Personal Log #680
August 22, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Last Updated: Mon. 10/06/2014
page #679 page #681 BOOK INDEX
Looking Back. I wrapped it up with this: It's over. There is nothing left to debate/argue/flaunt about the first-generation Volt anymore. Attention has almost entirely shifted over to the second… and we're all wondering if the hype will begin again, or if it will finally become a realistic high-efficiency player. The last constructive comment I got from an enthusiast was the current served its purpose well as a "halo" vehicle. The catch is, we all know that is not was it was intended to be. The goal of being a mainstream seller by the third year fell apart quickly after rollout. Of course, those who refused to state goals prior to that were aware of the problems early on. That's why the "too little, too late" concern was so irritating. They knew what was delivered had veered far from both what was wanted and what was expected. What mess. To make matters worse, Prius ended up making so much more of a difference, accepting failure to make moving on to the next attempt was very difficult. Thankfully, we have now arrived at that point. Hearing that worldwide sales of Toyota hybrids came to 665,740 for the first half of the year, there's no way to deny how much "gas saved" happened as a result. The next step must be taken, but it will be in a very different market… one without tax-credits. The high-efficiency choice must be able to compete directly with that automaker's other offerings. It won't matter what choices come from elsewhere. It will come down to what's on that dealer's lot. That's why it has been so important for Toyota to focus on deeper penetration within the existing markets. Figuring out how to sell to consumers in an area already saturated is far more difficult than appealing to enthusiasts. That's why discussion of a "lite" model of Volt is no longer outright dismissed. Delay time is being used up. Being able to deliver high-volume and low-cost is becoming absolutely necessary. Toyota is already selling 1 million Prius annually. Improvements from the next-generation combined with increasing pressure on reducing emissions & consumption will make it a nice choice for ordinary consumers. Looking back, we see how Toyota stayed true to need and how GM decided to favor want instead. Looking forward, we certainly hope need is taken seriously.
Victory. Our compulsion as a society to hold out for victory rather than accept any type of compromise is a major fault. We've seen the terrible consequences of that mindset from the wars we've been involved with. Heck, we even see it with the game was play. Notice how professional sports here don't end in a tie, how overtime is required to determine a victor? The idea of congratulating both teams for a game well played isn't acceptable. One must win and the other lose. That's what we've been taught. So, achieving closure with the current generation of plug-in vehicles is quite a challenge. It's why certain individuals would rather fight to a bitter end than to welcome the opponent as a worthy adversary. Oh well. I summed point-in-time we are at now this way: The nonsense of the past is over. Most of that is due to having such thorough data available now. With so many owners sharing their real-world experiences, the hype is just a bad memory. There were groups who would generate quite a bit of hope based on vague statements. When those of us trying to keep discussions constructive asked for support evidence, we got labeled as trolls and down-voted. They were actually the troublemakers. We even had to deal with well-proven facts getting dismissed... until it was discovered how effective videos could be. Words alone weren't enough. That's become very clear on the various forums & blogs. It is now quite easy to squash a false claim by simply posting a link to a video. Evidence of the change in focus became easy to see the start of this year. The shift of attention over to sales is the hot topic of discussion now. It's not exactly constructive in all venues though, as this quote from yesterday tells us: "If even the PiP is now outselling the Volt with its pathetic range and performance, I think that leaves zero doubt that there'd be a market for a cheaper 25 mile Volt option in 2016." That's still a bit on the insulting side, but at least it's progress. The posts which followed that topic-opening statement were a mix of helpful and misguided. That particular audience still doesn't want to acknowledge the reality that Prius PHV sales remain limited to just 15 states, that some Volt sales are the result of expiring leases being replaced by new leases, and that tax-credits will expire during the life-cycle of next-gen offering. Nonetheless, the true measure of progress is finally being recognized as important. We've moved from engineering bragging-rights to what discussion that includes being practical & affordable. They say third time is the charm, but to have to endure both Two-Mode and Voltec failing to draw sales prior to that was a massive waste of resources. All the time & money that was lost due to focus on want rather than need... Anywho, being able to sum all that up and declare closure on those chapters in history is great. The more-AER and anti-blending chants have lost their audience. The market has moved on. Remember how it was based upon the "range anxiety" campaign, which proved to be a non-issue. Sales of Leaf became undeniable evidence that having an engine available was not essential. Offerings will be a wide array of configurations, even the increasing talk of a "lite" version for Volt support that. We welcome the change, especially due to it having been so painful to reach this point.
Vastly Superior. In their spirit of closure, I gave the most irritating of Volt trolls on the big Prius forum one last bit of attention. He dropped this bait with the hope someone would bite: "The normal Prius had a patch added by the factory." I obviously hit him where it hurt, because there was no response. It is now 4 days since I replied too. People like him can sometimes be helpful, as with this particular argument. Posts get refined after repeated attacks. We learn how to rebut the undermining with simple & concise messages. They eventually give up. Of course, that sometimes results in a new argument being started. But at that point, reputation for not wanting to be constructive is easier to see, like the dismissal of facts. Our bite on the bait is rather fierce. Why hold back when you know ordinary exchanges of information are not enough. Rather than accept vague, we overwhelm with detail and point out elements difficult to dispute. It typically works nowadays too. That certainly wasn't the case years ago... which is even more evidence of that chapter having come to a close. We've moved on. Will he? The lack of anything following this post is a positive sign: The regular Prius comes with a 60 kW electric motor, yet it has a small battery-pack which only delivers a fraction of that. How do you explain such obvious under-utilization? Toyota built a system that could be upgraded when cost of the battery dropped to a competitive level. The strategy of planning ahead to minimize financial risk and to fully test the system ahead of time is called good business. Calling that a "patch" is inappropriate. We can clearly see how the extra power from the larger battery improves the regular Prius without having to do anything other than pack upgrade itself. It's a package option, in a market where using electricity is still a niche and is still dependent on tax-credit incentives.
Clear Progress. The newest video and feedback to is has been quite encouraging. I added more to that sentiment, pushing even more for closure acknowledgement from others. Change is exciting... to those who embrace it. For the few who aren't ready, they either turn hostile or simply disappear. That's quite an extreme, but a pattern we're very familiar with. Other chapters of the past ended in the same fashion. In fact, that's how you know it's over. The start of the next is then filled with new voices. That progress is very encouraging. We don't want to forget how that was achieved though. You want to build off of that success, to take what was learned the next step forward. This was my contribution to that today: It's nice to have that level of detail available now. There was quite an effort in the past to undermine Prius PHV, claiming it was necessary to have a liquid cooling system for the battery-pack. Yet, those making those statements never actually provided any data. The hope was that you'd assume they had supporting evidence. In reality, they were just passing along vague & outdated bits of information. I found that rather frustrating. They were clearly trying to convey a message of superiority based on people's lack of background. It sounds likely, so it must be. But what tipped me off early on was that those same individuals would also claim Prius PHV could not climb hills using only EV. This video not only shares detail about battery-pack temperature, it also shows they were intentionally trying to mislead. After all, how many times must owners point out what they say isn't true before you have have to resort to actually showing it? Thankfully, owners of other plug-in vehicles have joined in to help. That's a very positive sign that the market is changing. We're past that initial rollout where there was something to prove. Now, it's a matter getting the attention of ordinary consumers, sharing our stories of day to day experiences.
Heat Push - Video. Any hotter outside, you'd just turn on the A/C to stay cool. Since the battery-pack in the car also uses the cabin air to stay cool, it benefits when you're comfortable. So, this particular drive with the windows open instead was the ideal for demonstrating effectiveness of cooling without the A/C at a high. To add to the observational opportunity, I started the drive with the battery-pack already warm. Recharging had just finished shortly before and the car had been sitting outside in the sun since parking that morning. Pushing the limit, I kept the engine off, climbing out of the river valley on the highway. That meant speed of travel was a little over 55 mph with the engine not running, all the power coming from electricity supplied by the battery-pack. All that combined equates to lots of heat being generated. The system is well thought out and tolerances should stay within the normal tolerances of lithium battery chemistry. But this was a collection of circumstances most people would normally avoid. Turning on the A/C when the temperature exceeds 80°F is an ordinary thing to do. Allowing the engine to run briefly when merging onto the highway or climbing a long, steep hill is too. None of that is a big deal, but I didn't for the sake of collecting data about what actually happens with the battery-pack than, by allowing a heat push. The data itself was interesting. Rather than starting with the usual battery-pack temperature in the upper 80's, it was the upper 90's. Specifically, the drive began with an extra 9°F degrees to have to deal with. The 45 to 50 mph drive out of the city to the highway was uneventful. Heat only went up by 2°F degrees. It was the merge onto the 55 mph highway with an immediate climb out of the river valley which pushed the temperature into uncharted territory. I hadn't ever observed it beyond 102°F. Driving on the flat for the next 2.5 miles using just electricity only bumped it up another degree. That was nice, especially considering the speed. Then I hit the 70 mph portion of the drive. That stretch of highway meant the engine would join in. When that happens, the battery-pack continues to be drawn from. I was curious what that would do to the temperature. Turns out, that is what pushed it to the highest I had ever seen. Watch the engine RPM when has heated coolant (for emission cleansing) to the HV warm-up temperature of 145°F, at 9.4 miles into the trip. Though brief, you can actually see the battery-pack had already reached a peak of 105.8°F and was starting to fall, even though electricity draw was continuing (as indicated by the SOC value). I don't ever plan on driving that particular scenario again. Taking advantage of the engine to climb out of the river valley is a better use of the available fuels. That way, more electricity would have been saved for while driving on the faster section of the highway, so the engine uses less gas then. The point of capturing data was well served. That peak temperature was nothing to be concerned about. But even so, it's best to keep the battery-pack cool, by doing things like turning on the A/C while driving and parking in the shade. Not recharging during the afternoon when the car is already warm is an obvious thing that's easy to avoid too. That's how the battery-pack will last the entire lifetime of the vehicle... Prius PHV - Commute Home (Heat Push)
Final Post? That daily blog is nothing but a shell of what it had been. The scene of the last stand is there. But with no more battles to be fought, the war is over. Volt is not "vastly superior" to all other plug-in offerings. Supporters are not looking at it as a major player in the team instead. That irritates enthusiasts, who have all but entirely lost their audience... including me. They are without a goal. There is no purpose there anymore. It's just a venue to repost the same topics already available on the parent website. So, I gave this parting message a try: I'm well aware that it's not in good form to use "you" when addressing a volatile topic; however, that is not the case at this particular time of transition... which we have arrived upon just recently. Having friends who own Volt, Leaf, and Tesla plug-in vehicles, it is quite obvious to me that the few here who continue fighting against change are not at all representative of the majority. That's why taking the time to address them directly is worthwhile... even if it does stir the pot the wrong way. They will be helpful later with the effort to demonstrate viability to the mainstream. Talking to ordinary consumers about hybrids, it's disheartening to hear how quickly they still dismiss them. The same old arguments about payback and replacement are sighted as their reasoning. It's quite sad, but understandable. That's why the importance of having a good relationship with those who truly want to move the industry forward is being addressed now. The high-volume vehicles are what will end up swaying the masses. A vehicle like Prius PHV will contribute quite bit to the reputation of lithium batteries. Nothing elaborate is needed. It's just an option on a familiar platform. The push to get GM to do the same has been a challenge. All along, there's been resistance to the idea of less being more, from Volt enthusiasts... those who feel more is necessary, even at the sacrifice of cost & space. Fortunately, more and more Volt supporters are helping change that turn by endorsing a "lite" model. They see the true opponent is non-hybrid sales. Too bad for those few who still want to Volt to stand alone. The goal is to make the platform common, to replace the popular traditional vehicles. That means seeking out a balance, not trying to convince people to spend more for more than what they actually need. The second model will indeed dilute the spirit of the original, but that's called progress. It will still accomplish the ultimate purpose of reducing emissions & consumption. We are now seeing attention getting drawn to Ford, as they attempt to compete directly with Prius, while also advancing their current hybrids. We see Toyota diversifying, investing in fuel-cell technology while at the same time improving their hybrid platform with a next-gen rollouts, while also experimenting with a dedicated plug-in. There is no standing alone anymore. Change is happening and market offerings will become far from clear. Each will be somewhat different in operation. What they'll all share is reduced use of non-renewable fuels and reduced smog & carbon emissions. Their adoption will be hypocritical & abrupt too, just like we saw with handheld devices. Remember the PDA years? Most people were clueless about their potential. Then suddenly, we see them everywhere in the form of smart-phones. That's because they changed to become extremely practical by being made to closely match ordinary consumer interest and were offered in a wide array of choices.
Groundwork. Reading this from a Ford spokeswoman today made me wonder: "Ford has done more technological development in the last 10 years than Toyota". She went on to add that Toyota's latest Prius redesign failed to provide a significant increase miles-per-gallon. Sadly, I don't have the exact quote for that, though there was this which followed: "Basically, give me the Fiesta they have now with the 1-liter engine, and I think they can get 60-plus mpg ratings, which Toyota needs to get with the next Prius. Ford has laid more groundwork for its next hybrid than Toyota." That's obviously far from the vague comments provided by GM, but what difference does it really make... since that large of a MPG increase wasn't even a goal. Toyota clearly stated their primary objective was cost-reduction. Who ever said 60 was needed in any regard? For that matter, who said it is later either? The market has been begging for competitive prices. A large increase with efficiency won't sway those who have a budget. Mainstream buyers shop with price as a high priority. Efficiency is nice, but it's far from being a compelling feature. The attitude of being good enough is all too clear. As for those "more" comments, since when does quantity of work make any difference? In fact, having less is the point. You want a well thought out platform to build upon. The buzzword for that is "future proofing" a design. It's how business is effective and risks are minimized. Stepping up to the challenge is worthy of praise, but already having prepared for it is often overlooked. It often results in criticism too, from those who don't consider the industry as a whole. Hopefully, Ford will end being in a position to compete directly. Everyone will benefit from having a variety of choices for middle-market.