Prius Personal Log  #707

May 31, 2015  -  June 7, 2015

 Last Updated: Sun. 7/26/2015

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Surprises.  Even now and then, something constructive is actually posted on the daily-blog.  It comes from someone who doesn't often post, a person far enough from the rhetoric to make a worthwhile comment or suggestion.  I jumped on the opportunity today, which really surprised me:  It will be intriguing when GM does finally expand the Voltec offering to something other than 4'ish passenger car.  Prius Plus has been available for years and is exactly what you describe.  (It's a variation of Prius V available to some countries in Europe and over in Japan).  Like the model here, the back seats are on rails.  Where it differs is the addition of 2 seats behind that, increasing the passenger count to 7.  The seats fold down when not needed.  The trick was finding an alternate location for the batteries.  With Prius Plus, it was to switch to lithium for the higher density and smaller size, then moving it to between the front seats.  If GM sticks to the 50'ish mile range promotion, rather than shrinking the battery and retaining current range as some of us hoped, that diversity opportunity is going to be a problem.  Just think if GM had stuck with the current range.  Cost would have been reduced while at the same time increase both seating room and depleted efficiency.  But then again, this is where CT6 comes into play.  Volt can retain its purity while still allowing GM to offer variety.  It saves face for those who endorsed "EREV" by introducing "PHEV" labeling, even though they share the same technology.  It's a good compromise, if it actually happens and in a timely fashion.  Any comments about what you'd specifically like (similar to what current vehicle) and by when (next-gen or mid-cycle release)?


Abbreviations.  The label response was rather weak, sighting the official SAE definition.  We know that mainstream consumers couldn't care less, that technical description is meaningless.  Again, this is the difference between engineering and business.  The way to market a vehicle often has nothing to do with the underlying technology.  That's why the simplistic MPG advertisements have been so effective.  Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled with his response.  My own was an effort to, hopefully, keep some type of constructive dialog going.  We'll see.  After sighting the official terminology origin, he said: "I started using it to keep from switching between conventional and traditional, both of which could have baggage for the reader..."  In reply, I posted:  We've overwhelming confirmed abbreviations are problematic.  By far, the better choice than introducing yet another is to simply say: non-hybrid.  Notice how EV doesn't actually tell us much anyway?  Prius PHV is just as much an electric-only vehicle in a wide variety of circumstances.  In fact, I'm at a coffeeshop now typing this.  I got here via a 55 mph highway and a little bit of suburb.  Total distance round-trip: 8.8 miles.  Total amount of gas consumed: 0.0 gallons.  It was all EV as far as the energy consumption is concerned.


ICEV label.  The effort to win over the friendship of former foes is going well.  Some were simply frustrated that things didn't go their way... which naturally meant anything I said as the perceived argument winner would be in some way an "I told you so" type remark.  Thankfully, their desire to participate in active discussions trumps their desire to be correct about market response.  Since they are well informed and aren't afraid to speak their mind, they are a useful ally.  See, one way or another, I'm finding a way to build up a team of influential individuals who have a reach beyond the typical single-forum participants.  Each routinely post elsewhere too. Anywho, this was the quote I jumped on this morning: "The only hybrid I can recall that has an ICEV available here but isn't offered is the Fit."  It was a sensible comment.  The poor choice of wording got me though.  I'm quite curious what the response will be, especially from this particular individual:  Do you realize the disservice and unbalance the use of "ICEV" represents?  People see the new term with "EV" in it and assume that actually means something is new.  That makes sense if nothing is different.  There are an endless numbers of examples of new labels used to indicate something is new.  In this case, it's just a replace for the ICE term the rest of us have been using for many, many years now.  What benefit does the new label bring anyway?  If there actually is one, then you must also stop using the "hybrid" label and only refer to them as "HV" from now on.  Lack of consistency can become a problem.  Since you are one of the outspoken regular posters, I specifically highlighted your quote.  Seeing it used by others is one thing, but you have more of an influence... hence asking you directly.  If we want to all move forward, it's seemingly small details like this which really have an influence.


Advice.  I posted:  "Take the blinders off.  Notice the traditional vehicles are absolutely crushing the sales of plug-in vehicles.  Then join your local EV club for a dose of reality about the market."  That daily-blog suffers from group-think.  They've convinced themselves that only the plug-in market matters, that no other sales are relevant to their cause.  That amazes me.  To totally disregard all else is like ignoring the fact that the ship is sinking, simply because your cabin is still dry.  You can do everything right and still lose.  That's why looking at the big picture is so important.  A perfectly executed rollout with plug-in vehicles, having the technology operate flawlessly, be practical & affordable, and easy to understand is not a guarantee people will actually buy them.  Those purchases depend upon factors outside of what you have control over.  The influence of cheap & abundant gas is a great example.  Why bother with electricity?  Even if you prove greater reliability and lower lifetime cost, some people simply won't care.  They'll stick with the status quo.  The market is everything.  You cannot just pick & choose what you like and disregard the rest.


Unrealistic Expectations.  We've been taught to recognize leadership as breaking new ground... progressing further... reaching beyond... exceeding limitations.  The reason is simple, that's what results in praise.  The other type of leadership is thankless.  So, not only doesn't it get any attention, it is often dismissed as having any importance.  Needless to say, that's a major problem for automotive advancement.  The media just plain doesn't care about leading the way with ordinary vehicles.  They pretty much only care about pushing the envelope.  That means progress in terms of vehicles providing business-sustaining are almost totally overlooked.  Powerful large pickups and super-fast sports cars get lots of media coverage.  This is why Prius has faced challenges with mainstream penetration.  This is also why Volt was hyped so much.  That makes you think when this is posted: "Frankly, I'm shocked Toyota didn't take the lead in plug-ins."  Realistically, they did.  Toyota was the automaker which took cost-containment seriously by making it a very high priority.  With so many factors at play and the concern about dependency on tax-credits, you'd think expectations would be set with cost in mind... by GM, so there's been a lot of fallout to deal with.  Nissan and Ford didn't sacrifice as much, so they've been doing better.  Tesla obviously didn't worry about cost, but they made their intent quite clear.  Toyota stayed true, rolling out a mid-cycle release with low-volume in limited markets, showing us a solution for the masses will follow.  They chose to wait for affordability and set time expectations.  Knowing approach is vital.  Acknowledging it is a different matter:  Knowing that making it affordable to the masses is the primary objective, the fact that batteries are still striving to reach that point should have been a clue.  The failure of Volt taking the market by storm was another obvious indicator.  There was wishy-washy response to both Leaf and Tesla as well.  Rolling out mid-cycle made it much easier to keep the plan flexible too.  Then there's the reality of low gas prices.


IF and ONLY.  Speaking of generalizations....  I looked back through a recent popular discussion thread.  The words "if" and "only" were used quite a bit, so much so, they were controlling content of posts.  People don't like multiple choices.  As a result, they just prefer true/false and yes/no and either/or type responses.  Those are easy to follow in the confusing venue of online posting.  Forums present challenges.  Many discussions take place all at the same time, at different paces, with a wide variety of participants.  It gets confusing.  That makes simplicity a draw.  Unfortunately, that impairs constructive discussion.  This is how those daily-blogs thrive.  You start fresh each day.  At least with a forum, you stand a chance of finding relevant content to build upon.  After all, when the choices are "if" and "only", there really isn't much to discuss.  That's how topics become polarized.  People choose a side and never consider balance.  One extreme or the other is a problem.  Remember the lesson from Star Wars, how absolutes led to corruption?  Unfortunately, our society has stigmatized the word "compromise".  That had meant seeking out a balance.  Now, it means making a sacrifice.  That's really unfortunate.


Semantics, Labels, and Definitions.  When things start going bad, that's what discussions get overwhelmed with.  Simple things like audience & purpose are lost to arguing points without any benefit no matter what the overcome.  For example: "Then questions on why it didn't have the EV range of a Volt could be countered with, "the Prius plug in is a PHV and the Volt is an EREV." That could have nixed direct comparisons between the two in the general public consciousness."  Simplicity is often a major problem.  That's why they say "the devil is in the details".  Always be aware of the dangers from generalizing.  Clarity is key.  What will the debate accomplish?  Here's some food for thought:  Volt supporters tried, but the definition ended up weak and contradictory.  Labels don't mean anything to those who don't consider engineering anyway.  Sorry, but your looking-backward perspective is preventing constructive discussion.  Remember who said what to who about dwelling on history?  Take a look forward, considering the majority of the population who has yet ever give any plug-in any thought.  Their introduction will be gen-2 offerings.  None of what happened so far will mean anything to them.  Pointing out that past won't accomplish anything either.  Look forward.  Recognize audience.  Consider goals.


Impressions.  This attitude is difficult to overcome: "The PIP then came as a 2012 model year here.  Which was just in time to go sale after the Volt.  This let GM make a first impression upon the public of what a plug in hybrid is.  If the PIP had arrived first, it could have been Toyota dictating that impression."  When the mindset is trophy-centric, getting someone to recognize business objective is like talking to a wall.  They just plain don't understand what the heck you're talking about.  They see the immediate goal in front of them and disregard all else, even if there's a penalty or sacrifice for doing so.  As far as their concerned, initial impression is absolutely vital.  Ask the typical consumer if they have any clue when a particular technology came about.  They'll have no idea.  Being incorrect by many years is common.  Not knowing any detail is even more common.  It's just vague recollection, at best.  That makes the online squabbles rather pointless; yet, some will insist on trying to "win" anyway.  This time, I dealt with that this way:  That misses the point.  Toyota already understood both the market and their audience.  That's why they planned for rollout flexibility... which continues to be spun as a shortcoming, despite proving a wise move.  They steered clear of the obvious rollout issues GM was about to face.  They knew... which is why I blogged stop much back then about that very problem.  The concern was clearly documented.  Looking forward, we see the fallout as avoided.  The mainstream consumer will have no idea and just see any of that history they stumble across as ordinary early-adopter issues.


We Know.  The reason for Toyota's choices is well known; yet, some continue to dismiss it and focus on other argument points instead.  Their goal always has been and continues to be the pursuit of clean & efficient vehicles that are both high-volume & profitable.  It's easy to sell a vehicle with a dependency on tax-credits and HOV incentives in small numbers.  The challenge of cost isn't taken seriously.  So, we get post after post claiming Toyota has given up, despite the effort they've made to deliver something for the masses.  The more-is-better argument never ceases to amaze me.  Rather than actually consider mainstream need, it's always the same old thing, claiming the battery-capacity and highest EV speed is too small and too slow.  That argument is weak, since it's easy to see how the resulting MPG is always intentionally avoided.  No one wants to address the fact that the system delivers over 100 MPG at 65 mph.  Those against the approach hope you'll just see that the engine is running and deem the system unworthy.  Reality is, electricity provides a substantial efficiency boost while also reducing emissions.  That's the purpose of a plug-in hybrid, which can be achieved with a smaller battery-pack... on that doesn't sacrifice what appeals to hybrid shoppers... interior space... hybrid efficiency... and selling price.  With respect to EV delivery, it's even easier to see the goal of high-volume & profitable remains a major challenge.  So to all those who misrepresent by not acknowledging the reason, we know.


105 Miles.  Managing expectations is an on-going effort.  You are constantly challenged from sources that aren't even credible.  Someone will post a comment that is vague and without listing a source, readers just accept it as fact.  Ugh.  Nissan is the latest victim of this problem.  Supposedly, next year's model of Leaf was to get a battery-pack upgrade which would deliver 200 miles of EV.  According to who?  None of the other automakers are planning to deliver until the 2018 model-year.  That's over 2 years away still.  Needless to say, the recent announcement that the capacity for the 2016 would increase to 105 miles was met with mixed feelings.  Geez!  Leaf started at 73 miles, then later got an increase to 84 miles.  Without any change in the basic design, it will be improved to deliver 105 miles.  That should be great news.  Electric Vehicles benefitting from battery-tech improvements without needing a generation upgrade is fantastic.  Yet, there are some who express disappointment.  That's sad.  Unrealistic expectations are a very real problem.  Our mentality of bigger-being-better is major contributor.  What about keeping cost down?  What about not having to give up seating or cargo space?  What about maintaining high reliability?  It's really unfortunate how limited some people's views are on what a plug-in should deliver.


Mutually Exclusive.  We're starting to have a lot of problems with fuel-cell verses plug-in.  The media is presenting the technologies in a polarizing manner.  That sets a precedent for discussions to start in a this or that attitude.  The idea of both being successful is outright dismissed.  This is really unfortunate.  So, when comments like this come along, I take advantage of the opportunity: "I don't think --- or anyone here has said they are mutually exclusive."  It's implied to such a degree, most people never even realize a choice is available.  The come from a background where there's a winner and a loser.  Both cannot win.  That just doesn't make sense to them.  A simple look at the computer industry should be all it take to change attitude.  How do you connect to the internet nowadays?  Notebook?  Tablet?  Phone?  All 3 of those have their place.  They all win.  Remember back when the only choice was a desktop computer?  Anywho, I replied with:  Quite correct.  However, not going out our way to make that clear... an explicit reminder of goals... contributes to those assumptions.  We become enablers by not taking the time to make sure everyone understands.  As well informed and frequent posters, we should all be making at effort to prevent.  Leaving opportunity for misunderstandings & misleading has had terrible consequences in the past.  We can stop that early on with raised awareness and a continued message of purpose right from the start.


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