Personal Log  #397

December 10, 2008  -  December 21, 2008

Last Updated: Thurs. 4/30/2009

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Being Green.  After 8 years, you'd think I'd run out of new hybrid content to cover.  But participating on blogs & forums unfriendly to Prius, the ideas keep flowing.  All you have to do is watch for attempts to mislead.  And sadly, they're still plentiful.  Anywho, I summarized emission & consumption information related to Prius into this new easy-reading type document... Being Green


-9 F Degrees.  Winter arrived in a dramatic way this year.  The extreme cold isn't exactly "ideal" for efficiency.  Fortunately, the Prius doesn't mind.  Start up is no big deal.  With such a large motor and battery-pack, power to spin the engine is rather trivial.  Despite that, you still really appreciate Spring.  The seasonal change is great for variety... especially the opportunity to stealth on the highway.  When ice covers the road, traffic slows down considerably.  The ride is quite enjoyable.  But then again, I'd rather be whisking away to the lake with a kayak on top or up north with bikes inside and on back.


$33.87 Per Barrel.  It's hard to even remember when the price of oil was so low.  Is the drop complete?  How long will this last?  What will it climb to when the economy recovers?  For that matter, will a gas tax be introduced during this opportunity to help fund our move forward?  These are strange times.  History will remember these moments.  The next few months are going to be very interesting.


Bailout, provided.  Through an act of the President, rather than Congress, some bailout money has been provided.  That means terms could be subject to change when the next administration takes charge in a month.  How the automakers or consumers react in the meantime is anyone's guess.  There will be $13.4 Billion paid out to GM and Chrysler next week.  Ford will be toughing it out on their own, for now.  $4 Billion more could come in February.  Details of plans stating how bankruptcy will be avoided are required by the end of March.  Deep concessions are expected.  Not enough could force dire consequences.  The situation is quite serious.


$36.22 Per Barrel.  Did you ever think seeing a closing price like that would happen again?  It certainly wasn't realistic... nor was the recession.  The fact that we are starting to see signs of deflation makes a bad situation even worse.  Consideration of the future is foremost on consumer minds now.  Taking hybrids seriously will hopefully emerge as the new mindset... especially since most of those excuses from the past have since vanished.  Of course, there's lots of real-world data supporting the technology now.  Concern for emissions is finally becoming a priority.  Gas prices could spike to scary levels at any moment.  And the Big-3 have are being transformed by forces beyond their control.  Remember how fuel-cells were once flaunted as the solution?


Bailout, bankruptcy.  Now managing an orderly bankruptcy is the idea getting lots of attention.  Even with bailout money, it doesn't look like that would do much more than delay the inevitable anyway.  The chaos of an abrupt bankruptcy is what they're trying to avoid.  It doesn't look good either way.  GM is a horrible mess.  The downward spiral can now be described as a collapse.  Focus on expensive hybrids basically just concealed the disaster already underway from all the other industry pressures.  Not having a high-volume, affordable efficiency vehicle already available leaves them without any competitive options to focus on.  Development investments should have been made years ago, when times were still good.  Instead, hybrids were mocked and called a "stop gap".  Now what?


Bailout, surrender.  It's amazing how much can happen in such a short amount of time.  OPEC did indeed reduce oil production, by 2.2 million barrels per day.  Chrysler announced they'd be halting production of their entire line for 2 weeks.  Ford said they'd halt production at 10 plants for a week.  GM slammed the brakes on construction of their new plant to produce engines for both Cruze & Volt.  The Bush administration admitted that providing money (not approved by the Senate) is turning out to be much more difficult than anticipated.  Needless to say, the Volt enthusiasts are starting to surrender.  That aggression development plan for the unrealistic configuration just doesn't make any sense in the light of this bailout disaster.  Makes you wonder what the heck will happen to Two-Mode.


Winter Extremes.  Last week we got a bunch of snow, at the worst possible time.  The commute home was extremely slow as a result.  The MPG for me was quite impressive though... because it was still "warm" by Minnesota standards.  The Prius handled that well.  Yesterday evening, this morning, and on the drive home today, that was an entirely different matter.  Efficiency bottomed out.  With the temperature several degrees below zero, the engine ran non-stop on the ice-glazed highway.  The heavy traffic just crawling along did not make for enjoyable travel.  Of course, getting only 36 MPG, so I wasn't all that distressed... especially since that's better than some vehicles ever get.


Bailout, hopeless.  The only thing to report at this point, aside from the reality that no money has materialized, is the sad fact that Volt enthusiasts have lost touch with reality.  That group has fallen off the deep end, thinking that sales will be plentiful and profit abundant within 3 years of debut.  You ask them how, the response is only electric idealism.  It's hopeless.  They completely dismiss any coexistence with FULL hybrids.  It's that plug-in technology or bust.  Scaling back the design of the SERIES hybrid to make it more affordable is an act of mutiny.  There's no sense of market awareness.  Of course, asking them what they plan to do to promote Volt results in confusion.  They think just waiting to buy one is plenty.  It's as if they think there will be no competition and consumers won't be interested in learning anything from them.  The purchases will just somehow happen without any of their support.  Haven't they noticed all the teaching Prius enthusiasts provide?  I guess they'll find out the hard way.


Oil Prices.  They've basically flattened.  Progress has halted.  The world is waiting for OPEC to reduce production.  The thought is about 2 million barrels less per day.  That's an enormous amount all at once.  But with consumers not using anywhere near as much gas as they use to, there simply isn't strong demand for oil like there had been.  The days of careless guzzling are obviously over.


Ending the Nonsense, part 3.  Next year will bring some dramatic changes.  It doesn't seem like too many are aware of that.  The attitude appears to be one of incremental improvement.  But with production of Prius growing to high-volume levels along with this next generation improvement, that in itself will trigger a mindset favoring hybrids.  But the fact that the automakers here will not be getting the survival money they had hoped for means cut that should have happened already finally will.  Compensation adjusts to match others in the market won't be delayed until the end of 2011 as planned.  It will most likely be required by the end of 2009.  Along with that will come closures of production facilities combined with significantly altered inventory.  Responsible vehicles will be the center-piece.  And since the move to teeny-tiny cars is undesirable for many Americans, embracing hybrid technology is the obvious choice.  We absolutely must finally address dependency on oil and both carbon & smog emissions.  Rebuilding the auto industry properly cannot omit such fundamental shortcomings of our current inventory.  The nonsense must end.


Ending the Nonsense, part 2.  This is how I attempted to draw the nonsense to a conclusion:  Why didn't you include Temperature?  Speed?  Fuel type?  A/C use? Acceleration rate?  Those are significant MPG factors that weren't included.  The EPA recently had to revise their numbers, since they hadn't either.  Those cannot be disregarded calculations.  External loads (like a bike)...  Driving in heavy commute traffic...  Getting stuck by an accident or construction delay...  The spreadsheet only serves to mislead with so much missing.  93.5 MPG is the average from the Google plug-in report, which is real-world data from their converted Prius mini-fleet for over a year.  And it's quite realistic to expect even greater efficiency from the new model.  Yet, your numbers don't reflect any of that either.  Look at how neither Price nor Battery-Capacity was taken into account either.  That excuse of "so new" only works if those are included too.  But they weren't.  Stop misrepresenting both Prius and Volt.


Ending the Nonsense, part 1.  It's getting tiresome.  Over and over again, we get posts with misleading information.  Heck, some of it even ends up published in articles.  Reporters are rushed and do little research, without any follow-up.  It's the unfortunate nature of the business.  But enthusiasts have no excuse.  They have on-going dialog.  Information is routinely shared.  So, when I see the same misleading so-called facts being posted repeatedly, I insist on being told the original source.  It took quite a few attempts over the past 2 months, but I finally got one of the troublemakers to confess.  He insisted he was only trying to help.  But with so many efficiency factors omitted, the information ended up causing harm.  Perhaps that's why he ended up admitting those estimates were just his own, rather than an industry source as the posts had always implied.


Seeing What You Want.  There's been a lot of that lately.  So, I did some hunting on the web looking for sources of the "stop gap" nonsense still available.  Most of it is so old now and so damning, the it has disappeared.  So, not stumbling across it was no surprise.  What I did find though was.  From an interview back in July 2006, Lutz made some rather intriguing comments... "Hybrids are technologically of doubtful benefit, and expensive, but necessary from a political and public relations point of view." and "So, with all those beliefs out there, you have to do a hybrid for public policy reasons." and "We think running the nation on E85 makes more sense than all the hybrids in the world."  There was also a comment about the cost of big lithium-ion batteries.  Naturally of course, the Volt enthusiasts ignored all but the E85 mention when I posted the article.  And even then, they pretended there was no way a hybrid could ever use ethanol for fuel.  Acknowledging that Lutz displayed a drastic change in direction, in fact a complete reversal, just 5 months later must be too much to bare.  It's that refusal to see the market as a whole that got us into this mess.  Will they ever learn?  You can't just see what you want.


Bailout, more voting.  The Senate had their turn voting.  Results were disappointing for some, a rude wake-up call for others.  The bailout plan was not approved.  This session of Congress came to a close without providing a bridge loan.  How could it have worked anyway?  Not enough change was proposed to actually solve the problems at hand.  In fact, the question of how bankruptcy is a hot topic again.  It had been claimed that consumer confidence would cause a significant sales drop.  The lack of a bailout will likely do that anyway.  And of course, the future was quite unclear even if that money had been approved.  It's a mess.  Resistance to change was a big contributor.  Now, something must be done... and it's going to be up to the next Congress to see that it happens.


Bailout, motive.  What are they?  This current administration would like to do something worthwhile with their final month in power, hopefully significant enough to distract people from the mess they left behind... so many problems caused by making wrong choices.  Part of it was comes from not delivering what was promised.  We heard many things in those State of the Union speeches, but little came from them.  Our "addiction to oil" is a great example.  Lots of concern resulted in just token efforts.  In fact, we are now worse off as a result.  Looking at the CEOs now begging for money, you have to question their motive too.  What exactly do they want?  Managing a large corporation requires the art of compromise.  You can't just cater to any particular audience.  There must be a balance... which now they are well aware of.  But will they actually do anything about it?


Suck It!  You can't help but to be amused by reading that.  The very thought made me laugh hysterically.  To observe the anger this antagonist was struggling to express was a moment in history to bookmark.  Adding to the hilarity, he actually replied to our (Prius owner) comments and attempted to mock us.  This was the whole title: "For All You Greentards That Bought a Prius Three Months Ago Suck It".  What followed was both profane and insulting, without any attempt to be constructive.  Here's how I replied to that...  That article was great!  I've never seen so many bridges burnt so quickly.  Talking about leaving yourself wide open for regret later when the market recovers.  It's tempting to compose a counter-article.  Makes you wonder if any of his audience would care though.  With such blatant disregard for the future, it was an obvious act of final spite.  Change is coming.  Some resist fiercely to the bitter end, enjoying those last moments of denial.


Bailout, voting.  The House results are in.  With the provision for no lawsuits removed, the bailout was approved.  Fortunately, there are catches.  Automakers must deliver solid plans by the end of March 2009 stating how they will become viable again to pay back the money.  There will also be a "car czar" appointed to oversee the money spending.  This really raises the stakes for hybrids.  The nature of traditional vehicles is about to be radically reshaped.  Priorities are be evaluated.  The new Prius & Insight will be in the right place at the right time.  Do those asking for the money have any clue what's about to happen?  What happens next should be very interesting.


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