Personal Log #464
June 26, 2010 - July 1, 2010
Last Updated: Sat. 7/24/2010
page #463 page #465 BOOK INDEX
Auris-Hybrid. Production of Toyota's newest hybrid began today. Auris is a traditional vehicle native to the European market, built in the UK. It's kind of like a hatchback Corolla. This hybrid will use the same HSD system in Prius. So it will be a little bit more efficient, since the vehicle itself is smaller. The fact that it shares the same body as an existing vehicle should make things interesting. Many here have claimed the unique look of Prius was the primary selling point, not the efficiency or the convenience of it being a hatchback. That's been eliminated from the equation now. Prius is available there still too. Sales there should be interesting. Of course, some of the popularity could come from it being produced locally. Ultimately, does it matter? Being offered choice is an obvious plus.
10,998 Purchased. Prius is maintaining steady sales. This purchase quantity for the month of June here puts it as position number 19 for the first half of the year. Seeing that makes me happy. It represents being well prepared for the long-term. Some automakers are concerned about nothing but the short-term though. That's troubling. What's worse is discussions about quantity without reference to profit. High numbers achieved by generous incentives can result in the loss of money. Automakers can afford that. Makes you think what will happen when the economy finally recovers. Will efficiency technologies be embraced or will we be back to wasteful decisions?
Free Gas. When you see a gigantic sign stating that in a dealership lot, you know efficiency has become a consumer priority. The message can't get much clearer. I wonder what it took for the dealer to finally realize doing that would lure in customers. How much gas do they get with a purchase anyway? It's not really free either. Nonetheless, seeing that is a welcome change. Dinosaur are going extinct. The days of advertisements demonstrating great acts of guzzling are gone. There was even once a time when MPG wasn't necessary to mention. Heck, even the window-stickers on the largest vehicles had blank spots where EPA estimates would be displayed. There was no requirement to include them bad then, believe it or not. Now MPG has become a purchase concern. It's about time!
Production Spin. Right away, both the daily blog for Volt
and the big GM forum starting posting spin in defense of GM's announcement.
They want a perspective from a decade ago, as if nothing has happened in the
meantime. I'm wasn't about to let history be rewound like that, hoping to
get something constructive for feedback: 10 years later, despite lots of experience gain from EV1, Two-Mode, and
several Fuel-Cell ventures, GM is now saying only 30,000 will be available for
the second year of production.
Is this when I point out that certain members here absolutely insisted this
wouldn't happen? They made it absolutely clear the plan of 60,000 for 2012 was
nothing to worry about.
Turns out, my reason for concern has indeed been validated. Are you going to
shot the messenger now or can we somehow find a constructive way to push GM to
deliver more? After all, Nissan already has over 15,000 pre-orders for Leaf from
just the US alone.
Production Plans. Remember all the
"60,000 in the second year of production" arguments? GM was
promising to meet demand with that capacity. Enthusiasts absolutely
insisted availability wasn't going to be a problem. Today, we were
informed the plans for Volt in 2012 are only 30,000 units despite anticipated
long waiting lists.
What part of the auto task-force "too little, too slowly" assessment needs to be
pointed out again? Being a computer programmer for 2 decades, I'm well
aware of how unwise it is to make schedule end-dates for a project so big so far
in advanced. It was basically doomed from the start. Set milestones
instead. Upon reaching the next, you determine scope of the following one
based upon what you learned up to that point. Estimates are quite
inaccurate beyond that reach. There are simply too many unknown factors of
influence. Don't promise what isn't realistic!
Peak Oil. It seems pretty easy to declare now, without
the need for history to make judgment looking back later. My comment to
that discussion today was:
Right on schedule, what those of us who bought the first Prius in the US
predicted. We figured it would be a decade later, just in time to see the
end-of-service for those purchases.
In other words, we knew it would take a bunch of owner all driving for 10 years
and at least 150,000 miles to prove the technology was worthy of ending the
production of traditional vehicles.
Of course, we weren't alone. 2010 was targeted as the year of the fuel-cell. The
availability of hydrogen was supposed to be cheap & abundant then. We saw that
as naive & reckless.
Whatever the case, this massive stain in the book of history will most
definitely be looked upon as a turning point in the age of oil.
2010 Delivery. It sure is exciting when someone you know from work calls you out of the blue for a quick Prius education session. He ordered a 2010 without ever taking a test-drive. Who would have thought simple casual mention of mine over the years would contribute to such a purchase decision? It never ceases to amaze the type of influence you can have... even without trying! Anywho, his delivery was in the afternoon and he wanted to take mine for a spin along with getting detail about what to look for. Needless to say, I took advantage of the opportunity. We got stuck at the first intersection waiting for a funeral procession to drive by. After they did, traffic had built up pretty heavy behind us. I pushed the PWR button and told him to be generous with the pedal. To his delight, the car provided more punch than he had anticipated. You could tell he hadn't ever experienced the torque an electric motor provides when accelerating from a stop. I totally enjoyed seeing that expression on his face!
2.5 Million Sold. Looking back at the previous decade sure makes a person think. 10 years ago, I was waiting for delivery of my first Prius. 10 years later, I've upgraded along with the generations and intend to purchase a plug-in as soon as it becomes available. The market has proven itself. The technology has drawn the production & sales of 2.5 million worldwide. There are many models now available from Toyota with plans to continue expanding. The competition has also made hybrid plans of their own. To think that I previously had to argue about this happening. Some honestly believed it wouldn't. Some saw it as a step in the wrong direction. Some saw it as totally unnecessary. Fortunately, not all thought that way. In fact, quite a few didn't!
Need Coffee, the competition. Looks like a whole lot more than coffee is needed. A fascinating observation to have come out of that wake-up call yesterday was that the plug-in Prius is pretty much ignored entirely. At best, vague reference to it is made. I hadn't noticed that pattern until now. I wonder how long ago that started. Hmm? The Volt enthusiasts freaked when Leaf captured the heart of the media. Perhaps then, they just stopped making plug-in Prius comparisons anymore. That would be fine if they had stopped discussions about Prius entirely. But they didn't; instead, it's now just a generic reference to 50 MPG. All calculations posted pretend as if the plug-in model will never be available and never be discussed by consumers. You can't simply wish away competition. Won't the enthusiasts realize how superficial they appear to not include it as a purchase choice?
Need Coffee, the market. Fortunately, the market doesn't bicker over petty differences. Minor nuances & semantics mean little to most consumers, quite unlike the enthusiasts. Unfortunately, they do drink a lot of coffee. Those aspects of merit mean a great deal to them. Those goals of MPG and Price are selling points. They couldn't care less about the superiority of the technology. We've had several examples of this divergence with hybrids already. How can the enthusiasts think the same purchase priorities won't matter when a plug is included? Mainstream consumers buy vehicles like Camry & Corolla in large numbers due to a nice balance of criteria. Prius was designed with that in mind. The ever-changing story with Volt really makes a person wonder. What market will it appeal to?
Need Coffee, the denial. As the day unfolds, I've seen the denial emerge again. It's hard to believe they don't want to welcome other technologies helping to push the idea of plugging in and Li-Ion batteries into the mainstream. Volt is superior, period. Why must some always they support the best, yet refuse to discuss detail. The article revealed the recent EU estimate. It came to 175 MPG. For perspective, the regular no-plug version of Prius gets 72.4 MPG based on the same testing. Think about what the plug-in Prius will get. They certainly didn't want to. In fact, they did everything they could to change to draw the discussion elsewhere... nothing of substance either, just the same old arguing of semantics. Whatever. Merit isn't earned that way. Talking points are nothing without data & sales to back them.
Need Coffee, the anger. It's surfacing in droves. Apparently, the coffee is kicking in! Reading constructive posts on the Volt blog for a change is great!! This news is only a few hours old though. Makes you wonder what the comments will be when discussions start on the big Prius forum. Hmm? Anger is the theme at the moment on the blog. A year ago, just as GM was ramping up bankruptcy recovery efforts, they had the chance to change. Instead, we got that horrible "230 MPG" campaign... which they've been struggling to repair image damage from ever since. Anywho, I posted this with the hopes of calming the rapid increase of emotion on the blog: The task-force assessment of "too little, too slowly" clearly stated the need to accelerate efforts. Guess what happened to those who tried to push GM to do exactly that, seeing this coming? Hopefully, this wake-up call puts GM back on track. Being able to look back at that past as just an ugly memory no longer relevant would be great. Goodbye semantics! It pretty much boils down to acceptance and taking that next step quickly now.
Need Coffee, the power. In that same review article, we also got this: "Accelerating up the motorway slip road, the Ampera charges hard and deceptively quickly up to 50 mph, but by then the single-speed electric motor's flat torque curve has begun a nose dive and acceleration at high speeds is poor." Observation like this of power-fade ends your wonder of why GM hadn't been allowing test-drives faster than about 40 MPH and always on closed-off courses. Interesting, eh? Adopting a direct-drive approach would address this. In fact, the double benefit of both improved power & efficiency makes it quite compelling. However, it destroys the purity of it being a SERIES hybrid. It would be transformed to a hybrid-hybrid design like Prius, which is a SERIES-PARALLEL type. I think the Volt enthusiasts are going to need a lot more coffee!
Need Coffee, the problem. Turns out, those energy conversion losses are precisely what some of us have been concerned about all along. Things simply didn't add up. The complete absence of data heavily contributed to it. If GM had somehow miraculously overcome that century old problem, why weren't they touting it? Being absolutely silent is totally out of character. It also contradicts the promise to be transparent. Of course, so does not revealing this until now. In other words, that original hope for 50 MPG was not achieved. Could it be? Sure. But how? Cost has always been the other concern. Using direct-drive is the very thing Volt enthusiasts had been strongly against. Now it looks like that is exactly what GM will be doing... hence one outspoken enthusiast stating his need for a coffee!
Need Coffee, the shocker. Study of the design and careful reading of quotes over the years hinted at late-to-come surprises about Volt. The most obvious to me was the lack of a smaller battery model. If engine efficiency was so great, why not offer that choice? The fact that future generations suddenly started, despite not getting any detail, was a big clue. This statement from a privileged reviewer today was the shocker: "General Motors is working on the problem and this autumn plans to unveil a mechanical direct-drive from the engine to the front wheels through the existing twin-clutch planetary gearbox. This would reduce the energy losses of turning petrol power into electricity to drive the car at high speeds, and would also give the Ampera more spritely overtaking performance." Interesting wake-up call. Time for coffee!
Anticipation. I've learned patience and know that the plug-in Prius will be a good fit for my needs, so the wait isn't a big deal. My 17-mile commute is roughly half on a 70 MPH highway. The slower part of that drive is 55, then 50, then 45. I'll get to experience a variety of design benefits from having a plug, that extra capacity, and the higher tolerances. What I anticipate is it representing the next natural step forward. It won't take much to get consumers to consider it as a result. They'll purchase an easy to understand MPG improvement. The efficiency boost is as simple as just knowing the electric motor gets used more. There is no paradigm shift like with Leaf. As for Volt, that full test the other day placed PHEV into the same category. How do you think enthusiasts will react to that? Rather than just welcome another plug-in to the effort of replacing vehicles, it seems more likely they will still argue semantics. Why? I really look forward to the market expanding. In fact, it's long overdue as far as many of the Prius owners are concerned.
No EV Button. It's intriguing to read the reactions of newbies when they discover the plug-in model of Prius doesn't have an EV button. Coming from my background with the 1997 Original, seeing the improvements in the 2000 Classic, even more in the 2003 Iconic, then again with the 2010 model, intent is clear. The design withholds as much interaction from the driver as possible. Toyota has always wanted to deliver a hybrid experience just like what has proven overwhelming successful with traditional automatics. I responded to today's discovery post with this: Having a button would actually disqualify it from certain certifications. Think of the PHEV as an Iconic Prius that's highly caffeinated. Stealth is a whole lot faster and more powerful, but there is no option choose that mode. If you drive within the tolerances, it automatically engages. If you exceed those tolerances, you get to drive with an engine that's assisted by the motor much more than it normally would. So, there's a boost to efficiency regardless of how & where you drive.