Personal Log #467
July 9, 2010 - July 17, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #466 page #468 BOOK INDEX
Shot The Messenger. I've developed a thick skin for criticism, so I find what's unfolding today very interesting. When the Volt enthusiasts don't like the message, they vote negative to the post which delivered it. That's what happened right away today with that PZEV revelation. They aren't happy, not in the slightest. The 2010 Prius was heavily optimized to capture and make the best use of engine heat. Did you know that coolant is routed down to the exhaust system? Transfer of heat that way isn't something any other vehicle would bother doing. But when you're building a platform which will end up keeping the engine off as long as possible, you want to prevent the need to start the engine back up just for the sake of keeping the catalytic-converter hot. It's a big requirement Toyota has worked hard to optimize. We haven't heard a peep about this from GM until now. Two-Mode hybrids actually deliver a worse emission-rating than their traditional counterparts. This is a part of history I repeatedly tried to point out... only for it to fall on deaf ears. Shooting the messenger is a clear indication of change. They definitely hear it now!
PZEV Upset. The news from the other day is starting to sink in. The enthusiasts didn't realize the ramification of that comment from GM's marketing director for Volt said, until now. That smaller warranty indicated the PZEV emission rating (actually, AT-PZEV for hybrids) eligibility criteria wasn't met. Those genuinely trying to be constructive didn't even think of the situation as a whole. They understood starting a cold engine isn't good. But studying the design of Prius to determine how Toyota was able to overcome that challenge was unacceptable. That would be considered an effort to undermine by the competition. Now though, a change of attitude may be coming. That "too little, too slowly" is extremely difficult to deny when among their first responses was the need to wait for the second generation to achieve PZEV. To make matters worse, I pointed out the problem coming from gas sitting unused in the fuel tank for extended periods of time. That contributes to another type of pollution source rarely ever discussed: EVAPORATIVE emissions. Needless to say, the enthusiasts are pretty upset this morning. The green of Volt has faded even more. Makes you wonder when they'll finally start thinking of the plug-in Prius as an ally, rather than an obstruction.
No Complaint. They make it quite personal sometimes.
That's not always a bad thing. Here's what one of the Volt enthusiasts
specifically had to say: "If
the post advances the discussion in a positive direction, I have no complaint
with them. I believe that even though john1701a has a definite agenda, he has at
times caused us to rebut his posts and thereby advanced the topics presented."
After a few weeks of counter-productive, rude, and insulting posts from actual
trolls (those whose purpose is nothing but to stir trouble), it was actually
nice to get singled out like that. Hopefully my choice of reply to that
was positive & advancing:
And I will continue to, since advancement is the agenda!
Real-World data will be the focus. It's the best way to get beyond the MPG
For example, here's real-world data from a highway drive with A/C using a
plug-in Prius earlier today... Distance driven: 105 miles. Displayed ratio:
11% EV and 89% Hybrid. Displayed average: 63.7 MPG
Trolling? Speaking of the big GM forum, I was
fascinated to discover they rules-of-conduct have changed. They have
admitted to their own popular posters being responsible for dropping bait and
not disciplining that behavior. A blind eye had been turned whenever someone of
such stature would do such a thing. That contributed heavily to
making particular threads popular. That's why it was allowed. But
now, that is looked upon as harmful to the forum's reputation... and will no
longer be tolerated. They apologized for letting it happen for so long and
vowed to end it. Hooray! To make matters even better, people like me
are no longer lumped into the definition of "troll" simply because I
outsider... now that insiders have been identified as trolls. In other
words, if you post something to intentionally stir trouble or to harm the
reputation of another, you are a troll regardless of your background. Since my message is
quite concise and I'm always polite, I fall into that
"other" category instead. Too bad there isn't a term coined for that yet.
Oh well. At least the moderators are finally stepping up and doing what
should have been done a long time ago.
What Now? A popular newspaper published an article about how GM delivered a big miss with Two-Mode. Sales have been so bad, the writing is now on the wall. Something significant must now be done to save it. On the big GM forum, I responded to that article with this: So what happens now? I joined in 2006 worried that GM's decision to finally produce a hybrid would lead to a high-cost design few would be interested in, even with a tax credit. 3.5 years later, the outcome is exactly what had been worried about. To make matters worse, Volt is following that same pattern. The engineering is top-notch, that's never been a worry. It's the business decisions. Why was so little emphasis being made toward cost control? Too much focus has been placed on performance. Those choices have proven to be detrimental. How can the system become a mainstream, high-volume product when the price is so far out of reach?
Warranties & Emissions. There was a live chat online today. GM's marketing director for Volt made a comment today which only I picked up on and posted a response about. It's something Prius supporters have long been aware of, a big problem with emissions. I wonder how long it will take for the Volt enthusiasts to realize what was said. Hmm? Anywho, this was my post following that chat: 10 years/150,000 miles warranty is required in the 17 CARB states for vehicles certified with a PZEV emission rating. Since emission rating is based upon distance traveled using standard drive-cycle measurements, the electricity supplied by a plug is taken into account. There is a minimum criteria to be eligible for selling, which is based upon emission rating. If Volt only comes with 8 years/100,000 miles coverage nationwide, that all but confirms it isn't PZEV rated. What do you think it will be... or for that matter, should be?
Futile? At what point do you get tired of the superiority claims? I see the plug-in Prius as a major player in the upcoming next stage of efficiency battles. Many of the Volt enthusiasts see it as an obstruction instead, a step in the wrong direction rather than an ally. I disagree. I see the shortcomings of Volt, but rather than disregard that as they do with the plug-in Prius, it means an aggressive reconsideration of purpose & design. Is that futile? Anywho, this was my provoke toward to that effort today: Tomorrow a friend of mine will be picking up a plug-in Prius for use over the next week. He's a consumer like me, doesn't work for Toyota, just has an extensive background in supporting the electrification effort. He has already driven the PHV, accelerating hard up an interstate onramp without the engine kicking in. Got it all the way up to 65 MPH, in fact. Real world experiences are changing the game… Will the plug-in model of Prius become an ally in this fight against traditional vehicle production or will Volt be going it alone?
Implementation. Hearing about the superior nature of SERIES hybrids without any data whatsoever gets really old. The efficiency from freight trains is in part due to volume, a concept which simply doesn't exist when you commute alone in a car. Your journey to and from work is far from non-stop like a train as well. So, there is a legitimate reason for wanting something in reference to the driving experience. Frustrated, I pointed out this: Implementation is still a big unknown for consumer vehicles. The operational criteria is quite different than for industrial machines, especially when cost is factored in. We want to know specifics about GM's design, how problems like emission requirements were dealt with. Just because a series hybrid can do something well in general, does not mean it does the same for personal transportation.
Slow Rollout Tactic. Step back and look at the big picture. Consider the chain of events which happened with Two-Mode. Sales have been far below expectations (only 3,256 total purchased from all 5 models for the first half of 2010). But since rollout was so slow and so drawn out, realities like that go pretty much unnoticed by most consumers. They just assume... since GM is still selling them, Two-Mode must be doing ok. Today I heard a Volt enthusiast in an early rollout state (Michigan) won't take delivery until March next year, despite the fact that initial deliveries are supposed to begin in November. GM has already stated it will take 12 to 18 months before Volt will be available in all 50 states. Under the guise of being cautious, they are also covering their butts from fallout. Those enthusiasts still on the delivery waiting list will fiercely defend any negative feedback in the meantime. The automaker can just remain silent and deliver vehicles at a snail's pace. The assessment of "too little, too slowly" is becoming all too real.
BMW ActiveHybrid7. It combines a 15kW 20hp motor with a 4.4-liter 8-cylinder 455hp engine. What's the point? With such a massive combustion engine, how much gas less gas will be used by a teeny-tiny electric motor? For perspective, the motor in Prius is 60kW 80hp and the engine output just 98hp. That's a much larger motor working with a much smaller engine. Looking closer at the article published about this newest hybrid, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the MPG itself was never mentioned... only the $102,300 price. Again, what's the point? The non-hybrid model, the 750i, sells for $82,000. So, the market for either is quite small anyway. It's another sad example of automaker saying "we have hybrids too", even though they don't actually accomplish much.
Power Fade. Remember that issue with Volt just 2 weeks ago? The enthusiasts have done their best to keep attention diverted from it. Everyone else is still scratching their heads wondering what the exposure really is. Acceleration from highway cruising speed to highway passing speed still hasn't been addressed. It shouldn't be a big deal. In fact, you'd think there would have been a mention of it from last week's highway trip. Wasn't the purpose of that to show Volt behaves just like any other vehicle? If nothing else, that would have been a good distraction to quiet down the MPG backlash. Just point out a detail about battery buffering or motor RPM at top speed. Instead, that too has become a taboo topic. When will we find out? Independent big names like Edmunds got to do a performance review the 2010 Prius over 2 months prior to rollout. What can we expect for Volt?
Not Enough Info. Keeping people guessing, leaving them without anything of substance to draw any type of conclusion with has been the theme for well over a year now. The start of this year came with a personal log entry from me stating "questions & speculation" would continue, stringing us along for as long as they possibly can. We'll get virtually nothing until rollout. In the meantime, they'll kind raising doubt about the future of hybrids. Yes, I'm speaking of GM and the Volt enthusiasts. It has become tiresome. They are just stalling for time. And with the big blog being nothing but a thread of off-topic posts which activity ceases the following day, all is lost anyway... making it very easy to repeat the same non-constructive discussions over and over and over again. The forum, a far more productive online information exchange tool, remains a feature rarely ever used... quite the opposite from the big GM forum or the big Prius forum. Heck, even the small hybrid forums see far more activity. They sure are unprepared for rollout. I'm very curious how they'll deal with what happens once ownership begins. Information becomes absolutely vital then.
History Misleading Continues. It's the same as before.
Important parts of history aren't mentioned. Why? What is their
intent, especially after being told about their rather glaring omissions?
Here was my summary this time:
Think about it. That was a world before 9/11. It was poorly
informed, quite naive. It was a time when few had access to that young
internet and speed was so slow even sharing photos was a challenge. Things
were quite unlike what they are now. Even the automotive industry itself
was very different. MISCONCEPTIONS were abundant back then. Let's
not forget how clueless people were about what a hybrid was and how slow & weak
electric vehicles were perceived. EXPERIENCE was almost non-existent back
then. Look at GM with EV1, all the Fuel-Cell concepts, and Two-Mode.
The background is quite extensive, very different now. CLIMATE CHANGE was
a treehuggers joke back then. It was far from ever taken seriously.
People heard "global warming" and simply dismissed it without a second thought.
OIL DEPENDENCY was far from a concern back then. Remember less than $1 for
gas? Remember the invasion of monster-size guzzlers? Remember when
that happened? FEAR was very real back then. You'd be amazed by the
level of resistance to change there was. People intensely argued about
being forced to give up their guzzler for a hybrid.
Product Failure. Billion dollar failures happen. New products failing shortly after rollout isn't anything we haven't seen before. In fact, the device industry (computers & handheld electronic products) sees that regularly. The automotive industry sees failures too, but not as often. They attempt to salvage reputation quickly though, by changing focus to something totally different quickly afterward. The device industry tends to make another attempt. Anywho, if you've been following Two-Mode, you've noticed that nothing has happened still. They produced enough in early production to supply the weak demand for a long time to come. They're stuck with inventory few actually want. That makes the decision about what to do next extremely difficult. Although investment cost is the same whether it is a vehicle or device, it's a whole lot harder to sell a second-generation vehicle if the first failed. You can't just dump the unwanted old supply either. The terribly low sales of Two-Mode could foreshadow what's to come for Volt. Rather than promoting multiple configurations to avoid the same mess, they risked it all again. What's so wrong with a smaller battery-pack to offer a choice of a model which costs a lot less? Heck, they could even make it more efficient too by altering the engine.