Personal Log  #578

July 14, 2012  -  July 19, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 8/07/2012

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Welcome, Prius.  This fit into the new chapter perspective perfectly, coming from the big Prius forum.  It was the observation of inventory being filled.  Seeing PHV available on the lot is quite a change from "sold order" deliveries.  The key is how long they stay available, that's turnover rate... which none of us can judge yet, quite unlike that other plug-in.  Anywho, it stirs worry when change is observed.  I provided a "rude awakening" type response, making sure people have realistic expectations:  Did you think it was going to be easy, that the sales wouldn't require any effort on our part?  If so, better read the forums & blogs from 2000 to 2002.  Toyota remembers what happened back then.  That's why the ramp up isn't until next year.  Some of us participated in that history firsthand.  We remember those times quite clearly.  You never forget resistance to change like that.  This year is the shake out.  Those hoping to undermine exploit assumptions with the goal of creating & spreading misconceptions.  It gets ugly, but we persist by sharing details real-world experiences and identify strengths.  Our endorsements are a weapon they have little defense against.  They panic and unknowingly reveal their fears.  We point out how well thought out the design is, confirming it is an excellent solution for the masses.  The key to literally "just drive it".  The outcome speaks for itself.  Rather than feeding hype, you convey realistic expectations based on lots of owner information.  That's out of the hands of Toyota, something only we can do... and it worked amazingly well in the past.  Toyota's role becomes that of the observer, collection every little suggestion we provide and taking it into consideration for the next generation.  It's rewarding to look back upon later; however, quite an emotional rollercoaster along the way.  Prepare for the onslaught from a wide variety of competitors... once they finally figure out how capable PHV actually is.


Most Feared.  The one thing I really, really wanted to find out prior to leaving the big GM forum was what those handful of antagonists feared the most about PHV.  With their excuses for Volt so well rehearsed, it seemed pretty much impossible to get an answer.  But stepping back to what the other members take over the arguing actually was revealing.  Turns out, it's the 62 mph belief.  That makes sense, since it was the least understood.  There was no basis upon which to confirm their assumptions.  So, they ended up discovering it delivered far better results than expected.  So naturally, I only had a single chance to post detail... knowing they won't like the bitter truth of the situation:  I find the careful avoidance of what actually happens above 62 mph quite telling.  The 70 mph highway is 3 blocks from my home.  The ramp onto it is uphill.  The distance of travel on that stretch of highway is 9 miles.  At that point, depending on whether traffic is flowing at 70 the entire way or slows to 65 about halfway, my average is between 115 and 135 MPG.  (The remainder of the trip is another 7 miles, which is entirely with electricity.  So overall MPG is always in excess of 200.)  For many years, getting +100 MPG is what people have been asking for.  Who has been asking for EV purity at high speeds?  At lower speeds, sure, since you can drive with the windows open and there is an abundance of variety.  But on the open road when you're just cruising, who?  Notice the topic of this thread?  Better is a great thing if you are an enthusiast.  They understand & appreciate every little detail, including EV driving in absolutely every situation.  They wonder who would ever be interested in less that a pure EV experience.  The consumers from middle-market are quite different.  They ask questions relating to cost and diminishing returns.  They require a balance of priorities.  They are pleased when MPG stays above 100 even when traveling faster than 62 mph.


Better.  The obsession with MPG is remarkable.  Higher is better, period.  That concept of diminishing returns doesn't exist for some.  Regardless of cost, they always want more.  I see beyond bragging rights.  It's the same old story... blinded by a single number.  This time though, it's coming from Volt supporters rather than those trying to undermine the progress of hybrids.  Nothing else quantitative gets any attention, especially sale counts.  Only MPG matters.  They spin it in the form of "gas saved" too.  I summed up the situation this way:  The whole "better" topic indicates something isn't going as planned.  Having wandered from goals is a dead giveaway.  For PHV, it was always clear.  The target capacity was stated as 20km (12.4 miles).  The target price was stated as a $3,000 to $5,000 premium.  The target efficiency following depletion was stated as 50 MPG.  The target efficiency was stated as roughly a 25 MPG boost.  The target emission-rating was PZEV.  Having hit so close to the mark right out the gate makes it a prime target to vent frustration on... especially since the business of the automaker as a whole isn't meeting plans either.  That leaves us in an awkward position.  Enthusiasts loyal to a particular brand just plain don't trust others who support affordable solutions from all automakers.  And of course, there are some who simply just thrive on bragging rights, making the push for middle-market seem untrustworthy.  So, what happens now?  Continuing with the spin & bickering only reinforces the observation of outcome not meeting expectations.  Not addressing details of need is trouble as well.  We cannot just pretend all is well and hope for the best.


Attack Articles.  It has been fascinating lately.  As the plug-in Prius settles into the mainstream, which consequently means drawing less attention to itself, the result is Volt again becoming a target from those who feel threatened by change.  Some of the attack articles have been brutal lately too, especially the comments readers post.  That's the reason the whole approach from Toyota differs from GM.  And no matter how many times you point out the differences, those supporters just don't see it.  In their mind, this is just the same situation as a decade ago only with the next big step forward with automotive advancement.  Recognition of why & how isn't understood, for them.  For me, it's rather obvious.  I clearly remember market expectation & reaction back then.  It doesn't match what's happening now.  That's for sure.  I tried again to point out a few key points:  Prius was a product designed specifically for middle-market.  That was blatant too.  No wild promises.  No hype.  It was simply a traditional vehicle replacement.  Volt clearly didn't follow the same path.  Rather than being designed to accept motor & battery improvements as cost justified like Prius, it started at the end configuration with the hope of rapid cost reduction.  That's a profound difference.  Priorities are no longer the same as back then either.  So, what's with the claim that people want to kill Volt when they have been actually demanding something more affordable instead?


135 MPG.  I've switched to taking the fast route to work lately.  Watching each of the MPG values shown on the consumption display with 1-minute increments is all the same while cruising along on the 70 mph highway is fascinating.  Just like in the past, those not believing the results claim you are going much slower than the speed-limit and holding up traffic as a result.  Then, it was 50 MPG.  But now with the PHV, it's 100 MPG.  Just flowing along with the other commuters, each consistently maxes out the plot area available on the graph.  Having an aftermarket gauge, I can see that MPG is actually higher.  It varies quite a bit.  80 is usually the lowest.  But the need to rapidly accelerate can push it down even lower.  Any declination at all makes the value shoot way up into the 100's.  Actually going down a hill, it tops out at 300 MPG.  The 9.5 mile journey today 135 MPG.  I look forward to seeing that day after day.  When the cold season arrives, that should be especially interesting.  Since the engine is running anyway, the need for heat will be a non-issue.  Traffic slows though.  Winter conditions means slow enough to drop below 62 mph.  In that case, I'll be cruising along using only electricity and wondering how long the coolant feeding the heater will last.  With the 2010, it was about 8 minutes during really bad snow-impaired driving.  This Prius has an HV/EV button, optimized temperature tolerances, and nicer heated-seats.  I'm definitely curious what that will be like.  In the meantime, I'm still very much enjoying Summer.


IR Thermometer.  I bought one of those devices with a trigger and laser-sight for measuring temperature.  (It can measure distance too.)  It takes only a second to find out how hot a very specific area is.  That's turning out to be remarkably informative for me.  I've often wondered how effective parking with the front of the Prius facing the sun could be.  How much of a difference does that make for keeping the battery-pack cool?  Turns out, quite a bit.  Upon my first measure, I discovered it gets up to 150°F between the windshield and the window shade I put up, with the outside at 100°F.  In back, the area between the glass and the rollout shade for the cargo area, it was 137°F and the area immediately under that 107°F.  Then pointing the laser into the battery vent, it said 96°F.  That provided some thought-provoking real-world data.  Baking in the sun while parked all day at work is very hard on the batteries and there's been claims that "active" cooling is better... yet that only works while the vehicle is drive... hence the curiosity.  I have the ability to start up the A/C remotely too, no plug required either.  The analog gauge on my smart-phone shows a significant reduction in cabin temperature as a result.  I haven't had a chance to actually quantify that yet though.  In fact, that's what got me to finally purchase the device.  I wanted detail... especially after having so many experiences with the solar-roof on my 2010, knowing it was beneficial but never actually being able to articulate how much.


New Chapter, group think.  A good way to conclude this particular topic would be to point out how "group think" works.  People tend to unknowingly follow the herd.  When the potential of a threat emerges, they automatically go into defensive mode.  They typically aren't even aware it's happening.  So it's easy for assumptions to take place.  They simply have no reason to question the reactions.  The outside force must be incorrect.  After all, what purpose would they have to participate?  I see that a lot, when I point out a fact and it is summarily dismissed.  Claiming it isn't possible is quite different from saying it's rare or unlikely.  Yet, that's exactly what we've seen occur again and again.  Very few make an effort to consider the design at this point.  What you say is mostly just ignored.  That's how we know a new chapter has begun.  Rather than aspects of design being argued as they had been in the past, there's a "this group must be correct" belief.  That makes it much easier for someone from within to finally have a voice... since everyone else shares the same conviction.  At last, they can be heard.... rather than someone like me drawing all the attention... more evidence revealing something has indeed changed.  The long, on-going, seemingly endless saga of hybrid evolution takes another step forward.


New Chapter, has begun.  Whatever happened in the past is just that, past.  This new chapter has begun.  Volt has been on the road for a year and a half and PHV is just now reaching the first customers who were unwilling to order, wait, and purchase a vehicle they heard almost nothing about from actual owners.  Those real-world reports and being available on dealer's lots make a big difference.  Voting with your purse or wallet is the key.  That couldn't happen before.  Unfortunately, PHV is still limited to select states, but this is a start.  It will be quite revealing too.  If Volt sales remain stable, despite all the television advertisements, and PHV grows to a similar level, it sets up quite a battle for next year when nationwide availability begins.  The point continued growth.  Expanding the market quickly is essential.  Delay reduces the benefit of the tax-credit.  Mainstream volume must be achieved prior to expiration; otherwise, momentum will be lost.  An impact to sales after subsidies are no longer offered could harm progress that had been made.  We don't want that to occur.  Can some level of cooperation finally be attained?


New Chapter, dead end.  The most passionate effort by Volt supporters who want to undermine is well stated in this quote: "Realistically, going forward I think the Prius is dead. It's doing great right now but the drive train is simply too expensive for the relatively small advantages it delivers."  Notice how there's an attempt to distract from the expense of Volt by calling Prius that instead.  Anyone who's actually looked at the design can see it's not, that the HSD system is an affordable alternative to the traditional automatic transmission.  The next thing which jumps out is the marginal reference again.  The size of the boost is significant overall and enormous for short-trips.  Saying that MPG improvement is "relatively small" is insincere, at best.  I call it greenwashing.  As for being dead, who's going to believe that?  Ordinary consumers have been posting comments saying how much more PHV could deliver with a larger battery-pack.  How come they can see that, yet those Volt supporters not?


New Chapter, downplay.  The effort to mislead doesn't always work.  When that happens, those hoping to undermine switch to downplay instead.  Here's an example from that "disappointing" thread:  "It's a Prius with a larger battery that under some rare conditions (driving at a snail's pace on flat ground) can drive a few miles on electricity."  I'm driving along with traffic, climbing up hills, and accelerating from stoplights all using only electricity.  PHV delivers much more than they want to admit.  That denial is becoming more and more obvious.  Remember how Prius was sold years ago?  People liked the idea, but were uncertain of how it actually performed.  The test-drive experience made them commit.  It's very easy to convince someone on the fence to buy, once they try it.  That's because Prius looks so good on paper.  The financial decision is sound.  How it responds to everyday driving can only be determined behind the wheel.  That's why greenwashing efforts try to hard to prevent that from happening.


New Chapter, nothing more.  One of the biggest efforts to mislead came about from the discovery that the third-generation Prius was designed to support a larger battery & plug right from the start.  The spin had been that PHV was really a retrofit, an after-thought which came about as a last-minute scramble to compete with Volt.  Finding out that isn't actually the situation puts pressure on the enthusiasts.  Unfortunately, it puts those who innocently purchased a Volt and didn't know that in a bad situation too.  They feel somewhat threatened as a result, backed into a situation they had nothing to do with.  That makes reading this a problem: "PIP is nothing more than a regular hybrid with a somewhat larger battery that can also be wall charged in addition to by regen."  All but the staunch recognize that's not actually true.  The rest of us know that the larger battery allows greater draw, which results in more power from the electric motor.  It's the very reason the idea of a smaller battery-pack for Volt is so fiercely resisted.  Less power is a tradeoff they are unwilling to accept.


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