Personal Log  #463

June 14, 2010  -  June 26, 2010

Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010

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Privileged Few.  It's certainly not just me trying to point out how merit is earned.  The pressure on Volt enthusiasts from Nissan Leaf and Honda CR-Z is starting to show.  Many simply didn't want to deal with the plug-in Prius and were able to effectively keep focus elsewhere.  But with the threat of those two new efficiency options (both with dedicated body styles) combined with more options coming later from Ford and Hyundai is simply too much.  Others are now asking the very same questions I had.  Remember the concerns about price and production volume?  Nissan & Honda certainly do.  GM, on the other hand, will only be offering Volt to a privileged few.  Supposedly a 20-mile range configuration will be available in about 2015, but that totally validates the "too little, too slowly" problem... and others are starting to notice it too.  A trophy doesn't amount to much.


Antagonists.  As hybrids become so common that the addition of a plug is simply thought of as the next logical step, it's interesting to look back upon those who fought against that progress.  We all know what a troll is, since they are outsiders.  Their activity & motive is obvious.  The problem is that an antagonist is an insider, someone who has actively participated on that forum for years and now feels threatened by change.  They go to great efforts to maintain the status quo.  Since they are so well known, few actually question their intent.  Their undermining effort largely goes unnoticed.  Many just assume they know what's best.  In the end though, real-world data ultimately reveals shortcomings of what had been claimed... and they mysteriously vanished.  Gotta love a happy ending!


More Leaking.  The cap is no longer on the broken well.  More oil than ever is squirting out into the Gulf of Mexico.  This is by far the greatest manmade (preventable) disaster in history.  It's sickening to think that the previous administration encouraged deep-water drilling with nothing by a token counter-balance effort just prior to re-election.  Remember that history?  The half-hearted tax-credit didn't stimulate production.  Their was no spirit of competition.  Each automaker had their own money allocated.  What incentive was there for rapid development?  Perhaps this mess will do the trick.  What a terrible way to usher in responsibility... reacting, rather than the proactive approach some of us had been begging for over a decade now.  Peak oil occurred in 2010.  The circumstances are grim.  Arguing the magnitude of the situation is pointless.  Denying we didn't see this coming is impossible.  It was inevitable that something in such a volatile market would fail.  How?  What?  Who?  When?  Those were the questions, not if.


Plug-In Full Test.  Another report has been published.  This was of their initial impressions.  We'll get another after a month of data is collected.  Acceleration of this Prius is nearly identical.  Handling & Braking are reduced a little bit, basically putting it back to what we had seen in the past.  Fortunately, for those wanting more, the solution is the same as then too.  Just upgrade the tires.  An interesting fact is the capacity of the gas tank reduced to 10.6 gallons.  Of course, how much of a difference does that actually make when you have a plug available and refills take place at 9 gallons anyway?  As for efficiency, the worst test reported was 53 MPG.  The best was 72 MPG.  Their average for 500 miles came to 62 MPG.  It will be interesting to get their "just drive it" report later as opposed to this testing.  I suspect hitting that target of 75 MPG will be pretty easy then, especially with routine trips being short enough to take full advantage of the 14 miles worth of electric-only capacity.  But what really caught my attention was this comment: "We even managed to engage the cruise-control in EV mode at 72 mph over a flat stretch of freeway."


Equinox.  The crossover nonsense is getting absurd.  Hearing that GM wants to increase production to 1,200 per day really makes you wonder where priorities are... especially when only 8,000 Volt will be built in a total of 14 months.  After all, Equinox is really just a SUV with a new name.  The most efficient model only offers a combined EPA estimate of 26 MPG.  That's the front-wheel drive with a 2.4 liter engine.  The 4-wheel drive model drops to 23 MPG.  And both of the drive options with the 3.0 liter engine only deliver 20 MPG.  Which is the most produced model?  What is there about 26 MPG to be proud of?  Aren't they just being used as commute vehicles?


Arbitrary Metrics.  Asking for anything to measure the progress of Volt is an act of heresy.  MPG, Sales, and Profit were my suggestions.  Those 3 words caused quite a stir.  Even though it was left open for them to assign quantities themselves, the mere suggestion that any type of milestone being established makes you an enemy... a traitor... a devil.  What kind of nonsense is that?  Being vague is the very root of many problems.  Ambiguous statements lead to confusion.  Assumptions are easily made as a result.  Ultimately, it ends in disappointment.  Without detail, expectations cannot be met.  After all, how can you know what's wanted in the first place?  What is the goal?  In other words, the only thing enthusiasts really had their heart set on was delivery starting in October and wrapping up by Independence Day.  Today, they found out it's back to a November release again and rollout will take an extra 6 months.  At that point, both Leaf and the plug-in Prius will likely be available too.  There is no spirit of cooperation.  The trophy mentality continues to persist.


Unprepared.  The motto of "If you build it, they will come." has created a sense of complacency.  Earning merit requires the collection of real-world data.  Not having a basis of comparison established prior to rollout is a great example of impeding problems.  Generalized estimates and clever marketing aren't enough.  Yet, some still think the "best" will be obvious and will be purchased in droves regardless of price.  Any criticism of any sort is immediately dismissed as not being constructive.  Why it is so hard for some to not see how naive that is?  It's like not studying for a test, but expecting to ace it anyway.  Being so unprepared like that is such a big unnecessary risk.  Must yet another failure occur before the lesson will finally be learned?


Survey Misleading.  Selective data has always been a problem, especially with marketing that is simply believed as credible.  Today provided the perfect example.  An enthusiast of Volt just blindly quoted, "78% of Americans drive less than 40 miles a day."  A supporter would have sighted a source.  It's that extra effort that makes the difference.  One verifies.  The other accepts without question.  Anywho, I gladly pointed out the reality of the situation with:  That's not actually the case.  The survey repeatedly stated here only had a sampling of 1,000 drivers... and it was from an uncertain source.  The survey conducted by Argonne is an entirely different matter.  They collected information from 84,000 drivers.  Turns out, the "40 mile" quantity is really only 62%.  Knowing that, factor in the reality that winter driving reduces range quite a bit due to the need to run the heater for warmth and the compressor for defrosting.  What percentage does that cover?


Pushing GM.  The worry that they will deliver only the minimum is not mine alone.  They are others who also don't want to see yet another in a string of expectations coming up short.  EV1 was the vehicle I yearned for... all those many years ago.  Finding out my region would never get the opportunity to vote with our wallets sure was a let down.  The program was cancelled without us ever giving us a chance.  In recent history, we have the ludicrousness of Two-Mode.  It really did seem like a farce from the very beginning, but it took until now to be able to prove there was no market for such a monster.  That brings us back to pushing GM.  They must actually deliver something consumers will purchase in large quantity.  Waiting isn't an option either.  Recovery from bankruptcy and also remaining competitive is vital.  Anywho, this was the reminder of that today:  TOO LITTLE, TOO SLOWLY was the problem in the past and exactly what the task-force said needed to be changed.  For Volt, measure of that progress is simple.  The initial few thousand in only 3 select markets falls directly into the pit of doom if it continues for too long.  Increased production & reach is absolutely required.  It's exactly one year from now we must see advancement.


No News.  Have you noticed that there is nothing being said about Volt anymore?  Nissan has snatched up most of the "efficiency" media interest now.  They actually have something of substance to offer.  We have got two reports from journalists already and details continue to be released.  Heck, they even have a deposit-required waiting-list, which is rapidly growing.  Toyota continues to rollout their data-collection fleet too.  The "Silicon Valley Leadership Group" will get a total of 30 this summer, with 3 of them directly helping test ChargePoint stations at the same time.  Meanwhile, nothing but about Volt.  No date.  No price.  No information about CS mpg.  It's all very much a mystery from an automaker who claimed unprecedented transparency.  Sure hope that changes in a hurry.  No news very much follows the pattern we saw with Two-Mode.  Ugh.


Mississippi Plant.  It looks like construction may resume on it now.  Toyota had halted all work there to maintain their cash reserves, back when the automotive industry first realized that production volume would need to be reduced significantly due to the falling economy.  Back then, it was intended to primarily be used for local Prius production.  That's not the case anymore.  Corolla demand is strong and has the potential to grow, so more will be produced there.  I find this all very interesting.  It is yet another chapter in the repeating history we are witnessing.  Decades ago, it was Detroit being caught totally off guard by market change and automakers from Japan being able to take advantage of that opportunity.  This time, it is the big growth is coming from Korea instead.  Japan's benefit now is being able to reduce cost.  Whatever the case, Ford found itself struggling and GM went bankrupt.  It happened.  The plant in Mississippi is the next step forward.  Think they'll better prepare for change now?


Ford Plug-In.  It was revealed today.  We got almost nothing for detail.  Though, the big bit that was provided was intriguing.  Being more affordable was set as a priority, quite unlike Volt.  The intent is to deliver a 10 kWh capacity, which translates to roughly a "30 mile" range.  Another smaller bit of information was what you could have predicted anyway.  During hard acceleration (heavy draw from the battery-pack), the engine will join in to assist.  Highest speed travel was implied as having the engine assist too.  In other words, the design is very much like what Toyota intends to bring to market.  It like that a lot.  It's a platform that can easily be sold with or without a plug and with a variety of different battery capacities.


Silver Reflections.  The sun was setting.  Color from that was growing.  I was up north and raced to be by the edge of a lake at that very moment, an opportunity I wasn't willing to let slip by.  The reflection of the sun is reflected by the paint of the Prius.  That gave it a soft yellow glow against a background of a large lake, just opened up on that unusual early Spring week.  Winter was gone and I was now out playing with the hybrid and digital camera.  I had looked forward to the chance to do that for months.  It's the same location I've been to with the other two Prius.  At this point, you may even wonder where the heck I was.  It's where I escape to from time to time.  So, keep on guessing... photo album 149


Sales Measure.  How many times must I deal with the trophy mentality?  Sales is the perspective of business.  You measure based upon overall profit.  Losing money in the short-term for long-term gain can be effective.  It's what ends up bringing in steady, sustaining money that counts.  Mature technology is what does it.  That's what dominates the market.  That's what consumers purchase on a massive scale.  That's what people don't given a second thought to.  That's what was proven robust & reliable years ago.  Hype around groundbreaking technology doesn't pay the bills.  Needless to say, I have to repeat that routinely.  It is often forgotten or dismissed.  Excitement about engineering will do that.  Accounting isn't commonly known for being a stimulating discussion topic.  It's easy to measure though.  Sales give a clear indication of progress.


Oil Risk.  The high-grade oil would be consumed first.  That doesn't cost as much to refine as the "crude" from other sources.  The easy to access wells would be tapped first.  Reasons for that should have been obvious.  The kind that can simply be pumped was first too.  Having to extract it from material like sand presents challenges.  Issues of that nature were the concern over the decades.  Risk really didn't draw much attention.  After all, how many people realized that oil from deep below the ocean would squirt out all by itself rather than needed to be sucked out manually as we often see on the surface?  The well itself presents problems too.  A spill in the traditional sense is over almost immediately, since there is a finite quantity.  An oil reservoir is magnitudes larger and can continue destructive activity for months or even years.  Risk is dramatically higher.  Yet, why wasn't that fact taken seriously?  This is a very ugly wake-up call that will have ramifications for decades, perhaps even centuries, to come.


Double Standard?  Caught a Volt enthusiast saying this today: "Leaf will fail in the marketplace because it will be judged by what it can't do."  Isn't that a double standard?  You may even want to go as far as calling it hypocritical.  The hope for 50 MPG is quite intense still.  Information supporting that hope has vanished though.  Only the goal remains.  The original factors involved have changed.  They don't want to discuss the merits of efficiency in CS mode.  Isn't having that mode what sets it apart from Leaf?  It's become a topic of much distress.  Why?  Consumers make success judgments.  Some enthusiasts have yet to discover that disconnect.  It's just like the complexity debates.  Consumers couldn't care less.  Only those passionate about supporting a particular design would even understand the nuances, not to mention being willing to pay for them.


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