Personal Log #1014
June 20, 2020 - June 26, 2020
Last Updated: Sun. 7/19/2020
page #1013 page #1015 BOOK INDEX
Necessity of Balance. An article yesterday posted as
a retrospective on Chevy Bolt resulted in an explosion of comments being
posted, most of them quite critical of GM. Quickly approaching the 4th
anniversary, people feel free to say what I had been saying all along.
They don't get attacked though. Now, it is ok to provide those same
observations. Back in the past, the response was hostility. Know
your audience. I did. They absolutely refused to be
constructive. It was all about pride. Remember, this was a
real-world Tortoise & Hare situation playing out right before our eyes.
Denial is a powerful enemy. Enthusiasts didn't understand how their
lack of critical thinking would make them enablers. They turned hope
into meritless hype. It was a dangerous path to choose.
Encouraging an automaker to take so much unnecessary risk was foolish...
which is why their actions were so heavily documented throughout these logs.
Challenges that could be overcome grew into out of problems by not properly
addressing them. (Sound familiar? That is exactly what our
current administration has done with regard to the pandemic.) Anywho,
I was more than happy to jump into the discussion a day later, when this was
finally posted: "GM like Ford, Audi, Toyota, Honda, Jaguar, etc. have no
clue about EVs. By the time they realize their gaps, the technological
& infrastructure gap will be so high, that they won't be able to compete.
You add the anchor and dead weight dealerships are, they should just focus
on bankruptcy this year, if they are smart." It was just a matter
of time, waiting until there was something constructive to reply to:
Toyota defies that claim. With an upcoming PHEV of checking so many boxes what dealers prefer to carrying for inventory, it is a winning formula. RAV4 Prime directly targets those customers, delivering exactly what GM promised for all those years but never did. That promise of "game changer" is more relevant now than ever too.
The mistakes made with Volt and Bolt were about not recognizing audience. Great technology is pointless if there is no demand for it. Much of that has to do with configuration. Once you establish, then refine, the next step is to package. We have watched Toyota's EV technology evolve with Prius, Camry, and Mirai as undeniable examples of those steps to reach this point.
The audience here in the United States is especially problematic. Enthusiasts are obsessed with EV range and charging speed... both of which have negative consequences when pushed well beyond diminishing returns. Too much EV range means carrying around a lot of extra weight, which reduces kW/mi efficiency and ends up needing more time at the charger. Those are costly tradeoffs for the vehicle owner. For the charger owner, offering super-high-speed chargers is extremely expensive. In fact, the cost is so high it comes with the tradeoff of offering far fewer chargers.
In short, those other automakers have failed to recognize the necessity of balance. Toyota is demonstrating an acute understanding of it.
Battery Buffers. We have been well aware of how the battery-pack has a portion of the capacity set aside for longevity. But avoiding use of the upper & lower limits, the lifecycle process is essentially extended. Basically, if there is less stress, it should last longer. In real-world use, we have seen that happen. It does indeed work. So with each new Prius, we analyze those buffers and watch how they are managed with the tools we have. Measure is relative though, based on parameters of percentage... not actual hard values. That comes due to the need for a simplified interface. You get some type of number, then perform calculations to represent change. Deep of detail becomes a challenge. So, things like the source & equation tend to be only the domain of a few. Everyone else is fine with a more analog approach. That brings us to the consideration of another buffer. Our approach had not accounted for the possibility, but the numbers seem to infer it. Could there be capacity reserved for degradation too, a buffer we had not previously considered? I addressed that with this as one of my follow-ups: That doesn't actually add up to 8.79 kWh though. Based on the basic tools we have for measuring draw & consumption, there appears to be a small amount missing . True, it could be some other property of rechargeable batteries we are not aware of. But then again, we already know about the difficulty of measuring conversion, vampire and storage losses. We aren't the only ones making that same observation/speculation about automaker approach either.
Battery Degradation. It was interesting to see an attempt to quantify, but without enough background. Someone had posted a spreadsheet with a summary of data-collection points. For each month, there was a maximum kWh draw value. The idea was to show how the battery holds less electricity over time in a quantified manner that was easy to validate. The problem was, that's too much of a simplification on a factor that doesn't really tell the whole story. There are other influences. Measuring those are important too, but then you lose audience. Finding that balance isn't easy. One of the gurus stepped it with this observation: "From his somewhat small numbers of data points, he found that, in his 2017 PRIME, there has been no battery degradation in 3 years from the full charge amount he is reading for strictly from 0% to 100%." I was intrigued and quite curious how the exchange of constructive information would be received. So, I added: My approach has been to film the same drive under the same conditions year after year. I just did the capture this morning for year 3. EV distance was a little over 30 miles... matching the previous drives. That means based on observations so far, you get the experience of consistency. There is the possibility of a degradation buffer, extra capacity only accessed as the system detects reduction. Whatever the case, that is still a result in excess of the EPA rating. Crude evidence of this is the calculation from my own charging. 6.0 kWh has been the max I typically can squeeze in, without conditioning. 72% capacity is max for observed EV delivered via plugging in. That doesn't account for losses from the charging process or gains from regeneration though, which a rough guess would be 10%. That would equate to a true 5.4 kWh for EV usage per recharge... which is quite a bit less than one would expect from a 8.79 kWh capacity battery-pack. Others reporting more kWh per charge may have a combination of less efficient charging and the possibility of different tolerances in the software for their vehicle. Long story short, we may never find out. Knowledge, like long-term strategy, is too valuable to disclose. They need a competitive edge.
Reputation. EV enthusiasts take it way too seriously, placing heavy emphasis on perspective they find appealing. That ends up becoming the mantra, a demand which must be fulfilled without question. They completely lose sight of goals & audience. It is a mistake I see repeated over and over and over again. This all comes about by passing along a sound-bite or quote of some sort. For example: "How credible is it, anyway? Their "self charging" commercials are still on. Would you buy an EV from a company that always made clear how much they despise BEVs?" The key is to take something like that and present it out of context. Lack of a constructive perspective allows emotion to sink in and the message to become distorted. Replies with key facts are one of the few options available to compete with that nonsense: Since when does an advertising campaign represent a corporate mission? If you held an automaker to that standard, nothing would make sense from any of them. They all do that. Advertisements are point-in-time for a targeted audience. There's no underlying deep meaning. What I find most amusing from all of this is just how hypocritical the antagonists really are. There are plenty of examples where being the extreme opposite of green was not only the norm, it was the expectation. They just conveniently forget that. Heck, we even have the promotion of EV guzzlers. Notice how everyone turns a blind-eye to kWh/mi consumption ratings? Anywho, since EV rollout from Toyota has begun since this article last year, what's the point now? Lexus UX300e is a reality. That 54.3 kWh capacity battery-pack is something none of those hear sighting a behind narrative want to address. It uses a chassis that's well established and technologies that's well proven. That means there's more to come, exactly as this article points out. The reality is WORD-OF-MOUTH marketing is far more effective than advertisement anyway. Seeing Toyota plug-in vehicles on the road is a powerful endorsement and RAV4 Prime has a massive amount of potential.
Alexa. We got an OTA (Over The Air) updated today. It was labeled as a "mandatory update" with the option of executing it immediately or delay until later. I was intrigued. Timing gave the sense of moving forward. The stir last year about not getting Android Auto included with anything Prius related in the upcoming future was a sign of not paying attention. There was a fundamental platform switch taking place, the move to go from phone-centric to automotive-centric. As a software engineer, I'm well aware of how long and how many steps such a move takes. You rollout a major rewrite, then follow with a series of updates based upon user feedback. That takes time. There is simply to way to shorten the process, period. People didn't like that information, so they fought me... and lost. 9 upgrades over the course of the year to follow, we see the progress being made. That puts the Google product in a good position for Toyota to begin consideration of rollout. Going forward is easy, just include with new models. Going backward though, that's a challenge. We know that Toyota had trials taking place. Upon success, the question would be who gets it and if there would be any fee. It certainly looks like Toyota is attempting to offer Android Auto as a free upgrade, by first rolling out other software to confirm a smooth process has been established. Today, that was a number of changes to Entune (Toyota's base interface) with the addition of Amazon's Alexa. It only took a few minutes for the download and install. That was quick & easy... which is a sign of more good to come. Working out detail like that, to prevent outcries from the poorly informed, is well worth taking the time. So far, the progress looks great.
Vague Attacks. They keep coming: "...you can't get the performance advertised with the electric motor alone, it is undersized." I actually find them quite refreshing. They have little to work with and I have many, many years of real-world data. So, I enjoy posting rebuttals like this: Performance advertised? What are you talking about? My Prius Prime clearly states 68kW (91hp) for EV driving and that's exactly what I get. It's all quite predictable based on that information. In town driving is fantastic (fast, low-end electric torque is great) and all but extreme highway merge accelerations go completely unnoticed. It works fine driving with the electric motor alone. Also, there's the reality that less than half that power is actually needed to maintain a cruise on the highway. So, undersized is a bit of a stretch.
False Information. You can tell the level of desperation already: "Little battery on RAV will be all gone by 80,000 miles (2,000 cycles), probably much earlier depending on cooling, treatment." I found that quite telling... and was delighted to stir the dispute with: Who are you trying to convince with such blatantly false information? The warranty is for 150,000 miles. Claiming 100% replacement of all sold is absurd. Of course, anyone with knowledge of how a PHEV actually works... or any BEV, for that matter... is well aware that full cycles are avoided. To qualify as a "cycle", the battery must be drained from 100% to near 0%. That basically never happens. For a PHEV like my Prius Prime, charging to "full" is only 84% and the "drain" point is really 13%. By avoiding extremes through the use of those buffers, battery life is prolonged. In other words, it takes many of those usages to equate to just one cycle. This is why such a long warranty is no big deal. Most batteries will easily exceed that usage. In short, stop spreading false information.
Nobody? I really like when audience is brought up. Many enthusiasts struggle with perspective. They get so hung up with the technology, they loss track of what an ordinary person sees & understands. That means when they attempt to recognize the industry, it often comes back as a "EV market" point of view. In other words, they get so involved, they end up forgetting their own past. This is why KISS is still vital to expansion. It seems almost pitiful at times to hold back so much, but that is exactly what appeals to those without background. They feel the simplicity is recognition of their wants... not a need. Interesting, eh? Anywho, this was the nonsense today: "Nobody is going to drive somewhere and wait for hours to get 40 miles of range." The repetition of that is getting old. Fortunately, there is a new way to present facts in return: Actually, that argument falls apart when the reality of fast-charging combines with next-gen batteries. The time needed would be reduced to 20 minutes, less than the typical visit to a grocery or retail store. That flips the perspective from "nobody" to just about everybody. It becomes no big deal if you look beyond the immediate. Understanding the potential is vital. This is how the wider audience is reached. We cannot just ignore apartment & condo dwellers, hoping they will somehow get chargers on their own. Also, you're forgetting the charge-mode feature. Though wasteful if used improperly, it can provide the means of avoiding engine warm-up cycles. Having that EV available for short trips, even if derived from gas, is still beneficial overall.
Cherry Picking. Don't you love how people draw a conclusion for you based on extremely selective data that they don't even bother to share? Stuff like this was abundant from the Volt enthusiasts: "There is a study in the U.K. that shows most PHEV owners there (over 80%) don't plug in regularly." Of course, I knew of the study those antagonists of the past were referring too. It came from a sampling of 3,000 owners from the first-year offering. They didn't care how that grossly misrepresented future shoppers. It was a statistic they could exploit, so they did. Stuff like that is how I confirmed they had a weak argument, that going forward their narrative would fall apart. So, what we are seeing now is just more of the same. I'm treating it that way too: How cherry-picked is that data? Being outdated (older tech) with a limited-scope (incentive audience) is in no way representative of what to expect going forward. Providing that as an argument against PHEV potential is basically an attempt to reinforce a narrative. In other words, if that is all you've got, it won't be effective. Who are you trying to convince?
Reckless Comparisons. What is the point of comparing Model Y to RAV4 Prime? That Tesla has a base price of $15,000 more and it really isn't a SUV. They basically have nothing in common other than both having a plug. Yet, we still get articles pushing the topic. Turns out, the point is to stir comments like this: "The fatal flaw with plug in hybrids is that most people don't plug them in .. since the range in EV mode is so lame anyway." That media source wants to stir controversy and they depend upon daily publishing to survive. So, they come up with things to write about. Sadly, the outcome is reckless comparisons. Not being constructive is a very real problem. So, it comes to those like-minded of us to bring some clarity to the resulting comments. In this case, there's a strong argument now against such claims: 42 miles of EV daily (from overnight charging) = 15,330 annual. Calling that "lame" couldn't be any more counter-productive toward the cause of electrification. There are many who don't even drive that far in a year. So, the payoff of that many miles is anything but lame. It represents a dramatic reduction of emissions & consumption.
First Year Rollout. This was a refreshing topic something new to respond to: "One Toyota vlogger has mentioned that Toyota will probably only produce a few thousand this year. If this is true, maybe Ford can take advantage of this and fill the market needs for a PHEV crossover." And, I did: Low volume for a first-year worldwide rollout during a pandemic sounds reasonable. The added benefit of resulting demand build up is real-world data from early-adopters to validate the tech. It works out especially well with the target audience (showroom shoppers) who always wait until the second or third year to buy anyway. Remember, the biggest challenge is to appeal to dealers. That means demonstrating sales will be easy & profitable. The only way to do that is to show market interest reaches beyond just enthusiasts. With gen-1 Prius, that took time. The only means of getting one for the first 1.5 years was to place an order and wait. All were shipped to dealers with a sold status (except the demo model). Then when gen-2 rolled out, there was a 6 to 9 month wait. Later when the PHV model came about (gen-1 plug-in), rollout became an effective means of measuring the market for Prime design approaches. If Ford jumps in again (we saw a similar intentional gap back in the hybrid days) to get a foothold before the Toyota tsunami, that would be a win-win situation. An ally to help promote the plug-in market is far more valuable than getting a few extra sales out to early-adopters.