that mainstream acceptance of the technology will require some
compromise is the problem. They hold on to that ideal of never using the
engine. Volt will be one of many vehicles offering some form of electric
propulsion. That's the only way high-volume, low-cost production of
vehicle-scale battery-packs will happen quickly.
So, fighting Prius simply makes no sense. It's quite self-defeating.
Competitor hybrids are the ally against the true enemy, traditional vehicles...
which grossly outnumber vehicles that offer any form of electric-only
Fortunately, Volt enthusiasts still have plenty of time to figure out that they
are biting the hand that feeds them. Becoming a genuine supporter of new
technology means declaring a clear purpose. Offering an affordable
solution for the masses to reduce their fuel consumption & emissions doesn't
come without consensus.
$39 Billion Loss. That's what GM posted today. Nearly all of it was a one-time expense to cover their obligation to healthcare coverage for union autoworkers. In fact, with accounting adjustments, their loss for normal operation only came to $23 million. What's next, you ask? That's a buyout offered to 74,000 of their hourly workers. Recovery to where they should have been in the first place is well on its way. Dealing with new market pressures is still a problem though. Uncertainty of consumer wants is a mystery. Will the demand for SUVs continue to drop? If so, they are not prepared to offer hybrid cars. The near future for them could get ugly if gas prices continue to climb. Hopefully, battery advancement (mostly cost reduction) will come through. They are betting a lot on that.
Tax Credits. That has become a hot topic again. Unfortunately, the discussion got that way from a very unrealistic suggestion of $100 million per year, in the form of $10,000 per consumer for 10,000 vehicles. I responded, holding back some to be as polite as possible... So much for so few isn't realistic. Something like that simply wouldn't ever get passed. Our taxes are meant to server many. Toyota, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, VW, etc. would all want a share of that money, the same way credits have been available. That would balloon past $4 Billion for the first 60,000 per automaker. Then if you take into consideration a phase-out plan and some type of credit for less substantial hybrids, the price to the government grows beyond $6 Billion. In other words, your good intention calculation was off by a massive amount.
$35,000 Price. That appears to be the Volt target now, based on this from a GM spokesman: "It's starting to look like it's going to be close to $35,000." I wonder what the heck the market will be like then. The struggling economy could actually serve as the kick the automotive industry needs. Refusal to change isn't worth the risk. But at a price that high, there is obvious concern. The premise of the vehicle is to deliver a 40-mile range. No compromise allows potential for the "full" hybrid plug-in options to make serious headway, since even range isn't the focus... it's boosting MPG instead, which is a much easier thing for consumers to embrace... with their wallet.