Personal Log #480
September 19, 2010 - October 2, 2010
Last Updated: Mon. 10/04/2010
page #479 page #481 BOOK INDEX
Vague Statements. You know trouble is brewing for
Volt when statements like this are made:
"Unusually cool or hot climates will require 8 1/2 to recharge at 120V.
It will be common to return to your garage with battery range remaining."
Nothing good can come from something so horribly vague. What does cool
or hot mean? Those are relative measures. Many in the south
considers 32°F (0°C) cold.
Many in the north (like myself) consider that a balmy Spring day, when we
look for an excuse to do something outside. The freezing-point affects
Li-Ion chemistry, altering its behavior... hence the need for warming.
We see temperatures below that for weeks at a time. That's not
unusual. In fact, it's normal for any states with snow-cover each year.
And what does "common" actually mean? That gives no
indication of frequency. It doesn't tell you how much either.
Don't you love when enthusiasts attempt to present information lacking in
Comparison Chart. The blatant greenwashing has begun. How else would you judge the claim that only 15 gallons of gas will be used per year from driving 15,000 miles with a Volt? In response to seeing such nonsense, published clearly on a chart comparing Volt to Prius and Leaf, I posted this: What reason would justify the use of an ideal, especially when the "under normal conditions & design parameters" qualifier is clearly not representative of actual driving? For 40 AER (miles of All Electric Range) to be possible, the Heater, Defroster, and A/C could never been used. How realistic is that? Here in Minnesota, we require heat all throughout the Winter. Down in states like Arizona, they require cooling all throughout the Summer. And anytime of the year anywhere, you're going to need the defrost to remove condensation from the inside of windows. All that requires electricity. Somewhere between 20 to 25 percent of your range will be used for those comfort/safety needs instead. Implying you'll always get 40 AER is totally unrealistic.
$81.58 Per Barrel. I hadn't checked the price of oil in awhile. With gas prices so stable, it was quite a surprise to discover a barrel was now selling for over $80. I wonder why. Hmm? We know insurance premiums for drilling will be going up next year. Perhaps policies are renewing now and the entire industry is already taking a hit from it. Whatever the case, the days of cheap gas are long gone. As the guzzlers age, it's hard to imagine people wanting to replace them with another vehicle delivering such poor MPG. The dinosaurs are finally dying. To think that we so recently lived through the ending of an era. Of course, now we have to deal with the consequences of that past. Good thing Prius revealed other choices were available.
11,394 Sold. That was the total for last month
here. It's lower than hoped, but still fairly realistic. Prius
is outselling each top-10 large SUV by a wide margin. Compared to the
top-10 midsize SUVs, the quantity of Prius ends up in almost at the very
top. For compact, it's the middle. That's quite a contrast from
the past, when the SUV was king in sales counts. Of course, all the
disingenuous claims of the past didn't earn any merit anyway... especially
the size nonsense. Where the rest of the world referred to size with
respect to seating room, they considered it a matter of height. How is
that constructive? In the end, the designed proved a safety
compromise. Add that to the emission & efficiency penalty, they'd be
lucky to hope for the solid sales Prius sees now. Just think what will
happen when the economy recovers... Don't expect gas to be any
cheaper. Instead, there will be even more hybrids to choose from and
real-world data proving some are a very a good buy.
Volt Test-Drives. Remember what Toyota did back in 2003? Supposedly, GM will be doing the same thing... offering the opportunity to drive their newest high-efficiency vehicle prior to rollout to ordinary consumers. Toyota selected 15 cities across the United States. GM only 12. That in itself stirred negative response. The topic of speed never came up though. That really intrigued me. The problem all along has been that people have not had the opportunity to simply take Volt out on the open road. All test-drive experiences were within a small, closed tracks. That appears to be the situation with these events too. What's the point if you barely get above 30 MPH? Heck, at the Toyota events, we got to drive along in regular traffic. For me, it was a journey through downtown St. Paul, then out onto the highway. We didn't get to go that far. But it was extremely realistic, since there were no cones or barriers.
Gallons Per Year. Ultimately, that's what it boils down to from the efficiency perspective. Electricity can come from clean & renewable sources. Gas is primarily oil based. Oil dependency is a problem. The measure of how much you use has been a problem. MPG is very misleading. Over a year ago, I started collecting daily-driving data. Knowing each day varied far more than estimates people had presented, I wanted to find out if there was any pattern. None emerged. The variety of driving... to the store... to friends... to entertainment... simply wasn't routine by any measure. So, what I ended up doing was taking all 365 days and applying the same formula to each individually. The results were captivating. Using the same standard 15,000-mile annual scale as the EPA, it suggests the configuration of Volt will consume 89 gallons per year. That's far more gas than devote enthusiasts ever promote... whom I can see becoming antagonists once real-world data finally becomes available. The quantity falls significantly if you drive less. It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to see that they'll want to quote less than the EPA standard for that very reason. That's why measurement like this will be so important to know.
9.3 Gallons. Final pieces of the Volt puzzle are now emerging. Confirming the size of the gas tank was something that especially peaked interest. Why so much capacity for a vehicle that will rarely use it and is supposedly extremely efficient, especially if there's concern about old gas? But if the feared 32 MPG really were true, there's a tolerable minimum between refills on a busy day of travel and the original 6-gallon tank simply wouldn't be enough. 9.3 gallons would offer about 250 miles between refills, a reasonable distance. Is that why the size was chosen? How will consumers react to MPG like that? Will the EV-range exclusively be the draw, based on enthusiast claims that CS-mode efficiency is a non-issue? What about the newest apparent discovery that "Sport" mode gets extra power by running the engine? And of course, how much gas will be used for cold-start warming and the heater? In other words, each new bit of information raises more questions than it answers. Ugh.
Delivery & Hype. Pointing out how long it took from production begin to first delivery of Two-Mode resulted in hostile responses. They reality of 2 to 3 extras months for Volt was more than some could stand to hear. So, they shot the messenger. This new advisory board could help to ease that pain, giving enthusiasts something to discuss in the meantime. Does that mean the hype will finally simmer down? A few still honestly believe 60 MPG is realistic, embracing the idea of a very expensive transmission to achieve that. Not being competitive and still requiring a plug make Prius supporters wonder what the goal actually is. Mainstream consumers don't chase trophies; their purchases come from affordable choices that offer a nice balance of vehicle aspects... not heavy emphasis on a few particular traits. Delivery of demo models will surely result in very favorable test-drive experiences. But what about the price? What about those who don't have a 220-volt connection or even a 110 available? What about those who drive more than 12,000 miles per year? What about the affects of Heater and A/C use? What about those not interesting in or intimidated by the display-screen driving interface? What about interior size? What about reliability & resale? What about service? The transition from hype to reality begins with that first delivery. Are the enthusiasts well prepared to deal with the feedback?
Advisory Board. Hype thrives on uncertainty. GM
milked it for all they could with Volt, leaving fundamental questions
unanswered for very long times. The final remaining is, by no
surprise, the most important... how efficient is the engine when running to
generate electricity? There's nothing new about the SERIES hybrid.
Many have researched them. No automaker ever found it efficient enough
to compete though, even with the aid of a battery. GM itself, during
Two-Mode development, repeatedly pointed out how direct-drive would result
in higher MPG than first generating that energy from the engine to
electricity. Since then, we've been waiting to find out what their
stance is? Turns out, they've chosen 15 independent voices to do the
speaking instead. Just like Toyota's feedback program, GM will be
loaning out cars for outsiders to drive and report about. But rather
than 600 worldwide over a span of 1.5 years, they'll apparently just offer
15 for 3 months. However, these particular individuals are well known
EV enthusiasts. So, what they have to say should be very interesting.
Of course, they don't represent the typical consumer. But at least
we'll get some real-world data from this and well informed commentary.
New Prius. Photos of a new Prius with a raised cargo area (one black and one silver, indicating two separate vehicles) from two different sources circulated the internet today. Some articles label them as a minivan. Why? The distinguishing characteristic, something unique to vans, wasn't present. How could it be a van of any size without sliding doors? If all that differed was a flat roof rather than tapered, it's a wagon. Perhaps the Crossover verses SUV nonsense has consumers confused now. After all, calling a SUV a "car" never made any sense. Yet, the industry's marketing push to get them to be recognized as something other than being a truck was successful. Anywho, it was a wagon option... just like we've with both Corolla & Camry in the past. This wasn't the new hybrid coming next Spring either. Why would people think that when Toyota specifically said it would be bigger and come with a larger engine? I guess it confirms interest in Prius is strong still, seeing how new photos stir so much interest.
Battery-Pack Recall. With all the negative sentiment already, I can only imagine how this news is going to stir emotion even more. Subdued reaction is the best we can hope for, I guess. Needless to say, this is really bad timing for GM. All 25,813 BAS hybrids ever produced will be having their battery-pack recalled due to the potential of a chemical leak. But rather than adding a simple preventative sealant like Toyota did with the Classic model Prius, this requires replacement. The difference is Toyota's was external, only affecting the outside of the cell, the connector. GM's is internal, where a leak would damage the cell itself. Since there's no way to add a preventative sealant and damage would impact the EPA efficiency & emissions measurement, the only course of action is to replace. Problem is, batteries are in extremely short supply. That's been an industry problem for years. But with BAS, it's not even in production anymore. How do you replace that many packs for a discontinued product?
Excuses. Looks like getting away from the Volt hype is becoming a greater challenge than expected. Upon reveal of the price, any remaining trace of logic vanished. More and more, the enthusiasts focus on aspects of performance... old school appeal... acceleration... handling. Concerns of emissions aren't just pushed aside with some demeaning comment. Talk of efficiency, the only remaining unknown, are responded to with excuses. It's pretty bad. They'd tend to make sense if the rest of the automotive community didn't exist. Waiting for the EPA estimates to avoid another "230 MPG" backlash would seem reasonable, if there weren't so many EV range estimates already. But consumers researching a purchase only use estimates as basic starter information anyway. They seek real-world data for decision making. Waiting until after rollout begins seems like pointless delay... unless there's an IPO involved in the meantime. Hmm? Needless to say, attempts to be reasonable end up with excuse responses... despite the continuous flow of PHV deliveries for long-term testing and public reporting of results. To today's excuse (remembering the "Freedom Drive" publicity stunt), I simply chimed in with this: There's nothing stopping GM from sighting real-world driving results. In fact, it's common for pre-rollout test-drives to sight efficiency observations.
Retrofit. The obsolete argument primarily stems from not being aware of the past. Many in support of Volt clearly didn't study history. Evidence of that is overwhelming with all the parallels to Two-Mode surprising them. Disbelief that cost would be neglected to such a degree is the best example. What good is a highly efficient vehicle that's too expensive to appeal to the mainstream? They look down upon the PHV model Prius as a retrofit, that somehow engineers struggled to figure out how to add a plug after the fact. They have no idea that the very first ever produced actually came with a plug. That idea was abandoned due to cost and minimal benefit, but it clearly shows that the idea had been considered in the original design. Further proof is all the posts during early rollout here mentioning the "sweet spot". Owners had observed efficiency optimization for the speed of 100 km/h. And sure enough, when the Iconic model was rolled out in 2003, we could see that the PSD was capable of keeping the engine motionless at speeds all the way up to 100 km/h. Poor battery-density of the time combined with excessive cost kept that ability from being utilized though. There were concerns of reliability too. Using a PSD for the anticipated 180,000 mile lifetime that way had never been attempted. So, the wait for the next generation was required. In 2010, the ability to support a plug became obvious. There was a bigger traction motor and the RPM tolerances had been increased, providing a nice durability buffer. An affordable type of battery providing enough density had emerged by then too. Why couldn't an even bigger traction motor and even greater tolerances (in the form different gear ratios) be available in the next generation? How can they claim superiority when the competition continues to deliver improvements... especially when the priority of cost is taken so seriously?
My Understanding Is. All you have to do is qualify a
greenwashing statement with that, right? Some seem to think so.
No matter how many times you point out the correct information, some
conveniently miss ever seeing it. You know that's a crock. But
pretending that detail was never available is easy when there's a daily blog
where posting ends the next day. On a forum, threads remain active for
years or get stirred back up from the past from a newbie search.
That's not possible with a daily blog though. A new entry can easily
go unnoticed due to the consecutive nature of each thread. There's
nothing to draw attention to it after the day has past... quite unlike a
forum. This is why so much hype has been able to thrive. This is
why comments with "my understanding is" continue to emerge from
daily posters. Challenging them doesn't do any good either. The
response is usually either spin to distract or some other topic to bury.
They just make something up, then repeat it from time to time, hoping others
will believe that as truth. Watch for it, especially with the
qualifier. Noticing a pattern means you've discovered a greenwashing