Prius Personal Log  #726

January 15, 2016  -  January 20, 2016

Last Updated: Weds. 3/23/2016

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1-20-2016

$28.46 Per Barrel.  That was the closing price of oil yesterday.  At the moment, the price is even lower.  My guess is we'll dip to $26 something... especially since I saw a gas station this morning with an advertised price of $1.59 per gallon for gas.  Anything below $30 for a barrel of oil presents a serious problem.  Even the worst-case scenarios don't go that low.  No one ever imagined the situation where over-supply would get so out of hand.  The belief was that we'd drill more oil locally, resulting in a significant reduction of what we import.  The assumption was the importers would reduce their pumping to match up with the shift in demand.  That's rather naive.  Those countries depend upon a continued flow of their oil to foreign destinations.  After all, some depend almost entirely upon that for their income.  Look no further than our coal-producing states to understand the problem caused by supply/demand shifts.  With the scale this is at, signs are beginning to show that we have serious trouble on the way.  Gas prices staying low for the next few years sounds like a blessing for consumers.  But in reality, that will harm businesses depending upon that revenue.  Scope reaches well beyond the oil industry itself.  Damage from lower prices will have a terrible ripple effect.  Sorry for delivering the bad news, but that is why hybrid penetration has been so important.  We need to keep demand basically on par with population growth.  The increase of vehicles on the road combined with the resulting increase in time required for commutes shows obvious need.  It should go without saying that this hurts renewables too.  Wind & Solar cannot compete at such a low cost.  Dirt cheap oil is bad, really bad.

1-18-2016

Changing Definitions.  Long after the fact, a changing of definition can be a sign of trouble emerging.  But if the trouble has already arrived and you've been dealing with it for awhile, what's the harm in tossing around some ideas?  That's what happened today: "EREV provides equivalent performance in _both_ CS and CD modes (Chevy Volt).  AREV (Augmented Range Electric Vehicles) provide _degraded_ performance in CS mode (BMW i3).  PHEV provides _degraded_ performance in CD mode (Prius Plugin)."  I didn't like idea of breaking away from simplicity.  Come up with a label to identify the obvious... like EV or Diesel.  The meaning should be meaningful.  Those were not.  For kicks though, I took the time to toss back some consideration of the suggestion:  An introduction of revised definitions and a new label to clarify the existing category confusion... interesting.  That makes sense for technical comparisons, but how would they translate into real-world driving?  The idea of degraded performance only applies if you are actually using the system to the fullest.  For example, the 0-60 acceleration only matters if you drop the pedal to the floor.  If you don't, the number doesn't serve any real-world purpose.  It's the same with the top-speed.  Ford's Energi plug-in hybrids have can go up to 85 MPH using only electricity.  Whether or not the engine will go faster never even comes into play, since that's a EV speed faster than many people ever real-world drive.  What about city, suburb, and local highway travel?  Using a plug-in hybrid with a lower top EV speed wouldn't be differentiated.  A gen-2 of Prius PHV can drive up to 68 MPH using only electricity.  How would a label be associated to that resulting real-world MPG?  Notice how Chrysler is planning to call its upcoming plug-in hybrid just a hybrid?  If they don't ever offer one without a plug, what difference would the label make?  Shopping on their showroom floor, the choice of "hybrid" or "traditional" will be unmistakably clear.   In other words, what is there to gain by applying new labels... or any at all?

1-18-2016

Colorful Adjectives.  Posts like this always annoyed me: "I agree, the 11 mile range is a total joke and pathetic.  Not only that, they take sooo long to charge for a pitiful 11 mile range even with an L2 charger.  That probably explains why they have plunged in resale value.  Toyota better have at least 25 to 30 range especially now that they have a lot of competition."  It portrayed a misrepresentation.  The use of "joke" and "pathetic" makes it worse.  Range was never a concept meant to be applied to plug-in hybrids... since they blend.  The goal has always been to boost MPG.  The resulting reduction of emissions and increase in efficiency was the result of increased battery-capacity and a plug.  There wasn't any intent to deliver an EV experience to the level of purity-at-all-costs until depletion.  Sadly though, that's what many assume.  Some of that is the result of successful greenwashing by Volt enthusiast... hence the obvious animosity.  But what are you going to do?  In this case, I posted:  Applying 2016 market expectations to a design targeted at 2012 consumers is what?  Think about how the mindset was back then.  Back when PHV was first rolled out, battery-capacity was expensive and it required seating/cargo compromises.  Toyota worked hard to deliver a design that had the potential to earn profit and would not require interior room sacrifice.  It was a careful balance effort to address tradeoffs of the time.  Market change is why there are generational upgrades.  Insulting an approach of the past that clearly achieved the goals it was set out to fulfill isn't constructive.  Toyota delivered what the market had been asking for and it performed well.  What other hybrid of the time offered so much space inside with a solid efficiency boost and a production-cost kept in check?  None.  As for resale value, all the plug-in values have dropped quite a bit.  That's simply the nature of first-gen rollouts.  It was an expectation that selling on later would include a big depreciation hit.  We hope the technology advances quickly enough for that to happen.  Slow growth is not a desired outcome.  Hopefully, the early buyers understood that.  As for competition, there's more to selling plug-in hybrids than just battery-capacity.  Cost to produce (not selling price) will have a significant influence on how sales are approached by both dealers & consumers.  There's also the practical nature that's appealing, the same things people look for in other vehicles should be present in the choices offered with plug.  The true competing vehicles are what can be found next to the plug-in on the dealer's showroom floor. Remember, appeal of offerings from other automakers falls off as generations advance.

1-17-2016

What Is It?  Compliance.  Another long, drawn out thread that didn't address the topic itself.  Asking whether or not Volt was a compliance vehicle never really happened, since it was always promoted as mainstream.  Of course, it irritated enthusiasts to no end when you pointed out what that actually meant.  So, bringing up the same this for Bolt did what?  You guessed it.  So, I pushed to have looked at it from the other perspective.  The so-called "compliance" vehicles are those produced by automakers to fulfill some type of legal requirement.  Typically, it has been to earn enough clean-credits to continue business in the state.  This would often be costly for the automaker.  They'd lose money just for the sake of meeting the qualification.  Is that what either of those GM vehicles with a plug are?  The same can be asked about Toyota.  The catch is, the plug-in Prius was a mid-cycle release.  We all knew the next-gen upgrade wouldn't require the wait of a full generation, since it was rolled out halfway through the product-cycle.  Neither Bolt nor Volt fall into that situation.  Both will have a full cycle.  So, it makes sense asking what the expectation for that duration will be.  But rather than focus on any specific count, I simply posted:  In other words, if it isn't a "compliance" vehicle, what is it?

1-16-2016

What Is It?  Oil.  Sometimes, the online battles do end up stirring some constructive exchanges:  "But the public is fickled, and has a short memory.  Will low gasoline prices be the predominant factor in car choices?  Will energy independence and environmental concerns take precedent?  Can the smooth quiet electric drive seduce the public away from fossil fuels?"  I was elated to have something worthy to join into that discussion:  Notice how the rhetoric has faded away?  We no longer have to deal with blatant greenwashing anymore.  The Volt fires and Prius PHV capacity were good examples of people spreading false information with the intent to mislead & confuse.  That's gone now.  We've moved on to addressing the harder questions.  Low gas prices... clearly, they are having a major impact.  The barrier they create toward the adoption of plug-in acceptance is huger; however, unforeseen consequences of "drill baby drill" are now starting to become apparent.  Over-supply of oil is harming the very market it was intended to help.  Environmental concerns... has become an interesting topic.  VW diesels were supposedly able to meet minimum emissions standards.  At that level, they were emitting 5 times as much as an ordinary Prius.  Few seemed to care though. That made marketing even cleaner vehicles basically impossible.  But now that it's been revealed that those diesel vehicles were far dirtier than claimed to be, the topic of air-quality is finally getting proper attention.  Energy independence... is a mess.  Changing the status quo is tricky and there's quite a bit of support for keeping things as is.  Drilling more oil has backfired and has been some pushback of renewables by the electricity industry.  What else can be said?  The "too little, too slowly" has been overwhelmingly confirmed.  Smooth & Quiet drive... hasn't worked as a draw.  For decades, that's what the luxury choices offered.  Ordinary consumers purchased expensive guzzlers instead, ones that trembled & roared became top-sellers.  The allure of EV is lost among the masses.  The "know your audience" advice cannot be understated.  This is why the topic of "compliance" is such a big deal.  If we can't even provide well-stated goals here, there's no way mainstream buyers are going to care.  Simply ask yourself: How will these new offerings be marketed?

1-16-2016

What Is It?  Attack.  Making the issue personal is undeniable evidence of desperation.  It's an expected outcome when an enthusiasts become disenchanted.  They turn to antagonism, lashing out at whomever they can place blame on.  It gets old and is quite transparent.  Everyone can see the behavior.  Yet, they continue it anyway.  It the on-going discussion about "compliancy" as to whether or not Bolt will sell profitably at a high-volume, he posted this: "As always, the only definition that seems to matter to you is your own."  The reason for making it personal was so obvious.  Volt underwent the same scrutiny.  Sales beyond early-adopter were a struggle.  Gen-2 is following the same pattern.  He isn't happy.  I'm the scapegoat to place blame on.  Whatever.  Since he invited me to respond, I did:  Haven't noticed how that definition got labeled as my own since everyone else abandoned it?  Reality is, BMW delivered on the goal GM originally strived for, but didn't.  So, the question of why was repeatedly asked.  Over time, the answer changed... despite the fact that the definition didn't.  Sales results were the reason.  We were told a no-compromise (tradeoff after depletion) design was essential and that GM did a fantastic job of delivering it. I agree, they did.  Kudos to the engineers.  As for the enthusiasts, they absolutely insisted that level of performance was all that would be needed to attract customers.  That approach failed miserably.  In other words, they learned the lesson the hard way that turning in homework that wasn't assigned won't get you an "A" grade, regardless of how well done it was.  That's why attention has shifted over to Bolt.  Even though gen-2 of Volt did deliver improvements, it wasn't the assignment... high-volume profitable sales... hence this topic of discussion: "'Not a compliance car', GM says 2017 Chevy Bolt can meet demand of over 50,000 per year."  We've seen this before.  The very same thing happened with gen-1 of Volt.  That's why the original goal was reiterated.  Knowing why the question was asked before is how you find out what's different now.  Clearly, the fear of "range anxiety" didn't draw consumer interest the way GM had anticipated.  Nissan's upgrade of Leaf to deliver an official EPA range rating of 84 miles made it a strong competitor for Volt.  BMW's rollout of i3 with an 81-mile rating along with a range-extender left Volt in an awkward position, which gen-2 did not address.  Instead, we've seen the shifting of support over to Bolt with it's 200-mile range and no extender.  Meanwhile, the rest of the automakers have been announcing their plug-in plans.  The most impactful has been the recent reveal from Chrysler... a plug-in hybrid with the same capacity battery-pack as Volt, but in the form of a large people/cargo mover (minivan).  It will be available by year-end.  Also coming later his year will be the Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid (small SUV), which is already a popular vehicle in Europe.  We will be getting gen-2 of Prius PHV from Toyota later this year as well.  Heck, even GM is experimenting with the approach of augmenting a hybrid by adding battery-capacity and a plug.  That brings us back to the ultimate question.  With GM stating it have the capacity to deliver up to 50,000 orders for the 2017, what does that mean for Volt?  The answer tells us about definition, it explains why.

1-15-2016

What Is It?  The Point.  Goals were always the focus for a reason.  Who the heck is this vehicle designed to appeal to and how many are intended to be sold?  It's that simple.  Enthusiasts fought intensely though, in the end, always directing attention over to Toyota to distract from GM woes.  In the long thread today about what Bolt actually is, the topic of Volt kept coming up.  That's a new problem for enthusiasts.  They can't use Prius as a scapegoat anymore.  GM's effort to diversify & compete is causing the struggle to internalize.  That stings.  It's what I had been doing all along.  The competition is other vehicles on the showroom.  They had an extremely difficult time accepting that.  Soon, they'll have no choice.  In the meantime, it's conclusion like this: "...which is the whole point of the Volt."  Still dealing with the twisting definition of EREV is amazing.  To change goals that often and assume no one will notice.  Ugh.  Anywho, that was a response to my own reply.  So, I followed up with:  That was your response to this question: "Why not favor EV and demote the role of the gas-engine to just backup?" There's a clear conflict of understanding at play here.  The purpose of "backup" is to have a means of continuing in the event of a unexpected situation. In the case of hardware, it is never as robust or thorough as the primary.  Cost of that level of redundancy is unrealistic.  It's not necessary either, since it is only for limited use.  The point is to ensure operation doesn't come to a complete halt before restoration of the primary.  For example, some businesses and some households have backup generators.  Neither has the purpose to continue on as usual.  The power available is only enough to keep items secure, people comfortable, and perishables from spooling.  Capacity is minimal.  Duration is short.  Scope is limited.  As pointed out, that importance of Volt needing to deliver "the same performance/characteristics" was guaranteed.  That clearly conflicts with "backup" purpose.  The gas-engine is overkill in that regard, much more than needed to get you to your destination.  i3 stayed true to the approach of keeping to a minimum.  That leaves Volt in an awkward position, especially now that Bolt is so heavily promoting the upcoming lower cost of batteries.  So, we ask for clarification.  What is the point?

1-15-2016

What Is It?  Spin.  Ultimately, you'll get someone quite upset with the outcome to change a definition.  Rather than just acknowledge the mistake and move on, it's a choice to deny what happened.  They'll do they're best to spin the situation.  For example: "The i3 is more BEV-with-backup than EREV, as we take it."  Suddenly, it's all about our perspective.  That's an attempt to disassociate past comments, predictions, and hope of the past.  He wants the you to believe there was a consumer perspective that was different from the very beginning.  I gladly pointed out that line of reasoning was pointless:  We didn't matter.  That was the lesson to be learned from Volt.  Put another way, definitions of the past didn't match either intent or outcome.  Bolt is helping to change the mentally, moving us away from what clearly didn't work.  Sales approach will differ from gen-1 offerings.  People won't care about the differences based upon labels that never took hold.  They'll base purchase decisions upon cost & benefit, just like they did for decades prior to vehicles that use electricity.

1-15-2016

What Is It?  Important.  The significance of knowing who the targeted market is comes down to finding out what the supposed goals are.  The response to my post led to this: "Guaranteeing the same performance/characteristics in RE mode as CD mode is important."  That's an enthusiasts claim.  The mainstream consumers asked about their need certainly didn't ever specify that.  They sighted cost, size, and range as being important.  Performance following depletion hasn't been any sort of priority for the masses.  Either you get enough range to cover virtually all driving needs or you get a system that operates as a hybrid afterward.  That's why sales of Leaf stayed on par with Volt.  That's why I kept nagging about who.  This was my post in reply to that claim:  That's the description of a PHEV (plug-in hybrid).  The selling point of an EREV is there's a gas engine as a backup, just in case.  With Bolt offering a 200-mile range, getting only 53 miles from Volt puts it in an awkward position.  It will be considered a PHEV, especially with the inevitable upgrade to i3 offering around 100 miles of EV range.  Note that the capacity of the gas tank comes into play too.  If the vehicle offers far greater range from gas than it does electricity, it may not be used primarily as an EV.  For an EREV, that guarantee is what's important.

 

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