Personal Log  #593

October 27, 2012  -  November 6, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 1/08/2013

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691,281 Sold.  That's how many Prius were purchased worldwide from the start of 2012 through October.  (1,028,900 is the total number for all hybrids from Toyota.)  Seeing a quantity that high changes everything.  There's simply no way to have a constructive argument against Prius at this point.  That's a decent size chunk of annual production, even for a large automaker.  The effort to make the technology viable as an everyday choice has clearly paid off.  The technology has proven reliable & affordable.  It represents a paradigm shift about to take place.  Justifying the business decisions becomes a sensible one, rather than the risk it had been perceived of in the past.  We need to reduce emissions & consumption.  Hybrids deliver that... the FULL type, anyway.  I'm especially excited to be driving the proof that the transition to using plug-supplied electricity is no big deal.  All the nonsense of the past is rapidly fading away.  Consumers have embraced change.  Yeah!


Cheap Gas.  When one of the biggest antagonists of Prius argues that gas is cheap, you know it's an attempt to stir trouble.  With respect to inflation, that is true.  But we now drive much further than we did decades ago.  With annual distances higher, we're paying more.  We also have other expenses now that we didn't back then.  Think about how much you spend on cell & data usage per month, neither of which existed decades ago.  We have gaming & videos systems too, neither of which were part of the household expenses either.  What about cable or satellite services?  What about portable electronic devices?  What about the frequency in which we eat out?  In other words, considering the big picture makes a huge difference.  And even when you do take that into consideration, how is it suppose to portray Prius as a poor purchase choice?  Long story short, his posts were intended to provoke.  Fortunately, his trolling bait pretty much went unnoticed.  Few want to engage in arguments like that anymore.  With so many hybrids & plug-ins entering the market, the rhetoric of the past doesn't draw much attention anymore.


Hyundai & Kia.  Turns out, their values reported to the EPA and displayed on their window-stickers were inflated.  Roughly 900,000 customers will now need to be reimbursed for having been misled about the efficiency estimate.  With so much emphasis on delivering 40 MPG Highway, then finding out it wasn't actually true, you have to wonder how the market will react.  For that matter, what will it do for resale values.  It could be harmful to new sales as well.  Hmm?  It's an unusual & unfortunate situation.  Those numbers not being accurate could become quite a problem.  After all, even when they are some people take issue.  Too bad this happened.  But then again, it's better to find out before the number of owners affected became any larger.


Forgot To Plug.  No, not the Prius.  That was indeed plugged in, as usual.  However, the routine was disrupted by the assembling of a new grill in my garage... the type you barbeque food with.   I needed the 110-outlet to power both a heater and a light.  So, as you could easily imagine, I forgot to plug the charger for the Prius back into the wall afterward.  Darn it!  Oh well.  That first burger off the new grill was quite tasty.  After all, being really cold outside is when grilling is especially enjoyable.  It's more rewarding when you have to rush out into the cold to flip.  Anywho, I looked at my phone when the alarm-clock sounded that next morning.  That clued me into something not being right.  Huh?  There wasn't an email informing me that charging had began.  That's because it hadn't.  Who knew that notify feature would come in so handy.  Needless to say, I rushed out to start it then.  At least some recharging could take place before I left for work.


Natural Gas Vehicles.  It must certainly seem like I'm really hard on Volt.  It doesn't take much digging for a reality-check though: "The only electric vehicle brought to the mass market in America was General Motors' (GM) Chevy Volt.  This car was a dud from the get-go simply based on its price of around $40,000 before rebates."  When the introduction starts with that and ends with this: "Too big, too expensive, too many issues.", you know trouble is brewing.  With hybrids in the past, it was diesel vehicles.  This time, it's natural gas vehicles.  That's switching reliance to a different non-renewable fuel, compressed natural gas (CNG).  What the heck?  A plug-in hybrid can ultimately utilize electricity & ethanol for fuel, both of which are renewable from a variety of sources.  Anywho, the article published this morning went about stating how NGV was the ultimate solution... yet never mentioned either the emission-rating or any efficiency estimate.  Two vital pieces of information were missing entirely.  There was no mention of the storage tank to hold the CNG either.  In an odd twist, it did point of the opportunity of using CNG in hybrids rather than regular gas.  But again, detail was absent.  Long story short, there's always going to be pressure from some alternative, making downplay a poor choice if you want to build support for a technology.


Downplay & Double-Standards.  As the spin of October sales grew, I responded with:  It's quite amazing to read the "Nobody ever claimed..." comment when my blogs are stuffed with quotes proving otherwise.  Whatever.  My purpose has always been: "To significantly reduce emissions & consumption in a reliable & cost-effective manner."  That means a technology with heavy dependency on tax-credits and no chance of achieving mainstream sales until a later generation doesn't fulfill the purpose.  Just like we've seen with computer technology over the decades, the choice for the masses is a configuration realistically affordable.  As costs are reduced, capabilities are increased.  That's the way it works.  The downplay we get from Volt supporters now is just a recite of what some of us were saying all along.  Again, the blogs confirm that as well.  As for claiming Toyota cannot continue to evolve but the technology GM uses can, that's a double-standard.  We all know what's possible stepping up motor, battery, and power-carrier.  It just isn't viable for high-volume sales yet.


Next Generation.  So much for taking the market by storm.  We were told so many things about Volt.  Most didn't turn out as hoped.  This is what one of the enthusiasts said yesterday about the emerging status: "I do think that next year, the PIP will be the leader and that the Volt early dominance is short lived... unfortunately."  Downplay until the next generation was the final stage, since that's exactly what happened with Two-Mode.  There's not really much to say at this point.  I simply posted:  60K annual domestic has been the standard to which new vehicle sustainability has been measured for over a decade.  The point of the tax-credit is to help the automaker reach that level of sales quickly.  So when it expires, sales will continue at that level.  Each vehicles faces competition within its own automaker's offering.  That's the reality of business & profit.  We all see how that target continues to be moved, reducing former expectations.  It's a bittersweet situation, knowing traditional vehicles still dominate.  The goal of replacing them won't be accomplished by making excuses.  How will sales be increased?


Climate Change.  For many years, we heard spin about Global Warming.  It was quite clear those saying it didn't understand what climate change actually was.  Who cares what the biggest contributor is.  When there are lines at the gas station, you know there's a problem to be dealt with.  When frequency & magnitude of storms increase, that's reason enough to take action... especially when solutions like FULL hybrids are already available.  During the recent political debates and all the surrounding rhetoric, the topic wasn't actually addressed.  Why is uncertain.  My guess is there's been so much twisted of facts and misleading that it's pointless trying to have a constructive discussion about it... until a hurricane hits shore.  Sandy could possibly be the worst ever recorded for our country.  What a mess.  Combine that with the recent drought, it's clear we shouldn't just accept our fate.  We should use the intelligence we've been given.  That makes so much more sense than just hoping to drill our way back to something normal.  Geez!


YMMV.  No matter how many times that "Your Mileage May Vary" disclaimer is mentioned, the inevitable not-what-was-expected scenario plays out.  This time, it's with Ford's new C-Max hybrid.  The initial results reported are all over the place.  MPG variances are quite wide, spanning from upper 30's to upper 40's.  It sure would be nice if this results in a rapid spread of hybrid understanding.  Ford's newest market entry being a hybrid-only model with an optional plug could be just the thing we need to stimulate the needed education.  Unfortunately, some people are still unaware of efficiency influences… totally oblivious to things like winter-formula gas.  Of course, if nothing else, it directs attention to MPG.  The old obsession with size & power is thankfully turning into a bad nightmare of the past.


Website Outage.  The horrific storm on the East Coast of the United States is somewhat surreal to contemplate from the perspective of the center of the country.  The residents there now face an intense recovery period, many challenges & decisions.  It was a combination of several bad things to make an even worse situation.  Strangely, some businesses benefit from circumstances like this.  There's the obvious hardware & contractor boom.  There's also the less obvious burst of new vehicles into the market.  Major discounts are offered for hail & wind damage.  It also provides the opportunity, which we've seen taken advantage of in other forced times of change, to switch to a more efficient choice.  I won't see any of that though, here in Minnesota.  Instead for me, it's just a website outage due to infrastructure complications in 1,500 miles away.  Good luck to those struggling to get their lives back to something normal.


Getting Colder.  30°F for the morning commute.  It was the usual 70 mph route, 3 blocks of suburb driving before hitting the highway.  No heater yet, just cracked two passenger windows to the glass from fogging.  9.3 miles into the trip, the high-speed cruising in EV-BOOST mode came to an end and the engine shut off.  At that point, the coolant had warmed to 166°F.  Driving in EV all the way to the 16.5 mile mark, the battery-pack was depleted.  The coolant temperature had dropped only to 105°F.  That's not too bad considering the time & distance traveled without the engine.  When it did start back at that moment, it only ran for 0.1 mile.  As soon as the coolant hit 114°F, I was back to electric-only driving again... in STEALTH mode which doesn't offer as much power as EV mode.  But that's ok, because all I had to do was climb up two floors to get to my parking spot in the ramp.  Unexpectedly, I noticed the coolant temperature had continued to rise even though the engine was off.  That actually makes sense now that I think about it too.  The concentration of fresh heat from the pistons would take a little bit to circulate through the rest of the system.  Anywho, the end result was a coolant temperature of 130°F and an overall average of 164 MPG.


Panic.  The worry is growing.  That EV value likely won't be understood for awhile.  Some new owners watching it drop seem to panic.  Here's another response to the situation:  My estimated range dipped down into the 10's.  At one point, it had returned to the 13's.  Now it's back into the 12's.  That EV value is based entirely upon your own particular driving conditions experienced.  And now that it's getting cold out, the odds of seeing high numbers are more likely.  In my case, the drop came from a trip up north.  There was lots of inefficient driving (highway with bikes on the back) and no opportunity to recharge.  The system adjusted accordingly to take that into account.  New owners don't understand that, especially in this case when so few miles have been driven.  They assume something is wrong.  The advice we have to give to those new owners convinced that the system isn't working correctly is to have them focus on MPG results instead.  After all, Prius PHV is a plug-in hybrid, not an EV.  Even when the engine runs, you still get great efficiency.  My lifetime after as of 11,500 miles is 81 MPG.  What's wrong with that?  So what if it isn't all electric?  That isn't the goal.


EV Distance.  It's rapidly becoming the biggest understanding issue, an indication of a new misconception brewing.  The purpose of a plug-in hybrid is to significantly reduce emissions & consumption.  That's the same as a regular hybrid. It just raises the bar to a higher level.  Adding a plug and increasing battery-pack capacity extends & enhances EV, an ability already available.  People in general don’t take the time to consider that though.  They just assume "range" as the benefit of a plug, not MPG.  Those asking about the plug-in and even new owners focus exclusively on distance.  The efficiency outcome itself doesn't get any attention.  The incorrect belief of intent could become a big problem… especially as the already complex effects of Winter become intertwined with PHV observations.


Reliability.  It makes you wonder how a vehicle so new could be considered when it comes to reliability ranking.  Somehow though, Prius c already earned the title of "most".  That certainly was eye-catching to notice today.  Most vehicles work flawlessly the first year or two.  So, I am left scratching my head... despite knowing how well designed Prius c actually is.  The system takes the Classic model to the next level.  Just imagine if that refined of a smaller system would have been available a decade ago.  The Classic has proven itself worthy of a very high reliability ranking itself.  Years of improvement should make it even better.  We'll certainly find out.  They sell fairly well here and are extraordinarily popular in Japan.  Toyota really did their homework.  The test of time speaks for itself and reliability is something most listened for when it comes to new & used purchases.


Monthly Sales.  What happens in response to October's results is anyone's guess.  Monthly sales don't tell the whole picture.  It's just the outcome of a series of events with detail often forgotten or overlooked.  Whatever the case, we know there will be much attention to the plug-in vehicles.  Clearing out of 2012 inventory will be the first thing easy to neglect mentioning, though the discounts from that are likely to be sighted without including reason.  Long story short, the objective has always been outcome for the year as a whole.  Fluctuations from month to month is nothing new and usually don’t represent a trend.  Enthusiasts will spin numbers anyway.  Watch for it.  The obvious clue is the avoidance of goals.  Not meeting expectations has consequences for the business and the market as a whole.  In a few days, monthly sales counts will be available.  Stay tuned.


Just Drive It.  Assumptions about efficiency and being mislead about how a hybrid should operate is nothing new.  We've been dealing with incorrect beliefs for over a decade now.  The advice for Prius is always the same.  That is true for the plug-in model as well.  Problem is, we'll have to repeat it over and over.  But then again, first posts often come about as a result of that assuming.  So, we end up with online participation which wouldn't of had come about otherwise.  Some of those owners even become advocates due to their discovery from having learned about the clever design.  This was today's example:  There's a frustration pattern emerging.  They all seem to disregard MPG.  Why would you make the "worth it" comment without any reference to efficiency results?  The point of a plug-in hybrid is to significantly improve efficiency.  Even with the engine running, that's what you get.  In other words, we're back the same old advice all new Prius owners are given:  Just Drive It


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