John's Stuff - Toyota Prius Personal Log 738

Prius Personal Log  #738

April 6, 2016  -  April 11, 2016

Last Updated: Tues. 5/03/2016

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Grades.  It's nice to see a discussion come about with respect to level of performance rather than the all-or-nothing attitude of the past.  Unfortunately, people seem to be trying to reinvent the wheel rather than looking back to the past for ideas.  I jumped in right away to interject that history:  The system that has worked exceptionally well for the past 15 years is what will ultimately end up being the choice of the ordinary consumer is what we all grew up with... grades... A, B, C, D, F.  It's an elegantly system we are already familiar with.  No need to come up with anything new.  Use of that ended many battles over the span hybrids have been around.  It's very easy to point out how a vehicle doesn't earn an "A" grade.  There is no confusion what the value means either.  Grades make the evaluation of worth easy to understand.  The analogy of homework works exceptionally well too.  Some enthusiasts like to gloat about an ability their preferred vehicle offers (want), while completely disregarding what was actually assigned (need).  A teacher will see right through that deception, giving a lower grade for not delivering what was asked for.


You're doing it again.  I was informed that was my the nature of my posts today.  That's an easy impression to get.  It was a great opportunity to point out that wasn't actually the case:  Read the posts again.  Notice the effort to focus plug-in choices against the competition of traditional vehicles?  Certain individuals are clearly not happy about treating Prime as a player on the same team.  That's their loss.  They don't like the EREV verses PHEV battle to having come to an end.  Again, that's their loss.  We are now attempting to unite by having open discussions about design attributes.  That's what we do in person on a regular basis with the plug-in owners club here.  Tesla, Leaf, Volt, i3, Prius PHV, i-MiEV, Energi, and a few others all get together and share ownership experiences.  It's no big deal.  The conflicts here come from a few unwilling to accept change.  Reality is, the gen-2 rollouts are bringing about change.  What was argued as not possible is happening.  The variety presents challenges, but the goal is the same.  We want to see traditional vehicle production come to an end.  The statement of "doing it again" serves as a nice reminder of purpose.  Those claims of "catching up" and "too little, too late" clearly weren't efforts to help reach the goal.  Their posts were not with the intent of being constructive.  I shouldn't have to be the only one pointing that out.  Others have a responsibility to not just be enablers.


Pessimism.  There's an underlying belief that the niche group currently seeking plug-in choices are all that matter.  This is why there had been a fundamental problem of disregarding the mainstream.  Ordinary consumers didn't matter, as far as the enthusiasts were concerned.  Thankfully, there's a growing group of supporter who don't share that sentiment.  Some, including me, believe gen-2 rollouts have potential to reach the ordinary person.  Prius has been able to attract customers shopping on the dealer's showroom floor.  Why couldn't Prime do the same thing?  Needless to say, all of them don't share the same opportunity.  The configuration of Volt currently pushes some limits, hence what I suspect this came from: "We ain't there yet and continuing to remind everyone is getting tedious."  He went on from there to rant about pickups and long-range EVs not being available yet either.  It's always some type of distraction, rather than addressing the actual issue.  Oh well, at least I get to say my piece:  So, your claim is that none of the gen-2 offerings will reach mainstream consumers?  We've already seen reductions of size, weight, and cost of batteries over the years.  Look at how both Leaf and Volt were able to use the advancement as an opportunity to lower prices and offer mid-cycle improvements.  Why wouldn't you think Prime could take advantage of that too?  I see it as a platform designed to capitalize on technology upgrades, without needing to wait for a next generation rollout.


Smug.  Almost immediately, the blog fell apart and lost pretty much any hope of being useful: "Too little too late. But they are getting closer, each day, to a 2010 Volt, LOL."  The attitude of GM being better than Toyota runs deep.  There is no spirit of cooperation from some.  Certain individuals see the competition as other plug-in vehicles, not mainstream offerings.  As far as they are concerned, the rest of the market simply doesn't matter.  Wouldn't it be great to live in your own little world like that?  Ugh.  Fortunately, others take the situation seriously.  I posted:  The rest of us have moved on, recognizing that low-hanging fruit has been picked and reaching mainstream consumers is a much greater challenge.  Keep living in 2010 if you want.  In the meantime, we'll be working toward support of plug-in vehicles as an effort to bring traditional vehicle interest to a close.


Playing Catch-Up.  Today on the daily blog (which now only features Volt from time to time), there was a well written article about Prime.  Some operational aspects were pointed out along with some detail explaining the why & how of that design choice.  Unfortunately, this was posted: "Toyota is playing catch up to GM and Ford in the Prius Prime."  That non-constructive comment was to be expected.  What was not was something to actually support that.  Upon asking for it, incorrect information was posted instead.  False facts was a bit of a surprise.  That's so easy to debunk nowadays.  Oh well.  I chose to respond with:  I'd like to find out more.  Please tell.  In the past, there was a strong belief Toyota wouldn't be able to upgrade the system, that it was an obsolete approach.  In fact, that's where the EREV verses PHEV head-butting came from.  Those distinct categories were drawn based upon what was assumed not possible.  What actually happened was a generational update.  Researching need was key.  Finding out how much battery-capacity and how much EV power would be beneficial is helpful.  We're all subject to falling into the trap that more is better.  There are tradeoffs.  Somewhere in the middle is the right balance for mass acceptance.  While that research was in process (especially the collecting of real-world data and following online comments), advancement in lithium chemistry, motor production, controller efficiency, and software enhancements all took place.  So, it's not like that wasn't planned anyway and didn't address a variety of different improvements.  Toyota already had more powerful electric motors.  Toyota already had an AWD option.  Toyota already had an EV platform.   Toyota already offered advanced features like LED lighting and adaptive cruise-control with automatic braking.  We see that Toyota has jumped ahead of GM by offering vapor-injected heat-pump for heating rather than using the less efficient resistance type too.  Caught up would be the most constructive way of putting it.  The gen-2 will be delivered this fall.  What else is there?


Too Little, Too Late.  The antagonists love to claim that, but never actually have anything of substance to back it...  All we get is just a reference to EV range.  At least in the past, there was the EV power aspect.  There isn't anymore though.  Yet, this is what's posted anyway: "Despite after the fact creation of convoluted strategies that seek to explain Toyota's moves and make them seem like well-considered genius, the Prime is too little, too late."  I'd certainly like to addressed whatever perceived shortcomings there could potentially, but none have been provided so far.  This is how I replied to that:  That's one of the traps countless individuals with good intentions have fallen into.  They get hung up on the current market and don't even notice the rest.  Most consumers aren't part of this stage of electrification.  For them, 0 miles of EV is perfectly fine.  They have no interest to plug in. It's that simple.  Not being draw to EV driving, regardless of how impressive the experience can be, makes them a very difficult group of consumers to reach.  Making compromise for the sake of a pure EV isn't worth it.  Offering a decent amount of EV followed by impressive HV is what Toyota believes that audience will find appealing.  Ironically, Volt has faced the "too little, too slowly" problem, a concern expressed by the group assigned to oversee the bankruptcy recovery.  The outcome was an opportunity missed.  Gas was $4 per gallon, yet sales of Volt were never able to reach beyond niche.  There wasn't any competition back then either.  It had the entire category of plug-in hybrid to capitalize on, but didn't.  Now in 2016, we enter a new chapter.  The effort this time is to reach beyond that niche.  This new group of consumers have different requirements.  Since these are people who have yet to begin their search for a plug-in choice, offering an EV capacity with enough to cover some commutes entirely and others provide triple-digit MPG averages will draw interest.  What's little or late about that?


Bigger Obstacles.  We're seeing the "vastly superior" mindset emerge again.  That's a reasonable expectation each time a new chapter begins.  Repeating the same mistakes is a possible outcome.  Some don't learn from previous efforts.  In this case, we're going from gen-1 offerings from gen-2.  It's especially interesting to have comments like this being made: "Tesla has far bigger obstacles in their path."  Coming from someone angered with Toyota not pushing for the most from an EV, that was no surprise.  He just plain isn't interested in the problems of reaching the masses.  Concerns for mainstream consumers are just brushed aside.  He's one of those who doesn't see leadership as anything other than break new ground.  Pushing extremes is his only focus.  So, replies just fall on deaf ears.  Nonetheless, no harm in posting something anyway:  They are different.  Saying otherwise would be a move toward falling into the same trap GM did... twice.  We don't want to see that mistake be repeated again and saying one is bigger than the other doesn't help anyone involved.  The difficulty in changing existing legacy that's been in place and is extremely well established poses huge challenges too.


Diesel Desperation.  It's interesting to watch the end of diesel for personal vehicles unfold.  Daimler now faces a class-action lawsuit claiming: "The fact that Mercedes passed the dynamometer test in all tests, but failed the real world test, is suggestive that like VW, Mercedes is implementing a defeat device."  A former executive for Fiat says plug-in hybrids will be hurt by the VW emissions due to the upcoming requirement of real-world testing.  On the road results are what revealed the diesel cheat.  Supposedly, the same will be true for the competition.  I'd call that desperate.  We know that some owners drivers who don't drive as far get much better real-world results than the EPA test measurements.  The same is true for those who get to plug in more often.  The catch is that even when you don't plug in a plug-in hybrid like Prius, it still delivers cleaner emissions than the diesels currently on the road.  The electricity added is a bonus, not a requirement.  The PZEV rating is already achieved without.  We most certainly haven't seen that from VW or Mercedes.


Bad Mouthing.  I get a lot of grief for speaking out, making sure people understand scope.  Today it was: "I was just quoting John's language. He's the one that said "everyone has moved on". "  That was annoying.  I clearly didn't say that.  But he is one of those who only see the plug-in market and disregard all other vehicle purchases.  Choosing to isolate like that does make it sound like I'm bad mouthing GM a lot.  But that's due to claims not matching reality.  Oh well, all I can do is post my part:  That would be quoting out of context.  The reference was to posts on forums & blogs.  Those individuals are only a small part of the market as a whole. That online community isn't representative of ordinary consumers either.  Again, just because Volt wasn't able to attract mainstream consumers doesn't mean GM is done.  They will be offering Bolt, Malibu hybrid, and CT6 plug-in hybrid.  How that observation can be considered bad-mouthing is beyond me.  You try something.  If it doesn't work, move on to the next thing.  Here's another observation: Volt enthusiasts became staunch defenders, lashing out at anyone who criticized in any manor... even when a post was to compliment GM upon delivering a vehicle to be praised by the niche market.  They just plain didn't want any type of "failure" label, even though it didn't attract the mainstream as hoped.  So now, we point that history out and move on.  Remember that this is the third try.   Don't forget Two-Mode. That was an efficiency improvement venture as well.  It didn't work out either.  What can be done this time to avoid falling into the same traps again?


Abandoned.  Posting this observation will likely stir some discussion.  That's not my goal.  In fact, it's an effort at closure.  But nonetheless, someone inevitably will read this an think otherwise:  Anyone else remember the claim that Volt was the answer to competing with Tesla?  Since the reveal of Model 3, there has been an abandonment of Volt.  Look at any of the GM forums & blogs.  The posts are all about Bolt. It's as if Volt is just a memorable chapter in history and everyone has moved on.  This further supports the approach Toyota has taken.  Not only is it proving wise to have halted PiP rollout because Prime would offer so much more, but there's also the strategy of keeping a distance from the supposed competition... especially if ends up having trouble attracting customers.  The claim all along that Volt is the EV solution for "range anxiety".  Based on initial market response, we're seeing the solution is actually just a big enough battery-pack.  Volt is in an awkward position of not being able to compete with its intended target.  That's where Prime comes in. For those wanting the EV experience, but also wanting extremely efficient MPG afterward, why not get a plug-in Prius?  What would make the consumer purchase a Volt instead?  Greater range seems like an easy draw, but why bother when you could just buy a Model 3, Bolt, or Leaf instead?


Gross Exaggerations.  Having to deal with them is a pain.  They'll never go away.  New ones like this are an expectation: "In my Prius, yes I could travel 500 miles without using the restroom, but I was always very tired and worn out afterwards.  You don't realize the cognitive load that's actually required to even cruise on the highway in an ICE vehicle.  Yes, I do stop at Superchargers to charge while I use the restroom and get a snack."  He was arguing in favor of Tesla's supercharger network.  I was not impressed and felt quite compelled to point out why:  Having already taken two 1,500 mile trips this year and planning another (visiting my sister-in-law about to have twins), I can tell you that type of claim isn't helping anyone.  I'm very much in favor of Tesla, but am not going to just allow such misrepresentation to take place.  No one would ever drive 500 miles without using the restroom.  Period.  Roughly, every 2 hours you take some type of break.  Someone always needs to use the restroom, food, beverage, or to just stretch.  Other technology is what you'll find beneficial with respect to cognitive load.  In my case, I find the adaptive-cruise absolutely wonderful.  Why so many drivers cut you off when they pass is beyond me.  Ugh.  The fact that the Prius will automatically slow down to provide room for safety is great.  That goes a long way toward relieving cognitive load.


Reality.  Quotes like this are quickly fading away: "Toyota and Honda are late to the game, but I'm happy to see they are beginning to get it."  The attitude from GM enthusiasts was still someone coming from the "vastly superior" perspective.  It was quite ironic how they'd poke fun at Prius owners, calling them "smug" and claiming their posts were condescending while being guilty of that very thing themselves.  Thankfully, the major does of reality provided by Tesla has served as a wake-up call.  Failing to look at the bigger market... mainstream consumers ...has always been a big mistake.  It's hard to believe how they'd continue to make that same mistake over and over again.  On the big Prius forum, I posted this about my observations of the situation:  Posts on the big GM forum in response to Tesla Model 3 aren't painting a pretty picture.  It's becoming easy to see that Bolt & Volt are facing a new set of circumstances, neither one of which is prepared to deal with.  In other words, consumer interest for plugging in is changing much faster than the traditional vehicle model-cycle planning allows.  Being prepared to make changes to plans along the way is a benefit, not a liability as the spin would have us believe.  True, it does look bad in the short-term and could disenchant those with very specific expectations.  But looking at the entire production of a vehicle for the next year or two, some will see the wisdom of choosing to adapt based upon what is learned along the way.


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