Prius Personal Log  #743

April 29, 2016  -  May 3, 2016

Last Updated: Sun. 7/24/2016

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Not Yet.  Sales results for April sure did raise a hubbub.  You'd think the rose-colored glasses would come off.  Clearly, not yet.  The best thing to do when reality hasn't come crashing down, but it inevitably will, is to finally just acknowledge it.  If some don't want to, post a provoke.  There's nothing like wasting resources on a futile endeavor.  Get it over with.  Geez!  Sadly, that means having to recognize the fact that there's still a superiority complex at play.  Rather than unite the effort of plug-in vehicles as a common cause against the reign of traditional vehicles, a few still absolutely insist Volt is better than all else.  Ugh.  That's why it gets so much attention.  Why an opposing force would come about and be so counter-productive is beyond me.  Most failed attempts are simply written off and the next tried.  Toyota faced challenges with Prius PHV.  Even though the market said they needed a "plug-in hybrid", that isn't actually wanted.  So with the increase in power as a result of the growing battery-pack (a normal expectation for a generational improvement) came a simply enhancement to the system to make it deliver more EV.  Again, this is yet another denial issue from Volt enthusiasts.  (They claimed this would be possible.)  So... I let them have it with some cold hard facts:  It will leap-frog... the competition.  Not yet.  21,763 - Malibu.  20,607 - Equinox.  14,153 - Cruze.  1,983 - Volt.  With gen-1 offerings, the argument could be made that "competition" meant other plug-in vehicles.  Not so with gen-2.  They need to find a way to draw sales from the showroom floor during their product-cycle.  Looking at those results for April, much needs to be achieved in the next few years.


BMW i3.  I still remember the hostility that erupted upon the rollout of Ford's first Energi offering.  It was the C-Max plug-in.  That wrecked all arguments, making many look guilty of mindless defensive posts.  The behavior is typical.  That's one of the stage of grief, what you have to deal with upon being faced with major change.  Anywho, the claim that I was simply a Toyota fanboi, promoting Prius by any manner possible.  Giving an endorsement to Ford proved that wasn't true.  That group of antagonists had been exposed and they didn't like it at all.  Ford's new addition to the market damaged much of what had been claimed about Volt to make it unique.  There wasn't a distinctiveness anymore.  Fast-Forward a number years, the situation becomes profoundly worse.  BMW's rollout of i3 was everything Volt strived to be, but failed to actually deliver... which hurts... so much so, that no matter how the information presented, they won't like it.  I remember why GM set those specific goals.  There's nothing wrong with changing them.  After all, the point is to remain flexible.  But if that change doesn't achieve improved results, you've got a very real problem.  In fact, you're even worse off at that point.  That's where Volt is today with the announcement of a mid-cycle upgrade from BMW.  The improvement to i3 will increase EV range from 81 miles to 114 miles.  That's a huge improvement.  It leaves Volt in a very awkward position too.  Enthusiasts belittle Prime for offering less than half the range of Volt.  Now, they find themselves at the other end of such a comment.  i3 delivers twice the range.  That forces the issue of what's actually needed.  If you have enough capacity to cover all your daily driving, why the heck carry around a full-power gas-engine?  It simply makes no such for supposed "EREV" purpose.  That engine had been promoted as a backup, just in case.  BMW delivered precisely that.  (Note that the i3 gas tank was 1.9 gallons; this upgrade will increase it to 2.4 gallons.)  In other words, it's very easy to argue that Volt is carrying around a lot of unnecessary weight... the same argumennt Volt enthusiasts had used against Prius PHV in the past.  So basically, the market is beginning to settle by pushing out the designs that don't work well for the masses.  That's why we continue to ask:  Who?


Bottom Line.  This is definitive proof of having started the next chapter: "Issue is the bottom line. Hype, innovation, buzz, perception are GREAT, but profit keeps the lights on."  That's clear confirmation of things having changed.  With gen-1 of Volt being stuck as just a niche, any discussion of business was quickly subdued.  That's why even a mere mention of Prius set enthusiasts into a tizzy.  The complete absence of objectivity was a dead giveaway of challenges to come.  Now that we've arrived at that point, things are getting rather interesting.  That greenwashing claims of Toyota not being interested in EV support have come to an abrupt stop.  It shows how childish & petty some will be when focus is so narrow.  Of course, there's still the reality of the tax-credit limitation not being addressed.  At least there's some progress.  The bottom line is very important.


After All This Time.  It truly amazes me how much certain individuals just plain don't understand the difference between want & need.  You'd think after all this time, they'd finally figure it out.  The problem typical comes down to not being able to distinguish between their own perspective and what's required of the point community.  They'll over-generalize, pointing out factors of appeal and provide examples of extremes.  Today, it was all about the need to drive at 85 mph and climb up mountains at highway speeds.  That just plain is not realistic for some of us.  Where is the legal limit that fast?  My guess is select areas around the United States.  That's it.  Same goes for mountains.  Here in Minnesota, we have neither.  The fastest speed is 70 mph and there are only 2 high-speed climbs, one in the north and one along the south-east border.  In other words, some owners would never encounter those situations.  Heck, the drives out to Wyoming this year were at 80 mph and had some small, steep climbs... neither of which were a big deal.  Why is there a supposed need for more?  The excuse is: "Cars aren't sold based on need. Most cars are sold based on want."  That's a crock.  True, there is a portion of the population that desires more and have the ability to actually purchase it.  For the majority (that's the mainstream) though, it's not the case.  Most people carefully weigh options, choosing a few luxuries to features... but rarely actually just giving in to want.  There isn't an indulgence.  We seek out reliable, affordable, practical transportation.  The reason for the false belief about want is simply not seeing.  Those reliable, affordable, practical vehicles aren't even acknowledged.  That's why enthusiast magazines pretty much never review ordinary vehicles... like Corolla or Camry.  They dismiss them as boring appliances... which is why they aren't accounted for by the antagonists online either.  See how confusing matters get?  It should be simple.  We should all recognize the necessity for clean & efficient vehicles.  Unfortunately, some don't.  Some call that a want.  They don't see the need to end oil dependency, reduce smog-related emissions, or face climate-change.  That's too.  Fortunately for me, I don't need to waste time on them anymore.  The next chapter has begun!


Who 2016?  It's exciting to see how the question is still applies so well after all this time.  It's becoming more relevant as people begin to grasp the magnitude of scope beyond what the gen-1 models targeted... actual, not rhetoric.  This was the latest: "With the Prime, Toyota seems to be saying that PHEVs aren't for families."  Prior to 2016, we couldn't even address the topic.  Nobody cared.  But then again, the audience for Prius PHV was far smaller than what GM had attempted to entice for Volt.  Things are different now... and I'm pleased to point out why:  Apparently, you missed that there were several different discussions all talking about Prime being an option for the families who grew up with a Prius.  Their children are older and a middle faux seat wouldn't serve any purpose anyway.  The bucket seats, storage area with USB, convenient cupholders, and possibly heated seats would be far more appealing to the older children.  Why do you think I got on enthusiasts so hard asking the "Who is the market for Volt?" question.  There was a lesson to be learned for all of us going forward.  GM made a colossal mistake of not knowing their audience and those Volt enthusiasts made that worse by endorsing it.  The early adopters were assumed to be representative of ordinary mainstream consumers.  They couldn't have been more wrong.  A group of us tried to show how Prius success came from Toyota not giving in to emphasis on any particular trait, instead working really hard to find a balance... which was a clear effort to match consumer interest.  Understanding the difference between want & need is a challenge in ordinary conditions.  The crazy, rapidly changing, demand for clean & efficiency vehicles we currently face makes it even more difficult.  I see Toyota's willingness to try new approaches by diversifying the Prius options even more as a genuine effort to push deeper into a stubborn market perfectly content sticking with traditional guzzlers.  Change doesn't come easy.  Taking some level of risk, without sacrificing cost, is required.


Frenzy.  I particularly liked this question: "They'd love to have Tesla-like frenzy for the Volt and Bolt."  With GM fighting legislative efforts to prevent direct sales in Connecticut and 5 other states already requiring franchise dealerships, you know the situation isn't going to be pretty.  With Volt basically having been abandoned in favor of ramping up both Bolt interest and actual production, we need to ask what GM actually intends.  What kind of sales should we expect?  Seeing I actually get somewhat constructive answers to questions now, I asked:  What would stimulate that level of interest?  The major hurdle to overcome is battery-cost.  Seeing a substantial drop means a benefit for all automakers.  That is likely what will happen too.  Looking for distinct advantage for high-volume sustainability means the ability to earn profit without the help of tax-credits.  Because when they are gone, the competition of traditional vehicles reaching out to attract the same consumers becomes a very real problem.  That's why pack-size and battery-chemistry is such a big deal.  Automakers like Nissan & Toyota have been working hard to not require liquid cooling.  That's a cost, weight, and size expense with potential to be able to avoid.  Tesla has worked hard to reduce packing overhead, by combining cells in a more compact manner to avoid those expenses.  Notice how new topics, use of aluminum & carbon-fiber and heater efficiency, are now being discussed?  In other words, we are beginning to see next-generation upgrades aimed at addressing how to still draw sales once all the low-hanging fruit (early adopters purchases) have been picked.  It won't be as simple as listing EV range and MPG values going forward.


Constructive Discussion.  The sense of moving on is becoming easier to see.  There was from an interview with a Toyota executive about Prime.  It was article published by an automotive enthusiast magazine.  This came about today in response to that: "If someone was looking for a commuter only car, wouldn't a BEV be a better fit? Sure it won't likely work for those occasional trips, but if a person wants a PHEV for that, they probably want more space for luggage and passengers."  It was constructive!  I was happy to join into that discussion:

What's been confirmed long ago and has continued to stand true for years is there's no such thing as an "only" car.  It was absurd to claim that the sole purpose for purchasing a Prius was just for the sake of MPG.  Yet, countless people have tried and continue to.  Thankfully, their arguments always fall apart in the end.  It's like trying to justify the purchase of a SUV for commuting. 

Prius strikes a balance, striving to be a good all-around vehicle... which is why so many have purchased it.  Prime will be attempting to deliver the same thing, but with a plug.  You'll get the full EV experience for a limited duration, enough to cover some commutes and to cover running errands nearby.  You'll still get the large cargo area.  You'll still get the outstanding MPG. 

So far, the range comments coming from Volt enthusiasts have had a childish approach.  That "more is better" claim has resulted in a smug attitude and an unwillingness to actually address detail.  They set a terrible precedent, tarnishing the work genuine supporters worked so hard to establish.  That's really unfortunate when having a goal of getting people to choose a vehicle with a plug.

As for the spin about more passengers, I particularly like this question from the article: "Did the fact that General Motors reached the opposite conclusion with the Chevrolet Volt, adding a fifth seat to the new generation, give you any pause?"  It was an obvious provoke for comment, not real journalism.  Anyone who has seen the gen-2 Volt knows it really doesn't offer a fifth seat.  Only a young child could actually fit in that legless spot.  Yet, we hear defenders vaguely claim Volt has seating for 5 and Prime only 4. Ugh.  The nonsense we have to deal with...

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter.  We've seen an abandonment of Volt recently.  Those enthusiasts have turned attention to Bolt and rapid interest growth toward 200-mile EV offerings.  That opens up opportunity for plug-in hybrids designed to target ordinary consumers.  Prime clearly has a goal of mainstream sales.  It may take a few tweaks along the way, but that's the nature of attempting to draw interest from an emerging market.

We've seen this before.  Remember the size emphasis with Two-Mode?  Remember the power emphasis with Accord?  How is an emphasis on range any different?  There's a careful balance required to attract buyers.  Cost & Efficiency tradeoffs hurt.  With range, the additional EV capacity requires a sacrifice of size & weight.  Toyota is attempting to deliver the right amount.  After all, there are millions of Prius owner who have been pleased with roughly 2 miles of EV.  Giving them roughly 10 times more is quite an upgrade.


Denial.  I'm enjoying this chapter's end.  There are attempts at rewriting history.  It's all that's left.  There no reason to bother pointing out what actually happened.  I started to, then saw it was just a waste of time.  No one else would care.   No one is listening anymore.  It's over.  Comments made at this point only support the denial.  Those few are quite alone.  So, I didn't actually post a response to this: "Nobody fought diversification. They just didn't want a PiP version of the Volt, one with only 6/11 electric miles."  My for confirmation didn't turn up anything.  I hadn't ever heard that before... but wondered if there had been a misunderstanding blown so far out of proportion, it took until now to find out he had been fighting a false belief all these years.  Nothing supported his claim though.  He's been irrational before.  But rather than be hypocritical, he was likely just trying to make up an excuse to justify his behavior.  I didn't want to contribute to that, so my comments never made it to the thread:  I just did some searches.  From 2008 to 2014, there were fierce battles against a Volt offering anything less than a "40 mile" range.  Following that, the topic of a "lite" model finally started to get some traction.  The discussions sighted 25 to 30 miles of EV range.  At no time was there any mention of 6/11 miles.  It was brought up many, many times how the next PiP would offer increased for EV driving (due to lithium cost dropping).  In fact, the resulting power increase due to the larger capacity was even discussed.  Your claim has no merit.


Change.  It sure is nice reading stuff like this now: "Hopefully GM's strategy to use Voltec components for non-plug-in hybrids is part of getting the economy of scale where it needs to be for a much broader rollout of Voltec-based hybrids and EREVs."  I actually get positive votes from my responses too:

That would seem reasonable.  Though, I still get a lot of pushback from pointing out the very same thing for Toyota.  That double-standard is quite annoying... but not deterring.

I will continue to point out the benefits of the no-plug hybrids helping to ramp up production of lithium battery cells.  It's hard to believe how incredibly smug some people were last year about Prius using "outdated" battery tech, even though they had advanced.  Disregarding the fact that the larger Prius (7-seat model) and Prius PHV (plug-in model) already used lithium could have been considered greenwashing.  It was most definitely misleading, especially since we all knew the gen-4 reveal was only a few weeks away.  And sure enough, we found out it use lithium too.  The "outdated" commercial abruptly halted as a result.

We need to be constructive in our discussions.  Improvements to motor efficiency, control software, and cabin-comfort technology will be beneficial to for any vehicle using a battery.  We'll see the chemistry in the battery itself continue to be refined too.  Ordinary hybrids help that process along. Hybrids will plugs benefit from it.

Looking back, I find it astounding that so many fought against diversification.  They truly believed that call for more choices was actually an effort to undermine, that somehow additional models would dilute Volt interest.  Ugh.  Thank goodness we've moved beyond such a fearful belief.

I'm really looking forward to what this next year brings.  Prime is obviously where my strongest endorsement will go, since its smaller capacity is an obvious effort to keep costs low enough for reaching mainstream consumers without tax-credit help.

I'm all for the long-range EV offerings (very large battery-packs) too.  Being able to drive from the cities here all the way up to our vacation destination in the north with just a single charge would be great.  I can envision people feeling comfortable with that in the not-too-distant future.  So, hearing about Hyundai & Ford planning to join in with 200-mile offerings is very encouraging news.


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