Personal Log #487
November 1, 2010 - November 6, 2010
Last Updated: Tues. 11/09/2010
page #486 page #488 BOOK INDEX
Last Stand, standards. Those upcoming CAFE standards loom in the not-too-distant future. That's clearly another reason to push trucks now... quickly, before regulations will restrict such imbalance of responsibility. It goes way beyond offering choice, which is quite lacking in the first place. How the heck will the increase in fleet MPG be achieved by automakers not offering high-efficiency vehicles that don't require a plug? Lots of 50 MPG Prius make it easy. With nothing but 30 MPG cars, what the heck will some do? Think about how other countries take the matter seriously. How come we still don't? Will there end up a small volume of EV to offset the difference? Not bothering with the expense of developing a plug-in hybrid makes that pretty much the only alternative. Resistance to these new standards reveal the same pattern of how automakers fight change to the bitter end. A last stand was inevitable.
Last Stand, trucks. The number of advertisements for them seems to have skyrocketed lately. I wonder why? Since the shortcomings of the SUV have been exposed as bad for the automaker, the consumer, and the country, focus has clearly shifted to pickup ownership. Super-Heavy-Duty is the push. It's attention to horsepower and towing-capacity more extreme than ever. Who needs that? Will we end up seeing them as commute vehicles after awhile? What's going on? I suspect it has quite a bit to do with production & profit. With gas positioned to permanently climb above $3 per gallon, it makes sense that a last stand on unnecessarily large trucks is made. Even if they are only used for utility, the size is overkill. Considerably smaller vehicles could accomplish the same task. With the rise of consumer attention toward efficiency, this as a final effort makes sense. The status quo is crumbling. Change is difficult to deny at this point.
Last Stand, winner. Don't you love how a winner is declared based upon a bragging point rather than something of actual merit? That was what this particular effort attempted with: "The December Motor Trend is reporting 127 MPG for the Volt without trying very hard. Same issue gave the Prius plug-in 70 MPG. Clear winner: VOLT." Again, this was another one of those individuals fighting to the bitter end. In his case, he was a devoted supporter of Michigan. So, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out how Prius rubs him the wrong way. I get a kick out of how the actual goal of producing a high-efficiency vehicle simply gets disregarded. It's all about being better than the competition at the moment. After all, with the upcoming IPO, the immediate future is of huge importance to them. Anywho, I felt the need to call out attention what truly determines a winner: SALES are the measure progress. Don’t lose track of what’s trying to be accomplished. The point is to replace traditional production.
Last Stand, range. A major bragging point for Volt is the fact that the electric-only range is greater. It's a bit of a senseless aspect to focus on, since price is a major influence in the capacity decision... not any type of technical limitation... though Volt is at a major disadvantage compared to Prius when it comes to engine efficiency. Regardless, one particular GM salesperson simply cannot let it go. The situation has become rather amusing, because no one else seems to care anymore. He just wants to make one last stand. You know how it is. Some just want to go down fighting. How could I refuse to respond to this obvious provoke: "It looks like almost all if the automakers will have an EV or PHEV in the next 24 months, but only Toyota has had the foresight to build one with only 12-14 miles AER." That made me wonder if he had forgotten about the announcement coming from Toyota in just a little over a week. Oh well. Whatever. I chimed in with this: Thanks for the heads up. It’s a interesting line up… a variety of no-plug hybrids… a full EV… a plug-in hybrid using sub-packs, so capacity can easily be increased.
Giving Up. When you find out that a moderator from the big GM forum just purchased a Cruze, you cannot resist seeking out a quote from the thread which he announced the purchase. Here's my favorite: "I've long felt that buying a Toyota was a sure sign you've given up on life. That the car defined the drudgery you felt your life had become. That it's an indication that excitement is alien to you and that you prefer drab, boring, emotionless fare." Needless to say, the mindset of insulting the competition rather than actually addressing need is quite prevalent. It's that want verses need problem all over again; however, now it's with a car instead of a SUV. How strange is that when the comparison vehicle is smaller, only offers 6 more horsepower, and is nearly half as efficient as Prius? What happened? Is this the market we face now? With a MPG estimate of just 22/35, you'd think it was still 2000... certainly not 2010. Who's the one that's giving up? At $3 per gallon, it sure looks like those sticking with the status quo are... not someone purchasing technology which utilizes electric motors and a battery-pack.
They Wouldn't Listen. It's been quite an enlightening experience to read the posts on the daily blog for Volt lately. I haven't posted anything since last week. The so-called "troll" activity of others has almost completely vanished. What's the point anymore? It's as if they didn't learn anything. You see the same old ambiguous comments about fuel economy, despite so much more being known now than years ago. They had plenty of opportunity to prevent this. They didn't have to start from scratch all over again upon production starting. All the issues with EPA and CARB were already present back when the concept was first revealed. Yet, only now they are beginning to hear what we've been saying all along. That's the irony of being well informed. You get blamed for causing trouble even though what you're doing is trying to prevent it. Was our effort in vain? Pointing out details of how MPG estimates are measured and how emission-rating is determined fell on deaf ears. Now, that's the very thing they want to better understand. They wouldn't listen. In fact, they ridiculed claims of how that would affect price and consumer demand. Time has run out.
Prius Sales. Toyota's leading fuel-efficiency vehicle
frustrate the competition. How do you compete with a vehicle that has
been the top-seller in Japan for 18 consecutive months? That's amazing
popularity. But what makes that even more impressive is the fact that
there is no longer any government incentive anymore. Yup, the tax
credit expired. That did cause sales to drop. But still selling
21,769 was enough to keep Prius at the number one position. That's
truly impressive. Here in the United States, where guzzling relatively
cheap gas is still in fashion, the sales of 11,731 seem to pale in
comparison. But put into perspective, it makes you think. GM
claims their "fuel efficient" new SUV called Equinox is a runaway
success, yet only 12,773 were sold. Whatever the case, consumers
ultimately understand the difference between 30 MPG and 50 MPG. And
with the price of oil climbing again... it's now at $86.95 per barrel...
don't expect the gas to stay under $3 for too much longer. Sales of
Prius will continue to frustrate the competition. It's a vehicle which
offers a genuine solution to ease our emission & efficiency problems.
Repeating History. Remember the big problems of the past? Apparently, many have forgotten already. It was the obsession with marketshare & stock-price. Well, guess what everyone is cheering about now... Rather than focus on profit or how vehicles are directly competing, it's all about the total quantity sold. The upcoming IPO will only raise enough money to pay back the government roughly a third of what's still owed. Where will the other billions of dollars come from? How will the automaker achieve CAFE requirements when the two premiere fuel-efficiency vehicles aren't popular sellers? In other words, GM is far from the end of their troubles still. And of course, if you point any of that detail out, the supporters retaliate. So, many have given up at this point. Looking at the first full month of sales for Cruze, seeing only 5,048 sold despite 18,000 having been produced is a bad sign. They even tried spinning Camry & Corolla numbers as "slipping" and "falling" even though the actual quantity grossly outsold the GM vehicles. Compare their 12,389 Impala and 12,353 Malibu to the 18,636 Corolla and 25,014 Camry. It's the same old statistical misleading. That mindset is back. With new GM is repeating what old GM had done, how can we expect a different outcome?
Meets or Exceeds. The absolute refusal of the Volt enthusiasts to set goals was the beginning of the end. Not stating their own expectations was a major clue hinting at what was to come. Today ended up being the day of reckoning... rather than a discussion of the next generation, it was next year's model. Nothing constructive emerged. It all fell apart. They were back to petty bickering again. The situation was as if nothing had been learned. What a mess. I don't even bother participating anymore. Those opportunities weren't taken seriously. Now what? The solution the moderator took was to lockdown the thread. Not allowing any new posts is only a temporary solution. If you were one who had observed the history from the beginning, you'd be well aware of how many twists & turns there have been along the way already. To an outsider, the goals should have been to that Volt meets or exceeds each of the categories Prius already excelled in... the very definition of "leap frog". But instead, those aspects which fell short are topics of trolls... apparently issues not actually important, just things to make Volt appear unworthy. It's really too bad things worked out this way.
EV Button Observations. I took full advantage of the EV button this morning... pushing it then dropping the pedal harder than usual in the parking ramp. That makes climbing up in stealth easy for anyone, not just those with a careful foot. It's pretty exciting to discover this ability so late after rollout began. I had a feeling there was more to the new Eco-Meter than the initial impression led us to believe. The interesting thing is how some newbies had been using it all along and never noticed the difference between EV and Stealth. Never having an indicator of power draw in the past left those with older Prius only knowing when the engine started. Now we can all easily see the tolerances. Green for Stealth, that's speeds up to 46 MPH. Typically, it equates to a maintaining steady cruise on a suburb street. White for EV, that's only for speeds up to 24 MPH. But you can actually press the accelerator quite a bit. I suspect someone will have the ability to measure the actual draw from the battery-pack. The threshold in the past was 10 kW for Stealth. The lower speed makes you wonder for EV. It's especially fascinating when you drive the PHV... since the threshold for EV goes all the way to 62 MPH and you can be surprisingly generous with the pedal. But then again, that's only when drawing from the sub-packs. The regular battery-pack, despite also being Li-Ion instead of NiMH, behaves just like the 2010 does... or does it? Since I didn't notice the subtle engine-off differences with these two modes, perhaps I missed something on the PHV as well. That's something to wonder about. Actually observing that there's more is very exciting.
Grille Blocked. This morning, it was the ritual of accepting Winter's approach. With the remaining birds singing to the sun rise, I opened the garage door to enjoy all that while I squeezed 1/2" foam pipe-insulation between each of the lower grille openings. It took about 20 minutes for all 4, including the notches for each vertical support I cut in the foam. Using a marker, I simply push the foam into it to indicate where to slice with a razor blade. That trick makes what could be a cosmetic challenge pretty easy. It allows the foam to lay flat and ensures it won't move in any direction the entire cold season. In fact, that works so well I end up having to tear out pieces in the Spring. The benefit of heat retention the blocking provides sure is certainly worth the time and $2 it requires. Efficiency definitely gets a boost from not having to run the engine as much. But there's no good way to quantify the improvement.
Already having over 8.5 years and 178,000 miles of Prius driving experience
by the time I got my 2010 model, the perspective I saw the technology was
obviously quite different from most. I also follow the "just drive
it" motto, so there's little effort made to squeeze out extra MPG.
I basically just stay attentive. However, I do remember the
discoveries of the past. We'd be surprised to undercover something
clever about the design over a year after the debut of that generation.
And sure enough, there's one for the 2010 too.
The EV button is something many had just written off as impractical, often
not being available due to temperature or speed. I stumbled across an
unexpected situation where it works surprisingly well. It was
I had just went through the drive-thru for breakfast and ended up following
someone more concerned about eating his than going fast. We got around
the corner and down to the light, which just turned green. I proceeded
along with traffic. It wasn't until I got to the other side that I
suddenly got the impression I was behind the wheel of the PHV model again.
No plug in this Prius, yet the engine hadn't started and the Eco-Meter was
in the white zone. Huh? Speed was 23 MPH and the ScanGauge still
said 0 RPM. Holy crap! It then hit me that cutoff isn't
the end of the green zone when in EV-mode. Whoa!
That got me thinking. Right before arriving home in the evening, where
that final stoplight requires a hard left turn and climb up a short hill, I
can barely get up it in stealth. So, most of the time, I don't bother
trying. Sometimes the engine starts. Other times it doesn't.
Well, while waiting for the light to turn green, I pushed the EV button.
Sure enough. That extra boost of electric power I always needed was suddenly
there, readily available. I shot up the hill! It was so sweet, I
drove around the block 2 more times to try it again.
Wow! Talking about giving you a taste of what the PHV model has to
offer. The 2010 has a EV-mode threshold of 24 MPH. So, you're
limited to neighborhood exploits like that. But with a plug, it
magically transforms the threshold to 62 MPH. Now I yearn for the
opportunity to drive the PHV again.
To think that Toyota was able to deliver so much for such a competitive
price. That 60 kW motor is under-utilized. The EV button
clearly demonstrates potential for more.
Recharge Times. There's much about journalism which makes you wonder about intent. This morning, an article was published that stated the original recharge times for Volt. Was it just a mistake or an attempt to downplay? There's a big difference between the original 8 hours and the revised "10 to 12". For the faster connection, it was originally 3 then changed to "like 4". Not being aware of revisions is common, but the next there wasn't much of an excuse for. The writer mentioned level-3 connections (440 volts) and how it could reduce time down to just 30 minutes for 80-percent capacity. That sounds exciting until you discover from another source (like this) about it not being available to consumers, that it's for commercial use only. To make matters worse, that's the only level he mentioned an extra cost. The level-2 connection (220 volts) is portrayed as if it was the same as level-1 (110 volts), which in reality there's almost a $2,000 difference. And considering how much the article went into cost detail, that's quite an omission. Consumers are in for quite a surprise later when they finally learn what they haven't been told.