Personal Log  #634

August 22, 2013  -  August 28, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 8/28/2013

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Growing Concern, part 2.  I was flabbergasted by the level of desperation.  The antagonists have run out of ways to prevent rising interest in Prius PHV.  They see the appeal of an affordable plug-in which doesn't require compromise.  It's basically just a regular Prius with enhanced capacity & power.  Still in a state of amazement, I replied to the rhetoric with:  The average Joe doesn't care about AER.  They care about available capacity.  Their interest is higher MPG.  The information on the window-sticker clearly states 11 miles of blending is available from plug-supplied electricity.  That means the engine could potentially could sometime during that distance, but in no way indicates it will or for how long.  These continued attempts to mislead are quite vindicating; they confirm the concern that people are learning what a PLUG-IN HYBRID has to offer is compelling.  They already like the idea of the engine shutting off when not needed with the hybrid. MPG is boosted from the plug.


Growing Concern, part 1.  The rather blatant greenwashing about the "6 miles" continued.  I simply followed up with:  Fear of blending is so high, the response is to mislead people but how it actually works.  Wow!  Reality is, plug-supplied electricity is used even when the engine is running.  The result is much higher MPG than regular hybrid driving.  This morning's commute is a great example.  16.7 miles total. 9 of those miles were on a 70 mph highway.  The temperature was 79°F and it was very humid, that meant running the A/C the entire drive.  I arrived in my parking-spot at work with 0.4 miles of EV remaining.  According to the computer, 7 miles were EV and 9 miles HV.  The final average was 196 MPG.  So what if the engine ran.  The result of that drive was great and it confirms blending uses that electricity to boost efficiency.  EPA is nothing but a standardized measure, not an expectation.


New Opportunity.  It's nice watching the mania with Volt finally coming to a close.  The current clearing out of inventory is changing the mindset, taking enthusiasts in a direction they fiercely resisted in the past.  They recognize the realities of business and understand what mainstream buyers actually buy.  That's progress.  It means we can focus on actual goals instead.  Hooray!  That got me thinking about sharing more examples of what Prius PHV is capable of.  Today, it hit me how frequently I drive out to my girlfriend's home.  Sometimes, I have a fully charged battery available.  Since I don't plug in there, I tend to reserve some capacity for driving home later.  The thought occurred to me, what if I didn't?  That's not the most efficient decision.  Choosing to save is better.  But with a distance just beyond the range available and travel speeds at 70, 60, and 40 mph, it's compelling to find out when to use the electricity.  Do I use it primarily for EV or take advantage of EV-BOOST instead?  This time, my decision was observe boosting.  (That's when you travel faster than the EV threshold of 62 mph, using electricity to reduce demand on the engine.)  Since Prius is extremely efficient at 60 mph, traveling in HV at that speed instead makes sense; it saves the electricity for later.  That way, I get get over 100 MPG while traveling at 70 mph... which I did indeed.  Boost is great!  I'll have plenty of observation opportunities.  It's just a matter of choosing when to push that HV/EV button.  Details will follow.  Stay tuned.


Approach & Outcome.  I posted this today... figuring it would fall on deaf ears, but it still never hurts to point out observations.  Back when Prius was first rolled out here, there was lots of arguing about need.  People would claim their want was actually a necessity.  Now, looking back at the SUV craze, it's easy to imagine how absurd some of the posts were.  Remembering how those enthusiasts didn't take that situation seriously, the approach was different with Volt.  We instead asked what the goals were and who the buyers would be.  The answers changed over time.  When referring back to that past, the statements are simply denied or dismissed.  They shoot the messenger too.  It's hard to believe they still don't take the situation seriously.  History was allowed to repeat.  Same dance, only the song has changed.  Nothing was learned.  Such a waste of opportunity.  So.... what's next?  Do we really just blindly hope for the best?  Are we truly naive enough to not even bother specifying any requirements?


Heat & Humidity.  Record high temperatures here now are making things interesting.  This morning's commute was 82°F with the dewpoint at 73°F, which is an extreme for Minnesota.  I left work with the A/C running, something I never need that early in day.  That meant the expectation of lower MPG than usual.  But having 9 miles of driving at 70 mph, following the initial 1/2 mile of suburb driving, I was quite surprised when reaching my standard milestone (at the slowdown, just as the highway descends into the river valley).  On a good day, the average will read 150 MPG.  Today at that point, it stated 172 MPG.  There was more battery than usual still left too, despite being EV and EV-BOOST that entire drive.  But rather than running out of electricity shortly before arriving at work, the remainder of the commute was entirely in EV.  In fact, I had over a mile remaining. 232 MPG was the overall average.  There is no doubt excessive heat & humidity contributed to that unusually efficient morning commute.


Overkill.  More is not necessarily better.  Some will attempt to convince you otherwise.  Some instead attempt to change the topic.  Today's posting attempt was the latter.  I was rather frustrated by such obvious avoidance.  But then again, that's great confirmation you're focus is indeed correct.  In this case, the topic was battery-pack cooling, Air verses Liquid:  I see the overkill statement was not understood... or intentionally diverted.  The discussion is about hybrids, not electric-only vehicles.  Why does a plug-in hybrid that also has a gas engine also need liquid cooling?  The engine can reduce load from the battery-pack significantly.  Why put a heavy burden on electric draw during times of heavy demand when it can so easily be prevented by briefly substituting low RPM combustion instead?  It makes no sense carrying around an engine and a transmission to link it if the system goes out if its way to avoid using it.  Hybrids achieve efficiency through the sharing of power sources.  That lack of balance, depending entirely on electricity, doesn't make any sense.  So what if the engine runs for a few seconds.  Does the addition of liquid cooling really justify all that extra expense, weight, and complexity?

8-24-2013 Diminishing Returns.  It's quite a twist when a Volt enthusiast asks a Prius owner: "Lets be real, where is the real savings?"  How did he expect me to answer?  He certainly isn't.  The constant bragging about EV range and MPG doesn't tell the whole story.  Sadly, responses are vague and don't address the big picture.  Constructive posts just plain don't happen.  Looking at the data, we see a situation the enthusiasts never want to discuss.  Whenever it's brought up, they evade.  I expect the same outcome this time, from...  Based on the standard measure of 15,000 miles per year:

   500 gallons = 30 MPG
   375 gallons = 40 MPG  >>  125 gallons less
   300 gallons = 50 MPG  >>  75 gallons less
   250 gallons = 60 MPG  >>  50 gallons less
   214 gallons = 70 MPG  >>  36 gallons less
   188 gallons = 80 MPG  >>  26 gallons less
   167 gallons = 90 MPG  >>  21 gallons less
   150 gallons = 100 MPG  >>  17 gallons less
   136 gallons = 110 MPG  >>  14 gallons less
   125 gallons = 120 MPG  >>  11 gallons less
   115 gallons = 130 MPG  >>  10 gallons less
   107 gallons = 140 MPG  >>  8 gallons less
   100 gallons = 150 MPG  >>  7 gallons less

The reality of diminishing returns is quite clear.  The benefit of saving drops off significantly.  Even without a graph to illustrate, it's very easy to see beyond 70 MPG doesn't accomplish much.  Take a look at goals.  Serious consideration need must be made.  Delivering a higher capacity sounds very appealing; however, being real means acknowledging the tradeoff of expense, weight, and space.  A balance of priorities cannot include such large penalty.  Without achieving a large gain, what's the point?


Rear Seating.  I had no idea just how limited the rear seat in Volt was until playing with one at the State Fair today.  On my previous in-person opportunity, I only looked at legroom.  Seeing Volt offered nearly 2 inches less room for knees (specifically 1.9") quickly ended my check.  I didn't bother to look at anything else.  It was obviously smaller than Prius.  I should have continued with a detailed inspection.  Looking at room for feet.  I noticed just how low the back of the front seats were in Volt, when adjusted for me.  The top of your feet get pressed against it.  There's no extra as there is with Prius.  That discovery came as quite a surprise.  I hadn't ever considered that particular comfort measure.  Another totally unexpected observation was noticing how low the top of the door was.  I'm just 5'8", an average size man.  So, finding out I'm too tall is quite out of the ordinary.  There isn't a seat adjustment available for the back either.  When I turned to look out, all I could see was the roof of the car.  To see out the window, I actually had to duck down.  That certainly isn't the situation in Prius.  Last but not least, there's the lack of a middle seat.  Some families, especially those who children have friends, will find that too much of a compromise.  That extra seating comes in handy from time to time.  Long story short, the appeal to mainstream consumers is clearly in favor of the regular model Prius (and the plug-in).  Prius is a midsize car.  Volt is compact.  There's no contest which one offers more rear seating room.  It's strange how GM decided on a size which clearly limited its appeal to the masses.


Greenwashing.  This particular comment yesterday provided a great feeling of vindication: "The specially developed Goodyear Assurance FuelMax LLR tires are also designed for performance per GM engineering specifications, and greatly contribute to a fun driving experience."  The hypocritical nature of certain Volt enthusiasts is quite remarkable.  They'll say one thing, then later say something else which totally contradicts it.  We see outright greenwashing too.  A few are still attempting to mislead about EV range, claiming the 6-mile value listed on the window-sticker is the official EPA measure... even though the rating information included clearly states the overall value is 11 miles.  They just hope you won't actually fact-check what they are saying.  The definition of "blend" is quite clear; it simply means the engine may run briefly.  That lack of purity is what they attempt to exploit... again, hoping you won't do any verification.  Fortunately, the data itself tells the story.  In this case, it's a simple matter of checking.  I stated the situation yesterday this way:  If those tires contribute so much to the driving experience, we should point out that the plug-in Prius uses those very same tires.


Outcome.  That poke on the blog, intended to serve as a reality-check, ended up just drawing out the worst of the enthusiasts.  Those wanting to move on pretty all have already.  The remaining cling on to bragging rights.  It was a great opportunity to illustrate how bad the situation has got.  There is an undeniable divide between those who want progress and those not interested in change.  It's an outcome they seem content with.  I see that progress on a regular basis following threads on the big Prius forum.  The effort to establish that long-awaited partnership is becoming easier to see.  They understand that battery-capacity alone won't solve the many problems Volt is having toward the goal of reaching everyday consumers.  They know mainstream priorities are quite different from those who purchased a Volt in the past.  They see how important it is to allow the design to be altered to achieve profitable high-volume sales.  As for the others, they are being left behind.  I replied to the  rhetoric this way:  It never ceases to amaze me how smug some responses are.  Crush like a grape?  Really?  Since when does that superiority attitude represent ordinary GM customers?  Of course, just ignoring the problem enables it… giving silent approval.  So, that isn't good advice.  Focusing on the goals of Gen2 would be the appropriate response.  Notice how some are making an effort to guide discussions in that direction?


Inevitable.  You cannot post something in favor of Prius on the daily blog for Volt without the expectation of an intense response worded to give the impression of being constructive.  It ended up being: "The PIP is so uncompetitive I wouldn't be surprised to see Toyota abandon it.  And if I'm Toyota I'd be very concerned that GM marketing will actually get on the stick and the Volt will start eating Prius for lunch."  There was also a blatant greenwashing attempt, where the person intentionally tried to mislead about range.  But that isn't worth anything more than just pointing out the desperation.  I responded to the uncompetitive comment with:  The choice of battery-capacity prevented the sacrifice of seating & cargo room.  It also positioned it to have a cost within the typical range of upgrade options, what we normally see among model differences.  We know that Toyota is directly targeting mainstream consumers for profitable high-volume sales with Prius.  Adding the choice of a plug but keeping the size to 4.4 kWh keeps it affordable.  It also retained MPG, by keeping the influence of weight to a minimum.  The competition for Prius is ordinary traditional vehicles, buyers who would otherwise purchase a car like Camry or Corolla.  Who is the market for Volt?  How many times must that continue to be asked?  What is its competition?


Enough.  This was the response to my post: "When is anything 'enough' ?"  I was surprised that was brought up, since that had been the mantra all along with the "40-mile" range.  But with the recent price debacle, it's realistic to expect pretty much any new angle to be attempted.  I followed with:  It's when major sacrifices are made, abandoning goals for the sake of drawing attention.  Those types of tradeoffs are not worth it.  The purpose of achieving profitable high-volume sales is too important to simply postpone.  Notice how the computer industry has so successfully rolled out well-balanced devices that could support capacity upgrades later, as the cost reductions would allow?  They set price-points and stuck to them.  There weren't dramatic & unexpected drops all at once without an upgrade, as we've seen with Volt.  With computers, mp3 players, and phones, they've all offered increased memory & battery-capacity as that technology improved.  The "enough" approach was a carefully thought out and quite predictable process.  And as much as certain Volt owners grumble about it, that is indeed the approach Toyota has taken with Prius.  Capacity will increase as cost warrants, keeping price at the clearly established "nicely under $30,000" target consumers have expressed as an important purchase criteria.  GM didn't stick to that very criteria they helped to establish; they didn't recognize the "enough" tradeoff.


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