Personal Log  #440

November 26, 2009  -  December 4, 2009

Last Updated: Sun. 1/03/2010

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I'm Just Saying.  When a well known troublemaker gets caught spinning information, they typically come up with some elaborate excuse attempting to conceal what they had done.  This time, I got him good.  He was going on and on about the recent Volt report about CS mode efficiency.  He sighted a quick & crude comparison with Prius as hard evidence of that Volt was just as efficient.  It was a sad attempt to greenwash... and all I had to do was quote him own words to point that out.  He posted this in another thread: "Yes, but that real-world data needs to be from a reputable source with a large sample size, verifiable statistics, and diverse demographics.  Data from individuals is anecdotal and largely worthless."  When I re-posted on that thread, he abruptly changed his attitude to an "I'm just saying" comment.  Somehow, he thought that would somehow negate his stance, pretending it was a joke all along.  I did find it amusing, proving his intent was to mislead.


Dead Topics.  Remember the "taboo" topics last month?  This month, not so much as the slightest peep was made about Two-Mode or BAS hybrid sales.  So few are being purchased now that GM enthusiasts have become totally silent.  They have completely eliminated those topics from discussions now.  All effort is being focused entirely on Volt... so much so, not even mention of the plug-in Prius is made.  It's denial to the extreme.  This is why I documented past events so heavily.  When things go bad, some try to pretend none of it ever happened.  I find it fascinating that Toyota could make such a big announcement, draw so much attention from the media, yet GM enthusiasts ignore it.  You'd think there would at least be some pointless debates; instead, we literally got nothing from them.  Doesn't it make you curious what they're thinking?


Green Car of the Year.  This has many people bewildered.  How can an expensive, 42 MPG, barely clean enough to sell vehicle be named the greenest for 2010?  Yet, that's exactly what happened.  The A3 Audi TDI (diesel) was crowned with that title.  The reasoning was that cars such as the upcoming Cruze & Fiesta would make far more of an impact to a better environment than a hybrid like Prius or a plug-in like Volt.  So, they have shifted focus back to traditional vehicles instead.  How about that for lowering standards?  Even with large quantities of those vehicles, their dirtier emission-rating won't actually accomplish anything.  Of course, if SULEV or better was award criteria, that would actually be constructive.  But when the "best" efficiency is similar to Fusion-Hybrid and no where near as good as Prius (both also new for 2010), what is the point?


Lithium Spin.  The rewriting of history is taking place now that Toyota has announced plug-in Prius rollout is about to begin.  Remember how critics originally spun the production-cost drawback as a "technically not possible" excuse?  It was very frustrating back then.  They claimed any argument against using lithium based batteries in a plug-in vehicle was really an attempt to discredit Volt... when in reality, it was actually a concern about consumer price and business profitability.  And sure enough, years later they are trying the very same thing again... despite price & profitability being even more of an issue now.  Why do some act with such non-constructive behavior, only seeing what they want?  Engineering was never an issue.  The automaker must make money too.


Plug-In Prius.  We got a closer glimpse today of what's to come.  An intriguing video showed the much larger capacity battery-pack is physically larger than we expected.  It raises the false floor up about 1.5 inches.  Fortunately, the cargo carrying difference will be negligible for most.  That certainly won't interfere with my biking trips up north, where I carry a large 3-wheel recumbent inside.  Operating voltage and the ability to both deliver & capture more electricity was stated as: "resulting in greatly improved EV performance" as well as providing a gain when it comes to normal HV driving.  I'm curious about how robust Toyota made it.  They tend to cover all the bases up front.  You could see the size was only in part due to the Li-Ion content itself.  There was obvious thermal management features in addition to control modules, all built into the case.  We'll learn more later...


Understanding the Plug.  It's very clear the the typical consumer has no idea how the plug-in Prius works.  The assumption of "range" will take quite a bit of effort to overcome.  That lack of education from all the Volt hype is heavily contributing to this.  Rather than thinking of the extra capacity as a increase to the efficiency overall, they focus entirely on the EV part.  And I must admit, that part is quite compelling... but it's not the point.  In response to the flood of posts today resulting from the 100 km/h (62.1 mph) top-speed engine-stopped info, I posted this:  Never witnessed what happens when the battery is full, eh?  At 65 MPH, you get a surprising amount of power from the electric motor.  MPG shoots way up.  The larger battery-capacity offers a BOOST regardless of speed.


Dropping Temperatures.  True Winter is approaching.  Temperatures are well below freezing now.  Looks like I'll be able to confirm the improvements of this newest generation of Prius sooner than I was hoping.  Does that mean we are going to have a really looooong cold season?  That will make for a really good endorsement.  First-Hand observation like this, especially when the car sits outside all day in sub-zero conditions all day while I work, sure build confidence for responding to the antagonists.  They have an extremely difficult time refuting real-world data like I gather here in Minnesota... whether I like it or not.  How long will it be before I can enjoy driving with the roof open again?


What Now?  The supporters of GM are quick to claim their automaker will recover just fine.  But they don't state how or when.  In fact, they don't say anything whatsoever.  It's nothing but cheerleading at this point... the band played on as the ship sank.  This is not the time for blind optimism.  Doing what needs to be done, getting the painful transition over with, is required.  However, no one seems to know what that actually is.  They just expect "stuff" to happen and things to somehow be fixed.  Needless to say, I got frustrated by reading posts like that today, responding with this:  The problem the task-force sighted long before the bankruptcy still persists: "too little, too slowly".  The failed sales of Saturn & Saab, combined with the tension of the Opel reversal, combined with the Two-Mode & BAS struggles, combined with the disenchantment from Volt (price & generator-efficiency), makes dealing with the remaining traditional production an overwhelming challenge... not to mention paying back the taxpayer loans.  That's a lot of pressure.  Of course, expectations weren't all that realistic to begin with.  What should we expect now?


November Sales.  The market isn't exactly at its peak.  Hesitation about purchasing a 2010 Prius just prior to hearing about Winter driving experiences should be obvious, but you know how antagonists can be.  That brought out the diesel supporters.  All TDI models offered from VW only totaled 3,667 this month here.  How they can claim that's better than the 9,617 Prius purchased during the same period appears to be an act of bold denial.  Last month, it was 3774 diesel to 13,496 Prius.  So, perhaps they thought they could spin the lower November count to their advantage.  Whatever.  Others have been spinning counts in the other direction, pointing out the big improvement over last November.  For me, I'd rather just wait for the entire first-year data.  12 months worth is much more revealing than drawing conclusions over just a few weeks of consumer choices.  Toyota's total for the month was 14,473.  Lexus 1,407.  Ford 2,361.  Honda 1,646.  GM 1,020.  Nissan 503.  Market growth next year should make for fascinating analysis & speculation.  I'm very much looking forward to that.


Resignation at GM.  The fear of business realities not being taken seriously were confirmed this evening.  The CEO of GM, whom had taken over control as part of the bankruptcy stir, announced his resignation.  To those of us looking in, it was obvious the same problem of "too little, too slowly" had not been adequately dealt with.  To those supporters looking out, they were either naive or in denial.  Whatever the case, there is no longer any doubt that more much be done soon.  The questions of who & how are emerging rapidly.  The magnitude of such an unexpected event like this sure has some profound implications.  What could happen now will likely be filled with much speculation.  Confidence appears to have been shattered.  Ask yourself what will the next CEO do about hybrids, especially with Two-Mode and BAS having made so little progress.


Reality of 40.  The long-awaited Auto Show still won't start for another 3 days, yet we got our first public observation of CS-mode for Volt this morning.  All the what-if scenarios were making people crazy, so this is a very welcome report (from a very reliable source).  Remember how 45 MPG was begrudgingly accepted as "good enough" to compete with Prius directly?  When that value started looking more like 40 MPG, some voices of discontent began to emerge.  Today, that often warned about "disenchantment" feeling echoed throughout posts of enthusiasts.  The report emerging from the half-hour driving opportunity resulted in readings between 32 and 36 MPG.  That solidified the 40... which looking back, isn't much of a surprise.


40 MPG.  More and more downplay is taking place.  It certainly gives the impression that GM is preparing enthusiasts for lowered expectations, because the enthusiasts are already acting as if 40 MPG for the efficiency of CS-mode in Volt is a reality.  Even the most staunch attitudes seem to be changing.  My seemed obsession with nuances of how this newest type of hybrid is both perceived & promoted are paying off.  Whatever happens (most likely soon, in Los Angeles) will probably reveal some realities the die-hard Prius supporter are already well aware of.  Heck, even GM's own educational material for Two-Mode states the inefficient nature of electricity generation makes direct propulsion a better choice.  And of course, engineering alone is not how you run a business anyway.  You must offer a product which can be sold in large quantity.  So... what does that ultimately mean if CS really does only deliver 40 MPG?


Military Ruins.  Taking these photos was an especially exciting time for me.  It was way back in May, just days after getting my 2010.  This particular location was considered quite remote a number of years ago.  I've been there with my Classic & Iconic Prius capturing both photo & video quite a few times.  You won't recognize it though.  They removed a majority of the trees... revealing the concrete structures hidden within.  It was a location where ammunition for World War II was produced & tested.  Following our victory, the Army sold all that land to the University of Minnesota.  Recently, the decision was made to begin developing it.  That's an interesting place to visit.  Much of the ruins are way off in the distance, difficult to get the Prius near.  But I managed to get some in the background fairly well.  It was a beautiful day and the trees remaining created a remarkable setting.  I had a lot of fun taking them... photo album 144


Silent Sighting.  When you see 2 people sitting in a vehicle, the first thought you have is that they are just about to pull out of the parking spot.  Since they were parked right next to me, in a big SUV, it would be prudent to delay my departure.  But as I casually got closer, the vehicle still haven't moved.  Something was wrong.  Then it hit me.  No sound.  Sure enough, it was hybrid (specifically a Lexus RX450h).  They were there eating drive-thru food, in no particular rush, taking advantage of the vehicle being able to run only using electricity.  I guess that's going to become more of a common sight over time.


Defining Failure.  For an example of how Volt success could be judged, we don't need to look any further than Two-Mode.  Purchase numbers have been well under expectations.  Clearly, this hybrid technology is not meeting business objectives.  However, the design has proven sound.  In fact, we haven't heard any bad about Two-Mode at all in that respect.  But good engineering alone is not enough.  Profit must be made to sustain business.  Without that, funding of future production is not realistic.  The flow of cash cannot remain negative for too long.  Failure could be defined as that point which the decision to continue changes.  Now, 2 years after production of Two-Mode began, new models continue to be introduced... but with lowered expectations.  If that hybrid technology become a niche (very low volume), it wouldn't necessarily be a failure if that's all they actually plan to sell.  This is why I repeatedly ask what sales expectation will be.


Auto Show Expectations.  The upcoming appearances in Los Angeles next week sure are causing a stir already.  Lots of hype about Volt lately certainly has contributed to that.  It's an opportunity to advance the entire market a small step forward by promoting battery-powered vehicle interest.  Toyota will be showing their plug-in Prius, but the mood is very different.  For that augmented model of Prius, enthusiasts are patiently waiting for the real-world data to be gathered.  It's quite subdued compared to the begging of Volt enthusiasts for just a tiny sample of MPG from CS-mode.  They have nothing to work with still and know that late next year's rollout is only for a limited market with a limited quantity.  Meanwhile, the production volume of Prius will increase significantly.  So, the setting of expectations is especially high and the hope is that this upcoming auto show will provide something.  What do you expect?


Ice Driving.  I had a brief taste of it this evening.  The temperature dropped to 27 F degrees.  It was dark.  I didn't notice the ice.  So, my hard acceleration resulting in the traction-control engaging.  I saw the indicator light flash on & off several times, as expected.  What wasn't expected was to hear the sound of one wheel passively spinning.  Rather than the sudden pause like with the Iconic model, the 2010 allowed the wheel to break free.  It seemed to be the right balance too.  The pointless spinning of non-traction controlled vehicles was always a frustrating sight.  They leave a trail of glazed ice behind them without any concern.  Prius engineers had attempted to prevent this entirely in the past, but discovered afterward that a modest amount of spin was better.  Not all winter driver conditions (like really heavy snow) worked well with that setup.  So, it was modified... and the modification appears to be exactly what we were looking for.  We'll find out soon enough.  Ice is already here.  Snow is on the way.


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