Prius Personal Log #1052
January 28, 2021 - February 9, 2021
Last Updated: Sun. 2/21/2021
page #1051 page #1053 BOOK INDEX
Being Sure. This one is a very big "Ugh" situation. After what seemed to be a constructive exchange of posts, opening up a discussion of design & approach, he just outright dismissed my real-world data. This was someone who posted misleading video. I posted out a few things to consider, detail on the technology which likely never crossed his mind. In other words, he was a newbie with power that clearly drew a few wrong assumptions. Politely hinting at what had been missed, hoping for it to become a teaching moment, ended up falling apart with: "I don't know but I'm not researching the Prius just to debate. I'm sure the systems are different. The RAV4 Prime is cutting edge for Toyota." That would have been fine if he had something to back up the claim; instead, there was nothing. He was sure based on time alone. The reality that Prius Prime was cutting edge and now RAV4 Prime uses the same technology, which is now mature, never crossed his mind. Ugh.
Measuring Demand. Here we go again! There's an
article attempting to feed a narrative about sales based on nothing but a
small sampling of recent activity. Regardless of intent, it's
effective as click-bait. Those enthusiast websites thrive on the
attention. Just like magazines of the past, that is their means of
sustaining business. They feed hype. Unfortunately, their
activity also serves to mislead. People read & believe without any
deeper consideration. That type of blind-faith is dangerous... and
quite annoying, since that fans a fire of deception. Anywho, here's
how I dealt with it this time:
Demand cannot be accurately measured when supplied is limited (new choices, like RAV4 Prime); yet, the conclusion of "plunged" is used to give that impression anyway. Of course, lumping all PHEV into a single category really doesn't tell us anything anyway. There is also the reality of their having been a pandemic. That abruptly altered production plans, so what happened in 2020 really isn't telling.
More importantly though is audience. As the technology mature, new markets are reached. How long does it take for infrastructure (local electricity providers) to start promoting home EVSE installations? The answer appears to be roughly 10 years... which puts us nicely at where we are in the adoption-cycle right now. Ordinary customers are finally getting help to navigate the complex decision to get level-2 charging.
Think about how many Volt owners that did nothing but
overnight recharges with a 120-volt connection. Imagine if the 6.6 kW rate
with time-of-use discounts had been available back then. That's what we have
now. It's an opportunity yet to be capitalized on, especially for those not
ready for a BEV but wanting something to plug-in. That puts PHEV like RAV4
Prime in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
Diversity. Reflect upon the past with Volt. It brought about a decade of hype that didn't actually amount to anything. Looking back further, you see 5 years of the same nonsense from Two-Mode. What was the point? No real change came about from all that hope. It just turned into hype which fed rhetoric. Looking at a GM dealer's lot now, what difference do you see? It's basically a step backward. Look at supposedly what is the other direction, Tesla. How has that actually impacted real change? There are a large number of very happy enthusiasts. That's it. Any type of paradigm-shift within the mainstream is not apparent. In fact, there's an obvious pushback. It's an inconvenient truth. Reaching ordinary consumers is far more difficult than ever imagined. Sadly, there are quite a few who don't take that seriously either. Real change is difficult and often not acknowledged. A great example is how Toyota is transforming their fleet. 337,036 sales here in the United States were hybrids last year. That's an increase of 22.7 percent, bringing volume to 16%. Growth beyond early-adopters is extremely challenging. That is evidence of success, a milestone worthy of attention... since how that was achieved is vital... which can be explained with a single word: "Diversity". If you don't do anything with the technology, what's the point of it? GM rested on its laurels, never bothering to expand offerings. Meanwhile, we see Toyota now having spread the choices to 13 models in just North America alone. Elsewhere, there are other models... like the C-HR and Yaris hybrids. That brings us back to Tesla. Limiting its technology to basically just Model 3 and Model Y for mainstream choices (something reasonably affordable) isn't exactly diverse. How will a supposed $25,000 choice be offered? That "nicely below $30,000" market is a distant reach for Tesla still. Reading online comments about how such a vehicle could compete against traditional offerings is disheartening. It is essential though. Knowing that profit in that segment is brutal, it is sad to see the enthusiasts still spinning narratives. Reality may settle through VW's efforts, an automaker attempting to directly target mainstream consumers. Dealer support is what will contribute significantly to that outcome. Having more than just a single model to sell becomes a pivotal point. When & How will that happen? Notice how much better Toyota is setting the stage by pushing a message of change already, long before any critical sales begin. That really matters. It comes from diversity.
Battery Production. Apparently, there are 107 mega-factories for lithium batteries being constructed in China and only 9 in the United States. That makes you wonder how the market is going to evolve. We have much to do here. Fortunately, we now have a president supportive of it. That's especially important when the need to create to new jobs is so vital. Why invest in obsolete technologies when the emerging opportunities offer so much potential? Clearly that is being pursued in China. You could see that becoming a push for change here. At some point, pride must be swallowed. We have rest on our laurels far too long. It's time to encourage a breaking of the status quo here. We see Toyota getting ready for it here. With GM and Ford both struggling with their dealer network, local production of plug-in vehicles from Toyota certainly will shake things up here. That label of "Made In America" needs emphasis again. No one cares where the corporate home is when there's a steady paycheck. Evidence of strong support in Kentucky is exactly what's needed. Begin with vehicle production. Follow up with battery production.
Battery Heating. Posts like the one today help to
give a better idea of audience. There are many who really don't know
much about the BEV they drive or support. It's just a motor & battery
arrangement to them. Detail about software or any clue how the
controllers work are a mystery. Secondary components... like the
heater, as in the discussion today... rarely even get attention. So
naturally, I was happy to jump in with some real-world info to share:
It has been interesting to watch certain individuals push a "behind" narrative for Toyota, then watch their response when articles like this help to show the opposite. The most common example is how beneficial it is to have a heat-pump instead of a resistance-heater. Tesla only recently introduced that. Prius Prime came with it standard for 4 years already.
With this topic, we are seeing how Mazda attempted to share a platform in a similar way, but skimped on battery heating. Toyota did not. In fact, I have video documenting of having parked at a charger while at work, when the temperature outside was 0°F. The heating elements within the battery kept it well above freezing (the point at which lithium chemistries see a significant increase in electrical resistance). The pack temperature was 55°F, despite the extreme cold where the car was parked. In colder circumstances, I have seen it maintain a comfortable (for a battery) temperature of 39°F.
It is situations like this that open up those not well-informed about what's really important with the acceptance of plug-in vehicles. In this case, size of the pack makes no difference. It's how the system maintains it that really makes a difference. What automakers do to fulfill those requirements is not as simplistic of a situation as some portray.
Market Acceptance. Two Months ago there was a random VW discussion. Today, I got this reply: "So you are comparing Toyota which has never produced a EV platform and made 200k fully electric EV's per year to VW who will produce at least 500k EV in 2021. Do some proper research. Toyota is way behind even VW with its EV production." Blogging sites tend to have topics that die quickly, within a few days. That one for Volt was daily. It was rare to ever have any kind of follow up. I suspect even when I do respond to this, nothing will be posted in return. I'll give it a try anyway: EV means electric-only driving. Not only does Toyota produce a BEV already (UX300e, available in China & Europe), they also have a variety of PHEV choices (Prius, RAV4, Corolla). All deliver extensive real-world experience with hardware & software for EV driving. Those platforms are paving the way for significant growth. Claiming "Toyota is way behind" simply has no merit. Research shows they are successfully ushering in a culture of change. Both dealer & consumer are seeing a reputation build for reliability from vehicles offering a plug. Think about what it really takes to convince a person to abandon the ICE technology they grew up with in favor of plugging in. It's a paradigm-shift requiring far more than just the ability to produce a vehicle... and that's where Toyota has a well-proven approach. In other words, the perspective you are using to measure progress doesn't take market acceptance into account.
GM Promises. How many "over promise, under deliver" examples are needed to come to the realization that there is no penalty for failure? Each time GM makes a promise, there's no accountability. Heck, sometimes there aren't even any excuses. GM just moves on to the next thing. The very latest came today with: "Barra told Wall Street late last year that GM will offer 30 new all-electric vehicles globally by 2025, that means 40% of the company's U.S. models offered would be EVs." Notice how there is no actual volume sighted. The 40% simply means it will be an option to choose from. Whether anyone actually does makes no difference. It's like having a single Bolt available at nearly every dealer across the country. The fact that few, if any, are actually purchased doesn't matter. GM would get praise for such wide distribution of a new product. Ugh. Making a promise to change the status quo, then sighting a consequence for failing to actually achieve a certain number of sales by a specified time would be entirely different. That's why the "late to the party" attempts to put a stigma on Toyota's approach falls flat. Toyota doesn't play that game. Truly delivering change is what matters, not promises. Look at the dealers showroom. Making a difference means far more than just introducing choice. But when it comes to GM, even just "offered" hasn't been happening. Two-Mode... Volt... Bolt... not to mention BAS or eAssist. Each of those hyped technologies went no where. Hope turned into empty hype... broken promises.
Software Upgrades. Not understanding how software is created makes criticism about upgrades a bit scratchy. You must ask: "How are you drawing such a conclusion?" Sound familiar. That's the same problem we also have had to confront with hybrids... and now plug-ins. Much of the background you'd expect from a statement of that nature simply doesn't exist. The person makes a few anecdotal observations from firsthand experience and figures they are an expert. Ugh. The ideal example that keeps on giving is Android Auto. People used the mapping app on their phone and just assumed integration into the car's system would be no big deal. They had absolutely no idea how complicated providing such a seamless blend would be. Far too many subtle differences amount to a massive undertaking... and that was just the basics. How the phone itself would interact was just ignored. An entire year later, much of the software had been refined. It took 9 upgrades to achieve that. Think about how much real-world feedback is needed to evolve a standard for both user & engineer. Remember, it must also support future requirements, as well as the past. One of which came in the form of hardware, an additional 6 months later. Some people had phones which lacked the ability to connect wirelessly. They were forced to use a cable until now. Rather than the mapping app needing an upgrade, it was the entire operating system. It's complex. It's costly. It takes time.
Government Support. This is the very first nugget of info to come from the federal administration: 645,000 vehicles and 500,000 chargers. Our new president wants the entire fleet of government vehicles to become electric. He wants to support infrastructure improvement too. Promoting a half-million chargers certainly would help. There was no detail about amount or distribution of funding, of course. But we have to start somewhere. The nightmare from the previous president will take a long time to overcome. So many regulations were rolled back. So many goals just abandoned. So much wasted opportunity. It's good to see that finally changing.
Too Late. This is how most discussions fizzle, the poster just gives up: "It will be too late. We are all too late. Better get horses and buggies again." In other words, even those trying to be engaged online really are not. That's why knowing your audience is so vital. Sadly, most people are unwilling to invest the time for proper assessment. They just want to jump to a conclusion and move on... without accountability. So, most replies to that go something like this: It will be much like other problems not taken seriously... such as the pandemic. The outcome is a costly rebuild, a massive waste which could have been prevented. Fortunately, we have legacy automakers working to help move us along. VW is attacking the problem top-down and Toyota bottom-up. Seeing both fundamentally different business approaches in play should be encouragement that we aren't doomed. Sadly, so much of the extra effort was avoidable. Late is still better than never.
False History. The big EV blog where I did the
previous post went nowhere. I think they are burnt out on the
rhetoric. Our local EV group is different. That's filled with a
number of individuals who want actions, where calling out lack of
information stirred some feedback: "I am saying GM does and will
continue to sell what they perceive as is in demand. An EV Silverado
would've flopped in 2016, but hopefully by 2028, they will surpass gas truck
sales." Knowing I was exchanging comments with a Chevy
salesperson made that post interesting. He attempted to change focus.
He also expects a miracle. Imagine what it would take to achieve such
a schedule. That's even more aggressive than with Volt.
Remember, this isn't symbolic anymore. A token vehicle isn't enough.
The entire fleet must change. What is the plan? I wonder if
he'll respond to this:
The comment was about PHEV opportunity, not BEV.
Back in 2008, we got a prototype plug-in hybrid from GM. It was a SUV, based on first generation Two-Mode. Volt is what came about as a second generation. The expectation was the next would be back to a SUV, targeting their core audience... since the compact hatchback was clearly not stirring any interest on the showroom floor.
Ironically, the supposed "laggard" ended up delivering instead. RAV4 Prime is undeniable evidence of opportunity lost by GM. There is clear demand for a larger plug-in hybrid, one offering AWD and towing. So what if it has an engine currently. Daily driving is entirely covered by electricity already, setting the stage for a next generation to offer a model without an engine. In fact, notice how the thoughts for the next Prius are for it to only be available with a plug?
The point is, we still have absolutely no idea how GM is going to address change. What will their process be to phase out current offerings?
GM 2035. We got an announcement a few days ago.
It was the same old vague nonsense as in the past, a press release without
any detail whatsoever and no consequence for not reaching a self-imposed
deadline. Fortunately, I'm not alone with my calling out of that
anymore. Sadly, quite a few still took the bait. This is how I
How will GM achieve such change, seeing how fiercely against any shake up of the status quo their dealers are? Look at what VW faces just with a single model. Offering a variety of compelling choices that will be easy to sell and profitable is a major undertaking... especially when the competition comes from within... on the showroom floor.
It's a fundamental problem only Toyota has been able to overcome. 2 traditional choices went hybrid-only last year (Sienna & Venza). That is an undeniable step forward. The next step was also taken, offering a plug on a top-seller (RAV4 hybrid). Both represent very real change acceptable by their dealers. Small steps can sometimes be much easier.
So... how will GM do it? We got a lot of broken promises in the past. Volt was a disaster and Bolt stirs little interest. What is the plan beyond just a token offering? What type of rollout will take place that won't jeopardize their fragile business model?