Prius Personal Log  #682

September 21, 2014  -  September 30, 2014

Last Updated: Mon. 10/06/2014

    page #681         page #683        BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 



No News, goals.  We all know the "over promise, under deliver" reputation and the "too little, too slow" concern.  Like the vaporware claims, we knew early on something was wrong.  There's simply no way to accomplish so much with such a lack of clarity.  It starts when you cannot even answer the question of who.  What's the point if you don't understand the audience?  Of course, we've always known.  Some just didn't want to admit the first-generation was directed at a niche.  It should have been so easy to see that want had taken the place of need.  That's because sales of mainstream vehicles are not exciting.  Being common means not standing out.  That was a direct contradiction to what stirred excitement.  So, what mention it now?  The reason is these upcoming announcements about second-generation plug-in hybrids are really important.  The goal to survive without tax-credits or state-incentives should not be taken lightly.  The designs must be capable of competing.  No one will care about conquest-sales or bragging-rights.  Success will be based upon acceptance from ordinary middle-market consumers.


No News, reach.  It's a waste of time bothering with that daily blog.  There's nothing new and the audience is tiny now.  Reflecting upon the comments still posted worthwhile though:  Saying that GM prided itself on its "transparency" is a good way of looking at the situation.  Thanks for that perspective.  They did indeed share quite a bit of detail on the design as it was being developed.  The catch was, actual operation information wasn't shared.  Certain things were clearly avoided.  When the question of depleted MPG was brought up, there was an obvious effort to change the topic.  When the question of cold-temperature was asked, it simply fell on deaf ears.  When revelations of direct-drive and sticker-price came about, that was proof of the transparency not actually providing facts with respect to goals.  Too many vitals hadn't been shared.  Ultimately, it comes down to matching audience with expectations.  GM had chosen to focus on enthusiasts for the first generation, but hoped somehow that mainstream consumers would be drawn to the same appeal.  That didn't work.


No News, situation.  We're in that dead-zone now, where there's nothing for the spotlight to shine on.  That's putting the "upstage" group at a loss.  So, they pretend none of the previous rhetoric or hype ever happened.  Obviously, it's the next-generation Volt enthusiasts attempting to draw attention.  We'll be back to the "vastly superior" nonsense in no time.  Flaunting EV range & purity is far more rewarding than having to address goals and acknowledge business need.  In other words, high-volume sales to ordinary consumers is still a taboo topic.  Somehow, GM will magically deliver a product they'll be proud of that will also appeal to the mainstream.  Being 2 entirely different groups of buyers, with mutually exclusive purchase priorities, still isn't seen to be a problem.  Ugh.  The silence from GM makes it worse.  The so-called transparency from before is no longer offered.  They aren't saying anything anymore.  In a way, that's good... since those vague hints of the past ended up doing more harm than good.


Fact or Rumor?  Reading this today was annoying: "GM previously announced the second generation Volt will be able to travel on electric power between 50 to 60 miles (80 to 96 km) or even more whereas the current model can cover up to 38 miles (61 km)."  There was nothing ever but a vague mention about this option being explored.  That's it.  There was no promise of any sort.  But then again, the same thing happened many times in the past with Volt.  People built up hype based upon hope, nothing of substance.  Even so, properly identifying what was actually promised verses what was thought to be a promise was quite a challenge... hence all the entries here documenting events & announcements while they played out, rather than trying to remember detail long afterward.  It should be interesting to see how things play out as the Auto Show circuit proceeds.  It's just starting now.


In-Vehicle Internet.  When there isn't much else to attract customers, trying new things is reasonable.  This one is a strange and doesn't seem to offer anything worthwhile.  It's the option of having the car provide 4G LTE service.  On the Volt blog, I asked: "What's the benefit of having a separate plan tied to your vehicle?"  Now, 2 hours later, still nothing.  That abruptly brought the thread to a halt, no posts since.  Why would you pay extra for something you wouldn't be able to use much, especially when alternatives are already readily available?  I followed with this:  I already have a shared data-plan for the family.  Each phone works as a mobile hotspot without any extra fee.  You just flip a switch and have a secure internet connection available for your other devices to use anywhere you go.  I can't imagine having to stay within range of the car.  With the phone, you can be quite mobile, especially when carrying along a USB battery.


Brisk.  It's nice getting comments like this: "In the Prius, accelerating quickly, especially above certain power levels, is slightly less efficient..."  But you never really know where replies will go.  Some of the time, context simply doesn't match.  Thinking big picture is often a problem, so you end up arguing with the person.  People tend to focus on the moment, rather than considering final results.  Hoping for the best, I replied with:  That does NOT take OVERALL efficiency into account though.  Prius is a hybrid with a power-split-device, adding into the system a generator and battery-pack along with the traction motor.  So, that engine-alone efficiency assessment does not apply.  When the engine goes beyond the most efficient state of operation, there isn't as much of a loss.  It seeks a higher RPM to reduce that, which as a result creates power not needed for propulsion.  The unneeded power is converted to electricity for use later, something a traditional vehicle cannot take advantage of.  In other words, the penalty can actually be a wash or even a modest gain under the right circumstances.


Labels.  The topic of "EREV" got stirred up again.  There are some dead set in their belief of what a vehicle of that type is.  When you push for details, their definition falls apart.  When you point out contradictions, they just brush them off.  It's quite frustrating how they absolutely refuse to be construction.  The reason why is obvious.  Of course, when I pointed it out today, the reaction was explosive.  No surprise.  Labels have always been a really big deal, even if they don't actually amount to anything.  Oh well.  Here's what I posted... on that now quite hostile daily blog for Volt:  Arguing semantics is a very old greenwashing tactic.  The purpose is to divert attention away from the topic.  Rather than address actual results of whatever technology, discussions end up chasing label red-herrings instead.  Notice how specifics are avoided, how vague descriptions actually are?  There is no official definition, nor should it make any difference anyway.  It's the outcome that counts, not what marketing name is used.  Thankfully, the emission ratings don't succumb to that nonsense.  Rating categories are the same.  How that level of clean is achieved doesn't matter.  The point is the goal was accomplished.  Hopefully, the same will happen with plug-in hybrids.  It shouldn't matter how the gas & electricity is actually utilized.  The goal is to significantly reduce emissions & consumption.


Being Competitive.  That more-is-better mentality is very difficult to overcome.  It's far to easy to dismiss based upon a single attribute.  Remember how computers we're rated solely upon CPU speed long ago?  This is the message of being competitive spreading now: "Whatever Toyota has planned, they need to increase the EV range just to stay on top cause the other manufacturers are catching up & passing Toyota."  Simply offering larger capacity batteries isn't a solution.  Look at the mess we ended up in from cars & trucks growing larger.  That wasn't actually an improvement.  In fact, it made dealing with emissions & efficiency even more difficult.  We don't need a step in the wrong direction like that again.  Substituting one fuel for another isn't really a fix.  Expecting that to be competitive is a setup for disappoint.  This is how I put it:  Seeing that greenwash message spread is disappointing.  Do you just happen to know when or how that belief was passed along to you?  More is not necessarily better and we certainly don't want to fall into the same trap as we did with speed & horsepower.  This market is quite gullible, easy to convince that bigger is a sign of leadership.  Misplaced priorities was a big contributor to automotive industry problems in the past.  Let's not repeat those mistakes.  Those plug-in hybrids with larger battery-packs already are faced with the reality of not having anything competitive to sell and heavy dependence on tax-credits.  Traditional vehicles pose far too large of a challenge to overcome.  An expensive plug-in hybrid compromising storage/seating space and delivering low efficiency following depletion isn't a solution.  Toyota is working extremely hard to deliver a lot from a little.  Convincing those who would otherwise purchase a Camry or Corolla is the goal, not trying to upstage other automakers.


No Highway Benefit.  Yesterday's post went no where.  Some people apparently think they know, even without data to actually confirm their belief.  It really surprises me how there are some still who don't understand how the system in Prius actually operates.  The assumption of no assist and no recharge on the highway is not correct.  There is quite a bit of electricity generated from normal engine spinning and from the reality that most highways aren't actually flat.  With even the most subtle change of pitch downward, you can see the MPG spike.  The system rapidly cuts fuel and routes excess power from the change to the generator.  The power-split-device also shunts that power to the generator when the reverse happens.  The result is energy which would have otherwise been lost... hence a net gain.


Just Plain Wrong.  Sometimes, you simply don't know what to make of what newbies post.  I jumped into a thread that had taken a turn for the worst:  There are indeed people who are able to maintain higher MPG.  I just post extensive collections of real-world data and move on to other things... like correcting: "Toyota system does not assist with highway driving".  That is just plain wrong.  100% of the time the gas engine is providing thrust to the wheels, it is also providing power to the generator.  Sometimes the resulting electricity is used to recharge the battery-pack.  Sometimes the resulting electricity is used to directly supply power to the electric traction motor.  Sometimes both.  Having a power-split-device adds flexibility a regular transmission can't even remotely compete with.  That energy-flow changes frequently too, between 10 to 20 times per minute is common.  The outcome is efficiency optimization a gas engine alone could not achieve.


Brisk Acceleration.  It's interesting to read about observations made by new Prius owners.  Experimenting with acceleration speeds can sometimes lead to really mixed up understandings of how the hybrid system works.  It often comes from assuming slow acceleration is better.  They grew up only knowing how an engine works.  You press the throttle harder, more gas is consumed.  That's not the case for Prius.  It has not one, but two, electric motors.  Having just one would make the "figure out" process based on anecdotal evidence fairly accurate.  You draw from the battery to supplement the power demand.  Prius isn't like that though.  The power-split-device combines both a motor for traction and a motor for generating to the engine.  That means all of the energy isn't used for propulsion.  Some is used for the creation of electricity... which isn't always used for providing thrust to the wheels.  Some is sent to the battery-pack.  That means you must look at the consumption of energy over the span of time, not just a single acceleration event... hence common confusion.  That's why we recommend:  JUST DRIVE IT.  You're better off letting the system figure out how to achieve the best efficiency instead.  But if you really want to give it a nudge, you can.  An owner today did figure it out on his own.  Reading his observations was a nice confirmation that the system can be understood simply by watching it carefully, even without aftermarket instruments.  I chimed into that pleasant thread with:  That is indeed an efficient approach, excellent observation.  The recommendation for BRISK acceleration came from the days of the classic model and had held true ever since.  It takes advantage of the hybrid system, utilizing both engine & motor for an overall gain.  Accelerating slowly actually defeats the intent of the design.  That Eco-Meter is there to remind you to keep power-demand brief, not to avoid it entirely.


Events Today.  I missed both.  There was a big one for Prius out on the East Coast.  That just plain wasn't realistic this year.  So, I looked forward to the local one for plug-in vehicle at the state capital.  Being sick prevented participation with that too.  In fact, the 3-day weekend I had planned was a total loss.  It's sad.  There were 243 owner registered to attend.  That would have been fantastic to be part of.  Oh well.  It's an annual event, perhaps next year.  But then again, the hope is for plug-in vehicles to become so common that won't be necessary.  You'll just see the variety available on a regular basis over the course of daily drives.  That's certainly not the case yet, but the spirit of cooperation is changing things.  The ugliness from Volt won't have much of an appeal to ordinary consumers, who will just seek out the more affordable model anyway.  They're a different audience... not unlike that of the other plug-in hybrids.  For that matter, the electric-only vehicles will attract new newbies too.  Put simply, the upcoming new generations will be a reset rather than an upgrade.  Though, that does send a little feeling of regret for missing today's events my way.  The market, the outlook, the expectations, (and obviously) the choices, will all be different.  What's happening right now is a unique stage in history.  Remember the absurd times when we had people comparing Hummer to Prius?  Some nonsense is hard to believe.  It's actually hard to believe close to 4 years have already passed since the calamity GM unleashed too.  It turned out to be a disastrous outcome of the "if we build it, they'll buy it" approach.  The events today set far more realistic expectations, addressing problems & limitations directly... rather than just hoping for the best.  I get to meet with the group at the end of the week, for the Fall meeting.  Hearing stories afterward are quite informative.  That works for me.  I'm quite curious to get more real-world battery information, especially with all the thermal research and video-documentary I've done lately.  There's much to share and those real-world observations are priceless with so many detail-oriented owners trying to help progress along.


Seemingly.  I liked the way that word was interjected in this quote: "My sense is that many Prius enthusiast are "dis-comforted" by Toyota's (seemingly) lowered expectations for a new Prius."  It was from a 2010 owner who had looked forward to upgrading, rather than having to sell the Prius at a later age.  Long product-cycles are tough under normal circumstances.  But with the economy recovering at a far slower rate than anticipated and gas prices considerably lower than forecast, it's not much of a surprise the hybrid market is holding steady instead of anticipating change.  So, again, I had to point out what should be obvious at this point:  Know your audience.  Toyota has stated they want to stir interest from those who have never considered a hybrid.  That's far more of a challenge than appealing to enthusiasts.  Toyota is aiming Prius directly at the mainstream, attempting to hit middle-market hard with the next generation.  Offering a base model that uses a NiMH battery-pack will be a let down for an enthusiast, but a serious draw for ordinary consumers... who's looking for a well-proven efficiency technology that's dirt cheap.  These are the same consumers who have no idea how an automatic transmission works and simply doesn't care.  They just want something reliable & affordable that actually delivers.  Toyota's expectations are high-volume sales, not breaking new ground for enthusiasts to thrive.  Seeing a Gen-4 Prius easily exceed 50 MPG with a price that competes directly with other popular family cars makes it a big winner, for both business and the masses.  That approach reinforces the path for an affordable plug-in model too.  Again, that may not appeal to enthusiasts, but it is a choice which mainstream buyers will actually consider.


back to home page       go to top