Personal Log  #582

August 15, 2012  -  August 26, 2012

Last Updated: Mon. 10/08/2012

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0 Miles.  I didn't drive the Prius at all today.  It was one of those rare circumstances where I didn't actually need to go anywhere at all... in a car, anyway.  I biked about 20 miles, but that trip started & ended at home.  It actually seemed a little odd passing through the garage without any reason to touch the Prius other than to take out my sunglasses.  But that's what happened.  It was a beautiful Summer day, one of the few remaining this year, so full advantage was taken of the opportunity.  On my spreadsheet, for lack of any other way of logging a no-drive day, it was noted as 999 MPG with zeroes in the distance columns.  That's quite a dramatic difference from yesterday's adventure.


309 Miles, less than 1 Charge.  I had an absolutely wonderful excuse to drive up to central Minnesota today.  It was an errand that had to be done, so why not make a day of it, see the sights along the way?  And that's exactly what we did.  I started with a full charge and used EV only when traveling in city & suburb conditions.  The highway travel was all HV.  The entire trip was 309 miles.  I used only 70 percent of the EV available, resulting in 4 miles still remaining once we got home.  I was thrilled with the results.  Without any effort, the efficiency was great.  The final average after all that distance ended up 58 MPG.  With all the undermine attempts over the years claiming the battery-pack being worthless for long-distance travel and the weight of it causing a penalty, results like this certainly stir some emotion.  They were very, very wrong.  Antagonists certainly don't have much to misled with anymore.  The design is proving very, very effective.


Lot Sharing.  While busy in a store at the local strip-mall, a Nissan Leaf pulled into the same lot.  That's the first time I've ever shared where there wasn't a charging-station.  It's about time.  Having an ordinary encounter is something I've long waited for.  Unfortunately, I was too busy to sneak out to say "Hi" and none of the for in that EV likely had an clue to even look for a plug-in hybrid.  It would have been exciting to have exchanged a few quick pleasantries, but that simply wasn't realistic.  Oh well.  There will be plenty of other opportunities over time.  This was just the first.  It's very much a mixed blessing not getting noticed.  After all, the goal of becoming mainstream is to simply be part of the crowd.


First Rain.  Today was when I plugged in for the first time in the rain.  It was no big deal.  The system is designed to deal with moisture.  But it's still an event worthy of noting.  After all, you can only do it first once.  Then all which follow are just part of the routine.  Reading specifications for the equipment itself gives all someone like myself what they need to understand the care taken to account for real-world situations.  The engineers took everything realistically possible into consideration.  Rain is ordinary.  There's still the thrill of actually using the produced equipment afterward.  Years of waiting for the opportunity make it significant for you, even if there's not much to the process itself or that anyone else would care.  In fact, it's exactly like you would normally do, only you get wet.  I enjoyed it though.  Next is snow.


Exposition.  I think I may be annoying some of my online colleagues.  A few of my posts recently included lengthy explanations of the situation, plus some background that may or may not be pertinent to the discussion at hand.  The extra information without request often prevents topics from straying.  They tend to forget that and often don't have the desire to supply overhead detail proactively.  But with so many newbies right now and not having resources readily available to refer to, it really is helpful.  We've seen that in the past.  I have to remind them of that.  I do have to wonder myself about the effectiveness.  You never really now how much prevention is actually necessary.  Everyone's experience level is different.  I keep an eye out for trends though.  Seeing a pattern is the clue that we don't have clarity about a particular topic.  Misunderstandings after the fact are more difficult to deal with than providing exposition up front.  So, that's what I do.


Plug-In Routine.  The act of plugging in has become such an ordinary task for me, even my friends think nothing of it.  After all, they all own several plug-in devices of their own.  Making sure their phone & computer are charged is part of their routine anyway.  What's another device requiring similar needs?  You pull into the garage, unload stuff from the car, then plug in.  It's no big deal.  I was hoping that would be the case, but was uncertain how long that would actually take.  Turns out, there's nothing even to adapt to.  The act of plugging in is so basic, the process seems ordinary almost immediately.  Think about all the other rechargeable devices we have.  Many households have plug-in tools.  Heck, most have had a battery-operated vacuum for decades.  We even have toothbrushes that you place into a recharge-dock after using.  Think about all the music players out there.  Now the tablet is becoming a popular everyday piece of equipment you carry & plug too.  We need very little to take the step toward plugging in a hybrid.  There isn't even the problem of forgetting.  If you do, the engine will run.  You forget with your phone, you're out of luck.


Recognizing Change.  Most of the time when people see something new, it simply gets accepted without much thought.  We've become use to products getting better over time.  We even accept innovation as it that miracle of engineering was destined to naturally happen anyway.  It's to the extend where some change goes without any notice.  Differences sneak in without causing any type of resistance.  They just become the norm.  That's the approach Toyota has always strived for with Prius.  Having a display screen a decade ago served as a mechanism for conveying efficiency information.  That fact that it was there provided the means for offering other features... which consumers consumers simply accepted.  They just did without any other thought.  It made sense to have your phone, music, comfort settings, navigation system, and reverse-camera there too.  The same goes for the hybrid system itself.  People accept the engine & motor design.  It has become the norm for a ballet of gas & electricity to provide power.  That makes adding a plug no big deal.  The system is setup with a battery.  Greater capacity just expands upon abilities already available.  Will people even recognize that change?  Will they even care?  Or will it simply be accepted.


Bankruptcy, again.  Long story short, watching this unfold hasn't been much of a surprise.  Who know how it will actually play out from here.  But the events & decisions made up to this point don't paint a good "recovery" picture for GM.  This were my thoughts upon reading an article by a well known financial publication bringing up the topic:  For continuing to point out the efficiency product-gap and slower than planned plug-in progress, there some here that choose to shot me as a messenger, rather than actually address the financial situation.  Fortunately, the dismissal of goals and blatant effort to shift focus won't change the message.  The requirements of business are often claimed as pencil-pushing efforts that undermine the spirit of automotive enjoyment.  But reality is, there's still a major business burden to deal with.  Those outstanding 500 million shares of stock should make that obvious.  The unclear plans for the future should confirm it.  We're seeing some of the same problems from before the bankruptcy emerge again.  The biggest was the heavy emphasis on monthly sales, rather than judging from an annual perspective.  The next was the disconnect between need & want, basing success on hope without regard to the market itself.  Remember the mess Two-Mode became?  What a massive waste of resources.  All that time, money, and talent devoted to something few would benefit from.  Volt fell into that same trap.  Had there also been a lower-capacity choice or a no-plug offering, things would be different.  Instead, there's a major dependency on tax-credits for a limited audience.  What happens when those expire?  What happens if cost cannot be reduced enough to be competitive?  What about the rest of product-line?  For that matter, how will further research & development be funded?  That's a lot of risk during a time when risk cannot be afforded.


9 Seconds.  The obsession with EV purity borders on absurdity.  Why is that so important?  What makes that absolute worth the cost?  The whole point of a hybrid is to seek out efficiency opportunities, based on the energy available.  At no time has that ever meant using electricity as much as possible.  It takes between a minute and a minute and a half for the engine in my PHV to warm-up.  During that time, emissions & efficiency are still outstanding, even though the engine is running.  The plug-supplied electricity allows the most graceful of warming... well above what the regular model (no plug) delivers.  The engine shut off afterward is remarkable too.  On the drive this morning, I watched the timer on my audio system.  Accelerating hard (but not flooring it) from 0 to 45, the engine ran for 9 seconds.  That's it.  How can such a short time be a bad thing?  The reduction of gas consumption is quite significant.


Biking.  I spent the day with friends, on a long biking trip.  We drove to the trail, then rode for 48 miles.  It was a great Summer experience; however, it was also a chance for try out a new bike-rack on a traditional vehicle.  I was passenger in a vehicle that used triple the amount of gas as mine.  Eek!  So my PHV sat in the garage all day, never touched.  What a waste!  We had a good time though and it never hurts getting that alternate perspective.  It isn't often an opportunity like that comes along.  I'll get to use the PHV plenty of other times anyway.  Of course, the fundamental problem of being stuck with a trunk without fold-down seats was obvious.  With the Prius, having those 3 bikes on back would still leave a ton of cargo space readily available. With that sedan, everything was trapped inside.  Turns out, we have a lot of cargo.  Each person had a bag of stuff along with helmets.  We had a cooler too.  It's amazing how quickly you can fill a vehicle when it comes to recreation.


Poor EV.  Now that C-Max Energi is grabbing so much attention, those in favor of Volt are really at a loss.  The arguments against Prius PHV fall apart when applied.  It certainly is vindication for me.  The design opportunities I've pointed out FULL hybrids can deliver are being taken full advantage of by Ford.  There's a great balance the power-split device offers.  There's also flexibility, which is difficult to explain without implemented examples... which we finally have them.  The plug-in system I now drive everyday is a great candidate for high-volume sales.  All the elements mainstream requires are there.  However, the focus is just like you'd expect from any type of automotive repartee.  The form in which it manifests itself most often is to say PHV offers "poor EV" abilities.  Notice the same old pattern of the past?  Yup, the vague is back.  Rather than actually address details of the purchase decision, it's using adjectives to belittle.  Thank goodness that shallow approach isn't how middle-market buyers choose a vehicle.


Those Mode Buttons.  Living in Minnesota, squeezing out more heat from engine waste is a benefit I enjoy.  The improvement that new ECO button on the 2010 offered was immediately clear to see for me.  Getting stuck in heavy commute traffic caused by a fresh snow is really annoying.  I cannot imagine just how frustrating that is when you're burning up $4 gas going nowhere.  In a Prius, the engine will remain off for as long as it can.  The demands of the heater are usually what cause it to start up again when you're stuck in a seemingly endless line of traffic congestion.  Watch what ECO mode does during Winter driving.  ECO lowers the coolant threshold from 145°F down to 114°F.  The result is the engine staying off longer, yielding higher MPG while still keeping you warm.  My duration my 2004 could stay off was shorter.  My expectations for the 2012 plug-in are anxiously waiting confirmation.  My brief taste of snow last March wasn't that informative, especially since I was on vacation at the time.  The system has been tweaked to deliver heat faster than any other Prius model.  That's very exciting to know.  Falling temperatures are on the way.


Recognizing Potential.  Some of us saw it many years ago, having engineering backgrounds and technical detail posts online.  Others noticed it along the way.  Newbies are recognizing potential surprisingly fast.  My guess is that the reason stems from so many misconceptions having been dispelled already.  Rather than expending effort debating operation, thought has shifted over to the "upgrade mentality" instead.  That's the norm for portable electronic devices.  What will the next improve upon?  Now with several generations of Prius on the road, the design has proven to be upgradable.  So, it makes sense that we are now seeing posts asking what those upgrades could be.  Here's what I posted to stimulate discussion:  60 kW is the max electric traction output available from the +2010 models.  27 kW is pulled from the regular model's NiMH battery-pack.  38 kW is pulled from the PHV model's Li-Ion battery-pack when plug-supplied electricity is available.  Additional kW is supplied from the generator by the engine when more power is needed.  So, there is unused potential which could be tapped into with a more powerful battery-pack.  Of course, we've always known Toyota builds for the future.  The EV button hinted at that.  PHV provided proof.  More can still be delivered.


Fusion Energi.  We got a tiny bit of info from Ford today.  Basically, it will be the new Fusion hybrid with a bigger battery-pack and a plug.  That really doesn't tell us much, but it certainly stirs the market.  Knowing the regular Fusion hybrid will deliver 47, 47, 47 just like C-Max, it's reasonable to see interest in hybrids growing next year at a faster pace than we are seeing now.  More charging-stations showing up at popular public locations will add to the potential.  There's a nice rivalry growing between Ford & Toyota now.  We all like that.  There's a mutual benefit.  It's something I've been looking forward to for a very loooong time.  The advantages of the FULL hybrid system will really become apparent to ordinary consumers with the choices growing like this.


390 MPG at 2,503 Miles.  Seeing that reported from a plug-in Prius owner sure is exciting.  How far you drive makes a huge difference.  Fortunately, this isn't like the Volt supporters always sticking to less than 12,000 miles per year for their expectation setting.  Carefully avoiding any reference to the standard 15,000 annual measure was bad enough.  Not taking heater usage made it even worse.  Remember all that nonsense we had to deal with?  It was always analysis write-ups treating the ideal as something all owners would normally experience.  With Prius, we make an strong effort to prevent that type of misleading.  This report very specifically highlighted the situation as low-miles.  I go out of my way to contribute high-miles data.  We're showing the spectrum of possibilities, making sure those curious about their own potential understand all the factors at play.  It's really nice knowing you support a design capable of satisfying a wide variety of driving needs.


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