Personal Log #413
April 17, 2009 - April 22, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 4/26/2009
page #412 page #414 BOOK INDEX
Earth Day! It was very exciting. I provided presentations at the School of Environmental Studies. That's a high school for the local district which is part of the big zoo in Minnesota. The students there are quite reception to hybrids. They had lots of questions. Many asked about pricing and features. The reliability of the technology to improve emissions & consumption was a non-issue for them. Their age & background is quite supportive of that. Focus was more on how that is achieved. So, I ended up pointing out the battery-pack and describing motor/engine interaction far more than I expected. It was too bad I hadn't thought of making a video of the PSD which could be played back on DVD. That could have been very effective of an educational exchange for that particular audience. Most rarely ever are interested in digging for detail that deep, but they were surprisingly receptive to that. Of course, it could just be that third time is the charm. This newest generation of Prius is a big endorsement toward the permanent availability of the technology. It's obviously not a niche anymore... especially from the perspective of those students who are just now getting their driver's licenses.
2010 Prius Pricing. Hooray! Today, we found out what the numbers will be. My prediction of when that would happen turned out to be correct. Of course, choosing the evening before Earth Day isn't exactly "rocket surgery". That's fairly sensible considering all the attention hybrids get then anyway. It's that wait which is making many nuts. Anxiety really builds up. So, finding out anything new at any time is helpful. This just made it even more so. Pricing is pretty much as expected too. Low 20's has always been the base target. This Fall, it will be $21,000 to ultimate sway those considering Insight based on price. Upon release, it will $22,000 with a variety of goodies standard. Extremely well loaded (we're talking features only found in luxury vehicles), will be just under $32,000. The particular configuration I ordered will be just under $30,000 (which includes the moonroof & solar panel.) Seeing all the options available sure will stir discussions. There's a wide array available and the price sure spans quite a range.
Cheap Gas. It just jumped up 18 cents, to $2.09 per gallon. Perhaps the Summer climb has begun. Whatever the case, remaining low is the preference for the immediate future. Being able to collect some real-world data before prices start to draw attention back to hybrids would be nice. In other words, the market would really benefit from the 3 new hybrids if reality doesn't come crashing down right away. Seeing $4 gas again is quite unlikely. But with all the oil being stockpiled now just in case (the most since since 1990), cutting back by OPEC will become a problem at some point. And of course, we know how naive consumers can be. It will definitely be interesting once the economy turns around. Things won't ever be the same again. The insanity of Hummer has pushed interest in another direction now. Creature comforts, which includes an appeal in new technology, is drawing attention and becoming more of a priority.
51 MPG. Driving up north with the bikes on back is really hard on the efficiency in the first place. Combine that with countless extremely short trips and you've got the low 40's starring at you on the Multi-Display. That made returning back to the routine of the daily commute strangely welcome. Driving more than just a few blocks without all that extra drag sure makes a difference. Of course, even at the worst for Prius is still way better than most traditional vehicles. But even so, I much rather prefer seeing that 51 MPG today for the average. Though... it does make me wonder what the situation will be the end of next month... with my 2010 Prius. Exciting, eh?
Production Has Begun. It's official. 2010 is the "current" model of Prius now. Let the markdowns of the older model begin. We don't know how many there are left of them, but there's always a crowd who prefers the "tried & true" rather than the "first year" version. Discounts entice them to finally take the plunge. It's a great situation for everyone. Heck, even those looking for a good deal on a used one will get the opportunity once those of us looking forward to the upgrade trade ours in. This is definitely an exciting time. I can't wait to start looking for them on the road with me. Just a little bit more patience. They'll start loading them on the ship about a week from now. Hooray!
Euro 5. Just a reminder that the next level of emission
standard in Europe will be taking effect in September of this year. They
are raising the bar, requiring cleaner tailpipe emissions. It's similar to
what happened with the Tier-2 standard in the United States. Progressively improving
vehicles is a slow process. But this system of doing that is quite
effective. Dirty technologies once taken for granted finally have to be
upgraded. Only meeting the minimum is no longer acceptable once the
requirement increment takes place. New vehicles sales are allowed for just
those that actually make an effort. It flushes those out that aren't able
Sienna & Previa. Seeing those two to Toyota minivans driving side-by-side sure was a sight... one from long ago and the other still available new at dealers. They were the same color. Size difference wasn't as much as I would have thought. It made me wonder how much of a draw Estima would be here. In general, this market shuns that once popular vehicle type. Of course, that was once true of the hatchback too. Things change over time though. Prius drew major attention back though to hatchbacks. That hybrid minivan could too. But would Estima be most effective? Or should it be Sienna instead? Remember how once upon a time Previa was popular? Maybe what goes around really does come back around.
Halo Marketing. That's the term I used in the new section
added to the document most appropriate to the upcoming holiday: Earth Day.
In it is a variety of topics related directly to hybrids, pointing out the
greenwashing approaches to watch out for. Awareness is key. The
world of emission & efficiency technology is becoming much more complicated.
You can't just assume each option is equally green. They are not
the same. Anywho, this addition addresses "Actual Sales". When they
are low, an automaker could still benefit from the halo effect... making them
appear greener than they actually are. Minimal consumer acceptance means
minimal outcome. More of a difference can be made by selling greater
quantities of other technologies, not necessarily the one which is marketed as
superior. Here's a link to the document...
Two-Mode vs Single Mode, part 2. Here's what I ended up posting in response to that comment on the big GM forum: Back then, it was for all types of vehicles. The "large vehicle" only stance wasn't always the case. Promotion stated that they were just first, with direct competition for small vehicles to follow... hence my posts here. Many, many, many claims were made about how much more scalable Two-Mode was than HSD or Ford's design. Now it turns out, that's not actually the case... which I always suspected. Reality is that the market needs a clean & efficient technology to serve those driving everything from sub-compacts to those towing up to 3,500 pounds. That's the bulk of consumers. The need for larger vehicles is tiny in comparison. In other words, Two-Mode is a specialty technology and the other FULL hybrids are for the mainstream.
Two-Mode vs Single Mode, part 1. You have to read it to
believe it: "Don't see how two-mode vs single mode is even relevant. GM's
two-mode is a system designed to make large vehicles more efficient. It doesn't
scale down well just like HSD doesn't scale up well. Apple to oranges."
Those few who remember the past, recall how GM hyped the technology quite
differently. But once the technology finally reached production, the story
began to change. Now some would like you to believe it was never intended
to compete directly with smaller hybrids. They'll even go as far as wonder
how such a misunderstanding could ever occur. The blogs & posts of the
time reveal what really happened, documenting what was said back then.
Spin long afterward can't hide that. We know how the design didn't deliver
as much as was originally promoted.
Resisting What? Seeing that question today was quite
unexpected. It was in response to a comment I made about how some are
still resisting change. I explained it with this... That's simple, just accepting Prius as a mainstream vehicle now and stop trying
to twist interpretation by selectively comparing it to obscure instances in the
In other words, acknowledging plain old annual sales statistics.
The denial is truly amazing. Some are still desperately struggling to keep the
hybrids thought of as something only for special circumstances. They are
frightened by the thought of them being accepted as ordinary family cars.
Measuring Progress. A big deal was made today about all the enthusiasts Volt has. It's quite a following. Few actually lead though. Daily posts are how interest has been gauged. Naturally, I don't find that an effective measure. They don't really accomplish anything. That information sharted quickly lost & forgotten shortly afterward. Progress is basically non-existent. There's nothing to show for that online activity. Threads just fade away into archives with titles often unrelated to much of the content within. People just interject whatever they want into the active topic of the day. Needless to say, I wanted to point that out in a place relevant to that. So, I did with thise... It will be interesting when "enthusiasts" finally become "supporters". The difference is one does more than just blog, actively reaching out and engaging those outside of their online community to help promote.
Battery Quantity. The reality that battery-pack supply is limited to a specific quantity is something those fighting hybrids absolutely refuse to acknowledge. At most, it just gets quickly dismissed as utter nonsense. They quote sales statistics as if hybrids could be built the same way as traditional vehicles, having a plentiful supply of parts readily available. This deception allows them to convey the impression that there is no maximum... that demand is directly reflected by purchases. It will happen some day. But that's many years away. The market is simply too small still. Quantity must grow well beyond the 3 percent (or so) hybrids hold now. Growth is very much dependent on what third-party suppliers commit to in advance, not what consumers want the moment gas prices go up.
More Sales Data. It's truly amazing how much some resist change. Some deny the economic crisis or the end of a generation has any influence on sales. The argument on the big GM forum has become absurd. The spin isn't even the slightest bit objective anymore. Random statistics are used as "proof" that demand is decreasing. They flat out refuse to judge Prius based on sales totals for an entire year. 2008 top-ten sales data was treated as if all was well in the automotive world, not uncommon from what we've seen prior to that. The logical response to that was to post the 2007 data too. So, I did. That immediately got dismissed. Whatever. Posting the data so others could draw their own conclusions was the point. Here it is for you: 473,108 Camry; 371,390 Corolla/Matrix; 196,555 Tundra; 181,221 Prius; 173,238 Tacoma; 172,752 Rav4; 138,162 Sienna; 127,878 Highlander; 103,340 Lexus RX; 87,718 4Runner.
Reasons to Steer Clear. At this point, it's hard to imagine who they think they're fooling. But some keep on trying. The article started by pointing out tax credits are no longer available for Prius, saying it will take much more time to "break even" without it. Both have been dead topics for awhile now. Stirring up those old ghosts caught my attention. What will the twist be nowadays? And rather than leading up to it, the next reason was simply stated to buy a Volt instead, implying the "due in 2010" means available soon at a competitive price. Then it only got worse. Comparison was made to a basic model Yaris, the same old "nothing in common cost savings is all that matters" vague argument we've heard for years. That isn't the slightest bit constructive. So when they referred to that long-ago debunked study about battery production, it was obvious that they were writing in absolute desperation to impede the progress of Prius. That adds to the excitement for the 2010 model. Fear like that is a good endorsement. This new Prius will reach even further into the mainstream. No reasoning can dissuade from that.
Harmful to Humans. That was the ruling declared today by
the EPA. The six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are now
considered pollutants which can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Impacts listed were: increased drought, heavier rain, more frequent &
intense heat, greater ocean/sea rise, more violent storms, as well as harm to
water resources, agriculture, wildlife, and ecosystems. Automakers have
always been at odds with issues like this, since would end up creating new
fuel-economy requirements. On the national level, outcome depends on how
tight the restrictions are set. Fighting that could be more difficult than
the choices made by individual states. Selling guzzlers is a challenge
when high priority is placed on emissions. Attention to the topic like
this draws lot of favor to hybrids like Prius, since they actually use less gas
rather than hype how much is "saved".
Pointless Debates. Unless they are considered an effective way of passing time, the hybrid debates have become completely pointless. What good does arguing an estimate do when so many of the past have been proven inaccurate? Just waiting another month or two is all it will take before the initial real-world data starts to come in. And as limited as that is, it's still way more revealing than on-paper assumptions. Too many factors of driving influence the assumptions often made. So, I've taken to just impatiently waiting. As tempting as it is to chime in with my real-world data for my Iconic Prius, what will come from the new model will speak much louder with respect to MPG. The design was enhanced to such a degree that new owners are bound to be pleasantly vindicated in a variety of circumstances. I learned quite bit with regard to that during my time in Detroit. In a few weeks, I'll get to experience it firsthand in my own 2010. Though, I wish it was even sooner. Oh well. I know. The wait is totally worth it.