Personal Log  #651

December 18, 2013  -  December 30, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 3/05/2014

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Irony.  It's an interesting reality, an aspect of life some don't notice until it's too late.  Today, I couldn't resist pointing it out in response to this: "I'm sick and tired of people still talking about "smugness"......thanks to the a-holes @ South Park, it appears this meme will never go away!"  That's been a topic of much emotion & discussion over the years.  Now, we can interject a new twist... and unexpected outcome for some:  Ironically, that same footage is now having a positive effect.  Most people haven't noticed how effective of a barrier it has become.  Rather than getting attempt after attempt to insult & discredit, that single episode withstood the test of time.  The misunderstood attempt to educate at the expense of supporters was so entertaining and so powerful of an opposition tool that it has prevented any other material from being created.  As the meme grows older and older, less and less can compete with it.  That leaves those hoping to mock hybrids with nothing but a single arrow in their quiver.  They cannot prevent progress with such a limited arsenal.  It's a great example of how a battle won early on can actually have the opposite effect in the long-run, contributing to the loss of the war in the end.


What To Expect.  I found it amusing how a strength will be downplayed.  For example: "The ONLY silver lining is that I do see a day coming where a low-end PHEV shouldn't be significantly more expensive than a regular hybrid is today.  So vehicles like the PiP should become standard."  That emphasis on "only" gives the impression you should expect more.  But given serious thought, what else could there be?  The entire point of the battery/plug upgrade was exactly that.  It was designed with affordability a major priority... so lots of people will be able to purchase it.  That quote came from a thread on a forum dedicated to Volt, where the discussion of the next generation resulted in this post: "Lets look at 2016, GM indicates they will release a car with 200 miles of battery range and a backup gas engine for $30,000."  It's amazing to see posts like that appearing again.  Hype in the past emerged the same way.  Someone would hear about something, not get all the details or ever follow up, then expect that to be a delivery promise.  In reality, that situation is quite different.  GM was indeed hoping to deliver a plug-in vehicle with a 200-mile range.  But it wouldn't include a gas engine.  That assumption somehow came about.  Probably a misunderstanding or inaccurate hearsay.  Whatever the case, not only is the engine part wrong, the range potential is too.  An advanced new battery technology won't be delivered.  What was promised by Envia for upcoming GM production ended up becoming a case of fraud & theft.  It turned out to be too good to be true.  Unfortunately, that poster is completely oblivious to that reality.  Instead, it is believed an amazing improvement in high-efficiency vehicle choices will be delivered in 2016.  Knowing what to expect is important.  Sadly, some people aren't aware of what really happens and why or even how.


Signs of Change.  The attacks continue.  I've been amused by the acts of desperation.  They've been pretty bad.  This is how I summed up the situation:  When outdated & obscure topics are posted, it's a good sign.  The pattern fits.  We've seen that many times before.  New threads like this one only appear when the competition has failed to deliver.  In fact, bringing up references to an old survey which referred to "hybrids" in a extremely vague way is a perfect example.  Adding to it by claiming discontinued vehicles could deliver the same performance confirms the desperate situation.  Heck, my 1984 Omni could also deliver 50 MPG highway.  But what's the point?  It was a small vehicle without any safety features, a high center-of-gravity, no A/C, manual windows, manual brakes, and a manual transmission.  We are now at a turning point.  With Prius so well proven and other automakers struggling to offer something clean & efficient, the paradigm shift is happening.  Vehicles which grossly exceeded need have went from being a symbol of prestige to having a stigma of waste.  Attempts to stir discussion like this confirm the market change.  It's just too bad the choices available aren't competitive yet... hence references to the past rather than looking forward.  Think about how few people actually understand what a Prius with a plug delivers.  No old survey can reflect that.


PHV Sighting.  To my surprise, there was another Prius PHV... just like mine... same color.  That light warm blue is only available for the plug-in model.  So, secondary confirmation wasn't necessary.  I did take a closer look that anyway.  It was indeed a PHV.  Sadly, they still isn't available for purchase here in Minnesota.  But then again, purchasing one now would be rather disappointing.  True, you'd get over 50 MPG... but barely, due to the extreme cold.  The sub-zero temperature results are still amazing when you think about it.  Being tough enough to deal with Winter is great too.  Summer is so much better in comparison though.  I enjoy the seasonal change regardless.  That cycle is refreshing.  Good thing too, since it's rather lonely.  Someday there will be more.  Someday my PHV will be warm & clean.  It always requires patience.  At least I got that surprise today to hold me over in the meantime.


New Attacks.  A well known Prius antagonist showed up again.  He's been attacking the big Prius forum relentlessly, trying everything he can to post endorsements for Honda's Insight and VW's diesel.  It's the same old nonsense we've seen for over a decade now.  My guess is he returns as soon as his ban expires.  You know, cause trouble until getting kicked out, then wait for the next opportunity.  Those acts of desperation are absurd.  It's especially bad when he starts new threads claiming something that just plain isn't true.  Trolls drop bait too, but never in such a blatant way.  His purpose is different, it's to fulfill a vendetta.  That's harder to deal with.  Even the troublemaker I dealt with recent isn't that bad.  He simply enjoys debate.  This guy is seeking out a fight, wanting to inflict harm.  That's sad.  I remember one if his attacks way back when.  Nothing we tried got him to stop.  Finally, I tried a direct assault... challenging him by providing encouragement.  It caused panic.  Some were shocked by the approach, fearing the worst outcome.  Instead, he ended up falling.  The arguments had little substance.  I took the risk of assuming he wouldn't actually be able to support his claims.  Sure enough, he got burned by his own rhetoric.  I wonder how it will play out this time.


Start/Stop Reality.  The fact that GM abandoned the second attempt to deliver a mild hybrid made everyone wonder what would come next.  Had the reality of failure finally caused a better step to be taken, for a genuine investment in something capable of being competitive to be made?  Short answer to that question is no.  BAS resulted in such a small return for the large cost, it required a rethink.  eAssist came as a result; supposedly, it was an improvement.  Instead, that was the same "too little, too slowly" outcome.  So today, we got this from the GM marketing manager: "Mileage benefits of a hybrid without the cost of a hybrid."  It was the description of what the new start/stop system in the 2014 Malibu would feature.  How the heck is that beneficial?  Most people go way out of their way to avoid stops, in city driving.  On the highway, they obviously don't stop.  When will such a design deliver anything competitive?  Needless to say, even the die-hard GM supporters are upset.  Knowing that Volt wasn't able to attract mainstream buyers, they've been putting hope in Malibu.  This turns of events is yet another disappointment.  With Ford doing so well selling Fusion, both regular & hybrid, their usual Camry insults aren't effective.  They feel true pressure now.  Online comments didn't provide any encouragement either.  With year-end sales results about to stir next-year expectations, there really isn't much to look forward to.  The warnings were not heeded.  Consequences of not being concerned about advancement for the masses will soon become apparent.  But in the meantime, executives will assure everyone all is well.


Mercedes E400.  That's the first ever non-GM hybrid using the Two-Mode system I've ever seen.  For that matter, it's the first non-truck too.  The encounter today was very frustrating... since the owner clearly didn't give a crap.  There were only 2 plug-in spots.  It was parked in one of them... not plugged in, since that hybrid doesn't have a plug.  The ramp was busy with Christmas shoppers and the owner simply wanted somewhere to park.  The fact that there were signs clearly posted saying the spot was only for plug-in vehicles didn't matter.  The bright green paint marking the parking area itself didn't either.  I asked security if they had a policy to do anything, like leave a note.  They sent me to guest services.  There at guest services, they sent me back to security.  That got me thinking.  Why not pretend I am security?  I could mark the vehicle's window exactly like they would, using those same bright easy wipe-off automotive markers.  (They are just $2.)  That way, everyone else would know what the person had done and no harm would come to the vehicle.  It would only hurt the owner's pride.  Of course, that's if you are polite.  I'd simply write "parking violation" and include the date.  Asking online what others would write, the suggestions were far less kind.  That choice of action is tempting, let me tell you.  When the ramp owner installs charging-stations, the expectation is those spots will be used by patrons willing to pay for the opportunity to recharge.  That Mercedes owner obviously didn't care.  Think about how frustrated an EV owner would be encountering that same situation.


Will Still Eat.  Thoughtful questions are always a nice change of pace: "With a full charge from the wall and the ICE warmed up, the PiP will still eat through about 4 miles of EV range while in HV mode.  I can't figure out why...  Has anyone else seen this?"  I posted this, which to my delight, generated a bunch of likes:  Prius PHV is a plug-in hybrid.  That means it will use the electricity in the most efficient way possible.  So... you'll see EV consumption while in HV mode.  It's a fundamental part of the design to achieve high MPG and clean emissions.  You'll also see the EV capacity reduced to a lower level for longevity.  In other words, the "full" level of 85% is not the ideal for maximum battery life.  It's in the low 70's.  So, no matter how much you try to sustain a capacity above that while driving, it will consume electricity to stay at that happy place.  Kudos to you for being so observant and asking questions.  The system is well thought out and there are many variables at play.  Of course, when we provide more information, it tends to open a can of worms.  But understanding what goes on and why certain approach decisions were made has to start somewhere.  What I find most interesting is how rapid the transition from engine to motor is when the system is warmed up.  You can take full advantage of gas to accelerate and immediate switch to electricity the moment you let up on the pedal.  Antagonists spin that as a shortcoming.  But with a such an efficient power-split design and a small battery capacity, forcing the system to rely entirely on electricity doesn't make sense.


Fundamentals.  It's always fascinating when the situation ends up coming down to the basics: "Let's not forget that after 80 years of manufacturing, GM never set a goal for efficiency in smaller sided autos."  That statement from a well-respected Prius supporter hit the automaker when it really hurts.  Pointing out a fundamental issue hurts.  That's why pointing out the problems with Two-Mode stirred so much anger with Volt enthusiasts.  They could see the parallel, but hoped somehow the same choices would result in a different outcome this time.  Clearly, they hadn't learned lessons from the past.  I sounded off with:  Squeezing more out of less has never been a real priority.  Bragging rights about engine displacement was a very big deal for over a half century.  Smaller was considered a sales hindrance to the business and a sacrifice to the consumer.  Sadly, some of that mindset persists. It's the root of some advancement problems.  That's why even just entertaining the idea of a smaller battery-pack stirs so much emotion.  Supporters fiercely resist the idea.  The fact that Toyota worked so hard to get so much irritates.  Achieving 50 MPG from a 98 horsepower engine propelling a midsize car really hurts pride.  Gaining another roughly 25 MPG by switching to lithium and adding just 3.15 kWh with a plug adds insult to injury.  To make matters worse, a common attitude shift in our society is to now say: "it is what it is".  Rather than striving overcome barriers, people are just settling for status quo.  That's very disappointing.  What happened to our pride?  We use to deliver amazing feats of engineering.  So many inventions.  So many benefits to ordinary citizens.  There are excuses.  Ugh.  A fundamental change is required.  Either it is proactively embraced or it will come in a painful way.  Emerging from the bankruptcy recovery with a heavy dependency on profits from large vehicles and nothing competitive for high-efficiency is a red flag, a warning of trouble to come.


Cadillac ELR.  Watching another disastrous rollout is a interesting historical perspective.  It's about to happen and you know the outcome will be bad.  Why?  It's because enthusiasts want the new Cadillac ELR to represent more than it was actually intended.  Setting expectations well beyond design is a recipe for disappointment.  Sadly, it opens up opportunity for those who just want to stop progress in any way possible to label the effort overall as a failure.  Why give them that?  Intrigued by the new discussion, I added:  Seeing that new plug-in hybrid is an interesting topic.  Rather than attempting to reach ordinary consumers (which clearly didn't go well for either Two-Mode or Volt), this time, GM intentionally created a niche vehicle.  Sightings on the road will be few and far between.  Being a Cadillac, what will those visiting the dealer think?  Others cars available there, like ATS and CTS, have a far lower base price.  It seems that will be the "halo" vehicle Prius was claimed to be... the difference being lots of people actually purchased Prius.  GM's expectation for ELR is only 300 per month.  What would compel a salesperson to sell it?  The sales pitch would somehow have to address Tesla offerings.  With an estimated range of 208 miles for $5,000 less, what would you say?  For $5,000 more, the estimated range increases to 265 miles.  Why bother with an engine when you can get kWh capacity like that for a similar price?  It makes you wonder what comes next.


Optima Hybrid.  My first ever sighting of this Kia offering was today.  It was quite subtle, very easy to overlook.  But with sales over 1,000 every month, you'd think there would be more.  They rarely even get mentioned those.  In a way, that's good.  The fallout from the Hyundai & Kia MPG labeling is good reason to lay low.  Collecting real-world data and building reputation is better than drawing lots of attention for misrepresentation.  With gas at just $2.84 per gallon currently, there isn't much demand anyway.  I like seeing variety like that on the road.  Each automaker must offer something worthwhile and that is a genuine attempt to do exactly that.  It takes time to get it right too.  Each consumer base is different.  But whatever the business-sustaining high-volume product is for that particular automaker, a hybrid version must be made available.  There's simply no way to survive in the upcoming market without.  People won't be willing to put up with guzzlers for too much longer.  Pressure from upcoming CAFE regulations will force the offering of a high-efficiency choice anyway.  That means each automaker must to something to remain competitive.


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