Personal Log  #674

June 25, 2014  -  July 1, 2014

Last Updated: Weds. 9/10/2014

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Diversity.  Certain on-going arguments get quite tiring.  When you know the person simply isn't interested in more than just serving enthusiasts and doesn't care that an automaker is ultimately required to seek sustainable profit, it's difficult to respond.  They aren't interested in economics.  That desire to push engineering achievement and to place reputation above actual sales prevents much of any type of construction discussion.  That made reading this a challenge: "So Toyota is later to market, and you comment how the earlier estimates were optimistic. GM is delayed and it is evidence of their total incompetence??"  Yet again, it comes down to the refusal to recognize audience.  But that is what you get coming from an early adopter of Volt in many cases.  The expectation from early purchasers was strong sales from that one particular configuration.  Even the suggestion of offering a second model was considered an attempt to undermine and promote Prius.  It was quite absurd back then.  That group truly thought the available production capacity of 120,000 annually would actually be needed by the third year.  Reality wasn't so kind.  Of course, they didn't have an understanding of who sales would need to come from.  So, all I could really do was respond with this:  LACK OF DIVERSITY has been the complaint all along for the target audience of mainstream consumers.  GM's bet-the-farm approach has proven a terrible risk.  Toyota didn't do that.  Toyota chose to offer a variety of hybrids instead: Prius, Prius PHV, Prius c, Prius v, Camry hybrid, Avalon hybrid, Highlander hybrid.  Don't be defending GM about their lack of choice for mainstream consumers or the consequences they now face.  Don't forget about the Lexus models, including a large RWD sedan, plus the AWD minivan in Japan from Toyota either.  Who's making an effort to reach middle-market right now?


8.2 Million More.  The recalls from GM continue to grow.  It's a truly bizarre situation.  How many more will there be?  Does it make any difference at this point?  What are the nature of the changes required?  In the end, who will be paying for it?  Cost of having to do such a large number of part replacements will be incredible.  The problem is difficult to even grasp.  Most people believed a car purchase was just like any other product... you buy it, then change oil and rotate tires.  The idea of a fundamental component having to be updated or replaced was given the stigma of failure.  So, it makes sense that automakers have avoided addressing change on that scale.  After the initial sale, nothing more was expected from either party.  That's finally changing.  After all, how many times does the software on your phone get updated?  Shouldn't it be an expectation to get updates for your vehicle too?  Some have wondered if aftermarket type hardware improvements would ever be offered from an automaker.  Perhaps this is the start of that.  Having some post-purchase offerings available by choice could make the mandatory type easier to accept.  We'll see how this round of recalls plays out.  Hopefully, it will stimulate change.


Delay.  That's a popular topic of discussion now... from Toyota just having announced a 6-month delay, pushing the release of the next generation Prius to the end of next year.  I summed up my observation of the situation and the big picture posting:  This time next year seemed a bit on the optimistic side, considering all the other things happening in the market now and expected to unfold by then.  Early Fall was realistic.  So, end of year isn't too far off.  As for not getting the plug-in model right away... that's good news from my perspective... though watching others upgrade to the new regular model in the meantime will certainly be a test of patience.  Getting it right for the masses is absolutely essential for rollout at this stage.  We've already seen home much of a mess GM is dealing with from Volt not being targeted correctly.  Ford hasn't exactly had hit the bull's-eye either.  Toyota has come closest with being able to deliver something capable of reaching a very wide audience.  Mainstream acceptance is essential with the next generation.  That means high-volume purchases, able to compete directly with traditional vehicles, and no dependency on tax-credits.  The regular model of Prius is already positioned for that.  The plug-in model is demonstrating the potential.  Waiting that plug-in means not getting sucked into fallout from other automakers and having the extra time to refine the new design.  We know that lithium battery chemistry continues to improve and the addition of super-capacitors has been experimented with.  Those are worth the wait.  Cost reduction is obviously too.  Then there's the convenience wireless charging has to offer.  Also overlooked is the opportunity lost from current PHV owners.  Upgrading so soon isn't an option for many households.  An extra year could make all the difference.  Many would have had theirs for around 3 years at that point.  It will still have retained decent resale value and not be too old to just be better off keeping.  That's a good time to capitalize on those seeking the latest & greatest.  Like with my 2001 upgrade to the 2004, then the 2010, then the 2012 plug-in, each was totally worth it.  This won't be any different.  he wait will seem like forever, but the benefit from balance of purchase priorities will be worth it.


Charge Time.  It's a complicated topic... with an endless source of individuals wanting to simplify, like: "Your PIP will full charge in 1.5hrs vs 3hrs on stock 120v charging."  So many factors are left out.  That makes even the seemingly straight-forward decision of whether or not to upgrade your home charging a challenge.  All I could do was respond with this and hope it somehow helped:  That's not enough information required to make a proper decision about upgrading.  1.5 hours will provide roughly 75% capacity recharge from the standard 120-volt connection.  Knowing that it recharges faster (high kWh rate) at first, then slows down later is important to know.  2.3 hours has been the 100% capacity recharge time for me over the past 2 years.  That 3-hour rating is only for locations with sub-standard electrical systems or recharging in extreme heat.  So, I really haven't found the need.  Also, I've also been waiting for the 240-volt system prices to come down (which they have quite a bit recently) and offer smart options.  Lastly, the ability for 2 rechargers to utilize a single 240-volt line will be available for consumer use; currently at some point, we're seeing them become common for the commercial rechargers now.  That's an obvious expense saver for the family with two plug-in vehicles.


Climate Change.  The cost of inaction certainly has been making the news lately.  Sadly, there isn't really that much to say or anything new to look forward too.  We can see symptoms of the bigger problem now.  Some people just plain don't care though.  Why change anything when it hasn't been proven beyond a doubt?  I grew up with that nonsense about smoking.  There was flat out denial about the health consequences, even though evidence confirming it was all around.  An excuse to dismiss each and every circumstance would be offered... until they grew tired of defending.  Then they just quietly went about their bad habit.  How is guzzling & polluting any different?  We know oil is obtained from sources we shouldn't be funding and by means we shouldn't support.  Yet, we do anyway.  We know the emissions are contributing to breathing-related problems too.  So even without the added consequence of climate-change, the reasons to change are quite strong.  Seeing the increase in frequency & magnitude of storms just gets ignored.  Shortages of water in some places and flooding in others is becoming so common, it doesn't stir much attention anymore.  The situation is disappointing.  Then when you read about the fights to prevent EPA & CARB regulations, it makes you feel sick.  Propaganda has clouded people's judgment.  Talking points make the situation easy to dismiss.  Not wanting to take action is a sign of trouble to come.  Bummer.


Replacement Pack.  There was a press release from Nissan for Leaf today.  That announced battery replacement details, complete with the price.  I sounded off on the thread started to discuss that with:  I get the impression the Nissan battery-pack replacement is future-priced, selling it now at a price that will eventually become profitable.  After all, how many owners would actually purchase one right away anyway?  Cost is likely higher than price currently reflects, but there's no harm from that.  In fact, there won't be any need to price adjust later or deal with any of the online nonsense we routinely see with changes being forgotten, overlooked, or intentionally omitted.  Subsidizing a little is just another form of warranty.  Being able to upgrade with replacement is an interesting (and much hoped for) twist.  Support of older vehicles from on-going improvement with battery chemistry is great.  It adds a new dimension to automotive practices.  We may come to expect mid-cycle upgrades at some point.  At the moment, that's just thought of as a bonus.  Everyone is use to having to wait until the next generation.  This will likely raise resell value too.  If nothing else, it's nice knowing with this level of certainly.  That unknown was always an opportunity to undermine & mislead in the past.  Having such a specific expectation will help prevent some FUD nonsense.


On The Offensive.  I waited a few days, allowing others the opportunity to chime in before I pounced.  This GM salesperson has been pushing Volt by belittling Prius for years.  It continues, despite the protests of his own forum companions posting frustrated messages in response to his.  The recent belittle attempt was listing the variety of plug-in hybrids available, with this at the bottom: "7) Toyota Prius Plug-In: EPA All Electric Range- 0 – 6 Miles".  That frustrated me, but at the same time was amusing.  He intentionally excluded BMW i3 since it was supposed just a city car and had too small of a gas tank.  The reality that it offers a 72-mile EV range from its 22 kWh battery-pack obviously irritates the heck out of him.  But we'll address that at some other time, if necessary.  Today, it was all about calling out his behavior toward Prius:  I'm pleased to be the one to point out that there have been a some Volt owners complaining about your continued misrepresentation of Prius PHV.  It looks quite desperate to blatantly disregard total capacity by posting only part of the information available from the EPA.  That omission is clearly an attempt to undermine.  There's no excuse.  Volt delivers 38 miles of EV from the 16.5 kWh battery-pack.  Owners often post about exceeding that EPA rating.  Looking at capacity the same way, the 4.4 kWh battery-pack in Prius delivers 10.1 miles.  That clearly isn't 6, not even close.  The fact that Prius weighs less and has a more efficient electrical system is how the EPA rating of 11-mile value comes into play.  But you never mention any of that.  Tired of your on-going greenwash effort, I've come up with an simple way of capturing both video and a stream of data while I drive.  Combine all that with some photos & comments, I've got a handy tool for pointing out Prius PHV performs far better than you care to admit.  Remember, the point is to find allies in support of affordable solutions using electricity.  Prius PHV does a fantastic job of endorsing lithium batteries for plugging in.  This morning's filming was an 18-mile course, a round-trip I filmed many times in the past with my 2010 Prius.  It's a mix of suburb roads, rolling hills on a 55 mph country highway, along with some city street.  The route is actually what I do when I go to the coffeeshop to hangout while blogging.  So, it is what I normally drive anyway.  The result was an overall average of 146 MPG... with 13 of those miles EV... double your repeated misrepresentation of just 6 miles... all of which I now have video of to share.  Failing to include capacity information will reveal how desperate the claims of just 6 really are.  Stop doing it.  This nonsense has gone on for far too long.


More Recalls!  The total is now at 48 this year for GM.  Whoa!  That affects over 20 million vehicles.  What a disaster.  The struggle to rebuild both reputation and profitability is growing more and more of a challenge.  How in the world does an automaker deal with problems on such a large scale?  It's confusing as heck too.  Earlier this week, Cruze sales had to be halted due to the recall affecting their airbags.  Yesterday, it was their new Pickups and SUVs needing an update to fix a software glitch with the transmission.  There has also been some obscure recalls, like faulty windshield-wiper modules and an insufficient weld allowing a shock-absorber to fracture.  The variety of issues and knowing what years of what vehicles are included is a mess.  The situation is quite confusing right now, as it's all fresh in everyone's mind.  Just imagine what things will be looking back a year from now.  Misinformation will be abundant.  There's simply no way to effectively deal with the magnitude.  It makes the recall for Toyota a few years back little tiny in comparison.  The mess continues to get worse too.  Ugh.


Battle of the Uninformed.  One is a well know troll, uninterested in real-world data.  The other simply doesn't understand how the hybrid system works.  Watching the two of them attack each other on the big Prius forum is something I've never seen before.  After so many years, it's quite an eye-opener to actually encounter something genuinely new.  I was somewhat blown away.  The arguments were senseless, neither interested in learning anything.  They were holding to their assumptions and refused to consider the possibility of being incorrect.  One has been a troublemaker since the very beginning... a die-hard diesel supporter and a fierce backer of Honda.  So, his stance remains clear.  As for the other, he's actually... believe it or not... a plug-in Prius owner.  Several times now, I've challenged his claims.  For some reason, there's no effort to find out why.  He simply ignores the information provided.  It's a bizarre situation to watch play out.  Neither will give in.  They'll likely end up escalating the banter.  I suspect the insults will grow to the hostile level, much like I encountered when posting on the big GM forum and they didn't like me pointing out certain realities.  Who knew something like this could happen?


Publishing Greenwash.  Reading this today was quite frustrating: "Hybrids are great at that kind of driving, which is why they get great mileage ratings from EPA tests.  But in the real world, they have to keep up with contemporary traffic, which tends to burn more gas.  Hybrids are particularly handicapped on highways, where high speeds require their gas engines to kick in and, proportionally, do more work than standard vehicles."  Sadly, things like that are emerging as a result of Ford having to lower MPG ratings on their hybrids.  It's fallout which could have been avoided.  But since the advertising was so intense on unverified numbers, that is now too late.  Other hybrids like Prius will have to deal with false claims.  Reluctantly, I contributed some insight about the situation:  Using the problem from Ford as anti-hybrid fodder is no surprise.  It will likely linger on for quite awhile too, despite no substance with respect to Prius.  Heck, having credibility hasn't even mattered in the past.  I don't see how this will be any different.  Fortunately, the improved internet resources nowadays does at least help us deal with the rhetoric.  The nonsense will never end though.  Some will fight change to the bitter end.


$70,000 FCV.  Diversification is a topic not well accepted in online discussions.  After all, looking at the big picture often leads to disappointment.  Heck, even in this case it could.  That price for Toyota's first fuel-cell vehicle took some people off guard.  Of course, it could be that wrecks their arguments.  Recently, the spin has been that Toyota will be abandoning hybrids in favor of fuel-cells.  That made no sense what so ever.  Offering a variety of choices and not risking everything on a single approach has never been a wise business risk.  After all, look at how hard of a lesson to learn that has been for GM.  Anywho, the price will be $70,000.  That makes it overwhelming clear there won't be a consumer clash of any sort.  The audience will be quite different.  It's a good way to build reputation and gather lots of real-world experience.  Prius will continue to evolve in the meantime.  It's a platform with much to offer still.  Some of the motor/electric technology will overlap too, providing a mutual benefit.  FCV (fuel cell vehicle) is in the very early stages for consumers.  It's over 150 years old for the scientific community and has traveled to the moon and back.  But being affordable and able to deal with the craziness of our commutes is an entirely different matter.  That's why a single offering isn't realistic.  Diversifying is a must.  Early next year, Japanese consumers will see the first.  Europe and the United States will come later in the Summer.  The timing will be interesting... since a new Prius will be on the way too.


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