Prius Personal Log  #998

March 28, 2020  -  April 1, 2020

Last Updated:  Tues. 4/07/2020

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4-01-2020 Predictions, suddenly.  This is the response I got: "In three to five years you'll start seeing all-electric SUVs that cost considerably less to manufacture than the RAV4.  Suddenly there will be zero reason to buy a hybrid."  That of course stirred my attention to being vague.  Start is a meaningless term.  There's no scope whatever from that.  From the time a person first sees a Prius to the time they see one sitting in a driveway somewhere in their neighborhood or a few times on a daily commute could be quite a few years.  That already puts us at something like 6 to 8 years out.  There's nothing "sudden" about that.  Sure, it might alter perception of industry, but it doesn't change what people drive for a long time.  Transition is painfully slow even when the technology is readily available.  Cost plays a major role and typically takes a few generations to finally squeeze out the well-established technology.  I pointed out:

3 to 5 years!  No, that's not at all realistic.  In fact, you've lost your mind. The 2020 RAV4 LE has a 14.5 gallon tank, delivers 30 MPG efficiency, for a 435 mile range.  That means the customer is going to expect at least a 300-mile potential to be considered competitive.  That requires a 75 kWh battery-pack.  That RAV4 has a sticker price starting at $25,950.  How much is the price of an equivalent Model Y today?  Answer: it starts at $52,990.

Toyota will be giving customers a taste of EV driving.  It won't be cheap, but it require any compromise.  At the same time, Toyota will be building up production of the same cells that will be needed for BEV choices.  So what if they start their real-world experience inside a PHEV instead?  The experience & relationship with a supplier will become well established while the battery market takes shape.

Sorry, but your rosy picture of a soon-to-be-future isn't based on any type of substance to build upon.  It will happen, but no where near as fast.  That isn't even taking into account the forces against the technology either, like dirt cheap oil.

4-01-2020 Predictions, bankruptcy.  They are especially good when it comes in the form of an assertion: "In ten years or so Toyota declares bankruptcy, the subsidiary get's spun off to pay off creditors, and the subsidiary buys the Toyota name.  This way the Toyota brand lives on without the legacy factories weighing them down."  I was amused by that.  It was confidence without substance.  Not liking the approach is no reason to call it a failure.  There is no merit to drawing that conclusion.  If Toyota is to fail, what about all the other industry players in no where near as good of a position?  It makes no sense, especially without any reference to what the industry stance will be in that timeframe.  I fired back with:

Toyota recognizes & responds to what is actually happening to the market here and you declare their doom.  Nice.

Reality is, neither their dealers nor mainstream consumers care about BEV choices.  Cost is still far too high and infrastructure far too lacking.  That will changes throughout this decade and Toyota is preparing for that... as evidence of this article confirms.  They are using compliance to refine future all-market offerings.  Remember, the goal is to offer something that is both profitable & sustainable without subsidies.  Initially focusing on a specific market supportive of that makes sense.

Meantime, Toyota is pushing EV technology into the market here which legacy automakers been reluctant to pursue... the SUV with a plug.  That upcoming RAV4 Prime is exactly what mainstream consumers have been begging for.  Heck, even supporters of Voltec overwhelming validate it is what would appeal to ordinary shoppers.

It's really unfortunate so many BEV enthusiasts have turned a blind-eye to what the business truly needs.  A powerful SUV offering 39 miles of EV travel, while also delivering AWD and basic towing, is that product this market has been waiting for.

Toyota has acknowledged that and will soon be fulfilling the demand with a product which will significantly reduce carbon & smog-related emissions.  Attempting to spin that to a bankruptcy outcome is absurd.  You do realize the electric technology in PHEV is the same as that for BEV, right?


Rolling Back.  News of the inevitable came today.  Those climate policies set in place by the previous administration are no more.  Automotive emission standards have been weakened with the excuse of saving money, which makes them more accessible... as stated by U.S. Secretary of Transportation: "By making newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles more accessible for American families, more lives will be saved and more jobs will be created."  That has never made any sense, especially this time when the claimed savings is just $1,000.  The report I found from Consumers Reports on this topic states the opposite.  It will increase fuel cost by $3,200.  It will increase vehicle cost by $2,100.  And it will cost to nearly every state (45 of 50) at least $1 billion in net consumers losses.  That impact from dirtier air is significant.  Ironically, we are dealing with the worst air-borne virus spread in human history right now.  So that last thing you would want to do is make a decision to add pollution to the air, making it even more difficult for our lungs.  Yet, that is exactly what's happening.  There's simply no excuse for allowing more carbon and more smog when hybrids have proven quite worthy of reducing those emissions and PHEV & BEV are actively proving even more.  The solutions are already established.  Heck, even solar hit the tipping-point last year, making it price competitive with fossil fuels... well, until the stay-at-home paradigm shift anyway.  Rolling back is absurd.  I can't believe so many cruel & evil people have been put in place to empower greed.  This legacy will we pass down to our children is shameful.


Oil Prices.  They are falling and the stir to reduce output as demand plummets and supply overflows is getting heated.  This was the big news today: "US crude plunged nearly 7% and finished at an 18-year low of $20.09 a barrel Monday as the coronavirus pandemic continues to deal a devastating blow to energy demand."  Something will happen.  I suspect some of the smaller drillers will just join the large pool that has already filed for bankruptcy.  My guess is there won't be anywhere near the recovery anyone could hope for either, since it's this type of event that causes irreparable damage.  Too much depended upon a constant flow.  Too much depends upon the price being higher as well.  Not having a profitable business makes continued investment a problem.  More and more drilling was expected for a variety of reasons from a variety of sources.  None of that matter though when the resulting fuel isn't being used.  I can imagine the workforce re-evaluating the benefits of working from home after this... especially since investments toward infrastructure from setting up hardware for employees is taking place right now.  Not having to lease or maintain as much office and is an obvious gain for business.  An obvious gain for employees is not having to commute as much, or ever.  There's a lot of travel that won't ever happen again either.  This is a rethink moment for everyone involved.  Oil won't be as desirable afterward.


What !?!  That same confusing publisher had another article on RAV4 Prime today.  It blew my mind.  What the heck was this suppose to mean: "The Prime's hybrid engine allows for 25 miles of driving with electric use only before the engine kicks in.  It has a 31-mile range for electronic use only and a combined estimated 90 mpg."  Reading it was so confusing, so bewildering, I didn't know what to make of it.  He used the word "engine" two different ways and quote two different "electric use only" values.  Huh?  Even more strange was the 90 MPG estimate.  Where in the world did that come from?  It simply made no sense.  What message was he even trying to convey?  I was left baffled.  How would others reading such a mess interpret the article?  With an upcoming plug-in hybrid SUV also coming from Ford, having such grossly inaccurate reports from supposed journalists makes you wonder.  Was that intentional?  If so, was it to undermine the RAV4 or all PHEV offerings?  Ugh.


Critical Thinking.  There isn't any.  The political disaster we are now dealing with makes that obvious.  Relating that lack of cognitive enough to automotive choices, it's easy to see how we got in this world of hurt.  Without even considering vehicle type, there are blanket statements being made about the future.  Today, it was this nonsense: "Once batteries are available in sufficiently large numbers and formats this whole PHEV intermediate step can be forgotten."  Sound familiar?  It's the same old vague.  Lack of any type of quantitative measure or even some milestone expectation, there is just a general dismissal of concern.  More importantly, there is no one to be held accountable.  Meritless steps are taken without any justification or even target set.  It's just a move taken that is supposedly for the better... and people accept it at face value.  Ack!  That's just so bad, I don't know where to begin.  We have become lazy, stupid, and uncaring.  Needless to say, that type of audience has no clue what critical thinking is.  It's just like the days of that daily blog, they'd climb up onto the bully-pulpit and say whatever was wanted.  Each day was a fresh attack on principle & logic.  Ugh.  I keep pushing back though.  Here was my rebuttal:  Think about the product life-cycle investment and the shortcomings of infrastructure, not to mention how long it takes for mainstream buyers to embrace a "new" technology.  Typically, that's several generations.  Lacking the variety of choices currently, it isn't just battery supply either.  In other words, we're looking at around a full decade of PHEV offerings still.  Put another way, how long will it take for a vehicle purchased tomorrow to need replacement?  That statistic alone reveals a picture of just how many years the general mindset takes to get a majority to shift.  Like it or not, that is the reality of the situation... without even addressing all the forces that will be fighting against having any type of plug offering.


$1.64 Per Gallon.  Watching the price of gas fall has been surreal.  We all knew the stay-at-home orders would bring demand down to such a level that supply issues were inevitable.  There's simply too much gas now that people are no longer driving a daily commute.  Only driving to the closest grocery store and maybe retail is a dramatic reduction of miles.  In fact, that's so low all of the napkin calculations fall apart.  Suddenly, the 25-mile range for Prius Prime is more than enough.  Even the farthest out destination for curb-side pickup of food is just 10 miles away... which means starting the engine to use gas costs way more than electricity.  That warm-up cycle usually gets washed out due to distance.  Since there is no distance anymore, the penalty is obvious.  Electric-Only driving is cheap, even in times of dirt cheap gas.  Will we see lower than the $1.64 from last night?  Who knows.  At this pace, I certainly won't need gas anytime soon.  Heck, I may not need it for a few months now.  Makes you wonder how this will impact the oil industry.  For that matter, the airline industry.  I wonder how much all the lack of travel will allow our air to cleanse.  Living in an area where there is usually air traffic (about 12 miles from the airport), lack of overhead traffic is noticeable.  Empty streets are beyond bizarre.  These are strange times.


Sloppy Writing.  Most who write review articles are just industry writers, contributing their own observations.  None are really ever a journalist doing extensive research.  So, it's good to know what you're reading.  Today, I ran across the same media source that published a very misleading article last week.  Then, it appeared to be intentional misleading.  This time, it looks just like sloppy writing.  It was an article titled: "How Capable Is The RAV4 Hybrid?"  I immediately got suspicious when the starts-at prices were listed.  Hybrid = $28k.  Non-Hybrid $25k.  Quickly scanning through the article.  Why no mention that AWD comes standard with the hybrid but not with the non-hybrid?  To get AWD from a non-hybrid, you have to choose the $33k model.  That's $5,000 more than the hybrid, never mentioned!  Similar issue came from the towing-capacity.  It listed the hybrid as 1,700 lb (which is incorrect, it's actually 1,750) and never mentioned anything about the base non-hybrid, only a maximum of 3,500 lb.  Again, there was no way to know that base non-hybrid didn't offer that.  In fact, it's only 1,500 lb.  Sloppy?  In the end, it did declare RAV4 capable.  But from reading what was written, there's some assumptions & misleading at play.  You are clearly not provided with quality reporting by any means.  Blah.


Denial.  We have seen it in many forms.  A new aspect of denial is finally starting to get some serious attention in the EV world.  That is long, long overdue.  With my career in software development now quickly racing toward a 30th anniversary (40th if you include my education), there's much I can contribute toward the topic.  Summarizing all that is simple... maintainability.  For software to survive the test of time, it must be well designed.  To quickly deliver refinements, flexibility should have been part of the fundamental approach to how it was constructed.  Most new to programming don't have a clue how to achieve that.  I often find having to present architecture-layouts and process-diagrams to explain how that can be delivered.  It is often a major challenge, since speed & cost are big tradeoffs for that.  Needless to say, my background makes me well informed on the topic.  So, when hearing about VW struggles to now deliver on schedule due to software issues, none of that is a surprise to me.  In fact, much of it was quite predictable.  This is the same reason I was so hard on GM.  Knowing what it actually takes to make hardware operate well and support upgrades, you must understand what it takes to provide the software for it.  Anywho, this is what I posted today with regard to the denial issue VW enthusiasts now face:  Who is in denial?  On a very regular basis, we here claims of how many years Toyota is hopelessly behind and scrambling to catch up; yet, there's never any detail provided to actually support that.  Reality is, we haven't ever been given reason to doubt they aren't on their game already.  After RAV4 EV, Mirai, Prius PHV, and the Prime family have all delivered a variety of EV operation without any trouble.  The software works fine.  Denial comes from those focused entirely on EV range.  They make jokes about a BEV not being available and divert attention to hydrogen with the hope no one will take the time for a closer look.  When a closer look is taken, we see refinements to deliver more using less.  That requires mature software to handle such a continuous flow of upgrades.  Think about all the interplay which occurs between battery, motor, invertor, charger, cooling, heating, and of course safety.  Clearly, some cheering for VW haven't until recently.


Is the Prime Advertised?  I was surprised to stumble across a video for RAV4 Prime.  I believe it was for consumers Norway.  Knowing how progressive that country is, been the world leader in EV ownership, that should have been expected.  I was astonished by the timing though.  It seems rather early... or is it?  Supposedly, we'll see it here and in Canada.  So there, earlier is entirely possible... or was prior to the virus.  Anyhow, I found an old thread to revive that would serve well to post a link.  It was about advertising Prime, back when that label was used exclusively for Prius.  Now having it also refer to RAV4 is great.  My comment was:  2 years later... a new "Prime" advertisement has emerged.  Mention in the video is "Elektrisk Rekkevidde: 65 km" which translates to "Electric Range: 40 miles".  Here's a link to watch the video... Toyota RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid er klar for bestilling hos Toyota Bilia


Owner's Manual.  The on-going discussion got really good: "I can understand your criticism, but the sentences quoted are a direct copy of the PRIME owner's manual."  That type of bewilderment is easy to figure out if you work in my field long enough.  It's simply the issue of not keeping documentation up to date.  In fact, it sometimes isn't ever accurate.  You have a different person or group writing up the manual than the engineers handling the software.  Somewhere in between is an analyst figuring out details of the interface.  That may or may not sync up with design and it most definitely does not get maintained well.  Investing in the resources required to keep a manual, which only servers as a general audience guide anyway, rarely ever happens.  In fact, that is why some of the references aren't as concise as you'd like and they come with a disclaimer about how what you see may actually differ.  That's why what we do online has been so engaging & rewarding.  As owner's we become part of the process... putting the "manual" in manual.  Taking it literally like that isn't for those unwilling to commit.  But some of us do get a bit enthralled...  I had a conversation with the woman who oversees Toyota University training materials.  She was well aware of what I do.  We discussed the content I provide as a consumer, having no connection to Toyota other than having purchased their product.  Her feedback is why I am taking so much time to research Prime prior to creating a User-Guide for it.  I also wanted this particular document to span the technology, rather than a single vehicle.  So, it could be quite timely for RAV4 Prime rollout... especially with me working from home now, no longer spending time driving the daily commute.


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