Prius Personal Log #796
February 27, 2017 - March 3, 2017
Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017
page #795 page #797 BOOK INDEX
Moving On, competition. We're almost there. This month, deliveries to the center of the country will finally begin. Yeah! That will bring about fresh perspective. In the meantime, it's the same old problem. Focus continues to be limited to only plug-in choices. There's an intense refusal to look at the market as a whole still. Moving on remains a challenge. I keep trying with that stubborn group, who is not ready to consider GM choices. Oh well. Change will come soon. In the meantime, provided a dose of reality to their celebrating, with the hopes of preparing them for what's to come... Except when compared to the true competition: TRADITIONAL VEHICLES. 22,464 - Equinox; 15,367 - Cruze; 12,406 - Malibu; 7,165 - Impala; 6,606 - Trax; 4,658 - Camaro; 2,140 - Sonic; 2,139 - Spark; 2,081 - Corvette; 1,820 - Volt; 952 - Bolt. Sorry to be the voice of reality, but GM is a for-profit automaker. Plug-In sales must grow quite a bit very quickly to survive loss of the tax-credit. When that $7,500 subsidy begins phaseout, the technology must already be showing obvious signs of being self-sufficient. We are most definitely not seeing that yet. Notice how GM is investing in 10 new diesel choices for their customers? Notice the cylinder-deactivation project underway? What about their recent investment in fuel-cell development? Do you really think dealers will be interested in selling low-profit, low-volume vehicles? It's time to focus on the bigger picture. Look at those other counts for February. Plug-In choices have a long way to go still… and that progress must happen in a very short amount of time.
Reality. It's crashing down, coincidently, on the eve of deliveries for Prius Prime to the interior of the country. All the excuses for Volt have been used up. The long-time barrier GM created that... just like we worried ...would stifle the market, did indeed. It's history repeating itself yet again. They created a similar mess with diesel decades ago. It caused chaos within the efficiency market. Ugh. Oh well. Sadly, some more history is about to be repeated: "The tax credits haven't expired yet. The Bolt isn't priced with their expiration in mind. When the credits go away the price will almost certainly come down." Remember how supporters of Volt genuinely thought battery-cost would drop enough to allow gen-1 Volt to compete? It was yet another "over promise, under deliver" situation we could see coming years in advance. Guess what, it's happening yet again. I tried to express a sense of reality with: That won't be anywhere near enough. Simple math using a quick & generous cost drop from $145/kWh to $100/kWh for the 60 kWh battery-pack would only provide a $2,700 reduction. That would only make Bolt competitive with Model 3, a highly desired EV with a nearly identical price almost 2 years sooner. It also leave Volt in a very difficult position. GM won't want to sell 2 plug-in vehicles in high-volume with razor-thin profit margins. That sets the stage for a very unwelcoming dealer & salesperson situation. It also crushes the hope of growth by spreading the tech to other vehicles. Reality is, traditional vehicles pose a monumental competitive challenge. And if you don't believe that, consider how much promotion for diesel GM has been doing lately.
Compliance Claim. The worldwide rollout of Prime all within a few months, starting with the coasts in the United States, has contributed to greenwashing. Today, from a really nasty antagonist came: "That didn't stop people from making the same claim against the 2016 Volt..." He just plain doesn't care and has made that clear repeatedly. Now, he's attempting to claim the rollout is only for compliance. I wonder what his undermining efforts will shift to when Midwest deliveries begin. For now, I went with this as a response: Leaving out the part about having a MSRP so high it stands no chance of competing with traditional vehicles once the tax-credit expires isn't constructive. Prime is designed to overcome that very real obstacle of production cost & profit.
Spreading Misinformation. That ill intent article was referred to by another. Those hoping to undermine use a misleading source to spread their own misinformation. It builds the appearance of credibility, as if all they are doing is sharing something well endorsed. It got horribly vague right away: "A certain Toyota Prius Prime owner revealed that his vehicle lacked the promised mileage when it is set to electric vehicle mode." Then throughout the article, we got descriptions claiming "another defect" and "sub-par" and "disadvantages". Rather than providing details for you to evaluate, they make the decision for you. It's quite annoying. We've been dealing with that nonsense for decades too. My favorite part of this one was the opening: "The 2017 Prius Prime doesn’t deserve coverage on..." That immediately set a dismal tone. I wondered who that was. You never know what searches will reveal. Turns out, the source was extremely bias. It was quite obvious. Just scrolling through recent other published articles on the front page made that easy to see.
Compelling & Affordable. Those adjectives are often
carelessly thrown about:
"I think the author wishes Toyota would had a compelling and affordable
Range Extended EV in its program." It's easy to reveal the lack
of objectivity with such claims. All you have to do is request detail.
Avoidance of any type of quantifiable measure reveals ill intent. I
deal with this instance by replying:
The weight increase from the battery turns out to be advantageous for handling. On both my test drives, I hit the tight round-about aggressively. The lack of body roll from the new suspension-system combined with that weight showed a clear improvement upon the previous generation. That is compelling.
Toyota's approach to raise the floor rather than keep it flat sets them up for being cost-competitive immediately, without dependency on tax-credits. That gives them a huge advantage over the more costly plug-in hybrids. It also sets them up for a potential capacity increase mid-cycle.
Very few how participate in online discussions represent mainstream buyers, those ordinary customers would just replace their traditional car with another traditional car. Those here are the ones how step up to the plate and proudly become early adopters. That's not who Toyota is targeted. Going after those more difficult sales is vital... and they are the ones who don't seek out compelling.
Think about how "exciting" the high-volume sellers are, those profit-sustaining vehicles. For Toyota, it's Camry, Corolla, and RAV4. Notice how well the RAV4 hybrid is selling? Notice how easy it would be to offer a Prime version? Look at the new hybrid on the way C-HR. Think about who it targets and why.
Passing Along. Sadly, I still encounter stuff like this on a regular basis: "They have not moved on and left the HSD, which was GREAT in its time, behind them. Like others have said they lost an almost 20 year head start (first prius Dec. 1997)." Lack of information is often the problem; assumptions and drawing quick conclusions are the result. Hoping to not have to deal with that pointless claim, I posted: Are you aware that is passing along of rhetoric spin? GM knew way back in 2006 that there was no possible way to compete with Toyota hybrid technology. Two-Mode design shortcomings made that overwhelmingly clear. That's why the next-gen design of Two-Mode, now referred to as Voltec, had a heavy dependency on a large battery-pack. In fact, that is why all the efforts from supporters about delivering a more affordable version called "Volt lite" always fell apart. In fact, that is also why GM's newest hybrid with a plug doesn't offer a smaller pack either. In other words, the others didn't move on back then. Instead, they recognized there was simply no way to match that level hybrid efficiency and devoted resources to alternative approaches. Honda got close many years later, but the system turned out to be very expensive. Hyundai thinks it can, with this year's rollout of Ioniq. Nissan is trying. GM no. Ford no. FCA no. VW no. BMW no. Mitsubishi no. Subaru no. Put another way, it depends upon your perspective. They moved on because they had no choice. That's not good in a time when gas is cheap and regulations are being rolled back.
Ill Intent. It was obvious the article we were all
posting about was an attack on Prime. Reading for detail wasn't even
necessary to see that. A simple compare of the cargo photo posted for
Prime verses the one for Volt makes that very clear. One was stuffed
with boxes and bags haphazardly. The other had a single small item.
Ugh. Quite annoyed, I summed up the ill intent this way:
Reading the article for a bigger picture, rather than getting hung up on obvious misrepresentation attempts, it simply looks like that writer didn't understand the purpose of a plug-in hybrid and has carried buyer's remorse for a very long time. This was the clue: "The local Toyota dealership sold me on the Plug-in version of the Prius getting 12 miles of range before the ICE motor kicked in." Regret from having believed an incorrect salesperson can really sting... resulting in clouded judgment later.
Purpose of the augmentation was to deliver a MPG boost. Having a larger battery replenished with plug-supplied electricity allows the gas-engine to work less. Operating at lower RPM and off more frequently was a very straight-forward way of achieving that goal. There was never any absolute declared for EV driving. That's why Prius PHV was called a plug-in hybrid.
Same is the case for Prius Prime. True, you get more battery-capacity, more electric-only power, electric-only heating, and electric battery-warming. But it's still called a plug-in hybrid. In extremes, like driving in temperatures below 15°F, why not take advantage of the gas engine? It shuts off as soon as the coolant is warmed. The engine then stays off until all the heat from that coolant is depleted.
Not studying before a purchase is quite common. People make assumptions. People make mistakes. People stumble across incorrect information. That's no excuse to spread it though. Seeing a follow-up article with detail filling in what the initial review missed would be very nice.
It Got Weird. The response to that "the right way" question was an answer claiming that was a response what the author of the article had written. What? Having used "imo" (in mind opinion) clearly confirmed that was not the case. There was nothing of that sort in the article. I couldn't find anything of that nature. So, in return, I posted: Yes, we have an insistence upon calling a "Plug-In Hybrid" something it is not, in this case "EV". I suppose that should have been given the most attention in reply. That absolute of never warming up the engine sends us astray. It only takes around 3 minute while driving, then the on/off is nearly instant. The engine shuts off so fast after a hard acceleration, you sometimes don't even notice. This makes the EV-Auto mode very handy. I'm about 3 weeks from getting my Prime, but owning an Prius PHV for 5 years, I expect the on/off to become a trivial matter. It's a plug-in hybrid, taking advantage of the engine when an efficiency opportunity presents itself.
The Right Way. I was quite intrigued to find out more
about what this actually meant: "But for them to hack the Plugin onto the HSD is not the right way to do
it, imo. They have not moved on..." What was his opinion?
I had no idea what that could even be in reference too. It was well
beyond the usual vague. So, I asked: What does "the right
away" actually mean? Toyota delivered an outstanding plug-in hybrid.
They added a one-way clutch to allow the second motor (which is usually used
for generating electricity) to provide additional horsepower for
propulsion. That modification allows the system to act as an EV without
sacrificing any of the hybrid efficiency. Attempting to give the
label of "hack" a negative stigma doesn't work without any explanation of
your claim that they need to move on. What should they move to?
New Attacks, Old Rhetoric. A new thread about Toyota on an open-audience green automotive website stirred the pot. It rapidly fell apart with an effort to undermine by distraction. I was annoyed by the obvious attack on Prime, but kept my response brief and to the point: It truly amazes me how some attempt to distract from the effort to deliver a plug-in choice that delivers both outstanding hybrid efficiency and outstanding electric-only efficiency that's actually affordable by using a hydrogen red-herring.
Being Affordable. Having driven a Prius Prime less than 24 hours ago, in the cold no less, all I can say is: Whoa! The effortless EV acceleration is great. The cabin is surprisingly quiet. The engine is remarkably smooth. The handling on roundabouts is sweet. So, the attacks have begun. Those reviews with outright lies are starting to emerge. Until now, it was just exaggerations we had to deal with. This morning's article marked a turn for the worse. I didn't like the tone of it right from the start. Then, I read this: "Just don't turn on the heat/AC, radio, windshield wipers, try to accelerate to fast or – get this – try to regen too much electricity going down a hill. All of these things turn the ICE engine on and keep it on for 5-10 minutes regardless of how much battery you have and what roads you are on." I know that is just plain not true. Of course, with the silly radio & wiper reference, you'd think that was just another exaggeration example... until reaching that 5 to 10 minute part. Warming up from a cold in the cold only takes 3 minutes while driving. That's it. The 10 made me very suspicious. That was following by this conclusion: "...it is a retrofit of the hybrid Prius design with a slightly bigger battery/motor and not much else. A hack." At that point, it was quite clear the writer didn't actually have a clue how Prime actually worked. All the other articles with any type of credibility mention the new clutch which allows the second motor (usually used as a generator) to join in to contribute additional power. This didn't. Having a battery 9 times larger isn't by any perspective slight either. The final comment is what really made the intent clear: "However, the patch job that Toyota did to make this Prime version an *EV* isn't worthy of your pocketbook. If you are looking for a similar plug-in petrol/EV hybrid, I'd check out the Chevy Volt, Hyundai Ioniq, BMW i3 w/REx or similar options." No price was ever mentioned. How can you refer to a person's pocketbook without ever referring to cost of any sort? Of course, why the heck was the Ioniq mentioned? We already know the plug-in model coming late this year will have a smaller seating area in back and they electric side will deliver less horsepower. Most importantly though, price hasn't been revealed yet. Prius Prime is all about being affordable. Toyota strived to deliver that... and was very successful. Yet, this article avoided any detail to that affect. I sure will be glad when I get mine in a few weeks. Then I can start filming some drives. Fortunately, in this case, the writer did too. Watching it, we discovered he was in "EV Auto" mode... not "EV" as he had claimed... which negates much of what he said. Unfortunately, most people won't notice that though. That auto feature tells the system to take advantage of the engine when the opportunity arises. Clearly, he didn't study the vehicle before taking it for a drive.
Delivery Expectations. According to the information the dealer has, my Prius was produced 10 days ago. In just 3 days, it should arrive in port. 2 weeks later, the expectation is to have it plugged in overnight to recharge... in my garage! We're getting close, so close, it's time to clean out the Prius PHV. Spring has already arrived, making that pretty easy. Back when Winter was nasty, it would have been nice to take delivery... so I could experience the extreme cold right away. Oh well. It gets like that every year. My first drives will be in much more pleasant situations instead. I'll be able to see the new color too. Being dark & dirty during January isn't fun. Having a shiny & clean car for more than just a few minutes will be really nice.