Personal Log  #572

June 2, 2012  -  June 9, 2012

Last Updated: Sun. 6/10/2012

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Newbie Posts.  When a new Prius comes out, I tend to back way off.  That gives the newbies an opportunity to develop a sense of community unimpeded by veterans.  Letting that take form on it's own is empowering to them.  When I post something, it will sometimes kill the discussion... since I have lots of real-world data to support whatever they were speculating about.  Allowing them to think through those scenarios themselves is rewarding for them... and priceless for me, since that's how I get ideas for the User-Guide.  Their non-interfered with comments provide an insight to their perspective... something I have difficulty seeing with 12 years of hybrid study.  After all, the market continues to evolve.  Think about how many people have smart-phones now.  That places different expectations on what information a vehicle should provide, especially one like Prius.  Of course, this leads to a perception problem.  It gives the impression I'm not being attentive to them anymore.  But then again, this is the same transition we've been through before.  However, it was only 1 new HSD hybrid at a time... not 3 all at once!


Wrap Up.  This worked out well.  I ended up getting called out by a Volt owner and accepted the criticism with:  How would you suggest getting it back on track?  Isn't the purpose to replace traditional vehicles?  The suggestion of a second model, one actually configured to be affordable, continues to fall on deaf ears.  It's very disappointing to see the performance aspect being used as justification for purchase, rather than actually having something for middle-market.  Step back and look at the other rollouts which were also niche vehicles, ones that didn't do anything to help mainstream consumers.  You can disregard them or push to make them better.  Also, keep in mind what you don't see.  Those of us active on the blogs & forums prior to rollout are well of aware of the disenchantment.  Enthusiasts of Volt left in droves once they found out about the price, range, and engine efficiency... leaving only the truly loyal remaining, who as a result took a very defensive stance.


Stirring The Pot.  The publishing of my most recent batch of personal logs came with the anticipation of rubbing someone the wrong way... almost inevitably, a Volt owner.  Most have embraced the "it's going to take a few more years" outlook, that nothing else needs to be done except wait.  Sound familiar?  It's the pattern repeating, again!  However, this time, there's just some "here's what to watch out for" comments.  I'm already well into moving on.  Taking those new photos for the User-Guide is great.  I'm having fun doing that.  It requires me to really think through the circumstances needed for each scenario.  After all, you've got a limited amount of electricity available, the engine warms up mighty quick, and the lighting conditions required to capture a moment with the camera presents challenges.  So, I've been devoting quite a bit of time to that.  But knowing June brought the long-awaited upgrade to Volt, there was still some attention lagging.  Turns out, the battery-pack chemistry was improved.  That will provide another half of a kilowatt-hour of electricity for propulsion, raising the overall capacity to 16.5 kWh.  No price reduction, though.  The theme now is just to accept what they believe cannot be changed.  Makes you wonder if they'll ever figure out how much influence they could have on the design.  Prius owners discovered the power of their input long ago.


Now, They'll Like It.  How do you respond to this: "Now, they'll be spinning it as a good thing."  We all remember how the suggestion of a hold button was a horrible thing, that nothing good could ever come from intentionally starting up the engine...  Since not hearing the same old rhetoric over and over again is a good thing, this was treated that way too with:  It's frustrating when they conveniently forget that previous stance.  We've seen their refusal to address the past already.  But realistically, there's no reason to dwell anyway.  Witnessing the change is confirmation of being correct all along and a step forward has occurred.  That's a measure of progress.  Accounting for the wide variation of real-world conditions takes time.  The snap judgments we've been seeing lately are red flags, dead giveaways that generalizations are being made and/or some type of defensive response is at play.  Efficiency is a balance of resources available.  With speed, length, time, temperature, traffic, etc. altering on a regular basis, it simply doesn't make sense claiming that the restriction of choice is best for every situation.


EV-BOOST.  It's a new concept... and exclusive to PHV.  Combining gas & electricity at a more balanced ratio allows for greater efficiency, seeking opportunity otherwise lost by depending primarily on electricity or the engine.  Think of normal HV mode, like this at 70 mph: 90% engine, 10% motor.  Then consider a reduction of the one and an increase in the other, a more balanced approach, like this at 70 mph: 50% engine, 50% motor.  EV-BOOST works something like that.  You get the choice of how to consume the electricity.  It's not just one extreme or another.  And when it comes to non-propulsion needs, like heat in the winter, that choice could provide quite an efficiency gain.  I'm looking forward to exploring this mode more.  In my brief experiences with it before, I've cruised at 70 mph watching each 1-minute bar on the Consumption Screen display at 100 MPG.  Too bad the scale doesn't go higher.  I can see on the ScanGauge it wavering, going all the way into the 300's at times and dipping into the 90's at others.  Even minor hills cause the value to fluctuate.  There's no such thing as a truly flat stretch of road around here.  It averages out to over 100 every time though.   More to come.  Stay tuned.


Routine 200's.  I've grown quite use to seeing that.  The commute has ended that way frequently lately.  I drive to work starting with a full charge and leave from there the same way.  This week, I've been taking the 70 mph highway to work due to road construction on the route along the river.  It doesn't offer the 400's and has quite a bit more traffic to deal with, but it's fairly nice.  I can still take advantage of the extra electricity.  And the difference between the two is roughly just 0.04 gallon each way.  I'm into that efficiency range where gas is measured in tiny amounts, quite unlike what traditional so-called efficiency vehicles offer.  It's a great example of diminishing returns.  Higher MPG wouldn't result in much of a difference.  Heck, vehicles without a PZEV emission-rating end up losing tiny amounts of gas from evaporation.  Most people don't even realize vehicle pollution can come from something other than the engine itself.  Anywho, with seeing that level of MPG becoming routine, I'm more curious than ever what Winter will end up bringing.


Figuring It Out.  It's always exciting to help out the newbies.  Though, it can be quite challenging without really knowing their background.  You give it try.  Today's question that caught my attention was: "Now if I could just figure out how to use the electrical motor the correct way????"  Coming from a thread already filled with attempts to explain, I tried to carefully word the response:  Engine only is inefficient, hence the hybrid approach.  The addition of an electric motor allows the engine to run in a less wasteful manor.  That's what you want.  Using the electric motor exclusively consumes your limited supply of electricity quickly.  On the Eco-Meter, you can see that.  The energy-bar is much larger for acceleration than it is for simply maintaining a steady speed.  That's why you want to share the burden with the engine during times of high demand.  Also, keep in mind that there's a second electric motor.  While the engine is running to provide thrust, it will use that to generate electricity at the same time.  This allows the engine to run at a more consistent RPM, which is more efficient.  This recharges the battery-pack along the way too.  Intentionally using the engine is counter-intuitive.  New owners tend to fight it, not realizing they are preventing the system from doing what it designed to do... causing lower MPG.  Enjoy electric-only when not much power is needed.  The electricity is better used that way.  When you do need power, don't be afraid to let the engine start.  It shuts off quickly afterward anyway.  And interestingly, that applies to the plug-in model as well.  You have more kW & kWh available, but there's still just a finite amount.  So, you want to consider when to consume it.  Typically, when lots of power is needed, take advantage of the engine.


Who?  Got the answer!  Finally!!  That long asked but never answered question got some acknowledgement today.  "Who is the market for Volt?" turned out to be a challenge of how to avoid providing a response without making it evident that the words would provide a change of context... and draw attention to those who were doing the avoiding.  Anywho, the reply came under the guise of providing education for the sake of spreading information.  In other words, we got more downplay.  Thank goodness this nails the coffin shut.  How doesn't matter anymore.  And technically, Volt really did die.  They just never wanted to admit how different its successor really would be.  This current generation is only intended for "enthusiasts", not ordinary consumers as the "early adopter" label intended to imply.  But the buying patterns have become too obvious to deny anymore.  There are those who thrive on the efficiency and those who bought the car just for the sake of getting in the HOV lane.  The middle is missing.  The lesson learned is hype leads to pride.  Overcoming pride is a major obstacle, one requiring a great deal of persistence & patience.  Phew!  Sure glad the obstacle itself is now so easy to see.  Ironically, they'll probably really like the next generation, even though it will compromise their own standards.  It's just so unfortunate it will take so long.  Heck, just getting an answer to the question took years!


May Sales, big picture.  The biggest "haven't noticed yet" news is that the second-generation BAS system from GM called eAssist is selling fairly well.  Malibu came to 1,640 for the month, which was just shy of Volt's 1,680.  There was 1,202 for Buick LaCrosse.  The other Buick, Regal, was really off with 174 though.  Not sure what the deal was for that.  But with all the models of Two-Mode combined coming to just 223, there are other issues to consider.  What should we be expecting?  683 for Ford's Fusion hybrid was a bit underwhelming.  Could that be the result of the upcoming C-Max hybrid?  But then again, seeing 4,403 for Camry hybrid does make you wonder.  480 for Lincoln MKZ hybrid raises other questions.  Looking at Honda's Insight, the 512 may have been reasonable... since Civic is the dominant hybrid.  But then again, those 708 don't stack up to the similar sized c model Prius, with 3,693 sold.  For the v model, there were 3,645.  The one I'm most familiar with is the regular model (often referred to as the "liftback" model now) saw 13,053 for sales in May.  That is a good number, showing steady & strong quantity... easily providing a self-sustaining business product.  We know that 1,086 for PHV doesn't tell a complete story.  When availability spans to nationwide, then we'll get a decent idea.  Currently, I wonder who even knows there is a plug-in model.  How do people find out about new offerings like that?  For electric-only vehicles, Nissan's Leaf had 510 purchases.  Ford's Focus EV is brand new, with only 6 so far.  Looking at diesel, the top-selling automaker here for them continues to be VW by far with 7,843.  Jetta was the most popular, drawing 4,644 sales.  Other noteworthy activity for May was the often overlooked Hyundai Sonata with 1,869 sold.  Hybrid SUVs are rarely talked about anymore.  In fact, the discontinued Escape shrank to 206.  What does that mean for Highlander at 506?  I understand it's AWD and 3,500 are genuinely useful for some, so a small market makes sense.  Then you look at the RX from Lexus with 1,011 and take notice.  1,549 for the CT from Lexus (luxury hybrid sedan) is another.  Long story short, the market has been stirred, there's lots more to report about now.


Reality Check.  It sure is nice not having to listen to all the hype anymore.  The only thing left keeping the plug-in market from settling is the stir about Volt sales last month.  Supporters simply disregard the reality that there was such a difference in availability compared to PHV.  But that doesn't actually matter.  They know all too well when the HOV sticker supply runs out, the tax & state credits expire, and the advertising campaign ends, Volt's competition is really the other vehicles GM offers.  That trophy-mentality continues to influence comments though.  Bragging rights dominate.  Rewriting history is popular too.  Prius was never a halo, since the definition indicates a lure of one vehicle resulting in the purchase of another.  Lots of Prius were actually purchased, pushing it well beyond that minimum of 5,000 per month.  In fact, it was quite normal to see sales more than double... and that was long before gas hit $4 per gallon or any tax-credits.  So, there's not a parallel as they insist on claiming... to Prius, that is.  We had see the familiar pattern of Two-Mode until recently.  That obviously didn't qualify for HOV privileges.  The divergence now makes it unique... requiring a step back for a reality check.


No Mention.  Not having anything to respond with makes shooting the messenger extremely difficult.  That's what the Volt enthusiasts have recently discovered.  No mention of PHV anymore, focusing on GM's own inventory now, prevents accusations of Toyota defending.  Traditional vehicles like Impala & Malibu selling well and no high MPG hybrid being offered, they really don't have much to say.  Volt was suppose to easily achieve the 60,000 level this year, to the point where it was deemed an insult to even consider the possibility of that not happening.  No, there's never any mention of that anymore.  In fact, even the 45,000 level is being avoided now.  The only discussion related to time is that of patience, instructing us to wait for the next generation... that those who expected 1 million to be sold the very first year were out of our minds.  They use exaggeration to obscure.  But there's no need.  We're done.  Hype allowed priorities to be misplaced.  Now there's an effort to convince people using less gas is more important than being affordable... which is falling on deaf ears.  Consumers in middle-market are buying lots of Prius.  Some will seriously consider an upgrade to the plug-in model when it becomes available.  PHV is a package choice, not an entirely different vehicle with a huge price difference.  Ugh!  Arguing business sense with those who focus primarily on bragging rights is rather pointless.  I guess there's no need to mention that anymore either.


That 100 MPG.  Knowing I wouldn't have an opportunity to recharge during the day with so much running around to do, it was a matter of deciding when to deplete the plug-supplied electricity I currently had available.  The short drives on the highway were the best candidates... though I really enjoy taking advantage of the battery-pack at high speeds, seeing continuous +100 MPG despite the engine running.  Capturing data for that new metric was the hope.  Today wasn't working out though.  MPG was only in the low 90's the entire time.  Yes, I know that is absolutely outstanding efficiency.  But not reaching 100 caused a rethink.  For driving a little over 39 miles using only the overnight recharge, who would actually ever complain about results like that?  Those real-world experiences sound great even on paper.  The arguments against having a 4.4 kWh capacity just aren't stacking up.  For the affordable price the package upgrade requires, you get a great return... regardless of how far you drive.  It significantly reduces emissions & consumption.  Isn't that the point?


Switching Over.  When a revised goal from just 6 months ago is denied, you know switching over to other tasks will be without fallout.  The original DOE goal (hence the tax-credit subsidy) for Volt in 2012 was sales here of 120,000.  That was later revised by GM, lowered to 60,000 for 2012.  Then when the revised goal from 15,000 to 10,000 wasn't even made for 2011, the new goal for 2012 became 45,000.  Needless to say, the expectations for making that recent revision are quickly growing dim... so much so, none of the enthusiasts seem to remember any of those numbers anymore.  Their downplay has taken hold.  For me, I've switched to Prius.  Sales speak for themselves.  No need to spend time anymore discussing what could happen.  Today, was my first test-drive with a c model.  It reminding me of my Classic model, but with an enhanced system.  I finally have enough material to update the User-Guide.  The one for the 2010-2012 was quite different from the Iconic from the beginning.  Now, it's going to include lots of PHV information as well.  That means lots of new photos to consider and data to continue to collect.


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