Personal Log #378
June 29, 2008 - July 10, 2008
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #377 page #379 BOOK INDEX
Lowering Expectations. GM made a plea to federal regulators not to include upcoming new vehicles like the Chevy Volt when setting efficiency standards. In other words, just because the technology will be available then, that doesn't mean there are any intentions to achieve mainstream production volume until many years after introduction. In fact, they said the wait would be at least 5 additional years. The first stage of fuel economy increase (25% for 2011 to 2015 models) will not be achieved if the MPG requirement is based on anything but dinosaurs. Simply cutting back on guzzling giants is a cheat. Having to commit to hybrids that deliver high MPG is a risk they are still unwilling to take. Yet, they continue to call Volt a "game changer" anyway.
Prius Production Here. We've
been waiting a long time for the decision to be made about producing Prius in
this country. The sudden drop in truck demand made that easier.
Their build reduction will result in consolidation elsewhere. So, the
plant currently under construction in Blue Springs, Mississippi was originally
intended Highlander SUV for will now be used for Prius instead. Sweet!
We'll have to wait until later 2010 and capacity will only be 150,000 per year,
but that's still a big step forward nonetheless.
More Greenwashing. How is a Prius owner supposed to react to a new advertising campaign with this slogan: "Pump Less and Drive More." That message in itself is a problem. But the sad reality that it's being used to promote the sales of vehicles that deliver efficiency "up to 26 MPG". The hybrid I drive delivers double that!! With such a drastic performance difference, it's sickening to think that all this nonsense could have been avoided by not ending the PNGV program. But the new administration crushed that effort and those prototypes were abandoned. It's a disappointing chapter in our automotive history.
Addicted To Oil. We were told by President Bush that
America is addicted to oil, two years ago. Now, he is telling us we need
to increase supply by drilling for more. Since when is that a proper solution
to dealing with an addiction? Rather than reduce, we do exactly the
opposite. What kind of nonsense is that? That's a horrible idea to suggest! It's self-destructive, quite negligent of the future.
I could understand if the effort was balanced by genuine strides to also improve
efficiency & emissions. But it isn't. In fact, those priorities have
been almost totally absent during this administration's reign. The
situation is grim, a responsibility that the next president will have dumped
upon him. What a mess. Increasing supply of the very thing we are
addicted to just delays the inevitable. We have to finally take
responsibility for our actions, dealing with the consequences rather than
Omission Fallout. Since that solar panel topic is new for hybrids, I was quite curious if there would be any fallout. And sure enough... Fortunately, they are finally stating the history correct. Rather than claiming that rollout began in 2000, the actual first sales date of 1997 is now being acknowledged. There was an undermining effort originally to pretend that those first 3 years never happened by providing an America-only perspective. That intentional omission really frustrated some of us and caused the drawing of incorrect conclusions for newbies. Now that has changed. No more exclusions of that nature. Unfortunately, some are still omitting other information. In the case of today's publication, it was this concluding sentence: "Toyota has a goal of selling at least 1 million hybrid cars a year in the early part of the next decade by offering the fuel-saving system on more vehicles." Did you notice what's missing? Prius was the only hybrid mentioned throughout the article... and implied there too. The writer was pretending as if the hybrid system isn't already available in other vehicles yet. With around 100,000 Camry-Hybrid and 75,000 Highlander-Hybrids already sold in the United States, I find that writer's statement very misleading. Having to tolerate such vague reporting really is a pain. Without detail, there is always some type of fallout.
Solar Panels. The big news this morning is that an option will be available on the next-generation Prius to power the accessories with solar panels. That's a creature-comfort those in the south would enjoy, since the A/C is electric. Keeping the car cool is a very good use for that. But for those of us in the north, not so much (especially considering potential ice & snow problems). And of course for owners (like me) who carry kayaks or other large cargo on the roof, that option simply isn't appealing. The tiny dents already up there from my rack are good reason to shy away from that particular option. I bet some will love it though. The size, shape, and cost will obviously be the deciding factor. Speculation now isn't that helpful. And of course, there are already misconceptions about this, due to some posting information that leaves out the accessory reference... leading others to believe this will somehow power the propulsion system. Whatever the case, it does draw attention to the fact that the A/C system operates using electricity. That's something in favor of the FULL hybrids that isn't realistic for the ASSIST type.
100,000 Mile - Service. The
odometer was actually at 100,609 miles. But it really doesn't have to be
exact with a system that propels the vehicle with the engine stopped sometimes.
Fluids don't age as quickly with a system that runs cooler than a traditional
setup, especially because RPM is limited. Anywho, the coolant was drained
& & refilled for $104.54. The transaxle (PSD) fluid, which doesn't have
any specific distance requirement recommended, was drained & refilled for $105.11.
It just seemed like a good time for that. And the tires were rotated along
with a brake inspection for $42.59. That made this one of the bigger
services, but still pretty darn reasonable. I do my own oil changes and
inspect the underneath.
So, the next visit to the dealer won't be until snow starts falling again.
Dashboard Screens. The aftermarket GPS acceptance could be described as "thriving". I'm seeing the glow of those screens on vehicle dashboards at night more and more often. Consumers are clearly expressing their preference for new stuff. Back when Prius was still new, there was a level of resistance. That's why Toyota was so modest with the interface. Although those like myself would have preferred more, we understood the importance of simplicity... and now that is paying off. At this point, we can turn our thoughts to wonder about how long it will take before built-in screens become offered more... especially now that automakers are struggling to find ways of making economy cars more appealing. Without MPG strong enough to be the primary draw, it only makes sense that creature-comfort options are expanded. Sweet!
BlueTec Details. Diesel engines are inherently dirty. Between the ignition method and the fact that the fuel itself is less refined. Just matching emission levels to that of a dirty gas engine is a challenge. One approach is to spray urea into the exhaust system. That chemical converts the harmful NOx pollutant to just nitrogen. It means you cannot run out of the chemical though, the EPA demands that urea availability is strictly enforced. For Mercedes-Benz, this is handled by only allowing 20 restarts after the refill warning has begun. After that, the engine is disabled until urea is replenished. 7 gallons of the urea product AdBlue is required. It is recommended that refills take place every time oil is changed, at the 10,000-mile interval. The expense and effort is intended to be minimal. But compared to not having to do anything at all for the gas FULL hybrids and getting significantly cleaner emissions that with diesel BlueTec, that's quite a contrast.
Mini Cars. Late last night brought more news of change from GM. With the other automakers making plans to bring their mini cars to the United States, it was basically inevitable for them too. In this case, it's the Chevy Beat. Very small vehicles like that, which deliver close to 40 MPG, are what people are seeking now. It's the true "stop gap" that GM always feared. Yet, that is exactly what they have to sell at this point. The fact that efficiency is terrible in heavy commute traffic is a reality that all will have to tolerate. The fact that they are a compromise in safety is something few will be willing to address. With battery supplies so limited, ramping up hybrid technology to the level of fleet replacement is totally unrealistic still... so, we get an onslaught of mini cars in the meantime. All the support from FULL hybrid owners in the past is now proving an incredibly valuable contribution. Too bad so many people fought their effort. It is becoming crystal clear what the market should have been focusing on. $4 gas is rapidly changing priorities.
$145.29 Per Barrel. That's the closing price for the week, leading up to tomorrow's national holiday. Whether the vehicle is a hybrid or not makes no difference anymore. 20 MPG is awful, period. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change what it is. For that matter, the "as much as 30 MPG highway" advertisements seem to be causing a sour taste now too. Each filling up of the tank hurts. Paying $40 to $50 for gas that often (every 300 miles or so) is a killer for budgets that never planned on such expense. It's a reality shock the industry just plain was not preparing for. Now dealing with it remains a serious concern. I can't imagine what the lack of competition will do for Prius. That next year will be very interesting, a popular topic in future history books.
"Smart" Car. The sightings around here continue. Wow! It's hard to believe just how short & narrow of a vehicle they actually are. The interior appears spacious, especially with the roof so high. But the "smart" part eludes me. How can an EPA estimate of 33/41 be a strong draw for anything beyond a city commuter vehicle? Seeing one on the highway in Winter here should be interesting. It certainly enforces a major appeal factor for Prius... with passenger & cargo significantly greater, as well as the MPG. I'm quite curious what sales will be as time goes on.
Drink Less? What a odd article. It stated that's what Big SUVs do now, featuring the Tahoe & Yukon hybrids. I added that question mark... since the read was such a strange one. The start was the usual, taking a jab at "small" hybrids, with Prius in particular. Then it got weird. The writer pointed out how the large 8-cylinder engine could operate using just half, which is not an ability unique to hybrids. Neither is the final drive ratio adjustments or adding more gears. In fact, the aerodynamic improvements aren't either. In other words, much of the efficiency gain comes from improvements to traditional design having nothing to do with being a hybrid. It was a clever slam. I didn't realize that at the beginning. But the concluding sentence made it quite clear: "While I marveled at the engineering and sophistication of this two-mode hybrid, I remain somewhat baffled by the too-heavy, too-costly vehicles in which the technology made its debut."
Compact Crossover. The deception continues. Rather than trying to call the SUV a "car" anymore, the term has shifted to "compact crossover" now. What a joke. Place it next to a SUV. There are no differences. It's a truck pretending to be something it's not. Changing the label is a blatant attempt to mislead. I'm so tired of the desperation to push what consumers don't actually need. Thankfully, the abrupt climb in gas prices is impairing the automaker effort to sell guzzlers. Strangely, the latest television commercial ended with this: "Also available in hybrid." I wonder what the heck consumers will make of that. Will they understand what that truly entails? And what about when the BAS option is joined by a choice of Two-Mode this Fall? The vague inclusion of hybrid references seem to do nothing but bolster image.
Sales Perspective. The GM enthusiasts are so upset, few even want to respond to sales statistic posts anymore. Whether you look at the numbers from an absolute or a relative perspective, they look really bad. The entire industry so dramatic drops in large vehicle sales. Yes, even Toyota is struggling with that. Fortunately, they have a much more diverse product-line. That helps a lot. GM doesn't. Ford doesn't. Chrysler doesn't. All are in major trouble due to heavy emphasis on guzzler production... news which flooded the airways today. June sales were especially bad, with no hope at all of things getting better. As for the hybrids, here's the numbers for you to draw your own conclusions with: Prius=11765, Camry-Hybrid=3054, Highlander-Hybrid=1511, RX-400h=1330, Tahoe-Hybrid & Yukon-Hybrid=547, Malibu-Hybrid=295, Aura-Hybrid=30, Vue-Hybrid=277.
Not Enough Miles. For the most accurate monthly statistics, I try my best to refill the tank as close to the end of the month as possible. But sometimes, guessing what my driving needs will be over the next week is a challenge. And with Summer finally having begun (it was unseasonably cold until recently) and a reflooring project going on at home, that was difficult. The last day of the month arrived and I was only at 195 miles, with 50.4 MPG showing on the Multi-Display. From my experience with low-sulfur gas, where I filled up unconditionally when traveling up north since it wasn't available there back then, topping off the tank never resulted in accurate measure. Smaller quantities are not enough for a system with an evaporative-emission bladder to detect where full is with the usual level of precision. So, I didn't try.
Saving EV1. The obvious question was finally addressed: "Why not just bring back EV1?" The response from Bob Lutz was roundabout. Having to modify the design to meet the more strict safety standards of today would be an extra expense, but developing a SERIES hybrid is quite a bit more anyway. Basically, it was the same old excuse... there wasn't much interest then, so why would there be now. Well, let me tell him! $4 gas is a reality now. Battery technology is much better now. Hybrids like Prius are a common sight now. So much has changed since then, I don't know where to begin. And yes, I am still a little bitter. I would have leased an EV1... given the opportunity. But I wasn't. They never offered it here. That makes the claim that a market didn't exist very frustrating. Needless to say, something better finally be delivered. Getting nothing at all is unacceptable. And those years since were a big step in the wrong direction.
Ford Plug-In, part 2. This made me angry: "Who
knows, in 2015 you might have a company making a battery 50% less and holds 50% more charge in 50% less time that the current
Volt's battery pack. Toyota won't have that, Honda won't have that!"
It's a great example of the undermining taking place on the Volt enthusiast
website. Attempts to mislead about Prius is abundant. They view other hybrids
as a threat, rather than an ally. Why vehicles helping to advance
battery-pack production is considered a problem defies logic. The actual
problem comes from non-hybrids. But they don't get that. So I
persist, posting corrections when required. It this case, it was...
That's what I mean about the spreading of incorrect information here.
Toyota already has that! How can you pretend that the aftermarket plug-in option
Upgrading a FULL hybrid is no big deal. The components you need (large
liquid-cooled electric motor, electric steering, electric A/C, etc.) are there
at purchase time. So later, taking advantage of improved battery technology is