Personal Log  #670

May 22, 2014  -  June 4, 2014

Last Updated: Weds. 9/10/2014

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Battery Temperature Data.  The warm weather has stirred interest in battery temperature data.  Not having it has left an opening for undermining attacks.  A rather blatant troll has been claiming during both recharging and driving, Prius will suffer... since it only using air for cooling, rather than liquid like his Volt.  To us, that clearly isn't a problem or even an exposure.  Toyota took that need to keep battery temperature in check all throughout the design process.  Nothing was ever sacrificed.  But since Leaf has been dealing with extreme examples (Arizona heat) and it only uses air to cool, supposedly the situation is the same.  It clearly isn't.  Prius obviously has an engine available to supplement & protect.  But those few remaining Volt enthusiasts are quite desperate to impede success.  This particular attack shouldn't last long.  I'm well equipped for sharing this type of data.  All I really need is some cooperative weather.  As I play, my "what to look for" information will be refined.  But the initial collection has already been quite helpful.  This is what I posted today, along with the raw data I captured using the app on my phone and a bluetooth OBDII adaptor:  I'll have a chance at some point to generate some graphs from the data.  It should go a long way toward ending the FUD being spread due to lack of real-world data and such a wide variety of chemistry types available.  In the meantime, I'll keep gathering.  The other day on the drive home, it was 76°F out.  I did hill climbing and a bit of 55 mph along the way, staying in EV for the entire capacity.  The battery-pack temperature stayed just below the 100°F mark.  I believe that is the normal operating expectation for continuous discharge of the type in Prius.  We'll see what happens when it gets hotter out.  But since most people simply use their A/C and the engine is there to protect the battery-pack, it's hardly a concern the rhetoric would lead us to believe.


Cargo Capacity.  It was quite amusing to exploit the large interior of the Prius today.  We ordered an 11-foot offset umbrella for the backyard.  It came in a box, 75 pounds and just a little over 9 feet long.  I was prepared to do my first ever drive with the hatch open.  That would have been interesting, especially on such a pleasant evening.  I haven't done that since the early 90's, back when I owned a '84 Dodge Omni.  That old car taught me the value of having a hatch.  It was very handy, especially in college.  But that design then was rather a pain.  It didn't having a flat floor.  You had to lower & lift cargo in over a ledge.  That limited what you could carry, since the interior wasn't flush with the seats.  Coincidently, that's the way Volt is configured.  Talking about an outdated approach.  Anywho, the flat in Prius made loading the large box a breeze.  It just slid right in... so deep, I could almost shut the hatch.  Hmm?  Curious, I lifted the box's edge onto the front dashboard.  Sure enough, the Prius swallowed it up entirely.  Cool.  I was thrilled how convenient it turned out to be.  Both long & heavy isn't a combination many cars could actually handle.  For that matter, I wonder what the heck you'd do to transport it a bigger vehicle.  Lowering the front seat like I did in the Prius, to match up with the cargo area isn't possible.  That wouldn't work with a SUV either.  Interesting, eh?


May Sales.  It has been a waste of time pointing out that Volt sales have been flat for a very long time.  Even the $5,000 price drop didn't make any difference.  There was an initial spike for the intended inventory reduction, then it went right back to the 1,600 to 1,700 per month level is had been selling at prior to that.  No growth is real the problem... a point which last month's sales made especially clear.  Everyone assumed PHV would plummet due to the HOV stickers no longer being available; instead, they skyrocketed.  2,692 for the plug-in model Prius was so many more than Volt's 1,684 that it wasn't worth the effort to discuss.  The thought is that Toyota offered generous incentives, which make sense when trying to proactively avoid model-year inventory surplus.  That begs the question of what will happen with ELR.  Only 52 were purchased and production continued as scheduled anyway.  The supply estimate now puts it at 903 days.  Falling well short of the anticipated 200 per month hurts.  But to make matters even worse, roughly 80% of the purchases came from Volt owners.  The situation is nuts.  Thankfully, the regular model Prius is maintaining a rate of triple that of the mainstream minimum.  15,944 is a solid number.  The smaller C model is creeping up.  Sales were 4,590.  Achieving the 5,000 per-month mark is becoming quite realistic.  V is climbing too, but lower at 3,567 for the month.  It was nice to see Camry-Hybrid at 5,199 and Fusion-Hybrid at 4,641.  Considering the strong growth in the overall market, that's important.  Traditional cars continue to mount quite an offensive... something the Volt enthusiasts shrugged off as a non-issue, an effort to undermine.  Clearly, they were wrong... very wrong.  Providing hope though was Leaf sales, at an impressive at 3,117.  Realistically though, the market isn't ready for plugging.  Far too many misconceptions combined with cost barriers keep impair progress.  That's why the one-size-fits-all GM strategy was always such a concern.  The gamble was a risk that failed to deliver.  Now the consequences are evident.  Next year certainly will be interesting.  In the meantime, I'm looking forward to answering questions and collecting data for those curious about PHV.  The endorsement it provides for mainstream acceptance of lithium batteries and plug simplicity is great.


Carbon Emissions.  It's about time.  We got federal weigh in on the long fought against need to reduce carbon emissions.  Like with rhetoric in the past, fear continues to be spread that jobs will be lost as a result of need standards & regulations.  In reality, new jobs will be created.  But past examples of that being true are simply ignored.  I personally found the timing amusing.  Yesterday was the 5-year anniversary of GM having officially declared bankruptcy.  Executives claimed it would not be a bailout, that no money would be lost as a result of the restructure.  Not only was that far from what actually happened, it also ended up revealing a troubling past which carried over to the new GM.  They again are facing uncertainty with the future.  But now, many industries are impacted, not just automotive.  Our dependency on non-renewable fuel that's polluting our air with both breathing-related and climate-altering problems for our children to deal with isn't comforting.  Think about how long of a delay there will be between intent and actual implementation.  We'll be generating electricity with dirty coal and producing traditional guzzlers for many years to come.  It's quite disturbing, especially when people resist change simply from the fear of it.  Thank goodness we have a large fleet of Prius helping to prove change isn't that big of a deal.


Full Charge.  What a change.  The fallout of "more EV" is getting interesting.  When the belief was that Volt had more to offer, attention to detail about Prius was difficult to maintain.  The enthusiasts simply drown out man of the discussions.  But as they quiet, we finally get an opportunity.  Today, there was a new thread about the "full" indicator for PHV.  Some new owners totally overlook the difference between full EV and full HV.  They assume there's only just one representation for battery-capacity.  I was happy to provide samples of each.  It's nice having a collection of photos readily available to share online.  This is what I included as a description for them:  Even though the bottom one appears to displaying a high charge-level, it really isn't.  In fact, there's less electricity available.  Notice the horizontal lines and the lack of an EV mile estimate?  If Toyota hadn't done that, the battery gauge would be worthless during HV driving, since it would appear totally empty.  The original plug-in model did exactly that.  It was overwhelmingly suggested to provide a multi-appearance design like this instead.  That way, you know when both EV and HV modes are high & low for their respective capacities.


When To Charge?  I'm really enjoying the PHV discussion lately.  I joined in with:  Allowing the battery to rest (known as a "cold soak") prior to recharging is helpful.  Since evening electricity rates are lower anyway, that's a win-win situation.  The timer makes that quite convenient too.  Just hit the button and plug in before you leave the car for the evening.  As for running it down to "empty", the system prevents the battery-pack from hitting the common lows you see in portable devices.  The assumption that 0% is fully depleted is quite common.  What actually happens is the engine fires up, switching from EV to HV mode automatically, when the charge-level drops to 23.5%.  That helps with longevity.  Another approach to slow the aging process is never fully recharging.  The system automatically stops at 85%.  Staying well away from 100% capacity is known to be quite beneficial, something we don't take a second thought about with other rechargeable devices.  Not allowing that with Prius is how the design avoids ever needing battery replacement.  With respect to system "switching back & forth", that type of HV energy activity is just shallow touching of the battery-pack.  Being just a tiny fraction of the electricity transfer during plug-in recharging and sustained EV draw, you can still have a big influence.  You can choose when to recharge and push the EV/HV button.  Thanks for starting this thread.  It's nice to see some back-to-the-basic questions being asked.


Soapbox.  The fall of Volt has provided lots of opportunity on the soapbox.  It's quite remarkable how the audience changes with hype turns into reality shock.  Most of those who didn't heed the warnings vanish, leaving the few stubborn ones left rather desperate.  I posted this on that thread where the trolling has been quite active lately:  Some people take failing to meet goals harder than others.  Watching the movement of goal-posts for Volt over the past few years has been quite intriguing.  The shortcomings we pointed out back then have since been confirmed.  Ending the reign of traditional vehicles took much more than they wanted to recognize.  We all know Toyota stayed true to that need to deliver a clean high-efficiency vehicle for the masses.  That has always meant it must be reliable, practical, and affordable.  GM did a fairly decent job of addressing that first requirement but neglected the two in the process.  So, we've had to deal with the fallout and delay until the next generation.  In the meantime, Toyota continues to refine Prius, which continues to sell at mainstream volume.  We know the next generation will get an engine with improved thermal efficiency, retaining its advantage over their non-hybrid offerings.  We also know a great deal of effort is being expended to deliver better batteries.  The hybrid system itself will get upgrades as well.  So what if they are also pursuing fuel-cell technology at the same time or not investing heavily in EV-only vehicles.  The point is to keep delivering choices people will actually purchase in large quantity today, since that's what really changes the market... not something that will eventually become competitive.  Think about the millions upon millions of cells being produced for battery-packs from those hybrids.  That's what really makes a difference.  The plug-in model won't need to wait until a next generation either.  When demand for plugging increases, they already a well-established vehicle to leverage advantage from.  It's basically just a package upgrade with easy to understand benefits.  Those of us already driving them are providing reliability data too.  I'm thankful most of the rhetoric, but will be glad when all of it is just a memory.  Some people take longer.  At least there's plenty of evidence showing what needs are not being met.  Watch the reaction to sales results of the month concluding today.  The harsh reality of goals not being met will be quite clear.


Backward.  However the market should be considered or what people have to say, time marches on.  The hostile attacks are long gone.  The seemingly endless debates over.  Sales have revealed the true nature of emission & efficiency efforts.  Traditional vehicles continue to mount a massive offensive.  What's done is done.  Those who are comfortable embracing the past far outnumber those hoping for progress forward.  It's a sad reality.  Fortunately, the technology employing batteries & motors continues to improve.  So whether or not there's wide acceptance yet, at least the solution itself becomes more and more competitive.  Those days of Volt propaganda draw lots of attention from ordinary consumers.  That backfired though, since not much became of it.  They saw the price and the compact size, then dismissed it the same way enthusiasts had dismissed Prius.  It's a cruel irony.  The outcome is a step backward too.  Now traditional vehicles have an even stronger foothold.  It's that "too little, too slowly" which never goes away... returning us to the backward design.  Sacrifices were made with the hope of rapid advancement.  That didn't happen.  Not wanting to get sucked into that mess becomes increasingly clear each time the same old talking points are repeated.  So, what's next?


Summing It Up.  The only audience left for Volt at this point seems to be the big Prius forum.  The news has dried up.  We really are moving on.  Hooray!  The catch is, a few still don't get it.  They still believe heavy dependency on EV without concern for the electricity consumption itself or cost of the battery-pack is perfectly fine.  The rest of us see it this way: "Volt transaxle is a step backward.  It reduces both gas and electricity efficiency in attempt to increase EV ratio.  The big non-sense MPG displayed in-car got people greenwashed, creating an illusion that it is more efficient due to higher MPG and using less gas."  The intent never has been to do anything other than point out priorities.  But you know how it is when there are a few who would rather go down fighting than admit having to reconsider choices.  Oh well.  To that, I say:  The selling points for Volt have been "EV at all speeds" and MPG that's "vastly superior".  So, it's rather ironic that those are actually both gas & electric efficiency sacrifices.  The mindset of faster & higher being better is a marketing problem we'll likely have to deal with for many years to come.  People don't recognize the benefits of blending.  They see MPGe values and simply dismiss them due to lack of understanding what they actually represent.  Greenwashing has been a very effective tool in the past.  People pass along and contribute to the misleading without even realizing what they took part in.  The effort feeds upon itself, leading us down a path we assume is better without taking the time to verify whether it actually is.  That step backward will eventually reveal itself as a shortcoming.  The cost aspect of it is already starting to become apparent. In the meantime, we have to find a way of dealing with the illusion.


eAssist Abandoned.  This second-generation design of BAS didn't work out either.  It was supposed to be a low-cost mild hybrid.  The catch was, the cost ended up too high and the benefit only minor.  All that hype ended up being a complete waste.  GM has decided to just deliver start-stop now instead... the very technology automakers boasted about being superior to Prius 13 years ago.  It's nothing but an system that turns the engine off, then back on, when you're stuck in stop & slow traffic.  So if you're driving along at a steady pace, there's no efficiency improvement.  No mention has been made about the impact to emissions.  It's quite unlikely that the system spins the engine up to idle speeds, then waits until oil-pressure is established prior to introducing fuel & spark.  Neither the starter-motor nor the battery could be big enough for that.  There isn't a traction-motor to provide propulsion power in the meantime either.  But it's still better to abandon eAssist, rather than further deploy a technology with no potential for improvement.  At least start-stop is cheap, easy to deploy across the fleet, and will save some fuel for those in lines at drive-thrus and waiting on highway ramps.


70-100 Category.  With every plug-in argument imaginable coming from Volt enthusiasts having been beaten to death countless times already, it's no surprise that something entirely new emerged.  After all, so many have chosen to ignore the rhetoric, it was pointless rehashing any of it... though they certainly tried to stir up no interest on those disproven topics.  Anywho, we got the claim that the "70 to 100 mile" category is what Volt was designed to compete with, that all along buyers of that range EV were the target.  Spin of that nature certainly wasn't expected.  But then again, that was way the "Who?" question was asked so frequently.  Of course, it came from someone who hadn't participated in anything related to Volt until after rollout began.  So, anytime history is brought up, it's his interpretation of the past looking back rather than an account of having actually witnessed it.  That's prone to distortion.  In this case, it was the belief that such a category existed all along.  He can have credit for coming up with something original, but that certainly isn't what actually happened.  Awareness of heater impact didn't take hold until well after sales began.  Awareness of cost certainly wasn't a factor of capacity until shortly before sales began.  There wasn't anything delivering 200 miles either, until Tesla came along well afterward.  To claim that such a grouping of EV range existed way back in 2007 achieves what?  Why are there even any attempts to change history at this point?  Needless to say, I'm not going for that bait.  What does it matter anyway?  Sales are what measures success in the end, not categories.


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