Personal Log #477
September 8, 2010 - September 14, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #476 page #478 BOOK INDEX
Wow! So many assumptions and so much incorrect information, I'm not sure
where to begin.
The PHV model is intended to be available as a mid-grade build. The one I
drove had a mix of features from packages 2 & 3. The purpose is to BOOST
MPG. The point is to make best use of the extra electricity, allowing
the engine to join in during times of high demand for an overall efficiency
benefit. EV speed & power will increase, but driver interaction won't really
be any different than it is currently.
Keeping price low and ramping up Li-Ion production via non-plug models in
the meantime is priority. The ultimate goal is to phase out traditional
vehicles of many types & sizes. They're approaching it by offering a variety
of choices based upon a well-established (profitable & reliable) platform. The flexibility of adding sub-packs to augment a hybrid is cost-effective,
demand-flexible, and a straight-forward option consumers to understand & choose.
How GM will respond to the actions of other automakers will be very
interesting. How consumers will react to the new choices available will make
fascinating history for us to look back upon later.
Concern & Denial. It's getting bad. I posted a message voicing concern about harm to Volt's reputation from incredibly smug statements like this: "But in any case the plug-in Prius is such a complete loser on just about any front..." In short order, the negative votes piled up for me and the original message with the statement itself was simply ignored. Between Toyota's news yesterday and the discovery of a new GM website designed specifically for Volt owners, it's easy to see how the enthusiasts don't grasp the whole situation. What they do next sets the stage for rollout. The trophy mentality doesn't actually accomplish much. How is Volt alone going to be competitive with such a large variety of new hybrid choices on the way? To make matters worse, not seeing how that website further pushes Volt into a niche shows the effort to draw mainstream interest being an even greater challenge than thought. Add to that the uncertainty of delivery. Then consider the terrible attitude in certain posts, the lack of discipline from that behavior, the negative voting, the price fallout, and the lack of information about CS-mode. There's reason to be concerned. Why aren't they taking it serious? Is it still denial that the some of the comments from supposed trolls were actually helpful advice not heeded?
Lexus CT 200h. I wasn't expecting information
about any new Toyota hybrids so soon. This upcoming Lexus hybrid will
be a hatchback variant of Corolla, with luxury amenities, of course.
The combined estimate is expected to be 42 MPG. Pretty sweet, eh?
Hitting that 40 MPG minimum has become an expectation, now that Ford
achieved 39 so nicely for Fusion. It was a great debut for their first
FULL hybrid sedan. In fact, it put pressure on Toyota to make sure the
next generation of hybrid for Camry does at least as well... hence the
expectation of 40. We think Hyundai may be able to deliver similar
efficiency as well. Of course, those are mainstream cars. Lexus
isn't. What does that mean for the other automakers with more upscale
offerings? Remember how BMW was going to deliver a Two-Mode sedan?
It never happened. Will it now? This certainly stirs the pot.
Efficiency standards have to be meet somehow.
Plus 6 New Hybrids. A
spokesperson for Toyota today stated the goal to sell 20,000 plug-in Prius
the first year, at a price of "$3,000 to $5,000" more than a regular Prius.
Since we already knew the PHV model wasn't going to be based upon a high-end
package, it still looks likely that the hope to see a price under $30,000 is
realistic. Yeah! It's differences like that which make
an automaker stand out. Following through on price intentions is good
business. Base design within reach of what consumers can afford.
How else could profitable high-volume production & sales be achieved quickly
otherwise? The other news today was the fact that Toyota intends to
deliver 6 new hybrids within the next 2 years, not including upgrades to
existing models. Wow! That sure will help with the establishment
of FULL hybrids into the mainstream. Diversification is important.
Consumers need choices. Business needs to spread risk. Sounds
like a great plan to me.
7 Weeks Ago. Back then, things were different. The Volt enthusiasts were basically just focused on getting to the finish line, not interested in what others had to say about the rest of the automotive world. They even brushed aside the controversy of that "Freedom Drive". It all seemed to be going as hoped, despite so many unknowns & setbacks. Then the price was announced. A few who were destined to become strong supporters vanished. $41,000 for a vehicle that's supposedly intended to appeal to middle-market consumers simply doesn't make sense. Why such a huge compromise? The theory still holds that Volt isn't really a pure EV system, that it actually possesses some components and operational behaviors of Two-Mode. If true, it's a mixed blessing. CS-mode efficiency could indeed be competitive then; however, it would come with a cost penalty. Getting the price of down to a profitable level would be quite a challenge... a step unnecessary for Toyota. The simplicity of HSD and the fact that it is already in high-volume production gives it a clear advantage... which is why they just plain don't like anything I have to say anymore. Attitudes have become hostile. They make outsiders feel very unwelcome now. So even when you ask constructive questions, you get nothing but defiance. Makes you wonder what the next 7 weeks will bring.
Unanswered Questions. Hoping for anything constructive in nature for Volt discussion is futile. The enthusiasts simply mock the plug-in Prius for having less EV capacity. Nothing else is addressed. So, I put them to the test by asking something totally different. I attempted to start a discussion about heat. What happens in the Winter? All they did was cast negative votes. If you aren't cheering for Volt, you're trying to undermine. There's no middle ground. There's no place for asking questions. Anything not answered up to this point will have to remain a mystery. They already declared Volt superior. Don't you love that kind of attitude? Anywho, here's what I posted: EV has the shortcoming of getting heat exclusively from a heat-pump. That means you sacrifice range for the need to keep warm. With a plug-in like Prius, electricity is used for propulsion power as much as possible. Since the engine runs anyway at speeds above 62, using the coolant heated heater-core for warmth instead is a best-of-both-worlds blend. Question is, will Volt do something similar? At what point was the design configured to run the engine for the sake of preserving electricity for propulsion? Does Volt even have dual source for heat?
Instant Engineers. Remember how we overcame the poorly informed of the past? When they lock on to a specific (narrow scope) fact, there's not a whole lot you can do to convince them otherwise... except this... provide Lifetime MPG. The power of that real-world data got the uninterested, the disbelievers, the antagonists to all take notice. It's really hard to dismiss arguments when actual experience proves arguments false. Once a new technology rolls out, the situation changes. Instant engineers guess with little thought and no real background. They are the masses who listen to marketing and take those claims at face value. Real-World data drowns out hype and squashes initial beliefs. I'm really looking forward to that. Reports of actual MPG combined with purchase price really changes the landscape. The hopes for Two-Mode got turned upside-down with that information. What will happen to Volt? We already know price is far more than middle-market currently pays for vehicles.
Underwhelming MPG. All the hype about efficiency improvements for traditional vehicles should serve as a warning. The move to make SUVs with 4-cylinder engines appealing hasn't been going well. The 32 MPG celebrated heavily for the GMC Terrain falls way short in reality. Over the course of 13,000 miles of driving by Edmunds, the best tank reported was only 28.7 MPG. The reality of city driving should be obvious by that. If not, think about what the overall average came to. It's much lower than you'd think. Only 20.5 MPG for those 13,000 miles. That's absolutely terrible... no matter how you spin it. Just imagine how much worse MPG would have been from a 4-wheel drive model. Of course, the aerodynamic shape of a SUV is an efficiency penalty. Combine that will the overkill height, suspension, and tires for paved roads shared by cars and you've got a recipe for disappoint. Underwhelming isn't much of a surprise, since even the typical "economy" vehicle only achieves MPG in the mid-30's.
Softening The Blow. There wasn't a "project driveway", as GM had down with another premiere vehicle intended to revolutionize. There wasn't even a demonstration program of any kind. Heck, all we've seen for real test-drives of Volt were slow-speed coned-off tracks and carefully monitored high-speed introductions. No detail came from any of that. We only got vague mention of behavior. Absolutely nothing beyond speculation for CS-mode efficiency has been revealed yet. Last year's hint vanished. As soon as GM discovered how much attention it would draw, focus was shifted elsewhere. Then came that publicity in July. The extreme effort to suppress discussion of MPG while the engine ran was obvious. Each step since then has made it more and more evident that the number is far from the goal of 50. As more people mention 40, especially in the light of Cruze not making its goal either, the resistance is less. The delay of revealing actual values is helping to soften the blow. The more the realities of getting 40'ish are mentioned, the more enthusiasts become use to it. That idea of sticking within the EV range will be vital. The most staunch have already begun claims of rarely ever needing the engine. Who is the market for this vehicle?
3,450 Miles = 83 MPG. Reading this report was wonderful. Great timing too! California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) selected 13 employees to each drive a PHV for 7 to 10 days. Their results almost perfectly matched my 84 MPG average from 316.5 miles of driving. Of course, one averaged 97.9 MPG over 379 miles... which does help to show I wasn't doing anything special or represented any type of extreme. I used the PHV exactly as I do my 2010. There was quite a variety of distances & speeds. I wanted the full experience, nothing optimized for any specific condition. The person in-charge of selecting employees sought that variety too. He stated it as a "fantastic cross-section" of drivers. Of course, certain Volt enthusiasts immediately dismissed that real-world data as bias. Figures. Anything revealing the PHV model to be a significant improvement to the current Prius is thought of as a threat... since apparently in their world, there's no place for more than one type of plug-in hybrid. Don't you love how some have become so close-minded?
$2.85 Per Gallon. Totally unexpected, the price of
gas suddenly shot up. That was odd. Maybe it had something to do
with supply from the holiday weekend a few days ago. It could have had
an affect. The price of oil has been stable, staying in the mid-70's
for months now. Whatever the cause, it was quite a surprise to see
$2.85 at the pump this evening. That caught me off guard. Think
it phased anyone else? How much do others care? It's common to
not want to know. Many uncontrollable expenses are simply paid upon
demand then quickly forgotten. That has always been a problem for the
promotion of Prius. People had no idea how much the cost of gas
influenced the overall money they had available. However, observation
of the past suggests $3 per gallon is a tipping point. Awareness is
triggered then. (Panic comes at $4.) Hopefully, that won't
happen again. But seeing $2.85 here means $3 appearances elsewhere in
the country. Will this further sour the appeal for guzzlers? SUV
size is considerably smaller nowadays.
Preparing For The Future.
10 years today, it's my anniversary. For an entire decade, I've been
driving Prius. 4 different models: Classic (2000), Iconic (2004), the
2010, and for a few days the PHV (2012 plug-in). It was amazing to see
the technology evolve just as we had hoped. Each model delivered
greater efficiency and cleaner emissions. Yet, some still attempt to
claim the only reason to purchase was just "to make a statement" rather than
actually being green. Some still sight gas saving "payback"
impossibilities too. After all this time, it's quite clear some have
become desperate, seeing how much Prius has become a common sight on the
road. The convenience of it being a midsize hatchback should be enough
to make the practical argument obvious. But some are still in denial
though... hoping to somehow hold back progress. Reality is, that
current 3 percent marketshare here represents a solid foundation to easily
expand upon. Prius has proven the FULL hybrid is an affordable &
reliable choice that delivers worthwhile MPG improvement. Spend more
to get the plug option, you'll see a significant efficiency boost.
Those are what consumers will flock if gas should suddenly rise again;
otherwise, it will be the slow replacement cycle as traditional vehicles
age. Whatever the case, purchases continue. There are more
owners each day. Just think what it will be like 10 years from now.
Data Dismissal. It has become blatant. I got this today from one of the more stubborn Volt enthusiasts: "Please don't refer to your real-world data. Your personal info is only valid for you, not the rest of the world." Doesn't that establish a wonderful precedent? Imagine when Volt driving reports start to come in. You can just arbitrarily ignore facts. When you only present certain information, it's called "cherry picking". I'm not sure if this behavior has a term. Being selective and doing things to intentionally mislead is called "greenwashing". So, we'll stick with that. Here's my response to that sad attempt: Dismissal of real-world data like that is hardly constructive. Anyone could do the same thing. You unplug the car. Drive to a destination. Drive to another destination. Drive home… A good mix of speeds and a large chunk of the miles after depleted will yield results well above the non-plug model. It's not rocket-science. Overall efficiency benefits from the extra electricity.
Progressively More. Do you think consumers will look
upon the plug-in option for Prius as the next natural step for the
technology? That PHV model resembles the non-plug models remarkable
well. EV becomes automatic and used far more often. MPG shots
off the scale, literally. In fact, keeping the display maximum at 99.9
helps maintain the perspective within the scope owners are currently
accustom to. Going forward it could too. Toyota may add another
7 miles of capacity (another sub-pack) later. They may simply lower
the floor back down to the flush level as energy density increases.
Both may happen. We don't know. But what we can count on is the
easy adoption of small steps. I don't see the transition as that big
of a deal. Heck, it's easy to envision many plugging in their car at
night. Plugging in mobile devices has become routine. Expecting
progressively more as the years go on is common now. Notice how well
that has worked for the computer industry. The trick was getting
consumers to think about the potential in the first place. Prius has
done that well.