Prius Personal Log #635
August 28, 2013 - September 1, 2013
Last Updated: Mon. 9/09/2013
page #634 page #636 BOOK INDEX
Planning Ahead, lemmings. How would you respond to this: "To me the PiP was a half-assed job. I swear a bunch of Toyota execs were just hanging out one day, and one said: Hey guys, Nissan and GM are coming out with EVs….shouldn't we come out with one too? I know! How a bout we just cram a Li-On into an existing Prius! The lemmings will buy them on the Prius name alone, even though the electric range is tiny!" That kind of perspective & attitude still amazes me, after all these years. Ironically, those making such statements based on nothing but observations after-the-fact qualify as lemmings themselves. Having seen what actually happened when it happened tells a very different story. But knowing the poster simply didn't care, I replied with this instead: Do you have any idea how easy it is for the perspective to be different? Honestly. Some call it "spin", others call it "truth". The point is, it can be labeled as anything they want, since it always comes down to sales in the end. Without high-volume and profit, the ultimate goal of the automaker is not achieved. Investing in the future is great. We've needed the long-term (planning ahead) approach for quite some time. Question is, how much should be invested and how? Does selling a first-gen offering in low numbers and at a loss make sense? What should the second offer? Who will be the target market? Think about how simple of an argument it is claiming Volt has two separate propulsion systems. After all, GM promotes it that way... electric, then gas. Problem is, dual power-sources was the argument against Prius for nearly a decade, arguing you have to pay for twice as much. It could even be said that GM crammed a large battery-pack and added a motor into their existing platform, hoping the lemmings will by it. We all know that Toyota could have offered greater capacity, since that is in fact what Ford did with their hybrid of similar design. Instead, they chose to stick with the balanced approach, retaining cargo space and package pricing. Noticed how they delivered the plug-in with a lithium battery instead of NiMH? Notice how they increased EV speed from 46 to 62 mph? Notice how MPG is boosted at speeds faster than 62 mph? Notice how they increased power from 27 to 38 kW? Notice how HV efficiency was increased 1 MPG despite the extra weight of the larger battery? Notice how it was all delivered mid-cycle, rather than waiting until the next generation?
Planning Ahead, refinements. Reading comments recently made by those responsible for the next-gen Prius, they say we can look forward to even better thermal-efficiency from the engine, refined aerodynamics, a lower center-of-gravity, and even more interior space. They also stated the higher system will be smaller and lighter weight. I have no doubt GM will deliver a number of refinements with the next-gen Volt as well. Unfortunately, that will lead to some disenchantment among current owners. Inevitably, there will be some hypocritical responses as well. Fortunately, none of that rhetoric will matter. GM customers will be better off. I went to the State Fair again yesterday. We played with the interior of the Volt there, getting on-lookers involved. The response was overwhelming negative about how small the rear seating was. When I pointed out how low the door was, blocking my view out the window, some were amazed. They even laughed when I pointed out where my head was when the hatch was opened. That's not good coming from a man who is only 5'8" in a car intended to appeal to the masses. Prius quite a bit larger with respect to several seating dimensions in back. Obviously, GM will address that rather blatant shortcoming and it will be a total non-issue. But to get so much denial in the meantime about such an obvious issue, what the heck? As countless Volt owners have stressed, this generation of Volt is only an "early adopter" rollout. We all know that wasn't the original plan. It was expected to hit minimum mainstream sales volume by the end of the second year. Clearly, that didn't happen. Enough said. Let's move on... which means enough with the "vastly superior" nonsense already. Geez! The next Volt will be better. Why? It's because the current doesn't meet needs of middle-market. We all need to get behind support for plug-in vehicles. That means constructively & directly addressing why high-volume sales vehicles continue to dominate. You cannot just hope for the best from the next generation. It's also a moving target and bragging about aspects of design that aren't even a purchase priority for the typical Camry/Malibu/Fusion and Corolla/Cruze/Focus buyer doesn't accomplish anything. Eventually, those still arguing in favor of large battery-packs which compromise cargo storage and require a substantial premium will finally notice how counter-productive that is. Who do they honestly think that actually appeals to? The clock is ticking. Competition is growing, which complicates matters by confusing consumers with so many choices. Notice how post spin doesn't make any difference anymore? That's because decisions are going back to the basics. That means comparing 100 MPG to 200 MPG is quickly become a moot point. Things like purchase-price and interior-room will be getting much more attention. That means automakers better be prepared for the paradigm shift.
Planning Ahead, practical. How any automaker could make the decision to compromise cargo area is a fundamentally important question. After all, the primary factor for rapid attraction to the second generation of Prius wasn't the upgrade to the hybrid system. True, that was a major endorsement to the technology. But when you look back at the offerings of the time, you discover it was the only midsize hatchback offered. There was literally no competition. All hatchbacks back then were compact. Nothing big enough to be practical for a family left a huge void in the market... which Toyota happily filled... which the antagonists worked hard to conceal. Eventually, Prius was vindicated. Now, there are quite a few midsize hatchbacks available. Some automakers are even offering wagons now too. So when you look at Volt, you wonder what the heck. There's a cargo space under a hatch, but area itself isn't flat like the others. The seats don't fold down flush with the rest. The floor has an uneven drop, preventing any tall or long cargo from actually being transported. You get the impression of it being practical, but it really isn't. The area is quite a bit smaller than Prius. Oddly, Ford made a practicality compromise as well. The seats are flush either. The battery-pack for the plug-in model C-Max consumes a surprising amount of vertical cargo space. Neither seems like a wise approach to fulfilling the purpose of appealing to the masses.
Planning Ahead, more. There is a heavy dependency on
battery-pack capacity for Volt. In fact, that is the primary selling
feature. So naturally, it makes sense that all comparisons to it will
be with respect to its perceived best attribute. This is why Prius PHV
is constantly being forced into an EV perspective. Rather than looking
at it as the PLUG-IN HYBRID it actually is, there's an intentional
distortion & misrepresentation of it being an electric-only vehicle with
engine-backup instead. They just plain don't care. That's
because the engine efficiency is for Volt so low. Less capacity would
result in a far less efficient vehicle. To make matters worse, the
recent reveal that the next generation Prius will come with an even more
efficient engine makes that bad situation even worse. But coming from
the "vastly superior" enthusiasts who strongly feel less is too
extreme of a sacrifice, they won't ever understand Toyota's planning ahead.
In fact, after so many years of stressing that point, it's basically futile
attempting anymore. Today, the comment to that affect which caught my
eye was this summary: "So Toyota is tricking consumers to save money and
buy a Pip because it has a cheaper battery (smaller product). What fools!"
I found that amusing. Configuring a product to offer a balance is
wrong? Wow! Of course, they go out of their way to make sure
battery-pack capacity remains the focus. Allowing any of the features
to be discussed is an act only a troll would ever do. Just try
mentioning how small the seating it back is for an example. Some
responses are downright hostile. I kept my reply simple, choosing to
include a quote from another Prius owner instead, one who I hold in high
regard for all the research he does. I posted:
Ironically, the "more is better" approach has proven to be false many, many
times. As a friend so eloquently summed up the situation... PiP
design was based on a smaller battery having advantage due to lower cost,
less environmental impact, higher efficiency, more space, etc. The
only downside was the inconvenience of multiple recharges. The
wireless charger would negate that - smart move.
Planning Ahead, capacity. In a truly desperate act,
the exploitation of the vague and easily misunderstood EPA rating was
brought up again. It was more cherry-picking. Rather than look
at everything the EPA numbers represent, they focus entirely on just one...
which leads to a false impression of performance... exactly what they want.
That's how greenwashing works. You reference something credible, but
don't include everything the person needs to know. That way, you
aren't actually lying. The omission often goes unnoticed too. So
naturally, there's retaliation when someone points it out. On that
daily blog, they down-vote the post. Yes, they actually choose to
dismiss a fact. Even if it's nothing but information, void of any
opinion, it still gets a negative. I find that so vindicating.
Their decision is to stick their head in the sand, hoping it will reach -10
so it will disappear from view. That kind of denial is amazing.
Anywho, the nonsense was about the "6 mile" rating again. I
routinely get more than double that. It's no big deal. Heck, you
can even do the math. Volt delivers 38 miles from the 16.5 kWh
capacity battery-pack. That works out to 2.3 miles per kWh.
Using that same factor, the 4.4 kWh battery-pack in Prius PHV should deliver
10.1 miles. Since Volt weighs 621 pounds more, it's quite reasonable
to add another 0.9 miles for Prius PHV. There's a very real penalty
for carrying that much extra weight. So when we look at the EPA
rating, there shouldn't be any issue. The 11-mile range makes sense,
even with the blend potential listing. In other words, they are taking
full advantage of the measurement shortcoming. But rather pointing out
how misleading the label is, they hope you'll assume it's fine. I
still can't believe they try things so easy to disprove. Needless to
say, I couldn't resist a reply:
Capacity is 11 miles, not 6. That 6 comes from a hard acceleration during the
EPA testing cycle. The engine quickly shuts off after that and drive
continues for 5 more miles using only electricity. 6 + 5 = 11
Planning Ahead, parallel. They spin everything you say. It would maddening at times, if it wasn't for the fact that they deliberately ignore certain things. That cherry-picking is a dead giveaway your information is in strong support of the situation; otherwise, they'd provide reasoning (even if very weak) to eliminate it. No acknowledgement, just outright disregard, is a good sign. I especially like the continued attempts to draw a parallel to Prius development with Volt. Toyota's well planned steps have paid off. They want Volt to appear the same way, even though the circumstances are immensely different. I was happy to point out those circumstances: GM already had EV1, Two-Mode, and BAS experience when Volt was being developed. That's quite a bit of real-world motor & battery knowledge already obtained that cannot just arbitrarily be dismissed. When Toyota developed Prius, there wasn't anything prior to leverage from. They started from scratch. The situation differs greatly from Volt. And as it was so eloquently put (in this thread): "Without that $7500, the Volt would be roadkill." That clearly adds to the point of not being the same. So, why is there so much effort still to convince us of a parallel? How does having an excuse help accomplish anything? How come focus isn't on what needs to be delivered next instead?
Planning Ahead, reach.
Also, let's not forget how many consumers there are who simply never
consider the purchase of a "first" vehicle. They just plain are not
interested in something which could potentially lose value quickly or reveal
itself to have problems. Take a look a Volt for a very recent example. MSRP
for the 2014 model got reduced by $5,000. Just think what that did to resale
value and the feeling it gave owners who just purchased one for a lot more.
With Toyota's rollout starting in just 15 states having strong interest in
high-efficiency vehicles and not expanding to nationwide until a potential
price-reduction, exposure was carefully limited. It's another example of
planning ahead. They can establish the plug-in hybrid market with lower risk
to reputation or disenchantment. Having started mid-cycle, it sets them up
greater volume right away with the next generation.
The business of selling vehicles is extremely complicated. Lots of smaller
improvements on a mature platform is very appealing to those who are
unwilling to pay for much beyond the basics. That's the situation Toyota has
now with Prius. It's a great balance for selling a large number of them.
That win-win formula is how to reach middle-market, something antagonists
expend a surprising amount of effort attempting to prove false.
Long story short, there's lots to look forward to from the next generation.
Planning Ahead, retrofit. We're getting bombarded from all sides now. Newbies are attempting to assess the situation based on what they are learning now, without any prior knowledge. It's like looking back at a major natural or political event afterward and saying that outcome should have been obvious. You cannot. Unless you are participating while the smaller events building up to the big one are unfolding, you are unaware of all the elements at play. The outcome is anything but obvious. Anywho, the pot was stirred with this today: "The current plug-in is really just a retrofit of a gen 3." And of course, there was nothing provided to explain what would need to be different for it to have been considered planned. Fortunately, I was indeed a participant. In fact, I've documented those events in great detail. So, I rebutted with: It's easy to jump to that conclusion, especially with the greenwashing effort pushing that very sentiment. Looking closer though, you'll discover the current hybrid is a design under-utilized. Adding the capacity & power fulfills the affordable efficiency boost Toyota had set out to deliver all along... once battery density & cost finally dropped to a reasonable level... without having to change much beyond just the pack itself. That planning ahead allows them to take advantage of economies-of-scale while also minimizing risk in a very uncertain market. It also provided a great opportunity to rollout the first model mid-cycle. They get to real-world prove implementation with the chance to upgrade sooner than any of the other automakers staring at the beginning of a cycle. Think about all the different markets Toyota gets to gather data from, lots of it too. With a system already so well refined, does it even make sense to have the plug-in model profoundly different? Why not just switch priorities instead? Let the 4th generation grow plug demand to the point where the 5th can be offered with a plug standard and the choice of no-plug as an option. The underlying effort is to shift purchases from traditional vehicles to hybrids. Doing that on the scale of millions per year within just 2 generations takes lots of planning ahead, delivering a design already prepped for future opportunities... even if it makes it appear to be a retrofit.
The Next Prius. We got our very first bit of information about it today. As anticipated, MPG will be better. Thermal efficiency of the engine will be improved. That was one of the goals Toyota stated. Another goal was battery improvement, which will also be delivered. The entire propulsion system will be lighter too. As we had hoped, the chassis will be improved to deliver greater handling & aerodynamics. Naturally, the cost will be reduced as well. For the plug-in model, there were hints about increased range and wireless charging. In other words, it's an all-around better Prius... as each of the previous generations have been. The press release emphasized the overall goal of reaching 5 million total hybrid sales for the United States by the end of 2016. There's lots to look forward too. It's good to see Toyota continuing to push, even when the rest of the industry trails behind. They clearly are not resting on their laurels as some claim. The goal of replacing traditional vehicles gets more and more realistic each step of the way. Doubt is gone about whether or not that will happen. It's more a matter of when now.