Personal Log  #1007

May 14, 2020  -  May 18, 2020

Last Updated:  Sun. 7/19/2020

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Tribalism.  It's an ugly phenomenon that has infected the EV community.  They lost their way, fighting for an ideal rather than a goal.  It's exactly what I had to crusade against with the Volt enthusiasts.  That is why I took so much time to document the problem.  I recognized the pattern from Two-Mode.  Their actions matched so well, the same outcome was pretty much inevitable.  Hearing that same concern playing out with the broader audience is quite troubling.  I totally understand this Sunday's chat session.  The host was very upset with what she has been witnessing.  For me, it was obvious.  Supposed BEV supporters were dismissing the influence the tax-credit had and continue to pretend speed & self-driving are red herrings.  There's an obsession with pushing recharge speed, to the point where expense to provide the power & equipment are totally dismissed.  Cost rises dramatically... but they simply don't care.  To increase from 400 to 800 volt service is incredibly expensive.  And to supply that capacity to the vehicle, you must use a liquid-cooled cable.  As for self-driving, that literally has nothing whatsoever to do with reducing emissions or consumption.  The situation of lost priorities is ugly.  Evidence of the problem it create among a community of supporters is becoming evident with the reach of EV influence struggling.  The tribes have become so well formed, you cannot break through the resistance to hearing other ideas.  That was exactly what I saw with Volt.  They were so dead set on their approach being the only viable solution, they became close-minded to everything else.  It starts with "trophy mentality" replies.  Watch for that breakdown of constructive feedback.  Once objectivity is no longer a priority, you're doomed... hence, know your audience.


New Hybrids.  There was an announcement late last week that 2 are on the way, to be revealed Monday morning.  That event is less than 2 hours away now.  There is a countdown clock on the Toyota press page.  We already know the next-gen Sienna (the large minivan) coming in the Fall will only be available as a hybrid.  So, the expectation is to see that for the first time today.  What the second could be is anyone's guess.  The only clue as to what that might be is a close-up photo of a new emblem.  It says: "PLATINUM HYBRID".  That hints at variation, where the offerings are beginning to diversify... which is exactly what's needed to continue on with the phase-out process.  It's the logic next-step for saying goodbye to traditional vehicles.  You want to provide a variety of choices.  Of course, this is the first reveal that won't have a large audience.  Attention is being stirred for the live premiere to be online, taking full advantage.  This reveal will hopefully stir a social media buzz.  After all, we have been waiting for a Camry-sized crossover for quite some time now.  Remember the mule spotted 2.5 years ago?  Testing of such a configuration made perfect sense... and still does.  My prediction stands at that too.  Toyota needs something positioned below RAV4, less SUV like.  This is how the market should be addressed.  Wide selection of choices for consumers is how you send the message of change... by endorsing the technology so much, there is no longer any doubt.  It is the very move GM has eluded to for well over a decade, but never delivered.  Remember Two-Mode, the technology to squash what Prius had begun?  Well, in less than 2 hours, that terrible waste of time & resources will be ancient history.  We are about to witness Toyota show the world how it is done.  They are targeting everyone, across the entire fleet.  It takes a very long time, but we can see the progress.  That's true leadership.

5-17-2020 Both Worlds.  You know I cannot resist spin like this: "VW wants to switch to electric cars they don't like hybrids, as they have the worst of both worlds, it's a crappy EV combined with an overly complicated ICE."  It has to be addressed.  Letting such an opportunity to provide exposition should not be wasted... and, it wasn't:

Once RAV4 Prime rollout begins, convincing the typical consumer that 302 hp delivering 0-60 in 5.8 seconds with a 39-mile EV range is the "worst" will fall on deaf ears.  Toyota has over 20 years of well-proven hybrid technology.  So, claiming "complicated" really doesn't equate to anything.  They already considered very reliable.  So, there's nothing to be concerned about.  In fact, getting to enjoy EV driving with full confidence of an engine backup is the best of both worlds.

Put another way, how are you going to promote BEV purchases?  Are you really going to mislead/misrepresent about what a PHEV has to offer for the sake of pushing electric-only purity?  That doesn't make any sense.  It is likely quite counter-productive, since the purchase of a PHEV often leads to charging upgrades at home and an interest in a BEV for the next new vehicle purchase.

This is why no legacy automaker is going all-out with BEV plans... though, GM (who has proven to be all bark and no bite) claims to be following that path.  It's not good business yet.  VW knows that.  BEV still have many challenges to address, which early-adopters of ID.3 and ID.4 owners will help to overcome.  People don't have the confidence yet.  So, bridging to that end-state with PHEV in the meantime is a great solution.  It dramatically reduces consumption & emissions right away, no wait for next-gen batteries.

As for the claim of "selling hybrids would be detrimental as they create confusion in some buyers", where's the evidence to support that?  Toyota is phasing out traditional vehicles, making hybrids their new base and plug-in hybrids the stage-setters for electric-only.  Consumers see a benefit, not a detriment.


Explorer PHEV.  At a starting price (with taxes) of $82,250 in Germany, it is clearly not a product for the masses.  Heck, it doesn't even need a rethink.  That's far too expensive to be taken as anything beyond a niche effort.  Some will argue this is how you reach the larger audiences faster, by working your way from the top down.  We know that doesn't actually work.  There's simply no incentive.  Thankfully, there is an Escape PHEV on the way already for the United States.  So, any of the bad press from this beast shouldn't carry over.  Looking at a range of 26 miles on the WLTP scale (European rating), it's difficult to see how the promotion will play out.  What will be emphasized?  The draw is not obvious.  That was the same problem Two-Mode faced.  You couldn't figure out who GM was targeting.  Perhaps Ford will have better messaging.  Looking at the online promotional flyer, it states "Four EV Modes".  They are Now, Later, Charge and Auto.  Explanations for each imply focus will simply be on the fact that you get advantages of having a plug.  The degree to which it provides a benefit are absent.  It will be interesting to see how that differs when Ford begins selling their next-gen PHEV offerings here.


Rethink, distraction.  Seeing our president now in a state of panic reminds me of the enthusiasts getting caught intentionally misleading.  They do everything possible to change the topic.  Distraction is their objective.  Just like a troll, they throw out random bait hoping someone will bite.  For Toyota, it's the same old thing... mentioned something about hydrogen.  Enthusiasts tend to be enablers, so that tended to work quite well with the online discussion, especially general audience.  We're starting to see evidence of that failing now.  It's hard to tell why.  Several factors have changed.  The biggest is the economy taking a permanent turn.  Days of plentiful disposable income are gone, as is the predictability of the oil industry.  Just like our restaurants, anything struggling to survive before the pandemic will either close forever or find some new approach to survive.  In other words, the rethink is obvious already.  It will be necessary.  That is exactly why our top executive is in serious trouble.  He has no clue what to do.  His only approach is failing.  And since critical thinking is absent from his qualification, it's clear some type of end is near.  Question is, who will do that rethink?  With so much of the economy tied into the auto & oil industry, the overall of disciplines and knowledge to share is quite remarkable.  I had no idea how much insight my past would contribute to planning for this new future.  Having learned to deal with distractions is really paying off.


Rethink, warranty.  When you mention plug-in vehicles, the response back is almost always with regard to battery replacement.  People express concern to such a degree, you really don't have an opportunity to mention anything else.  They have already made up their mind.  That's why I got a "gasp!" type reaction last Fall at the town meeting when bringing up the topic of Toyota pushing their hybrid warranties out further... proof of concerns being addressed.  Today, it was online with more of the rethink posting:  More evidence of rethink need beyond range & power can be found by looking at Toyota's exploration of warranty.  The introduction of Lexus UX300e comes with 10-year/1,000,000km coverage.  To get a guarantee that the battery-pack will deliver at least 70% of new capacity after so much time & distance is what ordinary consumers have higher on their priority list.  True, the ability to go farther and recharge faster is important, but it most definitely is not what mainstream audiences voice concern about.  Recognition of that reality is quite a challenge for early-adopters.  They became so obsessed with the engineering, the business aspect of selling vehicles was neglected.  The stage of appealing to a wider audience means addressing different priorities.  That rethink is inevitable.  Watch what happens with regard to such long warranties being offered.


Rethink, audience.  The idea of something for the masses is starting to come around.  It's the effort from VW helping to push the industry beyond the niche.  That challenge is far more complex than enthusiasts realize.  In fact, most are still unaware of what the loss of tax-credits for some actually means.  So naturally, confusion related to how that will impact everyone else results in wild guessing.  That's unfortunate.  You'd think that group would be the best informed.  They are not.  Know your audience.  Anywho, I injected some sense into a discussion today when "rethink" was brought up in a thread about VW not bringing their smallest PHEV to the United State.  Of course, focus had already shifted over to Toyota and its possible reaction to tax-credit phase-out:

When Toyota enters phase-out, it will be an onslaught to the industry making up claims about cost & market for PHEV.  By then, Toyota will have a strong foothold in the market, being able to take advantage of the switch to unlimited quantity... just like Tesla did.  This is the payoff for taking the time to do it right.  Look at how disastrous the rush was from GM.  Rather than focus on their core consumer (the SUV buyers), they squandered the opportunity by catering to enthusiasts.  In others words, they provided an exceptional example of what not to do.

Watch what happens as the RAV4 production in Kentucky pushes a paradigm shift, one that is even more difficult to deny with the rethink our lockdown is stirring.  It is a design targeted directly at an audience with very strong potential.  VW is well aware of this, hence not even bothering to bring Golf PHEV here.  They will rollout a Tiguan instead, but won't compete against RAV4 Prime.  Its 13kWh pack and 1.4l engine will be less range & power.

The point is that we are starting to see a recognition of mainstream buyers.  The focus on early-adopters was helpful initially with proving out the technology, but we are now well past that phase.  It is more important to address other aspects of plug-in ownership now.  The obsession with speed & power is becoming an anchor, souring the appeal by ignoring everything else.  Again, this is what GM did.  Just imagine if the tech from Volt had been spread to a vehicle like Equinox.


Tradeoff, Always.  There is a long-time member on the big Prius forum who refuses to acknowledge change.  He has held onto the past and continues to push that perspective as a narrative.  It's very frustrating... since the comments made are facts.  Problem is, those facts are outdated and for a different audience.  Recognition of that has been impossible.  He just plain doesn't care.  I got a glimpse into the reason why today when the "balance of priorities" was brought up.  He was absolutely convinced that tradeoffs don't happen with great engineering.  A few of us had to do a double-take on that one.  Of course, the Volt enthusiasts were that close-minded too.  By simply dismissing cost as a factor, the problem goes away.  It becomes a issue of pure mechanics, with no influence of business whatsoever.  My example caught him off guard.  He had absolutely no idea what "tier-1" charging was, despite 15 years of participation adding up to over 16,000 posts.  His complaints about Toyota and favoritism toward Tesla should have made that a central part of some arguments.  That's a SuperCharger option.  Tier-1 is slower (max 60 kW), but costs have the price-per-kilowatt than Tier-2.  It's a tradeoff decision consumers must make each time they plug-in for a rapid recharge.  You make the choice by weighing factors involved.  What is more important, time or money?  With such a simple example of a tradeoff, I'm hoping our flurry of "What!?!" replies finally gets him to recognize he had been making comments based on incomplete information.  Discovering you were poorly informed can be a great teaching moment taken advantage of.


Battery Day.  Speculation about rollouts in China is what has been filling discussions lately.  Everyone feels it necessary to post an opinion.  My comments try to interject facts.  In fact, I posted specifications for VW battery choices today.  That quickly ended some speculation; however, the upcoming "battery day" for Tesla has lots of die-hard fans.  So, it will be challenging to squeeze in detail.  For example, a fundamental continues to get brushed aside.  Tesla will begin including prismatic battery cells in their offering.  That's a major departure from the cylindrical type; yet, it is basically ignoring as a contributing factor to performance & longevity.  Why?  Needless to say, I had a post of my own:  Although the technology has indeed improved and more can be reasonably expected, something on that scale screams tradeoff.  What did the engineers/chemists give up to achieve that?  The first thing that comes to minds is charging speed.  We already know that limiting rates for current lithium batteries to 50kW will contribute to longevity.  Having lower tolerances would likely result in a cost reduction as well.  In other words, the devil is in the detail.  Perhaps the long-life packs are limited to tier-1 charging.  Interestingly, a limitation of rate would prevent the Osborne Effect.  Diversification of product is the next step in reaching out to a wider audience anyway.  In fact, that is a fundamental of business growth.  The idea of a one-size-fits-all solution is very much an early-adopter perspective.  Seeing variation of offerings should not be a surprise to anyone.


Continuous Improvement.  So many people make anecdotal assessments, pointing out the bigger picture is quite a challenge.  They know what they saw.  That's the end of it.  Not taking the time then, to see if more was really at play, solidifies their belief.  Carried forward many years, it becomes almost impossible for them to let go of what had essentially become a narrative.  To make matters worse, they have no way of confirming their oversight later.  You're basically stuck with an "agree to disagree" situation... which I find absurd, since cherry-picking facts isn't objective.  Anywho, this happened today with approach: "Yeah, I'm not talking about kaizen."  He didn't want to widen perspective, despite the obvious need to when discussing overall goals.  I was disappointed... which is better than being annoyed... but nonetheless, still a barrier.  This was my reply:  It is how Toyota's big picture comes together though.  So, you must address it.  That is a fundamental of how they operate.  Set long-term milestones and use that continuous improvement process to help reach it.  The beauty of that process is all along the journey there are rewards.  In other words, if there is a pause for some reason (a block), it doesn't matter since much has already been delivered.  Put another way, Toyota doesn't strive for a big-bang rollout.  In fact, most improvements are so subtle they go unnoticed.  Their focus on incremental upgrades is how they are able to invest in new platforms.  TNGA and TNGA-e are simply steps to note, as were THS and HSD.  Each contributes in its own way to get to achieve overall goals.  People focus on the milestones though, not even noticing that detail... hence the misinterpretation of purpose or the perception of a course change... especially when they feel compelled to check a box.  It's what keeps a forum lively.  It doesn't change anything.  The milestones still get achieved even if intent or direction is unclear.


Dinosaur.  It took 3 weeks to finally get a reply.  The post was nothing but attitude, more ignoring what was posted to continue on with a narrative.  This time, it simply ended with: "Sorry to bust your bubble, Toyota is a dinosaur."  He just plain did not care what was being said.  It's that same old nonsense.  Within the pointless rant, there was this: "Toyota is traveling on well paved roads not blazing new trails or leading anything other than the adoption of twenty year old technology."  That's the familiar song & dance.  Only focus on the spotlight.  We watching that disaster play out so many times with GM, it boggles the mind.  They engineer by press-release and enablers gobble it up.  That hype they generate is dangerous... but they don't care.  I fired back with:  That's called a "feel good" speech, used as an excuse to turn a blind-eye toward the real problem.  Attempts to validate emphasis on efforts that fail to address what really needs to be done is what we have all seen for the past 20 years.  Some people clearly never learn what the lack of balance truly costs.  Ironically, the reply of "bury our head in the sand" is a perfect describe for the situation.  In other words, leadership must include changing the masses. Simply blazing a trail that only a few follow doesn't accomplish that.  Put another way, look beyond the early-adopter stage.  Reaching the mainstream audience requires a very different approach than just appealing to niche buyers.


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