Personal Log #549
February 3, 2012 - February 7, 2012
Last Updated: Fri. 2/17/2012
page #548 page #550 BOOK INDEX
v Again. This second sighting was while cruising along the highway, quite different from being parked in a lot. The v was merging on and I was still off in the distance. I dropped the pedal, getting the usual response from the Prius with revving of the engine and basically no sensation of accelerating. Of course, a look at the speedometer gives a different impression. I sped up from 55 to 74 without any trouble. That's an under-appreciated aspect of having a engine & motor with both just leisurely operating to sustain a cruise. You still have power available... even though it feels like you don't. But nowadays, isn't smoooooooth driving more of an appeal anyway? After all, the popularity of v is proving that practical is now an appeal factor. Anywho, the driver sped up too. I wasn't sure if he was egging me on for a chase, but I could imagine how amusing it would be watching two Prius fly by.
Whoa! The excitement for PHV is building. Inventory reports are emerging. People are getting build information. We're getting close. It's finally going to happen. This was today's expression of my feelings at the moment: Sweet! My wait started October 1999. Even way back then THS was an obvious path to offering a plug. We could see that great potential from the PSD approach. It was basically just a wait for battery tech to improve. Sure enough, that did indeed lead to a plug. Practical. Affordable. Realistic. It's finally happening. Yeah! Patience has always been required with Prius... and well worth it... but with so much to look forward to so close to arrival, I can't stand it. AHHHH!
Understanding. Getting grief about Volt from a
Corvette owner who also works for GM shouldn't be much of a surprise.
This sarcastic response from another to me about that certainly wasn't: "That is truly a classic comment. Telling a
long term Chevy salesman, "you clearly don't understand the mainstream
market", you're the best, you really are." That salesman is one
who has flaunted Volt for years, emphasizing aspects to brag about with
total disregard for price. It's a sad commentary out misplaced
priorities. I just focus on need instead, not catering to want. This was my response:
Substitute any word you want in place of mainstream. The point was someone
who has consistently emphasized speed & power isn't going to relate to those
not seeking that. I've been watching the emission & efficiency market for 12
years now. Each new introduction resulted in learning more about what is
actually needed. It's not that.
What I get the biggest kick out of is how those here downvote facts, with
the ones gaining the most attention being specific detail about design. In
the case of PHV, that has been the increase in draw of the battery-pack from
27 to 38 kWh and the 60 kW size of the traction-motor. Both well support the
price & approach of the MPG boost. Reality is, the "too little, too slowly" concern was more complex
than many here understood. It isn't just a matter of delivering a nice ride
with a large capacity.
Affordable. It's almost pointless at this stage to try reasoning. That fear about "trophy mentality" from 5 years ago did indeed happen. The bragging we get from certain Volt owners is truly remarkable. It's getting to the level of wondering when other owners will speak out about those few who are harming Volt reputation. Anywho, this time it was the "bigger vision" argument. In other words, the downplay in the form of "being patient" is growing. It's ironic how their sense of bigger doesn't acknowledge the big picture. Being affordable isn't a priority for Volt support, even though it is a major priority for typical consumer purchases. They've all but abandoned the idea of Volt being a strong seller in the second year of production now. From their point of view, the plug-in offering the largest range is the best choice. They simply don't understand how choice priced more in line with mainstream vehicles will make a bigger difference. I sounded off with: How much oil can be saved depends upon the vehicle being affordable. (Interesting how you spin "affordable" to mean "cheapest" instead.) If only small number of people buy it, the overall objective is missed. In other words, consider the big picture... the entire production of compact & midsize cars, not just one. This is why GM must deliver more than just a single configuration. One size does not fit all. Different consumers have different priorities, but few normally considering a Malibu/Camry or Cruze/Corolla would be willing to spend close to $40k. That's far more than the "sacrifice a few dollars to help" gesture. Remember the "nicely under $30,000"? There was good reason for that particular goal.
PHV Purpose. Tired of all the spin & misrepresentation, it's routinely necessary to point out detail to provide perspective & intent: Total production of PHV is expected to be 50,000 this year. PHV has increased both range and power compared to the prototype. The battery-pack itself is also smaller & lighter. The purpose of PHV is to significantly reduce emissions & consumption. It's a hybrid, giving you quite a bit more EV than the regular model. It does offer gas-free driving through the suburbs, but that is not the underlying purpose of the technology. Price of the standard PHV model is $32,000 and it does qualify for a $2,500 tax-credit.
In Japan. There were 29,108 Prius were purchased in Japan last month. That's quite a bit, a great start to the new year. No chance of market saturation with the choices of model continuing to expand either. There were 3 available in January. February will add a 4th. Choice is important. It offers an alternative to those who didn't find a good fit with what was previously available and provides encouragement for those who had been a little hesitant. The on-going strong sales means deeper market penetration. It's how technologies of the past became dominant. Seeing our future play out in Japan already is fascinating. Fewer of the old get purchased over time. There's no looking back. After all, how often do you hear of someone buying a Prius then going back to a guzzler later?
The Analogy. I've used computer evolution of the past as an analogy to hybrids. Long ago, CPU speed told much about the machine. That changed over time though. Other components began to have more of an influence and wants began to diversify. Now, CPU alone leaves you with many uncertainties. More information must be included; otherwise, it's very easy to be misled. That confused the heck out of everyone, from manufacturer to consumer. How could such a variety speeds, sizes, and capacities be sold? Understanding all the nuances was a challenge for everyone. It was simple in the old days, but not anymore. Turns out, there's another analogy appropriate to the situation. It's the upgrade from DVD to Blu-Ray. The older works fine. But the newer offers higher quality picture & sound. You know someday you will inevitably upgrade. Do you do it now or later? People will face a similar conundrum with the plug-in hybrid. Will they buy the plug-in or just a regular hybrid? After all, they know they'll replace this purchase sometime later anyway. There are many factors of influence. We really don't know where the strong demand will be. But there should be willingness to accept change and the understanding that one size does not fit all.
Wait & See. There are always those who wait. Then when they see good results others have, they purchase one too. This is an extremely common practice in all industries. But when it comes to automotive, it's a really big deal. When you have that much money at stake and will have to accept the choice made for so many years, hesitation is quite understandable. That's where the multi-front approach helps. Even if there is little actual sales benefit from Highlander or Camry, the fact that they confirmed Prius was a well thought out design combined with consumer endorsements of reliability, you've got a winner. That's why GM marketing Volt as fundamentally different was looked upon as counter-productive. And with the sales trouble now, that was clearly something which should have been avoided. Oh well. I very much look forward to PHV acceptance. Others aren't sure what to expect. But for me already having been through 3 generational upgrades in addition to playing with an early model PHV, there is much to be excited about. My response was: What's scary is how much shorter that time span will be with PHV. There are those (like me!) who await the opportunity to take advantage of what the internet now has to offer. There will be lots of photos & video sharing that simply wasn't realistic until very recently. Heck, even "modern" forums didn't catch on until half-way through Gen-II run. I suspect it won't take long for PHV frenzy to emerge.
Dead Giveaway. It's hard to believe some stuff is accepted at face value, without question. That was the case with the supposed price of Volt's battery, until recently. I gladly sounded off about it with this: Certain things should be a dead giveaway that something isn't right. Back when we got all the hype about CS-mode delivering 50 MPG, no one seemed concern that such a golden opportunity was being overlooked. If that was true, why not also offer a regular hybrid? The reduction of cost & weight from a much smaller battery-pack and no plug overhead would have made GM a major player on two fronts with the same platform. It would have been a win-win situation, with a side benefit of high-volume production reducing cost even further. Yet, that was simply disregarded when mentioned. So recently when the supposed $3,000 price for the 16 kWh battery-pack emerged, it too became a dead giveaway. Yet, no one seemed concerned about it either. We know GM has been testing an EV model of Cruze. With a battery price so low, they'd be able to squash both Nissan & Ford. Instead, not a peep. Hearing that the $3,000 is really for the casing fills in the missing piece of the puzzle. There's also brackets, piping, wiring, controller-circuitry, software, etc. to consider, basically everything except the lithium modules themselves. The price may include a reclamation fee too. That makes sense. The supposition most definitely did not.
One Million Plug-Ins. Remember that goal? It's the underlying reason for the tax-credit incentive. President Obama wants to get 1 million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015. How many of them will be from GM? Ford? Toyota? Things like this are why I get so frustrated about the excuses for Volt. The enthusiasts believe there's still plenty of time and that market conditions are no different than they were a decade ago. They continue to claim Volt can take just as a long as Prius did to become profitable and to sell in high-volume. They pretend it's all totally new, that no knowledge from GM's past was applied or is relevant to this effort. What kind nonsense is that? Of course, they gloss over the past. I like to point out important stuff. For example, there was no pressure at all to deliver an efficiency vehicle back then; guzzling gas in a huge SUVs was all the rage. That's a sad reality, very different from now. Problems with oil dependency are quite clear, now. Then, most people simply didn't care. So, Toyota took advantage of the time available. That luxurious abundance is gone. Priorities should have changed accordingly. After all, that's what the tax-credit incentives are for.
Demand pressures are different now and multifold. There's the expiration of
the tax-credit, the requirements for CAFE, and the need to sell something in
high-volume that's both competitive & profitable. How many
repetitions of that same information must be posted before there's
acknowledgement? It's boggles the mind how some either just flat out
refuse to accept or are genuinely clueless. This shouldn't be
difficult to understand. Times change. Heck, just the price of
gas alone should be a major clue. Not seeing the downward shift from
in size & power of vehicle seems impossible. How could someone not
notice the roadscape looking so unfamiliar now. There's new compact
cars being offered from every automaker. The Big-3 had basically
abandoned that market. Now, they have returned to it. I realize
those who are not shopping for a new vehicle typically don't observe detail,
but how could such a paradigm shift go unnoticed. And that's the
perspective of an everyday consumer. Think about automotive
enthusiasts. How could they not see the change? Whatever the
reason, PHV is about to really stir attention. The media loves Prius,
good or bad they'll write about it.... since those headlines draw lots of
readers. So, expect even more change soon.
Iconic Video. This video is from back when I owned a 2004 Prius, now referred to as the Iconic model. August 27, 2005 seems so long ago. Yet, the memory of filming it is still quite vivid. I committed to a long weekend. 3 attempts on 2 different days, the effort paid off. I wanted to capture video of the Multi-Display in action, a very long & detailed sampling of what owners will actually witness while driving their own Prius. That required a well thought out way of securing both a tripod and the camera itself. I ended up with a net of rope & string pulling in various directions to keep everything suspended tightly. It worked surprisingly well too, greatly reducing bumps while I drove. Remind yourself how large & heavy the equipment was back then. Heck, just the battery alone weighed more than an entire camera does now. The video is was originally 54 minutes. Playback speed was increased by a factor of 5, so it becomes less than 11 minutes. That way you can still see all the action without in getting too long. I started from my house with a cold engine, drove through the suburbs, then followed a 55 MPH highway for a couple of miles. I switch to a quiet paved country road, where there was ample opportunity to drive a variety of speeds less than 45 MPH. I later get back onto that 55 MPH highway, then take an an uphill ramp onto a 65 MPH highway. I even briefly stopped to verify all is still well with the camera. So, there's quite a bit to observe. Throughout the video, you'll see the Multi-Display being switched between the two common modes. On "Energy Monitor", watch the many flows of energy. Pay close attention to how frequently the flow changes and to how often electricity is sent to the battery-pack. On "Consumption", notice how the MPG regularly fluctuates when the engine is running. When only electricity is being used for propulsion, observe how it influences overall efficiency. Adding significantly to the value of what's shown on the Multi-Display is the Speedometer. Knowing the speed Prius is traveling is a very important part of understanding how the hybrid system works. It takes advantage of many brief opportunities to save gas while at the same time not allowing the charge-level of the battery-pack to drop much below the middle (to ensure maximum life). Prius (Iconic) - Long Drive