Personal Log #688
November 10, 2014 - November 20, 2014
Last Updated: Sat. 11/29/2014
page #687 page #689 BOOK INDEX
Disgust. Remember the end of Two-Mode? That wasn't pretty either. The antagonists are well aware that the only way Volt can survive is for it to lose some of its niche qualities. Increasing sales requires appealing to a wider audience. That's a reality they just plain didn't want to accept. They were sincerely hoping market preference would instead change, rather than GM having to adapt to consumer need. What a concept! It's that "want verses need" problem all over again. That's what killed Two-Mode. That's what is killing Volt now. They see the announcements coming January 12 as the end, having to compromise rather than conquer. Admitting that balance was necessary is very difficult for some to accept. Going down fighting in the final battle is how they'll retain some pride. So, expect another 7.5 weeks of rhetoric. We'll still hold some disgust for such attitude, but at least it will come to a conclusion... and an abrupt one at that. As we've seen throughout hybrid history, they'll pretend those changes announced were part of the plan all along, that we had misinterpreted intent. Again, that's for pride, to protect reputation. Why must we have to deal with such obvious desperation? Everyone knew the purchase-priorities of middle-market right from the start. Hoping for a sudden paradigm-shift wasn't constructive.
More Hate. It got really nasty today. I sure am glad my role is nothing but silent observer now. The attacks degenerated into: "Government subsidies for new technology are BAD! (except for Toyota). Losing money on a new car is BAD! (except for Toyota)." That was the result of so much hate having grown from Volt's $7,500 tax-credit dependency. We all know the low sales would be quite a bit lower without that assistance. But rather than point that out, the rebuttal was rather clever. It came in the form of a reminder about PNGV. Remember that government funded program started in 1993 with the purpose of delivering 80 MPG family vehicles by 2003? Our government only providing money for the automakers in Detroit is how Prius was born. Toyota being left out had a profound unforeseen consequence. They delivered a hybrid by the end of 1997. Toyota began selling Prius before GM, Ford, or Chrysler even had viable prototypes. It was a devastating blow, shocking to the industry, and incredibly embarrassing. None of those Detroit automakers ever delivered a final product either. That was money wasted... which explains the resentment.
Toyota Attacks. I stopped participating on the daily blog for Volt. It just turned into a venue for hate. The source of ideas, material to confirm Prius was a wise approach for the masses, dried up. No more accidental reveals of important information. Detail exposing a shortcoming on GM's part really angered certain individuals. That's how those few enthusiasts who became antagonists emerged. Finding out the approach you heavily endorsed didn't deliver is a bitter pill to swallow. Reality on that scale is difficult to accept... hence the recent growing attacks on Toyota. They lash out, hoping it will make them feel better. It's why I became such a target. My stance was vindicated. They couldn't stand that. Those not obsessed with vengeance are often innocent bystanders. They aren't familiar with the history or simply weren't involved to that level. It's how we get commented like this intermixed in the discussion: "The more I think about it, the more I see this car being a sacrificial lamb for Toyota. Its presence is totally for the sake of image. Its mission is to keep the spotlight shining on Toyota, and distract it away from GM, BMW, Nissan, Kia, Ford, and everybody else jumping onto the electrical bandwagon..." Unfortunately, posts like that are enabling, especially when that quote ended with: "...they see it as a promotional item to help keep the Toyota image front and center." The difference between Toyota's decision to follow-thru and actually offer fuel-cell vehicles to consumers is the quantity. GM was touting mainstream volume with Volt, hoping to achieve sustained sales of 5,000 per month by the end of their second year of sales and repeatedly stated production-capacity would be up to 10,000 per month by the end of the third year. Needless to say, that didn't happen... not even close. Toyota isn't saying that. In fact, all we get here is just 200 the first year. In their domestic market, 300 will be offered. The rest of the world gets 200. That's a total of just 700. Will that boost their image? Yes, of course. But they aren't in any way promoting a "game changer" as GM did. In fact, the production plans for the second & third year combined only a total of 3,000 worldwide. The true purpose is to prove the technology is robust, while at the same time help establish a hydrogen refueling standard.
Battery Life. People ask about it a lot. In fact, it's probably the most frequently questioned aspect of hybrid. Not having a plug confuses matters quite a bit. Fortunately, having a plug now is making the understanding of how the system works much easier. Phew! The biggest problem is not even knowing what to ask. People just plain never paid attention. They'd use a rechargeable device until it stopped working, then plugged it in. That's the worse possible thing you could do to a battery. Yet, it was very very common behavior. Sadly, we even see that with gas tanks in cars. A surprising number of people will often drive until the low-fuel warning illuminates before even thinking about refilling the tank. Squeezing out as much as possible is in their nature. It's that "more is better" mentality. Anywho, we try to remain constructive. I posted this today on the big Prius forum and got a few likes from it by none other than some Volt owners: 85% is what Toyota deems "full", stopping there rather than going to 100% for the sake of prolonging the life of the battery. 23.5% is cutoff for EV. Below that, high draw is prevented for the sake of longevity. 18% is the limitation for HV, for the sake of the battery preservation too. It's well thought out approach, avoiding stress from charge-level extremes. There's also a timer to allow "cold soak" time for the battery (letting it rest before recharging).
Battery in Cold. Yesterday provided new & unexpected data. Clearly, Toyota has a well thought out system. I went out to plug the Prius, late in the afternoon after having sat outside all day while I was working. The temperature was 19°F outside. I had expected the temperature of the battery-pack to have fallen to below freezing. After all, it showed itself to warm up from outside influence during the Summer. Turns out though, cold apparently has less of an effect. The temperature of the battery-pack was actually 51°F. That's great news for Winter operation. It also explains why EV is so easy, even when very cold out. That made me quite curious what it would be when I left work 2 hours later, after having fully recharged. To my surprise, it had only risen to 54°F. Though the outside temperature had dropped to 14°F, I still expected the act of drawing electricity to result in more heat. Later, when cold season eventually takes an icy grip on us and highs stay below 0°F, that should be especially intriguing.
Flawed Predictions. I just read an article predicting a huge sales increase for Volt when the second-generation is released. Needless to say, it caught my attention. The reasoning behind that prediction was based on Prius history. Problem was, the data used was flawed. So even is the logic was sound, there's no way the predictions could be accurate. The first problem was the writer's assumption that the first year of sales was an entire year. In reality, it wasn't even an entire month. Sales began mid-December back in 1997. Then, the writer went on to call the Classic sales here 4 years long. From late August 2000 to early September 2003 is only 3 years. Ugh. Following that came a complete lack of supply information. The Classic model wasn't even available on dealer's lots until May 2002. For the first 1.5 years, you had to order a Prius and wait several months for delivery. How could that possibly represent actual demand? Heck, most people didn't even have a clue what a hybrid was back then. When Prius was finally available for immediate purchase, supply was limited to a strict quota. It started at 15,000 annual, then increased to 20,000. So again, there was no way to gauge demand. What irritated me more than anything though was this particular point: "Gas prices rose suddenly and sharply in 2004, right as the 2004 Prius hit the market as a new model with record-breaking fuel-economy ratings." That's just plain not true. The new model was rolled out in October 2003 and the spike in gas prices didn't come until September 2005. How such blatantly incorrect information can be published like that is beyond me. My guess is that there's nothing to write about anymore. Lack of new material contributes to such behavior.
Cheap Gas. It's becoming a problem. With the price of a barrel of oil now down to $75, it's taking away the pain of refilling gas tanks. That's actually good for the ecomony. People will spend their money elsewhere instead. Retailers are excited about he possibilities that presents for holiday shopping. Automakers are excited about the potential that means for selling their high-profit vehicles... which unfortunately, are guzzlers. That's not good. MPG averages will go the wrong way and high-efficiency vehicles will be even harder to sell. I get the impression people are jumping on the chance to drive a large vehicle again and just figure they'll sell it later if the price of gas gets out of hand again. Sadly though, the forecast is for prices staying low. In fact, the House just passed a bill to allow the pipeline to be built. That will add oil from Canada into in the world market. Increasing supply certainly won't raise prices. That means the struggle will continue.
Public Chargers. Want to know how well the vehicles with larger battery-packs will sell? Look no further than your closest public charger. How far away is it? Who is allowed to use it? How much does it cost? Those basic questions get people thinking. The harder ones follow, like which vehicle gets precedence when spots are limited? If you only have a small battery-pack, but you drove to that location using only electricity, isn't that the point? What would allow the larger to recharge instead, especially if there's enough capacity available to get home anyway? What about the vehicles with engines too? Is it acceptable to unplug another vehicle after it has finished recharging? Who do you contact if a non-plug vehicle is parked in the spot? Needless to say, the situation is a mess. There is no clarity, no direction, no consistency. Faster chargers could be a possible solution. But then again, how many spots will a business choose to offer? What about landlords? How is pricing even determined? Will there eventually be a wireless (no plug, induction) standard? Heck, there isn't even a standard for indicating charge-status on the vehicles. It's a confusing market, even for the well informed. When the next-gen vehicles rollout and the tax-credits expire, it's going to become even more chaotic. Realistically, you cannot even expect anything beyond a common approach. After all, look at the way people connect to the internet. There's a wide variety of choices. Roadways are already filled with variety anyway. With increased pressure from competition, seeing some type of agreement at least among plug chargers represents a major step forward. Watch for that. It's a milestone for progress. In the meantime, good luck. I'm very happy with the plug-in Prius. It strives to offer the best of both worlds, demonstrating flexibility & balance in uncertain times.
Still Good, sincere. Turns out, he was indeed being sincere. His objective stance welcomed the input, as well as the insight. That was very reassuring. In the past, that would have been an invitation for attack. Certain individuals were naive to the greenwashing, not willing to believe such effort would be made to make Volt look better. The thought of spreading incorrect information about Prius intentionally is difficult to accept. Why would someone stoop to the level of being dishonest? Well, it happened... a lot. That's rare now. We aren't totally certain why either. But with so much real-world data available now and such easy access to it, squashing bad intent doesn't take much effort. Thankfully, we don't even see the need for that anymore. It's remarkable how things have changed.
Still Good, uncertain. A newbie from the forum
dedicated to Volt recently joined the big forum for Prius included this in
his comment about Prius PHV: "...it may not use much EV mode at all...". I took
him at his word about being uncertain if that was correct. It was in
reference to how the system operated below freezing. Knowing the
source, I was well aware of how much effort has been expended there to
misrepresent & mislead. Nonetheless, giving the benefit of doubt was
still a wise choice. So, I did: That's called blending, not
counted as EV even though it is still using lots of plug-supplied
electricity. You picked up on a greenwashing effort, more information
intended to undermine being spread. Always verify source. Here
in Minnesota, I have lots of freezing data. And EV is most definitely
still available. I have video clearly showing my usual commute with
temperatures in the negatives, below 0°F.
Winter. It has arrived. We got some ice and a few inches of snow here. 100 miles north, they got over a foot. That had been forecast for here. Fortunately, the storm altered course. We still have the other effects though. The temperature is now in the 20's for daytime highs. We aren't expected to see temperatures climb for awhile. In fact, we may dip into the teens for a few days. I blocked the grille 2 weeks ago, which is the only thing I do to prepare. It helps with heat-retention. That's especially useful when driving a plug-in hybrid, since you want to hold on to as much warmth for as long as possible to run the heater. It delays the engine from having to restart. Anywho, the season called Fall is gone already. It seemed so short this year.
Last Week. That terrible attitude is gone. The blogs and the old forum posts are now records of hostility, serving as a remember of what we no longer have to deal with. I'm thrilled by how much things have settled down. Volt enthusiasts have grown silent. Volt supporters have been quietly waiting. Volt antagonists have run out of ammunition. It's over. Hooray! Confirmation of that came from all the likes I got from this: Volt is a nice car, rough around the edges currently and a terrible business approach, but owners themselves have been quite happy with their lease/purchase. Prius PHV owner satisfaction has been lower simply out of not having proper expectations. If you're hoping for an EV that switches over to gas after depletion, you will be disappointed. If you're hoping for an augmented Prius, delivering much higher MPG with EV driving at times, then you'll be quite pleased.
EV Button, more power. Turns out, the secondary aspect of the EV button was not apparent. People were making the assumption its only purpose was to prevent the engine from starting. Since the power tradeoff is often mentioned for the regular model, since the screen clearly shows the difference (for those paying attention), pointing it out for the C model hadn't occurred to anyone. So, I brought that to their attention. Exchanging speed for power hadn't been discussed... or even considered. That drew a conclusion to the thread in a hurry. It simply hadn't been taken into consideration that requesting EV would do more than simply switch from hybrid to electric-only. That's often the case. You can't blame those who get all worked up about a belief either... since it can sometimes be the case that they are under-informed. Just because they lashed out with emotion doesn't mean you should as well. After all, they did purchase a Prius and are making an effort to understand it better. Finding out you were incorrect can be an uncomfortable situation too. If they feel they can say "oops!" without feeling ridiculed, you did well.