Personal Log  #553

February 18, 2012  -  February 24, 2012

Last Updated: Sat. 2/25/2012

    page #552         page #554         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 



Lost Opportunity, part 1.  With the presidential nomination spin getting so intense now, it's quite easy for some to lose perspective.  Thankfully though, the rhetoric surrounding Volt is down to the last few bits.  There's always someone in such deep denial, they refuse to acknowledge what's actually happening in the market.  Continuing to hold onto a dream of what could come years down the road isn't constructive.  You can't just pretend sales of vehicles will stop & wait.  This one particular individual tried though.  He was the same one who held onto the belief that Volt would deliver 60 MPG after depletion right up until the day the EPA estimates were revealed.  I'm not sure what will happen with him in this case.  But curiosity got the best of me when he started up with the "be patient" spin again:  You don't have the luxury of time.  $4 gas dictates outcome.  That's reality.  That's now.  Sales will be lost to other vehicles.


Subtle Factor.  There is typically something that gives an extra push to justify a major choice.  I state it as a finalizing reason.  For Prius PHV, the location of the charging-port is what I attribute to that.  Sure, there's the obvious weight & cost savings benefit of having it in back.  There's also the side consideration for international markets.  The subtle factor aspect if it hadn't occurred to me until just today.  So, I resurrected the discussion thread about it from last year to post my thoughts:  Having closely watched Toyota's approach with Prius over the past 12 years, something seems obvious to me that no one else has apparently noticed.  The underlying principle contributing to all the other choices about design has been to make Prius a common vehicle.  That's has resulted in many features being keep subtle, so they don't intimidate.  Have you have wondered why the Multi-Display shows only one electric-motor, even though there is actually two?  That's an example which dates all the way back to 1997.  Locating the charging-port in back makes it appear to be just an everyday object on a vehicle.  People will see that and assume it to be where gas is pumped... unless they look really close.  That makes it as unintimidating as possible, yet still pretty exciting upon actual use... a good finalizing reason for the choice of location.  With a port in front, that would extremely difficult to mistake for anything common.  Engineering is important, but not the only thing contributing to decisions.  Prius success has come from thoroughly considered design.


Along The River.  I wanted to capture one last video with the 2010 Prius, before getting my PHV (2012 plug-in Prius), which will be arriving at the dealer very soon.  Freshly fallen snow makes for great scenery, though the resulting road spray is a bit of a pain when filming.  To my surprise, the sun came out while I was setting up the equipment.  It was a beautiful day and great timing.  The drive itself was nice too.  That route is my commute to work, along the river.  It's scenic and avoids the 70 MPH highway, only a half-mile longer and sometimes faster due to there being less traffic.  The slower speed means I could drive the entire distance without needing the gas engine, if the battery-pack capacity was just a little bit bigger.  Including data from the aftermarket gauge was important.  I did the same drive 1.5 years ago back when I had an early model PHV.  Halfway through, I abandoned that effort.  Having traveled that far seeing the RPM as zero the entire time made it quite uneventful.  But now the production PHV, having this available as a basis of comparison will make doing the same again very exciting.  61.4 MPG after driving 17.1 miles is certainly nothing to complain about.  That was a routine sight for me during the Summer.  This was winter though, only 36°F outside.  But the engine was already partially warmed up (as you can see by the coolant temperature displayed), which doesn't take anywhere near as long as it does for me to complete the camera setup.  Anywho, the resulting MPG from the PHV will be considerably higher.  I can't wait to capture & share that video!  In the meantime, check out this one:  Prius - Along The River


Once In A Lifetime.  It was the peak of rush hour.  I didn't want to take the main highway.  It get too congested and the wait on the merge ramp is rather annoying.  So, I took the back way, along the river by way of sneaking over a residential bridge.  It's a nice pleasant drive, despite so many stoplights.  But without those lights, my transition from one major road to another would be quite a challenge with lots of traffic.  But at least that traffic was moving, not guaranteed to stop as with the main highway.  Sometimes you hit a light red, other times green.  It works out as a nice balance... except this time.  Having just had a wonderful day at work put me in an especially good mood too.  I kept hitting light after light green.  Whoa!  Statistically, what were the odds of going through so many without having to stop?  At that point of realization of my good fortune, I was about half way through the 18 lights I would encounter along the way.  Could I actually keep the Prius moving that entire commute, from leaving the road the ramp was on to my own driveway?  Never in the past 2 decades has such a rare even occurred.  Would today be the day?  Knowing there was a cluster crossing under a major interchange just blocks from my house, it didn't seem likely.  But what the heck.  Rub that rabbit's foot.  You never know.  Sure enough.  I couldn't believe it was happening.  I did indeed make it.  Having just filmed that drive the other direction yesterday, it's too bad my camera hadn't captured such a once in a lifetime event.  Of course, that would make for terrible comparison video.  When is anyone ever going to be that lucky?  I certainly don't expect that to ever happen again.


Ignoring Hybrids.  Listening to a Republican presidential candidate on the news this morning, his spin was that President Obama wants to give $10,000 to each of the rich (average of $170,000 annual income) who buy an electric car.  His example was Volt.  There was no mention of it being a hybrid, electric-only was implied.  This is a reason why I've been so against calling Volt an "electric" vehicle.  It's unintended consequences like this that the enthusiasts hadn't considered.  The candidate was misrepresenting intentions and leaving out vital information.  There was no mention of the car also having the ability to be driven using gas.  It was a play on the fear of "range anxiety", which unfortunately, the Volt enthusiasts did a terrible job of promoting.  Had they spread the word better, opportunity to exploit the fear of running out of electricity wouldn't have been available.  Simply calling Volt a hybrid with a large capacity battery-pack instead could have avoided that.  The other problem this candidate tried to stir was not mentioning anything about other plug-in vehicles getting less and that the $10,000 was only a proposal, that the current maximum is $7,500.  Basically, his claims were a good example of lying by omission.  That's sad.


Gingerbread.  That's the version of Android my phone just got updated to.  I've never had any trouble with bluetooth phone conversations or listening to music.  That wireless ability has been fantastic.  When you get in the car, it would automatically connect... for the phone at least.  For music, I usually had to push the connect button on the Prius display.  Then I'd have to push the play button afterward.  Not anymore though.  Now the music part happens automatically.  I just push the BT tab, the same as you would for CD or FM or SAT, and then you hear music.  No other interaction is needed.  Continued improvement is great.  That phone update fixed my bluetooth rechargeable speaker too.  It worked fine with my tablet, which has an even newer Android operating system.  It also worked with my Windows notebook.  But with my phone, no such luck... until now.  That did the trick.  I remember all those years ago, when I first got my Iconic Prius back in 2003.  I had to upgrade to a new phone with bluetooth to take advantage of wireless.  Now, most hardware & software supports it.  That's great... and very handy.


$3.55 Per Gallon.  With the turmoil in Europe and the political nightmare in Iran, relief from other pressures on the oil market hasn't helped.  In fact, today it felt like a losing battle.  Gas was at $3.39 in the morning.  On my commute home, it shot up to $3.55 per gallon.  Since oil prices have been slowly climbing, there wasn't any explanation for this sudden spike.  It was basically just investor speculation influencing the market again.  Since the gas already being made in local refineries came from less expensive oil, what else could it have been?  We'd certainly hear about other factors, but there doesn't seem to be any.  The media craves the attention news like that high prices bring.  And there's nothing like what setting new records does for that.  It does raise awareness of efficiency to a new level.  It's great timing too with the autoshows currently in progress.  How the market responds is a bit of a mystery though.  The availability of plug-in vehicles is a new twist, something the auto industry hasn't ever taken seriously.  Will they now?


Quick Intro.  I still remember filming this, all those years ago... specifically:  June 16, 2003  It was recorded onto tape, which by today's standards would be a bulky camera.  Editing footage on the computer afterward certainly was a crude in comparison as well.  Time sure has flown by since then.  Meanwhile, technology has continued to improve... including Prius... which became bigger, more powerful, and more efficient.  Very soon, it will offer a plug too.  As for the video itself, I wanted a single take a simple approach.  So, I just pressed the button, then starting talking & walking.  It turned out pretty well.  Looking back at that history brings back good memories.  Watch it here:  Prius (Classic) - Quick Intro


Playing Offense.  On the big GM forum, a new thread was started, comparing Prius to Matrix.  That was strange.  Matrix hasn't been in production for awhile, nor does GM have an equivalent anymore (they had Pontiac Vibe).  It was an opportunity to drop bait.  The troublemakers there would pounce on that chance provided too.  And of course, anything you'd say would made you a "troll", since it would be perceived as you stirring trouble.  In other words, the moderators there have their hands full again.  It was the same vague provoking nonsense they had made an effort to squash.  You know, veteran posters being forgiven for anything they post, even though they were the cause of the conflict.  Some thrive on that, refighting the same battles over and over again.  I didn't take the bait.  Ignoring the reality that Toyota offers a variety of new choices now, I changed focus to PHV.  After all, how can they ignore it much longer?  What should I have to always defend anyway?  Why not switch to playing offense instead?  So, I did:  What I find most revealing is the effort to show that the plug-in Prius isn't the same as Volt, when no one except those expending the effort are actually saying that.  Heck, when I drove an early model PHV back in August 2010, I posted the photo of my commute to & from work (showing an 80 MPG average after 33.4 miles) and pointed out the MPG BOOST that was provided by the plug.  There was no effort to promote any type of EV range.  It provided a clear example of the outcome from blending.  The reason for that approach was (and still is) to deliver a significant improvement to emissions & consumption while keeping the option affordable; otherwise, it would struggle to become a high-volume seller capable of phasing out traditional choices.


That Small One?  Someone overheard me mention I was getting a new car.  They spoke up to ask what kind.  I said a Prius.  The response was "That small one?"  I looked at her a bit confused and said, "No, it's a Prius."  She then said it again!  Huh?  After all these years, some people still have no idea what Prius actually is.  That boggles my mind.  When they see one on the street, what do they think it is?  Are they not aware of it being a midsize car, just assuming it's really small without ever having actually checked?  This type of response shouldn't be much of a surprise.  You can still read automotive reviews of Prius stating the "B" mode on the shifter increases regenerative braking.  In reality, it does the opposite by engaging the engine for deceleration.  Heck, just yesterday I saw that very misconception being claimed about Prius c, specifically pointing out how it works the same as the regular model even though the shifter looks quite different.  Needless to say, I decided to just interject a bit of humor as a response instead.  So, when she asked what kind again, I said:  "A blue one."  Everyone laughed at that.  I found it a clever way to get out of an awkward situation.  Never assume a person truly understands what you are talking about.  This was a great example of that.


Zero Spin.  Leave it to a Volt owner to spin this perspective: "Toyota is likely issuing this new data now to soften the blow when the EPA sticker reads ALL Electric Range = 0 miles."  That obsession with AER was something we all figured would become a problem later.  But now as the situation unfolds, perhaps not.  The fallout of Volt has been so much controversy that awareness of goals has been quite prominent.  The reply to that comment I posted was:  My own quote from the Volt daily blog on September 2010 sums up the situation: "Those attempting to force an EV perspective on a hybrid are missing the point and causing confusion."  It was one of many, many attempts to convey the "BOOST MPG" expectation for PHV that ended up falling on deaf ears.  Reading that particular daily exchange of banter reinforces the trophy mentality we've been dealing with for years.  In fact, that particular group still thrives on bragging rights.  It sure will be interesting will be when GM finally diversifies.  Without anything competitive to offer, something must give.  Because Volt has become a halo product and the source of much controversy, there continues to be a chance of the front-wheel-drive Two-Mode plug-in coming to market.  The latest model being tested is a Cruze.  And since we know other automakers are also planning to offer their own "blended" plug-in hybrids, it does tend to make sense that GM wouldn't ignore that category entirely.  In other words, each must offer something that can be sold in high-volume for a profit.  But while we wait for those offerings, some will attempt to spin "blended" as being a bad thing.  There is no stigma.  EV isn't necessary.  The true goal is to significantly reduce emissions & consumption.


Prius v Plug-In.  The rumor emerged already.  This is much sooner than anticipated though.  From the start, it was obvious that the larger model of Prius could easily accommodate greater battery-capacity to support a plug.  We thought there would be more time though.  I was looking forward to collecting several months of real-world plug data before talk began of the next offering.  Too late.  It started today, before rollout of a PHV for the regular model even began.  I find interest at this point especially encouraging.  With so few charging-stations, you'd think that most people wouldn't give a second thought to plugging in.  After all, there's a big push for non-hybrid "eco" models of traditional vehicles now.  Great!  Let's see where the rumor takes us:  Toyota's approach to offering a variety of choices has been an obvious endorsement to how seriously they are taking the issue of traditional vehicle replacement.  They've even had a few models not stir much interest along the way, yet they keep trying.  Overall, that's worked great. The technology is refined each step of the way.  Prius v is already well suited to offer a plug.  So, the thought of doing that this fall isn't too far of a stretch... especially considering what happens in the meantime.  With model of plug-in about to hit our shores next week, we'll have a good feel for market acceptance by then.


back to home page       go to top