Personal Log  #523

July 25, 2011  -  August 2, 2011

Last Updated: Weds. 8/03/2011

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Blatant Misleading.  On the big GM forum, they've pretty much given up.  Attempts continue on that daily blog for Volt though.  This morning, I discovered this: "The Volt planetary gearset is a vastly better setup which shares nothing with the Toyota and Ford setups" concluding with this: "At this point it's moot because the HSD setup is too expensive and doesn't scale."  To still see such blatant misleading.  You'd think they'd learn by now that merit is earned, not promoted by deception.  My posted response to that was:  It never ceases to amaze how certain individuals still attempt to mislead like that.  A simple fact-check confirms both HSD claims are false.  A quick search online shows a selection of new Prius available for $24,480.  How that can be claimed as "too expensive" when it contradicts that real-world pricing?  As for the scaling claim, that's an incredible act of denial pretending the 3.5 liter 6-cylinder engine, 3500-pound towing-capacity, 4WD hybrid model of Highlander doesn't exist.  We also know that the hybrid system will fit in a smaller vehicle too, since Prius started that way.  Clearly, it scales.  With respect to the vastly claim, I'm amused how "vastly superior" has become "vastly better".  Perhaps reality is setting in that the current system in Volt does not address business need well.  Ironically, it's the one that's too expensive.  It will indeed scale, but that point is moot if a configuration competitively priced isn't delivered.


Price Misleading.  A current Prius owner interested in Volt started a thread on the Volt forum, asking for feedback from previous Prius owners now driving a Volt.  He wanted to know the reasons for their switch and was at a loss why so many negative comments are posted on the big Prius forum.  The first reply came from one of the biggest troublemakers, one interested solely in engineering with no regard to business need.  That was followed by the usual price comparisons, where the most expensive model of Prius is compared to the least expensive model of Volt with the $7,500 tax credit.  We know that the selective portrayal of price is extremely misleading.  Yet, they still do it anyway.  And in this economy with national debt beyond anything we've ever experienced before, how is such heavy dependence on taxpayer funding realistic?  To make matters worse, none actually want to discuss the PHV model.  They know Toyota has went to great lengths to configure an affordable plug-in hybrid.  Focus is directed to the electric-only purity of Volt, disregarding the times the engine does actually run, to justify the price well out of reach for middle-market.


PHV Misleading.  Some of it is intentional, incorrect & outdated information intentionally spread.  The rest is innocent, assumptions based upon untrustworthy sources.  It's that second group which worries me... since the outcome is harmful.  When newbies don't check what they think is a fact, it contributes to the misleading.  They unknowingly pass along what those attempting to undermine provided.  This is what we saw in the past with Prius and is now what we are seeing with the PHV (plug-in) model.  By far the most common misleading "fact" is that the electric-motor in the PHV will respond exactly the same way it does in the cordless model.  They want people to believe the upgrade is nothing but Toyota offering a larger battery-pack.  They fear me pointing out how much more power is actually available from the same 60 kW source when attached to a better battery with a system allowing at higher tolerances.  In other words, they really don't want to accept the reality that the competition actually did plan that far in advance and is under-utilizing their current generation until cost come down enough to offer an affordable choice.  I know because I've driven a PHV already.  Heck, I even have video showing how much more electric power is available.


BMW i3.  It's the disingenuous nature of some Volt enthusiasts that get me, specifically the ones more interested in bragging rights than providing a vehicle for the masses.  These are the same who mislead about Prius.  After all, the awards they seek are only won by engineering achievement, not business-sustaining sales.  Anywho, as time progresses, they struggle more to draw attention.  So, the situation will naturally work itself out anyway.  Today, it was details on the plug-in BMW that was recently revealed in Germany.  It poked fun at Volt like Fisker recently, pointing out how it was a true range-extender.  That "no mechanical connection to the wheels" bragging in the past sure is coming back to haunt now.  Who knew they'd end up regretting their own promotion efforts so soon?  To further emphasize design differences, the 90-mile range and 600cc engine were highlighted.  That's more than double the battery capacity and less than half the extender size.  Needless to say, I'm quite curious what others have to say about this and am rather pleased how announcements like this continue to reinforce how mainstream Prius is becoming.


CAFE Standards.   This topic is always one of great debate. However, yesterday's announcement of milestone requirements leading to a final average of 54.5 MPG by 2025 was almost unanimously agreed upon.  VW was who had the strongest opinion against it, because diesel will not carry an equivalent value anymore.  A gallon of diesel will be counted the same way as a gallon of gas.  The other source of resistance came from those concerned about the reduction of fuel taxes collected to fund highway & bridge improvements, since consumers will be consuming less.  Consumers should save approximately $1.7 trillion overall.  This could result in roughly 484,000 jobs being created too.  The important bit of information often overlooked by many, including myself, is the fact that CAFE estimates are different from the MPG values provided by the EPA.  Those for CAFE are higher, high enough in fact that the upcoming larger Prius may meet the 2025 level already.


Price Drops.  I ended up posting a follow-up, since this particular comment afterward was thought provoking: "If they currently make more money selling a Cruze than a VOLT, then selling more Cruzes actually increases the likelihood that VOLT pricing will drop sooner rather than later. Think about it…"  These were my thoughts on that:  They haven't been receptive to discussion of that nature, and I would very much like to know how a Volt priced for middle-market would be configured.  Business logic unfortunately isn't logical either.  Market pressure often pushes in directions that aren't sensible like that likelihood above.  eAssist continues to be invested in too.  Seeing it offered on Cruze isn't that much of a jump, especially with it already targeted for Malibu.


Production Rate.  That was the topic of discussion on that daily blog for Volt.  There were the usual comparisons to Prius over a decade ago, as if nothing that happened since then was relevant.  And of course, we got the usual flag-waving propaganda, claiming you're not American if you support anything overseas... even if benefit comes to our own citizens as a result.  They hated reading this: "Opportunity is being missed. Sales are being lost to other choices, like Cruze."  I was rather curious what spin that would bring about.  In the end, I summarized my observations of that day's posts with by responding to this: "It is your repeated visits here, primarily intended to disrupt the flow of conversation…"  I don't think the comments will sink in for awhile, but they still could contribute to the upcoming wake-up call when the PHV hits the market:  This topic of production can only be discussed if it is in a cheerleading fashion?  We wouldn’t want to upset the balance by addressing business need, right?  One size does not fit all and time is not in abundance.  Two-Mode was also too expensive and has struggled to deliver improvement.  eAssist is now being positioned to fill some of the void Volt has left, potentially taking away even more sales.  Unless you want to discuss changes another model of Volt needs to embrace to expand market, what is the point of the technology?


New Definition.  The spin revolving around EREV doesn't phase me for a second.  We've dealt with semantic arguments countless times over the previous decade.  It mostly ends up distracting from purpose.  Fortunately, their going in circles means they'll end up back in the same place anyway.  Today's nonsense was a continuation of what Fisker stirred.  I reiterated:  The goals are still the same, regardless of terminology.  The technology must be affordable to the masses, delivering both reduced emissions & consumption.  The CAFE announcements coming today emphasize that point.  Bragging rights won't bring down fleet averages.  Only high-volume sales can achieve that.


Rant Response.  Tired of the nonsense, I pounced on them with this:  How ironic that the advice given was not taken by the same person...  Jumping to conclusions like that shows the lack of understanding about what hybrids have to offer.  Don't just look at the first few choices available and assume all will resemble that.  Remember, the new batteries just coming to market will raise the level of possibilities.  And to those since attempting to raise doubt about carbon emissions, the rest of us know that's just a red herring at this point.  Your lack of concern for smog-related emissions and oil-dependency is something your children will really appreciate later when they have to clean up the mess you left for them.


Fear Rant.  The lively discussion on the big GM forum about upcoming CAFE standards resulted in this: "This isn't about increasing mileage standards, as much as it's about FORCING people into other means of transportation.  Legislating people out of their cars.  Basically it's the first step towards outlawing vehicles."  The rant got quite a bit worse from there, turning into political complaints and questioning the morality of those writing regulations.  Fear like that is nothing new.  I still remember someone 11 years ago freaking out that the introduction of hybrids would force her from having a large SUV into a tiny compact car.  There was no reason for a reaction like that back then and there certainly isn't now.  Not understanding what the technologies offers is a big part of the problem.  Fear makes people jump to conclusions.  Ironically, this was the advice given at the end of the rant: "It's sad that so many people lack an education or intelligence to see the truth."


4-Cylinder Explorer.  Supposedly, it "blows away the competition".  I was fascinated to see that the list provided mentioned Highlander first, yet excluded the hybrid model.  When confronting the poster about the obvious omission, he claimed the discussion was only about non-hybrid vehicles.  No where in any of the messages on the thread had the word hybrid in it until mine though.  He was clearly upset by the information I provided too.  This new Ford Explorer featuring a 4-cylinder engine was tuned for efficiency; however, only the highway MPG was worth highlighting.  It was 28.  City was just 20.  That clearly isn't as good as Highlander's 28 for both highway & city from the hybrid model.  This traditional Explorer can only tow 2,000 pounds, quite a shortcoming compared to the industry standard of 3,500 pounds... which the hybrid does indeed deliver.  The hybrid is 4WD as well, not stepping down to front-wheel drive like traditional for the sake of efficiency.  Ultimately, consumers will decide the worth of this new "ECO" design.  The act of accepting such a large vehicle with only a 4-cylinder engine was a topic of nightmares in the past, marking the end of an era if the day should ever come.  Perhaps it will draw more consumers to hybrid models now.


World's First EREV.  For 3 years, enthusiasts argued that Volt was vastly superior since thrust was never directly provided by the engine, it was a pure only-electric propulsion design.  That was how they defined EREV, clearly stating electric power exclusivity was required.  Then they discovered Volt used direct-drive.  It destroyed their key differentiator.  Volt would be known as a plug-in hybrid from then on.  They didn't like that at all.  Many attempts over the following year were made to change the definition, claiming arbitrary limits rather than actual operational behavior aspects.  Fisker didn't accept any of that spin.  The automaker delivered a Karma to the very first customer today.  With two 201 horsepower electric-motors, it clearly doesn't ever need any power from the engine for thrust.  It truly doesn't ever provide direct-drive.  There's no physical connection, quite unlike Volt.  So, the press release started with this: "The Fisker Karma is the world’s first extended range EV".  Do you think this will finally get them to consider acknowledge details of consumption rather than claiming superiority through the use of labels?


MPG Fallout.  Anyone who's taken the matter of fuel consumption seriously is well aware of how misleading the MPG value can be... and how often those wanting to undermine take advantage of that reality.  It informs about efficiency, but makes no reference to the quantity of fuel actually used to travel a distance.  This is why most of the rest of the world doesn't use MPG as their measure.  That's been a problem for ages, but hybrids made it worse.  But now with the introduction of plug-ins, it confuses matters to such a degree that references to MPG are losing their former draw.  If you drive only to the depletion point and rarely use the engine, the resulting MPG can exceed 1000.  The value loses its meaning quick then... becoming a number bragged about rather than an expectation... as well as a source of disappoint for new owners hoping to achieve the same thing.  In other words, the fallout has begun.  Did you know the difference between 500 MPG and 1000 MPG for 100 miles of travel is just 0.1 gallon?


First Drive.  A diesel model of Cruze for the United States has been officially confirmed, for 2013.  It's been available in almost every other market since 2008.  Why so long of a delay still?  An automotive publication got to test-drive that model destined for here.  The report published today got us all wondering though.  They averaged 26.7 MPG from a week of mixed driving.  What the heck?  That's worse than the gas model.  Where the heck did the hype of being so much better come from?  Even if the results really will somehow be better, why bother?  Diesel is more expensive (both vehicle & fuel), dirtier, and noisier than the gas counterpart.  And how in the world is that going to compete as an "efficiency" leader when you've got plug-in Prius driving around easily exceeding 75 MPG?  This is so much of a disappointment for those who were stirring hype, it really has me curious how diesel enthusiasts will respond.  It certainly isn't what they were expecting for a first drive report.


Revisit.  We finally heard from the founder of that daily blog for Volt. It's been over 5 months since leaving it in the hands of new owners.  Things have changed quite a bit since then.  He stated it this way: "I am so glad the Volt is a true reality and how the days of negativity are behind us."  The Volt originally promoted certainly isn't what got rolled out and the negativity came from all the hype of unrealistic promises.  So, I'd obviously state it differently.  Anywho, his commute changed to just 6 miles each way... which would have made him a great champion for a more affordable Volt with a shorter range.  It's too bad the previous obsession from enthusiasts allowed priorities to get so out of touch with mainstream consumer needs.  Oh well.  It's rather ironic his situation now would provide such a nice endorsement for the plug-in Prius.


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