Personal Log  #689

November 22, 2014  -  November 30, 2014

Last Updated: Sun. 12/21/2014

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Why Bother?  That's a perspective we never encounter from an actual owner.  Naturally, this made me quite curious: "When I purchased my PiP, I calculated my costs and it was some $0.33 per kWh. This is like paying >$4 gallon gas. Might as well not plug it in."  Whether or not I get a constructive reply is a mystery.  Owners who made comments of that nature about the regular Prius already had made up their mind.  So, it was pointless trying to present aspects of ownership they had probably overlooked.  I gave it a try anyway:  Fortunately, that isn't how our PLUG-IN HYBRID actually operates.  Unfortunately, that is a very common assumption to think the benefit only comes from EV miles.  Sadly, we unknowingly contribute to it too.  In reality, you get a gain from the plug-supplied electricity that is very difficult to quantify... and for that matter, even to explain.  For example, being able to take advantage of engine coolant heat while driving in EV is something many researching PiP don't think of or have any idea how to calculate the value of.  Another example is simply not being aware of how quickly the engine shuts off after using it for a hard acceleration.  It's too easy to assume it runs more than just a few seconds after warmed up.  It's too difficult to determine how much gain you get from allowing the engine to join in to provide that extra power too.


Careful Reading.  It became quite clear many years ago that certain individuals outside of the big Prius forum responding to my posts weren't actually reading them.  They'd just spin rhetoric for self-validation and their own entertainment.  After all, when you're supporting a design struggling to achieve sales, lashing out at the person who was correct about some predictions right from the start is to be expected.  What I didn't expect was to recently discover that some simply don't bother reading for detail from any source.  On that daily blog, which rarely ever has anything about Volt anymore, there was a first-encounter report of the upcoming Toyota fuel-cell vehicle called Mirai.  Even though the article clearly listed a driving-range of 300 miles and a price set at $57,400 for this market, those were posted about incorrectly.  One person complained about it only delivering 150 miles of range.  Where the heck did that come from?  One person said he had to hunt and finally just quoted $60,000 as the assumed price.  They were never corrected by their peers either.  Everyone just silently agrees.  Ugh.  What gets me though is when it happens on the big Prius forum.  Some people clearly don't read the posts there either.  Even though you clearly & repeatedly mention the words "competitive" and "choice", there are complaints about you not having said that.  I can understand a misread, where the word was overlooked.  But when the same message is posted over and over again each time the topic comes up and the same people are participating in those discussions, there's no possible way to miss it.  What excuse is there?  Needless to say, it's annoying and obvious evidence of not making an effort to be constructive.


Diversification.  Having to point out the importance of long-term and business-need over and over again gets old.  But knowing how the market operates is the only way to overcome barriers.  You cannot just hope for the best.  Certain enthusiasts have overwhelmingly proven that's a dreadful idea.  We're watching the earliest days of hydrogen play out, which serves as a nice example.  It's an effort to reach those with needs a plug-in cannot serve.  You wouldn't think that would be an issue.  But coming from the mindset where only a single solution is acceptable... because that's all they've ever known... it's basically wasted effort.  I find the unwillingness to consider a world with options quite frustrating, but understanding.  Many desire simplicity.  The idea of diversity is too much.  So, they attempt to dance around reason and only accept the basics.  That presents lots of problem; however, you can sometimes actually reach a few.  Here's an attempt:  Advanced Economics points out that market penetration cannot progress beyond a plateau if only a single manufacturer offers a fundamentally new product.  The reason why is simple; there will be strong competition favoring the older choice instead.  In this case, without the cooperation of other automakers, it isn't possible.  They are necessary to increase sales for the original manufacturer.  That means the others have to finally get in the game.  It doesn't matter what they offer either, just as long as they aren't supporting only the old product anymore.  It's that embracement of diversity, the act of joining with a new product of their own, is what allows the progress to occur.


Evidence of Change.  Switching over to the big GM forum, I was delighted to have stumbled across this: "GM is absurdly lacking in hybrids.  The Prius starts at $25K and gets 51/48mpg.  The Prius C starts under $20k and gets 53/46.  The Prius V starts at $27K and gets 44/40.  The Volt starts at $15K MORE than the cheap Prius, $10k more than the regular one.  And if you live in a city you can't plug it in b/c you live in an apartment and don't have a garage.  They should offer the Volt as a "regular" hybrid at a price competitive with the Prius.  Chevy should also sell a hybrid Equinox.  Buick should sell a hybrid Encore.  It's ridiculous that they think they can get by with a two electric cars that barely sell."  It was a great summary pointing out the continuing product-gap GM faces.  Ironically, it was in a thread about the future of ELR.  With sales of that Cadillac version of Volt so poor, it does make you wonder what next steps will be taken.  What is the overall plan?  We still have no idea.  Not being able to achieve the low sales goal set of just 200 per month, how can it be improved for growth?  As much as they hate Prius, reality is that it sustains itself.  Profit is being made.  The platform is proving to worthwhile to build upon the plug offering too... as a package option, rather than requiring the business risk of needing an entirely separate design.  It's good to see some understanding of the market sinking in.  That engineer-only perspective was doomed from the start; yet, some hoped for a miracle anyway.  Now, priorities are changing.  Evidence of that is becoming easier and easier to find.


Rewriting History.  In the past, spreading incorrect information was the big problem for those of us participating on non-Prius forums routinely had to deal with.  Now, we are seeing lots of incorrect history being spread.  It's really difficult to know the intent of some individuals.  Whatever the case, the outcome is a rewrite, conveying a story of events which never happened that way:  For example: "Even Toyota didn’t branch out the Prius family until generation 4."  How would you respond to that?  Knowing that generation 4 hasn't even been rolled out yet, there's reason to believe the person doesn't have a clue.  It's probably safe to assume he actually meant 3 instead.  But even so, that is very very wrong regardless.  Sales of wagon model began the last month of 2011.  That's an error of 6.5 years.  So, he certainly wasn't close.  Of course, it could have been deliberate greenwashing.  Pretending that only hybrids labeled "Prius" count as branch is quite misleading, but we know certain individuals will spin words like that.  I broke my silence on that daily blog for Volt and posted this in response:  Highlander was rolled out as a hybrid way back in July 2005.  It was a SUV, using an advanced version of the system in Prius, offering AWD.  The following year, another version of the system rolled out.  It was the hybrid Camry.  GM should have similar plans to branch out in the next few years.


Fuel-Cell Spin.  There's been a lot of it lately.  Much originates from the belief the Toyota's effort to deliver a fuel-cell vehicle represents an abandonment of plug-in choices.  That mindset of "one" is really a problem.  The concept of diversifying products simply doesn't register.  They refuse to accept the idea of multiple offerings.  Growing up in a society with an expectation of the market selecting a single technology as the "winner" has made that a fundamental part of who they are.  You watch a standard be selected and everything else be abandoned.  They cannot deal with a co-existence market.  Yet, that's exactly what Toyota is pursuing.  Some consumers won't have access to a plug.  Some consumers will need to refuel within just a few minutes.  That alone should be a clue that diversity is a good idea.  The reality of the grid not being able to store large quantities of electricity is beyond their grasp.  Turns out, hydrogen is a solution for many of those particular needs.  Embracing that reality is too much... for some.  For me, I understand it.  That's why I pointed out today the huge improvement Toyota has made over the past 8 years or so.  They've made a huge effort to reduce cost and now are reaching out to consumers for real-world data.  To my amusement, that antagonist on the big Prius forum provided a link to an article with the claim that Toyota hasn't made any progress at all over the years, that in fact their MPGe (mpg equivalency) has actually dropped.  Taking into account the cost difference was either completely overlooked or intentionally dismissed.  Whatever the case, it's clear he doesn't like fuel-cell progress.  I do.  I see it as a complementary technology, existing side-by-side with plug-in hybrids many years from now.  Not all consumers have the same need.  Expecting a single technology to serve everyone is not reasonable.  For that matter, it's not practical either.  Just look at how diverse the market for mobile devices has become.


$2.59 Gas.  $3.93 Diesel.  The per-gallon price difference between the types of fuel has become rather extreme.  It was really surprising to see those values on a sign today.  I can't imagine what people who purchased diesel passenger-vehicles are thinking now.  Of course, not many ever expected to see the cost of oil to drop so low.  But then again, the "drill baby drill" chatting never died.  We have continued to hear that on a regular basis.  Keeping the price of gas at the guzzler level has been a major priority for some people of power.  That wouldn't be so bad if that was balanced with a push for improved efficiency technology.  But with such weak support of things like installing charge-stations, it's hard to see how plugging in will catch on.  It makes me sad to say there's a "Why bother?" attitude.  But then again, that's what makes Prius PHV so well positioned.  It's the only plug-in hybrid approach targeted at ordinary consumers.  The next-gen needs to be positioned to compete directly with traditional vehicles.  Thankfully, that looks realistic.  How else will reaching middle-market be possible with the price of gas that cheap?  Offering the plug as a package option still looks a very sensible approach.


60 MPH Climb.  Yesterday's commute home was at 19°F.  But rather than fire up the heater, I put both seats on high.  My friend was intrigued by having started in EV and wanted to know how hard I could push the system under those conditions without the engine running.  Since 2 miles away was a long, steep climb out of the river valley, it was the ideal opportunity to show off.  This was the on the east side of the cities, the more intense road, complete with an extra lane for slower traffic.  Normally taking the west side, which isn't as demanding, I was rather curious myself.  So, we set out to observe it firsthand.  I handed him my phone, so he could observe the many gauges available through the ODB-II reader.  I pulled out into traffic and started the climb.  To stress the point of the system being capable of keeping up with traffic in EV mode, I keep the distance between my Prius and the vehicle in front only a few car lengths.  I made it up two-thirds of the way without any struggle whatsoever, going 60 mph using only electricity.  That opened up the opportunity to really show off.  I said "watch this", then pulled out into the left lane and started up the engine.  It was a remarkably smooth transition to EV-BOOST mode, despite the continued climb and the engine being ice cold.  That was great!  I'll have to film that sometime.  You can see how well the design is thought out by watching the electricity being taken advantage in that situation.  It's quite informative.  He certainly was impressed.


Online Distortion.  It happens frequently.  People assume what they read online is an accurate representation of what the market feels as a whole.  The "silent satisfied" get completely ignored, not taken into account since they are never heard from.  That causes a distortion.  Yet, some refuse to accept that.  It fit it frustrating.  This comment today emphasized that point: "Most of us, based on the comments in this forum, just want a really fuel-efficient car while satisfying most of the normal human appetites for power, cargo room, ride comfort and reliability.  I think ads like this only alienate those of us who resent the image it paints of a Prius-owner.  No wonder we get the finger so often."  It was the type of over-generalization we've seen again and again.  It's quite vague too.  Needless to say, I pushed for more information... knowing getting any was highly unlikely:  Who?  Those of us on the forum represent at the very most just 4% of the entire Prius population in the United States.  We all share a bias of being outspoken too, since we are online participants, which is not an ordinary trait.  Try getting feedback from an ordinary consumer who simply just went to a dealer and purchased a Prius after having a pleasing test-drive experience.  You'll find they have little in common with us here.  Also, who's giving the finger (which I assume you mean figuratively).  The many offline people I get feedback from about Prius simply aren't interested, they're indifferent toward owners.  With so many more hybrids available and plug-in vehicles starting to get attention, what image do you think still exists?  The new advertisement campaign continues with the effort to point out the variety of choices available, going out of its way to distance itself from the promotion of overkill features of the past.  Remember that nonsense?  Watching commercials of cars & trucks doing things you would never, ever dream of doing with your own vehicle was pointless.  Yet, people came to expect that anyway... and ultimately would succumb to the hype.  I'm glad Toyota is adhering to principle by not giving in to the pressure to push what consumers don't actually need.  What do you think they should do instead?


Disappointment.  The push for goals ended up causing "5/50/50" to emerge.  It's been repeated over and over again over the past 14 months as a result.  The consequence of that was not getting any attention to the topic anymore.  It's the reason why I persisted with the "Who?" question.  That "5/50/50" from Volt enthusiasts represented: 5 seats, 50 mpg, 50 miles.  Knowing the problems with that, it wasn't worth pursuing.  Why bother?  The design was not going to be fundamentally changed to add space for a 5th person to sit in back.  It was a compact car with a battery-pack running through the middle.  Why they somehow believed such a goal could be realistic was beyond me.  And of course, we found out today that seating count for adults wouldn't change.  It will remain 4 for the next-gen Volt.   That goal of 50 mpg blew my mind.  With such a heavy vehicle and Ford struggling to just deliver 42, how could so much more possibly be achieved?  Supposedly, the efficiency of CS (Charge Sustaining mode) isn't important, since most driving is promoted to be electric-only anyway.  As for hoping for 50 miles of EV range, that supports the lack of importance for engine efficiency.  But with cost-reduction a major priority, that hope is a very real problem.  To make matters worse, if battery cost drops that much, it makes electric-only vehicles even more appealing.  That's why keeping the pack size fairly small makes it an appealing package option for Prius.  The plug-in model becomes competitively affordable.  Being in the middle equates to the worst of both worlds, paying extra for features you won't fully take advantage of.  Anywho, that's what enthusiasts are beginning to understand now.  As GM continues to release more information, we hear more grumbles of disappointment.  What they hoped would raise appeal of the next-gen for the masses isn't going to be delivered.


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