Personal Log  #428

July 22, 2009  -  July 31, 2009

Last Updated: Sun. 8/30/2009

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Clunker Suspension.  Sales under the new incentive program will be suspended after today.  The paperwork backlog has already become enormous and it looks like the entire 250,000 vehicle allocation has already been claimed.  For the draw to be so fierce, the message from consumers should be difficult to spin.  Rather than worrying about the expiration 3 months from now, it only took a week.  I'm sure those opposing the move away from guzzling will find some way of the portraying the clunker results as bad.  After all, it wasn't too long ago that we were dealing with the previous administration who had actually promoted the purchase of guzzling hybrids.


2 Door Buttons.  It took until today for me to wonder if the bottom of the door-handle had a touch-sensor too.  Sure enough, there it was.  It never ceases to amaze me how long it takes even the most experienced of us to make discoveries like this.  Toyota thinks through their design choices very thoroughly.  I remember it taking almost an entire year with my Iconic Prius before the discoveries subsided.  Just think about the cold-weather operation improvements they've hinted at which none of us have been able to experience yet.  The dead of Winter 6 months from now is likely to be very exciting!


Oil-Change Supplies.  Purchased them today for the 2010.  That was exciting!  The switch from a metal casing to just a paper insert for the filter had me quite curious.  What the heck did it actually look like?  For that matter, what did the new ultra-thin synthetic oil look like?  These are the items and their prices:  $5.15 = Cartridge & 0-Ring (Element Kit, Toyota 04152-YZZA6);  $2.09 = Plug Gasket (Toyota 90430-12028);  $8.63 = Filter Wrench (Toyota 00113-30359-91016);  $1.14 = tax;  $17.01 total for parts (Gotta like that number!);  $6.27 = quart of Mobil-1 0W-20 synthetic oil;  $0.43 = tax;  $29.48 total for 4.4 quarts.  Ultimately, that came to $46.49 for the first oil-change and $37.24 for subsequent changes.  I'm thinking it will cost a little less too... since 4.4 quarts is for a complete fill to the full line, which we don't actually want.  4 quarts is probably the ideal amount.


Seeing 60 MPG.  The average climbed way up, then stayed.  It was amazing!  You always hope to witness something like that, especially with those in states without ethanol-blended gas reporting that routinely.  This week provided the opportunity for me, despite the ethanol.  So, I captured the moment.  It wasn't with a good digital camera, but that's better than nothing.  You never know what the right conditions will occur again.  Summer doesn't last long here and Winter seems to linger forever.  Of course, that's what makes being in Minnesota such a great endorsement for Prius.  If you can drive it trouble-free here, it will pretty much survive anywhere else just fine.  (The cold season is pretty harsh on all vehicles.)  Anywho, I managed to document the experience with these 6 very exciting photos on this webpage... photo album 139


Hope.  That's what all the Volt enthusiasm boils down to.  The very same arguments used for Two-Mode support years back (which I am so glad I documented) are now being used for Volt.  The most common is to focus entirely on the engineering.  They present efficiency calculations with no regard to actual production potential.  Sales don't matter.  Cost doesn't matter.  Their only care is to win a single-vehicle comparison.  Refusal to address the business of the automaker itself clearly reveals their insincerity.  The automaker must produce millions of vehicles each year at a profit.  The goal is not to win a trophy, which is actually all the troublemaker is hoping for.  They want an exciting victory, rather than dealing with the somewhat mundane day-to-day needs required for financial well being.


Divided Loyalty.  That wedge among Volt support is pushing deeper.  The divide is growing wider.  It's getting increasingly difficult to conceal.  Finally!  That's a true indicator of progress.  Some are finally addressing the issues.  Anywho, this was the question asked today after yet another set of executive updates failed to answer it: "So what is the MPG in generator mode?"  And my contribution to the discussion...  The game being playing is how Volt is portrayed.  ELECTRIC has been the theme for many enthusiasts and GM itself.  They treat usage of the engine as a rare need, emphasizing the ideal of no gas at all rather than a dramatic reduction.  HYBRID is how the typical consumer sees Volt, an expensive way to dramatically reduce gas consumption.  Some of us would like an affordable option, where the battery-pack is much smaller.  But that is totally dependent on the MPG in generator mode.  Each time the question is evaded, the belief that it could actually be competitive that way fades.


Seriously.  How are you suppose to respond to a relentless antagonist who says that?  This is how I did...  That word eludes.  We get long-winded responses that don't actually say anything relevant to the long-term, provide any product detail, or even address consumer need & want.  In other words, where is the competitively priced GM vehicle that offers significantly improved emissions & efficiency?  Consumers need 40 MPG as a standard, not 30 MPG.  They want 50 MPG.  GM's desire to deliver Volt would be fantastic if the need & want were also being addressed.  But instead, all we get is hype about an expensive plug-in that won't be produced in large volume for another 5 years.


Kayak Photos.  The first set of photos using the roof-rack wasn't all that flattering.  With the sky gloomy, there was definitely a challenge presented.  The following day was totally different.  It was astonishing how conditions had improved... quite colorful.  So, I put the rack back on with both kayaks this time and took off.  Prius & Camera at the ready, I very excited about what the next few hours would bring.  The drive itself went well.  There's always a little bit of apprehension the first time going 70 MPH with such a large load on a new roof, which in this case is glass.  At the first location, the white puffy clouds started to roll in.  Perfect timing!  I got those photos setup on a website, along with one other from another location later that day.  There's more on the way too.  Here's what I have so far... photo album 138


Still At 60.  Having seen my efficiency exceed the 50's over the weekend from just regular driving, I'm quite excited that it is still that way.  If conditions don't change the remaining 3 days of the work week, it will remain that way.  Reporting a value of 60 MPG being displayed at the time of fill up will be a first for me.  Efficiency that high hasn't ever lasted for an entire tank.  It was typically just the right set of circumstances over the course of a single day.  Of course, now the effects of break-in may be apparent... especially since carrying those 2 kayak on top at 70 MPH.  Stressing the system like that will loosen components.  We'll see.  There's lots more Summer driving to come.


Driving Modes.  There's new document available to help clarify the choices owners have while driving the 2010 Prius.  Like the other educational materials, a lot of effort was spent on keeping the content & presentation as simple as possible.  The intent is to teach about those modes, as well as dispel the new misconceptions about them that greenwashers are attempting to spread.  A big problem is that people see 3 buttons and just assume there are only 3 modes.  There's also an assumption that modes must be invoked manually.  Needless to say, that has been taken advantage of when attempting to undermine.  But antagonists will have difficulty misleading when newbies have resources like this readily available.  Stealth.  Do you know what that is or how it happens when driving?  Take a look at the mode summaries provided in the document... Driving Modes


Coupe Hybrid Rumors.  For some reason, they got intense today.  With Prius now larger and more powerful, in addition to being even more efficient, the consumer appeal is obviously feeding the desire for a small hybrid.  Until this generational improvement, cost made the possibility unrealistic... but not anymore!  It will take many years to deliver still and the risk of "good enough" traditional alternatives over-saturating the market makes that quite a challenge.  Eventually, it will happen.  How long from now is the question.  Electric-Only vehicles will all be very small at first.  The appeal of the coupe will be a draw factor.  Dramatic reduction in the size of GM combined with the change in consumer interest, this is becoming a new market to explore. The opportunities are feeding rumors.


Gross!  Living on the outskirts of a metro area does have some advantages.  The beautiful scenery in the background of many of my Prius photos are the direct result of that physical location.  Being so close to my places of recreation is another.  In fact, there's a very nice paved bike-path that keeps me entertained for hours without ever seeing the same land twice just outside my back door.  Traveling south just a little bit takes me into farm country.  Today, it certainly felt like it.  Rather than the Prius being bombarded by an occasional bug, I drove through a massive swarm that had just fed.  Within just a few seconds, there was about 150 fresh splatters.  Gross!


Clunker Promotion.  The government trade-in program officially began yesterday.  Advertisements are all over the place.  We are getting inundated by them.  What kind of vehicles end up getting traded and what the consumer ends up purchasing as a result is a fascinating topic to ponder.  This is an intriguing method to get rid of the some guzzlers currently on the road, one that has already proven effective in other countries.  But they didn't face a problem as deeply entrenched as ours here.  We guzzle a lot more and until lately we were proud of it.  The spin is that there will be a backlash when consumers discover this is a stimulus for sales rather than making it easy for consumers part with a vehicle they no longer want.  Whatever.  The resulting purchase data will reveal the true story.


Reality Updates, winter.  The detail about the battery-pack warming requirement for Volt is that harsh reality I've been waiting for confirmation of for over 2 years.  Excuses of the past suddenly don't amount to much anymore.  Stopping at the local grocery store during the dead of Winter here is likely all the longer it will take for the thermal limit to be reached.  The temperature dropping below 68 F degrees will happen.  Running the engine to raise the temperature back up will happen.  It probably won't run long.  But the absolute has been broken.  That ideal of "no gas ever" is easy to see as greenwashing now.  Volt will no doubt be extremely efficient overall, but it will still use some gas.  Those trying to mislead by portraying the engine as just an emergency generator will now be seen as insincere.  This newest information will go a long way toward finally making discussions constructive.  It's about time!


Reality Updates, response.  I simply couldn't resists chiming in on the Volt enthusiast blog to the recent news with this efficiency reality:  GM's own promotional material disagrees.  It clearly states that a direct mechanical link is more efficient than converting from motion to electricity then immediately converting the electricity back to motion.  53.9 MPG is my average as of 3,988 summer miles... which recently included 50 miles of kayak transport on the roof on my 2010 Prius.  How Volt will compete with a much more than 30 MPG in generator-mode estimate poses a huge challenge for supporters, especially now knowing that the lithium-ion battery-pack will be kept at 68 to 77 F degrees.  That means the engine will run more often than many cared to admit for those of us in the north with lower than expected efficiency.


Reality Updates, news.  The history of hybrids is documented here, as it happens.  Looking back later on without it, you're very likely to get a different impression of what people actually thought & believed.  Day by day accounts prevent that distortion.  And when it comes to the ever-changing Volt saga, there's much to look back on already... with each update further confusing matters.  Yesterday, it was the reality that the expectation of efficiency in generator-mode being far longer than promised 2.5 years ago.  It dropped from 50 to 30.  That's big news!  Another update we got was the actual temperature the battery-pack will be warmed to during the winter.  The range is 68 to 77 F degrees.  That's another big expectation change.  We all thought the operating requirement would be just above freezing (32 F).  It's now much higher and will obviously require unexpected energy consumption to maintain.  Needless to say, the enthusiasts are exactly pleased by these particular updates.


Roof-Rack Close-Ups.  There are new photos showing detail of that installation needed to carry my 2 kayaks on top of the 2010.  I took close-ups of each tower, so you can see exactly how & where they make contact with the vehicle metal and the clip connection to lock that all in place.  There are 2 photos of a more full view of the entire rack (both sets of bars) along with 1 showing a view from above noting how I temporarily protected the glass by using an exercise mat.  It only take a few minutes to connect everything, so I am very happy with the setup.  But again I should point out that over-tightening will dimple the metal.  Be careful.  The connection is quite secure without the need to turn the adjustment screw that much.  Learn from my mistake.  Of course, it's almost impossible to see unless the light hits it perfectly anyway.  The point is that I haven't made any sacrifice.  Summer play activities will continue with this new Prius just like with my older one.  See for yourself... photo album 137


Insight Sighting.  I was chasing rainbows with the digital camera yesterday, at the back of a storm front that just passed through.  I had already got a number of stunning photos out in a wooded development where steam was coming off of the new soaked road.  So, racing through the country on the hunt for a scenic location to get a few rainbow shots was a bonus.  Finishing up and turning around to see my first ever second-generation Insight right there was quite a surprise.  Cool part was I identified it by seeing nothing but the headlights & grille.


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