Personal Log  #587

September 21, 2012  -  October 2, 2012

Last Updated: Mon. 11/19/2012

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1,652 Sold.  What can be said about seeing that number?  It's a clear gain from Prius PHV sales the month before.  September showed an obvious improvement.  I'd say that's good news, especially since the plug-in model is still only available in the initial 15 rollout states.  Growth should continue... regardless of how those supporting other hybrids spin the situation.  Next year will be different anyway.  National availability will be a welcome change.  And as with the precedent Volt established, we await the second-year results prior to making judgment.  I doubt supporters will actually abide by their own request, since the hypocritical nature of the situation is difficult to deny.  They'll likely try anyway.  Thankfully, other choices from other automakers will become available.  That diversity will help settle down the polarization we are currently still having to deal with.


No Driving.  Today was one of those rare ones, when I didn't drive anywhere.  That sure makes data collecting easy.  Fall colors beckoned.  It was beautiful weather.  We went for a hike around a local lake, took lots of photos, and didn't use any gas or electricity.  The Prius sat there parked in its spot, unmoved, unused.  We had fun without it.  There's always tomorrow!


Road Trip.  We jumped in the Prius, stuffed with cargo and 2 bikes on back.  168 miles later, all of which were in HV mode, the result was 48 MPG.  No complaints about that.  In fact, that's rather remarkable.  Compromising the aerodynamics of the car with so little sacrifice to the resulting efficiency is fantastic.  That was a great endorsement to the technology.  Unfortunately, that will reduce my lifetime average, since returning home likely won't be on a warm windless day like it was today.  That point of simply having fun and getting to escape on a road trip won't be lost.  I still have a big chunk of the EV range remaining too.  Don't forget that regular hybrid driving depletes it, just not at the rate electric-only driving does.  It's a Prius after all, seeking out efficiency opportunities for the best utilization of battery power.  The consumption of EV capacity was 2.5 miles, dropping from the original 12.9 estimate to 10.4 miles.  Stay tuned for the report of the drive back home.


BRAKE!  Quite unexpectedly, I discovered another Prius safety feature.  The previous was having the system sound an alert and flash a warning (an image of a vehicle) on the screen when you do nothing to acknowledge the presence of a vehicle you are approaching.  It knows when see it when you either lift your foot from the accelerator or press the brake.  I hadn't considered what it would do when the radar (part of the dynamic cruise-control which is always active) detects a vehicle but you already have your foot off the accelerator.  The system recognizes that as danger too.  But rather than providing a generic do something alert, it's flashes "BRAKE!" on the screen.  Seeing that was sweet!  I was quite impressed; however, it left me scratching my head wondering how I'd ever be able to actually catch that event on photo or video.  That's too much of a risk to trigger intentionally.  Darn.  Oh well.  At least I know the safety feature exists.  That most definitely isn't common.  Too bad.  Maybe some day.


What's Left?  It's somewhat bizarre seeing Volt enthusiasts provoke and get virtually nothing in return.  People simply aren't interested anymore.  They've moved on.  With 2 years of fading attention, there really isn't anything remaining.  You really do have to ask what's left?  The newest attempt to justify the slow pace is more downplay.  Rather than actually acknowledge the original plan of 5,000 per month or even the revised expectation of 3,750 per month, the entire industry production is now being taken into consideration.  Mainstream minimum is a dream long gone.  They are counting all luxury, sports, and exotic vehicles.  Including the rare is a bit desperate.  But when you do that, it places Volt somewhere in the middle.  How does that make any sense at all for a technology that intended to become the next standard in automotive design?  The downplay has become such a routine, they abandon their own push for progress.  When you begin undermining your own goals, something is clearly not working out.  All they have to do for confirmation of that is read their own posts from 2 years ago.


Chrysler Testing.  The small fleet of plug-in hybrids Chrysler had been testing (109 trucks and 23 minivans) have been showing signs of trouble.  Some battery-packs have been overheating.  That's a real problem when a vehicle depends exclusively upon electricity without an engine for propulsion.  Unfortunately, detail about the design itself has been all but silent.  Supposedly, these hybrids utilize the Two-Mode system, but simply have a larger battery-pack.  Due to the clutches, it can easily disconnect from the engine for electric-only travel.  That sounds nice, but puts more burden on the electric draw than an air-cooled battery could reasonably allow.  This is why Toyota, Ford, Honda, and Hyundai have all decided the maximum speed for electric-only will be 100 km/h (62.1 mph) and set a maximum draw rate.  Beyond that could result in too much heat... hence having engine join in when a tolerance is exceeded.  This is why Toyota tested their plug-in Prius for 2 years using ordinary consumers.  They needed real-world data to confirm the design was a sensible balance.  Chrysler was smart enough to try the same thing.  Fortunately, that revealed a problem which could be dealt with prior to rollout.  This gives them the opportunity to alter the way the system behaves as well as try other battery types & configurations, then try again.


Sales Reality.  This is what I was greeted with this morning: "So let's stack the Volt against cars in its own category – plug-in electric – the Volt is the runaway winner. In August, at 2,800 sold the Volt was on its way to tripling the Toyota Prius PHV's 1,047 sales".  Such blatant greenwashing is vindicating.  It was frustrating in the past, but now I see it as competition desperation.  Why would you mislead like that?  Anywho, I responded with:  Since Volt is available in triple the number of states, that statement is clearly not constructive.  How about this?  "TMC expects global sales of its hybrid vehicles to well surpass 1 million units in 2012. With its plan to launch 21 new hybrid models between now and the end of 2015, TMC expects to maintain this level of sales, forecasting global sales of its hybrid vehicles to be at least 1 million units a year from 2013 to 2015."  What are the plans for Volt?  The mixed messages we are getting from GM leaves us wondering what to expect.  There's no competitive hybrid, just eAssist and diesel.  Two-Mode appears to be discontinued.  And the volume for Volt is far short of mainstream minimum.  What will middle-market be purchasing in high-volume?


Lease Comparison.  I stumbled across a deal for the advanced model plug-in Prius.  It was for the New York City area.  $2,399 due at signing and $269 per month for 3 years, plus an acquisition fee of $650.  There's also a $350 disposition fee when the lease ends.  That's far more realistic than what GM is currently offering for Volt, just $250 down and $199 per month for 2 years.  Those offers represent quite a difference.  Comparing them doesn't even require a calculator.  One is realistic, something you'd expect to see anyway.  The other is unusually low.  Makes you wonder how long the offer from GM will last.  I'd expect some type of change after month end.  But then again, maybe not.  There's so much emphasis on monthly sales, the hope is the low lease gamble will pay off later.  You never really know how things are going to play out.


Diesel Returns.  I couldn't believe what was be posted today.  It was a repeat of the same old stuff, literally nothing new.  It was as if I was reading an old thread from the past.  Only, I wasn't.  This was about the upcoming diesel version of Cruze, which requires AdBlue to cleanse emissions.  Remember than nonsense?  You needed about 7 gallons of the stuff for every 15,000 miles of driving.  It is sprayed on the exhaust to chemically treat it to be cleaner.  Problem is, the result is barely clean enough to pass the minimum.  Prius is on the opposite end of the emissions spectrum, without even needing an additive.  I posted the following in response and still in disbelief:  Reading the very same responses to the very same topic now as several years ago suggests the outcome will be the same too.  How will this diesel & urea attempt be different?  We now have a greater choice of hybrids, some offering significantly higher efficiency.  The smooth & quiet from battery & motor is quite a contrast to the mild clatter of a turbo diesel.  Many hybrids offer significantly cleaner emission ratings as well.  And reliability has already been proven. Heck, even resale value remains high.  So if anything, it will be an even greater challenge to attract diesel buyers.  The added cost and higher fuel price doesn't seem to make it competitive either.  What's the point, especially with eAssist being spread to other vehicles?

9-23-2012 10,000-Mile Report.  Here's the real-world data I've collected so far with my 2012 Prius PHV:

  10,002 = Total Miles
  197 = Days (6.5 months)
  85.0 = Lifetime MPG

  117.6 = Total Gallons (measured at the pump)
  941.7 = Total kWh (including charging losses)

  3,824 = EV Miles (displayed amount)
  6,171 = HV Miles (displayed amount)
  851 = Total kWh (displayed amount)

  313.9 = Recharges (based on capacity replenished)

assumption: one full recharge, including charging losses = 3.0 kWh


10,000 Miles.  It only took 6.5 months to drive that distance.  Almost all of it was "warm" weather.  True, it spent a number of days near the freezing mark and even got snowed on overnight.  But that was brief.  Only now is the temperature dropping again.  Two days ago, it 52°F on my morning commute.  Yesterday, it had dropped to 46°F.  This morning, there was frost on the windows.  I didn't recharge either, giving myself a firsthand experience with cold engine warm-up again.  It was basically like with my 2010 Prius, but could have been ever so slightly faster.  It's hard to tell with just casual observation.  Anywho, the next 6 months and 10,000 miles won't be the same as the first.  My average was 85.0 MPG, measured at the pump.  That's 117.637 gallons of E10.  The calculated total (using 3.1 kWh per full recharge) for electricity was 973.1 kWh.  I'm looking forward to the discovery process a new Prius always brings.  I suspect recharging the pack just prior to departing will offer the advantage of warmth from the exchange of electricity. I have a feeling the EV will be more handy than anyone has anticipated, since most tend to forget how awful stop & slow traffic is from snow.  Who wants to remember that?  Having 3 years of real-world data collected from the 2010, it positions me well for PHV comparisons... especially living here in Minnesota.


Newbie Observations.  It's always fun confirming the observations of a new owner.  Their posts are filled with excitement detailing their own personal discovery.  My contribution to that today was:  Yup, you nailed it.  Slowing down can be rewarding.  I discovered that years ago, even before getting a Prius.  Back then, it was less about efficiency and more about simply keeping a steady pace.  A fast speed-limit gives the impression of better, but that often doesn't work out that way.  Turns out, going slower is much more appealing than the ever-changing variety you encounter from big highway congestion during commutes.  Having a display in Prius clues you into the MPG benefit from exploring alternative routes, even when there's a few stoplights thrown into the mix.  It's worthwhile to try other roads.  Efficiency gain can sometimes be counter-intuitive.  And yes, with a plug you notice the same type of efficiency bump.  Of course, the advantage of an electric motor becomes more pronounced at higher speeds with that extra electricity available.  But the gain from drives through the suburbs is obvious regardless of Prius model.  Have fun continuing to discover the advantages the hybrid system has to offer.


Explosive Reactions.  The topic of Volt sales sure is creating a lot of buzz online.  Last week focused on cost.  This week, the focus has shifted to leases.  How does an automaker make money when it offers a lease at a price clearly undervalued?  Last month, the deal was $250 down and $199 per month for 2 years.  That doesn't make sense for a vehicle so expensive, especially considering it had been $299 per month for 3 years.  Again, to stimulate the market is one thing, but initial rollout is long since complete.  In fact, the mid-cycle upgrade is now available.  So, finding out that roughly two-thirds of the "sales" last month weren't actually sales is quite unexpected.  Having a bunch of lease returns to sell on the eve of a next-generation debut sounds like a formula for large losses.  How can that be a good thing?  The resulting higher numbers we see now give the impression all is well though.  Reading through the comments posted, you hope for the best.  Sadly, there wasn't much.  I did find a rebuttal article though.  It took the downplay perspective, calling this Volt one for early adopters and telling us to be patient for the next generation.  That brings us back to the source of the explosive reactions, hype.  Having called Volt a "game changer" for so long and claiming it would "leap frog" the competition set expectations too high.  Now, enthusiasts are in damage-control mode dealing with all the fallout resulting from the hope they themselves had contributed to.


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