Personal Log #637
September 8, 2013 - September 16, 2013
Last Updated: Sun. 9/22/2013
page #636 page #638 BOOK INDEX
Fall Approaching. It was 45°F degrees this morning. That's a sure sign it isn't Summer anymore. Fortunately, that isn't cold enough to affect the battery-pack or electrical resistance yet. I had the extra time to take the slower route to work today. It runs along the river valley, which is quite scenic. So, it's the nicer choice even without the benefit of not needing the engine. That provided a great opportunity to measure range. Just like when my plug-in Prius was new, I made it all the way to the on-ramp for the highway river crossing using only electricity. That's 13 miles. There was just a little under one mile left still. Firing up the engine at that point works best, since the resulting power can be taken advantage of prior to reaching the fully warmed temperature. Being able to some EV for the remainder of the commute is nice too. The overall distance ended up being 17.2 miles, driving directly to the charging-station, rather than hiding in the lower level until the afternoon... since there is no need to worry about a super-heated interior anymore. The car will stay comfortable with Fall approaching now. Anywho, the overall efficiency came to 262 MPG. No complaints about that outcome. Though, I do miss getting even better in the dead of Summer from the engine warming up faster. Seasons change. Prius handles them well. This morning's drive was a good example of that.
Realism. It sure is nice seeing the greenwash efforts fizzle. In the past, any victory was considered a gain. Fighting for the sake of winning a battle, rather focusing on the overall objective, isn't resulting in any progress anymore though. Looking at it another way, the audience has changed. It was easy to get Volt to appeal to enthusiasts. Doing the same for middle-market just plain hasn't been working. Mainstream buyers have very different purchase priorities. They simply aren't interested in paying a premium. Balance is vital. Prius offers that, hence the popularity it earned. As time progresses, it becomes easier and easier to see that's exactly what the plug-in model also targeted. Reveals of next generation intent confirm that. Toyota is striving to deliver a realistic high-volume & profitable solution. That idea of realism frightens those still hoping for the best from GM. The recent desperation of post content makes that obvious. As the market embraces that idea of plugging in, we're all seeing Volt goals clearly didn't match and the next generation will be quite different. Watch what happens with the 2014 model. How many $5,000 discounted ones will actually be produced & sold? GM has been altering plans to better align with what Toyota has been doing all along. That's a winning solution for everyone... but that idea of change sure upsets the enthusiasts... until they consider how well Cruze, Malibu, Impala, and Sonic are doing. They are the true competition. Reality is crashing down. Business needs can only be disregarded for so long.
Safe Driving. An intriguing side-effect of having a vehicle with a display on the dashboard, showing you how it achieves outstanding efficiency, is how it transforms your driving. That heightened awareness sours appeal of exceeding the speed-limit and aggressive maneuvers. You lose interest in favor of higher MPG results. Coincidentally, that also equates to better safety. Unfortunately, not every aspect of safety is influenced. I've never seen either of the following from a Prius driver, but someday it will probably happen... Roundabouts are new here. Drivers who got their license years ago were never trained how to use them. As a result, I'm seeing a lot of vehicles stopping completely when they approach, rather than just yielding. That's a scary surprise when they halt like that for no reason. Without anyone else is even in the roundabout, that unexpected stop could easily cause an accident. The other problem which has an even greater accident potential is left turns on a red. Now that there are flashing-yellow signals at some locations, people are assuming the same allowance to turn is available for solid-red elsewhere too. I'm guessing they think that stoplight simply hasn't been upgraded yet. Whatever the case, I witnessed a driver getting honked at today for not turning on a red. People were in the crosswalk at the time too. It was a blatant disregard for everyone's safety. I couldn't believe what I had just seen. Sadly, that same intersection has those turn violations on a regular basis. It's scary knowing some people just plain don't care. At least there's some sensibility coming from Prius drivers. I especially like the fact that my particular model includes collision-detect, a feature that triggers the brakes and sounds an alarm when the radar system senses a stationary object directly in front of the vehicle.
Endless Rhetoric. The spinning of intent & definitions is never ending. It goes along well with the moving of goal-posts. When something doesn't turn out well, they just claim something else instead and deny claims of the past. Ugh. Today, it came in the form of: "Just too bad they didn't capitalize on the opportunity to continue to innovate." Coming from someone who obsesses with bragging rights, it was the opposite of being astonished... same old rhetoric. That's why range is so important for Volt enthusiasts and why such a comment would be made to disparage Toyota's effort. Targeting the masses isn't important to them, which is why the endeavor to deliver a well-balance product isn't appealing. In there mind, being "middle" is a failure. So, no matter what you say, not being an extreme is unsuccessful. I put up with the self-deprecating attitude anyway. Despite having an unreceptive audience, I responded with: Having worked hard to deliver an affordable plug-in hybrid fits the definition of innovate quite well. Keeping kWh size to a minimum, sacrificing seating or cargo space, and switching to lithium certainly qualifies. And isn't the point of capitalizing to make money on each sale? It's too bad the effort to deliver high-volume isn't considered being innovative.
13.9 Miles. That's the highest EV range estimate
I've ever seen. My particular driving pattern doesn't contribute to
higher expectations. A few owners report seeing values over 17 miles.
That would be interesting. For me, today's 13.9 miles was a record.
Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo either in the morning or in the
afternoon. Having seen it twice, I'm hoping it will happen again.
Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. There's no way to know. It
doesn't influence outcome anyway. In fact, it's just the right set of
circumstances. With lots of driving while holding a non-depleted
charge and the daytime high-temperature falling, the variables aren't what I
normally encounter. Most of the time, the value displayed after having
just unplugged is in the upper 12's. Seeing low 13's is limited to
good Summer conditions. Excessive heat causes a drop. Lots of
driving around without any EV available does too. But that's normal;
patterns are not. Real-World driving takes you randomly all over the
place. After all, life is too short to miss out on opportunity.
That's why the estimate doesn't mean much. For that matter, the
resulting MPG from day to day doesn't either. It's still well above
what a non-plug hybrid can deliver... which is the point.
EV-BOOST Rate. I've never actually looked into what it really is. After all, when you're basing numbers off of just an estimate, the margin-of-error can be quite pronounced. Anywho, I was curious. When driving around in only EV, that range estimate value is somewhat realistic... as long as you don't waver too much from your driving routine. In other words, if it says 13 miles, you're likely to get 13 miles. But when you enter EV-BOOST mode (when the engine starts up to assist), there isn't necessarily a 1-to-1 ratio of electricity. The rate is somewhat lower. But how much? To find out, I have to find a long stretch of highway where I can drive a constant speed and still have a fairly full battery available to work with. My first try was at 65 mph. According to the display, my EV range estimate had dropped 5.8 miles. I had actually traveled 7.5 miles though. The outcome was as I had expected... since I knew Toyota has improved the depletion over the early model plug-in. In fact, that was the point of having done so much real-world testing. Optimizing the system to get greater efficiency from less battery is a great outcome. My second was even better. Traveling 3.7 miles based on the estimate, actual travel was 5.4 miles. That distance is obviously just a small sample. But it serves as confirmation of rate not being a simplistic as most people assume.
Priorities. There are some who still don't have a clue. That's why they are enthusiasts, rather than supporters. The difference is one favors want and the other favors need. Today's frustrating example of this was: "The Prius will never achieve the overall mileage of a Volt if driven in the normal driving pattern for which the Volt was designed." It's hard to believe that type of nonsense persists after all this time. Oh well. I'll keep chiming it with doses of reality: The purpose of today's topic was to point out the importance of aspects other than mileage bragging rights. Automakers need to sell lots of vehicles at a profit. Volt supporters do everything they can to avoid addressing details of that reality. Notice the attempts to distract & discredit? So far today, I've driven 35.1 miles with my Prius, starting with a full charge at home and then recharging at work. 25% of the capacity remains. I'll be heading out later. The average so far is 126 MPG. That's a great result from a much smaller battery-pack, a size chosen specifically to keep cost in check and not compromise interior space. Toyota made cost a high priority. GM's decision to deliver a vehicle that clearly disregarded cost is now becoming a very real problem. The abrupt drop in price clearly confirms it wasn't a good move. Cost should never have been allowed to grow so much. They didn't take they own original goal seriously. That mistake is unfortunate. What should GM do now for consumers, between today and when the next generation gets delivered? That's a lot of time in a constantly advancing market. Selling at a lower price and hoping for the best isn't much of a strategy.
Definitions. I'm done playing that game. Today is my 13th Anniversary. Yup, 13 years ago I bought my first Prius. The memory of that day, so long ago, is still quite vivid. It's hard to believe so much time has passed since then. Those driving experiences have been great. I especially enjoyed the discovery process that each Prius upgrade included. Some of them really made an impression, reinforcing the belief in a better future. As you imagine, the bickering about definitions still does continue. Thankfully, most of it dies out quickly. That's a good sign. You never really squash beliefs. They just become easier and easier to move beyond... which is what it's all about... taking the next step. I chose to state the situation with: Way back when, the purpose of defining hybrid types was overwhelmingly clear. Now, most people don't have a clue what the problems even were that those terms alleviated. The ultimate point was make people aware that all hybrids were not the same. Consumers today know that. Mission accomplished. Focus has since shifted to other things, like HV efficiency and EV range.
Who? On an unexpected new thread, this comment was interjected: "It should be said/thought, that the Volt was not designed for people who drive 30k miles a year." The topic was a new Prius owner having traded in 2013 Volt to get it. That's something certain few particularly stubborn Volt enthusiasts said would never happen. It did. I was intrigued. That comment provided the perfect opportunity to ask again, to a new audience on the big Prius forum: Who is the market for Volt? That question has been asked countless times over the years. The response was never clear. It still isn't either. What about 20k per year? Heck, even 15k becomes uncertain when you consider the demands of heating in the winter. What is the best balance of capacity & price? That should be the question asked. Evidence that price was too high is overwhelming at this point. Capacity was too much of a tradeoff, especially when you also factor in rear seating space. So, the dilemma of what should be delivered for the next generation is still very much an issue. Taking into the expiration of the tax-credit makes a challenging situation even worse. The topic of "designed for" is a very big deal. Who?
Another PHV. Back home from vacation, I was just out doing ordinary shopping. It was quite a surprise to pull into a parking spot and notice clear tail-lights on a mid-cycle update current-generation Prius. Sure enough. When I got out of my PHV to investigate, that was indeed what I saw. There was also the telltale silver strip confirming it was a PHV. This one was white. I hadn't ever seen that color. So, I walked over and snapped a quick photo of the PLUG-IN HYBRID emblem. I noted that it had Arizona plates too. I guess other owners are discovering what a great long-distance travel vehicle it is too. To think that I've encountered 4 different PHV within just 1 week. It's quite pleasing. Waiting for the national rollout has been a test of patience. But then again, not having collected enough real-world data prior to that would have hampered the effort once it began. So, this preparation in the meantime is well spent. I can't wait for that progress to occur. We're getting close to when the ramp I park at for work installs the new charging-stations. There's much to look forward to in the next few months. Today's encounter was a good reinforcement of that.
Based On What? We see quite a few of these vague comments being made nowadays: "A PIP would not work for me. I have to go faster than 62 mph and farther than 13 miles." But when you press for detail, they rarely ever provide any. They draw conclusions with little to no actual data. Much is still based upon assumptions, just like we saw all those years ago with regular hybrids. The few who did bother to explain their reasoning often revealed misunderstandings and incorrect information. It's amazing we ever got passed all that. So the issues with the plug-in model are only temporary. Easily available real-world data will overcome that. Thank goodness the internet nowadays is so much more accessible than it was a decade ago. Sadly though, we're starting pretty basic. Until national rollout, there aren't even enough curious people to keep online dialog following. It's still just random questions intermixed in unrelated threads at the moment. Oh well. That's a good start. With respect to the quote above, I replied to it this way: Those thresholds are don't actually equate to much. They are mostly just argument points for enthusiasts. My commute is 17 miles, 9 of which are at 70 mph. Overall MPG exceeds 150.
The Question. It was nice to see this asked: "Can Volt hold this 3000 cars per month sales rate going forward??" The expectation was enthusiasts wouldn't like any answer to that. What will selling more accomplish? Establishing a reputation is great. But when all that money from the government is cut, then what? When a tax-credit was offered for Prius, it was only half that amount and sales were already triple that rate. The purpose was different too; it was to expand the market. Needless to say, there's a very real concern about cost being more than price. GM's original goal of targeting $30,000 shouldn't have been allowed to waiver, especially by so much. Now, they are stuck trying to figure out how to achieve that... since it is revealing itself to be a very, very important goal. The enthusiast claim that this generation was really only for "early adopters" clashes with that question, since fewer would be better. You don't need 3,000 per month to prove the technology. In other words, the situation is quite a mess and there is no agreement upon what should happen next. In fact, asking for suggestions results in a wide variety of responses. I chose to post the following: What about the question of should they? Remember the problem of the past, where sales count was more important than making profit? Getting more out on the road sounds like a great idea, but the reality of selling at a loss and the inevitable end of the $7,500 tax-credit makes the topic of production-cost a major concern. 3,000 per month is still a rate far short of the mainstream minimum of 60,000 per year. For Volt to become a business-sustaining source of profit it was intended to be, a top-seller among GM offerings, it needs to grow to roughly 5 times that monthly rate. Notice the recent sales of Cruze, Equinox, Malibu, Impala, and Sonic?