Personal Log  #574

June 16, 2012  -  June 24, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 8/07/2012

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Change.  It's nice seeing it happen.  Raising awareness about bad practices still "stirs the pot" though.  Some unknowingly continue to greenwash feed.  Bring that up results in responses like this: "Your first post here was trollish though."  I understand their upset from being pointed out and am thrilled to observe their change following that.  It's a slow process.  But if sincere, overcoming that is totally realistic.  This was my reply:  That comes with taking a "pushy" stance.  Wanting to move on means not letting the rehash of old information dominate anymore.  Unfortunately, that desire for progress appears to others as "rocking the boat".  And sadly, the approach has been to welcome "cheerleading" and shun those attempting to have more than just the repeating of particular points.  Think about what still hasn't been addressed yet, items we don't stand a chance at discussing while the rhetoric continues.  It's been a heck of a challenge trying to get any real-world data about winter performance.  It's a topic that is simply dismissed whenever brought up.  That makes a topic like recharging in winter a daunting challenge to even just acknowledge.  Are people of the fact that charge-rate can be reduced in sub-freezing temperatures?  Think about the influence that could have on capacity discussion.  Many haven't, yet pounce on those who attempt to bring it up.  Thankfully, we are beyond the paranoid stage. In the past, when a Prius supporter would bring something like that up in a discussion about Volt, it was immediately assumed to be an effort to undermine Volt.  The enthusiasts were in a state of panic, blindly lashing out in fear of anything that could tarnish reputation.  I sure am glad that isn't the case anymore.  Phew!


13.5 Miles.  After driving a PHV for awhile, you focus on the overall results rather than observing individual drives experiences.  Today was different though.  To my surprise, I traveled beyond the usual EV estimate range without even trying.  The engine simply never started.  I went 13.5 miles with just electricity alone.  I've went further before, but not effortlessly like this.  The feel of the driving is obvious becoming natural.  It's like the way automatic transmission drivers just naturally avoid both hard downshifts and wheelspin.  They just do without any thought.  It becomes habit... one that's a challenge to break when you tell new Prius owners it's perfectly fine to drop the pedal to the floor, since the system controls the wheel movement for you.  They don't even realize it was something they were avoiding.  Anywho, it's fun experiencing what I've looked forward to for so many years... especially something so easily understood by other Prius owners.


Who Said What?  From time to time, I've stumbled into arguments stemming from quotes I never actually said.  Someone else did, yet I got blamed.  It's very frustrating to be trapped in that situation, where they truly believe you changed your stance... because you are now saying something different from what they remember.  It's very easy to disassociate, especially when there's strong emotion involved.  They're totally unaware of it taking place too... or at least were until recently.  I don't know if some are making an effort to read my personal logs or search through old forum posts, but a few unexpected apologies have emerged.  That's quite a surprise.  I hope I am properly acknowledging them too.  It's easy to sound condescending or patronizing in broken discussions like this.  Fortunately, some of the tension itself is instantly relieved upon the revelation of having mixed up who said what.  It's makes starting fresh threads easy.  There's a desire to move on coming from multiple sources now too.  After all, the hope for late 2010 is well beyond the "please wait" stage now.


Info Omissions.  A new 10-minute video provided by an automotive publication motivated me to post this as a response:  The review begins with this introduction: "If you're looking for a commuter car that doesn't just get good, but exceptional fuel economy, there are two standout options."  Then it goes on to point them out, the Jetta TDI and the regular model Prius.  What the heck?  You know VW supporters would complain to no end if they had compared a regular Jetta to Prius.  Yet, this brand new review published today made no mention that a plug-in model even existed.  Had there been some disclaimer, like an "another category" or "at a later time" reference, that would be understandable.  There is simply no excuse to for a professional automotive organization to totally ignore.  People expect them to be well informed and comprehensive.  An omission like that is misleading.  And since the introduction put focus specifically on fuel economy, that could qualify as greenwashing.  That being said, the sticker-price of the base model Prius PHV is $32,500 and it easily delivers double the MPG of the Jetta TDI.  It's significantly cleaner too.  The review itself was actually fairly good.  It featured a mix of priorities with a variety of opinions and seemed reasonably objective... but makes you wonder how much longer excluding models will be able to continue without backlash.


$78.20 Per Barrel.  That was rather interesting to see.  The price of oil dropping well below expectations sure adds to the challenge of selling vehicles that offer high MPG, when expensive gas is the primary influence.  I see this as yet another reason in support of the configuration for PHV, where capacity was carefully balanced with cost.  There isn't dependency on what happens with oil.  People will consider the purchase even without the pressure at the pump.  That's important when it comes to deep market penetration.  The raising of CAFE standards is a change for the entire fleet.  The technology must be well established and well accepted to sustain high-volume sales.  That's means no dependency on tax-credits either.  How each of the automakers will deliver, especially if the efficient choice is expected to be green as well (SULEV emission-rating or better).  With the economy having fallen into such a deep recession, the need to have well-balance choices available is more important than ever.  We cannot just hope for the best as so many had done in the past.  Seeing $3.39 now for a gallon of gas certainly makes a person think too.


More 999 MPG.  The unusual circumstances continued.  I had 4 days in a row of electric-only driving.  Today, road construction ended that.  Trying to cross a road with very heavy traffic funneled down to a single lane resulted in me simply dropping the pedal to the floor for maximum power.  Though probably overkill and knowing it would cause the engine to start, I did it anyway.  Taking advantage of what the system had to offer was a wise choice.  You never really know how frustrated or confused others dealing with all the traffic are.  So when it was my turn, I did was seemed best.  That was in the morning.  Late in the afternoon, I ended up needing to run an errand further than the EV range available.  So, the streak would have come to an end anyway.  It was interesting.  Feeling the engine come back to life provided assurance that extra power was about to be provided.  That certainly isn't the way antagonists have been portraying such an experience.  They spin it as a negative, sighting how it prevents you from being "gas free"... which makes no sense, since any vehicle with an engine will have to run it from time to time for longevity maintenance.  I obviously don't believe in absolutes.


Review Audience.  The uncertainty of who is growing as attention slowly shifts over to PHV.  With the spotlight no longer on Volt, you have to wonder who the plug reviews are actually for.  The vague rollout of Volt confused everyone... the very problem we attempting to prevent.  Oh well.  The damage wasn't too bad.  But it does beg for some answers to questions emerging as a result of that.  On a thread featuring a teaser review (brief hint of what will be in the next issue) of PHV, my thoughts were:  Who is the market for Volt?  That question was asked countless times prior to rollout.  We knew the consumers who would be interested would not the same as those who Prius targeted.  It's like trying to sell a plug-in Camaro to someone that was looking for a fuel-efficient Cruze or Malibu.  Yet, enthusiasts refused to acknowledge that.  When they said "leap-frog Prius", it was implied as direct competition; now the claim is quite different.  So, we move on to discussion from other sources, now about what Toyota is offering.  How will popular rating publications portray the plug-in model Prius?  The "you can't drive it completely gas-free" comment really makes you wonder about market.  Who's needs are they addressing?  Why would that matter to someone who was considering a different model of Prius, a Corolla, or a Camry?  Would any of those consumers really have a priority of no gas whatsoever rather than just a significant MPG boost?  The beauty of PHV is that it is package option, an upgrade choice.  It's an enhancement to a vehicle people already know and like.  There's no paradigm-shift required.  You're not buying something fundamentally different.  There's a major improvement to efficiency & emissions.  Simple to understand.  Easy to sell.  A small decision to purchase.


Now Silent.  The big stir a few weeks ago dwindled down to nothing.  It was an "all bark, no bite" situation.  The antagonists made a huge ordeal out of something, complaining about this & that, yet never actually provided any suggestions for change... hence the way they have been and continue to be identified.  It fit the recognizable pattern all too well.  In this case, that served as confirmation of finality.  Though frustrating to experience, seeing nothing was ever delivered reveals it was really just a desperate attempt to retain attention.  They know the market has seen Volt and is moving on.  It's been written off as too expensive for now and won't get another look until the next generation is presented.  Ironically, that is logical outcome of promoting as an "early adopter" rollout.  They didn't think through the entire situation though.  That outcome is undesirable.  Oh well.  Stating goals could have avoided this.  The silence now is good; however, I am rather bummed the reach out for constructive discussion didn't result in anything.  It sounded hopeful, especially from the one outspoken individual.  Oh well.


That Splendid Drive.  I finally had the opportunity to drive that memorable route with the PHV.  It was indeed splendid too.  The story had been retold many times over the past 2 years.  I drove from my house to McDonald's and back in EV mode.  A surprising number of Volt enthusiasts denied it was possible.  They claimed there was no way a plug-in Prius could do that journey using only electricity, especially since it required a climb out of the valley at 45 mph.  That never happened, period.  It was infuriating, for me.  It was outright denial, for them.  Heck, even the blog moderator got involved.  When I pointed out the power output from the electric motor increased from 27 kW to 38 kW, he hid the post "for review" later.  As expected, it remained hidden.  That's when I knew things had gone from bad to worse.  Nothing good comes from facts being suppressed.  They just plain didn't want to believe the PHV was anything more than a Prius with a bigger battery and a plug.  After all, admitting the components in the current model are under-utilized means acknowledgement that Toyota planned for this long ago... rather than scramble to compete with Volt as they had been claiming.  Needless to say, it was a delight getting to recreate that drive again.


Carbon Reality.  I watched a new special on television today.  The evidence of climate-change is overwhelming at this point, especially with record temperatures and drought becoming so prevalent.  The major contributor is the carbon increase in our atmosphere; that's very difficult to deny now.  The source of that is still wildly under debate nonetheless... much like smoking was in the past.  You know nothing good comes from certain consumption, yet there are plenty of excuses to not change your habits anyway.  It's seem absurd at this point not to try.  We have the technology.  What the heck we will tell our children later... we suspected it, but didn't bother.  Yeah, that will make them feel wonderful about the prior generation.  Thank goodness hybrids are well proven now.  Prius has become such a normal part of everyday traffic, it's basically flat out denial that it's not realistic... especially with plug-in variants now entering the market.  Long story short, the program I watched provided new detail.  It followed up on some of the things we had considered a warning sign in the past... confirming those fears.  To think that some people see absolutely no need to embrace motor & battery use.  They insist the combustion engine alone is improving enough for use not to be concerned about carbon emissions.  That goes to show you how short-sighted they are.  Even if that was true, our children will see the end of abundant oil.  Then what will they do?  Totally disregarding what electricity has to offer is not a good plan.  It's like we're living in a modern version of the dark ages.


Drive-Thru.  That was sweet!  I pulled up to the drive-thru window and the guy there greeted me with: "I love that sound.  Every time I hear that..."  He was referring to the proximity warning, a subtle artificial sound made by the car when you drive slower than 15 mph.  It's intended to warn pedestrians of the car's presence.  In reality, many aren't even attentive to headlights when you are right there behind them in a parking lot.  Unfortunately, the noise of a shopping-cart or the preoccupation of a phone conversation makes them oblivious to their surroundings.  But at least the sound will help a few... and it turns out to be quick entertaining for people working the window... especially this time.  He assumed it was just a Prius in EV mode.  I know that, because when I pointed out my Prius was a plug-in model, has face lit up with excitement.  His reaction was great!  I then proceeded to share current MPG statistics.  He gobbled up every bit of info I could quickly through at him.  Want to bet he's even more attentive to that sound new?


999 MPG.  Today was my very first with the PHV.  Ending the day that way wasn't the plan.  I wasn't even trying.  It was just unusual circumstances that prevented the need to drive too far.  One trip in the suburbs isn't enough to use up the entire supply of electricity.  Traffic around here is quite reasonable.  There's hardly ever a the need for lots of power.  It's nice being able to drive around without the engine ever starting, but that's not an expectation.  I don't mind when it starts, since so little gas is used anyway.  It shuts off quickly in the warmth of Summer.  Come this Winter, the warm-up should be interesting.  Since I'll intentionally start the engine for cabin warming in those much colder temperatures, the option of rapid on & off for acceleration will be enticing to take advantage of... since then the engine won't have to come on as soon for more heat.  It's an excellent balance of resources.  Observing the dynamics of the system makes first-year Prius ownership experiences quite rewarding.  The PHV is certainly no exception.  Anywho, it was all electricity today.


Upgrade?  54 miles for the daily commute, round trip.  Is it worth upgrading from a 2006 model?  Trade-in value is decent, but not being able to plug in at work raises questions.  It can be a difficult situation to consider.  Hopefully, some real-world input will be helpful.  Here's what I contributed to that discussion, following someone else's comment that results may be disappointing:  That's a matter of perspective.  Realistic expectations make all the difference.  It depends on whether or not effortless 70 MPG is impressive.  I didn't get a chance to plug in at work the other day and drove close to that distance with only a single charge.  Evening errand running is quite amazing if you plug in after returning home from work.  My late night runs to the store are typically all EV.  Seeing that 999 MPG, especially on short trips, is a dramatic upgrade from 2006 model.  Don't forget that you get to choose when & how to use that electricity too, with the HV/EV button.


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