Personal Log  #721

November 23, 2015  -  December 9, 2015

Last Updated: Tues. 1/12/2016

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Partnership.  We're seeing cheap gas now.  Under $2 per gallon is a very real problem for those of us trying to promote clean & efficient choices.  It's far more of a delay than any of us ever wanted, but at least there's a spirit of cooperation.  Locally (here in Minnesota), there's a group of plug-in owners coming together to help promote plugging in.  There aren't any superiority complexes to deal with.  That's a profound difference from that of the past with Volt enthusiasts online.  They really caused a lot of harm.  It's too bad we had to go through all that nonsense.  Oh well.  At least that experience made it clear how important it is to have a partnership among owners.  That was unheard of in the past.  Old-School beliefs of automaker rivalries set a mindset of quarrel.  Encounters were thought of as challenges.  Each was expected to fight the other.  The very idea of uniting against a common foe was fantasy.  The thought of a Toyota owner joining forces with a GM owner was a joke.  Now, who's laughing.  That situation is being considered quite serious.  We have guzzlers guzzling again.  The small SUV is extremely popular.  Even though battery technology is well proven and rapidly becoming affordable, the majority of consumers simply aren't interested.  That's a very real problem.  Partnerships are vital.  We need to send a clear message of purpose.  Volt enthusiasts in the past did everything in their power to prevent that.  I'm glad that ugly chapter in history has come to an end.


Sales in Japan.  They have begun for the 2016 Prius.  Yeah!  We'll be getting ours here next month.  It's been a long wait.  We knew it would be.  There was no point to rush.  Battery technology could continue to improve in the meantime.  Other automakers could commit to their own hybrids without a lot of pressure.  We can all see the sign of climate change.  There's no denying the penalty for oil demand.  It's an been an ugly situation, especially with the rough start for some automakers.  The multiple disasters for GM has only recently been overshadowed.  Both Ford & Hyundai misrepresented their MPG.  That hurt.  Honda's struggle is no secret.  The big surprise though has been VW.  Who ever imagined diesel would fall apart so spectacularly.  Wow!  The resistance hybrids has to deal with from diesel suddenly vanished, literally overnight.  The timing couldn't have been better too... at the verge of gen-4 rollout.  We eagerly awake first reports from owners.  The importance of understating MPG is obvious.  Far too many real-world conditions, like Winter cold, made the estimates misleading.  So, it's easy to see how the early reports from industry experts were uniformly above the officially stated values.  The new way of determining horsepower does the same thing.  Lower values than in the past give the impression of degraded performance.  That isn't what drivers observe though.  But that does take factors usually not accounted for, like full passenger & cargo loads, into consideration.  It's more realistic.   Expectations are easier to met too.  Though, it doesn't look as impressive on paper.  Behind the wheel is more important anyway.  That's happening now in Japan.  Soon, it will be happening here as well.  Sweet!

12-07-2015 82 Degrees.  That cold, snowy commute the other day was trumped by this evening's experience.  Rather than the temperature being at freezing, it was balmy 45°F outside.  We took the long way home.  There was a beautiful neighborhood elaborately decorated for the holidays.  The lights on the houses and around the landscapes were spectacular.  We were both impressed so much, neither of us had paid attention to how long we had been driving around using only electricity.  The coolant temperature had dropped to 82, even lower than the 89 that I witnessed the other day.  To still have the heater blowing warmth for such a duration without the need to startup the engine again is great.  It catches many off guard.  They expect the engine to run far more often.  But when you think about it, 82°F is quite warm... so much so, that's when some people turn on the A/C in Summer.  That's more than enough warmth for the heater in Winter.  Allowing the system to exploit that opportunity is what makes the MPG so impressive.  Far too many see the small battery-capacity and dismiss.  They don't think about other factors that also influence efficiency.

Defeat.  Accepting it can be quite a challenge for some.  Volt uses parallel hybrid operation.  It blends power from the engine to propel the wheels.  Electricity is still taken advantage of, but it's not what GM promised... nor is it what BMW actually delivered.  Now, it looks like Nissan will be doing the same.  That pushes Volt even further into the hybrid category.  Rather than having "backup" engine as the range-anxiety campaign promoted, it uses as engine for supplemental power.  Nissan will truly take the backup approach, just like BMW did.  That frustrates some, which this quote made evident: "It's very obvious that Nissan wants to join GM and BMW in the range extender EV market (EREV), so they just designed a "copy"."  Not wanting to accept the obvious is sad.  The approaches are different.  What benefit is there to blurring categories?  People don't care about definitions anyway.  It annoys purists.  Acknowledgement means accepting defeat, as far as they are concerned.   I rebutted with:  GM's original reveal of Volt presented the system as a series-hybrid.  Actual implementation was a design that took advantage of blending though, where the engine provided some propulsion power rather than just electricity-generating.  That's not the same as BMW or what Nissan is planning.  Long story short, automaker decisions change over the years and labeling really doesn't mean much.  It's the end results as a whole that count... MPG, MPGe, EPA rating, production COST, and of course SALES.


New Questions.  Audience was by far the biggest question.  That was not understood by those who supported Volt.  As a result, the first generation was a disaster and the second is already struggling to capture new interest.  The market is excited about the potential the 200-mile EV offerings.  That's range well beyond that of any daily-driving need... which completely eliminates "range anxiety" arguments.  It's quite clear now, since focus emphasis has already shifted over to long-distance travel.  That's where a plug-in hybrid, like the upcoming second-generation plug-in Prius, will really shine.  Both short & long driving will be clean & efficient.  It's a balance of many factors of importance... hence, answering the many questions.  "Who" is obviously paramount.  If the masses don't embrace the technology, what's the point?  "How Much" is vital.  Sustainable profit without subsidies is required.  That means no depending on tax-credits.  "Why" should be obvious.  We can't just keep spewing carbon & smog emissions at such massive rates.  "What" should be obvious too.  Electricity, whether it be from a plug or derived from gas, is the bridge to being both cleaner and more efficient.  "When" is the catch.  That concern about "too little, too slowly" was not taken seriously.  As a direct consequence of Volt not capitalizing on opportunity back when it was available, we now see Bolt, CT-6 plug-in hybrid, and Malibu hybrid filling in its shortcomings.  Deniers will say that was the plan all along.  Evidence in forum-posts and blog-entries clearly confirm otherwise.  The fiercely stubborn, blinded by engineering, did not see the true need or even who the competition actually was.  I'm pleased to report, those battles are long over.  That war was lost.  We've most on, now asking new questions.


Global Warming.  There's no need to use the more informative name anymore.  "Climate Change" is easy to see.  Human contribution to it can no longer be denied.  Human ability to deal with the challenges is no longer a hope for the future.  That time has come.  It's not 2000 anymore.  Remember how different the world was, back when the first Prius sales began here in the United States?  I do, quite clearly.  Mine 2001 Prius was among the first delivered.  I was one of the pioneers... who discussed what would happen in the future... which is now over 15 years ago.  That future is today.  A remarkable next-gen Prius is about to begin sales.  Not only is it the leader of clean & efficient hybrids, it's also greatly improved in terms of driving dynamics.  Body stiffness has been increased by 60%.  That's amazing.  For perspective, the newest Camry only saw an increase of 10%.  The rear-suspension is another big improvement.  The ordinary setup of the past has been replaced by a double-wishbone independent suspension design.  That's a really big deal.  The "numb" and "disconnected" feel of the past that enthusiasts complained about was very directly addressed.  In fact, space & weight in the rear were traded off for the sake of that improvement.  Combined with the lowered center-of-gravity and wider stance, drivers will notice the grip around corners and hard turns.  That was a change which will draw in new interest.  People will see the more sporty look and discover upon test-drives that Prius has transformed from a very practical family transport to a vehicle with some fun-to-drive appeal.  The 0-to-30 upgrade should make that an easy sell.  Long story short, we now have a tool to combat Global Warming more effectively with.  There's no more excuses.  Having the technology readily available, we can help lead the way.


VW Trouble.  As you could imagine, Volkswagen sales for November were down.  The disaster with their diesel vehicles has caused reputation damage.  That's no surprise.  There have been reveals of more people covering up more acts of deception.  The fix will reduce both efficiency and "fun to drive".  Those were the very aspects of the cars that drew people to them.  It certainly wasn't the clutter of the diesel engine.  There's the obvious higher fuel cost here too.  What else can be said?  It's a mess and harm has been incurred.  The question is how will owners respond.  Posts on the thread in the TDI  forum are in excess of 13,500 now.  So far, we haven't seen any type of shared outcome desire.  There are pokes at EVs, the EPA, and lawyers filing class-action lawsuits.  That's it though.  They basically wait with an expectation of disappointment.  It's an interesting end to a war filled with biased battles.


89 Degrees.  We had our first snow storm this year, which represented the first true "normal" commute for Winter from the new house.  Traffic was plenty heavy, enough to allow me to push the plug-in system.  I hit the stop & slow traffic with a warmed heater.  That meant I should be able to stay comfortable the entire duration, as much as 15 minutes before the engine would need to start up again for heat.  Sure enough.  I got through the crazy mess of crawling along the highway.  That much longer than usual delay to cross the river was entertaining.  I watched the coolant temperature drop and drop and drop.  I got all the way down to 89°F before the engine started back up again for heat.  It's not often I can reach tolerance like that.  I usually reach my destination at that point or run out of electricity.  Staying in EV that entire duration was nice.  Keeping the engine isn't necessary, since blending is so efficient anyway.  But in those circumstances when traffic is impaired by so much, the smooth & quiet is pleasant.  Think of everyone else crawling along running there engines non-stop.  Wasted gas.  Added population.  Easily prevented with a hybrid.


Ugly.  This is an interesting topic.  The discussion was started by a current Prius owner looking to upgrade, but not pleased with what he sees.  I homed in on this particular reply to sound off from: "This is the first thread to call the new prius ugly. Could a trend be starting?"  There was a variety of approaches I could take with my post.  This is what I decided upon:  This seems quite familiar, much like what we went through in 2009... when gen-3 was first introduced.  Gen-2 looked plain in comparison.  Yet, there was a group who preferred it.  After 6 years, there are some who look forward to a refresh introducing a more aggressive look.  Keep in mind, there are some who didn't think gen-3 was stylish enough.  It became the face of hybrids, working itself into a self-deprecating stereotype.  Breaking away from that to introduce a more capable system to a new audience will naturally disenfranchise some of the current.  Think about how radical the headlights of gen-3 looked like to that audience back then.  Think about how "common" they've become since.  Change is inevitable.  How do you make a vehicle noticeable without losing its connection to the past?  Something to compel new interest is needed.  LED lighting offers a great deal of opportunity, something many automakers will capitalize on... eventually.  The fact that Toyota is so far ahead of the rest makes their vision questionable.  Will people really stick with the more bland design?  How many have praised futuristic concepts in the past that will dismiss them now that the distant future they imagined has arrived?  True, there will be some cosmetic aspects that don't catch on.  But then again, there will be some that do.  What would you prefer to drive?  Gen-3 certainly drew a lot of interest.


Thanksgiving.  The holiday is tomorrow.  A well-known troublemaker who has recently had a complete attitude-change posted a commentary highlighting this: "...but being profitable at mainstream prices is a whole different story."  That quote from him certainly caught may attention.  It's quite a mindset shift from rhetoric of the past.  So, I responded by giving thanks:  Thanksgiving, for me, is seeing you say what I've been posting for the past 8 years here.  Welcome to the other side.  The wait for a partnership to begin has been a long one.  A nice benefit of such a delay is the education picked up along the way, for all who participated.  It was clear from that start what Volt was designed to be.  The engineering praised by enthusiasts was simply too expensive to make it competitive.  That's why attention shifted over to gen-2.  Cost reduction, enough to make it profitable at mainstream prices (MSRP, no tax-credit or HOV incentives), would allow it to compete with the true competition.  My local EV club recognized that competition right away: traditional vehicles.  Showroom losses are painful opportunities missed.  They've been working hard to generate a spirit of cooperation among plug-in owners.  It starts with acknowledgement of overall goals.  Don't let the implementation of technology interfere with the effort to shift from fossil-fuel consumption to renewable electricity use.  GM's step to release a PHEV, that very thing the automaker (and this group here) campaigned heavily against in the past, is progress.  EREV never really had a proper distinction anyway.  All plug-in vehicles with an engine are a hybrid.  They just vary in performance.  It's like how gas-only vehicles have varied for decades.  Mainstream buyers haven't cared about operational details or how a technology was labeled.  They just take the vehicle for a test-drive to judge performance, then decide if the extra it costs for that is worth it.  If price is too high, they move on.  It's that simple.  Now that "being profitable" gets discussed routinely without quarrel, what should happen?  HOV incentives in CA will run out soon.  Tax-Credits will expire in a few years.  Gas prices will remain low.  That's far from an ideal market to promote plug-in vehicles.  That means plug-in offerings must become well established (in other words, mature to becoming profitable) in the meantime.  We can see that Toyota just did a major overhaul to Prius.  The gen-4 is basically a redefining of what "hybrid" means... including the plug-in model.  That will encourage more to shift away from traditional vehicles.  The hybrid version of RAV4 will obviously stir new interest as well.  What about the other automakers?  Think about what Nissan & Tesla will be doing.  Will GM target a PHEV at mainstream buyers, some affordable model of Chevy?  Will Volt's MSRP drop more?  Will the hybrid Malibu be heavily produced & promoted?  What about Bolt?


567,000 Problems.  That's what the count of non-compliant VW diesel vehicles has grown too, here in the United States.  Oddly, the impact in Europe is quite different.  Rather than the after-the-fact recategorization of "clean diesel" to a niche as an excuse to do so little, VW is choosing to not do anything at all.  Here, they claim buyers understood diesel wasn't mainstream like gas, which implies they accepted consequences of whatever might happen.  Over in Europe, diesel is more popular than gas.  So, as far as VW is concerned, there is nothing to say.  Everyone knows diesel is dirty anyway.  With the many millions of VW vehicles in all those countries, the cost to correct & compensate would be overwhelming.  We are witnessing the death of diesel for all passengers vehicles from all automakers.  It's so bad, it's pulling down VW's reputation with gas vehicles too.  Who could have ever imagined the end would be so abrupt and so undisputable?  The VW owners here will suffer from lower resale value, as well as lower efficiency and lower power.  All that "fun to drive" celebrating is over.  It never made any sense.  Even with all the cleansing hardware, diesel could just barely qualify as clean enough to meet minimums and efficiency wasn't competitive with hybrids.  There's nothing left to promote them.  Why bother, especially with plug-in hybrids delivering dramatically higher efficiency and a far quieter ride?  The problem with diesel have grown to an unbelievable level.  Wow!


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