Personal Log  #640

September 30, 2013  -  October 6, 2013

Last Updated: Mon. 10/14/2013

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Talking Points.  They are what the popular media thrives on.  The big Prius forum needed a reminder of that: "...and it is disappointing to see this talking point being raised.  Let's not get fooled here folks."  Hopefully, the newbies understood those words of wisdom that well-respected member contributed.  I got to meet him in person a number of years ago.  That was a good experience.  Smart guy.  Anywho, I added:  It was "talking points" that held back the acceptance of hybrids.  People didn't bother actually doing any research.  They'd take that hearsay as gospel and continue on with the status quo.  That attitude was quite frustrating.  Thankfully, we had countless posts from new Prius owners stating their perception of changed dramatically once they got behind the wheel.  The test-drive experience rapidly crushed misconceptions.  Their assumptions were immediately changed by observation.  They realized the system didn't actually work they way they had been told.  With respect to the new rhetoric emerging that Toyota is anti-EV, that doesn't make sense to those of us well informed about Prius.  Toyota is continuing to refine their motors, software, and battery.  All of that technology can also be used for electric-only vehicles.  Improvements to cost & power apply anything using electricity for propulsion. It doesn't need to be an EV.  In fact, the diversity helps increase volume.  It's a win-win some people refuse to acknowledge.  Unless Toyota is pushing the envelope, claims are made that they've given up and are failing to compete.  That doesn't add up.  How could large quantities of those vehicles be delivered without addressing the need to be affordable & profitable while offering an array of choices?


Subaru Hybrid.  It was inevitable that Subaru finally got into the game.  What a disappointment though.  The system offers a 13.4 horsepower electric motor.  That's so small, what the heck do they expect to appeal to consumers?  The unofficial efficiency estimate is only 31 MPG combined.  True, it delivers the same 8.7 inch clearance and all-wheel drive as its traditional counterpart, the XV Crosstrek which delivers 28 MPG combined.  But with such a low value in the age of expensive gas, it doesn't make sense.  There's no upgrade opportunity either.  It's just a simple ASSIST system.  The FULL hybrid type allows augmentation, provided the choice of a larger battery-pack due to the under-utilized traction motor.  With the case of Prius PHV, there's up to 80 horsepower available.  That's a heck of a difference.  Of course, what I found intriguing was that the estimate implied no MPG improvement whatsoever for highway.  Both the traditional and hybrid deliver 33 MPG.  The efficiency is only gained from city driving, 29 verses 25.  There was no mention whatsoever of emissions.  That's a bad sign.  Smog related emissions not being addressed by hybrid systems misses the point.  Being green must include the reduction of pollution to the air we breath.  Carbon alone doesn't tell the whole story.  But with an efficiency of only 31 MPG, those aren't reduced either.


Greenwashing Sources.  As time passes, frequent posters become established as information authorities.  That's why allowing the antagonists to mislead is such a bad idea.  No pushback enables them to continue undermining progress.  People don't challenge those who appear to know what they are talking about.  In fact, those who do question them end up getting the "troll" label.  That was the reputation problem the big GM forum faced.  Their own popular members ended up hurting the forum's credibility by spearing false claims.  That's what greenwashing is all about.  Sure enough, that very same thing is emerging elsewhere, now that plug-ins are becoming a threat to the status quo.  My most recent encounter on a general blog for hybrids was this: "You only use about 10.5 of the 16.5 KWH in the Volt.  Probably 4 out of 4.4KWH in the Prius give or take....."  Then when confronted with design detail saying that actual usable capacity is basically the same 62% as Volt (he's a major Volt supporter, as well as an owner), he responded with: "PIP owners telling me they measure 3.2 to 3.4 going in, minus charging losses you're technically looking at actually using about 3 out of 4.4 KWH.  Not much."  Needless to say, there were two of us who got really upset from such blatantly incorrect statements.  None of that supports is original claim of 4 kWh.  62% calculates 2.75 kWh.  He got caught making up facts.  Quite irritated at that point, I posted:  Who is telling you that?  It certainly hasn't been me.  The most recent real-world recharge data (fully depleted to 85% capacity) from my ChargePoint history states:  2.911, 2.656, 2.752, 2.755, 2.872, 2.723, 2.757, 2.627, 2.777, 2.678, 2.926, 2.799, 2.832, 2.716, 2.672, 2.760, 2.787, 2.999, 2.726, 2.819.  That comes to an average of 2.777 kWh per recharge, from an L2 connection including charging losses.  2.777 isn't even close to 3.2 to 3.4 kWh.  Please use 2.75 from now on.


Misleading Advice.  I understood what he meant, but this was far to vague to be taken the same way by everyone reading it:  "If ya have a heavy foot and like jack rabbit starts, don't buy a PIP."  That could easily be thought to mean there's no benefit from the plug.  After all, there are some who have expended a great deal of effort to make people believe the battery is useless once the engine starts.  Those new to the forum often have no idea how bad the greenwashing is, that certain people will intently mislead.  It's a sad reality.  But then again, readers shouldn't be naive enough to believe everything that's posted.  Incorrect assumptions happens quite frequently.  Anywho, I retorted off with:  I beg to differ.  I experimented with that very premise in mine just last night to get some real-world data.  Now that temperatures are dropping (it was 46°F then), I specifically wanted to find out what a drive normally all-electric would result in with engine warm-up.  It was just a 3.0 mile drive.  The maximum speed was 45 mph.  There were several stoplights.  About halfway into the one-way trip, I dropped the pedal hard to fire up the cold engine.  Coolant temperature reached 130°F about a block before reaching my house, automatically shutting the engine off.  The result from that drive which could have been 999 MPG ended up being 101 MPG.  No regular Prius can even remotely deliver the same efficiency.  So what if the engine started.  During the first minute of warm-up, the plug-supplied electricity is used to keep RPM under 1500.  It makes quite a difference.


Surprise Encounter.  We were up north, stopped in a shopping area going from store to store.  When I approached the Prius to put a recent purchase inside, a man stopped to ask me about my bikes.  He had noticed the empty receiver-hitch rack then was taken aback upon seeing a 3-wheel recumbent bike inside when he walked up for a closer look.  I chatted with him about both the rack and the bike inside.  Seeing how large that bike was but the Prius still being able to offer seating for 3 people really impressed.  He hadn't ever tried anything like that before... in his Prius.  I took me a bit of chatting before discovering he was also an owner.  It came in a very surprising way.  In fact, the encounter came as quite a shock for him.  He innocently asked what MPG my Prius delivered, thinking it would compare closely to his.  When I responded saying, "I averaged 109 MPG on my most recent tank.", his eyes almost popped out.  Realizing the golden opportunity for honest feedback, I remained silent, walked over to the front of the car, and pointed at the PLUG-IN HYBRID emblem.  That made his friend, who hadn't said much up to that point, exclaim with a comment of delight.  They were absolutely flabbergasted that my Prius had a plug.  Later when they left, he drove by very slowly to get one last good full look.  To add to the excitement, my family got to witness all that.  It sure provided a good memory.  I can't wait for more encounters!


Ordinary Questions.  It sure is nice reading stuff like this now: "So, for those who have the plug in BUT regularly drive beyond the extended EV range, how much better do these "tweaks" in the plug-in version boost your overall MPG compared to those trying to hypermile in a regular Prius?"  With the rhetoric gone and the antagonists absent, we are getting ordinary questions.  In other words, the curious have taken their place.  Yeah!  I joined into the discussion by asking:  Having driven a 2010 Prius for about 56,000 miles (3 years) and a 2012 Prius PHV for about 30,000 (1.5 years), I would say you're asking an ineffective question.  That's common, since few have enough exposure to even know what's possible.  The better, more informative thing to ask is how much of a difference does the plug-supplied electricity makes for those of us who just drive it.  For me, lifetime average went from 50 to 75 MPG.  That matches up with what we had predicted, which is saying a lot considering the efficiency with EV-BOOST (when you drive faster than the EV-ONLY threshold) is quite difficult to estimate.  I recharge at work too, so that makes a difference.  But then again, my commute is beyond the range available and I often drive somewhere in the evening.  There are many, many variables at play.  It gets especially complicated when the effects of temperature are considered.  Running the Heater and A/C really take a toll on efficiency.  There's the variety of scenarios affecting warm-up too. In other words, the question could be:  How much does the increase in capacity & power improve overall efficiency?


Plug-In Hybrids.  The underlying problem with any attempt to deliver is the need to make a profit.  Lacking that, they cannot become a common choice.  Automakers simply won't bother producing any more than what compliance regulations require.  They must be mainstream; the design must be self-sustaining.  That's why the "too little, too slowly" concern has always been such a big deal.  The tax-credits will only last so long.  When they run out, then what?  Traditional vehicles competing against themselves is problem enough.  That's presented quite a challenge for the hybrids.  Overcoming decades of cost-reduction and consumer-confidence is still an issue.  Adding capacity and a plug makes it even more difficult... or does it?  Half of Ford's C-Max sales last month, when comparing models, were the plug-in.  The 758 verses 1,424 is a result to pay attention to.  Fusion wasn't as impressive, but the 750 isn't nothing to ignore.  It's a larger difference with 2,265 in comparison.  The very small amount of trunk space available makes those particular sales stand out.  The 1,152 for the plug-in model of Prius is still the biggest curiosity though.  Availability is still limited to just 15 states.  That lack of accessibility is keeping everyone wondering... especially with the major price-drop for Volt.  That put it below cost.  Toyota has retained MSRP.  The package option has always been enough to indicate profit, though likely modest.  That's still way better than losing money from each.  Next year certainly will be one for the history books.  This year confirmed the necessity of affordable price.  2014 will focus on profit, especially as the 2015 models gain attention.


EPA Wording.  Notice how supporters of a particular vehicle are quick to dismiss their EPA measurements but adhere to precise wording when referring to competitors?  It's an unfortunate reality, the spin we often encounter.  The recent mess with Ford and earlier trouble with Hyundai MPG estimates underscore that problem.  Should you or shouldn't you consider the EPA measurements an source for real-world expectations.  Originally, the purpose of the values published was to provide a standardized basis of comparison.  Reading the fine-print, you'd see actual results fall within a range.  People like to overly simplify though.  So even with the heavy promotion of YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), it didn't matter.  They didn't care.  That's what makes promoting a hybrid like Prius PHV so difficult.  Antagonists go out of their way to make it even harder too.  But slowly, we can see progress being made.  The EPA wording was used heavily for greenwashing.  Reputable websites know that and want to distance themselves from it.  The latest try I encountered said this: "11 miles, with only 6 miles continuous".  They are well aware that more than 6 miles is available and want to emphasize the total of 11 miles.  That approach may be effective.  It makes people wonder what happens at 6 miles.  It also puts an end to the claims that more can only be achieved by special means.  That's good.  Overcoming those wanting to undermine isn't easy.  But at least we can see signs of success.


Unfavorable Conditions.  With every possible excuse exhausted at this point, monthly sales discussions seem to be taking on a new more cooperative tone.  Fewer and fewer Volt enthusiasts are holding onto that "vastly superior" attitude.  In fact, we really only got one horribly arrogant post.  It called those buying a plug-in Prius "brain dead" people.  That insult didn't go over well either.  Other Volt owners don't care to be associated with such comments.  There's hope.  Change is slow though.  I found the following a good step in the right direction: "Volt 2.0 and the G4 Prius will be coming onto the market under what I regard as unfavorable conditions – which is to say, gas prices that don't really bother people."  Of course, it came from a Prius owner.  But at least it was found acceptable on that daily blog for Volt.  I joined in with:  The "boil a frog" situation has played out exactly as predicted. Volt faced and continues to face a massive challenge, dealing with a market simply not interested in saving gas because they have grown use to paying more for it.  That's why the approach with Prius, starting with a modest package option rather than a one-size-fits-all design, stands a better chance of squeezing its way into the mainstream.  How GM is going to pull off such a major effort against such complacent consumer-base remains a mystery.


Back To Normal.  We knew the record sales last month were the result of model-year clearance sales combined with a noticeable upturn in the economy.  So, the expectation for this month was getting back to something normal.  That came as a shock to those supporting Volt.  They truly thought the lower MSRP would keep sales high, even though there wasn't anything to actually support that belief.  Price is a big deal, but it doesn't change the fact that other aspects of the vehicle don't met middle-market purchase priorities... like legroom in back.  The good news for Prius is that its effort to deliver balance appears to be contributing to sales growth.  The plug-in model is up.  Volt is back to where is was before the crazy discounting.  You can guess what that meant online.  Comments like this: "All I know is that this is rather disappointing. A $5000 drop in the MSRP and the sales volume drops." quickly degenerated to: "The PiP will get about 6 battery miles in actual use, 11 if you hypermile."  Rather than stay focused on Volt sales, they turned to greenwashing about Prius.  I easily get 11 miles, without doing anything other than follow traffic.  The hope is people will believe what they claim and not ever ask any questions.  It never ceases to amaze me that some would stoop to such lows, rather than just accept facts.  Fortunately, sales results seem to be overcoming their efforts to mislead.


EREV Definition.  It has always been horribly vague.  In fact, when pressed, enthusiasts would sometimes contradict what each other says.  Everyone always knew it was an arbitrary definition anyway.  So, the topic got little attention.  The problem became obvious just prior to Volt rollout, since the definition itself changed.  Creating a new category called "EREV" fell apart.  And now that both Ford's plug-in and Honda's plug-in both fit the capricious criteria, continuing to make Volt appear to be different seems like an act of desperation.  They're all considered hybrids now.  Why?  It's because upcoming offerings make identification clear.  The industry is starting to see a vehicle labeled as EREV as having an engine intended to be an emergency backup, something only for the sake of dealing with an unexpected case of running out of electricity.  In other words, the size and accompanying fuel-tank should only fulfill minimum criteria.  That's what BMW is planning to deliver.  It will have a tiny engine and will carry just 2 gallons of gas.  The system will be underpowered when depleted, but will achieve the purpose of not leaving you stranded.  Volt most definitely isn't like that.  GM decided to build a complete system instead, one that delivered full abilities for driving after depletion... which is exactly what a plug-in hybrid does.  Looking at it from another perspective, the engine isn't suppose to deliver power to the wheels.  It should only generate electricity... which is what the Volt enthusiasts told us all those years before rollout then abruptly altered the definition upon learning Volt wouldn't actually do that.  Understand the frustration & confusion?  See why clarity is needed?


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