Personal Log  #795

February 19, 2017  -  February 27, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017

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Test Drive.  It was a really nice afternoon.  I had time available.  Called my salesperson.  She said stop by the dealer, we can take the demo-model Prime for a spin.  So, I did.  Then, we did.  My choice of where to drive was open.  I decided to jump out on the highway into the thick of the fast traffic, then get off on a country road a few miles away.  That nice scenic drive brought us to a beautiful park on a lake... where there were 2 charging-stations... which still hadn't been enabled.  All through out last year, there was a "coming soon" sign.  It was disappointing.  I took the chance they would finally be activated.  Sure enough!  It was a great opportunity to show my salesperson how the public chargers worked.  I was curious how much faster the Prime would be than the PHV.  I saw it ramp up to 3.75 kW, then settle in at 3.6 kW.  Nice.  That is quite a bit faster than the 2.3 kW from PHV.  In the 10 minutes and 53 seconds it was plugged in, 0.608 kWh of electricity was added.  We had started the journey without any electricity, so I had put the Prime into charge-mode along the way.  Between that and the brief recharge from plugging in, there was about 6.5 miles of EV range available.  I took full advantage of that.  Pulling out onto the country road was with a rapid acceleration to 60 mph... using only electricity.  That was impressive.  Clearly, the added power from the new one-way clutch works well.  Yeah!   It sure was an exciting test-drive experience.  There's much to look forward to.


Weekend Trip.  We took a load of stuff out to my wife's parent over the weekend.  The Prius was stuffed silly... not just full, so squished there wasn't even room for a change of clothes.  I was amazed.  What a remarkable feat.  We fit an entire queen-size sleep-number bed inside the Prius, complete with all the plastic pieces for the box-frame and the foam for the outer shell.  None if it blocked the field-of-view either.  The entire contents fit below the window-line, not impairing the mirror inside at all.  We also squeezed in a coffeemaker, 2 pair of boots, and a bag of miscellaneous items.  It was quite a testament to the practical nature of having a hatchback.  When those seats are dropped, it's quite impressive how much can fit inside.  MPG for the drive was impressive.  49 for the 145 miles there and 56 for the 171 miles on the drive back.  That was all with just a single charge with temperatures slightly below freezing.  I can't wait for the opportunity to do that drive again... in warming weather with the Prime.  Running errands aren't so bad when you can do stuff that way.

2-24-2017 Being First.  I expanded upon last night's laughing comment: "They're in first, right?"  After so many years of sitting back and hoping for the best, you'd think they'd notice the pattern of failure.  That goal of sales growth to the level of being business-sustainable, just like popular traditional vehicles, doesn't come from that approach... as I again tried to point out:

Do you need a reminder about the tortoise and the hare?  Simply being ahead doesn't mean the race will actually be won.  There are tradeoffs from going faster. That story reflects as a fitting analogy.  Others could still cross that finish line first.  The catch is, it's not just a single race.  The competition isn't just other plug-in vehicles either.  Each year, traditional vehicles will address the challenges to achieve high-volume profitable sales.  We see that the plug-ins have yet to achieve that, even with tax-credit subsidies.

Watching GM squander tax-credits is troubling.  Volt will be left mid-cycle without any.  A price-tag that's $7,500 higher will make sales even harder.  Introducing a plug-in hybrid SUV under those circumstances is terribly unrealistic.

We've been told plug-in variants based on Bolt are on the way.  What does that mean for growth of the plug-in hybrid choices?  Will Volt just remain a low-volume offering?  We've seen the spotlight move to electric-only vehicles now.

Enthusiasts of Volt worked so hard to promote it as an EV.  Have you noticed the negative effect GM's naming decision is having?  Calling the electric-only vehicle "Bolt EV" pushes Volt out of that supposed shared category.  Volt has solidified a label of plug-in hybrid, without a strong selling point.  It won't be competitively priced with Prius Prime or Hyundai Ionia PHEV.  It won't offer a competitive range with BMW i3.  It will stand alone, without a tax-credit.

Sorry, but that is the situation.  The consequences of being first are becoming apparent.


Laughing?  Denial in the form of mocking was no surprise: "Given GM will be the first manufacturer to run out of tax credits I'm having difficulty seeing your point.  They're in first, right?  Why not talk about laggards … like Toyota LOL"  I was quite curious how that was a good thing.  Leadership is not just offering technology advancements.  Some people still haven't figure that out, as I attempted to convey with some scenarios & questions:  Running out prior to having achieved sustainable high-volume sales would be bad.  Keeping sales low to avoid running out too soon would be bad.  Favoring Bolt at the sacrifice of Volt would be bad.  What do we see as good?  Remember, the goal is to compete directly with traditional vehicles... head on... no subsidies... and with cheap gas.  That's a mighty big barrier to overcome, especially with the cards stacked against plugging in.  Sorry, but reality is that Toyota having held off on their tax-credit use could really pay off.  Why use them on gen-1 having known gen-2 would be so much better?  That's interesting question to look back upon GM with now.


Shame.  The fall of Volt isn't argued about anymore.  The standout nature is gone.  If faces a very real struggle now, among a market growing more and more competitive.  Yet, there's still a sense of superiority.  Knowing how much pride gets in the way of logic coming from that perspective, I switched to shame to stir attention.  This is why: "2019 Cadillac XT3 (Equinox-based CUV) is rumored to have a plug-in variant with 30-mi AER.  Quoting Mary about lots of vehicles based on Bolt EV, sparked speculation about a full-on EV variant as well!"  It's that blind hope with no aspect of urgency, yet again.  I fired back:  Still no plug-in SUV after all these years, despite gen-2 Volt rollout completed and Bolt rollout well underway.  Remember the Saturn Vue plug-in hybrid GM talked about back in 2006? Waiting 2 more years for a non-Chevy offering confirms they are clearly not interested in changing their primary market.  Say what you want about leadership or other automakers.  Heck, shoot the messenger too.  It won't change that reality though.  Some relentlessly fought me about concerns of progress.  Yet, their so-called victory now faces expiring tax-credits and a government simply not interested in their cause.  Traditional vehicles pose a massive challenge to overcome still.  It's time to get serious and stop with the *mine is bigger* nonsense.  What a huge waste of time.  When will the push for affordable choices that are actually competitive finally begin?  Proving the CAFE standards are realistic doesn't come from just waiting and hoping for the best.


July Production.  We are finally starting to hear more about Model 3 production.  With Bolt still very limited, Leaf pretty much static here (though selling strong in Japan still) and the next-gen unknown, the expectation of Ioniq EV coming soon, and a next-gen eGolf on the way, there's a mix of electric-only stuff going on.  So, this news was a welcome change of pace: "Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5,000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth-quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018."  No one has any idea how things will actually play out in that particular market, but it is very encouraging.  In the realm of purchases from the ordinary, the mainstream consumers whom all automakers much eventually reach, we still see a lot of potential for the plug-in hybrids.  Being simple & affordable is key.  Prius Prime will offer that.  There's potential for the PHEV version of Ioniq to do the same.  None others have emerged with potential for 2017.  We will see Pacifica this year.  But like Volt, it's on the pricey side.  Being too expensive remains a deterrent for the masses.


Clueless.  I keep hearing this now: "I still have no clue what your point is."  That's a basic greenwashing tactic not often used... until recently.  It has been coming from someone who just plain cannot see beyond the size of the battery-pack.  That reality of an owner recharging at work or simply not driving that far for their commute seems to be beyond the grasp of understanding.  Heck, my errand running into town is well within the reach of the capacity available for Prius Prime.  Just think if I was retired.  Bigger would be gross overkill.  Why pay for what you don't need?  That's a question we aren't even getting to.  The simple acknowledgement of electric-efficiency continues to be a problem.  Can some people really be that clueless?  My effort to find out hasn't been going well:  Imagine the same size battery-pack in the same body style.  That is the point of EV offerings, for their to be a variety of choices available, right?  They won't all use the same amount of electricity to travel the same distance, since efficiency differs.  Some use more efficient electric motors.  Quality of material and machining matters, so does the controlling software.  It is no surprise that most people cannot see beyond the current size of battery-packs.  That will become a really big deal at some point. Do you really want some to waste and others conserve?  That's an especially important question when considering the "guzzler" will need to use a charging station more often or for a longer duration.  It also means having a higher ownership cost.


Devil's Tower.  It was a beautiful Winter day... not a cloud in the sky... no wind... warm... where we were.  At home over 700 miles away, friends & family were messaging us about the danger on roads back at home.  Freezing rain was coming down pretty hard.  It made no sense whatsoever traveling there.  Our location was just 18 miles from the turn off for the road to go to Devil's Tower.  Why not?  I hadn't been there for 20 years and never in Winter.  Of course, 35°F is hardly Winter by Minnesota standards.  So, we headed that direction.  Getting there, we discovered the entrance-gate had an "enjoy the holiday" sign on it... informing us the national holiday meant no fee to enter.  Sweet!  To our surprise, only a handful of people visiting too.  We almost had the entire place to ourselves.  Whoa!  That an incredible opportunity.  I could park anywhere I wanted to take Prius photos.  Hooray!  I used the camera here & there, then we went for a hike.  What an odd place.  It was a beautiful setting out in the middle of nowhere.  We did the entire walk around... though lost the trail at one point.  That faint path in the snow disappeared.  You'd think following it would easy.  Turns out, the rough terrain makes things surprisingly difficult.  We had a good time though.  I took a bunch of photos without the Prius too.


Consequences.  The result of fake news is beginning to become apparent.  There are consequences.  First, it's important to recognize human behavior.  We're seeing lots of evidence of information avoidance.  When a person doesn't want to hear something in particular, they will get drawn to something they prefer.  When they find it, they seek out more.  That's how the publishing of alternative facts comes to thrive.  People feed upon it.  That makes it grown.  Knowing that, understanding how easily it can get out of control isn't much to ask.  Volume normalizing it.  Becoming familiar makes the loss of perspective a very real problem.  You get so use to that extreme, the unrealistic nature of the claim gets overlooked.  How could so many different sources all be wrong?  Sadly, they can be.  The consequences can be disastrous too.  Think about how hard the oil industry has worked to convince you that there's no reason to conserve.  You don't give a second thought to driving around a monster-size guzzler.  Excuses are abundant.  Fake news assures you all will be ok.


17.2 Percent.  Within the next month or so, my Prime will finally be delivered.  That has me closely watching final details with my PHV model.  Today, it was the observation of warm-up boost.  When the EV range is depleted, the engine will start up.  To minimize emissions, RPM of the engine is restricted to 1500.  Limiting excessive spinning is achieved by using up as much HV capacity as possible.  In other words, you can see a discharge from 8 bars to 2 on the battery display.  In terms of SOC (state of charge), that's a drop from 23.5 to 17.2 percent.  It's a clever way to ensure a long life for the engine, that reduced stress is cleaner anyway.  I suspect Prime does something very similar.  After all, I clearly remember that happening which each of  my previous regular hybrids... especially in Winter.  Being so easy on load demand during warm-up worked great then.  It was a nice confirmation of a well thought out design... if you are paying attention... since it can be heard when carefully listen.  Or you can just do what I did today, watch that activity on a phone-app with lots of gauges and bluetooth connection to a OBD-II reader.


Fuel Cell, part 2.  Good reception to my previous post keep the discussion lively.  A good friend of mine added: "But sometimes you have to perform the experiment to the bitter end."  Helping that sense of closing along provided a good feeling for all those involved.  I played along, but included a dose of reality too:  There was (and still is) the need to be aware of how the oil industry will respond.  They are a very powerful entity with a lot to lose and strong ties to regulations.  Throwing them a bone with hydrogen production opportunity did buy us time to prove the plug-in robust enough to compete with the big boys.  Heck, despite the small pack in Prius PHV, the local plug-in owners group was pleased with my endorsement of lithium batteries.  That is vital for both sellers & buyers.  Let's not forget that the technology wasn't ever entirely throw-away either.  We'll see fuel-cell use emerge in the portable-generator market, a market which Honda has always been a big player in.  We'll also see the direct benefit from all the electric components in fuel-cell vehicles carried over to the plug-ins.  An affordable, reliable, efficient electric-motor is valuable regardless of electricity source.  We get the industry's most efficient heat-pump out of it too.  Things like electric A/C, electric steering, and lots of software provide benefit as well.  It is interesting to see the hybrid aspect of Prius fade into the background now.  It has been so well proven over the past 20 years, that shouldn't be a surprise though.  The goal was to make the technology ubiquitous... which essentially makes something you take for granted.  After all, how much do you think of touch-screen technology now?  25 years in the making has proven an effort well worth it.  The same is what we are beginning to say about hybrid technology.


Fuel Cell, part 1.  A software-related recall on Toyota's fuel-cell vehicle is being twisted into a change of plans.  How that news got distorted into a turning of favor for plug-in vehicles remains a mystery.  But some antagonists have abruptly changed their stance, despite so little substance to support such a move.  My guess is they've seen the potential for Prius Prime and didn't have a means of showing their agreement to the approach.  Having been in opposition for so long, you look for an outlying excuse to justify the new position.  That works, though it's quite a stretch if they expect everyone to overlook such an obvious move.  I jumped into the new discussion with:  The well informed always knew focus would shift to plug-in offerings following fuel-cell rollout.  It simply didn't make sense doing them at the same time, especially since fuel-cell was long-term and the next plug-in Prius was immediate.  That's why there were repeated reminders of co-existence and time-frames.  It was never an either/or situation.  Mirai was low-volume with no intentions of this generation being anything beyond site testing.  Toyota selected an isolated area for extended real-world data collection using actual consumers.  That's a textbook approach.. not a big deal like the antagonists made it out to be.  The next-gen Prius plug-in was always expected to be a major step forward in the advancement of hybrids.  We knew all the greenwashing posted about Toyota abandoning EV interest was a just a desperate measure to steal away the spotlight in the meantime.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people lose sight of the big picture.


Turbocharing.  That's how a number of new vehicles are squeezing out a few more MPG... but with a penalty.  There's also some type of tradeoff.  Engineering is filled with things like that.  For Prius, it was always the penalty of added cost.  Fortunately, the simplified transmission offset that.  Coming up with that type of balance isn't easy though.  Automakers are getting desperate though.  So, they add turbocharging.  It's not like decades past.  Lag is minimized.  There is still added cost & complexity.  Yet, that is becoming the most desirable upgrade for improved efficiency.  Oh well.  Someday hybrids will be more common.  In the meantime, cheap gas means not bothering to make the serious investment in electrification.  It's more of doing the minimum.


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