Prius Personal Log  #733

February 29, 2016  -  March 14, 2016

Last Updated: Fri. 3/25/2016

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One Week Later.  It's as if Volt doesn't even exist anymore.  We went from hype & rhetoric to failed attempts to draw attention.  The enthusiasts are out of ideas.  Last week's highlight was an owner having reached 300,000 miles on the odometer.  With a 110-mile drive each way of his commute, that number isn't a huge surprise.  Being able to plug in at both ends didn't help as much as you'd think either.  There were many comparison attempts to Prius.  All fell apart.  It still makes no sense whatsoever comparing a plug-in like Volt to a regular hybrid like Prius.  That massive difference in battery-capacity and the one not even having a plug makes them such extremes, only a true act of desperation would anyone try to put them into the same category.  Yet, that happened anyway.  Funny part is someone pointed out that overall energy consumption was from the Volt.  Having done the same thing with a Prius, only a small amount of additional gas would be needed.... without any plugged-supplied electricity.  Needless to say, people have moved on.  Nissan is rolling out an upgraded Leaf.  This year's model with offer a 30 kWh capacity battery that actually fits into the housing for the original 24 kWh battery.  That bumps EV range up to 107 miles.  So, even without the doubling of capacity to come in the next year, Leaf continues to stay competitive... which is why focus on Prius was the choice.  The enthusiasts thought they could flex the "vastly superior" muscle one last time.  That's getting so old.  We know that cost is a major purchase factor.  No amount of attitude will conceal that's still a problem.  The distractions don't work anymore.


Wyoming Trip.  My wife and I took another long weekend to visit her sister out in Wyoming.  That's a 1,500 round-trip drive, with much of it at 80 mph.  It's a MPG killer.  Both this time and back on New Year's the result was an entire MPG drop from my lifetime average.  On this trip, there was a day-trip extra side excursion as well.  Speed so fast for so long simply isn't efficient.  True, even at that rate of travel, efficiency is still better than other vehicles.  After all, Prius is extremely aerodynamic.  MPG in the low 40's is hardly anything to complain about.  It is great experience taking a trip like that too.  The drive itself is surprisingly refreshing as well.  Much of that has to do with having adaptive cruise-control.  Without that radar-detection to automatically slow the car down it would be somewhat of a pain.  With all that space on the wide open roads, people out there few compelled to get out of the left lane as fast as possible... resulting in them cutting you off at 80 mph.  It's basic stupidity at play.  Sometimes, people just don't think.  Why put yourself and the other vehicle at risk for no reason whatsoever?  Just stay in the lane to finish passing at a safe distance before merging.  Geez!  Needless to say, the adaptive feature is quite handy.  That allows you to enjoy watching the country side... including Devil's Tower.  That's always fascinating to see off the distance from the highway while on that trip.  We pass by the Badlands too.  It's quite scenic of a drive, once you get past the wide open flatlands.


So Far.  It's interesting to watch the perception of plugging in change.  Some would call it a double-standard.  Some would call it hypocritical.  Others would call it damage-control.  I'm not sure what to call it yet... perhaps, back-pedaling.  For over 5 years, there was a fierce campaign to differentiate Volt as a EREV and to patiently wait for gen-2 rollout.  Now, there's an endeavor to identify Volt as a PHEV instead and to disparage Toyota for having been patient.  Reality is, ordinary consumers haven't been paying attention anyway.  All they know is the basics... there are plug-in vehicles available and they are not cost-competitive yet.  That's pretty much it, so far.  This is like trying to explain to someone the benefits of a smart-phone.  They would have no clue how they would actually use one, until exposed directly to one.  Even then, that's no guarantee by any means of a purchase.  The price of that is trivial compared to a vehicle purchase, as is the expected service life.  No amount of "first" or "leader" claims will change that either.  It's the nature of how ordinary consumers react to change.  In other words, achieving mainstreams sales is far more difficult than just appealing to enthusiasts.  We haven't even come far enough for most to see that yet.


Want vs Need.  It's not just an issue buyers have to acknowledge.  Automakers have similar tradeoffs to deal with.  For example: "The demand for the PiP was there, but the cars were not.  Toyota just wouldn't build them."  Why is there is presumed need to rush?  Isn't that really a want?  My choice of enlightenment was to draw attention to the importance of when:  What's the point of building an older generation for early-adopters when a new one for a wider audience is on the way?  Ask the typical consumers for information about Volt.  All they know is that it was first.  Many cannot correctly tell you how the system actually operates.  They are unaware physical size and battery attributes as well.  Toyota saved the opportunity to start fresh.  Two-Thirds of the states still haven't seen them yet and far more tax-credits are available than with the other automakers.  They still have the opportunity to be the first to offer wireless charging too, which is proving to be a major convenience for cell-phones.  Look at it this way, a similar situation existed 13 years ago.  Availability of the Classic model Prius was quite limited.  We'll never know the true demand as a result of Toyota sticking to a strict quota; however, we do know that sales of the Iconic model which followed were very strong.  Also, keep in mind how information from a previous generation become tools of greenwashing.  Reports will be shared without context, leading people to believe what's written about is all that has ever been available.  It's very easy for an ordinary consumer to be unaware of generational detail.


Range.  It's an interesting topic.  There are many perspectives, with varying interpretations depending upon when judgment was made.  That's because the market is changing quickly, as the technology advances and people learn about their own assumptions.  Understanding purpose is an obvious change too.  This is what caught me today: "The range of PiP 1 is terrible.  I think that PiP 2 needs 2x-3x the battery capacity and range as PiP 1."  I jumped into the mix with:  Range wasn't the point.  People in this market had a very difficult time accepting the low-cost approach of augmentation though.  So the next, will target that market shift.  If nothing else, Toyota has shown the ability to adapt to change.  Also, let's not forget that numbers don't mean the same thing to different audiences.  The best example of this was the EPA measurements for MPG prior to the 2007 change.  In the past, those numbers simply served as a basis of comparison.  Standardized criteria was introduced for the sake of making comparisons amongst the wide array of vehicle choices easier.  That's it.  Those numbers did *NOT* represent a real-world expectation.  But then when hybrids came along and the market started to give a crap about actual MPG results, the testing changed.  The measurement approach changed to reflect the market shift.  That's a reality most people are totally unaware of.  Toyota's approach to delivering a MPG boost wasn't understood by the typical consumer, following rollout.  Prior to that, purpose seemed obvious.  But traditional greenwashing and new efforts to undermine, along with continued battery technology improvement, resulted in a pause.  The market was actively readjusting, much of it having to do with perception.  People are changing their view of plugging in.  People are seeing the hybrid market expand & mature.  People are finally paying attention to the dependency our economy has on oil.  The audience has changed.


Timing.  I found this recent quote encouraging: "Chrysler introduced the new Pacifica at the Detroit Auto Show less than two months ago.  Production started Monday, and units will be at dealers in four to six weeks."  How could I not respond to that?  The new plug-in hybrid option came quite unexpectedly and will be delivered right away.  That means no hype to deal with in the meantime.  A fundamental problem with GM was the mindset that early announcements were beneficial; consequently, it set them up with the "over promise, under deliver" problem.  And despite over a decade of struggle with that, the problem persists.  We continued to get a lot of grief from Volt enthusiasts about the gen-2 Prius plug-in.  For quite awhile, they would spin the discontinuation of the gen-1 as an end to the entire endeavor.  Toyota finally to say something to put an end to what became a greenwashing effort.  Ironically, there was a ton of hype for gen-2 Volt, yet GM only rolled it out in limited quantity and only to 11 states.  To make matters worse, they announced the rollout of Bolt nearly 2 years in advance of actual availability.  In contrast, we will likely learn very little about the gen-2 Prius plug-in until shortly before rollout begins nationwide.  Why rush?  After all, it has proven a winning formula.  The original (gen-0) model of Prius was revealed in October 1997 and sales began just 2 months later.  That blew the minds of other automakers and proved to be effective.  What good does it do to hype a rollout so long in advance?  That forces the automaker to attempt to match what was promised much earlier, even it if means sacrifice due to market change.  That's a hard lesson learned with gen-1 of Volt.  How come GM continues to make that same mistake?  Thankfully, we aren't seeing that with Chrysler. I t will be intriguing to see how the market responds to that.  It should provide a clue what we can expect with Toyota.  In other words, there is much to say but little reason to... yet.  The wait won't be long.


Low Hanging Fruit.  What do you think after reading this: "However, 90% of miles put on EVs are charged at home.  Or in other words, 90% of the infrastructure is already in place.  As range increases, the rate of home charging will also increase."  It's a common greenwash problem, where the is oblivious to the fact that he or she isn't seeing the big picture.  They'll see a statistic and assume it can be widely applied.  This is yet another issue related to not understanding audience.  Much of it will come from those in favor of EV as the only solution.  They pushback on plug-in hybrids and outright deny any potential for fuel-cell vehicles.  They figure a plug at home is the answer for everyone... not realizing, that's far from realistic.   They see the initial success and don't realize the next steps are going to be far more challenging.  That's call the "low hanging fruit" problem.  Current owners were the easiest to reach.  Anywho, this is how I replied:  That 90% is highly misleading, since the value comes from owners with easily accommodating homes.  In other words, they are the low-hanging fruit.  Upgrading homes in old neighborhoods is a major effort not taken into account.  Some people just plain don't have a good setup available.  Wires are hanging from old-school poles still and garages don't have physical room or electrical capacity to support a level-2 charger... not to mention, a second charger for the other car.  As much as I desire plugs for all, that's just plain not realistic.  For that matter, it doesn't even acknowledge those who live in condos or apartments.  Obviously, we can overcome those shortcomings.  It's going to take a heck of a lot longer than enthusiasts hope though. It doesn't address the backlash we'll get from the oil industry either.  They're going to fight back hard, extremely hard.  It wouldn't be pretty if it wasn't for hydrogen.  That's a alternative fuel they can invest in, reroute their future drilling money to support for fuel-cell vehicles instead.  After all, they have the resources already.  It's an infrastructure adaptation they'll endorse long before embracing the idea of plugging in.  We're going to see a lot of arguments against hydrogen in the upcoming years.  Watch for those which don't take all the issues into account.  Focusing on just efficiency and sighting the cost of fuel-stations is a red-flag that the big picture wasn't considered.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution.  EV and FCV will end up co-existing.


Intentional Risk.  Speaking of repeating mistakes, it's not just some automakers.  Some consumers don't have a grip on reality either... as this points out: "Some Prius drivers play a silly game called, "How low can you go?", or "How many miles per tank?" These are useless metrics which serve only to increase the probability..."  Sadly, it's the same old story.  Oh well.  All you can do is point out facts and ask whyThat capacity beyond the reserve wasn't as big with gen-1 and consequently, there were a number of reports of ordinary drivers running out of gas.  It was a quite surprise to discover the American mindset was to routinely push extremes.  Toyota adjusted accordingly.  Very few run out of gas following that.  A major contributor to the reason for such a buffer is battery well being. In normal operation, there's a buffer for it too.  Never deeply discharging is how it is able to last so long.  Unfortunately, owners would drain the battery well past that longevity threshold.  Consequently, its life is shortened upon continuing to drive after there isn't any gas available.  With such a long driving range anyway, why anyone would disregard the visual & audio refill warnings is beyond me.  Why take the risk?  What's the benefit?


Repeating Mistakes.  Sales results for February were released.  Both Prius and Volt were hampered by new rollout availability.  Unlike Prius though, sales were quite low for Volt... so low, no one wanted to discuss the topic.  It was literally just a mention in a completely unrelated daily topic.  I found that quite telling, especially since that particulate topic was about GM's lobbying effort to restrict Tesla sales... a heated issue... which is an on-going trend.  When there's bad news, post something else to distract.  Ugh.  From Bolt, you get the impression of a green outlook, that a heavy investment is being made in efforts to change the market with EV sales.  For this, that doesn't seem the case.  It's like only releasing a gen-2 offering in limited fashion.  Perception clashed with reality.  Oh well.  This isn't anything new.  We've seen it before.  Sadly, that's been in the form of repeating the same mistakes.


Diesel Downfall.  We're seeing postponements now.  The new deadline for a revised fix from VW to submit to the EPA for approval is March 24.  The original submitted in January was declined.  It wasn't good enough.  April 28 is now the new deadline for the release of VW's own internal investigation, rather than next week.  The denials, mixed messages, interpretation excuses are only making the situation worse.  All of this is being described as "self-inflicted wounds".  I'm amazed the situation has become so bad.  We knew pressure was growing on diesel.  There's simply no way to compete with hybrids, even those without plugs.  The upcoming option of inexpensive augmentation basically spells death anyway.  The gen-2 Prius PHV will be so much cleaner and more efficient, what's the point?  Then when you take into account how dramatically quieter & smoother the drive is, how could diesel even remotely compete?  Then when you take into account the reputation damage, it just plain doesn't make sense anymore for personal consumer vehicles.  What the cost of the damage truly is remains a complete mystery too.  Current owners here in the United States are left wondering, despite heavy government pressure to deliver a fix.  Their resale value has plummeted and there's frustration from the fix inevitably reducing performance... the very thing many owners found most appealing about their purchase.  Needless to say, there is a very ugly situation.  We're witnessing the downfall of diesel.  The next few months here will be harsh.  Who knows what the backlash in Europe will be.  Over in Japan, new testing procedures will be introduced.  There is much worry about the future of diesel already.


Happy Birthday!  How about this for a message remarkably well timed: "Prius Plug-in Hybrid has helped usher in a new era of efficiency, but we are temporarily pausing production after the 2015 model year.  Rest assured, we remain committed to the continued progress of alternative-fuel vehicles.  As was done with the previous generation, this next Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle will arrive later in 2016 after the launch of the all-new Prius liftback and will feature significant enhancements in performance, design and technology."  Discovering that announcement on Toyota's website today was great... since today just happens to by my Prius PHV's first birthday.  True, I bought it 4 years ago.  But the papers were signed and the check was delivered on February 29.  This is the first leap-day since then.  So... happy birthday!  The timing of the next plug-in hybrid has been interesting.  There was a lot of spin.  Greenwashers attempted to convince people that Toyota had abandoned the idea all together.  Antagonists claimed Toyota wasn't taking the situation seriously, that leadership means delivering the most advanced technology possible... rather than striving to reach the masses.  It's been quite an experience to witness firsthand, as a participant in this history.  Fortunately, I know what's to come.  After over 16 years of study, that's rather obvious.  Too bad others are quite so confident.  Oh well.  They'll find out soon enough.


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