Personal Log #507
March 16, 2011 - March 22, 2011
Last Updated: Fri. 3/25/2011
page #506 page #508 BOOK INDEX
Extreme Winter Driving. I certainly got my wish to test out the new tires fulfilled this morning. Whoa! The driving was horrible. We got a bunch of snow dropped onto a layer of slushy ice. It was mess. There was an accident every mile. By the time I saw the seventh, it was time to get off the highway and take the back streets the rest of the way to work instead. That meant lots of deep & heavy snow to drive through, but far less likelihood of sudden stops like I had just been dealing with. The variety was better anyway. After all, I could have just stayed at home and worked from there like half the team. But this was my opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of how well the "A" rated traction on the new LRR (low rolling resistance) all-season tires really behaved in nasty conditions. It turned out to be a rewardable experience. Now I can quite confidently endorse them. Traction was great, even driving in that extreme.
Over-Confidence. Sadly, there is the very real problem of over-confidence. As the cold-world era progressed, parents & teachers here were heavily encouraged to provide positive feedback for the children... rather than being constructive. It was an approach with consequences difficult to see, until now. The push you get from losing a competition was gone. That regret to feed future effort had been removed. Without incentive like that, there was less reason to try harder the next time... so the children don't. Then they grow up to become adults. Turns out some are complacent, not well prepared for the challenges they face. Hearing all that being said on the radio this morning made me understand particular Volt enthusiasts better. It made more sense now why they simply assumed the design would be "vastly superior" even though there was no evidence to support that belief. Always being told you are a winner makes you think you will always win. Turns out, second place is far more bittersweet than they ever imagined. A technology with future potential is no where near as one already demonstrating its benefits in an affordable high-volume design.
Altima-Hybrid Sighting. Believe it or not, after all
this time, I had never actually spotted one on the road until today.
What would you even look for? I had no idea what Nissan used for
hybrid badging. I would somehow have notice a difference from
traditional Altima cars. With only a total of 6,710 sold last year,
they aren't exactly abundant. Anywho, I finally did see one.
There really wasn't much to notice. It was just another FULL hybrid on
the road. That's the point, after all. They aren't suppose to
stand out. In fact, Prius wouldn't have garnished so much attention in
the past if it wasn't for it being the only midsize hatchback available.
But now that the other automakers are beginning to flaunt larger hatchbacks
& wagons, it's starting to blend into the crowd... again. Much like
the Classic did all those years ago... simply ahead of it's time.
Makes you wonder how long it will be until I spot the first Leaf around
here. Nissan definitely wanted to make it get noticed.
That Never Happened. It's unbelievable how easy certain things are to deny. And when it comes to hybrids, we have plenty of examples. There's an abundance with Volt. We fought that hype for years. Remember those goals originally set, then later abandoned? The supporters claim none of it ever happened. Never having to deal with that hype would have been amazing... all those "vastly superior" arguments just a bad dream. Fortunately, the forums & blogs are filled with so much proof that the nightmare was real, it's not even worth the effort replying anymore. After all, we know so much about the realities of Volt now, the hype has been left behind in the past... along with the blind hope. Imagine if Volt really did have a price around $30,000 with at least a SULEV emission-rating and offered 50 MPG after depletion without requiring premium gas. Someday it might, not yet though. Back when the claims were made, they didn't make any sense. Remember the often asked question: If 50 MPG really was possible, why not offer a model with a smaller battery-pack to reduce price? Not being able to answer that should have made the problem obvious to see. I suppose they will say that never happened either.
Superior? Sometimes, you just need a good
laugh. I was at the coffee shop, sitting next to two women talking.
A muscle car pulled up to the drive-thru. The driver was revving the
engine, making it roar to draw attention to his supposedly superior vehicle. It did too. The women
looked over and started making comments about his manhood. That
intrigued me. I was compelled to continue listening, quite curious
what they'd say next. The expected size-compensation & insecurity
justifications were mentioned. They poked fun at his expense, rather
than being impressed as he had hoped. Exactly the opposite outcome as
anticipated is what keeps me intrigued about new hybrids. We've seen
that several times now. This was just a moment playing out on the
small scale. In a minute, it would be over... but not before I chimed
in. As he pulled forward, I interjected their conversation with this:
"Isn't it ironic how that guy in the muscle car is following a Prius?"
They found that extremely amusing.
Constructive? I sure hope my post today on the big GM forum will be taken that way. Not showing a photo of a Prius anymore for my avatar and responding to newer members could make quite a difference, especially now that we are no longer dealing with the hype of Volt. Being realistic should be easier. We'll see. This was the comment: "I could drive a Volt and never purchase any gas, I live five miles from work and rarely stray farther than 15 miles from home." And my response... Unfortunately, like many, you've been misled. Volt can dramatically reduce consumption, but that "no gas" belief is absolutely not true. Even if you could somehow totally avoid ever triggering the engine to run for heat during the winter and never travel outside of the EV range available, the engine will still run briefly from time to time for routine upkeep. Doing the math, taking high-speed driving, Heater & A/C use, and a few longer trips into consideration, the standard annual travel distance of 15,000 will easily consume a lot more gas than people assume. The question now is how much. After all, the topic of price reduction is a hot one. Determining the worth of the current high premium depends heavily upon knowing what real-world consumption actually is.
Luxury? The downplay certainly is becoming a pain.
This example really caught my attention: "The Volt, like the Prius or any luxury car, is a luxury purchase. It's
bought for fun, or prestige, or convenience, or to show off wealth. There is
nothing wrong with that, it's no different than designer clothes, a fancy
stereo, etc..." They pretend ordinary people aren't purchasing
Prius to replace their ordinary traditional vehicle. A quick
inspection of any local grocery or retail store here in Minnesota easily
contradicts that claim. That's why the veteran supporters of Prius
have become so passionate. We see how ordinary the purchasers have
become. Anywho, I posted this on that thread spinning the current
We see the difference between Volt expectations prior to rollout and now. We
pointed out the "over promise, under deliver" history and warned about the
"too little, too slowly" concern. That effort ended up getting us labeled as
"trolls". Turns out though, we were correct. Now there are discussions about
those very things that had previously been dismissed as attempts to
That in itself is frustrating. Continued misleading about Prius makes it
worse. How can a vehicle with a mainstream price (a base under $24k) and
mainstream sales (routinely in the top-20) be labeled as a "luxury"
purchase? It's as absurd as still labeling a notebook computer that way.
Volt will become competitive with the release of the second generation. In
the meantime, what benefit is there by misrepresenting both the cordless &
plug-in models of Prius? Isn't the technology in Volt good enough to speak
for itself? Why not just focus on the real-world data instead? In the end,
isn't that what will contribute to higher production anyway?
Acceleration? It's nice getting to respond to the everyday, new owner questions. I tend to resist though, offering the participation opportunity to the yearlings instead. Otherwise, those owners celebrating their first anniversary tend leave the forum. After all, when they discover how mainstream Prius has become, there doesn't seem much reason to do stuff for it online anymore. Anywho, the question of how to accelerate comes up often. The best efficiency is counter-intuitive to what's actually needed. Many just assume the slowest acceleration possible is the best... but then wonder why others get better results. I chimed in this time... The most common situation I encounter is the benefit from brisk acceleration. That's when you have a choice, when no one is in front of you. Briefly taking advantage of the engine's more efficient operating level (a quick jump to no higher than 3500 RPM) allows you to actually drive a little faster than most traffic. That provides a moment of battery charging as well as the opportunity for the engine to shut off sooner than with slower acceleration. Overall, the outcome of that situation is higher MPG while at the same time not having to baby the car or impair traffic behind you.
Measuring MPG. Despite the forecast for lower oil demand worldwide due to the disaster in Japan, the price didn't got down. It's still a little bit above $100 per barrel. That's putting more pressure than ever on the measure of efficiency. Unfortunately, the reality here is the use of MPG rather than gallons/100miles. One is a relative measure, the other exact. That leaves much opportunity for greenwashing. To complicate matters, we now have to deal with new excuses now. Since Volt is extremely heavy for its size (3,781 pounds), we have to endure the "great MPG for its weight" nonsense rather than address results. Enthusiasts argued intensely against offering a smaller engine and smaller battery-pack, only now coming to realize that weight was a factor they had completely overlooked. So now, they are doing everything they can to defend that previous decision. I really don't what to put up with the counter-productive spin anymore... The weight excuse is getting old. It totally disregards actual electricity & gas consumption. Shouldn't the measure of efficiency benefit be compared to other vehicles in the same class? After all, isn't that the point of the technology? Fuel per Distance is the proper method to gauge outcome.
Intentional Misleading. Remember 6 months ago, when GM changed the range expectation for Volt from "40 miles" to "25 to 50 miles"? The claim was that the only possible way an owner could ever see that 25 was driving aggressively in the cold going uphill. Turns out, everyday driving by ordinary people experience 25. Was that intentional misleading? We know enthusiasts find an extreme example, then repeat it over and over again without providing any detail. Is that intentional misleading? Think about how many examples of this there have been about Prius... efficiency, price, outdated info, assumptions, generalizations, etc. Then there's the problem of backpedaling. Remember how GM stated 60,000 production capacity for Volt would be available for the second year to meet demand, if needed. Then they dropped it to just 30,000. So, later when it was announced 45,000 would be produced, the appearance was an increase. But in reality it's still lower than the original quantity. Would that be intentional misleading? The situation unfolding now is very frustrating. But then again, you can tell something is amiss simply by having to ask if there is intentional misleading. Well things go well, there's no need to question choices & actions.
Change. When expectations are not made, what you can expect is this: "Shooting the messenger doesn’t change anything. The influence of a technology has always been measured by sales. If few are purchased, not much difference is made." That's what I posted today in response to the trophy mentality. After all these years, that's mindset remains a problem. To be a game-changer, the market must embrace that new technology. If all they do is give it praise but continue to buy the older anyway, what was achieved? They don't like when I point out change isn't happening the way they boasted it would. So in the case of Volt following the same history as Two-Mode, very little needs to be said anymore. The status of game-player is difficult to deny. Actions speak louder than words anyway.
Dealing With Backlash. There's quite a bit of upset over the recent publication of real-world driving observations for Volt. All the "best of" award praise, which came before rollout, is tarnished by that data. On that daily blog still struggling to redefine itself, I posted the following in response: Isn't it ironic how the same can be said about Volt's past too? But back then, it was the enthusiasts doing the misleading. As much as some of us tried to point out the issue of reduced range in the winter, it was always looked upon as an attempt to undermine... even though the true purpose was to keep discussions constructive. You have to admit, the hype got out of hand. No one wanted to address the impact of heater use, until now. No one wanted to acknowledge the inefficiencies of energy conversion either. Now, there's the MPG discrepancy to deal with. As much as we tried to point out detail showing how unrealistic the after-depletion efficiency expectations were, it was always responded to with resistance. We tried to point out production & sales history too, where Two-Mode struggled with problems many here absolutely insisted would never happen with Volt. And now that those very concerns have indeed surfaced, how should they be dealt with? What begs the question still is how Volt should be promoted. It's clearly a plug-in hybrid due to having a gas engine. Will the EV claim be laid to rest so other issues can finally get the attention they deserve? Why is there so much comparing to cordless hybrids still? Shouldn't focus on the ones planned to offer plugs instead?
Polarized. On one end, you've got the fierce defenders of Volt denying claims of the past were ever made and intentionally misleading about Prius. On the other end, you've got those who are saying a lower-cost, lower-range model is exactly what they need. The growing polarization is remarkable. After all this time, the enthusiasts still cannot agree among themselves about purpose. Heck, yesterday someone extolled Volt with: "Slap a sticker on the back window that makes a dig at the Prius." I asked what would it say... and got nothing in return. Was the history of smug remembered? What about all that stop-gap nonsense? Then of course, there's the current problem of EV self-deprecation. Jabs like that do more harm than good. It's compounds the mixed messages we already get about Volt. There is no obvious purpose, as there is with Prius... which has clearly become the replacement for middle-market traditional vehicles.
Prius Shortage. All of a sudden, we are hearing about rapidly shrinking inventories of Prius at dealers. The upcoming even higher prices of gas combined with the still-unfolding disaster in Japan appears to have pushed those who had been debating a purchase. I bet the fact that Winter is finally ending contributes to the rush too. This could ultimately represent opportunity we hadn't anticipated. Something way out of the ordinary like this could bump Prius so far into mainstream acceptance that those would continue to misrepresent it could end up just looking silly. You know how some still attempt to point out extreme examples, hoping you'll assume that's the norm. They're intentionally vague too, hoping you won't ever check detail. But in this situation, where demand seems to be rapidly growing, attempts to greenwash like that are easily dismissed. After all, sales are the measure of progress. That's how a technology earns merit.