Personal Log #390
October 16, 2008 - October 24, 2008
Last Updated: Sat. 11/01/2008
page #389 page #391 BOOK INDEX
Diesel Still Expensive. That's the clue of what's truly
going on. With oil prices dropping to a close for the week at $64.15 per
barrel and gas at $2.29 per gallon, you'd get a false impression without
also looking at diesel. In other words, the demand for diesel remains
fairly steady where gas consumption can much more easily be reduced.
Consumers are parking their guzzlers and driving less. Commercial business
cannot. The $3.34 for diesel seems to confirm that fairly well.
During times of normal economic activity, diesel has been around 25 cents
more... not $1.05 more.
Most Cost Cutting. Believe it or not, GM is now considering cuts to development programs aimed at improving efficiency. That's includes Cruze! Remember how that was expected to be their premiere high MPG non-hybrid vehicle? But when the goal is to preserve enough cash to avoid bankruptcy, sacrifices like that happen. Of course, it could be a futile effort. What happens once assets have been liquidated? Not having anything desirable to sell is what prevented them from falling deeper into the financial turmoil.
Aspen & Durango. Both were suppose to be the big Chrysler debut into the hybrid market this Fall. Instead, there was an announcement today saying the plant where they were to be produced will close in 10 weeks. With sales of the non-hybrid version far from reaching intended goals, an abrupt halt isn't a surprise. What we don't know is if the non-hybrid production will resume somewhere else and if there will be any hybrids at all. Times are bad for guzzlers... any vehicle delivering only 20 MPG qualifies, even if it's a hybrid.
Two-Mode Vue. Their ASSIST model (using BAS with a 4-cylinder engine) has an EPA estimate of 25/32 MPG. Unfortunately, GM decided to use a 6-cylinder for their FULL model (which uses Two-Mode). Why? Do they believe consumers will really want to favor power that much more than efficiency? Whatever the case, the pre-production estimates are now available for this particular configuration: 28/31 mpg. With an expected price almost $4,000 more than Escape-Hybrid (which gets has a 34/31 estimate), how are they going to convince consumers to buy this Vue? The market now gives power a much lower priority... in favor of efficiency.
My 5-year anniversary with this Prius is today! There was lots of
real-world data available, but getting at it for quick referral & sharing wasn't
as convenient as I would like. So, as a departure from my usual approach, I
created a document that's specifically about my own experiences. Since boldly
go means trying new stuff, that's probably not so bad. Maybe it will
convince others to do the same later. After all, the upcoming new model
will usher in opportunities to start fresh for everyone. And they can have
fun collecting data to share with others using ideas from this example...
Urea Requirements. 2 years ago, they was just proposals. Now, this is reality. Diesel vehicles requiring chemical after-treatment of emissions (to meet legal NOx criteria) will need to comply with strict requirements. For Mercedes-Benz Bluetec, that means having a 7-gallon tank to hold the ammonia solution and a 20-restart counter triggered when "low" is reached. Following those warnings, if that tank still isn't refilled, the vehicle is disabled. AdBlue is the product approved, which costs about $4 per gallon. Tank capacity is expected to last up to 15,000 miles total with refills recommended every 10,000 miles.
Complacency. Do you think it will become a problem? I can easily see some sighing with relief under the impression lower gas prices are here to stay. That fear $4 brought won't be forgotten though. How much of an influence it makes on future vehicle purchases is a big unknown, but at least everyone now knows that it could happen again. The suggestion is realistic now. That's quite unlike the recent past, where some refused to acknowledge it ever being possible. I was growing tired of those ownership cost calculations under-estimating lifetime gas expenses; however, history has already repeated... How much good fortune does it take before something is taken for granted?
Charging Problem. For crying out loud! The local
news station apparently had nothing to broadcast today, so they picked on
electric-only cars. The story was about how few charging stations were
available and the load increased demand places on the grid. Those
arguments sounded reasonable, for the most part. But they had nothing but
a brief shot of an EV1 available. So they kept showing Prius over and over
and over again. For a story on electric-only vehicles, that simply didn't
make any sense... especially since they never mentioned the plug-in upgrade
available for Prius. To make matters worse, they never mentioned what
electric-only vehicles were actually experiencing this supposed problem.
You got the impression many were available and in people's garages. But in
reality, there are almost none.
Attitudes. Some of the Volt bloggers are now expressing pessimism or disappointment by the recent changes. My attitude has been one of curiosity. Knowing this was coming from having closely followed the hybrid market since 1999, it was just a matter of patience. There was a lot of history available to compare to... clearly indicating there would be a big departure from the original ideal as production neared. Achieving high-volume success requires a careful balance of need & want. Enthusiasts were only cheering "want, want, want" without explanation of how that could actually be quickly & affordably achieved. Supporters were focusing on "need" instead, which differed significantly... and is now getting the attention it is due, much to the dismay of those tantalized by the original ideal.
Family Resemblance. Back in 2003, the market was very different. A bold new look for HSD Prius in that time of excess and cheap gas made sense. And of course, it was no surprise that the new Camry & Sienna adopted characteristics of the Classic Prius. So, seeing the reverse happen all these years later wasn't a surprise. In fact, I immediately saw nose (the hood & grille intersection) resemblance. Prius has become part of the family. That sharing of characteristics did come as a surprise to the Volt enthusiasts though. They didn't expect traits from Malibu to carry over to their vehicle. Yet, that's exactly what happen with the transition from concept to production model. Their ideal is changing over to practical. It's the way the automakers should operate... especially now that resources are so strained.
Mini-Electric. The demand for SERIES hybrids is a big mystery with so many electric-only vehicles being announced. Today, it was from Cooper. They revealed a Mini which uses a 572-pound Li-Ion battery to deliver a 150-mile driving range. Expected price is a complete mystery. But other detail isn't... like the 204 horsepower, 162 lb-ft torque, and 0-60 in a little over 8 seconds from the 3,200 pound vehicle. Put another way, the world of homogonous vehicles (engine-only) is gone. The roads will be shared by a variety of different types. My prediction is FULL hybrids will dominate. That type offers the greatest flexibility, hence the widest market reach.
Ohm. Did you like that play on words from the previous
entry? I thought it was rather clever. Ohm is a measure of
electrical resistance. Prius uses electricity and the resistance relates
directly to efficiency. People who meditate to deal with emotional forms of
resistance have been known to say a word sounding just like that. Now the "ohm"
can be thought of on an emotional level for Prius too!
Patience. It was the advice I conveyed to those already
struggling from the 2010 photos, with this short post:
That's a very important trait you must learn to embrace when dealing with
Prius... both when waiting for delivery and later when actually driving.
The struggle to achieve patience is well worth the effort. The 8 years of
practicing my "ohm" have been very rewarding.
Comparisons. I find it very odd how certain people attempt to promote in their own way, completely avoiding questions that the market actually ask. Why? Whatever the case, some of us are trying as politely as possible to change that approach. Here's my latest attempt in response to some clearly unrealistic comparison calculations that were posted... It's interesting how the very numbers that most of the media & non-enthusiast will actually use are never mentioned. Sure, also including best & worst scenarios is fine. But excluding the most realistic just won't fly. It's not constructive. The claims won't be taken seriously without. 8 years of hybrid history here overwhelmingly prove that. Try this: The per-charge capacity of Volt will probably come to around a 35 miles and about 45 MPG following that, both real-world averages in climates with full seasons driven the same way as any other vehicle. Comparisons will obviously be to Prius & Insight, which each will deliver 50 MPG real-world averages.
H Y B R I D. That obnoxious large lettering is what the BAS hybrids are now coming with too, it was quite a sight on that Saturn Vue this morning. I wondered just how desperate GM would be to make their hybrids stand out. With lettering so large sprawled along the entire length of the lower-side paneling, you can't miss them. I love how subtle that makes Camry-Hybrid in comparison. The fact that little attention is paid to that Toyota hybrid is a tribute to how deep the technology will be able to penetrate. It doesn't make a statement like many claim about Prius... even though the actual draw to Prius is the fact that it is a midsize hatchback, a very practical size & shape... without large letters!
Reminiscing. In this case, it was in reference to those
questioning the value of teaser photos. Is getting to see so little so far
in advance really a good thing? I responded to that this way:
Spring 2000 was very exciting. There were few photos available back then. But
they really made a difference... helping a lot with the loooong delivery wait.
Spring 2003 brought that very same exhilaration feeling back all over again...
and it was totally worth it that time too.
Fall 2008 is turning about to be a repeat of the same experience. Bring'em on! Teaser photos are great.
Opinions Wanted? It has been a few days since those photos were leaked. Reactions are still difficult to judge. Volt enthusiasts claiming the 2010 Prius is ugly won't explain why. Prius enthusiasts simply don't care about Volt, knowing it won't be widely available until at least 2012 and even then will still be very expensive. And of course, comments coming from the typical automotive blogger offer no basis of perspective... what do they find appealing? So surprisingly quick, it's very easy to say that purchases will be the true measure of appeal. After all, opinions that are rendered via a simple online post pale in comparison to those made by the spending hard earned money.
$71.85 Per Barrel. Demand for gas is down. The economy is down. Hope for quick recovery is down. So naturally, the price of oil is down too. It sure makes the outlook for hybrids a popular discussion topic. What will change is what is on many people's minds. They know things will be different. Our irresponsible practices got us into this mess. Now what will we do to fix it and prevent the same thing from happening again. No one ever expected the domestic automaker's terrible repeat of history to be immediately followed by such a harsh downturn in the financial well being of the world. Looking back, it seems as though the struggle to maintain guzzler sales was a warning sign that worse problems were on the way.
106,375 Mile - Oil Change. That's not a factory suggested change interval. It's quite random. I had a trip up north interfere with the usual timing. But that doesn't really matter. The stuff still looked amazing after 8,366 miles. None of the dark, thick stuff I remember from ages ago with my non-hybrid vehicle from just 3,000 miles of use. It's nice having a car that is so easy on oil. You feel pretty confident the engine isn't getting worked hard when you pull the drain plug out and the oil still looks light and thin enough that you could drive with it some more.
Leaked Photos. It happened. We got to see the next generation Prius even sooner than anyone expected... in the form of a leak. Confirming they were genuine didn't take long. Just a day. But that's an eternity compared to how fast "viral" info gets spread on the internet. Within hours, those photos circulated. You could tell who the honorable publications were too, since they gave proper credit to the originating source. Who & How remains a mystery. What the follow-up reaction will be is now on everyone's mind. Toyota's next obviously won't follow their original plan now. We'll still have to wait for the car itself. But how new details will be shared has peaked the interest of many.
Getting Worse. I wasn't expecting an announcement of 1,600 layoffs for GM workers (in MI & DE) so soon after the recent plant closing announcement (in WI). But that's what happened today. Silverado (their giant Pickup) and Sierra (their giant SUV) aren't selling well anymore. Other less known large vehicles are struggling even more. A plant in OH will be closing sooner than originally thought too. It's sad that greater diversity wasn't part of the business plan. The rise in gas prices definitely caught this automaker quite unprepared. Being able to ramp up production of more efficient vehicles would have been far better than these drastic halts.