Prius Personal Log  #888

August 22, 2018  -  August 29, 2018

Last Updated:  Sun. 10/07/2018

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Rhetoric Spin.  That saying of "There's a sucker born every minute." is not well understood, despite the obvious recent example of the con we've witness in our own federal government.  People follow a path without question, not realizing their actions would be different if they took the time to really think about what just happened.  In this case, I witnessed the reset of ethanol arguments.  The same old FUD was being spread by the same old online trolls.  But with a new audience, it appears to be new debate.  I recognize the pattern.  It's the same old claims but with newer dates and slightly different numbers to make searches more difficult.  This resulted in a turn on me: "You are the one making the claim. Burden of proof is on you, kiddo."  That's what happens when the original poster appears to have a credible statement and you question their claim.  Just like our president, a wild claim is made to get in front of an obvious losing battle.  Make it appear that you are the defense, rather than the opposition.  They create FUD... Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt ...about a topic that had already been well established.  It's like pressing the reset button.  If no one notices what they just did, the resulting debate will preoccupy discussion.  It's a surprisinly effective undermining technique.  I wasn't going to put up with it, even if that "sucker" wouldn't ever figure out he was being used to enable an effort to mislead.  I ended it with:  That's how rhetoric works.  They begin the FUD, then expect you to debunk their deception.  They click "reset" afterward too, keeping it from ever ending by drawing in a new audience who never witnessed that past.


Setting Precedent.  With an entirely new venue for green discussions (new forum with new participants), I was intrigued what a topic about GM would stir.  It was about the new Cruze offering a CVT model.  That's the traditional equivalent to Volt, as was Corolla to Prius from the perspective of typical comparisons.  Sure enough, Volt came up with a vastly superior claim.  I jumped in with "inefficient in both EV and HV modes" which clearly wasn't liked.  I was happy to provide a reminder that his own peers were the ones who pushed the basis of measure.  So, I pushed back, but not as much as I could have.  They love to refer to gen-1 specs.  I could have easily done the same... by pointing out HV efficiency of the Classic model Prius was more efficient than what GM delivers now, all these years later.  Instead, I stuck to the basics:  EPA rating is a standard measure for non-bias comparison.  Finding an example of results that are higher doesn't mean that's the norm for everyone. 31 kWh/100miles and 42 MPG is not efficient.  Keep in mind it was Volt owners who set this precedent, forcing everyone to acknowledge the EPA rating as the only proper comparison measure.


Predictions.  Today, it was: "...predicts that Electric Vehicles will account for over 50% of light duty personal transportation in as little as 20 years."  I found that start of a new discussion thread worthy of jumping all in on.  So, I did:  20 years from now is 3 full generations, starting with the successor to Prius Prime.  Keep in mind that simply stocking inventory is far from the end game.  To achieve 50% penetration, some major infrastructure updates will be required.  Many will face the challenge of just getting a single high-speed charger setup at home.  How many cars are in your garage?  One 40-amp line will deliver 200 miles of range from 8 hours of charging.  That's 32 amps sustained (20% safety buffer), which is a rate of 7.7 kW.  Draw will slow as "full" capacity is reached.  There are some charging losses from the AC to DC conversion too. Figure an efficiency of 4 miles/kWh for the anticipated EV travel.  So, even if affordability is reached and there's a diverse choice of electric vehicles offered, the challenge of acceptance is far from over.


Unaware.  Not having full information is quite common.  In fact, that's usually the situation.  Most people aren't well informed; however, you'd expect the daily posters in big forums to be aware.   Some are not though.  I end up putting them on ignore after awhile, once they reveal no desire to learn.  Sadly, some simply find the online experience entertainment rather than a source for sharing knowledge.  Fortunately, not all posts from such a source are counter-productive.  Sometimes, they do queue up an opportunity for you to provide exposition... or even outright education.  Today, those provided such a predicament: "And if Toyota ever adds higher charge capability to their Prime ... or if/when Toyota returns to building EV's ... this bad boy can deliver an incredible 22kW's !!"  I was happy to jump on that:  Toyota already has delivered that.  80% recharge in 20 minutes.  Remember, the CHAdeMO plug for Prime in Japan?  7 kWh in 20 minutes works out to 21 kWh for 60 minutes of charging... a rate of 21 kW.  In other words, very close to incredible.


False News.  That's what the revelation of "fake" news has brought to light.  It's what I have been dealing with for years that others never believed could have any meaningful influence.  Memories of being laughed at from pointing out how seriously people took the greenwash are still quite vivid.  They didn't believe me... until now.  My pointing out of how influential the misleading blogs could be were just outright dismissed.  I'd draw attention to how GM would release an ambiguous statment, knowing the Volt enthusiasts would spread meritless hope.  The reality that claims being made had nothing of any substance to support them didn't matter.  It's what emboldened them to interject outright lies.  There was no consequence of intention misleading.  They could undermine all they wanted and get others to pass along their false news.  That went on for so long.  Ugh.  It's hard to imagine anyone being so gullible; yet, witnessing that became a daily routine.  Some would go out of their way to make sure it was difficult to figure out what was true anymore.  I sure am glad that terrible history was so meticlously documented.  Learning from the past is how you prevent bad outcomes from repeating.


Solution.  GM raised the price of Volt for next year by $300.  That opened up new discussion with a new audience.  I dove into that head first with:  Delivering an affordable choice for the masses has always been the intended outcome.  Rollout would balance design cost to be directly competitive with traditional offerings.  Automakers could set their own pace based on tax-credit sales count, followed by phaseout calendar.  GM didn't care about that and instead flaunted enthusiast appeal.  It's a real-world example of the tortoise and the hare.  They now find that focus was not on what was important to appeal to ordinary consumers... in other words, actually winning the race rather than getting cheered on by spectators.  $34,395 base MSRP for a vehicle that is small, inefficient in both EV and HV modes, and doesn't include features shoppers now expect to be standard (like dynamic/adaptive cruise-control) makes it a very hard sell.  What dealer would want to stock that inventory?  What salesperson would want to take the time to show it?  How many people have a 40-amp dedicated circuit at home to deliver 7.2 kW charging anyway?  That begs the question: How is Volt a solution for mainstream buyers?


Old Posts.  Every now and then, someone will post a comment or question in a very old dicussion thread.  In the example today, it was on a video I shared for the Classic model Prius.  That many generations ago doesn't stir much interest anymore; however, there are some intrigued about the differences.  Finding out about how a technology evolved can be very informative.  That type of well informed background is what gives you insight to make accurate predictions.  Figuring out what is to come depends upon a strong understanding of technical limitations and consumer reaction.  You must keep the discussion from getting too in depth though.  It's a matter of drawing them into conversation by sharing something they may find of interest that they wouldn't have otherwise come across.  This is the information I chose to share with respect to being asked why the engine ran so much more frequently than it does in the current generation of Prius:  Stealth drive (as it was known back then, that's a maximum draw of 10 kW from the battery-pack for EV speeds up to 42 mph) didn't last long.  So, you'd often see the engine running to recharge.  Also, don't forget that engine-off isn't the most efficient use of the hybrid design.  Blending is better overall when there isn't a plug.


33 MPG.  As the years progress, it's becoming easier for GM enthusiasts to recognize the problem I've been pointing out for years.  Their hate for Toyota clouded reason, preventing them from noticing the pattern: "Chevrolet could work harder to close the cost gap if they wanted to, and upsell many/most Cruze buyers to the Volt."  Sadly, that quote represents only a rudamentary understanding of the problem at hand.  However, it is progress.  At least they are now comparing GM vehicles to Volt, rather than thinking other plug-in vehicles are the competition.  That's progress... despite being so painfully slow.  Oh well.  It's not like I didn't try to stir awareness sooner.  This is what I had to say about that situation today:  Volt hasn't ever been able to compete with Cruze, even with the $7,500 tax-credit.  Belittling CVT efficiency from a non-hybrid won't change that. It's a cold, hard realty for enthusiasts to accept.  53 miles of EV capacity makes it basically impossible to compete... which is why GM has focused on conquest sales instead.  GM's own loyal customer simply are not interested.  Toyota is well aware of how much of a challenge it is to appeal to mainstream consumers, which is why they would never succumb to the same "more" trap GM did.  That's why Prime is priced $6,000 less than Volt and comes better loaded as that base level.  Competition with Corolla for their showroom shoppers is very difficult.  Think about the Corolla plug-in hybrid Toyota will be introducing to shoppers in China next year.  How will that be configured to compete directly with the CVT model?  How should GM have configured Volt to better compete with Cruze?  Trying to place blame or responsibility on those involved with sales to work harder to upsell reveals a grave misunderstanding of the market.


Turning Point.  Our current administration here is a replica of what I dealt with in the past.  They would just spin and spin and spin.  Their goal was to simply keep conclusions from being drawn.  Way back when, it started with the "up to the chore" discussion thread.  No one ever imagined it dragging on for 1.5 years.  That's because prior to it, no one expected outright lies and direct contractions easy to disprove.  You figured when the person was caught intentionally being deception they would stop.  We have since learned that doesn't happen.  Volt enthusiasts would do everything possible to prevent any type of closure.  Every technic imaginable was employed.  Trouble is, that only gives the impression of victory.  Reality is quite different.  Consequences of pretending all is well resulted in progress not actually being made.  In the case of our automotive business here (in the United States), cost of poor decisions or efforts to retain the status quo means being left behind by the rest of the industry.  That's why the claim of "falling behind" and "laggard" name calling happens so often.  It's a physcological effect known as "projection".  We look upon that as an acknowledgement of the situation.   GM supporters are keenly aware of "falling behind" and "laggard" due to it always being on their mind, but fail to recognize that is actually description of themselves.  This incorporates blame shifting.  They know there is trouble but don't understand the source, resulting in accusation of others for the situation they ended up in.  Anywho, hope from those witnessing this self-destruction keep expecting a turning point.  With the plug-in disaster, it can obviously be identified as those loss of subsidies.  Will it?  There's lots others to blame and excuses to be made... much like the administration.  Notice how no particular event or revelation is ever significant enough to derail the distructive trajectory?  Each seems to have the potential, but it never plays out that way... because the next distraction is introduced.  Don't look everyone see what really going on.  Misdirection is interpretted as being off course... with the hope no one will notice the course was never correct in the first place.  Volt was flawed from the very beginning.  Targetting a niche audience never made any sense; yet, there was an effort from the very beginning that Toyota's effort to appeal to mainstream consumers would never be good business.  Much like bad politics, there are consequences for being wrong.  That's what confirms we are truly at a turning point.


Teaching Moments.  That plug-in owners group I am part of is missing some.  Right now, they are part of the "Eco Experience" at our state fair.  A person there are spoke with had fallen into the same trap I have seen countless others fall victim to.  They become well-informed about current offerings without any real understanding of what's to come or what kind of impact that will have.  It was basically a relay of information without any thought.  It was throughout, but in no way forward-looking.  It lacked substance about importance to how that will apply to ordinary people.  You had to become a plug-in enthusiast to be part of what was being conveyed.  That perspective is limited, a short-sighted portrayal of the future.  Rather than teaching people about what's to come, it was really an effort to encourage change.  Understand that fundamental difference?  We want people to see the paradigm-shift as the next natural step forward.  To do that, you must downplay.  That's not exciting.  That's just blah.  But it's how business-sustaining profit is made.  High-Volume sales absolutely require "ordinary" appeal.  In general, people will do everything possible to avoid change.  You must present change as an effortless gain.  Some of the most successful changes have basically been invisible... to the point where some will argue that it was anything but inevitable.  Stirring effective enthusiasm is difficult.  Most people get excited about speed & power, but being willing to pay a premium for it is an entirely different matter.  Think about the progress of computers.  It wasn't overnight.  It took countless years... actually several decades... of exposure to become thought of as common.  Now, we carry them in our pocket with very frequent use.  Teaching about technology acceptance is about seeking moments to do it... often & decretely.


Greenwash Articles.  Many have titles that present bait: for example: "Would YOU Ever Sacrifice LOOKS For MPGs?"  When you read them, there's nothing to actually support what was claimed.  Most articles will simply discuss something else instead.  In some circumstance, you'll get something that does address topic.  However, it will just gloss over it, for example: "Without leveraging the battery of the Prius Prime, I chalked up 59 MPG on my way home from my Manhattan office. In addition, after spending quite a bit of time with the vehicle, I netted 55 mpg without even trying."  The purpose of that was to lead you astray.  That wasn't even an attempt to downplay.  Benefit of plugging in was just outright dismissed.  That was literally the only reference in the article about efficiency, despite the fact that MPG was mentioned in the title.  Ironically, there was only one tiny photo and nothing at all mentioned about looks.  That part of the greenwash was obvious.  By omitting anything to actually look at, the hope is you'll make incorrect assumptions.  How many people have actually seen a Prius Prime?  Not realizing it doesn't look like the regular model is the mistake the writer hoped readers would make.  It's sad to see automotive publications work so hard to mislead like that.  But then again, leaving out vital detail is nothing new to hybrids.


Appearance.  We are witnessing the end of sedan appeal.  Push of highly profitable SUV offerings has been so successful, people are losing perspective.  Few question the move away from efficient choices in favor of a large vehicle.  It's that simple... so much so, anything that doesn't share the bulky profile is labeled as ugly.  Have you noticed that change?  Hearing it only about Prius makes the subtle shift very easy to overlook.  Go ahead.  Ask someone which looks better, the new RAV4 or the new Camry.  This is why the remaining cars are taking on such a "sport" type look.  The imagine of a family vehicle has transformed to tall guzzlers.  It's an unfortunate trend that had no other path.  Human nature is to obsess for more.  That's why we hear the "ugly" label getting used so often.  People don't want to say what they really think.  They want a SUV.  That's why the original push was they were safer.  It was obvious they were not, but people turned a blind eye to the appearance difference (pun intended) to justify their choice.  This is why the more powerful system we see in the larger Toyota midsize hybrids offer so much potential.  Think about how easy it would be for RAV4 to take on a larger battery-pack and plug.  The only necessary alteration for propulsion is that one-way clutch the Prime model of Prius introduced.


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