Prius Personal Log #1036
October 6, 2020 - October 10, 2020
Last Updated: Tues. 10/13/2020
page #1035 page #1037 BOOK INDEX
Overall Goal. I kept pushing the necessity of looking
at the bigger picture. Enthusiasts like to declare victory based on
measures them deem important. It's that want verses need problem.
They control the narrative... which is what leads to many of the problems in
online discussions. Favor is twisted to serve their purpose.
Whether it actually reflects reality doesn't matter. Their posts,
rather than sales, are a form of redemption. It's the same old
nonsense we saw back with Volt. So, the subject matter is different.
That impression of change is just an illusion though. Breaking out
beyond niche, appealing to mainstream consumers, very must remains the
problem. Growth beyond early-adopters is far more difficult than they
want to admit. Sound familiar? Here's what I had to say about
that in the latest exchange:
btw, that use of 250 kW is arbitrary. It's the new fastest speed from Tesla SuperChargers. Electrify America chargers are capable of 350 kW though. EVSE builders are pushing what will be realistic for a top speed. This is why chemistry is so important. Everyone wants something capable of accepting the fastest rate repeatedly without consequence. Notice how Tesla maxes out tier-1 speed & pricing at 60 kW? Toyota provides a 1,000,000 km warranty, but limits maximum charging to 50 kW. Those are signs of tradeoff related to cost & benefit.
We are still at the infancy stage, exploring market & technology potential. So when you say "we will have the proof", it only makes sense when context of that target is provided. Requirements are extensive to achieve high-volume sales that are both profitable & sustainable. Measurements, like charge-rate, are criteria that don't have solid targets yet. That's because engineering is a balance of design.
In other words, it really isn't a matter or "understand or believe". It is recognition of how that particular measure fits into the overall goal. How is "better" identified?
Predominant Arguments. Some certainly try: "I of
course will never convince you, so we'll just have to wait to see the 4680
cells charging at 250 kWs without taper..." Inevitably, they
fail. Proving a technology is viable only takes you so far.
There's still the monumental challenge of convincing ordinary consumers such
a change is worth it. Change isn't easy. Far more factors are
involved than enthusiasts understand, which is why they are "enthusiasts"
rather than "supporters". To be supportive, you just openly
acknowledge shortcomings and participate in efforts to overcome them.
Simply arguing online doesn't achieve that, even if you dominate posts.
The elements at play are quite complex; nonetheless, it often doesn't take
much research to unravel rivals:
There is nothing to convince me of. You haven't presented any data relevant to the point. Commercial use of SuperChargers was banned in late 2017 and best speed was 150 kWh for a limited time. Fleet operator with stalls are limited to 60 kW. So, the data supporting a target of sustained 250 kW for those who will depend upon them exclusively doesn't exist. And of course, the +400K claim has been called out as cherry-picking.
Sorry, but you need to have strong arguments if you expect the technology to reach be accepted by ordinary consumers. They are not going to pay for DC fast-charging if you cannot supply solid data to justify the cost. That means those without dedicated level-2 EVSE access for overnight use to charge their BEV won't take you seriously.
Know your audience. Solid-State addresses the current shortcomings. The new lithiums-with-tab may as well, but the original assertion of cost & benefit is far from certain. This is still very much the earliest stages of striving for any type of omnipresent solution.
Solid-State Purpose. Forward looking thought can
frequently be a trap. You get so focused on an upcoming improvement or
confirmation of success, an important aspect sales is missed. That was
what the disaster with Volt revealed. They didn't recognize how
audience would change. It's that innovator's dilemma, but far more
subtle now... not the obvious "can't see the forest" situation. This
stirred that yesterday in that discussion about solid-state batteries: "These
"old" cell chemistries and packs may already have 500k miles in them which
will likely outlive the car itself. Plenty of even older 1865 cells in
Model Xs and Ss that are at 400,000+ miles." I was immediately
annoyed by the cherry-picking. How many is plenty? Model S was
rolled out in June 2012. How many could their actually be with so many
miles? That's a driving rate of 50,000 miles annually. There's
the issue of the chargers themselves too. When that data was
collected, the rate was far slower than expectations of the future, when
there will be much greater demand. It was an
invitation for me to present information likely never considered:
That misses the point... one which most people haven't come to realize yet. Know your audience.
Those with very high miles on their battery-packs didn't charge them the same way some in the future will, a fundamental difference market growth will bring about. In the past, use of super-chargers was limited and speeds were slower. Owners took advantage of the opportunity for travel; all the rest of their recharging took place at home with level-2. So, there wasn't really much stress ever.
The few examples we have seen of owners depending almost exclusively upon DC fast-charging for most charges have reported much shorter battery life. That resembles what an owner of without an EVSE available at home would experience. They would go to there local grocery or retail location to charge as fast as possible. Doing that exclusively is a very real source of stress... which is where solid-state comes into the picture. That new level of resiliency is required for that new audience.
In other words, if you want to expand the market to include those who won't have access to a charger overnight, like apartment renters, you must provide recognize how their requirements differ from early-adopters.
New Chemistries. Losing sight of a goal or never really understanding why any particular technology was used causes very real problems, especially with online discussions. This is a classic example: "Both of these offerings will also have a lower cost than today's cells." Posts have become so vague, references to "cost" really don't tell us anything anymore. There's just an assumption that if the battery-pack becomes affordable enough, the rest of the transition to plug-in vehicles will happen automatically. They present the technology as if that is the only remaining barrier to address. It's not. In fact, that's quite a fantasy story. That type of attitude is pervasive though. It feeds optimism, giving people a sense of hope. The hope is false though, as Volt enthusiasts learned the hard way. They fixated on single points of success too. Ugh. Anywho, all you can do is point out the shortcomings of such a simplistic view of a complex problem: Don't overlook what "cost" actually includes. It's not cell price alone, as most people seem to believe. This is the classic problem of viewing a problem only as an engineering challenge. It isn't just a matter of raw materials being transformed into a finished component. The cold, hard reality is business influences the resulting price. Non-Production factors, like warranty coverage, also come into play. A more resilient chemistry (which is the point of solid-state batteries) means not requiring as complex of a cooling system. Stuff like that reduces the cost of the vehicle, benefits often overlooked when focus is limited to energy-density and dollars per kWh.
Setting Expectations. There are a few who try to look forward and formulate a sense of direction. Setting expectations is a challenge though, but a vital step not to be taken lightly. Sadly, many do: "Except of course Tesla continues to increase y/y sales by about 50% every single year. With new and/or expanded factories and lines in China, Berlin, and the US... it is difficult to argue that this y/y increase won't continue. Demand for EVs is massive. All OEMs who make compelling vehicles will sell them." The flaw in that logic should be obvious... and quite easy to argue. Know your audience. Early-Adopters are quite different from mainstream consumers. Why is that so difficult to accept? It's quite perplexing how fervent the resistance is. My guess is they don't want to admit having made a fundamental mistake. Following a passion is great, if the outcome is truly a step forward. Having invested so much in a dead-end isn't the type of life-lesson everyone deals with constructively. Some gain from the experience. Others deny the mistake. This is what I had to say with regard to setting expectations (based on my observations & experiences): That was low-hanging fruit though. Enthusiasts were more than happy to accept rough-around-the-edges, especially with a tax-credit and limited demand on super-chargers. This year's pandemic twist on the market has been helpful to extend opportunity. But that won't last and overcoming lack of diversification is still a very real challenge for Tesla. Growth by simply producing more will only take the automaker so far. As for "compelling vehicle" sales from OEMs, that's where a choice like RAV4 Prime comes in. It directly targets the crowd who heavily favors a rugged look. It sets the stage nicely for a BEV model too. Getting a dealer to step up to battery-only is much easier when they already have a popular PHEV in the same category. Toyota takes the "economy" category quite seriously too. They have a large audience for "nicely under $30,000" pricing. With Tesla, that's far from certain. In other words, success in the early-adopter stage really doesn't tell us much about what to expect for the open market, where mainstream competition is plentiful & fierce.
Transition Already. The ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) has become so much of a symbol of anti-green that an absolute has formed. There's a message of purity among BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles) forming, to the extent of believing PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles) are counter-productive. So, we routinely get posts like this: "How will Toyota make the transition to BEV without ICE sales to support it?" Seeing that makes you wonder what they really understand and are aware of. After seeing this same sentiment repeated so many times, I get the impression those posting that are simply clueless. It's an ambiguous reference without any definitive goal... just like the "Make America Great Again" mantra... which really doesn't tell us anything. What does that truly mean? Anywho, this is how I respond to the automotive-related problem: Toyota is already phasing out ICE offerings, moving to HV as a base instead. At the same time, some HV are getting PHEV models. It will be those PHEV that will build confidence in their customer base about Toyota plug-in reliability & commitment. Those choices will be the support, not ICE sales. Their proven sustained profit is what will bring an end to legacy ties, which sets the stage for BEV volume. Remember, growth requires the ability to reach a more diverse set of consumers. It is far from just technology challenges to address. It's a path forward most other OEMs lack. Also, while that is happening, the BEV models of UX300e and C-HR already available are helping break ground for the next BEV to follow (expected in 2021), even before the dedicated platforms are rolled out. In other words, the transition is well underway.
Drawing Conclusions. A common behavior among enthusiasts is their necessity to draw conclusions. They feel compelled to wrap things up, to declare victory. That was the flaw for Volt. It was really only the first major milestone along a very long journey. How could a single vehicle with a non-sharable design be the conclusion to anything? The purpose it was supposed to serve was being proof that the approach was viable for the rest of the fleet. Failing to achieve that is what led to so many problems... and the mindless rhetoric we now deal with on a regular basis. They set precedent, making stuff like this the new norm: "The flaw in your argument is that the Prius is dropping like a stone as fleets transition to full battery electric vehicles because of reduced maintenance and operation costs. As for the Corolla, nobody is buying sedans anymore and Toyota is only producing 5,000 RAV4 Primes aimed at markets like California, which have now sold out, essentially relegating it to compliance car status." It's the classic cannot-see-the-forest scenario playing out so often, they forget the reason why they were ever looking... hence my push for stating goals, right from day one... hoping to prevent the predictable nonsense happening now. That quote is their sense of vindication, stating an excuse for the mess they are now in... you know, do anything to draw attention away from their own problem by convincing others you actually have a problem instead. Ugh. I fired back with: That's called cherry-picking. So what if the hybrid model of Prius is dropping. The hybrid model of RAV4 is seeing very strong sales and there's a lot of potential for the new Sienna & Venza hybrids. For that matter, sales of Corolla (both traditional & hybrid) are continuing just fine; that "not anymore" is false. The narrative about "only producing" has been interesting, especially now that it has been debunked. Rollout is on-par with what other new plug-in market entries have done. Ramp-up is coming. There isn't a benefit from rushing. In fact, there can be penalties to pushing product out to a market not well informed about how it works or the intentions behind it. That takes time. Feedback from dealers & owners (which tend to be better informed coming from CARB states) is how that is achieved.
Already Evolved. This feedback today was especially telling: "One possible evolution is the plug in hybrid becomes primarily an EV with a small range extender ICE. Toyota is ideally placed to do this. EVs are a much simpler problem than hybrids." It confirmed my suspicion, that this particular group has not been paying attention. They just pass along rhetoric, not really giving any critical thought to what they are actually saying. That's easy to do, a common trap for enthusiasts to fall into. In other words, they make an assumption. I try to point out when they have failed to notice: If you take a detailed look at the power-split-device and how it fits into the EV drive in the Prime vehicles, you'll see that is what Toyota has already delivered. Keep in mind that a physically smaller engine really doesn't achieve much. In fact, it can actually be a penalty. The tradeoff of cost, emissions, efficiency, and support simply doesn't make it worth the effort. The overall goal is to deliver in high-volume with a sustainable profit. The design from the Prime vehicles are striving for exactly that, while also setting the stage for BEV offerings. Think about how other legacy automakers will prove reliability. PHEV will contribute heavily toward that reputation for Toyota.
The Game. Like our president addressing his cadre (to put it politely), the audience online have made up their mind and won't change for anything. That's why the same old rhetoric is repeated constantly. It's not all nonsense though. Each encounter provides debate opportunity. I get feedback that otherwise wouldn't be available too. They consider it a game and frequently declare victory. But unlike politics, the virus outcome cannot be manipulated. So all they are doing is fooling themselves. It's basically therapy for them and constructive research for me. That source of "what the market supposedly thinks" information is priceless... since the game is real. I remind them of that from time to time too: Declarations of doom & defeat are quite telling. That narrative is an obvious (and desperate) effort to divert attention away from the technology itself. No matter how enthusiasts spin it, simply cranking out cookie-cutter vehicles isn't a long-term solution. This partnership is to advance the batteries themselves, addressing what needs to follow the early-adopter market. At first glance, that initial target of 500,000 seems small. But if you consider what next-gen chemistry & production will be used, it changes the game.
Battery Expansion. Watching the online arguments fall apart has been fascinating. We are getting past the trapped-in-a-corner response. That next move for most is to abandon ship. There's nothing left to argue or spin. It's over. Those that remain stay isolated to their niche. That's who I addressed: Many who stress BEV importance tend to overlook the fleet as a whole. They selectively focus on initial offerings only. Failing to address how to grow sales beyond that low-hanging fruit is a very real problem, one that Toyota has already set the stage for. The most obvious example is how Prius was relentlessly mocked as a plug-in hybrid. Enthusiasts absolutely refused to take the technology seriously. They wouldn't even bother to actually look at the potential. For years, it was a continuous stream of insults & belittling. Then came RAV4 Prime. All those who had been part of the undermining effort scurried away, like roaches when a light is turned on. Now from Toyota, we see a wide selection of hybrids, 3 of which are already also available as plug-ins... Prius, Corolla and RAV4. The possibility of Camry, Avalon, Highlander, C-HR, Sienna and Venza also getting the PHEV option is quite realistic. Growth potential for expanding plug choices across the fleet is undeniable. All that's needed is an expansion of battery production... exactly what this discussion topic is about.