Prius Personal Log #1049
December 27, 2020 - January 1, 2021
Last Updated: Sun. 2/21/2021
page #1048 page #1050 BOOK INDEX
Stupid Covid. This was an interesting first-post-of-the-year to respond to: "Now that 2021 is real, I can say the last time I bought gas for my Prime was two years ago (Dec. 13, 2019), and it is still 3/5ths full. I either need to siphon the stuff out of there, or go for a decent gas-only drive. Stupid Covid." I got several likes from my response very shortly after posting: It is what you make of it. Just drive somewhere, treat yourself to an out-of-the-way destination. We found a butcher (who makes absolutely fantastic maple-blueberry-wildrice sausage) that's a day-trip to reach. We drive there, fill the cooler with various meats, then do a little sight-seeing before returning back home. No big deal. Gas consumed for a worthwhile cause. We also baked cookies and delivered them to friends & coworkers around the metro area. The outdoor drop-off was greatly appreciated by everyone involved. They got holiday goodies and we got to visit in-person for a change, as well as use up old gas in the tank. Think about what you'll do after Covid barriers pass. You'll still have to use gas from time to time. Why not find useful way of doing it?
Leadership. I watched a video published a few days ago, comparing
Tesla's upcoming new battery to Toyota's effort to deliver a solid-state
battery. It was a great example of how many don't recognize what leadership
can truly mean. They focus on milestones, rather than where the overall
journey is attempting to take them. In other words, it's the classic
long-term verses short-term perspective problem. This is what I had to say
about the video:
That was an understatement of goals. They are mentioned up front, but unfortunately are totally forgotten beyond the introduction. "A recharge from zero to full in 10 minutes. All with minimal safety concerns." is important information not to be glossed over. The same is for this too: "The electric vehicles being developed by Toyota will have a range more than twice the distance of a vehicle running on a conventional lithium-ion battery under the same conditions."
First problem is the "issue with cycle-life" comment. Tesla batteries reach their extreme age by not being pushed. With aggressive liquid-cooling and limited SuperCharging at slower DCFC rates, of course those cells will last a very long time. However, we know for a fact that repeated SuperCharging at the fastest speed commonly available (prior to 2021 is 120 kW) will impact their longevity, shorting life of the battery. That's the goal Toyota is working to overcome, without any special cooling, at much faster charging rates.
Toyota's efforts are to significantly surpass Tesla's charging speed, reducing it to a fraction of the time and allowing it to be charged that way on a regular basis. Failure to point out that fundamental difference is a serious oversight, especially knowing reduced need for cooling will result in cost reduction. The industry requires a means of extremely fast recharging to be able to reach consumers who won't have regular access to overnight recharging. There is an obvious benefit to long-distance travel as well.
Second, the push for solid-state is that elimination of liquid electrolyte will also deliver a significant improvement in energy-density. This will allow the physical size of the battery-pack to shrink, making it much smaller than what Tesla's upcoming new cell approach. That is vital to be able to offer vehicles without sacrificing the ability to compete directly with traditional choices.
Third, don't forget about audience. Reaching Toyota's over 10 million customers per year is far more difficult than Tesla's 1/2 million. Growth to that scale will require the goals solid-state development is striving to achieve. Without those speed, density, safety, and cost improvements, increasing sales will continue to be a major challenge. Ordinary mainstream consumers are far more demanding than early-adopters.
New Tax-Credits. More isn't necessarily better. Again, lack of critical thinking due to talking-points can be blamed. People are lazy. That's why rhetoric has become such a powerful tool. Fortunately, there's enough of us to standout from the mindless chatter. Suggestions like this make a difference... though, very slowly: Extending tax-credits would allow further exploitation by legacy automakers, specifically GM. Notice how the first 200,000 went almost entirely to conquest sales? That was not their intended purpose. They were supposed to be used to change the status quo at dealers, encouraging them to stock plug-in vehicles as regular inventory. Neither Volt nor Bolt came even remotely close to stirring any type of change in that regard. A better new tax-credit would be to focus on infrastructure change instead. Encouraging the installation of EVSE at home & business locations would serve as quite a boost to getting people to plugging in.
Science & Data. There are a lot of talking-points related to hydrogen... and sadly, little to no critical thinking. Today, it was: "Common sense says it will feed the fire, but we can read: Hydrogen leaks can support combustion at very low flow rates, as low as 4 micrograms/s." Find information is great; though, you must also be able to understand what it means. True, there is a risk of fire related to hydrogen, but not the way it is used for fuel-cell vehicles. That's what science & data is for. You find something to build an assumption upon, then you test to find out whether that is actually the case. True for one situation does not mean true in all situations. I put it this way: That's a good basis of hypothesis. Testing proved that false though. Science has a way of revealing counter-intuitive facts. In the case of FCEV design, that reveal came from implementation. Tank design was for high-pressure containment, strength for impact resistance, and breath-ability. Those 3 aspects resulted in tests showing the hydrogen dissipated so quickly, there as basically no fire. So, claims about danger are really just FUD, nothing to be taken seriously. The data simply doesn't confirm it.
Next Step. Actually getting some constructive discussion like this is long overdue: "It's hard to imagine how GM will pull off its electric aspirations with its dealership model intact -- or how it might ditch the legacy system. The problem is not the cars." It's wrong, but that in part comes from recognizing audience. It came from a long-time troublemaker who got burned bad by GM and looked to me as a scapegoat... rather than face reality. That went on for an entire decade. So, still being in denial about what needs to be addressed is no surprise. I posted this in response: The problem continues to be the cars. How many hundreds of times was the question "Who is the market for Volt?" asked? Dealers had no interest in carrying a compact car. Having a plug didn't improve the situation. They only wanted to sell Pickups & SUVs. GM failed to spread Voltec to a platform appealing to dealers... something they would actually want for inventory. Ironically, Toyota delivered exactly that. RAV4 Prime delivers 42 miles of EV range, along with AWD and the ability to tow 2,500 pounds. That will GM do now? Having wasted so much opportunity and basically abandoned PHEV options means pushing BEV really hard on larger platforms. Dealers won't want to carry such expensive choices under the Chevy brand. It's a problem that was predicted over a decade ago. Remember the "too little, too slowly" concern? Looking forward, the next step is far from certain.
Saturated Market. Signs of change come in this form: "Tesla Owners Are Buying Toyota RAV4 Prime Plug-in Hybrids" That makes a lot of sense. Those who wanted to plug in as much as possible aren't seeing it as practical for the other vehicle in the household to have limitations. You have your BEV for all the ordinary transport and the PHEV for more demanding circumstances... the most obvious are long-distance travel and towing. That way, you are still plugging in as much as possible. It's basically the reverse of what purists have been promoting for years. They called PHEV a "gateway drug", meaning you would want purity for your next purchase. None claiming it ever wanted to address home-charging though. That's a dead giveaway of a plan not well thought out. How would they charge the second vehicle? This is the "low hanging fruit" problem. It's easy to stir initial sales, since most come from early-adopters more than willing to go above & beyond to make things happen. The next group of consumers are no where near that accommodating or forgiving. They aren't as patient or have as much disposable income either. In other words, that market targeting enthusiasts becomes saturated. You must appeal to different priorities... which is exactly the lesson of Innovator's Dilemma attempts to teach. Some people refuse to learn though, making excuses and blindly following hope. So, reading about how Toyota has found a way to entice Tesla owners shouldn't be much of a surprise. Toyota studies the market carefully.
Rushing Inventory. It's nice to see hints of moving beyond rhetoric, to actually get some type of constructive thinking. In this case, it was in response to my post: "I'd say "strike while the iron is hot" and "if they are buying we are selling"." That's a perfectly understandable gut reaction. The situation isn't that simplistic though. After taking enough business classes, you grow aware of the wide variety of factors at play. This is why it is so difficult to run a business. If it wasn't, we wouldn't have such a struggle to keep the economy going. Anywho, this is how I replied to that: That reaction can result in major losses. It's a trap that's easy to fall into. Gain in the short-term does not always equate to sustainable & profitable business in the long-term. In fact, with a high-volume, low-margin market, it tends to be a really bad path to follow. This isn't basic economics. Some of it is quite complex and the means of sharing that type of detail in a venue like this is nearly impossible; instead, we often end up with a lot of rhetoric and worthless talking-points. Step back. Consider how Toyota contributes 10,000,000 vehicles to the 90,000,000 annual market. Think about the difference between selling a limited number expensive subsidized vehicles to early-adopters verses an on-going challenge of selling to the masses. Even without any noise from competing forces, the process of pushing out new technology to an audience fixed in its way is a monumental process. Overcoming that cannot be rushed. There are very real problems even when you do want to rush. If the "hot" didn't reach beyond a niche market, consequences of Innovator's Dilemma become all too real. If there actually is a wide audience willing to buy, consequences of the Osborne Effect become all too real. In other words, there's a careful balance which speed is an important consideration.
Rollout Speed. Much can be said about RAV4 Prime rollout. We don't have a means of confirming all that's at play, but we can collect & share observations. So, I threw mine into the mix: Toyota choice of rollout speed makes sense, looking at their history and the fleet as a whole. There is much to do still to prepare the fleet for the next step forward... which RAV4 Prime demonstrates... offering a plug. To set that stage, dealers much embrace change. Doing that requires seeing the corporate initiative become a culture of change. Words don't mean much to owners of dealership. Actions speak loudly. Seeing a steady supply of RAV4 hybrid, along with the a successful phaseout of traditional models (starting with Sienna & Venza) is a solid demonstration of intent. We are also seeing the rollout of Corolla & Yaris cross in other markets, which both directly address the shift away from sedans. Coming in 2021 is some clarity of what will follow. We see BEV rollout taking place in China & Europe and we know the e-TNGA platform will be getting more attention. There's Prius too. It could be the next step, phasing out the hybrid model for a plug-in hybrid only offering. If carefully timed, it could coincidence nicely with a big ramp-up of RAV4 Prime. The catch is being able to take advantage of the production in Kentucky and finding out what the Biden administration has in store. Don't forget about the partnership with Panasonic just finalized in April either. Long story short, rushing serves no purpose but there is much to be gained from taking things a little slower. After all, most consumers still know little to nothing about plug-in vehicles.
Still Hoping. Nothing constructive came from my previous post. Antagonists simply ignore what they don't like. Not even bothering to try to provide an answer confirms they have nothing. The discussion moved on to other points. I liked this one: "The local Petro-Canada station has 350kW CCS chargers. More than enough to fully charge your EV while you nip into the nearby liquor store, DQ, bank, library, etc." It had the potential for some type of constructive exchange. I was especially hopefully the non-American perspective may be enlightening as well. How are Canadian businesses dealing with this change? Hopefully, I'll get some type of useful feedback. This is how I responded: How much do they charge to use those 350kW CCS chargers? Such equipment isn't cheap and draws during peak are expensive. I'm all for DCFC offerings, but we must be realistic about setting expectations. People need to be presented with reasonable prices to consider actually using them.
Hydrogen For Commercial Use. An article was published
today. It presented the advantages of plug-supplied electricity for
commercial trucks rather than hydrogen. No examples or detail of any
sort was provided though. It was nothing but that same old chart, the
one so vague it is becoming propaganda. Overviews are great. But
when supporting information is included, be worried. Of course, in
this case it was quite obvious. The chart illustrated a personal car,
not a fleet truck. They are fundamentally different in the way they
are owned & operated. That's quite an omission. Overlooking that
isn't difficult, since the comments don't even bother to consider what was
presented: "H2 is loosing to BEV and has no way to recover. BEVs are simply that much
more economical to operate in a fleet environment." When that's
all you get, expect trouble. I did:
Claiming "more economical" without supplying any detail isn't going to convince anyone actually making large scale investments. All you are doing is a one-for-one comparison. That doesn't tell us the full story.
For example, drawing 40 amps from a 50-amp line will return around 200 miles to a service vehicle from overnight charging. That's no big deal. But if you have 20 in your fleet, how much will that 1,000 amps of service cost? The business will be required pay higher tier pricing. EVSE don't last forever either. They must be insured and maintained (snow & ice removal) too. What are those on-going costs?
Another example is the business which leases property to operate from. Some locations simply don't have the resources available to setup a parking lot filled with EVSE spots. There also will be landlords owning locations that don't want to convert their land to supply such provisions either, since it would lock them into only leasing to certain types of business.
The devil is in the detail. There will likely be instances where hydrogen does provide a competitive consideration for fleet use.
Boil The Frog. People lose perspective after awhile. Repeating a message often and long enough, you eventually break the norm. We see that happen on a regular basis with any type of threatening change. We have a few who notice that as well, and sound off to help break that trend. It's far too easy to fall into that trap. Of course, when you call out those doing it, plan on getting attacks. They don't like anything that draws attention to what they are doing... hence the boil analogy. I did exactly that today: That is exactly why I passed along the supposed quote. People take things so literally now, we get talking-points without any meaning behind them. It's how "self-charging" became so twisted. Antagonists worked to create a stigma by dropping references to misrepresent. It ends up becoming a confusing mess with an obvious goal: BOIL THE FROG. The devil is always in the detail. Look at actions, not words. Think about how many times people were burned by GM's reputation for "over promise, under deliver". Notice how they, along with other legacy automakers, now remain painfully silent on this topic? They know quotes don't work anymore. People can only get taken so many times before they finally learn not to accept anything at face value. Teaching moments.