Personal Log  #614

March 23, 2013  -  March 27, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 4/03/2013

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Something's Wrong, part 3.  It finally hit me!  What if those intense exchanges of words were based on a misunderstand?  That would explain a lot.  We've seen that type of passion before.  When someone has incorrect information, they can unknowingly spread it.  In fact, that's the basis for greenwashing.  You convince someone else that a situation is different that it actually is and they end up passing along false beliefs.  However, sometimes it can be even more simple than that.  To test my theory, I started posting detail about the determination of Miles-Per-Gallon-Equivalency for the plug-in Prius:

(# EV miles + # HV miles) / ((# kWh / 33.7 kWh) + # gallons) = MPGe

   (6 + 5) / ((3.19 / 33.7) + 0.022) = 94.3

0.2 gallons per 100 miles

   11 miles = 0.022 gallons

29 kWh per 100 miles

   11 miles = 3.19 kWh

Guess what?  The immediate impression I got from that was that there were a few individuals that seemed to be totally oblivious to what those numbers actually meant.  It was the clue I had long been looking to undercover.  Yeah!


Something's Wrong, part 2.  Still amazing by such blatant greenwashing, I was left wondering of something was actually wrong.  Why would there be such intense responses about a claim that is clearly not true?  With Volt attention having diminished to virtually nothing, was this attempt to draw back attention or what there a big picture issue that I hadn't even noticed?  I push hard on the hostile venues to find out, since they gladly welcome that type of participation.  The members there provide lots of feedback... some of it quite valuable.  But you really have to look for it... because they clearly aren't aware of the issues.  It's a matter of someone exposing a clue that ultimately informs us of what's really going on.  Anywho, this was my response:  The battery-capacity listed by the EPA is 11 miles.  The window-sticker clearly shows that plug-supplied electricity is available is for 11 miles.  What the heck do you believe that 11 miles means?  My guess is the group-think here has convinced everyone that the 6 means something other than what it actually does and no one bothered to actually look up what it really represents.  That kind of assumption makes sense too.  It's a common trap to fall into and no one wants to admit they made an error afterward.


Something's Wrong, part 1.  In disbelief, I posted:  Wow!  With so many videos available and so many reports illustrating how far a kWh of electricity will allow the plug-in Prius to travel, it blows the mind that someone would post false information anyway.  That's very encouraging. It shows there's worry about merit alone being enough.  What other reason could their be for such obvious misrepresentation?  We all saw that original post which clearly excluded 5 of the 11 miles of electricity available.  So what if the engine starts up and runs briefly at mile-marker 6.  That doesn't mean the entire capacity of the battery had already been consumed.  It simply means a high-power demand was not fulfilled by electricity alone.  The engine shuts back off and another 5 miles of EV travel occur.  The spreadsheet omitted that fact.  We all know it too.  We see the concern the true information causes.  No one is fooled by the effort to distract & avoid.  And attempts to dismiss just show desperation.  It's sad that the situation has come to this.  But it's not like we didn't see it coming.  Remember how success had been defined prior to rollout?


Goals & Success.  Looking forward means learning from the past.  That next step really can't happen until you know which direction to take.  It's been a major problem for Volt and a complete non-issue for Prius.  Toyota had a clear vision and set that course.  A friend of mine stated GM's path as this: "Priceless experience in developing cars that don't sell. The Volt carries on a proud tradition."  We honestly don't know what will come next.  It's a huge mystery with a growing sense of urgency.  Cost must drop significantly.  The dependency on a large battery-pack compromises much.  It's not like Prius, where you know there's a high probably of increased capacity with the next.  Volt is already at the supposed end-state and somehow must rapidly make it affordable.  I joined in with this:  They all had something in common.  Unfortunately, every attempt to point that out was met with fierce resistance.  It was a simple matter of stating what the goals were.  Not being able to clearly define success was a sure sign of trouble was to come.  When you don't have understanding & agreement of what's trying to be accomplished and by when, there's no way to achieve any type of finality.  This is why there is so much attention focused on the next generation now.  It's also why there so much abhorrence for the vehicle which had goals stated and did indeed achieve them.


Fireworks.  It certainly was exciting watching them fly today.  This is what started it: "When he said this I explained to him Toyota Hybrid technology relies on a small electric motor that is only capable of under 12 mph speeds and that the electric motor shuts down and lets the gas engine take over completely over at speeds over 12 mph.  He looked shocked.  It seems hybrid owners have their heads in the sand and are stuck on stupid."  That was both incorrect and insulting.  Coming from a Volt owner on the forum dedicated to Volt (where I am only a lurker), several other owners sounded off.  Each polite attempt to correct him was responded to with fierce resistance.  It was quite clear his hate ran deep and facts weren't going to get in the way of his slander.  Reality is, Prius uses a 60 kWh electric motor which operates at 650 volts.  That offers a top electric-only speed of 46 mph for the regular model and 62 mph for the plug-in.  Personally, I'm most impressed by my climb out of the river valley at 55 mph using just electricity.  That's far more power than the 12 mph he claims.  It's too bad someone didn't just refer to YouTube for a video showing how the system actually operates.  I'm flabbergasted that someone would be so bold to think that such blatant dishonesty would go unchallenged.


Infancy.  Imagine if Volt would have been promoted as the next generation of vehicle now available today.  Rather than all the downplay & excuses, they could show us that car of the future everyone has been waiting decades for.  It's that trophy-mentality holding things back.  For a technology to become commonplace, to be so ubiquitous that it is seen everywhere, it cannot stand out.  Enthusiasts want it to though.  They are the barrier, the very thing they tried so hard to prevent.  It was a self-fulfilling destiny they were warned about.  Lessons of the past were shrugged off, dismissed as not relevant to the situation.  Now, they are stuck, still somewhat unaware of what transpired.  Saying the technology is in a state of "infancy" still is so counter-productive, it's hard to imagine anyone would ever do it.  Computers have been in a state of advancement for decades.  Each new step for them is called "progress" instead and that has worked remarkably well.  Everyone sees what is currently available and knows more is to come, but they purchase it anyway.  It's part of a natural cycle.  Why are some in the automotive industry so dead-set against that with vehicles?  Why not increase capacity as it becomes affordable?  Forcing people to pay a very high premium to get more now makes no sense.  That is certainly not what the computer industry has done.  They always offered a choice, featuring the lower capacity as the option for the masses.  Just think of how different things could have been.  Instead of following a well-proven formula for high-volume sales, the decision to intentionally disassociate was made.  Now the consequences are becoming evident.


Constructive?  Strangely, you do get someone proclaiming "superior" to actually listen.  Whether or not anything is heard or not is a different matter.  But it sure beats not having any dialog at all:  GM had experience from EV, Two-Mode, and BAS prior to Volt.  They all contributed to engineering & production knowledge of motors & batteries, as well as improved engines.  Toyota had none of that when Prius was designed.  As for the cherry-picking, excuses don’t change the reality that traditional vehicles are the true competition.  GM's own line-up is Volt's greatest enemy.  Continuing to believe Prius is the competitor causes harm, yet some still don't see it.  Heck, those numbers posted made it obvious. The plug-in Prius is only available in 15 states; yet, you repeatedly treated the sales counts as if the entire US had access to them for purchase.  Step back and look at the resources GM is expending on traditional vehicles.  Volt is hurting as a result of its own enthusiast supporting it as a niche, rather than pushing for something that actually pushes it into the mainstream.  The downplay of numbers and calling this stage "infancy" rather than acknowledging GM's own past is evidence of that.  When the tax-credit expires, the absence of that massive subsidy will make the situation even worse.  We all know the effort of getting cost down enough to offset the difference is a daunting challenge.  Getting down even lower to actually make it competitive with the increasingly popular small cars GM offers would take a miracle.  Making it a top-seller in the line-up anytime within this decade, how would that be accomplished?


What Really Matters.  When the argument is lost, rather than accept and move on, the topic is rapidly shifted over to something else.  In this case, it was: "Let's see, how much emissions are spurted out by every cold start/stops of the Prius engine?"  The response to that was pretty straight forward, just remind him of the topic at hand... as well as point out what had just been attempted:  That's exactly what I meant about misrepresentation.  No matter how many times details of the startup process are shared and the PZEV emission rating pointed out, it's as if that never happened.  As for sales, the goal is replacement of traditional vehicles.  It doesn't make any difference whether it's a vehicle with a fuel-cell or a large battery-pack.  If it remains just a trophy winner, what's the point?  Looking at the entire automaker production of cars, like GM with Volt, it’s quite a daunting challenge.  So, it's understandable about all the resentment toward Toyota for having progressed to the degree they have with Prius.  892,519 last year is quite a sizeable chunk of overall production.  Keep using words like "pathetic" to describe that progress.  Meanwhile, we do have the genuine worry of how many Malibu, Impala, Cruze, Sonic, and Spark that are still being purchased.


Failed.  It would be nice for these to be closing thoughts, but odds are it will drag on a bit still: "Enjoy the trophy.  Some of us simply want a mainstream choice."  What else could be said when dealing with attitude like this:  "Then Toyota, like an angry little child dragging its feet, made an attempt at a plug in vehicle, and failed miserably.  If you want a target to throw your "price", "masses", etc stones at, look no further than the PiP.  What a joke of a car.  A plug for single digit EV miles, why even bother.  My question to Toyota, is when will they release their Volt knock-off?  It's only a matter of time, and I bet the day that they do, you will praise them for developing a brand new "synergy" of power-trains, that no one else could ever accomplish."  Those are basically the words of hate & blame, excuses rather than deal with actual need.  I responded with:  Based on what goals?  They delivered a plug upgrade for their popular hybrid without weight or cargo compromise.  They kept cost within the stated target.  They achieved efficiency well above traditional vehicles even after depletion.  How is that a miserable failure?  As for the "why even bother" comment, that is pretty obvious for everyone to see.  My annual average went from 50 MPG to 77 MPG.  The benefit of adding a plug & capacity is undeniable.  With respect to a Volt knock-off, what does that mean?  Adding capacity is simple.  The early model Prius plug-in pointed out the ease of which sub-packs could be used.  Capacity can be doubled by just bridging in a second pack.  Ford's C-Max Energi shows how that could be implemented too; it's basically a matter of trading off weight & cargo space.  The degree to which GM is defended in the name of pride is troubling.  All that's been needed from the very beginning is something to replace traditional vehicles; instead, we just get efforts to prove superiority.  That want sacrifices well being of the automaker.  They still must pay workers & suppliers, as well as remain competitive.  Joke all you want.  It's not a laughing matter though.


Online.  Sometimes, a bit of "did you know" is needed on the big Prius forum too.  Some people really don't.  Fortunately, that audience is receptive to constructive rebuttals.  But reading this does stir temptation to interject more than is really necessary: "I find this to be one of the most combative and self-righteous automotive-based on-line communities in which I participate.  Even the bilious vitriol in The Car Lounge pales in comparison to some of the hit-and-run poo-flinging which goes on around here."  Clearly, he hadn't been exposed to the same things I've encountered.  Curious to find out what comments would follow, I posted:  Haven't been on the GM forums or blogs, eh?  Go there and bring up the business success of Volt.  You'll get attacked personally and relentlessly bombarded with responses referring exclusively to performance & engineering.  Being an enthusiast venue, they just plain don't care about accounting/profit or products for the mainstream.  That bit of perspective helps with the understanding of posts here where the original-poster has basically already made a decision prior to starting a thread and doesn't respond to feedback.


Gone.  It's pretty easy to confirm that closure has been achieved when seeing what I've seen.  Nothing!  It's as if Volt doesn't even exist.  Discussions on the big GM forum are gone entirely.  There is literally no mention anymore.  That's exactly what happened in the past with Two-Mode.  Sales continued, but the outlook became so grim, nothing more could be said.  Constructive posts weren't possible at that point.  The niche was pleased, but there simply wasn't any way of expanding the market.  There were no aspects of appeal to reach to a larger audience.  It became trapped as a specialty vehicle.  Hope was transferred to the next generation... which all these years later, still hasn't been delivered.  I suspect Volt will "die" the same way.  When a competitive design actually is offered, it won't bare any resemblance to the one currently available.  Remember BAS, that first assist hybrid GM offered?  The next generation got renamed to eAssist to disassociate from the past.  Of course, it shared a number of the same shortcomings, so it didn't matter.  Some of Volt's fundamentals much change.  Enthusiasts know they've become the barrier now.  The goals to achieve mainstream sales are not what they want to endorse.  That means focusing on what they like and disregarding everything else until later... the very same approach that got them into this mess in the first place.  Oh well.  At these blogs won't be packed with their spin anymore.


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