Prius Personal Log #892
September 24, 2018 - September 30, 2018
Last Updated: Sun. 10/07/2018
page #891 page #893 BOOK INDEX
More Spin. If you carefully re-read some posts, they
make even less sense after the initial impression. For example, this
snippet stuck out on that first pass:
"...as the market for EVs has proven." Looking for detail
about what it actually meant, I couldn't find anything. It was
pointless. Antagonists often do that. It's the "what about"
technique used in a subtle manner. They hope to draw attention away
from the current topic, in this case, it was a discussion of audience... not
going well for them, hence their quiet attack and my punch back to reveal
their meaningless effort:
Again, know your audience.
I put up with the rhetoric here from enthusiasts for years, since I saw the bigger picture. My response over and over and over again was to ask: "Who is the market for Volt?" That's because I knew there wasn't one. The supposed die-hard supporters abandoned Volt as their leases expired and the EVs without "range anxiety" became available. They were early-adopters, which is why they moved on.
What they left behind was a disaster. All those years of pushing GM to create a niche that would be abandoned just as the tax-credits were nearing phaseout, leaving behind a vehicle mid-cycle with a MSRP so high it couldn't compete on the showroom floor and no one remaining to help promote it.
Why is faster recharging important to a vehicle that already delivers what has been claimed as enough for daily driving? It simply does not make any sense. What benefit is there from a battery-capacity that is said to be enough that only overnight recharging is needed? It's contradictory marketing.
In other words, what has actually been proven?
Making A Difference. We are finally bringing the rhetoric to an end. Far more voices are asking why, confronting the antagonist, rather than having to put up with their rhetoric. Today, it was nice to see this: "Why do people keep describing the Volt as a series hybrid?" I like when it is presented as a question. The old days of having to directly confront the obvious efforts to undermine are over. Yeah! Now, it's responses like this that do the trick: It's a throwback to the "EREV" days, when enthusiasts tried to promote Volt as a successor to "PHEV". Problem was, their definition only applied to the concept model. The actual production model ended up the parallel type. To confuse matters even more, rollout of BMW's plug-in hybrid truly was the series type. Yet, they ignored that and persisted with the confusing term anyway. Realistically, it doesn't matter. Ordinary consumers won't care. Labels don't mean anything to them. It's the results. That's why kW/mile and MPG efficiency ratings are so important, as is price. That's what matters.
Implied Audience. It was interesting to read
someone's assumption in the form of a reply that I implied something.
That's quite different from when an antagonists intentionally twists your
words, spinning them to mean something else. This was an example of a
new participant simply not having enough information yet. That's
exactly what we want on those topics aimed at new audiences. If you
can get a person with a fresh perspective to join into the discussion, you
have new opportunity. I took advantage of that:
15 years later, we have an entirely different audience. Those buyers may have shared similar traits, but in no way are they the same people. Just because someone may have been part of a prior group does not mean only those included in that can be part of the next. An early-adopter is anyone who jumps in to make a purchase when the mass-market has yet to be reached... or even targeted. Notice how the current plug-in offerings are being positioned for mainstream buyers, but are not actually offered to them yet?
Model-3 doesn't exists as a $35k choice. It will. There's a great deal of obvious potential, but that affordable production hasn't started. Cost & Profit isn't at the necessary balance yet. Infrastructure is still being built up in the meantime too. Tesla is striving to make that all happen soon.
Volt suffered from cost & profit not being addressed. Dealers had to be enticed to carry inventory by GM providing lease prices at a loss. It was a way of stirring early-adopter participation, but meant a setback for reaching the mass-market. It was not a sustainable approach.
Prius Prime is addressing that same dealer (legacy sales) problem, but with a different approach. Toyota delivered a plug-in choice at a MSRP low-enough from the start to directly compete with traditional vehicles sharing the showroom floor. It meant waiting until mid-cycle to rollout beyond the initial regions, but that reduces dealer risk by confirming mainstream buyer appeal.
And let's not forget the role early-adopters play. They are the ones who provide education & promotion efforts... not dealers or automakers. Owner endorsements are far more effective than anything the business can do.
4 Cars, 2 Spots. The shift here is beginning. With so few public chargers available, it was only a matter of time. This morning at the grocery store, there were 4 plug-in vehicles all at the same time... Clarity, Cadillac ELR, Model 3, and the Prime. I parked across from the chargers, saying "Hi" to the Clarity owner as I passed. Got out, then I had to wait to cross as the Model 3 drove by. It was an unexpected, but welcome, experience... especially for a quick 10-minute coffee run. I took a photo and shared it online. That stirred quite a response. Lots of others were excited to see that too. In fact, some have experienced similar. It's a nice change from loneliness of the past.
Understanding Audience. A conversation emerged from
that introduction article: "Such articles should be run on a regular
basis to educate newcomers to the EV community. Every article need not be
written for the existing community." It's nice to see most of the
antagonists are gone now. So many of them stirred trouble just for the
sake of keeping the spotlight on Volt. It was a seemingly endless
effort to undermine. Their hope was a miracle would happen, that
somehow battery cost would drop so much that larger pack in a plug-in hybrid
would make it a compelling draw. That never made any sense. If
cost were to plummet to that degree, why not just buy an EV with a ck large
effort to negate any "range anxiety" concern? None of them
wanted to admit there was a self-deprecating possibility. Now, they
recognize the flaw in their logic... which is why they have abandoned Volt.
That's the consequence of cherry-picking. They only saw & promoted
what they wanted... which works fine for a niche, but fails miserably when
attempting to appeal to the masses. I climbed up on the soapbox for
This audience will drop like flies when the tax-credits expire, those who are taking advantage of that pricing offset to help along progress of the technology. That's what early adopters do. We have already seen a large number who already moved on from Volt to Model 3. It's a natural next step for that group, because they are well informed about the hurdles of electric driving.
For those who are just ordinary mainstream consumers, what happens here during those initial years will never be known. They will be blissfully unaware of the challenges faced by technology requiring subsidies to assist with rollout to a new & uncertain market. They will never know... or care... about what it took to overcome issues will production & infrastructure. For that matter, they won't even understand what it took to convince dealers to carry plug-in choices as regular inventory.
Notice how simple things, like home & public chargers, are still far from standard? For that matter, even early adopters really don't know what kW charging rate makes sense as a recommendation for home & public locations... and they are the well informed about equipment cost & installation. Think about how much of a mystery that "kW" reference is to the typical showroom shopper.
We are only just now seeing what the market could be like as the early-adopter stage (clearly identified by when the tax-credits expire) comes to a nnd. The choices loyal buyers of traditional vehicles will likely be different from what those early adopters had envisioned. That's what happens as a technology evolves. Adaptation to appeal to a wider group means bringing up 101 education on a regular basis as a means of measuring the progress. Comments posted will reflect the change of audience.
Watching Change. I liked this question: "Is there anybody who frequents this site that actually learned anything from this article?" It was posted as a comment to an article that was essentially an introduction to vehicles with battery-packs. That provided a great venue for reaching a new audience. People will stumble across articles just like this later on. Providing some context for this history, as it is playing out, can be quite informative. So, that's exactly what I did: 2,674 miles from my last tank. I refilled last night, since I'll be taking a long trip this weekend. It took just under 8 gallons. That's 11 weeks to use 70% of the gas capacity... which overwhelmingly demonstrates the 25-mile electric capacity from Prius Prime is quite capable of delivering impressive results. The devil is in the detail with plug-in hybrids. The electric-heater in Prime is more efficient than the electric-heater in Volt. So, the one uses less electricity than the other. But at least both are electric. With Ionic, the gas-engine must start for you to have cabin heat. Efficiency of the electric-motors for propulsion differ too. Just like with traditional vehicles, driving results will vary. In other words, simply putting the choices into categories or comparing capacities is not enough to make an informed purchase decision. Discussion of the seemingly basic article can reveal facts & experience frequent site participants may not have been aware of or overlooked the importance of.
Beyond Confusing. The labeling, which turned into
propaganda for awhile, has devolved to a state of confusion: "It's a very
interesting compromise between PHEV and EREV."
Who could read that and actually understand what it means? I certainly
don't. People shopping for plug-in hybrids won't have any idea what
those labels refer to. They shouldn't need to either. kW/mile
and MPG are measures of performance, not some arbitrary label. Anywho,
I took the offensive before anyone else could grab the ball:
Each design from each automaker is unique, which makes labels like that arbitrary. There's nothing consistent across the industry or even particular markets. It's basically just branding. The actual operation is meaningless. Ordinary consumers focus on the same priorities they have always considered important, like price, comfort, and convenience.
With respect to operation, Honda has a pedal feature, Toyota has a button, Chrysler doesn't offer driver control. Some have electric heaters of various types, others rely on the gas engine. Cold affects the battery-pack in each differently too. It's all just mix customers couldn't care less about... since the typical buyer doesn't cross shop brand anyway. They go to a dealer and choose among that selection there.
Of course, none of that matters. When a customer walks into the showroom at a dealer, all they will really see is:
ENGINE + PLUG
Those categories are what people recognize. Detail of differences is pointless. We know this from decades of observing buyer behavior. This is why such passion has grown for large & expensive guzzlers to become the norm. This is why the tech from Volt must be put into a SUV for the shoppers at Chevy dealers to take notice. They couldn’t care less how it is labeled.
2019 Volt. It is interesting to read comments posted about a product without an audience. There simply isn't a mass-market for this small, expensive hatchback. True, it is what people had asked for, with respect to specifications. But that's the problem with commentary devived from autoshows. You don't get feedback about what people will actually purchase. Basically, all you hear about is what people desire. There's a huge difference. That fundamental disconnect is becoming apparent. You can see that based on replies from new articles, as was today about the newest model. I jumped in with: 10 years ago, a strong selling point about the revolution Volt was to bring was its target price of "nicely under $30,000". GM set that expectation because it was vital to being able to achieve high-volume sales. Business requires that type of goal for profitability. In fact, the upcoming new Chevy Blazer will have a starting price (including destination charge) of $29,995 for that same reason. Now, halfway through the second generation of Volt, we see a vehicle selling at niche levels even with the $7,500 tax-credit. That's an undeniable sign of sales struggle for the compact hatchback; however, the technology itself could still be a source of business opportunity. Putting it into a body style GM customers prefer... a SUV model... like Blazer... would make sense. When will we see GM finally offer something to compete with its own product-line? We've been waiting 10 years for a vehicle able to take on GM's traditional offerings. It's not real change unless shoppers have a choice on the dealer's showroom floor that is actually competitive.
Infrastructure Upgrades. Reading about incentives like this is great: "New York Offers $4,000 Rebate To Install Charging Point". That's to entice business owners to offer chargers for their customers. Whether you own a coffeeshop, restaurant, office, or apartment, you are the target of that money. The state recognizes the challenges that groups faces when trying to accommodate patrons & renters. Getting some money to help with the initial setup is great. That's just enough to provide some education & experience. Because once you have made an initial effort, anything you do following that is much easier. It makes for an excellent start. Good thing too. We have lots of other states who could benefit from similar incentive programs. Having New York become a success example to model from would be quick helpful.
VW Battery. It was interesting to see conceptual drawings today of what VW is planning to deliver in a few years. They are basically just jumping on board like everyone else, saying they are investing in development with intent to produce too. VW is going with the "battery under the floor" type design. This allows for a simple cell layout, where stacks are neatly arranged without having to introduce much complexity. That's nice, but it becomes so integrated as part of the vehicle's platform that replacement becomes nearly impossible. That is a reasonable tradeoff, actually. To keep things affordable, you sometimes need to strike a balance like that. Ironically, the approach with Toyota to achieve affordability was just the opposite. Rather than integrating the battery, a drop-in pack was designed. It comes down to what you are building upon. VW has pretty much nothing to work with, due to their heavy investment in diesel... and subsequent scandal with severe penalties. Toyota has well established diversity among affordable hybrid choices to augment. Whatever the case, it is always welcome news to hear of any automaker investing. You wish them luck and give them continuous reminders of their promise.
Just Plain Wrong. I was somewhat blown away reading
this today: "If you live in the mountains, there's a special
Mountain mode that prevents the car from juicing up to 100 percent -- that
way, if the first part of the commute is entirely downhill, the car will use
brake regeneration to add that last bit of charge, saving a few bucks' worth
of electrons in the process." That was so wrong, even the Volt
owners reading the article went out of their way to correct the author.
How could such a mistake be allowed? It's one of those sources where
you wonder if a test-drive was actually ever taken. The way that mode
actually works is, when pressed, a means of forcing a recharge from the
gas-engine. It only provides a small buffer though (20%) to serve as
extra power for when driving in the mountains. That reserved
electricity is supposedly for helping with steep climbs... which,
ironically, Volt owners claim is never actually needed. But since GM
was strongly opposed to providing a "hold" mode (since that would
make it too much like Toyota) then gave in later, this served as an
alternative back then. Of course, now Toyota offers Charge-Mode which
much more aggressively replenishes the battery-pack and does it all the way
to 80%. Any well informed writer would know that options like this
exist. So, you'd think, they would research which the vehicle they are
writing about delivers. Unfortunately, making up a story to explain
what's offered is far too common of a problem. We saw that quite a bit
mode for Prime. The review would characterize behivor incorrect to
what they assumed the system would do. Ugh.
New Blazer. Looks like GM completely abandoned the expecation they had set long ago for affordable green choices. Ethusiasts had set a great deal of hope on the MSRP of $29,995 for Volt. That never happened. The system is simply too over-engineered to achieve that price and still be profitable, especially when that base lacks features Toyota offers standard. GM's own customers certainly haven't been interested, even with tax-credit knocking down the price to about $27,000. The reason why is simple. Those GM shoppers want a SUV instead. That's how the new Blazer came about. It's yet another choice and it's at that magic $29,995 price. GM strived to make it competitive too, giving it a 9-speed transmission with 2 engine-sizes available. It's quite obvious from the reveal articles published today that GM wanted to make this offering very appealing. It isn't green though. Not a peep was said about emissions or efficiency. There clearly won't be anything to that affect soon... despite the reality that Toyota is upgrading both RAV4 and Highlander to next-gen hybrid systems. This is why the "too little, too slowly" concern was conveyed so relentlessly. It should have been obvious Volt wasn't going anywhere. It's tech will take a painfully long time before it finally makes its way into a GM mainstream vehicle.