Prius Personal Log #770
October 21, 2016 - October 25, 2016
Last Updated: Sat. 12/10/2016
page #769 page #771 BOOK INDEX
Speaking of Coal. The publishing of these 2 particular photos is a remarkable coincidence. I had picked them out yesterday to be among the series of stuff to finally publish. So, the news this morning hit me really funny. I just happened to have proof to show that I've seen the non-renewable part of the equation firsthand. We were in Wyoming visiting family. Out for the evening to get some dinner, we took a quick sight-seeing drive along the way. Being in the heart of coal country, it was easy to encounter mind-boggling scenes of earth moving. I find it amazing to be cruising along at 80 mph in the Prius through large areas of prairie, then suddenly see massive deep excavation pits appear on both sides of the highway. The well-being of that area depends upon coal... an industry now feeling the pain of environmental pressure. Ironically, those wide open praries are idea for wind-turbines... a technology only now they are beginning to consider. Anywho, you have to stop to look. So, we did. The monumental scale of those operations is quite impressive. I sure hope they are able to turn their resources toward renewable efforts. It would be great to see an area like that transformed to being a large supplier of clean electricity and equipment manufacturing for renewable energy technologies. Take a look for yourself at what we saw... photo album 187
Renewables vs. Coal. You ever thing about how long it would be until the overall energy output from renewable sources exceeds that from coal? I hadn't. So, the announcement today on the radio about that point having already been reached was a delight to hear. I wasn't expecting that yet. Achieving that makes sense. Solar & Wind continue to produce electricity. Coal can only release energy as electricity once. That's a major fundamental difference. The growth of cells & turbines has been strong lately too. It's a market with lots of potential. The challenges of starting up have been overcome. We now see the benefits of that emerging. Heck, I tend to forget the ramp where I plug in has a massive solar array. Some of the electricity I use to recharge comes directly from that. On sunny days, there's likely quite a bit to spare with an 80 kWh potential and currently only 2 of us routinely using the 6 chargers available. Someday there will be more of us. In the meantime, use of coal will shrink. Yes, I know, some of that is being supplemented with natural gas. Fortunately, renewable is being considered more as a realistic alternative. Time will make it much easier to invest in too. The chargers at the new grocery store near me have both the cylinder type generators and solar to help draw attention to the electricity use. It take very little wind to make those things spin too. It would be difficult not to notice them. Anywho, we are on the right path. This is undeniable progress. Yeah!
Nissan Hybrid. The refinement from 4 generations of improving design isn't obvious... until competition emerges. Toyota's smooth & seamless operation has been taken for granted. In fact, it is so uneventful, some spin that as boring & gutless. There's not a whole lot to counter such an argument point either... until now. The test-drive of Nissan's upcoming hybrid revealed roughness people had never appreciated not having. Basically, the system is a regular vehicle with an electric motor squeezed in. The shifting between without a power-split device becomes obvious. It wouldn't be so bad with just a mode switch, but that sacrifices efficiency. Taking advantage of both power sources presents challenges... ones that Toyota dealt with ages ago. Without a plug having been available, they had no choice but to dedicate engineering effort to refine. That's rather obvious with Prius PHV, which really only needed a bigger battery. The platform already had that type of operation in mind. A harmony of engine & motor was well established. Prime being able to take advantage of more electricity is a bonus. Even without a plug, the efficiency is truly remarkable. Notice how high the MPG is from some new Prius owners? You don't get that with an add-on to a traditional system. Oh well. Gas is still cheap and focus is on plugging in anyway. Nissan will figure out how to offer a choice for buyers. In this case, they are attempting to deliver a small SUV. Think about what will happen when Mitsubishi does next Summer. That will be a plug-in hybrid. Attention will turn to Toyota to do the same with RAV4, especially if Prime sales are drawing lots of attention.
Greenwash Traps. There is much speculation taking
place now. Not having Prime in the hands of any owners yet is
contributing heavily to assumptions. I'll sure be glad when that
changes. In the meantime, this list was rewarding to compile & share:
It has been interesting to watch so many take the greenwashing bait. Having participated in the acceleration arguments for the Classic model Prius 15 years ago, I'm quite familiar with the traps you can fall into.
First is to trick you into believing a specific value is required, an essential you cannot survive without. In this case, the 10-second 0 to 60 speed is portrayed as necessary.
Second is to avoid any detail which could reveal that value stated is a misrepresentation of what actually happens in real-world driving. In this case, maximum acceleration is so rare, you'll be well aware of when you actually need it.
Third is to prevent the situation as if there are no other alternatives available, that it is an absolute which cannot be fulfilled by any other means. In this case, the "EV Auto" mode isn't an option.
Fourth is to misrepresent the alternative when it is eventually presented. In this case, make sure people don't discover that the "EV Auto" mode provides blending, like the EV-BOOST mode did with Prius PHV.
Long story short, the antagonists don't want you to discover the remarkable MPG resulting from the use of the "EV Auto" mode. They want you to ignore that button, hoping everyone believes the only way to achieve such incredible efficiency must be through the use of only EV driving.
How Much? Few bother to ask that question. Even fewer actually take the time to measure. Requirements for acceleration are simply assumed, based upon comparisons of other offerings. In other words, an average is taken without consideration of the driving conditions. It's just on-paper calculations. That type of specification comparing is how vehicles have been sold for decades. More is better, period. Effective marketing convinces us of that. Though effective, it's quite a waste. Driving a Prius, you notice the waste. The screen providing detail while you drive makes that easy. That's why the guzzlers don't offer such a feature. Heck, that's why Volt didn't at first too. Now, it does. Consumption of kWh wasn't regarded as important initially. Now, it is. Yeah. Sadly, that's type of mindset improvement doesn't work with acceleration. You don't get stats on how long it really took to merge onto the highway. You just mindlessly follow the vehicle in front & behind you, keeping a safe distance. There is never any time summary provided. Imagine if there was. People would notice the 0-60 time is almost never required. The need to drop the pedal to the floor and leave it there the entire duration is incredibly rare. Oh well. All you can do is share experiences to point that out, like: I merge onto the highway now with my Prius PHV expecting the engine to start. No big deal, the EV-BOOST performance is nice and the remaining electricity lasts longer. Sometimes, it doesn't start though. Discovering I've used up most of my battery from cruising along at 55 mph in EV can be annoying... but it does confirm not as much power is needed as some try to lead is to believe. And of course, with the bigger pack, there's more EV range available anyway.
Pushing Lithium, part 2.
This was his provoke: "And how many plug-ins did Toyota sell this year?
.. yeah .. OK. Toyota = 52. VW group = 7,673." I
thoroughly enjoyed responding to it with:
The discussion was about PRODUCTION of lithium batteries. That obvious attempt to mislead by changing the topic was rather desperate. But since you did change it over to SALES of vehicles, let's look at that...
VW sold 7,673 in the first 3 quarters of the year here. That is in no way high-volume. It is very much a niche, meaning it is not in a business-sustaining profitable tech. The goal is to replace traditional vehicles. That won't happen without much higher commitment.
Substantially increasing lithium battery production is a way of reducing cost. Doing that will enable lower prices, allowing the tech to become competitive.
That's exactly what Toyota is doing. They'll sell roughly 300,000 regular Prius this year which use lithium batteries. That effort will contribute to the attractive pricing for Prime. That plug-in model of Prius will benefit directly from the non-plug model. It's a smart move. It's good business. It's happening whether you choose to address it or not.
A similar approach is what made Prius profitable way back in 2002. Toyota took the Prius they had been selling for 4 years and reused it as a traditional vehicle. The body was simplified, the engine detuned, and the hybrid system replaced with an inexpensive transmission. It become the vehicle we knew as Echo. That sharing of components reduced production cost for Prius, making it profitable.
GM could redefine Volt as a competitive plug-in hybrid from the benefit of high-volume lithium battery production for Bolt. Dropping the price significantly prior to the tax-credit expiring is essential. The 16,326 sold in the first 3 quarters of the year here represents no growth. Sales were 16,348 in 2012 and 16,760 in 2013. Flat will not achieve that goal. Sales did drop to 14,540 in 2012, if you're looking to cherry-pick for better results. 2015 was obviously lower, due to the prior clearance of inventory of gen-1 to make way for the limited rollout of gen-2.
Toyota struggled this year from the earthquake interrupting Prius gen-4 rollout. Inventory was a problem for the first 5 months. That was unfortunate, but it didn't prevent the diversification effort of spreading the tech. In this case, they were able to introduce RAV4 and sell 32,989 of them in 9 months. That's another opportunity for lower production cost of lithium batteries even more. A plug-in model is a wise move. Mitsubishi's Outlander has been selling remarkably well over in Europe, the purchase total is over 100,000 so far.
GM's choice to offer Equinox as a diesel rather than a hybrid is a step in the wrong direction, the very market VW is now abandoning in favor of electrification. The settlement requiring a major investment into the infrastructure will contribute to that success too.
So... what the heck was your point?
Pushing Lithium, part 1. That antagonist is at it again, attempting to stir trouble by attacking with new material. This time, it was in response to comments about pushing lithium battery production. He immediately lashed out by listing models from VW (which includes Audi & Porsche). It was a pretty lame attempt to insult Toyota. I took the bait and replied with: "Pushing means high-volume production. VW clearly is not yet." He took my bait by posting numbers. I figured he was that desperate. Posting numbers from VW in contrast to Toyota was a clear act of hopelessness. That detail reveals the true story. It also allows me to dive deeper into the topic. Remember problems of the past? I'd patiently wait for an invitation, then strike back with big picture information. His obvious cherry-picking meant it was only a matter of time before his effort to retaliate would be exposed. I've learned over the years, that's the only way to overcome the barrier they build to prevent constructive discussion. Holding onto lost pride feels redeeming to them, but ultimately falls apart. The rollout of Bolt & Prime combined with the reality of VW having to buyback 100% of the violating diesels along with providing compensation for environmental & financial damages is ushering a new market... one that gen-2 Volt doesn't address. No big deal, I see GM simply adapting. They prefer to sell SUVs anyway. Equinox is the clear solution. They shift focus over to it with their plug-in hybrid tech instead. That's a humbling move against what this antagonists has defended for years... hence his lashing out at me. I find it all quite intriguing to witness. Some people have an extremely difficult time dealing with change. This topic nicely points that out.
Incorrect Information. A big problem we've had with each new generation rollout of Prius is the poor research. Publications will get someone to write up a story on the new Prius. Many of those writers clearly don't actually test-drive the vehicle... leading to countless assumption problems. That's why Toyota has been doing so much with promotional events, providing firsthand opportunities to drive one. That's also why Toyota didn't rollout beyond the initial markets with Prius PHV. The determent to Prius Prime wasn't obvious then, but the wisdom of that choice his becoming easy to see now. The act of researching online isn't always well done. Some don't even realize there was a previous generation. They just find information, they write about it. A good example of that today was a slew of correct detail for Prime followed by a quote of "11 miles" for the electric-only range. Ugh. It's really unfortunate from an otherwise really nice article. Sadly, people researching a purchase of one will stumble across that information... thinking it is correct. Far too often, we see the trouble caused by those same people taking what they read at face value, never bothering to confirm it with another source. It's how greenwashing is unintentionally spread. They don't know what they pass along is wrong. Antagonists wanting to undermine take advantage of that. In those articles, they'll post misleading comments to support the greenwash. In forums, their posts will refer to the incorrect information. Grrr.
Wanting More. This is as far from news as you can
get: "Americans don't like to be
limited. We want/need 2-3x what is really required." We've
known about the "more" problem since the day Prius rolled out. The
problem is the same. No change. Want still gets mixed up with
need. Ugh. I addressed that comment with this perspective:
How many times was the "Who?" question asked? Know your audience.
You are absolutely correct about the perception of being limited. Automakers have taken advantage of that for decades, marketing based on emotional appeal rather than logical choice.
Look at how absurd SUV sales took off. The large & powerful draw hoards of buyers. That market became saturated though and fell apart. People don't buy them anymore. In fact, looking out onto the parking lot now, I don't see any. They are all small now. Purchases have shifted to more of a balance of want & need, rather than catering exclusively to want.
That is the difference between niche & mainstream. Want is limited in some manner. Need will ultimately win the quest for profitable high-volume sales. The priorities of the masses don't allow them to seek out the most desirable choice.
In other words, we'll end up seeing battery-capacity adjustments. The automaker with the best research may get ridiculed initially, but they will be the ones reaping the benefits of a business-sustaining solution rather than flaunting trophies for best engineering. It's a tradeoff. Need is more important than want.
We truly don't know what the winning configurations will be. A majority of buyers will get drawn to something. Notice how 4-cylinder engines emerged that way for middle-market? 6-cylinder engines are available still, but far fewer are produced & sold. Battery-Capacity could easily see similar demand.
The limited choices initially and lack of both commercial & home infrastructure contributes to much uncertainty. What is certain though is time. The tax-credits will be used up. When that happens to an automaker, the resulting competitive response will put a lot of pressure on the other automakers. Waiting is not an option. The clock is ticking for all.
In other words, need will win out over want.