Posted on October 31st, 2012 No comments
I don’t normally like to link to Jalopnik but, credit where it’s due, this is their story.
It seemed, to me at least, that this story was pretty quiet in social media today. I saw a small number of posts and they could all be described as quiet.
So, what does it mean if a dozen or more (16?) Karmas burn after being submerged in salt water. Well, the obvious thing is, do not submerge your Karma in salt water. I’m not sure this story is yet another well deserved slap up side the head to Fisker or if they were just one of the many victims of Hurricane Sandy. To know for sure I would need to see what happened to other vehicles similarly treated. It’s a pretty extreme test for anything. Salt water is notoriously unkind to most things.
I almost want to say that no matter what, this looks bad for Fisker but I’m not saying that. To be fair, this could have been, to one extent or another, unavoidable.
Posted on February 19th, 2010 No comments
Play the latest What Drives Us episode
This week Danny and Russell joined by Tony Schaefer to discuss, sorry, more on the Toyota recall, ton foil hat conspiracies, why does “sudden acceleration” occur (hint: it has to do with the gas pedal), more on the Nissan Leaf and the return of Maximum Bob Lutz, GM’s prognosticator supreme. We also pass along our most sincere sympathies to the families and staff of Tesla Motors for the tragic loss of three of their engineers in a terrible plane accident.
Download it through iTunes here.
Posted on February 5th, 2010 No comments
There was time when America was informed by newspapers. Don’t get me wrong, half-assed journalism has always been with us. There never was a “golden age” where all journalists (in any medium) were daring and sought naught but the truth. But I would contend there is a reason that newspapers have been declining in readers steadily for the last twenty-five years.
Kiah Haslett of the Chicago Tribune contacted me via email yesterday about the Toyota recall. I called her back while on my way to a job (I’m a working photographer, but no, not for a newspaper, I do commercial work). I spent probably twenty minutes chatting with her in detail about the 2010 Prius and carefully explaining the “brake problem”. I thought we were really communicating. Maybe we were. But if you read this story, it’s difficult to to tell.
The lead off graph is about how a man is “distraught” and cannot relax since the recall. Lucky man if the worst thing in his world is a car recall in a year when the economy is cratering, hundreds of thousands die in natural disasters and we’re still involved in two wars which kill Americans nearly every day.
Which isn’t to say that the gentleman Haslett profiles in the beginning of her article is foolish for being concerned about his daughter. That’s natural. It’s the way he characterizes and what he thinks the solution is that is downright stupid.
Lucy Liu says she’s getting rid of her Solara and doesn’t want another Toyota. So she’s buying a Lexus. All that beauty apparently surrounds less than a probing intellect. That’s sad.
We get a one liner from another Toyota owner and then, me.
The problem with doing a “phoner” is that I didn’t record my end so I can’t compare how she quoted me to what I actually said. Suffice to say, I thought I spent more than enough time trying to explain the situation and the jumbled mess there attributed to me makes it seem as though I’m comfortable with brakes that don’t work so much as entertain.
The finale of Haslett’s article is a redux of the distraught man from the top. He says complained a problem to the dealer but the dealer said it was ok. Well, what was the problem she complained about? Is it too much to ask a reporter to report critical details? Is he alleging the dealer ignored an out of control acceleration issue? or something else? Readers of the Tribune won’t find out.
The article ends with this plaintive but utterly pointless quote,
“When I signed for the car, I didn’t sign for this,” he said.
Does anyone ever buy a car thinking it won’t be perfect and trouble-free forever? However unrealistic that is, I get it, but so what? It’s silly to think that way. There’s a reason why car companies offer warranties and reason why car buyers love them. Because we live in an imperfect world. But that’s trivializing the issue and I’m here to do that. I am here to point out how shallow that ending sentence was.
Look, I’m not minimizing how much it sucks to have a car recalled especially for something potentially serious. That said, out of millions of Toyota out there, we’re talking about, quite literally, a handful of complaints. To my knowledge, no accidents or injuries have resulted. Again, that’s not to minimize that a recall sucks but let’s be adults here. We live in a world of mass produced goods. Sometimes, with some of the things we buy there are problems. To expect otherwise is to live in some odd fantasy world filled with marshmallow clouds and unicorns. Cars get recalled all the time. If this were a Chevy recall, it wouldn’t be a story. Want me to prove it?
This week the NHTSa announced it was investigating 1,132 complaints about steering defects in four model years of the Chevrolet Cobalt affecting more than 900,000 cars.
Have you heard about that on the Today show?
Maybe the president of Chevy made a video and apologized for it?
Maybe your local news station went to their Chevy dealer to ask about it?
None which makes the Toyota recall any different but it does highlight the unique nature of this story, something which I think, is fueling this media feeding frenzy. It’s weird. Toyotas don’t usually have problems. Toyota isn’t typically involved in a mass recall such as this one. So it’s different. So it deserves the insane amount of coverage it’s getting, right?
So, back to intrepid reporter Kiah and the Chicago Tribune. Sure, as the story headline makes clear, many Toyota owners are frustrated. Some of them are downright nuts (see the idiot Tundra owner in the post below). But for most of us, it’s an inconvenience and not much more. And that’s the way it should be. Since we can’t expect any manufacturer to be perfect, we hope they are very, very good and when there is a problem we want to them to solve it quickly and effectively. Which, curiously enough, is exactly what Toyota is doing. And yet, the news cycle grinds on.
As I try to wind this epic screed down I want to specifically address the 2010 Prius “brake problem” and compare and contrast this with the accelerator recall. I’m also going to toss a little gasoline on this fire.
Keep in mind, the accelerator recall only involved Toyota’s made here in the US and the part specifically involved is also made here in the US. Toyota’s made in Japan are not affected by the recall or, apparently, afflicted with this issue. Funny how that gets glossed over, eh?
All Prius currently come from Japan, so conflating this “brake issue” (and I’ll get to why I keep putting that in quotes shortly) with the accelerator is really mixing two very different issues together as one.
Ok, here’s the deal on the 2010 brakes and Prius brakes in general. Prius uses a system common to most hybrids where the brakes are a combination of two things, a generator and the standard friction brakes common to every car. The generators are used during the first part of the braking procedure. The generators reduce the speed of the car in the same manner standard friction brakes do but, unlike standard friction brakes, they generate electricity which is used to keep the hybrid batteries charged. Standard friction brakes only generate heat and wear down the braking surface. It’s one reason why most Prius owners don’t replace brakes for 100,000 miles or more.
Now, there is a transition, when braking where the generators are no longer engaged and the standard friction brakes are. Let me put it another way. If you were to index the pressure you apply to your brakes from 1 to 100. As you apply pressure that index number increases. In Prius, you’re not using the standard friction brakes until you hit about index number 80 or so (depending on how you apply them, this is much simpler than the actual process is). From 80 or so onward, the regenerative braking is no longer engaged and the standard friction brakes are.
With me so far? It’s pretty simple actually. The whole thing is controlled under a very much more than I bothered to explain set of computer instructions that react much faster than you possibly could. This computer also takes into consideration whether or not all the wheels are turning (if you were sliding for instance). All in all it makes the Prius brake system very safe and extremely efficient (like the rest of the car). This isn’t much different from the standard ABS braking system. It’s a lot tougher than it used to be to stand on the brakes and make the car skid around. That’s an improvement, not a defect.
So, where “issue” comes up is this. There are times when applying the brakes in Prius, if you happen to traveling over a broken road surface, a pothole or, something that happens to me all the time because of where I live, if you’re going over something like a railroad crossing. If you’re applying the brakes steadily as you go over this surface sometimes you will feel the transition between the regenerative system and the standard friction system. It’s a weird feeling, somewhat akin to being in free fall for a brief instant, then, the friction brakes kick in and you continue to slow down. It’s a fraction of a second but an intense fraction of a second. Next time it happens, you think to yourself, “Oh yeah, that.”
I first noticed this in my 2005 Prius and I’ve noticed it in my 2010. We have especially mediocre roads in Lancaster. Some Prius owners have never noticed it. The thing is, it’s not necessarily a “problem”. It’s not a “defect” in the general sense. It’s the way that braking system works.
Allow me to make a final analogy.
Let’s say you’re a Prius owner. Maybe a new Prius owner. Maybe out for your first drive in your new car. You’re driving away from the dealership and and you see a red light ahead. You stop at the intersection and as you do, the gas motor in your new Prius stops running! Dead silence. You can’t believe it. Your Prius just stalled. When the light turns green, you press on the accelerator and glide through the intersection.
Now, did you just experience a “defect” or a “problem” or was it the normal behavior of Prius?
The answer is, of course, it’s the way Prius works. Same goes for the brakes. Yes, it’s different from “standard” cars. Yes, if you don’t know what’s going on it’s weird as hell. But it’s not a problem.
Did you know that more than three quarters of the people who drive a 2010 Prius are brand new to hybrids?
All of which is to say, Toyota is being unfairly lambasted for this 2010 brake issue. I don’t think it’s an issue at all. And I very much hope that the solution is not something which kills the regenerative braking system, one of the great things about Prius.
We, as the public, must grow up and not be lemmings eager to hurl themselves into the sea at the slightest provocation. We need to demand, because as customers, we deserve to know, good explanations and complete resolutions. But we also need to be reasonable and fair. Acting like a spoiled child may be satisfying for some but it’s not any more appealing than it sounds. I know a lot people at Toyota. To a person they are nice, reasonable people who work very hard to build honest cars at a good value. History shows us that they’ve been successful at it for a long time. Toyota builds a lot of cars here in the US. Toyota employs tens of thousands of Americans. This isn’t about bashing a “foreign” car company. When Ford builds the Fusion in Mexico and Toyota builds the Camry in Kentucky, we have to revise our thinking on who is “foreign” and how that word even applies anymore. Piling on Toyota and allowing a pathetic media to do so is not good for us. It doesn’t inform us. It’s infantilizes us. We’re not spoiled children.
A long time ago one of my bosses told me, “No one is perfect. To err is indeed human and what distinguishes us is how we deal with those imperfections both ours and of others.”
Wise words indeed. It’s how we fix mistakes that distinguish as human beings both good and bad. Expecting things to be perfect isn’t human. It’s just stupid.
If you have questions about your Toyota drop me a line. I’m always here to help.
Posted on January 11th, 2010 No comments
Straight from Toyota to you…
DETROIT, January 11, 2010—Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A, Inc., today unveiled the FT-CH dedicated hybrid concept at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The FT-CH is a concept that would address Toyota’s stated strategy to offer a wider variety of conventional hybrid choices to its customers, as it begins to introduce plug-in hybrids (PHVs) and battery electrics (BEVs) in model year 2012, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCHVs) in 2015 in global markets. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on January 10th, 2010 No comments
One way to find out what will not be happening in the consumer trends for just about anything is to listen or read “industry analysts”. I tend read a lot of this stuff and I’m astonished at how often these people can be staggeringly wrong and go on to make fourteen new predictions the next week as though they’ve never stumbled.
Here’s a piece from the Detroit Free Press on why EV’s will continue to be a very small niche product until at least 2020 according to the Boston Consulting Group. BCG is a gun for hire, management consulting company. The obvious question here is, who’s paying for this study?
Curiously enough, there was an interesting link in the Free Press story by Justin Hyde, this blog post from, of all places, gm-volt.com, says that the Mini-E chokes in the cold, badly. I’m somewhat surprised to hear this but this is exactly companies test prototypes before going to production.
According to the writer of the gm-volt.com blog post, who is testing of the Mini-E’s, not only are the batteries battered by the cold but the driving performance in snow and ice renders the car almost unusable. The writer admits he hasn’t followed BMW’s recommendation to change the all-season tires to snow tires however.
Posted on August 17th, 2009 No comments
Right now there is a lot talk about the Volt. With a provisional “MPG rating” of 230 MPG, there is no doubt GM will crank the hype machine into high gear. It’s really what the Volt project has been about, created positive publicity for GM.
One thing is clear to me, GM is still floundering, badly, with poor management, in whatever random direction seems to work at the moment.
This is great little piece which highlights one small problem with GM, promising more than they can deliver. At this point we don’t know exactly how the production Volt will perform. But GM is sure that talking about 230 MPG is the right thing to do.
It’s arguable that plug-ins should not be measured in MPG at all. BusinessWeek’s Ed Wallace argued the same thing here. Consumers need a touchstone, something to compare one vehicle to another but MPG on a plug-in a dangerous guide but MPG usefulness may have jumped the shark. With Nissan claiming 367MPG for it’s all electric Leaf, we see the ridiculous get downright insane. Yes, that’s right. Nissan is claiming their all electric vehicle will get 367MPG (or the equivalent of it) even though it will never use an ounce of gas. Wallace also points out that over-promised and under-delivering has been about the only thing GM has been good at it and it’s never helped them in the past and it won’t help them here.
EDIT: originally the above piece was credited, incorrectly to a blogger from Automobile when it fact it seems the piece was written by Ed Wallace at BusinessWeek. Apologies to Mr. Wallace and BusinessWeek. Link and attribution has been changed.
And then, we still have far too much of the media trying to reduce issues where they shouldn’t be reducing. Here’s CNN/Money‘s latest travesty, it’s about which car makes sense, the Prius or the Volt. Funny, comparing a car that’s been out for a decade to one that doesn’t exist yet. Seems like an odd thing to do. And of course, being CNN/Money, they try, once more, to go down the “which car makes sense based on gasoline costs” which is odd for numerous reasons I’ve pointed out here again and again. CNN/Money dabbles in the typical comparing the Prius to a standard gas car half its size, to try to make the math make sense. I guess that’s why I was an art major.
Head, meet desk. Let the pounding commence.
What’s more, the work that Toyota and to a lesser extent, Honda have done in delivering reliable, long-lasting battery electric hybrids could be undone by a spectacular failure of the Volt’s (or the Leaf’s) battery pack. Batteries are still a huge question in most consumer’s minds even though the Prius has been on the road for a decade now. Add in a nationwide, media saturated, Volt flame out and we could see a backlash against any car with more parts more comlpex than fuel injection. That would be sad but it could happen.
Posted on June 17th, 2009 No comments
Not necesarily from Joanthan Welsh’s WSJ column…
Q: I was interested in buying a 2010 Toyota Prius, but was surprised that they didn’t put the new lithium-ion battery in it. It was rumored to get close to 70 miles per gallon, as opposed to the 50 mpg the current version gets. Is it worth waiting another year for the new battery?
—Jim Nemetz, Newton, Mass.
A: You may as well buy a 2009 Prius instead of shelling out more for a new model. Frankly, after test-driving a 2010 Prius for the past few days, I haven’t found the latest model’s fuel economy to be significantly better.
I had also heard about a lithium-ion powered Prius that delivered much better mileage coming to market soon, as well as a plug-in version able to travel longer distances on electric power alone. The good news: Toyota plans to test a plug-in Prius with a lithium battery in municipal fleets later this year. The bad news: Toyota says it has no immediate plans to sell these cars or any with lithium batteries to the public.
My response: First and foremost, don’t base important buying decisions on rumors. Second, there will always be something better coming down the pike, as it were. Waiting will almost always get something better than what you can buy right now. So how long do you really want to wait? What are you willing to pay for this upcoming (things seldom get cheaper)?
As for Welsh’s advice, buying a 2009 isn’t a bad call. There are incentives on the vehicle and it’s a great deal. That said, the 2010 is, in my opinion, worth the waiting list and worth a few extra bucks. As I said, that’s my call and it may not be true for someone else.
Posted on May 18th, 2009 No comments
Interesting little article here. Allow me to quote two bits:
Few other hybrid drivers could say the same, but Ryan said he’ll get a good return by keeping his hybrid taxi on the road for up to 24 hours a day, averaging 160,000 km a year.
In fact, North America’s first hybrid taxi was a 2001 Toyota Prius operated by Andrew Grant in Vancouver. His Prius surpassed 400,000 km with no hybrid component failures.
These commercial and municipal vehicles are really leading the way in proving the hybrid concept. Now, most of the readers don’t need proof, we own our cars and some of us have owned several hybrids (I’m working on getting my second Prius in the next weeks). But for the most of the people out there who still batteries are dangerous and hybrid cars need to be wound up, this kind of testimony is very important because if the car can perform and perform well under this kind of use, then chances are nothing you’re going to do it will matter.
The Prius works because it was engineered by a company that doesn’t care about being “first” at the finish line with new products, they want to be make the best products they can and cars that will work for years and years.
Posted on May 14th, 2009 No comments
GE is building a new, advanced chemistry battery plant in New York. From Reuters…
General Electric plans to open a $100 million state-of-the-art, heavy-duty battery manufacturing plant just north of New York’s state capital, where it is expected to be the core of the firm’s new battery business, the company announced today.
The operation is expected to create some 350 new manufacturing jobs for the company, and that new workforce is expected to produce about 10 million cells each year when the site is at full capacity. According to GE, that output is the equivalent of creating 900 megawatt hours of energy storage. Put another way, that’s energy storage capacity for enough power for 1,000 U.S. homes for a month.
Announcement of the plan comes as GE seeks federal stimulus money from the Department of Energy. The firm hopes to obtain federal funding for the new factory later this summer and has a goal of having the plant up, running and producing batteries by mid 2011.
Posted on April 30th, 2009 No comments
I stumbled across TG Daily for the first time today. After reading my first article I think I know why it’s taken this to dig them up. But don’t take my word for it, you read this and tell me.
Electric cars: the shocking truth
By Andrew Thomas
Oh my, I can’t wait to see where they’re going with this.
The BBC’s Top Gear motoring show did a head to head comparison of the Prius with a BMW M3 sports sedan last year.
Oh good, so they’ve taken and example from an entertainment show and are using to make a legitimate case? Seriously? This is like forming your political views after watching an episode of South Park.
The deal was that the Toyota would blast round the show’s test track as fast as its little green wheels could carry it and the BMW gas guzzler would follow along behind.
So this “serious” involved flogging the Prius around a race track and then having the BMW follow along going slower? What exactly are we testing for? Aside from laughs I mean?
At the end of the test, the BMW returned a shocking gas mileage of just 19.4 miles per Imperial gallon. The eco-friendly Prius returned an impressive 17.2 mpg. Err, right. So if I want to save the planet, I need a fast BMW rather than a rather sad hybrid econo-box.
I can’t imagine what Andrew Thomas is like after watching Saturday morning cartoons. I hope he really doesn’t put the dig through the clothes wringer and hit people over the head with sledgehammers but given the above and rest of this idiotic article, I wouldn’t put it past him.
Thomas goes on to talk about all the dangerous rare metals in the Prius batteries while failing to mention they’re recycled but the real high point is the article is when he alludes to the much discrediting Spinella/CNW “report” on environment impact (he doesn’t cite, he just paraphrases the most popular and incorrect portions of it).
In truth, I need not have bothered mentioning this. One read through and I think most rational people might opine that perhaps Thomas had been drinking or using otherwise impaired judgment he wrote this tripe. I did learn one thing from the article however. Don’t bother with anything on TG Daily. That lesson alone was almost worth the time I wasted reading the Thomas’s article.
Posted on March 20th, 2009 1 comment
Casey Williams of car-data.com sent an email asking if he could respond to a couple posts here commenting on his writing that mentioned the Prius. I told that I would be happy to publish anything he cared to say Prius related so below are his responses to two POG posts (the original posts noted in a link above the comment.
Thanks to Casey for taking the time to write. Casey, you’re welcome to post your opinions here anytime.
In response to the POG post “Is the best way to sell a Yukon to insult a Prius?” Casey Williams said,
“You have to know I’m a big Prius fan and have tested several of them (first two generations) over the years. I would love a third-generation for my personal garage. They’re great cars. I was just having a little fun with the Yukon review, not trying to insult the Prius. During the morning about which I wrote, there were over 12″ of fresh snow in my driveway in Indianapolis with taller drifts on the main roads. None of the roads were plowed yet. I literally busted down drifts with the bumper of the SUV driving to work. Almost no cars were going anywhere, including my friend’s Prius. No insults meant. It was just a good analogy to point out the differences, and focus, of the Yukon Hybrid. Compared to a Prius, it drinks a lot of gas and has few of the benefits Prius owners enjoy so much. It does, however, get in-town fuel economy comparable to a mid-size sedan (a big improvement over non-hybrid Yukons), can tow a 30-ft. travel trailer, and clear 12″+ of snow (which a Prius, and most other sensible cars, can’t). Each vehicle has its purpose; owners of both are very happy.”
In response to the POG post “Let’s pretend” Casey Williams said,
“I have not driven a Chevy Volt – almost no journalists have. However, I have driven the Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell vehicle and GM’s notorious EV1. GM engineers claim the electrical system in the Equinox is very similar to the Volt’s, with the key difference being that the Equinox gets its electricity from a chemical conversion of hydrogen while the Volt has an on-board gasoline generator and can be plugged in. The beauty of the GM design is that they can essentially “plug n’ play” powertrains (diesel, hydrogen, gasoline, ethanol, etc) while using the same basic electric drive system (unlike a Prius, the Volt is an electric car with the wheels always driven by motors and batteries). Despite its limited range and complete failure in the market, the EV1 was also a lot of fun to drive and accelerated briskly.”
Thanks again Casey for taking the time to comment on our posts.
Posted on March 12th, 2009 No comments
I mean really. Here’s a few tidbits from a recent “article” on the Insight and the Prius.
Prius price starts at $22,000.
The Honda Insight is more than $2,000 less — base price is $19,800.
Well, that’s not the 2010 pricing, that’s 2009 and who knows, the 2010 Prius may have a higher base, it may not. But when talking about two 2010 vehicles, it’s always helpful to actually compare them, not to randomly insert out of date figures into the discussion.
The 2010 Prius arriving later this spring, is the third-generation model, with beefed up power thanks to first-time use of nickel metal-hydride batteries.
Well, actually no. The Prius has always used Nihm batteries. The “beefed-up” power might come form a larger ICE. 1.8 liter versus the previously used 1.5 liter motor but even that misses the point. The point of the larger motor is more vroom, vroom, it’s running the motor at lower RPMs for better efficiency.
The new Insight is powered by a 1.3-liter gasoline engine matched to a 10-kilowatt electric motor. It is EPA rated at 40mpg city, 43 mpg highway — just a bit less than the Prius.
Is three or four miles per gallon worth a $2,000 price difference? You tell me..
Just a bit? The new 2010 Prius is EPA rated at 51 highway and 48 city. So that “little bit” suddenly becomes about 20%. Not so little really.
And what this ignores, from a writer I suspect hasn’t driven either vehicle, is the physical difference between the two cars. So if you can drive a larger, more comfortable vehicle and get 20% better MPG, is two grand, when you’re spending twenty grand really important?