Personal Log #483
October 12, 2010 - October 17, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #482 page #484 BOOK INDEX
How Many? A few days ago, a report was published stating that particular Volt delivered 127 MPG after driving a total of 299 miles. The measured fuel consumption was 2.36 gallons... which they made a big deal out of. Ok. So... How many times was the vehicle plugged in? Comments were posted. A few asked the same question... waiting for what never appeared, an answer. It's nice knowing what potential the system has to offer. But without any context, it cannot be portrayed as an expectation. Lack of any response makes you wonder what the intent was. Everyone is yearning to read about more CS-mode efficiency observations. This particular report intentionally avoided that. I guess that's what separates reporting from journalism.
How Often? Sometimes even the antagonists make you think. In this case, it's the importance they place on the ability to drive exclusively using electricity at speeds faster than 100 km/h (62.1 MPH). How often do you actually do that? I have multiple routes available to work. The only one which exceeds that speed is congested pretty heavy if I drive during regular commute hours, so travel is slower anyway. Most of the time, I don't bother. I leave later to avoid that mess. But on days I need to be to work earlier or simply when weather is bad, I take one of the other routes instead. They allow me to get all the way to work without ever exceeding that speed. When home, those trips to the store, to see family, to get food or coffee, for entertainment or recreation are mostly on roads that don't exceed that limit either. So on a regular basis, it won't matter. For those times that it will, the heavy electric assist provides a significant boost anyway. In other words, I can't see how the real-world data we'll see will support the "vastly superior" claims.
Twisting Intent. Not all are reversing their stance. Some prefer to shot the messenger instead. That's sad, but all too true now. By twisting the intent of those clearly stating goals, they can confuse matters enough to make it seem as though there's an agenda to harm rather than to help. We've this this all before. It's nothing new. In fact, it's the indicator to look for as confirmation that they've noticed how much water their boat has taken on. Anywho, I don't want to poke them with a stick anymore, having seen the indicator. I just moved on with these words: So... you're saying wanting Volt to become a mainstream vehicle is perverting it? I can accept that. Reducing power & capacity to make an affordable model of Volt for the masses would indeed upset the people here. After all, common everyday vehicles rarely get the kind of attention they thrive on. Notice how detail is avoided by simply dismissing credibility. Also notice how the business aspect is never discussed beyond just reputation. It's always a focus on engineering alone for bragging rights. Whatever. There's a market for Volt anyway. In fact, it will likely do well as a niche vehicle. But the point is to replace traditional production. Gas is no longer cheap. Time has run out. One size does not fit all.
Complete Reversal. Some of us are enjoying the 180-degree turn the Volt enthusiasts are now taking, a complete reversal of their previous stance. At the end of June this year, just 3.5 months ago, they freaked out in response to a remark in an article made about connecting the gas engine directly to the drivetrain. It was the first time "direct-drive" had been taken seriously. Until then, they just dismissed any claims of losses from energy conversion. They simply recited the "optimal RPM" theory over and over again. All of a sudden, there was reason to doubt. Efficiency may not be as good as they had hoped after all. But due to circumstantial timing, that "Freedom Drive" abruptly drew attention away. Was that really a coincidence or an intentional diversion? Whatever the case, controversy exploded from that too... since CS-mode efficiency from the 1776-mile trip was never shared, the very thing we thought was purpose of that publicity event. Needless to say, the enthusiasts did their best to sweep all the comments contrary to their prior beliefs under the carpet. Out of sight, out of mind. They considered the matter closed... until a few days ago... when they were proven incorrect. Volt really does use direct-drive. Now, they're scrambling to give the impression that this was an option all along, something they never opposed... claiming it's just a matter of semantics anyway. That's quite insincere... but it is progress.
Lowering Standards. It was pretty amazing watching the guzzler advertisements switch from 40 to 30 MPG. That was what the industry decided to portray as "impressive" efficiency. It was a terrible reflection on our priorities. But since so many still wanted to guzzle without guilt, it was accepted. Seeing how effective that was, it came as no surprise when GM changed their second-year production intent from 60,000 to 30,000. So, later increasing it to 45,000 would give you an impression of a 50% increase. Forgetting that it was higher in the first place is a problem for both the media & consumers. Neither makes much of an effort to research either. So, the standard is lowered. People like me are considered troublemakers, since we point out the deception by keeping good notes about what actually happened and when. Too bad our society in general is so accepting. They inherently trust what they read and are told. So, now we're stuck waiting for the next generation Volt rather than this one delivering what had originally been promised. Arrgh!
Typical Driver. I see reports on a regular basis from new owners not doing anything special getting over 50 MPG from their Prius. It confirms that my average is representative of others, since I don't do anything special either. I've always followed the JUST DRIVE IT motto. True, I do try to keep my short trips to a minimum, check tire-pressure on a regular basis, and have recently begun blocking the grille. But none have anything to do with the driving itself and they'd all show some degree of efficiency influence regardless of what you drive. The point is, those who favor Volt insist 50 MPG is impossible unless you use some hypermiling techniques. I don't. That's why I can so strongly endorse the efficiency claims. Heck, those routine trips carrying the bikes on back up north and the hostile season we call "Winter" here in Minnesota provide quite the firsthand experiences to demonstrate how effective the hybrid system in Prius really is. The same could end up being true for Volt, but the refusal to accept real-world data for Prius makes it very difficult to accept anything hyped about Volt. Show me the data... and lots of it.
Stating Goals. All that effort in the past to get them to state goals was well worth it. Then, they absolutely refused to. Now, they deny having stated any goals would have made a difference anyway. It's just more of the same twisting we saw with Two-Mode... dancing around detail for the sake of making a good impression. You can't be held accountable if all you ever say is vague & ambiguous. Image plays a major role in the decision making, rather than actual progress. That's sad. It does give you that feeling of comfort though, especially after reading nonsense like this: "The goals: Provide the bridge until EVs have significant range in all vehicle classes. Prove that performance and energy efficiency do not have to be inversely proportional. Decrease gas usage by an order of magnitude for many drivers. In short, define the future of automobile propulsion." I was amazed to read such dribble. That could mean anything. In fact, that could apply to a wide variety of technologies. Anywho, I replied with this: Avoiding numeric measure is a dead giveaway of a problem. Goals don't state relative factors like that. They define specific quantities, providing indicators of success. For example: 40-mile EV range; nicely under $30,000; 50 MPG during CS-mode; 60,000 sales in year 2; AT-PZEV emission rating.
Diluted Purpose. Remember on the daily blog
for Volt, where enthusiasts were constantly in fear of Volt being thought of
as having anything in common with Prius? That's exactly what they're
dealing with now. GM did it's best to avoid focusing attention on
those particular aspects of Volt operation. But now that those details
are available, the inevitable happened. Volt is clearly not an EV,
it's a hybrid... a "parallel" type similar to Prius.
This is the very reason why none of the "50 MPG" arguments went anywhere.
If Volt really did offer that level of efficiency in CS-mode, why not reduce
the battery size by 250 pounds to offer a more affordable and even more
efficient model which doesn't require a plug? That was the ultimate
in product diversity. Yet, none of the enthusiasts ever wanted to
discuss that option. It was an indication of something being wrong.
Why wouldn't GM do that? It would be a great opportunity to capitalize
on the design to benefit both technologically & financially. The only
real response ever was that the suggestion was really only an attempt by
Prius supporters to dilute the
purpose of Volt, then simply dismiss the person asking as a troll.
Credibility. I got an invitation to participate in Volt discussions on the big GM forum. Little did they know how well prepared I was. In the past, I had repeatedly asked what the goals of Volt were... Who was the market? How many would be produced in the second year? What is the price target? Questions like that over and over again were making them crazy. Now, it was opportunity to recite back to them their very own responses. Immediately it turned into a slew of personal attacks, digging all the way back to the first posts in January 2007. They desperately needed to shut me up quickly, distort my credibility so no one would listen. Needless to say, I had studied the situation well. Preparing for what's unfolding at this very moment really paid off. All those years of blogging, an act that required me to review what had just happened and clearly document it, turned out to be an excellent use of time. The effort was far from the "trolling" they claimed. I studied the situation. They dismissed it as undermining. Turns out, it wasn't... and they are having an extremely difficult time denying it.
Ever Changing Story.
With the typical lack of detail comes confusion, speculation, and
misunderstanding. That's putting it mildly for Volt, which you can add a
sense of frustration to as well. Needless to say, we discovered more to feed
the "hybrid" controversy today. Too bad GM wasn't just straight with us
about the design in the first place. Anywho, it turns out that the
direct-drive is available at speeds slower than 70 MPH in CS-mode, all the
way down to 30 MPH in fact. Some had
begun to suspect a efficiency/power benefit then, especially with
hard-acceleration and when climbing hills. It makes sense. That
type of discussion was extremely challenging to hold though. Thankfully, recent events are
changing that. They have more of a Prius and less of an EV than hoped. It's
humbling, but constructive.
Vastly Superior, regret. It was immediately clear
that they regretted having provided me with an opportunity to post my
feelings on recent Volt revelations. Their frustration with the
situation was obvious. I only made it worse, rather than providing the
scapegoat they had been hoping for, I recited exactly what they didn't want
to hear. So, I raised the ante to give them at least something to help
move past the unfolding disaster... a dose of reality:
Talk is cheap.
Volt will still use gas. Consumption will be significantly reduced, but the
effects of Winter will be hard to escape. Range will be shorter. The
occasional (routine for those of use here in MN) warm-up via the engine will
be needed. All of it will be with premium gas... yet another not-mainstream
Again, sales are what matter.
Remember all the promises of 60,000 in the second year?
Vastly Superior, called. I was called out. On
the big GM forum, they began to wonder where the Prius guy was. So, I
finally broke the silence with this:
I was patiently waiting for an invitation... It's been fascinating reading
all the spin.
Does Volt provide a nice ride experience? Duh! Of course, that's the
expectation of any car with a base price of $41,000. One "nicely under
$30,000", not so much. That's a mainstream vehicle. Clearly, GM
abandoned that original goal aiming the first generation design into a niche
Is it vastly superior to Prius? The efficiency in CS-mode clearly doesn't
support that long-boasted claim. Heck, the much lower than originally
promised MPG doesn't even help to achieve a PZEV emission-rating. So, the
answer is no.
Criteria like the whether or not Volt had direct-drive really didn't ever
mean much either. Though, I did find some satisfaction from the purists
abruptly screeching their banter to a halt. Arguing semantics never was
What I always wanted from GM with Volt was something in the Malibu/Cruze
zone, not something vastly superior. Why not let capacity increase as it
becomes more affordable? Or why not just offer a second model instead? The
lack of choice is the problem, which is exactly what the "too little, too
slowly" assessment addressed. SALES are the ultimate measure of merit. Lots of people ooh & aah at
autoshows. Voting with their wallet is an entirely different matter. What
will be the reaction of typical consumers?
New From Toyota. Looks like there are 3 new vehicles on the way. You certainly can't accuse Toyota of putting all their eggs in one basket. Sure makes you wonder what the heck GM is going to do. They are heavy pushing "range anxiety" to help promote Volt. Meanwhile, Toyota is planning to join the mix with Ford and a slew of others who have EVs in the works. GM can't, since their campaign leverages on the fear of not having an engine available. Anywho, looks like we'll be hearing about Toyota's upcoming EV next month. Following that will be a larger model Prius, to debut in January. It's that hybrid with a larger engine & interior we've been anticipating. Then we may be hearing about the smaller Prius on the way. Supposedly, it will be Yaris size. Offering choice is great. One size does not fit all, no matter how much we hear "game changer". One vehicle can only prove a technology is viable. It takes a variety for consumers to actually abandon the old in favor of the new.
Purpose. Injecting a little into discussion already
falling hopelessly into a pit of despair challenges sanity.
Enthusiasts basically just want to vent at this point. So much is
unraveling so quickly, they have no idea what to expect anymore. The
purpose of reducing oil consumption should ultimately make them feel better.
But that idea of sharing success with other automakers is quite distasteful
still. I've enjoyed the advances Ford had delivered. They've
co-existed well with Toyota. Why couldn't that work with GM too?
Is pride really that much of a barrier to overcome? Anywho, I followed
up the sensible "purpose" post another had contributed on the daily blog for
Volt with this:
Now that some of the so-called "trolls" have been vindicated, the
superiority bragging is likely to get somewhat worse... then abruptly die.
Everything is playing out exactly the way it did with Two-Mode. The parallel
They know it ultimately boils down to SALES. That brings a drastic
change in attitude & behavior. There's nothing to argue about then.
Whatever replaces traditional production is the winner. Each automaker will
favor a particular technology. But if it only remains a niche, the goal is
not accomplished. It must replace. SALES determine that progress.