Prius Personal Log  #735

March 23, 2016  -  March 25, 2016

Last Updated: Tues. 5/03/2016

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Somewhat Frustrating.  Over and over and over, I posted a reason why production of gen-1 Prius PHV came to an end early and why it wasn't rolled out to the other 35 states was the likelihood of gen-2 delivering major improvements.  When you've got an upgrade that compelling, why in the world would you bother promoting the old version?  It quite simply doesn't make any sense.  Then when you consider the limited number of tax-credits available, it becomes counter-productive.  An effort to expand rollout would educate the population on outdated specifications.  That's self-deprecating, a step in the wrong direction.  Why certain individuals chose to argue that wasn't the case is beyond me.  But I remember that.  It's somewhat frustrating to think about still... especially now that my hypothesis has been proven correct.  In fact, I was so accurate on some counts, those naysayers have completely vanished.  Not hearing even so much as a peep is quite redeeming.  The same thing has happened in the past.  Once they get confirmation of dismissing a vital clue, they disappear.  There are a few who stay.  They pretend none of what they claimed was ever said or that wasn't what they heck or that it was just devil's advocate posting.  That's a crock, of course... simply by looking at their attitude.  If they were rude & insulting, they weren't being constructive.  Making it personal, rather than sticking to facts, is a rather obvious sign of emotion clouding judgment.  That influence of belief over understanding is a difficult barrier to overcome.  It's why I have to tolerate a level of frustration.  A few of those antagonists actually pull through and admit their mistakes.  Those are the ones who I want as friends.  Even though they came to the wrong conclusion, their persistence of continuing to try and desire to keep digging for argument points shows a strength most people don't have.  They are who you want as an ally... after the current chapter concludes.  After all, their ultimate goal is usually quite similar.  In this case, they want to end the dependency on oil and greatly reduce the damage we are doing to our environment.


Seats.  By far, the biggest topic of discussion about Prime is the matter of only offering seating for 4.  Some of that is simply the fact that other issues have been put to rest.  For example, the increase in top EV speed to 135 km/h (84 mph) along with engine-less full-throttle acceleration ended all posting about pretty much everything related to EREV.  The topic is dead.  So, it makes sense addressing the seat change.  It's one of those strange ideas.  That 5th seat in the middle does indeed get used by children.  But for adults, basically never.  It's tiny and that throws the maximum carry weight into a mess.  In fact, extra reinforcement underneath is needed to accommodate.  So, why bother?  After all, Prime will most definitely not be the only plug-in hybrid Toyota offers.  They have already pointed out the TNGA benefit (their new cost-reducing production approach).  Anywho, it's reasonable to expect a degree of fallout to continue.  Some will insist the 5th is vital.  Of course, they'll continue to dismiss leg & head room in the process.  That's a dead giveaway they haven't addressed all aspects of the decision.  Heck, another is simply comfort.  Those are clearly more appealing to our backsides.  Wasn't that a major contributor to how the benches got eliminated?  This is how I joined into the discussion, obviously taking a direct approach knowing the extensive history with the topic and how it will inevitably be brought up repeatedly for awhile still:  The problem with support for Volt up until just a few days ago was the enabling.  Those in favor would allow the 6-mile misleading to continue.  That greenwashing effort to convince people the battery-pack only delivered 6 miles of total capacity for EV prevented any type of cooperative effort.  Why listen to those who blatantly allow that undermining?  Their reasoning for only 4 seats fell on deaf ears as a result.  To make matters worse, there was an outright dismissal of leg & head room being important.  Thankfully, that did change when gen-2 of Volt was revealed.  Unfortunately, the 6-mile misleading continued.  So, now, we are at a point of decision.  Will they constructively address design or continue on with the same rhetoric?  It sure would be nice to look forward.  Features like seat-warmers for in back are possible with the bucket design.  You'll never get that from old-school benches.


Semantics.  Facing fallout in that form was inevitable.  It came as: "If one can't meet the original goals; change them!"  I got a kick out of that.  Having been through the generation experience several times now, it was easy to see coming.  Those Volt enthusiasts who caused so much trouble in the past didn't have that background; consequently, that meant seeing things from a different perspective.  Only now are they getting the view we had years ago.  Much can be learned from the first generation.  You don't realize that until the second arrives though.  With Prius itself on gen-4 (which is technically the fifth, if you study the original rollout in Japan), that knowledge was well earned by some of us through firsthand participation.  I gained much from that history.  Now, it's an attempt to share that with others.  I wonder how this will be received:  Goals for each generation change.  That's a normal process.  The upgrade is suppose to deliver adjustments & alterations based upon what was learned.  The problem comes when people lose perspective or simply forget what the ultimate purpose was.  The catch is when gen-1 rolls out.  Nothing could have been learned yet, since nothing was available prior to it.  So, original goals are quite important.  Haven't you noticed Prius isn't just one vehicle anymore?  4 years following gen-1 rollout of the plug-in model, there are now 2 distinct designs.  Each will offer several different trims.  They are all still Prius; choice have expanded though.  If you want to label that as moving the goal posts or arguing semantics, so be it.  Personally, I called it adding a second goal.  There's a gain from that addition.  It's not a double-standard.  It's not being hypocritical.  Look at Volt for some perspective.  It continues to be just one design upon gen-2 rollout.  There simply isn't another Chevy offering.  It's still the one-size-fits-all.  How exactly does that achieve the "leap frog" claim?  We could consider the upcoming CT6 variant.  That truly will be another choice based upon Volt technology; however, adding 2 clutches and another planetary-gearset to deliver 449 horsepower clearly doesn't target the same group of consumers.  The upcoming Malibu does seem a much better comparison, but that isn't in the same category either.  It's a bigger vehicle. It's also a sedan, rather than a hatchback.  Again, Toyota has branched out by offering another configuration based upon a shared design.  Adding an entirely new choice like that, rather than it being a trim (package) option, is different.  It's simply not the same situation.  Implementing change based upon what was learned from gen-1 is a reasonable expectation.  Some won't like that.  Others will.  With all the spin that resulted from the ending of gen-1 production, I'm really surprised anyone is willing to speak out now trying to stir comments of the past.  That spin should get attention too then.  It was meritless-speculation and talking-points confirmed recently to be false.  Continue to look back or finally look forward?


Market.  Certain people are curiously absent.  They're the antagonists, those individuals who like to oppose... sometimes, simply for the sake of not wanting any type of agreement.  After all, acceptance means no more discussion... even if it isn't constructive.  Taking advantage of that absence, we've got a good dialog going on at the moment.  Cheap gas makes EV driving expensive.  That's a very real problem.  How are we going to deal with the economics of that.  Here were some of my thoughts on the current market:  I look at it this way, we've encountered lots of people along the way who said Prius wasn't efficient enough, that higher MPG would be needed for it to really take hold.  That didn't turn out to be the case.  The balance Toyota strived for is what attracted lots of sales.  The hope is that same will be true now with the plug-in model.  It doesn't offer as much EV as detractors said it should, but it doesn't compromise shortage space to an extreme either.  We'll lose roughly 3 inches of floor height for cargo, but a large open area for cargo will still be available.  The leg & head room could end up being identical to the regular Prius.  The efficiency without plugging in should be fairly close to the same.  There's also hope it will be easier to sell than an EV or even another plug-in hybrid.  It's a Prius.  People are already familiar with the proven reputation for reliability.  You can plug in using just an ordinary household outlet too.  No need for a level-2 charger means a savings often overlooked by those thinking more is better.  Gas prices do present serious challenges.  But we know emission concerns will help the effort along.  There's a growing spirit of cooperation among plug-in supporters too.  Hopefully, all that will allow us to capture the available market.


Some Perspective.  Back on the big Prius forum, we got into statistics.  Toyota specifically mentioned the EV range that Prime would deliver covers 51% of commuters here.  I interjected some perspective (a bunch of numbers) into the discussion to see what response it would stir:  Toyota sold 2,499,313 vehicles in the United States last year.  Their top-selling car was Camry.  429,355 were purchased.  That's a total of 17%.  That in itself shows there's lots of opportunity available.  Next, consider what the 51% commute value means to the 17,470,659 vehicles all the automakers combined sold in the United States last year.  That's a great deal of potential for the seemingly small 22-mile EV range.  Remember, this isn't a one-size-fits-all situation.  There will be other vehicles with other configurations.  Nonetheless, it should be easy to see there isn't tiny market as some are attempting to portray.  Don't forget that the system will still deliver outstanding efficiency even when the engine does run.  Averages over 100 MPG will appeal to some buyers.  The industry target in this market (United States) for a vehicle to be considered mainstream, which means it is able to maintain consistent profitable sales without outside incentives (like, tax-credits & HOV privileges), is an annual rate of 60,000.  So, the question we should focus on is how & when would this be realistic.


Fans & Trolls.  A former foe who is now making a genuine effort to extend a hand in friendship asked: "This all reminds me of the comments we faced at the beginnings of the Volt.  Toyota fans and trolls grilled us unmercifully on the 4-seat issue (and many others).  How does it feel?"  After giving that serious consideration, I replied with:  It goes both ways.  You realize I could easily spin that as others gloating.  Some will claim that a victory.  Others will try to convince us Volt has 5 seats.  Think about all the intentional misleading about EV range.  Whatever the case, I appreciate the effort on your part.  The point is this is an ever-changing market.  We need to work like a team, no more sparring.  As a constructive next step, want to address the "EREV" issue?  I'd love to get that over with. Remember how the definition changed from development to rollout, then changed again when Ford joined in, then changed again when BMW offered a plug-in, now again with Toyota?  There will be Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler choices this year too.  Our goal is to promote plug-in vehicles.  The key is properly identifying the differing purposes & buyers.  We can show there's diversity available, demonstrating that all together they are an effective means of competing with traditional vehicles.  The approach of placing Volt against Prius makes even less sense now with Prime.  Can we agree they are all plug-in hybrids and move on?


We'll See.  Only one person got upset with my post.  He refused to comment about the attitude of others though.  Pretending no one else posted any type of disparaging message, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is usually a sign of venting.  He was really just seeking someone to blame for the change.  So, I ignored it and continued the discussion with the few constructive individuals there.  This was my contribution to that:  The 5th seat is an example of a paradigm shift.  We know most people don't ever use it, yet they consider that essential purchase requirement anyway.  We've seen this before... especially with new technology which replace a long-standing expectation.  Over time, people will refocus onto priorities that actually have am impact.  In this circumstance, it's the amount of leg & head room you get.  For that matter, ease of entry and visibility while seated come into play too.  There's also aspects people typically don't notice, like whether you have a ceiling or just glass above your head.  Think about how much value people place on having AWD.  We hear remarks all the time about how important some feel it is.  How often would it ever be necessary though?  I haven't ever had it, despite dealing with Minnesota winter roads for decades.  Heck, just yesterday was an snowy, icy, lumpy mess to commute home in.  Reaction to having "only" 4 seats will be interesting.  It will be a deal breaker for some. But then again, how does that compare to a vehicle being compact rather than midsize?  We'll see.  Prius Prime offers a significant increase in EV power and the range will satisfy many.  For me, my commute will go from averaging around 125 to 999 MPG.  I'll retain great efficiency following depletion and will still have a large area available for cargo.


My Response.  The whole day, those Volt enthusiasts posted about me, wondering why I hadn't participated on their discussion thread about Prius Prime.  My response wasn't going to happen until they all stated their stance.  I was quite curious how the tables would turn.  So much had instantly changed for them, it opened up the door for more cooperation.  The days of "vastly superior" are long gone.  But I knew there would still be some upset.  So, I waited until just before midnight, then typed up and posted: 

It has been interesting reading comments posted on the wide variety of websites today about Prius Prime.  There's lots of spin, denial, and rhetoric.  Fortunately, that's all easy to avoid.  It's just an amplification of the usual greenwashing from the usual antagonists. 

Trying to find genuinely constructive discussion was a challenge.  The consistent message in that regard has been the battery-capacity should be greater.  No one is willing to accept the space tradeoff though.  Somehow, Toyota should have found a way to deliver more without facing the same barriers as all the other automakers.  That's not realistic.  I see things like cost, weight, handling, efficiency being carefully balanced with size & capacity.  Let's not forget the hidden aspects of operation either, like cooling and accident resistance. 

On the don't-want-to-acknowledge side, there's the enhancement of utilizing both electric-motors for propulsion power instead of just the one.  That increased the EV maximum speed to 84 mph and allows for full-throttle acceleration without the engine.  It's a big upgrade quite a number of people taunted Prius about for years.  Now suddenly, they've all vanished.  It's as if no one ever proclaimed that improvement was impossible. 

There's an absurd new twist emerging too.  Even though Volt has nothing but a tiny middle area for a child to sit without any legroom whatsoever, some are claiming it has a 5th seat anyway.  That somehow makes it better than Prius Prime.  How?  And why would anyone even bring up the topic?  The regular Prius offers more leg & head room than Volt, for both front & rear seating.  So, the expectation is for that to also be the case for Prius Prime.  That's much more of a selling feature than a 5th seat.  And what happened to all those Volt supporters who told us over the years that 4 seats were enough? 

I'm intrigued what comes next. Will others in favor of plugging in accept the new plug-in Prius or find some new way to belittle?  It really doesn’t matter.  People researching a purchase will see the EV range offered, see the MPG delivered following depletion, and then take into consideration all the usual decision factors.  They couldn't care less whatever the heck EREV means… especially since its confusing & arbitrary definition no longer makes any sense. 

While we wait for delivery this fall, enthusiasts of Volt have an interesting new situation to consider.  They already had Bolt on the way, dividing focus among GM supporters.  Now, there's a new Prius that breaks apart gen-1 stances.  The change gen-2 offerings bring about will be significant.  Some will like it.  Others will struggle.  Consider next steps carefully...


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