Personal Log #526
August 20, 2011 - August 27, 2011
Last Updated: Sun. 8/28/2011
page #525 page #527 BOOK INDEX
Plug-In Expectations. Whether there are official goals stated or just vague promises, there are expectations. Efficiency for a plug-in hybrid is that it operates as a hybrid after depletion. Reverting to traditional MPG following the end of plug supplied electricity means heavy dependency on plugging in. Delivering improved MPG afterward makes the plug-in hybrid a much easier purchase decision. Being affordable has always been a fundamental for hybrids. Why would that be any different for a plug-in hybrid? Justifying a higher price-point is as futile as convincing the typical consumer that a luxury vehicle is a better buy that a mainstream vehicle. They understand the difference, but purchase a mainstream vehicle anyway. As for "range" of EV, that will likely be looked upon the same way as storage capacity has been for portable devices. People know having more would be nice, but choose a balance with price instead of favoring the maximum available. Lastly, not having to purchase & install a charging-station is an expectation often overlooked.
Vindication. It's so tempting to call out those troublemakers often quoted here by name. Refraining by just posting their statements is enough in the end. After all, we've been through this several times in the past already. It started with ASSIST hybrids. Then came diesel. Then it was Two-Mode. Then it was ASSIST hybrids again, but with cost a much higher priority. Then it was so-call "clean" diesel. Each failed to deliver the efficiency promised. Most fell short of a clean emission rating as well. So this round with the first plug-in hybrid isn't really anything new. Goals weren't meant. This is simply the fallout of that we are witnessing now. Efforts to spin outcome just delays the inevitable. In other words, admitting sales are not what they anticipated. That's vindicating... which verifies those original goals (efficiency, emissions, and affordability) must still be delivered.
Concern Confirmed. Discussions increasingly focus on price. Mainstream success of a plug-in depends upon it being affordable... and everyone is finally acknowledging that reality. The enthusiasts of Volt, those specifically who had previously deemed the $40,000 price "worth it" previously, now claim the much needed cost-reduction will come in a few years. Each denies the concern about time & quantity was ever hyped to be fulfilled by the end of 2010. Instead, these certain individuals now show concern of their own by claiming the choice of a smaller battery-pack and fewer features is a terrible business risk. Offering such an option isn't necessary. To them, there is still plenty of time and consumers will embrace the next generation design overwhelming more than anything from competing automakers. That concern for "too little, too slowly" is still just an attempt to undermine Volt in their minds. We disagree. We see it being confirmed already. Sales in the months to come will fortify that. This configuration of Volt was supposed to be a high-volume seller. It's turning out to be a favorite niche.
Favorable Calculations. This is a great example of the devil being in the details. Today a Volt owner setup a "cost calculator" to help people compare monthly costs of operating a Volt to other vehicles. The very first problem I encountered was it didn't provide either zero-percent or non-financing options. It defaulted to 6 years at 3 percent. It also depended upon the tax-credit to balance out to the default compare vehicle, one which only delivered 25 MPG. At that point, I had already determined the creator hadn't really considered all the situations. Curious, looking further at the remaining parameters, I saw the daily miles was 86 and the charges per day was 2. Where in the world did those values come from and how does that even remotely represent a typical driver? Of course, seeing the price of gas listed as just $3.50 wasn't a reflection upon future expectations either. Needless to say, I plugged in realistic Prius numbers... $25,000 for price, 0.01 for financing, 36 months for payments, $3.85 for gas, 40 miles for daily driving, 1 charge per day... and got a result showing $187 less per month for Prius with the Volt getting a full tax-credit... without, Prius was $395 less per month. Changing numbers to $30,000 and 75 MPG to roughly represent the plug-in, favor was $61 for Prius with credit. Changing price to $32,500 and eliminating that credit for both, it was $195 in favor of Prius. Going back to the cordless Prius to compare 30 & 50 miles daily, the results were $190 & $194 respectively... in favor of Prius. In other words, no matter what I entered, Prius always came out the better buy. Gotta like that!
Competing with PHV. The plug-in Prius was designed to be a package upgrade from the cordless model, to boost efficiency. Storage in the cargo area will only differ by not having hidden space available below the false floor and providing a tire-repair kit rather than a temporary-spare. MPG while using the engine after depletion will be very similar. Seating will be the same. Options will be the same. Exterior will be the same. With a price targeted directly at middle-market consumers, appeal for the mainstream should be very high. How in the world will a plug-in hybrid like Volt compete with so much higher of a sticker-price? Other automakers want to offer plug-in choices of their own as well. Primary focus in the interest of "being green" is MPG. That number is the draw, featured dominantly in most advertisements for traditional vehicles anyway. Competing with PHV will be a challenge with so much support already established. The 160 models used for collecting real-world data in the United States alone have some unlikely customers interested in a purchase even before rollout. The other 440 elsewhere in the world will very likely have done the same. Those extended driving opportunities provided far more than any dealer-demo would. There's the anticipation of the final production model being more refined as well. I'm very excited... and so glad those hoping to compete are now showing trepidation about the upcoming reveal in a few weeks.
No Data. The only real aspect of "uncertainty" left for the Volt enthusiasts to exploit is Winter efficiency, since only a handful of owners purchases took place before Spring arrived this year. Sure enough, that was precisely was surfaced as the daily topic today. Posts were the same old nothing as in the past. When there's no data available, they just dismiss & wander. There really isn't anything remaining to discuss anymore. Without real-world data available, what is there? I pointed out that reality yesterday. The response was a link to a website providing a summary from owners and a rude attitude snapping: "How much more detail do you need?" I couldn't believe that was even attempted. There's no gallon or kWh information. Nothing about plug-in frequency. There weren't even ownership duration dates. It was nothing be EV miles, Total miles, and MPG values. The spreadsheet was so vague, what was shown could have just as easily been a list of aftermarket Prius conversion results. You know how this is going to lead to an intolerant double-standard next year, where those same enthusiasts accepting of vague from Volt now will be absolutely demanding of detail about the plug-in Prius then. Of course, I have a feeling they'll end up regretting it. Ask yourself what mainstream consumer priorities are for a plug-in purchase. What are they really hoping to get? What does the plug-in Prius deliver?
All Gone. Any last hope of constructive discussion vanished today. The new Camry was revealed, including an upgraded hybrid model. With an estimate of 41 MPG combined and a $25,900 base price, arguing against such a traditional looking vehicle offering 200 hp has become quite a challenge. So much so, it pushed the Volt enthusiasts already in a stir about the upcoming 3 new models of Prius on the way, over the edge. The volume of vague claims and superior bragging grew substantially. It's sad to think the situation came to that. From the perspective of a newbie looking for helpful information researching a purchase, forget finding it on that daily blog. It's all gone. With uncertainty of purpose there still, 8 months after the ownership transfer, it's a surprise hopeful participation held on that long. Volt clearly missed the target market. Meanwhile, the rest of the industry strives to attract those mainstream consumers with their own new hybrids. This time last year, I yearned for the day that hype would finally disappear entirely. Today marked that event. Reality has come crashing down. Too little. Too slowly.
Fanboy Website. Based upon the UK testing-cycle, the
plug-in Prius will achieve about a 107 MPGe rating converted to US.
That was high enough to stir lots of emotion from those on the daily blog
for Volt... which sadly has become a "fanboy" website, where constructive
discussion has been lost to cheerleading. It put the moderator in an
awkward position, finally called out to set policies about
participation. That's long overdue. What is the purpose there?
Don't they want a better Volt to emerge? Or is it really the website
just to support whatever is available for purchase? I waited until 11pm that
evening before finally posting anything about today's topic, the PHV model
Prius: It's been interesting reading all the posts, patiently waiting until
everyone else has had an opportunity to chime in before responding.
The need is clear, consumers are looking for an affordable solution offering
significant improvement to emissions & efficiency. The want of EV purity
doesn't actually ever get mentioned by anyone other than enthusiasts. Mainstream consumers, those middle-market buyers of popular vehicles like
Camry & Corolla, don't even list it as a priority.
That photo showing 233 MPG while driving at 70 mph was taken by me behind
the wheel of a plug-in Prius. The 992 RPM on the gauge indicates the engine
was indeed spinning at that speed, but it also reveals how remarkably
efficient the system can be from the boost the plug-in system provides...
which fulfills the purpose, so well, it explains the posts today.
Toyota & Ford Hybrid Trucks. A joint effort between Toyota & Ford to develop rear-wheel drive hybrid pickups and large SUVs was announced today. These will be the true workhorses, towing well in excess of 3,500 pounds. GM attempted to pursue that market with Two-Mode, but didn't attract many sales. Price is a major problem in that area. Competing directly with traditional diesel is quite a challenge for that particular market. And with the upcoming CAFE requirements coming, action to deliver something better (high-volume & profitable) has finally come. Online reaction from GM supporters was acknowledgement of poor sales with price to blame. No argument came from the rest of us, who have been saying that all along. Of course, this same concern holds true for Volt as well. Rugged & Affordable is something combined resources from the two automakers will be better able to deliver. It's very different from the passenger vehicles currently offered as hybrids.
Purity. It is quite astonishing how far some will take bragging rights. They attempt to spin history for the sake of painting a better history, rather than just facing facts. But then again, bragging usually involves some degree of embellishment anyway. I grow tired of that. But on a nice day while out biking or rollerblading, my mind searches for ways to respond to that nonsense in a polite & thoughtful manner. Today, it was in response to poking at the choice of maximum "EV" speed for the plug-in Prius and claims of its design being an afterthought. It's quite clear how Toyota carefully considered consumer requirements rather than simply just cater to their desires. But certain individuals totally disregard that to focus on emotional appeal instead. My retort to the speed taunt was: Beyond that doesn't mean any gas is actually consumed. It simply means the engine spins to balance power-carrier speed. This has been part of the design since way back in 2003, awaiting better batteries and cost-reductions in the meantime. Does the engineering tradeoff for a higher tolerance (speed & power at increased cost & weight) support the business need? Ironically, reasoning used in support of direct-drive asks the same question. Stating goals is very important when addressing issues like this. Diminishing returns don't always justify the argument for purity.
Efficiency Standards. We are now in a world of shared economies & markets. That isolation of the past is gone. Unfortunately, the mindset isn't. There was a lot of push back in the United States for raising CAFE requirements. As a result, they were eased up a bit and exclusions were allowed. That's not the case over in Japan. They are looking toward more stringent efficiency standards... sooner, higher, and across the entire fleet. That translates to strong support for the new Prius family right away. So, whether or not they become top-sellers here is secondary. Odds are though, having a variety of choices available should make "Prius" quite popular. A year from now, it looks like we'll have the 50 MPG hatchback, a 40 MPG wagon, a 55 MPG compact, and a +75 MPG plug-in. How that along with the new standards affects the rest of the industry should be very interesting. I'd suspect a lot new announcements from the other automakers. After all, those offerings from Toyota won't have traditional counterparts. High-Volume sales of them would certainly change the game.
Motive. Isn't it amazing how some people hear but don't actually listen? No matter how much you attempt to focus on goals, once they see you post something favorable about a competitor's design, they stop listening. I saw that constantly with Volt prior to rollout. Afterward, it's been even worse... since speculation then has been replaced with facts now. Concern about gas prices and the migration to smaller traditional vehicles rather than embracing their alternative was valid. In other words, both the "over promise, under deliver" and the "too little, too slowly" have been confirmed. To make matters worse, there's pressure from the current $22.16 stock price. The situation isn't pretty. Everything said at this point sounds like "Prius" to the Volt enthusiasts. It's just like the Two-Mode enthusiasts of the past... and the ASSIST hybrids... and the diesels. Rather than just sighting efficiency, emission, and price objectively, it turns into a credibility attack. Geez! Why can't they see the success of Cruze and the upcoming plans for Sonic are the sales they should be concerned about? An automaker seeking profit with resources already spread thin won't be able to deliver a next-generation design for years. Shouldn't there at least be an effort to clearly state goals and push to make sure they are achieved?
Wait-List. With great interest, I've been watching the thread this was posted in: "All of this talk you've read about interest in the Volt *waning* is nothing more than protected speech (i.e. political hogwash). Currently, there are over 50,000 buyers on the Volt waiting list, and many of those have been waiting for a Volt for nearly a year." Those were the first two sentences, which got even the members on that Volt forum concerned. The response expressing that the best was this: "I'd really like to believe that number. Where does it come from? If its not based on reality then it only serves to fan the intense flames of vitriol that Volt haters spew." The answer was very disappointing. It was that unofficial, unsponsored enthusiast wait-list created quite a few years ago, back when Volt expectations were an under $30,000 price, efficiency 50 MPG after depletion, and an unconditional EV range of 40 miles. That was also back when Volt looked quite different. People had no way to remove their name. So as details were revealed, the list only grew larger. There was no commitment to buy and GM clearly stated they would not honor it. In other words, it was nothing but a vague survey. The original poster didn't know that though. It was just assumed to genuine and a source to refer naysayers to. To my surprise, someone actually set him straight too, with this: "Let's stop believing our own BS and helping the Volt bashers."