Personal Log  #633

August 15, 2013  -  August 22, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 8/28/2013

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Arguing Semantics.  The same old problem resurfaced.  We are again seeing certain individuals rebuttal with definition quarrels in an effort to avoid facing facts.  Today the comment about Volt MPG not being "any better than similar-sized traditional vehicles" erupted into a semantic argument.  Rather than just acknowledge efficiency isn't even close to that of the choices being offered by automakers as models much improved over their standard product-line, they distract with non-constructive detail.  Evading the point is nothing new.  We see it all the time.  But in this instance, it didn't even make any sense to argue.  What would that achieve?  So, I'll just change the way the information is stated, as my post stated:  I'm changing it to "doesn't deliver hybrid efficiency after depletion" and now everyone will know why.  Ford's plug-in hybrids are bigger, yet deliver 43 MPG.  How is that even close [to 37 MPG]?  Toyota's plug-in hybrid is bigger too, and it delivers 50 MPG.  Notice how many Volt supporters are also pushing for higher MPG with the next generation?  Clearly, the current isn't enough.  Give the rest of us a break.


Power Outage.  I came home to a dark neighborhood.  We had a mini-blackout.  30 of the homes in the vicinity were without power.  I went into my warming house (it had been a very hot & humid day) to find the phone-number to contact the electric company.  While in there, I unplugged the recharger for the Prius... just in case.  You never know if a surge could potentially flow through the system in a situation like that.  We virtually never lose power, since all of the line are underground.  Unfortunately, when the power was finally restored, I forgot to plug it back in.  So early in the morning, when recharging was set to start, the timer failed.  I got an email telling me that.  It was a morning I just happened to be up early on too.  So, I heard the beep on my phone... but didn't bother to check.  Ugh.  I so easily could have rectified that error.  Bummer.  I was right there, doing laundry in the utility room next to the garage.  Grrr.  Needless to say, I was surprised when the engine started as I was pulling out of the driveway later.  No electricity was available.  Fortunately, my 25.4 mile drive over the course of 5 hours resulted in a 56 MPG average.  That's hardly anything to complain about, but having plug-supplied electricity would have pushed MPG into the 100's.  Oh well.


New Reviews.  They are getting better for PHV.  It's about time those writing articles for publication about the plug-in model actually convey a decent understanding of how the technology actually works.  In this case, a writer expressed his findings starting with: "I recently drove a 2013 Toyota Prius Hybrid Plug-In which is essentially just a Prius whose nickel-metal hydride battery pack has been swapped for a far more potent lithium-ion pack.  The Plug-in Hybrid comes with an easy-to-use external charging cable and the car’s batteries can be fully charged in three hours from a simple household 110-volt outlet or an hour and a half from a 220-volt plug."  That certainly got my attention.  It was correct & concise.  How about that!?!  Of course, it went bad from there, fast.  It gave the impression all benefit was lost as soon as you accelerated hard or beyond 62 mph.  How can someone writing a review drive the car and not report information about vehicle operation or even MPG results?  Leaving out such vital detail makes no sense.  What's the point if all you do is just mention vehicle specifications?  That doesn't accomplish anything.  People already have that information available in abundance.  Observations from behind the wheel is what reviews are suppose to provide.


Bike Trip.  I took advantage of having that new lockable hitch-mounted bike-rack again.  Being able to toss bikes on the back of the Prius while retaining access to the hatch from both sides makes the convenience factor of spontaneous trips a dream come true.  We decided to escape up north for the weekend.  It worked out great.  Seeing MPG in the low 40's is a result with mixed feelings though.  That's far lower than I usually see.  Not being able to plug in and driving over 225 miles with such a big aerodynamic disruption on back sure brings down efficiency.  Having the A/C run the entire drive hurts too.  That's still an improvement upon what other vehicles deliver at their very best.  But I've grown use to a higher standard.  Easily getting over 50 MPG without plugged-supplied electricity sure is nice.  Getting over 100 MPG with the plug is even better.  In the end, Summer is too darn short.  When you have the opportunity, take advantage of it.  Enjoy.  Lifetime MPG isn't affected much by those escapes anyway.


Whoa!  You knew someone would think this: "As with all technology, I knew that the price would drop over time.  However, I am furious that GM cut the price by $5K raising the specter of value and marketability.  GM marketing seems to remain a one trick pony and short on long term strategy.  For the record, I’ll be expecting my $5,000 rebate check from GM – it is the right thing to do!"  None of the enthusiasts using the new-technology argument ever addressed the possibility of an overnight drop.  It was always expressed as a gradual process over a long span of time.  With the abrupt change we all just witnessed, it was a very real possibility someone would get screwed in the process.  But to openly vent their feelings, that's a big deal.  Their analogies never covered this situation.  It's bad enough finding a markdown somewhere, at some unexpected location due to some unique circumstance.  This is actually clearance time, after all.  But knowing the MSRP for the new model was slashed across the entire nation and that new 2014 inventory is now available... what should the response be?


Leaf Cutoff.  It isn't everyday you end up hitting the brakes and blasting the horn.  To do that to an electric-only vehicle, most people never have.  Today, though, it was me doing that.  There was Nissan Leaf.  He totally cut me off.  The driver was so preoccupied with, apparently the screen information inside, he didn't even notice I was next to him on the turn in the adjacent lane.  He pushed right into mine.  Had I not been lagging behind a little bit, I would have been hit.  When I got on his side, he was still looking down.  It was frustrating to see such poor driving behavior.  But sadly, that's what happens when a technology catches on.  Drivers of all types will buy it.  Oh well.  I seriously doubt that will ever occur again.  Makes you wonder what other stuff we'll see over time.  Progress includes a wide array of changes.  This was one example of technology acceptance, complete with a stumble along the way.  Over time, it will become something we take for granted.  Some day.


That Misconception.  This snippet was included in the comments of that comparison review: "...and expense of installing the up-level chargers at home".  People keep making the assumption that more than an ordinary household outlet is needed.  It was mentioned the time each takes to recharge us a 120-Volt connection.  Yet, some don't see it.  Either that or they are intentionally spreading that misconception.  We've seen worse greenwashing many times in the past, so there is no benefit of doubt anymore.  Question everything.  I'm beginning to think this particular issue is a major influence on sales.  Spreading the word that just a standard socket is all you need could make quite a difference.  You plug the hybrid in the very same way you do with your phone in the evening.  Just connect the charger it came with to the wall.  There's no expense.  It's just a basic charging device included with the purchase.  True, you can install a faster charger at home.  But what's the point if you're just recharging overnight anyway?  A full recharge using the 120-volt only takes 2 hours and 20 minutes for me.  For 80% capacity, it takes 1 hour 45 minutes.  The recharging is no big deal.  People assume it is.


Energi vs. PHV.  There was a review published today, one comparing Ford's C-Max plug-in to Toyota's Prius plug-in.  With both being hybrids striving for optimum efficiency, you'd think there would be mention someone in that article about efficiency.  Nope.  There was nothing whatsoever about MPG.  All it went pointed out was electric-only range & operation.  Total absence of the ultimate outcome, the resulting overall efficiency, is a terrible excuse for journalism.  The fixation was entirely on "Electric Range", which completely disregards the fact that those are plug-in hybrids.  Their purpose is to optimize, to squeeze out the highest possible MPG by blending electricity & gas... which the writer clearly didn't understand.  Heck, just a simple drive with the Prius in HV mode will reveal that or EV mode at speeds above 100 km/h (62.1 mph).  You can clearly see that plug-supplied electricity is being used to achieve MPG clearly not possible from the no-plug model.  Yet, when you look at the display, it won't register any of those miles as EV.  They'll be counted as HV.  Reviewers not bothering to carefully observe will just report what's displayed, not even questioning why EV is so low.  They know a full-charge was available when they started.  What the heck do they think happened to it?  Are how can they possibly not notice the MPG on that same display?  Needless to say, I wasn't pleased about what had been omitted.  It was review written by someone who didn't understand how the technology work or even what the purpose was.  That's very disappointing.


C-Max Rerate.  That MPG rating from Ford reported as the official EPA values was big news today.  Did you know the EPA doesn't actually do the measurements?  Did you know there are two types of tests the automaker can use?  Did you know the automaker can transfer results from one vehicle to another?  Most people don't.  And in this case, more than just those assumptions were made.  The EPA itself assumed Ford knew what it was doing.  The major adjustments to the rating system revisions implemented in 2008 made that easy.  People went after Toyota for misleading about MPG, not realizing they had nothing to with measurement criteria.  Those updates allowed attention to waver.  The recent problem with Hyundai should have been a wake-up call.  It obviously wasn't.  Prius had hoped Ford somehow improved their system to the degree that the outstanding MPG was realistic.  After all, that meant Toyota had potential to do the same.  But looking at engineering tradeoffs, it makes you wonder.  Prius V (the larger wagon model) sacrificed some MPG for the sake of delivering decent acceleration, despite its extra weight.  Simple changes, like a different size reduction-gear in this case, make tradeoffs like that easy.  Knowing C-Max delivers more power while delivering even better MPG was a head-scratcher.  How did Ford achieve that?  Turns out, they didn't.  The announcement today was that the EPA value for combined will officially be lowered to 43 MPG.  That's quite a drop from 47 MPG.  As as result of this, all those who purchase a C-Max will be issued a check for $550.  Interesting, eh?  Thank goodness Prius real-world results actually match those estimate values.  Of course, will consumers know that.  Hmm?


11.5 Years.  That's how long the average vehicle stays on the road now.  It's quite a improvement over the 9 years we saw when Prius was first rolled out here.  Of course, it also means guzzlers put on the road today will go on guzzling even longer... or does it?  Gas prices a decade from now combined with the popularity of hybrids could swing traditional vehicles far out of favor, lowering their value significantly.  Fortunately, that means the current fleet will be getting replaced soon.  That will stimulate the economy, which is great news.  Ironically, not having replaced them due to the economy being bad, was counter-productive.  But that situation is quite understandable.  Unfortunately, not everyone wanted to acknowledge that.  It's the lost opportunity for Volt some of us tried to point out for years.  GM needed to be ready with an affordable offering that would generate a profit.  Instead, they have a loss-leader with at least 2 years of a wait before the next generation will even be rolled out.  Then there's the first-year apprehension they'll have to deal with due to a number of fundamental changes needed to have been made.  Both Ford & Toyota will already be well positioned for that, since their next generation will be incremental improvements.  And of course, they are currently ready to offer high-volume with profit from the existing models.  We are definitely at a tipping point.


$107.62 Per Barrel.  Even though the price of gas is way down (just $3.35 per gallon here), the price of oil is very high.  Seeing diesel at $3.99 per gallon is a clue that something is amiss.  Looking into the reasons why, it is revealed that there is a gas surplus.  The supply is unexpectedly large due to people not consuming as much as had been predicted.  It's an unplanned glut which they are attempting to be resolve through discounting.  Will that work?  Who knows.  The economy is recovering nicely, but very slowly.  To complicate matters, purchases of more efficient vehicles continues to outpace the new pickup craze.  Many of those new pickup purchases are claimed to be for the construction market too, which means they won't be used for daily commuting as they had been in the past... back when guzzling was stated as being "good for the economy".  Things certainly have changed since then.  The price of oil being so high is genuine reason for concern though.  When the surplus is gone, then what?  How high will the price of gas climb?


Gutless.  This morning, on the popular thread about Prius power, brought a story of a wife complaining about the difference between here 258 horsepower SUV and the 134 horsepower in her husband's Prius.  She thinks the lower horsepower "cars are just dangerous because they can't get out of their own way".  I couldn't resist joining in with:  That horsepower difference sounds exactly what some of us experienced in the early 80's.  Remember that shift from giant guzzlers to the eco boxes?  That sure made people rethink how they drove.  Fortunately now, the power is an overkill situation, where no where near that much is actually needed.  So less isn't really losing anything.  In fact, I routinely see individuals driving the more powerful vehicles who casually pull out into traffic at a much slower rate than you'd do in a Prius.  They have it, but don't use it.  As for the planning ahead, I wish more people did that.  You see some changing lanes without seeing the slower moving car they just pulled in behind.  It makes me wonder if there action to advance is nothing but instinct, where they don't give it any thought before they do it.  That's like tailgating.  In many cases, it doesn't accomplish anything.  Prius raises awareness in many regards.  Just think about how people don't know the factors that influence efficiency because their vehicle doesn't have a display showing MPG.  For that matter, consider how small & crude the speedometer is being behind a steering wheel using close numbers and a large needle.  The digital speedometer in Prius is a dramatic improvement.


Misconceptions.  I was pleased upon reading this: "Most people are amazed when I tell them that I plug in to a regular wall socket."  Coming from another plug-in Prius owner, he knew all too well the very same reaction I've been witnessing.  My reply was:  I get the same amazement reaction when I mentioned all that's needed is an ordinary household outlet. It's emerging as the biggest misconception. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to change that. This is much different from the "you have to plug it in" misconception we dealt with when Prius was first rolled out. Once we figured out people didn't actually understand how a hybrid worked, we'd take the initiative to point out what was most important first. In this case, that would be to immediately mention "regular wall socket" when a conversation is struck up about the car. I'd often get stopped in parking lots by total strangers, since they noticed I was driving a Prius. That was the opportunity back then. Now, it will be that they notice me plugging or unplugging at a public charging-station. Before even answering their first question, I'll interject information to squash the misconception. Someday when Toyota starts specifically advertising the plug-in model, they'll include that information too. Until then, it's up to us to spread the word.


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