Personal Log  #759

August 28, 2016  -  September 3, 2016

Last Updated: Sun. 10/02/2016

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Future Hybrids.  Discussions of what will happen in the market beyond Prius liftback (regular & plug-in) are interesting.  Concern is growing for the wagon model's future.  There's the popularity of small SUVs to consider too.  What do ordinary consumers want?  How will profit pressures influence business decisions?  When should we expect widespread market acceptance of clean & efficient technology over traditional choices?  I posted these thoughts to that effect:  I see RAV4 hybrid pushing Prius v really hard.  It's easy to see how incredibly practical they are as taxis.  So, that aspect of them could provide business-sustaining justification.  That may mean less frequent upgrades though.  As service vehicles, that's just fine.  RAV4 hybrid as a mainstream contender is an entirely different story.  We all knew the return of cheap gas meant high demand for small SUV offerings.  Toyota has taken advantage of that by providing a hybrid model for a very competitive price.  That move is paying off too.  Last month's sales bump it up to just under the mainstream minimum (5,000 per month).  In other words, seeing RAV4 hybrid grow to the point of becoming so popular it puts heavy pressure on other automakers to compete directly is quite realistic... which is the unfulfilled dream Ford had a decade ago with Escape hybrid.  So, expecting them to re-enter the competition is almost a given.  Toyota is proving market potential.


Generations & Supporters.  I was intrigued by this snippet posted today: "...most ardent supporters have departed..."  It was buried within a train-of-thought on a discussion thread about gen-4 Prius.  Most people have no clue what happened when the Classic model Prius was replaced by the Iconic model.  Since that was a very long time ago, the belief is that it really didn't make any difference anyway.  I disagree.  Having witnessed the large group of supporters grow out of nowhere, with no previous legacy, to fade away from overwhelming support of the new generation is a really big deal.  You'd think their existence would stand out.  It didn't.  Instead, it was drown out.  Only a handful of us predicted that too.  So when that entire generation of Iconic owners faced posts from the replacing upgrade, they were at a loss about what to expect.  You'd think the history would give them an idea.  It didn't.  That makes my anticipation of the same overwhelm to occur again a topic of fascination.  Can't they see it happening this time?  Prius is so well known, so well accepted, and so well proven, it is now a mainstream vehicle.  That state of becoming ubiquitous apparently is beyond the grasp of some.  Understanding the big picture is often elusive.  That's why extremely long-term project aren't managed by just front-line leaders.  It really is hard to see... sometimes.  In this case, I'm not sure how many will catch on.  Accepting traditional vehicles as the true competition is still a popular denial issue.  Hopefully, that will change over the next year.  The second generation plug-in vehicles should help make it obvious that the gen-4 Prius is the new norm.  Put as shortly as possible, I summed up the situation now playing out as:  That is the very definition of generation: the next taking over.  Only a small number of elders will remain, to help along with the transition.  We will have a new audience supported by new supporters.


Cargo Capacity.  The discussions about Prius Prime are growing.  They are shifting away from the lack of a 5th seat too.  Taking a serious look at what Volt actually offered has extinguished most of that.  The rest has come from giving deeper consideration to it, rather than just having gut-reaction posts.  That means moving on to the more realistic concerns, like what cargo will actually be carried.  I was annoyed to no end about how shallow those arguments had been   Obvious antagonists were stirred up rhetoric by posting only volume measurements.  They stayed away from discussion about actual items to transport.  The push for detail will often derail attempts to undermine.  Anywho, now that the constructive posts are emerging, I contributed with:  Figuring out the cargo capacity isn't rocket science.  I simply found a 3-inch tall box and put it in the back to see if that made much of a difference with what I routinely transport.  It didn't.  My bags and backpack aren't that big.  The bike isn't either.  The cooler never fit with the cover unrolled anyway.  So, height is a non-issue.  True, I will find a squeeze on rare occasions, like the patio table we purchased this spring.  But then again, I could have easily just rented the pickup there at the hardware store if I truly needed it.  Delivery for one-time purchases like that is always an option too.  The requirement is usually length.  Will I still be able to transport long cargo, like new shelves.  The answer is yes.  Assumingly, the massive amount of yard-waste I cut from our pond's edge that needed transport to the compost last month will still fit just fine.  It was an absurd sight driving a plug-in Prius into that place.  One of the guy's driving a dump truck filled with old branches went out of his way to stop and yell out: "Wow! That's dedication." upon seeing it.  I'll be glad when I get my Prime... hopefully soon, so some of this speculation can be put to rest.  It reminds me of what people speculated about way back with gen-2 Prius, when the hatchback model was introduced.


Net Yet, But Soon.  What will happen and when is what keeps some intrigued and others on edge.  This transition from gen-3 to gen-4 Prius is a topic of history in the making.  People are watching & wondering.  I'm trying to provide a sense of anticipation, having experienced this back in 2000 (Original to Classic), then again in 2003 (Classic to Iconic), then again in 2009 (Iconic to gen-3), then again in 2012 (gen-3 to PHV), and now watching the gen-4 model rollout.  That is the only upgrade I won't be experiencing firsthand.  Mine will later this year, with the replacement of my PHV with a Prime.  That's sort of a double-generation.  I'll get the new hybrid system along with the new plug-in system all at the same time.  Collecting that real-world data early on will be fascinating.  It's exciting to read about the gen-4 owner experiences.  My expression of what's taking place right this very moment is... not yet, but soon:  The transition to a next generation is interesting.  Old articles like this hold attention until done threshold, then the outgoing falls off rather abruptly.  You'll see posts for gen-4 dramatically increase at some point.  My guess is close to the end of the year.  They're simply aren't enough on the road yet to dominate discussions.


Falling Apart.  Any posting at this point would just degenerate to anger.  The group of Volt enthusiasts has become unwilling to listen.  It's just the mindless cheerleading we're getting now.  How many technologies in the past experienced the same?  This certainly sounds familiar: "GM underpromises but always overdelives. We shall see soon this happen!"  I was blown away upon reading that.  I couldn't believe such nonsense was being posted.  Heck, even Toyota a loss from time to time.  That's normal.  Not every attempt is a winner.  That's how the advancement process works.  You learn from previous attempts.  Anywho, that absolute is a dead giveaway, a sure sign of trouble... in other words, denial.  Believing in that absolute of perfection is not constructive.  Most isn't quite that obvious though.  It's more like this: "The new Volt is better in every measurable category than the Gen I and the Gen I was/is stellar."  That comes from the engineering blindness, choosing to only see what they want.  Those categories are cherry picked.  The only select to measure what they feel is important, rather than addressing every category.  The on-going disregard for rear-seating is most telling.  Rear headroom went from 36.0 to 35.8 inches.  How is that not measurable?  It's something that was complained about on a regular basis too, especially when the interest in 5th-person seating faded.  I remember how shocked supporters were to discover the headroom was actually reduced a little.  To make matters worse, you can point out the 37.4 inches in Prius.  That's a huge difference.  What I especially don't like is the fact that Prius seating in the back is nicely covered by padding & metal.  In Volt, it's nothing but glass.  That makes it uncomfortable in the cold & hot as well as less safe.  Ugh.  This is why things are falling apart.  The Volt enthusiasts simply don't want to address shortcomings.  They just keep cheering.  Watch what happens.  You'll hear more and more about Bolt in response, yet still much praise for Volt.  The aspiration for it to become mainstream is gone.  Perhaps that's for the best.  After all, Bolt's resemblance to the popular Honda Fit and Nissan Versa is a big positive for it.


EV-BOOST.  Interest is growing for not only Prius Prime, but also Prius PHV.  There are some who are looking to jump on the opportunity to purchase a used one.  So naturally, we are getting questions about how it works.  This is what caught interest on that topic today: "I am still all right based on this info, what PIP is doing at high speeds over 100kmh?"  With all the intentional misleading we had to deal with on that topic over the years, it's no surprise this is getting asked.  Sadly, this is proof some of the greenwashing efforts worked.  That's why owners like me to try to share lots of real-world data.  Overwhelming discussions with actual ownership experience is a very effective way of scaring away those wanting to undermine.  Anywho, this was my reply:  Driving in HV mode (whether or not you have EV capacity available) will deliver efficiency slightly better than the regular model Prius.  The reason for that advantage is the battery difference.  Lithium can squeeze out more opportunity than NiMH.  Driving in EV mode at speeds higher than 100 km/h isn't available from Prius PHV (gen-1).  Driving in EV-BOOST mode is though.  That's when the system takes advantage of plug-supplied electricity when going faster than the 100 km/h limitation.  It's often referred to as "blending", since it is EV power with the engine joining in to help.  You'll notice that the draw from the battery-pack is stretched out.  Toyota did a remarkable job of achieving balance.  The resulting is efficiency above the 100 MPG mark.


Battery Questions.  Getting asked about how the plug-in Prius operates is always a pleasure to respond to.  Today, that came about from this: "Will this battery range even extend, if your average speed will be lets say -5mph less and accelerate more gently from stop?  Can you tell me also please, if I will go to motorway with depleted battery, and I will drive 100 miles, how much will battery recharge? Thanks a lot."  I posted:  Speed, stopping, accelerating, temperature, and terrain all play a major role in what you get out of the battery.  What you saw in the video would have been a great high-efficiency commute, had there been fewer & smaller hills.  Nonetheless, I'm still pleased with the results, especially after 4.5 years.  As for recharging while you drive, Prius PHV was configured to deliver maximum efficiency following depletion.  That meant not replenishing battery-capacity beyond the HV threshold.  Prius Prime will be different, allowing the EV to be replenished as well.  Remember, 2012 was a very different time and the market was asking for that.  It changed.  Now, they want more EV... which is realistic with the more efficient gas engine and larger battery.  You'll be able to exit the motorway and do that driving in EV.  Think about how much Toyota was able to accomplish with just 4.4 kWh.  That small battery and gen-3 system really delivered a lot.


More Time.  It was interesting to read this: "My fear is that GM will decide to milk the tax credits for as long as they can, and thus not go for breakthrough sales numbers with this car.  The more time they have before their last credit is used up, the better position they’ll be in to actually sell these cars profitably once it does."  It sure is nice seeing posts like that now.  Rhetoric of the past made them scarce.  Heck, I was even able to respond without much stir:  You're not alone with the concern for that missed opportunity.  Ironically, your second sentence is what had been used countless times for arguing against Toyota.  That "more time" approach has proven a wise one too.  The gen-1 plug-in Prius provided great real-world data for them to study, while the production process was being refined, the design improved, and the battery technology advanced.  The gen-2 model is now in an excellent position to take on the true competition: traditional vehicles.  As for the pace of Bolt rollout, pushing into the mainstream (to achieve sustainable profit prior to the tax-credit vanishing) means leaving Volt a niche.  Once the quantity threshold is reached, the phase-out timer starts.  That "more time" is great, to a point, then the high-volume must be delivered.  In isolation, no big deal, especially with gas so cheap.  But we know the price will go up and that others will also exhaust their tax-credits.  Pressure from Nissan will be intense. If they gamble exclusively on delivering a profitable EV, their resources are better served than with GM's split between Bolt & Volt.  The struggle with Volt has been primarily blamed upon GM not promoting it (little advertising, small inventory).  What should we expect for Bolt?


Expectations.  Seeing people ask expectation questions is a good sign.  In the past, it was simply an exclamation of fear.  That's turning into inquisitive posts.  How do we set expectations?  What subject matter is of greatest importance?  Who is even the proper authority?  There are no standards yet.  For that matter, there is very little history to leverage from to make decisions.  Discovery is on-going.  All we can really do at this point is share observations and ask questions.  This was my contribution to that today:  How much MPG loss or HORSEPOWER loss is acceptable for traditional vehicles?  The system simply doesn't work as well when it ages.  That has been the norm since the automotive industry began.  It's quite unrealistic to expect it to work like new as the years roll by.  With batteries, what should the aging expectation be?


Leap Frog.  Again with the never-ending rhetoric.  It's amazing how some of the greenwash lives on, many years after those who pushed it are long gone.  The "leap frog" topic emerged, yet again, with: "Are some people assuming Prius Prime is going to come along and leapfrog the competition? That may not happen and Prime is also pretty late to the party."  I was quite annoyed.  Anyone who still thinks other plug-in vehicles are the competition is just mindlessly passing on evidence of desperation and blindness from pride.  With gas prices so low and sales of small traditional SUVs booming, how could anyone believe plug-in vehicles are an isolated market?  True, many ignore them entirely, convinced that oil-dependency and climate-change are just political banter.  But to acknowledge plug-in potential only as far as the green audience is a disservice.  What good does that do?  My reply to the post was short & sweet:  Traditional vehicles are the competition.  Prime is right on time.


4.5 Years Later, video.  I particularly enjoyed capturing this drive on video...  With over 80,000 miles driven and having plugged in to recharge over 2,400 times, the real-world results speak for themselves.  This particular drive was my morning commute, taking advantage of the suburb route to enjoy maximum EV distance.  I did too.  13.9 miles of consecutive drive before the engine started.  That overwhelmingly proves the claims of getting far less are nothing but rhetoric, especially now with the car 4.5 years old.  The drive is the first with my new route.  I moved 1.5 years ago, to a location 1 mile further from work.  There are a lot more hills.  The up & down is no big deal though; Prius PHV handles them just fine.  Surprisingly, overall MPG didn't drop much.  It's quite scenic and I still have the choice of several suburb & highway routes.  The camera for the dashboard information is new.  The image stabilization is much better.  No more vibration.  It's been eliminated entirely.  There isn't any refresh flickering from the screen either.  That's gone too.  This setup works really well for capturing drives, even with difficult lighting from sun glare in the morning.  19.5 miles was the total distance.  It consumed the entire EV capacity, resulting in an overall average of 283 MPG.  Prius PHV - 4.5 Years Later


Just the Facts.  I've been watching things for GM fall apart.  The name fiasco was confirmation of problems to come.  The reasoning for that is simple: no concise message.  When someone just thrashes out desperately for no good reason and everyone else just allows it, that sign of trouble should be obvious.  We've seen it so many times in the past, that pattern is easy to recognize.  That "Go Away!" was rather blatant.  It was followed by "You're not helping." without anything else.  Nothing constructive other than an attempt to draw focus away from an emotional outlash marks a turning point.  I attempted to reply with something constructive, but I expect little at this point.  The problem is quite clear.  Uncertainty is beginning to overwhelm.  This is what I posted:  Notice how no one else mention other GM names just prior to rollout?  Notice what all of the following have in common: "Dual-Mode" and "Two-Mode" as well as "BAS" and "E-Assist" along with "Volt" and "Bolt".   There's "Ampera" and "Ampera-E" now too.  All are names used to de-emphasize technologies of the past.  Like it or not, there's a common complaint among Volt supports... minimal dealer support... minimal advertising... minimal automaker interest.  We had hoped PHEV growth would come, but the stated reason for production in China and shipping to the US is lack of demand.  Volt has found a niche, which it will serve well.  Mainstream aspirations have shifted elsewhere though.  In this case, we're seeing GM refocusing attention over to the EV.  Whether you think I'm helping or not, those are the facts.


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