Personal Log  #1005

April 28, 2020  -  May 8, 2020

Last Updated:  Sun. 7/19/2020

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Misconceptions.  New audience.  New participants.  Same old misconceptions: "Hybrids are only economical if driven in a certain way, if used for a lot of long distance driving then they're as bad as a regular ICE vehicle."  We get new ones too: "PHEVs with an electric range of at least 50km make sense as a stopgap to full BEVs if you don't have access to a good fast charging network for long trips, but otherwise hybrids are 1990s technology dressed up as the future."  I was annoyed, but more than happy to confront the nonsense.  So, I did:  It is interesting how you expect an obviously false statement in reply to Toyota hybrids to be accepted.  That "as bad as" claim is just plain not true.  It's so easy to prove too. Toyota hybrids use a smaller engine... which in itself contributes to greater efficiency... combined with the use of the Atkinson-Miller pumping cycle, rather than Otto.  Using that well-proven technology on their PHEV offerings is the next step forward.  The best example is the upcoming RAV4 Prime . That will offer 62 km of EV range, then will switch to that highly refined HV operation following depletion.  It's a win-win, before even taking into account how much of that technology is carrying forward to their BEV offerings.  In other words, that supposed "stopgap" measure is a means of profitably moving the entire fleet forward.  The focus on "if you don't have access" completely ignores that bigger picture issue.  Think about what dealers will be willing to carry during the economic recovery.


Limited Supply.  It will be interesting as the year progresses to find out what kind of spin is stirred.  That was often why I frequently that daily blog for Volt.  They worked hard to come up with stories.  None were ever strong enough to stand the test of time though.  Limited duration & audience is key.  When looking at the wider market and long-term plans, what they spin makes no difference.  They certainly try though, as I was happy to point out today:

That narrative fell apart today.  It was started by those who prefer the fast approach, race to get whatever has proven successful to market, then flood the market with it.  That works just fine for startups.  For established providers, it can be disastrous.  We have a real-world example of that too.  GM's effort with Volt was failure for that very reason.  Sure, it worked, but it wasn't able to return a profit and the technology itself was terribly inefficient.  That is exactly what you don't want as a legacy automaker.

Toyota has been taking the time to do it right, waiting for the technology to mature for delivering a high-volume solution that was easy to sell and returned a profit.  There was no rush.  There was no pressure to deliver.  There was no limited supply.  It was all just a load of nonsense stirred by those hoping to undermine progress.

That progression is easy to validate, as of today.  Lexus UX300e (Toyota's new EV for China & Europe) will come with a 10-year/1-Million KM warranty for the battery, which includes a very clear capacity degradation threshold of 70%.  Such an incredibly long endorsement of confidence tells us a lot about how much unseen success has been achieved by Toyota.

In other words, Toyota invested but has not ramped up yet.  Production of the new format/chemistry is not needed until the vehicle it is for gets rolled out.


Compromise.  Notice how the effort to establish & reinforce a narrative requires being vague?  Detail is how you confirm insincere efforts.  If they refuse to respond or give you something unclear, it becomes obvious after awhile they just plain don't care.  We saw Volt enthusiasts do everything possible to avoid addressing lack of change.  They pretended the status quo would somehow magically be altered simply by the presence of Volt, that nothing actually needed to be done to get mainstream consumers to embrace the technology.  Their choice had serious consequences.  Now, we see some in the BEV community pushing to undermine plug-in hybrids with messages like this: "The Volt is a compromise.  All PHEVs are compromises.  They work but are, by comparison to pure ICE and BEV, very expensive to design, build, and fix."  That opportunity wasted is now quite obvious.  But since virtually all have jumped ship, abandoning what GM had been praised so much for, there is no one to respond.  They gave up.  I haven't.  That's because I have solid facts and real-world data to work with.  It's very difficult to get me to shut up when so well armed with so much material, especially the videos.  So, the online battle continues in this new war:  Notice how that statement attempts to create a stigma for the word "compromise" rather than acknowledge what it really means is to deliver a balance of priorities.  Also, notice how "very expensive" is absent of any perspective.  It's that lack of attention to detail that allows people to just blow off comments from enthusiasts.  Why bother taking them seriously when they don't take the time to explain what they are passionate about.  In other words, those generalizations are what people see as rhetoric.  They do nothing to impact the status quo.


Switch Narrative.  There is an on-going effort to portray the introduction of plug-in vehicles as the only solution available.  Electricity sent from a battery is the future, period.  It's a fear that continues to grow from BEV purists.  They fear diversification.  When a technology appears too weak to stand on its own, that is typically a sign of hiding weakness having been identified.  I know that reaction far too well from Volt enthusiasts.  Their fear was simply speeding the technology to other vehicles with other configurations.  Their belief was that would dilute the message GM was sending.  Ironically, GM itself did that with their many vague & ambiguous press releases.  Those attempts to feed hype confused purpose.  No one knew what the goals were anymore... which brings us back to the narrative.  What does the "switch" to electric intend to accomplish?  With hydrogen, it is obvious.  We see diesel as a serious emission & consumption problem.  Large transport needs an alternative.  Advancing that technology through deployment of real-world tests with small vehicles is far less expensive and allows for far more flexibility to explore the opportunities.  That's why we see on-going efforts from Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai in that realm.  Whether or not those small vehicles become a standard part of the business later makes no difference to the experience gained for application on larger scale use.  This is how I responding to the rhetoric attempting to spread the "switch" narrative today:  Commercial & Fleet use of fuel-cells is inevitable.  The hydrogen deniers attempt to spin a narrative of impossibility, that there's no way EV could co-exist.  They refuse to acknowledge all the elements at play.  That narrow-mindedness about the problems we have to address will eventually become too difficult to deny. In other words, there is no switch.  It's really a matter of recognizing dual-path develop is necessary to serve the wide range of needs.


Lessons Learned.  The parallel continues: "As the death toll mounted, the briefings became less about providing critical health information and more a forum for Trump to air grievances, shift blame, stoke feuds, spread misinformation and inspire false hope."  That is exactly how Volt enthusiasts responded to faltering sales.  They would never accept responsibility or take any action to provide direction.  It was the same old nonsense we saw back with Two-Mode.  No matter what happened, there was always something to deflect with.  In other words, there was never any takeaway, no lessons learned.  Each event was treated in isolation to prevent a cohesive story from ever emerging.  This is why I kept having to deal with the same old nonsense routinely, they would do everything in their power to keep people from becoming aware of the bigger picture.  Any distraction possible was better than allowing others from discovering what was actually happening.  Our president and his administration are the same type of problem, providing excuses and feeding enablers for their own agenda.  In other words, they just plain don't care.  It's really sad.


Emotion.  The pattern is astonishing: " Use information to determine action - not emotions, not politics, not what people think or feel, but what we know in terms of facts."  That was the trophy-mentality I observed all those years ago with Volt, sighting concern over approach to its design favoring emotion rather than constructive goals.  Supporters became enthusiasts as a result of that blindness, turning hope into meritless hype.  It became a race in the wrong direction.  So much of the resources went into favoring a niche, the effort was doomed.  They kept praising traits which provided no value moving forward.  That's exactly what we are seeing now with the pandemic.  The focus on supposed "freedom" is not doing anything to actually help the situation.  In fact, it is wasting resources on what will clearly become a fall backward.  We'll end up having deal with losses which could have been prevented.  For GM, there is no recovery.  The project died.  All that work to figure out how to blend motor & engine abandoned due to mismanagement.  It was remarkable how much emphasis was placed on feedback from owners.  That is asking the wrong audience... hence "Who?"  It made no sense planning to appeal even more to a niche.  You want mainstream acceptance, you must follow wherever that logic takes you... like it or not.

5-02-2020 Not Worth It.  Software upgrades were a hot topic like July, when I posted this: "Google just began rolling out the new version today.  Think about how complex software upgrades to just phones are.  Carriers routinely take a very long time to provide a new OS.  Having to wait 6 to 9 months is quite common... and quite unrealistic for a vehicle model-year.  See where I'm going with this?"  Today, I posted a follow up:

9 months later, there have been many upgrades... 4.6 and 4.7 and 4.8 and 4.9 and 5.0 and 5.1 and 5.2 with 5.3 soon to be available... confirming much work still needed to be done to establish that different approach.

People didn't understand what it would take to transform an application not designed for that new platform.  It totally makes sense that Toyota didn't want to deal with the inevitable flurry of customer requested updates to their vehicle.  Just imagine what it would have taken to support an upgrade process.  Waiting until a stable version becomes available and has proven effective of at-home upgrades, rather than having to burden dealerships with low-profit services, was the better choice.  It simply wasn't worth being hasty.

As the Android Auto matures on the automotive platform, being able to seamlessly executes upgrades without interruption to the driving won't be a big deal.  Think about what it takes on your phone.  Will the car stay active and have internet access the same way to download software while not in use at home?  Will you be willing to wait while the upgrade installs?  Will you schedule the upgrade for later?

This is a paradigm shift, a new ownership experience for automakers to address.  Delay until Google works out the kinks is an effective way to avoid issues the automaker has little control over.


Listening To Science.  We are still dealing with the nonsense of negotiation, where the people opposing measures to address the problem feel it is possible to make a deal.  You can't make a deal with a virus any more than you can with the climate.  They don't understand what is at stake or how their decisions have no impact on the outcome.  Watching reactions to the pandemic overwhelmingly confirm that.  Whether or not you believe you are doing enough doesn't change the reality that you are not.  We will suffer from the effects of smog & carbon emissions, period.  No feel-good effort make up for not fulfilling a requirement.  That's what stating goals was all about.  We saw it with Volt.  There should have been a spreading of the technology across the entire fleet, period.  Even if milestones were not reached, it was still progress forward... which is the point.  That momentum builds... once you have everyone in agreement about purpose.  See the pattern?  Both with the technology for vehicles and the medical advances for the pandemic, we need agreement.  Next steps in the right direction are essential.  GM did nothing to break the status quo.  We're seeing the same with our federal government response.  All these excuses, delays, and red herrings are a massive waste of resources... at a horrible cost.  Both will have long-term consequences yet to even be imagined.  We're in for a world of hurt by not listening to science.


15 Million Sold.  I was wondering how long it would take to hit that significant milestone.  It seemed to be approaching, but I wasn't seeking out the data.  Assuming the announcement would be made upon reaching it was reasonable.  And sure enough, Toyota did as soon as the worldwide count for purchases of their hybrids reached it.  That number is absolutely amazing... and quite validating.  Any technology to reach such a level, especially when it starts at such a significant price-point (greater than $20,000 per sale), is a really big deal.  This isn't like when people replace their phone.  It is a purchase you will likely utilize for an entire decade.  Whatever you decide upon has major implications too.  Choosing a guzzler can be very expensive to maintain.  The same is true for an unreliable brand or model.  So when it comes to the broader category of technology, there is no easy matter of "size" to measure against.  It is far more difficult to evaluate the value of.  That's why the endorsement of 15,000,000 owners can became a significant influence.  In fact, that plays a major role in what dealers select for inventory.  They know their customers.


No Agreement, No Progress.  Trying to get people to recognize the importance of balance is extraordinarily difficult.  This derives from our society no longer having an understanding of the difference between want & need.  They have justified weak excuses for so long, that approach has become the norm.  You simply reason your way to a decision.  Stated another way, objectivity has been lost.  The influence of emotion clouds logic.  So, we get stuff like this: "From a *practical* point of view, I am much more concerned about range than efficiency."  It gives the impression of being thought, but the injection of opinion reveals otherwise.  That's easy to confirm too.  Get them to state a goal.  At some point, range will suffer from diminishing returns.  If no such milestone is identified, there is likely going to be a problem of endless pursuit.  In other words, efficiency will never get any priority.  Delay has consequences too.  If you commit to much to one particular design without the consideration of all influencing factors, you end up backing yourself into a corner.  This is how both Two-Mode and Voltec failed.  Learning lessons from past mistakes is most definitely not a strength of online discussions.  Ugh.  I tried to point that out with the following:  The point is to draw attention to the balance of priorities.  Again, there is a very real problem of diminishing return that no one seems to want to address.  It's the more is better mindset that will end up harming BEV sales.  Unless the supporters can agree upon fundamentals like that, we're all screwed.  Notice how disastrous public chargers have been due to that very same problem.  No agreement, no progress.  That brings up back to practical.  What range is that?  If you study the history of the BEV, you'll see it has been a sliding scale.  Ask why.  The answer will trouble you.


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