Prius Personal Log  #910

December 26, 2018  -  December 31, 2018

Last Updated:  Sun. 2/24/2019

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12-31-2018

$1.99 per Gallon.  What an unexpected surprise!  I didn't think I would ever see the price of gas so low, especially during a holiday.  How do you sell anything green when it's so affordable to guzzle?  It's the worst nightmare for promoting EV interest based on saving money from gas purchases.  Refilling the tank is so cheap (relatively speaking), there's no incentive to change.  Why bother taking on any risk when a SUV is waiting for you to own?  This is how cars started to fall out of favor.  Now, the situation is exacerbated with so much of an over-supply of oil.  People simply aren't going to care.  This is why it was vital for Toyota to make the RAV4 hybrid such an affordable option.  When such a small premium is required, it becomes trivial math.  That uncaring person will recognize the gas saving and call it good enough.  Whether or not the numbers actually work out doesn't matter.  They will accept a small contribution toward the cause, as long as it truly is small and there's no inconvenience.  The fact that Toyota was smart enough to make the best package for RAV4 one of the hybrid configurations could be called a brilliant move.  Why not?  It's the second step in traditional vehicle phaseout.  After making a hybrid option available, you begin to replace the popular traditional choices with more hybrids... especially when gas is so cheap.

12-30-2018 Best Selling.  There has been a struggle on the big plug-in website.  It's experiencing an identity crisis.  Just like with Volt, purpose is uncertain.  They want to promote anything with a plug, but their history was to disregard plug-in hybrids.  It was all about providing information & support for EV choices.  The rise of PHEV offering combined with GM's struggle has drawn in a new and unexpected audience.  So, they are trying their best to find a balance to please everyone.  So far, that isn't working.  I pounced on this: "The best selling plug-in hybrids since 2010 are..."  It was basically greenwash material from the perspective of attempting to avoid presenting a narrative.  Volt = 152,486.  Prius PHV/Prime = 88,117.  You can't just omit vital information components and present numbers like that without detail.  Ugh!  I called them out on that:

That's so vague of a statement, it doesn't serve a constructive purpose.

First, the numbers presented should emphasize they are United States only.  If you considers numbers from the rest of the world through the end of 2017 for Prius PHV/Prime, there another 63,197 sales unaccounted for.  Add to that another roughly 25,000 to account for 2018 sales outside the United States.  All those most definitely should be counted, since they are very much part of the economy-of-scale benefit.  That overall volume is how production-cost is reduced. Knowing that, we see Prius PHV/Prime far outsold Volt, even when you add in the Opel (European) model.

Second, Prius PHV (gen-1) was only a mid-cycle update rolled out to 15 states.  Never being offered in 35 states means you get a very distorted representation of actual demand.  Further, Prius Prime (gen-2) still isn't available outside of most of the coastal states.  The middle of the United States only has special-order availability and only for select dealers.  That too contributes to a misrepresentation of demand.  Without supply, how can that be accurately measured?

Third, production of Prius PHV was halted in June 2015.  That left a major inventory void from then until January 2017.  That's 1.5 years of sales implied by the "since 2010" that should be counted.  Again, there's no supply to indicate demand.  Additionally, rollout of Prius PHV didn't start until January 2012.  So, there's the entire 2011 year not accounted for either.

Fourth, the measure of true demand cannot be measured properly until subsidies are no longer skewing price.  When a plug-in vehicle is faced with the true competition... traditional vehicles ...and must directly compete on the showroom floor without early-adopter tax-credit influence, then we will know what mainstream consumers really think of the offerings.

In short, that indication of "best selling" doesn’t really tell us anything meaningful with respect to change of the status quo.

12-30-2018

2019 Expectations.  Speculation is growing, without substance... of course.  Most is based upon anecdotal observations, claiming a pattern in history, but failing to actually see the bigger picture.  It's an easy trap to fall into.  When change is coming remains a total mystery.  Something could be announced within the next 2 weeks for the Detroit auto show.  But even if that does happen, it doesn't mean availability soon.  There could be an abbreviated 2019 model year, just a brief carry over, then a 2020 model rolled out early.  We saw that with the gen-3.  I got mine in May of 2009, even though it was a 2010 model.  So, when is anyone's guess.  What is a little easier to guess about with some degree of confidence though:  Larger capacity shouldn't have been an expectation.  Toyota wasn't about to make the same mistake as GM by increasing capacity based on enthusiast feedback.  They set the 40 km (25 mile) target for good reason.  Focus has been to make the plug-in hybrid offerings as well-balanced of a choice as possible. That meant placing attention elsewhere, like packaging.  We were very specifically told by Toyota that the choice of the physical size & shape of the rollout battery-pack was to keep it affordable and to retain its robust longevity design.  That set an implicit expectation of a possible mid-cycle update... like 2 years later, the 2019 model.  It is realistic that cell & stack arrangement has been altered to provide more cargo room.  We know it will happen someday.  Patience.  Another something we can surmise is a bump in charging rate.  The maximum pull currently from a 240-volt connection is 3.6 kW.  When you use an aftermarket device to measure Charge-Mode rate, there's an interesting reveal... as documented in the video I compiled to share for a future discussion, just like this.  The gas-engine provides a rate of 7.2 kW to the battery-pack.  We could potentially see that in a mid-cycle update for connecting with a plug. It builds upon opportunity charging, something quite advantageous for vehicles with smaller capacities.  Lastly, keep in mind that hardware & software refinements could contribute to increased range, even without changing the kW capacity of the battery-pack itself.

12-29-2018

Renewed Battles.  Former antagonists try to stir new trouble on new websites.  It doesn't work well though.  The older venues served as a steady source for fake news by publishing ambiguous information using an interface which contributed to misleading.  Most don't do that anymore.  They desire integrity over popularity.  I find it intriguing to participate in renewed battles knowing the tables have turned, in both respect to the posting and market change.  Today, I fought back with:  Yes, know your audience.  8 years later, Volt is still just a 4-seater with limited leg & head room.  Prius Prime offers more leg & head room, but didn't bother offering a narrow middle seat since the market (audience) has shifted to RAV4 for that.  You want the comfortable 5th position, you buy a larger vehicle.  Currently, the hybrid model of RAV4 offers 39 MPG at a competitive price with traditional vehicles.  In a few years, a plug could be added to make it an affordable PHEV.  Right now, we see that Honda is testing that potential with Clarity.  Why GM never implemented Voltec in Equinox or Trax is obvious, the technology was too expensive.  So, abandoning Volt is no surprise to anyone.  As for what I stated about Volt on every story, it was not as you claim.  I mentioned TOO LITTLE, TOO SLOWLY on a regular basis.  That's because GM did not spread their technology.  It should have been done prior to tax-credit expiration.  Lack of diversification is what harmed their business investment, becoming a costly liability... hence ending production.  This is why many would like to see a CRV or Pilot from Honda and a RAV4 from Toyota as plug-in hybrids within the next few years.  We know the audience has changed.  They now prefer small SUV choices.  That's why allowing Prius to morph into less of a family hauler is just fine.  Parents with older children need choices too.

12-29-2018 Setting Expectations.  A big dose of reality was warranted.  It's like watching an accident about to happen, which viewing in slow-motion.  You know it isn't going to be pretty.  You also know it could have been prevented.  No matter how much you try to share information, certain people will refuse to accept it.  The advice is wasted on someone hell bent on supporting a hopeless risk.  Oh well, it makes them feel better for now.  Later, they'll just pretend what they said never happened anyway:

Know your audience.  Those comments are very much from the perspective of an early-adopter.  The way mainstream buyers of new vehicles shop is quite different.  First, they won't have the influence of a $7,500 tax-credit.  Second, they will primarily stick to their favorite brand and rarely consider another automaker.  Third, they will immediately dismiss a BEV if they haven't ever been exposed to one yet, and even then it will be a challenging sales.  In other words, make sure a realistic timing expectation is stated.

Far too many here don't recognize being in the low-hanging-fruit stage still.  We haven't even seen sales begin directly against the true competition yet, traditional vehicles.  Enthusiasts have no concept of how intimidating the idea of wiring up their garage for 240-volt charging can be.  Besides the possibility of their service-panel being poorly located or underpowered, there's the uncertainty of equipment & installation cost.  That's just for support of a single vehicle.  Think about how many households have at least 2.  And none of that takes into account those who won't have a plug available at their apartment or the extreme expense of super-high-speed charger locations.

It will be a rude awakening for many who enjoy the well-proven technology everyday but see their own peers not showing any interest.  This is why PHEV choices will play such a large role in the transition away from traditional vehicles.  The plug-in hybrid provides opportunity charging, to allow the technology to be exploited beyond just covering daily commutes, without ever bringing up depletion concerns.

Again, I can't stress this enough...  Know your audience.  Given another generational-cycle, things will be much improved.  Until then, we are still very much in the spread-the-knowledge stage.  Introduction to the technology from the well-informed is what must take place over the next few years for the stage of purchase consideration to be realistic for the masses.

Ordinary consumers have much to learn prior to those next-gen offerings they could potentially purchase.  Remember, what we have now is very much restrained by cost & production limitations anyway.  Prepare that future audience.

12-28-2018

Dashcam Purchase.  Talking to anyone who drives on a regular basis, you'll get comments about wanting one when mention of dashcam is made.  The topic is clearly one that's been on everyone's mind.  We all see the accident footage.  So, we know you can be witness to incredible acts of stupidity.  I finally got one, but that wasn't the purpose, nor would it be a replacement to the high-quality equipment I used for the Prius videos.  This was just for everyday use, to have a camera effortlessly recording when I drive.  You never know what you'll encounter that you would like to retain.  On our trips, we see a beautiful sunset or scenery rather predictably... yet, never have something to capture it readily available.  Regular cameras don't work for that purpose either.  Dependent upon batteries, you cannot run them non-stop for hours.  Then get hot.  A dashcam using a tiny super-capacitor doesn't.  They are finally starting to deliver 4K resolution now too.  I got one yesterday that's really just 2K, but up-converts to 4K.  That means it has enough resources to deliver 2K well.  I'll be able to capture video and occasionally snap a photo at the same time.  I might be able to stream what I see too.  Reviews of the Wi-Fi are very encouraging.  You don't know until you try.  So, that's what I'm doing.  The plan is to share some video too.  Stay tuned.

12-27-2018 New Tech.  Things are getting really messy.  I had no idea the situation would be approached with such ignorance.  It makes me feel naive, despite being so well informed about audience.  This one certainly doesn't have a clue: "It's not just about hybrid tech.  It's about new tech. that is where Prius is losing ground.  Tesla is the new Prius.  Prius is following, not leading."  That's just rhetoric being spread without any thought behind it.  Where's the merit to support claims?  Something... anything... to show how progress is measured.  What ground?  Leading who?  Ugh.  I started fresh with this particular new thread veering so far off track so quickly...

The definition of leadership doesn't say or even infer anything about "new" being criteria:

1) the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group.
2) ability to lead.
3) an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction.

Knowing your audience is vital.  Who are you trying to lead?

This is all about getting ordinary people to actually change.  Tesla has done a wonderful job of fulfilling the desire of early-adopters, but their reach to mainstream buyers without the $7,500 tax-credit is far from certain.  Toyota's ability to draw interest from the common consumer is well proven with Prius, but their history is loaded with disappointment from enthusiasts.  Understand that difference?

We are embarking on a time when the market overwhelmingly prefers vehicles larger than Prius and have very little interest in new tech.  That means delivering a well-rounded choice.  An affordable offering with a wide-array of conveniences complimented by a modest EV drive has the potential to appeal to a large audience of everyday shoppers.

That's the type of leadership we need.  Notice how that's the opposite of what GM did.  Their attempt to deliver a choice with the "it's worth it" approach failed on a tragic level.  Sales never reached beyond enthusiasts.  It was an expensive niche without an mainstream successor... the very thing Toyota is striving to avoid with Prius evolving into Prime... an extremely difficult challenge of leadership.

In short, the belief that range or power equates to being a leader of mainstream change doesn't have merit.  It is leadership, but not with the audience which changes the status quo.

12-27-2018

4 Steps.  Do this process sound familiar?  1) Deny.  2) Attack.  3) Play the Victim.  4) Change the Subject.  That is the strategy our president has been following for years.  I would elaborate on the first, adding comment about the denial being a list of excuses too, not just spinning goals that were stated actually meant something different.  We see each of the stages every time a major topic comes up.  It's the tactic for never having to deal with the problem.  This is why enthusiasts always got so angry when I'd bring up accountability.  Having a specific quantitative measure forced them off track, disrupting the regular cycle of greenwash.  Volt discussions provided countless examples of that over the years.  It was an effort to do everything possible to avoid addressing problems.  This is why I pushed back on supposed solutions.  I could see the pattern.  That indicated lack of substance.  They were just stepping around the mess, never making any effort to deal with it.  Having witnessed this all firsthand and now seeing the consequences about to play out is fascinating.

12-26-2018

Emotion.  To the surprise of no one, we're seeing reports like this now: "The workers are also angry that GM, helped by the $1tn corporate tax enacted last year, has spent nearly $14bn on stock buybacks since 2015, money that could have been invested in developing next-generation vehicles."  They say their loyalty being outright dismissed as a "kick in the stomach".  Sadly, they didn't participate in the online battles I did, where facts of why fighting was necessary were outright dismissed.  The supporters turned enthusiasts turned antagonist made up an endless not to accept evidence being presented.  I'd point out how GM's choices to favor power & range of Volt reflected a corporate direction of seeking praise & profit, rather than investing in the future.  All those warnings about "too little, too slowly" were provided to expose that lack of forward direction.  GM got off on a tangent of enjoying the moment.  That kept those employees gainfully employed for years.  Falling from a position of sustainability was inevitable though.  GM wasn't working on a means of stirring interest from their dealers.  Ironically, that is exactly what the antagonists mocked Toyota about with Prius.  Only problem, I kept pointing out the progress with Camry hybrid and the upcoming rollout of RAV4 hybrid.  Now, we are just a week or two away from the next-gen RAV4 hybrid being delivered.  An affordable SUV providing a 39 MPG combined rating.  There's no way GM can compete with that... or the reality of how easy plug augmentation could be.  It's just a matter of following the Prime formula, adding more battery and a one-way clutch.  It's sad about so many jobs being lost, especially when it could have been prevented.  But it wasn't... and supporters are still unwilling to address the reasons why.  That's especially sad.

 

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