Prius Personal Log  #371

April 6, 2008  -  April 20, 2008

Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010

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Way Too Late.  Reality is crashing down.  Affordable solutions are needed now.  Waiting 2.5 more years for one to begin rollout is a big problem.  Some hoping for it are finally realizing that, seeing recent efforts struggle and wondering how their chosen technology will fair.  Others are in complete denial, insisting their design will be an instant success which crushes the competition worldwide.  All I can do is shake my head.  We saw this coming.  Our efforts were mocked... back when there was still time.  There isn't anymore.  Now what?


Slow Benefit.  Now that BAS has been available for close to a year and a half, reliability consideration is finally possible.  But unlike those antagonists who never forgive for any type of problem whatsoever, I will.  And with this situation, I'll do exactly that.  Similar to what Honda experienced long ago, GM just did.  Measure of voltage is difficult.  Consequently, BAS required a post-rollout hardware update.  By replacing the hybrid cassettes (components within the battery assembly), a problem was corrected where a tolerance was sometimes exceeded which prevented the electric motor from being used.  Fortunately, because the market penetration has been so slow, very few will ever be effected by this.


Best Approach.  It is intriguing when someone genuinely doesn't know how two automakers can both claim the same thing, yet be doing things to the point of almost contrasting each other.  The final comment was: "The Toyota paper says Toyota's approach is the best.  GM also put out a paper, which says E-REVs are superior.  Shocking, isn't it."  And my response:  Not at all.  Toyota wants to sell lots and lots of hybrids.  GM wants to brag about having the best.  That fundamental difference is nothing new.  Two-Mode followed that identical pattern.  If you were serious enough about Volt, you'd realize that other vehicles using electricity for propulsion were not the competitionů that the actual problem comes from those without battery-packs.


$116.69 Per Barrel.  Staying above that "someday it may happen" level of $100 appears to be remarkably easy.  This is very much uncharted territory, something only "fear mongers" would ever consider.  Businesses never planned a strategy for dealing with prices this high for an on-going basis.  Permanent damage is happening to the market for large guzzlers.  Owners are flocking to tiny cars for refuge.  The pain from filling massive tanks often hurts way more than they imagined.  It's too bad that it had to come to this.  But they were the very ones that professed gas would remain cheap the entire duration they owned their vehicle... a gamble that clearly did not pay off.


Slow Start.  The official numbers are now available.  655 sales of Two-Mode occurred during the first quarter of the year.  That's way below what we were led to believe would happen after debut.  To make matters worse, only 188 of the BAS hybrids were sold.  Neither is doing well based on purchases.  Model-Year volume for Two-Mode is still planned for between 8,000 and 12,000 units according to GM's information included with that sales report.  How will that happen, especially with the market for monster-size SUVs struggling?


Production Shut Down.  Large SUVs aren't selling well.  I wonder why?  Duh!  Anywho, GM's production facility for them in Arlington, Texas is being shut down for 3 weeks... hoping inventory will thin out in the meantime.  They produce 900 to 1,000 vehicles per day there.  Do you think that wait will be long enough?  Take a look during your local commute.  Where have the large SUVs gone?  The number of those dinosaurs have dropped considerably.  So, I wouldn't expect demand for new ones to recover anytime soon... or perhaps, ever.


Gas Tax Insanity.  Worse than facing reality is making a bad situation even more of a problem.  The proposal has been made to not collect federal gas taxes during the Summer months to help relieve the pain on taxpayers.  Since when is not collecting needed taxes helpful?  Funding for programs, such as light-rail, come from that money.  How will that be paid for?  Talking about short-sighted!  And how would paying 18.4 cents less per gallon of gas (24.4 cents for diesel) make much of a difference anyway?  In the not too distant past (January 2007), gas was less than $2.00 per gallon.  Now it is $3.39 here, 7 times more of an increase than the tax... and higher prices are on the way.


Face Reality.  The advice I posted...  A barrel of oil is now $113.85.  Gas prices are soaring.  The market needs affordable & practical solutions.  Automakers need steady & continuous profit sources.  GM needs Volt to be a vanilla choice... appealing to a very, very wide consumer base.  Enthusiasts here that desire more than what is actually required will do more harm than good.  To sell a vehicle in large volumes, the design must be well balanced.  In other words, too much power is just as bad as too little.  There's a happy middle.  Finding it means learning the difference between NEED and WANT.


Prius Comparisons.  The nonsense coming from Volt enthusiasts seems to finally be reaching a peak.  Fighting from within has grown to a chaotic level (nothing constructive anymore).  Rather than acknowledging need and agreeing upon specifications similar to or slightly better, there are some that absolutely insist they must be the extreme.  The top arguments are range, acceleration, and price.  It's sad.  With the price of oil currently at $113.85 per barrel, a harmonious message of intent would obviously be helpful.  What is the purpose?  Who is the target?  How many sales are expected?  Fortunately, there is some hope.  Prius is almost always used as the basis of comparison... though it is often misrepresented with incorrect information.


Study The Past.  They don't, which is a big reason I'm drawn to the Volt discussions.  They have no idea how much was held back from Prius for the purpose of appealing to an extremely wide audience.  From their perspective, offering an elaborate interface makes perfect sense.  They think it will draw in the masses.  That's not what the everyday consumer wants though.  A few new conveniences, like a FOB, are great.  But beyond improving the basics, forget it.  Just look at the luxury vehicles for perspective.  Buyers are willing to pay, yet what's offered are only refinements to the existing features... in other words, unnecessary features are a tough sell.  KISS works for good reason.  Too bad they haven't studied the past which proves it.


Not Mainstream.  It will be fascinating when Volt finally rolls out.  The enthusiasts are clearly wanting it to steer away from the mainstream market, to make it stand out.  But that contradicts the want to produce & sell lots of them.  So, I'm not sure what the heck they are thinking.  Being different to that degree is counter-productive.  Fortunately, GM knows that and has been scaling back on some features.  Of course, the production model wouldn't have resembled the concept all that much anyway.  The enthusiasts should have accepted that reality from the start.  For the development investment to be successful, large volume production of the technology is necessary.  It needs to be part of the mainstream... a common vehicle.


Worst Conditions.  A fierce headwind, a bike on back, another bike inside along with a bunch of cargo, a passenger, new tires, and the temperature at freezing made it a saddening drive on the highway... for a Prius, anyway.  I hardly think any other car under the same conditions would consider 37 MPG disappointing.  But it's April, for crying out loud.  Seeing that fresh new foot of snow isn't what I envisioned Spring to be.  Fortunately, warmth is finally on the way.  That will make for a very different drive home.


$4.09 Sightings.  That sure is a strange sight.  I knew the diesel supporters were in trouble with the national requirement of cleaner refining combined with the demand coming from the trucking industry.  Supply was going to be a problem, just like it is for gas... only the supplementing isn't as easy.  So, seeing it crack that feared $4 mark here isn't a huge surprise.  The shockwave from it's effect is only now being realized though.  Combining that with the reality that expansion to more passenger vehicles would push the limits even further.  After all, a barrel of oil results in a certain amount of diesel (9 gallons) and a certain amount of gas (19.5 gallons) which cannot be changed.


Running Out Of Gas.  Some new Prius owners have.  They attempt to push limits by ignoring the "Add Fuel" message & beep warning along with the flashing pip.  Why wouldn't a Volt owner do the same thing?  After all, a smaller tank means a smaller tolerance.  So... what happens when they do?  How will the vehicle respond?  How will they react (both at the moment and afterward?  It's an interesting situation.  Logic and consumer expectations are in conflict.


From Concept To Production.  I've included on-going ramblings of Volt knowing that the concept would end up baring little resemblance to the actual production vehicle.  What was originally "promised" wasn't all that practical.  But those first enthusiasts didn't care.  Few would remember what was included in that initial debut anyway... unless someone takes the time to document those details, like me.  It's my way of dealing with the frustration.  They act as if their vehicle is winning the competition, even though none have been sold.  A battle of hype is not for me.  They pushed the advertisements promoting a "640-mile driving range" while at the same time gloated for being "gas free".  Obviously, you can't have both.  Either it uses gas or it doesn't.  And now the engineers are sounding off about how a tank that large doesn't make any sense if only a modest amount of gas will be used.  So naturally, the story we are getting from some has changed.  Now only 300 to 400 miles per tank is just fine.  What else do you think will change from concept to production?


First Report.  Two-Mode efficiency has been an elusive topic lately.  Being neither the warm season nor broken-in yet, real-world data will be skewed to the lower side.  But nonetheless, real-world is still better than estimates.  This was the very brief report we got: "I am up to 20.7 MPG at about 1200 miles."  That's not much to work with.  Of course, it doesn't matter anyway.  Even at 22 MPG, that's still guzzling.  The fact that some vehicles that resemble a SUV are no longer called a SUV wrecks credibility when it comes to identification.  It all comes down to the same thing: How much fuel is being consumed?  And since this particular configuration (Yukon-Hybrid) delivers such a poor emission rating (Tier2-Bin5), technology really doesn't come into play either.  That 35 MPG mandate doesn't succumb to greenwashing.  Trucks will go back to being work vehicles, actual utility use rather than daily commuting.  Purpose is coming back.  Guzzling is simply becoming too expensive.


$3.59 Peak.  That's what the government forecast issued today was for the Midwest.  In other areas, it crack the $4.00 mark.  Unfortunately, parts of California and most of Hawaii are already seeing that.  So... what happens when worse case scenarios actually occur?  In the past, there was "fear mongering" that poked at the possibility of a brief spike even higher.  But staying at that level was never addressed.  There wasn't ever any serious consideration of that.  "Having prices that high always?  No way!  This is America!!!"  Since when should we have immunity to worldwide supply & demand issues?  Aren't we the ones fortunate enough to be able to lead the world to a better future?  If so, why are so far behind?  In other words, this is a wake-up call.  We finally need to acknowledge the higher efficiency standards already in place by other nations... then do even better.  Recognize the importance.  Embrace the technology.  Take the responsibility.  Accept change for the better from anyone contributing to the effort.  Cheap gas is long gone.


Low-Grade Crude.  This problem is finally being talked about in the popular media.  Whoa!  Of course, the acknowledgement in general is pretty weak.  People are still very much focused on oil quantity available, not the quality.  The crude that's lower in grade is more expensive to refine.  In many cases, it's also harder to extract from the ground too.  All that adds up to higher costs.  We seriously need to invest in ethanol... the kind that doesn't take away from food supply.  That's where Minnesota efforts were heading back when ethanol was only a state mandate, produced in-state for in-state use.  Corn & Sugar-Beets helped establish the source base, while production power & technique could become increasingly more green.  Well obviously, the work to switch that source over to waste biomaterial now needs to be accelerated.  More focus on the problems with oil should help.


Eighth Edition.  The User-Guide certainly is proving an excellent resource to spend time on.  I had no idea it would continue to grow after all these years.  But as each new need reveals itself, information & illustrations are added.  And as we gather detail about older subjects, they are updated too.  Both were definitely the case this time.  There was also something out of the ordinary.  I've been particularly frustrated with the misleading coming from certain Volt enthusiasts about how "full" hybrids actually work.  So, I added a whole new section covering operational details.  It's a great example of anger funneled to a constructive outcome.  They make vague claims that are very easy to prove false when you have detail available explaining why.  Anywho, here's a link to the latest... User-Guide  (HSD)


Name Spinning.  The Volt enthusiasts have recently abandoned the "E-Flex" brand identifier.  A year ago, that was the hot name for the technology.  They thought it would be great having a platform to promote instead of just a single vehicle.  Over time though, it fell out of favor.  My guess is the ethanol "Go Green, Live Yellow" fallout... since that also used a flex label, specifically "Flex-Fuel".  Recently, they have turned to "E-REV" (Extended-Range Electric Vehicle) for a name.  However, calling it an EV is now a problem... since the engine will be forced to run from time to time.  It's an intriguing situation.  By not being able to make up their minds, they are causing spin on their own.  It's a self-inflicted marketing loss.  No wonder Volt discussions continue to emerge on the big Prius forum.


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