Prius Personal Log  #609

February 17, 2013  -  February 23, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 4/03/2013

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One Size Fits All.  That assessment of GM's approach made some Volt enthusiasts absolutely crazy.  They were very, very resistant to the idea of diversity… since it wrecked the "EREV" concept.  Offering a model with a smaller battery, which consequently would depend upon blending operation more often, was a topic replied to with fierce retaliation.  It was amazing how hostile some of those exchanges got.  Now, they just outright dismiss it… since addressing the merits of balance never ended well.  It made Volt too much like what Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, and Honda were all working to deliver.  It wouldn't stand out then.  Ironically, that mindset is anti-mainstream… but they refused to acknowledge the needs of middle-market too.  Anywho, as anticipated, GM will pursue pure electric-only vehicles but will restrict availability… due to having heavily promoted the idea of a plug-in with an engine instead.  Offering choice isn't going to happen.  No 45-50 MPG regular hybrid.  Spark EV will be limited to California & Oregon only.  If you want high-efficiency, the choice will be Volt only with a 16.5 kWh battery.  One size fits all.  That means either the major expense to buy a Volt or getting an eAssist or Diesel instead.  That lack of choice, a huge void in between, could turn out to be a risky business plan.


You Still Get.  It's interesting what the new PHV owners have to say about the EV experiences.  There are comments like, "But only 10 miles?", mixed within their positive praise.  That makes sense from the perspective of electric-only vehicles being applied to a Prius.  Even they want that plug to represent more than the supplement it was intended to be.  But then again, for those new to hybrids purchasing a plug-in Prius as their first, it contradicts the belief that owners are only those who are upgrading from an earlier model.  The greenwashers what people to believe it is just a "novelty" and have been successful to the point of even new owners referring to it that way.  Fortunately, seeing the potential for more is easy.  You still get quite a bit now anyway.  The tradeoffs aren't big as from competing automakers.  Toyota worked hard to deliver a balance.  I put it this way:  The addition of a plug comes without any big compromise.  You still get 50 MPG even when the plug-supplied electricity is used up.  You still get the full cargo area with seat down for transporting large objects.  You still get a vehicle that's priced for middle-market consumers.  That's something the other plug-in choices don't offer.  The fact that we also get more EV power and the target distance of 20 km (12.4 miles) to do things like running errands without any gas is a side benefit.  The actual goal was to deliver an improved hybrid, not make it an electric-only vehicle.  We got exactly that.  As for calling the generation we have now as a "novelty", that doesn't actually mean anything.  For that matter, no label would.  The plug-in model will have modest beginnings simply due to the market perception creating by the other plug-in choices.  Those who own one will enjoy the EV experiences.


EV Experiences.  At this point, we've seen countless posts stating observations of EV miles dropping due to the cold and lots of HV driving.  Unfortunately, we still see numerous online claims about the plug-in Prius not being able to climb hills or drive through the suburbs without the engine starting.  After 11 months of ownership, that really annoying.  It's about time we have a thread dedicated to the sharing of EV experiences.  For me, this evening offered a great experience to share.  I needed to run an errand, to pick up a number of provisions before the upcoming winter storm arrives.  Outside, it was 21°F and dead calm.  Inside, my Prius had been parked for 4 hours, plugged in immediately upon arrival home from work.  The garage stays just warm enough to melt snow the Prius carries in.  The battery-pack was obviously still warm from recharging having finished 1.5 hours earlier.  Since the car had been toasty warm from the previous drive, just the heated seat would be all I'd need for internal comfort, no need for window defogging either.  The EV distance estimate was 10.1 miles.  The distance I was planning to travel was 10.6 miles, was very very hilly, and had a top speed-limit of 45 mph.  The drive was great... electric-only the entire trip, both directions... despite the temperature below freezing and all the hill climbing.  0.7 miles of EV remained too.  Errand running was always a pain prior to the plug.  Once you're home after work and have eaten dinner, you normally don't want to take time late in the evening to pick up provisions.  Doing it without using gas, with smooth & silent driving changes the experience.  It's really nice.


Pipeline Protests.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that our addiction to oil and recent climate-change events are preventing old-school thinking from gaining any traction.  Just a mere thought of building a pipeline across the country stirs intense emotion.  Why in the world would we devote so many resources to legacy technology?  It makes no sense.  Even if the act of extracting oil was a clean & undamaging process, it's still a limited resource.  The infrastructure we put in place won't be able to be used by our children.  Establishing wind & solar locally in communities spread throughout the country is an entirely different matter.  It is with the use of waste bio-material for local ethanol production as well.  How much oil do they expect to transport via the pipeline anyway?  Shouldn't jobs be created in something that's actually sustainable?  How will money for the construction and money from the refined product afterward be handled?  Which country will control what?  Who will be overseeing the well-being of the pipeline long-term?  In what way is supplying more oil actually helpful?  The list of questions is quite extensive.  Those few are just the tip of the iceberg.  What is the goal anyway?  Looking at the big picture, using less oil is the key.  Pumping more into the system doesn't seem a sensible solution.


Good Judgment.  It was the New York Times who published that misleading article about the Model S.  They had backed up their writer too, until yesterday.  Harsh words from the Tesla's CEO and the outcry of owners got them to change.  True journalism cannot have controversy like that.  The facts should speak for themselves.  They finally did.  This is very much like online eruptions of the past.  Just look at Volt, there were so many it's hard to believe.  However, with Volt they weren't all from reporters who, in the words of the NYT, didn't use "good judgment".  There were quite a few enthusiasts who simply relayed a message of hope without giving it any actual thought.  The most abundant example of that was the frequency to which effects of Winter on the battery-pack were summarily dismissed as rhetoric from Prius supporters.  They didn't give it serious consideration.  They just outright rejected the claims.  Had they taken the time to think through the situation, as what was just done with Tesla, the outcome would have been very different.  Fortunately, the conflict having arisen with this was short-lived... quite different from the years of poor judgment with Volt... which has been point all along... learn, then move on.


Tesla Support.  Owners certainly didn't remain still or silent.  They quickly organized a trip, recreating the drive in that controversial report.  It was their version of a rebuttal to prove what the writer had done didn't make sense, to refute his negative experience.  They did too.  There were four that drove the entire route.  All made it just fine.  The catch was planning ahead and fully recharging.  Note that they used the same super-fast recharging stations he did, so we're talking extra minutes not hours.  He got impatient and stopped early.  Two of them also left the battery plugged in overnight to keep warm.  Two didn't for good measure.  He did not.  It was an effort to set the record straight, done by those who support it... not the automaker.  This is the very thing Volt supporters were told to do.  Over and over again, you inform them of the power that owner endorsements have as an educational tool and a preventative.  Makes you wonder if they'll do anything now.  Excitement is building for Prius PHV, anticipating rollout expansion.  Future owners are yearning for the opportunity to purchase & document.  Tesla owners are getting a taste of what positive reinforcement can do.  Being proactive rather than reacting after the fact is far more effective.  Makes you wonder what will happen next.


Not Alone.  There was reason for a little bit of hope today.  I may not be alone at work anymore.  To my surprise, there was a brand new iMiEV using the other charging-station.  Having someone else there could finally set into motion the plans to expand.  Management there has been saying several more charging-stations will be installed soon.  That kept getting postponed though, which is totally understandable considering the expense and it being the dead of winter.  Seeing the only 2 spots filled everyday would change that.  They'd like to avoid sharing too, since there's an entire section set aside for plug-in parking.  More usage is a win-win situation... especially considering the ramp features an 82 kWh solar-array.  I'm looking forward to the change.  Owning a plug-in for almost an entire year without anyone else mingle with has been a test of patience.


Unrealistic Criteria.  I agreed wholeheartedly with this statement: "To tell you the truth - it really sounds pathetic to keep on hearing how: "I'm not going to get an EV until it goes 500 miles and charges in 5 minutes." "  Exaggeration is a common greenwashing technique.  Those attempting to undermine blow numbers out of proportion with the hope that you'll quickly dismiss the topic, rather than taking a moment to realize how weak the argument actually is.  Thankfully, Prius PHV is well positioned to deal with that.  Since the plug-in feature is just an upgrade option rather than an entirely separate vehicle, the opportunity for further consideration is quite realistic... even when the online nonsense persists.  The rhetoric won't do much to prevent closer looks at the dealership.  In fact, negative attention typically stirs curiosity.  Despite not being able to meet the extreme criteria some claim is required, being a reasonably affordable package choice and not requiring anything other than an ordinary household outlet for recharging will give people reason for consideration.  The test-drive experience melts away doubt.  People will just forget that greenwashing in the end.  Realistic criteria wins.  We've seen problems of the past fade away as those making the absurd claims mysteriously discover they're outnumbered by practical-minded consumers.  Remember how some claimed gas would have to get considerably higher than $4 per gallon for people to consider downsizing.  They certainly were wrong about that.


Need For Profit.  It all boils down to that.  True, low-emissions & high-efficiency are selling points.  But unless profit is made, volume will remain small.  To seriously consider production replacement, the technology investment must return on expectations.  That reality made the Volt enthusiasts absolutely crazy and the supporters nervous.  That's why both were always out to prove something.  Now it's 2013.  Consumers are well aware of the plug-in.  There's nothing left about the engineering to reveal.  It's understood.  It's also quickly dismissed.  Just like with Prius, the top decision-making factor was price.  Lost opportunity is the result.  With such heavy dependence on a large battery-pack, the approach is really struggling.  That need for profit is increasingly more of a problem.  Not achieving mainstream minimum is a big issue for vehicles intended to be daily drivers.  When it's ultimately needed as seller to help sustain the business, gambling that the next generation will be a homerun (being a popular middle-market choice) isn't exactly a good plan.  Heck, even Toyota didn't want to do that with Prius.  There are multiple models available as well as bigger systems for larger cars (both front & rear drive) as well as an all-wheel-drive system for minivans and SUVs.  Just think how long it will take to get GM to diversify like that, especially if their approach is plug-in only.  That's why the pressure continues to build, despite so little attention from the media anymore.  Supporters are well aware of what the "too little, too slow" concern was all about at this point.


First Generation.  It's always fun to point out history that some are totally unaware of.  It was this today which called for that: "The PIP is still in its first-generation and will quickly become a dinosaur as plug-in technology improves."  Needless to say, I couldn't resist.  I waited for a response before putting my own here.  And as you could have guess, that person didn't answer my question.  Most of the time, wild comments like that without any substance are easy to squash.  That was definitely the case here.  This is what did the trick:  Actually, the current version is third generation.  The first used 2 NiMH packs in tandem with the Gen-II Prius ...never offered for sale but had real-world testing.  The second used a 5.2 kWh sub-pack Li-Ion configuration with the Gen-III Prius ...never offered for sale but lots & lots of real-world testing by ordinary consumers.  The third is what we have now, the first offered for sale and featuring a number of software & interface upgrades based upon the real-world data & feedback collected from the previous.  The battery-pack was reduced to 4.4 kWh without loss of range.  As for becoming a dinosaur & quickly, that's quite vague.  Care to quantify?


Stable Gas Prices.  We're seeing gas prices settle around $4 per gallon, with the price of a barrel of oil just under $100.  That appears to be fairly stable, making all players involved somewhat content.  There will be a little bit of up & down with the upcoming seasonal formula change.  This time of year, there isn't much supply interruption.  Vehicle sales tend to pick up as the weather warms.  Demand predictably matches the increase in driving.  It's typically good for all.  With respect to hybrids, this is the time of year supporters look forward to.  The build up naturally resulting from Spring combined with Earth Day promotion stirs lots of attention.  Consumers now realize $4 gas is more than just a spike.  It's the new reality.  Fortunately, there is no expectation of a climb.  This is where it is anticipated to stay for the next year or two.  Slow economic growth combined with ever-increasing awareness of climate change is good reason to think we aren't going to see any rash decisions in the near future.  Price stability brings sensible choices.


Boosted Acceleration.  I just got back from a driving trip, an expected funeral to attend.  It's nice being able to provide support like that, just jump in the car and go.  Of course, that meant not being able to plug in.  Turns out, it was a good thing.  I noticed something I had overlooked before.  Saving EV-BOOST for hard-accelerations was something I hadn't ever considered before.  That just automatically happens when both commuting to work and back home, since the engine is fired as I accelerate to get onto the highway.  But when you're on a trip, you are usually in HV-mode and have little or no EV power available.  So, the engine revs high (up to 5500 RPM, which is actually rather low compared to some traditional vehicles) when you drop the pedal.  Taking advantage of EV, the RPM is kept below 2000.  It's basically the same fuel-saving approach the regular Prius takes when accelerating in the suburbs… using electricity to allow the engine to run more efficiently.  Now with the plug-in, the same thing can be done at higher speeds.  Saving some EV for that when on long trips, especially when I'll mostly be cruising on the highway, appears to be worth further observation.  It could be a handy MPG tip.


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