Personal Log  #644

October 26, 2013  -  October 31, 2013

Last Updated: Tues. 12/17/2013

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Winter Questions.  I tend to really enjoy this time of year.  It's when I get to share my experience without being overbearing.  In fact, people often encourage me to contribute more.  That provides incentive to collect more data.  I'm looking forward to filming more cold & snowy driving as a result.  That's what really endorses the technology.  The driving outcome speaks for itself.  Being able to conquer the roads here says a lot.  And since I have no choice but to drive in those conditions anyway, why not make the most of it?  So, I do.  Today, it was with:  This will be my 14th Winter driving a Prius in Minnesota.  I've experienced everything the cold season can dish out.  So, I'm not sure what to say at this point.  In fact, it drives much better than my mom's 2004 Corolla on snow & ice.  So, there's really nothing to prove.  It works fine.  The key is to enjoy the slower speeds required for safer driving.  MPG shots up as a result.  It's a win-win situation.  Heck, you'll look at commute congestion quite differently.  That nightmare of wasting gas is replaced by silent satisfaction.


One Hit Wonders.  It's been rather entertaining later.  A well respected member of the big Prius forum put it this way: "There have been numerous similar posts from one hit wonders of late."  I appreciated the way he stated the situation.  Posts from those who obviously thrive on stirring the pot come and go.  The pattern is for their membership to be brand new, for the thread topic they start to be somewhat controversial, and for their participation to end abruptly afterward.  It's a little bit frustrating to see how they sucker naive members into worry.  But then again, that's how they learn about the intent of some being disingenuous.  It's too easy to assume everyone is being honest.  Anywho, this was my insert into the conversation:  The frequency of "one hit wonders" has been increasing lately.  (Thanks for coining that term.)  They've become rather sloppy too.  Claiming 27.4 MPG is quite extreme.  Even with kayaks on top, I couldn't get efficiency that low.  I haven't even seen that in the dead of Winter here, during the worst of the snow-trapped traffic.  It simply isn't realistic of a claim.  No follow-up is a dead giveaway something isn't right.  The owner facts listed don't add up either.  Prius sales remaining strong, despite the dropping of oil & gas prices, as well as certain other competition struggling is good reason to keep an eye out for attempts to undermine.  That wastes our time.  Put ultimately, it helps point out how resilient Prius actually is.  Gotta like that.


Reliability.  This was encouraging to stumble across: "I read an article on Consumer Report website and it said Prius is very reliable but Prius Plug-in is not so I am confused."  Getting feedback of bewilderment rather than blind acceptance is fantastic.  What a great improvement over past encounters.  Of course, knowing how to respond to someone receptive to enlightenment information is someone uncertain territory.  That's new for us.  In the past, those newbie posts were either outright attacks or purchase regret.  That response of confusion is a step up.  There's hope!  Even so, you still need to be somewhat direct in reply.  Being too passive may end up just contributing to the confusion.  Getting their attention is what I went for:  Huh?  The only "not reliable" rating I could imagine would be due to lack of data, a blanket "don't know" yet statement.  My ownership observations would put it at higher reliability.  Think about how much less the engine is used.  The warm-up process involves lower RPM and short-trips sometimes don't use the engine at all.


EV Symbol, part 2.  By the way, that same indicator is available with the newer models of the regular Prius.  The only difference is power & speed thresholds are much lower than with the plug-in.  It's yet another feature showing how the larger battery-pack and plug offering is really just a package choice, that Toyota planned for the design to support such enhancements all along.  Being able to update software and select capacity is the kind of flexibility needed to sustain business.  You really don't know what the consumer will actually purchase.  Adjusting production along the way is a fundamental benefit, a very important aspect of supply & demand.  Some us understand that and really appreciate the effort.


EV Symbol, part 1.  The difference between this [EV] and this [  ] isn't obvious to some Prius PHV owners.  For unknown reasons, they don't seem to notice when the symbol becomes hollow.  Rather than saying "EV", it is blank at times.  That's an indication of the engine running, most likely for heat this time of year.  But while driving at fast speeds on the highway, the same thing happens.  We're a bit mystified why that indicator gets overlooked.  You'd think the pattern would be recognized after awhile.  Apparently, it's quite a while for some.  I provided the following information to one such owner in a thread many owners happily contributed to:  Though, the same thing happens while traveling faster than 62 mph.  The system switches from EV mode to EV-BOOST.  That means you're still getting the benefit of extra electricity from the plug, but it's obviously going to be lower MPG than 999.  Fortunately, it's quite a bit higher than what the non-plug efficiency can deliver during warm-up.  As for offering electric heat, that gobbles up electricity at such a fast rate, you'd be starting up the engine anyway.  Between the capacity available and the increased resistance due to the cold, the penalty is too much.  Also, keep in mind that heat-pumps don't work well in extreme low temperatures.


Historical Spin.  With the present so clear now, there isn't much else to do except paint a rosy picture of the past: "GM pitched the Volt by saying: We will just make the battery big enough to cover the daily driving distance of the average driver of 40 miles."  Knowing that was spin on what actually was said and knowing that most people won't have any way of validating that history, I was intrigued.  Would that point be fought if confronted?  Turns out, the answer is no.  That was good to find out.  In the past, arguments were made about everything.  Being constructive wasn't a priority.  When enthusiast could get a red-herring to capture attention, they capitalized on it.  After all, that is part of the formula for hype.  You do what you can increase excitement, even if it there is no benefit to the topic of discussion.  I've been documenting details of each day of my Prius driving since that crazy 230 MPG claim over 4 years ago.  I knew the real-world data would reveal the lack of simplicity so many of those back-of-napkin estimates claimed.  The variance is enormous.  People drive to far more destinations than just back and forth to work with an occasional grocery run.  The proof now is overwhelming.  As for the history, I posted:  It was not "daily driving" distance.  The quote stated "commute" distance.  That difference was a major source of conflict in the early years.  People drive elsewhere in the evening.  Disregarding that fact wasn't constructive.  Another issue was range-drop due to heater use being ignored, despite the topic being brought up over and over again.  Now, the resulting kWh consumption to stay comfortable at the sacrifice of available EV distance is a matter known all too well by owners.  Keep in mind that living further from work often means living closer to other driving destinations.  There's often a tradeoff.  Lastly, weekend travel isn't addressed either.  It can vary significantly from during-the-week driving.  Friends & Family don't always live nearby.  Other non-routine destinations are further too.


Leaf Contemplation.  Since there weren't any declarations of superiority or wild claims of anticipated strong demand, Nissan's Leaf has always been treated differently than Volt.  The smug & arrogance simply didn't exist for that way.  Those interested just quietly supported their plug-in choice, knowing there was much to prove initially.  That's what actually mimics Prius.  They knew achieving mainstream volume would take years of further refinement of the technology, but what they had already would indeed deliver to the satisfaction of enthusiasts.  So, they just drove.  That's quite a contrast to what we saw from GM and those who favored Volt, who pushed a trophy mentality to convince us of obsolescence.  It sure is nice that chapter in history is over.  Such opposites really make you wonder about market... hence always asking the "who" question.  Thankfully, we are now past that.  Focus is now on regular priorities, the kind of things ordinary consumers consider when purchasing a vehicle.  A big one is passenger & cargo space.  By dumb luck, a Leaf was parked right next to a Prius today on our morning coffee run this morning.  I asked if we could stop for a closer look.  I told my friends to observe the interior of Leaf carefully, then look into the Prius.  The legroom difference in back was obvious.  Leaf is a compact.  Prius is a midsize.  That works out to 2.7 inches smaller in this case... very easy to see.  The seats just happened to be down in back too.  That made the cargo comparison a no-brainer.  Prius has a high roof.  Leaf has a short one with that dramatic low swoop.  It was quite obvious the Prius offered significantly more room for cargo.  Feature differences like that are what helped keep enthusiasts civil.  The audience wasn't the same.  Unlike Volt, the target for Leaf wasn't that of Prius buyers.  There was no fighting.  We could actual contemplate ownership situations is a sensible manner!


Blocking Results.  This morning's commute was at 37°F.  Much colder temperatures are on the way.  Fortunately, the result of my 17-mile drive was 145 MPG.  That certainly isn't anything to complain about... but definitely isn't reminiscent of the 400's that I'd routinely get in the Summer.  The reality of Winter is setting in.  Having something simple to help retain precious heat is nice.  I do find it a bit amusing though.  20 years ago, seeing cardboard attached to the grilles of vehicles was a common sight.  At least now, this is cosmetically much better.  Some vehicles are even beginning to offer powered louvers.  Prius doesn't, yet.  Perhaps it will with the next generation.  Until then, it's much cheaper using $2 worth of foam each Winter.  And with a cost so low, it easily pays for itself... especially considering how long Winter is here in Minnesota... where a few weeks from now 37°F will feel down right balmy in comparison.


Winter Ready.  The lower grille is now blocked.  I seal it entirely, using 1/2-inch thick form pipe-insulation.  By squeezing both sides together and pushing them into the slots of the grille, they stay in place all Winter long.  No glue or tape or fasteners are needed.  Even with several car-washes, they don't move.  It's quite an inexpensive solution to a problem we all face during the cold season... heat retention.  It only cost me $2 and 30 minutes.  The result looks really nice too, if you take the time to slice out bits for the vertical supports of the grille.  That way, the foam appears completely flat along the entire span.  Of course, with the regular spray of sand & salt Winter brings, looking good is somewhat of a non-issue.  Regardless, the deed is done.  MPG will be higher as a result.  Heat will last longer, which causes the engine to stay off longer.  There's also a small benefit when it comes to initial warm-up.  Less air is allowed to pass through the engine compartment.  That's obviously a nice perk.  Posts online are growing.  New owners stumble across information like this asking for more info.  The experienced owners happily reply.  My biggest frustration is the definition of Winter itself.  Those living in places where the temperature might drop to freezing on a rare occasion have no concept of how cold it gets here in Minnesota.  Their perspective of "cold" is quite different.  So when we discuss grille blocking, results are often questioned... since they don't have the same encounters.  I leave my Prius parked outside while at work.  We routinely go weeks at a time without the temperature rising above freezing.  We also experience several days each Winter when the temperature doesn't even climb above 0°F.  Brrrr!  That's when grille blocking provides a huge improvement.


Hatred, part 2.  It obviously goes both directions.  The belief that I was attempting to undermine clearly stirred strong feelings.  Worry about what that would mean later was always present in the background.  But then again, the same situation already played out in the past.  Two-Mode was bragged about for years.  Despite all the warnings about "over promise, under deliver", the enthusiasts kept talking big anyway.  Their boasting turning into hostility at times too.  Back then, online behavior wasn't as well understood either.  Conduct wasn't as well controlled as a result.  Moderators are much better informed now about what to openly allow and what to keep a close eye on.  Anywho, by the time Two-Mode reached the end of its third year, the technology had basically been abandoned.  So few were interested in such an expensive system that didn't actually meet the needs of consumers.  Sound familiar?  We have been witnessing similar circumstances with Volt.  What had been hoped for and what was actually delivered were dramatically different.  Seeing Toyota within reach of the goals consumers had established for Prius PHV made that bad situation worse.  Aftermarket augmentations, countless surveys, and lots of research positioned Toyota well for reaching the masses.  GM didn't care.  In fact, they weren't even interested.  Volt's target wasn't middle-market.  Their wasn't any intention to deliver a mainstream configuration until the second generation.  The "too little, too late" concern wasn't taken seriously.  Enthusiasts now understand this.  They see their hatred was misplaced.  Seeing that is a good sign.


Hatred, part 1.  Waiting for those incendiary enthusiasts to finally get that "vastly superior" upset out of their systems was an exercise in patience.  Some of them outright lied.  They simply didn't care.  No matter how much real-world data you'd present, they'd dismiss it and say anything they wanted.  Others supported them too, enabling greenwashing so blatant, you felt a bit of hatred.  It made the wait even harder.  But knowing that profitable sales would become increasingly more difficult, it was just a matter of time.  A great example of this from 6 months ago emerged yesterday, serving as a fantastic reminder of how bad the situation had actually become: "So if your gas tank was empty, how far could you drive on the EPA test course? Answer = 6 miles."  Over and over and over again, it was stated that the capacity of the Prius PHV battery-pack was rated at 11 miles and that 6-mile value was nothing but the hard-acceleration point during the test.  You don't have to accelerate that hard.  In fact, people rarely actually do.  The test includes it to be thorough.  The engine shuts off shortly afterward anyway, allowing you to continue on driving with only electricity for another 5 miles.  Capacity is 11, not 6.  I even posted a video showing a 9-mile drive in EV with the temperature at -2°F.  That's dramatically colder than EPA tests are performed, yet distance exceeded 6 by quite a bit.  Some absolutely refused to accept that reality, despite seeing it on video.  My commute to work taking the river route during the warm season routinely delivers 13 miles of EV.  That's twice as far as the implied range... without using a single drop of gas.  Again, some just plain didn't care.  It was very tempting to lash out, but refuting with anything but cold-hard facts would mean stepping down to their level.  I'm not going to sacrifice my integrity to win a battle; instead, I wait.  That approach has been paying off recently too.  The war is against traditional vehicles, not fellow plug-in supporters... even those who intentionally lie and mislead... like that Volt enthusiast.


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