Personal Log  #566

April 27, 2012  -  May 3, 2012

Last Updated: Weds. 6/06/2012

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That New Button, quick switch.  As planned, I used the button today to fire up the engine, but then switched back to EV mode a few seconds later.  That left the Prius in "enhanced HV mode" until the engine was warmed up (130°F), then it automatically because electric-only driving.  It was a "just drive it" experience, making no effort whatsoever to keep the engine from starting back up, even when climbing up the long steep hill.  Turns out, that wasn't necessary.  There was no need for that much power.  In fact, I was a bit bummed when I finally reached the river crossing.  Merging onto the highway, I dropped the pedal to the floor to start the engine.  Turns out though, traffic was only traveling at 52 mph and it was downhill.  So, that was likely wasted gas.  Upon reaching my parking spot, there was 0.2 miles of EV capacity left... and to my delight the efficiency was higher.  The result today was 320 MPG.  That's only a difference of 0.0017 gallons of gas (from the 310 MPG yesterday), well inside the margin-of-error for measurement.  So, far more sampling would be needed to really nail down the improvement.  But that's rather pointless, since even getting just the 250 MPG from never using the button is great anyway.


That New Button, advice.  It's to fire up the engine to take advantage of the hybrid system when you are driving beyond the EV capacity available.  Once the coolant warms to 130°F, the engine on & off is surprisingly quick and you gain a little bit of EV in the process.  Today, I pushed the button to start the engine, then drove the warm-up distance while in HV mode.  Tomorrow, I'll push the button, but only stay in HV mode for a few seconds.  Switching back to EV mode right away will draw from the battery more, which is ok for me since I ended up at my destination with unused EV today.  That should result in higher MPG.  Keep distance & speed in mind.  Like any efficiency driving, planning ahead is key.  But when on your daily commute, the routine should make observations easy.  The system will automatically squeeze out great efficiency anyway.  But it couldn't hurt to start up the engine sooner if you know the EV would be better used later.


That New Button, tried it.  Whoa!  I had no idea the difference would be that obvious.  Yesterday, I took the "along the river" route to work.  It's 17.2 miles long with a top speed of 55 mph on some roads that are quite scenic.  The purpose of that particular drive was to go as far as I possibly could as far as I could using only EV accelerating as fast as possible.  That extra push from the battery resulted in a drop of maximum range from 14.1 to 13.0 miles.  But that electricity sacrifice prevents you from holding up any traffic.  You accelerate at the same speed as everyone else.  When reaching the depletion point, the engine started.  It's not the ideal, since using the hybrid system can be more efficient overall than electricity-only driving... especially with a battery-pack that's 4.4 kWh.  The result was 250 MPG.  Today, I took advantage of the HV/EV button.  Taking the same route, I fired up the engine when the first need for acceleration came up.  I briskly accelerated, knowing the engine running optimally will end up recharging the battery-pack a little bit as a result.  After all, that's the point of a FULL hybrid.  The system focuses on overall efficiency, not that of the moment.  Once warmed up, I pressed the button again to shut the engine off.  It was now available for a quick on & off later.  That came when a steep hill climb was needed.  Then things got interesting.  MPG will unexpectedly high, close to 250 and there was plenty of EV available.  Later when I arrived at my parking spot, there was 1.3 miles still remaining.  And to my delight, on the display it said 310 MPG.  The HV/EV button allowed me to use less electricity and less gas.  My expectations weren't to see so much of an improvement.  That was amazing!


Sales Silence.  It was downright creepy today.  The GM supporters didn't want to say anything about Volt sales for April.  The previous month's record included clearance 2011 models.  Disregarding that one-time gain was a setup for disappointment.  No discounted prices for new inventory wasn't a reality they wanted to face.  And of course, the inevitable happened.  Sales were indeed lower as a result.  The problem is, they were way too low to spin.  With excuses exhausted, maybe the time to be constructive is near.  There's hope.  Anywho, only 1,462 Volts were purchased.  That's significantly lower than the Buick LaCrosse eAssist, of which 4,311 were purchased.  The new model of Chevy Malibu with eAssist also did well, with 3,324 purchased.  Competition from within continues to be a serious problem... especially when you consider Chevy Cruze had a total of 18,205 for the month.  GM is it's own enemy... quite unlike Toyota.  Again, Corolla was beat by the Prius family.  Not by much.  But with numbers 24,804 and 25,168 for April, neither is actually in jeopardy.  Sales of 36,820 Camry made it quite worthy of attention too.  For the plug-in portion of Prius sales, there's no way of gauging PHV demand yet... since pre-order deliveries are still in progress.  But you know the 1,654 new owners in April made for more than enough reason to affirm the reason for silence.


Production Here.  That was the big rumor today.  It was pretty much a given though, hardly a surprise.  The industry fallout in 2008 clobbered the plans to begin production here with the third generation Prius and it's not money well spent setting up mid-cycle.  Planning for the fourth instead is a sensible move.  That likely means late 2015 for the 2016 model-year.  Where isn't even speculated.  The location that was under construction, then halted abruptly when cash became scarce, resumed with new plans for Corolla instead.  And that is indeed what's produced in the Mississippi plant now.  Kentucky is where Camry is built, including the hybrid model.  But there's no guarantee it will even be in that area of the country.  Whatever the case, it was a good sign hearing about this again.  The recovery from the fallout is becoming apparent now... and efficiency is much more of a priority.  Looking back, it makes sense that the highly profitable SUV market would have to collapse... since the automakers certainly didn't want to miss out on that lucrative opportunity.  But now that guzzling is no longer acceptable, production of responsible choices is getting lots of attention.


Daily & Monthly.  I like to collect real-world data.  Having lots of it available helps to prevent the intentional misleading we have to routinely deal with and it conveys realistic expectations for those considering a purchase.  With that, you get a variety of reports from me.  Here's the one from today:  Ugh!  70 miles today, from a variety of driving.  2 recharges, I thought would be well used.  But no.  I ended up pulling into the garage with a warm engine and 0.1 mile of EV left.  Unused electricity.  That's terrible!  Oh well.  78 MPG is hardly anything to complain about.  For this month, which includes my snowy & rainy 636-mile trip up north, the total distance traveled was 1,828 miles.  By tracking plug-in activity and using 3.1 kWh as the per-recharge quantity, 128 kWh of electricity were consumed.  Based upon the values shown on the display each evening, 27.5 gallons of gas were consumed.  That calculates to an overall average for the month of 66.5 MPG.  I can't wait to find out what next month will bring.


Sales Results.  This particular month is an important one for sales.  We'll find out what the results are in two days.  Expectations for PHV are for roughly the same as last month, since pre-order delivery is still taking place.  You can imagine the quantity getting media spin regardless of what it is.  Less would supposedly mean weak demand, even though you can't buy them directly yet.  More would supposedly mean weak growth, not meeting whatever expectations antagonists arbitrarily come up with.  No change would supposedly indicate a pattern of something bad.  You know how it is, there's no way to actually "win" when quarrelling with those who thrive on hype.  In other words, April will provide the slow progress forward we have anticipated.  May will bring about the beginning of dealer sales, but only in 15 states.  Being able to purchase without pre-order will be a big deal, regardless of where.  That will be very interesting... especially as PHV owners continue to share real-world data.  In the meantime, there's Volt.  What the heck are the expectations for that?  Sales of 3,750 per month was the revised goal, dropping the 60,000 hope in this market to 45,000.  But last month's record sales of 2,289 fell way short.  That's not even 1 per dealer.  There are 2,600 in the United States who offer Volt.  So, you can imagine the internal competition from Cruze & Malibu being far more of an influence than PHV... with price the major factor.  It's too bad the priority of affordability wasn't taken seriously.  How will mainstream volume be achieved otherwise?  Traditional vehicles will continue striving for sales, making it difficult for hybrids (with and without plugs) to gain marketshare.


Recharge Measurements.  Accessing my charging account online, I got this report of kWh values: 2.989, 3.129, 3.125, 2.986, 3.032, 3.109, 3.110, 3.201, 3.117, 2.947, 3.067, 3.136, 3.126, 3.088, 3.022, 3.021, 3.081, 3.117.  That makes 3.1 kWh per recharge a reasonable standard value to use.  (I believe that one with 3.201 was from my remote A/C test, where electricity used to cool the vehicle interior comes directly from the plug rather than the battery-pack.)  Having a sampling of that size readily available sure was handy today.  Some were beginning to assume other values based upon just a personal observation or two using inexpensive aftermarket devices.  Values measured from commercial-grade charging-stations specifically designed to capture that detail is much more likely to give reliable & consistent results.  Needless to say, I too wanted to know with a high level of certainty.  Then all I have to do is count recharges and multiple that standard 3.1 to get the total kWh value.

4-28-2012 Brainless Observations.  Since the very beginning back in 2000, there has always been a dead giveaway to confirm that the reviewer has no clue how the system actually works.  When you come across one, don't let it bother you.  Until recently, it was always the fastest speed you could travel with the engine off.  They'd notice acceleration from a stop, then never do any further observation.  So, you'd get a quote stating the maximum is around 12 MPH.  There was no effort to find out if it was different for other circumstances.  They simply didn't bother.  In fact, you'd sometimes wonder if they even drove the car at all.  Now, the claim with 6 miles of EV for the PHV is just as brainless.  That's why most of the writers are only called reporters, not journalists.  There's lots of disappointment on the way if you're expecting well researched reviews.  Those that convey accurate & thorough information will be extremely rare.  Cherish them.

Panic Reports.  Paying close attention can make a big difference.  It allows you to identify patterns.  That can be really helpful. In this case, it provided me with a response others hadn't expected.  I noticed something that hadn't even crossed their minds.  There were numerous reports recently published, all based upon a survey.  The topic was repeat purchases by hybrid owners.  I was suspicious.  The results seemed too good of a source of new argument material for antagonists.  Though vague, the content itself didn't seem too bad.  Then I thought about the timing.  Publishing that just before Earth Day makes you wonder.  Then I stepped back to consider the big picture.  Ah ha!  It reminded me of the panic 3 years ago... when there was a panic about the imminent next generation Prius rollout.  The competition came up with a bunch of reports that made Prius look bad... with the hope consumers wouldn't realize the choice was about to change.  The same thing is happening now... quickly reporting information before the word spread about new Prius models becoming available.  The survey was legitimate when taken, those hoping to undermine simply won't mention it being outdated already.  People will just assume the newer models were included.  We've seen that type of misleading before.  It's an unfortunate reality we have to deal with it.  Fortunately, some of us are aware of the circumstances.


Cost Savings.  I like when this question gets asked: "Am I missing something from the PIP?"  He had only listed the two extremes, use of EV exclusively & entirely and driving very long distances.  Listing nothing else was a bit odd.  But then again, that is sometimes a good way to start a discussion thread.  I chimed in with:  Yes, those points were an oversimplification.  As already mentioned there's a major benefit to short-trips, something commonly overlooked.  Focus on the resulting MPG instead, which was also mentioned.  For me, my current tank is just a little over 300 miles with an average of 114 MPG.  Lastly, how do you put a cost on reduced emissions?  My electricity comes from natural-gas and solar, which is clearly better than coal.  Using even less gas (oil) is a benefit too... for both emissions & dependency.  What's the value of that?  Let's not forget about your contribution to a better future as well.  Each generation of plug-in will get better.  The children will appreciation that.


PHV Operation.  It's exciting to read questions specifically about the plug-in model from new owners.  The heightened awareness & curiosity is a win for everyone interested in Prius.  Today, one wanted to know what happens if you wait until the last minute to start the engine when it's still cold, like as you are accelerating up a ramp onto a highway.  This was my response:  No matter what you do, the engine will always warm gracefully.  The system is very well thought out, always taking emissions & longevity into account.  Watching a ScanGauge, it's easy to confirm that.  I see the engine running at a lower than usual RPM while the coolant temperature is still low.  Watching the EV capacity, you'll see it drop initially... dipping well into the HV capacity if EV is already depleted entirely to ensure the engine isn't worked too hard.  So regardless of speed, power, or temperature, when the engine warms, it is protected from wear... much like it has been for startup itself for over a demand.  The battery-pack is taken advantage, rather than putting stress on the engine.


Repeating Mistakes.  Believe it or not, the hype is beginning again.  It's exactly like Two-Mode.  With sales struggling and excuses exhausted, focus shifted over to something else.  In that past, it was Volt.  In this case, it's the Cadillac ELR.  This is the successor to Volt; however, it's a more expensive model.  Talking about going in the wrong direction!  It's amazing such senseless decisions are being made.  Counter-Balance with a less expensive choice would be fine.  That's not what we are seeing happen though.  But with Volt getting almost nothing for attention during Earth Day news and upcoming uncertainty about demand, the market was beginning to look at other offerings... like PHV.  Like last time, silence comes.  There aren't any heated arguments anymore.  There aren't even new discussion threads started.  The topic simply dies.  This is a repeat of mistakes we saw before... nothing learned.  Rather than addressing what the market actually needs, focus continues to be on want.


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