Personal Log #481
October 3, 2010 - October 10, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #480 page #482 BOOK INDEX
Wake-Up Call. One can hope what's happening at this
very moment with Volt is enough. It likely isn't. Odds are, they'll twist
the situation so bad that effort of the past will be lost in the
confusion... ultimately resulting in a step backward without any idea how to
proceed. After all, dismissing observations by others typically
divides supporters. Then you have to start asking questions of
purpose. Since that was never clear in the first place, it can only be
worse later from a design too expensive and not efficient enough.
Looking back at this time 2 years from now, it should be clear. Right
now, it is anything but. Anywho, I contributed this to the pretty much
chaotic situation, which no one will likely respond to: There has been
significant resistance to becoming an ally, in the past.
The effort to replace traditional production quickly was pushed aside in
favor of bragging rights.
Is the reality of CS-mode efficiency enough to change those
attitudes? Or is something else still needed, like much higher gas prices or
the expiration of the tax credits?
Amazing Denial. I'm blown away how some still deny the data. It's truly amazing, not surprising though. They have much to lose, after all. Here's the charge-sustaining detail that's become the source of ensuing battles: "We computed the fuel economy after the battery was depleted, both on our city loop and the highway trip. In the city, we recorded 31.67 mpg and achieved 36.0 mpg on the highway. If we factor in the distance traveled on the battery's energy the fuel economy jumps to 37.5 mpg city and 38.15 mpg highway." How it was measured is the biggest argument to emerge, so far. That seems silly. It's not rocket-science. In fact, capturing that data is no big deal. This is what I posted in response to this nonsense on the big GM forum: You connect a gauge to the ODB-II port after depletion, reset it, do some city driving, note the MPG, reset it again, do some highway driving, note the MPG.
Real-World Observations. It hit the fan this morning,
just a few seconds after the strike of midnight. The date... 10-10-10
...just happens to be when Toyota is celebrating the sale of 2,000,000 Prius
around the world and when GM allowed real-world observations of CS-mode
efficiency for Volt to be published. Needless to say, it's been a
crazy morning. Spin is abundant. Goal posts are being moved.
Targets are being denied. The other shoe dropped. It's quite the
mess. The article from Popular Mechanics states their measure at 32 City and 36
Highway. MPG that low for CS-mode (after the battery has been
depleted) is what many enthusiasts have regretted, hoping somehow the much
boasted target of 50 would somehow be delivered. To add more pain to
the suffering, their observation of EV range was only 33 miles. So...
what happens now? Is stating 35 MPG and 40 Miles realistic for
consumption calculations? It will be very interesting to see how this
all plays out over the next few days.
From Hyundai. The Sonata-Hybrid is getting closer.
Today started out with more discussion about it, but no new information.
Like the PHV model Prius, it has a top electric-only speed of 100 km/h (62.1 MPH). That
probably makes more sense elsewhere in the world. But heck, there are
quite a few roads around here that have a speed limit of 60 MPH or less.
I can easily get to work and back on those roads, several choices of route
too. Anywho, this is what I contributed to what actually seem to be a
discussion with potential to be constructive. As you could have
guessed, it wasn't on a GM forum or blog...
30 kW (40.2 hp) electric motor to propel a 3,457 pound vehicle?
For sustaining speed, it should be realistic. There would be plenty of
opportunities during a typical drive to take advantage of that.
It's not powerful enough for suburb acceleration like the PHV model Prius
easily delivers with its 60 kW electric motor though. It also begs the
question of liquid cooling being available. Since without that, it would
likely overheat from continuous use.
Good Business. Sometimes, you just want to shout out
words that serve no purpose other than to vent. Fortunately, I don't
have to. Rather than express emotion on the heated blogs, I save it up
for here where it far easier to just calmly think through the situation
logically. After all, logic doesn't make too many appearances when it
comes to Volt. Especially on the daily topics, there's a lot of
passion... and it's all with respect to engineering. In other words,
we're seeing the transition from horsepower to kilowatts. The same
obsession with speed & power from guzzlers is now emerging from electric
drive. Put another way, the enthusiasts can't tell the difference (or
just refuse to) between need & want. Today though, there was an effort
to distract from engineering entirely in the favor of flag-waving instead.
Supposedly, the position GM is in now was the result of politics. Hmm?
I remember a particular campaign scare tactic claiming hybrids would cause
the loss of jobs in Detroit. Turns out, quite the opposite is
happening. New efficiency technologies are creating them. No
wonder they call it a game, with lots of excuses. Regardless, the point is
to run a profitable business and
apparently need to keep reminding them:
Political claims often don't hold up to engineering.
For example, the PHV capacity can be be augmented simply by plugging in
additional sub-packs. That design flexibility offers a unique way to
Product diversity is good business.
Beneficial Reaction. There's much uncertainty for Volt. Quite a bit of disappoint has arisen from price and dealer allocation. Enthusiast opinions are split about CS-mode efficiency. In fact, that's becoming a polarizing issue. Reaction, so far, has been far from beneficial. Lots of arguing hurts everyone. All the effort to work these issues out before now wasn't enough. Niche desire doesn't equate to mainstream appeal. So in a way, it was doomed from the start. Though, there was hope that some would cause a change of priorities. No such luck. Even the outcome of replacing executives wasn't enough influence. Oh well. Here's what I posted on the blog today... So after years of hearing "no need to worry" since GM will supposedly doing the very same thing that Toyota did, turns out they actually won't. Too make matters worse, we're seeing a remarkable parallel to the troubled rollout of Two-Mode from both automaker & supporters. Knowing many plans are already laid out and unable to be changed, what do you suggest? Thoughts about being far more clear about consumer expectations seems to be the best course of action, at this point. Of course, that means a consensus here about specific goals. Sending anything but a unified message will be counterproductive.
Posting Facts. Today was truly amazing. It marked the effective collapse of the daily blog for Volt. That pretty much puts in right on schedule. We saw the very same thing with Two-Mode during that transition from enthusiast to supporter just prior to production beginning. Reaction was negative to posts stating nothing but a fact. It happened over and over again. Seeing such close-mindedness to opinion-less information marks that strikingly undeniable sign of change. For history to repeat like this, I'm shocked. You wouldn't expect the same mistakes to be allowed again, especially after a bankruptcy. But there it is. Unfolding at this very, we're seeing an awakening. The reactions from those wanting to support the new technology are the same as what we saw before... they don't like the facts and respond with emotion rather than constructively. Whether or not they'll continue down that path is anyone's guess.
Supposedly, they've skyrocketed lately. That's what the headlines lead
you to believe anyway. In reality, it's the same old use of percentage
statistics rather than actual quantity. We've seen this type of
greenwashing many times in the past. Knowing the numbers tells an
entirely different story... Jetta Diesel: Sept = 4,841 and YTD =
32,338; Prius: Sept = 11,394 and YTD = 103,334. Sales of the one
are clearly well above that of the other, not the impression they attempted
to convey. Can you believe such nonsense? Sadly, spin like that
is common. When profit & reputation are at stake, don't be surprised
by statistical misleading like that. The problem most often
encountered is cherry-picking, watch for it. They select very specific
data to compare rather than looking at the big picture. Think about
how inventory fluctuates. It's easy to misrepresent, making you think
a trend is permanent. Check the YTD (Year To Date) quantity is an easy
way to avoid that. Don't rely on percentages. Diesel is
struggling against the continually improving hybrid technology.
75 MPG. The trend seems
to be that Toyota is attempting to validate the thought of the PHV model
Prius delivering a 25 MPG efficiency boost. After all, how do you
market a vehicle where the efficiency can potentially vary far more than
traditional vehicles... which still have an efficiency understanding problem
of their own? A friend who had one recently for 6 days ended up
driving 551.5 miles with it. The resulting average was an amazing 74.8
MPG. The reported driving-ratio was 33% in EV and 67% in HV.
That appears to fit the hope of 75 being the median expectation.
They've been looking for some type of realistic generalization. The
only way to achieve that is to allow a wide variety of people to drive it.
And in this case, his experience included a 350-mile trip. Taking that
into account, knowing there wasn't an opportunity to plug in during that
trip, the efficiency looks especially good. A solid 75 for the typical
owner would be fantastic. Of course, I'm still thinking the 80 MPG
that I observed will be realistic for those who are able to favor the EV
more... some even higher. It all depends upon how frequent you are
able to plug-in. That's where having the driving-ratio displayed comes
in handy. It should prove to be quite informative.
Balance. Impression verses reality can be a
rude awakening. In fact, the bad feeling you are left with is what has
been fueling the fire for "troll" callouts. In other words, shot the
messenger if you don't like the message. Needless to say, the Volt
enthusiasts were particularly pleased with my response to this innocent
question: "I would expect the
engine to remain off in all weather until the battery drops to 30%
state-of-charge. GM is claiming the Volt is an EV with a range-extender. Not
an EV with a gas heater!" Here's how I responded to it,
trying to point out the important of engineering balance:
Think about battery-pack longevity. Think about how Li-Ion chemistry
responds differently when its temperature is below freezing. Think about the
wait for the heater to warm you.
After sitting outside in a parking lot all day while at work with the
temperature well below freezing, a routine situation in the northern states,
not having a plug available means warmth for the battery to fully operate
and for your comfort will come from the engine... regardless of
Practical balance takes precedence over an absolute, like avoiding gas
consumption regardless of the situation.
Mainstream. I stopped by the parts department at my
Toyota dealer today. This particular location has that as a separate
building, in back across the street. That's where they store all the
extra inventory. The made it overwhelming clear... Prius has
undeniably become mainstream. There were about 30 of them lined up.
It was a sight just like the Corollas and Camry. You get a decent
selection to choose from now. As great as the rapid turnover in the
past had been, that choice is better. It never hurts when there's a
peak in gas prices either. There can be much to gain when being well
prepared. And the pinch of a wallet can often provide that added
incentive needed to finally take a test-drive. Anywho, that sight was
a long time in the making. I still clearly remember a decade earlier,
where delivery of a single Prius was a huge event. They were quite
rare for a long time. Even seeing another on the road was unusual.
Now they are so common, you spot quite a few every time you go for a drive.
PNGV Achieved. None of us had realized the
situation until today. The same proud Prius support who coined the
"Iconic" label gets credit for being first to notice this achievement... the
goals set out by PNGV (Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles). Remember it
from way back in 1993? Automakers were challenged to deliver
a clean & affordable family-sized car that would deliver 80 MPG. Turns
out, that's exactly what I averaged from my time with the PHV model Prius.
Mission Accomplished! Though it's not actually available yet, the
platform is already being produced in high-volume. We're just waiting
for those darn better batteries. But the way things like, Toyota will
likely be the official first anyway. Ford's not too far behind either.
This is the kind of change they envisioned all those years ago. Of
course, none probably realized how much longer it would take to achieved
those goals. I'm sure they all hoped for much sooner. Oh well. At least it's happening now.
PZEV Emission Rating. The final 1.5 miles of driving a PHV model Prius using the EV sub-pack closely resembles HV driving after depletion. The reason for this is to pre-warm the emission-system. Heat is needed for exhaust cleansing. It's one of the ways of delivering the PZEV emission rating. The other is an engine that runs cleaner than usual. Toyota achieves this by using the Atkinson-Miller pumping cycle rather than Otto. It's a tradeoff that sacrifices power for the sake of efficiency. The emission benefit comes from a more thorough combustion opportunity. For Volt, GM apparently just waits until depletion before firing up the engine. The cold usage combined with Otto shows a difference of priorities. Makes you wonder what, if any, design was specific to heat retention. This is a big deal for Prius. It allows the heater to continue pumping out heat and keep the emission-system from cooling even while stuck in heavy Winter traffic with the engine off. What did GM do for Volt to deal with that same situation?
Fans. That label was included as part of an insult to Volt enthusiasts. After reading it, I looked upon it inquisitively. All along, they've acted like the crowd... cheering on GM efforts with Volt development. Even though some of that was for unrealistic goals, the positive attitude did serve as an encouraging force. However, that's about to change as production begins. Rollout will confirm that some have no intention to actually buy one. They'll simply remain part of the crowd who continues to cheer. That makes them fans, not participants. A profound insight, eh? Voting with your wallet sends a powerful message. Exclaiming support but not actually doing anything is quite different. Looks like calling someone a "fan" is an appropriate term after all.
Understanding Technology. How many will simply make assumptions and not discover their error for years? How long did it take for a decent understanding of Prius take? Those vague statements will likely go on for years. Since most people discussing vehicles aren't shopping for a new one at the time anyway, it's really easy for lead them astray. You see that in great abundance at auto shows. They get excited about something they wouldn't have any interest in actually purchasing. Price has been the biggest deterrent in the past. With gas still "relatively" cheap and little concern for our dependence or the environment, selling any type of high-efficiency vehicle poses a challenge. There's a variety of competition now too, quite unlike the past. So... what does that mean for understanding the technology itself? Will an explanation of abilities distract from the realities? Most people don't think about how much energy it takes to keep the heater running when stuck in heavy traffic caused by a fresh snowfall... nor do they want to. Many simply tolerate, since choice was never available. Since MPG estimates were always misleading, how do you add electricity to the equation?