Personal Log #597
December 4, 2012 - December 10, 2012
Last Updated: Tues. 1/08/2013
page #596 page #598 BOOK INDEX
Recharging In Snow. Today was the first opportunity with more than just a dusting of snow. Since I had already recharged in the rain, this plugging in was no big deal. But like other events, documenting when is worth the effort. Those flurries turned into measurable accumulation too. The awning that was hoped to be installed at the ramp last month didn't happen yet. The 2 additional charging-stations weren't either. But now the plan is for 4 more. Cool! In the meantime, there's brushing involved. I have to sweep off the snow when I'm ready to leave work for home. This particular commute from work was going to be one quite worthy of documenting too. The uncertainty of how nasty the drive would actually be had everyone concerned. I was too. But not having the burden of wasting gas sitting there in hopelessly slow traffic is nice. It stops and you have no idea when it will begin again or how long it will actually take to travel even just a short span of road. For that matter, you don't know how easy it will be to drive along the road itself. There's usually not the fear of getting stuck, though sometimes that does happen at challenging junctions. The worry comes when the need arises for a sudden stop. Anywho, it all starts with a recharge. This time, it was while lots of new snow feel.
Winter Arrived. It is definitely here. We
got about 8 inches of snow. Other parts of the cities saw as much as 14 inches.
This morning's commute was a terribly slow one, with a temperature of 16°F
outside. Traffic on the 70 mph highway was moving at around 35 mph.
In the section where it slows down to 55 mph for the river crossing,
vehicles were crawling along at just 9 mph. I was loving every minute of it.
Upon encountering that stop & slow, there was 6.0 miles of EV remaining.
I cracked the windows, reduced the fan speed, and opened the vent.
With the interior already warmed up, the thought of turning on the
heated-seat had even crossed my mind until 15 minutes into the electric-only
bliss. To my delight, I made it all the way to the parking ramp
without the engine starting up. I did have the seat on high for warmth
though. I also wondered if the primary ingredient for keeping the
windshield clear is a matter of air circulation, much more so than the
humidity itself. A simple small fan should reveal that answer.
Anywho, the result of that 16.8 mile snowy commute was 143 MPG with 0.1 mile
of EV remaining.
More Photos. Although I only have one to share today,
there's more photos on the way. It was extremely snowy. What a mess! The
top highway speed on that drive was 42 mph. Most of the time, I was only
going about 30. Sometimes, it was in the low 20's. We got several inches
of the wet nasty stuff. I was driving through what remained after initial
clean-up. There were quite a few accidents. Most come from people driving
much too fast for the conditions. Slowing down is not rewarding for them
like it is in a Prius. Today provided a fantastic example. I wasn't able
to recharge before setting out on that adventure. It was 23.9 miles of very
Wintery driving in a plug-in with a depleted battery-pack. That meant
nothing but ordinary hybrid driving the entire way. The result was amazing,
especially when you take into account the heater was running the entire
time. 52 MPG is definitely worthy of a photo. I did indeed get one to
document that event too. Here it is...
photo album 179
Prius Sales. For last month in the United States, they were: 8,925 for the regular model; 3,124 for the c model; 2,690 for the v model, and 1,766 for the plug-in model. The story in Japan is quite different. Last month there, the c model (known as "Aqua") has sales of 26,346. That nearly ten times more... so much, it was the top-selling vehicle there in November. The regular model wasn't as good, but still quite impressive with 22,039 purchased. The tally for v weren't available. There was a number cited for Corolla though, at 6,121. Stepping to look at the overall counts for the year so far, there were 246,170 for c and 301,102 for the regular model (along with 75,701 for Corolla) in Japan. That paints another impression of market demand. But the fact that Prius is popular in general is quite obvious. Here, it's 134,967 for the regular model, 37,677 for v, 32,582 for c, and 11,389 for the plug-in. Knowing that c and the plug-in weren't available until later in the year is good to know, but not essential. Seeing the total here for Camry hybrid at 41,213 provides an idea of the progress that's been made.
Plug Pricing. Sometimes, there is consideration of the rest of the market with disregard to the different models of Prius. It's the reverse of the other problem, where they are now only looking at the big picture. Needless to say, discussions get confusing. The problem comes down to price of the option itself. Focus solely on the vehicle as a whole overlooks the actual components involved. The smaller NiMH battery-pack is exchanged with a much larger Li-Ion battery-pack. A plug, charger, and adapter are added to. I responded to the on-going discussion based upon vehicle sticker-price: None of that addresses cost of the option itself. You want leather and a moonroof, that upgrade isn't free. You want HUD and a nicer stereo, that upgrade isn't free. You want larger wheels and LED lights, that upgrade isn't free. Toyota's goal was always looked upon as a premium, the price you would be willing to pay for the upgrade. You want a larger battery and a plug, you have to pay for it. The cost of that has a target of $3,000 to $5,000. How is that not realistic? I cannot envision someone making a purchase decision between a near-luxury guzzler and a plug-in mainstream hybrid. They are far too different.
Price Importance. I like how some people forget to look at the big picture: "At $32,000, the Prius PHV isn't serving your middle-market either. That's nearly $8000 more than the base Prius..." They get so focused on Prius itself, they forget to look at other vehicles being offered and the situation automakers will be facing. I tried to point out those missing aspects: $30,000 has been and continues to be the middle-market target. When the tax-credit expires, that goal of delivering a plug-in hybrid with a nice balance of priorities isn't in danger. Being able to shave off $2,000 for 2015 is within reason. We see Toyota striving to keep cost in check. They aren't making sacrifices for the sake of offering more capacity. So what if there are other models of Prius available with lower prices. The point is to increase choice. None of them offer a plug. Market expansion is realistic when MSRP is at a level comparable to what mainstream purchases already are. High-Volume sales don't come from complicated justifications of price. It's quite simple to see how swapping in a larger battery and adding a plug offers a MPG boost.
EPA Estimates. How are fuel economy results actually validated? It's winter here now. With temperatures below freezing and slower travel due to snow & ice, the outcome will vary quite a bit. EPA is for the sake of comparison anyway, not an expectation. The wording on the window-sticker states a range, pointing out the large numbers are only an average. And how are measurements performed on rollers suppose to represent the real-world knowing roads that aren't absolutely flat or traffic free. For that matter, how is the weight of the vehicle itself taken into account. My driving yesterday, most on freshly fallen snow, came to a total of 65 miles. Using 6 kWh of electricity, combined with the regular Prius gas engine, the end result was 83 MPG. How is that information suppose to be considered? What kind of analysis should be used to confirm the automaker delivered what the consumer has chosen to purchase? How close must results be to be acceptable? With MPG becoming a high priority, the shortcomings in estimates of traditional vehicles are finally gaining attention... after years of careless disregard. Who needs to educate the market about the wide variety of efficiency-influencing factors and the differences in the types of hybrids being offered? So many questions. So few answers.
Addressing Inefficiencies. This quote speaks for itself: "I am growing concerned that EV advocates may choose to ignore vehicle inefficiencies simply because the power comes from a plug." The problem goes back to our roots, using MPG to represent efficiency rather than stating the amount of gas actually consumed. Most of the rest of the world states their efficiency it terms of "liters/100km". That informs you precisely how much fuel it took to travel that distance. MPG certainly doesn't. Anywho, I joined the discussion with: Listing the amount of kWh consumed hasn't been happening. The attitude that electricity is free & unlimited is working its way into the mindset of those praising EV. There is genuine reason to be concerned that we could simply be switching from one fuel to another rather than actually reducing emissions & consumption. Supporters of Volt cringe whenever the topic of Two-Mode is brought up... since even though it was indeed a hybrid, it still consumed large quantities of gas. The large "HYBRID" labels it flaunted was a great example of having put lipstick on a pig. Watching for references to "gas saved" reveals a lot where GM's priorities actually are. When other automakers promote their plug-in vehicles. Comparing gas consumption between Prius & Prius PHV or C-Max & C-Max Energi doesn't have as much as an impact as comparing Volt to the industry average. The real winners are those who address efficiency candidly and don't place speed & power among the highest priorities. We can pretend to be green or actually be it. There's a difference, details of which some attempt to withhold.
How We Got Here. Remember all the nonsense we had to deal with in the past? Most people cannot, because they weren’t watching the hybrid market in the first place. Those who do remember, don't realize it was over a decade ago. The years get mixed up quite easily. It started way back in 2000. The "payback" and "nickel" arguments we among the initial greenwashing campaigns. The antagonists pushed a "treehugger" point of view, casting Prius supporters as extremes. They fought hard to prevent mainstream acceptance. That transformed to an effort to inflate costs. Remember the "Dust to Dust" debacle? When finally debunked, there was a rather blatant attempt to invoke fear. It was unbelievable how determined some were to undermine the advancement of Prius. They were very upset about the progress being made. Downplay is the theme now. Holding back the entire market for the sake of making time for the competition to catch up likely won't work either. With the growth we've already seen from the new larger & smaller model and the upcoming nationwide rollout of the plug-in, that hope to convince people that Prius is just a passing niche is long gone. Not only is Prius mainstream, it is now being recognized as an example of the entire industry shifting away from traditional vehicles.
New Expectations. For over 3 years, we had to endure the purist hype. Then it slipped that there would indeed be a direct engine connection. The eruption of semantic arguing which followed made it clear nothing would be straight forward about the rollout. Sure enough, we got every excuse imaginable about not meeting goals... most notably sales. The revised Volt sales estimate for 2012 here provided at the start of this year was 45,000. Obviously, that's not going to happen. What should we be expecting for next year? Currently, the promotion of Volt is focusing solely on "gas saved" numbers. Compared to driving what? And why is there no mention whatsoever of either the quantity of electricity consumed or the resulting smog-related emissions? Leaving out vital detail is rather blatant greenwashing. With plug-in Prius rolling out to the rest of the country now and plug offerings from other automakers, the draw factors to Volt become even more of challenge. Appealing to middle-market isn't what the trophy-mentality supports. Mainstream consumers have a balance of purchase priorities. Again, what should we expect? Keep in mind there's a $7,500 price gap which must be overcome before the tax-credit expires, just to maintain status quo. To become more than just a niche within GM's production, sales must increase significantly. Remember, the point is to offer a product which delivers business-sustaining profit.
Cold Soak. Did you know it's better for battery longevity to let it rest before recharging? Most people don't. Hopefully, some plug-in Prius owners just naturally contribute to it. Setting the timer to not start until later in the evening (to take advantage of lower electricity rates) will automatically accommodate that. EV owners don’t have as much flexibility. For that matter, plug-in hybrids with large capacity batteries don't either. Only taking 2.5 hours from a 110-volt connection and 1.5 from a 220-volt, you've got it with PHV. For me at home, I've been having the recharge start via the time at 4:50 am. If I ever recharge there in the evening, I wait at least 2 hours first. That works really well. I typically have several hours of things to do anyway. While downtown at work, there's always a 5 to 6 hour delay. I walk over to the car on my afternoon break to plug in. That works out really well too, especially since I'm not taking up a charging-spot the entire day then. Be able to help stretch the longest possible life out of the pack doesn't take much more than being aware of what ages them. Providing rest time while depleted, called a "cold soak", contributes to longevity.
NiMH verses Li-Ion. Some are beginning to question Toyota's decision not to simply move to lithium batteries for all their hybrids. The lack of diversity they've become accustom to makes understanding the move to diversify a confusing one. It gives the impression of indecisiveness. In reality, it's just an ordinary advancement step we take for granted in other industries. It's quite normal to see that hardware stores for rechargeable devices. Why not with hybrids too? I replied to the thread discussing this topic with: It makes sense sticking with NiMH for maximum optimization. How else are they going to penetrate deep into the challenging sub-$20k market? The benefit of storage space is nice, as is the minor bump in HV efficiency. But cost is paramount. We'll see availability of Li-Ion expand over time. Having it in two models of Prius already is undeniable proof that Toyota is real-world validating for next generation rollout potential. As for calling NiMH obsolete, that doesn't make sense considering how common Lead-Acid batteries are still. For that matter, there are still some rechargeable devices being sold with NiCad batteries. It boils down to production & sales. That's the ultimate perspective check. Expanding the product-line is what's getting the most resources now... in a market heavily dominated by non-hybrid vehicles.
Third Place. GM has built up a huge inventory of pickups. Currently, there are 245,853 available. Many are supposedly the much-hyped new Silverado. This makes you question what priorities are. With Volt having slipped to third place for plug-in hybrids, supposedly due to inventory shortage, how can you not? 1,766 Prius PHV. 1,539 Leafs. 1,519 Volts. 1,259 C-Max Energi. Those totals for last month are stirring emotion on posts. Discussions don't stand a chance of being constructive anymore. Trouble is brewing. Toyota's approach of offering a balance of priorities gives the plug-in Prius a strong chance of becoming a self-sustaining choice, selling just like the other models. But since it's a package upgrade, sharing the same platform as the regular (no plug) model, there's less risk. That's good when you see how volatile traditional inventory management can be. Of course, the underlying cause of the pickup surplus may simply just be the shift away from guzzlers. But then again, enticing those downsizing from trucks to choose a hybrid car rather than a traditional car is a win-win situation. Why not capitalize on it? After all, GM has been missing lots of opportunity lately. Betting the farm on Volt wasn't a good plan.