Prius Personal Log  #732

February 19, 2016  -  February 28, 2016

Last Updated: Fri. 3/25/2016

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Closure.  This recent statement from a past antagonist to now someone trying to help out is what I chose to climb on onto the soapbox for, attempting to sum up the situation as a form of closure:

"Remains to be seen where Toyota wants to go in terms of cars you can plug in.  They seem to put virtually all those eggs in the hydrogen basket now (while still doing a large number of non-plug-in hybrids), but they've issued misleading statements in the past so I'm not sure I believe they won't do an all-electric or serious plug-in hybrid."

The business approach differs to such a degree, it's easy to wonder.  Our culture here has focused heavily on the now.  So, things like long-term projects and sustainability simply aren't given much consideration.  Remember what things were like before the economy fell apart?  Focus was almost entirely on quarterly returns.  Getting over that mindset takes some work.

My all-time favorite "misleading statement" from Toyota was the comment about lithium batteries not being suitable for automotive use.  There were a number of people who immediately took that verbatim, but didn't include everything.  It quickly became a popular out-of-context statement.  The reference to cost was omitted.  The thought that stance would change later was overlooked.  Our desire to draw conclusions right away contributed to that misleading.  No one cared though. The damage was already done.

Another big part of the problem was the mentality that only a single solution is the best outcome.  People see an interest in hydrogen being exhibited, then believe that means there is no interest in electricity.  We've backed ourselves into a corner by thinking co-existence isn't an option.  So, in the case of Toyota, most of the effort to establish a base for plug-in customers and reduce cost by introducing a modular production architecture has gone totally overlooked.  There's a belief that hydrogen is the investment of choice, that all else has been abandoned.

This is nothing new.  When the plug-in Prius was first rolled out, there was no acknowledgement of it being a mid-cycle rollout with a potential for adjusting plans based on what would be learned along the way.  It was just an immediate push to compare it directly to Volt with fixed expectations, as if circumstances didn't matter.  At the same time, rollouts of Prius C and Prius V were outright dismissed… even though those were helping to draw away people from traditional choices, making the enticement of plugging later less difficult.

Now, within a similar window of time, we're seeing rollout of the new Prius and a hybrid RAV4, while also discontinuing the entire Scion division and rebranding the upcoming C-HR hybrid as a Toyota.  Again, this is more of that effort to pave the way for plugging.  People also seem to forget the goal of offering a hybrid version of every Toyota passenger vehicle by 2020.

None of that would be a issue of dissension if it wasn't for GM doing similar things, but in a different manner.  We heard strong statements in the past about GM having no interest in EV offerings, since Volt was the winning solution for all.  Now, no one seems to remember that and Bolt is widely accepted.  The same goes for regular hybrids; yet, GM will be rolling out 3 different varieties.

We need to focus on the goal of plugging in.  The gen-1 models taught us a lot.  We know the affordable, high-density batteries are coming.  It's just a matter of thinking further out, not getting hung up on the now or dwelling on distractions.


Displeased.  I wasn't the slightest bit happy with the response: "If someone says the PiP has more than 6 miles of all-electric range, I'll continue to correct them."  That one particular individual is anti-EV, so it makes sense that he'll be a more difficult personality to overcome.  The others simply want plug-in choices to prosper, which made it easier to meet them in the middle.  He has no interest in compromise.  It's weird too.  Even the guy who had hate for Toyota was willing to call a truce.  That's so refreshing too.  I had always hoped for allies.  Now, they are offering gestures of friendship... really trying to make it work.  This person though, what a pain.  I'm curious if he'll bother to reply.  I expect silence.  We'll see.  This was my follow up:  8.9 miles to the coffeeshop and back this morning.  About half the drive was at 55 mph.  The temperature was just above freezing.  When I got home, 5% of the EV capacity still remained.  The engine never started.  That entire drive was all electric.  Range was well beyond just 6 miles.  Our purpose is to promote plugging in.  Even Toyota's initial affordable offering clearly contributes to that.  What possible benefit is there to telling people the range is less?


Adding Insult.  Someone else saw the opportunity to belittle: "So most of these cars would get high single or low double digit battery miles in the winter.  That's pretty awful."  I jumped on that opportunity too:  Since the point of augmentation with a larger battery and plug is boost MPG, using "awful" to describe outcome isn't accurate.  For example, last weekend's Saturday morning blogging at the coffeeshop was a round trip of 8.9 miles.  With the temperature in the low 20's, I made it back home with just a tiny bit of electricity still available.  That's so far beyond the "6 mile" claim, it's quite frustrating to have to tolerate a source of such obvious confusion.  While typing this, I'm at the coffeeshop again.  The temperature is just barely over freezing.  That extra warmth resulted in less electrical resistance.  As a result, the battery-pack is currently sitting at 58% remaining (of useable EV capacity) rather than 50% like last week.  When no-jacket weather returns, range will increase even more.  The entire drive uses only electricity.  About half the distance speed is 55 mph.  It's very effective use of a gen-1 design.  Another example is yesterday's commute.  It was 37.8 miles round trip.  There's a short stretch at 70 mph (though traffic doesn't always go that fast) and a mix of 45 to 55 mph the rest of the way.  I plugged in at work, taking full advantage of the 85 kWh solar-array they have there.  The resulting average for that driving was 117 MPG.  In the summer, I tend to get between 135 and 150 MPG.  Late this year with the upgrade to gen-2, there is an anticipated max EV speed increase (from 100 to 110 km/h, that's 68.3 mph) and a more than doubling of the battery-pack capacity.  Those improvements are the result of cost dropping and the technology being refined.  For my commute and running around town, that will offer a nice upgrade... so much so, it's far easier meeting others in the middle, rather than continuing to bump heads.  In the past, there was quite a bit of misleading about how the system operated above the max EV speed.  Certain individuals worked hard to feed the assumption that at faster speeds, there was no benefit from the plug-supplied electricity.  It was amazing how much effort got expended to convince people that the vehicle reverted to just a hybrid then.  Nowadays, most people understand there's a blending that occurs for fastest travel.  The result is much higher MPG than with a no-plug hybrid.  The hope now is to get past the same type of misunderstanding from "all electric range" values.  You can see new friendships emerging among former foes.  As we see the technology getting upgraded and expectations toward automakers changing, that's becoming much easier.  True, there are uncertainties still... like public charging-stations and tax-credit expiration, but at least we're seeing progress.  This discussion topic points out the wide variety of plug-in hybrid options coming this year.  Even more are on the way.  That array of choices will cause confusion among buyers unless we as plug-in owners find a way to convey a uniform message.  Clashing amongst ourselves will spell our own doom.  We need to find ways to overcome differences.  The last thing we need is having to deal with new misconceptions.  Don't forget, those not in favor of plugging in will work hard to create them and ordinary customers aren't anywhere near well informed.  It's up to us what happens next.


Please.  We're seeing more and more progress.  Barriers of the past are breaking down.  New friendships are forming.  That makes it hard to believe something like this could still get posted: "FACT: The 2015 Toyota Prius PHV is EPA rated for only 6 miles all-electric range.  The 11-mile figure is for blended gas-electric. Please stop spreading false information."  Even the moderator of that daily blog for Volt, which is where that was posted, got a bit irked.  The discussion thread was about other plug-in hybrids coming out this year.  Why in the world with a Volt supporter continuing fighting the advancement of the market.  Obviously, I wasn't exactly thrilled to read that either... and was happy to fire back:  Please make an effort to overcome confusion of the past.  We all need to do our part to move on.  That so-called fact has been used extensively for greenwashing, because it was extremely misleading.  True, the EPA test does indeed trigger the engine to start at the 6-mile mark on the driving course.  However, there is still 5 miles of electricity remaining.  Following that hard-acceleration event, the engine shuts back off and EV resumes.  The better information to share is battery-pack capacity.  Take the time to do the calculations.  Looking at EPA detail on the window-sticker, we see an electricity consumption-rate of 29 kWh/100 miles.  That means 3.19 kWh is required to travel 11 miles.  Knowing that Prius PHV utilizes 67% of the capacity available from its 4.4 kWh battery-pack, we can easily account for 10 miles.  That's 2.95 kWh required to travel that distance using only electricity.  The 11th is a blend, using that final 0.24 kWh of electricity still available combined with a small amount of gas.  Proving only 6 miles total is all that’s available cannot be done.  Detail provided by EPA measurement clearly confirms it.


Writer Provoke.  It never hurts to know your presenter.  In fact, that can be even more important that knowing the audience.  For example: "Nissan has repeatedly said it has a fourth-generation battery waiting in the wings that could provide 200-plus real-world miles that would soon make “range anxiety” a non-issue, so why is it waiting?"  That quote was to be expected.  It came from a writer who's job it is to stimulate discussion.  He already knows the answer.  It's cost.  Rolling out a vehicle too expensive to compete simply doesn't make sense.  Nissan could be facing tax-credit expiration sooner than all the other automakers too.  Double the capacity of a battery-back isn't exactly easy either.  There's physical space & weight challenges to deal with.  Simply having the technology available doesn't make it practical.  Even with delay, their is the benefit of that message of 200 miles being a selling-point continuing to get reinforced.  Automakers are uniformly sighting that as a realistic threshold for mass adoption.  Articles with statements like this writer provided today help too.  I still don't like it when presented in the form of a provoke though, but that is the nature of online commentary.  They have to do something to stimulate interest & participation.


eAssist.  What else can you say other than: OMG!  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect the mild hybrid approach to be tried for a third time.  The prior two attempts were horrible failures.  GM's first was called BAS.  It went nowhere.  The second fell aprt too.  This third is interesting, since it specifically targets the large pickups.  That is a bit odd though.  The system adds only 13 horsepower, so there really isn't much in terms of assist... especially for a truck.  The power comes from a 0.45 kwh lithium-ion battery.  So, it's small and light weight (about 100 pounds total).  Cost wasn't mentioned.  Efficiency gain is expected to be 2 MPG.  Purpose is to gather information.  Only 500 Silverado and 200 Sierra will be built in 2016.  GM has learned the value of limited rollouts.  Too bad Toyota supporters had to suffer by pointing out the benefit.  Oh well.  This is one that definitely needs real-world data.  As an option, it would present sales challenges.  But if this is being considered as a standard part of upcoming rollouts, a way to deliver an edge over the competition and to satisfy CAFE requirements, that's a different matter.  We'll see.


Better.  There is still a little bit of smug, but it's quickly fading.  This could be among the last examples: "The crappy Prius took how many years to get where it is now, and it still sucks.  In one design exercise GM came out with a much better car.  #engineering."  Going down with a fight is normal.  There's always someone who wants their message to be made quite clear before standing down.  After reading other posts, which clearly didn't agree with him either, I posted:  There is an essential balance.  Too much of a good thing is a problem.  It's really unfortunate the devotion to engineering prevented seeing business need. GM focused so heavily on delivering maximum EV that it sacrificed priorities of ordinary consumers, resulting in a really nice vehicle enthusiasts would praise.  Consequences of that approach have become quite apparent now.  Notice how much focus has shifted over to Bolt instead?  Volt isn’t considered a mass-market choice anymore.  The newest Prius is, hence the obvious resentment.  Sorry, but the reality is that "better" is not measured in terms of engineering praise.  That success is determined by the count of sales.  The better a vehicle is, the more it will be purchased.  This isn't rocket science.  It's ordinary business.

2-19-2016 Credit 3, sales.  Sometimes, you get lucky and discussions really do swing in a productive direction: "Also, we get an indication of growth locally from clubs and organizations we are in contact, although this isn't as reliable as the actual sales numbers."  I was both pleased & stunned to read that.  The topic of sales usually dies when tax-credit dependency is brought up.  We really are moving forward:  More important than sales is attitude, since that persists throughout ownership.  The years of hate from "vastly superior" enthusiasts only existed online.  When the plug-in owners club would meet, we were all friends together working toward a common cause.  This "leap frog the competition" discussion thread highlights the problem.  In the club, there's a diverse set of plug-in owners.  We all recognize the competition as traditional vehicles.  Only those smug few online, who unfortunately spoke as representatives for their peers, saw the competition as other plug-in vehicles.  That head-butting caused a lot of trouble over the years and consequently impaired progress forward.  Thankfully, the rollout of gen-2 offerings woke them up from their complacency.  In fact, there are a few individuals who were former foes that are now friends.  The nonsense of "range anxiety" has vanished with the advent of 200-mile potential.  Part of that comes from the realization that those tax-credits which they were heavily dependent upon will quickly vanish as a result of delivering a truly popular vehicle.  What I find most redeeming is the vindication of cost being the highest priority.  It seemed so simple of a message: "The design must be affordable for the masses to accept it."  Yet, that belief was met with fierce resistance.  Costly approaches were justified with twisted excuses and the dismissal of facts.  Sadly, despite finally getting recognition of importance, we'll be dealing with the collateral damage from that for years to come.  Long story short, the plug-in options we endorse must be appealing to ordinary consumers.  No matter how appealing certain aspects of performance are, selling those vehicles profitability in high-volume is the ultimate goal.  That ability to provide business-sustaining revenue is vital.

Credit 2, competition.  This is the reason the question of "Who? was asked so often.  Notice all the "if" conditionals:  "If I were thinking short-term, I would do exactly what Toyota did.  However, if the long-term is increasing EV usage to meet ever increasing fuel economy and emissions regulations as well as customer demand, I would use the tax-credit to develop higher range EV technologies and logistics so that I have an edge on the competition for when the future inevitably becomes the present.  GM appears to have the edge on the future."  Some people just plain don't want to commit.  It's like the next level of vague.  Keeping things uncertain is another warning, an indicator time is being wasted.  Unfortunately, there's not much you can say.  Those acting that way will just label you as argumentative.  But hey, at least I try anyway:  We know capacity will be increased for PiP.  We've heard that power will top-speed could increase to 110 km/h (68.3 mph).  So, there is a natural generational improvement.  Toyota views the "competition" as traditional vehicles.  GM views the "competition" as other plug-in vehicles.  That fundamental difference has a profound influence on approach.  In other words, priorities are different.  Toyota has always considered cost to be paramount.  Range isn't as important if the end-product isn't affordable.


Credit, game.  We're seeing 2016 shape up to be a year for the history books.  A big part of that is change being observed in discussions now: "In my view, GM played the credit game properly, and Toyota is leaving massive amounts of money on the table.  The tax-credit is limited to 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, and the credit is pro-rated to the capacity of the battery.  Toyota's PiP qualifies for the minimum tax-credit ($2,500) while still counting toward their 200,000 vehicle limit..."  Remember how even the mere mention would result in hostility?  This difference is welcome... and long overdue.  I'm happy to see constructive dialog beginning.  Here's my insertion into that:  Toyota studied the market and was well aware how few 200,000 really is.  When that subsidy expires, the vehicle must be able to sustain high-volume profitable sales.  Notice how gen-1 PiP rollout was limited, saving credits for gen-2?  GM will be facing that expiration, with 2 vehicles still depending upon that $7,500 credit, mid-cycle.  Being just 2 years into gen-2 Volt and the new Bolt will make sales in large quantity quite a challenge.  Who cares about not getting more federal assistance if the vehicle becomes difficult to sell afterward.  That is not a game you want to lose.


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