Personal Log #639
September 22, 2013 - September 29, 2013
Last Updated: Mon. 10/14/2013
page #638 page #640 BOOK INDEX
100,000 Members. That official milestone was recently arrived at on the big Prius. It was back in January of 2008 when it growth-rate had clearly exceeded that of the big GM forum, with there was 35,599 members verses 33,301. For a single vehicle to exceed that of an entire automaker, it gave reason to take notice. Remember that it was still before the economic collapse, back when times were relatively good. The reality of bankruptcy didn't come about until and entire year later. By June 2011, a full 2 years after the bankruptcy filing and 6 months after the rollout of Volt, membership of the big GM forum had climbed to 54,800. That simply couldn't compare though to the 77,333 members on the big Prius forum. The difference was massive. It contributed to the growing rhetoric, the frustration of enthusiasts from their expectations not being met. Checking out the membership there now, it's at 62,874. Clearly, far more attention is on Prius... despite all the hype of how Volt would become a halo in addition to achieving mainstream sales. The point was appealing to ordinary consumers. Attracting middle-market has been far more difficult than imagined. Think about how little it costs a person to participate on an online forum... no money, just time. Yet, even that isn't happening. Reaching beyond just enthusiasts is absolutely vital. How will growth being achieved? What will it take to attract interest? Who will make the effort to draw more people in? It starts with interaction of people and online forums are a fantastic venue for that.
Frustrated. That was what the "too little, too slowly" concern was all about was my reply to this: "My biggest frustration is that GM should be getting these improvements in the Volt sooner rather than later. 2016 is waaaay to late." We kept getting told, over and over and over again, that Volt was going to leap-frog Prius. All the talk about reaching mainstream sales volume by the end of the second year was quite frustrating. How would that be achieved? The experts wanted to know. Those of use well informed due to having participated in the initial rollout of Prius and the following generations wanted to know too. It just plain didn't add up. For so much to be accomplished so quickly, it would take a miracle. No amount of hope can overcome so many barriers with virtually no support. That wasn't realistic. Now those very same individuals are frustrated themselves... having finally learned what we had been telling them all along. Rather than 2010, they are stuck waiting until 2016... for something that isn't even certain. There's no guarantee all the modifications being made to Volt will attract lots of middle-market buyers. It's still a gamble. Those troublemaking enthusiasts are now in the position we were all those years ago. Remember way back then? They now ask the same questions we asked. They too are concerned. Finally.
Twisting History & Intent. It's worthwhile to wonder who actually believes post claims without ever doing any research to validate. Nowadays, there's a wealth of information available online, like real-world data. The reputable sources are becoming easier to find too. Unfortunately, the propaganda is quite difficult to avoid. Fortunately, the warning signs are noticeable. Whether or not casual readers choose to acknowledge those red-flags is the question. I continue to post historical tidbits, hoping for the best... Toyota strived to deliver an affordable, profitable, high-volume vehicle right from the very start. The price of the 2001 model was $19,995 and there was only a tax deduction available back then, which equated to less than $400 for many of us. Gas was just $1 per gallon too. The resistance to that rollout of the technological improvement was intense; chaotic attacks came from a wide array of sources fearing the status quo was breaking. With overwhelming proof of an effort directly targeting-middle market so long ago, comparisons to the situation now are disingenuous. It's very, very different. Just look at how each automaker is attempting to deliver something. There most definitely was not that spirit of cooperation back then. In fact, some automakers fought to retain the past. It was sad. Read the blogs from over a decade ago. Looking back is not at all the same as experiencing events as they unfold.
New Charging-Stations. To my delight, the construction in the ramp right next to where I park involved more than just replacement piping for the old drains. They were running electric lines too. That meant the postponed-from-last-year charging-stations could finally be installed. There were 4 new ones waiting there for me to rejoice about. What a great way to the end the day! These were the newer type too, the kind that can deliver two 240-volt connectors from a single line. More power to share at a lower cost is win-win for everyone. Gotta like that. Unfortunately, they won't actually get used all that often yet. Sales of the plug-in Prius still haven't begun here in Minnesota. But there are some EV owners who will take advantage of the connection from time to time, since the ramp is for the entertainment venue across the street where there are lots of evening events and seasonal hockey is about to begin. So far, I'm still the only daily plugger.
Porsche Panamera SE. At the final stoplight before reaching work, I stopped along side an unfamiliar vehicle. It was so close, all I was actually looking at was the wheel... with an unusually nice tire and brake. Hmm? When I look up and back, the shuffle of the driver behind me caught my attention. He was scrambling to get his phone to take a photo. Huh? I looked out to see what had caught his eye. Nothing. What the heck? It hadn't crossed my mind it was the car. I simply looked over it... not realizing its importance until after it began to drive away. The engine started. Hearing that captivated me. What was I looking at? Could that be the plug-in hybrid Porsche was planning to deliver? Sure enough, the nameplate matched. As it disappeared into the distance while I turned, there weren't any other indications (like a port for plugging in) that caught my eye. Though brief, that's an encounter I won't forget... since I don't expect to see that many of them ever. The 85-horsepower traction-motor powered by a 9.4 kWh battery-pack combined with a 3.0 liter supercharged engine output a net of 416 horsepower and delivers 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. A system like that isn't cheap. It's close to $100,000... which explains the reaction the driver behind me had when he noticed it.
2014 Corolla. I got to see one this evening. It is interesting to watch the non-hybrid side of Toyota take another step forward. The introduction of CVT and LED is perplexing to imagine from the perspective of having grown use to no shifting and better illumination already. What will the typical consumer simply looking for an reliable & efficient traditional vehicle think? Whatever the case, it's an undeniable move away from the status quo. Time will tell. It shouldn't take long either... with the rollout of the plug-in hybrid nationally so near. That pushes the regular hybrid even deeper into the mainstream. I'm very excited about that. It's a rather subtle paradigm shift, easing people into the mentality of expecting non-traditional improvements. Change is definitely a good thing in this case. Like the slogan: moving forward.
0.1 EV Miles. After a year and a half of driving a Prius PHV, the act of estimating becomes second nature. I've got to the point where I'm so familiar with roads & traffic that I can watch the EV value drop to 0.1 miles and still make it home on electricity... even though I still have 2 short blocks and a small hill to climb. The act of braking regenerates enough electricity that I end up driving into the garage with only a tiny distance of EV to spare. I've grown well aware of how much the battery-pack will be replenish as I enter the valley and slow down leaving the highway. But after having driven those routes that many times, it's no longer an act of guessing. The pattern is easy to remember. I hadn't realized it would become so predictable. That make sense though. Being able to plug in after having used the capacity to the fullest is a good use of the battery. Why not? It's not like Toyota stresses it anyway. "Full" is actually only 85%. That helps to ensure longevity. "Empty" is 23.5% for the same reason. There's still HV capacity available beyond that too. So, taking advantage of EV and the button to choose when to use it works out really nice.
Accord Hybrid. Details were revealed yesterday. There's obvious skepticism about actual MPG verses the estimate, but the 2-motor system is clearly a big step forward over the original ASSIST system. It's a little strange though, the actual operation is a little vague. The plug-in model delivers. In fact, it outperforms Volt to the point where even the Volt enthusiasts are scratching their heads. Whatever the case, the hybrid itself looks nice. With a $29,155 base MSRP, it looks to be a reasonable competitor with the other high-efficiency sedans currently being offered. Honda appears to have reinvested well. It's unfortunate that took so long. But the market is relatively early anyway. Toyota has pretty much dominated over the past decade. Honda is smaller too, having to also deal with Ford directly. Ultimately, it should be a win for the market as a whole. There's growing demand around here as the misconceptions of the past become difficult to remember. Hybrids continue to improve. This is yet another example of that. They are no longer viewed as a niche anymore. They are here to stay. Watch for this renewed entry.
Trophy Mentality, worst. As expected, the calculation was simply ignored. They cherry-pick, which is why the big picture is common disregarded. The response ended up being more belittling: "It's the worst electric only range of any plug-in hybrid. That's embarrassing from the hybrid world leader regardless." To witness such behavior. That's embarrassing. No wonder many of the supporters abandoned the Volt blogs. Now, the effort is to stir attention on the one for hybrids instead. Fortunately, forum discussions are different. There's half a chance of something worthwhile emerging. Most blogs only survive a day. Some last a few days. That's it though. There's nothing like the history threads support. Blogs just abruptly end. Participation vanishes. He kept trying there anyway. I even got a "LOL" when I posted the following: Keeping size small enough to be affordable and not compromise legroom or cargo space is embarrassing? Wow! Someone needs a priority check.
Trophy Mentality, calculation. Knowing his effort was an obvious attempt to mislead & confuse, I followed up with the actual calculation. After all, who would dispute facts? Naturally, an antagonist would... hence the label. Nonetheless, at least readers would have some actual detail to consider rather than just vague claims. Doing that math is simple. Too bad most people don't bother. Posting the numbers helps. Sadly though, the antagonist will pretend that particular information was never provided. We've seen it countless times already. I persist anyway. Like real-world data, eventually, people will notice the greenwashing. Here's what I submitted, using Volt's own specification for comparison: 16.5 kWh = 38 miles. That's works out to 2.3 miles per kWh of electricity, which means 4.4 kWh = 10.1 miles. Then when you take into consideration Prius PHV weight 621 pounds less than Volt, it's easy to see where the 11-mile EPA rating came from. The capacity is clearly there.
Trophy Mentality, reply. This is how I ended up
responding to that particular post, which just happened to be on a general
blog for all hybrids: We all know the 4.4 kWh battery-pack delivers more than 6 miles, that
there's 5 miles of capacity still available after that brief moment
the EPA test triggers the engine. Toyota is being honest by not gaming the
system to show that higher value.
It's a PLUG-IN HYBRID, not an electric-only vehicle. That means the engine
will run from time to time. While cruising at high speed, the EV capacity is
consumed as HV miles delivering over 100 MPG. You still get that total of 11
miles worth of electricity, regardless of how it's consumed.
With my Prius PHV, here in Minnesota, I get 9 miles of EV in the dead of
winter. During nice days in the summer, I get 14 miles of EV. So, whenever
someone refers to the 6 miles, it is necessary to question if they
understand the purpose of a plug-in hybrid. After 28,522 miles, my average
is 77 MPG. It's quite clear to me: the electricity boosts efficiency.
Trophy Mentality, post. That was the worry right from the start, all those years ago. It was the new variant of smug. The enthusiasts didn't care either. Long story short, bragging rights dwindled down to basically just EV range. Even that fell short of expectations, but at least it was still more than the competition. And since cost wasn't a priority, they'd remind you know of every chance possible. It's why the idea of a smaller capacity battery as an affordable option always resulted in such harsh reaction. It was attitude over sensibility. They'd appeal to emotion. Sadly, that sentiment still persists with a few: "They went all in on just regular hybrid tech. Eventually they'll come around to EV's. First they need to improve the EPA rated 6 mile electric range in their Plug-in Prius. That's embarrassing....." Reading posts like that never ceases to amaze me. Not only does it convey a terrible attitude, it also includes greenwashing. Continued efforts to mislead about capacity is what I'd consider embarrassing. Why would any true supporter allows such blatant efforts to misinform & confuse? We call those who do exhibit that behavior antagonists. They don't contribute anything constructive. The trophy clouds their judgment.
Electrification Approach. There are two fundamentally different ways to approach electrification of vehicles. Toyota is clearly aiming squarely at the mainstream, attempting to phase-out their traditional production with a wide variety of hybrids. That means reasonably sized steps (affordable choices) offered in high-volume without having to wait. The opposite extreme is delivering a small number of expensive vehicles, aiming directly at enthusiasts instead. The latter considers those owners as early adopters. That raises the question of how to reach middle-market consumers later on. It also makes you wonder how long we'll have to wait in the meantime. After all, a new traditional vehicle purchased today is very likely to still be guzzling gas a decade from now. That's a very disturbing thought many Volt supporters absolutely refuse to acknowledge. They don't see any problem with the large quantity of traditional vehicles still being sold each month. They show little interest in business profit either. Incrementing battery-capacity as energy-density and cost justifies is a concept they just plain don't want to accept. It's bizarre. But then again, the poor efficiency following depletion forces them to accept the reality of a small battery-pack being uncompetitive. In response, they like to throw out theories like "innovator's dilemma" and "disruptive technology" as reasons for the approach taken. Some factors involved make sense too. But typically, that falls into the trap of cherry picking. Looking at the big picture (the automaker's entire production) tells a very different story. 2014 will an interesting year. Details of next generation offerings will be revealed. That will tell us much about approach. After all, the market is still quite fickle. Things like fast-recharging and charging-station availability are far from well established. Heck, even the idea of simply plugging a charger into an ordinary household 120-volt outlet is an option many consumers aren't even aware of.