Prius Personal Log  #909

December 22, 2018  -  December 26, 2018

Last Updated:  Sun. 2/24/2019

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Summary.  This brings about an undeniable confirmation of the "too little, too slowly" concern being genuine: "Billed as an emblem of GM’s engineering prowess and pivot toward alternative propulsion vehicles, this vehicle essentially invented the concept of the plug-in hybrid.  It was critically acclaimed and generated a loyal base of enthusiasts.  But sales never reached initial expectations, and GM is turning its attention to battery-powered cars that don't have a backup gas generator like the Volt."  All those years of enthusiasts fighting me, only to later find out the information I was sharing was indeed constructive.  There was a suspicion that I was somehow trying to undermine GM in favor of Toyota.  The idea of cooperation across automakers to build a bridge to the future was too far fetched; so unbelievable, they easily dismissed it as trolling.  Their naive & smug attitudes contributed to this painful ending.  Rather than usher in a successor to Volt prior to subsidy phaseout being triggered, they wasted the opportunity by endorsing a dead-end.  It was such a closed-minded approach built on meritless hope and vague intention, there was no possible way to succeed... simply due to there no even being an agreement of what the goals were.  Ugh.


$2.06 per Gallon.  It is rather surreal to see the price of gas so low.  This outcome was inevitable.  You cannot just "Drill Baby Drill" without consequences.  In this case we pumped oil to flood the market (I know, bad puns) with supply there was no demand for.  This is basic economics.  Too much will force providers to accept a reduced price.  How the industry figured this would someone just work to provide profit for everyone is a big mystery.  Supposedly, growth of the market (both in vehicle quantity and gas consumption) would keep the balance.  That, of course, assumed the failure of plug-in vehicles.  If guzzling was promoted enough, no one would care... right?  Turns out though, the proof of climate-change is becoming so obvious, attempts to deny or make excuses are starting to become absurd.  Even the blatant avoidance is now called out.  You can't get away from the evidence.  Cheap gas only makes the situation worse.  It's a losing battle no matter what they do.  Resisting change has consequences.


Market Shift.  More questions are getting asked.  That's a good sign.  This was caught my attention "With the lack of any real enthusiasm shown by Toyota in marketing the Prime ever since 2017 till date (even with solid sales), do you think the Prime was nothing more than a compliance car for Toyota?"  I'm always drawn in to questions of a polarizing nature, when they present facts as an either/or situation.  I'm always happy to point out what they overlooked, that other choice they weren't even aware of.  In this case, that was:  It's not lack of enthusiasm or compliance.  It's studying the market while waiting to get past the early-adopter stage, and refining design & production along the way.  Prius Prime/PHV directly targets mainstream buyers, those who may otherwise consider the purchase of a traditional vehicle.  That's quite different from Telsa, GM, or Nissan appealing to enthusiasts.  Attracting showroom shoppers is much more difficult.  The benefit of patience should be obvious now with challenges related to tax-credit dependency becoming evident.  Look at the mess GM is having to deal with for Volt.  So much more expensive of an MSRP was good reason to avoid getting pulled into that fallout mess.  Keep in mind that Prius Prime/PHV is a worldwide product too.  United States inventory will benefit later from a production ramp-up, especially with the potential for mid-cycle updates.  Like all things Prius related, there is always waiting required.


Asking Questions.  The newbie took it well, by asking a question: "I still question why we continue developing hybrid technology when there should be a bigger push for longer range lower cost EVs and wider spread charging infrastructure..."  I answered with:  What you mean by "hybrid technology" is another example of vague references.  We have no idea.  Clarification is necessary.  After 20 years of variation, it should understandable how assumptions come into play.  There's a wide variety of designs all sharing the same label.  I suggest taking a close look at Prius Prime.  The advanced heat-pump and the extremely efficient traction motor & controller should be a clue as to how PHEV tech contributes to BEV progress... and that's without even considering the related investment in the battery-pack. As to charging infrastructure, you've totally overlooked how much influence plug-in hybrids have toward home upgrades.  For many, it is extremely complex & expensive.  That reduces favor significantly for BEV purchase consideration.  It doesn't for PHEV though.  In fact, many buyers will take the plunge with PHEV and not upgrade until ownership after a year or two. That's key.  Being able to charge a PHEV entirely using nothing but a shared 120-volt connection at just 8 AMPs is a very important factor for market potential.  Many households cannot support more than just a single plug-in vehicle at the same time.  There's much fear & uncertainty related to plugging in too.  So, this phased approach is a means of quickly reaching a very wide audience.  Think about the likelihood of the purchase of a second plug-in vehicle.  Without tax-credit help and the early-adopter market saturated, an approach like Toyota's with heavy emphasis on PHEV penetration is a large opportunity to exploit... a means of carrying over developed technology at lower cost and attracting loyal customer interest.  In other words, what is there to question knowing that additional information?

12-24-2018 Newbie Vague.  Things can turn ugly quickly when a newbie (new forum member) makes such a vague claim: "a BEV is significantly more efficient than an ICE".  My guess was the person was quite clueless about how many different ways that comment could be interpreted.  I made sure that was brought to the attention of everyone quickly.  Awareness is very helpful in touchy situations.  Hopefully, this helped:

Being new here, it's best to pay close attention to advice intended to help prevent misunderstandings.  In this case, posting an absolute like that could be interpreted as an attempt to greenwash.  The reason is you posted an extreme as if to present that as the only choice available.  Misleading by omission or being vague is a common problem we have to deal with.

There are a wide variety of choices available, far more than just "BEV" or "ICE" as presented.  In fact, that is how Prius came about... and the misconceptions we had to deal with for years following rollout.  People didn't understand just how profound of an efficiency improvement a system designed to exploit the efficiencies of both technologies could be.  A poorly informed audience can easily be manipulated, intentional or not.

A prime example of this (pun intended) is when you read through this article published just a week ago titled "Toyota struggles to save breakthrough Prius hybrid".  It seems innocent enough, until you take a closer look.  The source is from Detroit.   That in itself gives reason for pause with so much anti-hybrid history.  A few writers from there still have a deep hatred for hybrids, so the point of verifying claims is important.  Of course, it's best to not take unfamiliar sources at face value anyway.

Notice what barely got a mention?  Prime got only this: "including a plug-in hybrid version".  We've seen other sources intentionally mislead by downplay.  The information presented portrays Prius as a dead-end technology with no opportunity for advancement or that consumers have shown no interest when the option was readily available.  We all know Prius Prime is only at the early stages still, not even rolled out yet to a large portion of the country.  The complete absence of any data is a dead giveaway.  Watch for vague references like that.

The fact in the opening related to "demand" is misleading too.  That claim of "Demand exploded when it reached the U.S. three years later." tells us what?  How do you measure demand when supply is limited to dealer-order only?  No supply being available on dealers lots until 4.5 years later reveals the writer's claim was inaccurate, at best. Prius rolled out in Dec 1997.  Dealer inventory in the U.S. wasn't made available until May 2002, and even then it was very limited. True demand explosion was in Oct 2003, as clearly indicated by a simple Wiki lookup of Prius history.

If you are trying to make a safe assumption about an article, giving the writer benefit of doubt, assume they are totally clueless about the plug-in market.  Most people have no idea that world has any potential beyond being a niche any time soon.  Reality is though, that is how Toyota will save Prius.  The twist is, that won't be a struggle.  It won't take long either.  Toyota simply had the patience and foresight to rollout based on affordability and market understanding.

Upon studying Prius history, you'll see that Toyota intentionally held back certain design features.  They downplay with the intent to target & research. That's how their upgrades have been so well received. Most people never notice those subtle clues though.  It's far too easy to just accept what others have conveyed.  So, use care with the words you choose. We welcome new input.  Those perspectives are priceless, if well informed.


Big Oil.  We're seeing the outcome of "Drill Baby Drill" reveal itself as a financial mistake on a monumental scale.  There's way too much supply now.  Flooding the system with far more inventory than what's needed should have recognized as a horrible decision.  All of us striving for green choices saw the imbalance.  So, even if there was sound reason for more drilling, there wasn't much of any renewable investment taking place.  Heavy emphasis on a resource with a finite quantity available is foolish.  That's without even taking the pollution aspect into account.  Knowing those fossil fuels are responsible for serious damage to our health and environment is no reason to turn a blind-eye.  Just ignoring the problem won't make it go away; unfortunately, those in the "Big Oil" industry are taking it a step further.  They are encouraging consumption because there isn't any reason to worry about getting oil from unfriendly sources.  Encouraging such waste with such an uncaring attitude is sickening... but no surprise.  We knew there would be a backlash at some point.  Waiting until Tesla ramps up production, then abruptly hits tax-credit expiration without any hope of political support for renewal, is timing that was very easy to predict.  The fact that GM's fall is happening within the same timespan is a happenstance they won't let slip by.  Those loses will be used to fuel rage and stir fear of change.  A lengthy article published 2 weeks ago by the New York Times spelled out this administration's plan to allow cars to emit more pollution.  Adding to that was last week's presentations in favor of coal at the Climate-Change summit, a sickening display of denial from this administration.  Even though we have the technology for renewable electricity and the use of it in electrified transportation, there are some who just plain don't care.


Losing Credibility.  The website looked upon as "that" resource to get any & all information related to EV news is really facing a struggle now.  Years ago, they just ignored both the plug-in hybrid market and focused solely on EV sales.  That set the stage for giving preference, since so much focus was placed on such a narrow audience.  Lack of balance is always a warning sign to seriously concern.  What are you risking by allowing a barrier to be formed?  In this case, it is the encouragement of smug.  Whoa!  We are really starting to see it now.  There's so much short-sightedness, it's troubling.  The blatant disregard for how much dependency had been placed on the tax-credits is really bad.  It's just shrugged off though as rhetoric.  They see high demand now and refuse to recognize its just a stage, that sales will fall afterward.  How much they'll fall is a big mystery.  But with gas here just $2.18 per gallon now, there's not much hope for continued growth... especially as the choices expand... which is how credibility becomes a problem.  Outright dismissal of those choices and they pursue isn't how you build credibility as an information resource.  Then, there's this: "Can't wait for the laggards, shills, shorters, and haters to gnash their teeth and once again try and spin this negatively as they contort their feeble minds trying to counter Tesla's success and customer satisfaction numbers!"  Notice the pattern?  We saw the same defensiveness get worse and worse with Volt.  No matter what you ended up posting, they would fight back.  They end up calling you a "troll" and try their best to drown out anything you post.  How is that constructive?  How is that a way to allow a venue to evolve?  Turning into a website that refuses to accept critical thought is a very, very back sign.


Clueless Comments.  Stuff like this getting posted on a regular basis makes me sigh: "They increased it since gen 1 volt owners were desirous of a car that would go 50 miles without using gas. It was one of the rare times GM allowed User Feedback to aid in design."  I really don't know how such naive can purists on a venue dedicated to educating.  We get information on a regular basis pointing out the necessity of understanding the larger market.  Seeing beyond just early-adopters is absolutely essential and stressed to make that point.  Some just plain don't get it though.  I responded to that nonsense with:  That is exactly what not to do when you are trying to adapt a niche to appeal to mainstream buyers. There were many warnings about not taking advice from early-adopters too.  Knowing that's how many have fallen into the innovator's dilemma trap, GM followed through anyway.  GM should have retained the "40 mile" capacity, allowing the battery-pack to shrink to provide size, weight, and cost improvement.  At the same time, focus on making the interior more common of a fit and less of an emphasis on performance.  The results of not doing that have been disastrous.  Sales didn't increase and now Volt is being discontinued without a successor established.  The technology should have been spread to other choices by not.  That was key to hybrid success.  GM's failure to focus on the correct audience was a terrible choice.


End of Prius.  A newbie started a new thread on the big Prius forum drawing this conclusion: "...I made this prediction a while back. Toyota has said for quite some time that they want hybrid models for all vehicles in their line up.  I've said that once the Corolla gets a hybrid model - the Prius is dead."  He then provided some links to support the narrative of Toyota's advancement. I could see how such an impression could be made.  But that requires looking backward with the assumption of no market change.  It shouldn't take much to see how "cars" are no longer the dominant force.  In fact, the automotive market has shifted in such a profound way to the support of guzzlers, it should be obvious.  Apparently, some don't see that though.  Perhaps this helped:  Prius will continue to evolve.  It's a hatchback morphing into the higher end of mainstream.  We've seen the large screen and more comfortable seating in back introduced, in addition to leading the plug-in hybrid choices.  Corolla will be a complimentary offering, staying in the very affordable category for those still seeking a sedan.  I have witnessed all of the generational offerings over the years... 1997, 2000, 2003, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017... and have owned 5 of those Prius models over the past 18 years.  Each upgrade delivered continued improvement to the hybrid system, while staying true to the mission of decreased emissions & consumption, keeping the design affordable, and adapting to the changing market.  Seeing Toyota diversify Prius into more models and spreading the technology to all of their common vehicles is what everyone (customers, dealers, stockholders, employees, and executives) all want.  That's what keeps the profit coming without major disruption to the business flow... which now, is more critical than ever with such political & economic risk growing.  Getting people to abandon traditional vehicles is key.  We see how common it is for owners to have an expectation of continuous improvement once they've taken that initial step.  Problem is, there must be variety and it must be affordable.  This is basic economics many early-adopters fail to recognize, especially with respect to tax-credit dependency and infrastructure shortcomings.  In other words, Prius will remain viable for years to come, leading the way for the rest of the fleet.


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