Personal Log  #408

March 15, 2009  -  March 26, 2009

Last Updated: Sun. 8/30/2009

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Restating Purpose.  The credibility attacks are growing.  When antagonists don't like the message, they shoot the messenger.  That's happening a lot now.  No matter what you state favor for, they find a way to spin it so intent appears insincere.  It's pretty easy when they are vague and don't bother to be constructive.  The point is to obscure what you post by any means possible.  Today, it was restating my purpose to support FULL hybrids.  If you endorse Prius, it must mean that you are against everything else... or so they claim.  No one could anyone be in favor of a specific technology rather than a specific automaker.  Does anyone actually believe that nonsense?  Wanting all vehicles to be cleaner and more efficient should be a no-brainer.  But fear of change compels people to try desperate measures... which they certainly have been doing lately.


Tesla Unveiling.  The world got to see their 4-door, 5-seat sedan today.  It's a less expensive electric-only vehicle, the next step beyond their 2-seat electric roadster.  With a projected price of $57,400 and a range of 160 miles, the expectation is to build & sell 20,000 annually.  Battery upgrade options will even be available, one for 230 miles and the other 300.  That certainly upset the Volt enthusiasts.  Electric driving without anxiety is what their vehicle is suppose to address.  Having a small start-up company push battery technology that hard that quickly is competition they were not anticipating.


Insight Sighting.  It didn't take long, just 2 days after rollout began.  Of course, my commute is on a highway where railway automotive delivery are trucked.  So, seeing a carrier with a 2010 Insight on it wasn't too much of a surprise.  It was the distinctive red triangular tail-light that caught my attention.  It's the one part of the rear that most definitely does not resemble Prius (which is a tall, silver, rectangle).  Anywho, as the truck passed by, I saw that familiar aerodynamic hatchback profile.  It was surreal to experience.  The mind shouted "There's a Prius!" but the eyes easily confirmed it wasn't.


Beat The Chief.  The engineer ultimately responsible for the 2010 Prius, Akihiko Otsuka, attended an event for the press.  He drove a 33-mile route (city & suburb) and averaged 62.9 MPG, then challenged the others there to beat him.  And they did!  Every one of them did, in fact.  Some even got MPG into the mid 70's.  If that doesn't get you excited to hear about more real-world driving experiences with this new model, I don't know what will.  That's great.  Most test measures like that, in the past anyway, scored on the low end.  Things have changed... much like priorities.  Efficiency has improved and people are becoming more interested in that.  The guzzler appeal is fading.  The term "performance" now includes MPG.


Crying Wolf.  Someone finally pointed it out, "GM has been hyping the Volt for so long that no one is listening anymore."  That welcome statement resulted in this:  Fatigue from all the attention so far in advance certainly is a risk.  Some will indeed lose interest during the long wait.  Others will build expectations so high, it could easily lead to disappointment.  Between now and country-wide availability (Apr 09 to Nov 11) is 20 months.  In that time, another 300,000 to 350,000 hybrids will be sold here... hopefully more.  Some will even offer a plug-in option.  That's going to put a lot of pressure on keeping the Volt hype from getting out of control... especially considering the loan/bailout situation.  That will necessitate enthusiasts doing more than blog.  Will they?


Diesel Defeat.  It's been 3 full weeks since the drive ended.  Still no MPG results posted.  Interesting, eh?  At this point, it's pretty easy to see that the cross-country driving challenge between the Jetta TDI and the Iconic Prius resulted in disappointment for those diesel supporters.  Withholding the outcome for so long builds a strong case that they don't want to admit which ended up being more efficient.  And just think, the 2010 Prius would have done even better.  After being so smug, this is a fantastic way to be more objective.  Engines not pared with electric motors are seeing more than just glimpses now of the demise.  Denial has become very difficult now.  It's about dang time.


Toyota's Surprise.  Insight's opportunity to capture the low-cost hybrid market already has a clock ticking.  Toyota's chief engineer, Akihiko Otsuka, confirmed the rumors today of a Yaris hybrid being developed.  Yup, a small car will offer HSD.  We even know that it will be ready for the 2011 model year.  That's exciting.  A wider selection of FULL hybrids is great.  It really wrecks the troublemaker arguments about scalability too.  Expanding the market is what we need now that sales of the new Prius are about to begin.  Hooray!


Toyota's Worst Nightmare.  A popular automotive magazine published a 2010 Insight verses 2010 Prius comparison today.  You know how much they despise family vehicles.  Speed & Power are their preference.  But since hybrids draw attention, ignoring the opportunity wouldn't do any good.  So, they put their spin on the topic.  Insight was given the "nightmare" label.  Honda supposedly has the advantage in the low-cost, small-car category for hybrids... and price was the design feature they found most important.  It was previous obvious by this winner verdict too: "An imperfect car, loud and coarse-riding, and also perhaps the most important hybrid ever built."  That's a rather odd thing to read.  Of course, what they said about Prius also makes you wonder: "The world's best hybrid has become more solid and refined, yet has somehow upped its fuel economy as well. It's an engineering triumph for the textbooks."  Nightmare, eh?


2010 Embargo Lifted.  As soon as the clock hit midnight, even though they were supposed to wait until 8 o'clock in the morning, a flood of reviews appeared.  It was fantastic! Naturally, they slammed the outgoing model of Prius to make the praise for the incoming seem even better.  The automotive magazines that don't particularly care for family cars danced a fine line of paying compliment without compromising their usual lust for power by emphasizing the purpose of efficiency.  None mentioned emissions, as usual.  The real-world MPG results reported were all over the place.  Errors in specifications were sparse, thankfully.  Overall, it was well worth the wait.


Insight Arrival.  It was a non-event.  How strange.  We expected a media blitz.  Perhaps it was the smaller size of Honda that didn't stir initial interest.  After all, the wait-and-see attitude is common anyway.  I was hoping for at least something though.  Now that it is available (as of today) for purchase, it may be up to owners to sound off about this new hybrid.  Tomorrow's attention on Prius may have something to do with it too.  Time will tell.


Tata Nano.  It finally happened.  The $2,000 car actually made it to consumers, in India anyway.  How a 0.6 liter 2-cylinder engine vehicle could enter this market would be a story of great intrigue.  Heck, even over there the goal of achieving that price was quite a challenge.  The base model comes in at $1,985... without heating or A/C, of course.  Top speed is 65 MPH.  How long it takes to reach that wasn't in the information provided.  No surprise about that.  Safety appears to be in the form of body reinforcement, crumple zones, and seat belts.  For that price, expecting more isn't even remotely realistic.  Emissions are within the norm.  The quantity built & purchased will be very interesting.  It makes me wonder how Smart will end up doing here.  Rather than using technology to reduce cost and improve efficiency, the car itself is reduced.  That approach may be quite successful in emerging markets.  But here in the land of large & powerful vehicles, it only seemed to gain attention when gas was $4 per gallon.  Interest rapidly faded when gas got cheap again.


In Just A Few Days.  The embargo will be over soon.  We know that some privileged few have had the opportunity to drive the 2010 Prius.  But none are allowed to publish anything about that experience yet.  We have to wait just a little bit long.  What they'll say should be very interesting.  I suspect there will be lots of positive comments about the "launch" speed and the smoooooth EV operation.  What they say about the observed MPG should really captivate.  We're all yearning to learn details about the improvements Toyota has made.  I'm really excited.  Are you?


Insight Commercial.  Flipped on the television.  There it was.  A commercial for the 2010 Insight just started.  I had heard about it, but not seen it yet.  Yes, I know it would only take a moment of searching online to see it.  But I wanted to experience the introduction in context, the same way typical consumers will.  How they'll interpret what they see will be different... so much so, I'm not sure what to think... got any ideas?  By sight, the view from the side obviously looks a lot like Prius at a quick glance.  The music didn't have any car related reference.  But the words spoken at the end did: "The hybrid for everyone is here. The Insight, designed & priced for us all, from Honda."


Still No MPG Results.  That cross-country driving challenge continues to state a promise to "detail the mileage statistics", yet all the new posts on the website are clear efforts to downplay efficiency.  Someone from that group even started a thread on the big Prius forum trying to do the same.  But we all know that 16 days after completion leaves no excuse anymore.  Still nothing in reference to the MPG achieved is a sign of having lost.  Prius supporters are overjoyed about their failure.  Non-Hybrid diesel vehicles barely achieve the minimum clean requirements.  They could deliver a SULEV rating, but it simply makes the vehicle too expensive to compete.  And now that efficiency is also proving uncompetitive, silence is welcome.  This could spell the end of the debates.  They set out to prove traditional diesel was better and ended up discovering it wasn't.


Obama on the Tonight Show.  It was unprecedented.  The President of the United States on a late night talk show.  But there he was, talking candidly about his first 59 days in office.  Watching & Listening to that was remarkable.  8 years of the prior administration never produced anything like that.  The change was redeeming... especially in such dire circumstances.  The financial industry is a mess.  But at least their march forward won't result in digging an even deeper mess.  When loans resume and commodities are exchanged, they'll be under much more realistic terms.  Unfortunately, the auto industry is different.  They'll still be producing dirty guzzlers.  Obama's visit to California was an effort to help change that, as he discussed on the show.  He visited businesses pushing the electrification of vehicles.  Becoming green is among the top priorities.  I can't wait until the next time we get to see him confirm the commitment to automotive improvement.


Superior, common.  They simply didn't care, despite multiple references to how many vehicles are purchased here annually.  One person was even smug enough to claim that the 16 kWh battery-pack would only cost $2,000 once the tax credit expires.  That's absurd!  Prices dropping that fast and that much is in the realm of fantasy.  And of course, some day in the future when they actually do, wouldn't a full-electric vehicle finally be realistic?  The "trophy" mindset is counter-productive to mass penetration.  They want something special, not a vehicle you see on every corner.  Being common is not exciting to them.  That's why they are enthusiasts, people who don't represent the typical consumer.


Superior, niche.  That was a semantic argument the Volt enthusiasts were happy to engage in today.  It started from a vague comment Jay Leno made, with regard to Volt over Prius.  They immediately claimed it as vindication, despite the reason why missing.  I welcomed it as an opportunity to point out the non-constructive responses, with this...  MAKING A DIFFERENCE boils down to how many are PURCHASED.  If Volt sales are few, then it just stays in the niche category.  The point is to end the production of new traditional (dirty guzzling) vehicles.  A large quantity of FULL hybrids can easily offset the results of a small number of SERIES hybrids.


Remember That Poll?  It closed today.  There were 756 votes.  293 were for the "clean" burning diesel Jetta TDI.  463 were for Prius.  The 7,800 miles cross-country driving challenge didn't seem to go well.  Even though it ended over 2 weeks ago, they never posted any results.  That was highly suspicious from the start.  Extending the poll made it even more so.  You got the impression they were hoping to gather other data to downplay the MPG outcome.  The voting only made the situation worse.  I'm curious as heck what comes next.  They claimed: "The diesel makes sense economically (when compared to a hybrid like a Prius) if you drive a lot of highway miles."  Then attempted to prove it.  Their silence implies failure to do so.  Bias was clearly for the diesel in the videos they posted, many of which came after completion of the drive.  Their attempt to squash the hybrid isn't going well.  All the updates having nothing to do with efficiency confirms it.  Fear of the 2010 Prius being even more efficient on the highway must really hurt.


Final Oil-ChangeThat was the first opportunity to do anything in the garage for about 5 months.  Spring finally arrived!  It was 52 F degrees out!!  The comfort was bittersweet though.  As the Winter melts away, so does this major chapter in Prius ownership.  It was the final oil change (at 114,122 miles).  The 2004 could be upgraded to a 2010 in as short of a time as 2 months.  I won't need that type of oil anymore.  So the fact that I had precisely the right amount left (3.5 quarts) sure was nice... but a bit creepy.  What are the odds?  For the 2010, the viscosity changes.  It will be thinner.  Getting stuck with leftover oil wasn't appealing.  I lucked out.  There will be less waste with the new model too.  Rather than traditional filters with metal cases, it will switch to a paper cartridge insert.  I wonder if that will be messy?  Hmm.  Later this year, I'll find out.


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