Prius Personal Log #956
July 18, 2019 - July 26, 2019
Last Updated: Mon. 7/29/2019
page #955 page #957 BOOK INDEX
Kayaks. I learned a lesson the hard way last time we went kayaking. While lifting the wet & slimy kayak onto the roof-rack, a gust of wind caught the mat (a piece of foam exercise padding) and the kayak itself. I ended up putting a fine set of scratches in the past on a small suddenly unprotected area above the door. Preventing that is easy, now that I see the outcome of not doing that. Just pinch a tiny bit of the mat in the door. Having transported kayaks on my Prius for 13 years now, that need hadn't ever come up. It was only a freak circumstance. But I won't be strong enough forever to ensure all goes well during those precious moments of potential contact. Today, I got to try that. We had an absolutely beautiful day to get out on the water. This lake was one was new for my wife, so having everything related to transport mastered is helpful. I wanted to make a good impression. After all, living in Minnesota means there is an enormous number of locations available to kayak. Long story short, today ranked among her top experiences. Our picnic out on the island was the highlight. 8 ducklings approached us. We had dried fruit to share. It was a good time for all. Being able to just pop the kayaks on top and drive out there for a day of fun like that is great.
What Now? News yesterday for Tesla was grim. Despite all those recent sales, quite a bit of money is still being lost. As a result, the CTO (Chief Technical Officer) announced today that he'd be stepping down. The expectation is a drop in stock prices... which means someone will provide a positive spin on the situation. Sure enough, it happened: "Tesla Sold More Model 3s In Q2 2019 Than GM Sold Chevy Bolts Worldwide Since Its Birth". Realistically, that doesn't actually say much. It's both vague and without context. We know that GM was all hype, never intending to make Bolt a major player. Seeing that should be easy. It was a compact wagon. Since when does GM have any interest in that type of vehicle? Without any desire to push that platform, their dealers couldn't care less. It's all about selling Pickups & SUVs, not a small car. That was rather blatant with Volt, but fake news sources (like that daily blog) maintained a narrative stating otherwise. As a result, GM had faded away. All those attacks claiming Toyota was hopelessly "behind" didn't alter GM's perception either. So, the expectation Tesla will somehow be propped up from comparisons to GM are futile. Unfortunately, online comments show the bait was taken. There was mostly just senseless bickering with no look forward. In other words, there is still no "next step" defined.
Tesla Trouble? Yesterday's event to show off the cars and answer questions for people made it all too clear that Tesla facing many challenges, in addition to what the industry as a whole has to deal with in regard to electrification. Tesla's offerings are perceived as "too expensive". I heard that message over and over again. So, topics like how to purchase & service one or even charging standards are never even discussed. The pricing barrier spells trouble. Will it remain that way? Who knows. The real trouble is seeing sales of both Model S and Model X flat line. Interest in Model 3 is souring their appeal. That lack of diversity creates a variety of business problems. Not having dealerships and not having tax-credits makes the situation eve more difficult. This next stage in market growth is the very thing I expressed concern about for GM. They bet the farm on Volt. Remember all those "one size fits all" posts? That was all about expansion. It didn't matter how. It just needed to happen. That necessity of reaching out to a wider audience is absolutely essential for a niche product to become a standard technology. This is why antagonists fought so hard to keep attention on Prius. Acknowledging the success of other Toyota hybrids meant admitting GM really wasn't leading the way. Seeing Tesla fall into that same trap isn't encouraging. But then again, not being a legacy automaker does present some advantages. Whatever the case, this is a clear change of perspective. The idea of government-subsidy & investor-capital being the primary means of advancing forward is no more. The next step will be a challenge without that extra help. Perhaps the low-hanging fruit (early-adopters) will be able to promote the technology enough on their own to achieve that sustainable business need.
EV Panel. A group of us were
invited to host a discussion panel at one of the largest libraries in the
metro area. I was intrigued, especially since I was selected as the
coordinator. We'd start inside with a computer to display whatever
information we wanted to share, then move out to the parking lot by their
charger. I wondered how much of a challenge it would be to address the
wide variety of topics attendees would have questions about, while also
giving the owners participating an opportunity to share their experiences.
Turns out, 2 were quite flexible, 1 had a well timed presentation, 1 had no
concept of time. I ended up having to lead people outside while he
kept going on and on. His stories were great for real-world examples,
but the idea of exchanging the most valuable knowledge. You can't just
dump that much information without consideration of goals. We were
there to promote the variety of plug-in choices available. In the
future, I'll allocate a specific amount of time to each participant to
guarantee we don't lose sight of purpose. That move to the parking lot
went extremely well. We had passers-by join in. Too bad I didn't
thing of getting some flags or a banner to help stir interest. Oh
well, those who stopped to ask questions or to simply look thanked us.
The owners didn't mind my push either. We all wanted to get to the
show & tell part anyway. I would like to cover a more carefully
planned out agenda at some future opportunity. Long story short, we're
still getting a feel for the emerging market. This current stage isn't
that far from the early-adopter stage. As tax-credits phase out, there
is no clear message of next steps. The chance to find out what
ordinary consumers what to learn more about helps guide us in the right
Apologies & Attacks. This post made things rather interesting: "I rented the Prius + 2 when on holidays. 2 adults, 2 teens, 2 kids..... It was, without doubt the worst, must under powered vehicle I had ever driven." Since I knew nothing about the poster, it was impossible to ascertain intend. I did find it strange though. Why was a comment about Prius being posted in a thread about plug-in hybrids? The absence of any detail or even context made figuring out how to respond even more difficult. I gave it a shot though, posting the following: "That literally has nothing to do with the topic. Prius PHV has a much larger battery, resulting in much more low-end torque. Dropping the pedal for a quick lane-change delivers that nice EV punch you don't get without having a lot more electricity available." To my surprise, shortly after that came an apology. I certainly wasn't expecting what appeared to be an attack to result in that. He simply wasn't paying attention and thought we were discussing ordinary hybrids of the past. Finding out the topic involved power from plugging changed his stance. We were posting about something he favored and totally overlooked that. He was sorry for the error. Cool.
Defeat & Surrender. The steady flow of Toyota
advancement forward is beginning to make some so concerned, they are
becoming absolutely desperate to impede discussion. You can tell too.
For example: "Is this a grid charging or self charging hybrid.
What happened to toyotas fcev challenge. Are they going to accept
defeat and sign a will of surrender to Tesla." Talking about a
scatter shot. You rarely see trolling with such a wide disbursement of
bait. That serves as a comforting confirmation of having nothing
left to fight with. He's clearly out of ammunition. Sweet!
I advanced on that opportunity without hesitation:
Toyota is a legacy automaker with a continuous improvement approach, who has been extremely successful with that strategy choice. Tesla is a startup who has done exceptionally well during this initial stage (sales subsidized by tax-credits). What comes next is anyone's game. Think about that next step. Reaching beyond early-adopters is far more difficult. In fact, some of those challenges are entirely new. How much competition have you actually seen take place on the dealer's showroom floor?
Watching plug-in offerings stand head-to-head with traditional offerings requires a different means of appeal. It won't be a matter of stirring interest online. It will be an effort to draw favor from someone who hasn't done any study, an encounter with a person looking for a good deal on an easy purchase. How much of an effort will the salesperson make to entice interest? How many do you think dealers will stock?
With such a broad variety of plug-in design, do you really think a mainstream consumer will be able to make sense of it enough to make an informed decision within the timeframe they typically make the choice of what to purchase? That's rhetorical, of course. We already know the answer to that is no. They will favor the easier choice. Fortunately, that is a reality Toyota knows how to effectively deal with.
Most enthusiasts despise the continuous improvement approach. Well, too bad. That cold, hard reality of how sustainable business works is what they have to face the music on. Notice how everyone turns a blind-eye now to GM's failure with Volt? I got harassed for years from pointing out a "too little, too slowly" concern. GM wasn't doing anything to improve Volt technology reach. Improvement in that regard never happened. Appeal remained a niche.
Toyota is pushing their tech across the fleet. Going from hybrid to plug-in hybrid is an easy step with the HSD design. In fact, that tech has already spread from Prius to Corolla. And now with the strong growth of RAV4 hybrid, that next step of adding a choice of plug is an obvious one.
In other words, there is no "defeat" and "surrender" when you look at that bigger picture. Remember, Toyota sells over 10 MILLION vehicles worldwide every year. Having a variety of choices available for such a diverse audience is essential.
2,669 Miles. I wasn't expecting the most recent tank of gas to last 2.5 months. It just happened to work out that way. 10 weeks of getting to recharge at both work and grandpa's meant the HV driving was spread out nicely. That EV ratio ended up being 87% for the duration. 9.084 gallons is what it took for the refill. Calculating that to MPG, you get 294. Impressive, but unnecessary. My 2017, as well as the 2018 model, only displays a value up to 199.9 MPG. Beyond that, there's not much efficiency gain to report. It becomes a diminishing return with wild fluctuations... nothing really informative. Nonetheless, Toyota responded to customer feedback stating an owner preference of seeing higher values anyway. So, that changed with the 2019 model. I can simply look it up on the phone-app if I really need to find out what higher-than-200 values are being achieved. For example, the entire month of May worked out to an average of 428 MPG. Do I really find that valuable to know? Not really, but it is an effective means of reaching new customers. So... they find it valuable.
Shame. Toyota revealed the 2020 model Prius PHV for Europe. Not only does it include the updates we got for Prius Prime here in the United States, it also adds the choice of 17-inch wheels and the color black. That's frustrating to antagonists, as this sentiment expressed: "Shame on Toyota......this is coming up on third yr......and no increase in range......thank God we had GM volt.....they gave their customers....." That is the very reason I asked that "Who?" question for all those years. Enthusiasts didn't care who the customers were. All they cared about was short-term victory. That's why long-term defeat has been so hard to accept. Some never wanted to accept the knowledge of audience. Oh well. That's their loss, which I'm happy to keep providing memories of to prevent that history from repeating: GM's choice to cater to enthusiasts is why Volt died. Those range & power specs made production-cost far too high. As a result, it was a vehicle dealers simply had no interest in selling. With a price so high for a car smaller than Prius Prime, there was no appeal to GM shoppers. Toyota took a very different approach, striving to deliver an affordable balance... which is exactly what they achieved. $27,600 for a 25-mile rating (enough to cover the average commute here) is something Toyota dealers will find competitive with other vehicles on their lot. Your reaction is the typical early-adopter perspective, continuously wanting more for less without consideration of what ordinary consumers have for purchase priorities or what a salesperson actually does. Toyota's strategy for post tax-credit sales to an audience shopping the showroom floor is something GM didn't bother to address. So, if you're dishing out shame...
Change. Flexibility has always been an impressive aspect of Toyota. Of course, having been a major force behind Agile, that should be no surprise. They expect change. It's part of the culture. You plan on adaptation. That's why the dynamic nature of their hybrid design has been such an impressive core to their approach. With that fundamental built in, it was a heck of an endorsement to continuous improvement. Change will happen. That's how I knew Volt was doomed even before rollout. So much was placed upon such a specific deliverable, there was simply no way to promote growth. It was trapped as a niche... hence asking "Who is the market for Volt?" hundreds of times. That technology didn't encourage change. Prius was quite the opposite, striving to adapt to a changing market. Toyota's choice to offer nicer rear-seating is evidence of that. They recognized & acknowledged how much their audience had changed. Who knew that just a few years later, even more change would come. Fortunately, Toyota addressed that too. I find it fascinating how some attempt to leave out detail, attempting to spin those changes as a mistake or backtrack. Think about where Uber & Lyft were over 3 years ago when Prime was revealed. A lot happened since then. Toyota brought back the middle-seat to accommodate that new requirement, one that never existed until recently. I have to keep reminding people of that, while also keeping the antagonists from spreading their rhetoric. Here's the latest: Toyota clearly stated years ago they were transforming the model, targeting their now older audience. With the family now grown up, no need for that middle seat. Knowing the sedan was rapidly losing favor to SUV choices, it made sense. Since then, that same audience has introduced a new market twist. They have become Uber & Lyft drivers. Both require a middle seat for the vehicle to be eligible. It's paradigm shifts like that which Toyota is good at being flexible with. RAV4 hybrid has captured part of that audience and the revised Prius Prime should capture another part. It's all about recognizing & understanding change.
SiC (Silicon Carbide Transistor). Remember hearing about this a few years ago? Toyota has been pursuing this improved thermal conductivity technology as a means of increasing efficiency. Since it reduces heat loss, which is an indication of energy waste, you achieve improvement. In this case, it equates to not only being more efficient, it is also faster. A future Prius would definitely benefit from this. Today, Toyota reminded us of their on-going effort by actually providing some detail. In whatever standard measure they were using to denote energy use by the inverter, it was stated that heat being lost was measured at 420 watts currently. Using SiC instead, the loss is reduced to 105 watts. That's a 75% efficiency increase. Without context, that's somewhat difficult to set a real-world expectation with. However, it does pave the way for pushing acceptance further into ordinary applications. Better use of energy is a win for everyone. In other words, it makes electric solutions even more competitive with traditional counterparts.