Personal Log  #595

November 16, 2012  -  November 25, 2012

Last Updated: Tues. 1/08/2013

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Summer EV.  The seasonal effect is something EV drivers have been aware of for ages.  The thought to point that out to the new audience we now have here was forgotten.  I observed it firsthand many times throughout Summer.  Now with Winter approaching, it's easy to see the difference.  The increased capacity during the warm season was something I intentionally delayed getting on video, wanting to avoid giving a misleading impression of expected performance.  That's a big reason I waited until the cold season returned to begin filming.  If people are pleased with what they observe under demanding circumstances, they'll be thrilled later to discover it gets even better later.  That's also a great way to endorse the technology.  Way back in 2000, my Prius experienced the second coldest & snowiest December in Minnesota recorded history.  Documenting details of those driving experiences proved quite valuable when rollout expanded.  The hope is that very same thing will happen with the plug-in model.  Having studied the design for over a decade and now driving it, there are particular normal behaviors that those new to plug-in technology could easily assume incorrectly about.  We need to make sure to be explicit and routinely provide exposition to have prevent that.  This is a perfect example of where that effort will be helpful.


Fabricating Fiction.  Reading comments about articles on general audience publications stirs up lots of disturbing statements.  This one caught my attention today: "I talked with a tow truck driver and he said a lot of his calls are for the Prius which has a lot of failure of the main battery, which is an expensive thing."  Funny how I've never encountered that, eh?  You have no idea who any of the people involved are.  You just know they felt compelled to post a negative comment without any data to actually support it.  Fabricated fiction from the desire to undermine is nothing new.  It happens all the time.  Sadly, some very well known advocates of Volt do the same thing: "Toyota hates the fact that battery plug-ins are catching on and they have to diversify away from their big hybrid only investments."  The particular individual who posted that felt in was necessary to mislead, not liking the plug-in Prius.  The hope is people will believe the model offering a plug is profoundly different, that Toyota hadn't planned ahead and incorporated everything into the regular Prius already.  Only needing a larger capacity battery-pack and a charger confirms the investment was well thought out.  Claims like these are was makes me feel good about the FULL hybrid approach.  It has proven a wise choice.


Cold Shopping.  My adventures into the holiday chaos started with lunch with my Sister, waiting was preferred.  I simply wasn't interested in "Black Friday" craziness first thing in the morning.  Fortunately, some bargains could be found later in the day anyway, which I did in fact do some shopping for.  Driving from store to store in the cold would normally be unheard of, when an engine starts.  Why would you move for such short distances?  Since I could take advantage of the opportunities EV offers, that was different.  All of my running around to eat & shop was entirely with electricity, despite temperatures in the low 20's.  Having a heated seat helps.  I wouldn't actually want to do that without.  It was pretty sweet.  That changes your attitude toward errands.  Short trips into town to get this & that complimented by 999 MPG even in Winter sure is nice.


Keeping Warm.  The topic of heat and Winter efficiency certainly is stirring a lot of discussion.  There's so much to cover and each new plug-in Prius owner has a different perspective, due to location and duration of ownership.  So, it's difficult to know what to contribute.  These were my ramblings today:  Colder temperatures are definitely affecting my engine warm-up (as expected), but the EV driving is still as it was, down into the 40's anyway.  Of course, up in the 80's it actually exceeded what I had experienced during normal morning commutes.  We know that lithium chemistry responds differently in conditions below freezing.  Resistance is quite a bit higher.  So, there is no expectation of consistency then.  20% (of an overall capacity loss) seems fairly realistic.  Of course, running the engine for cabin & emission warm-up results in battery warming in addition to battery charging... making it quite a challenge to quantify.  Then there's the reality of headlight & seat-heater electricity consumption that wouldn't normally happen in warmer temperatures.


Forget The Past.  The purpose of participating in discussions on the unfriendly forums was to get information no other source could provide.  In other words, it was the pursuit of argument points.  Knowing their perceived shortcomings are quite valuable, since lack of substance is the downfall.  They inevitably reveal weakness.  So, you put up with their nonsense.  Simple things like refusing to provide detail or answer questions are a dead giveaway of trouble... which is nice, since online participation is so much harder to determine intent compared to the articles with bias that's quite blatant.  They avoid the obvious by doing things like asking questions of their own, diverting focus.  Problem is, that's self-defeating.  They can conveniently forget the past, but others won't.  Repetition only works a few times before you lose the audience... which is precisely what we're seeing now.  The antagonists are the only ones left.  No more enthusiasts participate.  The true supporters are long gone.  They know the history of the topic itself as well as the history of those discussions.  Debates have ended.  Hype is gone.  The next chapter has begun.


Leaf Sightings.  There's one in the neighborhood now.  I just barely missed an encounter at the local gas station today.  Ironically, that's a rather unlikely location for a meeting... since he'll never purchase any gas there.  Someday, perhaps.  Of course, the odds aren't good my PHV will get noticed.  The visual clues about it being a Prius with a plug are quite subtle.  But at some point, people will become aware and start looking.  Leaf owners will probably develop a heightened awareness... since it's so lonely right now.  Hopefully, that will change quite a bit next year.  Then, I'll have to deal with charging-stations actually being full and actually try the "ok to plug when complete" sharing.


103 F Degrees.  The engine didn't restart until coolant temperature dropped to 103°F.  That was a bit of a surprise.  Why?  Normally in ECO mode the threshold is 114°F.  But then again, this Prius is configured to work different anyway, to take advantage of electric-only opportunities.  So now that it's Winter, I'll be keeping close attention to spot differences.  It won't be long before the morning commute is routinely well below freezing.  That's when the retention of heat, assisted by blocking the grille, makes a difference.  When that coolant heat runs out, the engine needs to run temporarily warm coolant back up to keep you warm.


Failing.  Back when Volt was first rolled out, saying anything not complimentary was looked upon as a "fail" assessment.  Enthusiasts were paranoid.  Supporters replied with excuses.  Since then, the enthusiasts have vanished.  All that's left are supporters... who are still making excuses rather than adhering to their very own comments made this time last year.  That's obviously hypocritical to disregard their own comments.  But they twist it to make your own stick-to-the-same-priorities sound like inability to be flexible.  Isn't it great how they find a way to spin just about everything?  Anywho, I ended up stating this:  That "over promise, under deliver" strikes again.  It shouldn't have declared to be a "game changer".  Expectations were set for mainstream sales volume in the second year. That wasn't realistic considering the state of the market and the production cost.  There's also the 500 million shares of GM the federal government would like to sell back without a large loss.  Looked upon as a niche, Volt is doing fine.  There isn't a minimum required to become business-sustaining and using tax incentives are fine.  It's that jump to middle-market consumers which presents the challenge still being faced.  The heavy emphasis on monthly sales continues to contribute to the problem too.  Enthusiasts don't really like to address what it takes to be profitable or actual need.  The focus continues to be on want.


Observing EV.  Having missed summer opportunities to film my commute to work and it already snowed the week before, I jumped on the unusually warm fall day (48°F) to capture it with the plug-in Prius.  This is the same route as many other videos.  With the 2010, it was exclusively HV mode.  With the 2012 PHV, there is the choice to switch to HV in the middle when it potentially could yield higher results.  Instead, the plan was to take advantage of EV mode until it was depleted entirely.  Remember, when in HV mode you still have electric-only drive available. It just isn't as powerful or as fast as when in EV mode.  That means the slow part of your drive near the ending can still be without gas. Also, don't forget that the system is configured with maximum emission reduction as primary priority, not the highest efficiency.  I was especially happy with the camera setup this time.  The quality of the dashboard image has been improved.  The soft lighting during most of the drive and the sun emerging at the ending just happened to be well timed too.  Anywho, the 17.2 mile drive was 14 miles of EV with the remaining in HV.  The result was an overall average of 328 MPG.  That's about 3.0 kWh of electricity (including charging losses) and about 0.01 gallon of gas.  Watch it here:  Prius PHV - Along The River (EV)


New Photos.  I'm finally starting to get caught up on publishing photos.  With the temperature dropping, having a basis of comparison available to refer back to will be helpful.  A few days ago, the temperature on my morning commute was down to 25°F.  That's a sign of undeniable change.  Efficiency dropped to 204 MPG.  Eek!  Fortunately, the stimulus for working on photos came today.  With the temperature back up 48°F, results of that same drive were considerably better: 328 MPG.  That's still way off from what I was getting excited about seeing routinely throughout Summer, but there's certainly nothing to complain about.  Winter lowers efficiency of all vehicles.  Prius PHV is no exception.  You sure develop a heightened level of anticipation for Spring having a plug though, elevated more so then with a regular Prius.  In the meantime, I'll be watching it get colder and colder.  There's much to stir excitement about that too.  Being among the first to witness how the system copes with temperatures well below freezing is rewarding.  You get to participate in history rather than just reading about it later.  In my case, I'll be contributing photos to document those observations.  See... photo album 179   photo album 180


Same Old Nonsense, part 2.  It's quite eye-opening to confirm someone really doesn't know the difference between want and need, after all these years.  That's greenwashing at its best, when they have no idea they've been mislead.  Anywho, pushing for detail is how to find out.  Supposedly, the 0 to 60 acceleration requirement is 8 seconds.  According to who?  All those vehicles taking longer certainly aren't causing accidents.  If so, the slower acceleration wouldn't be fulfilling a necessity.  Clearly, the rate is fine.  The enthusiast wants more.  It isn't a need.  The same thing happened years ago when 10 seconds was supposedly required.  Then when the new Prius delivered that, they changed the requirement... even though there was nothing to proof faster was essential.  Fear often contributes to the nonsense.  Popularity of a new vehicle that's slower threatens the loss of what they desire.  They can still have what they want, as long as they are willing to pay.  You can still buy a guzzler.  The choice hasn't been eliminated, it was expanded.  That's what we want from a vehicle like Volt.  Where's the model that's actually affordable?  One with a smaller battery-pack to lower cost while also offering more space in back makes sense.  Yet, they deny it.


Same Old Nonsense, part 1.  Want verses need has been the problem for many, many years.  When someone supporting a solution for the masses states a model is required to fulfill minimums, enthusiasts panic in fear that somehow the model they support which exceeds those minimums will be taken away.  It's the same old response every time.  They make vague references to goals and limit scope to draw conclusions.  That's why history keeps repeating.  The reality of the situation is that middle-market consumers don't always buy the high-end model.  Given the choice, they tend to purchase the one offering a balance of priorities for an affordable price.  Knowing that, the one-size-fits-all approach from GM limits sales.  The only configuration of Two-Mode we got was one that focused on requirements in excess of the mainstream.  Plans were made to offer choice, but nothing was ever delivered.  So, focus has shifted over to Voltec instead. Same problem.  Why aren't we given any choices, like battery-capacity or engine & motor sizes?  Both Ford & Toyota offer that.  Product diversity is a key component to business success.  Why is there so much resistance to that from enthusiasts?  They keep telling us the absolute of electric-only is essential.  That doesn't make sense when the intent is to reduce gas consumption, not eliminate it.  You offer the choice to consumers... which brings us back to asking what the topic of "not hybrid" actually means.


Failure.  With so much hype, propaganda, and spin online, there won't be anything new labeled as "failure" anymore.  Instead, attention is simply focused on the next best thing.  Two-Mode is the great recent example.  When sales were so bad no one even wanted to talk about the situation anymore, Volt ended up getting the spotlight from GM supporters.  From those just wanting to support domestic automakers, they stopped caring about Volt... hence all the attention C-Max Energi is now getting.  It's an ugly reality watching goals be missed.  We all know the goal is to replace traditional vehicle production.  Sadly though, lots of bragging about capacity & speed still happens along with providing countless excuses.  Addressing want rather than need is a fundamental problem contributing to the mess.  In the day of Edsel, the industry and world market was very different.  We can no longer afford massive investments to not provide a substantial return.


Understanding EV.  When the engine runs for power or heat, it confuses those trying to understand how the EV works.  I filmed again.  The result was over 13 miles of EV.  But that wasn't the point, hence providing detail on video...  It was my morning commute taking the route along the river, starting with a cold engine and a battery-pack near full.  The temperature was 25°F outside, but in true Minnesota style I saw no need for the heater.  My winter jacket did the trick, even with the windows cracked to prevent fogging.  There wasn't a need to turn on the heated seat either.  I was comfortable, gloveless and driving an iced coffee.  The engine stayed off until I wanted it to start.  Toggling the HV/EV button when turning onto the 50 mph section works best.  With a 17.3 mile drive that route, there isn't enough battery to travel entirely EV anyway.  And of course, there's the nice benefit of EV replenish resulting from the engine running to produce thrust & heat.  Anywho, you get familiar with you commute after awhile, so the what to do when becomes rather mindless.  So, pushing the button again while on the ramp to merge onto the 55 mph is a rather routine thing to do too.  And I did, saving electricity for when it could be better utilized.  I ran out of EV as I entered the parking ramp.  That was perfect, since power demand was low enough for Stealth mode to get me to my spot, still driving with only electricity.  You can see it automatically switch in the video too.  Despite the cold temperature, the resulting average was 204 MPG.  Using the heater, efficiency still would have been in the 100's.  No complaints about that.  The plug is delivering a significant boost, exactly as it was designed to.  Here's a link to see it:  Prius PHV - Along The River (25F)


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