Personal Log  #594

November 6, 2012  -  November 15, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 1/08/2013

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Repeating History.  As the third year of Two-Mode sales began, it was quite obvious the affordability goal had been forfeited by other aspects of the design which exceeded actual need.  That's how the "trophy mentality" originated.  We saw the same obsession with awards misguide the intentions with Volt... which is now about to begin its third year of sales.  Needless to say, that isn't going as planned.  So, we get a new set of priorities from GM.  This includes a completely different attitude toward the EV and a very confusing message about the future of eAssist (the second generation of BAS).  It doesn't tell us anything about Two-Mode either.  In fact, it was the same old lack of detail as in the past... the very same approach that led to all the unfounded hope and following disenchantment with Volt.  No clarity.  What a mess.  After 5 pages of observation on the big GM forum, I finally chimed in with this:  Notice how references are quite vague, using labels that identify a specific characteristic but don't actually take real-world driving into account?  That's been the trap for many years.  We place attention on marketing an idea rather than address need.  Even the title of the article itself does that: "GM will focus on plug-ins and EVs, but not hybrids."  With so many different varieties of hybrid, what does that really mean?  In the most generic sense, you could just say that indicates the only high-efficient GM will offer will include a plug.  That doesn't make sense when you consider what Ford & Toyota offer though.  There's obviously more at play than just a plug, but no detail is provided.  It's the same old lack of clarity as in the past.  Reading that GM expects to sell 500,000 vehicles with a battery-pack annually by 2017 makes you wonder what the strategy really is.  It seems in conflict with the focus statement.  What should we be expecting?


Warm-Up Reminder.  Engine warm-up completes at 130°F when in EV mode.  That's helpful to know after a hard acceleration.  It seems like forever when having done that with a cold engine.  But with the gauge, you can see exactly when it will shut off.  It's just a matter of observing the coolant temperature.  With a hot engine, you take advantage of the fact that it will shut off immediately upon completing a hard acceleration.  Without seeing that value, it's easy to imagine new owners being really mystified as to what the system is actually doing... especially when heater demands in the Winter add to the demand for heat.  The elegantly simple complexity of the design seems like an oxymoron, until someone points out what is actually happening.  But even then, sometimes you need a reminder of the detail.  After all, following depletion, the heater threshold changes from 14F to 114°F depending upon whether or not you use ECO mode.  That button makes a difference in the cold season.  Forgetting to use it means more engine warm-up.


C-Max Energi.  Today, an article named it: "Ford's High-Tech Prius Killer".  Coming from a financial publication rather than automotive, a title like that does make you curious what they had to say.  Turns out, it was very little.  Price of the vehicles and battery-capacities was all that was mentioned.  You were given the impression Ford was somehow able to squeeze more miles out of the same physically sized pack.  Leaving out vital information is called misleading.  From what was printed, it would be extremely easy to believe there wasn't an interior difference.  In person, you'd immediately notice they aren't even close.  The larger battery-capacity comes from sacrificing a flat cargo area, a feature Prius PHV did not.  The other blatant omission was the efficiency following depletion.  There's a clear difference between 43 MPG and 50 MPG.  C-Max Energi's value being some much lower comes from its  extra 734 pounds, which obviously wasn't mentioned either.  The writer stated just the particular facts he wanted to convey.  In fact, only the tax-credit for Ford was included, without a peep about one for Toyota.  It was quite frustrating to read.  Oh well.  Greenwashing about actual green vehicles is certainly better than in the past.


Heater Dance.  I filmed another of my drives.  This one was especially interesting.  With the temperature at 24°F, resistance was futile.  I couldn't let the opportunity slip away.  I had to capture a drive on video that documented what happens when you start with a cold engine and drive the entire time with the heater on the generous side.  The filming setup was a challenge, of course.  I had to avoid blocking the vents to keep the windshield clear.  I also had a new mount for the dashboard camera and a new Wi-Fi transmitter for the scenery camera.  Both had problems along the way too.  But there's no stopping once you start.  You only get one chance and just hope for the best.  Next time, I'll be better prepared.  This time was intended to be practice.  Luckily, the video turned out well enough to share anyway.  Watch the instant MPG readout next to the speedometer.  Once the system (heater & emission) is fully warmed, the engine shuts off and EV mode automatically engages.  With the heater temperature set to 7F and the blower set to medium for both windshield & feet, the ice cold coolant would take several minutes to warm.  Following that, I was able to drive along in EV mode.  Later, the system automatically switched to HV mode to produce more heat while also assisting with propulsion and generating some electricity.  Watch for that; the MPG will drop below 100 briefly.  Those engine on/off cycle happens several times throughout the drive to the coffeeshop and back.  This is the same route I filmed several times with the 2010 Prius.  Now using the plug-in, even under these terribly inefficient driving conditions you can easily see how the extra electricity really boosts efficiency.  The 17.9-mile drive resulted in an overall average of 92 MPG, with 0.9 mile of EV still remaining.  Normally, I wouldn't have the heater running as much and I'd take advantage of the heated seat.  That will allow for higher efficiency, since the engine would run less often.  But for the sake of demonstrating ordinary circumstances without any question of comfort, I didn't.  After all, passengers in back don't have seat heating available.  This is a link to the video:  Prius PHV - Heater Dance


The Drive Home.  It was intriguing.  Most of the snow & ice had melted, but the temperature had dropped to 27°F.  I left the ramp and drove about 2 miles in EV mode.  That totally defied what antagonists had claimed was possible, which I found quite pleasing.  At the base of a very steep and very long hill, it was a great opportunity to take advantage of the engine.  So, I did.  When the coolant hit 119°F, the EV/HV button I had pressed to start the engine was pressed again to indicate I wanted to go back to EV as soon as warm-up was complete.  The engine shut off immediately.  Huh?  I had expected the engine to continue running until the coolant hit 130°F.  I'm not sure why it stopped sooner.  No complaints about that though.  The remaining drive was about 1.5 miles, all in EV with the seat-heater on high.  My shopping was lengthy, around 35 minutes.  The coolant had dropped to 71°F.  The next destination was about 1 mile from there, including a steep uphill climb.  This time, the decision was to see what the EV would deliver.  Sure enough, got there using only electricity.  The next destination was also with EV, the coolant temperature now at 64°F.  Next at 58°F, it too was all EV.  Now at 55°F, the hope to remain in EV was effortless.  It drives very well in the cold.  That was impressive to experience.  I finished shopping.  It was a long drive to the highway, wanting to travel with only EV until the battery-pack was depleted.  Sure enough, I ended up getting over 10 miles of all EV driving.  That was sweet, especially since the outside temperature had dropped to 25°F and the coolant only 31°F.  It was a very nice introduction to real winter driving.  The total journey was 40.5 miles.  It consisted of 2 full recharges.  The overall average came to 85 MPG.


Real Winter Driving.  I started a new thread on the big Prius forum.  This was the past:  For those of you where the daily high doesn't get above freezing (32°F, 0°C), this is the thread to share your plug-in experiences.  That's real winter, especially since the chemistry of lithium batteries reacts different than it does when temperatures are above freezing.  22°F was what I was greeted with this morning, along with a fresh blanket of snow concealing a slippery layer of fresh ice.  It was the first true taste of winter for me with the Prius PHV.  Jumping onto the 70 mph highway was as expected.  When I pushed the button to start up the blower on the windshield, the engine fired up.  Naturally, it took longer to warm up.  But the speed of which was very similar to my 2010, but with much higher MPG.  At the 9-mile mark just before the speed limit drops to 55 mph, the traffic had come to a crawl.  The Prius simply switched to EV mode as I approached.  To my surprise, the engine fired back up when the coolant dropped to 145°F from the 159°F it has been at 70 mph.  My guess is the battery-pack was still wasn't fully warmed up yet.  Normally, it stays off until 114°F when ECO is engaged.  I shut off the defroster, which caused the engine to immediately shut off.  To my delight, the light warm blowing you get with the system "off" was plenty to prevent the need to use the heater itself.  That was great, since I chose to get off the highway to take a back route the rest of the way.  EV was available until I ran out of electricity, which I took full advantage of.  The windshield stayed clear for about 15 minutes.  When I got stuck in the next traffic back up, there was only 0.4 mile of EV remaining.  So, I pressed the HV/EV button to warm the coolant and recharge the battery-pack a bit.  That worked out well.  My commute that would normally take about 25 minutes was looking to take over an hour.  Blah.  Upon reaching the ramp and avoiding the slip & slide activity others around me had engaged in, I was delighted to see an outcome of 104 MPG.  It was a very good first winter driving experience with the plug-in.


Growing Interest.  Colder weather sure is stirring discussions online.  We're all quite curious how the plug-in model will respond to the conditions.  Getting countless posts from new c and v owners experiencing low temperatures for the first time makes patient a challenge.  We look forward to owners sharing their experiences.  Anywho, this was my contribution to the growing interest today:  The cold season is quickly becoming a fascinating topic for me.  Today started with the Prius sitting outside all night, in temperatures below freezing and no plug.  It warmed up a little, so the precipitation was rain rather than snow.  Good thing too; otherwise, it would have been several inches.  As the temperature dropped, it did indeed change to the white fluffy stuff.  Fortunately, that was short lived.  My morning drive was just ordinary HV mode.  After lunch, I got a chance to recharge.  With the temperature at 27°F, running around town was a mix of EV and HV.  Being able to choose when, is nice.  You have to remember to shut off the heater when you park though.  Otherwise, you only have 7 seconds after starting to.  If you don't, the engine fires up.  But then again, it's cold enough to need the heater anyway.  The total distance today was 45 miles.  The resulting average was 59 MPG.  To my delight, the EV distance was 12 miles.  When the engine runs, excess power is directed to the generator.  The result is more electricity available when driving.  So, it looks like the loss of capacity due to the cold is made up for by the need to run the engine.  I'm quite pleased with the results.  Now I'm especially curious to find out what my commute brings in the winter.  Being able to recharge at work will deliver remarkable efficiency, despite the cold.


Questions Like This.  The introduction of a model with a plug has really stirred curiosity.  Some researching Prius PHV have no idea what to expect.  This particular question today got me: "Do I need to drive below 62 to get the benefit of the PIP? Or can I set the cruise at 70 and still get some value out of it?"  I just happened to film a recent video providing the answer to exactly that.  So, I was especially excited to respond.  I provided a link along with:  I sure am glad that only comes up as a random question, rather than becoming a chronic misconception.  Phew!  Watching that video I captured of a random commute last week, you can clearly see the benefit at 70 mph.  That mode is what we've coined EV-BOOST, where there is an obvious benefit from the plug-supplied electricity even though you are traveling faster than the electric-only limit.


Fast Commute, But Cold.  Having documented many aspects of plug-in Prius driving on paper, it's now time to get share some info in video format... complete with both dashboard & scenery.  Colder temperatures bring lower efficiency, for all vehicles.  Prius is no exception to that.  Air & Tire resistance increase.  Gas is switched to winter formula.  Combustion itself produces less power.  You've got a variety of easily overlooked influencing factors easily overlooked.  And that's just Fall.  When Winter arrives, traffic is slowed by snow & ice to make your MPG drop even more.  This particular commute with my plug-in Prius nicely shows how my drive to work in Summer, which had resulted in the low 200's for MPG, now only gets around 150.  It gives you an interesting dose of perspective.  That's still quite remarkable.  Watch the video closely.  Notice how that even at 70 mph, most of the time MPG stays over 100 once the engine is warmed up.  That's what owners have termed as EV-BOOST mode.  Even though gas is consumed, the quantity is much less than from a hybrid without plug-supplied electricity.  At the conclusion of the commute, you can see the average resulting from the 16.7 miles of driving on that 37°F morning was 143 MPG.  You can watch the video here:  Prius PHV - Fast Commute To


With Heater.  Today's drive took on a different approach.  Even though it's still to warm for the heater yet (40°F this morning), I wanted to see how much of an influence it would have on coolant temperature in the mild conditions.  So, I turned it on with a setting of 75°F and the fan on low with blower settings for window & foot.  At the usual 9.3 mile mark, upon switching from EV-BOOST to EV mode, the engine had heated up the coolant to 157°F.  That's a little below the 166°F expected without the heater on.  At the 13.4 mile mark, the coolant temperature was just about to drop to 114°F degrees.  Since I was quite warm, didn't want the engine to start up, and there was still 3.1 miles of EV remaining, I shut off the heater.  To my delight, I arrived at the usual parking spot with 0.1 EV still.  That was sweet!  At a total distance of 16.7 miles, the coolant had dropped to 100°F.  The result was an average of 184 MPG.  Now I'm well prepared for seeing what happens when the daily high is well under the freezing point.  Of course, the basis of comparison will be difficult... since driving conditions can change dramatically.  I've seen MPG climb when up due to heavily snow congested traffic with my 2010.  Now having plugged-supplied electricity available, Winter results will be very exciting to witness and a fascinating comparison with the 2010 data I collected along that same commute, also with grille blocking.


Coldest Yet.  I captured another drive last week, but didn't get time to type up my notes... there was this election distraction, you know.  This data was my coldest collected so far, still quite warm by Minnesota standards though.  It was 29°F outside.  At the 9.3 mile mark from the 17.2 mile morning commute, the engine shut off slowing down from 70 mph.  The coolant temperature had got up to 166°F from that drive with EV-BOOST.  That's plenty to provide heat for cabin warmth, which I wasn't actually using then.  Heck, I haven't even started wearing my winter coat yet.  Anywho, what I'm most interested in is the retention of heat while driving in EV mode.  From 60 to 45 mph, with a variety of traffic & stops while the speed limit drops in 5 mph increments along the way, I drove along in smooth & silent bliss.  At the 16.0 mile mark, the battery-pack was depleted and the engine started back up.  The coolant temperature had dropped to 109°F.  The engine only ran briefly, settling at 130°F as I pulled up to the usual spot in the parking ramp using only electricity (EV in HV, also known as Stealth mode).  The final result was 153 MPG.  That's still pretty darn good.  When the real cold arrives, then things will get interesting.


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