Personal Log  #612

March 10, 2013  -  March 16, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 4/03/2013

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The Disconnect.  We've been wondering when it would finally happen.  Turns out, it's right on schedule.  2 years is the limit.  Something big must happen in the third year; otherwise, new technology loses its "newness" and people simply move on.  That was overwhelmingly clear with Two-Mode.  Sales the first & second year were so far under expectations, attention shifted over to something else instead.  Volt became the center of attention.  Enthusiasts were captivated by the potential.  They didn't let realities of business hold them back either.  Cost and market need were carelessly disregarded.  It was the very same thing that happened with Two-Mode originally, back when it was going to crush Prius.  Later with Volt, it became a "vastly superior" campaign.  Now that Volt has faded away from having under delivered to such a huge degree, promises from the next generation have become the focus.  Now, we are seeing that same baseless hope emerge... again.  Anticipation of increased EV range and increased MPG after depletion with a total absence of cost concern is dominating discussions.  It's truly amazing to watch the very same behavior repeat.  They learned nothing from the past.  There's a disconnect between reality & hype they don't want to see.


Market Share.  The spin-doctors are at it again.  They limit scope to give a false impression.  Stepping back to look at the big picture reveals they are up to the same old nonsense again.  Sadly, some simply thrive on the attention that gets them, which means there's no solution.  They'll just keep misleading.  They don't care about greenwashing.  This was today's example: "From hybrid cars Toyota's market share is falling..."  That almost seems objective, until you look at who posted it and remember the replies the previous times.  I typically ignore those posts.  But every now and then, it's better to respond than to allow them to influence innocent newbies.  I chimed in with:  The larger numbers get, the smaller the difference becomes.  Also, it's called percentage spin when the market as a whole is not taken into out.  The competition is traditional vehicles, not other hybrids.  892,519 Prius were purchased last year... which means fewer traditional vehicles were sold.  Remember, the purpose is to replace mainstream sales, not compete within a niche.


Research Funding.  The big news today was the plan to use revenue from federal leases for offshore drilling to fund research for automotive batteries and biofuels.  The expectation is to provide $200 million per year for the next decade.  Considering how much we've spent on defending oil-reach nations, oil subsidies, and the automotive bailout, that choice would seem to be rather trivial.  It's a good investment in the future and a rather small amount of money in comparison.  Even so, there are still some opponents.  That's hard to believe considering those other reasons combined with the price of gas.  Why haven't we been doing that all along.  Simply switching to domestic drilling and creating a new pipeline from Canada makes no sense.  There should be something related to renewable energy sources too... and that's without even considering the environmental benefits.  Needless to say, there were plenty of comments about this posted online.  Long story short, it's a political issue... lots of finger-pointing and blame, rather than actually trying to accomplish something.  It's sad.


The Irony.  I really get a kick out of how Volt enthusiasts use to sight the engine starting up as a Prius PHV weakness.  Now that it's emerging as a strength, they stop mentioning it.  That abrupt change to silence is clear confirmation they didn't have all the facts.  Well, better put would be saying they didn't listen to all the facts.  We presented them over and over again.  But their outright dismissal prevented any consideration.  Finding out that a brief burst of power from the gas engine to help out the electric motor is actually a wise design choice makes them sound hypocritical if they say anything.  The nature of that behavior actually being a feature to point out as a strength to those researching the approach makes it ironic.  Talking about a backfire.  It's more efficient overall to save electricity for cruising, to take advantage of the engine briefly.  Prius makes that easy to do to.  Pressing on the pedal usually just results in EV driving.  All you have to do is push a little harder, to make the bar on the Eco-Meter jump into the power-zone.  With the engine already warm, it only runs for a few seconds.  Having it shut off so quickly impresses those taking test drives.  What was supposedly a weakness is clearly proving otherwise.  Ha!


41 Degrees!  Although it is suppose to get cold this weekend, down to the single digits again, we had a brief taste of warmth today.  My EV range estimate even went up as a result.  I had seen quite a few "10.5 miles" values lately.  Today, it was 10.9 miles.  I remember the same drop & rise pattern last year, following cold then warm.  It's part of the experience owning a plug-in vehicle.  Winter reduces range.  Consequently, the range estimate will reflect it.  As Spring arrives, I'll see the value climb into the 11's.  Low 12's will come later.  I don't expect to see 13's, since I do so much HV driving.  Those who primarily drive EV will though.  Some will see estimates even higher.  Of course, that has nothing to do with actual EV range.  I routinely drove 13 & 14 mile distances with EV on a single charge, despite the fact that the estimate was only in the 12's.  That's just the way it works.  For that matter, it works the same way with traditional cars.  You get "distance to empty" value with them too and they are also just estimates.  MPG varies.  So does the consumption of electricity.  Fortunately, it improves as the weather improves.  That's always something to look forward to, even if it is just a guess when and how many degrees.


Not Price.  It's simply not worth responding anymore.  Just let it go when you read something like this "It wasn't until the 2nd gen Prius and the cut in price that sales really began to rise..."  The price started out the same, then halfway through that first year price was increased by $300.  The real reason was the design delivered more power and greater efficiency in a larger vehicle.  Switching from a sedan to a hatchback made a world of difference too.  Volt's lack of a middle seat, very little legroom in back, and it not offering flat cargo area are a convenience factors often dismissed, something GM could clearly benefit from if the enthusiasts stopped claiming it was fine the way it is.  Of course, the other part of the increase in sales was the reputation that had already been built up at that point along with the obvious gesture of continued investment on Toyota's part.  If GM could send a clear message and stop with all the over-promising, Volt may stand a chance.  Then again, enthusiasts becoming the barrier is a growing problem.  Proof of that was the recent comments posted about price.  So many sounded off that battery-capacity should not be reduced or a smaller battery offered as a second choice, it makes stating goals just about impossible... hence all the mixed messages.  Clarity would be quite helpful.  Though, some still either don't know the history of price or are in denial about that.  Without understanding reason, it's difficult to make any progress.  But when I ask, it just ends up becoming an argument... since ending up being proven incorrect is rarely ever taken well.


What Happened?  I'd consider it well timed.  Someone on the daily blog for Volt, which rarely ever actually has content about Volt anymore, tried to greenwash about the plug-in Prius.  It was one of the subtle attempts, despite using information that clearly didn't represent real-world data.  I was intrigued.  That type of desperation is the very thing I had just blogged about.  So, it was a good way of summing up and moving on.  I'm not expecting it to make any difference or for anyone to even respond; it was just a nice way to draw attention to the fact that it still happens.  After all, going down with a fight is how some people achieve closure:  Raising doubt was surprisingly effective in the past, but not anymore.  It's now easy to challenge vague claims & dismissals with lots of detail.  The internet empowers and continues to improve.  Examples can be backed with references, confirming it really is what was stated.  Follow up is not only possible, it's expected.  People researching a purchase will do searches, watch videos, ask questions, work their way through the rhetoric.  They'll reply with actual information, not just parrot a comment or make a generalization.  What happened here?


Lies & Hate.  When that's all we have left, you can finally breath a sign of relief... and it now looks like that's all there is.  It's quite unfortunate to have some dishonesty still, but thankfully that's easy to disprove now.  As for the deep emotional response, those are to be expected.  It's an outcome of change, confirmation things are happening beyond their control.  Without getting too detailed, since there's plenty of lie & hate examples I could provide, we'll try to just stick to facts.  Even though Prius PHV was only available in 15 states and in them for only 10 months, the total for the year came to 12,750 purchased.  Worldwide, the sales total was 27,181.  We're not really sure if that difference of 14,431 was exclusively in Japan, since a few must have been sold in the United Kingdom, but we do know that was only 11 months' worth of availability.  Long story short, the total for Volt was still higher: 30,090.  That's why those final desperate comments are being made.  It won't be much longer before those attempts to greenwashed will simply be overwhelmed by the truth.  Some love would be nice too.  It was quite frustrating dealing with all the enthusiast rhetoric.  But in the end (like when the tax-credits expire), vehicles designed to appeal to the masses which are also profitable will be the winners.  That's what we can properly call "superior".

3-11-2013 Annual Report.  My first full year of 2012 Prius PHV ownership is complete.  I meticulously documented details of that experience.  Here's the summary:

  18,477 = Total Miles
  6,328 = EV Miles (displayed amount)
  12,123 = HV Miles (displayed amount)

  365 = Days (12 months)
  574 = Recharges (based on capacity replenished)

  239.9 = Total Gallons (measured at the pump)
  1,721 = Total kWh (including charging losses)
  1,505 = Total kWh (displayed amount)

  77.0 = Lifetime MPG
  50.5 = MPG (HV)
  27 = kWh /100 miles

All the data itself and lots of graphs are included.  It's really nice having a resource like that available now.  We've needed something to easily refer back too.  So often, there's been claiming about the plug-in model that were way off base but couldn't be disproven by simply supplying a link.  Now, we can.  Detail from very tank refill and every recharge is listed.  The daily results are especially informative to see illustrated.  Variance from real-world driving needs is very easy to see, clearly confirming that the generalizations about per-day usage are way off.  There is no pattern.  Life is not that simple.  It was fun watching all that play out.  Each day revealed a little bit more information.  Watching the influence of seasonal change tells quite a story too.  There's much to consider when it comes to everyday driving.  Looks at the information I have available to consider your own particular circumstances.  This webpage is where you the free downloads are available... annual report


No Heater Video.  -2°F in EV speaks for itself.  I wanted to know if the battery-pack could deliver the power needed for my daily commute in such extreme cold conditions.  It did... and I'm quite thrilled how well the video turned out.  The ride itself wasn't exactly warm, but I did it without wearing gloves for the first 24 minutes of driving.  The heated seat on high does a remarkable job.  The point was to find out how well the EV would perform, so I kept the heater off.  9 miles of electric-only driving was what ended up being available.  I fired up the engine shortly before the battery was fully depleted of EV, not wanting the upcoming hill climb at 55 mph consume lots of HV capacity (electricity is used to allow the engine to gracefully speed up).  Watching the video to the end, you can see close-up display photos of the outcome.  The total distance traveled was 17.2 miles.  The result was 117 MPG.  That took approximately 3.0 kWh of electricity (including charging losses) along with 0.15 gallon of gas.  That would be impressive even if wasn't -2°F.  I still miss summer though, since EV works better then.  Here it is... No Heater (-2°F)


$3.49 Gas.  How do you sell a plug-in hybrid when that price for a gallon of gas is considered acceptable?  Demand for fuel efficiency has for the most part just caused people to downsize to appropriate-size vehicles.  For those who have a more pressing need, the solution is typically a sub-compact car.  That makes selling regular hybrids a challenge.  Increasing the size of the battery-pack and adding a plug makes it a real struggle to stir interest.  That's why there is currently tax-credit incentives.  They are intended to help stimulate the market and provide a price-buffer while the automaker scrambles to reduce-cost to make up the difference prior to the credit expiring.  You cannot depend upon the price of gas increasing demand to justify a higher price.  That's a big problem for Volt, with its $7,500 credit.  How could its cost be reduced by that much it just a few years?  Prius only faces a $2,500 credit to offset and it has the advantage of high-volume production.  Achieving that is much more realistic in comparison.  It's likely the price of gas won't change much in the next two years either.  Oil supply seems to have stabilized and the economy is recovering.  That's good news, since the market seems to indicate lower prices than even what the incentives offer are needed for plug-in hybrids to really take hold.  People have become tolerant of higher gas prices.


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