Prius Personal Log #768
October 10, 2016 - October 15, 2016
Last Updated: Sat. 12/10/2016
page #767 page #769 BOOK INDEX
Those Blinders. Fixing entirely on EV range, while ignoring
other factors like price and seating, is an indication of trouble to come.
Long ago, it was the ignoring of emissions. Focus was completely on
MPG. Believing that's the selling point, that nothing else mattered,
gave the impression of a different purpose. For Prius, emissions were
paramount. Using some gas for the sake of cleaner emissions just plan
didn't make any sense... so much so, supporters would argue amongst
themselves... hence the trouble. Today's warning sign came in the form
of: "true, but with volt, you get 50 miles ev, which is huge."
Enthusiasts can get away with perspective like that. But selling to a
wider audience consisting primarily of mainstream buyers, no. We have
new topics to address too, requiring those blinders of the past to be taken
off for a fresh look now:
My driving consists of commute, short jaunts around town, and long trips. More EV isn't enough to justify the tradeoffs. CHG opportunity will be handy for me, since those trip destinations don't offer a plug. Also when I travel (like regular escapes up north), the seats are down to carry all our stuff. That reduction of height in the back really won't make any difference. It's the length & width that has always been the cargo benefit. I suspect many others will see those same advantages.
There's an interesting twist too. Isn't the advantage of having extra capacity not having to plug in? If I had 50 miles of EV available (rated estimate), winter commutes wouldn't have the benefit of pre-conditioning. Would you really pay for or consume a charging spot for only pre-conditioning? Capacity drops roughly 30% due to efficiency-losses and cabin-warming in the cold weather driving. That would make my 19-mile commute a challenge. Being plugged in at work means I stand a chance of making it totally with EV.
It's situations like that people haven't considered yet. We see a lot of dismissals on review article comments, simply suggesting to get a Volt instead without giving the situation any thought. In other words, we've learned that real-world outcome doesn't always match on-paper calculations... especially when it comes to Prius.
So when it comes to the variety of new design aspects, charge-mode, pre-conditioning, and higher-capacity, we really need to step back and think about all that's involved. After all, most people have no idea what that one plug-in uses resistance heating and the other a vapor-injected heat-pump. So, trying to point out efficiency differences will basically be futile.
Real-World data will speak for itself. Watch what those numbers tell us.
Charge Mode. This new feature is stirring quite a bit of discussion. Toyota was really clever about presenting it too. With the previous generation Prius, we routinely got reports of it offering 3 modes... Eco, Power, and HV/EV. Seeing 3 buttons, it was an easy assumption to make. Almost none of the reporters were thoughtful enough to actually try them out to the point of noticing there was a 4th option available. You press the button, it turns on the mode. You press it again, it turns it off. That's a mode too. We call that state of nothing special as "Normal". No mention was a great indication of not researching well. The new "Charge" mode is even more subtle. To engage it, you must hold the HV/EV button. That's intentionally not obvious... because the way it works isn't. If you find it, there will likely be some type of knowledge transfer along with it... like reading this. The complication comes about much like stealth mode. When people first experience that non-EV electric-only propulsion, they get the impression using it as much as possible is better. It's not. In fact, using too much can actually result in lower overall efficiency. The same is true in this case too. Additionally, it changes the way the system behaves... hence being a mode you purposefully choose. The comment today from someone test driving a Prime was: "WAAAAYYY underpowered. It felt like an ECO mode for the ECO ... :( " He clearly didn't understand when to use it. We need to provide that operational facts, to empower owners to make informed decisions. This interactive process with supporters is what Prius thrives on. Toyota cannot provide it. The benefit is that coming from owners. It's a very effective way of drawing interest to grow the market. No advertising campaign can sway interest like that. I enjoy the opportunities to share like that. Here's a start: The intended user is for while highway cruising, when you have excess power available. It takes very little to maintain constant speed. So, that works out well for overall efficiency. It is nice knowing it works elsewhere too. Though, I don't see a benefit on suburb roads.
Treating Lexus as if it is just another dealer location for Toyota is a
fundamentally flawed approach. Yet, it happens all the time.
Some people don't see the difference. That's causing more and more
trouble. It's mystifies me how so many just assume quality alone is
how they are identified. But then again, we have lots of trouble when
comes to discussion of economics. In fact, just conveying the idea of
diversity often a challenge. That makes the measure of its importance
almost impossible. This is why the diverge of Prime is so hard to
understand. The purpose of the dual-wave window, rear seating, and
large screen isn't getting any recognition. The overlook & dismiss.
It makes constructive discussion quite a struggle. Anywho, you need to
have a good understanding of this to appreciate what Lexus is attempting to
do. The luxury market is being redefined. BMW was already seeing
pressure in Europe. Sales of Tesla there have caused an interesting
shake up. You get a remarkably quite, smooth, and powerful vehicle
that's incredibly clean. Attempting to sell a V8 with 400HP
competitively without facing the consequences of emission concerns is
impossible. That audience is willing to spend more on their purchase
too. As if that wasn't complicated enough, the fallout from VW's
diesel cheat is forcing the acceleration of electrification efforts.
Such a massive push into the mainstream puts even more pressure on the
luxury market... which brings us back to Lexus here in the United States.
Why would they jump into that mess? Why not wait until Tesla overcomes
the challenges with Model 3 rollout? It buys time that can be very
well spent. The production & sales of Prime will provide incredible
insight about how to address luxury market needs, which won't be as
forgiving as the mainstream. It makes sense. It's not like
Toyota can just offer an upscale model of Prime as a Luxury and expect it to
be a hit. After all, there has already been a number of attempts to
draw hybrid interest at that level which didn't result in many sales.
They are not the same buyers with a larger budget. They are totally
different audiences with entirely different competition.
Leaf Upgrade. Attention is fading from GM. The first Bolt deliveries aren't expected until the end of the year now and supposedly only 11 states will receive them. What happened this time? With all the bragging about no delays, this explains the sudden quiet. That's nice. It gives others a chance to show off their offerings. Nissan is making a splash with their upgrade to Leaf. The battery-pack will be increased from 24 kWh to a larger capacity of 30 kWh without taking up any more space. That's impressive. It adds 23 miles of range. The official EV estimate climbs to 107 miles. Up from 84, that sounds great. However, the price rise of $3,350 is a head-scratcher. Keeping Leaf competitive with respect to range at the sacrifice of cost is an unknown the market hasn't faced yet. With that higher sticker, you also get the quick-charge feature. 80% capacity in just 30 minutes is impressive. How many owners will be able to take advantage of that though? If nothing else, it does help ensure resale value will hold up longer. Next year, the expectation for Leaf is a 200-mile range from a 60 kWh battery. That should be interesting.
The Next Chapter. This time last year is when things really got shaken up for plug-in market expectations. The new Prius was revealed. The diesel deception was exposed. And the new Volt was rolled out. Finding out "clean" wasn't actually true made the case for Toyota's fourth generation hybrid a simple argument. Favor clearly swung to it. However, the earthquake damage that happened just as production began at the start of the new year messed up inventory expectations... and have consequently provided greenwashing with numbers to mislead with. Fortunately, the RAV4 rollout then wasn't affected. The wait for gen-2 Volt ended then too. Unfortunately, it was already doomed upon arrival... too expensive, too small. That's why attention rapidly shifted to Bolt. The reveal of Prius Prime added to that new found focus. Now upon the rollout of both, we see this: "Bolt EV is a step forward, a very nice but small one – a baby step, if you will." That came from a person who had been a die-hard Volt enthusiast but was now all for Bolt instead. Today's discussion topic made the reason why obvious. The base price will be $37,495 and the premium $41,780. You want the "Driver Confidence" option, add $495. You want the "Infotainment" option, add $485. You want the DC charging (an expectation for high-capacity electric vehicles), add $750. You want Blue, Red, or Orange paint, add $395. A large screen and DRCC (dynamic radar cruise control) aren't even offered. How is this vehicle supposed to compete with Model 3 from Tesla? It's expensive and utilitarian. What the heck? Needless to say, all this nicely sets the stage for Prius Prime. It is a step forward. It is a baby step. But what it offers that others don't is affordability. That's a profound difference... which was sighted many years ago as the criteria for changing what the masses actually purchase. Nice vehicles beyond their reach don't accomplish much.
Parking Brake. A recall on the gen-4 Prius was issued. Some articles used words like "deadly" and "dangerous", others simply mentioned an issue with the parking brake. The problem comes about if you get out of the Prius while the system is still in gear, using the brake to hold the vehicle in place rather than putting it in park. Who would do that? Leaving it in Drive or Reverse isn't something any owner I've ever heard of has done. Someone must have though. Possibly not. We really don't know. All we've been told is that clips will be added to the cable's dust boot as a preventative. No big deal. Sounds like an effort to ensure longevity. But then again, you can't fix bad behavior. Who would leave their car in gear like that when running but stationary? I guess that helps to show the diversity of buyers Prius attracts.
Divert & Stop Gap. The discussion immediately fell apart. He couldn't care less about anything other than electric-only range. It become a sad attempt to promote Volt, then turned into a dismissal of plug-in hybrids being anything but a short-term solution to EV takeover. Offering a comfortable ride at an affordable price simply wasn't a concern. Add him to the large list of those who just plain don't understand the automotive business. That particular group is made up of enthusiasts who focus on engineering above all else. Selling large numbers of profitable vehicles that only offer average performance is boring & meaningless to them. It's what I've been dealing with for just about 17 years now. They simply aren't interested in what accountants or economists have to say. It's all about getting consumers excited. Clever marketing is more important than actually delivering upon need. They figure appealing to want will cover the owner's priorities... even if it requires significant sacrifice. Seeking a balance is not acceptable. Ugh. Of course, I knew this was coming. That's why I've been participating online for all these years. The return on that research will really pay off... eventually. I know. Patience.
New Greenwashing. How would you deal with new
greenwashing? In my case, the effort comes from an enthusiast with
obvious bias. He continues to push that 0-60 acceleration in 15
seconds is far too slow, to the point of endangering others. The fact
that not a shred of evidence has been provided is annoying. He's
spreading FUD. If maximum acceleration is needed, you switch modes.
It's like shifting down. You have the option if you so desire.
If not, you just switch to automatic mode and never ever have to give the
matter another thought. Geez! This is how I dealt with it:
Your past experiences with some problem owners explains the stance you've taken. It's a stereotype not representative of most though. Look around, there are lots of other slow drivers with powerful vehicles. I get annoyed waiting behind them.
From my point of view, I see post spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt in this thread by a variety of people. So, I seek out individuals with influence to help set the record straight... before it contributes to greenwashing.
There are dozens of Prius PHV videos that I've published on YouTube. Do a search for the "priusguru" channel. You'll find a collection showing ordinary driving, complete with real-time dashboard information. Some even included ODB-II data.
As for the discussion at hand... 129 MPG was the average for my 41.3 round-trip commute today, which included one stop along the way in the morning and two while returning home. Recharging the 4.4 kWh battery in Prius PHV at work provides a minimal approximation of what the 8.8 kWh battery in Prius Prime will deliver only charged once. Knowing the next-gen system is more efficient, expecting more is quite realistic.
In other words, I fail to see the point of stressing purity. So what if the engine fires up for a minute? Effortless results around 125 MPG are still triple that of what a high-efficiency traditional vehicle would deliver.
People driving shorter distances or recharging at work will get even better MPG.
Watch the videos. It should become clear that Prius Prime will offer the power you say is necessary.
Great Analogy. I really got a kick out of reading this: "Naturally, Toyota is sensitive to comparisons with the Chevrolet Volt, which offers double the EV range in similar packaging. In defense of the Prime's modest capabilities, Toyota offered this analogy: When you go for a run, you don't carry a gallon jug of Gatorade." That should make you think. A good friend of mine pushed that perspective for a long time. Why have more battery than you actually need? Depleting it 100% each time you commute is proof of money well spent; you're getting every penny possible out of that investment. Unused capacity is what? It's wasteful to have too much. Ironically, troublemakers of the past use to use the "dead weight" argument a lot. They have all vanished, since bringing that up exposes them as being hypocritical. I find it intriguing how some people just plain don't understand "right size" importance. You'd think that would be obvious. Clearly, it isn't. Perhaps the Gatorade analogy will help get the point across.
Being Fake. I know remarks to this won't be taken seriously: "Yes, I agree that Most Prius supporters are "fake green" supporters." After all these years, the brainless belief of less gas being cleaner is obvious. Most people fall into that trap. They don't give it a second thought. That's why VW was able to deceive so many. Reducing pollutants was assumed to be "green". In reality, it was really just a "D" grade effort. To earn a higher grade, it would be costly and requires a paradigm shift. Toyota was willing to make that big expense & effort commitment... even if it meant greenwashing fallout along the way. Thankfully, they stayed true. The gen-4 Prius is truly remarkable. The opportunity it ushers in with Prime is amazing. I'm so excited to be part of the rollout. In the meantime, it's making sure everyone really understands the situation, as I put it: "fake green" is portraying MPG and using less gas as the only measure of progress. It's too bad so many people totally blow off the emissions. The PZEV and SULEV ratings really make a difference. Look no further than "clean diesel" for a dose of reality about the other aspects of being green.
Recognizing The Problem. Voices of reason are starting to increase. I was pleased upon seeing this today: "still, a difficult thing to pull off in a 27k vehicle." Problems of the past came about from not taking the cost & price criteria seriously. Enthusiasts just blew off that concern... for an entire generation. Of course, when the next generation rolled out and the same problem remained, things got ugly. That's the market Prius Prime will be entering. Having so much lower of price positions it ahead, despite no sales having even taken place. The potential gauges expectations. Being able to reach a much wider audience, as well as endure the expiration of tax-credit draw, makes it a strong business case. That was never the case for GM with Volt. I got attacked relentlessly for pointing that out too. Now, those antagonists agree. They doubt admit it. But simply having abandoned it in favor of Bolt is recognition enough. As for Toyota's opportunity, I pointed out: That has been the heart of the problem with Volt, ever since the reveal way back in 2007. Doing all that was promised for "nicely under $30,000" defied logic. Yet, enthusiasts proclaimed it was realistic and attacked those who pointed out anything to the contrary.