Personal Log  #585

September 9, 2012  -  September 15, 2012

Last Updated: Mon. 10/08/2012

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Changing History.  Fallout reaction never ceases to amaze.  Changing history is the latest attempt.  That's pretty desperate.  We all know how different things appear looking back a decade later than they do at the moment they are unfolding.  Countless details are left out and the outcome back then was quite uncertain.  But since things are proceeding so much slower for Volt than supporters ever imagined, they now have nothing else to try.  Heck, even shooting the messenger didn't work.  Yet, they persist, still trying to paint a rosy picture.  Reality is, conditions are very different.  Time isn't a luxury as it was all those years ago.  Gas is $4 and there won't be something cost-effective for many years still.  It's an ugly situation.  Effort is being wasted on defense rather than offense.  That's very unfortunate.  Reacting instead of being proactive is what we tried to prevent.  Of course, they don't want to acknowledge that particular history.  We're stuck with rhetoric, nothing actually constructive... just pointless arguing.


Game-Changer.  It's quite remarkable when those passionately supporting Volt actually agree with what you've been saying for years.  They won't admit it, but their actions speak for themselves.  The forums & blogs plainly confirm the situation.  The statements have been quite terse, though surprisingly long-winded despite the clarity.  Volt is a platform for the future, not the game-changer in had been hyped to be.  It's not going to draw interest from those considering the purchase of a Cruze or Malibu.  Cost won't come down for a number of years still.  Just like with Two-Mode, expectations for what would come next have been totally absent.  They really get upset when you draw attention to the parallel circumstances too.  Seeking acknowledgement of need has been the point, to push a shift away from the trophy-mentality for the embracing of feature middle-market demonstrates as priorities instead.  With both Ford & Toyota poised to offer their plug-in hybrids as mainstream choices next year, the most recent exchange of online posts was quite predictable.  It's what happens when pressure builds from $4 gas.


Promotion.  Have you noticed how Toyota's first television commercial with the Prius PHV didn't actually feature it?  There was simply just a mention that a plug-in model was available.  There really wasn't any fanfare at all.  In fact, this is the first.  It took 6 months to hear just a peep.  That's a drastic difference from what GM has been doing with Volt.  It was advertised heavily even before rollout and I hear & see commercials on radio & television everyday.  This is one of the many reason I was constantly frustrated with the enthusiasts.  They'd claim GM was following in the very same steps as Toyota, doing the same thing with Volt as had been done with Prius, but turn a blind eye when evidence like this was presented.  They'd also claim GM was starting from scratch, pretending no knowledge or experience whatsoever was gained from EV1 or Two-Mode or BAS.  It amazed me that they'd see only what they wanted to... and claim that's what you were doing.  Thankfully, the promotion difference paves the way for other opportunity.  The most effective means of "advertisement" for Prius has always been owner endorsement.  That continues with the Prius family.  All Toyota is doing is simply point out the availability of other Prius models.  Owners themselves spread the detail.  They allow us to influence demand.  It's like allowing people to walk wherever they desire.  Eventually, a path will form.  That's the best place to pour the cement for a sidewalk.  Don't tell people what they want.  Provide the opportunity to choose.  Long story short, one size does not fit all and a good product shouldn't need a lot of advertising.


Refrigerator.  A large electronics retailer is closing a nearby location.  That meant clearance hunting.  Little did I know the compact refrigerator I've had my eyes on for awhile would jump out at me.  But with such a huge discount, how could I resist?  So, I pounced on the opportunity.  It shocked the employee sent out to load that into my car though.  She had assumed Prius was a small hatchback.  The refrigerator, though technically having a "compact" label, offers dual doors and 4.5 cubic foot of interior space.  That makes it mighty big in a box.  I smiled, then lifted the 95-pound beast... slipping it effortlessly into the cargo area.  When I shut the hatch and turned around, I was greeted with a dropped jaw and wide eyes.  She had no idea a Prius could so easily swallow up such a large purchase.  It was really sweet getting such a reaction.  People fall into the trap of assuming.  I definitely got her with that.  Then I pointed out it was a plug-in and silently drove away.  What a great experience!


New Commercial.  The first with the plug-in model is now being shown on television.  It carry a catching tune and simple lyrics: "This is a car that loves to have fun. Mile after mile, to and from. Now there are four for all to use. Tell the neighbors, your friends, everyone the news. Let's Hum Hum Hum Hum, Let's Hummm, A Prius for everyone. Now there's a bigger one if you want more space. A small one if the city's your place. And even one you can plug in. So hop on in and give one a spin. Let's Hum Hum Hum Hum, Let's Hummm, A Prius for everyone."  The liftback (regular model) drives by the v (wagon), then drives by the c (compact), then by the PHV (plug-in).  You see an animated man plug it in too.  This is followed by all 4 of them driving along a scenic road.  It's one of those carefree advertisements with an obvious message.  Toyota wants consumers to be aware that there are now 4 distinct models available.  It's a basic introduction which should serve well.  You're obviously not going to make a purchase decision with so little information.  But then again, what in the world were promoters thinking in the past when showing you how their vehicle performed while sliding sideways on dirt?  When would you ever actually do that?  I enjoyed seeing that.  I think it will effectively spread the word too.


Other Plug-Ins.  Discussions of a constructive nature simply don't exist anymore.  The groups in direct support of Volt just plain don't want anything to do with the Toyota or Ford plug-in hybrids, and we certainly are getting antagonist posts on the big Prius forum now.  It more confirmation of change.  Another was the attention brought to the Honda today.  That upcoming Accord will be the first with two electric-motors.  So, some of the operation will mimic what we recognize with the FULL hybrids, but it will utilize clutching more like Volt.  The design blurs the line for EREV even more, further emphasizing the importance of actual outcome rather than advantages assumed on paper.  Anywho, this was my contribution to the madness:  Efficiency increased significantly from a battery-pack small enough to conceal is key.  It keeps cost in check while at the same time keeps the plug from interfering with interior layout.  85.1 MPG is my average from 6 months of Prius PHV driving 9,316 miles.  I plug in each evening and usually at work.  I've taken a few +100 mile trips as well.  That's a significant improvement over my 2010 and dramatically higher than what any traditional vehicle can offer.  The goal is to deliver something for mainstream consumers.  That means a balance of priorities, like other mainstream vehicles, not pushing for maximums.


Cannibalization.  That is indeed a big concern.  Seeing how much Volt enthusiasts celebrate conquest sales, it's pretty obvious how "alternative" perspective is still a barrier.  Yesterday, I was interviewed about my plug-in.  The guy was somewhat surprised when I stated the choice to purchase a hybrid was "no brainer".  After having driven them for over a decade, why wouldn't that be the norm at this point?  The push of traditional vehicles instead was inevitable. Automakers have been resisting change.  Thankfully, the introduction of plug-in hybrids will help to push regular hybrids (the full type anyway) even deeper into the mainstream.  I'm thrilled by the quantity of 2012 Prius that I encounter on the road now around here.  Hopefully, that hints at the potential PHV has when it finally becomes available.  Nonetheless, we'll still see lots of promoting that portrays MPG in the 30's as "highly efficient".  Unfortunately, I cannot sight any information source as to what motivates purchases now either.  We see efficiency rising in priority, but the factors which compel consumers to purchase a traditional vehicle instead elude me.  My guess is lack of real-world data.  With all the greenwashing effort at play, it's easy to see how confused they could be about what to actually expect.  In other words, I see 2013 shaping up to be a pivotal year and owners playing a major role to increase marketshare.  We cannot just watch the flat trend continue.  Growth is a must, especially with fallout from GM's efforts working against the hybrid market.


Pressure.  GM's campaign against hybrids a number of years ago was unbelievable.  Now, the situation and circumstances are quite different, yet some keep trying to portray it as if it's still the same.  That's not constructive.  Toyota delivered a product designed for middle-market.  GM clearly didn't... could have... but chose not to.  The decision was to make an attention-getter instead.  Remember the "halo" statements?  The results of that choice are now making themselves apparent.  The pressure to deliver a configuration suited for mainstream consumers is building.  When will it become so blatant we'll get some type of actual plan?  That doesn't seem likely yet, especially with enthusiast responses like this: "It must kill them that the Volt is the number one selling plug-in vehicle in the world."  That old trophy-mentality is undermining Volt's own success.  Notice how there hasn't been any television or radio advertisements for the plug-in Prius?  I'm continuously hearing & seeing them for Volt.  Spending a lot on promotion along with dealer discounts is an acceptable way of introducing a new product, but that's not sustainable and it's been nearly 2 years.  Pressure is building.

9-10-2012 6-Month Report.  Here's the real-world data I've collected so far with my 2012 Prius PHV:

  9,316 = Total Miles
  184 = Days (6 months)
  85.1 = Lifetime MPG

  109.4 = Total Gallons (measured at the pump)
  909.2 = Total kWh (including charging losses)

  3,596 = EV Miles (displayed amount)
  5,713 = HV Miles (displayed amount)
  794 = Total kWh (displayed amount)

  293.3 = Recharges (based on capacity replenished)

assumption: one full recharge, including charging losses = 3.1 kWh


Getting Worse.  Long story short, GM faces a serious dilemma.  The explosive commentary online today about cost verses price draws attention to that. The situation we feared is now a reality.  We were led to believe Volt would take the industry by storm in 2010, a design which would "leap frog" Prius in every respect... because it was a "vastly superior" technology.  That obviously didn't happen.  Now here comes a number of automakers offering plug-in hybrids, including Toyota, Ford, and Honda. It's exposing the difference between want & need.  GM's heavy dependence upon financial incentives to sell the only high-efficiency vehicle they have to offer makes the bad situation even worse.  What are we waiting for?  Who will actually benefit from it? How will the next generation solve the long list of needs to fulfill?  It's an ugly problem that's quickly growing worse.


$3.89 Per Gallon.  The price of gas is climbing.  That doesn't surprise anyone, especially with hurricane shutdowns influencing oil supply.  We're boiling the frog though.  That old cliché fits the situation well.  As temperature rises, the frog doesn't notice.  Eventually, that point of being too late is reached.  The frog simply dies.  We're seeing exactly the same thing with how much people are willing to pay for gas.  They just tolerate it to the point where all of sudden the guzzler vanishes.  $4 seems to be the limit for many.  I delight in seeing the shiny new replacement in their driveway, something much more efficient than previously.  In fact, I cannot recall when I last saw a new guzzler.  Some of the purchase are even Prius.  More will be hybrids over time.  After all, the misconceptions of the past are long since disproven.  How could anyone argue them with so many on the road now?  Well, Prius is plentiful.  Slowly, the economy is recovering too.  Not seeing people flock back to the old ways of disregarding MPG is satisfying too.  Just look at the television commercials.  What do they highlight now?  Priorities have change.  The price of gas is clearly having an influence.


Keeping it real.  That's very important.  It's why I've refrained from filming my commutes until the weather cools down.  In the depth of Summer, the battery-pack delivers above average capacity.  Showing that would establish unrealistic expectations, especially on those days with really warm morning commutes.  It's the same reason why each post includes an on-going average with values measured at the pump.  The real-world data speaks for itself.  No cherry picking, just an all-inclusive summary of my usual activities.  Over the years we've seen others set themselves up for failure through misrepresentation, portraying a technology in a way that the everyday person will not experience.  It's hard to believe they cannot see how poor of a choice that is.  They get hung up in the excitement and cling to the group-think of enthusiasts.  With my 6-month anniversary rapidly approaching, I'm really looking forward to creating a document that provides summaries & detail along with a story of what I've experienced so far with the plug-in.  It's like the next level to blogging, where you look back and reflect upon those events.


No Charging.  Today was my first ordinary day (not vacation) when I didn't recharge at all.  There were 4 separate drives... one to the coffeeshop... one to the grocery store... one to the lake for a walk... and one to do family stuff at mom's.  25 miles was the total distance traveled.  The result was 57 MPG.  There isn't much else to say.  The efficiency is outstanding even when you don't plug in.  They hybrid system shines even without extra electricity.  I don't plan on ever doing this particular test this often, it just worked out to be a nice opportunity to observe what happens.  After all, there will be circumstances where it simply isn't realistic.  In this case, I couldn't reach my garage since there was work be done on the driveway.


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