Personal Log  #496

January 1, 2011  -  January 9, 2011

Last Updated: Sat. 2/12/2011

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Next Month.  After the autoshow hype begins to settle, then what?  Gas prices will obviously have an influence.  Routine fill-ups are a constant reminder that change is coming.  My guess is that's when we'll finally start hearing from everyday consumers.  Enthusiast interest often doesn't match what middle-market actually buys.  Getting behind the wheel of a luxury or sports car will naturally result in many positive comments, but that's not what they need... and the days of carefree fulfillment of want are over.  It's pretty amazing hearing from former SUV owners who admit they didn't give any thought to efficiency back when they first bought it but now place a high priority on MPG.  How much of a premium will consumers be willing to pay?  How much of an efficiency improvement is needed?  What about the ability to plug in?  What about the cost of upgrading to a 240-volt charger rather than just using a regular 120-volt connection?  Then of course, there's the issue of vehicle downsizing.  2011 is ushering industry change, drawing much attention to efficiency as Prius becomes a common vehicle.


2011 Calendar.  It took 1.5 years to capture & publish enough moments with the 2010 to finally have variety worthy of a calendar.  Phew!  Of course, that meant the daunting task of selecting which photos would actually be included.  I needed to create 12 individual pages, each with its own unique theme.  That's normally really fun.  But already a week into the new year and the big autoshow in Detroit about to begin (exacerbated by the last-minute scramble for Energy-Monitor photos), there was a sense of urgency.  Though in the end, it's rewarding to see a collage for each month emerge.  Knowing the resulting images could also be viewed on portable devices like a smart-phone or tablet is an extra benefit this year too.  The 5 previous calendars from the other generations of Prius didn't have that medium for sharing back in their time.  I'm quite pleased with the results.  Check out what's now available for downloading... calendar "F"


Energy-Monitor Photos.  I hadn't actually published any other than the shots I took inside the PHV.  Many from my 2010 model Prius were taken back when I first got it.  But they weren't a priority.  In fact, like Toyota, I was downplaying the old Energy-Monitor in favor of the new Eco-Meter... which is much more informative, especially for owners who have driven their Prius for a while.  Heck, I now find myself taking advantage of it to use the extra electric power available from EV-mode.  Nonetheless, knowing energy-flow is still worthwhile, even if those arrows don't provide a quantitative measure.  There's quite a variety possible.  The samples I'm sharing now depict only a few.  Unfortunately, those illustrations don't give you any idea how frequently the flow actually changes.  It's quite often.  That's the brilliance of the FULL hybrid.  Squeezing out even the briefest efficiency opportunity is surprisingly easy with a power-split-device available.  These photos help to show that... photo album 166


On The Fence, misrepresentation.  Remember all the boasting about how Volt would "leapfrog" the other technologies?  That didn't happen.  In fact, there is still uncertainty about whether or not it will even be competitive.  This is why we want real-world data so much.  Prius owners especially don't want to misrepresent.  We're well aware of the reality that estimates can lead to disappointment.  It's far better to share actual experiences than to generalize.  Unfortunately, antagonists do quite the opposite.  They want to undermine.  We've seen that many times already.  The ASSIST hybrid, Two-Mode, and diesel supporters all attempted to portray Prius in an unappealing way.  The most obvious, which Volt enthusiasts already do, is compare the price of Volt to the most expensive model of Prius.  Pretending the plug-in capacity can never be more than 10 miles is another, despite the fact that aftermarket upgrades already offer +30 mile capacity.  Misrepresentation like that thrives on being vague.  Notice how the MPG reports from Volt owners have again vanished?  It's too bad they didn't want a plug-in ally.  Those on the fence will see this... then buy a Prius.


On The Fence, differences.  The squabble resumed today.  This was delightful to see: "PHEVs run primarily on gasoline.  EREVs run primarily on electricity.  Big difference."  After 4 years of greenwashing spin through the use of a new coined marketing term, there still isn't any clear difference.  The owner of an aftermarket upgrade to his Iconic Prius posted 2 photos a few days ago, documenting an average of 802 MPG after driving 853 miles.  That sure looks like results a Volt owner could report.  Where's this big difference claimed?  Battery capacity and usage is what influences outcome.  Comparing Volt to a PHV model Prius, the overall annual GPY (gallons per year) consumption of gas will vary from owner to owner.  Distinguishing differences is far from the extreme claimed.  I was happy to reply with:  The word "primarily" couldn't be any more vague.  Heck, some could take that as meaning 51%.  In reality, the difference is based upon how they are used.  Driving the PHV to work, I averaged 160 MPG via the 70 MPH route.  Via the 55 MPH route, the MPG is even higher.  Consumers will see both as plug-in vehicles that use gas at times.


On The Fence, goals.  Not wanting to move on by just discussing goals instead, it got ugly.  After all this time, certain individuals still haven't accepted the reality that the market will be filled with a variety of choices and one size does not fit all.  How will GM become competitive?  How will that be profitable?  How will CAFE requirements be achieved?  Needless to say, the same old diversion technique of making it personal was attempted.  I see that as an opportunity to repeat the message as well as point out the attempt, and did with:  Don't like the message, shoot the messenger.  50 MPG.  40 miles EV.  Nicely under $30,000. PZEV emission rating.  200,000 per year.  Abandonment of those original goals was easy to foresee.  So it could have been considered a waste of time... until noticing that there was a fear of accountability... which is overwhelming clear when discussing gen-2 expectations.  Avoid detail, any quantity that could be measured against to determine progress.


On The Fence, excuses.  There was a little bit of acknowledgement of gas price alone wasn't the only factor.  Unfortunately, that excuse is still considered the most prominent.  So much so, they didn't even want to address the others.  I felt no remorse pointed them out:  Looks more like the price of gas was the last straw.  Don't you remember the huge outcry last spring, when that "direct drive" rumor surfaced?  It turned out to be true.  With so many promoting Volt for having the purity of the engine never providing thrust, that was a major turning point.  The next was the price announcement in the Summer.  All those years leading up to that, there was that "nicely under $30,000" expectation.  That also resulted in a huge outcry.  Then came EV range.  It was followed by MPG.  There was also the "too little, too slowly" bankruptcy recovery concern.  Had GM been more forthcoming all along, especially since had been testing pre-production Volts for a whole year prior to that, each aspect would have contributed to a different outcome.


On The Fence, blame gas.  The obvious knee jerk response to my post was to blame the price of gas, claiming such a big jump needed no more of an explanation that that.  Remember all the resistance to the idea that GM needed a hybrid which delivered around 50 MPG, that if Volt delivered it in CS-mode the choice of not offering a no-plug model made no sense.  We all knew there was a need.  We all knew the price of gas would steadily climb.  We all knew the rollout of Volt itself wouldn't be complete until early 2012.  The reality that it alone wasn't enough resulted in hostile arguing.  Why not offer a second model?  Well, we know that now too.  Efficiency isn't even close to what they had hoped.  Here's what I posted in return:  Just a few months ago, people still believed 40 miles of EV with 50 MPG was realistic.  Now, consumers know neither is.  The market has been in need of an affordable high-efficiency choice positioned between Malibu & Cruze.  GM ended up delivering something quite different.


On The Fence, low AER.  That "all electric range" value really irritates the Volt enthusiasts.  Despite all the evidence & arguments pointing out the big drop caused by lows temperature, they remained in denial until actually witnessing it firsthand.  Needless to say, the resulting spin is that many interested in Volt will simply just wait for the next generation to purchase instead... as if there is no consequence of a multi-year delay and the next will magically solve a problem with has existed for decades.  I pointed out the following:  Actually, that appears to be contributing to a resurgence in Prius sales, bringing them back to a level not seen for quite a while.  Maybe it's just an amazing coincidence, but it's hard deny the change in consumer behavior timed so perfectly with the rollout of Volt.  It's also difficult to overlook how the effects of temperature weren't taken seriously until very recently.  Prius is readily available, affordable for middle-market, and well proven.  Losing Volts sales to Prius from those who had been sitting on the fence waiting for real-world data to become available shouldn't be a surprise.  The recession and higher gas prices has caused many to take long-term decisions like vehicle purchases much more serious than in the past.  It's too bad that OPUD set expectations so high.  As a consequence, focus is on the next generation design rather than celebrating the achievements GM has genuinely earned.  It all boils down to the choice of wanting to be a "game changer" rather than a "game player".  So the question now is: What should expectations be for the current Volt?


On The Fence, fallout.  It's been brewing for weeks.  That awkward position of "over promise, under deliver" being confirmed meant it was up to the Volt enthusiasts what happened next.  With the Detroit autoshow just days away, the pressure burst.  The greenwashing spin appeared with a vengeance.  You can only read excuses for so long before finally responding.  Their decision for dealing with the sudden rise in attention to Prius, Leaf, and the Focus EV made it an effort to fight the fallout rather than just accepting this generation for what it was.  You know there was much disappointment and people like me can't really say much of anything without it appearing to be negative.  After all, what do you do when your predictions... which are documented in detail... actually happen?  It's the consequence of hoping for "vastly superior" from a product that didn't turn out that way.


All Along.  Oddly, my response to this particular comment didn't stir any of the usual hostility: "Maybe the legitimate owners could write up a review to counter-balance that BS."  It would appear as though the filler banter we had in the past, just to keep discussions active, is no longer acceptable.  Funny how things change.  Controversy was welcome.  Not anymore.  It was easy to dismiss when claims couldn't be proven.  But now that Volt is actually in the hands of consumers, enthusiasts have to adjust their tactics.  Distancing themselves from prior propaganda is a big deal.  That means finally embracing certain facts; otherwise, it's pretty much impossible to move on.  Here's what I posted:  That's the hope.  All along, it's been about focusing on real-world data and realistic expectations… not that dang hype… the 50 mpg… the $30,000 price… the 40-mile EV in any temperature.  No more down-voting when actual facts are presented.


Cold Reviews.  I wonder how many of these we'll actually get.  Hmm?  The results of plug-in driving in temperatures below freezing vary dramatically.  Sadly, detail about those particular drives are sparse and numbers are randomly provided.  Sometimes the reference is to an overall experience.  Others mention just a particular moment in time.  I can only imagine the mixed messages that sends to consumers.  Expectations will differ wildly, totally dependent on the particular information they happen to stumble upon.  That's not a good way to promote an emerging new automotive choice.  It's confusing enough just trying to figure out what "cold temperatures" actually means.  For many, that would appear to be anything below freezing.  For someone like me in Minnesota, it has to be lower than 15°F before even considering it to be cold.  They routinely drop to the negatives too.  Leaving your car parked outside in that all day while you work is the true test of a technology being robust enough.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been mentioned in any of the reviews published so far.


Getting Warmer.  The day started with a commute at -2°F degrees and a report on the radio about another Toyota lawsuit.  Both were predictable.  January is always this cold and antagonists time their announcements to coincide with the upcoming reveals in Detroit.  It didn't matter though.  Even before hearing about what 2011 will be bringing, we found out what happened in 2010.  Sales of Prius surged back to normal.  15,253 were purchased here in the United States, bringing the final total for the year to 140,928.  The total in Japan is expected to be around 315,000.  Meanwhile, the reality of $3 gas is sinking in... but with a warm feeling, quite unlike the panic caused by $4 gas.  It's the acceptance of hybrid technology into everyday life.  Blatant greenwashing of the past has educated consumers.  They see Prius everywhere now, contradicting claims of the past.  Soon, they'll see a bigger Prius too.  Choices from other automakers reinforce the feeling of change for the better.  The nightmare of the past, where the guzzler was king, is finally coming to an end.  Yippee!


Colorful Memories.  Following a gloomy morning rain storm, the clouds parted and the sun shined.  I found a great location for capturing some spectacular colors of Fall.  Of course, that isn't much of a challenge being up in Northern Minnesota.  It's quite scenic.  I did have to wash the Prius though.  Almost of week of being parked outside after the drive to there made it quite dirty.  The timing was nearly perfect.  There were areas where the leaves had reach peak colors.  Catching the season change like that, combined with amazing formations filling the sky in the background, meant I was extremely lucky.  Taking full advantage of that opportunity, I snapped as many photos as I could.  After all, the circumstances can abruptly change.  Waiting for the shadows from clouds to pass by causes enough delay.  Good thing the Prius is able to do most of that running around and waiting using only electricity.  Anywho, here's the colorful memories I was able to capture... photo album 164  photo album 165


Night Snow Flash.  These photos are among my favorite to take, since the outcome is so unpredictable.  Snow is coming down heavily and you have almost nothing for light to see with.  Protecting the lens from getting wet is quite a challenge.  In the cold & wind, one hand has to hold an umbrella for shielding.  The other holds the camera in a way that zooming and pressing the button can be done quickly.  You have to decide upon the angle & framing of each photo ahead of exposing the lens to the elements directly.  Hands cannot wear gloves.  Lens-tissue must be readily available for the inevitable wiping off of water droplets.  Falling from climbing through the snow from seeking great shots is highly probable.  And sure enough, all happened this time.  But that was totally worth it.  Seeing the results of those flakes illuminated in the foreground from the flash and the Prius covered with a fresh blanket of snow in the background is quite rewarding.  Just don't ever ask for all the exposures that didn't focus correctly.  All that action in the dark often confused the camera... photo album 162  photo album 163


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